Service Number: O-009742
Birth and Early Life:
Gordon Thompson was born in Judith Basin county, Montana, on June 15, 1920. His parents, Lachlan and Ita, managed their own farm in the tiny community of Moccasin while raising four children; they also ran a boarding house which in 1940 attracted four public school teachers. By that time, the two elder Thompson boys had left home. The oldest, Robert, headed for Alaska, while Gordon traveled west to join the Navy.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Thompson enlisted in Seattle on August 19, 1941, through the Navy’s V-5 program designed for aviation cadets. After passing his preliminary trials at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base in Seattle, he was transferred to Jacksonville, Florida. The outbreak of the war less than two months after his arrival in Florida meant that Thompson’s training was accelerated; he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps on April 11, 1942, and traveled back to the west coast to await assignment.
Lieutenant Thompson joined VMF-224, a fighter squadron based at Barber’s Point, Hawaii on July 5 1942. In addition to his duties as “assistant materials officer,” Thompson trained on the F4F Wildcat fighter and participated in aircraft ferrying flights. His squadron, the “Bengals,” were mostly new pilots directly from training, with the exception of a handful of men who had flown at Midway the previous June.
In August, 1942, the squadron was sent to Guadalcanal to bolster the “Cactus Air Force” at Henderson Field. They arrived on August 30, just as the daily Japanese air raid struck and spent the raid ducking shrapnel. This was their acclimatization to life on the ‘Canal; they would begin flying patrols in the morning.
Date Of Loss:
Thompson was at the controls of F4F-4 02104 on August 31, 1942, his second day flying in a combat zone. He took off along with 16 other Wildcats around 1100 hours for the daily combat patrol, and never returned to base.
Three Wildcats were lost that day. The sole survivor, Second Lieutenant Richard Amerine, returned to Henderson Field several days later after walking from his crash site. He reported that his oxygen system had failed, leading to a lack of awareness and his ambush by a pair of Zeroes. It was assumed in the squadron’s history that a similar fate had befallen Thompson and the other missing pilot, Second Lieutenant Charles Bryans.
Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Ita Thompson
Status Of Remains:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.