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  PBY-4 Catalina Bureau Number 1230  
USN
VP-102

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated. Assigned to VP-102 operating from the USS William B. Preston (AVD-7) from Cavite Naval Base at Manila Bay.

Mission History
Early on December 8, 1941, PBY Catalinas were searching the sea off the Philippines signs of the Japanese ships or invasion force. Two Catalinas, this aircraft at PBY Catalina 1229 remained moored in Malalag Bay off Davao Del Sur. Shortly before 8:00am, nine Japanese fighters attacked and strafed the Catalinas, sinking them both.

US Navy official history adds:
[Japanese fighters] "strafed the helpless PBYs, turning them into colanders of metal and fabric and setting them afire... Ensign Robert Tills died in the fusillade of bullets."

Wreckage
In October 2007, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) was notified by U.S. authorities in the Philippines that aircraft wreckage had been discovered in Malalag Bay. A fragment of the wreckage bore the markings “PBY-4.”

Recovery
In November 2007, a JPAC team, along with the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group-Philippines and the Philippines Coast Guard (PCG), surveyed the site and recovered human remains and non-biological evidence. Later that month, the PCG recovered additional remains from the site. Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC also used dental comparisons in the identification of Tills’ remains, that were officially identified on December 1, 2008.

Memorials
Officially declared dead the day of the mission. Memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. After identification, Tills was buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 60 site 8998.

In June 1943, a destroyer escort the USS Tills (DE 748), was commissioned in the ensign's memory. It was launched less than four months later, providing escort service against submarine and air attack for Navy vessels and convoys. After the war, the Tills was converted into a training vessel. In 1969, the ship was sunk as a training target off the U.S. East Coast.

References
Department of Defense News Release 992-08, December 1, 2008 "Sailor Missing from WWII Identified"
Woman gets to say goodbye 69 years later - Her fiance's plane was shot down during World War II; his remains were recently identified, December 27, 2008
Herald Times "Home at last!: Robert Tills of rural Manitowoc finally comes back from war" March 26, 2009
Arlington National Cemetery Website - Robert G. Tills

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Last Updated
January 9, 2018

 

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