Jan 3

U.S. Navy’s All-Time Top Fighter Ace

Thursday, January 3, 2019 12:01 AM

By

Captain David McCampbell, USN (Ret.) (1910-1996)

Future Captain David McCampbell, U.S. Navy (Retired), as a Commander during World War II.

This oral history contains the candid recollections of the U.S. Navy’s all-time top fighter ace, Captain David McCampbell. He earned the Medal of Honor for his exploits during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944.

Following initial service as an officer in the heavy cruiser USS Portland (CA-33), McCampbell underwent flight training and received his wings in 1938. From 1938 to 1940, McCampbell served with Fighting Squadron Four (VF-4), based on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4). From 1940 to 1942, McCampbell was landing signal officer of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) and survived her sinking in 1942, during the Guadalcanal campaign. After serving at the landing signal officer school in Melbourne, Florida, he was briefly the commanding officer of Fighting Squadron 15 (VF-15) in 1943-44, and then commanded Air Group 15 in 1944. In early 1945, McCampbell received the Medal of Honor from President Franklin Roosevelt.

In this clip, Captain McCampbell describes flying above some 40 enemy planes in an F6F Hellcat with his wingman, Ensign Roy Rushing, and then going in for the kill in the October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Gruman F6F "Hellcat" fighter undergoes maintenance aboard the USS Essex (CV-9), anchored off Saipan. This plane is "Minsi II," belonging to the Essex Air Group commander, Commander David McCampbell, USN (Ret.).

Gruman F6F “Hellcat” fighter undergoes maintenance aboard the USS Essex (CV-9), anchored off Saipan. This plane is “Minsi II,” belonging to the Essex Air Group commander, future Captain David McCampbell, U.S. Navy (Retired).

 

To read more about the Naval Institute Oral History Program, go to https://www.usni.org/heritage/oral-history-catalog.