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  F4U-4 Corsair Bureau Number 81095  
USMC
MAW-2
MAG-21
VMF-212

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USN 1944

Pilot  2nd Lt. John F. McGrath, O-037237 (MIA / KIA) Troy, NY
MIA  July 21, 1945 at 2:35pm


Aircraft History
Built by Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1 Corsair bureau number 81095. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific.

Wartime History
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Wing 2 (MAW-2), Marine Air Group 21 (MAG-21) to Marine Fighting Squadron 212 (VMF 212) "Hell Hounds / The Musketeers". No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On July 21, 1945 took off from Kadena Airfield on Okinawa piloted by 2nd Lt. John F. McGrath armed with rockets on a ground attack mission over Iriomote Jima. The formation included 24 Corsairs including twelve from VMF-212 led by C. O. Major John P. McMahon plus a a dozen F4U Corsairs from VMF-223 that attacked Funauki to the south. The primary target was Sonai where a small chemical plant and administrative center were hit by 59 rockets and thoroughly strafed, without any observed result. Other targets included Hatoma Jima and Kobama Jima.

Over Sonai, this aircraft was seen in a rocket dive and observed to crash into the sea several hundred yards southwest of the town at 2:35pm. The cause of the crash was unknown. When this aircraft failed to return, McGrath was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Major John P. McMahon letter to McGrath's family after his loss:
"He [McGrath] was fourth of the division to go into a dive for the strike, and somehow he never came out of his dive. His plane was seen to crash and explode into the sea near the target. Enemy aircraft fire was encountered by other members on the strike, but the exact cause of his crash remains unknown. Lt McGrath's death was attributed to the explosion following the fatal crash. - Major John P. McMahon."

Memorials
McGrath was officially declared dead on July 21, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with gold star, Air Medal with six gold stars and the Purple Heart, posthumously.

McGrath is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the courts of the missing (Honolulu Memorial), court 4. He also has a memorial marker at Saint Agnes Cemetery in Menands, NY at section 4, plot 90.

Relatives
Edward P. McGrath (father died 1951)
Mary C. McGrath (mother died 1951)
Edward "Ned" P. McGrath, Jr. (brother died)
William Paul McGrath (brother died 1999)
Harold McGrath (brother)
Francis Mcrath (brother, died age 10 of T.B.)

Catherine McGrath Cox (sister of McGrath died 2002)
Robert F. Cox (nephew of McGrath died 2006)
Ann Cox (niece in law of McGrath died 2015)
John J. Cox (great-nephew of McGrath)
David M. Cox (great-nephew of McGrath)

Mary McGrath Law Dufresne (sister of McGrath died 2006)
Kathryn Kay (Roy) Wright (niece of McGrath)
Barbara (Joe) Healey (niece of McGrath)
John Law (nephew of McGrath)
Linda Law (niece of McGrath)
Christine (Edward) Ostrander (niece of McGrath)
Margie (David Perilstein) Law (niece of McGrath)

Michael McAlonie (son of Howard McAlonie who was a friend of John McGrath adds):
"My father attended and graduated Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) as a mechanical engineer, and was a USN Seabee veteran of the Battle of Iwo Jima. RPI Professor Halloran was my father Howard McAlonie’s first cousin as my grandmother was a Halloran as well. The MIA/ KIA individual I am researching was his classmate at Catholic Central High School (CCHS) today RPI's West Hall and was not any direct relation to me. But I grew up listening to stories about him. I have some small amount of specific information on him and his loss July 21, 1945 a day after leaving Iwo Jima where he visited my father while returning from leave in Guam. He was a close friend of my fathers and his death stayed with my father his whole life. Another bit of information I though might be useful to you regarding the crash particulars that I noticed when just re-reading the letter sent home from the C. O. that I obtained from John McGrath’s niece-in-law after I located the McGrath's last remaining sister in Troy in 2002. That sister died two weeks later."

