Remembering Ensign Leon W. Haynes

1942 VF (5) Squadron Saratoga 3-21

About the time Thatch and Sellstrom were landing on Lexington, Gill’s radar operators reported another suspected snooper to the north. This time LT Gill selected the two-plane “Orange Section” of LTJG Onia B. Stanley and ENS Leon W. Haynes to check out the intruder. To illustrate the terse and compact fighter direction vocabulary, the entire vector order was as follows, “Orange Section from Romeo—Vector three four three—Buster—Angels six.” Orange Section has already been explained, and “Romeo” was Gill’s call sign. The rest meant take a heading of magnetic 343 degrees at maximum sustained power at an altitude of 6,000 feet. The only higher power setting would be “Gate” meaning full military power, which could only be used for a short time without engine damage. They proceeded out about twenty miles when ENS Haynes spotted another “BIG” silver four-engine flying boat, which apparently also spotted the two fighters because it immediately jettisoned its bombs to gain flying speed. LTJG Stanley tallyhoed back to Gill, and the two fighters set up their attack while sparkling flashes and tracers coming from their intended target showed that gunners with twenty mm cannons on the big boat were seeking their range. On their first pass Stanley’s four fifty caliber machine guns failed to fire, but Haynes had the satisfaction of putting the tail cannon out of action. In the meantime Stanley realized he had not flipped on the gun master arm switch because it was located in a different position than in the Wildcat he usually flew. In the next pass his guns worked and he could see his tracers penetrating through the wing and in to the cockpit. The engine area of the wing was soon a sheet of fire and gray smoke, and the huge craft went into a steep dive that ended up as a circle of flame on the ocean’s surface. The task force could also see the smoke of the second burning Kawanishi. [33, pp.93-94]



The pilots of the U.S. Navy Fighting Squadron 3 (VF-3) in front of a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter, 5 March 1942.

Standing (l-r): Newton H. Mason, Howard F. Clark, Edward R. Sellstrom, Willard E. Eder, Howard L. Johnson, John H. Lackey, Leon W. Haynes, Onia B. Stanley, Jr., Dale W. Peterson, Marion W. Dufilho, Rolla S. Lemmon.

Sitting (l-r): Robert J. Morgan, Albert O. Vorse, Jr., Donald A. Lovelace, John S. “Jimmy” Thach, Noel A.M. Gayler, Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, Richard M. Rowell.

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2 thoughts on “Remembering Ensign Leon W. Haynes

  1. About the group picture

    Fighting Squadron Three (VF-3), March 5, 1942. Standing, l to r:Mason, Clark, Sellstrom, Eder, Johnson, Lackey, Haynes, Stanley,Peterson, Dufilho, Lemmon. Sitting:Morgan, Vorse, Lovelace, Thach,Gayler, O’Hare, Rowell.

    Extreme left, back row: ENS Newton H. Mason was killed in action against Japanese forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea, May 1942. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his skill and courage in battle. Destroyer escort USS Mason (DE-529) —the first Navy ship with a predominantly African-American crew— and guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG‑87) were named after him.

    Second from left, back row: LT(JG) Howard F. Clark won a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), February 20, 1942, when he brought down an enemy bomber attempting to attack USS Lexington. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, May 1942, he again and again engaged enemy aircraft, in utter disregard of his own safety, until his Wildcat was shot down. LT(JG) Clark was posthumously awarded a second DFC for his heroism during the battle, and destroyer escort USSHoward F. Clark (DE-533) was named after him.

    Third from left, back row: ENS Edward R. Sellstrom was awarded the Navy Cross for his “skillful marksmanship and courage” on February 20, 1942, when he intercepted an enemy four-engined bomber, determinedly pursued it through clouds and rain, and assisted in shooting it down despite heavy machine gun and cannon fire; later that day, he intercepted and shot down another aircraft during an attack directed atLexington by nine enemy bombers. ENS Sellstrom was killed in an airplane crash, June 21, 1942, and destroyer escort USS Sellstrom (DE-255) was named after him.

    Fourth from left, back row: LT(JG) Willard E. Eder became a Navy ace, with 6–6.5 confirmed victories (sources differ), and earned the Navy Cross and other decorations. He retired as a Captain in July 1965.

    Third from right, back row:ENS Dale W. Peterson was awarded the Navy Cross for distinguished service in intercepting enemy bombers attacking Lexington, February 20, 1942. He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, posthumously, for his actions during the Battle of the Coral Sea, May 1942, in which he gave his life. Destroyer escort USS Dale W. Peterson (DE-337) was named after him.

    Second from right, back row: LT(JG) Marion W. Dufilho was posthumously awarded both the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism and achievement in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, August 24, 1942, in which he gave his life. Destroyer escort USS Dufilho (DE-423) was named after him.

    Second from left, front row: LT Albert O. Vorse, Jr., became a Navy ace with 10.5–11.5 victories (sources differ). He earned the Navy Cross and other decorations and retired as a Rear Admiral in January 1959.

    Third from left, front row: LCDR Donald A. Lovelace won the Distinguished Flying Cross “for heroic conduct in aerial combat, as division leader and pilot, when on 20 February 1942, in enemy waters, he led his division in a vigorous and determined attack, in the face of combined machinegun and cannon fire, against a formation of enemy bombers, and he, with the assistance of his teammate, caused the destruction of one enemy bomber.” LCDR Lovelace was killed in a plane crash shortly before the Battle of Midway, while searching for the Japanese naval force. Destroyer escort USS Lovelace (DE-198) was named after him.

    Center, front row: LCDR John S. “Jimmy” Thach, VF-3 Commanding Officer. He developed the fighter combat technique known as the “Thach Weave,” that enabled the USWildcat fighter to hold its own against the superior Japanese Zero. LCDR Thach led VF-3 from USSLexington in early Pacific actions, and from USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the Battle of Midway (June 1942). He attained the rank of Admiral and retired in May 1967. John S. Thach earned two Navy Crosses, among many other decorations. Guided missile frigate USS Thach (FFG-43) was named after him.

    Third from right, front row:LT Noel A.M. Gayler was the first person to be awarded three Navy Crosses, and retired as an Admiral in September 1976.

    Second from right, front row: LT Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, first Navy Ace in WW2 and Medal of Honor recipient: on February 20, 1942, he shot down five Japanese bombers and probably savedLexington. Promoted to Lieutenant Commander, he was later Commander, Air Group Six aboard USS Enterprise (CV-6). He was reported as MIA in November 1943 and declared dead one year later. In addition to the Medal of Honor, he earned a Navy Cross and other awards. Destroyer USS O’Hare (DD-889) was named after him.

    Extreme right, front row:ENS Richard M. Rowell received the Distinguished Flying Cross for downing a Japanese plane, February 20, 1942, and won a second DFC during the Battle of the Coral Sea, May 1942, before failing to return from his last mission. Destroyer escort USS Richard M. Rowell (DE-403) was named after him.

    Additional notes: LT(JG) Howard L. Johnson was MIA, March 28, 1943. LT(JG) John H. Lackey, who earned a DFC, was killed on October 6, 1945. ENS Leon W. Haynes earned a Navy Cross and other decorations and retired as a Lieutenant Commander in October 1945. LT(JG) Onia B. Stanley, Jr., earned at least one DFC and retired as a Captain in July 1969. LT(JG) Rolla S. Lemmon earned a Navy Cross and was MIA, June 24, 1944. LT(JG) Robert J. Morgan earned a Navy Cross and other decorations and retired as a Captain in July 1968.


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