Lt. Col. Harold William "Indian Joe" Bauer - Part 2
Marine Corps Ace at Guadalcanal
By Kent B. Brown DMD, (Bauer's nephew) Dec. 2002. Updated July 5, 2011.
- Continued from Page 1
A few days later (Oct 3), after bringing three more pilots to Henderson, Lt. Col. Bauer scrambled with Capt. Marion Carl and what was left of VMF 223 and VMF 224 to repulse a raid by Bettys and 27 Zekes. He had a pretty good day. To quote T. G. Miller--"The star of the day, though, was the visiting Col. Bauer, flying with the 224th. He got four Zekes, which, even considering the relative disadvantage of the belly-tank laden Japanese, was a remarkable performance. But Bauer was a remarkable man. Tall and dark, with a slightly Indian cast of feature that was to give him his nickname of "Indian Joe," he was a famous fighter pilot in the Marine Corps even before the War.
A marvelous leader as well as a great pilot, he was worshipped by the younger men, who referred to him as the "Chief" or the "Coach"."
In the initial attack by the Wildcats that day, Bauer smoked the trailing Zero, Sea 1c Ito Kiyoshi, then climbed to nail PO 2c Tomita Masashi. Joe was down to one gun out of six and the rest of his flight "all shoved right away, leaving me to play with the Zeros all by myself." He went after the trio of PO 1c Sugio Shigeo, PO 3c Ohara Giichi, and PO 3c Ikeda Mitsuji. Sugio, a veteran, slid out and Bauer went after the other two, getting them both, before retreating to the clouds to try to fix his guns. He was now an ace.
It is noted in his Medal of Honor Citation that he also left a fifth plane badly damaged that day. This was a completely different engagement and probably should be considered a kill. As Joe was returning from the earlier melee, he happened across Capt. Ken Frazier who had been flying with Capt. Carl's 223rd. Frazier had downed two Zeros before his plane was disabled by a third, causing him to bail out over the ocean. As he floated down, he was startled to find a Zeke trying to blow him out of his chute. "My attacker had followed me down and was strafing me in my parachute. After a few seconds of this, which seemed like a terrifying eternity, a lone F4F, piloted by Lt. Col. H. W. Bauer, closed in on this strafing Zero and drove him off trailing a large column of black smoke, despite the fact that Bauer had only one or two guns operating. I made a successful landing in the ocean several miles from the northeastern tip of Guadalcanal, was picked up by an American destroyer two hours later and returned to Henderson none the worse for wear."
Bauer returned to the field and taxied in with his engine flaming sporadically. When he cut the switch, it continued to burn and had to be smothered with fire extinguishers. Bauer was wild with excitement, yelling to his men about his victories. They laughed to see the Coach so stirred up--he was still wearing his parachute, forgetting to leave it in the plane--but Bauer claimed he'd never been calmer. He was still explaining this when a mechanic came up to him and, with a grin, reported that the engine fire was caused by the Colonel's landing in high blower, with the auxiliary fuel pump on. (Both should have been shut off below 15,000 feet.) Bauer didn't excuse himself, but joined in the laughter. As one of his men recalled later, "After a fight he was always a little crazy with the excitement....I never saw a man who loved a fight the way he did." He then jumped into another plane to go back and mark Frazier's position until he could be picked up. This feat was to win him Gen. Geiger's Jap Flag trophy for three kills in a day.
On Oct 5th Gen. Geiger presented Joe with a Japanese battle flag, which Joe promptly donated to his Groups trophy room. Typically, he took no credit for what his men had made possible.
The left picture ran in most national newspapers soon after the action, but the press didn't have the flag picture until 17 Nov. The San Diego paper apparently ran a complete article on Joe's career on 18 Nov.
When the flag picture was obtained, the following was issued:
from ELEVENTH NAVAL DISTRICT Public Relations Office SDMC-7(42) (San Diego)
FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION
American Marine flyers at Guadalcanal recently originated a novel version of the county fair game of "Spill the Milk Bottles and Win a Cigar." In the Marine version, Jap planes were the objects to be hit and a captured Nipponese flag was offered as the prize. The flag was taken from the enemy by Col. Merrit A. Edson and his group of Marine Raiders on Guadalcanal. It was offered to the first flyer to shoot down three Jap planes in combat after the day during which the flag was captured.
Lieut. Col. Harold W. Bauer, of Fort Collins, Colo., was the winner of the novel contest when he downed four Jap Zeros in one day. The flag was presented to him by Major Gen. Roy S. Geiger, Commanding General of the Marine Air Forces in the Solomons. Col. Bauer is credited with downing 10 Jap planes up to and including Nov. 17.
He presented the prize flag to the Marine Corps Museum, Quantico, Virginia.
MARINE FIGHTING SQUADRON 212, MARINE AIRCRAFT GROUP 23
FIRST MARINE AIRCRAFT WING, FLEET MARINE FORCE
EFATE, NEW HEBRIDES
October 5, 1942.
From: Lieutenant Colonel H. W. Bauer, USMC
To: Commanding Officer, Marine Aircraft Group 23
Subject: Jap Battle Flag, presentation of.
1. Having been presented with a Jap Battle Flag as a trophy for an individual feat while on temporary duty at Guadalcanal and feeling that it was equally deserved by each and every pilot of the group, it is my desire that it be accepted as a Marine Aircraft Group 23 prize and be forwarded to the Marine Corps Trophy Room, Quantico, Va.
H. W. BAUER.
On the 6th, while returning from an uneventful patrol flight, Joe and his two wingmen decided to practice a little dog-fighting and, in the realistic conditions, one of his men actually fired at him! Luckily, no hits, though.
