John Francis McGrath was born April 20, 1925 in Troy, New York the youngest of seven children of parents Edward P. McGrath and Mary C. McGrath. Growing up on 744 River Street in Troy NY, his father worked an electric contractor. His family attended St. Patrick’s Church in Troy, NY. John attended St. Peter's School and graduated from Catholic Central High School (CCHS) as part of the class of 1941. Today, the school building is West Hall Building on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) campus. He enjoyed playing golf and was member of the Frear Park Golf Team. After graduating, he worked for Western Electric Company until enlisting in the military.
On February 13, 1943 McGrath enlisted in the U. S. Navy (USN) as a cadet. His first assignment was NPFS Chapel Hill in North Carolina between May 6, 1943 until June 27, 1943. Next he went to NAS Glenview in Illinois for primary flight training between July 30, 1943 until October 23, 1943.
In October 1943, McGrath had a brief leave and visited his hometown to see his parents and visited Catholic Central High School (CCHS). Coincidentally, three of his friends and classmates from the class of 1941 were also home on leave. The four classmates and friends: Jack Marcil, John F. McGrath, Howard D. McAlonie and Alfred Mahoney were photographed walking down the step of the school wearing their uniforms. Later, this photograph appeared in CCHS Catholicon Yearbook 1944.
Afterwards, McGrath was assigned to NAS Corpus Christi between October 24, 1943 until May 10, 1944. On May 10, 1944 he was assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with service number O-037237. Finally, to NAS Jacksonville in Florida for fighter training between May 11, 1944 to July 16, 1944. On August 15, 1944 assigned to VMF-481 at El Toro in California. On October 11, 1944 transfered to VMF-462 also at El Toro until November 3, 1944.
On December 18, 1944 assigned to Marine Fighting Squadron 212 (VMF-212) "Hell Hounds / The Musketeers" as an fighter pilot flying the F4U Corsair. By July 1945 his squadron was operating from Kadena Airfield on Okinawa.
On July 20, 1945 during rest and recuperation (R&R) on the last day of his rest and recuperation, McGrath flew his Corsair to Motoyama No. 1 Airfield (Central Field) on Iwo Jima to visit his hometown friends: S1c Howard McAlonie and Abbot Hope outside their tent near the invasion beach. During the visit, he was given a note with the names of other friends from Troy including P. McAlonie. Joseph F. Masterson and Howard McAlonie. Afterwards, he flew back to Okinawa and returned to combat duties.
On July 21, 1945 took off from Kadena Airfield on Okinawa piloting F4U Corsair 80195 armed with rockets on a ground attack mission over Iriomote Jima. The formation was included 24 Corsairs: 12 Corsairs from VMF-212 led by Major John P. McMahon (C. O.) attacking Sonai and twelve Corsairs from VMF-223 attacking Funaki.
For VMF-212, their primary target was Sonai where a small chemical plant and administrative center were hit by 59 rockets and thoroughly strafed, without any observed result. Over Sonai, this aircraft was seen in a rocket dive and observed to crash into the sea several hundred yards southwest of the town at 2:35pm. The cause of the crash was unknown. When this aircraft failed to return, McGrath was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Major John P. McMahon (C. O. VMF-212) letter to McGrath's family after his loss:
"He [McGrath] was fourth of the division to go into a dive for the strike, and somehow he never came out of his dive. His plane was seen to crash and explode into the sea near the target. Enemy aircraft fire was encountered by other members on the strike, but the exact cause of his crash remains unknown. Lt McGrath's death was attributed to the explosion following the fatal crash."
McGrath was officially declared dead on July 21, 1945. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with gold star, Air Medal with six gold stars and the Purple Heart, posthumously. McGrath is memorialized on the courts of the missing at the Honolulu Memorial at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on court 4. He also has a memorial marker at Saint Agnes Cemetery in Menands, NY at section 4, plot 90.
