|Pilot 1st Lt. Robert W. Marshall, O-020355 USMCR (MIA / KIA) LA
Crashed January 20, 1944
Built by Vought. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) to F4U-1 Corsair bureau number 55835. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific.
Assigned to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), 2nd Marine Air Wing (MAW-2), attached to Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12) to Marine Fighting Squadron 321 (VMF-321) "Hell’s Angels". No known nickname or nose art. Squadron Number 900.
On January 20, 1944 at 11:25am took off from Torokina Airfield on Bougainville piloted by 1st Lt. Robert W. Marshall as one of eleven F4U Corsairs on a mission to escort B-25 Mitchells from the 42nd Bombardment Group (42nd BG) attacking Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. Also escorting were F4U Corsairs from VMF-211, P-38 Lightnings and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-40 Kitthawks. The weather was sunny with 25 mile visibility with a cloud ceiling at 6,000'.
This aircraft was part of Lt. See's Division flying top cover at an altitude of 4,000'. Approaching the target area to the south of Cape St. George, the formation scissored once, then Lt. See lost sight of the other sections. He also lost sight of Lt. Brindos and Lt. Marshall.
Over the target, intercepted by Japanese fighters including forty A6M Zeros and seven Ki-61 Tonys. The Corsairs engaged in air combat. Leaving the target area, F4U Corsair pilot 1st Lt C. I. Cobb, Jr. of VMF-211, joined up on Lt. Marshall. As the pair flew over Makurapau Plantation they drew 20mm anti-aircraft fire and both Corsairs were hit. Lt. Cobb could see oil spraying all over the inside of Marshall's canopy.
Lt. Marshall ditched into Saint Georges Channel roughly 18 miles south of Cape Gazele. On impact, this Corsair split into two pieces. Circling, Lt. Cobb did not observe him get out of the cockpit. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Also lost was F4U 02402 pilot Captain Marion R. McCown, Jr. (MIA) and F4U 17914 (MIA) pilot 1st Lt. Roger H. Brindos.
Marshall was officially declared dead the day of the mission and posthumously promoted to the rank of Captain and earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1A Corsair 55835
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List January 1944 - F4U Corsair 55835
NARA "Marine Fighter Squadron 321 (VMF-321) War Diary January 1944" pages 2, 3
(Page 2) "Roster of Flight Echelon - Marshall, Robert W. 1st Lt. USMCR"
(Page 3) "Marshall, Robert W. 1st Lt. Missing In Action 20 Jan 44"
(Page 27) "Forces Engaged: Wardle, Harmon, See, Whiting, Hames, Mc Cown, Griffith, Adam, Brindos, Samuelson, Marshall / Losses: VMF-321, Capt. Mc Cown, Lts. Brindos and Marshall Missing"
(Page 28) "Narrative Account: ...After scissoring once, Lt. See lost sight of Lts. Brindos, and Marshall, the other section... Capt. Mc Cown, and Lts. Brindos and Marshall failed to return from the mission... 1st Lt C. I. Cobb, of VMF-211, joined on Lt. Marshall in plane 900, on the way out from target. As they passed over Makurapou Plantation they drew 20 mm fire. Lt. Cobb's plane was hit as well as Lt. Marshall's. Lt. Cobb could see oil spraying all over the inside of Marshall's canopy. Lt. Marshall made a water landing,"
(Page 29) "approximately 18 miles down St. George Chanel, from Cape Gazele. Lt. Cobb circled as Marshall's plane hit the water and split in two. He did not observe the pilot to get out of the plane. Approximately 40 Zekes and 7 Tonys were seen over the area."
NARA "Aircraft Action Report (AAR) VMF-321 January 20 1944 Report No. 13" pages 88-91
(Page 89) "1st Lt. R. W. Marshall / Cause: Unknown / Missing In Action"
NARA "Marine Fighter Squadron 211 (VMF-211) War Diary January 1944" pages 9-10
NARA "Aircraft Action Report (AAR) VMF-211 January 20, 1944" pages 44-46
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert W. Marshall
Capt Robert Woodson Marshall (photo, tablets of the missing)
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July 12, 2019