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Yap Island Mission Loss—22 November 1944

The following planes were lost on 22 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

Two planes were lost over Yap on 22 November 1944, one plabe crashed while trying to land back on the carrier and another plane was hit by AA fire and returned to the USS Enterprise with a wounded Photographers Mate. Read more about the wounded Photographers Mate.

22 November 1944 F6F-5 Hellcat VF-20 from the USS Enterprise Lost over Island after dropping napolm on the airfield.
22 November 1944 SB2C Helldiver VB-20 from the USS Enterprise Hit by AA fire over YAp airfield and returned to the USS Enterprise with wounded crew member
22 November 1944 F6F-5 Hellcat VF-22 from the USS Cowpens Failed waveoff and ditched next to carrier after returning from mission. The pilot did not make it out of the plane.
22 November 1944 F4U-1 Corsair VMF-114 No exact location. Lost over Yap.

Date: Plane Type: Unit: Crew Names: Supporting Documents:
22 November 1944 F6F-5
Hellcat from the USS Enterprise
VF-20, USN
  1. Lt. Zack F. Lillard (MIA)
Bureau #58638

26 December 1944 Navy Document regarding the loss of Lt. Lillard

Document listing November 1944 Japanese plane shot down by Lt. Lillard

VF-51 Report on Nov 22 raid

VF-11 Report on Nov 22 raid includes a picture

USS San Jacinto Report on Nov 22 raid

Document listing November 1944 losses

History of Air Group 20

August 2009 Update

In August 2009 we locate part of the Lt. Lillard F6F-5 wreckage in a dense mangrove. The wrecakge found has been identified as that of an F6F-5. Due to the locate of the wreckage it is VERY likely that it is from the Lillard F6F. We will continue searching the area in 2010 for the rest of the wreckage including the fusulage. More information and pictures can be viewed at: August 2009 F6F-5 Wreckage

Update Received from George Kernahan on October 17, 2007: As regards the attack on Yap in November 1944 I can tell you that TG38.4, after striking Luzon on the 19th, was ordered back to Ulithi. Before it arrived there on the 22nd a fighter sweep was launched against Yap, where Lillard was shot down. The carriers in the Task Group were Enterprise, Hornet, Monterey and San Jacinto.

The CVG20's action report for the 22 November mission states the following:

30 VF20 Hellcats, plus two VB20 Helldivers, took part in the attack, the purpose being to drop napalm on a bivouac area near the main runway. After completing the drop most of the fighters made strafing runs as there was little apparent AA fire. This may have led to some complacency, and Lillard's section was noted as leaving it's pullout rather late. Just then the enemy opened up and shot off his tail, causing his F6F to crash and explode at the east end of the runway.

Task Force 38.4 November 21-22 Report:

Task Force 38.4 November 21-22 Report

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
MIA LILLARD ZACK F Jr. LT O 105971 Missing

Picture of Lt. Zack F. Lillard:
Lt. Zack F.  Lillard

Lt. Zack F.  Lillard

January 5, 1946: STATEMENT CONCERNING FINDING OF DEATH:

Lieutenant Zack Ford LILLARD, Jr., A-V(N), USNR, 1/5/46 Attached to Fighting Squadron TWENTY, based aboard the USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6), has been carried on the office records in the status of "missing in action" as of 22 November 1944.

The above named officer was officially reported to be missing in action as of that date in dispatches from the Commanding Officer, Fighting Squadron TWENTY, is the Secretary of the Navy.

On 22 November 1944, Lieutenant LILLARD, in F6F-5 airplane, Bureau number 56638, took off from the USS ENTERPRISE in a flight of thirty planes of similar type to participate in a rocket and five-bombing attack on designated _____ areas at Yap Island. After the rocket and bombing runs were completed, most of the planes, including that of Lieutenant LILLARD, returned for a strafing attack. Lieutenant LILLARD made a strafing run on anti-aircraft positions at the east end of the runway. Since the anti-aircraft fire appeared to be meager, he went low in a shallow dive. His plane was hit and the tail blown off. After two slow rolls out of control, it dove in to the ground from several hundred feet altitude at the east end of the runway, and exploded violently. Lieutenant LILLARD was not seen to leave the plane prior to the crash.

To date no further information has been received by the Navy Department concerning the fate of the above named officer.

In view of the strong probability that he was instantly killed when the plane in which he was flying, was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire, crashed and exploded, because no official nor unconfirmed reports have been received that he survived, because his name has not appeared in any lists or reports of personnel liberated from Japanese prisoner of war camps, and in view of the length of time that has elapsed since his was reported to be missing in action, it is recommended that the above named officer be found to be dead as set forth in the attached finding of death.

December 7, 1944 Newspaper article about Lt. Zack F. Lillard:

The following article was located by the Wise County Historical Commission in Decatur, Texas. The article was in the Wise County Messenger on December 7, 1944. Mrs. Rosalie Gregg from the Wise County Messenger added the following information:

    ...I did talk with a Mr. Donald Brown, who knew Mr. Lillard. He told me Mr. Lillard probably graduated from Decatur High School in 1934 or 35, attended college at Southern Methodist University, there met and married Ann Lacey, a daughter of a rather wealthy man.

Information about Lt. Lillard from Interview with Alex Phillips (VF-20 Pilot):

  • The Yap raid on 22 November 1944 was the only combat fligth by Lt. Lillard.
  • Lt. Lillard was a ladning officer did not fly combat but he had to get out and fly combat and asked to fly the 22 November 1944 mission.
  • Lt. Lillard was married and his wife's family was in the gas business in TX and very wealthy.

