Friday, July 26, 2013

The Friday Flyby - 26 July

It's time to take a look at American fighter pilots in the Pacific theater. It's about time Sarge!

Major Richard I. Bong
United States Army Air Forces
Medal of Honor
40 Aerial Victories
1920 - 1945
Richard Ira "Dick" Bong is the United States' highest-scoring air ace, having shot down at least 40 Japanese aircraft during World War II. All of his aerial victories were in the P-38 Lightning.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning
"The Fork-Tailed Devil"

Major Thomas M. McGuire
United States Army Air Forces
Medal of Honor (posthumous)
38 Aerial Victories
1920 - 1945

From Wikipedia:
Thomas Buchanan McGuire Jr. was one of the most decorated American combat pilots of World War II. He was the second highest scoring American ace of the war and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. McGuire was memorialized by the renaming of Fort Dix Army Air Force Base in Burlington County, New Jersey, to McGuire Air Force Base in 1948.
McGuire's skill at maneuvering the large twin-engined P-38 was legendary, and he would become one of the top scoring combat pilots in US Air Force history. Had it not been for periodic illnesses and heavy administrative duties as Commander, 431st Fighter Squadron, he might have become the United States’ leading ace.
McGuire wrote a book on combat tactics for the 5th Air Force. On December 25–26, 1944, He downed at least seven Japanese fighter aircraft in just two days over Luzon, Philippines. With 38 kills to his credit, McGuire was only two victories behind Major Richard I. Bong, the United States Army Air Forces’ all-time top ace.

Captain David McCampbell
United States Navy
Medal of Honor
34 Aerial Victories
1910 - 1996

Captain David McCampbell was an American naval aviator, who became the US Navy’s all-time leading ace with 34 aerial victories during World War II. The third-highest scoring US flying ace of World War II, he was the highest-scoring to survive the war.

F6F Hellcat

Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington
United States Marine Corps
Medal of Honor
Navy Cross
28 Aerial Victories
1912 - 1988

Gregory "Pappy" Boyington was a United States Marine Corps officer who was an American fighter ace during World War II. For his heroic actions, he was awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross. Boyington flew initially with the American Volunteer Group in the Republic of China Air Force during the Second Sino-Japanese War. He later commanded the U.S. Marine Corps squadron VMF-214 ("The Black Sheep Squadron") during World War II. Boyington became a prisoner of war later in the war.

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

Chance-Vought F4U Corsair

Colonel Charles H. MacDonald
United States Army Air Forces

Distinguished Service Cross (twice)
27 Aerial Victories
1914 - 2002
Colonel Charles Henry "Mac" MacDonald, was an American fighter ace. MacDonald commanded the 475th Fighter Group for 20 months in his P-38 Lightning, "Putt Putt Maru" with the unit number "100" and becoming the third ranking fighter ace in the Pacific during World War II.


Major Joseph J. Foss
United States Marine Corps
Medal of Honor
26 Aerial Victories
1915 - 2003

From Wikipedia:
In October 1942, VMF-121 and its aircraft were sent to Guadalcanal as part of Operation Watchtower to relieve VMF-223, which had been fighting for control of the air over the island since their arrival in mid-August. On October 9, Foss and his group were catapult launched off the USS Copahee escort carrier and flew 350 miles north to reach Guadalcanal. The air group, code named "Cactus", based at Henderson Field became known as the Cactus Air Force, and their presence played a pivotal role in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Foss soon gained a reputation for aggressive close-in fighter tactics and uncanny gunnery skills. Foss shot down a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero on his first combat mission on October 13, but his own F4F Wildcat was shot up as well, and with a dead engine and three more Zeros on his tail, he landed at full speed, with no flaps and minimal control on the American-held runway at Guadalcanal, barely missing a grove of palm trees.

