Remembering Ensign Donald A “Stinky” Innis – (1915 – 1944)

This is what I had found earlier about “Stinky” Innis.


At 1.15 p.m. Southerland — universally known as “Pug” because of his boxing prowess—was flying above Savo Island when he spotted the attack force of Japanese Bettys descending through the cumulous cover, gathering speed to unleash bombs. “This division from Pug,” he alerted his pilots, “put gun switches and sight lamps on. Lets go get ’em boys.”

With no time to climb, Southerland could only drop into a low-side run to harass the lead division of Bettys with quick bursts. Behind him, Japanese fighters zoomed in to scatter Southerland’s division. The division trailer, twenty-six-year-old Lieutenant (junior grade) Donald A. “Stinky” Innis, managed to climb, scissor and trade head-on shots with five Zekes before escaping into a cloud. The other two, twenty-three-year-old Ensign Robert L. Price and twenty-six-year-old Lieutenant (junior grade) Charles A. Tabberer, never escaped the ambush.

(Page 194)

“Pug” Southerland was mentioned.


As well as “Stinky”.


Lieutenant (junior grade) Donald A. Innis

And “Tabby” Tabberer.


Lieutenant (junior grade) Charles A. Tabberer


We know how many pilots were on USS Saratoga posing for posterity on July 15th, 1942.


All heroes!


I found most of my information in this book I bought on Google Books two months ago making easier for me to pay homage to them.


In the book, all the names were there although the image was fuzzy.


VF-5 July, 1942

Top row (left to right): Price, Reiplinger, Altemus, Gunsolus, Eichenberger, Innis, Gray, Kleinmann, Morgan, Roach, Dufilho, Smith

Center row: Currie, Robb, Wesolowski. Starkes, Davy, Holt, Daly, Presley, McDonald, Tabberer, Barbieri, Haynes, Bass, Blair, Bright

Bottom row: Kleinman, Stover, Crews, Brown, Southerland, Harmer, Simpler, Richardson, Green, Jensen, Clarke, Stepanek. (Capt. H. W. Crews)

This week’s VF-5 featured pilot is Ensign Donald A “Stinky” Innis.

This is what I found on the Internet.

Lt. Donald A. Innis after whom Innis Road at Harvey Field is named, was over the Salton Sea in Southern CA on a rocket firing flight when a rocket body exploded prematurely on his starboard wing. His F6F Hellcat fighter which was in a 14-degree dive at the time went into a slow spin and crashed into the sea.

Source of the above information

Some pictures.



Donald was with VF-17 as this roster indicates.

October 1943 – March 1944
Anderson, Robert S Bob, Andy
Baker, Bradford W. Brad MIA
Beacham, Shelton R. Ray
Beeler, Edward E. Ed
Bell, Thaddeus R. Thad, Juggy MIA
Bitzegaio, Harold. J. Bitz
Blackburn, J. Thomas Tommy, Tom ACE
Bowers, George F. Hap
Burriss, Howard M. Teeth ACE, KIA
Chasnoff, Jack W. Jack
Chenoweth, Oscar I. Oc ACE
Cole, Marvin W. Ace
Cooke, Lemuel D. Lem
Cordray, Paul Paul ACE
Cunningham, Daniel G. Danny ACE
Davenport, Merl W. Butch ACE
Diteman, James E. Dite
Divenny, Percy E. Perce MIA
Dixon, James C. Jimmy
Dunn, Clyde R. Clyde MIA
Einar, Robert W. Ine
Ellsworth, John O. Fatso
Farley, James Jim MIA
Fitgerald, Louis A. Lou
Freeman, Doris C. Chico
Gilbert, Carl W. Gibby
Gile, Clement D. Timmy ACE
Gutenkunst, Douglas H. Doug KIA
Halford, James A. Sunny Jim
Hedrick, Roger R. Rog ACE
Hill, Robert H. Windy
Hogan, Robert R. Bob KIA
Innis, Donald A. Stinky
Jackson, Robert H. Hal
Jagger, Frederick A. Andy Gump
Keith, John H. John KIA
Kelley, Louis M. Lou
Kepford, Ira C. Ike ACE
Killefer, Tom Tom, TK
Kleinman, John M. Johnny
Kropf, Thomas F. Kropf KIA
Kurlander, Melvin M. Mel
Landreth, William L. Country
Malone, Donald T. Don KIA
March, Harry A. Dirty Eddie ACE
Matthews, Marvin Matty
May, Earl Earl ACE
McQueen, Donald R. Mac
McQuiston, Louis T. Cue
Meek, William P. Willie
Miller, James Jamie KIA
Mims, Robert Bobby ACE
Peterson, Earle C., Jr. Pete
Pillsbury, Charles A. Chuck KIA
Popp, Wilbert P. Beads, Peter
Richardson, Harold B. Rich
Schanuel, Mills Mills
Schub, Walter J. Walt
Smith, John M. Smitty
Streig, F. James Jim ACE
Wharton, Whitney C., Jr. Whit
CAPT Tom Blackburn died 3/21/94

