Gathering of the brave - US Marines Medal of Honor visit
MCAS Ewa Field to pay respects to
fallen Marine aviation heroes
By William Cole
Eight Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipients, in town for a convention of the war heroes, paid tribute Tuesday to four World War II aviators who were at one time based at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa and singled out for bravery "above and beyond the call of duty."
The four Marines were killed in action during the war, and streets were named after them at Ewa Field, according to the event's organizers.
The weedy and neglected state of Ewa Field, which was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, came as a surprise to some of the Medal of Honor recipients who traveled to pay respects to their fallen Marine brethren, who also were awarded the nation's highest military honor.
"We were surprised when we heard about this because the Marines, we're deep, deep in the history of our Corps, and we'd never heard of this air station," said Richard Pittman, 67, who in Vietnam in 1966 went to the aid of fellow Marines who were under heavy fire on a jungle trail.
Pittman grabbed a belt-fed M-60 machine gun and took out two enemy positions before continuing further and facing down as many as 40 enemy fighters, first with his M-60 and then with a pistol and an enemy rifle until the enemy withdrew.
For his bravery, Pittman was awarded the Medal of Honor.
The former Marine airfield he and the others visited Tuesday began as an airship mooring station in the mid-1920s. On Dec. 7, 1941, most of the nearly 50 aircraft on the ground were destroyed.
Among noteworthy units that had their origins at Ewa Field was Marine Fighter Squadron 214, commissioned on July 1, 1942, and later to come under the command of Maj. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington on Espiritu Santo island as the "Black Sheep" squadron, according to the Marines.
More than 50 of 81 living Medal of Honor recipients are in Honolulu for the weeklong 2012 Medal of Honor Convention, an annual get-together of the nation's greatest war heroes.
The commemoration at Ewa Field was one of the group's first public events. The Medal of Honor group took in the Blue Angels air show at Kaneohe Bay on Sunday and attended a reception at the governor's residence, Washington Place, Tuesday evening.
According to the Ewa Field commemoration's organizers, at least 11 Medals of Honor were awarded to service members who were at one time stationed at the airfield.
The four Marines who were based at Ewa Field and later awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during World War II were Capt. Henry Elrod, Capt. Richard Fleming, 1st Lt. Robert Hanson and Lt. Col. Harold Bauer.
Elrod was the first Marine airman to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II for his bravery.
His squadron, VMF-211, was moved to Ewa in January 1941. Part of the unit went to Wake Island, where Elrod shot down two Japanese aircraft, is credited with sinking a warship and led a ground unit before being killed in battle.
Jay Vargas, another Medal of Honor recipient who attended Tuesday's commemoration, said it was an honor for him to be at Ewa Field, but he also said that it's a forgotten site.
"This is history, and you are not going to find a site like this that is kind of isolated (like this)," he said. "I'm standing on history right now."
Vargas, 72, was recognized for leading his men in an attack on a village in Vietnam in 1968 while wounded and under intense mortar, rocket and artillery fire.
Vargas destroyed enemy bunkers and was wounded again, but pressed on and fought into the following day. He remained in the open, helping other Marines, and was hit for the third time before carrying his wounded battalion commander to cover.
The future of Ewa Field, which had been slated for development, remains unclear.
The gathering was organized by Ewa Field historian John Bond and City Councilman Tom Berg. After the commemoration, which included a color guard, rifle salute and taps, Bond pointed out where Marine aircraft burned and Japanese aircraft machine gun rounds hit the concrete warm-up area where planes were parked on Dec. 7, 1941.
Yoshinobu Oshiro, now 84, who was at Tuesday's ceremony, lived across the street from the Marine air station and remembers the Japanese attack.
"We were 10, 11, 12, so we kind of thought it was some exciting maneuvers going on," Oshiro said.
"Then an adult came out and said, ‘Hey, that's a Japanese plane; that's "hino maru," red ball. You better go home. Run, run!'" Oshiro said.
'Forgotten' Sacrifice Honored In West Oahu
HERE ARE THE NAMES OF MEDAL OF HONOR AWARDED PILOTS FROM MCAS EWA...
KILLED IN ACTION: (The reason why MCAS Ewa named FOUR roads after them)
Henry Talmage Elrod
Henry Talmage "Hammerin' Hank" Elrod was the first aviator to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II, for his heroism in the defense of
On December 23, 1941, Captain Elrod was mortally wounded while protecting his
men who were carrying ammunition to a gun emplacement. He was posthumously
promoted to Major on November 8, 1946, and his widow was presented with the
Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the defense of Wake
Richard E. Fleming
Captain Richard Fleming was a U.S. Marine aviator who received the Medal of Honor for his heroism in World War II during the Battle of Midway. Ten days after the war began, he flew from MCAS Ewa Field to
as Flight Officer with Marine
Scout Bombing Squadron 241. On June 5, 1942, Capt. Fleming led his squadron in
a Vought SB2U Vindicator dive-bombing assault on the Japanese cruiser Mikuma.