Joe went back to VMF 212 on Efate on 7 Oct as the Japanese began a huge naval and air build-up for a third try at the recapture of Henderson Field and the newly built runway, Fighter One. He found 37 new planes on the field. Capt. Joe Foss arrived at Cactus on 9 Oct 42 with his VMF 121. This squadron went on to some degree of fame, but while they were under Joe's command he called them a "flying circus," a nickname they proudly kept.
The McFarlandOn the 14th, Lt. Col. Bauer's 212th was ordered to ferry some extra SBD dive bombers from Espiritu Santo to Guadacanal, return to Efate, and then bring their entire squadron of 19 F4Fs in. Fuel and ammunition were dangerously low at Henderson but the converted four-stack destroyer, the "MacFarland," was on the way. Fighting began in earnest on all fronts at this time and Joe's squadron was anxious to join the action. The "Hammondsport" was sent to pick up the entire squadron for the permanent move and the planes would follow soon thereafter.
As the planes were arriving and began landing at Henderson Field on the 16th, Joe saw the first black smoke from the "MacFarland," under attack from nine enemy Aichi bombers on Iron Bottom Sound near Lunga Point. Her gunners had downed one plane but she was badly damaged and the fuel barge alongside was burning--27 men were dead on the decks. "His gas tanks almost empty after the trip, Bauer set out alone after the surviving dive-bombers. He caught them only a few hundred feet up and, in full view of a hundred pilots on the fighter strip, shot down four of them in a matter of seconds. It was a stunning accomplishment, even for the Cactus Air Force, and was to win the "Chief" the Congressional Medal of Honor. Bauer capped his performance by landing and giving a rousing talk that restored the morale of his fellow aviators." He stepped out of his Wildcat and told the men he had come to command that "Beginning tomorrow, things are going to be different. We have good planes and we can fly and shoot. We'll blast them out of the sky!" The Jap bombers were in a formation that allowed Joe to merely come in from the rear and drop them one-by-one. Three of his victims were WO Iwami Kinzo, PO 3c Tokuoka Masahiro, and PO 3c Ozeki Mitsuo. Robert Leckie adds--
"The MacFarland was saved, as well as her precious cargo of ammunition. Rugged Joe Bauer, Indian Joe Bauer, one of the most inspirational of flying leaders, and also the pilot whom all Marines regarded as "the Greatest," had brought off the most astonishing single feat of aerial arms in the annals of Guadalcanal. In the words of his adoring wingman, 'The Chief stitched four of the bastards end to end!'."
Joe took over the Cactus Fighter Command on 16 Oct and told his men to "Be an aggressor. You're out there to shoot down enemy planes. Have complete confidence in you armor and confidence in you ability to shoot down the enemy when you get him in your sights!" Joe, himself, was now meant to be on the ground.
The men of the 212th had barely set up operations when, on 23 Oct 42, Admiral Kusaka sent his largest air attack in weeks-- 16 bombers and 26 fighters. "Lt. Col. Bauer, who had taken over as Fighter/Commander when Col. Wallace left, scrambled everything he had, 24 F4Fs and 4 Army P39s. The result was a classic fighter melee. Joe Bauer, an aggressive, inspiring leader, was willing to meet the Zekes on their own terms. 'When you see Zeros, dogfight 'em!' he ordered." Bauer's pilots fought Zeros all over the sky in a classic dogfight, and the Coach's theory was proved correct: Well-handled Wildcats could defeat Zeros in circling combat. The Americans claimed 20 enemy fighters and two bombers destroyed that day, which was perhaps a bit optimistic but very close to the true figures.
By Oct 25th, the two week assault was over and the Japs wouldn't be the same again. They couldn't get more planes and pilots as rapidly as the Americans. Things got quiet again allowing the Cactus group to re-group and re-arm. The conflicting Navies were now fighting the Battle of Santa Cruz, where we lost the carrier "Hornet." Henderson Field, as always, was remote, muddy, and working continuously to keep planes flyable. The Marines, after all, got only the old planes the Navy didn't want any more.
By November 10th it was apparent that the men of the VMF 212 were overdue for some rest. The men had been living in the feverish heat of the tropics for six months, much of that time in frequent combat. Now, with fresh Marine fighting squadrons arriving on the island, the 212th was relieved and sent to California via Efate. All except Joe Bauer, who remained behind to handle final details.
The fourth and final major assault began on 12 Nov 42 with 23 ships and troop transports roaring down the "Slot" planning to land on the south shore and mount a land attack through the jungle. The 13th saw continual air and naval battles, with the Japanese falling behind our forces. Around midnight, a courageous naval assault by us broke the attack. The 14th saw the men flying mop-up missions as the enemy limped north with their few remaining ships.
Wanting "one more shot at the bastards," Lt. Col. Bauer joined Capt. Joe Foss and Lt. Boots Furlow on one of the last sorties of the day the battle ended. "Colonel Bauer, the worshipped fighter/commander, was shot down at the end of the day. They had provided high cover for the final attack of the SBD's and TBF's. As the flight left the area, the three F4F's went down to make a strafing run on some surviving transports. Then they ran for home, right down on the water. They should have stayed high, but the Coach, as pugnacious as ever, wanted to get a shot at the enemy and yielding to the temptation would cost him his life. Two Zeros attacked from astern and Bauer turned into them and blew one up while Foss and Furlow went after the other (Joe probably claimed the life of PO 1c Matsumoto Sanae). When they returned, the pair found the Coach swimming out of an oil slick left by his downed aircraft. Foss tried to drop his life raft but it would not release as Bauer pointed away and waved him off. Unable to reach Henderson by radio, the two F4F's rushed back at full throttle. Foss immediately fired up the amphibious rescue plane (a Grumman J2F Duck) but take-off was delayed by a flight of incoming B-26's low on fuel. It was dark by the time he and Maj. Renner returned to the scene and they could find nothing. "Sometime that night Indian Joe Bauer died. The legend that had grown around him in a few brief weeks had helped his hard-driven pilots to surpass themselves when it was so vital that they do so." Accompanying Foss in the "Duck" that trip was Maj. Joe Renner, a well know utility pilot. Before the war, Bauer, Renner, and their wives often played bridge together in California. They were old friends.
