Launching officer, Lieutenant David McCampbell (who is also the Landing Signal Officer), gets the ready signal from the pilot of a Royal Air Force Spitfire, just before it took off for Malta on 9 May 1942, as part of Operation Bowery. This was the USS Wasp's second Malta reinforcement mission. Note the deck hands holding back the "Spit" as she's run up and the 90 gallon slipper tank mounted underneath the fuselage starting at the leading edge of the wing and showing the cutout for the tropical air intake. Speaking of which, now you know where the drag racers got their hood scoop design from. (United States Navy photo 80-G-7085 - National Archives Collection)
The First Pilot to Land a Spitfire on an Aircraft Carrier & Without a Tailhook No Less!
Mac as LSO. It's imaginable this photo was taken as Jerry was approaching |
The Incident in McCampbell's words
"Smith had lost his 90-gallon belly tank on take off. There was, therefore no way that he was going to have enough fuel to reach Malta; nor could he make it back to Gibraltar. He had two choices - climbing up and baling out and being picked up by a destroyer, or going for a landing back aboard ship with no tailhook to check him.
Fortunately, I had given all the Spitfire pilots a briefing before take off to acquaint them with the operations aboard ship. One of the things I told them was that during landing operations if anyone saw me jump into the air alongside my platform he would know the plane coming in to land was in trouble and it was the signal for the pilot to go round again and make a new approach. When Pilot Officer Smith decided to make his attempt at a landing without the tailhook, all our planes were in the air so we could give him the whole length of the flight deck.
On the first approach he was much too high and too fast and when I found I couldn't bring him down or slow him down enough for a landing, I simply jumped into the net.
He got the news real fast and went round for a second approach.
As I got him to slow down and make his approach a little lower, I decided to give him the 'cut' signal.
He landed safely with his wheels just 6 feet short of the forward part of the flight deck. That night, in the Wardroom, we presented him with a pair of Navy wings."
May 9th 1942, Operation Bowery - President Roosevelt lends Winston Churchill the USS Wasp to deliver Spitfires to the Island stronghold of Malta. In this photo, Jerry Smith and Lt.-Cmdr. David McCampbell exchange caps after Jerry managed the world's first Spitfire landing on an aircraft carrier - without a tail-hook no less! Immediately after taking off from the Wasp in Spitfire BR126, X-3, the auxiliary tank on Jerry's Spit failed to draw and he was forced to turn back. He was told to ditch in the water but given a choice, decided to try and save the plane (and his ass from the cold water no doubt) and land on the flight deck - the Spit stopped just feet from the end of the ship. Malta would have to wait a bit for Jerry's arrival. (Smith Collection)
McCampbell is seen here on the Deck of the USS Wasp with 19 kill markings on his Hellcat, Minsi 3
34-Year-Old McCampbell Becomes Top Navy Ace In Pacific Battle
22 Sept. 1944 - Commander David McCampbell has become the Navy's top ace in the Pacific, the Associated Press says. The local man boosted his combat bag to 18½ planes Sept. 21 during the second (1st attack -jf) carrier force (Third Fleet -jf) attack on Manila, according to a dispatch from a carrier based off Luzon Island in the Philippines.
In addition, the husky skipper of an air group based on this carrier is credited with five probables in the air and between 15 and 20 planes aground. He took the lead from Lt. (jg) Ira Kepford, Muskegon, Mich., who is credited with 16 enemy planes.
It didn't take the commander long to pile up his record. He shot down his first plane June 11 over Saipan. On June 19, the carrier air group of which he is skipper established a brief record for Pacific air action by shooting down 65 Jap planes, of which McCampbell himself got seven, bringing his then kills to nine.
Commander McCampbell, 34, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew J. McCampbell, longtime residents of Palm Beach, who now make their home in Los Angeles. A graduate of Annapolis in 1933, he has been flying since 1938.
Superb Naval Air Group Blasts Entire Jap Unit
By MORRIS LANDSBERG, ABOARD U.S. CARRIER TASK FORCE FLAGSHIP, PHILIPPINE SEA, 24 Oct. 1944 (Via Army Radio) - (AP) - This has been a day of reckoning for the United States navy and a day of disaster for the Japanese fleet.
