Rep. Peter F. Martin (D-Dist. 75, Newport) was the guest speaker at the 39th Fighter Squadron reunion held last week in San Antonio, Texas, after he honored one of the 39th Squadron’s fallen heroes at the Rhode Island General Assembly.
Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) also traveled to Texas for the event.
"I really appreciate that Rep. Abney attended," Martin told Patch. "We get along very well. It makes my job fun."
The 39th Flying Squadron was deployed to the Fifth Air Force in Australia in June, 1942, and engaged in combat operations against the Japanese in the Netherlands East Indies, New Guinea, Philippines and at the Battle of Okinawa.
In addressing the gathering, Martin recounted the actions he took in the House of Representatives earlier this year to honor Lt. Robert E. Thorpe. A Cranston native and a member of the 39th, Lt. Thorpe was captured and killed by the Japanese military during World War II.
Lt. Thorpe was captured when his plane was struck by small arms fire during a strafing run on Wewak, a Japanese naval base off the cost of New Guinea, on May 27, 1944. Captured by a Formosan civilian unit, he was turned over to the Japanese naval base, where he was interrogated, tortured and executed, and buried in a shallow grave.
Today, nearly 70 years later and despite attempts by his family to do so, Lt. Thorpe’s remains still have not been recovered or returned to the U.S. for proper burial.
Representative Abney delivered a resolution from Gov. Lincoln Chafee and a citation from Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed honoring the squadron for its efforts in World War II that helped prevent Australia from falling into Japanese hands.
Lt. Thorpe was also recognized by the House of Representatives earlier this year when that chamber unanimously passed a resolution from Representatives Martin and Abney paying tribute to the fallen Rhode Island airman.