VF-17 Enlisted Roster
AOM2 L.T. Barak AMM2 D.E. Glover
PO2 C.R. Baskins AMM1 E.W. Gober
AMM3 F.M. Brandenburg AMM1 C.H. Goyette, Jr.
AMM2 K.G. Bretz AMM2 D.C. Green
AOM1 G.G. Cantrell AMM2 N.R. Grochowski
AMM1 R.K. “Doc” Condit AMM3 J.J. Grogen
AMM2 B.L. Cox PO2 R.A. Hamilton
PO2 J.A. Craig AMM3 J.J. Hare
AOM3 J.T. Dineen AMM2 E.A. Homewood
PO1 G.C. Duke PO2 B.C. Hoyle
AMM2 L.R. Edmisten AMM3 B.H. Hyder, Jr.
AMM3 A.J. Emanuel AMM2 E.W. Jacobs, Jr.
ARM2 E.O. Engler AMM3 W.A. Jamison
ARM2 H.E. Engler AMM3 L.W. Jordan
AMM2 L.F. Fehr AEM1 C.J. Kern
AMM3 T.B. Fisher AMM2 G.H. Lampe
AMM3 E.W. Flynn ACMM G. Mauhar
AOM3 C.R. Foutty AMM3 T.A. McCabe
AOM1 G.F. Furze AOM1 G.J. McDonough
AMM3 J.H. Gafford, Jr. AMM3 D.D. McLaughlin
AMM3 H.M. Gill PO1 E.R. McLean
PO3 H.V. Mether PO2 M.E. Shore
AMM1 E.R. Morfield AMM3 N.F. Simoneaux
ACMM B. Murray AMM3 D.G. Sletterink
PR2 J.L. Neil AMM2 R.E. Taylor
AMM1 F.R. Odem PO2 R.J. Turner, Jr.
AOM3 R.J. Olaes PO2 E.M. Wert
AMM3 W.L. Parker AMM2 E.C. Wesphal
AMM2 T.S. Pitts AMM2 L.E. White
AMM2 F. Polite AMM1 M.A.B.White
AOM3 D.M. Rankin PO2 R.N. Whitley
AMM3 B. Rasmussen AMM3 A.K. Wood
AMM2 J.A. Samecki AMM2 W.M. Yager


Source of the above


Someone is still remembering Lt. Don Innis.

Remembering Lt. Don Innis — Vernon County World War II Fighter Ace

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
By Will Tollerton

Lt. Donald Innis

Hidden in plain sight amongst a long list of names engraved on the Veterans Memorial on the Vernon County Courthouse lawn is that of Navy Lt. Donald Allan Innis. This young Nevadan was one of many soldiers who gave their lives in the service of the United States during World War II. Memories of these brave servicemen are fading away with the passing of those who can remember them in life, but their sacrifice can never be forgotten.

The passage of nearly seven decades has not dimmed the memory of Lt. Innis in the mind of Bill Phelps; Nevada High School, class of 1953, and Lt. Governor of Missouri, 1973-1981.