In a wide arc around the Philippines, a great chase is on to find and annihilate the enemy in a triangular sea battle unlike anything in modern naval history. The first phase, conceived by the Japanese strategists as a "trap" for United States men-of-war, proved a costly undertaking that upset their grandiose plan.
The Japanese sent out practically their entire fleet in a desperate attempt to disorganize the American invasion of Leyte and to land reinforcements for their own Philippine garrison. In the Philippine, Sibuyan and Sula seas they deployed their naval might, including eight battleships and four carriers, in an attempt to overcome the ultimate threat to the empire.
In the sector north of Luzon Island the enemy has suffered heavily. Already four carriers have been sunk along with a light cruiser and two destroyers - mostly the result of a gallant day's work by American airmen who willingly made two and three hops against intense anti-aircraft fire to break up a 17-ship formation.
Japs Lose 150 Planes
It was here that a single United States carrier group fought off day-long attacks by some 200 Japanese planes yesterday from both land bases and carriers. Only one got through and dive-bombed the carrier Princeton, which later had to be scuttled. It might have been a different story if the enemy hadn't lost 150 aircraft, of which 61 were shot down by flyers of this carrier.
This same air group launched attacks on enemy fleet units sighted in the Sibuyan Sea, damaging at least two battleships and five or more cruisers.
Never before - not even at Midway — has such a knockout blow been delivered to the Japanese navy as the destruction of seven ships in one formation. (Since this was written, it has become known that the enemy fleet unit of 16 ships in the Surigao Sea was completely wiped out.
Attacks starting before daylight broke over the blue, placid waters and continued until dusk. There never was a period of more than three-quarters of an hour when waves of planes weren't hurling bombs and torpedoes at the enemy with deadly accuracy.
The first wave traveled 150 miles to reach the Japanese, force of four carriers, two battleships, five cruisers and five or six destroyers. But by day's end, we were only eight miles from the enemy, who was in crippled, scattered, disorderly flight and pressed by oncoming United Slates warships.
Pursue Fleeing Ships
Tonight red flashes over the horizon tell us the battle line of United States cruisers and destroyers is closing in on what remains of the sizable diversionary force that failed to scissor us and also failed to draw away all United Slates fast warships from Leyte. (The Leyte warships were protecting MacArthur's landing forces on Leyte Island.)
McCampbell before the battle of Leyte Gulf with 21 meatballs on his plane
Cruisers steamed close to the enemy formation earlier to sink a damaged medium carrier — the last enemy carrier in this formation. Preliminary reports credit surface fire with destruction of a destroyer.
One battleship was hit by two to four torpedoes and many 1,000-pounders by planes from this carrier. It was Japan's latest type — a battleship-carrier with a long flight deck aft. One cruiser was last seen trailing oil and limping away at five-knot speed. Two destroyers also were damaged.
The pilots who looked down on the scene of wreckage saw clusters of survivors clinging to anything they could get their hands on. The Japanese casualties were "enormous," they said, which might mean as high as 5,000. For all the damage dealt out, this air group lost two pilots and two air crewmen.
Largest Carrier Sinks
Dive bombers were credited with from seven to 12 hits in an 18-plane strike on a Shokaku class carrier, which they left covered with smoke and fire. Three torpedo planes roared in on a carrier even as bombs were still falling. It was this - largest of the four enemy carriers - which went down first.
"It took two hours for the big carrier, three hours for the damaged medium carrier to sink," said Commander Hugh Winters, air group chief who spent six hours over the target area.
It was Winters who sent the dramatic word at 2:20 p.m.:
"It (the big one) just turned over.”
"When the big one went down it wasn't under attack. It hadn't been for an hour and a half," he said later. "It rolled over on its side and went down stern first. It went down very quietly, with no explosion or fanfare.
"It had been floating in a big irregular pool of oil. There were people — hundreds of them — floating about, holding on to wood, debris, anything to save themselves.
Later the medium carrier sank without any list. It went in nose first. All afternoon it had been going down gradually. This one left a similar number of survivors who were taken on by two Jap destroyers. The loss of life by the Japs was so great I can't even begin to visualize it."
