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 Find A Grave:

Major in VMF 214 Squadron, USMC, WW2 shot down in Russell Islands, 7 Aug 1943. Initially buried in Banika Cemetery No. 1, Banika Island.

He is now buried in Hawaii.

His wife was listed as next of kin. This list gives his death as "accidental".

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 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. Paces 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.

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.


Class of 1939

William is one of 75 members of the Class of 1939 in Memorial Hall.