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We (Pat & Cherie Ranfranz) spent an exhausting week on Yap Island in October 2005 searching for the Coleman B-24. Although we did not find the Coleman B-24 on the first trip (Phase I) we came home feeling like we accomplished a lot during the trip. While on Yap we were going non-stop interviewing Yapese elders, hacking through jungles, diving the waters, and crawling through mangrove swamps to locate and document the American crash sites. We reviewed some Japanese wrecks/crash sites, however, we tried to focus on the American planes in the water, jungle, or swamps. Here are some of the main points of interests regarding the Coleman crew from our October 2005 search trip:
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Memorial Service for the Coleman Crew. On Wednesday, October 26, 2005 on the bow of the Mnuw, Yap Island we (Patrick & Cherie Ranfranz) gathered with several new friends and chiefs (Andrew Ruepong, Paramount Chief of Yap and Chief of Rul, Bruno Tharngan, Chairman of the Council of Pilung and Chief of Ma’ap and Martin Yinug, FSM Supreme Court Justice) to pay our respect to the Coleman crew. More
POWs from the Coleman Plane? Both Mark and Alex said 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. Mark said Father Bernardo was one of his teachers while in school before the war. He later heard that all were killed by the Japanese on Palau. He remembers the following names:
- Coleman Crew Memorial Service on Yap
: On Wednesday, October 26, 2005 on the bow of the Mnuw, Yap Island we gathered with several new friends and chiefs (Andrew Ruepong, Paramount Chief of Yap and Chief of Rul, Bruno Tharngan, Chairman of the Council of Pilung and Chief of Ma'ap and Martin Yinug, FSM Supreme Court Justice) to pay our respect to the Coleman crew. The service was filmed and will be shared with the families of the other crew members. MORE
- Yapese Interviews: We conducted a lot of interviews with Yapese elders while on the island including two men who we believe saw the Coleman plane shoot down and crash. The most interesting information from the witnesses is that they both reported seeing 2-3 parachutes come out of the plane. Both recounted that two American POWs were captured and interrogated by the Japanese. Later, according to both Yapese men, these same two American POWs were taken to the island of Palau along with two Catholic Priests and a Filipino man (and his family) who ran the weather station on Yap.
Read more about the following interviews (digital video of the interviews will be posted as soon as possible):
- Father Bernardo
(Full name found on web site below: Fr. Bernardo de la Espriella 1926-1944† )
- Father Luis
(Full name found on web site below: Fr. Luis Blanco 1933-1944† )
- Filipino weather man: Acapito Felisa & wife
I found the full names of the two Catholic Priests names listed on the following web site that validate Mark's information from the interview. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN YAP- personnel: http://www.micsem.org/pubs/books/catholic/yap/personnel.htm
Possible location of the Coleman crash site? Alex and Mark recall only one four engine bomber being shot down over Yap during the war. Alex said 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. Since returning from Yap on October 29, 2005 I have done extensive research regarding AAF bombers and other Navy and Marine planes lost on Yap. I can find no record of another four engine bomber (outside of the Coleman B-24) being lost directly over Yap during the war. In addition, I can find no reports of a B-29 being used against Yap Island at anytime during the war. Although the 307th & 5th Bomb Group lost a number of planes (about 6) near Yap (within 8-50 miles), the only 4 engine bomber to be lost directly over Yap was my uncle's B-24 (The Coleman crew). Since no B-29's were used against Yap I'm assuming it was likely that Alex witnessed the Coleman B-24 crashing and sinking on the SE side of Yap. He watched the bomber sink off the second channel below the town of Colonia. I dove near this site while on Yap in October but we did not focus intently on the area. I now believe the best place to search for the Coleman B-24 is the area Alex has marked on the map. It's too bad that I'm now home and unable to dive the site again this year, however, I'm going to put all my energy into returning to Yap next year to locate the Coleman crew. The extra time will help me organize resources to use side scanning sonar and underwater cameras. I feel we have a solid location to explore on our Phase II search trip next year.
More pictures, video, and data from the October 2005 trip: Please continue to monitor the MissingAirCrew.com web site as we upload pictures, video, and additional data to the web site. MORE
|Pictures from our interview with Mark Loochaz's & Alex Tretnoff, Yap Island, October 2005:|
Click on the thumbnail images below to view the full-sized image.
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