CPL John Albert “Bert” Donovan

CPL John Albert “Bert” Donovan

Plymouth, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Death 22 Apr 1944 (aged 20)
Cenotaph Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan, USA
Memorial ID 58004424 · View Source
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Article in the Lansing State Journal on June 5, 2012:

Michigan Marine's remains return home today - after 68 years
Pfc. died in 1944 in S. Pacific air crash
11:39 PM, Jun 5, 2012
Sixty-eight years ago, Marine Corps Pfc. John Albert Donovan — "Bert" to his family and friends at home in Michigan — went missing in action in the South Pacific.
On April 23, 1945, a year and a day after he disappeared, Donovan was declared dead.
Today, he will finally come home.
The remains of the blond-haired, blue-eyed 22-year-old, discovered during a search for another downed plane in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, are expected to arrive in Detroit on a flight from Hawaii.
On Friday, he'll be buried in a family plot with full military honors, with his last surviving sibling in attendance.
"I can't wait for all this to take place. This is just amazing to me," said Tim Donovan, a nephew who lives in Fowlerville and works at ASAP Printing in Lansing.
Of the six Donovan kids who grew up in the Detroit suburb of Plymouth, only Josephine Demianenko remains. She plans to come from Florida for the funeral.
"It's a lot of mixed feelings," she said Tuesday. "You feel sad, but you're glad they found his remains."
The baby of the family, she's now 82 and remembers her older brother as a reserved, nice young man.
"My mother always said the same thing," she said. "He was very smart. He was an A student. Real smart, but real nice. He was nice to everyone."
She still recalls answering the door for a telegram in April 1944, informing her parents that Bert was missing.
"I gave it to my sister and she gave it to my mother when my mother came home. She was at a church meeting. She was very shocked. It was shocking," Demianenko said.
The journey to recover and identify the remains fills a 150-page book, Donovan said.
On April 22, 1944, Bert Donovan, an aerial radio operator, and six other crew members were aboard a Marine Corps PBJ-1 bomber on a training mission when they hit some bad weather in the South Pacific near the island of Espiritu Santu. The island was part of the New Hebrides, now known as Vanuatu.
"They originally were sent out to heckle the Japanese. It was a training mission," Tim Donovan said. They lost communication and struck the side of a mountain.
For decades, the Marine Corps presumed the plane was lost at sea. But in 1994, a privately funded mission scouring the rugged, remote area for the remains of another plane discovered the PBJ-1. They recovered human remains at the site and returned them to the U.S. Department of Defense.
In 1999, a survey team traveled to the site, 2,600 feet above sea level, and determined that recovery teams would need specialized mountain training to get the crew back.
In 2000, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command recovered more human remains at the site.
Additional expeditions continued in 2009 and 2011.
Tim Donovan's father, William Donovan, and his aunt, Patricia Kennedy, both donated DNA to help identify their brother's remains. Other crew members' families did the same. Both William and Patricia have died since then.
About 16 million Americans served in the armed forces during World War II. About 400,000 died. More than 73,000 of them still are unaccounted for.
Flip Colmer, a Navy veteran who lives in Chelsea, works with an organization called the BentProp Project. It is searching for downed aircraft and U.S. soldiers' remains in the South Pacific nation of Palau.
He said the recovery of any remains is always good news.

"Those who were left on the battlefield are forgotten in public memory," he said. "To get them back, it's fantastic for the family, for the person, for the country."

Family Members


In Loving Memory


Gravesite Details Please see his memorial in Honolulu Memorial Cemetery 56128978 for more information.

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  • Created by: Old Bones
  • Added: 1 Sep 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 58004424
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for CPL John Albert “Bert” Donovan (11 Dec 1923–22 Apr 1944), Find A Grave Memorial no. 58004424, citing Old Saint Patricks Cemetery, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Old Bones (contributor 47251769) .