Captain David S. McCampbell (January 16, 1910
– June 30, 1996):
Bath Iron Works’s fourth FLIGHT IIA Arleigh Burke Class AEGIS Destroyer proudly
bears 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
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 Legion of Merit with Combat
“V,” the Silver Star Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Gold
Stars in lieu of the second and third awards, and the Air Medal (shown
below). 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.
Medal of Honor Citation:
McCampbell, David S.:
Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy, Air Group 15.
Place and date: First and second battles of the Philippine Sea, 19 June 1944.
Entered service at: Florida.
Born: 16 January 1910, Bessemer, Alabama.
Other Navy awards: Navy Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished
Flying Cross with 2 Gold Stars, Air Medal.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and
beyond the call of duty as commander, Air Group 15, during combat against
enemy Japanese aerial forces in the first and second battles of the
Philippine Sea. An inspiring leader, fighting boldly in the face of terrific
odds, Comdr. McCampbell led his fighter planes against a force of 80 Japanese
carrier-based aircraft bearing down on our fleet on 19 June 1944. Striking
fiercely in valiant defense of our surface force, he personally destroyed 7
hostile planes during this single engagement in which the outnumbering attack
force was utterly routed and virtually annihilated. During a major fleet
engagement with the enemy on 24 October, Comdr. McCampbell, assisted by but
one plane, intercepted and daringly attacked a formation of 60 hostile
land-based craft approaching our forces. Fighting desperately but with superb
skill against such overwhelming airpower, he shot down 9 Japanese planes and,
completely disorganizing the enemy group, forced the remainder to abandon the
attack before a single aircraft could reach the fleet. His great personal
valor and indomitable spirit of aggression under extremely perilous combat
conditions reflect the highest credit upon Comdr. McCampbell and the U.S.