Marvin Lee (Buster) Gary

Today I am introducing a new category for this blog. “Military Veterans”.  Some previous posts already fit the description.   Stephen Harding fought in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.   Eneas Gary was also a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  I can probably find someone to write about in virtually every war since.  And they all deserve to be recognized and honored.

To the best of my knowledge, Marvin Lee Gary, or “Buster” as he was known, is the only one of my relatives (1st cousin once removed) that made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country.

I first heard of Buster’s fate when I was about 11 years old.  We had just moved to Oregon and we were visiting John and Elma Gary.  They were Buster’s parents and my Great Aunt & Uncle.   I must have been wandering around their house doing a little exploring when I noticed a picture of a man in a sailor suit. I was told that his name was Buster and he had been killed during World War II.  Even now, I find myself thinking “really?”  Can that actually happen to some one I’m related to?  But, of course, the tragic reality is that, yes, it can.

When preparing to tell a story, one should always begins by reviewing what you think you already know.  To that end, I dug out my notes on Buster Gary which plainly stated that he died on 16 May 1945 when he was “shot down over Germany” .  Quite a story.  But as I sought more details, I realized that there was a problem with that narrative.  Adolph Hitler committed suicide on 30 April, 1945.  Germany signed a Total and Unconditional Surender on May 7th which took effect the next day, the 8th.  And Buster was shot down on the 16th.  Eight days later?  Did somebody not get the memo about the war being over.

I apologize for attempting humor in the face of Buster’s tragic death.  But I use this to illustrate how false and unfounded stories can perpetuate and grow; and how important it is for genealogists, and others, to seek out the actual truth.

So after doing my research, here is what I now believe to be true about Marvin Lee Gary.

  • Born 15 Oct 1923 in Laurel, MT
  • Died 16 May 1945 off the coast of San Diego, CA
  • Branch of Service – United States Naval Reserve.
  • Rank – Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class.  As such, his duties were to assemble, service and repair airplanes and airplane engines. Splice aircraft wiring. Know principles and theory of flying.
  • Squadron number – VT-14 (“V” indicates fixed wing aircraft and “T” indicates Torpedo)
  • His plane – TBM-3E “Avenger” Torpedo Bomber Warplane

The most detailed information I found regarding his death was in this, now declassified, daily operational journal which states in part:


War Diary – Month of May 1945

1. VT-14 continued in training at NASS, Ream Field, San Ysidro, Calif.

2. On May 16, Ensign Paul Rodger WARBURTON (A1) USNR, and Marvin Lee GARY, AMM3c, USNR, were listed as missing when their TBM was seen to crash at sea during gunnery practice.

4.   OUT     BU NO. 86054     16 May     TBM-3E     Lost At sea

His remains were never recovered.

His is name is included on The World War II West Coast Memorial in San Fransisco, CA.  (

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