We found a Hellcat crash site on Yap Island last October while searching for my uncle?s B-24 from the 307th BG. We found the almost complete Hellcat laying upside-down with the gear fully locked in the down position and with its flaps fully extended. I was always puzzled by the gear and flaps being locked down and has theorized that that the pilot had tried to bleed off airspeed after getting hit by AA fire before he crashed.
However, last night I watched a new DVD titled, ?Search for the Flyboys?The Ghost of Palau?. Some of the historic film shows a Hellcat with gear down and full flaps dropping a canister of napalm on a hill. This can explain why the Hellcat we found had its gear down and full flaps. This makes more sense due to the fact that a former Hellcat pilot sent me letter stating that Lt. Zack F. Lillard (MIA) was shot down in his F6F-5 Hellcat from the USS Enterprise (Bureau #58638) on 22 November 1944 after dropping napalm on the airfield. The Hellcat we lcoated is just to the north of the old airfield.
My question: Was it a common tactic to slow the planes airspeed by dropping the gear and full flaps prior to dropping a napalm canister on targets?
You can view pictures of the Hellcat crash site at: http://www.missingaircrew.com/hellcat.asp. In addition, I have put together a compressive list of American planes lost on missions to Yap Island at http://www.missingaircrew.com/yap/yapmissions.asp.
We plan to return to Yap from September 13-29 to continue the search for my uncle?s plane as well as the other American planes and missing men I have documented thus far. I now believe the Hellcat #1 crash site we located last October is likely that of Lt. Zack F. Lillard (MIA). The Yapese elders advised us the pilot was pulled from the wreckage and buried on a hill next to the plane. I have sent this information to JPAC but I not been notified that they plan to open this case.
Discussion about wrecks and losses as well as historic sites in the Pacific.
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