Tag Archives: United States Marine Corps

TFH 1/24: First Lieutenant Robert M. Hanson, USMCR

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.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (G-L):

*HANSON, ROBERT MURRAY

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.

From Military Times’ Hall of Valor:

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.

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TFH 11/20-22 Part 2: Colonel David M. Shoup, USMC

David Monroe Shoup was born on December 30, 1904 in an Indiana town whose name portended his future: Battle Ground. His family was poor, and after graduating from high school in 1921, he was able to attend DePauw University thanks only to a scholarship. While at DePauw, he joined the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps to earn extra money for living expenses.

Shoup graduated from DePauw and received a commission in the Army Reserve as a Second Lieutenant in 1926. Around that time, he had seen United States Marine Corps Major General John A. Lejeune, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, speak and offer opportunities and positions with the Corps for officer candidates. Shoup applied for transfer to the Marines, was accepted, and began serving with them on August 26, 1926.

He served two tours of duty overseas in China druing 1927-28 and in 1934. In between them, he was assigned to the Marine detachment aboard the battleship USS Maryland (BB-46) from 1929-31.

In May 1941, Shoup arrived in Iceland as part of a provisional Marine brigade sent there to deter a possible Nazi German attack on the strategically located island in the Atlantic. He was there on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was plunged into World War II.

He would soon leave Iceland for the United States and California, and from there, to war in the Pacific with the rest of his Corps. Continue reading TFH 11/20-22 Part 2: Colonel David M. Shoup, USMC

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TFH 11/7: Sergeant Herbert J. Thomas, Jr., USMCR

Herbert Joseph Thomas, Jr. was born in Columbus, Ohio on February 8, 1918. He moved at age seven with his family to South Charleston, West Virginia, where he spent the rest of his childhood and adolescence. After graduating from high school, Thomas attended the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) on a football scholarship. In 1940, he led the “Hokies” in both pass receptions and scoring.

In July 1941, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps, but soon requested and received a transfer to the United States Marine Corps in which many of his friends had volunteered. His enlistment was placed with the Marine Forces Reserve and he began on active service with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment which was part of the newly-formed 3rd Marine Division.

On November 1, 1943, 1/3 Marines and the 3rd Marine Division stormed ashore on Bougainville for their first combat action of the war. Six days later, the Japanese began an ultimately unsuccessful counter-attack that is known today as the Battle of Koromokina Lagoon. Continue reading TFH 11/7: Sergeant Herbert J. Thomas, Jr., USMCR

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TFH 8/12: Lance Corporal Kenneth L. Worley, USMC

Kenneth Lee Worley was born on April 27, 1948 in Farmington, New Mexico. He was orphaned during his early teens, and later lived with an aunt in California. Worley’s living conditions were impoverished and he left school to work as a truck driver in agriculture. After suffering a workplace injury, he was taken in by Don and Rose Feyerherm of Modesto; they became his surrogate family.

Worley volunteered and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on July 14, 1967. After completing recruit and advanced infantry training, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment for combat with the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam. Prior to leaving for war, he was promoted to Private First Class.

Continue reading TFH 8/12: Lance Corporal Kenneth L. Worley, USMC

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TFH 9/13-14: Colonel Merritt A. Edson, USMC

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.

Continue reading TFH 9/13-14: Colonel Merritt A. Edson, USMC

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TFH 8/19: The Most Decorated Aircrew of the Vietnam War

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.

During the Korean War, VMO-6 was the first Marine Corps helicopter squadron to enter combat and was instrumental in evacuating wounded Marines during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in November, 1950.

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

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TFH 2/23: Three 1969 Vietnam Battles, Three Heroes

On this day in 1969, Americans fighting in Vietnam in three different locations saw three of their comrades exhibit courage and gallantry above and beyond that expected of the American warrior. All three men gave their lives for our Nation.

Oscar P. Austin was born on January 15, 1949 in Nacogdoches, TX. He was a Marine; a Private First Class with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.

Robert W. Hartsock hailed from Fairmont, WV. He was a Staff Sergeant with the United States Army’s 25th Infantry Division.

Lester W. Weber, another Marine, was born in Aurora, IL in 1948 and was a Lance Corporal with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.

All three men also received our Nation’s highest honor. Continue reading TFH 2/23: Three 1969 Vietnam Battles, Three Heroes

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TFH 2/9: Lance Corporal William R. Prom, USMC

Operation TAYLOR COMMON was launched by elements of the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam on December 6, 1968 against the North Vietnamese Army in the An Hoa Basin. They were reinforced by Leathernecks from the 3rd Marine Division as well. One of the Marines was William Prom, born November 17, 1948, and who hailed from my adopted home town of Pittsburgh, PA.

On this day in 1969, Lance Corporal Prom’s unit was ambushed by the NVA as they returned from a reconnaissance mission. Prom, leading a machine gun team, realized that without quick and decisive action the enemy would carry the day. His resolve and courage did not falter, and for his heroism, he was decorated with our Nation’s highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (M-Z):

*PROM, WILLIAM R.
 
Rank and organization: Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, Company 1, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Place and date: Near An Hoa, Republic of Vietnam. 9 February 1969. Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa. Born: 17 November 1948, Pittsburgh, Pa. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a machinegun squad leader with Company 1, in action against the enemy. While returning from a reconnaissance operation during Operation TAYLOR COMMON, 2 platoons of Company 1 came under an intense automatic weapons fire and grenade attack from a well concealed North Vietnamese Army force in fortified positions. The leading. element of the platoon was isolated and several marines were wounded. L/Cpl. Prom immediately assumed control of 1 of his machineguns and began to deliver return fire. Disregarding his safety he advanced to a position from which he could more effectively deliver covering fire while first aid was administered to the wounded men. Realizing that the enemy would have to be destroyed before the injured marines could be evacuated, L/Cpl. Prom again moved forward and delivered a heavy volume of fire with such accuracy that he was instrumental in routing the enemy, thus permitting his men to regroup and resume their march. Shortly thereafter, the platoon again came under heavy fire in which 1 man was critically wounded. Reacting instantly, L/Cpl. Prom moved forward to protect his injured comrade. Unable to continue his fire because of his severe wounds, he continued to advance to within a few yards to the enemy positions. There, standing in full view of the enemy, he accurately directed the fire of his support elements until he was mortally wounded. Inspired by his heroic actions, the marines launched an assault that destroyed the enemy. L/Cpl. Prom’s indomitable courage, inspiring initiative and selfless devotion to duty upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 
Today, the 1st Marine Division is the ground combat element of the I Marine Expeditionary Force. 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines still serves with the 3rd Marine Division as part of the III Marine Expeditionary Force.
William Raymond Prom rests not far from my home in Allegheny Memorial Park, Allison Park, PA. This upcoming Memorial Day, I’m going to make it a point to visit his grave in honor and thanksgiving for the life and courage of this great American. He appears on Panel 32W, Line 2 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
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TFH: January 31, 1970 in Vietnam – Two Heroes

On January 31, 1970 during the Vietnam War, two heroic Americans – one Marine, one Soldier – went above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of their wounded comrades in separate actions. Both were decorated with the United States’ highest honor. Continue reading TFH: January 31, 1970 in Vietnam – Two Heroes

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