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|Pilot 2nd Lt. Gordon E. Thompson, O-009742 (MIA / KIA) Moccasin, MT
MIA August 31, 1942
Built by Grumman Corporation in Bethpage, New York as a model G-36 with manually operated folding wings. Delivered to the United States Navy (USN) as F4F-4 Wildcat bureau number 02104. Shipped overseas to the South Pacific.
Assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW), Marine Aircraft Group 23 (MAG-23) to Marine Fighting Squadron 224 (VMF-224). No known nickname, nose art or fuselage code.
On August 29, 1942 Thompson flew from Efate to Espiritu Santo. On August 30, 1942 nineteen F4F Wildcats from Marine Fighting Squadron 224 (VMF-224) led by Major Robert E. Galer plus twelve SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers from Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 231 (VMSB-231) departed Espiritu Santo flying northward to land at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal at 2:30pm as part of the first sizable aircraft reinforcements to reach the "Cactus Air Force".
On August 31, 1942 at 1:00pm took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal piloted by 2nd Lt. Gordon E. Thompson on a combat patrol after an air raid alarm. The formation included eighteen F4F Wildcats from VMF-224 plus eight F4F Wildcats from VMF-223. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost were F4F Wildcat 02122 pilot 2nd Lt Charles E. Bryans (MIA) and F4F Wildcat 03438 pilot 2nd Lt. Richard R. Amerine (survived).
Thompson was officially declared dead on January 8, 1946. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Thompson is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Gordon Thompson (nephew and namesake of Thompson)
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4F-4 Wildcat 02104
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List August 1942 - F4F Wildcat 02104 incorrectly lists date of loss as August 30, 1942
NARA "United States Marine Corps Headquarters, Marine Aircraft Group Twenty-Three, First Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force page 2
"31 August 1942 - Routien patrols. 1300 Air raid alarm. Eight F4F-4's of VMF-223 and 18 planes of VMF-224 took off. No contact was made with the enemy. All planes of VMF-223 returned safely, but 3 planes of VMF-23 failed to return. The reason for the losses is not known but is attributed to oxygen failure. The missing pilots were:
2nd Lt. G E. Thompson, USMCR
2nd Lt C. E. Bryana, USMCR.
2nd Lt. R. R. Ameline, USMCR (returned 9 Sep 42 and evacuated)."
NARA "United States Marine Corps, Marine Fighting Squadron 224, History of VMF-224" page 7
"At 1100 on 31 August 1942, seventeen F4F-4's took off from Henderson Field, Guadalcanal for Combat Patrol over enemy territory, but did not make contact with any enemy aircraft. 2d Lts. Gordon E. Thompson, Charles F. Bryana and Richard R. Ameline, USMCR, disappeared from the flight at approximately 27,000 feet altitude, apparently from lack of oxygen."
Letter Captain Darrell Irwin (Personnel Officer VMF-224) to Mrs. Thompson December 16, 1942
"Tommy failed to return from a combat patrol on Aug. 31. No one actually saw Tommy crash. He left the squadron formation at a high altitude and disappeared. He may have crashed or parachuted in enemy territory."
History of the Marine Corps Aviation in World War II page 84
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gordon E. Thompson
FindAGrave - 2Lt Gordon Eugene Thompson (tablets of the missing photo)
Marines in World War II Commemorative Series - Time of Aces: Marine Pilots in the Solomons
"On 31 August, First Lieutenant Stanley S. Nicola of VMF-224 was on a flight with Second Lieutenant Richard R. Ameline, Second Lieutenant Charles E. Bryana, and Captain John F. Dobbin, the squadron executive officer. It was VMF-224's first combat mission since its arrival the day before. As the Marines struggled past 18,000 feet on their way up to 20,000, Lieutenant Nicola noticed two of the wingmen lagging farther and farther back. He called Ameline and Bryana but got no response. He then called Dobbin and said he wanted to drop back to check on the wayward Wildcats. "It's too late to break up the formation," Dobbin wisely said. "There's nothing we can do." Nicola closed up on Dobbin and they continued on. The two young aviators had problems with their primitive oxygen systems and lacking sufficient oxygen, they possibly had even passed out in the thin air. Nicola recalled, We never saw Bryana again. It was so senseless. I remember thinking that after all their training and effort, neither one of them ever fired a shot in anger. They had no chance. The oxygen system was just a tiny, white triangular mask that fitted over the nose and mouth. You turned on the bottle, and that was it. No pressure system, nothing. Apparently, the two Marine pilots had been jumped by roving Zeros. Bryana was thought to be killed almost immediately, while Ameline was able to bail out. He parachuted to the relative safety of the jungle, and as he attempted to return to Henderson Field, he encountered several Japanese patrols on the way back, killing four enemy soldiers before returning to the Marine lines."
Guadalcanal Tome I (2015) mentions this loss
Missing Marines - Gordon E. Thompson (photo)
Thanks to Gordon Thompson and Geoffrey Roecker for additional information
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September 19, 2021
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