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.
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.
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)
Next Of Kin:
Unknown. Kerwin does not appear in post-war casualty lists.
Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.
Tablets of the Missing at East Coast Memorial, New York.
(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.