David McCampbell was born on January 16, 1910, in Bessemer, Alabama.
David McCampbell began his naval career
when he graduated from the U.S. Naval
Academy in 1933. He received an honorable discharge without funds, but was recalled and received his commission in 1934. His first assignment was aboard the USS Portland as a gunnery observer. He was assigned to flight training
at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1937, and in 1938 he finished training and was assigned to the Fighting Squadron 4 aboard the USS Ranger CV-4. He served for 2 years aboard the USS Ranger as a Naval Aviator
In 1940 he was assigned to the USS
Wasp CV-7 until it was sunk by the Japanese submarine I-19. During the 2 years spent on the Wasp, he was assigned to runs to the Mediterranean delivering Spitfires to Malta and providing support to the Guadalcanal
In February 1944, he was assigned to the USS Essex CV-9 and received a promotion to CAG, Commander - Air Group. With this assignment he had command of the Air Group 15, bombers
planes. McCampbell entered combat on May 19, 1944 flying a Grumman
" over Marcus Island. On June 11, while flying near Saipan
he shot down a lone Zero
for his first kill
. To quote David McCampbell "I knew I could shoot him down and I did. That's all there was to it."
On June 19, McCampbell had 7 confirmed kills
and 2 probables during the infamous Marianas Turkey Shoot
, in which only 29 American
planes were lost, compared to the 407 Japanese planes lost. The Japanese
lost 342 aircraft on June 19 and 65 aircraft on June 20. A total of 380 victory
claims were awarded between the 2 days.
During his career he shot down 34 airborne Japanese aircraft, as well as 20 on the ground to make him the highest scoring U.S. Navy pilot of WWII. For his successes he received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit, and the Distinguished Flying Cross
. He served only one tour of duty and it is believed that if he had the chance at a second tour he would have surpassed Dick Bong of the U.S. Army Air Corps who had 40 kills.
He retired from the Navy in 1964, and lost his life in 1996 due to illness. He was living in Florida at the time.
Liberty Magazine, May 26, 1945