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Robert M. ("Ack") Acker

After his service in the VMSB243, Bob returned stateside in December of 1944 and remained in the Marine Corps until December, 1945. He married his high school sweetheart, Gerry, in January of 1945, with fellow squadron member, Bud Ahrens, as his best man. After the war ended, Bob returned to Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now Iowa State University) and graduated in 1949 with a B.S. in Dairy Industry. He was in the dairy industry in various capacities from 1949 to 1951, and 1953 to 1992. In 1951, Bob returned to active duty in Cherry Point, NC and was promoted to Major in June, 1952. He returned to Iowa in April, 1953 and resigned in 1955. Bob and Gerry had eight children, six daughters and two sons, and nineteen grandchildren. Gerry died of cancer in 1985. Bob married Muriel in 1988 and after they retired, they moved to Colorado and then Florida. He passed away April 30, 2001, also from cancer. Throughout his life he cherished all things related to aviation and the Marine Corps.


William G. ("Spider") Albert

Edited eulogy by son, Tom - Beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother and friend, William George (Bill) Albert, age 85, died December 24, 2008 in Olympia, WA.  Dad was born in Lansing, Iowa to William and Anita (Bakewell) Albert. He graduated from Lansing Public High School and attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. Dad interrupted his education to serve as a Marine Corp dive bomber pilot during World War II. He flew many combat missions in the South Pacific and the Philippines, receiving two Distinguished Flying Crosses and numerous Air Medals* (while serving with VMSB243 Flying Goldbricks….Dad loved attending the reunions).  After the war he continued flying with the Naval Reserve, retiring as a Major after twenty years.

I can remember as a young boy accompanying dad on one of his monthly reserve duties and speeding across the eastern Washington desert I yelled “Dad you're speeding, they’ll catch you on radar.” Dad calmly told me that from his war days he could feel radar bounce off of him and not to worry. As I remember dad didn’t slow down. Obviously this trait or skill was not inherited by his son from all the speeding tickets I received in my early years of driving.

Following his discharge from active duty, Dad married a Wisconsin beauty, Beatrice Pedretti, from Genoa. Dad and Mom moved to Ames, Iowa where dad graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  Upon graduation dad took a position with General Electric in Schenectady, New York. In 1950, dad moved his family to Richland, WA where he started his career in the nuclear field. This career included positions at Hanford, the Atomic Energy Commission in Chicago, Battelle in Richland, WA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in Walnut Creek, CA , as a Senior Resident Inspector for the NRC out of Olympia, WA, and with the International Atomic Energy Commission in the Philippines. Dad’s reputation as one of the best NRC inspectors the Commission ever had was known worldwide and his expertise and opinion was utilized and respected long after his retirement.

Our father was “Our Hero” not only because he was a decorated World War II veteran but because of so many other qualities and actions that made his life special and memorable to our family, relatives, and friends.  Dad was from that generation that went off to war, defended our country and our way of life, came home, and never looked back.  He married mom, finished his education, went to work, and together, hand in hand, they raised a family based on a legacy of wisdom and love that will always be with us and in our hearts.

Our father was “Our Hero” for the way he loved and cared for our mother, his children, his family, and how safe we all felt with dad watching over us. Once when I was having a bad nightmare as a child my dad woke me up from my sleep and told me to be brave, there isn’t a ghost from under the bed, and to be more like him because he was fearless. I have always believed that of my father. When dad was having his first bypass surgery his worried family was huddled around him, as they moved him to the operating room, he gave us that trademark smile and a thumbs-up, and I just knew that everything would be all right. We have so much to say and share about this great man but it cannot be all written or expressed in words properly today. We would have to keep you here forever. Those of us who were fortunate to have lived with, played with, worked with, laughed with, and cried with our father had/have richer, fuller lives because he was part of it.

Spider Albert

Charles Ebbert ("Pappy") Allen

Charles passed away in his sleep in San Antonio, Texas, February 14, 2013 after a lengthy illness. Charlie was born September 25, 1924 to William and Lottie Allen in Valley Falls, Kansas. He joined the Marines in 1942 and fought in the South Pacific where he earned a Purple Heart. He married Phyllis Reiser in August of 1951 and has four children- Craig, Chuck, Marty and Linda while living in San Antonio. Charlie worked at Kelly Air Force base where he served as Director of Packaging and was recognized for his achievements by being named to the Packaging Hall of Fame.

Pappy Allen
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Conway M. ("Big Andy") Andersen

Conway Andersen, born in Westchester County, NY on November 9, 1921 to Louise and Conrad Andersen, died on August 12, 2014 in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Connie worked as a soda jerk in Peach Lake, NY and by the time he graduated from high school World War II was getting into full swing.

He planned to try out for the Philadelphia Phillies but missed tryouts by only a few days prior to joining the Marine Corps where he eventually became a bomber pilot and flew in the South Pacific as a member of the VMSB-243 Squadron. While in the service, he earned the Silver Cross and the Gold Star.

Upon returning home from the war, he got his chance to try out for the Phillies but the war years took a toll on his baseball skills. He then went to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, around the time his parents relocated to Allentown, PA.

He met Margaret (called Peggy) Agnes Hunt on a blind date introduced through friends. Peggy lived in Bethlehem, PA with her parents. They got married in Bethlehem in 1947 when he was still a student at Lehigh University.

Connie graduated from Lehigh University in 1948, while Peggy was pregnant with their daughter Gail, and went to work for Bethlehem Steel...where he was employed until his retirement in 1979.

