Second Lieutenant James H. Marmande

James Marmande in his Navy uniform before accepting a Marine commission.

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Service Number: O-009307

Birth and Early Life:
James Marmande was born in Therot, Louisiana, in August 1917. He was the youngest child of Emile Marmande, a plantation superintendent, and his wife Felicia. Marmande graduated from Terrebonne High School in nearby Houma, and was accepted to Louisiana State University, but dropped out to join the Navy. (1)

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
After enlisting, Marmande was sent to Pensacola, Florida for flight training. The base was within range of his family home in Houma; a favorite trick of Marmande’s was to fly over and “buzz” his parents. (2) After receiving his wings and a Marine commission as a second lieutenant, Marmande went to Jacksonville to learn to fly a dive bomber. From there, he and a number of his classmates were sent directly to a front line assignment – VMSB-241 at Midway.

Wartime Service:
Lieutenant Campion left the United States aboard the USS J. Franklin Bell; after a brief stop in Hawaii, he boarded the USS Kitty Hawk and sailed for Midway. He and his group of lieutenants arrived on May 26, 1942, and were assigned to fly obsolete Vought SB2U Vindicator bombers. Marmande was joined in the Vindicator’s cockpit by another Southerner, PFC Edby Colvin. The two had only days to train; Marmande made less than ten training flights in the Vindicator, and dropped practice bombs on three occasions – hardly thorough training for the task ahead.

Marmande and Colvin take off on a training flight in Vindicator #2045 in late May, 1942. The wheels of another Vindicator are visible in the background.

Date Of Loss:
The squadron’s commanders, Majors Lofton Henderson and Benjamin Norris, decided to split their men into two sections. Henderson would lead the more experienced men in the Dauntlesses, while Norris would take the rest – called “the greenest group ever assembled for combat” – in the Vindicators.

On the morning of June 4, Norris led his group of fresh pilots into the air. Within minutes of their departure, Japanese bombers were hammering their base on Midway and the Americans hoped to return the favor on the carriers of the enemy fleet. When they arrived over the fleet, though, they could see Henderson’s bombers in dire trouble over the carriers. Norris, spotting the battleship Haruna below, decided to take his men after that target. The Marines dove in, released their bombs (scoring near misses but no hits) and then scattered as antiaircraft and enemy fighters shot holes in their cloth-bodied aircraft.

Marmande located Second Lieutenant Orvin Ramlo, and followed him back towards Midway. Ramlo had a disturbing number of holes punched in his plane; his gunner, Private Teman Wilhite, was wounded in four places and struggling to stay conscious. They had little time to pay attention to Vindicator #6; it wasn’t until they landed roughly back at Midway that Ramlo noticed Marmande wasn’t following. He and Edby Colvin had disappeared without a trace on the return flight.

James Marmande was awarded a posthumous Navy Cross for his actions in the battle:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Second Lieutenant James E. Marmande (MCSN: 0-9307), United States Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as a Pilot in Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron TWO HUNDRED FORTY-ONE (VMSB-241), Marine Air Group TWENTY-TWO (MAG-22), Naval Air Station, Midway, during operations of the U.S. Naval and Marine Forces against the invading Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942. During the initial attack upon an enemy aircraft carrier, Second Lieutenant Marmande, in the face of withering fire from Japanese fighter guns and anti-aircraft batteries, dived his plane to a perilously low altitude before releasing his bomb. Since he failed to return to his base and is missing in action, there can be no doubt, under conditions attendant to the Battle of Midway, that he gave up his life in the defense of his country. His cool courage and conscientious devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Marmande’s Vindicator is a popular modeling kit for hobbyists.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. E. B. Marmande

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Tablets of the Missing, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
_____
NOTES:
(1) Christ, C. J.  “Local man served a hero’s role during war.” Houma Today, November 2, 2008.
(2) Ibid.

4 thoughts on “Second Lieutenant James H. Marmande

  1. Jimmy Marmande was a high school classmate of my Mother in Houma, Louisiana. I was born there — only 4 years old in 1942. Incredible that Jimmy and his group of newly hatched USMC pilots were sent to Midway less than a month before they died in our desperate attempt to beat back the Japanese. Marginal training — almost none in the obsolete dive bombers they flew in the battle. All the USMC pilots deserved the Navy Cross awards they received; but I’ve always felt it unfair that all the enlisted men flying with them as gunners received the Distinguished Flying Cross — after all, they were only inches behind the pilots as they died.

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