McCampbell, after the battle, is now sporting 30 kill markings |
Japs Fight to Last
The Japanese fought back with everything they had — everything that is, except vital air cover. They frantically resorted to firing at the raiders with 10-inch batteries and one carrier continued to spurt anti-aircraft lead into the beclouded sky when its decks were awash.
The back of the Japanese air strength was broken yesterday and they apparently were unable to replenish it in time to help.
Of three major attacks launched against this United States group, two were believed from Manila airfields while the third was sent out by carriers.
Bogie reports became so numerous that I finally gave up trying to keep count. But not soon to he forgotten was one of several direct attacks on our ship. A dive bomber swooped out of the clouds and dropped a bomb which fell no more than 50 feet from the stern. One Japanese plane was blown up immediately over the ship. A wing almost landed on the deck.
The pilots noticed particularly today that there were no planes on the decks of the enemy carriers. On all their runs they saw only a half dozen planes, of which at least two were shot down. The Americans could take time over the targets and they did. They were impressed, however, by the enemy's thick, many-hued antiaircraft barrage which sent puffs of purple, white and blue smoke into the air.
This Yank group was reinforced overnight for the assault on the northern Japanese force. The enemy unit was sighted again this morning by Commander David McCampbell, the top fighter ace of the navy (who shot down an incredible 9 enemy planes during the battle), at a time when the situation looked critical for United Slates light carriers assigned to support Leyte. Search planes spotted 14 Japanese transports, presumably heading toward Manila with reinforcements.
Carry Out Order
The order throughout to American commanders was "annihilate the enemy." Even while the Japanese planes were approaching at a distance to attack this carrier yesterday, our planes were taking off with that objective in mind.
From 20 to 26 Japanese warships, spotted in the Sibuyan Sea, gave the pilots their first crack at the enemy fleet. (They missed the June 20 battle off Saipan.)
Lieut. Roger Boles, Santa Paula, Cal., fighter skipper, said the Sibuyan enemy unit split into two groups, three or four miles apart.
"Anti-aircraft fire was so heavy I don't see how they missed," he said.
Boles got a first hand view of the heavy barrage when he made a strafing run on a battleship. Bombers and torpedo planes got through to drop their explosives.
Lieut. Joseph Black, Power Station, Tenn., headed his Avenger for a cruiser. "It turned to meet me so I corkscrewed down and heaved 500-pounders. Some of them hit the water but one struck the stern." Two other cruisers were hit by 1,000-pound bombs dropped by Helldivers.
Smoke Over Fleet
Dive Bomber Lieut. (j.g.) Webster P. Wodell, 22 years old, Shorthills, N.J., said there was so much smoke around the Japanese formation it was hard to tell where the bombs landed.
Another Helldiver piloted by Lieut. Leonard R. Ewanson, 25, Houston, Texas, got a probable hit on a battleship.
The attack on the enemy's Sibuyan force was mild, however, compared with today's slashing runs by the United States carrier force. For one thing the enemy forces were now so close, the raids were almost like a shuttle bombing routine.
Lieut. Black said he got the greatest thrill of his lifetime when his torpedo crashed into a battleship. Lieut. Robert Durlan, Fort Dodge, Iowa, who made a run on a medium carrier, said a bomb-made water spout went above the flight deck.
Lieut, (j.g.) J. N. Langrall, 23, of Baltimore, Md., who scored a torpedo hit on a battleship, said the enemy formation was in confusion. "Every one was turning in a different direction. One carrier was smoking pretty badly."
Kansan Strafes Carrier
Lieut. Donald McMillan, 25, Wamego, Kan., strafed a big carrier as he made a bow run with his Avenger.
The flyers came back with holes in their planes, several with injuries. One Avenger pilot got his plane aboard and slumped over the controls in a faint. In one strike, six or eight torpedo planes were shot up but returned.
One Avenger scooted on deck with oil spraying from the plane. Another dropped its belly tank in the takeoff. The deck crew quickly grabbed it and rolled it over the side. A smoking TBF circled the formation and made a perfect landing on a near-by carrier. Planes rolled in and out like clockwork.
One pilot, Lieut. Albert Seckel, Peoria, III., bustled up to the bridge to tell the admiral, "Well, we got her," confirming the sinking of a big carrier.
Seckel was tired and grimy but smiled. So did the admiral.
