Willis S. Lees III

NAME
Willis Sherman Lees III
NICKNAME
Budge
MCSN
O-9428
HOME OF RECORD
49 Howard Avenue, Passaic, NJ
NEXT OF KIN
Father, Mr. Willis S. Lees, Jr.
DATE OF BIRTH
1919
DATE OF ENLISTMENT
May 13, 1941
DATE OF LOSS
October 2, 1942
REGION
Solomons
CAMPAIGN / AREA
Guadalcanal
CASUALTY TYPE
MIA / Declared Dead
3 October 1943
UNIT
VMF-223
DUTY
Pilot
CIRCUMSTANCES OF LOSS
Second Lieutenant Willis “Budge” Lees was a pilot assigned to VMF-223, part of the Cactus Air Force operating out of Guadalcanal.

On 2 October 1942, Lees took off from Henderson Field to intercept a raiding force of Japanese aircraft. His aircraft, F4F-4 Bureau Number 02098 (Squadron #19), was targeted by Lt (j.g.) Katsutoshi Kawamata of the Tainan kokutai. Kawamata shredded the Wildcat with a well-aimed burst.

Lieutenant Lees bailed out of his stricken fighter, but was never seen again. He was declared dead on 3 October 1943

INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS
Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK
Second Lieutenant
Posthumous promotion to Captain.
STATUS OF REMAINS
Not recovered.
MEMORIALS
Manila American Cemetery

Biography:
Temporarily removed for editing and updating. Contact the webmaster for information on this Marine.


The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain Willis S. Lees (MCSN: 0-9428), United States Marine Corps, for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight in combat with the enemy while serving as a Fighter Pilot during the Solomon Islands campaign. During the period from 24 August to 15 September 1942, he shot down two enemy aircraft. Assisted by another Marine Corps Fighter Pilot he shot down a third enemy aircraft while operating with his squadron from the airfield on Guadalcanal. His courage throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

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5 thoughts on “Willis S. Lees III

    1. I agree completely, Mustang.Koji. My great uncle, Lt. Commander Edmund Billings was lost with the cruiser USS Quincy at the battle of Guadalcanal, and I know there are many in my family (myself included) who wish he had been brought home – as it is, we have only a few pictures and stories, and his name on a wall in Manila – quite far from us on the US east coast.

      Especially heartbreaking are the cases where an ID could have been possible, but someone fouled up or didn’t feel like doing the work. The three Marines in the Pending Cases section are basically a dead cert; their families are dying out – Cpl. Ragsdale’s wife remarried and had a family after the war, but she kept trying to find his grave until the day she died in 2007. Or the case of Robert Budd and Tom Phillips, also dead on Guadalcanal – the Army team sent to locate their graves decided to file a bogus report and go on a drinking binge in a nearby town.

      The more research that is done, the more cases like this come to light – but also, the more time goes by, making it much harder to locate a site. Already 70 years have come and gone… seven decades too long.

      I appreciate your support of MissingMarines, and thanks for the re-blog!

      Cheers,
      Geoffrey

      1. I am sorry for your own family’s void, Geoffrey. Between your great Uncle Billings, my dearly departed neighbors “Old Man Jack” and “Mr. Johnson”, that makes three – three young men who saw it all.

        In addition, while my father served in the US 8th Army’s Military Intelligence Service during the Occupation, his younger brother (also born in Seattle as my father) was killed on Leyte while wearing a sergeant’s uniform of the Japanese Imperial Army. Like your Great Uncle, my Uncle Suetaro’s body was never found either.

        Thank you for sharing your family’s involvement, Geoffrey.

  1. Thank you both for the original post and the re-blog. Telling these stories and sharing the sacrifices of such brave men keep the memories of them alive long after they have passed into history.

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