In addition to Gail, he and Peggy had three sons, Conway Jr., David and Doug.
Peggy preceded Connie in death in 1990.

Connie moved around following Peggy's passing and eventually ended up in the Jacksonville, FL area where he met the second love of his life, Diane.
Connie was known for:

  1. Calling friends and family at Christmas rather than sending cards (the list of friends got very short because he outlived almost all of them).

  2. Calling on birthdays and singing Happy Birthday as part of his "collect call singing telegram."

  3. Having lots of laughs and keeping things light.

  4. Working hard and playing hard.

  5. Loving his family, westerns, honey roasted nuts, golf, Breyers Ice Cream, a drink before dinner (and lunch when not working). Friday was "go night" to end the work week and start the weekend.

  6. He was sharp as a tack and always 3 steps ahead of everybody; no matter how old he was. He analyzed and even planned his memorial down to the smiley-face balloons and wall hangings. He wanted his ceremony to be a happy occasion to celebrate his life.


And that's precisely what it was!

Big Andy

Phillip "Bruce" ("Bone") Anderson

A life of adventure, achievement and love - love for God, family, friends and country - came to an end on Saturday, August 24, 2013 when Philip "Bruce" Anderson slipped away at his home in Orange, CA, with his family present, from Melanoma brain cancer. A native Californian born April 4, 1924 in San Francisco, who moved to Coalinga, CA at an early age, thrived in the small town atmosphere where his father, Dr. George H. Anderson, practiced dentistry and his mother, Julie Prettyman Anderson, a nurse turned homemaker, raised Bruce and his sister, Jean. When Bruce graduated from H.S. in 1942, he immediately joined the U.S. Naval Air Corps as a cadet, graduating in 1943 as a naval pilot attached to the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in WWII in the Pacific Theater and later in the Korean War flying a total of 103 missions as a dive bomber pilot. During these years he earned many decorations, among them three Distinguished Flying Crosses. Between the two wars he entered UC Berkeley, thanks to the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1948 with a BS in Business Administration followed by an MBA in 1950. When he returned from Korea he was stationed at El Toro Marine Air Station in a Transport Squadron. During this time he met his lifelong sweetheart, Hazel Jean Pittman and they married October 22, 1955. They were blessed with a loving family and he was very proud of their four children and seven grandchildren. He utilized his education in several businesses but his strong interest as an investor led him to become a stock broker and eventually the Board Chairman and Co-owner of Titan Capital, a national financial planning corporation with offices in all 50 states. He later became Chairman Emeritus of Centaurus Financial Inc. Bruce caught the "travel bug" while serving in the Marines so he and Hazel traveled the world and had visited every continent (except Antarctica) as well as every state in the USA. He leaves behind his wife, Hazel; daughter, Kay Smith (husband Rich); son, Kent Anderson; daughter, Tracy Rice (husband Rob); daughter, Julie Chesney (partner Karen Berkshire). He was the beloved grandfather of Chelsey and Courtney Rice, Ben and Tim Anderson, Jenna and Donelle, and their brother, Richard Chesney who predeceased Bruce in 2006; his sister, Jean Avery; sisters-in-law, Helen Hopkins, Alice Stauffer, Jo Anne Hansen; and brother-in-law, Tony Hansen, as well as many wonderful nieces and nephews and lifelong friends. Honorary grandchildren, Holly and Sean Berkshire also survive. At a family ceremony Bruce was laid to rest on Saturday, August 31 at Fairhaven Memorial Park in the Court of Meditation Columbarium with military honors provided by the Marine Corps.

Bone Anderson

Joseph ("Little Joe") Baker

Following the war, Joe and fellow VMSB243 pilot, Conway Anderson, attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania under the G.I. Bill. Both earned B.S. Degrees in Industrial Engineering. Shortly after graduation, Joe got married and was employed at U.S. Steel in McKeesport, PA. Joe and his family lived in Pennsylvania until he was called up to serve in the Korean War. At that time, his family relocated to Cherry Point, North Carolina and finally ended up in El Toro, California. Joe graduated up from flying SBDs and loved flying jets and was often heard saying, “I’ll never give up my wings.” Upon returning to civilian life, Joe and his family opted to remain in California where, like many engineers (and especially former military pilots), he worked for numerous aircraft manufacturing plants in the Los Angeles area. He really loved his work. Over the years, he shared many great memories and conversations with his family and friends of his days in the South Pacific. Joe and his wife, Nancy, had two children, Susan and Joseph. Joe passed away of a heart attack in 1984. While his family will always miss him, what they say they miss the most is his contagious sense of humor. 10/28/08

Little Joe

Glenn D. Bruce

‘Flying Goldbricks’ Radioman/Tailgunner, Glenn D. Bruce, of Axtell, Nebraska, passed away on March 20, 2006. Born on October 6, 1921 to John Roach Bruce and Anna Viola (Carpenter) Bruce in Ponca City, Oklahoma, he attended primary and secondary schools there, and later in Parkville, Missouri, before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942.  

Prior to joining VMSB-243, he was trained as an aviation mechanic in Pensacola, Florida.

He flew with the squadron during its initial combat missions in the Solomon Islands and participated in an additional 75 missions out of bases in Munda, Green Island, and Emirau. 

