A Tribute to the Cactus Air Force

1942-vf-5-squadron-saratoga-mod

While I kept searching for more and more information on VF-5 and on these mostly unsung heroes seen on the above picture shared by Tom Harmer, the son of Richard “Chick” Harmer, I stumbled upon this Website which will guide me for my next project on My Forgotten Hobby.

This is the link : http://www.daveswarbirds.com/cactus/cactus.htm

This is the introduction written by the author.

Introduction

This site is dedicated to those men who helped defend the skies over the island of Guadalcanal during the period August 1942 through November 1942.

You might wonder why a website has been made just for this subject. It started merely as an exercise in web page development, but soon became a labor of love. I had just finished reading the book “Fighter Squadron over Guadalcanal” by Max Brand, and I found myself thinking the same thoughts that I had had when I had read “The Cactus Air Force” so many years ago.

What the men on Guadalcanal went through is hard to imagine for those who were not there. Thousands of miles from home, the Americans on Guadalcanal were under near constant attack from the land, sea, and air, with few supplies or support from the outside. During their time on the island they endured all of the hardships of the jungle (the weather, insects, and numerous tropical diseases to name a few…. virtually every man suffered from malaria to some degree). And yet despite all the hardships, they exhibited incredible heroism, dedication, perseverance, and fighting ability.

From a purely historical point of view, the campaign for Guadalcanal was an important turning point in World War II. It was the first offensive move for the U.S. in the Pacific, and the Japanese threw massive forces against the American invasion to make sure it wouldn’t succeed. When the smoke had cleared some four months later, the U.S. held the island (with its important airstrip), and the Japanese military had lost many of their most skilled aviators.

The Marines on the ground were able to hold the island because they had air superiority. They were not overrun by enemy infantry because many of the Japanese reinforcements headed for Guadalcanal were sunk or driven off by the “The Cactus Air Force” (the name for the pilots of the fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo bombers who endeavored to protect the 1st Marine Division). Despite bad conditions, heavy losses, and always being outnumbered, the Cactus Air Force literally saved the day; in the process they made their mark on history.

I urge all of you to read “The Cactus Air Force” by Thomas G. Miller, Jr.
I would be amazed if you were not deeply impressed by the feats of the men who fought in this campaign. It should be read by everyone who needs to be taught (or reminded) that victory and freedom do not come easily. Reading that book made me proud to be an American; and proud of the accomplishments of our armed forces. It is to their memory that I dedicate this site.

David Hanson, webmaster

On David’s website I found a small picture of VF-5 pilots, some background information, and a list of its pilots…

vf-5group

During this time ‘Cactus’ became the unexpected host of another fighter squadron: (U.S. Navy) VF-5  with 24 Wildcats arrived from the carrier Saratoga. The Saratoga had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, and it sent most of its air group to Guadalcanal while it was out for repairs.  The arrival of this big, confident squadron with twice as many planes as the two Marine outfits put together gave a real boost to the Cactus Air Force’s sagging morale. While lacking the experience of the battle-hardened Marines, the Navy pilots of VF-5 soon learned the kind of fighting required, and they began their tour with six credited victories in their first engagement. This meat-grinder of a campaign exacted its price, however; out of the 24 F4Fs that arrived on September 11th, only 5 remained.

Pilots (arrival date, remarks)

Lcdr LC Simpler (9/11, Evac 10/16)
Lt WE Clarke (9/11, Evac 10/15)
Lt HW Crews (9/11, Evac 10/5)
Lt HM Jensen (9/27, Evac 10/16)
Lt DC Richardson (9/ 1 1, WIA & evac 9/12. Returned 10/12, Evac 10/16)
Ltjg FO Green (9/11, Evac 10/15)
Ltjg HL Grimmell, Jr. (9/11, Evac 10/15)
Ltjg ET Stover (9/11, Evac 10/15)
Ens FJ Blair (9/27, Evac 10/16)
Ens MK Bright (9/11, Evac 10/6)
Ens BF Currie (9/11, Evac 10/5)
Ens CE Eichenberger (9/11, Killed in crash after combat 9/12)
Ens JA Halford (9/11, Evac 10/14)
Ens DA Innis (9/11, WIA & evac 9/13. Returned 10/11, evac 10/16)
Ens JM Kleinman (9/27, Evac 10/15)
Ens MV Kleinmann, Jr. (9/11, Evac 10/14)
Ens RL Loesch (9/11, WIA & evac 9/13)
Ens HA March (9/11, Evac 10/6)
Ens JB McDonald (9/27, Evac 10/14)
Ens GJ Morgan (9/11, MIA 10/2)
Ens FR Register (9/11, Evac 10/14)
Ens MC Roach (9/11, Evac 10/14)
Ens WM Rouse (9/11, WIA & Evac 10/15. Missing on ferry flight 10/21)
Ens JD Shoemaker (9/11, KIA 9/29)
Ens JM Wesolowaki (9/11, Evac 10/14)
Ens WW Wileman (9/11, KIA 9/13)
NAP RM Nesbitt (9/11, Evac 10/15)
NAP LP Mankin (9/11, Evac 10/14)

Pilots from other Squadrons who flew with VF-5

Lt CW Rooney (VF-71, 10/5) *
Ltjg RH Keaton (VF-71, 10/5) *
Ltjg RH Myers (UP-71, 10/5, Evac 10/16)
Ltjg CW Tucker (VF-71, 10/5, MIA 10/9)

* Remained after 10/16 to fly with VMF-121. Date of evacuation not in records.

 

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