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  F4F-4 Wildcat Bureau Number 03438  
USMC
MAW-1
MAG-23
VMF-224

Pilot  2nd Lt. Richard Ronald Amerine (survived) Lawrence, KS
Crashed  August 31, 1942


Aircraft History
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.

Wartime History
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 or nose art. On August 29, 1942 Bryans flew from Efate to Espiritu Santo. On August 30, 1942 he flew to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal arriving in the afternoon.

Mission History
On August 31, 1942 took off from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal at 1:00pm piloted by 2nd Lt Charles E. Bryans on a combat patrol following an air raid alarm. The formation included eighteen F4F Wildcats from VMF-224 plus eight F4F Wildcats from VMF-223. This was the first combat mission flown by VMF-224 after their arrival the previous afternoon.

This Wildcat was part of a flight of four led by 1st Lt. Stanley S. Nicolay with 2nd Lt. Richard R. Amerine and Captain John F. Dobbin. After reaching an altitude of 18,000' Nicolay noticed Amerine and Bryans lagging behind and called to them, without response. Nicolay wanted to drop back to form up, but Dobbin warned against breaking up the formation. Instead, Nicolay and Dobbin formed up on each other and continued to climb to 20,000' and continued the patrol without making contact with any enemy aircraft.

Neither Amerine or Bryans were seen again. Afterwards, their losses were attributed to either a lack of oxygen that disoriented them or both were shot down by enemy Zeros. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost were F4F Wildcat 02104 pilot Thompson (MIA) and F4F Wildcat 02122 pilot Bryans (MIA).

Fate of the Pilot
In fact, Amerine experienced an oxygen system failure and began loosing conscious when his engine failed but managed to bail out landing in the sea and managed to swim several miles to the north coast of Guadalcanal then began walked roughly fifty miles back to the Marine perimeter in early September 1942. During his trek, he ate insects and coconuts and claimed to kill four Japanese soldiers he encountered.

Afterwards, he was hospitalized and interviewed by 2nd Lt. H. L. Merillat, Marine Corps Public Relations Officer in the Solomons who wrote about his story in a news article "Marine Gets Past Enemy Patrol" released on September 6, 1942.

Memorials
Amerine passed away on July 20, 1969. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Kansas City, MO. He also has a grave at Forest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City, MO.

References
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4F-4 Wildcat 03438

USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List August 1942 - F4F Wildcat 02122 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 - Routine 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. Bryans, USMCR.
2nd Lt. R. R. Amerine, 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. Bryans and Richard R. Amerine, USMCR, disappeared from the flight at approximately 27,000 feet altitude, apparently from lack of oxygen."
News "Marine Gets Past Enemy Patrol" September 6, 1942 (delayed)"
"The following report by 2nd Lt. H. L. Merillat, Marine Corps Public Relations Officer in the Solomons, gives details of an interview with Richard Ronald Amerine, U.S.M.C. whose escape through enemy patrol lines after he had parachuted into the sea near the north end of Guadalcanal was disclosed in recent press dispatches from the island.
Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, September 6 (delayed) - A forced parachute jump, a 4 mile swim in the Coral Sea, 7 days in the Japanese infested northern tip of Guadalcanal, and a 50 mile hike through the bush left Lt. Richard Ronald Amerine, Marine Corps pilot of Lawrence, Kans., weak and suffering from exposure but still smiling when he staggered into a Marine outpost today."
History of the Marine Corps Aviation in World War II page 84
Marines in World War II Commemorative Series - Time of Aces: Marine Pilots in the Solomons
"On 31 August, First Lieutenant Stanley S. Nicolay of VMF-224 was on a flight with Second Lieutenant Richard R. Amerine, Second Lieutenant Charles E. Bryans, 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 Nicolay noticed two of the wingmen lagging farther and farther back. He called Amerine and Bryans 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." Nicolay 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. Nicolay recalled, We never saw Bryans 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. Bryans was thought to be killed almost immediately, while Amerine 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 pages ???
FindAGrave - Richard R Amerine (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Richard Ronald Amerine (grave Forest Hill Cemetery photo)
Thanks to Geoffrey Roecker for additional information

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Last Updated
July 23, 2018

 

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