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Wreckage from Lt. Zack F. Lillard's F6F-5 Hellcat Located

Pat Ranfranz with the tail of Lt. Zack F. Lillard's F6F-5 Hellcat that was located in July 2010
Pat Ranfranz with the tail of Lt. Zack F. Lillard's F6F-5 Hellcat that was located in July 2010
On our 2009 trip we located what we believe to be the partial wreckage of Lt. Zack Lillard's F6F-5 Hellcat in a dense mangrove swamp NE of the old Japanese airfield. Lt. Lillard's plane from VF-20 off the USS Enterprise was shot down over the Japanese held Yap airfield on November 22, 1944 as he made a low strafing pass over the airfield. The reports from his shoot down state that his tail was blown off and he crashed in a fireball NE of the old runway. The wreckage located in 2009 was the right wing of a F6F-5 Hellcat. We returned to the swamp in July 2010 and spent a number of days splashing through the mud and muck in extreme heat. The first few days we were unsuccessful, however, on the last day right before dark we located the tail section of the F6F-5 Hellcat. I was tired, wet, muddy and covered in mosquito bites and about ready to give up and get out of the swamp when our guide, Theo, used his machete to cut through a really dense area of the mangrove as we were turning around to find our way back out. As we entered the dense area I could see the navy blue tail of the F6F-5 Hellcat stuck between tree's. The tail was in remarkable shape and easy to identify. We now have found the wing and tail therefore we know the general direction to look for the rest of the plane next year. We were out of time this year to find the rest of the plane. Lt. Zack Lillard remains missing in action. A man is not dead unless he is forgotten! Additional information is located at the following links:

Please feel free to send comments and questions to Pat Ranfranz: pat@missingaircrew.com

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