Most of his missions were flown with either VMSB-243 pilots Stockslager or Wyatt. After being awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses and eight Air Medals for meritorious service, he returned home as a Tech/Sgt. in September of 1944 and immediately began training as a Radioman/Tailgunner aboard Marine PBJ-1s based in Cherry Point, North Carolina.  

Though his flight package was approved, WWII ended before he could complete formal flight training. Following the war, Glenn served in the reserves for several years while earning a degree from Denver University in Denver, Colorado. 

Fellow VMSB-243 Radioman/Tailgunner, Virgil Fransen, introduced Glenn to his cousin, Beulah (Bee) Nathalie Nelson of Axtell, Nebraska, which launched their 49 years of love and companionship. Glenn and Bee were married on June 9, 1946.  

Glenn briefly taught high school before he and Bee welcomed two wonderful daughters, Connie Bruce (Schworm) and Carol Bruce (Ott), into the world. Soon after they relocated to Kearney County, Nebraska where he farmed five miles north of Hildreth.  

Devoted members of Bethany Lutheran Church in Kearney County, they also attended services at United Church of Christ in Sun Lakes, Arizona, where Glenn and Bee were fortunate enough to spend winters during their retirement.  

Glenn enjoyed many hours of golf in Arizona and Nebraska and dedicated some of his time to community service. He was a longtime, active member of the Lion’s Club of Hildreth, Nebraska.

Glenn was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Bee, and three siblings, Vella Rogers, Greeta Bullock and Loral Bruce.  


Harold A. ("Clem") Clemetsen

USMC, VMSB-243 pilot, Harold Clemetsen (Clem), passed away in East Lansing, MI, on February 26, 2008, one month shy of his 89th birthday. Before joining the Marines, he learned to fly at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI. Following his military service, he attended Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, on the GI Bill. After graduating with a Business Degree, he pursued several entrepreneurial endeavors in East Lansing before accepting a chemical sales position with the Midland, MI, based Dow Chemical Company. Dow transferred him to Utica, NY, in 1952 and to Rochester, NY, in 1956. Three years later, he and his family moved to Grand Rapids, MI after he accepted a position with a firm, soon to be incorporated as the Pfaudler Company, selling glass-lined steel mixing vats. 

Pfaudler began in 1884 when Casper Pfaudler, a German brewmaster in Rochester, NY, invented the process for glass-lined steel, known today as Pfaudler’s Glasteel®. Originally invented for the vacuum fermentation of beer, Glasteel® became a vital part of many industries, due to its corrosion-resistance, cleanliness, and non-stick properties.

In 1962, still employed at Pfaudler, Harold and his family headed back east to East Brunswick, NJ. An avid community volunteer and leader, Harold was an active member of Kiwanis International for over 40 years, including a stint as President of the East Brunswick Club. He often shared the story of a youngster named David Copperfield, from the nearby town of Metuchen, who performed one of his early magic shows at an East Brunswick Kiwanis Club meeting. Harold retired from the Pfaudler Company in 1984 and, a year later, he and his wife, Betsy, returned to East Lansing. Betsy preceded Harold in death, passing away in East Lansing at the age of 83 on March 20, 2001. While Clem was challenged with numerous health concerns in his later years, including two strokes, hearing issues, and limited vision, his eyes lit up and a smile punctuated his face whenever he was reminded of his USMC service and his glory days soaring the “wild blue” over the South Pacific. When Harold toured this website on the 4th of July, 2007, for the first and only time, he positioned his face inches from the computer screen and delighted in all of the memories it evoked. But what he was most excited about was that the “Boys” were together again, and for this tour of duty, forever. This site was made possible by Harold sharing his declassified squadron war photos and memories with Ed Gillespie in 2007.  Harold’s and Betsy’s daughter, Siri, and her husband, David, reside in East Lansing, MI. His son, Nels, and his wife, Debra, parents of two grown-up daughters, live in Springfield, Pennsylvania, a southwest suburb of Philadelphia. (Updated 6/2/2024-EJG)


Howard B. ("Hollywood") Corbett

Born September 16, 1921; Died April 3, 2002


Dr. L. Rodger ("Rodge") Currie

Dr. L. Rodger Currie of Palm Beach and Chelmsford, Mass., a decorated World War II veteran, died Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011, at his home. He was 88.

He served in the Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 243, also known as the Flying Goldbricks. He flew 105 combat missions in the Solomon Islands, Bismark Archipelago and the Philippine Islands. He was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism and extraordinary achievement, as well as 13 Air Medals.

After the war, he attended St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and met Patricia O’Dea of Lowell. They married in 1950. Dr. Currie graduated from the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore in 1952. The following year he moved to Chelmsford, where he founded Chelmsford Dental Associates while also serving on the staffs of three hospitals in Lowell.

Dr. Currie traveled as an advance man for the campaigns in West Virginia for John F. Kennedy in 1960, to Indiana for Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 and to Iowa for Edward M. Kennedy in 1980. He was part of the crew of the 56-foot Yankee Girl, representing the United States in the 1971 Admiral’s Cup.

A past president of the Lowell Dental Society, Dr. Currie was chairman of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Massachusetts Dental Society for nine years. He was a member of the building committee of St. Mary Church in Chelmsford and a founding director of the first Bank and Trust of Chelmsford.

