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Interview with Alex Tretnoff, October 2005, Yap Island


Alex Tretnoff (left), Patrick Ranfranz (middle), and Cherie Ranfranz (right).
Alex Tretnoff’s parents were Russian, however, he was born on Yap and lived on Yap all his life. Throughout WWII Alex witnessed a majority (if not all) of the American attacks by bombers and fighters. He recalls only one 4 engine bomber being shot down over Yap during the war. He watched the plane go down from a location near Colonia and saw the plane floating "just off" the reef near the second channel below Colonia before sinking nose first into the water. He remembers the tail going down last as the plane sunk. He thought the plane was a B-29; however, no B-29's were lost over Yap during the war. In addition, Alex saw three parachutes come out of the bomber as it crashed and said that one of the American airmen swam away from the island and the other two were captured by the Japanese. Similar to my interview with Mark Loochaz, Alex recounted that the two American POWs were taken to the island of Palau with two Catholic Priests and a Filipino man who ran the weather station on Yap. He said all were killed on Palau. According to Alex the Filipino man's family went to Palau after the war to locate his remains and were not successful. Alex said he helped dump Japanese ammunition off the reef near the crash site after the war and tried to dive and locate the bomber without success in the late 1940's.

In addition, Alex provided detailed accounts of two Hellcat crash shoot downs and crash sites including the location of the grave of one of the pilots. Alex said he helped pull the deceased pilot from the crashed Hellcat and other villagers buried him on the hill behind the crash site. We were able to locate both Hellcat crash sites using Alex's directions with the help of a guide from the Manta Ray Hotel. Alex has a propeller from one of the Hellcats in front of his home in Colonia. He said a Navy Seabee showed him how to remove the propeller from the plane after the war. To the best of Alex’s knowledge no Americans ever asked for information about the pilot's grave site or other American crash sites.

Article about Alex Tretnoff

View an expert from the book, Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War, about Alex Tretnoff. The article is titled, "The White Russian from Yap".

Pictures from our interview with Alex Tretnoff at his home on Yap:

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Alex Tretnoff (left), Patrick Ranfranz (middle), and Cherie Ranfranz (right).
 

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Pictures of Hellcat propellers at Alex Tretnoff home on Yap:

Click on the thumbnail images below to view the full-sized image.


Hellcat propellers taken from crash sites after the war.

Hellcat propellers taken from crash sites after the war.

Hellcat propellers taken from crash sites after the war.

Hellcat propellers taken from crash sites after the war.

Hellcat propellers taken from crash sites after the war.

Hellcat propellers taken from crash sites after the war.

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