KIA- South Pacific -World War 2-U.S. Navy
Lieutenant William Mann (U.S. Navy) was born in 1918 and raised on the southwest side of Chicago, Illinois during the 1920’s. His father, (William Mann,) was a Yale graduate and the chief council for the Illinois Bell Telephone Company. His mother, (the former Julie Manierre,) was a Chicago socialite. Lt. Mann’s World War II naval military service is worthy of posting on the Worcester County Veteran’s Memorial site. Had he survived the war, he would have become the largest land owner in Ocean City, Maryland.
By the mid-twenties William’s mother and father had divorced. Because of their standing in Chicago society the suit was sensationalized in Chicago newspapers. William and his sister Margaret remained with their mother after the divorce. William attended Lake Forest High School and would eventually enroll in Northwestern University.
After the much publicized divorce the elder Mann retired and moved to Washington DC. He read of a new town being created on the Atlantic Ocean just north of Ocean City, MD. He moved there, purchased lots, and built a fine home on pilings immediately on the surf bank at today’s 37th Street. The name of the new town was to be MariDel Beach, MD. As the decade of the twenties came to an end, America was plunged into a financial depression. The developers of MariDel Beach came to Mann and asked for a loan of $23,000 which he agreed to, and as collateral held a mortgage on all of the land from today’s 33rd St. to 110th St. ocean to bay.
The depression dragged on, and in 1932 the developers once again approached Mann for a loan. He loaned them an additional $ 10,000 which allowed them to pay their land taxes and interest due him to date. The loan was secured by all of the land between present day 14th St. to 26th St from Baltimore Ave. to the bay. By 1933 the company was forced into bankruptcy and Mann became the sole owner of nearly all of the land from 14th St. to 110th St. ocean to bay. The idea of MariDel Beach, MD had failed.
As a young man William would visit his father and spend time with him especially during the summer months. As the 1940’s approached it became evident that America would become involved in World War II. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1942 and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy Air Corps. He began training as a fighter pilot and in 1943 was assigned to the new Navy carrier, U.S.S. Hornet (CV-12) which had been named in honor of the former carrier, U.S.S. Hornet (CV-8) which had been sunk by the Japanese in 1942. He was a pilot of the new navy carrier fighter plane designated as the F6F Hellcat. He was assigned to fighter squadron VF-2
The U.S.S. Hornet was soon in action. Early in June of 1944 the Hornet’s planes struck bases in the Mariana islands of Guam and Rota. Later in June its planes blasted Japanese airfields at Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima to prevent Japanese air strikes. Official navy logs report that VF-2 downed 62 enemy planes during those strikes. During the battles involving the Mariana’s and Saipan the Hornet aircrews would down 233 Japanese aircraft. By late June the Hornet was attached to the Fast Carrier Task Force to intercept the Japanese First Mobile Fleet headed through the Philippine Sea for Saipan. The battle of the Philippine Sea began on June 19. Japanese planes approached the American carrier groups in four massive waves. By that time in the war most Japanese pilots were young and inexperienced. The great air battles that ensued came to be called “The Mariana’s Turkey Shoot.” Later, Japanese battle reports would show that after the battle only 35 planes were operational of the original 430 Japanese planes sent into the battle. Of the 395 Japanese planes downed during the battle, 52 were downed by pilots of the VF-2 squadron. By September of 1944 the Hornet fighter squadron, VF-2 was named the top fighter squadron in the Pacific. Of the squadron’s 50 pilots, 28 were confirmed ACES with five or more victories. In October of 1944 the American Army invaded the Philippines on the island of Leyte. The invasion would match the earlier Normandy invasion in Europe in size but it did not capture as much attention from the American Press Corps. The planes of the U.S.S. Hornet provided ground support to the army troops. On November 6 Lt. Mann’s Hellcat was part of a Hornet fighter plane strafing strike on Clark Air Base. A former American base it was then controlled by the Japanese. An after action report by squadron members remembered seeing Lt. Mann’s plane struck by anti-aircraft fire and the belly fuel tank engulfed in flame. His plane did not return to the carrier after the strike. He was officially declared MIA (Missing In Action.) A year later he was officially declared KIA (Killed in Action.)
Meanwhile, in Ocean City, MD a coastal hurricane in September of 1944 severely damaged the ocean front home of William Mann Sr. Saddened by the news of his only son’s death and the destruction of the home that he had come to love he moved to Washington, D.C. Less then three months after his son’s death, he died at the age of 70.
His will stipulated that his ashes be spread in the ocean in front of where his home had once stood. He left his estate and his land holdings to his only surviving child, his daughter Margaret. She traveled to the area from Chicago and with the assistance of a Worcester County attorney disposed of all of her father’s land holdings in a matter of weeks.
Coda: This writer was transferred from Korea to Clark AFB in the Philippines in 1954 as a member of a U.S. Army Signal Corps unit. At the time America was covertly assisting the French in their fight against the Vietminh in a place called Indo China, (Viet Nam.) During maneuvers in the rain forests of northern Luzon my platoon would frequently come across World War II wreckage of American and Japanese planes of the air battles fought a decade earlier, entombed in jungle growth. It is probable that Lt. Mann’s Hellcat was one such wreck. There is no report of Lt. William Mann’s remains ever having been located. The war dragged on into the summer of 1945. Lt. Mann was posthumously awarded the American Area Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal; the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
George M. Hurley – Ocean City, MD-2013