Inside the Gates: Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs to honor 15 Guardsmen from 1955 Rescue Mission
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After nearly seven decades, the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs is preparing to award 15 guardsmen from the first Scout Battalion for their heroic efforts in response to a 1955 plane crash.
“In 1955, we had a Navy aircraft called a Neptune which was flying up through the Bering Straits doing a maritime mission,” said Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs Director Verdie Bowen.” “When they got close, north of Gambell they were shot down by 2 MiG 15s.”
Since 2017, Bowen has been scavenging military documents in his attempts to put together the puzzle pieces of the June 22, 1955 Navy plane crash that occurred near St. Lawrence Island after the plane was shot down by MiG 15 Soviet fighter jets.
“What happens is, is that things get lost in history,” Bowen said.
For the past eight years, Bowen has been going through S1 and S2 daily reports from the Army, as well as scouring incident reports from the Navy from the 1955 plane crash.
“You have to go to the archives and have them open up those records,” Bowen said. “It’s really important when we find something that is not correct in people’s records to correct them.”
In 1955, each member received a letter of appreciation for their actions. Over 67 years later with new details from the crash and newly created medals available, the veterans now qualify to receive higher honors. On Saturday July 9, one veteran and family members of the 15 Guardsmen will be presented the heroism medal for their actions in saving the lives of the Navy crew members in Gambell.
“It’s very important for us to continuously review people’s actions to see if they are able to receive higher awards for valor,” Bowen said. “In this instance there were no awards that was available but there is now.”
The award, Bowen said, is a moment of closure for many of the family members, as it represents honor and validation for the service of their loved ones.
“For some of the family members it’s going to mean closure because it will actually reflect something solid that they have in hand and that their family really did do this event,” Bowen said.
The ceremony is set to take place at the John Apangalook Memorial High School gymnasium in Gamble at 2:15 p.m. on July 9.
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