usmc pilot john mcgrath

John F. McGrath in his Navy Cadet uniform. Photo courtesy of pacificwrecks.com

On July 21, 1945 USMC pilot, Lt. John McGrath took off from Kadena Airfield on Okinawa for a ground attack mission on nearby Iriomote Jima. During his rocket attack, McGrath’s Corsair failed to pull out of its dive and crashed into the sea.

Lt. McGrath’s commanding officer sent news of his death to his family:

“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.”

Now, over 70 years after his death, WWII researcher and historian, Justin Taylan is hoping to find the missing pilot and his plane. The quest started last year when Taylan was contacted by Michael McAlonie, the son of a high school classmate of John McGrath. McAlonie had a high school yearbook photo of his father, Howard McAlonie, with McGrath and two other friends before they shipped overseas to fight in WWII.

“I can’t say no to a mystery that can be solved,” said Taylan. “This plane can be found.”

Taylan is planning on collaborating with faculty and students from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his alma mater, in launching a search for the missing plane and the remains of Lt. John McGrath.

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For Further Reading Check Out

The Ultimate Battle: Okinawa 1945–The Last Epic Struggle of World War II

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