|Pilot Lt(jg) James W. Syme, O-130176 USNR (MIA / KIA) NM
MIA March 30, 1944
Built by Grumman in Bethpage, New York as a model G-50. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F6F-3 Hellcat bureau number 40653.
Assigned to USS Princeton (CVL-23) to squadron VF-23. No known nickname or nose art.
On March 30, 1944 one of twelve Hellcats that took off from USS Princeton (CVL-23) at 11:30am piloted by Lt(jg) James W. Syme from Lat 7° 55' N, Long 136° 21 E on a fighter sweep and Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over Palau (Belau). After take off, two Hellcats aborted the mission due to mechanical failures.
This Hellcat was part of division no. 1 led by Lt. Commander H. L. Miller with Ens. L. F. McWilliams, Lt(jg) James W. Syme and Ens. Frederick James. Weather was cloud cover 3/10 from 4,000' to 6,000' with visibility unlimited.
The formation arrived over the target at 12:40pm at an altitude of 11,000' over Peleliu Airfield on Peleliu Island. Miller's Division no. 1 began strafing runs with James and Syme claimed shared credit for a G4M1 Betty making a 90° overhead attack hitting the engines and wing root.
Flying above, Division no. 2 led by Lt. C. C. Schmidt spotted a flight of 15-20 Zeros 3,000' below 5 miles away and radioed the other divisions. After getting the report of the nearby bandits, Miller's Division no. 1 broke off their strafing attack and climbed to join the interception.
During the air combat, a Zero got on the tail of Syme's
Hellcat and shot it down. Possibly, Syme managed to bail out and might have been strafed while descending. When this Hellcat failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Syme was officially declared dead on January 16, 1946. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Purple Heart, posthumously.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F6F-3 Hellcat 40653
NARA USN USS Princeton (CVL-23) Air Group 23 Aircraft Action Report - 30 March 1944
(Page 21) "Lt(jg) James W. Syme, USNR [cause] fire from Zekes [condition or status] missing - parachuted or crashed."
(Page 23) "Lt. Schmidt's division followed almost on the tail of Lt.(jg) Syme and Ensign James. They, in tern, were followed by Lt.(jg) Kerr and Lt.(jg) Muhlfeld. Lt.(jg) Syme apparently did not see a division of 4 Zekes above and to the side of the main body of Zekes for he pulled up in front of them. Lt. Schmidt's division attacked these 4 Zekes, shooting down a plane which had gotten Lt.(jg) Syme's tail and then pulled up and attacked the other three, shooting down two of them. Thus Lt. Schmidt's division accounted for three of these four Zekes. Then the action took the form of individual dog-fights, participated in by Ensign James, Lt. Schmidt's division and Lt. Kerr's section.
(B) During the melee with the Zekes, two F6F pilots were observed parachuting, one of which may have been Lt.(jg) Syme; both of these pilots were strafed by Zekes during their descent."
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List February 1944 - F6F-3 Hellcat 40653
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - James W. Syme
Thanks to Katherine Rasdorf for additional research and analysis.
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February 4, 2018