Then & Now: A mission to bring home John McGrath

February 21, 2018 12:36 PM

TROY - Like all good puzzles, the final picture is hidden among the pieces that make it up.

"The war has been over almost 75 years now," Jack Marcil said.


We start with 94-year-old Jack Marcil.

"I can't remember what happened yesterday," he laughed.

Jack was a member of the Coast Guard during World War II.

He openly admits he feared death daily and wasn't alone. 

"Anyone that tells you different either wasn't there or is making up stories," he insisted.

This is Justin Taylan. 

"This is really what America is about," he explained.

Taylan has made it his job to find missing service members that weren't as lucky as Jack.

"The first start of any inquiry is to go to the eyewitnesses, the people who were really there."

Justin's current mission involves enlisting the help of his alma mater. 

"He's a bit of an Indiana Jones type, he's like an Indiana Jones of Pacific Wrecks," Igor Vamos said.

Professor Vamos and Justin have walked this path hundreds of times, never once suspecting they'd be stepping 75 years into the past. 

"None of us knew that the other guys were going to be at the school, we just all were on leave at the same time," Marcil explained.

Coincidence brought classmates Jack Marcil, John McGrath,  Howard McAlonie and Alfred Mahoney together to visit Catholic Central High in 1943 and fate would bring all but one, back home.

"I feel blessed the lord was with me all through service," Marcil said.

Pilot John McGrath crashed off the coast of the Okinawa Islands in 1945.

Justin believes he knows where to look for his remains and is hoping these RPI students will use their knowledge to build a tool that will help bring that missing piece of the puzzle back home.  

"He thinks they're going to find the plane or something, I hope they do," Marcil said.

Justin says he's heading to Okinawa determined to locate McGrath's remains and wrecked plane.

He thanks Michael McAlonie for sending the picture to him and he says he'll do his best to bring his father's friend, John McGrath back home to troy. 


Karen Tararache

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