Dr. Currie was a former member of the Hyannisport Club, the Hyannis Port Yacht Club, the Hyannis Port Civic Association, the Algonquin Club in Boston and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Chelmsford. He was a member of The Beach Club, The Society of The Four Arts and Palm Beach Yacht Club. He was a communicant of St. Mary Church in Chelmsford, St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis and St. Edward Catholic Church.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by four daughters, Gail Dierdorff and husband Larry, Susan Toth and husband Michael, Patricia Loveday, and Lisa Currie; two sons, Daniel Currie, and L. Rodger Currie and wife Elaine; a former son-in-law, Capt. Charlie Loveday; two sisters, Josephine Martin and Alice Caine; a sister-in-law, Mary Smith Currie; 12 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, Chris.

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Edgar Allen Duncan, Jr.

VMSB 243 tailgunner (1944-1945), Edgar Allen Duncan Jr, died in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 11, 2021 at the age of 99.

Allen, as he was known, was born on February 4, 1922 in Uniontown, KY, the son of Edgar Allen Sr. and Ethel Duncan. He grew up in Uniontown and Morganfield, KY, and graduated from Morganfield High School in 1940. He attended Western Kentucky University 1940-41.

He then moved to Louisville where he began working for the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Railroad. Shortly after, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served as an SBD Dauntless dive bomber tailgunner in the South Pacific during World War II.

Upon returning from war, he resumed his job at the L&N Railroad. It was at that time that he met and married the love of his life, Frances Louise Reed. Allen and Frances were married for 71 years until she preceded him in death on August 26, 2018.

Allen also worked as a pari-mutuel clerk during Fall and Spring Meets at the Keeneland (Lexington, KY) and Churchill Downs (Louisville, KY) horse racing tracks. He retired from Churchill Downs at age 85 after more than 50 years of service.


They raised four daughters in the Highlands and were longtime members of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.

He is survived by his four daughters and their spouses - Nancy and Jack Larry of Louisville; Becky and John Peter of Houston; Julie and Rick Morris of Louisville; Suellen and Dr. Robert Nolan, Jr. of Louisville. He is also survived by his five grandchildren and their spouses, and four great-grandchildren. The grandchildren and their spouses are - Drew and Sara Morris, and their children Reagan and Grant; Drs. Jamie and Marian Morris, and their children Mollie and Jack; Becky Morris; Meggie and John Simpson; and Ellie and Dr. Ashwin Raghavan.


Badgley A. ("Badge") Elmes

After leaving the Marines “Badge” returned to Lehigh to finish his degree and begin a career in sales and management that took him from Lancaster PA to Birmingham, Michigan to Orchard Park, New York where he eventually bought his own business, Riley Gear, and had a great time running it. He and my Mom, BettyAnn, retired to the Hilton Head area and Vermont, and recently moved to Fayetteville in central Pennsylvania. Through the years Dad loved playing golf and watching his beloved Buffalo Bills, while always keeping up with the news and the latest good novel. He and Betty Ann have three children, 4 grandchildren and last November had their first great grandson, Elias, whom they will be seeing for the first time in a couple of weeks. Dad’s dog Mikey shown in your pictures is the first of many pets, including Barbie, their beloved Shzitzu who takes Badge for long walks everyday. At 86, Dad’s health is excellent but the onset of macular degeneration has limited his vision to some degree. He sends his regards to “Clem”, Beermaster of VMSB 243. 7/08/07

Donald E. "Jr. Exec." Johnson

As a World War ll member of VMSB243, Donald E. Johnson supplied close air support for ground operations in the Bismarck Archipelago and the Philippines. He completed 60 combat missions as an SBD Dauntless dive bomber pilot and twice suffered the loss of his aircraft. He was recalled to duty during the Korean War to serve as a pilot instructor. He left the service in 1955 having achieved the rank of Major. For his service, he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Cross Medals and six Air Medals. He died at the Oakland V.A. Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on March 23, 1993, at the age of 72.


Joseph W. ("Major") Kean Jr.

Joseph Kean Jr., a WWII naval aviator and commanding officer of a U.S. Marine Dive Bomber Squadron [VMSB-243] in the Pacific, died at his home in Santa Ana [California] on June 13, 2009. He was 92. Born in Los Angeles on September 28, 1916, Mr. Kean graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in geology in 1939. He received one of two prestigious appointments from UCLA to the Marine Corps from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He served on the U.S. Battleship Mississippi in the Hawaiian Islands and earned his wings in 1942. He led bombing missions before participating in the retaking of the Philippines and the recapture of the Sulu Archipelago, Jolo, Bongao, and Mindanao Islands. He flew 82 missions, winning 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 10 Air Medals for 65 combat strikes. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, he served in Korea and Japan. After retiring from the service in 1960, he taught high school for the California Youth Authority. He retired in 1980. His wife, Margaret D. Wiltse, died in 1995.  They had nine children, and at the time of his death 15 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. A service with full military honors was held on June 23, 2009 at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, California.

Jack Kennedy

Raymond F. (“Jack”) Kennedy

Raymond Kennedy, a highly decorated Marine Corps aviator, husband, and dad, died July 21, 1952, at age 32, doing what he loved best…flying. His F4U Corsair aircraft crashed while attempting to land at an auxiliary U.S. Marine Corps landing field in Edenton, North Carolina, while practicing aircraft carrier landings.

A native of Central Falls, Rhode Island, Ray participated in 49 raids in the western Pacific during a two-year stint piloting a McDonnell Douglas SBD as a member of the WWII’s U.S. Marine Corps’ “Flying Goldbricks” VMSB-243 squadron for which he was awarded the Marines’ Air Medal for heroic and meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight. He retired as a Captain in 1945, but his respite from the Marines was brief. Thirty days later, he re-enlisted in the Marines to serve in the Korean Conflict. 

