McCampbell, David, born 10-01-1910 in Bessemer, Alabama, raised in West Palm Beach, to Andrew Jackson (A.J.) and Elisabeth. La Valle (Perry) McCampbell. His family owned several businesses in Bessemer. At age 10, the family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida where his father opened a furniture store. As a youth, he enjoyed swimming. In 1919 his grandfather purchased a World War I surplus Curtiss Jenny was a passenger on several flights. At thirteen he left home to attend the Staunton Military Academy in Virginia, and later Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, before being appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929 by Senator Park Monroe Trammell of Florida. David attended the Stauton Military Academy and one year at the Georgia School of Technology before his appointment to the United states Naval Academy, where he graduated with the class of 1933. Following service aboard a cruiser, 1935-37, McCampbell applied for flight training and was accepted. He received his “wings of gold”
in 1938 and was assigned to Fighting Squadron Four on the East Coast. Subsequently he became a landing signal officer and survived the sinking of USS Wasp off Guadalcanal in September 1942. The first enemy action for VF-41 was during Operation Torch to support the invasion of North Africa. The Ranger fighters accounted for 16 French fighters, strafed enemy ships and airfields, and gave air coverage to landing operations. Although 5 pilots were shot down, all were recovered alive. McCampbell formed VF-15 on 01-09-1943 and led the squadron before being assigned as Commander of Air Group Fifteen in February 1944 to September 1944. As Commader Air Group 15, he was in charge of fighters, bombers, and torpedo bombers aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex. From April to November 1944, his group saw six months of continuous combat and participated in two major air-sea battles, the First and Second Battles of the Philippine Sea.
During the more than 20,000 hours of air combat operations before it returned to the United States for a rest period, Air Group 15 destroyed more enemy planes, 315 airborne and 348 on the ground and sank more enemy shipping than any other Air Group in the Pacific War. Air Group 15’s attacks on the Japanese in the Marianas and at Iwo jima, Taiwan, and Okinawa were key to the success of the “island hopping” campaign. In addition to his duties as commander of the “Fabled Fifteen,” then Commander McCampbell became the Navy’s “ace of aces” during the missions he flew in 1944. McCampbell flew at least four F6F Hellcats while aboard the Essex: an F6F-3 named Monsoon Maiden (damaged by AAA & struck 20-05-1944), another F6F-3 named The Minsi (10½ kills), an F6F-5 named Minsi II, and an F6F-5 named Minsi III, in which he scored the last 23½ of his 34 kills. On 19-06-1944, during the “Marianas Turkey Shoot,” Commander McCampbell shot down five Japanese ‘Judy’ dive-bombers, to become an “ace in a day”. Later that afternoon, during a second sortie, McCampbell flamed another two Zekes over Guam. On 24-10-1944, he became the only American airman to achieve “ace in a day” status twice. McCampbell and his wingman attacked a Japanese force of 60 aircraft. McCampbell shot down nine, setting a U.S. single mission aerial combat record. During this same action, his wingman downed another six Japanese warplanes. When he landed his Grumman F6F Hellcat aboard USS Langley, Essex’s flight deck wasn’t clear, his six machine guns had two rounds remaining and his airplane had to be manually released from the arrestor wire due to complete fuel exhaustion. Commander McCampbell received the Medal of Honor for both actions, becoming the only fast carrier task force pilot to be so honored. For his brilliant record in command of Air Group 15, McCampbell received the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Gold Stars in lieu of the second and third awards, and the Air Medal. Following World War II, McCampbell had several postings, including command of the carrier USS Bon Homme Richard from 1959 to 1960. He also served as the plans division chief of the Joint Chiefs of staff. Captain McCampbell retired from active duty in 1964.
Susan Rankin (first wife married 26-06-1936 couple had one child, divorced 1944), Sara Jane Heliker McCampbell (second wife married 18-02-1945 couple had two children, passed away 10-01-1988), Jean H. Eckler (third wife married 10-07-1965 and divorced 09-02-1976, passed away 25-03-1990) and Frieda Bouffleur (fourth wife).
Death and burial ground of McCampbell, David.
David McCampbell died old age of 86, on 30-06-1996, in Rivera Beach Florida and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, Grave 3150.