Obit of the Day: A Hero of Guadalcanal
During the Battle of Guadalcanal in the South Pacific, U.S. Marines, numbering 800, found themselves facing a Japanese force of 6000 troops. Although the Marines held the high ground on the ridge, the thought of victory was far off.
It was at this point that the U.S. Army Air Corps’ 67th Fighter Squadron (“The Fighting Cocks”) was looked to for support. The squadron was originally composed of 14 P-400 fighter planes. At the time of the battle, September 14, 1942, the squadron had only five operational aircraft - and enough fuel for only three. So the squadron’s commander, Captain John Thompson, and his two wingmen, Lt. B.E. Davis and Lt. B.W. Brown agreed to provide air support.
Capt. Thompson led two runs firing into the mass of Japanese troops, halting them yards away from the Marines. During the second run, the pilots sustained damage and returned to base. But they had done enough.
Later that day, Capt. Thompson was approached by USMC Generals Alexander Vandergrift and Roy Geiger who told the pilot, “You’ll never read it in the papers but that P-400 mission of yours at Bloody Ridge, saved Guadalcanal.” Capt. Thompson received the Navy Cross for his actions, one of only 11 Army pilots so honored during World War II.
The following day, the Japanese were forced to retreat - it was the largest Japanese force to lose a battle up to that time in the war - and would never again possess Guadalcanal. Japanese military leaders presciently stated that “Guadalcanal might develop into the decisive battle of the war.”
Capt. John Thompson, who would later serve as an intelligence officer under Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Japan, died on December 17, 2013 at the age of 101.
(Image of Capt. Thompson, September 1943, in the cockpit of his P-400 fighter is courtesy of the 67th Fighter Squadron official page)