Prior to his military service, Ray graduated from the University of Rhode Island where he studied botany and electrical engineering. In 1946, he married Marie Desmond, a U.S. Navy WAVE officer. Together they moved around the country following the prevailing winds of their respective military careers. 

After serving a year in the Korean Conflict, he returned to the states following the completion of one hundred missions as a co-pilot and radar specialist for which he earned the Marine Corps’ Distinguished Flying Cross meritorious service award.

One of Ray’s last posts was serving, in 1950, as a member of the VMF-214 Flying Corsairs “Black Sheep” Squadron stationed in California. Ray and Marie were the proud parents of two sons, Michael, and Paul. Michael was two and Paul two-months old at the time of their father’s death. According to family members, in addition to being a great husband and dad, Ray enjoyed working on cars, playing golf, smoking cigars, and reading mysteries.

Following his untimely death, Ray was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1976, Marie joined him there as a well-deserved tribute to two devoted parents, outstanding Americans, and individuals who clearly demonstrated exceptional love for their family and country.

Brian Keith

Sgt. Brian Keith

Brian Keith, who became known to millions of Americans in the late '60s as Uncle Bill, was born on November 14, 1921, in Bayonne, New Jersey. The son of actor/playwright Robert Keith and actress Helena Shipman, Keith eventually went on to work with such film industry greats as John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich, Bette Davis, Marlon Brando and Sebastian Cabot. Although he started acting at the tender age of 3, it wasn't until he was well into his forties that Keith found his primary claim to fame as everybody's favorite sitcom uncle to child actors Anissa Jones and Johnny Whitaker on television's Family Affair.

Keith served in the U.S. Marine Corps (VMSB-243) as a McDonnell Douglas Dauntless tailgunner during World War II (1941-1945). Following is a brief description of an incident encountered by Keith during the war: "Brian was a Radio-Gunner in the rear cockpit of a two-man Douglas "Dauntless" (SDB) dive-bomber in a U.S. Marine Squadron. During an attack on Rabaul, his plane was badly damaged by enemy ground fire. The pilot struggled to keep the plane in the air. Unable to keep up with the others, it fell behind. Two Japanese "Zero" fighters attacked the crippled plane from the rear. Both of Brian's machine guns jammed. He fired red tracer ammunition from his pistol. The Japs broke off the attack, but soon came again. Now completely out of ammunition, Brian reached for the Very pistol (flare gun) and fired a red rocket/flare at the fighters who immediately pulled up to figure out what that was. On the radio, Keith heard a New Zealand pilot saying, "Don't sweat it, Yank, I've got them surrounded up here!"

On June 24, 1997, the 75-year old actor took his own life at his Malibu, California home, ending his downward spiral of failing health, financial troubles and depression caused by the loss of his daughter.

Big Bill Knowles
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LTC Knowles with Secretary of Defense Mevlin Laird


Col. (Ret.) William R. ("Big Bill") Knowles

William Knowles passed away in January of 2013, just days short of his 90th birthday. Very few men of his caliber have ever walked this earth.

Dad was a Master Aviator and veteran of WWII and two combat tours in Viet Nam. During WWII he was a Marine Aviator in the South Pacific with VMSB 243, known as The Flying Goldbricks. He flew dive bombers- Corsair, Dauntless, HellDiver…After the war, he switched services to the US Army and flew MEDEVAC helicopters for the next 25 years.

We moved more than 33 times before I was out of high school.
On this day, we honor him for his service to God, his Country and his Family. We equally honor our Mom, Marmion Knowles, who passed away in 2001, for her incredible faith, strength and support as a military wife raising five kids during all those challenging years of constant uprooting and adapting.
Dad was nominated for the Medical Service Corps (MSC) Hall of Fame. Here is an excerpt from his nomination:

“This distinguished Army Medical Department Aviator is known for his Pioneering and Innovative contributions to AMEDDS Aviation and to Army Aviation and Aviation Safety. Starting his aviation career as a Marine aviation cadet during World War II, Bill graduated as a Lieutenant and found himself on the next plane to the South Pacific. There he flew 52 combat missions in close air support of troops fighting in the jungles as they recovered island after island from the Japanese.

Returning to the States, he was a gunnery instructor until the end of the war. Bill transferred to a reserve Marine fighter squadron in Seattle, Washington where he continued his love of flying while attending graduate school. Upon graduation, he was offered and accepted a Regular Army commission in the Medical Service Corps. This commission gave him the chance to fly as he helped the Army Surgeon General develop Aeromedical services to evacuate wounded from the battlefield.

Graduating from the first MSC helicopter flight class, he joined the 53rd Medical Detachment (Air Amb) in Germany. There he continued his Aeromedical education under another pioneer, Lou Hamner. (Bill credits Hamner as the best CO and teacher he ever served under.) Many of the helicopter flight and safety concepts formed at that time would carry into combat evacuation and development for future Aeromedical helicopters.

His next assignment was as Army Aviation Liaison to the Aviation Crash Injury Research Program at Cornell University, which later became the Flight Safety Foundation. He later attended the Aviation Safety Course at the University of Southern California. This would lead to assignments with the Army Surgeon General’s office as Aeromedical Evacuation Consultant to the Chief, Medical Service Corps and to the Surgeon General. During this period, he was instrumental in the expansion of the Aeromedical Evacuation Program, recruiting many “cream of the crop” young MSC officers into aviation and initiating many training programs to make them the “best of the best” of Army Aviation.

