McCampbell, David (1910-1996)
Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Based on five interviews conducted by Paul Stillwell in July 1987. The volume contains 369 pages of interview transcript plus a comprehensive index. The transcript is copyright 2010 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on its use.
This oral history is notable in that it contains the candid recollections of the U.S. Navy's all-time top fighter ace; McCampbell had 34 kills. He earned the Medal of Honor for his exploits during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944. He was one of the few pilots to receive the nation's top award for actions during aerial combat. He was a 1933 graduate of the Naval Academy; his commissioning was delayed by a year because of limited opportunities during the Great Depression. Following initial service as an officer in the heavy cruiser Portland (CA-33), he underwent flight training and received his wings in 1938. From 1938 to 1940 served with Fighting Squadron Four (VF-4), based on the aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4), and from 1940 to 1942 was landing signal officer of the aircraft carrier Wasp (CV-7). He survived the Wasp's sinking in 1942 during the Guadalcanal campaign. After serving at the landing signal officer school in Melbourne, Florida, he was briefly the commanding officer of Fighting 15 (VF-15) in 1943-44 and then commanded Air Group 15 in 1944 during that ship's successful combat tour on board the carrier Essex (CV-9). In early 1945 received the Medal of Honor from President Franklin Roosevelt. After the war, McCampbell served at Oceana Naval Air Station and in 1946-48 was a student and later a staff member at the Armed Forces Staff College. Subsequent duties were from 1948 to 1951 as senior aviation advisor to the Argentine Navy; executive officer of the aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42) in 1951-52; and in 1952-53 on the staff of Commander Aircraft Atlantic. He commanded the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Jacksonville, 1953-54, and from 1954 to 1956 served as flight test coordinator at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland. He served 1956-58 as operations officer on the staff of Commander Sixth Fleet; commanded the fleet oiler Severn (AO-61), 1958-59; and commanded the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31), 1959-60. He served 1960-62 in the plans division of the Joint Staff and in his final tour of active duty, 1962-64, was on the staff of the North American Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs.