Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class John W. Megginson, Jr. (1924–1944)

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class John W. Megginson, Jr. in a detail from a 1943 photo (Courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins and Michael Marine)
HometownCivilian Occupation
New Castle, DelawareFactory worker at Bellanca Aircraft
BranchService Number
U.S. Naval Reserve7225312
TheaterUnit
PacificBombing Squadron 115 (VB-115)
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Purple HeartCaroline Islands

Early Life & Family

John Wise Megginson, Jr. was born early on the morning of February 12, 1924, at 10 East 4th Street in New Castle, Delaware. He was the first child of John Wise Megginson, Sr. (a chauffeur and later foreman, 1905–1983) and Dorothy Susan Megginson (née Ramsey). He had two younger sisters. He went by Johnnie, though his Navy comrades called him Meg. 

Megginson as a young child (Courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins and Michael Marine)

The Megginson family was recorded on the census on April 9, 1930, living at 112 Delaware Street in New Castle. The next census on April 15, 1940, recorded the family at 405 Shaw Avenue in New Castle. (Curiously, the address is 403 Shaw Avenue in his military records.) 

Megginson graduated from William Penn High School in June 1942. He played high school football and was on the staff of the school yearbook, the Penn Quill. In an interview at the U.S. Naval Air Technical Training Center, Memphis, Tennessee, he listed his hobbies as “Hunting, Fishing, Trapping.” Megginson’s military paperwork described him as standing five feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 146–158 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes. He was Methodist. 

Women building aircraft turrets at Bellanca (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)

When Megginson registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, he was living with his parents on Shaw Avenue in New Castle and working at the nearby Bellanca Aircraft Corporation. After joining the Navy, Megginson wrote a letter (probably on February 17, 1944) to his old employer. In his letter, later published in The Bellanca Flash, Megginson wrote: 

It certainly makes one feel proud to think that he was once part of such a wonderful organization. I often get letters from fellows now in your employ, and they all tell me the same—the progress you have made along the producing of materials for the war effort. 

While I was still with you I worked in the Machine Shop on castings for the Martin Upper Turrets. Little did I realize that later on I would be using this same turret against our common enemy, but I’m doing just that.  I sure get a kick out of telling the fellows—“I used to help make these babies.” Everyone out here says the same thing to you folks back there—“KEEP SENDING THEM, AND WE’LL KEEP SHOOTING THEM.” 

Megginson’s girlfriend, Ruth L. Proud (later Linus, 1923–1993), also graduated from William Penn High School and worked at Bellanca. 


Megginson’s identification card (National Personnel Records Center, Martha Burkhart Collins)

Military Training

Megginson volunteered for the U.S. Naval Reserve at the Navy Recruiting Station, Wilmington, Delaware, on September 28, 1942. He was accepted for service on October 1, 1942. The following day, Apprentice Seaman Megginson began boot camp at the U.S.N.T.S. Great Lakes, Illinois. Journal-Every Evening reported on November 3, 1942, that he was visiting home on a week furlough.  

Megginson departed Great Lakes on November 17, 1942, arriving the next day at the Naval Air Technical Training Center, Memphis, Tennessee, to attend Aviation Machinist’s Mate Service School. Upon the completion of his training there (ranking 59th in his class of 184), he was appointed to the rating of aviation machinist’s mate 3rd class. His records also indicated that he took a two-week class qualifying him as an airborne radar operator, though there is no indication that he served in that capacity. 

Megginson (middle row, fourth from the right) with the rest of his Aviation Machinist’s Mate Service School class at the Naval Air Technical Training Center, Memphis (Courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins and Michael Marine)

Journal-Every Evening reported on April 9, 1943, that Ruth Proud had traveled with Megginson’s mother to visit him in Memphis. Both women worked at Bellanca during the war. When Megginson filled out an information sheet upon arrival at his squadron, he requested that Proud be notified in case he was seriously injured or killed (even listing her before his parents!).  