Recently, Phelps visited the Bushwhacker Museum in the company of Mary Don Beachy, the niece of Don Innis by his only sister, Virginia Innis Woods. They brought with them a collection of photographs, letters, and newspaper articles from which the life of this heroic young man could be pieced together.

Donald Allan Innis was born Nov. 14, 1915, in Nevada, the son of Wiley and Mary Innis. Wiley eventually became an engineer for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in the 1920s. Don was the middle child of the family having an older sister, Virginia, and a younger brother, Calvin.

Young Don attended Franklin School and graduated from Nevada High School, class of 1933. Considered a star athlete while at NHS, Don played football and basketball for the Tigers, becoming captain of the football team in his senior year. “The best trainer on the basketball team” declares an excerpt from the school yearbook, “He’s a jolly good fellow, loved by the girls and admired by the boys.”

Following his graduation from NHS as class president, Innis attended Fort Scott Junior College for one year and then the University of Missouri in Columbia for two and a half years.

He then took a job as a credit manager for the Liquid Carbonic Company in Chicago. While living in Chicago and with the storm clouds of war gathering over Europe, the 24-year-old Innis decided to join the U.S. Navy in 1940.

After applying to become a fighter pilot, Innis was sent to Pensacola, Fla., for training, where he won his wings in 1941 and was commissioned an ensign. He was soon assigned to the aircraft carriers Yorktown and later the Wasp, both of which became famous in the looming war.

Innis was one of a small number of already trained pilots at the time of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. It wasn’t long before he saw action in the Pacific with his fighter squadron, VF-5.

In 1942, the “Flying Five” as they were known, was assigned to the aircraft carrier Saratoga — nicknamed “Sister Sara.” The squadron supported Marines and protected transport ships in the invasion of the Solomon Islands that August and was based on the famous Henderson Field. Like many fighter pilots, Innis was bestowed with a nickname — “Stinky” — by his squadron buddies.

In the air over Guadalcanal, the men of VF-5 got a taste of intense aerial combat as the Japanese fiercely contested control of the island. As reported by an AP war correspondent, Innis attacked a flight of Japanese Zeros head on.

“Hell resulted,” stated the young Nevadan. “I saw tracer bullets from a Zero on my tail. Another Zero was pulling up in a wingover in front of me, and I gave him a long burst. He fell off with many holes in the fuselage.

“Other Zeros jumped me, and out of ammunition, I headed for the clouds.” The now tested fighter pilot limped back to his carrier with no less than 49 holes in his plane. Innis was credited with several kills in his first major action.

On Sept. 13, 1942, Innis was again involved in aerial combat over Tulagi Harbor when his plane was shot out of the sky at 26,000 feet. After bailing out of his burning aircraft, Innis was strafed by a Japanese fighter plane and severely wounded while floating down in a parachute. He was sent for recovery to a hospital in New Zealand before being sent stateside for a furlough.

Having been promoted to the rank of lieutenant, junior grade, Innis returned home for a 30-day leave in November 1942. The young flyer was already being hailed for his achievements as a fighter pilot, appearing before civic clubs like the Lions and being written about in the Kansas City Times.

Although described as reluctant to speak of his own exploits, Innis did tell about the battles he had observed and described the U.S. Marines as “the toughest, hardest fighting, best group of men in the world.”

He reportedly was glib when referring to such events as being shot down and told a story about the Marines hunting Japanese snipers with a grin. On a more serious note, he guardedly described being shelled by a Japanese cruiser while on the island.

“The first thing we knew, our tent was on fire. Then we piled in a trench … we could hear the coconuts exploding, and every time they sounded like someone’s head popping,” Innis revealed to the reporter.

Along with four of his comrades from the “Fighting Five,” which was credited with downing 98 Japanese planes over the Solomons, Innis was sent on a public relations campaign for the Navy.

