First Lieutenant Louis Robert Norman

Louis Norman at Grove City College, 1937.
Louis Norman at Grove City College, 1937.

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Insignia of VMSB-141
Insignia of VMSB-141
NAME:
Louis Robert Norman
NICKNAME: SERVICE NUMBER:
O-007125
HOME OF RECORD:
Natrona, PA
NEXT OF KIN:
Wife, Mrs. Louis R. Norman
DATE OF BIRTH:
September 13, 1917
ENLISTED:
November 14, 1940
DATE OF DEATH:
October 8, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal VMSB-141 Dive Bomber Pilot 1Lt MIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
While piloting SBD-3 03255, became lost returning to Henderson Field following mission
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Captain
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Missing with aircraft
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Full Biography

Staff Sergeant William T. Campbell

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Insignia of VMSB-141
Insignia of VMSB-141
NAME:
William T. Campbell
NICKNAME:

SERVICE NUMBER:
400511
HOME OF RECORD:
McKeesport, PA
NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Elvira Campbell
DATE OF BIRTH:
~1919
ENLISTED:
May 7, 1942
DATE OF DEATH:
October 8, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal VMSB-141 Dive Bomber Gunner Staff Sergeant MIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
While gunner for SBD-3 03257, shot down while attacking shipping off Guadalcanal
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Staff Sergeant
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Missing with aircraft
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Full Biography

Technical Sergeant Joseph Donald Cook

From an unknown newspaper, 1945.
From an unknown newspaper, 1945.

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Insignia of VMSB-141
Insignia of VMSB-141
NAME:
Joseph Donald Cook
NICKNAME:
Cooky
SERVICE NUMBER:
273952
HOME OF RECORD:
800 Belmont Avene, Charlottesville VA
NEXT OF KIN:
Wife, Mrs. Eloise (Smith) Cook
DATE OF BIRTH:
February 5, 1917
ENLISTED:
November 11, 1939
DATE OF DEATH:
October 8, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal VMSB-141 Dive Bomber Pilot Technical Sergeant MIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
While piloting SBD-3 03257, shot down while attacking shipping off Guadalcanal
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Technical Sergeant
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Missing with aircraft
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Full Biography

PFC Sven Elmer Roland Nelson

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Insignia of VMSB-141
Insignia of VMSB-141
NAME:
Sven Elmer Roland Nelson
NICKNAME:
Elmer
SERVICE NUMBER:
339722
HOME OF RECORD:
Kingston, IL
NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Agnes Nelson
DATE OF BIRTH:
1922
ENLISTED:
January 3, 1942
DATE OF DEATH:
October 2, 1942
(October 8, 1942)*
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal VMSB-141 Radioman/Gunner PFC MIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
SBD-3 03311 shot down by hostile action.
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Corporal
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Unknown
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

*Alternate date of death suggested by unit War Diary.
Full Biography

Second Lieutenant Edward Walton Ayres

E. Walton Ayres at the University of Louisiana, 1939.
E. Walton Ayres at the University of Louisiana, 1939.

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Insignia of VMSB-141
Insignia of VMSB-141
NAME:
Edward Walton Ayres
NICKNAME:
Walton
SERVICE NUMBER:
O-010175
HOME OF RECORD:
Baton Rouge, LA
NEXT OF KIN:
Wife, Mrs. Jo B. Ayres
DATE OF BIRTH:
1920
ENLISTED:
May 22, 1941
DATE OF DEATH:
October 2, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal VMSB-141 Pilot 2Lt. MIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
SBD-3 03311 shot down by enemy action.
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Second Lieutenant
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Unknown
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

Full Biography

Second Lieutenant George Arthur Treptow

George Treptow, Depauw University yearbook, 1941.
George Treptow, DePauw University yearbook, 1941.

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Insignia of VMF-224,
Insignia of VMF-224, “The Bengals”
NAME:
George Arthur Treptow
NICKNAME: SERVICE NUMBER:
O-009927
HOME OF RECORD:
Chicago, IL
NEXT OF KIN:
Father, Mr. George Treptow
DATE OF BIRTH:
June 23, 1920
ENLISTED:
May 22, 1941
DATE OF DEATH:
October 2, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal VMF-224
(assigned from VMF-121)
Pilot 2Lt. KIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Aircraft crash, believed to be caused by oxygen failure
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Captain
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Presumably buried vicinity of wreck
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

Full Biography

Private First Class Reed Thomas Ramsey

Reed Ramsey, date unknown. Photo from WWII Memorial Registry.
Reed Ramsey, date unknown. Photo from WWII Memorial Registry.