The last assault on Guadalcanal was over and the island was ours. The troops that held the island gave the US the ability to turn the tide against the Japanese and regain the Pacific offensive.
Eight days later, in San Diego, the men of VMF 212 steamed into port. Harriette and sister-in-law Peggy were there to meet the ship. This would be the men's first news that their leader was missing and Peggy Bauer relates that the sight of all those men crying was the most heart-wrenching experience she has ever had.
The men of VMF 212 counted 92 planes and 2 destroyers as kills while led by Indian Joe Bauer and had four losses. They produced 10 Aces and 1 Medal of Honor recipient. The Unit also won the Presidential Unit Citation for their work at Guadalcanal. The Squadron left California 7 months later for duty on Midway, Espiritu Santo, the Solomans, and then northwest in our conquest of the Pacific Theater. They totaled 132 1/2 kills.
We now know that Joe was gone that night of the 14th but those he left behind would not believe or accept that. The men of Cactus, with the help of the friendly natives of the Russell Islands, spent four days searching Iron Bottom Sound and the surrounding islands for any trace. They couldn't believe he wasn't to be found. R. Loomis relates that "for weeks after that the pilots sat around at night and told stories about the exploits of Indian Joe Bauer, and they probably tell them still." Newspaper articles in the months to come would always add that they still expected him to "walk in" some day. In a letter to Joe's parents, Capt. Joe Foss echoed this feeling.
Brig. Gen. Roy Geiger later wrote a lengthy recommendation that Bauer be awarded the Medal of Honor, citing many examples of his outstanding accomplishments. "No one in the fight against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands deserves a higher award," Geiger asserted, concluding, "No one surpasses him in ability, leadership, courage, or fighting spirit."
Lastly, in response to a White House invitation for Harriette to receive the Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt, she promptly replied, "No, save it for Joe, he'll pick it up in person."
His cause of death will never be known but I think a safe arrival on land or capture by the enemy can be eliminated. Both sides of the fight were known at this time of the battle to strafe downed pilots and disabled boats with their last bullets as they left the area. Japs could easily have seen Joe's plane go down and closed in on him after Foss and Furlow were forced to leave the area. If, by some remote chance, this did not occur, the shark infested water probably was his fate. The records of the Japanese 2nd Destroyer Fleet indicate an American plane being shot down in the area 3 minutes before Foss and Furlow would have returned. The third Zero in the area that was responsible was piloted by Suganami Masaji, who never returned to his base to claim the kill.
In January, 1943 Dad Bauer tried to find out whatever he could about his sons loss. He wrote to Capt. Joe Foss, who was still on Cactus with VMF 211 and received the following letter in return:
Feb. 14, 1943
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bauer:
Today I received your letter of Jan. 19. 1943, regarding your son, Col. Joe. On Nov. 14, 1942, we had a heavy enemy action up the line from Guadalcanal. All day we bombed, torpedoed, and straffed their ships by air. Late in the afternoon we had several of their troop transports dead in the water. About 4 o'clock I received orders to take my flight and escort the dive bombers to that area, and if enemy air activity permitted, I was to strafe transports. Just before I took off, Col. Joe told me that he was going along and see just how my boys worked. He said that I wasn't going to get all the fun alone, so we all took off. Upon arriving there, we found several troop transports dead in the water and smoking. Some warships were cruising among them to pick up survivors and ward off our air attacks. Tom Furlow and I followed the Col. and circled high above. The three of us circled for some time and watched our planes attack and start to leave. All the surrounding air seemed clear from enemy air activity, so down we came and strafed the ships below. We came out right on the water and headed for home. All of a sudden, tracers shot over my head. Upon looking backing back, I saw 2 Jap Zeros diving on us, shooting. At once, Joe turned and headed straight at one. Both he and the Jap were shooting everything. Then--Bang! And the Zero blew up and Joe zoomed up and made a turn toward home. Tom and I chased the other Zero towards Tokyo but couldn't catch him. Upon returning to the scene of Joe's action (12 or 15 miles due north of the Russell Islands) I was unable to spot him. I saw an oil slick about a mile south of the spot where the Zero had gone in, and upon circling it saw Joe swimming with his life jacket on. I went right down to within a few feet of him and he waved with both arms and jumped up out of the water. Then he waived me toward home. He was in good shape-no cuts visible. I tried to give him my boat but it wouldn't come out, so I gave full throttle toward home.
I landed and took off at once in a duck with Maj. Joe Renner. We were within about 10 miles of Joe and it got pitch black out so we had to return home. At daybreak, the next morning (Nov 15), we were on the scene of the Col.'s landing, with my flight of 8 and the duck. The only thing in sight was two Jap planes, which we shot down at once. We searched and searched the area, but no sign of a soul. We sent a plane up that landed and talked to the natives on the Russells and told them to be on a sharp lookout for Joe. They found a Sergeant Pilot that had gone down about 5 miles farther out than Joe at the same time. It took him 49 hours to make the trip, so there is no doubt but that the Col. had the stamina and the heart to make such a trip. So, in my way of thinking, one of the following 2 things happened to your son--either the Japs happened upon him and took him prisoner, or the sharks got him. If the Japs have him, he is safe, in my mind, as he wore his Colonel's bars.
The above is as complete as the action really was.
To me, Marine Corps Aviation's greatest loss in this war was that of your son Joe. He really had a way all his own of getting a tough job done efficiently and speedily, and was admired by all, from the lowest Private to the highest General. I am unable to express my sympathies as they really are. I am certain that wherever Joe is today, he is doing things the best way--the Bauer way.