Edward P. McGrath (father died 1951)
Mary C. McGrath
(mother died 1951)
Edward "Ned" P. McGrath, Jr. (brother died)
Francis McGrath (brother, died age 10 of T.B.)
William Paul McGrath (brother died May 26, 1999)
Harold McGrath (brother)
Catherine McGrath Cox (sister of McGrath died December 31, 2002)
Mary T. (McGrath) Dufresne (sister died June 30, 2006)
Russell McGrath (son of Edward McGrath / nephew of McGrath)
Robert F. Cox (nephew of McGrath died 2006)
Ann Cox (niece in law of McGrath died 2015)
John J. Cox (great-nephew of McGrath)
David M. Cox (son of Robert F. Cox / great-nephew of McGrath)
Mary McGrath Law Dufresne (sister of McGrath died 2006)
Kathryn Kay (Roy) Wright (niece of McGrath)
Barbara (Joe) Healey (niece of McGrath)
John Law (nephew of McGrath)
Linda Law (niece of McGrath)
Christine (Edward) Ostrander (niece of McGrath)
Margie (David Perilstein) Law (niece of McGrath)
Michael McAlonie (son of Howard McAlonie who was a friend of John McGrath adds):
"My father attended and graduated Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) as a mechanical engineer, and was a USN Seabee veteran of the Battle of Iwo Jima. RPI Professor Halloran was my father Howard McAlonie’s first cousin as my grandmother was a Halloran as well. The MIA/ KIA individual I am researching was his classmate at Catholic Central High School (CCHS) today RPI's West Hall and was not any direct relation to me. But I grew up listening to stories about him. I have some small amount of specific information on him and his loss July 21, 1945 a day after leaving Iwo Jima where he visited my father while returning from leave in Guam. He was a close friend of my fathers and his death stayed with my father his whole life. Another bit of information I though might be useful to you regarding the crash particulars that I noticed when just re-reading the letter sent home from the C. O. that I obtained from John McGrath’s niece-in-law after I located the McGrath's last remaining sister in Troy in 2002. That sister died two weeks later."
1930 United States Federal Census - John McGrath
CCHS Catholicon Yearbook 1941 (photo)
CCHS Catholicon Yearbook 1944 (photo)
NPRC Military Personnel Records - John F. McGrath
USMC Casualty Card - John Francis McGrath
Pacific Wrecks - F4U-4 Corsair bureau number 81095
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-4 Corsair 81095
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List July 1945 - F4U Corsair 81095
NARA "War Diary Marine Air Group Fourteen 1 July 1945 to 31 July 1945" page 8-9
"Weather conditions again limited activities until 21 July when 24 Corsairs [VMF-212 and VMF-223] unloosed 180 rockets and more than 22,000 rounds of ammo at targets of opportunity on Iriomote Shima. Objectives included a barge southeast of Sonai town, building in the town itself, a 75 to 100 foot lugger in Funauke Ko and a larger ship, possibly a Sugar Baker in Funauke Kita Wan, and building in Funsuke town. Barracks at Raemi, southeast of Iriomote, and buildings on Uchi,..."
(Page 9) "...Hanare Shims were also attacked. While specific results were unobserved, 164 of the rockets struck in the target area and all objectives were thoroughly strafed. This strike also involved a fatality, Second Lieutenant John F. McGrath, USMCR, (NA), (037237), of VMF 212 was killed in action over the target when his plane failed to pull out of a dive and crashed into the water. The cause is unknown but the probability that it was due to anti-aircraft fire is indicated by the fact that two other planes returned with flak fragments embedded in their fuselage. No pilots at any time observed any anti-aircraft fire."
NARA "War Diary - USMC Marine Fighting Squadron 212 - July 1-31, 1945" page 17, 33
(Page 17) "21 July  Sakishima Gunto Strike: Flight composition: Major McMahon and Lts. Duncan, Wortman, Stanton, Ellis, Gillespie, Mouzakis, McGrath, Sandbach, Petty, Lingenfelter, La Marre, Jernigan and Walsh.
