Sunday, July 17, 2016

75th Anniversary: USMC Pilots Sacrifice- Ewa Field Was Front Line In Early Pacific War

US Marine Corps Pilots Sacrificed: Ewa Field Was America's Front Lines In Early Pacific War

by Ewa Historian John Bond

Few today really know how much personal sacrifice early Ewa Field Marine Corps pilots made at Wake Island and Midway Island. The Navy abandoned a relief plan to rescue Marines holding out on Wake Island, leaving them to be captured or killed. Among them fighting on the ground was Ewa pilot "Hank" Elrod.

Ewa Marine pilots were sent to Midway Island to suffer air raids and put up against superior Japanese planes and anti aircraft guns that totally decimated the out of date Brewster's of VMF-221 and Vought SB2U Vindicators of VMSB-241.

 The Ewa Battlefield, Wake Island and Midway Island can all be linked to Ewa Field.
All of the planes and pilots came from Ewa Field.

The first Medal of Honor of the war was given to Ewa Field pilot Capt. Henry
T. "Hank" Elrod.

The only Medal of Honor of the Midway battle was given to Ewa Field Capt.
Richard Fleming.

Both had the main roads at MCAS Ewa named for them, as was the case with other KIA Medal of Honor USMC pilots.

However when the Navy took over the property they renamed all of them after Navy ships.

US Marine Corps VMF-221 Midway survivors upon arrival at newly commissioned MCAS Ewa

 VMF-221 Midway survivors at MCAS Ewa. Fifth on right front is Capt. Kirk Armistead who survived the brutal air battle in Brewster MF-13. Seventh on right front is future Marine ace pilot Marion Carl who flew an F4F Wildcat.

 Henry Talmage "Hammerin' Hank" Elrod (September 27, 1905–December 23, 1941) was a US Marine Corps aviator and the first to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II, 
for his heroism in the defense of Wake Island.

 Captain Richard E. Fleming (November 2, 1917–June 5, 1942) was a United States Marine aviator who received the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Battle of Midway. Fleming piloted a Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bomber of VMSB-241 in an attack on the Japanese cruiser Mikuma.

Capt. Richard Fleming second from top right with members of VMSB-241, many of whom 
perished  in the Midway battle.

Capt. Richard Fleming's SB2U Vindicator of VMSB-241 as it would have looked at Ewa Field

 SB2U Vindicators of VMSB-241 taking off from Midway Island going into battle.


Military historian Mark Horan, now deceased (2014) supplied this detailed info about Brewsters at Ewa Field that went to Wake-Midway.

VMF-221 circa 15 December 1941 for the Wake Island Relief

According to the ComAirBarFor Aircraft Transfer files (Compiled with great diligence each week, and included all facilities on the West Coast, at Pearl, and on the outlying Pacific bases), USS Saratoga (CV-3) embarked 14 F2A-3s of VMF-221 on 15 December 1941.  However, the transfer records identified only 12 F2A-3s in the Squadron at that time.   

At that time the F2A-2 was not considered a combat aircraft any longer (see below) and none were taken to sea for the Wake Relief and subsequent deployment to Midway, nor were they deployed to any perceived combat zone. 

Rather, they were transferred to the training command as soon as practicable, my list shows the following:

Not on Jim's list (5): F2A-3s 01518, 01523, 01524, 01563, 01568
From Jim's list (7): F2A-3s 01527, 01537, 01542, 01548, 01550, 01552, 01553
Unknown (2) ...

The 22 F2A-3s that equipped VMF-221 when subsequently deployed at Midway can be summarized as follows:

Delivered by USS Saratoga (CV-3) and known to be at Midway prior to the next delivery of aircraft on 28 March 42:

F2A-3    01518        MF-1
F2A-3    01523        MF-16
F2A-3    01524        221-MF-9; CAP interception 03.10.42 (Gunner Robert Lee Dickey, USMC)    MF-9
F2A-3    01527        221-MF-16; FL in atoll lagoon, 12.02.42 (1st Lt. Charles W. Somers, Jr., USMC);
F2A-3    01537        221-MF-1 CAP interception 03.10.42 (Capt. James L. Neefus, USMC)    MF-4
F2A-3    01542        221-MF-12 CAP interception 03.10.42 (2nd Lt. Francis Paul McCarthy, USMC)    MF-12
F2A-3    01548        221-MF-4 CAP interception 03.10.42 (1st Lt. Charles W. Somers, Jr. USMC)    MF-2
F2A-3P  01550        MF-20
F2A-3    01552        MF-6
F2A-3    01553        MF-15
F2A-3    01563        MF-14
F2A-3    01568        MF-11
F2A-3     ?
F2A-3     ?    
Known to be delivered 28 March 42 by USS Curtiss:
F2A-3P  01521        MF-17
F2A-3    01528    ex VF-2    MF-10
F2A-3    01530    ex VF-2    MF-21
F2A-3    01562    ex VF-2    MF-13
F2A-3P  01569        MF-5
F2A-3    ?       
F2A-3    ?     
F2A-3    ?    