Please make a copy of this letter and send it to Harriette. Tell her that my first stop on returning to the States will be to see her.
I am hoping that some day Joe will come back--I'll never lose hope, knowing Joe as I did.
On November 24, 1942 Brig. Gen. Neal Johnson awarded VMF 212 a Unit Commendation for their efforts at Roses with a special commendation for Lt. Col. Bauer "for his superior professional knowledge, skill, cooperation and leadership in command of VMF 212, and in addition as Air Officer on the staff of Force Headquarters, Base Roses." The commendation was endorsed by Admiral W. F. Halsey who also praised Joe.
SOUTH PACIFIC FORCE
Headquarters of the Commander
January 23, 1943
The Comander South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force takes pleasure in commending LIEUTENANT COLONEL HAROLD W. BAUER, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS for service as set forth in the following:
"For his skill, professional knowledge and leadership as air officer in headquarters and as a unit commander. Lieutenant Colonel BAUER directed improvements on the airfield and furnished invaluable professional advice for the establishment of additional fields. He also instituted an intensive training program which resulted in superior performance of his command against the enemy in the Solomon Islands operations. This outstanding performance of duty was tirelessly continued until Lieutenant Colonel BAUER was reported as missing in action."
W. F. Halsey
Admiral, U. S. Navy
Also in January Harriette was busy collecting Joe's property received the following:
UNITED STATES FLEET
January 16, 1943
Dear Mrs. Bauer:
I have traced Joe's diary from Honolulu, where it was taken up, to the Office of the Major General Commandant. General Mitchell will attempt to have all personal excerpts copied from it and sent to you and the diary will be earmarked as your property after the war. There are so many confidential matters included in it that it can not be released in its entirety until that time.
While there is no more news on Joe, I still feel there is the chance that he will turn up or that word may be received of his having been taken prisoner.
My very best regards,
M. B. Gardner.
President Roosevelt granted Joe the Medal of Honor and, after correspondence, Harriette received this:
HEADQUARTERS U. S. MARINE CORPS
Jul 30 1943
My dear Mrs. Bauer:
Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of 25 July, and in compliance with your request, the Medal of Honor and Citation awarded your husband, Lieutenant Colonel Harold W. Bauer, U. S. Marine Corps, will be held in this office for him in case he should be available for presentation at some time in the future. However, an official copy of the censored citation is enclosed for your information.
Col. John Dixon
After the war, the Board of Review, American Graves Registration Service, was able to make a thorough search of the South Pacific.
HEADQUARTERS U. S. MARINE CORPS
14 January, 1946
My dear Mrs. Bauer:
More than three years have now passed since your husband, Lieutenant Colonel Harold W. Bauer, U. S. Marine Corps, was reported missing in action on 14 November, 1942, when he was shot down while leading a fighter escort in an attack mission against Japanese surface vessels in the vicinity of the Russell Islands.
The termination of hostilities has afforded an opportunity to conduct an extensive search of all Japanese prisoner of war camps and records, and to question returned prisoners of war, but all efforts to locate your husband have been unsuccessful. In view of the circumstances surrounding your husband's disappearance and the length of time which has elapsed without word of his whereabouts, the conclusion is inescapable that he lost his life in the British Solomon Islands.
It is with deep regret that I inform you that an official declaration of presumptive death has been made by the Navy Department in the case of your husband. The date of death for administrative purposes is deemed to be 8 January, 1946, which is the date of the final review of his case.
I realize that there is nothing I can say to comfort you, but I hope you will find consolation and pride in the fact that your husband did his part in helping to bring this war to a successful conclusion, and that the knowledge of his patriotism and unselfish contribution toward a better world in the future will sustain you in your grief.
Lt. Col. D. Routh
When Joe's name appeared on the official casualty list, people from all over were able to finally send their condolences to Harriette. They came from Generals and Senators alike, but the most touching was from Joe's parents.
Wellington, Colo. Jan. 1946
No doubt you will be surprised to note that the Post-man is leaving you another letter from Ft Collins, so closely on the heels of the one you just received. On my arrival home last night Dale's carbon was waiting for me. We had just received our notice from the Government declaring Joe officially dead as of Jan 8th, 1946.
The point Dad wants to put across to you, is that Dad is 100% in agreement with Dale's letter, and unless Uncle Bill Crostwhait has a substitute more in agreement with your way of thinking, would recommend you accept it, since Dad feels Dale has shot "The works in your behalf."
Dale's suggestion to trade in the Dodge for a new Plymouth or Chevrolet is a good one, but if what is not in the offing, the Dodge will still take you anywhere you want to go with dependable tires, and let me add, traveling during vacation time will do all of you a world of good. Dad could elaborate at considerable length why, but the time had arrived, Harriette, when you should do considerable of your own thinking, since you are now the head of the family. A responsibility Dad has fervently hoped all along that you might be spared. Joe is gone and at rest. Mother and Dad as well as all the rest of us would give a pretty penny to know where he is resting, and the thoughts in his mind while he was facing the end. Why don't we all settle for a last cry and start in forgetting as soon as our love for him will permit. dad does not feel it necessary to remind you that once you are dead, you are always dead to those whom were left behind, and any extended grief undergone by the latter is more or less self imposed and positively wasted so far as the departed one is concerned.
This Old world has been saturated with extreme sorrow for the past four years, and to a lesser degree before and since the end of World War no. 2. This combined sorrow has been funneled through millions of hearts, the great majority of which feel they have been handed more than their share, with which Dad agrees, but what is the answer? Well, do not try to figure it out, Dad seriously questions whether any human can give an answer.
There is an old Slogan "Its always darkest before dawn" so until this slogan is proven false, why don't we accept it as true?
Mother & Dad
Joe's official "grave" is at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio, Republic of the Philippines, in the form of a memorial plaque.