As lead pilot in his flight of eight Wildcats, the group soon became known as Foss's Flying Circus, with two sections Foss nicknamed "Farm Boys" and "City Slickers." Conditions in the jungle were extreme, and in December 1942, Foss was stricken with malaria. He was sent to Sydney, Australia for rehabilitation, where he met Australian ace Clive "Killer" Caldwell and delivered some lectures on operational flying to RAF pilots, newly assigned to the theater. On January 1, 1943, Foss returned to Guadalcanal and "his boys," to continue combat operations which lasted until February 9, 1943, although the Japanese attacks had waned from the height of the November 1942 crisis. In three months of sustained combat, Foss's Flying Circus had shot down 72 Japanese aircraft, including 26 credited to him. Upon matching the record of 26 kills held by America's top World War I ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, Foss was accorded the honor of becoming America's first "ace-of-aces" in World War II.
Grumman F4F Wildcat

First Lieutenant Robert M. Hanson
United States Marine Corps
Medal of Honor (posthumous)
25 Aerial Victories
1920 - 1944

From Wikipedia:
First Lieutenant Hanson arrived in the South Pacific in June 1943 and his daring tactics and total disregard for death soon became well known. A master of individual air combat, he downed 20 enemy planes in six consecutive flying days. He was commended in the citation accompanying the Medal of Honor for his bold attack against six enemy torpedo bombers, November 1, 1943, over Bougainville Island, and for bringing down four Zeros, the premier Japanese fighter, while fighting them alone over New Britain, January 24, 1944.
A member of VMF-215 flying the F4U Corsair, the ace was shot down twice. The first time, a Zero caught him over Bougainville Island. Bringing his plane down on the ocean, he paddled for six hours in a rubber life raft before being rescued by a destroyer. His second and fatal crash occurred one day before his twenty-fourth birthday. He was last seen on February 3, 1944, when his plane crashed into the sea while he was flying an escort mission over Rabaul, New Britain. He was subsequently declared killed in action.
The Medal of Honor was presented to the lieutenant's mother by Maj. Gen. Lewie G. Merritt on August 19, 1944 in Boston, Massachusetts.
F4U Corsair

The next three gentlemen were not as high on the aces list as the gentlemen listed above. However, their contributions to victory in the Pacific were notable.

Admiral John S. Thach
United States Navy
Navy Cross (twice)
6 Aerial Victories
1905 - 1981

How could I not mention the inventor of the Thach Weave? A tactic which saved the lives of many an American fighter pilot early in the war.

From Wikipedia:
John Smith "Jimmy" Thach was a World War II Naval Aviator, air combat tactician, and United States Navy admiral. Thach developed the Thach Weave, a combat flight formation that could counter enemy fighters of superior performance, and later the big blue blanket, an aerial defense against Kamikaze attacks.
In the early 1940s, he was placed in command of Fighting Squadron Three (VF-3). There he met a young Naval Reserve Ensign just out of flight school, Edward O'Hare, later a Medal of Honor recipient. Thach made O'Hare his wingman and taught him everything he knew. At the U.S. Navy fleet gunnery competition at the end of 1940, eight of the 16 VF-3 pilots qualified for the gunnery "E" award ("excellence").
Later Thach developed a fighter combat tactic known as the Thach Weave. This tactic enabled American fighter aircraft to hold their own against the more maneuverable Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the primary fighter of Japan.
Lieutenant Commander Thach and Fighting Squadron Three flew from Lexington (CV-2) in the early part of World War II, and was assigned to Yorktown (CV-5) during the Battle of Midway in June 1942.
On the morning of June 4, 1942, Thach led a six-plane sortie from VF-3, escorting a strike from Yorktown, when they discovered the main Japanese carrier fleet. They were immediately attacked by 15 to 20 Japanese fighters. Thach decided to use his namesake maneuver, marking its first combat usage. Although outnumbered and outmaneuvered, Thach managed to shoot down three Zeros and a wingman accounted for another, at the cost of one Wildcat.
After Midway, Thach was assigned to instruct other pilots in combat tactics. The U.S. Navy pulled its best combat pilots out of action to train newer pilots, while the Japanese kept their best pilots in combat. As the war progressed, the Japanese Navy lost their experienced pilots due to attrition and had no well trained replacements, while the U.S. was able to improve the general fighting ability of their own personnel. When the Japanese resorted to the feared Kamikaze suicide attacks, Thach developed the "big blue blanket" system to provide an adequate defense.
Later in the war Commander Thach became Operations Officer to Vice Admiral John S. McCain, Sr., commander of the Fast Carrier Task Force. Thach was also present at the formal Japanese Surrender aboard USS Missouri (BB-63) on September 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay.
I think it's noteworthy to mention that the Admiral was laid to rest at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego. So Lex is in good company there.

