The USS Tangier leaving San Francisco on February 17, 1944. Three days later she docked at the Naval Air Station in San Diego and the officers and men of VMO-251 embarked for a 2 1/2 week voyage to Espiritu Santo for their second tour of combat in the South Pacific. They received their planes (20 Corsairs) from MAG 11 several weeks after the squadron's arrival at Espiritu Santo.
VMO-251 plane captains Booker (L) and Ryan (R) on Espiritu Santo sometime between Aug and December 1942. Thought everyone would get a kick out of Ryan's "uniform." I will be spending March 20 and 21 at the National Archives looking for official documents. Photo came from Kristian Whitten, whose dad, Todd Whitten, flew with the squadron in 1942 and 1943.
Early in 2013, I applied for a grant with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation to write the World War II history of VMO/VMF-251. In January 2014, I finally received word that I had been awarded the grant. It wasn't a large amount, but it commits me to complete the project in June of 2016. Surprisingly there is no history of the squadron, despite the fact it is one of the longest serving squadrons in Marine aviation!
For the past two years, at my own expense, I have been researching the squadron's role during the war. I have accumulated hundreds of pages of documents and period photographs. But several gaps remain. To fill those gaps will require several trips to the National Archives. To help with those expenses, a Kickstarter campaign is in the works.
So, what are those gaps?
1. Formation of the squadron and its early training, plus its role in the making of the 1942 film, "Wake Island."
2. Documentation of the squadron’s participation during the Battle for Guadalcanal as part of the Cactus Air Force. This will be the first leg of research to complete, and will require a trip to Quantico and College Park, Maryland (NARA).
3. Following its participation with the Cactus Air Force, the squadron was sent back to the US in 1943 to begin the transition to the F-4U Corsair. Documentation is lacking during this period, and the second phase of research will concentrate on this aspect.
4. The squadron returned to the south Pacific in mid-1944 and eventually arrived in the Philippines in January 1945. The squadron was deactivated on June 1, 1945 while flying out of Samar, Philippine Islands. Several documents covering this period of June 44 to June 45 need to be accessed, and will constitute the third round of research.
Once the research is complete, writing will then begin. If the book on the squadron’s activities during World War 2 is successful, I hope to continue with a second volume on the Korean War.
The book will be illustrated with maps and personal photos from 251 Marines, as well as photos from the National Archives. Appendices will include a full list of VMO/VMF-251 casualties, four rosters covering different periods in the squadrons WW2 history, a list of all known aircraft losses by bureau number, aircraft markings, insignia, and awards.
I will be posting updates as research progresses. Semper Fi!
Steven K. Dixon
Sgt. USMC, VMFA-251 from 1976 to 1979