In May, 1946, the awards that had been held for Joe, were finally presented. He received:
- Letter of Commendation with Commendation Ribbon
- American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp
- Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
- Victory Medal
- Purple Heart and Certificate
- Medal of Honor
MEDAL OF HONORLt. Colonel Harold W. Bauer was awarded the US Congressional Medal of Honor by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943. The actual presentation was delayed until 11 May 1946. Accepting the award from Gen. Field Harris were his wife Harriette and his son Billy. The Medal is currently on display at Quantico, Va.
Being the highest honor an American can receive, the US Congressional Medal of Honor is not given without serious thought and deliberation. Lt. Col. Bauer's case bears this out. Once an award is recommended, many endorsements must concur before the award in presented. Here is the course of Joe's after he was declared Missing in Action on 14 Nov 42.
On 6 Dec 42, Gen. L. E. Woods (Cactus based 1st MAW Commander)
recommended to the Secretary of the Navy that Joe be given the Medal of
Honor in a one page letter describing his tour on Guadalcanal. The
endorsements came back as follows:
End. 1--Gen. W.H. Rupertus, Comm. Gen. 1st Mar. Div.--"Forwarded, recommending favorable consideration."
End. 2--Gen. Clayton Vogel, Comm. Gen. 1st Mar. Amphib. Group--"Forwarded, recommend Navy Cross in lieu of MOH."
End. 3--Adm. W.F Halsey, Comm. So. Pac. Area & Force--"Forwarded, recommend the Navy Cross, in absentia."
End. 4--Adm. C.W. Nimitz, Comm. in Chief, Pac Fleet--"Forwarded, concurring with Navy Cross, in absentia."
End. 5--Navy Dept. Board of Decorations and Medals--"Returned, the Navy Cross will be awarded" would have been the reply had the Board not received a second batch of endorsements at the same meeting that day in May, 1943.
When word got around that the endorsements were not going favorably
for the highest Honor, those who loved the "Coach" did not sit still.
On 22 Mar. 43, General Geiger took up the fight for his prized pilot,
the man he was grooming for a Group Command position. He fired off a
three page recommendation, detailing
Joe's career, and even wording the citation. The endorsements came back
End. 1--A. W. Fitch --Comm. Aircraft, So. Pac. Force--"Forwarded, strongly recommending approval."
End. 2--W.F. Halsey, Comm.So.Pac. Area & Force--"Forwarded, recommending approval, with change from previous recommendation of Navy Cross, in absentia."
End. 3--Navy Dept. Board of Decorations & Medals--"Recommend he be given the Congressional Medal of Honor."
End. 4--Commandant, USMC--"Forwarded, recommend approval."
May 1943--Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy--"Approved."
A year later, in May 1947, Joe was posthumously promoted to the rank of Colonel but "that act provides that no person shall be entitled to receive any bonus, gratuity, pay or allowances by virtue of such advancement."
In August 1948, VMF 212 was awarded a Battle Efficiency Pennant for its efforts in the war. Colonel Neal Johnson wrote:
As Commanding General, Joint Task Force 9156 in the South Pacific area, I welcomed with pride and great feeling of assurance for my force, the arrival of VMF 212, in June 1942, on a half-finished air strip. VMF 212 was the first combat aviation to become part of my force and the half-finished air-strip was later completed as a huge bomber airdrome and subsequently named "Bauer Field" in honor of that great fighter and hero, Lieutenant Colonel "Joe" Bauer, who had commanded VMF 212 and who gave his life for his country. The record of VMF 212 in the Solomon Islands operations between August and November 1942, may be equalled, but in my opinion, was never exceeded by any land based fighter organization. I consider VMF 212 to be the greatest and most efficient group of fighting men, of any land, sea, or air organization of any of the three services, to ever serve under my command.
The U.S. Naval Academy also made a place for Joe in Memorial Hall in Bancroft Hall, the students barracks. On May 13, 1951, Room 5207 was officially named the BAUER ROOM and was so dedicated with a plaque. Due to the presence of a bulletin board that can't be moved, room 5205 is now the BAUER ROOM.
THE USS BAUER-DESTROYER ESCORT 1025Another posthumous honor that was awarded to Joe Bauer was the use of his name on the new 308-foot, 1900 ton escort ship that was launched 4 Jun. 1957 in California. Again, Harriette did the honors with the champagne, accompanied by 3rd year Midshipman William Dale Bauer. The boat slid down a minute early, Harriette smashed the bottle, and Bill said "Look how far out you knocked her, Mom." The invitation and dedication speech follow.
Major General Clayton C. Jerome, USMC
Speech at the Launching of the USS "Bauer"
San Francisco, California
June 4, 1957
In a matter of minutes, a hull will be launched. At the moment of launching, she will lose her identity as mere hull. Hence forth, she will be known as a proud Destroyer Escort of the United States Navy--the USS "Bauer." She will bear that title from this day on, as she carries out her assigned missions in the in the waters which cover seven tenths of the Earth's surface. That she will carry out all assigned missions in the highest traditions of the Naval Service, I feel, is ordained.
By tradition, Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts are named by the United States in honor of members of the Naval Service who have truly distinguished themselves. In this particular instance, the United States Marine Corps is particularly grateful and honored by the United States Navy in naming this fine fighting ship in the memory of one of our most outstanding heroes of World War II, Lt. Col. Harold W. Bauer. A few moments ago I said, quote, "She will carry out all assigned missions in the highest traditions of the Naval Service. I feel it is ordained." I meant exactly that, for, in my book, the Destroyer Force typifies the spirit of our beloved and admired Joe Bauer, and Joe Bauer typifies the spirit of the Destroyer Force. Both have that will to win, no matter what the odds; the job is to be done, let's do it! The Destroyer Force continues on and on, never replaceable. Joe Bauer is gone, his absence is irreplaceable to his loved ones, which is as it should be. But to me, it is replaceable in part, in the spirit in which his memory will endow this ship.