F4F Wildcat
Grumman F6F Hellcat

Major George Welch
United States Army Air Forces
Distinguished Service Cross
16 Aerial Victories
1918 - 1954

From Wikipedia:
George Welch (May 10, 1918–October 12, 1954) was a World War II flying ace, a Medal of Honor nominee, and an experimental aircraft pilot after the war. Welch is best known for being one of the few United States Army Air Forces fighter pilots able to get airborne to engage Japanese forces in the attack on Pearl Harbor and for his work as a test pilot.
Welch retired from the United States Air Force as a major in 1944, and became a test pilot for North American Aviation, receiving some notoriety for reportedly being the first pilot to exceed Mach 1 in the prototype XP-86 Sabre (two weeks before Chuck Yeager's record flight). Controversy exists as to the actual details of the flight and if this flight took place, it is generally not recognized as a record because of a lack of verifiable speed measurement and because the aircraft's highest speeds were attained while diving, whereas Yeager's X-1 completed the feat in level flight. In 1954, Welch died following a crash in a test flight in a North American F-100 Super Sabre.
At dawn on December 7, 1941, 2nd Lt. Welch and another pilot, 2nd Lt. Ken Taylor, were coming back from a Christmas dinner and dance party (with big band orchestra) at a rooftop hotel in Waikiki, that ended in an all-night poker game. They were still wearing mess dress when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Welch telephoned an auxiliary Haleiwa Fighter Strip on Oahu's North Shore to have two Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk fighters prepared for takeoff. He and Taylor immediately drove his Buick at high speed to Haleiwa in order to join the air battle.
Taking off with only 30 cal ammo in the wing guns, Welch claimed two kills of Aichi D3A Val dive bombers over Ewa Mooring Mast Field. The first enemy aircraft was only damaged and it made it back to its carrier while the second was finished off by Ken Taylor, shortly before he landed at Wheeler Field to get 50 cal ammo for his two cowl guns. On his second sortie, Welch shot down a Val (which was behind Ken Taylor) and the Val crashed in the community of Wahiawa, then Welch got one Mitsubishi Zero fighter about five miles west of Barbers Point.
Both Welch and Taylor were nominated for the Medal of Honor by Gen. Henry H. Arnold, but were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the highest USAAF medal, for their actions.
After Pearl Harbor, Welch returned to the continental U.S. to give war bond speeches until being assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group in New Guinea. Despite his aerial victories on December 7, 1941, Welch was dissatisfied with flying the poorly performing Bell P-39 Airacobra. When asked by a journalist what aspect of the P-39 he liked, then seven-victory ace George Welch said, "Well, it's got 12 hundred pounds of Allison armor plate." When Welch inquired as to when his squadron (the 36th FS) would receive P-38s, he was told, "When we run out of P-39s."[1] He repeatedly appealed to be assigned to the 80th Fighter Squadron (which flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning) until he was granted a transfer. Between June 21 and September 2, 1943, flying a P-38H, Welch shot down nine more Japanese aircraft: two Zeros, three Ki-61 Tonys, three Ki-43 Oscars and one Dinah.[1] Welch flew three combat tours (a total of 348 combat missions with 16 confirmed victories, all achieved in multiples) before malaria retired him from the war.
Brigadier General Kenneth M. Taylor
United States Army Air Forces