Known BuNos that the delivery date has yet to be determined - I suspect it is possible that the Curtiss log might supply this information
F2A-3P  01520        MF-19
F2A-3    01522        MF-7
F2A-3P  01525        MF-3
F2A-3P  01541        MF-8
F2A-3    01559        MF-18

Now, as for pilots ... the limiting factor was operational combat ready aircraft - not pilots.  The squadron had 22 pilots for the Wake Relief effort that were subsequently deployed to Midway.  Fourteen had planes and were on USS Saratoga (CV-3). Eight did not and were embarked with the ground echelon on USS Tangier. Arrived 0900, 25.12.42 from USS Saratoga (CV-3) or 1002, 26.12.41 on USS Tangier 

01. Maj. Verne James McCaul, USMC, O-3987 [14390] (C.O.)    MAG-22 (X.O.) 28.03.42
02. Capt. Harold William Bauer, USMC, O-4534 [14553] (X.O.)    out 08.02.42; Ace, KiA 14.11.42
03. Capt. Robert Milton Haynes, USMC, O-4581 [14634]    out
04. Capt. John Lucian Smith, USMC, O-5425 [14871]    out; Ace
05. Capt. James Lefferts Neefus, USMC, O-5391 [14902]    out, but on Midway through 02.05.42 Nimitz visit
06. Capt. John Francis Dobbin, USMC, O-5334 [14952]    out
07. 1st Lt. Frederick Rounsville Payne, Jr., USMC, O-5161 [14932]    out; Ace
08. 1st Lt. Charles John Quilter, USMC, O-5695 [15048]    out
09. 1st Lt. John Robert Alvord, USMC, O-6020 [15271]    Capt.; KiA 04.06.42
10. 1st Lt. Robert Rudolph Burns, USMC, O-6056 [15276]    out
11. 1st Lt. Charles William Somers, Jr., USMC, O-6055 [15279]    out
12. 2nd Lt. John Frank Carey, USMC, O- 5650 [15135]    Capt.
13. 2nd Lt. Henry Augustus Ellis, USMC, O-5651 [15136]    out
14. 2nd Lt. Robert Edward Curtin, USMC, O-5857 [15270]    Capt.; KiA 04.06.42
15. 2nd Lt. Herbert Thompson Merrill, USMC, O-6021 [15272]    Capt.; K 24.03.43
16. 2nd Lt. William Carter Humberd, USMC [15275]    Capt.
17. 2nd Lt. Marion Eugene Carl, USMC, O-6053 [15277]    Capt.
18. 2nd Lt. Francis Paul McCarthy, USMCR, O-6235    Capt.; KiA 04.06.42
18. 2nd Lt. Phillip Rene White, USMCR, O-6377    Capt.
20. 2nd Lt. Loren David Everton, USMC, O-6381    had arrived 04.12.41 on USS Wright (AV-1); Ace
21. 2nd Lt. David W. Pinkerton, Jr., USMCR, O-7535    KiA 04.06.42
22. Mar.Gunner Robert Lee Dickey, USMC (NAP), O-9126    WiA 10.03.42; out

In regard to the F2A-2 not being considered a combat aircraft, the F2A-3 was the only Brewster model considered a combat fighter by the time the war started.  All -2 models were to be sent to the advanced carrier training command as soon as they could be spared.  By this point, only current model planes that had, or would be equipped with the pilot armor, self-sealing fuel tanks, dual .30 caliber free guns, and ZB/YE - all of which was to have been applied in production or by the subsequent arrival in the Pacific of factory refit kits, were considered combat aircraft.  

Notably, these only included the F4F-3/4, F2A-3, SBD-2/3, TBF. The TBD, which had not of these mods, was only considered a front line aircraft because the first TBF-1s were, as yet, unavailable to replace them.