The five buddies, who all graduated from Pensacola in 1941, were described as “inseparable” and together accounted for 21 downed planes. The group was interviewed at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago in December and appeared on a coast-to-coast radio program “The First Line” sponsored by the Navy.

In early 1943, Don wrote his sister from Norfolk, Va., where he was attending a five-week course at the Flight Director School. Advising his sister not to “take any lip” off of the students she was currently teaching in Jefferson City, Innis indicated that he would soon be assigned to a brand new carrier, the U.S.S. Belleau Wood.

A new squadron, VF-24, was formed and Innis became the flight officer. VF-24 was sent to the Central Pacific where it fought in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, Tarawa, and Wake. The commander, Lt. Cmdr. John Curtis, was killed at Tarawa. Innis told his parents that “it took the heart out of us.”

October 1943 saw Innis made a full lieutenant and he was transferred to VF-17, “The Skull & Crossbones” squadron. Under their commander, Tommy Blackburn, VF-17 wrought great destruction on the Japanese, shooting down 12 Japanese planes over Rabaul on the island of New Britain, to every one of their fighters lost.

The squadron was credited with destroying 156 planes, five cargo ships, and 16 barges in the first months of the year.

Don Innis came home to visit for the last time in April 1944. His family was still living in the home he grew up in at 329 South Ash Street (which still stands today). His sister, Virginia, although married and with a newborn, was still living in the house at the time, while her husband was deployed overseas.

Virginia wrote in her album about the wonderful visit with her brother, observing how much he enjoyed vegetable salad, ginger snaps, and cornbread. Ever the dutiful and considerate brother, Don slipped her $10 to purchase a new hat before leaving for his next assignment.

It was during this furlough in the spring of 1944 that 10-year-old Bill Phelps, son of Nevada dentist Dean Phelps, met the local war hero. Bill recalls how his father arranged to meet with the 27-year-old fighter ace.

“My dad was really impressed with Don Innis… he showed up in his dress uniform and we spent at least an hour talking about flying and the battle of Guadalcanal. I was only 10 years old but I will never forget that meeting.”

Returning to duty, Innis volunteered to test rocket missiles at the Navy Ordnance Test Station in the Mojave Desert of California. “NOTS,” as it was referred to, was dubbed “The Navy’s Land of Oz” in a Saturday Evening Post article by Frank J. Taylor in 1946. The Navy was attempting to overcome the initial German technological advantage in rocket technology early in the war.

Tests conducted in the desolate wastes of southern California sought to learn such things as “what pattern a salvo of rockets made as they fell to earth?” and “How many rocket strikes could a plane take before its skin buckled.”

It was while conducting one of these airborne rocket tests that Don Innis was killed when his plane crashed on June 20, 1944. While the details of the accident are not clear, it should perhaps not be surprising considering the dangerous nature of the work they were doing. Innis was one of three Navy flyers who died during the tests — tests that are credited with saving scores of other lives in the final year of the war.

It was Don’s sister, Virginia, who answered the knock at the door in Nevada — her parents being away for the day — and first learned from the Navy officials of the death of her beloved brother.

Just months after meeting the renowned fighter pilot, young Bill Phelps was called upon to assist at the funeral of the fallen Nevada hero, which was held at the Centenary Methodist Church at the corner of Main St. and Austin in Nevada, (where the McDonald’s restaurant now stands).

Dr. Phelps was asked to play Taps at the graveside and young Bill played the echo. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that money be donated to purchase books for the Nevada Public Library.

The books purchased included such titles as “Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes; “Our Flying Navy” by Robert Benny; “My Friend Flicka” by O’Hara, and “Here is Your War” by Ernie Pyle.

The whole episode made a strong impression on the young Phelps. The now 78-year-old fondly states, “He was a Nevada hero.”

Don Innis’ memory is also cherished in his family. His sister Virginia, who passed away May 21, 2013, at age 98, held on to his letters and effects all her life, treasuring mementos such as a silver ring and photographs which belonged to him. In 1946, Virginia named her daughter Mary “Don” Woods in memory of her late brother.



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