Second Lieutenant Richard Furman Dabbs

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Insignia of VMS-3, the Devil Birds

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Service Number: O-009475

Birth and Early Life:
Richard Dabbs was born in Sumter, South Carolina, on June 14, 1920. He was raised by Eugene Dabbs Senior and Stella Glascock Dabbs in Mayesville.

The Dabbs family had a proud military tradition. Eugene Senior was a veteran of the First World War – he served as an infantry lieutenant in France – and kept abreast of European politics. (1) The four boys (Eugene Junior, Furman, Billy and Tommy) would all serve in the armed forces; Eugene and Furman were both graduates of the Citadel.

Cadet staff officers in 1941. Furman Dabbs is at the center.
Cadet staff officers in 1941; Furman Dabbs is at the center. From The Sphinx yearbook.

Dabbs showed an early interest in aviation, and rose quickly through the cadet ranks, graduating with a degree in business administration and a commission as an infantry lieutenant.

Sphinx yearbook, 1941.
The Sphinx yearbook, 1941.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
After graduating, Dabbs joined the Marine Corps Reserve. He enlisted on July 24, 1941 and easily worked his way into aviation training, receiving his commission and his pilot’s wings in March, 1942.

Wartime Service:
Lieutenant Dabbs was posted to VMS-3, a reconnaissance squadron based out of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. He flew an OS2N-1 Kingfisher on patrols across the Caribbean; he and his gunner, PFC  Bert A. Shea Jr, mainly kept watch for German submarines, but occasionally had to search for friendly pilots who had gone missing – as was the case with 2nd Lieutenant David Kerwin and PFC Richard Van Hook.

Date Of Loss:
Lieutenant Dabbs and PFC Shea took off for a patrol over the Caribbean on September 15, 1942. They never returned. The Dabbs family was told that Furman had been searching for a missing pilot off the coast of South America when he ran into bad weather and was forced down. (2)

“Nobody knows what happened,” said his younger brother, Tommy, many years later. “But there was never any tension in the family… [just] tremendous patriotism.” (3)

No trace of Dabbs, Shea, or their plane was ever found. When Eugene Dabbs Senior passed away in 1943, his son’s name was added to his headstone with the inscription “Both served their age as good soldiers – without fear and without reproach.”

Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Eugene Dabbs

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Salem Black River Cemetery, Mayesville, SC.
East Coast War Memorial, New York City, NY.

_____
NOTES:
(1) Vasselli, Gina. “Family’s Patriotism Never Wavered, Despite Death.” Publication unknown, posted May 27, 2010.

(2) The website http://www.aviationarchaeology.com 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:

vms3recovered

It is possible that Dabbs and Shea were searching for Alexakos and Nagy, 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.”

(3) Vasselli

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