As I have mentioned in a few previous posts on my blog, we had a successful trip to Yap this year for a number of reasons. First, with the assistance of a number of people, we found several American and Japanese crash and wreck sites on Yap. Mort importantly though, we were joined by two other families who also lost relatives over Yap on separate 307th BG missions in the summer of 1944.
Joining us on Yap this year were seven people from two families that lost relatives from the Anthony B-24 that was lost on August 10, 1944 (http://www.missingaircrew.com/yap/mac/10aug1944.asp) and the Diederich B-24 who were lost on July 15, 1944 (http://www.missingaircrew.com/yap/mac/15july1944.asp). The Anthony B-24 was likely shot down by AA fire directly over Yap while the Diederich B-24 was lost when two B-24ís collided south of Yap while being chased by Japanese planes after bombing the Yap airfield.
I felt our 2006 trip was a success from the moment I received calls from the families asking to join us for this yearís search trip. My wife and I greatly enjoyed our time with both families throughout the trip. I never imagined during last yearís trip that I would be returning to Yap with families from other planes that were lost over Yap.
During our trip one of the families remembered their lost loved one in a very private manner while the other family held a memorial service on a dive boat over the crash site. Both events were very touching and really made me think how much my Missing Air Crew Project has touched other families who also lost men. It was a surreal experience to be in the middle of Micronesia on a little island with eight other people (including my wife) who all had one thing in common, the loss of a loved one 62 yeas ago. I wonder what the missing men would have thought had they know their family members would be out in the south Pacific looking for them and providing closure to their losses so many years after the war. So many men were unaccounted for after the war that the search efforts were minimal at best. Many relativeís spent their entire lives seeking closure to losses and it never was provided. Iím so pleased that we were able to touch two families (three counting my family) to help them provide some form of closure.
Iím not sure what future trips will bring, however, itís possible we will bring other families to Yap in upcoming years to provide a similar experience. I have been asked many times over the last week when I will be returning to Yap but at this time I have not started to make plans. Itís possible we will return again in 2007. I need to spend considerable time reviewing and documenting my 2006 trip before I can even think about planning the next trip. In addition, it would be very helpful to return to Yap with some additional resources such as side-scanning sonar and underwater vehicles. We have accomplished a lot with limited resources. I canít imagine what we could accomplish if we were able to gain access to sophisticated search equipment.
Over the next few weeks I will begin to post information about the sites we located including some interesting Japanese sites, however, I will not provide details about the locations so we protect the sites from other groups who donít have the same intentions. Iím also creating detailed site reports that will be sent to JPAC that include GPS locations, pictures, wreck site maps, and other information to help them determine if a JPAC mission to Yap is warranted. My goal is to get JPAC to plan a mission to Yap by providing information about the sites we have located over the last two years. I canít control their selection of sites for future missions but I hope my extensive research regarding Yap losses and my detailed crash site reports will get them to Yap at some point in the near future to seek out and recover missing American men.
I want to regress back to the end of my trip last year to explain how we were able to have success this year. We went to Yap last year with research about my uncle missing plane and the goal to search for the plane and interview Yapese elders while we still had the opportunity. We ended up receiving a lot of information from Yapese elders about other wreck sites on Yap that were likely American fighters (not bombers). Although my mission was to my uncleís plane, we decided to go out in the jungle and mangroves and see if we could find the other planes. We ended up devoting a lot of time last year to searching for other American crash sites. We were able to locate three American sites within the short week we were on the island. More information and pictures from our 2005 trip can be viewed at the following link:
Upon returning home from Yap in 2005 I was energized to begin researching all the American losses over Yap. I assumed I would find 10-15 planes at the most. I was shocked when the total ended up to 33 American planes, 149 men involved, and 110 men listed as MIA. Some of the planes lost on missions to Yap were lost well away from the island so the number of planes that are findable on or near Yap is between 15-18. Over the last year I have received research help from a number of groups and individuals (too many to mention without missing a few names). I have created a comprehensive list of planes and men at the following link:
In short, through my research over the last year I was able to return to Yap last month with comprehensive information about all the Yap losses. I had a lot of detailed information that greatly helped in our search efforts this year. In addition, I made a number of new contacts over the last year. Many of the individuals provided invaluable help to use to locate various sites. I appreciate everyone who has supplied information and provided help over the last year. The results of this help paid dividends over the last few weeks on Yap.
In my follow-up posts over the next few days and weeks Iíll post information and pictures about some of the sites we discovered this year including the Japanese sites.
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