To those of you who sail, serve, and fight, if need be, in the "USS Bauer," I want you, of the Destroyer Force, to always remember an action which took place in Guadalcanal. I will quote of that action from official records and Col. Bauer's Medal of Honor Citation for Gallantry in Action above and beyond the call of duty. I quote, "While leading a reinforcement flight on October 16 from Esprito Santo to Guadalcanal 600 miles away, the Colonel was about to land at Henderson Field when he noticed a squadron of enemy planes attacking the USS McFarland off shore. Though the long flight from Esprito Santo had almost exhausted his fuel and he knew no friendly planes were able to assist him, he immediately proceeded alone to attack the enemy and succeeded in destroying four of them before he was forced down by lack of fuel." One lone aviator, attacking singly a squadron of enemy planes who were attacking the Destroyer "McFarland" and shooting down four. Singly coming to the rescue of another is symbolic of the Destroyer Force, and it is symbolic of Joe Bauer, the Guardian of this hull we are about to launch.
Harold William Bauer, outstanding athlete at the Naval Academy, a true leader of men, officially credited with eleven individual kills--the squadron he commanded officially credited with 92 enemy aircraft and helped sink two enemy combat ships. Joe, "as we knew him," was forced to ditch his plane over water on November 14, 1942 after downing two of the enemy in an attack 100 miles off Guadalcanal. He was last seen in the water in his Mae West and did not appear seriously hurt. Days of intensive searching by planes and Russell Island natives failed to locate any further trace of him.
As this hull is launched minutes from now and becomes the "USS Bauer," I wish to say that with outstanding Captains, Officers, and Crew, as always assigned to the Destroyer Force by the Navy Department--the spirit of Joe Bauer ever present on the bridge, in the engine room, and at the guns--and with Divine Providence riding at the mast head, this will be a great ship, I feel it is ordained.
This is the letter that Harriette wrote to Mrs. Bauer after the ceremony:
Have tried to get this off each day but kept thinking the rest of the pictures would come along..so far, no more. I have no more copies of these..two sets..one for you and one for me. I do have several of the newspaper articles and will get them off to all of the family soon. Perhaps they will send more copies.
It grieved me that you could not have been with us. It was the most wonderful experience and such a great satisfaction-as you must feel. That beautiful ship named for our Joe. Actually, the first tangible thing in his memory. How proud he would be. Bill was so very proud. He called me again from the air port before taking off to say again how very much it had meant to him and how much he had to live up to.
Bethlehem Steel couldn't have been more wonderful..They took care of hotel accommodations, limousine and driver at our disposal..lovely flowers..and I was presented with a beautiful diamond watch. I took it for insurance appraisal yesterday..valued at 1,000 dollars. It is small, round but large full cut diamonds. Of course, it is engraved on the back.."Launching USS Bauer, 4 June, 1957"..something to hand down to my first grand-daughter! Oh Mama, it was so wonderful. There is so much to tell, I could go on for days. The ship broke loose 1 minute before she was supposed to. Fortunately, Mr. Ingersoll told me I would hear the plate snap as the last hole was burned through. He said, "however you won't have to worry about that as I'll have a minutes notice." As I said, she broke loose, I heard the snap and turned just in time..gave her all I had. Mr. I. was so pleased and Gen. Jerome said.."just like Joe..couldn't wait to get going!" Had such a nice letter from Mr. Ingersoll in which, the last paragraph certainly pleased me.. quote "Once again I wish to say that in all my experience with sponsors, I have never had one who was quite the equal of your own good self and, I am sure, that if a ship ever had an auspicious launching the USS BAUER is that ship."
My Texas friends were right at my side and I don't know what I would have done without them. Bill was so dear too. He kept me going as it were. I was determined not to break down..but..would have had it not been for him. He was quoted in one of the SF papers which you will read. When the champagne is broken, all is tense..one could have heard a pin drop. Many tears are shed at launchings and I can see why. The sight of a ship..so gracefully sliding down in the water is truly something.
Everyone was so sweet to me.. had many flowers, telegrams from all over, letters from Peggy, Lucile, Erma and many others. Dave and Charlotte called long distance to the hotel after launching. My Waco friends, instead of going away gifts, took up a collection so I had some extra cash to spend..$150 in all. This was presented the night before I left. This group are my closest friends-5 couples.
The night after launching, the Ingersolls took a shine to these Texans and refused to leave us after the reception. Instead, took our immediate party to Trader Vics for a terrific dinner. After dinner he told Bill, his date and Bobby and Carol Crosthwait to go out on the town. He sent them in one of the limousines and told the chauffeur to stay with them all night if need be. He then handed Bill some money..5 twenty dollar bills. Needless to say, they did the town and the next AM, the car was waiting to take Bill to the air port...they didn't get in until 5 and plane left at 9.
Mama, this is a garbled mess. I simply couldn't wait another day to get this off. Besides, have an infection in my best typing finger! Should have made carbon copies since I went into such detail. Hon, when Lucile and Tommy have read this, please ask them to start it around. When Peggy and Johnny read it, please send it to Charlotte and Dave.
Bill is in South America. He will return 5 Aug. Don't know if he will come home first or go on to Honolulu. He has a very nice invitation to visit there while on leave. Hope he can be home at least a week! However, I want him to have fun. Only young once, I always say!
Take care, Mama--Love to all--
The USS BAUER was commissioned for duty on November 21, 1957 and her first commander was Lt. Commander L. D. Cummins.
