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F6F-5 Hellcat Crash Site, Yap Island
On 6 September 1944 the USS Enterprise lost three VF-20 F6F-5 Hellcats over Colonia, Yap within a short period of time. During our October 2005 search trip we located the crash site of a F6F-5 Hellcat in the jungle on Yap Island. The plane was one of the three that had been shot down on 6 September 1944 and it was the plane flown by Ensign Joseph Cox. Ensign Cox's Hellcat was hit by AA fire and collided with another Hellcat flown by Ensign Howard Holding. Both Hellcats spiraled into the jungle west of Colonia, Yap (then called Yap Town by the Americans). Based on the location of the Ensign Cox crash site we knew that the crash sites for Ensign Holding and Lt. Brown had to be close to the Cox crash site. With the help of the Tim Schubert family (An American who lived on Yap in the 1980's and married a Yapese wife) we were able to locate the assumed crash site of Lt. Brown (see below) on a hill west of Colonia in September 2006. On the same trip we located what we believe to be the Ensign Holding crash site in the Yap harbor. Although Ensign Cox's body was recovered after the war and returned to the US for burial, both Ensign Holding and Lt. Brown are listed as missing in action.
When we reviewed the Cox Hellcat crash site in 2005 we were surprised to find most of the plane intact in the jungle with only the tail missing. The plane was still navy blue and the AA holes were clearly visible along the bottom on the wings. The Hellcat crash site we found in 2006 was completely the opposite. The plane went into a hill hard and was broken into a lot of small pieces over a few hundred yards. We found pieces throughout the hillside to identify the plane as a Hellcat including engine casting, wing pieces, fuselage pieces, and two of the 50 cal machine guns from the plane. One of the gun barrels showed the hard impact of the crash and was bent. We visited the crash site on two occasions to document the wreckage, map out the hillside, take pictures, and plot GPS coordinates. The pictures below are a sampling of the crash site. Please feel free to send comments and questions to Pat Ranfranz: firstname.lastname@example.org
USS Enterprise Air Group 20 Aircraft Action Report for 6 September 1944
Two 4-plabe divisions, one 3-plane division and two 2-plane sections attacked Yap Town from the SW to NE out of the sun. As the first division, Comdr. BAKUTIS leading made its dive Lt.(jg) Harry D. BROWN, flying No. 4 position, must have been hit by heavy AA fire. His plane was seen a moment later by Commander SMITH flying at high speed in a flat dive and smoking badly. Comdr. SMITH'S wingman next saw the plane crash just west of Yap Town and the flaming wreckage scatter. Since BROWN was not seen by other members of his division after the start of the dive (8000') it is probable that his plane was hit by heavy AA fire. The 3-plane division consisting of Lt-Comdr. LAWLER, Ensign COX and Ensign HOLDING had just started its dive when Lt-Comdr. LAWLER saw COX cross over from the right to the left. COX and HOLDING'S planes were next seen in tight spirals. Once plane crashed west of Yap Town in flames while the other was not actually seen to crash. No parachutes were observed. It has not been determined whether COX and HOLDING collided or whether a burst of AA fore hit both planes simultaneously. The other planes searched for possible survivors of the three plane crashes without success and returned to base. Heavy and medium AA fire were meager but very accurate. It is possible that the Japs were using medium AA without tracers since very few tracers were seen although there is a fair concentration of automatic AA installations at this location. (just south of the inlet at Yap Town).
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