Major McMahon led 24 Corsairs, 12 of which were furnished by VMF-223, in a rocket and strafing attack against various targets of opportunity on and in the vicinity of
Iriomote Jima, Sakishima Gunto. Principal target was Sonai Town, site of a small chemical plant and administrative center of Iriomote Jima, which received 59 rockets and was thoroughly strafed. Planes also strafed and rocketed Hatoma Jima and Kobama Jima [sic Kohama Jima]. No specific results from any of the attacks were observed.
... 2dLt. John F. McGrath, USMCR, was killed in action when his plane failed to pull out of a rocket dive and crashed into the water several hundred yards SW of Sonai Town at 1435. The cause was unknown, but the probability that it might have been due to AA fire is indicated by the fact that 2 pilots from VMF-223 returned with flak fragments imbedded [sic embedded] in their planes. No pilots from either squadron at any time observed AA fire. The aircraft destroyed was F4U-4, bureau # 81095. (See ACA-1, 063-45)."
(Page 31) "Separations: * McGrath, John F. / Serial: 037237 / SSN: 1055E / Branch: NAVC / Duties: 21Jul45 Killed in Action."
(Page 33) "Squadron Monthly Summary VMF-212 / No Lost: 1 / Type: F4U- 4 / Combat or Operational: ? / Serial Number: Bureau # 81095"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John F. McGrath
DPAA Service Personnel Not Recovered Following WWII from New York (McGrath, John F)
2Lt John F McGrath (courts of the missing photo)
John Francis McGrath (memorial marker photo)
The Troy Record
"1st Lt. John F. McGrath Troy Marine, Fighter Pilot, Died in Action" July 26, 1945, page 2
The Troy Record "Mother Receives Medals Awarded to Marine Flyer" January 16, 1950, page 11
Times Union "Mother of Slain War Hero Gets U. S. Award" January 17, 1950 page 1 (photo awards presentation)
History of Taketomi (March 31, 1996) pages 766-767
"Inoue, Fumikichi writes one day when I returned home from Ohara, [July 21, 1945] U. S. planes flown at eight o'clock and commenced firing. Bullets flew toward us. They finished at five and they returned home. During the strafing, one of their planes [F4U Corsair 81095] fell down behind Marumabosan Island. We didn't shoot even a single shot against the intruders. I heard it was downed by friendly fire."
The Asahi Shinbun "Witness of the fierce war found in the bottom of ocean American fighter airplane found in Iriomote Jima" August 13, 1987 page 4
The Asahi Shinbun "Recovery of the remains of the American fighter" May 20, 1988 page 3
Yaeyama Mainichi Shinbun May 21, 1988 "Ceremony conducted locally, finally on the way to home country" May 21, 1988
Associated Press "Old yearbook photo spurs effort to find missing WWII pilot" by Chris Carola February 16, 2018
WNYT "Man on quest to give MIA WWII Troy Navy pilot a proper burial" by WNYT Staff February 21, 2018
WNYT "Then & Now: A mission to bring home John McGrath" by Karen Tararache February 21, 2018
Yaeyama Nippo "The search for the human remains will start in Sonai Ocean, An American fighter crashed in Iriomote in the end of War Mr. McAlonie arrives to the island from New York" March 23, 2019
Yaeyama Nippo "The wrecked underwater airplane was confirmed, The picture of the family was placed (in the airplane) in Sonai Iriomote" March 28, 2019
Thanks to Kathryn Kay Wright, Christine Ostrander, John Law, Beth Wright, David Cox, Minoru Kamada, Kuentai-USA: Usan Kurata & Yukari Akatsuka, Michael McAlonie,
Thanks to Kathryn Kay Wright, Christine Ostrander, John Law, Beth Wright, David Cox, Minoru Kamada, Kuentai-USA: Usan Kurata & Yukari Akatsuka, Michael McAlonie, Shiro Ikema, Kinsei Ishigaki, Donna Esposito and Justin Taylan for additional information