Private First Class Frank Oliver Schackman

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Insignia of VMSB-232, the Red Devils.

Service Number: 341727

Birth and Early Life:
Frank Schackman was born in Missouri around the year 1913. He was the son of farmer J. P. Schackman and his wife, Anna; when J. P. died in the 1920s and the older children moved out, Anna and Frank moved to Portland, Oregon, where both had to work to survive; Anna acted as a landlady in their small house, while Frank worked at a local paper mill.

In 1934, Frank married and moved out on his own. While Doris Schackman worked as a stenographer, Frank became a salesman for a Fred Meyer store in Salem. They returned to Portland in 1940; by this time Frank was employed as a wholesale food salesman. Life was settling down for the couple when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December, 1941.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Schackman enlisted on January 13, 1942. Although comparatively old for a boot, he completed training with the 10th Recruit Battalion at MCRD San Diego and was assigned to the Aircraft Engineering Squadron 23.

Wartime Service:
Private Schackman was transferred to the headquarters of MAG-23 in April, 1942; the unit sailed for Hawaii aboard the USS Wharton, and disembarked at Ewa Field. Schackman was assigned as an engineer to the dive bomber squadron VMSB-232.

On July 1, 1942, Schackman was reassigned to flight duty to train as an aerial gunner. That month, he met Lieutenant Oliver Mitchell, the pilot with whom he would fly in combat.

Just over a month later, Schackman was promoted to Private First Class. The squadron boarded the USS Long Island, a merchant ship converted into an aircraft carrier. Although their destination was at first unknown, the fliers were soon informed that their destination was the island of Guadalcanal – they would be among the first to fly off the newly named Henderson Field, which the Marines on the ground were still fighting hard to defend. They landed on August 20, and within hours were refueled, armed, and off to fly their first combat patrol. For their first eight days on the island, Schackman and Mitchell dealt with bad weather, worse food, Japanese shelling and stray machine gun bullets, mud, dust, and long odds every time they took to the air. They hadn’t seen many juicy targets, but that would soon change.

Date Of Loss:
Schackman clambered into his Dauntless dive bomber at 1700 hours on August 28, 1942 in response to an order to scramble the squadron. As they lumbered down the runway and into the sky, Mitchell came on the intercom to tell his gunner that their target was a convoy of Japanese ships headed for Guadalcanal.

Within thirty minutes, the Americans were diving on the Japanese ships off Ramos Island, releasing their bombs and spraying the decks with machine gun fire. One destroyer, the Amagiri, evaded the attacks and continued blazing away at the Americans with her anti-aircraft guns and specially designed main battery.

None will know what made Lieutenant Mitchell turn back towards the Amagiri, or whether Frank Schackman was a willing compatriot or a helpless passenger. The lone SBD bomber pulled about and lined up on the destroyer, intending to strafe her. With every gun on the destroyer firing at once, the two Americans did not stand a chance. Other members of their squadron saw their craft burst into flames and slam into the water. No parachutes were seen; Mitchell and Schackman would be the only combat fatalities suffered by the squadron during the campaign.

PFC Schackman was awarded the Air Medal for his role in the attack on the Amagiri.

Next Of Kin:
Brother, Mr. Richard H. Schackman

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

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