Excerpt from the Bellanca Flash about Megginson, his mother, and Ruth Proud (Courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins and Michael Marine)
Megginson with his mother, presumably in Memphis in 1943 (Courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins and Michael Marine)
Megginson’s Aviation Free Gunnery School diploma (Courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins and Michael Marine)

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Megginson left Memphis on May 4, 1943, arriving the following day at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, to attend Naval Air Gunners School. After graduating he was transferred, on June 25, 1943, to Headquarters Squadron, Fleet Air Wing 14 (FAW-14) at the Naval Air Station, San Diego, California. He joined the unit on June 29, 1943.  

The following month, on July 21, 1943, Megginson 

Transferred this date to Commandant, ELEVENTH Naval District, for approximately thirty-four (34) days duty under instruction in the maintenance and ground operation of PB4Y type aircraft, at the Army Air Forces Training Detachment, Camp ConSair, Consolidated Aircraft [Corporation], San Diego, California. 

A Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberator in flight (National Archives via U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

The Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberator was the Navy’s version of the U.S. Army Air Forces’ B-24 Liberator. (The PB4Y-2 Privateer, a more heavily modified version of the aircraft with a longer fuselage and a single vertical stabilizer, entered naval service later in the war.) After completing the course at Consolidated, Megginson returned to FAW-14 on August 25, 1943. That fall, on October 16, 1943, he transferred to Bombing Squadron 115 (VB-115). 

Beginning on December 7, 1943, Megginson kept a logbook of his flights. The log indicated that by December 9, 1943, he had joined a crew led by Lieutenant William R. Doerr (1917–1944). The previous year, Doerr had earned the Air Medal flying a mission against the Japanese-held island of Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.  


Megginson and the rest of VB-115 Crew 11. Standing from left to right: John W. Megginson, Jr., Bernard L. Johnson, William R. Doerr (holding the crew mascot, Tiny), Harold E. Barrett, and John J. Marrapodi. Front row from left to right: Reno A. Chiste, Robert F. Holman, Steve C. Burkhart, Jr., Thomas F. Reed, and Rocco C. Capobianco (Courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins and Charles Doerr, III)

Service in the Pacific Theater

In early 1944, VB-115 began deploying from California to the Pacific Theater. The first detachment shipped out from California bound for the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, on January 3, 1944, with the unit’s aircraft making the journey in small groups from January 17, 1944 – February 7, 1944. Megginson’s log recorded that on January 18, 1944, the Doerr crew “Left the States” on a 15½ hour flight. The squadron war diary stated that 

As aircraft and crews arrived at NAS, Kaneohe Bay, a daily schedule of patrol and training flights was begun.  Two or three ten-hour patrols of the Hawaiian Sea Frontier search plan were made each day, and intensive gunnery and bombing training begun. 

As of February 1944, VB-115’s strength was 57 officers, 148 enlisted men, and 15 PB4Y-1s (three of which were spares). Although their training continued, the squadron also flew a handful of patrols. Megginson wrote that during a 10-hour patrol on February 14, 1944, they “Spotted Sub.” He did not record whether it was a friendly or Japanese submarine, but in Hawaiian waters it was probably American. 

On March 20, 1944, the squadron began the move to Munda, New Georgia, Solomon Islands. Megginson’s log recorded the series of flights. On March 21, 1944, they took a short flight to Naval Air Station, Barber’s Point, Hawaii, followed by a seven-hour flight to Palmyra Island. The crew flew five hours to Canton on March 23, 1944, followed by a four-hour flight to Funafuti the same day. The following day, they flew the last leg of the journey, a nine-hour flight to Munda. 

From Munda, the crews began flying search missions, with Megginson’s crew’s flying their first, a 12-hour patrol, on March 26, 1944. On mission days, a VB-115 crew would be assigned a sector which would see them fly 800–1,000 miles out over lonely, empty stretches of the Pacific Ocean. Some of the patrol routes brought VB-115 very close to Japanese bases in the Caroline Islands. On March 28, 1944, one of the squadron’s aircraft fought off three Japanese fighters.  

A PB4Y-1 patrolling over the Bay of Biscay (National Archives via U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

Megginson and his crew flew three more patrols from Munda on April 4, 5, and 9. During the last, Megginson noted they spotted a “Barge but couldn’t shoot.” 

On April 10, 1944, the squadron moved northwest to Green Island (Nissan Island, present day Papua New Guinea). New Zealand troops, supported by the U.S. Navy, had captured the island after defeating the small Japanese garrison less than two months earlier.  

