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McAnarney restarts WWII?history project

Gale Rose

Prattan Dan McAnarney is restarting a journey he began years ago. McAnarney spent 18 years researching records from World War II to find out as much as he could about the men who flew with his father-in-law, Ray Boag, who was a Marine fighter pilot during the war.

That quest has led McAnarney to start another journey to put the information into a book.

McAnarney’s journey began when he was making a cardboard plane for his son Russel to put on his bicycle for a Bible school parade. He wanted to make the plane look like the aircraft Boag used in the war but he didn’t know what type of plane he used and neither did other family members. This stirred McAnarney’s interest and after some research, he eventually found a battle action report that revealed Boag flew a Corsair. This began his quest to discover the lives of the men who served along side Boag.

Through his research, he was able to connect families that were forever linked by combat. He spent hours in the Marine history division of the National Achieve. There were numerous phone calls and conversations with families who shared family information and in turn found out things they had never known until McAnarney did his research. He got to sit down and visit face-to-face with five of those men.

His research also revealed that Boag had been shot down three times and he had shot down three Japanese Zeros in one day in about 90 seconds.

As his research continued, he found more and more of the men who served with Boag had passed away. Eventually, after years of work, he decided it was time to put this project away and move on. He set his information aside and did nothing more with it until recently when he got an unexpected kick start to a new project with his old material.

A Marine historian who had seen McAnarney’s research, said he should write a book and share the stories of the men who flew with Boag. The historian wanted the book to be factual and not historical fiction. He wanted stories that really happened. He wanted everyone to know what those guys did.

A couple of weeks ago, Paula Halvorson, the niece of one of the pilots that died in the war started communicating with McAnarney. She wanted him to work with her to write a book that told the stories of these men. They spent about nine hours talking on the phone about a project and now the plan is to write a book.

This will be a long project. McAnarney said he thought it would take about two years to complete. He is working with families to get any letters to home to include in the book.

One of the many stories McAnarney found was of Herman Spode, uncle of Halvorson. Spode, part of the VMF-213 Hellhawks stationed in Guadalcanal, was preparing to go on a mission in a F4U Vought Corsair on July 3, 1943. Lt. John Ramsey, a photo interpreter for the Navy, was sketching a Corsair at Henderson Field at Guadalcanal. Ramsey included Spode in the sketch and said he would give the sketch to Spode when he returned. But Spode ran into a bad storm and he never returned. A transmission was made to the squadron to return but Spode didn’t receive it. He later radioed for directions but got no response. Military regulations prevented transmitting that information to avoid enemy interception. He was never seen or heard of again.

The painting stayed in the Ramsey family for decades. Years later, Ramsey’s grandson Kerr Ramsay, was researching the painting to honor his grandfather and found McAnarney’s web site devoted to VMF-213 Hellhawks stationed in Guadalcanal. One entry mentioned Spoede running into thunderhead and that was the title of the painting.

It took a lot research but eventually, working with McAnarney, the Ramsey and Spode families connected. Eventually, the painting was presented to the Spode family and the two families remain friends.