Eugene Bennett Fluckey was born in Washington, District of Columbia on October 5, 1913. He graduated with the United States Naval Academy class of 1935 and commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy. After a few years in surface ships, he reported for submarine training in 1938.
Two days ago, I gave the story of the greatest Naval Aviator of World War II: David McCampbell. Today, we get the story of the greatest submarine officer and commander of the war, who was credited with sinking 31 Japanese vessels as the commanding officer of the USS Tang (SS-306). Richard Hetherington O’Kane was born in Dover, New Hampshire on February 2, 1911. He graduated with the United States Naval Academy class of 1934 and commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy and later volunteered for submarine duty in 1938.
With my Medal of Honor posts, I like to learn and pass along “back story” of the great men who have been decorated with our nation’s highest honor. For today’s 70th anniversary tribute to David McCampbell, the greatest United States Navy “ace” of World War II with 34 aerial victories against enemy Japanese aircraft – including five in one day and nine on another, the acts for which he received the Medal – nothing is really required besides the records of his heroism.
Lawson Paterson Ramage was born in Monroe Bridge, Massachusetts on January 19, 1909. He attended the United States Naval Academy and graduated with the class of 1931, receiving his officer’s commission in the United States Navy as an Ensign.
Ramage, nicknamed “Red” for his red hair, served in surface ships until 1935. He wanted to switch to submarines, but a sports injury which damaged his right eye (he had wrestled at the Naval Academy) stopped him from passing the eye test for submariners. Ramage’s solution: he memorized the eye chart.
Samuel David Dealey was born on September 13, 1906 in Dallas, Texas. He received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy and graduated with the class of 1930. He served his first several years in the United States Navy on surface ships before reporting to New London, Connecticut for Submarine School.
Robert Murray Hanson was born on February 4, 1920 to Methodist missionary parents in Luckow, India. While traveling through Europe en route to the United States to attend college in 1938, he witnessed the gathering storm of war first hand, having been present in Austria during the Nazi Anschluss.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Hanson was a student at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He left school and enlisted as a Naval Aviation cadet in May 1942. He received his Naval Aviator’s “Wings of Gold” and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on February 19, 1943. By June of 1943, Hanson had arrived for combat in the South Pacific with the USMC‘s Marine Fighting Squadron 215 (VMF-215).
Hanson was plunged into the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns and proved himself an air combat expert. He earned a promotion to First Lieutenant and also survived being shot down and luckily was rescued by an American destroyer. Over one six day period, he shot down twenty enemy aircraft.
For two specific instances of extreme courage and heroism in the skies – the first on November 1, 1943; second on January 24, 1944 – the Marine Corps nominated the young lieutenant for, and he later posthumously received, the Medal of Honor.
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Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve
Other Navy awards: Navy Cross, Air Medal
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and above and beyond the call of duty as fighter pilot attached to Marine Fighting Squadron 215 in action against enemy Japanese forces at Bougainville Island, 1 November 1943; and New Britain Island, 24 January 1944. Undeterred by fierce opposition, and fearless in the face of overwhelming odds, 1st Lt. Hanson fought the Japanese boldly and with daring aggressiveness. On 1 November, while flying cover for our landing operations at Empress Augusta Bay, he dauntlessly attacked 6 enemy torpedo bombers, forcing them to jettison their bombs and destroying 1 Japanese plane during the action. Cut off from his division while deep in enemy territory during a high cover flight over Simpson Harbor on 24 January, 1st Lt. Hanson waged a lone and gallant battle against hostile interceptors as they were orbiting to attack our bombers and, striking with devastating fury, brought down 4 Zeroes and probably a fifth. Handling his plane superbly in both pursuit and attack measures, he was a master of individual air combat, accounting for a total of 25 Japanese aircraft in this theater of war. His great personal valor and invincible fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Hanson was flying an escort mission for an attack on Rabaul on February 3, 1944 when his plane was observed to crash. He was listed as missing in action, but he was not captured by the Japanese and is presumed to have been killed on that date. For his service period from January 5-February 3, 1944, the Marine Corps also decorated him with the award second only to the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross.
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to First Lieutenant Robert Murray Hanson (MCSN: 0-19154), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Pilot of a Fighter Plane attached to Marine Fighting Squadron TWO HUNDRED FIFTEEN (VMF-215), Marine Air Group FOURTEEN (MAG-14), FIRST Marine Aircraft Wing, in aerial combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands Area from 5 January 1944 to 3 February 1944. Intercepted by a superior number of Japanese fighters while covering a flight of our bombers in a strike against enemy shipping in Simpson harbor on 14 January, First Lieutenant Hanson boldly engaged the hostile planes in fierce combat, pressing home repeated attacks with devastating force. Separated from his squadron during the intense action, he valiantly continued the engagement alone, successfully destroying five enemy Zeros before being forced by lack of ammunition and gasoline to return to his base. First Lieutenant Hanson’s superb airmanship, brilliant initiative and dauntless fighting spirit enabled our bombers to deliver a crushing blow to the Japanese in that sector and return safe to their base and his conduct throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
All told, First Lieutenant Robert M. Hanson was a quintuple “ace”, having been credited with 25 victories over enemy aircraft.
Hanson’s remains have never been recovered. He is listed on the Tablets of the Missing with 36,284 of his American comrades at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines and a cenotaph in his memory was placed at the Newton Cemetery and Crematory in Newton, Massachusetts.
The Gearing-class destroyer USS Hanson (DD-832) was commissioned by the United States Navy too late to see combat in World War II, but carried the brave Marine aviator’s name in our fleet through 1973, earning a total of fifteen battle stars for Korean and Vietnam Wars service. The ship was later sold to Taiwan, and served the Republic of China’s navy until 2004 when she was sunk as a target in the South China Sea.
Marine Fighting Squadron 215 was decommissioned as a Marine Reserve unit on January 30, 1970.
Merritt Austin Edson was born in Rutland, Vermont on April 25, 1897 and grew up in nearby Chester, Vermont. He received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in October of 1917. He went to France with the 11th Marine Regiment in September 1918, but arrived too late to see any action in World War I.
Marine Observation Squadron Six (VMO-6) was first formed in the 1920s. The squadron was inactive from 1933 until November, 1944 when it was reconstituted to join the 6th Marine Division for combat in the last days of World War II in the Pacific, and saw combat on Okinawa.
The squadron and its UH-1E Huey helicopters was dispatched to Vietnam in 1965. On August 19, 1967, one of VMO-6’s helicopters was flying on escort duty for medical evacuation missions. The helicopter, commanded by Captain Steven W. Pless and with co-pilot Captain Rupert E. Fairfield, Jr., crew chief Lance Corporal John G. Phelps, and door gunner Gunnery Sergeant Leroy N. Poulson, overheard on the radio about a downed Army helicopter crew on a beach nearby. Continue reading TFH 8/19: The Most Decorated Aircrew of the Vietnam War
Richard Nott Antrim was born on December 17, 1907 in Peru, Indiana. His service to our Nation began in 1927 when he entered the United States Naval Academy, graduating with the class of 1931 and receiving his officer’s commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy. His early service days saw him posted as a fire control officer on the battleship USS New York (BB-34) after which he received flight training as a Naval Aviator.