Distinguished Service Cross
6 Aerial Victories
1919 - 2006

From Wikipedia:
Kenneth Marlar Taylor was a new United States Army Air Forces Second Lieutenant pilot stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. Along with his fellow pilot and friend George Welch, they got airborne while under fire, and Taylor shot down four Japanese dive bombers. Taylor was injured during the incident and received several awards for his efforts, including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart.
Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Taylor spent the night before playing poker and dancing at the officers' club at Wheeler with fellow pilot George Welch, and did not go to sleep until 6:30 a.m. local time. Taylor and Welch awoke less than an hour and a half later at 7:55 a.m. to the sounds of low-flying planes, machine-gun fire, and explosions. Lt. Taylor quickly put on his tuxedo pants from the night before and called Haleiwa Auxiliary Air Field, where eighteen P-40B fighters were located.
Without orders, he told the ground crews to get two P-40s armed and ready for takeoff. The new Buick he drove was strafed by Japanese aircraft as the two pilots sped the 10 miles (16 km) to Haleiwa; Taylor at times reached speeds of 100 mph (160 km/h). At the airstrip, they climbed into their Curtiss P-40B Warhawk fighters, which were fueled but armed with only .30 cal Browning ammo.
After they took off, they headed towards Barber's Point at the southwest tip of Oahu, and initially saw an unarmed group of American B-17 Flying Fortress bombers arriving from the mainland United States.
They soon arrived at Ewa Mooring Mast Field, which was being strafed by twelve Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo dive bombers of the second Japanese attack wave. Although the two pilots were outnumbered six-to-one, they immediately began firing on the bombers. Taylor shot down two dive bombers and was able to damage another (the third damaged aircraft was considered Taylor's first probable kill). When both pilots ran out of ammunition, they headed for Wheeler Field to get additional .50 cal ammunition, since Haleiwa did not carry any. As he landed around 8:40 a.m., he had to avoid friendly anti-aircraft and ground fire. Once he was on the ground, several officers told Taylor and Welch to leave the airplanes, but the two pilots were able to convince the officers into allowing them to keep fighting.
While his plane was being reloaded with the .50 cal, a flight of dive bombers began strafing Wheeler. Welch took off again (since he had landed a few minutes before Taylor and was already reloaded). The men who were loading the ammunition on Taylor's plane left the ammunition boxes on his wing as they scattered to get away from the bombers. Taylor quickly took off, jumping over an armament dolly and the ammunition boxes fell off of his plane's wing. Both pilots realized that if they took off away from the incoming aircraft they would become targets once they were airborne, so both headed directly towards the bombers at take-off. Additionally, if the low-flying bombers attempted to fire at the grounded P-40s at their current elevation, they would risk crashing. Taylor used this hindrance to his advantage and began immediately firing on the enemy aircraft as he took off, and performed a chandelle.
Taylor headed for a group of enemy aircraft, and due to a combination of clouds and smoke, he unintentionally entered the middle of the formation of seven or eight A6M Zeros. A Japanese rear-gunner fired at Taylor's aircraft and one of the bullets came within an inch of Taylor's head and exploded in the cockpit. One piece went through his left arm and shrapnel entered his leg. Taylor reflected on the injuries in a 2001 interview, saying "It was of no consequence; it just scared the hell out of me for a minute." A few years after the interview, Taylor received from his crew chief two other slugs that had been found behind his seat. Welch shot down the aircraft that had injured Taylor, and Taylor damaged another aircraft (his second probable kill) before pulling away to assist Welch with an A6M Zero. The Zero and the rest of its formation left to return to their carriers as Taylor neared Welch. Taylor continued to fire on several enemy aircraft until he ran out of ammunition. Both pilots headed back to Haleiwa. After landing and driving back to Wheeler, Taylor and Welch passed by their squadron commander, Major Gordon H. Austin, who noticed that they were wearing their tuxedo attire. Unaware of their earlier dogfights, he shouted at the two men, saying "Get back to Haleiwa! You know there's a war on?"
The two pilots explained what they had done, and the commander thanked them. In a 2003 interview, Taylor reflected on his actions: "I wasn't in the least bit terrified, and let me tell you why: I was too young and too stupid to realize that I was in a lot of danger."
Taylor and Welch

America Strikes Back!

