Cindy Gray never met his uncle, Albert “Bud” Rybarczyk, a radioman killed when Grumman TBF Avenger bomber crashed in Aimeliik State in Palau in 1944.
Cindy’s recollection of his uncle is a photo of him in mother’s house. While the family hardly talked about him when she was growing up, the memories of Rybarczyk never faded.
Cindy and her son Adam, visited Palau last week to see the place where Rybarczyk died. Traveling to Palau was a wish come true for Cindy and Adam, which was made possible through the help of Project Recover.
Rybarczyk, a radioman killed when Grumman TBF Avenger bomber crashed in Aimeliik State in Palau in 1944,
Rybarczyk’s aircraft was shot down in 1944, Project Recover found the plane in 2014 and recovery of the remains happened a couple of years after.
Rybarczyk had been Missing in Action since September 8, 1944. He was part of a US Navy three-man aircrew whose TBM-1c Avenger from the aircraft carrier, USS Intrepid, crashed after dropping a bomb on the power plant along western Aimeliik on that September day in 1944.
Adam said the talks of visiting Palau and him diving the crash site was discussed with the Project Recover Team during his granduncle’s funeral in Michigan in 2017.
The experience of diving the crash site of his granduncle’s plane was nostalgic, Adam, 25, said.
“It was quite incredible to be there,” he said.
You hear a story and a tale, and sometime later in your life, you get to see the area where the story is, it really puts a perspective on things,” Adam said.
He said it’s surreal to see Palau ‘s a beautiful place and what happened then during the war.
“This is the greatest experience of my life,” Adam said.
Cindy said her visit to Palau gives her the feeling that she finally found his uncle who has been missing most of her life.
“He was lost and now he was found,” Cindy said.
Adam said the visit finally filled a void, they knew was missing.
The Grays has all but praises for Project Recover who they described as a team of dedicated individuals who make sure that US soldiers during World War II have gotten the funerals they deserve and give their families closure.
Project Recover is in Palau for its annual mission to continue its effort in searching for missing U.S. servicemen believed to have died here during World War II. (By Bernadette H. Carreon)