"That was just a start for what they did at Pearl Harbor." Admiral Marc Mitscher said quietly. "And they'll pay for the rest of it."
Navy Ace's Working Day - 1 Flight, 9 Japs, 95 Minutes
Aboard Carrier Flagship Off Philippines, 27 Oct. 1944 — (Via Navy Radio) — (UP) — Commander David McCampbell, 34, of Los Angeles, shot down nine Japanese fighters plus two "probables" in one hour and 35 minutes of aerial battling October 24, during early stages of the second battle of the Philippines, it was disclosed today.
This tremendous performance raised McCampbell's individual total in the war to 30 enemy planes and placed him among America's top-ranking aces.
He is now tied with Major Don Gentile, Piqua, O., in second place behind Major Richard Bong, Poplar, Wis., who became United States' ace of aces last week by bagging his thirty-third over the Philippines (Half of Major Gentile's planes were destroyed on the ground. In the European Theater of war, ground kills are credited like air kills due to the high risk involved with attacking a German airfields).
McCampbell is a navy fighter pilot and commander of an air group whose Hellcat squadron presently is credited with shooting down 273 enemy planes.
He had one previous tour of Pacific duty as a signal officer aboard the old carrier Wasp, during her last cruise two years ago. He is far and away the navy's highest-scoring ace, topping the previous individual record of 19 held by Lieutenant Alex Vraciu, East Chicago, Ind.
ACE DOWNS NINE JAPS
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 1. (UP) — The mother of Cmdr. David McCampbell of Los Angeles, who shot down nine Japanese fighters in 85 minutes of aerial combat in the second battle of the Philippines, admitted when she heard the news she was so "up in the air" she was crying a little but really wasn't much surprised,
"I knew he was in the Philippines battle," Mrs. E. Lavalle McCampbell said. "Oh, not from anything he wrote, but I just knew it."
The tremendous performance shoots McCampbell's individual kills to 30 and puts him far out in front as top navy ace and in second place as U.S. ace of aces. He is a navy fighter pilot and commander of a Hellcat squadron credited with 273 enemy planes.
McCampbell, a 1933 graduate of Annapolis, had been on active duty since early in 1934 when he took command of the light cruiser Portland. He had always been interested in flying, his mother recalled, and won his wings at Pensacola in 1938.
McCampbell, who has been in action over Saipan and the central Philippines since he became an airgroup commander in January, holds the navy cross and distinguished flying cross. His mother said he wears "ribbons down the front and halfway down the back of his uniform."
McCampbell (right side of sign) with members of VF-15 & their scoreboard with Dave's Hellcat, Minsi 3, in the background. L-R, BACK: Robert P. Pash, Arthur Singer, Wendell Van Twelves, Larry R. Self, Ralph E. Foltz, James E. Duffy, Wallace R. Johnson, Albert C. Slack & James Dare. FRONT: Ljg Roy L. Nall, Lt John C.C. Symmes, L/C George C. Duncan, Lt Bert DeWayne Morris, L/C James F. Rigg, Lt John R. Strane, Lt Edward W. Overton, Ljg Richard E. Fowler, Jr., Ljg George R. Carr, Ljg Walter A. Lundin, Ljg Norman R. Berree, C/O David McCampbell, Ljg Roy W. Rushing, Ljg George W. Pigman, Jr., (One man after McCampbell remains unidentified).
2,594 Jap Planes Destroyed By Navy Men in Two Months
Pearl Harbor, 1 Nov. 1944 — Navy flyers destroyed from 2,594 to 2,846 Japanese planes during the two months in which American troops invaded Palau and the Philippines and the navy crushed the enemy's imperial fleet.
The Aug. 31 - Oct. 31 scourge of the foe's air power in sweeps extending from the Philippines north to within 200 miles of Japan virtually nullified work of the enemy's assembly lines for the period and cut deep into her store of battle-tested pilots.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, issuing this "conservative recapitulation of enemy aircraft losses," said the cost was approximately 300 carrier planes — a ratio of better than eight or nine to one in favor of the Yanks.
These achievements, it should be emphasized, are those of Third and Seventh Fleet carrier flyers alone. They do not take into account for the same period a noteworthy bag by army flyers who found the hunting good over such hotly-defended spots as the oil center of Balikpapan or Borneo.
