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Yap Island Mission Loss—21 November 1944

The following plane was lost on 21 November 1944 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: pat@missingaircrew.com

Date: Plane Type: Unit: Crew Names: Supporting Documents:
21 November 1944 FG-1
Corsair stationed at Peleliu
VMF-121, Group MAG-11, USMC, Staioned on Peleliu
  1. Maj. William Jr. Clay (KIA)
Bureau #14323

VMF-121 Aircraft Action Report

USMC Narrative describing the loss of Major Clay.

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

PERMANENT CEMETERY LAST NAME FIRST NAME MI SUFFIX RANK SERVICE # DISPOSITION
Arlington National Cemetery CLAY WILLIAM   Jr. MAJ O 7176 Individual identification

Maj. William Jr. Clay

Maj. William Jr. Clay
Maj. William Jr. Clay

Maj. William Jr. Clay

Description:

Hit ground while strafing.

William Clay, who went by Bill Clay, was reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery after the war.

New Information:

During April 2006 I received two different emails from former Yap residents that provide accounts of an American pilot who was shot down over Yap, captured, and then killed by the Japanese. The accounts are both second hard through family members, however, they seem to be very similar and might be accounts of the loss of Maj. William Jr. Clay on 21 November 1944. One of the emails mentioned Maj. Clay by name.

The first account provides some very interesting information about the pilots parents coming to Yap to search for their son after the war. I did not arrive on Yap until 60+ years after the loss of my uncle. It’s amazing to hear that some American family members likely tried to search for their relatives after the war.

  • EMAIL #1: When I was growing up going to school, there was this ruined fighter jet by the road. Later on in life...my mother told me that it belonged to a young American pilot who was shot down by the Japanese. He was still alive when his plane crashed, and the Japanese tortured him. His parents came looking for that plane and they were told what the Japanese tortured and killed him. Those parents...it must be terrible to be told what their son went through.
  • EMAIL #2: Not to go too long about the story but my mom was a little girl along with other children helped build the air strip before the war broke out. She and the others were prisoners for about two yrs. At age 12 she saw a plane crash on the beach when she got to the site the Japanese soldiers took the tall blonde hair plot who was wearing a orange jumpsuit out of the plane and tied his hands and feet to a long pole were he was hanging while they carried him away and they beat with sticks. They later found out they put him along side a road and put rocks over his body. The village people later after the war took the US were the body was.
Maj. William Jr. Clay

Maj. William Jr. Clay

New Information:

The following information was supplied by Hensley Clay Williams. Clay who was named after Maj. William Jr. Clay.
  • All this was passed to me by my father, Hensley Williams, who passed away in 2002. At his request, we had a F4U do two passes as part of an ashes scattering ceremony.
  • I believe he was in the USNA Class 0f 41 that graduated early in February as all could see the war coming.
  • I never heard that his parents went to Yap to look for him. I was told by my father that Bill Clay's remains were returned to the US and reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery as part of the "return of the war dead program". I believe the reinternment ceremony was in 1947, and my father attended as well as Bill Clay's mother, who was still quite distraught, my father (now deceased) told me. Where Bill Clay's father was was never mentioned. All my father taught me was that Bill Clay was shot down and killed at Yap. And the reinterment ceremony occured on a cold and windy day.
  • One last story is one of Bill Clay's and Hensley Williams' common friend, George Herring. I always understood he was another USNA fellow grad who survived the war and retired as a Colonel about 1960. He died in the late 1980's and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery very close to where his friend Bill Clay is interred. What a small world I thought. Both locations are in the NW part of Arlington National Cemetery and within sight of Henderson Hall, the historical Marine Headquarters near the Navy Annex.
  • A college scholarship in his name of Maj. William Jr. Clay was setup by his family with Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. It's called the Major William Clay, Jr. Memorial Scholarship. Criteria: Recipient must be a deserving student that is a graduate of Stephenville High School. This Scholarship was created in 1962 by family members of Major Clay. Major Clay's plane was gunned down in 1944 during a bomb raid over Yap Island in the Pacific.

VMF-121 Squadron Picture:

The following VMF-121 Squadron picture shows four of the Corsair pilots who were shot down over Yap Island in the fall of 1944 including, Lt. Allan J. Carmena, Lt. George O. Beall, 1st. Lt. Robert L. Gillis and Maj. William Jr. Clay. Carmena was rescued after ditching his Corsair, however, the other pilots were lost and are either listed as MIA or KIA.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

VMF-121 Squadron Picture
VMF-121 Squadron Picture-High Res Picture (3 MB)

VMF-121 Squadron Picture with Names
VMF-121 Squadron Picture with Names-Low Res

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