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.
The events described in this post are featured in History Channel DOGFIGHTS episode, along with commentary by DeBlanc.
HONOR BOUND. May the good Lord give him in his remaining years only the pleasures of good health and the love of family and friends, and a reminder every now and then. WE DO NOT FORGET WHAT THEY DID.
On the other hand, the Wildcat dived better than the Zero, was better armed, and could take far more punishment and still return home.
August 1942... the Solomon Islands. Heroic, die-hard American pilots of the tiny Cactus Air Force match skills and instincts against top Japanese aces as they battle in the skies above Guadalcanal. Legendary Marine Capt. John Smith and Medal of Honor recipients Jeff De Blanc and Jim Swett pit their tough 4F4 Wildcats against the relentless Japanese Zeros. At stake--the fate of the Pacific War.
Saw the show. Great stuff!
I know, that’s what made me google him. I had read about Col Deblanc, but didn’t know all the details. I may have gone to college with his grandson—a Jeff Deblanc from the New Iberia-St Martinville area. If not his grandson, I’m sure they’re related somehow.
Saw one of those yesterday landing a Lawrence (Mass.) airport.
I can well believe that a Marine Wildcat flying out of Henderson Field might well have been painted OD green. It might not have come from the factory like that, but I doubt that would have stopped the crew chief from making some field appearance modifications for better camouflage against enemy air attacks while parked.
Yep, when the Wildcat was upgraded to the Hellcat, it could out climb and outrun the Zero. It also had the same long range as the Zero - from 760 miles to 1150 or thereabouts. The US pilots cleared the Pacific skies of the Zero with the Hellcat. I think the Hellcat shot down somewhere around 6,000 Zeros.
This also makes the actions of Lt.DeBlanc even more heroic since he was fighting a superior plane in the Zero.
Did they go for more ammo storage instead? Less weight, greater range?
If anyone wants to see a Wildcat, there is one on display in the concourse O’Hare airport in Chicago.
Wildcats would try to engage Zeros nose on where their advantage showed. "Don't dogfight a Zero" was the motto.
The Hellcat ("Zero killer") outclassed the Zero in every category except turn radius. The Hellcat had a 19 to 1 kill ratio highest of any aircraft in history. It shot down 12,000 enemy aircraft, the most of any U.S. model.
The Wildcat had better armor than the Zero(who would explode if you shot it’s fuselage), hydraulic controls, self sealing gas tanks, and lots of firepower.
No idea. As an armchair expert who flys these planes online, I’ll take a P-47 with 8 50 cals set to converge at 900ft. :-)
The Zero had a twin 20mm cannon and twin 13.7mm MGs, which, imho, gave it a fire power advantage over both the Wildcat and the Hellcat’s six 0.50 Cal. The Hellcat was an entirely new airframe.
Only 6? The Jug had 8, but that belonged to a military organization.