First Lieutenant William Boesser Deuterman

Insignia of VMF-111, the Devil Dogs


Service Number: O-007127

Birth and Early Life:
William Deuterman was born to William and Edythe Deuterman of Los Angeles on November 16, 1917. He was raised in southern California and attended UCLA, graduating with the class of 1940.

Deuterman in the 1938 UCLA yearbook.
Deuterman in the 1938 UCLA yearbook.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Deuterman joined the Marine Corps on November 15, 1940. His educational background helped secure a spot in a Naval Reserve Aviation class, and PFC Deuterman was soon on his way to Kansas City, where he passed his elimination trials. From there, he proceeded to Jacksonville as a cadet.

Wartime Service:
Upon completing his training, Deuterman was assigned to VMF-121 in San Diego as the squadron’s Transportation Officer. He transferred to VMF-111 in the early spring, and arrived at his first overseas post – Tutulia, American Samoa – in April, 1942. With Wake Island under Japanese control, and with news of the fall of Bataan beginning to circulate, the pilots understood that they were expendable in case of a Japanese invasion – they were to resist until their airplanes were destroyed, then fight on as infantry. May brought the bleak tidings of Corregidor’s surrender, then in June the victory at Midway brought a glimmer of hope, despite the serious losses to the island’s air strength. (1)

In July, the squadron suffered its first personal loss as Second Lieutenant Jack Lyon, a former classmate of Deuterman’s, collided with another Wildcat during a mock dogfight and crashed into the sea. Shortly thereafter, Deuterman declared that he would never bail out of a disabled plane. The reasons for his decision are unknown, but his stance was common knowledge among his fellow pilots.

Date Of Loss:
Bill Deuterman was at the controls of F4F-3 #2515 on September 9, 1942. He was on a routine flight with his wingman, Lieutenant James W. “Jeff” Poindexter; as the flight progressed, Poindexter noticed that Deuterman was in serious trouble. Unable to make it back to base, and unwilling to bail out, Deuterman tried to set his aircraft down for a water landing.

R. Bruce Porter recalled the scene that Poindexter described later that evening.

…Poindexter, who was flying on Bill’s wing all the way down, saw Bill stand up in the cockpit at about the last minute before the airplane impacted. Bill was clearly trying to bail out, but he was too low in any case for his chute to have deployed. Jeff watched in sheer horror as the F4F’s propeller bit into the waves. This flipped the airplane over at great speed and threw Bill against the windscreen and instrument panel. Jeff was certain that Bill died on impact. If not, he was certainly unconscious when he sank forever beneath the waves. (3)

Next Of Kin:
Wife, Mrs. Joann Crawford Deuterman
(married October 9, 1941)

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Tablets of the Missing, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
(1) Many of Deuterman’s classmates – Roy Corry, Bruce Ek, David Pinkerton, William Sandoval, Walter Swansberger, and more – were fast-tracked out to the Pacific and fought in the battle of Midway. Most of those engaged did not survive.
(2) Porter, R. Bruce with Eric Hammel. “Ace! A Marine Night-Fighter Pilot in World War II.” pg 99

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