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Insignia of VMSB-231,
Insignia of VMSB-231, “Ace Of Spades.”
Photo from http://www.wwiijeepparts.com
NAME:
Reed Thomas Ramsey
NICKNAME:

SERVICE NUMBER:
289734
HOME OF RECORD:
Bolckow, MO
NEXT OF KIN:
Parents, James & Vicky Ramsey
DATE OF BIRTH:
April 5, 1917
ENLISTED:
July 30, 1940
DATE OF DEATH:
September 28, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Pearl Harbor 2nd MAW Quartermaster Private  
Midway VMSB-241 Radioman/Gunner PFC  
Guadalcanal VMSB-231 Radioman/Gunner Corporal MIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Shot down by enemy action
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Corporal
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Unknown
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

Full Biography

Second Lieutenant Willis Sherman Lees, III

Willis Lees in 1941, Heidelberg College Aurora yearbook
Willis Lees in 1941, Heidelberg College Aurora yearbook

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Insignia of VMF-223,
Insignia of VMF-223, “Bulldogs”
NAME:
Willis Sherman Lees, III
NICKNAME:
Bill
SERVICE NUMBER:
O-009428
HOME OF RECORD:
Passaic, NJ
NEXT OF KIN:
Father, Mr. Willis Lees II
DATE OF BIRTH:
~1920
ENLISTED:
May 13, 1941
DATE OF DEATH:
October 2, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal VMF-223 Pilot 2Lt. MIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
F4F-4 02098 shot down over Guadalcanal by Lt (jg) Kawamata Katsutoshi
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Captain
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Unknown
MEMORIAL:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

Full Biography

IDENTIFIED: Captain Henry S. White, SSgt Thomas L. Meek

Following the wonderful and touching news of the recovery and burial of PFC Manley F. Winkley, decades after his death on Tarawa, comes the announcement via the DMPO that two more Marines have been identified – nearly seventy years to the day after their Dauntless dive-bomber crashed into a tiny island near Espiritu Santo.

Henry Sedric White, born around 1919 in Arcadia, Louisiana, had enlisted in 1941 and earned his wings as a dive-bomber pilot. He left the United States in December, 1942 as assistant flight officer of VMSB-233, and was introduced to combat flying out of Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field as a member of the Cactus Air Force. White began flying aerology and reconnaissance missions along with the occasional attack in January, 1943; he had a close call on April 6 when Japanese antiaircraft shot his bomber from the sky over Rendova. White and his gunner, Staff Sergeant Warren Sanders, had quite an adventure returning to their squadron.

Excerpt from the war diary of VMSB-233, April 1943.
Click “View Full Size” to see a more legible image.

After completing his first tour of duty, Lieutenant White was transferred to VMSB-141.

Thomas LeRoy Meek was one of the older members of the squadron, born around the year 1913 in Kansas City, Missouri. He joined the Corps in May, 1941 and trained as an aircraft mechanic before the war began; while stationed on Oahu with VMSB-232, he was reclassified as an aerial gunner. Like White, he saw his first tour of duty with VMSB-233, rising to the rank of staff sergeant before joining VMSB-141 in late spring of 1943.

On July 21, 1943, White and Meek were assigned to take SBD-4 06969 on a night training flight. Henry White in particular had a good day; his promotion to captain had been approved just hours before. Theirs was one of four such flights scheduled for the evening, and as their SBD rumbled down the Fighter One airstrip at Espiritu Santo and took to the sky, nothing seemed amiss.

A few minutes later, there was an explosion and gout of flame visible on Aessi Island, just a few thousand yards from the end of the airstrip. Captain White, believed to be suffering from vertigo, had lost the horizon and slammed the bomber into the ground. He and SSgt Meek were killed instantly; the plane was totally destroyed.

War Diary of VMSB-141, July 21, 1943.

The following day, an expedition located the crash site, and the remains of White and Meek. The men were buried at the site of the crash, which was recorded at 167° 13’ longitude, 15° 24’ latitude.

Muster roll of VMSB-141, July 1943.

On July 3, 2013, the remains of the to Marines were recovered. The DMPO has announced that Henry White and Thomas Meek will be buried together in Arlington National Cemetery, at a date as yet undisclosed.

Second Lieutenant Leland Evan Thomas

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

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Service Number:
 0-009964

Birth and Early Life:
Leland Thomas was born in Ontario, Oregon on September 20, 1918. His parents, Benjamin and Etta May Thomas, relocated to Fruitland, Idaho in the 1920s – Leland and his younger sister, Jeanette, grew up and attended school in the small town where their father ran a garage.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Thomas joined the Marine Corps Reserve on September 10, 1941. He wanted to fly, and just over a month after enlisting was accepted as an aviation cadet in the Navy Reserve. He was training in Florida when Pearl Harbor was attacked; Thomas would have to wait until April, 1942 to receive his commission as a Second Lieutenant, his wings as a dive-bomber pilot, and his assignment to duty with the “Red Devils” of VMSB-232.

Wartime Service:
After additional familiarization and training in California, Second Lieutenant Thomas boarded the carrier USS Long Island and set sail for the South Pacific. On August 20, 1942, his Dauntless dive-bomber was catapulted from the carrier and, along with eleven other bombers screened by 19 Wildcat fighters, made a 200 mile flight to the newly captured airfield on Guadalcanal. The “Red Devils” and the “Bulldogs” of VMF-223 would make up the island’s “Cactus Air Force.”

