|Pilot Lt. Woodie Lackland McVay, Jr., O-99808 (MIA / KIA) Mobile, AL
MIA February 22, 1944
Built by Grumman in Bethpage, New York. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F6F-3 Hellcat bureau number 40671.
Assigned to USS Yorktown (CV-10) to Fighting Squadron 5 "Fighting Five" VF-5. No known nickname or nose art.
On February 22, 1944 took off from USS Yorktown CV-10 piloted by Lt. Woodie Lackland McVay, Jr on a fighter sweep over Saipan. This Hellcat was the flight leader for F6F Hellcat 04908 piloted by Lt(jg) Arthur F. Davis.
Both aircraft were last seen entering clouds at the start of a strafing run, and failed to return from the mission. Possibly, both collided or were shot down. When both aircraft failed to return, they were officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was F6F Hellcat 04908 (MIA).
Recovery of Remains
On July 17, 1944 during the American occupation of Saipan, Col Elliott G. Colby and Lt. Col Richard C. Wadsworth visited the Catholic Cemetery at Garapan to recover the remains of three aviators that had been reported buried there on February 23 or 24 1944. The remains were exhumed and taken to the 369th Station Hospital for an autopsy.
During that examination the following findings were made; The body was clothed in a one-piece, greenish-khaki coverall type of uniform; the buttons on the uniform contained the words " U.S. Navy"; a plain silver ring was found on the left hand; and on the underwear, marked in two places appeared the name. W. L. McVay. It was determined that the injuries were caused as a result of an aircraft accident, not a war crime.
Unfortunately, the US Army doctors had no records with which to compare their findings in an effort to identify the victim. The body was removed to the 27th Division Cemetery and buried as Unknown (Saipan X-35) in plot 3, row 11, grave 1132. In March 1948, these remains were moved to a mausoleum on Saipan. During October 1948, the remains were buried as an unknown at Manila American Cemetery for final burial as unknown X-35 in section F, row 12, grave 2.
McVay was officially declared dead on January 15, 1946. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) a the courts of the missing, court 1. McVay also has a memorial marker at Pine Crest Cemetery in his hometown of Mobile, AL.
Bruce Petty adds:
"When I lived [on Saipan] that cemetery was covered in Tangantangan, and pretty much forgotten. The other remains were that of a J. J. Perry and although the remains of both men were found it appears that they were mislabeled or lost."
Ted Darcy researched his remains over three years and confirmed X-35 to be McVay. Darcy matched the height and dental records of the unknown X-35 with McVay.
In 2008, the case was reviewed by Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). On May 26, 2009, granddaughter Elizabeth Huff was notified that X-35 was positively identified.
Ted Darcy adds:
"By June 2008, we had concluded that the remains of Saipan Unknown X-35 from the 27th Division Cemetery matched the physical and dental characteristics of Lt. McVay. That same month the results were forwarded to JPAC in Hawaii. They agreed with our findings and in September received approval for the remains to be disinterred. During February 2009, the grave was opened and the remains shipped to the Central Identification Lab where they arrived on the 25th of the month. The identification was confirmed in early May. The Casualty call is scheduled for 4 June and the final arrangements will be announced at that time."
McVay's remains were transported to Mobile, Alabama for internment. On July 13 2009, McVay was laid to rest at his memorial marker, next to his parents in the Pine Crest Cemetery at Mobile, Alabama.
Elizabeth Huff (granddaughter of McVay)
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F6F-3 Hellcat 40671
"40671 (VF-5, USS Yorktown) downed W of Saipan Feb 22, 1944"
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List February 1944 - F6F-3 Hellcat 40671
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Woodie L. McVay Jr.
"In February 2009, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the remains of an Unknown Soldier buried in Plot F Row 12 Grave 2 at Manila American Cemetery with the belief that identifications could be made. DNA analysis and historical evidence were used to positively identify the remains as belonging to Lt. Woodie L. McVay, Jr. His name remains permanently inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial."
Lieut Woodie Lackland McVay (courts of the missing)
FindAGrave - Lieut Woodie Lackland McVay, Jr (photo, grave photo, obituary)
Closed MIA Cases >> WFI Research Group - Lt. Woodie Lackland McVay
AL "Pilot's Body Found After 64 Years" June 18, 2008
AL "Quest for missing World War II pilot frustrates family" January 3, 2008
AL "Pilot's boy is finally coming home" June 1, 2009
AL "Alabama's Lt. Woodie McVay, World War II hero, can finally rest in peace" June 14, 1944
AL "Too many of our World War II heroes never return" July 19, 2009
YouTube - Woodie McVay Tribute Video
YouTube - Woodie McVay Funeral
Thanks to Ted Darcy and Bruce Petty for additional information
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February 14, 2020