Captain David S. McCampbell
Bath Iron Works’s fourth FLIGHT IIA Arleigh Burke Class AEGIS Destroyer will proudly bear the name of Captain David S. McCampbell, United States Navy. Captain McCampbell is the Navy’s all-time leading ace with 34 aerial victories during World War II. David McCampbell was born in Bessemer, Alabama, on January 16, 1910. He attended Staunton (Virginia) Military Academy and one year at Georgia School of Technology before his appointment to the United States Naval Academy, where he graduated with the class of 1933.
From September 1943 to September 1944 Captain McCampbell was commander of Air Group 15, in charge of fighters, bombers, and torpedo bombers aboard the aircraft carrier 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, Formosa, and Okinawa were key to the success of the “island hopping” campaign.
In addition to his duties as commander of the “Fabled Fifteen,” Captain McCampbell became the Navy’s “Ace of Aces” during the missions he flew in 1944. In October 1944 Captain McCampbell and his wingman attacked a Japanese force of 60 aircraft. During the mission, Captain McCampbell shot down nine enemy planes, setting a single mission aerial combat record. When he landed his Grumman F6F Hellcat, his six machine guns had two rounds remaining and the plane had only enough fuel to keep it aloft for 10 more minutes. Captain McCampbell received the Medal of Honor for that action, becoming the only fast carrier task force pilot to do so. During a similarly courageous mission in June 1944, Air Group 15’s planes routed a large enemy force and Captain McCampbell earned seven kills.
For his brilliant record in command of Air Group 15, Captain McCampbell was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, 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. After the war, his assignments included command of the carrier BON HOMME RICHARD and service as plans division chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He retired from active duty in 1964 and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery after his death on June 30, 1996.