Showing the way for the navy is Commander David McCampbell, of Los Angeles with 30 planes to his credit, including nine he got in less than two hours Oct. 24 when he helped chase a numerically superior group of Japanese all the way to Manila. His bag that day might even have been 11. Two were listed as probables.
Sharply underscoring Japan's deterioration as an air as well as a naval power, the carrier raiders blew up 1,132 of the enemy planes before they could get off the ground, even though they attacked such strong points as Formosa and the network of fields at Manila.
The 2,594 planes definitely were destroyed. The other 252 were listed as probably destroyed or damaged. Helping the invasion of Peleliu in southern Palau, the carrier raiders of the Third Fleet shot down 362 planes and destroyed 584 more aground between Sept. 9-24 on Palau and the Philippines.
Oct. 10 to 16, when Admiral William F. Halsey's fleet opened up with sledgehammer blows against the Ryukyus, Formosa and the Philippines to prepare for Gen. Douglas MacArthur's invasion of Leyte, 528 enemy planes were shot down, 304 more wiped out on parked airdromes.
As a tip-off of the weak air opposition Japan had left to offer as MacArthur's transports moved in, Halsey's planes could find only 55 to shoot down and 31 to destroy aground Oct. 17-18 in the Philippines.
From Oct. 22, when submarines opened the second navy battle of the Philippines Sea — the first was won west of the Marianas last June — until Oct. 27 when the defeated Japanese fleet remnants were on the run, Seventh and Third Fleet carrier planes shot down 392 Nipponese and destroyed 31 aground.
Other planes in the big total were accounted for in operations which included the opening of Halsey's task force forays with an aerial blast at the Bonins.
Many of the pilots and crew members of the American planes lost were rescued to be sent back into sky battles aboard new, fast Hellcat fighters.
Jap Plane Loses Rise
1 November 1944 - Japanese planes raiding American installations steadily decrease as Adm. William F. Halsey counted up at least 2,594 Japanese planes and probably as many as 2,846 destroyed by his carrier pilots over the western Pacific between Aug. 31 and Oct. 31.
Commander David McCampbell, Lost Angeles naval ace, led the way with 30 planes to his credit, shooting down nine in less than two hours as be helped chase a Japanese flight home to Manila. The valiant light carrier Princeton accounted for eight ships and 180 planes - a record for its class - before it was sunk in eastern Philippine waters.
Confused Japanese broadcast telling of the daylight Tokyo raid admitted only that one plane had dropped bombs. Previous broadcasts had boasted that several high-flying planes were driven off in aerial dogfights witnessed by Tokyo residents.
The broadcast, admitting that bombs were actually dropped, told residents how to prevent fires from bursting into major conflagrations and warned that, "Japanese homes are firetraps."
Propagandists called it a "Roosevelt face-saving aerial stunt."
These were the first reports of American planes over Tokyo since Lt. Gen. James H. Dolittle's raid April 18, 1942.
B-29 Bests 79 Planes
A news dispatch from their west-China base said that one B-29 which recently beat off a four-hour attack by 79 Japanese fighters, escaped without a scratch and shot down seven pursuit planes.
Dispatches from Chungking clearly indicated that Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek has imposed an increasingly severe censorship on foreign correspondents in the wake of the recall of Lt Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell. Liang Han-chao, Chinese minister of information, said there would be no comment from Chungking on Stilwell's recall, which he termed a purely military matter.
Yanks Battle Japs on Leyte
19 November 1944 - A week ago a trap was closed on the remaining Japanese troops in the Ormoc area on Leyte's west coast. But Japanese Gen. Yamashita risked his country's dwindling supply of ships - he lost several of his ships and 8,000 of his men - to land reinforcements. The American operation was still theoretically a mop-up, but there were at least 100,000 men engaged in a savage battle.
In the face of stiffened resistance, Yanks plunged further down the road from Pinamopoan, seized the ridge bearing that name and captured the peak of 2,300-foot Mt. Catabran which dominates enemy positions south toward Ormoc Bay.
