There are many stories related to USS Brooke. The below story is about Col. Jefferson Deblanc, the father of crewmember Richard Deblanc (MS 72-76). Col. Deblanc won the Medal of Honor for actions over Guadalcanal in 1942. Years later, Col. Deblanc wrote a book about the air war over Guadalcanal. In the book he makes reference to his son and the USS Brooke. I have posted an excerpt from the book relating to Brooke and I think you will find it an interesting read. More so, I have created this in honor of Col. Deblanc who was awarded the nation's highest honor for heroism. I encourage you to read the award citation after the book excerpt.
COL JEFFERSON DEBLANC USMC
DeBlanc enlisted in the Naval Reserve (USNR) as a seaman second class on July 29, 1941, and received flight training at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base in New Orleans, for two weeks, before going to the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, to continue his training. His Naval enlistment was terminated under honorable conditions on October 15, 1941, and he was appointed an Aviation Cadet, USNR, on the following day.
Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve on May 4, 1942, DeBlanc moved to San Diego to join Headquarters Squadron, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. In July, he was assigned to the Advance Carrier Training Group, where he remained under instruction until August 6.
He was placed in the new pilot's pool until, with less than ten hours of flight time in the F4F Wildcat, he joined VMF-112, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in October. Two weeks later, he left for overseas and arrived at Guadalcanal on November 2, 1942. On November 13, 1942, Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers attempted to torpedo Allied ships and were intercepted by VMF-112, and in that action DeBlanc shot down three. He was promoted to first lieutenant on 19 December 1942. On January 29, DeBlanc was forced to ditch out of his Wildcat and luckily landed in the wake of an American destroyer that was fleeing across Ironbottom Sound due to a Japanese air raid. He was rescued by the destroyer and returned to flight status immediately after.
On January 31, 1943, First Lieutenant DeBlanc was flying a Wildcat over Japanese-held Kolombangara Island in the Solomons leading two divisions of fighter planes from VMF-112 on an escort mission for a strike force of 12 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers sent to attack Japanese shipping. En route DeBlanc discovered and reported to Guadalcanal that his Wildcat fighter had developed a serious fuel leak that made return to base unlikely and requested that rescue forces be alerted.
Leading the escorts directly to the target area, DeBlanc and his division observed a pair of Mitsubishi F1M "Pete" float planes attacking the Dauntlesses from above and behind, and dove to disrupt their attack. DeBlanc's aircraft was fired at by the rear gunners on the "Petes", but he maneuvered evasively and pressed home an attack on the first, exploding it, then maneuvered and took the second under fire, hitting it in the fuel tanks and setting it afire. Although the escort mission was completed, DeBlanc remained in the target area despite a critically low fuel supply to cover the withdrawal of the Dauntlesses, and began a climb back to altitude.
DeBlanc observed a formation of Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscar" army fighters headed for the dive bombers. Surprising them from beneath, he damaged one and shot down its wingman when the latter left the formation. The others broke off their attack of the dive bombers and turned on the Wildcats. DeBlanc and his wingman attempted to defend themselves using the Thach Weave, but his wingman swung too wide during the maneuver and was shot down. DeBlanc himself was saved when a third Wildcat, approaching from head-on, overflew his aircraft and forced the pursuing "Oscar" to dive away.
DeBlanc attempted to disengage but was attacked by two more "Oscars". He turned towards them in a climbing head-on attack, and the first exploded in the exchange of fire. The second maneuvered behind him, however, but DeBlanc managed to slow his Wildcat abruptly and force his remaining opponent to fly past him, and he also shot it down for his fifth victory of the action. DeBlanc was then surprised by a fighter he had not detected. Rounds struck his aircraft, ripped his wrist watch from his arm, smashed the instrument panel, and set afire the Wildcat's engine. DeBlanc was forced to bail out at low altitude over Vella Gulf near Japanese-held Kolombangara. The total time of the action from arrival in the target area to his own bailout was approximately five minutes.
Landing in the sea, DeBlanc discovered that he was badly wounded in the back, arms and legs. Supported only by his life jacket, he swam for the beach. After six hours in the water he reached shore, and for three days subsisted on coconuts he found in an abandoned hut while his wounds went unattended. He was taken by a group of indigenous people who bartered him for a sack of rice to another tribe that hid him and cared for his wounds. The tribal members carried DeBlanc by outrigger canoe to the home of an Anglican missionary, who forwarded him to two Coastwatchers, who immediately attempted contact with the Allied authorities by clandestine radio. On February 12, three days before his 22nd birthday, a Navy PBY Catalina patrol bomber landed in the sea off the island and tribal members paddled DeBlanc out to it in a canoe. He was flown back to his base and to the hospital.
