Lance Edward Massey

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Lance Edward Massey
Lance Edward Massey.jpg
Lt Cdr Massey at NAS Ford Island on 24 May 1942. The victory flag marking on his TBD Devastator represents a Japanese ship he sank at Kwajalein during the Marshalls-Gilberts raids.
Born (1909-09-20)September 20, 1909
Syracuse, New York, United States
Died June 4, 1942(1942-06-04) (aged 32)
Service/branch United States Navy
Rank Lieutenant Commander
Commands held Torpedo Squadron 3 (VT-3)

World War II


Lance Edward "Lem" Massey (September 20, 1909 – June 4, 1942) was a U.S. Navy pilot during World War II. He was a native of Syracuse, New York, and was the only child of Walter Griffith Massey and Florence Lance Massey. Growing up in Watertown, New York, he attended two years of high school in Watertown, and then entered the Severn School located in Severna Park, Maryland in 1925. After graduating from Severn in 1926, he was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy when he was sixteen.

After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1930, he was given his commission as an ensign, and he was ordered to the battleship USS Texas (BB-35). After serving for a year aboard the USS Texas he entered flight training in Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1931 and won his Naval Aviator wings in January 1932. He was assigned to Scouting Squadron 3 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) for the next three years and as ship’s company on the USS Lexington. He subsequently served a two-year tour in Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida as a flight instructor. While at Pensacola he was married to Marjorie Drake Kelsey, the widow of Lieutenant (j.g.) James Kelsey, a 1931 graduate of the US Naval Academy. In June 1937 Lieutenant t(jg) Massey reported to Observation Squadron 3 aboard the battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40) whose home port was Long Beach, California. In August 1937, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. In January 1940, Observation Squadron Three was transferred to the USS Idaho (BB-42) where he stayed until July 1940 when he was sent to Naval Air Station, Pensacola. In October 1941 he was reassigned to the USS Enterprise (CV-6) as the Executive Officer of Torpedo Squadron Six and when the United States was attacked by Japan in December 1941, he was serving in this capacity.

He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander in January 1942. He was active in several major actions during the first seven months of 1942. On February 1, 1942, his squadron, Torpedo Squadron Six, consisting of nine TBD-1 Devastator torpedo planes, made the first airborne torpedo attack in U.S. Naval history. For this attack against Japanese shipping at Kwajalein Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, in which he sank an 18,000-ton Japanese transport, the Bordeaux Maru, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The following month aboard the USS Enterprise and its air wing escorted the USS Hornet (CV-8) as it carried General Jimmy Doolittle’s renowned Tokyo Raiders as they attacked mainland Japan.


On April 14, 1942, he was given command of Torpedo Squadron Three (VT-3). Torpedo Squadron Three was transferred to the USS Yorktown on May 27, 1942, after the USS Yorktown's return from the Battle of Coral Sea. The USS Yorktown sailed with Torpedo Squadron Three for Midway Island and entered battle on 4 June 1942. During this crucial encounter, Massey gave his life while leading his squadron in a low-level attack against the Japanese aircraft carrier Sōryū. Despite being escorted by six F4F Wildcat fighters led by Lieutenant Commander John Thach,[2] ten out of twelve TBD's of Torpedo Squadron Three were lost. For his heroism in pursuing the attack on the Soryu, Massey was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.[3]

In memory of his valiant actions at the Battle of Midway, the U.S. Navy christened the destroyer USS Massey (DD-778) on August 19, 1944, with his widow Marjorie Massey christening the ship. In addition to his widow, he was survived by two sons, Lance Bradford Massey and Walter Drake Massey, both whom graduated from the Severn School. Lance B. Massey graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958 and retired as a Commander in 1984.


  1. ^ Lance Edward Massey, NY State Senate, 28 May 2010, retrieved 13 Mar 2016
  2. ^ Flying into a Beehive: Fighting Three at Midway, U.S. Naval Institute, June 2007, retrieved 20 Apr 2016
  3. ^ Valor awards for Lance Edward Massey, Military Times Hall of Valor, retrieved 20 Apr 2016