Private First Class Bert A. Shea, Jr.

Insignia of VMS-3, the Devil Birds


Service Number: 377529

Birth and Early Life:
Bert Shea was the oldest child of Bert and Eugenia Shea; he was born in 1925 and grew up in a working-class family in Kennebec, Maine.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Shea joined the Marine Corps on February 24, 1942, at the age of seventeen. He qualified as a rifle marksman after training with the 6th Recruit Battalion at Parris Island, but instead of going to the infantry was assigned to Aircraft Engineering Squadron #13 at Quantico, Virginia that April. Shea learned the business of aviation mechanics and gunnery, received a promotion to Private First Class, and a transfer to Marine Scouting Squadron Three in the Virgin Islands.

Wartime Service:
After arriving at Marine Corps Air Station St. Thomas, PFC Shea was assigned to a Kingfisher scout plane flown by a genteel young officer, Second Lieutenant Richard F. Dabbs of South Carolina. They flew regular patrols and reconnaissance flights over the picturesque Caribbean, responding to reports of German submarines and providing some escort cover for convoys.

Date Of Loss:
Bert Shea disappeared on September 15, 1942. He was on a flight with Lt. Dabbs – some accounts state they were searching for a downed pilot from their squadron – when they ran into a storm. Search parties could find no trace of the Marines or their aircraft; PFC Shea was declared dead on September 16, 1943 – one year and one day after he vanished.

Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Bert Shea, Sr.

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

East Coast War Memorial, New York City, NY.

(1) The AviationArchaeology website does not have a loss for VMS-3 on September 15. The squadron lost Kingfisher OS2N-1 01324 on September 14; on September 19, the following information was logged in the records of Headquarters, Tenth Naval District:


Alexkakos and Nagy were the crew of BuNo 01324. It is possible that Dabbs and Shea were out searching for this crew, or that they were “one of the Marine Corps planes reported lost.” Unfortunately, the squadron’s war diary is not readily available, and Headquarters makes no mention of any incident occurring on September 14 aside from “routine patrols, reconnaissance, and training.”

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