Comment made by Don Larson
Here’s some info on Wayne C Presley after he joined VC38/VF38 in June of 1943 and was shipped out to the Solomon Islands:
Lt.(jg)Wayne C. Presley (VF-38)
On September 16, 1943, Presley took off from Munda Airfield in his F6F-3 Hellcat fighter, as part of the escort for 24 TBFs and 31 SBDs attacking Ballale Island. The escort consisted of 13 Hellcats from VF-38 and 11 Hellcats from VF-40, in addition to other F6F, F4U, P-40, and P-38’s making up a total of 71 escorting fighters. Over the target, 40-50 intercepting Zeros and Tonys were met, and heavy anti-aircraft cover was encountered over the target. Presley and his Hellcat (Bureau Number 25940) was observed to crash into the sea and is listed as MIA. Lt.(jg) Presley was declared dead on January 9, 1946. Lt.(jg) Presley was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Gold Star, and Purple Heart (posthumously).
Don Larson is not related to Lt.(jg)Wayne C. Presley (VF-38)
No, not related. My uncle was a TBF pilot in the same squadron – VC38. He was also MIA in Dec of 1943. I wrote a book about his life and also a Tribute to VC38. I do have a photograph of Wayne Presley. My uncle was Lt William R Larson of Hanks, North Dakota. The book is titled Lucky’s Life by Don J. Larson.
The story of my uncle, William Rudolf Larson – nicknamed “Lucky” by his fellow pilots, is the account and authentic voice of a WWII TBF pilot told in his own words from more than 60 family letters and postcards to his proud parents and his kid-brother – my father. Lucky served on the USS Nashville before WWII, participated on the Doolittle Raid as a SOC pilot, and then trained in the new Avenger plane before shipping out to the Solomon Islands and bombing Japanese positions during the Bougainville Campaign of 1943. Several of his aviation exploits were chronicled in the Chicago Daily News, the Oakland Tribune, the Divide County Journal, and the Williston Herald. Lucky’s letters to his home were saved in a pinewood Naval trunk for 70 years within the family. Upon researching his life, the War Diary of his radioman was discovered and filled in the rich WWII history of Lucky and his fellow VC 38 squadron. Recent declassified mission reports of VC 38’s heroic actions during the Bougainville Campaign also provide an insight into Lucky’s war experience and air battles. Sadly, Lucky never returned to the family farm in rural Divide County, North Dakota. Lucky was posthumously awarded the Air Medal. This book includes condolence letters from family members and VC 38 pilots, along with their individual stories and photographs. 43 TBF mission reports and over 150 unpublished WWII-era photographs and maps are included.
On 1 September the Saratoga sent three more VT-8 TBFs to Espiritu Santo. In VF-5 rumors ran rampant. One had them being committed piecemeal as replacements to CACTUS. The next morning came the parting of the ways, when Fletcher decided to send twenty-eight F4Fs to Efate, leaving nine to protect the ships. Some pilots were assigned, others volunteered, and some cut cards to see who would go. Eleven pilots remained on board as the VF-5 Detachment:
Ensign Presley was one of them.
Lieutenant Bill Robb’s party of 101 VF-5 enlisted men transferred to the Monssen (DD-436) and Grayson bound for Efate, where they would service VF-s’s fighters, while Lt. Alex Barbieri’s forty-five enlisted men and the squadron’s heavy gear would be dropped off at Tongatabu. The morning of the 2nd, twenty-eight F4Fs under Lieutenant Commander Simpler took off for Efate about 100 miles southwest. That afternoon Lieutenant Larsen brought fifteen TBFs and two SBDs back to load torpedoes and other gear, then returned to Espiritu Santo. One SBD ditched on takeoff. Thus a total of twenty-eight F4Fs, twentytwo SBDs, and fifteen TBFs deployed ashore.
The Saratoga Air Group appeared at a very crucial time for the defense of SoPac. It had become quite obvious, at least to the local commanders, that the aircraft committed to embattled Guadalcanal proved totally inadequate to ensure its security. Even before the landings, Maj. Gen. Millard F. Harmon, SoPac Commanding General (CG), strongly urged the War Department to send additional planes, including at least two squadrons of the Lockheed P-38F Lightning fighters that enjoyed the high-altitude performance so highly sought for CACTUS. His recommendations received vigorous agreement from Undersecretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal, on an inspection trip to SoPac.
There is very little information on Ensign Presley…
Wayne C. Presley
Date of death: MIA:
World War II
Burial location: Manila, Philippine Islands
Home of record: Corning California
Awarded for actions during the World War II
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Ensign Wayne C. Presley, United States Navy, for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as Pilot of a Fighting Squadron in the Battle of Midway, 4 to 6 June 1942. As one of an escort group assigned to cover the approach of our dive bombers, Ensign Presley maintained continuous flight for an hour over the Japanese invasion fleet, thereby insuring an unopposed approach for our attacking planes. Later, during this battle, while participating in combat patrol, he sighted an enemy torpedo plane approaching the U.S.S. YORKTOWN and assisted in daring pursuit and eventual destruction of the enemy plane, which was shot down in flames. His skill as an airman and his courageous perseverance and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 312 (March 1943)
Action Date: June 4 – 6, 1942
Battalion: Fighting Squadron
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