JAMES K. AVERILL, CDR, USN
James Averill '27
Date of birth: October 15, 1904
Date of death: March 26, 1944
From the 1927 Lucky Bag:
James was lost on March 26, 1944 when the aircraft he was aboard crashed immediately after takeoff from USS Lexington (CV 16). He was Chief of Staff for Carrier Division 11 at the time of his loss, and was returning to the flagship (USS Yorktown (CV 10).
From naval aviation historian Richard Leonard via email on April 12, 2018:
Averill was killed in a crash taking off from USS Lexington. My list has him "ComTG 58.4 (CoS) KIFA VT-5 TBF crash T/O from CV-16 BNR."
He was in a VT-5 (USS Yorktown) TBF in which he had flown over to Lexington from Yorktown.
War Diary USS Yorktown CV-10
March 26, 1944 – Sunday
Steaming as before in task group 58.3 in cruising disposition 5R-1. At 0602 the U.S.S. SUAMICO, U.S.S. ASHTABULA, U.S.S. EICHENBERGER and U.S.S MANNING of task unit 50.15 were sighted. At 0657 the force formed fueling disposition 5-F. The fueling operations continued throughout the morning and afternoon. This ship went alongside the U.S.S. SUAMICO at 0701 and completed receiving fuel and aviation gasoline at 1026. Upon completion of fueling this ship took position in the carrier zigzag line. Upon completion of fueling the task group, cruising disposition 5R-1 was formed, axis 070°(T). During the afternoon, TBF#13, piloted by Lt(jg) Rubner was launched to transport Commander J. K. Averill, USN., Chief of Staff, Comcardiv 11, to the U.S.S. LEXINGTON. This plane crashed on take-off from the U.S.S. LEXINGTON and Commander Averill was killed in the crash or failed to get clear of the plane and drowned. The pilot and radioman were recovered by a destroyer and later returned to this ship. CTF 58 operation plan #4-44 delivered aboard revealed that this task group was a part of a striking force aimed against Japanese-held Palau, Yap, and Woleai Islands.
I have seen it written that Averill's death was so disheartening to RAdm Ginder that it effected his performance as a task group commander and hastened his removal from combat.
He earned his wings as naval aviator #3791 on March 9, 1931 as a LTjg.
His wife was listed as next of kin; he was also survived by two brothers and a sister.
From Find A Grave:
Chief of Staff & Aide to Commander, Carrier Division Eleven. Commanding Officer, Naval Reserve Aviation Base, St. Louis, MO. Patrol Squadron 10. Fighting Squadron 5, U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5). Aviation Squadrons, Scouting Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
Legion of Merit
From Hall of Valor:
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" (Posthumously) to Commander James Kent Averill (NSN: 0-61326), United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Aide, Chief of Staff and Operations Officer attached to the Staff of the Commander, Carrier Division ELEVEN, embarked in the U.S.S. SARATOGA and the U.S.S. YORKTOWN, during combat operations against Japanese forces in the Pacific War Area, from 29 January 1944 to 26 March 1944. Without regard for the tempo of operations and long hours involved, Commander Averill rendered invaluable assistance to his commanding officer in the planning and execution of extended operations against the Japanese, including support of the landing on and subsequent capture of the Marshall Islands, and in the planning for the first carrier strikes against the Western Caroline Islands. A brilliant administrator, Commander Averill, by his aggressive leadership and professional skill, contributed essentially to the success of these vital operations. His zealous efforts and gallant conduct consistently characterized his performance of duty, which was at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. (Commander Averill is authorized to wear the Combat "V".)