Where did we get such men?


  1. Replies
    1. Greetings from Houston OldAFSarge,
      THANK YOU VERY MUCH for putting all of this together! Superb work. Now I know where the name MCGUIRE AFB came from. I flew out of there (space available) as an Army brat during the 70's. I really enjoyed reading the biographies and the PHOTOS ARE EXCELLENT!

      All of your efforts are appreciated.

      Glenn C. Steinke, USAF, 1977-1982
      Clark Air Base, R.P.

    2. Welcome aboard Glenn! Nice to see another Air Force guy around these parts. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. Great post. I never realized just how far back the cockpit sat on the F-4U Corsair. That is an amazing picture.

    Something to consider for your bucket list, if you ever make it to Texas, you owe it to yourself to visit Fredericksburg and the National Museum of the Pacific War. Fabulous museum.

    1. Thanks juvat. Now I need to add that museum to my list, as you recommend. Military museums, I live for them. Once spent six hours in the Musée de l'Armée in Paris. The Missus Herself had to drag me from the place, not kicking and screaming mind you, but definitely whining and complaining.

      Seems her idea of the romance of the City of Lights did not involve musty old flags from the 2nd Empire.


    2. If you have not gone to the NATIONAL WWII MUSEUM in NEW ORLEANS, I recommend it.

      I am like you. I go into military museums and I do not want to leave. The NATIONAL WWI MUSEUM in Kansas City is EXCELLENT also.

      Thanks for all of your work.

    3. And both of those will be added to the "Places I need to visit list."

      Thanks for the tip.

  3. Great brave men, and absolutely beautiful machines.

    1. Those men inspired me as a kid.

      They still do...

  4. Well another good one.Good job sir.

  5. Love seein them old airplanes. Use to love puttin models of them together. Unfortunately they didnt make the trip so maybe someday my son will get into models and we can put em together. I had a good collection goin on too... Keep up the good work!

    1. Oh the aircraft I had hanging from the ceiling. WWI biplanes, WWII fighters and bombers and the odd jet blasting through the mix. It was like 50 years of aviation history.

      Putting together stuff with the kids is awesome.


  6. Good men who happened to come along right when America needed tham.

    And love the planes big-time. Need me a Corsair.

    Boyington is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 7A. I stop by his marker whenever I'm there.

    1. I hear ya Murph.

      Corsair is awesome.

      I need to revisit Arlington. Last time I was there, I saw the marker for Colonel James Jabara, one of my heroes. I did not know the circumstances of his death. He and his 16-year old daughter are buried together. From Wikipedia:

      "While traveling to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where his family would stay while he returned to combat in Vietnam, Jabara and his 16-year old daughter Carol Anne died in a car accident in Delray Beach, Florida on 17 November 1966. The Jabara family were in two cars that day, on their way to a new home in South Carolina where his wife Nina and their children—James Jr., Carol Anne, Jeanne, and Cathy—would reside during Jabara's combat tour. Carol Anne was driving a Volkswagen with her father as a passenger in the back seat. She lost control of the car going through a construction zone, when she initially veered onto a grass median. She swerved back onto the highway but during the rapid turn, she lost control and the vehicle returned to the median where it rolled several times. Jabara sustained head injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at a Delray hospital, and Carol Anne died two days later."

      I wept when I read that at Arlington, I'm teary eyed now.

      Good men, aye!

  7. Great post! I met Joe Foss a number of years ago at a Navy function on the West Coast; great and very humble gentleman!

  8. Great story about even greater heroes, thanks. And your pics- love 'em!

    1. Thanks Greg. Y'all keep reading and I'll keep posting.

      Glad you enjoyed it!


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