Edward Walton Ayres
|HOME OF RECORD:
Baton Rouge, LA
|NEXT OF KIN:
Wife, Mrs. Jo B. Ayres
|DATE OF BIRTH:
May 22, 1941
|DATE OF DEATH:
October 2, 1942
|CAUSE OF DEATH:
SBD-3 03311 shot down by enemy action.
|LAST KNOWN RANK:
|STATUS OF REMAINS:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
Birth and Early Life:
Edward Walton Ayres was the son of Harry and Myra Ayres of Millburn, New Jersey. Little is known about his early life; although he evidently grew up in New Jersey, he elected to attend Louisiana State University, where he majored in advertising and developed quite a capable tennis game.
Apparently favoring his middle name, he often went by “Walton” – later Marine Corps documents would occasionally name him as “Walton E. Ayres.” He married while still a student, and made his home at 6343 Government Street, Baton Rouge. (1)
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Ayres joined the Naval Reserve on May 22, 1941, and was accepted for training as a naval aviator. He was still a cadet in Miami when Pearl Harbor was attacked; upon graduating in April, 1942, he was awarded a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
Soon after qualifying as a dive-bomber pilot, Ayres was sent to California where he joined up with VMSB-141. In addition to flight training, he served as the squadron’s intelligence officer.
After three more months of additional training, VMSB-141 departed for the South Pacific. Ayers and his radioman/gunner, PFC Sven E. R. Nelson, arrived at Henderson Field on the island of Guadalcanal on September 30, 1942. They flew their first scouting mission the following day, and were surprised to discover four Japanese destroyers 210 miles from Guadalcanal. Word was radioed back to Henderson Field, and a strike quickly organized as the scouts returned to base.
Date Of Loss:
Ayres and Nelson were assigned to another sector search on October 2, 1942; they took off in SBD-3 03311, and formed up on the Dauntless flown by Lt (jg) Herbert Perritte of VF-71. Their flight was uneventful until they reached the Russell Islands; there, a Japanese pilot (PO1c Okumura Takeo) spotted them and gave chase in his speedy Zero.
After trading fire for several minutes, the bombers disappeared into some clouds. Okumura thought he’d mortally damaged both Dauntlesses–he claimed two kills when he returned to base–but he was wrong. Ayres and Perritte were heading full-bore for the safety of home, while PFC Nelson and ARM3c Irving Newsome scanned the skies for more trouble.
Unfortunately for the Americans, their route took them back over Savo Island. Their blood ran cold at the sight of no less than ten Zeros of the Sixth Air Group, organizing for a post-dogfight flight back to Rabaul. The Japanese had enough fight and ammunition left to pounce on the two lumbering bombers. Ayers and Perritte bobbed and weaved while Nelson and Newson fired desperately at the attackers, but there was really no contest. Within minutes, both bombers were in flames. There were no survivors. (2)
No trace of Walton Ayres or his aircraft has ever been found.
Next Of Kin:
Wife, Mrs. Jo B. Ayres
Status Of Remains:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines
(1) This is Jo Ayres’ address, given by Walton when he enlisted as residence of his next of kin. His parents relocated to Rockville Center, New York.
(2) John Lundstrom, The First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1994), 299. No Americans saw the planes go down; war diaries for VMSB-141 and VB-71 note simply that the aircraft did not return.