Robert M. Hanson
Robert M. Hanson (1920 - 1944) was a fighter pilot and ace with the US Marines in World War II. He was the top-scoring Corsair pilot of the war (25 aerial victories, all in the F4U), and was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism.
Bob Hanson lead an interesting life even before the war began. He was born in India on February 4, 1920, to missionary parents, and became the heavyweight wrestling champion of India’s United Provinces in the mid 1930’s. He later toured Europe by bicycle, and was passing through Austria when that country was annexed by Germany. After America entered the war, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and earned his wings.
In 1943, Hanson was assigned to VMF-214, then active in the Solomon Islands campaign, and he flew his first combat mission on August 4. His weeks with the 214 were productive ones, and he shot down two Japanese fighters during his time with that unit. Hanson was transferred to VMF 215 just in time to support the Allied landings on the island of Bouginville. On the day the Marines landed, November 1, he became an ace by downing two Zeros and single-handedly attacking a flight of six “Kate” torpedo bombers, destroying one of them and forcing the others to jettison their bombs. He was shot down himself in that action, but was rescued by a destroyer and returned to duty. In the month of January 1943, Hanson had an amazing run, shooting down 20 enemy aircraft in 17 days. On January 24, Lt. Hanson was cut off from his division while on a high cover flight when he saw Japanese Zeros massing to attack a flight of American bombers. He attacked, shooting down four of them, and disrupted the enemy formation.
On February 3, 1944, VMF-215 was on a mission to attack targets of opportunity over Japanese-held New Ireland. Hanson was strafing a lighthouse used by the enemy as an observation post when he was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and went down with his plane.
He was awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor for his actions of November 4, 1943 and January 24, 1944.