George J. Ocavage

Branch: Army Air Corps
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Outfit: 14th Air Force, 308th Bombardment Group, 425th Bombardment Squadron

George was the youngest sibling of the Ocavage family having several sisters and a brother. Born to Lithuanian immigrant parents John and Margaret on March 2, 1919 in New Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A coal mining town located in Schuykill County, approximately 70 miles northeast of Philadelphia. Most of the residents at that time were mainly of Lithuanian descent. His father, John who was employed at the Silver Creek Mine passed away just prior to George's second birthday. The Ocavages eventually moved to 836 Lambert Avenue in Mt. Ephraim some time just prior to 1940. George attended Audubon High School until the end of his junior year (1939). He was said by the Courier Post to be a star athlete. 
On July 28, 1942, George was drafted and by August 11th, inducted into the U.S. Army at Ft. Dix, NJ . Upon completion of basic training, he qualified for additional training with the Army Air Force and earned his silver wings after attending aerial gunner school in Harlingen Texas some time in November 1942.
He was assigned to the 425th Bombardment Squadron, 308th Bombardment Group, Heavy. The 308th was part of the 14th Air Force, more commonly known as the Flying Tigers. Ocavage was a crew member of a B-24 Liberator which made the flight across the Atlantic Ocean, over the Himalayan Mountains (nicknamed, “The Hump”) finally landing at the 14th Air Force Headquarters base in Kunming, China. 
In the evening of August 23, 1943, the pilots were told to be ready for a mission in the morning. At the briefing held the next morning, a Major had informed them that seven B-24s from the 425th Squadron were to rendezvous with an additional seven B-24s from the 373rd Bombardment Squad and bomb the airdrome at Hankow, China (now known as Wuhan). Additionally, they were going to have P-38 and P-40 fighter plane escorts to their target. The crews prepared for their mission and soon thereafter, the Liberators of the 425th set off for Hankow with their bellies loaded with fragmentation bombs. 
George’s B-24 was had the 3-digit code number “930” and nicknamed the “Yankee Jayhawk.” The crew consisted of Pilot: 1st Lt. Clarence J. Robinson, Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Paul E. Bitner, Navigator: 2nd Lt. Wesley M. Green, Bombardier: 1st Lt. Emmett B. Van Deventer, Radio Operator/Gunner T/Sgt. Harry E. Wade, Asst. Radio Operator/Gunner: S/Sgt. George J. Ocavage, Engineer/Gunner: O’Neil R. Linford, Asst. Engineer/Gunner: S/Sgt. Cloyd D. Brown, Gunner: S/Sgt. Arthur L. Bartlett, and Gunner: S/Sgt. Felix Grochocki. The other planes in the formation included “Sherazade” who was the lead plane, “Chug-a-Lug”, “Belle Starr”, “Cabin In The Sky”, “Glamour Girl”, and “Stardust”. While en route, word came over the radio that the Liberators from the 373rd Squadron would not be joining up. The area of their base in Yangkai, China was too foggy for them to fly. The decision was made for the 425th bombers to continue the mission without them. The P-40s had joined the formation but soon went ahead of the bombers and were never seen again. 
After five hours in the air, the B-24s of the 425th were nearing Hankow and its twin city of Wuchang along the Yangtze River. The bombers lined up on their target. Flak started bursting around them, and then the little red light flickered on the pilots’ instrument panel, indicating bombs away. Two or more planes bombed the airdrome at Wuchang by mistake since the route took them directly over Wuchang before reaching Hankow. The rest of the Liberators released their payload over Hankow and turned for home. Just minutes after the Liberators left the target, they were attacked by approximately 40 enemy fighters which kept the bombers of the 425th engaged in combat for 45 minutes. Ocavage’s plane was hit by Japanese fighters and started streaming a trail of gray smoke from the right wing. It dropped back out of the formation and was losing altitude. When last seen, it was spinning and apparently out of control. Three men were seen to jump, but none returned to their organization. All were listed as MIA, but all were found later to have perished. 
Four of the planes were lost as a result of enemy action on August 24th; “Yankee Jayhawk", "Cabin In The Sky", "Belle Starr", and "Glamour Girl". Three landed at a base in Kweilin, China after the mission, but on the following day, Stardust crashed near Milo while en route from Kweilin to Kunming and all but 2 were killed. In the end, only one of the 7 planes from the 425th returned to Kunming. Of the 73 men present at that early morning briefing on the 24th, only 12 men returned on August 25th. Fifty men had died (31 at the scene of the battle), and 11 who were walking back to base.
George’s mother was notified by the war department in early September 1943 that he was listed as missing in action and in the summer of 1949, his remains were returned to the United States. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, PA. He was survived by his mother Margaret, sisters Mary Ibbettson, Helen Howell, Margaret Stankus, Agnes Stankus , Marcella, Frances, Anna Norton, and brother Anthony. You can find his George’s name inscribed on the monument at Veterans Triangle in Mount Ephraim, and also on the Monument to Aviation Martyrs in War of Resistance Against Japan, located in Kunming, China.


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