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|Pilot 1st Lt. Gordon Lee Lyon, Jr., O-011950 (MIA / KIA) MS
MIA February 14, 1943 "Saint Valentines Day Masacre"
Built by Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1 Corsair bureau number 02187. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific and reassembled.
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) to squadron VMF-124 "Whistling Death/Wild Aces". No known nickname, nose art or squadron number.
On February 14, 1943 took off from Guadalcanal piloted by 1st Lt. Gordon Lee Lyon, Jr. as one of twelve F4U Corsairs flying close escort for nine PB4Y-1 Liberators from VB-101 on a daylight bombing mission against Japanese shipping off southern Bougainville. Also escorting were ten P-38G Lightnings from the 339th Fighter Squadron. The weather was clear with scattered clouds.
After the bomb run, the formation was intercepted by Japanese Zeros and floatplane fighters and engaged in air combat with the U. S. formation.
Justin Taylan adds:
"I researched this mission at the Tokyo Defense archives. A total of 42 Japanese aircraft intercepted including 18 Zeros from 252 Kōkūtai, 13 Zeros from 204 Kōkūtai and 11 A6M2-N Rufes from 802 Kōkūtai."
When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Due to the severe American losses, this mission was dubbed the "Saint Valentines Day Massacre".
Lyon was officially declared dead on February 14, 1944. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Lyon is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1 Corsair 02187
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List February 1943 - F4U Corsair 02187
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gordon Lee Lyon Jr.
FindAGrave - 1Lt Gordon Lee Lyon, Jr (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II (1952) by Robert Sherrod page 135
"On 14 February, their third day in the combat area, the F4U pilots learned that Japanese flyers had not lost their skill or aggressiveness. About 50 well-alerted Zeros were waiting from the raid on Kahili Field in southern Bougainville. The Japanese shot down two F4U's, two Navy PB4Y's, two P-40's [sic, those were lost February 13, 1943] and the entire top cover of four P-38's, with a loss to themselves of only three Zeros, [sic only one was lost], one of which collided with a F4U. This 'Saint Valentine's Day massacre' was a painful blow to the Guadalcanal-based flyers of all services."
Corsair page 30
"Two F4U's were also lost with their pilots, Lieutenants Lyon and Stewart.... only three Zekes were downed [incorrect, one Japanese plane was lost] and one of them had collided with Lyon's Corsair..."
Thanks to Paul Roales for additional information
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