1st. Lt. Kenneth A. Walsh
|The air raid alarm on Guadalcanal
sounded at 11:35 on 13 May 1943. The island radar had picked up a large formation of
"bogies" approaching Guadalcanal from the northwest. Minutes later the air was
split with the sound of twelve 2,000 h.p. Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8
engines roaring to life as a flight of F4U-1 Corsairs from Marine
Fighter Squadron 124 [VMF-124] were scrambled to intercept a Zero fighter sweep.
Twenty-six-year-old First Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh, the first Corsair-mounted Marine ace and a former enlisted pilot, was the first to be airborne. Ground control vectored Walsh and his four-plane division north to the Florida Islands. As he approached the intercept point, he spotted the "bogies" - a formation of P-38s. At that moment Walsh heard ground control vector Major William E. Gise IC.0. VMF-1241 and his flight northwest to the Russell Islands at "Angels 20." Turning back due west, Walsh radioed Gise that he was abeam Savo and would proceed to join him. Climbing to 25,000 feet, Walsh saw the air battle in progress. Placing his flight in right echelon, he led the four in a wingover into the melee. Selecting a Zero to his far left, Walsh racked the big bent-winged fighter around to the attack. The two fighters were almost head-on as Walsh began firing, spraying the Japanese fiqhter with fire from six .50-caliber guns. Mortally wounded. the Zero was smoking as it flashed by above Walsh's canopy. Within minutes, Walsh scored twice more to become the squadron's first ace and the first ace in the Corsair.
He ultimately scored 21 kills, of which 17 were Zeros. He lost five aircraft: three times shot down. His first combat tour in the Solomons lasted seven months, from February to September, 1943. He returned for a second tour with VMF-222 later in the war, flying the advanced F4U-4. He scored his last victory on June 22, 1945, downing a kamikaze Zero over northern Okinawa.
Medal of Honor
WALSH, KENNETH AMBROSE - 1Lt, pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron 124, USMC. Action: Solomon Islands area, 15 and 30 Aug 1943. Inducted: New York. DOB 24 Nov 1916, Brooklyn, N.Y. Other Navy awards: Distinguished Flying Cross with 5 Gold Stars.
Citation: For extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron 124 in aerial combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area. Determined to thwart the enemy's attempt to bomb Allied ground forces and shipping at Vella Lavella on 15 Aug 1943, 1st Lt. Walsh repeatedly dived his plane into an enemy formation outnumbering his own division 6 to 1 and, although his plane was hit numerous times, shot down 2 Japanese dive bombers and 1 fighter. After developing engine trouble on 30 August during a vital escort mission, 1st Lt. Walsh landed his mechanically disabled plane at Munda, quickly replaced it with another, and proceeded to rejoin his flight over Kahili. Separated from his escort group when he encountered approximately 50 Japanese Zeros, he unhesitatingly attacked, striking with relentless fury in his lone battle against a powerful force. He destroyed 4 hostile fighters before cannon shellfire forced him to make a dead-stick landing off Vella Lavella where he was later picked up. His valiant leadership and his daring skill as a flier served as a source of confidence and inspiration to his fellow pilots and reflect the highest credit upon the US Naval Service.
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