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1st Lt Robert M. Hanson
United States Marine Corps, F4U Corsair Pilot

Background
Robert Murry Hanson was born February 4, 1920 in Lucknow, India. His parents were Methodist missionaries and after attending junior high school in the United States, he returned to India to become light-heavyweight and heavy-weight wrestling champion of the United Provinces. In the spring of 1938 he bicycled through Europe before returning to the United States to attend Hamline University.

Wartime History
Click For EnlargementIn May 1942 he enlisted in the U. S. Navy (USN) for flight training earned his wings. On February 19, 1943 commissioned in the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) as a second lieutenant at Corpus Christi, Texas. During June 1943, he arrived in the South Pacific.

Assigned to Marine Fighting Squadron 214 "Fighting Corsairs" VMF-214 flying the F4U Corsair. Next, transfered to Marine Fighting Squadron 215 "Fighting Corsairs" VMF-215 operating from Barakoma Airfield on Vella Lavella Island. All his combat missions were piloting the F4U Corsair. In combat, he claimed 20 enemy planes in seventeen consecutive flying days.

On November 1, 1943 Hanson took off piloting F4U Corsair 17472 on a combat air patrol (CAP) mission over Empress Augusta Bay off Bougainville and claimed three aerial victories (two Zeros and one Kate) before his Corsair was damaged and he ditched and was rescued later the same day by USS Sigourney (DD-643) and returned to duty.

On January 24, 1944 he claimed four Zeros over New Britain.

In total, he claimed 25 aerial victories and was the third highest scoring USMC ace.

Missing In Action
On February 3, 1944 Hanson took off piloting F4U Corsair 56039 on a escort mission over Rabaul. Returning, this Corsair attempted to strafe targets at Cape Alexander on New Ireland. When he failed to return he was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Medal of Honor
Hanson earned the Medal of Honor for actions between November 1, 1943 and January 24, 1944. TmOn August 19, 1944 the Medal of Honor was presented to his mother by Maj. Gen. Lewie G. Merritt in Boston, Massachusetts. Hanson also earned the Navy Cross, Air Medal. When he went Missing In Action (MIA) he also earned the Purple Heart (posthumously).

Medal of Honor
Medal of HonorCitation: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and above and beyond the call of duty as fighter pilot attached to Marine Fighting Squadron 215 in action against enemy Japanese forces at Bougainville Island, 1 November 1943; and New Britain Island, 24 January 1944. Undeterred by fierce opposition, and fearless in the face of overwhelming odds, 1st Lt. Hanson fought the Japanese boldly and with daring aggressiveness. On 1 November, while flying cover for our landing operations at Empress Augusta Bay, he dauntlessly attacked six enemy torpedo bombers, forcing them to jettison their bombs and destroying one Japanese plane during the action. Cut off from his division while deep in enemy territory during a high cover flight over Simpson Harbor on 24 January, 1st Lt. Hanson waged a lone and gallant battle against hostile interceptors as they were orbiting to attack our bombers and, striking with devastating fury, brought down four Zeroes and probably a fifth. Handling his plane superbly in both pursuit and attack measures, he was a master of individual air combat, accounting for a total of 25 Japanese aircraft in this theater of war. His great personal valor and invincible fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service."

References
Alphabetical List of WW2 Marine Aces - Hanson
History of the Marine Corps Aviation in World War II pages 182-183 (November 1, 1943 mission), 200 (February 3, 1944 mission), 425 (Appendix I, Medal of Honor: Hanson), 431 (Appendix V, Marine Corps Aces in WWII: Hanson, 25), 485 (index Hanson)
NARA " VMF-215 War Diary November 1943" page 3
(Page 3) "Box Score (while attached to squadron) 1st Lt. R. M. Hanson - 3"
NARA " VMF-215 War Diary November 1943" page 4-5 (November 1, 1943 mission)
Target Rabaul
pages 300-306

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