Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Friday, August 16, 2013

World War II Veterans Recognized by Missouri Aviation Historical Society

By Carmelo Turdo
Two World War II veterans, the Late Arthur F. O'Keefe, Lt. Colonel, USMC (Ret.) and Thomas Mohan, SSgt, USMC, were recognized by the Missouri Aviation Historical Society at their August meeting yesterday at Creve Coeur Airport.  Both gentlemen served with VMSB-232 "Red Devils" and crewed a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber together on Guadalcanal Island.  Mohan, a Missouri resident now 92 years old, was present at the meeting, and relayed many experiences from his deployment in the Pacific Theater as a tail gunner aboard the Dauntless.  Sadly, Lt. Colonel O'Keefe, Mohan's pilot in the Dauntless, passed away August 3, and was buried with honors at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, CA.    

Thomas Mohan With the Douglas Dauntless
(Myron Lane photo)
Thomas Mohan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, while his cousin, James, enlisted in the U.S. Navy a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  James was involved in the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway, escaping from the sinking USS Lexington.  Meanwhile, Thomas was assigned to aviation after boot camp, and after seeing the gunner position on the unit's aircraft, he requested training for an aircrew position.  "I asked, 'What do you have to do to get to fly,'" Mohan told those present at the meeting.  "The first twelve guys who pass Morse Code at eight words a minute could fly.  I was happy to be one of them."   Mohan and O'Keefe parted ways when O'Keefe was redeployed, but they exchanged Christmas cards until about four years ago.  O'Keefe went on to serve 22 years as a Marine aviator, retiring as commander of VMCJ-2 flying Vought Crusaders.  Mohan was honorably discharged following the war, having missed an opportunity to go to flight training due to an automobile accident that injured his legs.  He later retired from the U.S. Postal Service after a long career.

The Missouri Aviation Historical Society, led by Dan O'Hara, contacted the current Red Devils squadron, VMFA-232, requesting recognition for Mohan's service.  The response was in true U.S. Marine Corps style - swift and direct.  O'Hara presented several items from the VMFA-232 to Thomas Mohan: a letter from the squadron commander and a lithograph of the current F/A-18C Hornet aircraft, signed by the squadron pilots.  The Aero Experience joins the Missouri Aviation Historical Society in thanking Thomas Mohan for his service, and wishing him continued good health in the years to come. 

Dan O'Hara (R) Presents Letter and Print to Thomas Mohan
(Carmelo Turdo photo)

Thomas Mohan Shows His New Autographed Print from VMFA-232
 (Carmelo Turdo photo)

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