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PRESS RELEASE

Yap Visitors Bureau and the Missing Air Crew Project announce One-of-a-kind WWII memorial dedicated on Pacific Island of Yap, July 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ens. Joseph Cox F6F-5 Hellcat Memorial
Click to view high resolution image. Ens. Cox and Ens. Holding Families, US Navy Rep, U.S. Ambassador, Mark Noah and Pat Ranfranz standing in front of the Ens. Joseph Cox F6F-5 Hellcat Memorial after the memorial dedication

Yap Island, FSM, August 28, 2010: - The Yap Visitors Bureau (YVB), Yap State Government, U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), U.S. Navy, and Missing Air Crew Project (MACP) together dedicated one of the most unique World War II memorials ever on July 27, 2010 on Yap Island. The newly constructed memorial displays the actual wreckage of an F6F Hellcat shot down over the island on September 6, 1944. It pays tribute to the plane's pilot Ens. Joseph Cox of Sand Point, Idaho as well as the hundreds of other Americans lost near this Pacific Island during WWII.

In the historical context of WWII and the Pacific theatre American losses near Yap (now part of the FSM) were substantial, yet continue to be overlooked even today. Strategically located between the Philippines and Guam, Japanese occupied Yap was targeted almost daily from June 1944 to August 1945 at the cost of hundreds of American men, 110 of which remain classified as missing in action.

Pat Ranfranz of Cameron, Wisconsin, founder of the MACP, has spent over 20 years researching Yap during WWII and the stories behind each airman and his mission, hoping to preserve their memories for generations to come. Pat's uncle is among the airmen that remain missing. Each year since 2005, Pat and his wife Cherie have traveled to Yap looking for missing American planes. They have located and recovered numerous aircraft over the last five years and continue to seek out new sites during each visit.

Ens. Joseph Cox F6F-5 Hellcat Memorial
Click to view high resolution image. U.S. Navy Civilian Affairs Commander Bryce Gibb and retired Navy pilot Marc Flagg during the rendering of military honors and presentation of American flags to the Cox and Holding families.
Pat originally located the Ens. Joseph Cox F6F Hellcat crash site in October 2005. The plane is one of 36 that were shot down near the island during WWII. Pat worked with the YVB to save Joseph's wreckage from the expanding Yap landfill in 2008. It was relocated to government held land and displayed on a concrete pad next to an all-weather sign and memorial marker describing the man, the plane, and the mission. "It is truly one of the most unique wrecks and now memorial sites in the Pacific," explains Pat. "After the war, most of the wreckage throughout the world was picked over and removed. Fortunately in this case, the Yapese have respected the wreckages as grave sites and taken care to preserve them and remember the American men who lost their lives during the war."

The memorial dedication, attended by hundreds of Yapese, took place near Yap's Public Works building on Tuesday, July 27, 2010. Among the dignitaries attending were Yap Governor Sebastian Anefal, Lieutenant Governor Tony Tareg, U.S. Ambassador to the FSM Peter A. Prahar, U.S. Navy Civilian Affairs Commander Bryce Gibb. Most importantly in attendance were three members of the Ens. Joseph Cox family, including his 90 year old brother Ellis Cox, as well as two relatives of another soldier, Ens. Howard Holding-all of whom made the sixty-hour round trip to attend the dedication. Ens. Holding collided with Ens. Cox the day they were shot down. Pat Ranfranz recovered the Ens. Holding wreckage in 2006.

Pat Ranfranz speaking
Click to view high resolution image. Pat Ranfranz founder of the Missing Air-Crew Project speaking at the Ens. Joseph Cox Memorial Dedication on July 27, 2010.
The touching memorial dedication included statements by many of the dignitaries listed above and the rendering of military honors and presentation of American flags to the Cox and Holding families by Cdr. Gibb. Marble memorial plaques were also given to each family as a remembrance by Pat Ranfranz. Ambassador Prahar took time to recognize the Yapese lost in the recent conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan. "Although it has been almost 65 years since the men were shot down and killed, it was hard to find a dry eye throughout the memorial dedication," Pat recalls. "Watching the 90 year old brother of the pilot, Ellis Cox, see the wreckage of his brother's plane for the first time is something I will never forget. It makes all the research, search trips and time and money worth the effort even if we never find another missing American plane. I hope one day soon we can hold a similar memorial dedication for my missing uncle, T/Sgt John R. McCullough, but we still need to find the plane."

Pat Ranfranz expresses his gratitude for the work that was done to make the memorial dedication doable. "This would not have been possible without the work done by the people of Yap and the Yap Visitors Bureau to save and preserve the American crash sites and wreckages that remained after the war. Too many people have forgotten the men who gave their lives for our freedom during WWII. This memorial and others on Yap Island will help to immortalize the forgotten and bring meaning to their sacrifices."

The YVB and MACP have been working together for several years to preserve and remember the American airmen who lost their lives over Yap during WWII. For more information about the memorial dedication and Missing Air Crew Project, visit: www.missingaircrew.comor www.visityap.com.

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Audio Files:

Download the listen to the following audio files to hear more about the air war over Yap during WWII, the three American Hellcat pilots that were lost over Yap on September 6, 1944 when flying a mission from the USS Enterprise and the Ens. Cox Hellcat memorial that was dedicated in 2010. The audio files will be part of an upcoming video that will be posted showing the memorial dedication. Please watch for the video to be posted.

Click to play or to download the files, right click on the files below and "save target" to your desktop to play. Files may take a few minutes to play or download due to the size.

Voice over by Jessica de la Cruz.

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