Robert G. Owens, Jr.
F4U Corsair Pilot, C. O. VMF-215
Robert G. Owens, Jr. was born February 13, 1917, in Greenville, SC. He attended Furman University and graduated in 1938 then enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) and was trained as an aviator at Pensacola. In 1940, commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. On October 30, 1941 he married his hometown sweetheart, Marjorie Frances "Fran" Hart in Hawaii.
On December 7, 1941 during the Japanese attack Owens was assigned to a Marine bomber squadron. Afterwards, assigned as the Executive Officer (X.O.) and later Commanding Officer (C. O.) of Marine Fighting Squadron 215 (VMF-215) as a pilot flying the F4U Corsair over the Solomon Islands. When asked about his life-threatening missions, Owens was known to give a philosophical reply in his southern drawl, "When you're the leader, you have to be brave. The choice isn't up to you."
On January 24, 1944 took off piloting F4U Corsair 02285 on a mission over Rabaul. Over the target he claimed a Zero and a probable but was damaged and returning from the mission ditched and was rescued by PBY Catalina and returned to duty. He
earned the Purple Heart for the injuries he sustained this mission. Also, the Navy Cross for his actions between January 5, 1944 to February 15, 1944. In total, Owens was credited with seven aerial victories.
Owens remained in the U. S. Marine Corps and served in Vietnam. On September 1, 1968 promoted to the rank of Major General. honorary pallbearer at President Dwight D. Eisenhower's funeral. In 1972 he retired from the Marine Corps.
passed away on October 31, 2007. He was buried on January 18, 2008 at Arlington National Cemetery at section 60 site 129.
NARA "VMF-215 War Diary January 1944" pages 11-12
NARA "VMF-215 War Diary January 1944 Action Reports January 23, 1944" pages 59-64
(Page 62) "Major Owens: Right over Rapopo, at about 8,000', as we were letting down toward the bombers, I saw a Zeke flying all by itself. I dove down on it, caught it at about 6,000' and gave it a long burst. He kicked to the right and left and I followed him and saw him smoking badly until he dove and turned back under me. I pulled up and looked back down at him. He was at about 4,000' smoking badly and going almost straight down."
(Page 63) "Then I climbed back up to the fighter formation and we went down to the bombers. We followed the bombers down the channel and we were first to th east of Cape Gazelle at 1500', weaving above the bombers, I saw a Jap coming towards the bombers low, from the south. I dove on him and caught him with a long burst at 10° deflection and saw him flame almost immediately and start down. He was not like any other Jap fighter plane that I've seen before. It had a rather short stubby fuselage with elliptical wings fairing back into the fuselage; large radial engine with a large spinner - and seemed to be going exceptionally fast."
Austin American Statesman "Twin-engined angels save 38 lost airmen in 35 days" February 21, 1944
"Typical of the men who praise the Navy’s pilot recovery program are Marine Major Robert G. Owens, 26, McDaniel Court, Greenville, S.C. ...over Rabaul, Maj. Owens was in a burning plane. He had just downed his seventh Zero when his own plane was hit.
Owen’s first reaction was to bail out. He even started to craw out onto the wing, but changed his mind when he saw he was directly over the city [Rabaul]. Getting back into his burning plane, he decided to try to get past Cape St. George, New Ireland. By some miracle the fire went out. On the horizon he saw the PBY that had picked up Hart, and when his plane motor started to fail. Owens radioed the PBY to stand by for a water landing. 'I had known of the great work done by those plane,' related the Marine ace, 'but now I say, God bless these men.'"
Alphabetical List of WW2 Marine Aces - Robert G. Owens
The Washington Post "Obituary Robert G. Owens Jr." November 11, 2007
FindAGrave - MG Robert Gordon Owens, Jr (photos, grave photo) Contribute
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