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Yap Island Mission Loss—16 March 1945

The following plane was lost on 16 March 1945 on a mission to Yap Island. I would greatly appreciate anyone's help to locate additional information regarding the information listed below.Submit additional information, updates, newpaper articles, pictures, and supporting documents to:

Date: Plane Type: Unit: Crew Names: Supporting Documents:
16 March 1945 TBM-3
Grumman Avenger
  1. Joseph Crowley
  2. Kenneth D Gillispie
  3. Edgar Russell Norcross
Bureau #68526

Aircraft Action Report for 16 March 1945

Aircraft Action Report for 16 March 1945

MIA/KIA STATUS: The following information was provided by the Navy and Marine causality offices:

MIA CROWLEY JOSEPH     1 LT O 31322 Missing
Missouri GILLISPIE KENNETH D   PFC 842203 Individual identification

Pictures of the crew members:

2nd Lt. Joseph Crowley Edgar Russell Norcross PFC Kenneth D Gillispie
2nd Lt. Joseph Crowley-MIA PFC Edgar Russell Norcross-MIA PFC Kenneth D Gillispie
more pics

PFC Edgar Russell Norcross Dog Tags Located:

Click to enlarge the following picture of Edgar Norcoss's dog tags. The dog tags were purchased at an auction by a collector. We do not know the source of the tags:

Norcross dog tags

Description of loss:

Yap, Crowley, Joseph, 2nd Lt. and PFC Edgar Russell Norcross listed as missing in action and not recovered. PFC Kenneth D Gillispie (Gunner), Body Recovered after the war. PFC Kenneth D Gillispie parents listed as Mr and Mrs David Gillispie of St Moberly, MO.

Marine Air Corps VMTB-232 based on the island of Ulithi. Plane was shot down and crashed on Yap island on March 16 1945. He was a gunner on a TBF.

COM Ulithi Atoll War Diaries:

COM Ulithi Atoll War Diaries

Aviation Cadets Book

Aviation Cadets Book

October 30, 1943 Cadet Graduation Picture of Joseph Crowley



Page 604

Crash Site Pictures from 16 September 1945

Click to enlarge the pictures.

Picture taken 16 September 1945. Yap Island grave of a crew member of VMTB-232 shot down on March 16, 1945 on Yap Island. the inscription reads: "To the memory of American pilots who died at the front."

Picture taken 16 September 1945. Wreckage of TBM belonging to VMTB-232 lost over Yap Island on March 16 1945.

Photo Credits: National Archives, courtesy of Timothy Schubert.

Wing of TBM "likely" located on Yap, July 2007 by Missing Air Crew Project Researcher, Stan Gajda:

I have been working with Stan Gajda over the last few months to help with my search for American crash sites on Yap. Stan has traveled to Yap a few times in recent months and offered to help with my Missing Air Crew Project. One of the crash sites that I have been trying to locate is a Marine TBM-3 Avenger that crashed near the old runway on Yap on March 16, 1945. From the description of the loss it sounds like the brand new TBM might have lost of wing due to a structural problem. The TBM only had 65 hours on it when it was lost over Yap.

The crash claimed the life's of three crew members Joseph Crowley, Kenneth D Gillispie and Edgar Russell Norcross. After the war the US Military grave registration service located the wreckage but only recovered one of the crew member bodies. The remains of Kenneth D Gillispie was sent back to his family and buried in Missouri.

During Stan Gajda's July 2007 trip to Yap he likely located the wing of the TBM Avenger. We are still trying to confirm the wing belongs to this TBM loss, however, a number of plane experts have identified the wreckage as a TBM wing with rocket mounts. Stan's discovery will help us focus on this area during our next search trip to try and locate the main body of wreckage. Pictures of the Avenger wing found by Stan Gajda can be viewed below.

Click to enlarge images

TBM Wreckage

TBM Wreckage

TBM Wreckage

TBM Wreckage

TBM Wreckage

August 2011 Update

Additional pieces of the TBM were found by Stan Gajda near the wing found in 2008. The wreckage in the pictures below are of the right wing near the area that the wing would fold. Stan spent a few days searching for other parts of the TBM while he was docked in Yap working on a fishing boat.

Click to enlarge images







January 2012 Update

The following all-weather memorial sign will be shipped to Yap and installed at the crash site to remember the three men. A marble marker will be shipped with the sign and encased in concrete next to the sign. The memorial project has been a partnership between the Missing Air Crew Project and the Yap Visitors Bureau that has been ongoing since 2008. The plan is to setup all-weather memorial signs and markers for all of the men killed on Yap during WWII.

All-weather memorial sign--Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

American Battle Monuments Commission Information about Joseph Crowley:

  • Joseph Crowley
  • First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Service # 0-031322
  • United States Marine Corps
  • Entered the Service from: Massachusetts
  • Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
  • Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery Manila, Philippines
  • Awards: Purple Heart

American Battle Monuments Commission Information about Edgar R. Norcross:

  • Edgar R. Norcross
  • Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Service # 470313
  • United States Marine Corps
  • Entered the Service from: New Hampshire
  • Died: 16-Mar-45
  • Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
  • Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery Manila, Philippines
  • Awards: Purple Heart

Please submit additional information.

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