Marion Eugene Carl

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Marion E. Carl
Mecarl-usmcphoto.jpg
Born (1915-11-01)November 1, 1915
Hubbard, Oregon
Died June 28, 1998(1998-06-28) (aged 82)
Roseburg, Oregon
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1938 (Army Reserve)
1939–1973 (USMC)
Rank Major General
Commands held VMF-223
VMF-122
Director of Marine Corps Aviation
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Inspector General of the Marine Corps
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of Midway
*Battle of Guadalcanal
Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Navy Cross (2)
Distinguished Flying Cross (5)
Legion of Merit

Major General Marion Eugene Carl, USMC, (November 1, 1915 – June 28, 1998) was a World War II fighter ace, record-setting test pilot, and naval aviator. During World War II, he became the first-ever Marine Corps ace.

Early years[edit]

Born on the family farm near Hubbard, Oregon, Carl was always attracted to aviation. He learned to fly while attending college and soloed after merely 2½ hours of instruction. (Eight to ten hours is typical.) He studied engineering at Oregon State College (now a university) and, in 1938, graduated as a lieutenant in the Army Reserve.

Marine Corps career[edit]

Carl resigned his commission to become a naval aviation cadet and received his "wings of gold" and Marine Corps commission in December 1939. Carl's first posting was to Marine Fighting Squadron One (VMF-1) at Quantico, Virginia which lasted for one year. Ordered back to Pensacola, Carl served as an instructor pilot helping to train the rapidly growing number of naval aviators, before receiving orders to the newly formed Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221) at NAS North Island in San Diego, California.

World War II[edit]

The 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor found VMF-221 preparing to embark aboard the USS Saratoga for transport to Marine Corps Air Station Ewa on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Carl, along with the rest of VMF-221 was hurriedly rushed to Hawaii, and then included in the Wake Island Relief Task Force, still aboard the Saratoga. After the relief attempt was canceled, VMF-221 was deployed to Midway Atoll on Christmas Day, 1941. Carl's first combat occurred six months later during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942, when 15 of the 25 aircraft VMF-221 put into the air that morning were destroyed. Nevertheless, Carl was credited with destroying one enemy aircraft, a Mitsubishi Zero. Along with the other survivors from VMF-221, Carl was flown back to Hawaii shortly after the battle.

Granted a short rest period, Carl was reassigned to Marine Fighting Squadron 223 (VMF-223) commanded by a former squadron mate from VMF-221, Captain John L. Smith. On August 20, VMF-223 was deployed to Guadalcanal, the first fighter unit ashore with the Cactus Air Force. Over the next two months, he became the Marines' first ace, running his tally to 16.5 victories, though he was shot down once and was forced to bail out. It is believed that on August 26 Carl shot down the famous Japanese Navy Tainan Kōkūtai ace Junichi Sasai over Henderson Field. When the squadron left Guadalcanal in October, Carl was America's second-ranking ace behind his commanding officer, Major John L. Smith.

In 1943, then Major Carl returned to the Pacific and led VMF-223 until the following summer. During additional combat in the Solomon Islands, he claimed two more enemy planes, finishing as the Corps' seventh ranking ace with 18.5 victories.

Aerial victory credits[edit]

Date Total Aircraft Types Claimed (location)
04 Jun 1942 1 1 A6M Zeke destroyed and 2 damaged (Midway VMF-221)
24 Aug 1942 4 1 A6M Zeke, 1 Betty bomber, 2 Kate bombers destroyed (Cactus)
26 Aug 1942 2 2 A6M Zekes destroyed (Cactus)
29 Aug 1942 1 1 Betty bomber destroyed (Cactus)
30 Aug 1942 3 3 A6M Zekes destroyed (Cactus)
09 Sep 1942 2 2 Mitsubishi G4M Betty bombers destroyed (Cactus)
27 Sep 1942 1.5 (1 shared credit with Major. K. Armistead) Betty bombers destroyed (Cactus)
28 Sep 1942 1 1 Betty bomber destroyed (Cactus)
03 Oct 1942 1 1 A6M Zero destroyed (Cactus)
23 Dec 1943 1 1 Ki-61 Tony destroyed (Rabaul)
27 Dec 1943 1 1 A6M Zeke destroyed (Rabaul)
18½

Test pilot[edit]

In 1945, Carl graduated in the first test pilot class at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. As a lieutenant colonel, he conducted pioneering jet operations from aircraft carriers and later commanded VMF-122, the first Marine jet squadron. He was also the first Marine to pilot a helicopter.

