Monday, May 31, 2010

Jig writes about Niles Raymond Siebert, lost over Guam, 1944

I've helped two WW2 vets publish their memoirs on the web. Mac, McKenzie J. Grogory, an officer in the Australian Navy and Jig, John D. Bridgers MD, a US Navy aviator, both survived the war. In the years since Mac, Carl and family have published more than a million of their words on the web. It is my honor and privilege. I am touched every single day. (Jig's son Carl sent me a picture of Sieb.)

This is "Sieb," Niles Raymond Siebert.

Here is Jig in 1944.

Jig named his 4th son after Niles Raymond Siebert. Here are a few excerpts from Jig's letter to Raymond about his namesake. If you have moment to read whole letter, you'll get a brief glimpse of two remarkable men who I doubt thought of themselves as remarkable.
Edie told me that Carl told her that Raymond told him: “Here I am, carrying around a man’s name that I know nothing about.”

So here’s what I remember about “Sieb” -- Niles Raymond Siebert -- at least, in summary form.

...some of these German immigrants arrived in the Midwest via Canada. Among them were the Sieberts who settled in northern Kansas near what is now the town of Marion...Niles Raymond Siebert’s grandparents were among them and this was to be the village where “Sieb” grew up, a town, which he claimed, boasted a population of 36.

“Sieb” played varsity football at Kansas and having finished under-graduate school enlisted in the Navy flight-training program about the same time I did -- just before the start of World War II.

I remember seeing him a few times when we were in training in Pensacola and Miami, but I really didn’t know him well then.

After the loss the YORKTOWN we were brought back to Hawaii and were re-organized into a unit designated as Scouting Squadron 6, ostensibly to go to the ENTERPRISE. Some replacement pilots brought over from San Diego joined us in Hawaii. “Sieb” was in that group.

“Sieb” and I became roommates on the SARATOGA beginning what was to be perhaps my life’s closest friendship.

“Sieb” and I were among those sent back to Norfolk to establish Bombing Squadron 15 for the new U.S.S. HORNET soon to go to sea.

The ESSEX was to take took a very active part in the Central Pacific push, which ended in the Philippines. We started off by attacking Wake and Marcos Islands -- Marine bases that had been captured by the Japs in the very early days of the war -- carried out scattered raids around the area, and then took part in recapturing the Palau’s and the Marianas. Guam, which after its re-capture would become Nimitz’s headquarters for the Pacific Fleet, was in The Marianas.

It was when we were attacking Guam that “Sieb” was shot down and crashed in flames.

By then we had been roommates for about 3-1/2 years -- a time which, believe me, was stretched out in perception by the intensity of wartime life, and particularly when the specter of danger, both in operations and combat, is a constant facet. Even today it seems more like a decade.

Sieb” was as close to a brother as I shall ever know and I grieved over his loss as much as I have for anyone in my life.

“Sieb” and I became constant companions during a very intense time of life that when he was suddenly there no more it was as if part of me was missing.

After that I always entered into “service” friendships with the reservation that the same might happen again and did not get too close.

When Edie and I choose to name our fourth son after “Sieb,” we agreed that Raymond, his middle name, would be the better choice. Over the years I have come to think only of my son when I hear the name Raymond Siebert though every now I still think of the great guy our son was named after. Those memories make me feel good that our Raymond carries on his name.
You won't regret reading the rest this Memorial Day.

Thanks to Mac, Jig, and Sieb and all the others.

Sieb's gunner, Leon Murray. Don't know if Leon was aboard Sieb's fatal flight.

On the flight desk of Essex: Rulon-Miller, Prendagrast, Zanetti, Woods, Bridgers, Matthews


  1. Just wondering if Lt. Siebert is the same one mentioned in passing in today's Miami Herald story: If so, Lt. Siebert faced death with extreme courage by saluting to another pilot before plunging to his death.

    Thanks for helping to bring these WW2 stories to life.

    Dave Copeland


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