Man on quest to give MIA WWII Troy Navy pilot a proper burial

February 21, 2018 05:17 AM

John McGrath of Troy never made it home from World War II. His fighter plane crashed in the Pacific in 1945, just weeks before the war ended. Now, a researcher wants to find McGrath's plane.

This is a story of loss and honor, but it's also one of friendship and mystery and it begins on the steps of what used to be Catholic Central High, but is now West Hall of RPI, back in October 1943 where the photo was taken.

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In the photo, you see four American servicemen back at home in Troy on leave, who were visiting the high school they had just graduated from two years prior.

A photographer happened to capture them. From left to right, you see John Marcil, a Coast Guardsman -- who is the only surviving of the friends and is 94 years old. Next to him is John McGrath, a Navy pilot who died in service and is missing in action. His body was never recovered. Howard McAlonie is a sailor. His son Michael provided the photo. On the far right is Alfred Mahoney, a soldier.

Michael McAlonie reached out to a nonprofit called Pacific Wrecks in the hopes that his father's friend, Pilot McGrath, would finally be located and laid to rest.

Justin Taylan, who founded Pacific Wrecks, has high hopes for finding McGrath and his plane, which was last seen crashing into the sea near the shoreline of one of the Okinawa Islands back in July 1945.

McGrath is the only American serviceman to still be MIA from this location. The war was over three weeks after his death.

"What we're prepared to do is mount an expedition to go to the precise island where John McGrath was lost, follow the combat reports and the history to look in the place where his aircraft likely crashed and hopefully find wreckage or evidence at this crash site that remains to this day," explained Taylan.

He is going to start the search for McGrath and he's enlisting the help of students at RPI, which also happens to be his almamater. It's possible that they can help create a submersible drone or perhaps sonar to search for McGrath's plane.

He's prepared to go to the Okinawa Island and speak to any fisherman there – anything he can do. Then, McGrath can honorably be laid to rest.


WNYT Staff

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