Airfield under construction on Nissan Island (Official U.S. Army Air Forces photo, National Archives via Fold 3)

The same day, aerial reconnaissance made a discovery that was to occupy VB-115’s attention for the rest of the month. The Japanese were building an airfield on Alet Island in Puluwat Atoll, Caroline Islands (today part of the Federated States of Micronesia). VB-115 launched several low-level attacks on facilities and shipping around the atoll. Megginson’s crew flew patrols from Green Island on April 11, 14, and 18, 1944.  

Mosiac of aerial photos of the Puluwat Atoll taken shortly after Megginson’s final mission. Several antiaircraft positions and a beached cargo ship (labeled AK) are visible. (“Aviation History of the Forward Area, Central Pacific and the Marianas Area,” National Archives via Fold3)

On April 22, 1944, Megginson and his crew took off aboard a PB4Y-1 Liberator (Bureau No. 32222). There were 11 men aboard including a U.S. Army Air Forces weather observer from the 17th Weather Squadron. This patrol would bring them near Alet for the first time. In her book, Tomorrow We Go Out Again, Martha Burkhart Collins recounted a story that a native of Puluwat Island relayed to a pair of visiting World War II researchers, Dave and Sherry McCampbell. The McCampbells wrote that the man was told by his father that Megginson’s plane spotted a “a small Japanese ship unloading on to the reef on the west side of Alet” which “immediately got underway[.]” The PB4Y set up for a low-altitude bomb run on the ship. As the bomber approached on the attack, “a lucky shot from the ship downed the plane which fell into the lagoon.” 

According to another native of Puluwat, some of the 11 crewmembers survived the crash but were executed by the Japanese garrison.  

Map of the Puluwat Atoll made shortly after Megginson and his crew were killed. Although not labeled on this map, their PB4Y crashed in the lagoon between Alet and Puluwat Islands. (“Aviation History of the Forward Area, Central Pacific and the Marianas Area,” National Archives via Fold3)
Alet Island lighthouse under attack by American aircraft. The structure still stands. (“Aviation History of the Forward Area, Central Pacific and the Marianas Area,” National Archives via Fold3)

Late war American intelligence found no evidence that the Japanese ever moved any aircraft to Alet, either due to the damage the airfield sustained during regular attacks by Allied forces or because they had more pressing strategic priorities. 

Several months after Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Megginson’s death, Ruth L. Proud volunteered in the U.S. Navy’s women’s auxiliary, the W.A.V.E.S. She served at the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington. D.C., until 1946. On August 8, 1947, Proud married Aloysius E. Linus (1923–2014), who had served in the U.S. Army’s 116th Antiaircraft Gun Battalion during World War II. The couple raised three children. 

Megginson’s girlfriend, Ruth Proud (Courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins and Michael Marine)

Following the surrender of Japan, with no indication that Megginson or his crew had survived, the Secretary of the Navy issued a finding of death effective January 17, 1946. He was awarded the Purple Heart on September 21, 1946. After the war, the bodies of Megginson and his crew were moved to the U.S. Military Cemetery on Moen Island in the Truk Atoll, then to Hawaii prior to being dispatched to their final resting places. 

In a letter dated June 4, 1947, the Navy notified Megginson’s parents that their son’s body had been recovered but that he could not be individually identified. On August 26, 1949, Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Megginson and five other members of his crew were buried in a common grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri. 

Megginson is honored at Delaware Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware, and on a plaque at William Penn High School. 

Plaque honoring fallen servicemen from William Penn (Courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins and Michael Marine)

Crew of PB4Y-1 32222 on April 22, 1944 

The following list is adopted from Tomorrow We Go Out Again by Martha Burkhart Collins with grade or rating, service number, and position. 