Five Jap Divisions
It was the 24th which drove down from Carigara Bay. The First Cavalry met increased resistance in the Mt. Pina area. Ormoc was bombed. An unrevealed number of invaders were attacking five Japanese divisions: First, 16th, 26th, 30th, 102nd, totaling at full strength 60,000 men.
Maj. Richard I. Bong, Poplar, Wis., American ace of aces, ran his string of downed planes to 36, said enemy fighters were among the best in his experience. The Navy's ace, Cmdr. David McCampbell, Los Angeles, boosted his total to 32; Maj. Thomas B. McGuire, Ridgewood, N. J., reached 28; First Lt. Don S. Warner, North Hollywood, who had never before seen a Japanese destroyer or plane in combat, sank a destroyer and downed three planes in 24 hours.
The Tokyo radio claimed victories: Two American transports sunk and seven damaged off Leyte. One ship was set afire, another hit by a bomb, said an Associated Press correspondent eye witness, who added it cost the enemy four planes.
Sounds Like Alibi
Lieutenant General Homma, commander of the first Japanese to invade the Philippines, stated that air supremacy in that area was "more important than to annihilate the five enemy divisions which have landed on Leyte." That may have been one way of preparing the Japanese people for the failure of Yamashita's forces to hold on to the island.
U.S. carrier planes struck Manila and Cavite again, blew up two destroyers and sank or damaged a light cruiser and 11 other ships. They destroyed 28 planes in the air and shot up 130 grounded craft.
Admiral Nimitz reported that about 200 Japanese landed on Ngeregong Islet eight miles from American-held Peleliu in the Palaus, and that the American force there had been evacuated.
Dakota Farm Boy Is Navy's Leading Ace
Aboard U. S. Carrier Flagship, Western Pacific, 27 Nov. 1944 — (Delayed) — (UP) — Lieut. Cecil E. Harris, ex-farmer boy from South Dakota, for the third time has shot down four Japanese planes in one day. It gave the Navy's leading active ace a total of 24 Japanese planes. It placed him within ten of the Navy's record of 34, held by Comm. David McCampbell who recently completed his tour of duty.
The 27-year-old Harris made his latest quadruple kill two days ago. He picked off three Tojo fighters in a morning sweep over Manila and destroyed another fighter over the United States task force during a Japanese daylight attack.
McCampbell, now sporting 34 kills on his Hellcat, and, most likely, his Chief Mechanic
McCampbell, Navy's Leading Ace, Says Team Work Most Important
By DAN McGUIRE PACIFIC FLEET HEADQUARTERS, PEARL HARBOR (UP) — For a few minutes today, Comdr. David McCampbell, the Navy's top fighter pilot and the second ranking American airman with 34 Jap planes to his credit, probably wished he were back in the Pacific dueling with Zeros instead of being a marked man at a press conference.
The tanned, wiry, 31-year-old ace was asked if he differed with Rear Adm. Thomas L. Sprague, commander of the escort carriers in the October fleet engagement, who said during a recent interview that publicity and adulation for pilots who bad large numbers of enemy planes tend in break up the teamwork which is so necessary in aerial operations. The admiral thought the ace idea was being carried a bit too far.
McCampbell, who didn't receive his naval commission until a year after he graduated because only half the Annapolis class of 1933 were made ensigns, swallowed hard several times and then, very diplomatically and with the greatest respect, begged to differ with the admiral.
"Yes, teamwork is our greatest objective," he declared. "I think our air group 15 attained it. I have tried to emphasize that what we accomplished was through the efforts of our fighters, our dive-bombers and our torpedo planes. I happened to be lucky so far as running into enemy planes was concerned. In leading a division, I was usually able to make the first run on Japs we met.
"It wasn't a case of figuring out how many planes I already had then telling someone else to go in. That isn't how our tactics are planned. Sure, I missed some of them and they were knocked off by my wingman or our second section."
Lt. Bert Morris, the former Wayne Morris of Hollywood, backed up McCampbell's statement. Morris, who got seven planes himself, declared the other pilots were never jealous while the commander was running up his sensational record.
"On the contrary," Morris added, "we were pulling for him to get ahead of the Army boys."
McCampbell said he believed that competition among pilots, squadrons and ships was one of the reasons for the great success of American airmen in combat. His theory of successful combat flying is simple: "See the other guy first."