In 1947, Carl was one of two pilots selected to fly the Douglas D-558/I Skystreak in record-setting speed attempts. That August, he was recorded at 650 miles per hour (1,050 km/h), establishing a new world record. When Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in October, he also broke Carl's record.

At Patuxent River on April 1, 1952, Carl had a close brush with death. He was performing a series of check spins in the new Grumman AF-2S Guardian anti-submarine attack aircraft. The anti-spin parachute that had been fitted in earlier tests had been removed. Climbing to 10,000 feet (3,000 m) over Chesapeake Bay, Carl commenced the spin. The aircraft entered a flat spin with strong centrifugal forces. Carl could not break the spin and rode it down to 4,000 ft (1,200 m). He tried to operate the ejection seat, but the face blind ripped away in his hands and the seat failed to fire. He climbed out at 3,000 feet (910 m). He then tried the wind-tunnel approved method of getting out on the inside of the spin, but was forced back due to airflow. He finally got out on the other side and felt his parachute open as he fell into the splash of the aircraft. The success of this proved bailing out on the inside of the spin to avoid being hit by the tail was an incorrect theory.[1]

During a second test pilot tour in 1953, Carl set an unofficial altitude record of 83,000 feet (25,000 m) in the Douglas D-558/II.

Between test pilot duties, Carl commanded other units including a reconnaissance squadron based on Taiwan. In 1954, he led missions over Mainland China, photographing Communist forces along the coast. After his death, a corrupted version of his reconnaissance missions appeared in several obituaries, stating that he had flown U-2 spy planes.

Vietnam War[edit]

Carl (1st from left, middle row) at the 1967 General Officers Symposium

Though still a colonel, Carl became Director of Marine Corps Aviation for five months in 1962. Two years later, he was promoted to brigadier general and, in 1965, he took the First Marine Brigade to Danang, South Vietnam. Despite his seniority, he repeatedly flew combat missions in helicopter gunships and jet fighters.

Carl received his second star as a major general in 1967, commanding the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina from 1968 to 1970. He subsequently served as Inspector General of the Marine Corps, until retiring in 1973. At that time, he had logged some 13,000 flying hours, more than twice as much as most contemporaries.

Murder[edit]

Carl returned to his native Oregon, where he and his wife Edna settled near Roseburg. Marion Carl's memoir, Pushing the Envelope, coauthored with his friend Barrett Tillman, was published in 1994.[2] In 1998, at age 82, he was shot to death with a shotgun during a robbery, defending Edna from a home invader.[3] Carl was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.[4]

His murderer, 19-year-old Jesse Fanus, was apprehended one week later. In April 1999, he was convicted on two counts of aggravated murder (and 11 additional felony charge) and sentenced to death. In 2003, his conviction and death sentence was upheld by the Oregon Supreme Court. In December 2011, the sentence was overturned.[5]

Awards and legacy[edit]

His decorations include (having declined any personal medals for service in Vietnam):

Naval Aviator Badge.jpg
Gold star
V
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Silver star
Silver star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Naval Aviator Badge
Navy Cross w/ 1 award star Legion of Merit w/ valor device Distinguished Flying Cross w/ 4 award stars Air Medal w/ 13 award stars
American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 3 service stars World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal w/ 1 service star Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Service Medal Vietnam Campaign Medal

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Eric Brown, Wings on my Sleeve, Phoenix Press 2006
  2. ^ Carl, Marion E. and Barrett Tillman. Pushing the Envelope: The Career of Fighter Ace and Test Pilot Marion Carl, Naval Institute Press, 1994. (ISBN 1-59114-866-9)
  3. ^ Willetts, Joyce. "In Memoriam: Major General Marion Carl, USMC (retired), Vietnam Veteran, 30 June 1998". Associated Press. Retrieved 2006-07-02. 
  4. ^ "Marion E. Carl, Lieutenant General, United States Marine Corps". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 2006-07-02. 
  5. ^ "No death penalty for killer of WWII Marine ace". Associated Press. December 29, 2011. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Roseburg Regional Airport". Public Works Department, Roseburg, Oregon. Archived from the original on 2006-09-25. Retrieved 2006-07-02. 
  7. ^ "Marion Carl Memorial Mud Run". Marine Aviation Support Group 23. Retrieved 2006-07-02. 
  8. ^ "Annual Marion Carl Marine Mud Run". Retrieved 2006-07-02. 
  9. ^ "K-Bay gets new name, status". Honolulu Advertiser (Marine Corps Times). 2009-05-25. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.