PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — A New Hampshire bridge has been replaced and rededicated to a World War II submarine crew member who died when the vessel sank in 1944.
George Laderbush, of Portsmouth, was a torpedoman’s mate on board the Flier when it sank after striking a Japanese mine.
Seascoastonline.com reports the Woodbury Avenue bridge over the Route 1 Bypass in Portsmouth was originally dedicated to Laderbush when it was built in 1949. But the plaque wasn’t in a prominent location.
The bridge was closed two years ago and was replaced. The plaque was removed and refurbished and is being featured in a more visible area.
Laderbush’s niece and nephew, Marga Coulp and George Laderbush, were guests of honor at the Veterans Day bridge rededication ceremony.
It had been absorbed into the machinist’s mate rate in 1995.
Navy Times editor’s note: At 2200 on an overcast 13 August 1944, Torpedoman’s Mate 2nd Class Laderbush was on board the Flier (SS-250), which had passed through the Sulu Sea and was making 15 knots across the Balabac Strait south of Palawan during its second war patrol.
Then an explosion erupted forward on the starboard side of the boat.
Survivors later recalled seawater, oil and debris rising in the bridge, the terrible sound of flooding and then the screams of men below. It took less than 30 seconds for Flier to sink.
The commanding officer, Cmdr. J.D. Crowley, later concluded that his sub struck a mine.
The 14 crew members fortunate enough to escape the boat faced a dilemma. If they swam to Comiran Island, they risked capture by the Japanese. So they splashed toward a line of coral reefs to the northwest, relying on flashes of lightning and an early morning moonrise to guide their way.
Six sailors couldn’t keep up and were never seen again. Those who made it to Mantangule Island, as a group or alone, survived. Villagers gave them food and water and the crew lashed bamboo driftwood together into a raft and set off for Palawan and its U.S. Army Coast Watcher Unit.
The soldiers there let them radio for evacuation by submarine. Redfin retrieved them from a pair of small boats early on 31 August 1944.
The story about Laderbush’s fate fell victim to wartime secrecy.
The Navy wanted to protect the survivors so they could be rescued. Press releases only mentioned that Flier had seen “recent action" and the dead crew members were listed as “missing in action."
They were officially declared dead on Jan. 19, 1946, according to the University of New Hampshire, which became a repository for Laderbush’s records.
The folder includes the last letter George wrote home before Flier went on eternal patrol.
Fair winds and following seas, TM2 Laderbush.