Fighter plane squadrons were deployed to the South Pacific for one purpose: To fly low, medium, and high cover to protect bomber squadrons from attacks by enemy planes.
Fighters were also used to protect Navy convoys, search for downed pilots, as well as fighter sweeps to clear enemy territory of other attack aircraft.
VMF-216 is a squadron of several firsts:
In 1999, about all we had to go on was a brief summary of the squadron from Robert Sherrod's
definitive book, History of Marine Corps Aviation in WWII:
Originated 1Jan43, El Centro; commissioned 16Sep43, departed that day
for Pearl Harbor in Long Island. Arrived Espritu 23Nov43. Arrived Bougainville
10Dec43. Flight ech moved to Piva 14Feb44. Sq sent to Guam 4Aug44,
attacked Rota and Pagan during following months. In Dec44 went to Oahu
for carrier training and flight ech reported on board Wasp at Ulithi 5Feb45.
Sq supported Iwo landings and made strikes on Japan and Okinawa. Ret to
Pearl Harbor and left for US 26Mar45 on board Copahee. Remained at
Santa Barbara for duration.
Capt William P Addington 1-26Jan43
Capt Max R. Read, Jr. 26Jan to 23Jun43
Maj. Rivers J. Morrell, Jr. 23Jun43 – 22Jan44
Maj Benjamin S. Hargrave, Jr. 22Jan to 4May44
Major John Fitting, Jr. 5May to 30Oct44
Maj. Richard L. Blume, Jr. 31Oct to 7Dec44
Maj. George E. Dooley 8Dec44 to 18Apr45
Lt. George F. Kelley 19Apr to 20May45
Maj Robert L. Anderson 21May45 to surrender.
This wasn't much, but here were some basic clues to follow to generate a more detailed squadron history.
Website Structure and Organization
This core of VMF-216's history is from the war diaries from the National Archives. These are daily logs of squadron's activities recorded by Capt. William B. Hagenah, (Intelligence Officer for the first three tours) along with the squadron's clerk, Corporal Clifford Clauson. These are detailed, official records of who went where, when, how long, and did what. One vital source, the Aircraft Action Reports, for the most part, are not available from the Archives or Marine Corps records, but will be added as they are located. Because many of the photocopied microfilm reports are difficult to read, most documents have been transcribed into the same (or as close as possible) format as the originals, preserving all information and context.
From these documents, we follow the squadron's chronology: Formation, Training, First, Second, Third, and Fourth tours. When available, we then add details to specific events with links to maps, photos, official reports, film, personal stories from conversations, letters, and emails as well as other war activities that surrounded VMF-216's operations at The Russell Islands, Bougainville, Guam, aboard the U.S.S. Wasp, and their missions to Tokyo and Iwo Jima.
We attempt get as close to these gentlemen as possible from their own stories, personal photographs, letters, logbooks, etc., as well as our own conclusions to put their missions and daily lives in full context. We can't reproduce the constant heat and humidity of equatorial South Pacific, the daytime swarms of flies and the nighttime mosquito barrages, the endless meals of Spam, powdered potatoes, eggs, and weak coffee, nor the effects of leaking tents during daily rains or breathing pure oxygen during high altitude missions or bad water and poor sanitation resulting in catastrophic gastric distress, the effects of malaria and dengue fever, the prehistoric-size centipedes, scorpions, lizards, etc. all wanting to get friendly. At the very least, we'll give it our best shot to tell their story.
Researching, organizing and writing the story of VMF-216 has
been an arduous, often frustrating endeavor. Gathering historical records with little context and from scores of different sources is a daunting task, especially with no clear direction and with only tiny parts surfacing at a time. Compiling a more complete history is quite elusive;
some books and other written sources contribute a few words or sentences, photographs show up taken at some unknown place and time that give vague hints (or not), but with more information, can lead in some new directions altogether.
The core of this squadron's history is their war diaries from the National Archives. These are daily logs of squadron's activities recorded by Capt. William B. Hagenah, (Intelligence Officer for the first three tours) along with the squadron's clerk, Corporal Clifford Clauson. These are detailed, official records of who went where, when, how long, and did what. One vital source, the Aircraft Action Reports, for the most part, are not available from the Archives or Marine Corps records, but will be added as they are located. Because many of the photocopied microfilm reports are difficult to read, most documents have been transcribed into the same (or as close as possible) format as the originals, preserving all information and context.
Interviews with the squadron's pilots and ground personnel are priceless and have contributed greatly to sort out the squadron's story. We rarely find a whole recognizable piece of a puzzle that fits neatly into place. Instead we find pieces of those pieces, with rough edges and random orientations with seemingly no connections to any other piece. Each shard may or may not be relevant, so each is roughly categorized to find where it fits or set aside for other relevent pieces to appear.
This is the still developing story of VMF-216 and we continue to search eagerly for new information from squadron members, their families, or from historical records themselves and we update that information here. We wanted to stay away from simply telling a dry, chronological history of the squadron, so we've created an interactive site with mouse-over or click popup images, films, maps, and separate pages with more details. If these links don't pop up with the cursor roll-over, click the link. If that doesn't work, please let us know so we can fix it. Your comments, suggestions, questions, and participation are always welcome, so please take advantage of our Guestbook section.
Although VMF-216 was an F4U Corsair fighter squadron exclusively, certainly did not operate in isolation. Their flight operations were woven with other Marine Corps squadrons (VMF-211, -223, -222, -213, -321, -214, -215, -217, for example), Navy fighter squadrons such as VF-17, VF-33, and VF-40, Army Air Corps' heavy, medium, and SBD bomber squadrons from Segi Point, Munda, and Guadalcanal, Marine Corps and Army ground forces, Seabees, Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) squadrons, and many others.
The first question we had to answer was Why Bougainville and where the heck is it?".