The Marines’ Lost Squadron

By Mark Carlson

Flight Journal - - REVIEW RUNWAY - ron Budd Davis­son

(Sun­bury Press, 400 pages, $19.95)

It is bad enough that a fighter pi­lot is con­stantly check­ing his six, know­ing full well that just as he is seek­ing out a tar­get, there are oth­ers out there for whom he could eas­ily be their tar­get. Death is a con­stant com­pan­ion. In Mark Carlson’s well-de­tailed book,

The Marines’ Lost Squadron, it be­comes painstak­ingly ob­vi­ous, how­ever, that all en­e­mies don’t bear meat­balls on their wings or swastikas on their tails. Na­ture can be a per­sis­tent en­emy that is of­ten aided and abet­ted by an en­emy from within: faulty lead­er­ship and lack­lus­ter plan­ning.

VMF-422 and Op­er­a­tion Flint­lock in the South Pa­cific com­bined to be­came one of the Ma­rine Corps’ big­gest avi­a­tion dis­as­ters and not a sin­gle Ja­panese air­craft was in­volved. Twenty-four air­craft took off on a rou­tine ferry flight. Twenty-two air­craft and six young Ma­rine avi­a­tors didn’t make it. Some sim­ply dis­ap­peared, never to be seen again; they were swal­lowed up by a cy­clone and the end­less ocean. One died within sight of shore, strug­gling in his parachute har­ness af­ter ditch­ing.

Carlson does an ex­cel­lent job of fol­low­ing the drama ex­pe­ri­enced by in­di­vid­ual pi­lots in the group as well as delv­ing into the ques­tion of what ac­tu­ally hap­pened. Why did they take off with such a dated weather fore­cast? Who made the de­ci­sions, and why?

The des­per­a­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by the pi­lots in this hope­less sit­u­a­tion is fully felt by the reader. Among the emo­tions you’ll feel when you fin­ish read­ing will be anger. This didn’t have to hap­pen. But it did, and it’s one of the lit­tle­known se­crets of the Pa­cific The­ater of Op­er­a­tion—un­til now. The Marines’ Lost Squad

fills in some his­tor­i­cal blanks and is worth read­ing.—

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