Under extremely heavy anti-aircraft fire he released his bombs as his plane was
repeatedly hit and engulfed in a mass of flames, aiming his disintegrating
plane at the Japanese warship. Fleming was posthumously awarded the Medal of
Honor on November 24, 1942, by President Franklin Roosevelt presenting the
Medal of Honor to Capt. Fleming's mother. Midway Island
Harold W. Bauer
On Dec. 7, 1941, Bauer was recalled to MCAS Ewa to take command of VMF 212, the squadron destined to be the first Marine Fighter Unit to reach the South Pacific. For his extraordinary heroism and conspicuous courage while serving as Squadron Commander of Fighter Squadron 212, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943.
Robert Murray Hanson
Robert Murray Hanson a Marine Corps aviator of VMF-215 from MCAS Ewa, shot down 25 Japanese planes and posthumously received the Medal of Honor. A master of individual air combat, he downed 20 enemy planes in six consecutive flying days. 1st Lt Hanson was commended for bringing down four Zeros, the premier Japanese fighter, while fighting them alone over
January 24, 1944. Hanson started his combat career with the original VMF-214
from MCAS Ewa, and was the third and last Marine Corsair pilot to receive the
Medal of Honor and also the youngest. New Britain
BELOW SURVIVED THE WAR: (The reason why MCAS Ewa did not name roads after them)
Gregory "Pappy" Boyington
Undoubtedly the most colorful and well known Marine Corps' ace was Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, commanding officer of VMF-214 from MCAS Ewa. VMF-214 was formed at Ewa and originally called the “Swashbucklers.” Boyington led VMF-214 as the later legendary “Black Sheep” squadron. He served in
as a member the famed Flying
Tigers. He shot down 20 Japanese planes with the Black Sheep, and 26 total
including 6 with the Flying Tigers. Shot down, he spent a year and a half as a
Japanese POW and when he was repatriated, he found he had been awarded the
Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross. 26 was Eddie Rickenbacker's WWI record, and
also the number shot down by Joe Foss, the top-scoring Marine pilot of all
Joseph Jacob "Joe" Foss
Joseph Jacob "Joe" Foss was the leading fighter ace of the United States Marine Corps during World War II and a 1943 recipient of the Medal of Honor, recognizing his role in the air combat during the Guadalcanal Campaign.
Like millions of Americans, 11-year old Joe Foss was inspired by Charles Lindbergh, and during the war actually flew with Lindbergh who was a civilian advisor as commander of VMF-115 from MCAS Ewa, where he met Charles Lindbergh. In May, 1943, President Roosevelt presented him with the Congressional Medal of Honor for outstanding heroism above and beyond the call of duty for his 26 aerial victories that equaled Eddie Rickenbacker's World War One record. Foss was also featured in Tom Brokaw's best-seller The Greatest Generation.
John Lucian Smith
Medal of Honor recipient, leader of "Cactus" Air Force, and Wildcat fighter pilot, John Smith shot down 19 Japanese airplanes in 1942 and was awarded a Medal of Honor as Commanding Officer of VMF-223 from MCAS Ewa, shooting down 19 Japanese planes and led his squadron to a destroy a total of 83 enemy aircraft during the Solomon Islands campaign.
Kenneth A. Walsh
By February 1943, the new Chance Vought F4U Corsair had arrived with VMF-124 from MCAS Ewa. The big, gull-winged fighter soon became the mainstay of the shore-based Marine Corps fighter organization, quickly supplanting the veteran Wildcat. The first Corsair-mounted Marine ace was 1st Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh, a former enlisted pilot. Scoring 21 kills, of which 17 were Zeros, he was shot down three times in combat and later awarded the Medal of Honor.
The 22-year-old Marine aviator with VMF-221 from MCAS Ewa became an ace for shooting down seven Japanese dive-bombers on his first combat mission. He was awarded the United States' highest military decoration— the Medal of Honor — for actions while a division flight leader in VMF-221 flying F4U Corsairs over Guadalcanal on April 7, 1943. Subsequently he downed a total of 15.5 enemy aircraft during the war, earning eight Distinguished Flying Crosses and four Air Medals.
Jefferson Joseph DeBlanc
Jefferson Joseph DeBlanc was a World War II Marine Corps fighter pilot and ace with VMF-112 from MCAS Ewa, shooting down nine Japanese aircraft during two tours of duty in the Pacific at Guadalcanal and
Okinawa, and later awarded the Medal of
Honor. He had been placed in the new pilot's pool with less than 10 hours of
flight time in the F4F Wildcat.
Robert Edward Galer
In January 1941, he was ordered to
and appointed a captain in March
1941. Galer was with VMF-211, when the Japanese attacked Ewa Field and Ewa Mooring Mast Field, Hawaii Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Major Robert Galer,
played a key role in the'Cactus Air Force' defense of the skies over Guadalcanal. Arriving there on August 30, 1942 with
VMF-224 from MCAS Ewa, his team bore the brunt of the air battle and was down
to five planes by this time. Major Galer shot down thirteen Japanese planes
while at Guadalcanal and shot down a total of
27 Japanese planes during the Pacific war. He went on to command Marine
Aircraft Group 12 during the Korean War and retired a few years after in 1957 as
a Brigadier General.
Save Ewa Field Photos On Display For Medal of Honor US Marine Corps Group, 2012
The Great History of MCAS Ewa
Attack on Ewa Field, Sunday December 7, 1941