Fulfilling a promise

WWII?Navy man’s remains come home

The remains of World War II Navy aviation radioman 3rd Class Walter E. “Bert” Mintus arrived back in Cambria County on Friday. Members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association’s Altoona branch escorted Mintus’ casket to the Holy Family Parish along Caldwell Avenue in Portage. (Photo for the Mirror by Matt Churella)

PORTAGE — The remains of a World War II Navy aviation radioman 3rd class — presumed killed 74 years ago in a crash on an island in the western Pacific — arrived back in Cambria County on a rainy Friday to be honored and laid to rest.

Walter E. “Bert” Mintus, formerly of Benscreek, Washington Township, was lost in a bombing raid July 27, 1944, on Malakal Island in the Republic of Palau. He was 22.

Mintus was one of three men aboard a torpedo bomber aircraft that went down in flames in 1944 near Malakal Harbor in Palau.

After continuous prompting by Mintus’ surviving family members, the crash site was excavated earlier this year. Dental records and other information, as well as a DNA test, confirmed the three men’s identities in June.

On Friday, Mintus’ remains were transported from Pittsburgh International Airport to Holy Family Parish along Caldwell Avenue, where several community members gathered to pay their respects.

Members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association’s Altoona branch escorted Mintus’ casket in the cold, rainy weather. Among the members was Bob Bradley of Bellwood.

“Sixteen million men went forth under arms with nothing more than a promise that they’d be brought home and taken care of. Today, we fulfilled that promise,” Bradley said.

“I’m a combat veteran. The whole thing just moves me,” Bradley said of Mintus’ tribute. “I’ve carried four of my friends and a brother with a flag over them. It’s always moving.”

Mintus enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Feb. 4, 1942, in Pittsburgh and was assigned as a radioman to the naval Torpedo Squadron 51.

On July 27, 1944, the torpedo bomber with pilot Lt. Roland Houle, turret gunner Otis Ingram and radioman Mintus, took off from the USS San Jacinto on a bombing mission to Malakal Island. They were the lead aircraft and were spotted 5 miles ahead of the other aircraft at the beginning of the attack. As the other attack planes approached, they saw an aircraft on fire in Malakal Harbor.

The three crew members were not found and reported as missing in action. The men were presumed dead on Feb. 4, 1946.

A funeral Mass for Mintus will be held at 11 a.m. today at Holy Family Parish, Portage, with Father Thomas Stabile, TOR, as celebrant. Committal will be in Sacred Heart Cemetery with military funeral rites by the U.S. Naval Ritual Team.

His deceased family members include his parents and his 13 brothers and sisters. The family suggests any memorial contributions be made to erect a fitting memorial to Walter Mintus.