Colonel Knowles was Project Officer to Bell Helicopters for the development of an Aeromedical evacuation platform that became the HU-1, Huey helicopter as envisioned by MG (then Col) Spurgeon Neel. The helicopter was so successful that the Army adopted the design for its primary battlefield helicopter. Quoting Col. Knowles on this project, “I fought long and hard for the six litter configuration based on my experience with units in Germany and CONUS. Later, evacuating wounded from the rice paddies of Vietnam, I realized that the best we could do was three or four litters plus walking wounded. This became a primary factor in development of the UTTAS (Blackhawk) helicopter.”

After the HU-I was put to bed, Col. Knowles was assigned to the Army Tactical Mobility Board, later the Howze Board, to develop the concepts for battlefield air mobility which led to the creation of an Army Aviation Branch and the development of the Air Assault Division. For his dedicated work and broad aviation and safety experience, he was awarded a letter of appreciation from Army Chief of Staff General Earle Wheeler in 1963.

A natural follow-on assignment was to the US Army Board for Aviation Accident Research (USABAAR), where Colonel (then LTC) Knowles was immediately sent to Vietnam to investigate accidents and set up a program to prevent accidents. Even though he was not assigned to an air ambulance or a tactical aviation unit his concept of developing a safety program was to fly the missions with the young pilots and gain the insight firsthand as to the causes behind many pilot error accidents.

Returning to Ft. Rucker, he would be reassigned to Vietnam to command the 498th Medical Company (Air Amb). As a “Flying Commander” he added 330 combat hours, 262 combat missions and evacuated 361 patients during the eight months before he was moved to the Medical Brigade as Chief of Plans and Operations. Colonel Knowles was selected by the SGO for assignment at Medical Combat Developments to apply his “lessons learned” to future development. From Combat Developments to the Army War College, then to command of a Medical Brigade, Colonel Knowles continued his distinguished DUSTOFF career.

Unable to suppress his pioneering spirit, Bill was assigned to the Secretary of Defense with duty at the Department of Transportation to develop the highly successful Military Assistance to Safety and Traffic (MAST) program.

This program was designed to assist civilian populations with military Aeromedical resources while giving a return on taxpayers’ dollars. It also saved the Surgeon General’s Aeromedical evacuation assets from budget cuts and in fact, expanded these assets and gained air ambulance resources in Alaska (cold weather training), Panama (jungle training) Hawaii (division support) and Japan (inter hospital support and training). Bill’s work with the Howze Board and his many friends in the Defense Department and Army Aviation saved the program from strong opposition within Army Aviation from leaders who wanted the Aeromedical aviation budget dollars for their own resources.

Colonel Knowles is an aviation pioneer as well as an innovative, strong commander dedicated to the training and safety of his flight crews. He was a savvy staff officer who knew how to get the programs through layers of bureaucracy and always a DUSTOFF aviator. (Written by Bill’s son, T.J. Knowles)

Colonel Knowles’ decorations and achievements are notable: Legions of Merit (2), FAA Commercial Pilots License-1943, Airplane license, single and multiple, Instrument, rotorcraft-helicopter; flight instructor, airplanes. 1966,Dual and Instrument Rated, US Army, Master Army Aviator, Combat Medical Badge, Air Medals w/V and 6 Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Medal (498th Air Amb),and Vietnam Service Medals.

Val Lahey

Vance A. ("Val") Lahey

Vance Lahey married June Rose Campbell on May 14, 1948, in Tucumcari, New Mexico. He was a farmer and rancher and was especially fond of his favorite horse “Whip.” He served as a member of the Federal Land Bank for 12 years. He was also an avid fan of dirt track racing. Vance was an active member of the United Methodist Church in Moscow and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Masonic Lodge (both of Hugoton, Kansas). He received his 60-year Masonic pin in 2006. Vance passed away, at the age of 84, on October 14, 2006 in Wichita, Kansas.


Richard H. ("Blackie") Lewis

Richard Lewis (88) passed away peacefully in Seattle, Washington, with his family by his side, on Sunday, March 21, 2010 after a short battle with pneumonia.

Dick was born on July 26, 1921 in Carpenter Creek, Montana in 1921, the oldest child of Maude Ethel Hanawalt, and Charles Worth Lewis. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II in the Philippine Islands from 1941 to 1946. Dick and Gladys moved to Seattle in 1948 where Dick began a 38 years career at Boeing as a drafter, and a teacher, retiring in 1986. Dick and Gladys loved cruising, especially in Alaska, Mexico, and the Caribbean with occasional trips on the MV Christian. They also enjoyed road trips to North Dakota and Montana.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Gladys Grasvik and his sister Bernice. He is survived by his sister, Beatrice; daughters Barbara DeGuise (Jerry), Bonnie Hitchings (Kerry) and Beverly Malone; by his son Charles Lewis (Sandy); by grandsons Christopher Hale, Matthew Hale (Nicole) and Jeffrey Freshwater (Kristen); and by two granddaughters, Katherine Gonzalez (Guy) and Jennifer Malone.

He was interred in Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, WA.

