Second Lieutenant Charles Bernard McAllister

Charles McAllister as a Navy aviation cadet, 1941.
Charles McAllister as a Navy aviation cadet, 1941.

Photo from McAllister Family Tree on Ancestry.com

Insignia of VMSB-232, the Red Devils.
Insignia of VMSB-232, the Red Devils.

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Service Number: O-010242

Birth and Early Life:
Charles McAllister was born December 4, 1917, in Olean, New York. His family was compelled to move to Hornell in 1923 following a strike at the Pennsylvania Railroad Car shops that put Patrick, the head of the family, out of work. Fortunately, the Eire Railroad had a position in their roundhouse. Patrick eventually became foreman of the shop, and in 1940 was joined by his son Charles, who had completed three years of college before returning to Hornell to work as a laborer.

Charles McAllister, around 1936.
Charles McAllister, around 1936.

Photo from McAllister Family Tree on Ancestry.com

McAllister may have planned to eventually complete his education – his older sisters, both graduates, taught high-school English and his younger brother Robert was also enrolled – but in the summer of 1940, he left Hornell to travel to Buffalo, New York, where he enlisted in the United States Navy.


Enlistment and Boot Camp:

McAllister joined the Navy on June 25, 1940. He was initially interested in medicine and spent his first year in the service learning the trade of a pharmacist, attaining the rate of Hospital Apprentice 1st Class at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital before deciding to apply for flight school at NRAB Squantum, Massachusetts.

McAllister was an unusual case; the shift from corpsman to aviator was extremely rare, and many of his classmates had been accepted either through college programs or through the Navy’s V-5 program designed for aviation cadets. However, he completed his elimination trials and on August 28, 1941, was sent to Jacksonville, Florida as a student pilot.

Wartime Service:
After completing his training as a dive-bomber pilot and accepting a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, McAllister was posted to VMSB-234 in San Diego. However, in mid-July, he was transferred to VMSB-232, the “Red Devils,” who were then in the final phases of training before being deployed to the South Pacific. In addition to his duties as a pilot, McAllister served as the squadron’s propeller officer, and assistant engineering officer.

Lieutenant McAllister made his first flight into dangerous territory on August 20, 1942, when he piloted a Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless from the deck of the USS Long Island  to Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. He was slated to fly his first combat patrol the following day, but got off to an unlucky start.

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MAG-23 War Diary, August 21 1942

Although McAllister and his gunner were uninjured, it was hardly an auspicious start to lose the squadron’s first bomber on Guadalcanal.

Four days later, McAllister got his first taste of serious combat as part of a flight that attacked a sizable Japanese fleet. Although his bomb barely missed the target, McAllister’s rear gunner, PFC Lewis Macias, shot down an enemy floatplane.

McAllister participated in regular patrols and searches for the rest of August and the beginning of September, but most were uneventful. On September 1, he gained a new gunner – Corporal William Proffitt of Dallas, Texas.

Date Of Loss:
Charles McAllister and Bill Proffitt were flying SBD-3 #03342 on September 6, 1942. They departed Henderson Field at 1050, on a mission to bomb and strafe Japanese forces at Gizo Harbor. However, on the return flight, the formation ran into awful weather which quickly developed into a devastating storm. The Dauntless carrying McAllister and Proffitt disappeared in the driving rain, and was never seen again.

Charles McAllister was declared dead on September 7, 1943. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Captain.

Next Of Kin:
Wife, Mrs. Charles B. McAllister
(The McAllisters were married in San Diego on June 25, 1942, less than two months before Charles departed for Guadalcanal.)

Status Of Remains:
Unknown

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

4 thoughts on “Second Lieutenant Charles Bernard McAllister

  1. The BuNo for the plane McAllister was flying on Sept. 6, 1942 is recorded as SBD-3 #03342 in official records, but the number in his flight log book is SBD-3 #03379. What would cause the discrepancy? Thank you.

    1. Hello!

      I’m not sure what would cause that discrepancy. Unfortunately I haven’t found a squadron log book that covers that date (Marine Air Group 23 was the parent unit of Lt. McAllister’s squadron). Also, unusually, whomever was typing up the groups’ history stopped including the BuNos for damaged or destroyed aircraft in late August.

      AviationArchaeology lists SBD-3 #03342 lost September 6, piloted by Lt. McAllister.
      http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/USN/LLsep42.htm

      SBD-3 #03379 was assigned to the same squadron. The AviationArchaeology lists that aircraft as destroyed in the Guadalcanal area on October 14, 1942, but does not provide a pilot’s name:
      http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/USN/LLOct42.htm

      VMSB-232 left Guadalcanal on October 12, but likely left their aircraft behind for the relieving squadron (they were to retrain on Avenger torpedo bombers). Henderson Field was badly shelled on October 14; the damage was so bad that MAG-23 had to temporarily relocate to an auxiliary field, and #03379 was probably wrecked there.

      Again, I’m not sure what could cause the discrepancy. Perhaps Lt. McAllister was accustomed to flying #03379 over the other, and entered that number in his flight log out of habit. Or perhaps #03379 was taken off the line for mechanical problems the day of his last flight, and he had to substitute.

      Hope this has been helpful.

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