EARL F. CRAIG, LCDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall
Earle Craig '39

Date of birth: December 5, 1915

Date of death: October 12, 1944

Age: 28

Lucky Bag

From the 1939 Lucky Bag:

1939 Craig LB.jpg

EARLE FREDERICK CRAIG

Trenton, New Jersey

Buzz, Buster

A regular fellow from the wilds of New Jersey, Buster is ready for anything and everything, from dragging blind to lending a poor unfortunate a little cash. Can be found almost any afternoon in the gym, engaged in a fast game of handball or basketball. His favorite pastime is, however, singing popular songs in the shower, very much off key and in words of his own composition. For four years Buzz has been dragging blind, hoping to find his dream girl, but so far, his efforts have been only partly successful. An aviation enthusiast, he has had his eye on Pensacola since June of Plebe Summer and with his cheerful disposition he should go far in this or whatever he decides to do. Here's luck to you, Buster.

Soccer 4; Battalion Soccer 1; 1 Stripe.

1939 Craig LB.jpg

EARLE FREDERICK CRAIG

Trenton, New Jersey

Buzz, Buster

A regular fellow from the wilds of New Jersey, Buster is ready for anything and everything, from dragging blind to lending a poor unfortunate a little cash. Can be found almost any afternoon in the gym, engaged in a fast game of handball or basketball. His favorite pastime is, however, singing popular songs in the shower, very much off key and in words of his own composition. For four years Buzz has been dragging blind, hoping to find his dream girl, but so far, his efforts have been only partly successful. An aviation enthusiast, he has had his eye on Pensacola since June of Plebe Summer and with his cheerful disposition he should go far in this or whatever he decides to do. Here's luck to you, Buster.

Soccer 4; Battalion Soccer 1; 1 Stripe.

Loss

Earl was lost on October 12, 1944 during the Formosa Air Battle while piloting a TBM-1C Avenger torpedo bomber from USS Langley (CVL 27). (This listing mistakenly has "LCDR H. F. Craig".) He was Commanding Officer of Torpedo Squadron (VT) 44.

Other Information

From researcher Kathy Franz:

Earl was nominated as first alternate to the Naval Academy by Congressman D. Lane Powers.

He left Pearl Harbor on July 26, 1941 destined for the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.

His parents were Earl, an auto mechanic, and Myrtle.

His parents were listed as next of kin.

Wartime Service

From Asbury Park Press, New Jersey on February 1, 1943:

Naval Flier Says Strafing Accounted for 4 Destroyers

CHICAGO – Lt. Earl Craig, 26, naval flier from Trenton, N. J., reports the strafing fire from his squadron of Wildcat fighter planes was so devastating in an attack on four enemy destroyers and one cruiser off North Africa that one destroyer sank and the three others had to be beached.

He and Lt. O. V. August, 27, of Whittier, Cal., related their experiences during the occupation of North Africa last November at a press interview sponsored by the navy. Both now are stationed at the Norfolk, Va., naval air training base.

Craig said he was in a squadron detailed to cover the landing at Fedhala. He told this story: The five enemy ships were situated off the shore to intercept the American landing. In four strafing raids over them, his squadron set fire to all and ascertained by observation that one of the destroyers sank while the others were beached. No bombs were used.

The leader of his squadron made a forced landing during one of the raids and was taken prisoner. After his release the squadron leader told Craig he had spoken with the skipper of one of the beached destroyers.

The captain related that the first strafing attack was so withering that only he and an enlisted man were left alive topside. He said the hull of his destroyer was completely riddled along the waterline by machine gun bullets and that it was like a sieve. The skipper added that he himself had to take over the helm in order to maneuver the ship to shore.

Craig, who piloted a Wildcat fighter plane, said his group met no enemy planes in its forays over the beach.

On October 4, 1943, Earl participated with Task Force 121 in OPERATION LEADER, a raid of shipping and coastal installations in Norway. During this attack he was credited with shooting down a Heinkel HE 115.

October 4 1943 at 1255: Ranger radar spotted four snoopers by one report and four by another. CAP F4Fs attacked. Lt(jg) Boyd N. Mayhew and Lt(jg) Dean S. Laird shot down a Junkers JU-88. Then Mayhew and Laird assisted Lt Earle F. Craig and Ens Laurence A. Hensley in shooting down a Heinkel HE-115.

On May 16, 1944, he was involved in a landing accident at Sanford NAAF; he apparently mistakenly retracted his landing gear. There were no injuries suffered by the crew. He was flying with Torpedo Squadron (VT) 44.

Remains

From Matthew Robins, USNA '04, on March 5, 2019:

While Craig's record does not include his dental data, it does include something else: his height, weight, and age. At the time of his death, LCDR Craig was reported to be approximately 29 years old, 69.5" tall, and weighed 158 lbs. The remains of another unknown naval aviator recovered from Formosa and designated X-154 were estimated to be 30 years old, 69.67" tall, and weighed 165-175 lbs. Age, height, and weight all within the ballpark - this information, along with the previous tentative IDing of his two enlisted aircrewmen based on dental and forensic data, supports the conclusion that X-154 is in fact LCDR Earle F. Craig, USN.

If "X-154" is Earl, he was initially buried on Formosa but was repatriated to the United States after the war; he is currently buried in an "unknown" grave at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

Photographs

Name and Memorial Hall Error

His name is Earle, with the trailing "e", in all Naval Academy and Officer registers through at least 1942. In the article above from February 1943, however, it is spelled "Earl;" this is what is on his headstone, and is also the spelling of his father's name.

In Memorial Hall the Class of 1939 panel has "Earle," but the killed in action panel has "Earl." Given the inscription on his headstone is "In loving memory of my son, Lieut. Comdr. Earl F. Craig…", believe that this is the most-correct spelling.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

October 1939
Ensign, USS Honolulu


Others at or embarked at this command:
LT Bruce Van Voorhis '29 (Aviation Unit)
June 1940
Ensign, USS Smith
November 1940
Ensign, USS Smith
April 1941
Ensign, USS Smith

Others at this command:


Class of 1939

Earle is one of 78 members of the Class of 1939 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of alumni in Memorial Hall.