Work progresses on Chapter 4 of a Squadron Born in War. The squadron has returned to the states from its first combat tour (June 2, 1943). Its temporary new home is MCAS Mojave. A core group of veterans (no more than 40) are kept to rebuild the squadron and prepare it to receive its new fighter, the F4U Corsair. It won't receive them until September 1943. Until then new pilots coming into the squadron train on Wildcats. Accidents are common, four pilots would be killed and many more injured. Enlisted personnel are sent to schools to learn the Corsair inside and out. An eyewitness statement to one of the accidents is attached.
Chapter 3 of VMFA-251's WW2 history is complete. This was a tough chapter to write as key official squadron documents were missing. When documents were available -- the entry "routine combat conditions" was the norm. In celebration of the completion of the chapter, pictured is the USS Kitty Hawk and a page from her war diary indicating when 251 personnel boarded her for the trip back to the US on 17 May 1943. The ship docked in San Francisco on June 2, 1943 after they were diverted from San Diego.
I will resume writing after the holidays -- conversion to Corsairs and the squadron's second tour in the Pacific will be the subjects of the next chapters.
Another mystery solved! The Lucifer's Messengers patch was designed by VMF-251 pilot 2Lt. Danny W. Johnson, who was a Disney illustrator in civilian life. Above is the original done by Johnson as photographed by fellow 251 pilot Hugh "Yogi" Irwin. Irwin has been most helpful in detailing life on Bougainville and the Philippines.
Ladies and Gents:
Here is the final Table of Contents for "A Squadron Born in War", as well as the current list of appendices. I had hoped to include a list of squadron aircraft losses but this has proven impossible to compile with any accuracy -- one list I had showed 56 aircraft losses, but a source for aircraft accident reports lists 74! Where I could indeed verify the losses, they are covered in the narrative. The book will also contain several maps and tables, as well as 40 photos.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 -- The Beginning: Activation and Hollywood
Chapter 2 -- New Caledonia
Chapter 3 -- Espiritu Santo and Guadalcanal
Chapter 4 -- Return to the States and Rebuilding the Squadron
Chapter 5 -- Return to War: Espiritu Santo, Green Island and Bougainville
Chapter 6 -- The Philippines and Decommissioning
Chapter 7 -- Assessment and Recognition
Appendix 1 -- Commanding Officers
Appendix 2 -- Command Assignments
Appendix 3 -- Casualties (KIA, WIA, AD and MIA)
Appendix 4 -- Roster of Personnel 1942
Appendix 5 -- Roster of Personnel 1945
Appendix 6 -- Japanese planes shot down by squadron personnel
Appendix 7 -- Aircraft markings and squadron insignia
Appendix 8 -- Squadron awards