Thomas and his gunner, PFC Edward Lee Eades, soon made their presence known in the squadron. In an August 25 attack on enemy shipping, Thomas was credited with a damaging near-miss on the cruiser Jintsu, flagship of Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka (1). In the same attack, Eades splashed an enemy floatplane fighter – one of the first aerial kills recorded by the squadron. (2)

Following their initial success, Thomas and Eades’ life at “Cactus” settled into a semblance of routine. When an air raid was reported, all flyable bombers would take to the air and hover safely out of range; when enemy sea or ground targets were reported, the bombers were quickly loaded and sent to intercept. Daily patrols rounded out the flying schedule, while maintenance on the ground took up most of the air crew’s spare time.

By the end of his first year in the Marine Corps, Leland Thomas had racked up nearly a dozen missions. His next big success would come while leading a patrol on September 15 – after sighting three enemy warships, Thomas led an attack that badly damaged a destroyer. For his skill in fighting the Imperial Japanese Navy, Thomas was written up for the Distinguished Flying Cross. (3)

For heroism and extraordinary achievement as a pilot attached to a Marine Aircraft group during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area on August 25 and Sept. 15, 1942, while vigorously attacking a hostile force composed of a light cruiser, four transports, and seven destroyers, Second Lieut. Thomas, by his expert marksmanship and superb flying skill, scored the second of two hits which sunk the light cruiser. Resolutely pursuing his task, he further contributed to the destruction of one large destroyer. On the latter date, after contacting a hostile light cruiser and two destroyers while a member of a two-plane aerial search, Second Lieut. Thomas immediately transmitted a report to his base and launched an aggressive attack, scoring several near misses on the enemy war ships. His indomitable fighting spirit was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. (4) 

Date Of Loss:
Leland Thomas may never have known about his decoration; he certainly did not live to wear it. On September 18, 1942, just two days before his 23rd birthday, Thomas was assigned to fly the morning anti-sub patrol. He and Eades climbed into their bomber and were aloft by 0535. Visibility was bad in all directions, but what remained of the American fleet off Guadalcanal was in dire need of all the protection it could get.

A nervous sailor on one of the ships heard an aircraft droning overhead. He likely couldn’t see it, but having dealt with daily raids by aggressive Japanese raiders, thought it better to shoot first and ask questions later. He opened fire; other gunners on other ships followed suit, and one of them scored a hit on their target – which turned out to be SBD-3 03347. The bomber fell in flames; one parachute could be seen drifting down behind it. (5)

Within minutes, a soaked, shaken, and livid PFC Edward Eades had been hauled from the water. A search was immediately undertaken for the wreckage of the plane, but neither it nor Lieutenant Leland Thomas could be found. He had lost his life to friendly fire. (6)

Sergeant Joseph Goble, who had just landed with Company B, 7th Marines, described the scene.

At about 10.30 a.m. word passed up and down the beach that at exactly 11.00 a.m. each day the Japs would hit us with an air raid. We got jumpy! We were told to dig in, but few of us bothered – we were too tired. A few minutes before 11.00 a.m. a low-flying plane came from the direction of Tologa. All the ships began firing at it. The plane banked to the right to try to escape the fire, but it was too late. The engine began smoking, and the pilot made a five or six mile circle up past the Matanikau River and back – to crash land just off the shore in front of us. So our first plane shot down was one of our own, trying to get back to refuel before the Jap air raid began. (7)

In 1944, Mrs. Etta Thomas and Miss Jeanette Thomas were present at the launch of a new destroyer escort, named for their son and brother. 

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. B. E. Thomas

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
USS Leland E. Thomas (DE-420) was named in his honor.

_____
NOTES:
(1) Jintsu was struck first by Lt. Lawrence Baldinus; Thomas and Lt. Charles McAllister each scored near misses which were thought to have damaged the cruised further. Although the citations for decorations awarded after the attack mentioned the Jintsu as being sunk, in actuality she limped back to Truk for repairs.
(2) Private Lewis Macias, gunner for McAllister, also claimed one floatplane.
(3) Interestingly, the war diary for Marine Air Group 23 (Thomas’ parent unit) gives credit to 2nd Lt. Donald McAfferty and 2nd Lt. Homer V. Cook for the attack.
(4) http://payettecounty.info/military/obits/thomasleland.html
(5) War Diary, MAG-13. Some sources state that Thomas lost his life in action with the enemy; this was likely the public-facing version of the story, much easier to accept than a fatal case of mistaken identity.
(6) Edward Eades went on to have a long career in Marine Corps aviation, even earning a temporary commission towards the end of the war. He flew as a pilot, retired as a Master Sergeant, and died in 2010.
(7) Goble, Sergeant Joseph. Memoir submitted to The Lower Deck: Newsletter of the Warships & Marine Corps Museum, September 2002. Goble’s account provides an unparalleled account of the early days with B Company on Guadalcanal.