Service Number: O-009678
Birth and Early Life:
Charles Bryans was the son of Charles H. and Ellen Bryans of Milford, Utah. He was born on August 8, 1921, and moved to California a few years later, while his father supported the family as a railroad conductor.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Bryans enlisted in the Marine Corps in late 1941. He was selected for flight training at the Naval Air Station at Corpus Christi, Texas; when he finished on March 7, 1942, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Bryans was assigned to VMF-224, a fighter squadron based at Barber’s Point, Hawaii. The pilots of the “Bengals” trained to fly the F4F Wildcat; while some had previous combat experience gleaned at Midway, most were fresh from training in the United States.
In August, 1942, the squadron was sent to Guadalcanal to bolster the “Cactus Air Force” at Henderson Field. They received a rude, if telling reception when they arrived on August 30 – a Japanese raid was in progress, and the green pilots were compelled to land quickly and get out of the way of the intercept fighters. The Bengals were given no time to acclimatize – they were scheduled to begin flying the following morning.
Date Of Loss:
Lieutenant Bryans jumped into the cockpit of F4F-4 02122 on August 31; his first combat mission would be a patrol led by Captain John Dobbin and First Lieutenant Stanley Nicolay. The fourth pilot was another young Second Lieutenant, Richard Amerine. (1)
While climbing to the prescribed 20,000 feet, both Bryans and Amerine began to lag behind the leaders. Neither responded to radio calls from Nicolay, and Dobbin decided to continue without them. When they landed at Henderson Field at the end of their patrol, they found that Bryans and Amerine had disappeared.
We never saw Bryans again. It was so senseless. I remember thinking that after all their training and effort, neither one of them ever fired a shot in anger. They had no chance. The oxygen system was just a tiny, white triangular mask that fitted over the nose and mouth. You turned on the bottle, and that was it. No pressure system, nothing. (2)
Richard Amerine surprised everyone by wandering in from the jungle four days after his disappearance. He related that trouble with the oxygen system in his Wildcat had led to his lagging behind, and it was assumed that Bryans, equally inexperienced with the poorly designed equipment, had the same trouble. The Wildcats were jumped by a pair of Zeros, and both were shot down. Amerine believed that Bryans had been immediately killed. (3)
No trace of Charles Bryans or his Wildcat was ever found. He was officially declared dead on January 8, 1946.
Next Of Kin:
Parents, Charles H. & Ellen Bryans
Status Of Remains:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
(1) The aircraft Bryans was flying had been well used by Lieutenant Charles M. Kunz, a survivor of Midway. Kunz shot down two Zeros and one Betty bomber while flying Wildcat 02122. http://www.cieldegloire.com/014_kunz_c_m.php
(2) Stanley Nicolay, quoted in Time of the Aces: Marine Pilots in the Solomons
(3) Ibid. Not only did Amerine return, but on his walk accounted for four Japanese soldiers on the ground. He survived on coconuts, red ants, and snails.