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USS Belleau Wood
|Pilot Ensign John R. Clem, O-306169 USNR (MIA / KIA) WV
Crashed February 1, 1944
Built by Grumman as Model G-50. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F6F-3 Hellcat bureau number 40121.
Assigned to USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) to squadron VF-24. No known nickname or nose art.
On February 1, 1944 took off from USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) piloted by Ensign John R. Clem as one of eight Hellcats on a support mission over Kwajalien Atoll. This aircraft was flying as wingman for Lt. W. H. Sours leading the section. The weather was 6/10 cover from 2,000' to 10,000'.
Over the target, the formation strafed machine gun emplacements and ammunition dumps and on Bigel Island. Following behind and below Sours, this Hellcat was damaged when an ammunition dump was set on fire and exploded ahead of this plane. Unable to avoid the blast, the explosion tore off part of the right wing and damaged the controls causing it to spin into the lagoon at high speed, crashing off Bigel Island. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
After the crash, the formation searched at low level for Clem without result but debris was observed.
Clem was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Clem is memorialized at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) on the courts of the missing, court 5. He also has a memorial marker at West Virginia National Cemetery in section MA site 33.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F6F-3 Hellcat 40121
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List February 1944 - F6F-3 Hellcat 40121
NARA "VF 24 Aircraft Action Report 1-2 Feb. 1944" pages 41-44
(Page 42) "F6F-3 VF-24 Explosion of ammunition dump, right wing, below, destroyed
Ensign John R. Clem, USNR crash in lagoon dead."
(Page 44) "Lieut. W. H. Sours, A-V(N), USNR led his section down on a dump in area 342. He set the dump on afire. His wingman, Ensign John R. Clem, A-V(N), USNR, following in behind and below, was unable to avoid the blast, which tore part of his right wing off and apparently damaged the controls. The plane spun into the lagoon at high speed. The pilot was not seen again, although the debris was searched from the air at very low altitude."
American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) - John R. Clem
FindAGrave - Ens John Robert Clem (photo, courts of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - ENS John Robert Clem (photo, memorial marker)
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