The only Fast Carrier Task Force pilot to be honored with the Medal of Honor:
Captain David McCampbell (January 16, 1910 – June 30, 1996) was a United States Navy captain, naval aviator, and a Medal of Honor recipient. He retired from the navy in 1964 with 31 years of service.
McCampbell is the United States Navy’s all-time leading flying ace and top F6F Hellcat ace with 34 aerial victories. He was the third-highest American scoring ace of World War II and the highest-scoring American ace to survive the war. He also set a United States single mission aerial combat record of shooting down nine enemy planes in one mission, on October 24, 1944, at the beginning of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, in the Philippines.
McCampbell served as a landing signal officer (LSO) from May 1940, surviving the sinking of the carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) by a Japanese submarine near Guadalcanal on September 15, 1942. He returned to the United States, was promoted to Lieutenant Commander, and was stationed at Naval Air Station Melbourne, Florida as LSO Instructor until August 1943.
McCampbell formed Fighter Squadron 15 (VF-15) on September 1, 1943 and led the squadron before being reassigned as Commander of Air Group 15 (CAG-15) in February 1944 to September 1944. As Commander, Carrier Air Group (CAG) 15, he was Commander of the Essex Air Group (fighters, bombers, and torpedo bombers) when the group was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex. From April to November 1944, his group saw six months of combat and participated in two major air-sea battles, the First and Second Battles of the Philippine Sea. During the more than 20,000 hours of air combat operations before it returned to the United States for a rest period, Air Group 15 destroyed more enemy planes (315 airborne and 348 on the ground) and sank more enemy shipping than any other Air Group in the Pacific War. Air Group 15’s attacks on the Japanese in the Marianas and at Iwo Jima, Taiwan, and Okinawa were key to the success of the “island hopping” campaign.
Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat displayed at the National Naval Aviation Museum, painted as a replica of McCampbell’s Minsi III to include Japanese flags representing aerial victories.
In addition to his duties as commander of the “Fabled Fifteen”, then Commander McCampbell became the Navy’s “ace of aces” during the missions he flew in 1944. McCampbell entered combat on May 14 and flew at least four Grumman F6F Hellcats while aboard the Essex: an F6F-3 named Monsoon Maiden (damaged by AA, removed from service on 20 May 1944), an F6F-3 named The Minsi (10+1⁄2 kills), an F6F-5 named Minsi II, and an F6F-5 named Minsi III (Bureau Number 70143), in which he scored the last 23+1⁄2 of his 34 kills.
On June 19, 1944, during the “Marianas Turkey Shoot,” Commander McCampbell shot down five Japanese Yokosuka D4Y ‘Judy’ dive-bombers, to become an “ace in a day”. Later that afternoon, during a second sortie, McCampbell downed two Mitsubishi A6M ‘Zekes’ over Guam.
On October 24, 1944, in the initial phase of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, in the Philippines, he became the only American airman to achieve “ace in a day” status twice. McCampbell and his wingman attacked a Japanese force of 60 aircraft. McCampbell shot down nine—seven Zeros and two Oscars—setting a U.S. single-mission aerial combat record. During this same action, his wingman downed another six Japanese warplanes. When he landed his Grumman F6F Hellcat aboard USS Langley (the flight deck of Essex wasn’t clear), his six machine guns had just two rounds remaining, and his airplane had to be manually released from the arrestor wire due to complete fuel exhaustion. Commander McCampbell received the Medal of Honor for both actions, becoming the only Fast Carrier Task Force pilot to be so honored.
The Giant Killer book & page honors these incredible war heroes making sure their stories of valor and sacrifice are never forgotten. God Bless our Vets!🇺🇸🇺🇸