Skip to comments.Marines bring in his Wildcat
Posted on 06/08/2007 8:42:39 PM PDT by kms61
It wasnt for keeps or to park in his garage, but being surprised with the type of aircraft he used to shoot down six Japanese fighter planes over the Pacific Ocean in 1943 set up a memorable day for retired U.S. Marine Corps pilot Jeff DeBlanc, 86, of St. Martinville.
I am so very humbled and its so nice to see everyone who came out to do this for me, said DeBlanc as he looked into the crowd sprinkled with young uniformed officers. As one Marine to another I look at them as veterans that survived the war just like me.
Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman in 1946 for his heroic moves in the South Pacific, DeBlanc has spent years telling his extraordinary war stories to attentive ears. The private gathering of DeBlancs family, friends, and military buddies was spearheaded by Capt. Charlie Simmons who said that the idea to fly in the Grumman F4F Wildcat from Addison, Texas, was done on a whim.
I was having a casual conversation with Bud Lee and I told him that I thought it would be nice to honor (DeBlanc) in some way, Simmons said. I found a guy with a refurbished WWII frontline carrier fighter and everything fell into place from there.
As the plane arrived at the airport, its olive green wings spread majestically in width detailed on its sides by a large white star trailed by a dark blue stripe.
Once its polished propellers finished slicing through the sunlight, the crowd gathered around to get a peak at a piece of history.
The aircraft was flown in by Michael Burke and is regularly housed at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum.
Simmons said that several of DeBlancs friends chipped in to raise roughly $3,000 to get the plane flown in Wednesday to the Acadiana Regional Airport.
DeBlancs son, Jeff DeBlanc Jr., said he was proud of his fathers accomplishments and appreciative of what his fathers friends had pulled together to do.
I am very proud of my dad and its a wonderful opportunity for him to the see the plane he actually flew over Guadalcanal in WWII, said DeBlanc Jr. He was also excited that the F-18 planes that had the same squadron as him were here too.
In reference to Tom Brokaws best-selling book The Greatest Generation, Capt. Bud Forrest said that DeBlanc epitomizes the importance of that generation.
Hes certified Greatest Generation, said Forrest. They didnt ask for anything. They just went over there, won the war and didnt think twice about it.
DeBlanc received celebrity treatment Wednesday as he signed autographs and stood in for dozens of photos with adoring fans of all ages and military branches.
Aside from the specially requested aircraft flown in as a surprise, four other F-18 fighter jets danced over head for DeBlancs pleasure as well as for the pleasure of pilots-to-be.
Jets are really cool, said DeBlancs 8-year-old great-grandson Taylor Romero, who plans to become a pilot in the armed services like his great-grandfather.
I like that my grandpa was a hero because it lets me know I can be one too.
Romero was accompanied by his cousins Sean Broussard, 6, Beau Broussard, 4, and DeBlancs granddaughter Christie Broussard, who said that after years of hearing her grandfathers story things still seem surreal.
My grandfather still has a spear from one of the natives on the island where he was captured hanging in his living room, Christie said.
Things like the spear and several photos are what make the stories come to life, she said.
Capt. Conrad Milne, USMC, out of NAS Atlanta in Marietta, Ga., was among the four pilots who flew in for the event.
A second pilot, Maj. Kevin Paetzold, spent a portion of the event answering questions from curious civilians about the jets maneuvering and fighting capabilities.
From here we can shoot 478 rounds in four seconds, he explained, pointing to the jets front shooter.
Paetzold said that he was honored to make the trip because of his connection to DeBlanc through his squadron.
He was in our squadron when he shot down those planes in WWII, Paetzold said. The squadron is VMFA-112.
Lawrence Gauthier, 80, said that he has known DeBlanc since he was 5 years old growing up in St. Martinville. The two would later become pilots and shared the same squadron.
This is fantastic and he deserves it, Gauthier said. I wouldnt have missed this for the world.
DeBlanc is the last living Medal of Honor recipient in the state of Louisiana. He retired as a colonel in 1972.
F4F-4 “Wildcat” characteristics:
Dimensions: Wing Span, 38 feet; Length, 28 feet 9 inches; Wing Area, 260 square feet.