Mark E. Horan   Jul 9 2012 
VMF-221 at the Battle of Midway by Santiago A. Flores

VMF-221 was formed in July 1941 at San Diego, California. In December 1941 the unit was moved to Hawaii, Ewa MCAS. On December 25th,1941, 14 F2A-3's of VMF-221 took off from the "Saratoga" CV-3 to land on Midway Island. Originally formed part of the relief force for Wake Island.

On March 28th,1942 8 more F2A-3 were offloaded from the Seaplane Tender "Curtiss" AV-3 for the unit at Midway, and finally 7 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats were delivered from the Aircraft Ferry "Kitty Hawk" APV-1 on May 26th, 1942.

The following is number of listing of the personnel and the aircraft of VMF-221, that participated in aerial combat in the defense of Midway Island on the morning of June 4th, 1942.


Plane No. Bu.No. Pilot Status
MF-1 01518 Maj. Floyd B. Parks USMC MIA
MF-2 01548 2Lt. Eugene P. Madole USMCR MIA
MF-3 01525 Capt. John R. Alvord USMC MIA
MF-4 01537 2Lt. John M. Butler USMCR MIA
MF-5 01569 2Lt. David W. Pinkerton Jr. USMCR MIA
MF-6 01552 2Lt. Charles S. Hughes USMCR Did not engage,
Turned back due Engine problems

Plane No. Bu.No. Pilot Status
MF-7 01552? Capt. Daniel J. Hennessey USMC MIA
MF-8 01541 2Lt. Ellwood Q. Lindsay USMCR MIA
MF-9 01524 Capt. Herbert T. Merrill USMC Bailed out WIA
MF-10 01528 2Lt. Thomas W. Benson USMCR MIA
MF-11 01568 Capt. Phillip R. White USMC Survived
MF-12 01542 2Lt. John D. Lucas USMCR MIA


Plane No. Bu.No. Pilot Status
MF-13 01562 Capt. Kirk Armistead USMC Survived (NARA Photo at Ewa Revetment)
MF-14 01563 2Lt. William B. Sandoval USMCR MIA
MF-15 01553 Capt. William C. Humberd USMC Survived
MF-16 01523 2Lt. Williams V. Brooks USMCR WIA
MF-17 01521 2Lt. Charles M .Kunz USMCR WIA
MF-18 01559 2Lt. Martin E. Mahannah USMCR KIA (his body washed up later)
23 (F4F-3) 3989 2Lt. Walter W. Swansberger USMCR MIA


Plane No. Bu.No. Pilot Status
MF-19 01520 Capt. Robert E. Curtin USMC MIA
MF-20 01550 2Lt. Darrell D. Irwin USMCR Survived

Plane No. Bu.No. Pilot Status
22 4008 Capt. John F. Carey USMC WIA
24 4000 Capt. Marion E. Carl USMC Survived
25 3997 2Lt. Clayton M. Canfield USMCR Survived
26 4006 Capt. Francis P. McCarthy USMC MIA
27 2532 2Lt. Roy A. Corry USMC Survived
28 1864 2Lt.Hyde Phillips USMCR Did not engage;
a/c out of order.


Total Losses for June 4th, 1942 for VMF-221:
Aircraft: 12 F2A-3, 2 F4F-3
Pilots: 13 MIA, 1 KIA, 4 WIA 4

Aircraft in Commission on June 6th, 1942
F2A-3 MF-6, MF-11 and MF-21
F4F-3 24, 27, and 28

April- June 1942, Midway Island
April 10th, 1942
Capt. James L. Neefuss (211-MF-1) Mavis Flying Boat June 4th, 1942
Capt. Clayton M. Canfield (F4F-3 #25) Aichi 99 DB
Capt. John F. Carey (F4F-3 #22) Aichi 99 DB
Capt. Marion E. Carl (F4F-3 #24) A6M Zero; +2 A6M Zeros Dam.
2Lt. Roy A. Corry Jr. (F4F-3 #27) A6M Zero; Aichi 99 DB
Capt. James P. McCarthy (F4F-3 #26) A6M Zero
Capt. William C. Humberd (F2A-3 MF-15) B5N2 Bomber; A6M Zero; B5N2 Bomber Dam.
Capt. Kirk Armistead (F2A-3 MF-13) Aichi 99 DB Prob.
2Lt. Charles M. Kunz (F2A-2 MF-17) 2 Aichi 99 DB
Capt. Philip R. White (F2A-3 MF-11) Aichi 99 DB; Aichi 99 DB Dam.

75th Anniversary of December 7, 1941 - Ewa Battlefield still has many undocumented historic sites