Marine Ace v Fifty 'Zeros'
30th August 1943: Medal of Honor for US Marine aviator who does not hesitate to attack when vastly outnumbered - and survives multiple hits to his aircraft
When Marine Fighting Squadron ‘VMF’ 124 arrived in the Solomons in February 1943 none of its airmen had more than 25 hours of flying experience in the new F4U Vought Corsair. The aircraft had originally been intended for use on carriers but the extended length of the engine limited forward visibility during take-off and landing. So the Corsair was deemed more suitable for land-based operations.
Lt. Walsh repeatedly dived his plane into an enemy formation outnumbering his own division six to one and, although his plane was hit numerous times, shot down two Japanese dive bombers and one fighter.
The aircraft’s combat capabilities had to be evaluated ‘live’ - while engaged with the enemy. Lt. Kenneth Walsh1 was later to recall:
I learned quickly that altitude was paramount. Whoever had altitude dictated the terms ofthe battle and there was nothing a Zero pilot could do to change that - we had him.