Weights: Empty, 5785 pounds; Gross, 7975 pounds
Powerplant: One 1,200 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine.
Armament: Six .50 caliber Browning machine guns; Two 100-pound bombs.
Performance: Maximum Speed, 320 m.p.h. (@ 19,800 feet & weight of 7975 pounds).
Can you explain how this was posted by someone other than you? You’re slipping son.
SIR! NO EXCUSE SIR!
Boy! What I couldn’t do with 6 .50 Cals. ;-)
Morning commute got ya down.. Yeee Haaaaa!!!
The guys that flew these babies in combat were a special breed, imo.
The Cowboys of the sky..
Thank You, U.S. Marine Corps pilot Jeff DeBlanc, last living Medal of Honor recipient in the state of Louisiana.
Absolutely wonderful! Thanks for posting it. Brings tears to my eyes, and a great deal of respect to my heart.
God bless. The greatest generation indeed!
Your damn right, now drop and give me 50.
DEBLANC, JEFFERSON JOSEPH
Rank and Organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Marine Fighting Squadron 112. Place and date: Off Kolombangara Island in the Solomons group, 31 January 1943. Entered service at: Louisiana. Born: 15 February 1921, Lockport, La. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as leader of a section of 6 fighter planes in Marine Fighting Squadron 112, during aerial operations against enemy Japanese forces off Kolombangara Island in the Solomons group, 31 January 1943. Taking off with his section as escort for a strike force of dive bombers and torpedo planes ordered to attack Japanese surface vessels, 1st Lt. DeBlanc led his flight directly to the target area where, at 14,000 feet, our strike force encountered a large number of Japanese Zeros protecting the enemy’s surface craft. In company with the other fighters, 1st Lt. DeBlanc instantly engaged the hostile planes and aggressively countered their repeated attempts to drive off our bombers, persevering in his efforts to protect the diving planes and waging fierce combat until, picking up a call for assistance from the dive bombers, under attack by enemy float planes at 1,000 feet, he broke off his engagement with the Zeros, plunged into the formation of float planes and disrupted the savage attack, enabling our dive bombers and torpedo planes to complete their runs on the Japanese surface disposition and withdraw without further incident. Although his escort mission was fulfilled upon the safe retirement of the bombers, 1st Lt. DeBlanc courageously remained on the scene despite a rapidly diminishing fuel supply and, boldly challenging the enemy’s superior number of float planes, fought a valiant battle against terrific odds, seizing the tactical advantage and striking repeatedly to destroy 3 of the hostile aircraft and to disperse the remainder. Prepared to maneuver his damaged plane back to base, he had climbed aloft and set his course when he discovered 2 Zeros closing in behind. Undaunted, he opened fire and blasted both Zeros from the sky in a short, bitterly fought action which resulted in such hopeless damage to his own plane that he was forced to bail out at a perilously low altitude atop the trees on enemy-held Kolombangara. A gallant officer, a superb airman, and an indomitable fighter, 1st Lt. DeBlanc had rendered decisive assistance during a critical stage of operations, and his unwavering fortitude in the face of overwhelming opposition reflects the highest credit upon himself and adds new luster to the traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
This mans efforts and accomplishments were the topic of the History channels show Dogfights tonight ! Should be a rerun in the AM.......his story was impressive !
They erned the right to have the TV brought back from banishment to the basement and are now happy to have a set of rabbit ears to work with. It's a permanent probationary period, subject to revocation at my whim for the slightest of transgressions.
It was slow and underpowered and couldn’t climb or turn with the Zero and Oscars but the pilots came through and killed many enemy planes with the F4F wildcat until better planes came into play. The Catus airforce in particular had a very rough time on the Canal but persevered and won the day. God bless ‘em and thanks to all of them for their sacrifices.
An olive green Wildcat -- I don't think so...Wartime Wildcats came in three variations of blue. Light blue-gray early in the war, tricolor blue in the middle of the war and dark sea blue late in the war.
That and they could spell “peek” (rather than “peak”), but an inspiring story nonetheless.