Blackie Lewis

Marvin B. "Drawers" McElhiney

After serving as a World War ll marine dive bomber pilot with VMSB243, in 1947, Marvin B. McElhiney and his wife operated a local grocery store in Yorktown, Iowa. Captain McElhiney continued to fly for the Marines during that time. In August of 1953, while on maneuvers, a military aircraft he was piloting to El Toro, California, crashed 45 miles from Amarillo, Texas. He survived but incurred serious back injuries and numerous facial lacerations. He retired from the military shortly thereafter. In 1954, the Yorktown Post Office relocated to their store. In addition to grocery duties, Marvin was named his town's Postmaster. In 1964, a tornado wiped out a sizable portion of Yorktown, including the McElhiney's store/post office. The McElhiney's were among the first to announce their intent to rebuild. Marvin died in Yorktown, Iowa in 1987 at the age of 67.

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Thomas McHugh

Thomas Joseph McHugh died at the age of 101 on February 23, 2023, in Kings Park, New York. A telephone interview conducted with him at age 100, by the Marine Corps' History Division, is featured in its entirety on this site under our War Stories Link. Sgt. McHugh was assigned to VMSB243 from 1942 to 1945 as a member of the Squadron's Ordnance Team. The guys who maintained ammunition supplies and set the bombs under the SBDs.  

Mac McKinney

Jack R. ("Mac") McKinney

After serving his country, Jack married the love of his life, Barbara, in February of 1948. Around the same time, he began his career with the Shell Oil Company which resulted in many moves over the years from their hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio to Toledo, to Cleveland and then to Texas, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where Jack passed away in 1967 at the young age of 46, following his third heart attack. Jack and Barbara had three children; two sons, Richard and Jack, and a daughter, Nancy. Today Barbara is the proud grandmother of eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Quoting his son, Richard, “Like many men of his era, dad didn’t talk much about the war. I know that he was very proud of his service, but pride never gave way to boasting. I remember once as a kid, caught up in the fascination with a war on a television series, like Combat, I asked him if he ever killed any Japanese in the war. I’ll never forget his reply. ‘I did what my country asked me to do and I’m proud of that. But those men that I killed had families that loved them too so I don’t take any pride in their death.’ It was a sobering moment for me that brought home the tragic side of war.” 3/19/09.

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Robert ("Bob") W. Pearsall

Robert Pearsall, a proud member and Tail gunner for the US Marine Squadron VSMB 243 "Flying Goldbricks" during WWII, died July 2, 2014. After completing his service to his country, he received his BA degree in Business Administration from Denver University and met his future wife Rita at a remote Rocky Mountain lodge. For over 2 decades, he worked in the aviation industry, first as a dispatcher and later as a technical writer for 2 consecutive air cargo carriers. He then went to work as an auditor for the State of Florida Unemployment Compensation for 23 years and retired at the age of 75. Bob moved to Hialeah, Florida in 1957 from Levittown, L.I. New York and was a member of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church for over 57 years. Bob was a great father, working two jobs to provide the best for his family. Bob was the beloved husband of his late wife Rita Ochs Pearsall for 49 years. Devoted father of Robert Paul Pearsall married to Robin, Stephen J. Pearsall married to Elizabeth and Mary Pearsall married to Mark Henne. Dearest Brother of the late John Pearsall and the late Helen Davis and the cherished grandfather of Christopher Pearsall, Jennifer Pearsall, Jeffrey Pearsall, Robert A. Pearsall and Lucille Henne and a friend to many. 7/23/14

Bob Pearsall

James E. ("Jim") Renshaw, Sr.

James Renshaw, Sr. of Runnemede, New Jersey died on April 11, 2004 at the age 82. Beloved husband of the late Leanore and loving father of James Jr., Janet Kelly, Kenneth, Karen Sipple and Bonnie Merkel; also survived by 12 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Mr. Renshaw was a decorated veteran of WWII, having served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a pilot. He was awarded many decorations including the Distinguished Flying Cross and ten Air Medals. He was the former President of the Runnemede Board of Education and the Runnemede Little League.

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John ("God") Slota

John Slota, MT/SGT, was a VMSB 243 Engineering Chief on Emirau Island. He helped form the unit in 1942 at Santa Barbara Naval Air Station, where he met his future wife, Gretchen, at a USO dance. He married her when he returned from the South Pacific at the Mission Santa Barbara on 10 Feb 45. The Marine Corps discharged him on 17 Dec 45, and he re-enlisted in the Marine Reserve on 8 Nov 46. He was an engineering Chief at Naval Air Station Los Alamitos until he resigned on 15 Dec 50. With the Korean War starting up, he said, “One war was enough.” He and Gretchen had 4 boys (Jack, Richard, Jim and Paul) and a girl (Margaret).

He was born on 22 Aug 15. He started out on an Iowa farm behind a mule and plow and ended working on the Space Shuttle. He was a brilliant self-taught man who had a 7th grade education and was always fearful of that fact being discovered. After the Marines, he held down a graduate degree in engineering job at Douglas Aircraft, North American, North American Rockwell and finally Rockwell International. He ran dynamics labs (heat, cold and vibration) for all the space programs. He retired in 1976.

