A Missing Pilot

March 13th, 2015
A Missing Pilot

1Lt. Orville F.S. Lorch of VMO-251. He was listed as MIA on 3 August 1944 following a strike on Tobera Airfield near Rabaul. His Corsair was hit by AA fire, damaging his engine. He was able to ditch his plane but could not escape from the cockpit. His body was not recovered. Photo came from his niece, Brenda Lorch Puttoff.

Target Rabaul

March 1st, 2015
Target Rabaul

Finishing up the squadron's actions from Green Island (June 18-June 28, 1944) prior to its move to the Piva Airfields on Bougainville. The squadron got acclimated to the combat conditions they would be facing for the next several months. Their main target was the bypassed Japanese base at Rabaul. I quickly found out that Rabaul did not mean the town but an area in northeast New Britain that included several airfields, seaplane bases, supply dumps and a host of AA guns. To get an idea of the area check out the target map published in August 1943.

Chapter 4 is Complete

February 19th, 2015

Chapter 4 of the squadron's WW2 history is finished. The next chapter will cover action out of Piva Airstrip on Bougainville. To celebrate, a poem written by VMO-251 Marine Albert Madden, possibly in October 1942. But first, the historical background:

As the Marines and the Navy valiantly defended the Solomon Islands, back in the United States there was talk of merging the Army, Navy and Marines into one fighting force. The idea was to streamline the services and maximize their striking power. All members would wear the same uniform, and be led by one commander. This move, if accepted, would no doubt destroy the identity and esprit de corps of each service. Corporal Albert Madden, one of three brothers serving with 251, wrote a poem that made it known how 251 Marines, and perhaps all Marines, felt about the proposal:

Aye, Poloticians, send us out
To light our country's war,
And while we're raising hell out here
Disband our gallant Corps.
Just tear the globe and anchor down,
Cut out the eagle's heart,
Clad us all in olive drab
And split us all apart.

Take our two-tone suits of blue
Reclaim our threadbare "greens"
But these traditions still belong
To the United States Marines.
Belleau Wood-Chateau Thierry
St. Mihiel-The Argonne
Wake Island-Midway-The Solomons
Where have those memories gone?

Far better to take our band
And group us all alone
(You'll have to search the far flung fronts
For you won't find us at home)
Then give us all the guns we need
With cartridges to spare
And send us to Japan itself
To make a landing there.

Beneath the canons' thundrous roar
On hot and bloody sand,
While "Wildcats" strafe from up above
Let us Leathernecks make our stand.
While the "Devil-Dog" insignia
Waves o'er the enemy's shore
Let the Gods of war decide
The disbandment of our Corps.

The Cost of Training

January 30th, 2015
The Cost of Training

As I finish up Chapter 4 of the squadron's WW2 history, I am going to throw some figures at you. This chapter covers the squadron's rebuilding and transition to Corsairs prior to heading back to the PTO in February 1944. The training regimen started in September 1943 and ended in January 1944. If the accident rate the squadron suffered occurred today, there would be a massive investigation. Marine aviation training during WW2 has been neglected by historians -- next to nothing is available. Granted USMC aviation saw its largest expansion during the war and this expansion may have put a severe strain on resources. But was the loss rate the "price that had to be paid" to get the war won? Without an examination of Marine aviation training during the war, it's a hard question to answer.

Loss rate for the period of September 1943 - January 1944. Figures based on war diaries for the period as well as available accident reports. Please note that the numbers could change if more documents turn up.

Planes damaged (all types) -- 27
Planes destroyed (all types) -- 12
Pilots killed -- 4

Broken down by month (planes lost/planes damaged)

September 1943 -- 1/4 -- 1 pilot killed
October 1943 -- 5/6 -- 1 pilot killed
November 1943 -- 6/7 -- 2 pilots killed
December 1943 -- 0/8
January 1944 -- 0/2

Three of the four pilots killed are in the posted picture: Willey, O'Hara (records spell his name as O'Harra) and Merkel. The fourth pilot, Osterlund, died two weeks before the picture was taken. Osterlund is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Marines on Cover of Magazine

January 17th, 2015
Marines on Cover of Magazine
Marines on Cover of Magazine

Received an email a few days ago from the granddaughter of Albert Madden -- who along with his brothers Walter and John -- served with the squadron from 42 to 45. The three of them appeared on the September 1943 cover of the Hat Life. I've contacted the company for more info. Yes, they are still in business! The photo of the three Maddens (from L to R: Albert, Walter and John) was taken on Espiritu Santo in late 1942. I got a chuckle out of it! First a movie, then a magazine cover! I wonder what else I will find out before this book project is complete?