On Oct. 24, 1944 — Cdr. David McCampbell, USN, the commander of Carrier Air Group 15 aboard USS Essex (CV-9), attacking a force of 60 Japanese aircraft shot down nine enemy aircraft, a single-mission record for an American pilot during World War II. When he returned to Essex from the 95-minute battle, his Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter was almost out of ammunition and gas. His wingman on the sortie, Ens. Roy Rushing, shot down six Japanese aircraft.
McCampbell was also the only U.S. pilot to twice shoot down five or more enemy aircraft in one day. He first became an “Ace in a Day” on June 19, 1944, during the Marianas Turkey Shoot when he downed five Japanese aircraft then later in the day earned another two kills.
For the two actions, McCampbell became the only carrier pilot to receive the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Crosses and numerous Air Medals. He ended the war with 34 kills to become the third highest scoring American ace, but the highest scoring U.S. fighter pilot to survive the war.
After a 31-year career in the Navy that began at the U.S. Naval Academy, McCampbell retired as a captain in 1964 having commanded numerous units as well as ships including the oiler USS Severn (AO-61) USS Bonhomme Richard (CV-31).
McCampbell died in 1996 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.