Second Lieutenant David Malin Kerwin

Insignia of VMS-3, the Devil Birds

ribbon_amdribbon_amc

Service Number: O-010126

Birth and Early Life:
David Kerwin was the son of chauffeur David J. Kerwin and his wife, Minnie. The younger David was born in Los Angeles on October 4, 1916; he grew up in California at the homes of his aunt and uncle (Thomas and Gertrude Brockmiller, 1930 census) and step-parents (Gus and Jewel Ryan, 1940 census). (1) He played basketball for San Francisco State College, and graduated in 1940 intending to join the armed forces.

1939 Franciscan yearbook.
1939 Franciscan yearbook.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Kerwin enlisted in 1941; he attended naval aviation training and received his wings and a commission to second lieutenant after completing the program.

Wartime Service:
Lt. Kerwin qualified as a pilot on the OS2N-1 Kingfisher scout plane; he sailed from the United States aboard the USS Merak and debarked at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where he joined VMS-3. He was introduced to Private Richard P. Van Hook; the two of them crewed a Kingfisher with bureau number 01287. Life in St. Thomas was routine if idyllic; the Marines flew patrols searching for German submarines and other suspicious activity.

Date Of Loss:
On July 28, 1942, Kerwin and Van Hook took off after dark for night formation practice. Night flying in the 1940s was an extraordinarily difficult task – especially for junior aircrew – and neither Kerwin nor Van Hook had been on station for more than six weeks. At 0035, July 29, contact with Kingfisher 01287 was lost. A search of the area revealed the position of their crash (18-20 north, 65-00 west) – but the official report stated that Kerwin and Van Hook were killed. “Salvage of the plane is impracticable,” it concluded. “Bodies not recovered.” (2)

Richard Van Hook. This picture shows the editor's marks made prior to publication in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Original image in the George D. McDowell collection, Temple University.
Richard Van Hook. This picture shows the editor’s marks made prior to publication in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Original image in the George D. McDowell collection, Temple University.

Next Of Kin:
Unknown. Kerwin does not appear in post-war casualty lists.

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Tablets of the Missing at East Coast Memorial, New York.
_____
NOTES:
(1) The reasons for Kerwin’s moving aren’t known; David Sr. and Minnie do not appear on census rolls after 1920.
(2) COMCARIBSEAFRON War Diary, 7/1-31 1942. Private Richard Paul Van Hook, of Pennsylvania, was officially listed as “Buried At Sea.” His remains may have been recovered at a later date.

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