John Charles Waldron
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member MNSearchers
N 44° 22.186 W 100° 22.359
14T E 390634 N 4913859
Quick Description: (24 August 1900 – 4 June 1942) was a United States Navy aviator who led a squadron of torpedo bombers in World War II.
Date Posted: 5/29/2007 12:46:01 PM
Waymark Code: WM1M26
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member MNSearchers
Views: 58

Long Description:
Waldron was born on 24 August 1900 at Fort Pierre, South Dakota. He received an appointment as midshipman from his home state on 16 June 1920 and graduated with the United States Naval Academy Class of 1924. Following his initial sea duty in Seattle (CA-11), Waldron went to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., where he received his wings in the summer of 1927. Over the ensuing months, Waldron flew with torpedo squadrons (VT-1S and VT-9S and received his commission as lieutenant (jg.) on 16 February 1928. He served at the Naval Academy from 24 May to 13 September 1929, where he instructed midshipmen in the field of aviation. Then, after duty as an instructor at the NAS Pensacola, between October of 1929 and June of 1931, Waldron went to sea again, this time with Scouting Squadron 3B (VS-3B), based on board Lexington (CV-2), reporting for duty on 1 July 1931.

Waldron flew observation aircraft off Colorado (BB-45), before he joined Patrol Squadron 1B (VP-1B), Battle Force, for a brief period in late 1936. Subsequently flying from Saratoga (CV-3) with Fighter Squadron 3 (VF-3) until the early summer of 1939, he reported back to NAS, Pensacola, for further instructor's duty on 27 June 1939. Waldron then served three successive tours of shore duty, all involving flying, at the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Va.; the Bureau of Ordnance, Washington, D.C.; and finally in the 3rd Naval District, where he was appointed naval inspector of ordnance at the plant of Carl L. Norden, Inc., in New York—makers of the famed Norden bombsight. Detached from that duty in the summer of 1941, Lt. Comdr. Waldron took command of the newly-formed Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8), part of the embryonic air group being assembled for the new fleet carrier Hornet (CV-8) at Newport News, Virginia. The Pearl Harbor attack, though, meant that his training of his men had to be intensive.

"Torpedo 8" did not get a chance to practice its trade, however, until nearly 10 months after it had been commissioned at Norfolk. Too late to take part in the Battle of the Coral Sea, VT-8 would receive its brutal baptism of fire at the turning point of the Pacific War—the Battle of Midway. In the days preceding that battle, VT-8 led a relaxed existence on board the carrier as she steamed toward "Point Luck" from Pearl Harbor in the first few days of June 1942. Finally, on the eve of battle, Commander Waldron called his men together and distributed a mimeographed plan of attack. He concluded by saying that if worst came to worst, he wanted each man to do his utmost to destroy the enemy. "If there is only one plane left to make a final run-in," he told his men, "I want that man to go in and get a hit. May God be with us all. Good luck, happy landings, and give 'em hell."

The next day, 4 June, the 15 Douglas TBD-1 Devastators of VT-8 launched from Hornet's flight deck in search of the enemy. While the dive-bomber and fighter units from that carrier made a wrong turn and thus missed the Japanese fleet, Waldron found it and, grimly aware of the lack of fighter protection, decided to lead Torpedo 8 into the attack—unprotected. All of the planes fell to the enemy's combat air patrol of Mitsubishi "Zero" fighters. Of the 30 men who set out that morning, only one—Ens. George H. Gay, Jr., USNR—survived. Their sacrifice, however, had not been in vain. The TBDs had drawn off the fighter cover over the Japanese carriers and forced the ships to maneuver radically. With no fighters overhead and launching operations temporarily disrupted, the enemy lay open to the Douglas SBD Dauntlesses from Yorktown (CV-5) and Enterprise (CV-6) that sank three carriers, and changed the course of the battle.

Torpedo 8 earned the Presidential Unit Citation (US); Lt. Comdr. Waldron received the Navy Cross posthumously, as well as a share of the unit citation. The USS Waldron (DD-699), an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, was named in his honor.
Marker Name: John Charles Waldron

Marker Type: Roadside

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