Catholicon Oct 1943
Ikema August 1987
The Asahi Shinbun
May 20, 1988
Yaeyama Mainichi Shinbun
May 21, 1988
J. Taylan March 24, 2019
|Pilot 2nd Lt. John F. McGrath, O-037237 (MIA / KIA) Troy, NY
MIA July 21, 1945 at 2:35pm
Built by Vought Aircraft Division of United Aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut. Constructors Number 81095. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-4 Corsair bureau number 81095. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific.
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), Marine Air Wing 2 (MAW-2), Marine Air Group 14 (MAG-14) to Marine Fighting Squadron 212 (VMF 212) "Hell Hounds / The Musketeers". No known nickname or nose art.
On July 21, 1945 took off from Kadena Airfield on Okinawa piloted by 2nd Lt. John F. McGrath armed with rockets as one twenty-four Corsair on a ground attack mission against targets on Iriomote Jima.
The twelve Corsairs from VMF-212 led by Major John P. McMahon Commanding Officer (C. O.) of VMF 212 attacked Sonai targeting 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 Kohama Jima. Meanwhile, the twelve Corsairs from VMF-223 attacked Funauki.
For twelve VMF-212 Corsairs attacking Sonai, McGrath's 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 (C. O. VMF-212) 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."
During August 1987, Japanese SCUBA diver Shiro Ikema located the crash site of an American Corsair fighter plane at a depth of 20-25m / 66'-82' and observed the propeller, engine, left wing with machine guns and bullets plus what was believed to be human remains on sloping sea floor off Sonai near Marumabonsan Island (Marumabonsan Rock).
In the local community, Japanese elders who remembered seeing this aircraft crash toward the end of the Pacific War and Ikema searched for the crash site based on their recollections. Afterwards, he reported the crash site and potential remains to the U. S. Consulate General Naha and The Asahi Shinbun.
On August 13, 1987 Shiro Ikema led a team of divers
from The Asahi Shinbun to the crash site and photographed the wreckage including the four bladed propeller, upside down wing and radial engine associated with a F4U Corsair. Their dive and a photo of the propeller wreckage with two divers and a map published in The Asahi Shinbun "Witness of the fierce war found in the bottom of ocean American fighter airplane found in Iriomote Jima" August 13, 1987.
On May 20, 1988 at 10:00am Shiro Ikema led two divers from the Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI) Captain Beni Uda and Sergeant Gaife Wini to the crash site while U. S. Consulate General Karl Spence Richardson observed from the dive boat. The team recovered what they believed were bones from the site. The report of the recovery team dive was reported in The Asahi Shinbun "Recovery of the remains of the American fighter" May 20, 1988.
On May 21, 1988 a memorial service was held at Sonai with the recovered remains (six bones believed to be arm or foot) in a a container covered by the U. S. flag. The ceremony was attended by fifty people including local residents from Sonai overseen by U. S. Consulate General Richardson who stated: "I wish the soul will rest in peace" and stated "the remains speak out about the preciousness of life and the importance of peace, and we have the responsibility to protect and carry on this peaceful days".
On May 22, 1988 the underwater recovery operation ended and the recovered remains were transported aboard a military aircraft to Hawaii for identification.
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.
Edward P. McGrath (father died 1951)
Mary C. McGrath
(mother died 1951)
Francis McGrath (brother, died age 10 of T.B.)
Edward "Ned" P. McGrath, Jr. (brother died)
William Paul McGrath (brother died 1999)
Harold McGrath (brother)
Catherine McGrath Cox (sister of McGrath died 2002)
Russell McGrath (son of Edward McGrath / nephew of McGrath)
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 (son of Robert F. 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."
Pacific Wrecks - John F. McGrath -
U. S. Marine Corps, F4U Corsair Pilot
NPRC Military Personnel Records - John F. McGrath
USMC Casualty Card - John Francis 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
"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  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 [sic Kohama 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 embedded] in their planes. No pilots from either squadron at any time observed AA fire. The aircraft destroyed was F4U-4, bureau # 81095. (See 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"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John F. McGrath
DPAA Service Personnel Not Recovered Following WWII from New York (McGrath, John F)
2Lt John F McGrath (courts of the missing photo)
John Francis McGrath (memorial marker photo)
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)
History of Taketomi (March 31, 1996) pages 766-767
"Inoue, Fumikichi writes one day when I returned home from Ohara, [July 21, 1945] U. S. planes flown at eight o'clock and commenced firing. Bullets flew toward us. They finished at five and they returned home. During the strafing, one of their planes [F4U Corsair 81095] fell down behind Marumabosan Island. We didn't shoot even a single shot against the intruders. I heard it was downed by friendly fire."
The Asahi Shinbun "Witness of the fierce war found in the bottom of ocean American fighter airplane found in Iriomote Jima" August 13, 1987
The Asahi Shinbun "Recovery of the remains of the American fighter" May 20, 1988
Yaeyama Mainichi Shinbun "Ceremony conducted locally, finally on the way to home country" May 21, 1988
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
Yaeyama Nippo "The search for the human remains will start in Sonai Ocean, An American fighter crashed in Iriomote in the end of War Mr. McAlonie arrives to the island from New York" March 23, 2019
Yaeyama Nippo "The wrecked underwater airplane was confirmed, The picture of the family was placed (in the airplane) in Sonai Iriomote" March 28, 2019
Thanks to Kathryn Kay Wright, Christine Ostrander, John Law, Beth Wright, David Cox, Minoru Kamada, Kuentai-USA: Usan Kurata & Yukari Akatsuka, Michael McAlonie, Donna Esposito and Justin Taylan for additional information
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May 22, 2019