He was a supreme perfectionist. He once said of his work in WWII: “I’m the only one who can say I never lost a plane to mechanical failure.” He died on 7 Mar 00. At his funeral, a VMSB 243 tail gunner told me, “Your father’s nickname was God, because if Slota said it, it was true.” My father also expressed great pride for getting in big trouble with higher ups for doing a major overhaul of a plane on Emirau—because regulations said it should be done in the rear. (Let’s just say that officers were not my father’s favorite people.) He liked to say about dodging regulations and officers, that we had a war to win. (Written by John’s son, Richard)

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Robert L. ("Sad Sack") Waters

Robert Waters, 89, of Hastings, Nebraska, formerly of Seneca, Kansas died Friday, August 9, 2013 at Perkins Pavilion care center in Hastings.  He would have been 90 years old in four more days.

Bob was born on August 13, 1923 to Patrick H. and Lena Winkler Waters in Marysville, Kansas.  With the family farm located between Axtell and Baileyville, he started grade school in Axtell and then graduated from Baileyville High School in 1941.

Bob proudly served his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II from 1942 to 1946.  He was assigned to the seaplane tender  USS Belknap.  In January 1945 the Belknap was performing shore bombardment and beach reconnaissance ahead of an amphibious landing at Luzon in the Phillipines, when she was struck by a lone kamikazi attack plane, resulting in 38 U.S. fatalities and 49 injuries.  Repairs to the ship were sufficient only to sail her back to the U.S. for scrapping.  At this time Bob was reassigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ranger.  He was discharged as a Machinist’s Mate Second Class V-6, having served in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters.  After military service, Bob returned to Kansas to work on the family farm.
Bob married Evelyn Melcher on November 27, 1948 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in St. Benedict, Kansas.  Theirs was the first wedding where the church allowed photographs to be taken inside. They were married for 64 years.

In the post-war years, Bob was hired by the Union Pacific Railroad as a telegraph operator.  He and Evelyn moved to Carr, Colorado and western Kansas following the railroad job. They settled in Seneca, where Bob worked in the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for over 35 years before his retirement.

His hobbies were fishing, gardening, bird watching, and following any sports or news of any kind related to Kansas State University.

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Lt. Col. (Ret.) Simon L. (“Spider”) Webb

A former Marine Corps Reserve Lt. Col, retired Army Reserve Lt.Col., and veteran of the battles for the Solomon Islands in early WW2, now lives in Oxford, MS. A Helena, AR native who graduated from high school in 1936, he attended Notre Dame two years and transferred to Ole Miss in 1939 where he met his future wife Dorothy Ann Thompson of Laurel, MS. They married in 1944 and she died in 1987. Their two children are Tom Webb of Collierville, TN and Sally Boteler of Upper Arlington, OH.

Rather than being drafted he enlisted in the Navy V5 Naval Aviator program in July 1941 and chose a commission in the Marine Corps on graduation. He flew the Douglas Dauntless SBD dive-bomber with Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 243 for two combat tours in the Solomon Islands campaigns in 1943-44, and one as Flight Officer of Squadron 244. His squadron call sign Spider became his nickname.

Flying from Munda Point on New Georgia, Piva Yoke on Bougainville and Green Island, VMSB-243 supported the Third Marine Division landing on Bougainville and bombed most of the Japanese airfields supporting Japanese efforts to stem the American advance. Their toughest target was Rabaul on New Britain, a major Japanese base with deepwater port and five airfields. It was later isolated and bypassed after McArthur pushed west on New Guinea and the Marines started island hopping in the Central Pacific.

Webb advanced to Captain during WW2 and retrained as a night-fighter flying F7Fs. Promoted to major in 1947 he served as Executive Officer of Reserve Squadron VMF-541 flying F6Fs and F8Fs in Birmingham, AL, then during the Korean affair as a pilot in VMF(N)–531, S2 of MAG-24 and CO of MABS-24. He was promoted to Lt.Col. in 1953, then transferred to the Army Reserve in 1956 to earn Reserve pay and retirement points.

But Once a Marine, always a Marine. He is a life member of the Marine Corps Aviation Association, the Military Officers of America and The Distinguished Flying Cross Society. He retired from Champion International Corp in 1983 and moved from Stratford, CT to Laurel, MS.

At 88, Spider says it all happened long ago and far away, and he’s been telling his war stories so long that he’s beginning to believe some of them. 9/3/07

"Spider" Webb's Obituary - Known to his friends as “Spider”, Simon LaVois Webb died at the Mississippi State Veterans home in Oxford, MS, on October 27, 2013. Born February 25, 1919, in Helena, AR, to Walter Edward and Marie Waddell Webb, he graduated from Helena High School and attended the University of Notre Dame and the University of Mississippi prior to World War II, and received a BBA from the University of Southern Mississippi after the war.

During World War II, he served as a Marine Corps aviator in the South Pacific flying the SBD “Dauntless Dive Bomber” and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals. Recalled to active duty during the Korean War, he flew the F7F “Tiger Cat.” After the Korean War, he transferred to the Mississippi National Guard and later to the Army Reserve, retiring as a Lt. Colonel.

Upon returning stateside in 1944, he married Dorothy Ann Thompson of Laurel, MS, and settled in Laurel after World War II.

He was employed by Masonite Corporation in Laurel and Towanda, PA. He joined U.S. Plywood in Oxford, MS and retired from Champion Internat. in Stamford, CT.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy Ann Webb, and is survived by a son, Tom Webb and wife, Beth, of Collierville, TN, a daughter, Sally Webb Boteler and husband, Randy, of Upper Arlington, OH, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and his brother Joseph A. Webb of Virginia Beach, VA.

He was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, the Marine Corps Aviation Association, The Roundtable Writers Group and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford.

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