The airfield at Efate has been called Bauer Field ever since the war but Col. R. J. Lynch, Mr. E. H. Reid, and Mr. S. D. Slaughter joined forces to have a Memorial Plaque erected there. On the 3 Jul 1971 the following plaque was unveiled:
During the period of 10 May to 14 November 1942, LtCol. Harold "Joe" Bauer served as Squadron Commander of Marine Fighter Squadron 212 based on this Field. On 16 October 1942, Colonel Bauer performed a feat which is considered by many to be the most remarkable individual accomplishment by any airman in the Solomons campaign. Responding to a call for support from besieged Guadalcanal, although low on fuel after the 600 mile flight from the New Hebrides, Colonel Bauer engaged a squadron of enemy planes that were attacking the USS McFarland. He succeeded in destroying four of them before lack of gasoline forced him to land. One month later Colonel Bauer was lost in action in the Battle of Guadalcanal after downing his 10th and 11th enemy planes. For his extraordinary heroism and conspicuous courage while serving as Squadron Commander of Fighter Squadron 212, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
THE PLANES HE FLEWGRUMMAN F4F-3, F4F-4 WILDCATS
The Grumman Aircraft Co. began design of a new breed of fighter aircraft in 1937 when it realized that the bi-planes were a thing of the past. The Navy agreed and was ordering the Brewster F2a Buffalo but wanted Grumman to build them something better. In October, 1938, they placed an order for the first F4F-3. They liked the single 1056 hp. engined, square winged monoplane. Top speed was 335 mph, it maneuvered nicely, and could land on carriers. It had four 50 mm. guns (later six) in the wings, 200 lb. bomb capacity, an armored cockpit, and self-sealing fuel tanks. It had a range of 845 miles and could reach an altitude of 34,900 ft. By Dec. 1941, 1971 planes had been built. The F4F-4 was built with folding wings for carrier storage. In Jan. 1942, General Motors took over the building of the Wildcats under the name of Eastern Aircraft Corps., while Grumman went on to design and build the F6F Hellcat fighter. A total of 7898 Wildcats were built in the war effort, with the GM issues called the FM1 and the FM2 Wildcats.
Some good footage of the Wildcats can be seen in the 1976 movie "Midway" with Fonda, Heston, and Ford. Midway was the battle right before Guadalcanal and the movie seems historically and aviationally very accurate. SBD's and TBF's are also shown.
Although the F4F was our best plane in the early years of the war, it was inferior to the Japanese Zero. Our pilots successes stemmed from superior tactics and better back-up. The Wildcats were eventually replaced by the F4u and the F41a Corsairs seen in "Black Sheep Squadron." Pappy Boyington led this group, VMF 214, a sister squadron of Joe's VMF 212.
PREVIOUS PLANES FLOWNWhile at Pensacola Naval Air Station Flight Training, Joe probably learned his skills in the following planes from 1934 to1936:
NY-2 Seaplane, 250 hp. Wright Whirlwind engine.
O2U Vought Corsair--450 hp. Wasp engine.
SU Vought Corsair--620 hp. Hornet engine.
TM4-Hornet powered Martin Torpedo plane
Twin engine Douglas and Martin Patrol bombers
03U's with hood for night flying
Curtiss and Boeing Bi-planes
Gruman F3F fighter
(all the above were bi-planes)
F2a Brewster Buffalo mono-wing fighter
F4F-4 Grumman Wildcat
The F4F-4 that Joe went down in was Serial # 03454
COURSES STUDIED WHILE AT THE NAVAL ACADEMY:Engineering and aeronautics years 1,2,3,4
Elec. Eng. & Physics 1,2,3,4
English 1,2, 4
Ordnance & Gunnery 3,4
Seamanship and Flight Tactics 3,4
The students were also rated for Aptitude for Service every year.
During his first two summers, Joe spent much less time aboard training ships than did his classmates. I can only assume that his coaches in various sports (especially football) might have arranged this.
DATES AND POSTS IN SERVICE
The following addendum is from material received from the National Personnel Record Center (St. Louis). It is mostly detail, but I feel it adds a certain completeness to the story. Day by day, this is Indian Joe Bauer:
Jul 30-Jul 31--Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Phila. Pa., Student Basic School.
Aug 31-Nov 31--Marine Barracks, Quantico, Va.--Company Officer, 74th Co., 1st. Btn, 6th Marines.
Dec 31-Jan 32--Quantico-Company Officer-Company " D", 1st Bttn., 1st Marines.
Jan 32-Jun 32--USS Reina Mercedes-Annapolis--Asst. Basketball and Lacrosse Coach-USNA.
Jun 32-Dec 32--Quantico-Post Service Bttn.-Asst. Post Athletic
Officer--(sick, Wash. Nav. Hosp.--11/25-12/21-- broken nose).
Jan 33-Jun 33--USS Reina Mercedes-Annapolis--Asst. Basketball and Lacrosse Coach-USNA.
Jun 33-Dec 33--USMC Base, San Diego, Cal.--Rifle Range Detachment and Recruitment Detachment, then Instructor and Officer School, then Officer-in-charge, Recruiting and Receiving Barracks. (sick, Naval Hosp., San Diego. 12/11-1/3, broken nose).
Jan 34-Sep 34--Marine Detachment USS San Francisco (based San Diego)-Detachment Officer.
Sep 34-Nov 34--San Diego--Company Officer and Instructor.
Jan. 25, 1935--COMMISSIONED 1st LIEUTENANT.
Dec 34-Apr 36--Pensacola Naval Air Station (Fla.)-Student Naval Aviator, then Naval Aviator (Feb 36). Next detachment delayed from 4/13 to 5/11--BILLY BORN!
May 36-May 40--Quantico--Squad. Material Officer, Squad. Flight Off., Squad. Exec. Off., Inspector of Naval Material., with temporary duty at Edgemont Arsenal, Md., Parris Island, SC., San Diego, Cal., (fleet exercises USS Saratoga-carrier landing qualification), Miami, Fla., Culebra, PR., Cleveland, OH., (Air Races) San Juan, PR., and St. Thomas, VI.
