Remembering Local World War II Heroes: Frederick Shippee, John Sieminski

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According to Wikipedia, the military classification of Missing in Action (MIA) is “a casualty classification assigned to combatants, military chaplains, combat medics, and prisoners of war who are reported missing during wartime or ceasefire.

“They may have been killed, wounded, captured, executed, or deserted. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave has been positively identified.”

During World War II, a total of 78,750 personnel of the United States Armed Forces were reported missing in action by the end of the war, representing more than 19 percent of the total of 405,399 killed during the conflict.

A total of 18 Gardner soldiers received the MIA designation, including Elden W. Bjurling, Leon E. Chabot, Nathaniel S. Clifford, Donald V. Foster, Berton E. Gray, Anthony P. Hajkowski, Wacy Kacian, J.E. Roger LeBlanc, Joseph L.A. LeBlanc, Lawrence L. Lukasevicius, Francis H. Moore, Harold A. Morrissey, Harry H. Musinski, Halsey S. Nisula, Edward Pilkovsky, Robert M. Rocktaschel, Harry J. Ryan and Frederick W. Shippee.

This is the continuation of the series Remembering Local World War II Heroes.

2nd Lt. Frederick W. Shippee Jr. (1920-1945)

Frederick W. Shippee Jr. was born in Gardner on Nov. 23 1920, the son of Frederick W. Sr. and Edith (Walker) Shippee. Because he shared the same first name as his father, the family called him “Ted” so as to not confuse the two as he got older. His father was a foreman at Collier-Keyworth and the family lived at 96 Chestnut St. with brother Alvin and sister Clara.

He was an honor roll student at Gardner High School, graduating with the Class of 1938 and was on the swim team, school orchestra, and was business manager of the Argus. After high school, he attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute where he majored in mechanical drawing and was co-captain of the swimming team, as well as the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.

Frederick Shippee Jr.
Frederick Shippee Jr.

Following his 1942 graduation from college, he took a job with Proctor & Gamble. He entered the military service on Oct. 14, 1942, at Boston and went on active duty at Boca Raton, Fla., on March 17, 1943. He was commissioned a second lieutenant at Yale University.

On Oct. 14, 1944, he married the former Mary Elizabeth Thomas, with the ceremony held at Yale University. Following the wedding, they resided on Grove Street in Worcester.

Shippee went on to attend flight engineering school at the Boeing aircraft pant in Seattle, Wash., becoming a technical officer in aircraft maintenance engineering. He later received his wings and rating as flight engineer at Lowry Field in Denver, Colo., on March 27, 1944.

After eight months, he left for the Pacific theater as a flight engineer of a B-29 Superfortress tabbed “Million Dollar Baby” on Nov. 15, 1944, and was based on Saipan in the Mariana Islands. He went on to take part in the air offensive over Japan as a member of the 883rd Bombardment Squadron, 500th Bombardment Group B, and had completed four combat missions.

On Jan. 3, 1945, around 5:40 in the evening, Lt. Shippee’s plane ran across hostile aircraft over Sofugan in the Izu Islands and the bomber sustained damage. As the bomber disappeared into the night, Shippee radioed in where he felt it would be landing in the water.

Reportedly, the plane was forced down by enemy flak while returning from its combat mission to Nagoya, Japan. The survivors were said to have been seen in two life rafts, and supplies were dropped to them while an American submarine was directed to the area.

Upon its arrival the following morning, no trace of the rafts or occupants were found.

There had been heavy weather during the night, as well as Japanese surface craft in the area. The 24-year-old Shippee was presumed dead on Jan. 4, 1946.

He would be awarded the Purple Heart, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon with one battle star, American Theater Ribbon, World War II Victory Medal and the Air Corps Citation of Honor.

While his remains were never found, there is a stone in his memory in the family lot in Green Bower Cemetery in South Gardner.

U.S. Marines wade ashore on Tinian in the Mariana Islands in 1944.
U.S. Marines wade ashore on Tinian in the Mariana Islands in 1944.

Cpl. John Sieminski (1923-1944)

John Sieminski was born in Gardner on Sept. 10, 1923, the son of Wladislaw and Helen (Milko) Sieminski. Two days after his birth, his mother died of a brief illness. This left her husband, Walter, quite overwhelmed with five children, including a newborn, at their 17 Baker St. house.

Initially, young John was going to be sent away to be cared for by nuns, as his father was unable to take care of him as well as the other son, Waclaw, and three daughters, Helen, Jennie and Rose. However, his aunt was against the idea and took him into her home in Winchendon.

John Sieminski
John Sieminski

As he grew up, John attended Winchendon schools. However, when his aunt became ill, his father decided that he should return to Gardner to live with his family. The aunt did not want them to take John and actually won a court battle to keep him. The court decided to let him remain with the woman who raised him.

Sieminski later moved to Otter River with his uncle, Nikodem Wojtukiewicz, and was employed by the Greenwood-Carlton Corp. in South Gardner.

He entered the Marine Corps at Boston on Aug. 10, 1942, and was assigned to Camp Lejeune, S.C., for boot camp training. He was later stationed at Parris Island, S.C., and sent overseas to join the 4th Marine Division in the Pacific in June of 1944, taking part in the Saipan campaign in the Mariana Islands.

On July 24, the 4th Marine Division arrived at Tinian (also in the Marianas) from Saipan in an attempt to take land from the Japanese because of the extra-long runways available for aircraft landings. The Marines were firmly established there by the time the enemy planned a counterattack. On the first night, the Japanese lost more than 1,200 men.

While in action on Tinian with Company A, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Sieminski was killed on Aug. 2, 1944. He was one month shy of his 21st birthday.

Sieminski was awarded the Bronze Star posthumously, the award reading, “When Japanese troops attacked his squad leader and another rifleman whose objective was to search out an enemy cave, Corporal Sieminski, given the mission of covering their advance, boldly exposed himself to counter the enemy fire and cover the withdrawal of his companions, carrying on until he was mortally wounded.”

His other decorations included the Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, Marine Corps Citation, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon with two battle stars, American Theater Ribbon and World War II Victory Medal.

He was buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Gardner next to the mother he never knew.

Comments and suggestions for Remembering Local World War II Heroes can be sent to Mike Richard at mikerichard0725@gmail.com or in writing to Mike Richard, 92 Boardley Road, Sandwich, MA 02563.

This article originally appeared on Gardner News: Remembering World War II Heroes: Frederick Shippee, John Sieminski