Wildcat and Corsair pilots at Guadalcanal and the Solomons

Pappy Boyington, Joe Foss, Marion Carl, Ken Walsh, Harold Bauer, and others

Captain Joe Foss was awarded the Medal of Honor by Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The Marine Corps aces fought some of the hardest battles of World War Two in the Pacific, most notably the grinding struggle for Guadalcanal, where the few pilots of the 'Cactus Air Force' saved the beachhead from Japanese counter-attacks. The Marine fliers also figured in the drive up through the Solomons, and achieved many great successes in late 1943 and early 1944, when, equipped with powerful F4U Corsairs, men like Pappy Boyington and Robert Hanson drove the Zeros from the skies of the Northern Solomons.

Joseph Foss 26.0 MH VMF-121 F4F
Robert M. Hanson 25.0 MH VMF-215 F4U
Gregory "Pappy" Boyington 22.0 MH VMF-214 F4U
Kenneth Walsh 21.0 MH VMF-124 F4U
Donald N. Aldrich 20.0 NC VMF-215 F4U
John L. Smith 19.0 MH VMF-223 F4F
Marion E. Carl 18.5 NC VMF-223 F4F
Wilbur J. Thomas 18.5 NC VMF-213 F4U
James E. Swett 15.5 MH VMF-221 F4F
Harold L. Spears 15.0 DFC VMF-215 F4U
Archie Glenn Donahue 14.0 DFC VMF-112 F4U
James N. Cupp 13.0 NC VMF-213 F4U
Robert E. Galer 13.0 MH VMF-224 F4F
William P. Marontate 13.0 NC VMF-121 F4F
Edward O. Shaw 13.0 DFC VMF-213 F4U
Kenneth D. Frazier 12.5 NC VMF-223 F4F
Loren D. Everton 12.0 NC VMF-212 F4F
Harold E. Segal 12.0 DFC VMF-221 F4U
Harold W. Bauer 11.0 MH VMF-212 F4F
Chris Magee 9.0 NC VMF-214 F4U
Jefferson DeBlanc 9.0 MH VMF-112 F4F
Robert Wade 8.0 NC VMF-323 F4U
John Bolt 6.0 NC VMF-214 F4U
R. Bruce Porter 5.0 DFC VMF-121
VMF-214 Black Sheep Aces 5+ - VMF-214 F4U
VMF-323 Death Rattlers 5+ - VMF-323 F4U


Charles Lindbergh (2nd from left)
on Emirau Island May 1944

Charles Lindbergh was a corsair pilot flying with the U.S. Marine Corps pilots. He persuaded Marine Corps General Louis Wood to let him help survey the USMC Corsair operations in the Pacific. A few months later, he was flying Corsairs on combat missions with the Marine squadron VMF-223 based on Green Island.


On his first combat mission, the USMC Corsairs escorted B-25's on a bombing run over Rabaul. His F4U, powered by a 2,000 HP Pratt & Whitney radial engine, carried sixteen hundred rounds of .50-caliber ammunition, that could be spewed out at a rate of 5,000 rounds per minute with all six guns firing. They approached the target at 10,000 feet, he saw the ship-strewn harbor. A little ack-ack came up his way, but no Zeros. He saw a few Jap planes in the revetments, but no ground activity. As the first bombs hit the edges of Rabaul, the radio chatter picked up and one pilot had already taken to his life raft. As Lindbergh's flight of F4-U's swung south, explosions erupted from a fuel dump hidden in a coconut grove. A mix of American airplanes roared over: USAAF B-25 bombers, Marine Corps Corsairs, USAAF P-39s, TBF torpedo bombers, and P-38s. The anti-aircraft batteries opened up at the strike planes.

After delivering their payloads, the bombers headed back; Lindbergh saw one TBF trailing smoke. On the ground at Rabaul, fires burned as the Corsairs lined up for their strafing runs. They flew out beyond range of the AAA, whipped into position, and set their trim tabs to dive. From 7,000 feet, he slanted down towards the enemy at Rabaul ... 4,000 feet ... 1,500 feet ... and, with a clear line of fire, he opened up. The tracers streaked onto and across a roof, and then raked an airstrip.

Lindbergh banked out to sea, his mission complete. But they still had plenty of ammunition. A target of opportunity, the Duke of York, a small island in St. Georges Channel, held a Japanese airstrip and garrison. While strafing, Lindbergh narrowly avoided shooting up a church, only to find, back at base, that the Japanese used it as a barracks.




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(Archive - Week of January 15, 2005)
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