Aug. 5, 1937--COMMISSIONED CAPTAIN
Jun 40-Dec 40--San Diego--Squad. Off., Engineering Officer-Fighting Squad. 2, 2nd MAG-exercises on the USS Saratoga and the USS Lexington.
Jan 41-Feb 41--2nd MAG-Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor--Squad Flt. Off.
Feb 41-Jul 41--2nd MAG-Ewa, Oahu-Squad. Flt. Off., group redesignated as Marine Fighting Squadron 2, then redesignated as MFS 221, MAG 21. 2nd MAW, 2nd Marine Division.
Jul 41-Dec 41--San Diego NAS-Flight Officer, then Exec. Off. of MFS 221, MAG 21, 2nd MAW, 2nd Marine Division.
Dec 41-Feb 42--Midway Island--Squadron Executive Officer.
Jan. 6, 1942--COMMISSIONED MAJOR
Feb 42 --Joined MFS 211, Ewa, as Squad. Commander.
Mar 42-Apr 42--Commanded MFS 212, MAG 24, 2nd MAW at Ewa--Squad redesignated as VMF 212, MAG 21, 2nd MAW.
May 42 --Joined Rear Echelon after sailing Pearl Harbor to New Caledonia on USS Enterprise.
Jun 42-Sep 42--Base Buttons--Commanding Officer--location: Beyond the seas. VMF 212 now in 1st MAW.
Aug. 11, 1942--COMMISSIONED LT. COLONEL.
Sep 42-Nov 42--Base Cactus--Special Aviation Temporary Duty--
Nov. 14, 1942 Missing in Action.
Dec. 14, 1942--Detached from VMF 212 rolls to Prisoner of War and Missing Persons, HQMC, Washington, DC.
Jan. 8, 1946--Status changed to Killed in Action by reason of findings of the Secretary of the Navy.
A recent pamphlet published by the Marine Corps Historical Assn. at the Washington DC Navy Yard finally exposes a fact that I had realized while doing this project but had decided not to expound upon. Careful reading of this story will account for only 10 official kills, this seems to be the truth. The count of 11 comes from the report to the Medal Selection Committee from Gen. Geiger when he contested the Navy Cross award (see pp. 38-9). He wrote the final Citation and in his recommendation he mentioned 11 kills. He, like most others, gave Joe credit for the fifth kill on Oct 3, 1942 (see p. 21). The Citation wording could also have Joe shooting down both Zeros on his final day--this was not the case.
"Time of the Aces: Marine Pilots in the Solomons, 1942-1944" Marines in World War II Commemorative Series by Commander Peter B. Mersky note: While this fact was true, he also reported that Joe was part Indian! Such is research--
BIBLIOGRAPHYAces Against Japan, Hammel, Eric, Presidio Printers
Annual Register of the US Naval Academy (1927, 28, 29, 30), US Government Printing Office
Battle for Guadalcanal, Griffith, S. B., Nautical & Aviation Pub. Co. Baltimore 1963
Cactus Air Force, The, Miller, Thomas G., Harper & Row New York 1969
Challenge for the Pacific, Leckie, Robert, Doubleday & Co. New York 1965
Dale A. Bauer: The Early Years, Howe, Charlie, Personal Interview Report Darien, Conn. 1994
Flight Jacket 1936, Naval Aviation Cadet Battalion, Pensacola NAS Flight School Yearbook
Fighter Aces, Toliver and Constable, MacMillan Co. N. Y. Found by Stephen Brown
First Team & Guadalcanal Campaign, Lundstrom, John B., Naval Inst. Press Annapolis 1994
Great American Fighter Pilots of WW II, Loomis, Robert, Random House New York 1961
Grumman Story, The, Thruelsen, Richard, Praeger Publishers New York 1976
Grumman, 60 Years of Excellence, Gunston, Bill, Orion Books
Guadalcanal Frank, Richard B., Random House New York 1990
History of Marine Aviation in WW II Sherrod, Robert, Nautical & Aviation Pub. Co. Baltimore 1987
Lucky Bag, The (1928, 1929, 1930), US Naval Academy Yearbook
USMC Biographical Dictionary Schuon, Karl, Franklin Watts, Inc. New York 1963
Wildcat, The F4F in WW II Tillman, Barrett, Naval Inst. Press Annapolis 1990
WW II US Aircraft Gunston, Bill, Chartwell Books New York 1985
Personal War Diary of H.W. Bauer, USMC Museum, Washington (DC) Navy Yard Personal Papers Sect.
"Leatherneck" Magazine Nov. 1992 Provenza, G. D., article and pictures, after review of this treatise, titled "The Life and Legend of Indian Joe Bauer."
"Life" Mag. Oct. 25, 1943
"Newsweek" Mag. Dec. 21, 1942
"Skyways" Mag. Feb. 1944
"Midway" the movie 1976 Heston, Fonda, Ford
Mr. Onnie Ault Personal Contact, Alma, Neb. Fall, 1991
Bauer, Mr. & Mrs. John Personal Contact, Jasper, Ga. March, 1991
Bauer, Col. William (Ret) Personal Contact, Waco, Tx. Spring 1991
Brown, Dick & Ann (no relation) Personal Contact, Alma, Neb. Fall 1991
Brown, Mrs. Erma Bauer Personal Contact, Southbury, Conn. Lifetime
US Personnel Records St. Louis, Mo.
Special Thanks to:Ms. Jane H. Price, USNA Library--Archives; Ms. Mary Rose Catalfamo, USNA Library--Special Collections, Annapolis, Md.;Naval Air Station Museum Staff, Pensacola, Fla.; Ms. Amy J. Cantin, Marine Corps. Museum, Wash. D.C.; Dr. David Mets, Niceville, Fla., August 1995
THE LIFE OF HAROLD WILLIAM BAUER UNITED STATES MARINE, Kent B. Brown DMD, Ft. Walton Bch. Fl, 32548