|Pilot Commander William
Bowen Ault, O-057445 C. O. Lexington AIr Group (MIA / KIA) OR
Gunner ARM 1/C William Thomas
Butler, 2232491 (MIA / KIA) NY
MIA May 8, 1942
Built by Douglas at El Segundo, California. Constructors Number 812. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as SBD-3 Dauntless Bureau Number 4679.
Assigned to USS Lexington CV-2 to squadron VS-2. This aircraft was assigned to Commander William
Bowen Ault, Commanding Officer of Lexington Air Group and had "CLAG"
('Commander Lexington Air Group) painted on the fuselage. No nickname or nose art.
On May 8, 1942 took off from USS Lexington CV-2 during the Battle of the Coral
Sea on a dive bombing mission against Japanese aircraft carriers Shoho and Zuikaku.
Over the target, he reported via radio that both he and his radioman/gunner
were seriously wounded and that he had but twenty minutes fuel left.
In his last transmission he reported: "OK. So long people. We put
a 1,000 pound bomb on the flatop."
There were no witnesses to his
final minutes in the air. He was presumed
to have been shot down or ditched in the ocean following the strike
on the Japanese carriers. When this aircraft failed to return, the crew were officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Both crew members were officially declared dead on May 9, 1943. Ault and Butler are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. For his role in the mission, Ault earned the Navy Cross, posthumously.
Navy Cross citation, Commander In Chief, Pacific Fleet: Serial 13 (June 16, 1942):
"The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to William Bowen Ault (0-57445), Commander, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier- based Navy Combat Plane and Group commander of a Navy Air Group embarked from the U.S.S. LEXINGTON (CV-2), in action against enemy Japanese forces during the Air Battle of the Coral Sea, on 7 and 8 May 1942. Commander Ault led the air attack, carried out in the face of severe antiaircraft barrage and heavy fighter opposition, which resulted in the complete destruction of one enemy carrier on 7 May and major damage to another on 8 May. His failure to return from the latter encounter and his courageous conduct throughout the duration of these actions were an inspiration to the entire air group. Commander Ault's outstanding courage, daring airmanship and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country."
Robert Bowen Ault (son of Ault)
Navy Serial Number Search Results SBD-3 Dauntless 4679
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List May 1942 SBD-3 4632 pilot CDR Ault
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William B. Ault
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William T. Butler
FindAGrave - CDR William Bowen Ault (photos, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - ARM1 William T Butler (tablets of the missing)
Thanks to Robert Bowen Ault for additional information
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April 26, 2017