Still Regards Japs as Tough Fighters
Jacksonville, 3 Feb. 1945 - AP - The navy's leading ace said today the Japs are cracking up but it will take two more years to finish them off.
"While their skill in the air is slipping, they're still a long way from being a bunch of dead ducks," commented Comdr. Dave McCampbell of West Palm Beach, here on a visit to the naval air station.
The soft-spoken fighter pilot has 54 Jap planes to his credit — 34 destroyed in the air and 20 on the ground. He's the hottest "one-day" pilot in the history of aerial war-rare, having knocked down nine Nip aircraft in a day to set an all-time record.
"It doesn't make much deference whether a pilot is 20 or 30," the 35 year old airman declared. "The important thing is to see your enemy first and have an altitude advantage. When the average American fighter pilot does that, be usually comes out on top."
War Was Always Close to Home In Florida — Here's The Record
By MARIE DEIBLER Associated Press Staff Writer Florida's residents today are jubilantly celebrating the victory over Japan. To them it means the return of sons, husbands and brothers from the steaming jungles and the flak-filled skies of the Pacific.
But there is a sober note to today's celebration. Although Florida was far from the Pacific war, in miles, that war has been very close to home since the fatal Sunday of December 7, 1941. Three days after Pearl Harbor, one of Florida's sons went down in flames and became the nation's first hero. He was Captain Colin Kelly Jr., of Madison.
Captain Kelly, a West Point graduate, was stationed at Hickam Field in Honolulu at the start of the war. With the rest of the then inadequate air force, he kept his plane in the sky continually.
On December 10, 1941, he spotted the Japanese battleship Haruna, during the battle of the Philippines. He scored three direct hits on the deck of the Haruna, leaving the huge ship in flames.
But his plane had been crippled. Almost within sight of his base, he developed engine trouble and ordered his crew to ball out. Kelly went down with his plane.
Captain Colin Kelly
Sandy Nininger |
The nation honored Colin Kelly as a gallant hero. Floridians wished to do something specific to show their gratitude. So they started a trust fund for 3-year-old Colin Kelly III. And President Roosevelt appointed the boy to West Point in 1956.
Later, Colin Kelly jr. was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Surrounded By Japs
Early in January of 1942, another Floridian became the first soldier to win the Medal of Honor in WWII. Lt. Sandy Nininger, of Fort Lauderdale, fought with the Americans on Bataan — the heartbreaking losing battle in the midst of the jungle.
Lt Nininger was killed after he had volunteered to help another company, outnumbered by Jap soldiers. He pushed alone far into the enemy position.
When his body was found, he was surrounded by 52 dead Japs. On the top of his body were two Nip officers, their Samurai swords drawn.
Florida sent out many navy airmen — trained at bases in Pensacola, Jacksonville, Miami and more than a dozen bases throughout the state.
Top Navy Ace Holds Record For Most Kills in One Mission
The nation's top navy ace, Commander David McCampbell comes from West Palm Beach. McCampbell set world's record by shooting down nine enemy planes in one day.
He was stationed on the aircraft carrier Essex. At the head of seven navy Hellcats, he streaked out over the Pacific skies toward an approaching Jap air armada.
Twenty Jap bombers droned out of the north — accompanied by 40 Nip pursuit planes. McCampbell and his Hellcats closed in. In a 95 minute battle, the Hellcats sent the Japanese scooting back to Manila - with 15 planes shot down. Nine of these 15, McCampbell personally took care of.
He too won the Medal of Honor.
McCampbell's Hellcat undergoes maintenance on deck
11 June 1944
13 June 1944
19 June 1944
23 June 1944
12 Sept 1944
13 Sept 1944
22 Sept 1944
23 Sept 1944
21 Oct 1944
24 Oct 1944
5 Nov 1944
11 Nov 1944
14 Nov 1944
two u/i e/a
34 / 2+ / ?
plus 20 On The Ground (sorry, no details)
|[a] Seven kills on this mission
[b] One shared with Ensign C. Plant
[c] Shared with Ensign Roy Nall
[d] Nine kills on this mission is a US record
On this page I use info from the U.S. Navy Historical center, the U.S. National Archives,
newspaper articles via the Google News Archives as well as other sources both published and private.