Charles Laurence De Berniere Crommelin
(1909 - 1945)
Commander Charles L. Crommelin, who flew the Hellcat (Grumman F6F), was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for action as Commander of a Fighting Squadron in an attack on Marcus Island on 31 August 1943. The following November he was awarded a gold star in lieu of a second Distinguished Flying Cross for action as Commander of Air Group Five during the Gilbert Islands Campaign.
The citation read in part: “While leading an important reconnaissance flight over Mille Atoll on 21 November…in complete disregard for his personal safety and in the presence of determined anti-aircraft fire, he strafed one plane and was maneuvering to attack the other plane when his plane was struck by a shell which exploded within the cockpit, shattering the instruments and severely wounding him. With no vision in his left eye, his right wrist broken, a sever wound in his right chest, as well as many cuts and abrasions on his face, arms and body, and with forward visibility through the cockpit enclosure almost zero, despite loss of blood, he brought his plane back over one hundred miles and made a perfect landing aboard his carrier [the Yorktown]…”
USS Yorktown in 1943
Ordeal Over Mille Atoll
Blinded in one eye and suffering multiple wounds over Mille Atoll after a Japanese anti-aircraft round exploded inside his cockpit, Charles still managed to fly his Hellcat 120 miles to the carrier Yorktown where he landed safely.
See this action on 'The Fighting Lady' (31 minutes into the film...).
The 1954 edition of the novel "Midshipman Lee" by Robb White
recounts this harrowing ordeal on Pages 32-33 and 34.
After assuming command of Carrier Air Group 12 he was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism during the first carrier force raids on Japan in February 1945. On 28 March 1945 Commander Crommelin volunteered to fly from another aircraft carrier to participate in pre-invasion strikes on Okinawa. He never returned from that mission.
Charles flew Hellcats and was Commander of Carrier Air Group 5 aboard
the Yorktown. Later he commanded Carrier Air Group 12 aboard the USS Randolph.
The book, "Crommelin's Thunderbirds" recounts the action experienced by Air Group 12.
A collector of military uniforms in the USA wrote the following:
I just added this fantastic M-421b Navy summer flight jacket to my collection. What makes this one special is who it belonged to. This jacket is ID'ed to Navy Cdr Charles L. Crommelin, winner of the Navy Cross, 2 DFC, and the Purple Heart. Crommelin flew Hellcats and was Commander of Carrier Air Group 5 aboard the Yorktown, and later commanded Carrier Air Group 12 aboard the USS Randolph. He was a member of one of the most distinguished families in Naval history, the 5 brothers all graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Four of the brothers were fliers during WWII, and the 5th was a Capt of a destroyer. I've included a copy of the Citation for the Navy Cross. Commander Crommelin was Killed in Action while flying a mission over Okinawa. CROMMELIN, CHARLES LAURENCE (KIA)
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Charles Laurence Crommelin (0-070011), Commander, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Fighter Plane and Commander of AIR GROUP TWELVE (AG-12), embarked from the U.S.S. RANDOLPH (CV-15), during the first attack on Japan by Naval carrier-based planes on 17 February 1945. Acting as Strike Leader for a coordinated attack on a vital aircraft engine plant in the Tokyo area, Commander Crommelin courageously refused to turn back when he discovered, upon reaching the Japanese coast, that his engine was operating at greatly reduced power and he knew extremely adverse weather conditions made necessary a long trip over the Japanese mainland to the target area. Pressing home the attack in the face of intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire and fighter opposition, he was last to leave the target area, taking damage assessment photographs before delivering his own rocket and strafing attack. Commander Crommelin, by his outstanding professional skill, inspiring leadership and gallant devotion to duty, contributed materially to the serious damage of an important enemy installation, thus upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Commander, 1st Carrier Task Force, Pacific: Serial 0540 (September 12, 1945)
Personal Awards: Navy Cross (WWII), 2@ Distinguished Flying Crosses, Purple Heart