Using the Chinese term for working together ("Gung Ho"), coined by U.S. Marine Raider Col. Evans Carlson, History Flight has brought together and financially supported a quality group of MIA search volunteers.
Mark Noah founded History Flight to employ the entrepreneurial spirit of business to support the science of finding missing service personnel from WWII. A graduate of Emory University with a B.A. in history and a full-time captain for a major airline, Mark works 40 to 60 hours a week on the MIA search effort for no compensation. He has funded History Flight and its programs with over $500,000 of his own money, and has been involved in MIA search and recovery efforts in the Caroline, Marshall, Palau and Gilbert Islands. He also spearheaded and personally funded the majority of the expenses of History Flight’s two search missions to Tarawa Atoll.
Photo at right: Mark Noah is shown during a dive of a sunken B-25 bomber off the Marshall Islands. Its crew is still missing in action.
Aviation historian Stan Gajta, a member of the Australian War Museum, has traveled the vast expanses of the South Pacific, helping them secure wrecked WWII aircraft for their restoration projects, and he has restored numerous WWII aircraft and tank projects. Along the way he became keen on the subject of missing WWI service personnel. He found the wreck of an Australian Air Force P-51 and helped their government recover the remains of its pilot, Flight Officer Kerrigan. Stan lived on the Pacific island of Tarawa for over 10 years, helping to locate the remains of 18 US Marines lost in the Makin Raid and buried there since 1943.
Stan led History Flight's January/February 2008 search mission to Tarawa, which located 11 of the lost graveyards containing the remains of over 123 US Marines. He will also lead our return to Tarawa in September 2008 to continue the search with a ground-penetrating radar.
Photo above: This official 1944 government photo of Grave 18 on Tarawa shows the graves of four U.S. Marines – Robert J. Brand, Basil Norman, Jr., Frank C. Andruseasdy and Henry Lutzow – who are still listed as missing in action.
Pat and Cherie Ranfranz have spent the last 20 years on a self-funded effort to find Pat's uncle, missing over Yap Island since June 25, 1944. While dodging sharks and bills of over $25,000, they sought out the missing B-24 crew of ten. In the process they found seven other missing American aircraft, and have expanded their original project goals to search for all men lost on WWII missions to Yap Island (over 33 missing aircraft with over 100 missing aircrew).
Pat is the official historian of the 307th Bombardment Group and maintains the website missingaircrew.com. Their objective is providing a sense of closure for the families of the lost airmen, and keeping the Missing Air Crew Project alive.
Photo at right: Pat Ranfranz’s search for his uncle, a member of the Coleman B-24 flight crew shown above, resulted in the location of seven missing American aircraft whose crews are still missing in action.
We are proud that History Flight funds and expertise supported their 2008 search trip to Yap Island that resulted in the find of a F6F-5 Hellcat and its missing pilot.
History Flight also plans to help fund their next trip to YAP in August 2009 to continue the search for Pat's uncle and his plane – taking with them History Flight’s side scan sonar and a magnetometer, plus a crew of deep sea divers.
You can view photos and read more about this specific trip by visiting http://www.missingaircrew.com/yap2008/sonar/index.asp.
Part forensic historian and part Indiana-Jones adventurer, Matt Holly is our newest addition to the History Flight research and search team. A native of Southern California and graduate of USC, Matt has lived in the Marshall Islands since 1979. A 30-year commercial diver and dive instructor with over 5,000 dives, Matt has spent over 25 years developing a data base of the 1,800 American WWII service personnel who were lost in the Marshall Islands. Matt has discovered 25 lost American aircraft from WWII and has published survey reports for the Marshall Islands Historic Preservation Office. He researched and located the remains of Lt. John Starman on Mille Atoll, 50 years after the U.S. Government reported him as "unrecoverable". He found the wreck of F/O Johnston's B-25 SN 41-30613 with its crew of seven still MIA today, as well as Lt. Galvin's B-25 in Jaluit Atoll and one of the only TBD Devastators in the world now at the center of a controversial ownership dispute.
Matt is currently working on the MIAs from these plane losses and has located the graves of two American pilots (Lt. Osbourne and co-pilot) from B-24 "Baby Sandy". He has also located and documented the remains of 90 Marshallese civilians massacred by the Japanese in Mille Atoll. Matt is currently finishing his book on WWII history in the Marshall Islands titled "A Long Way to Die", and gives historical tours of the area by appointment. Like all History Flight volunteers he has accomplished this research as a totally self-supported effort.
Photo above left: Lt. John Starman’s grave as buried by Matt Holly, before the U.S. military recovered Starman’s remains in 1995.
Photo above right: This photo shows the survivors of Lt. Osbourne's crew from the B-24 “Sandy Baby”, taken before their execution by the Japanese Army. Matt Holly located the execution site of this crew during a History Flight funded search of Maloelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands in March 2009.