Lieutenant William R. Doerr, 99839 (pilot) 

Chief Aviation Pilot Bernard L. Johnson, 3283745 (copilot) 

Ensign Harold E. Barrett, 299685 (navigator) 

Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Reno A. Chiste, 3722455 (1st ordnanceman) 

Aviation Radioman 2nd Class Robert F. Holman, 3008355 (1st radioman) 

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class John J. Marrapodi, 6466163 (1st mechanic) 

Aviation Radioman 3rd Class Rocco C. Capobianco, 6423652 (2nd radioman) 

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class John W. Megginson, Jr., 7225312 (2nd mechanic) 

Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Thomas F. Reed, 3120902 (2nd ordnanceman) 

Seaman 1st Class Steve C. Burkhart, Jr., 8391532 (gunner) 

Staff Sergeant Russell E. Hill, 37213907 (U.S. Army Air Forces weather observer) 


A spare set of Megginson’s tools, returned to his family after his death (Courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins and Michael Marine)

Notes

New Castle Homes 

Megginson lived near some of historic New Castle’s most prominent landmarks. 10 East 4th Street, where Megginson was born, is right next to the Amstel House. His later residence at 112 Delaware Street is next to the what is now Jessop’s Tavern, one of New Castle’s best restaurants. The family’s residence in the 1940s, 403 or 405 Shaw Avenue, is not an extant address in New Castle. A neighboring street on the census is Tremont Street. There is currently a Shaw Alley but the range of addresses is only 1, 2, 3, 5, and 9. Either way, Shaw Avenue must have been in the southwest quarter of the city, since the census specifies it as being in New Castle’s 4th Ward. 

Bellanca 

Bellanca was one of the earliest aircraft manufacturers. Had negotiations gone better, the Spirit of St. Louis could have been a Wright-Bellanca WB-2. 


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Martha Burkhart Collins and Michael Marine for providing materials from their extensive research on Megginson and his crew, including photos, scans of his logbook, and his personnel file. The content attributed to them in this article may not be republished without their permission. Thanks also go out to the Delaware Public Archives and Charles Doerr, III for the use of additional photographs.


Bibliography

“Aloysuis ‘Allie’ Linus.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/133213274/aloysuis-linus  

“Aviation History of the Forward Area, Central Pacific and the Marianas Area.” World War II War Diaries, 1941–1945. Record Group 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/302009698  

Collins, Martha Burkhart. Tomorrow We Go Out Again. Self-published book, 2017. 

Compton, J. R. “War Diary April, 1944.” Bombing Squadron One Hundred Fifteen, May 1, 1944. World War II War Diaries, 1941–1945. Record Group 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/274223937 

Compton, J. R. “**War Diary** February, 1944.” Bombing Squadron One Hundred Fifteen, March 1, 1944. World War II War Diaries, 1941–1945. Record Group 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/282865957  

Compton, J. R. “**War Diary** January, 1944.” Bombing Squadron One Hundred Fifteen, February 1, 1944. World War II War Diaries, 1941–1945. Record Group 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/282865955  

Compton, J. R. “**War Diary** March, 1944.” Bombing Squadron One Hundred Fifteen, April 1, 1944. World War II War Diaries, 1941–1945. Record Group 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/282865958

“Delawareans in the Service.” Journal-Every Evening, November 3, 1942.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/106429730/megginson-furlough/  

“Eight Recruited to Serve in WAVES.” Wilmington Morning News, September 7, 1944. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/106431348/ruth-proud-waves/  

Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRHM-WNJ, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RHM-W6T 

Interment Control Forms, 1928–1962. Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2590/images/40479_2421401757_0092-03214  

“John W. Megginson, Jr.” Wilmington Morning News, August 26, 1949. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/106429949/megginson-funeral/  

“John Wise Megginson.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/135939424/john-wise-megginson  

John Wise Megginson birth certificate. Record Group 1500-008-094, Birth certificates. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYQM-3241  

John Wise Megginson, Jr. Official Military Personnel File.  National Personnel Records Center, courtesy of Martha Burkhart Collins. 

“News Reports From Neighboring Towns.” Journal-Every Evening, April 9, 1943. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/106430581/proud-visit-to-megginson/  

“Ruth E. Proud, Aloysius Linus To Wed Today.” Wilmington Morning News, August 8, 1947. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/106432797/proud-linus-wedding/  

Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9MR-M99C  

“Wilmington Man Listed as Missing In Raid on Reich.” Wilmington Morning News, April 27, 1944. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/106430083/megginson-mia/  

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940–3/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_10_00005-00112  


Last updated on October 9, 2022

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