AVIATION RADIOMAN THIRD CLASS JAMES WESLEY DYE JR, was born in December of 1925 to James and Kathryn Brannon Dye. His early years were spent in Gloucester City NJ, where his parents lived with his maternal grandmother and aunts and uncles at 12 Thompson Street. His parents later moved to 41 West Buckingham Avenue in Mount Ephraim NJ. His father worked as a bus driver in 1930, and his mother also worked, as an inspector in a radio factory. Known to friends and family as "Buddy", he graduated from Audubon High School in Audubon NJ before joining the Navy.
James Wesley Dye entered the United States Navy in February of 1943, and had served in the Atlantic before transferring to a newly constructed aircraft carrier, the USS BENNINGTON (CV-20) in December of 1944.
On December 15, 1944, Bennington got underway from New York and transited the Panama Canal on the 21st. The carrier arrived at Pearl Harbor January 8. 1945 and then proceeded to Ulithi Atoll, Caroline Islands. There she joined TG 58.1, on February 8, 1945. Operating out of Ulithi she took part in the strikes against the Japanese home islands (1~17 and 25 February), and the Volcano Islands (18 February - 4 March).
On his first combat mission, James Wesley Dye Jr. was serving as the radio operator on an Avenger dive bomber. On February 18, 1945 he was shot down, and captured by Japanese forces while bombing communications towers on the island of Chichi Jima, north of Iwo Jima. One American pilot parachuted into the sea and was rescued by an American submarine. That pilot was George H.W. Bush, who was elected President of the United States in 1988.
Dye and seven other airmen met a horrible fate at the hands of the Japanese. Some were beheaded and all were cannibalized. Lieutenant General Yoshio Tachibana, the Japanese general in command on Chichi Jima, and a subordinate, Major Sueo Matoba ordered the executions and butchering of the Americans men one by one, to be fed to fellow Japanese officers. Tachibana, Matoba, and others were convicted and executed as war criminals after Japan's surrender. Details of the trial and the fates of James Dye and his comrades was kept secret until 1997, when documents relating to the events were declassified.
Aviation Radioman Third Class James Wesley Dye, Jr. died on February 24, 1945 on Chichi Jima. His remains were recovered after the war, and he was buried at Honolulu Memorial in Honolulu HI. Besides his parents, he was survived by a younger brother, Joseph Ronald Dye.
On November 5, 2004 James Wesley Dye will be one of the first two enlisted airmen to be inducted into the Enlisted Combat Air Crew Roll of Honor, at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant, S.C., near Charleston. The roll honors gunners and other noncommissioned officers who served as aircraft crewmembers during wartime.
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