F6F Hellcat

Charles M. Mallory

Navy Double Ace

By , March, 2005. Updated March 22, 2012.

Flying off the Intrepid, his most famous engagement was attacking 24 Japanese fighters with his 6 plane squadron of Hellcats. He was credited with 5 enemy planes that day. His squadron all returned to land on the Intrepid although his plane was pushed over the side due to the damage it sustained.

In Nov 1944, he was flew off the Intrepid just seconds before she took a direct hit above the ready room that killed many pilots. Charlie had been in the ready room when the warning sounded that Kamikazes were inbound. He went out the door and recalls the incredible luck that his plane was on the elevator waiting to be brought to the flight deck. Otherwise, he would have stayed in the ready room. He was the last plane to take off before the strike.

He turned 90 years old in October 2010, a resident of Charleston WV. He flew his own plane until age 88, when the FAA grounded him due to heart arrhythmia.

As is the case with many aces, there is some uncertainty about his exact victory total. The AFA notes 10 confirmed and 3 probables; Barrett Tillman noted 11. Charlie himself said when the war ended the Navy had officially credited him with 11 just behind fellow West Virginian Chuck Yeager who had 11.5. About 1947, the Navy notified him that he was being credited with another whose paperwork had gotten lost. He said by then, everyone believed that Chuck Yeager had the most and he didn't want to make a big deal out of it.

Charlie was a true outdoorsman and has so many incredible stories. Many of the most interesting ones are about his luck in flying not his combat missions - for example, being the last plane to take off from the Intrepid before she was disabled by a Kamikaze.

In 1943, he was training in the Caribbean and tried to attack a Nazi sub that had surfaced, but he was just starting on a new aircraft and he hadn't learned how to release the bombs. The sub got away and he vowed never to fly a combat aircraft without knowing how to work all the weapons first.

While headed to Clark Field with 2 other planes to take recon photos, Charlie saw 5 Betty bombers. He engaged them and was credited with 3 kills. Upon returning to the Intrepid, he reported to Adm Marc Mitscher who wanted to congratulate him on the 3 kills. He then went to the CAG where he was berated for risking his photo recon mission by engaging the bombers. He was threatened with a court-martial.

He returned to the air and later that same day he was doing photo recon over Clark field. He flew as low as he dared over the main runway with his cameras clicking away. But, he was unaware that an enemy plane was taking off from the same runway going in the same direction. It suddenly appeared in front of him and he barely had time to shoot it down and pull away to avoid a collision. This made 5 for the day and qualified him as an ace. He repeated this feat of 5 in one day soon thereafter in even more spectacular fashion.

In 1947, he and his wife were going between duty stations in the US and took a car ferry over a river. As the ferry chugged across, they were looking at the turbulent and murky river when a woman near them accidentally dropped her baby into the river. Charlie immediately dove in the river even though he was in uniform. The baby had sunk below the surface of the river, but by sheer luck Charlie's hand brushed against the baby and he surfaced with the baby in his arms. He held the baby out of the water until another passenger could jump in the river with a rope attached to a flotation ring and they were all hauled back on board the ferry. He received the Navy-Marine Corps Life saving medal for that one. The baby lived to old age himself.

Charlie tried the peace time Navy for a few years after WW2, but got out and returned to WV to start a family. He went on to manage a department store and to start his own real estate development firm, his own realty, and his own construction firm. He loved flying and owned several planes of the years. He continued flying until 2008. He was the founder of the WV White Water Canoeing Association and has paddled down most of the challenging rivers in his state.

Tally Record: 10 confirmed, 3 probables

Decorations: 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses


email correspondence with Joe Lott

American Fighter Aces Album, copyright 1996 by the American Fighter Aces Association, Mesa, Arizona

Hellcat: The F6F in World War II by Barrett Tillman, Naval Institute Press