MARION E. CARL, USMC
Major General Marion E. Carl, the Marine Corps' first air ace who downed 10 enemy aircraft during the battle for Guadalcanal, was twice awarded the Navy Cross, and who finished World War II with 18 kills to his credit, was killed 28 June 1998 during a robbery at his home in Roseburg, Oregon.
Born 1 November 1915, in Hubbard, Oregon, he graduated with a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Oregon State College in 1938. A member of the ROTC unit while attending college, he resigned an Army Reserve commission to accept appointment as a Marine aviation cadet in August 1938, and was designated a Naval aviator with the rank of second lieutenant in the Marine Corps on 1 December 1939.
As a section leader in a Marine fighter squadron during the Battle of Midway, he earned the Navy Cross while leading an attack against a vastly superior number of Japanese bomber and fighter planes. Later, in the fight for Guadalcanal, he earned a second Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism in aerial combat as a pilot in VMF-223, and became the first Marine Corps ace on 26 August 1942.
In an aerial fight off the coast of Guadalcanal, he had to bail out of his shot-up Wildcat and was losing his battle to swim ashore against the tide when he was picked up by friendly natives in a canoe. After 5 days with the natives, he finally made his way back to his base. He returned to the United States on 21 October 1942, and was promoted to major the following May.
In July 1943 Major Carl left San Francisco on his second tour of overseas duty, which took him through the Hawaiian Islands to New Hebrides, Vella Lavella in the Solomons, Guadalcanal, and Emirau. In November 1944 he returned from the Pacific area, having earned a total of three Distinguished Flying Crosses and thirteen Air Medals. Following his return to the United States, he was assigned duty with Flight Test, Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland. It was on V-J Day, 14 August 1945 that he received his promotion to lieutenant colonel.
As a test pilot assigned to the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, following the war, he made some of the first carrier landings and take-offs with an F-80 Shooting Star Jet; became the first Marine helicopter pilot; and earned a fourth Distinguished Flying Cross setting a world's speed record in the Douglas Skystreak in 1947. He later commanded the Marine Corps' first jet fighter outfit, VMF-122, at Cherry Point, North Carolina, and formed the first jet aerobatic team.
From 1949-52, he commanded the Carrier Section of Flight Test at Patuxent River, and became the first Marine aviator to receive the Octave Chanute Award for "notable contribution to the aeronautical sciences." In 1953, while testing a new Navy high altitude pressure suit, he set an unofficial world's altitude record in the Navy's rocket-powered Douglas Skyrocket aircraft, earning a fifth Distinguished Flying Cross.
After serving as Operations Officer of the Air Station in Quantico, Virginia, he subsequently completed the Senior Course in 1954, then performed temporary duty at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada. Ordered to Korea in November 1954, he commanded a Marine photographic squadron with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force. In June 1955 he moved with his squadron from Korea to Japan, and was assigned as Operations Officer and Executive Officer, respectively, of Marine Aircraft Group 11, until December 1955.
Following instruction in the Naval Aviation Safety Officers Course at the University of Southern California, he was named Wing Aviation Safety Officer, 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California, in May 1956. Remaining at El Toro, he was given command of Marine Aircraft Group 33 in October 1956, following his promotion to colonel that same month. He also served as the 3d Wing's Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, prior to his detachment in June 1958.
That August Colonel Carl entered the Air War College, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama. Upon graduation he was assigned to July 1959 to the Joint Staff, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Following this assignment, he joined the Division of Aviation at Headquarters Marine Corps in July 1961 and served, consecutively, as Assistant Division Director, Director of Aviation, and in July 1962 became Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff (Air).
In July 1963 he departed Washington, D.C. for Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, serving as Chief of Staff, 1st Marine Brigade, until January 1964, when he was promoted to brigadier general and named Commanding General of the Brigade.
Following the transfer of elements of the 3d Marine Division from Okinawa to Vietnam in February 1965, units of the 1st Brigade were deployed from Hawaii to Okinawa where Brigadier General Carl was designated Commanding General, Task Force 79. In June 1965 he was transferred to Iwakuni, Japan, where he assumed duty as Assistant Wing Commander, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. The Legion of Merit with Combat "V" was awarded him for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the Marine Brigade and as Assistant Wing Commander, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from March 1965 to April 1966.
Upon his return to the United States in May 1966, he became Commanding General, Marine Corps Air Bases, Eastern Area and of the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, and earned a second award of the Legion of Merit. Major General Carl earned a gold star in lieu of a third Legion of Merit for service as Commanding General, 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, from August 1968 to June 1970. While stationed at Cherry Point, he was promoted to major general in August 1967.
Major General Carl's last duty assignment was as Inspector General of the Marine Corps at Headquarters Marine Corps from 10 July 1970 until 31 May 1973. For outstanding performance of duty during this tour, he was awarded a gold star in lieu of a fourth award of the Legion of Merit. He was placed on the retired list on 1 June 1973, completing over 35 years of active service.
A complete list of the general's medals and decorations include: the Navy Cross with gold star in lieu of a second Navy Cross; the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and gold stars in lieu of second through fourth awards; the Distinguished Flying Cross with four gold stars in lieu of second through fourth awards; the Air Medal with two silver stars and three gold stars in lieu of second through fourteenth awards; the Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star; the American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze stars; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; the Vietnam Service Medal; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.