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.
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.
The P-40 had a 14 to 1 kill ratio against Jap planes in China.
Assymetrical warfare is the way to go. Dogfighting just gets you shot. Slash and go wins.
Eric Hartmann called the P-47 a “20mm sponge”.
Great plane. If the Army Air Corps kept them they could have used them instead of A-1s in Vietnam.
Speaking as a never-served civilian that would have been easy meat in
Of all the luminaries on The History Channel’s “Dogfights”, DeBlanc’s
monologue on the “Guadacanal” episode is just the greatest. When he
recalls his plea to his group to stick together and that he’s making
a one-way trip with a leaking gas tank,
then he drawls out “Now, ah ain’t no hero...”
Better dialogue than 99.99% of all the war-time movies made in Hollyweird.
My next favorite is Robin Olds of WWII and Vietnam conflict.
And the pilot (name escapes me) that pursues a likely Russian pilot
back into China in the “Mig Alley” episode, blowing the holy cr-p out
of a row of Migs.
But for one favorite episode, I go with the underdogs of “Long Odds”.
Dogfights: Guadalcanal DVD
Dogfights: Long Odds DVD
Dogfights: MiG Alley DVD
Number and caliber are important but you also need to know the rate of fire and velocity to make a final determination of pounds of steel on target and energy delivered on target per unit time.
“If anyone wants to see a Wildcat, there is one on display in the concourse
OHare airport in Chicago.”
And for the younguns’ that want to know...
1. Why the plane was placed there
2. Why it’s “O’Hare” airport
here’s a link
“Colonel Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune,
suggested a name change of Chicago’s Orchard Depot Airport as tribute
to Butch O’Hare. On September 19, 1949, the Chicago, Illinois airport
was renamed O’Hare International Airport. “
“The aircraft was restored by the Air Classics Museum to look like
the exact one that O’Hare flew, and is exhibited in Terminal Two at
the west end of the ticketing lobby to honor
O’Hare International Airport’s namesake.”
That caught my attention, as well. I’ve never seen a picture of a Wildcat, Hellcat, or Corsair with olive green paint.
I read a great book about Erich Hartmann. His Father, a Dr. was a medical missionary to China and his mother a blonde bombshell.
He was the all time ace of aces and deserves to be much more famous than he is. 352 confirmed kills and the Germans were the most unforgiving in crediting an air to air kill. They literally required proof before giving the pilot credit.
I’m guessing it was a weight factor since that seemed to be their primary consideration for just about everything else.
Zeros had 7.7mm machine guns, not 13.7mm. Rifle caliber machine guns didn’t have near the punch of a .50 cal BMG, especially against studier US aircraft.
The Zero’s 20mm cannon is a heavy hitter but it has two major drawbacks. It has a slow rate of fire and a very limited ammo supply (60 rounds per gun IIRC). A great weapon against a big, slow bomber. Not so great against a small, nimble fighter.