Second Lieutenant Robert A. Jefferies, Jr.

Insignia of VMF-224, “The Bengals”

Service Number: O-009929

Birth and Early Life:
Little is known about Robert Jefferies before he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was a resident of Dallas, Texas in the years before the war, and listed his wife as his next of kin.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Jefferies was commissioned as a second lieutenant and naval aviator at the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi on March 7, 1942. His classmates included the future ace Jimmy Swett, and future squadron mates Charles Bryans, Zenneth Pond, George Treptow, Willis Lees, and many more.

Wartime Service:
Jefferies was assigned to VMF-224, a fighter squadron based at Barber’s Point, Hawaii. He trained with them for a few weeks before the entire group was sent to Guadalcanal, where they flew out of beleaguered Henderson Field as part of the Cactus Air Force. Jefferies made his first combat flight at 1050 on September 2, 1942, then again on the 3rd and 4th, but each time was compelled to land without a chance to engage the enemy.

Robert Jefferies (highlighted) with other members of VMF-224.
Robert Jefferies (highlighted) with other members of VMF-224.

Date Of Loss:
Lieutenant Jefferies did not sleep well in the early morning of September 5. Four Japanese destroyers shelled the airfield, and while the squadron was unscathed, an explosion killed seven artillerymen nearby while the Americans were powerless to strike back.

A chance for revenge was announced shortly after sunrise. Enemy barges had been spotted discharging troops off the northwestern tip of Guadalcanal, and as Jefferies climbed into Wildcat F4F-4 #5074, he probably hoped his day for action had come.

The flight of fighters, lead by Majors John Dobbin and Kirk Armistead, took off at 0745, and soon reached the designated area, where nine enemy craft could be seen bobbing in the surf. The Americans winged over and began to strafe the small boats, but enemy troops on land began shooting back with heavy machine gun fire.

At least one of those soldiers scored a hit on Lieutenant Jefferies’ fighter. His comrades saw the Wildcat lose control, crash into the water, and explode. The wreckage sank immediately, and Jefferies did not appear on the surface. After a quick search, the surviving pilots returned to Henderson Field to report. (1)

Although the squadron’s war diary noted that Jefferies was “presumed definitely lost,” he was carried as missing in action until one year and one day had passed. On September 6, 1943, Robert Jefferies Junior was officially declared dead. He received a posthumous promotion to the rank of Captain.

Next Of Kin:
Wife, Mrs. Robert Jefferies, Jr.

Status Of Remains:
Shot down at sea

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
(1) “2nd Lieutenant Robert Jefferies, Jr., who piloted one of the F4F-4’s flew through heavy ground fire from small caliber machine guns and was seen to fall apparently out of control and crash into the sea.” War diary of MAG-23, Forward Echelon, September 5, 1942.

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