Justin Taylan 2006
|Pilot Captain Marion R. McCown, Jr., O-009610 USMCR (MIA / KIA) Charleston, SC
Crashed January 20, 1944
Built by Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1 Corsair bureau number 02402. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific (SOPAC).
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) to Marine Fighting Squadron 321 "Hell’s Angels" (VMF-321). No known nose art, nickname or squadron number.
On January 20, 1944 took off from Torokina Airfield on Bougainville piloted by Captain Marion R. McCown, Jr. a mission to escort B-25 Mitchells from the 42nd Bombardment Group on a bombing mission against Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul.
Over the target, Japanese aircraft intercepted, and McCown reportedly engaged a Zero at 4,000' while another moved to attack him. Another F4U cleared his tail, claiming the attacking Zero as shot down, but McCown was never seen again. A total of three F4Us were lost: this aircraft plus F4U 17914 and F4U 55835.
This Corsair crashed near Mount Varzin south of Rabaul on a stream bank near Viveren village. The crash site was first discovered in 1983. The engine, tail cone and pieces of the wing remain. The remains of the pilot were present at the wreck. A portion of the wreckage with the Bureau Number was recovered by Brian Bennett during the early 1980s and is displayed today at the Kokopo Museum.
Brian Bennett adds:
"This crash site was, to my knowledge first identified by a Terry McMahon who was at that time a plumbing trades teacher at the Rabaul Malaguna Vocational Centre. Terry had found the site and also a Identification disc [dog tag] of Captain M. C. McCown. I remember that he showed me the dog tag but would not hand it over so that i could forward it to CILHI. In 1984, I visited the site and managed to locate nearly on the surface some cranium fragments which I retrieved and also reported this to CILHI. The number 02402 was the Navy Bu No and was on the vertical stabilizer in small letters maybe 1.5" high. I removed the number at the time I first visited the site in the early 1980s. donated this piece to the Kokopo Museum with rest of my collection in late 1989. It is quite likely that the Navy records are in error, there should be no great surprise at this."
Justin Taylan visited the site in July 2006:
"I visited this crash site after the visit by JPAC earlier that month. The wreckage was the same as Brian Bennett described to me in the 1980s. Locals who had assisted in the recovery recounted stories about what was found by the team."
Recovery of Remains
This site has been visited by CILHI / JPAC at least three occasions. (1) According to A Bond of Brothers "in 1991, when Army researchers visited the site, they didn't find sufficient remains to identify with DNA." (2) Later, In July 2006, another JPAC team revisited the site and found additional remains. (3) In May 2008, JPAC again visited the site and recovered additional remains.
On May 14, 2008 the suspected remains of Lt Allan S. Harrison III and Captain Marion R. McCown were recovered, flown to Port Moresby PNGDF HQ, then flown to Hawaii for further identification. On December 19, 2008 the Department of Defense (DoD) announced his remains were officially identified.
McCown was declared dead on January 16, 1946. Posthumously, he was promoted to the rank of Major. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
After his remains were recovered and identified, he was buried January 18, 2009 next to his mother, sister, and grandparents at the Unitarian Church Cemetery in Charleston, SC.
Note, records incorrectly state McCown was piloting F4U 17448, but in fact he was flying this aircraft, F4U 02402 or possibly switched planes prior to take off. Also, squadron records list his surname as "Mc Gown".
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1 Corsair 02402
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List January 1944 incorrectly lists "McGown" (sic) and as the pilot of F4U 17448.
NARA "Marine Fighter Squadron 321 (VMF-321) War Diary January 1944" pages 2, 3
(Page 2) "Roster of Flight Echelon - Mc Cown, Marion R. Jr. Captain USMCR"
(Page 3) "Mc Cown, Marion R. Capt. Missing In Action 20 Jan 44"
(Page 27) "Forces Engaged: Wardle, Harmon, See, Whiting, Hames, Mc Cown, Griffith, Adam, Brindos, Samuelson, Marshall / Losses: VMF-321, Capt. Mc Cown, Lts. Brindos and Marshall Missing"
(Page 28) "Narrative Account: ...After scissoring once, Lt. See lost sight of Lts. Brindos, and Marshall, the other section... Capt. Mc Cown, and Lts. Brindos and Marshall failed to return from the mission."
(Page 29) "Approximately 40 Zekes and 7 Tonys were seen over the area."
NARA "Aircraft Action Report (AAR) VMF-321 January 20 1944 Report No. 13" pages 88-91
(Page 89) "Capt. M. R. Mc Cown, Jr. / Cause: Unknown / Missing In Action"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Marion R. McCown Jr. "Major McCown's remains have been recovered, identified and interred at a private cemetery in Charleston, SC"
FindAGrave - Maj Marion Ryan McCown, Jr (photo, obituary, tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Maj Marion Ryan McCown, Jr (photo, Unitarian Church Cemetery)
DPMO News Release "Marine Pilot Missing In Action From WWII Is Identified" December 19, 2008
Service Personnel Not Recovered Following WWII rank as Major, wartime records list as Capitan
Six decades and half a world away, by K. Baron and B. Bender May 25, 2008
"Records incorrectly state McCown was piloting F4U 17448, but in fact he was flying this aircraft, F4U 02402 (or possibly switched planes prior to take off)."
A Bond of Brothers by Kevin Baron and Bryan Bender May 26, 2008
On May 14,  the suspected remains of Lieutenant Allan S. Harrison III [pilot F4U Corsair 55908] and Captain Marion R. McCown were placed in a specially designed transfer cases and carried into a small chapel at the headquarters of the Papua New Guinea Defense Force, in the island nation's capital city of Port Moresby."
DoD DPMO New Release "Marine Pilot Missing In Action From WWII Is Identified" December 19, 2008
You Are Not Forgotten (2013) by Bryan Bender mentions this loss
Thanks to Brian Bennett for additional information
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August 10, 2019