References
John F. McGrath - U. S. Marine Corps, F4U Corsair Pilot
NPRC Military Personnel Records - John F. McGrath
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-4 Corsair 81095
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List July 1945 - F4U Corsair McGrath
NARA "War Diary Marine Air Group Fourteen 1 July 1945 to 31 July 1945" page 8-9
(Page 8) "Weather conditions again limited activities until 21 July when 24 Corsairs [VMF-212 and VMF-223] unloosed 180 rockets and more than 22,000 rounds of ammo at targets of opportunity on Iriomote Shima. Objectives included a barge southeast of Sonai town, building in the town itself, a 75 to 100 foot lugger in Funauke Ko and a larger ship, possibly a Sugar Baker in Funauke Kita Wan, and building in Funsuke town. Barracks at Raemi, southeast of Iriomote, and buildings on Uchi,..."
(Page 9) "...Hanare Shims were also attacked. While specific results were unobserved, 164 of the rockets struck in the target area and all objectives were thoroughly strafed. This strike also involved a fatality, Second Lieutenant John F. McGrath, USMCR, (NA), (037237), of VMF 212 was killed in action over the target when his plane failed to pull out of a dive and crashed into the water. The cause is unknown but the probability that it was due to anti-aircraft fire is indicated by the fact that two other planes returned with flak fragments embedded in their fuselage. No pilots at any time observed any anti-aircraft fire."
NARA "War Diary - USMC Marine Fighting Squadron 212 - July 1-31, 1945" page 17, 33
(Page 17) "21 July [1945] Sakishima Gunto Strike: Flight composition: Major McMahon and Lts. Duncan, Wortman, Stanton, Ellis, Gillespie, Mouzakis, McGrath, Sandbach, Petty, Lingenfelter, La Marre, Jernigan and Walsh.
Major McMahon led 24 Corsairs, 12 of which were furnished by VMF-223, in a rocket and strafing attack against various targets of opportunity on and in the vicinity of Iriomote Jima, Sakishima Gunto. Principal target was Sonai Town, site of a small chemical plant and administrative center of Iriomote Jima, which received 59 rockets and was thoroughly strafed. Planes also strafed and rocketed Hatoma Jima and Kobama Jima. No specific results from any of the attacks were observed.
... 2dLt. John F. McGrath, USMCR, was killed in action when his plane failed to pull out of a rocket dive and crashed into the water several hundred yards SW of Sonai Town at 1435. The cause was unknown, but the probability that it might have been due to AA fire is indicated by the fact that 2 pilots from VMF-223 returned with flak fragments imbedded [sic] in their planes. No pilots from either squadron at any time observed AA fire. The aircraft destroyed was F4U-4, bureau # 81095. (Aee ACA-1, 063-45)."
(Page 31) "Separations: * McGrath, John F. / Serial: 037237 / SSN: 1055E / Branch: NAVC / Duties: 21Jul45 Killed in Action."
(Page 33) "Squadron Monthly Summary VMF-212 / No Lost: 1 / Type: F4U- 4 / Combat or Operational: ? / Serial Number: Bureau # 81095"
The Troy Record "1st Lt. John F. McGrath Troy Marine, Fighter Pilot, Died in Action" July 26, 1945, page 2
The Troy Record "Mother Receives Medals Awarded to Marine Flyer" January 16, 1950, page 11
Times Union "Mother of Slain War Hero Gets U. S. Award" January 17, 1950 page 1, photo awards presentation
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John F. McGrath
FindAGrave - 2Lt John F McGrath (courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - John Francis McGrath (memorial marker photo)
Associated Press "Old yearbook photo spurs effort to find missing WWII pilot" by Chris Carola February 16, 2018
WNYT "Man on quest to give MIA WWII Troy Navy pilot a proper burial" by WNYT Staff February 21, 2018
WNYT "Then & Now: A mission to bring home John McGrath" by Karen Tararache February 21, 2018
History of Taketomi pages 766-767
Thanks to Kathryn Kay Wright, Christine Ostrander, John Law, Michael McAlonie and Donna Esposito for additional information

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Last Updated
February 20, 2019

 

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