WILLIAM H. PACE, MAJ, USMC

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

William Pace '39

Date of birth: November 24, 1915

Date of death: August 7, 1943

Age: 27

Lucky Bag

From the 1939 Lucky Bag:


Loss

From The Black Sheep: The Definitive History of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in World War II, by Bruce Gamble:

The next day, Pace's Corsair number one was ready for a test of its new engine, replaced after a 20mm shell had knocked out the blower section five days earlier. The skipper took it up at 1030 [on August 7, 1943] and conducted a normal test procedure for approximately an hour before the engine failed. He was observed descending rapidly from high altitude, perhaps attempting a dead-stick landing at Banika, just as Eisele had tried less than eighteen hours before. But Pace wasn't going to make the field either; a Douglas R4D occupied the strip.

Some thought Pace saw the transport and deliberately tried to avoid it; others guessed that he misjudged his rate of descent. In any case, he was coming in short of the strip as his silent Corsair descended toward the water just off-shore. At the last moment, he apparently changed his mind about ditching, released his harness, and stood up in the cockpit. Whether he jumped first or pulled the ripcord in an attempt to let the parachute pull him out of the plane is uncertain, but he left the Corsair at only a hundred feed above the water. It was simply too low for his chut to open. The F4U careened into three feet of water with a huge shower of spray and coral at about the same time that Pace struck the surface of the channel. Two men manning an antiaircraft gun swam out and supported him until the crash boat arrived, but there was nothing to be done. At his speed and trajectory, the water might as well have been concrete, and he had died instantly.

Fortune at smiled upon VMF-214 for months, but in a span of barely twenty-four hours the skipper was dead, another pilot was missing in action, and three valuable planes were lost. Pace's body was held for burial the next day while pieces of his F4U, some of which had wound up on the beach just a hundred feet short of the strip, were collected for engineers to analyze. Henry Miller suspected that the engine failed for the same reason as Eisele's—breakdown of the number thirteen cylinder due to overheadting. His hunch was confirmed when Pace's engine was found to have a broken master rod and some broken articulator rods.

At 1400 on the afternoon of August 8, the remains of Maj. William H. Pace were buried with full military honors in Banika cemetery number one; a bent propeller blade salvaged from the wreck served as his marker. The funeral was "simple, sincere, and nicely carried out."

Forty minutes later, four Swashbucklers took off to escort B-25s on a search for enemy shipping…

He had only taken over command of the squadron on June 26, 1943.

William is now buried in Hawaii. His wife was listed as next of kin.

Memorial Hall Error

He appears on the killed in action panel in Memorial Hall; it is more accurate to consider his loss as an operational one.

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

2nd Lieutenant, Marine Corps Schools, Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Others at this command: 2LT Alfred Gordon '39, 2LT Carter Simpson '39, 2LT Hugh Tistadt, Jr. '39, 2LT John Fantone '39, 2LT Ralph Mann, Jr. '39, 2LT Willard Holdredge '39, 2LT William Harris '39, and 2LT William Hogaboom '39.

Others at or embarked at Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: CAPT Walter Webster '11 (Naval Aircraft Factory), LT Donald Lovelace '28 (Naval Aircraft Factory), LTjg Edward Allen '31 (Naval Aircraft Factory), ENS Lewis Davis '37 (Naval Finance & Supply School), and 2LT John Maclaughlin, Jr. '38 (Marine Barracks).

June 1940

2nd Lieutenant, Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia

Others at this command: CAPT Francis Williams '30.

Others at or embarked at this command: CAPT David Claude '24 (Marine Corps Schools, Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia) and CAPT John Heil '28 (Marine Corps Schools, Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia).

November 1940

2nd Lieutenant, Headquarters and Service Company, 5th Marine Regiment

April 1941

2nd Lieutenant, Headquarters and Service Company, 5th Marine Regiment


Class of 1939

William is one of 77 members of the Class of 1939 on Virtual Memorial Hall.