Education Information:

The following information was received from Southern Methodist University:
  • Zack Ford Lillard Jr attended Southern Methodist University between fall 1935 and spring 1941. He also attended University of Texas and Kilgore Jr College. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1935.

Letter from Comdr. Fred Bakutis

This letter from Lt. Comdr. Fred Bakutis describes the loss of Ens. Edward Spears. He describes how Lt. Lillard and Ens. Cox searched for Spears after his plane went down. The letter is part of the Clint Daniel collection, http://www.Danielsww2.com.

January 2012 Update

The following all-weather memorial sign will be shipped to Yap and installed at the crash site to remember Lt. Lillard. 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

Fact Sheet about Lt. Lillard



Description:

AA Hit, SDAA at Yap

American Battle Monuments Commission Information:

  • Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
  • Service # 0-105971
  • United States Naval Reserve
  • Entered the Service from: Texas
  • Died: 23-Nov-45
  • Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
  • Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial
  • Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Purple Heart

Please submit additional information.

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Date: Plane Type: Unit: Crew Names: Supporting Documents:
22 November 1944 SB2C Helldiver from the USS Enterprise VB-20, USN
  1. Lt. D.F. Huges and Day

VF-20 Mission Report

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Date: Plane Type: Unit: Crew Names: Supporting Documents:
22 November 1944 F6F-5 from the USS Cowpens VF-22
  1. Ens. Kenneth Louis Strandt (20953) (MIA)
Bureau #70039

Loss Report for Novemeber 22, 1944.

Ens. Kenneth Louis Strandt

Ens. Kenneth Louis Strandt

Ens. Kenneth Louis Strandt

November 24, 1943 cadet graduation picture.
The complete picture can be viewed by clicking on this link, complete class picture

Ens. Kenneth Louis Strandt

VF-22 Group picture. June 1944.
The complete picture can be viewed by clicking on this link, complete VF-22 pictures

AMERICAN BATTLE MONUMENTS COMMISSION, http://www.abmc.gov/search/detailwwnew.php

    Kenneth L. Strandt
    Ensign, U.S. Navy
    Service # 0-326193
    United States Naval Reserve
    Entered the Service from: Washington
    Died: 22-Nov-44
    Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
    Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
    Manila, Philippines

Family Seeking Information:

My Dad's older brother flew a Hell Cat off the Cowpins off Yap Island on November 22, 1944. Returning from a mission he came in for a landing, was waved off, and on his second pass hit the sea. A friend who went to school with him at Mr. Baker High School (Everson, WA) was on the boat. Jack Sharon (sp?) said that the boat came around to pick him up but Ken made no effort to eject or even open the canopy. He went down with his plane. I grew up wondering what he was like as a person. Dad, Loren D. Strandt, says he cannot remember so far back and they were three years apart in age. Dad joined the Marines and saw no action though he was prepped twice for China. I cannot find my uncle, Kenneth Louis Strandt, in any records except the Manila Cemetery. He wasn't exactly missing in action, but his body and plane were never found. Can you help me connect with someone who could give me more information? In his effects that were mailed to his mother and father, Hildur and Louis Strandt, in Everson, WA., there was a portrait of a beautiful woman. My grandmother threw it out (It wasn't the girl she had chosen for him.) What if he had a child that we never knew about or a wife who never knew what happened? I know, it is a bit late for me to be searching for answers, but there is only my Dad to ask and he never wanted to talk about it with me until now. Ensign Kenneth Louis Strandt's service number is O-326193.

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Date: Plane Type: Unit: Crew Names: Supporting Documents:
22 November 1944 F4U-1
Corsair
VMF-114, USMC
  1. Lt. Robert W. Spain (20953) (MIA)
Bureau #50176

VMF-114 Report for Novemeber 22, 1944.

Lt. Robert W. Spain

  • From Fillmore, CA
  • Attended Ventura Jr. College

Lt. Robert W. Spain

Lt. Robert W. Spain

1942 Flight Class (42-C) graduation picture.
The complete picture can be viewed by clicking on this link, complete class picture

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
MIA SPAIN ROBERT W   1 LT O 20953 Missing

Description:

AA hit while strafing airfield. 4000 yards west of the southern tip of the Yap Air Strip and just over the barrier reef. The plane hit the water before chute opened. Seen to disapear in sea.

Bob Spain Pictures courtesy of Gaylord Greenfield, VMF-114, USMC

The following pictures were shared by Gaylord Greenfield, VMF-114, USMC. Gayload flew with Bob Spain and was on the mission when he was shot down. Gaylord mentioned that Bob Spain was "strong" and a body builder. After the war Gaylord visited the "good sized (family) farm north of Santa Barbara". Read more about Gaylord Greenfield, VMF-114 Pilot, memories of his missions against Yap Island at: Gaylord Greenfield Memories
Bob Spain
1st Lt. Bob Spain. third from left. Photo courtesy of Gaylord Greenfield, VMF-114, USMC.
Bob Spain
1st Lt. Bob Spain. Second from left in the front row. hoto courtesy of Gaylord Greenfield, VMF-114, USMC.
Gaylord Greenfield, Bob Spain and Frank Sullivan
Left to right: Gaylord Greenfield, Bob Spain and Frank Sullivan. Picture might have been taken on Espiritu Santo. Photo courtesy of Gaylord Greenfield, VMF-114, USMC.
VMF-114, USMC
VMF-114, USMC.

American Battle Monuments Commission Information:

  • First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Service # 0-020953
  • United States Marine Corps
  • Entered the Service from: California
  • Died: 22-Nov-44
  • Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
  • Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
  • Manila, Philippines
  • Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart

Please submit additional information.

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