Service Number: 308292
Birth and Early Life:
Arthur was the son of rancher Montie Whittington and his wife, Zola, of Pomona California. He was born around the year 1921.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Whittington enlisted in the Marine Corps on February 7, 1941. After completing boot camp, he was selected for aviation duty, either as a gunner or as a mechanic.
Private Whittington was assigned to VMSB-242 after his training, and joined VMSB-241 on Midway on April 11. He flew as a gunner in an old Vought SB2U Vindicator with Captain Leo R. Smith, the former squadron executive officer who took command the same date. (1) The two flew together until May 29, 1942, when Smith was promoted to major and reassigned to the headquarters of MAG-21. His aircraft was inherited by the squadron’s new executive officer, Major Benjamin Norris. Whittington and Norris had time to lead a group of green pilots and gunners through a few practice flights before going into action on June 4, 1942.
Date Of Loss:
Whittington was already in his compartment when Norris climbed aboard Vindicator #2067 on June 4; after exchanging a few remarks and wishes of luck, they taxied out onto the runway and climbed into the air.
PFC Whittington’s first taste of action came when his flight arrived over the Japanese fleet. The Japanese combat air patrol, having ripped through the Dauntless dive bombers in Major Lofton Henderson’s earlier flight, turned on the Vindicators and began shooting holes in their canvas skins. Most of Norris’ men survived their dive on the battleship Haruna, but three of Whittington’s fellow gunners – Henry Starks, Edby Colvin, and Anthony Maday – were killed.
The aviators received a double shock at 1700 hours – recon planes reported burning Japanese carriers, which caused much satisfaction, but the news was accompanied by orders to rearm and attack again. Norris, knowing that his men and aircraft were not ready, insisted on a delay until dark to keep the impact of enemy fighters to a minimum.
At 1915, eleven battered bombers and twenty-two tired Marines took off from Midway and began searching for the enemy. They saw no sign of the Japanese fleet and, reaching the end of their endurance, began to turn back.
Suddenly, Norris’ plane went into a steep dive. The other Vindicator pilots dutifully followed until they were only 500 feet above the water, then pulled up. Norris and Whittington vanished into the blackness and the lights of their plane were seen to vanish. If either man managed to bail out, none of their comrades noticed.
PFC Whittington was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in the battle.
Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Montie Whittington
Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.
Tablets of the Missing, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
(1) Smith replaced Captain Lewis H. Delano, Jr, when the latter was transferred to VMSB-242 on April 11, 1942. When Major Lofton Henderson arrived on Midway on April 17, Leo Smith became executive officer until the arrival of Major Benjamin Norris.