(Note: the chronology and aircraft types are those provided by DeBlanc for the recreation of this action and vary slightly from the citation, which is reproduced below. The Japanese Ki-43 was often mistaken for the A6M Zero fighter in the heat of combat.)
Promoted to captain on June 1, 1943, he was transferred to VMF-122, Marine Aircraft Group 11, in July, and returned to the United States about six weeks later. Assigned to Headquarters Squadron 41, Marine Base Defense Air Group 41, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Santa Ana, California, DeBlanc remained with that unit until December 1943, when he was transferred to Headquarters Squadron, Marine Aircraft Group 32. Two months later he rejoined Marine Base Defense Air Group 41. After one month with them, DeBlanc was assigned to VMF-461, Marine Base Defense Air Group 43 at El Centro, California.
In November 1944, Captain DeBlanc returned to the Central Pacific for a second tour of overseas duty. He flew with VMF-422 in the Marshall Islands until May 1945, when he was transferred to VMF-212, engaged in the Okinawa campaign. He continued flying in the Ryukyus until the end of the war, shooting down one more Japanese plane to bring his total to nine. He returned to the United States in October 1945 and was detached to Naval Air Station in Seattle, Washington.
On December 6, 1946, DeBlanc was presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman in the White House "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty " for his actions in the Solomon Islands on January 31, 1943.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, DeBlanc holds the Distinguished Flying Cross; the Purple Heart; the Air Medal with four gold stars in lieu of second through fifth award; Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze stars; American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
After returning to the U.S., DeBlanc continued his education earning a B.S. degree in physics and math from Southwestern Louisiana Institute in 1947; an M.A. Education (physics) from Louisiana State University in 1951 and a second master's degree in Education (mathematics) in 1963; and earning a doctorate (Ed.D) in Education from McNeese State University in 1973.
DeBlanc was discharged from active duty on December 31, 1945. He returned to his home in St. Martinville, Louisiana, and was assigned to the 8th Marine Corps Reserve District, later serving as commander of Marine Air Reserve Group 18. DeBlanc retired from the Marine Corps Reserve as a colonel on July 1, 1972.
In 2006, DeBlanc appeared on an episode of the The History Channel series Dogfights. In the episode, titled 'Guadalcanal', DeBlanc's "Ace in a day" action is depicted. The episode was the fourth episode of the first season of the series, which recreated historical air combat campaigns using modern computer graphics.
On the morning of Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2007, Jefferson DeBlanc died in Lafayette, Louisiana, age 86, from complications due to pneumonia. He was the last surviving World War II recipient of the Medal of Honor from Louisiana.
He is buried in Saint Michael's Cemetery Saint Martinville, St. Martin Parish, Louisiana.
MEDAL OF HONOR
Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to
JEFFERSON J. DEBLANC
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Leader of a Section of Six Fighter Planes in Marine Fighting Squadron ONE HUNDRED TWELVE, during aerial operations against enemy Japanese forces off Kolombangara Island in the Solomons Group, 31 January 1943. Taking off with his section as escort for a strike force of dive bombers and torpedo planes ordered to attack Japanese surface vessels, First Lieutenant DeBlanc led his flight directly to the target area where, at 14,000 feet, our strike force encountered a large number Japanese Zeros protecting the enemy's surface craft. In company with the other fighters, First Lieutenant DeBlanc instantly engaged the hostile planes and aggressively countered their repeated attempts to drive off our bombers, persevering in his efforts to protect the diving planes and waging fierce combat until, picking up a call for assistance from the dive bombers under attack by enemy float planes at 1,000 feet, he broke off his engagement with the Zeros, plunged into the formation of float planes and disrupted the savage attack, enabling our dive bombers and torpedo planes to complete their runs on the Japanese surface disposition and to withdraw without further incident. Although his escort mission was fulfilled upon the safe retirement of the bombers, First Lieutenant DeBlanc courageously remained on the scene despite a rapidly diminishing fuel supply and, boldly challenging the enemy's superior number of float planes, fought a valiant battle against terrific odds, seizing the tactical advantage and striking repeatedly to destroy three of the hostile aircraft and to disperse the remainder. Prepared to maneuver his damaged plane back to base, he had climbed aloft and set his course when he discovered two Zeros closing in behind. Undaunted, he opened fire and blasted both Zeros from the sky in short, bitterly fought action which resulted in such hopeless damage to his plane that he was forced to bail out at a perilously low altitude atop the trees on enemy-held Kolombangara. A gallant officer, a superb airman and an indomitable fighter, First Lieutenant DeBlanc had rendered decisive assistance during a critical stage of operations, and his unwavering fortitude in the face of overwhelming opposition reflects the highest credit upon himself and adds new luster to the traditions of the United States Naval Service.
/S/ HARRY S. TRUMAN
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