Marion Eugene Carl


Major General Marion Eugene Carl (November 1, 1915 – June 28, 1998) was an American military officer, World War II fighter ace, record-setting test pilot, and naval aviator. He was the United States Marine Corps' first ace in World War II.

Marion E. Carl
Official Portrait of U.S. Marine Corps Major General Marion E. Carl.jpg
Major General Marion E. Carl in August 1967
Born(1915-11-01)November 1, 1915
Hubbard, Oregon, U.S.
DiedJune 28, 1998(1998-06-28) (aged 82)
Roseburg, Oregon, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchSeal of the United States Army Reserve.svg United States Army Reserve
 United States Marine Corps
Years of service1938–1973
RankUS Marine O8 shoulderboard.svg Major General
Commands heldVMF-223
Director of Marine Corps Aviation
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Inspector General of the Marine Corps
Battles/warsWorld War II Vietnam War
AwardsNavy Cross (2)
Legion of Merit (4)
Distinguished Flying Cross (5)
Air Medal (14)
Edna Kirvin
(m. 1943)

Early yearsEdit

Born on the family dairy farm near Hubbard, Oregon,[1] Carl was always attracted to aviation. He learned to fly while attending college and soloed after only 2½ hours of instruction; eight to ten hours is typical. He studied aeronautical engineering at Oregon State College (now a university) and, in 1938, graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree as a lieutenant in the Army Reserve.

Marine Corps careerEdit

Carl resigned his Army commission to become a naval aviation cadet and received his "Wings of Gold" and Marine Corps commission in December 1939. His first posting was to Marine Fighting Squadron One (VMF-1) at Quantico, Virginia. After a year there, he was posted back to Pensacola as an instructor pilot helping to train the rapidly growing number of naval aviators, before receiving orders to the newly formed Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221) at NAS North Island in San Diego, California.

World War IIEdit

The 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor found VMF-221 preparing to embark aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga for transport to Marine Corps Air Station Ewa on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The unit was rushed to Hawaii, then to Wake Island as part of the WI Relief Task Force, still aboard Saratoga. After the relief attempt was cancelled, VMF-221 was deployed to Midway Atoll on Christmas Day, 1941. Carl's first combat occurred six months later during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942,[2] when 15 of the 25 aircraft VMF-221 put into the air that morning were destroyed.[3] Nevertheless, Carl was credited with destroying one enemy aircraft, a Mitsubishi Zero. All the survivors of VMF-221 were returned to Hawaii shortly after the battle.

Survivors of the Battle of Midway at Ewa Mooring Mast Field, Oahu on 22 June 1942. From left to right: Capt Marion E. Carl, Capt Kirk Armistead, Maj Raymond Scollin (of Marine Air Group 22), Capt Herbert T. Merrill, 2nd Lt Charles M. Kunz, 2nd Lt Charles S. Hughes, 2nd Lt Hyde Phillips, Capt Philip R. White, and 2nd Lt Roy A. Corry, Jr.
Junichi Sasai wearing flight gear. This 1942 photo shows Sasai shortly before his death over Guadalcanal on August 26.

After a short rest, Carl was reassigned to Marine Fighting Squadron 223 (VMF-223), led by former VMF-221 pilot Captain (later Major) John L. Smith. On August 20, VMF-223 was deployed to Guadalcanal, the first fighter unit ashore with the Cactus Air Force. Over the next two months, Carl became the Marines' first ace, running his tally to 16.5 victories, during which time he had to bail out once from a badly-damaged airplane. It is believed that on August 26 Carl shot down the famous Japanese Navy Tainan Kōkūtai ace Junichi Sasai over Henderson Field. When the squadron left Guadalcanal in October, Carl was America's second-ranking ace behind Major Smith.

In 1943, then-Major Carl returned to the Pacific and led VMF-223 until the following summer. During combat in the Solomon Islands, he claimed two more enemy planes, finishing as the Corps' seventh-ranking ace with 18.5 victories.

Aerial victory creditsEdit

Date Total Aircraft Types Claimed (location)
04 Jun 1942 1 1 A6M Zeke destroyed and 2 damaged (Midway VMF-221)
24 Aug 1942 4 1 A6M Zeke, 1 Betty bomber, 2 Kate bombers destroyed (Cactus)
26 Aug 1942 2 2 A6M Zekes destroyed (Cactus)
29 Aug 1942 1 1 Betty bomber destroyed (Cactus)
30 Aug 1942 3 3 A6M Zekes destroyed (Cactus)
09 Sep 1942 2 2 Mitsubishi G4M Betty bombers destroyed (Cactus)
27 Sep 1942 1.5 (1 shared credit with Major. K. Armistead) Betty bombers destroyed (Cactus)
28 Sep 1942 1 1 Betty bomber destroyed (Cactus)
03 Oct 1942 1 1 A6M Zero destroyed (Cactus)
23 Dec 1943 1 1 Ki-61 Tony destroyed (Rabaul)
27 Dec 1943 1 1 A6M Zeke destroyed (Rabaul)

Test pilotEdit

In 1945, Carl graduated in the first test pilot class at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. As a Lieutenant Colonel, he conducted pioneering jet operations from aircraft carriers and later commanded VMF-122, the first Marine jet squadron.

Carl and Commander Caldwell with a D-558-1 at Muroc (1947)

In 1947, Carl was one of two pilots selected to fly the Douglas D-558/I Skystreak in record-setting speed attempts. That August, he was recorded at 650 miles per hour (1,050 km/h), establishing a new world record for a conventional aircraft. When Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in October, he also broke Carl's record.

At Patuxent River on April 1, 1952, Carl had a close brush with death. He was performing a series of check spins in the new Grumman AF-2S Guardian anti-submarine attack aircraft. The anti-spin parachute that had been fitted in earlier tests had been removed. Climbing to 10,000 feet (3,000 m) over Chesapeake Bay, Carl commenced the spin. The aircraft entered a flat spin with strong centrifugal forces. Carl could not break the spin and rode it down to 4,000 ft (1,200 m). He tried to operate the ejection seat, but the face blind ripped away in his hands and the seat failed to fire. He climbed out at 3,000 feet (910 m). He then tried the wind-tunnel approved method of getting out on the inside of the spin, but was forced back due to airflow. He finally got out on the other side and felt his parachute open as he fell into the splash of the aircraft. The success of this proved bailing out on the inside of the spin to avoid being hit by the tail was an incorrect theory.[4]

During a second test pilot tour in 1953, Carl set an unofficial altitude record of 83,000 feet (25,000 m) in the Douglas D-558/II.

Between test pilot duties, Carl commanded other units including a reconnaissance squadron based on Taiwan. In 1954, he led missions over Mainland China, photographing Communist forces along the coast. After his death, an incorrect version of his reconnaissance missions appeared in several obituaries, stating that he had flown U-2 spy planes.

Vietnam WarEdit

Carl (1st from left, middle row) at the 1967 General Officers Symposium

Though still a colonel, Carl became Director of Marine Corps Aviation for five months in 1962. In 1964 he was promoted to brigadier general; in 1965, he took the 1st Marine Brigade to Danang, South Vietnam. Despite his seniority, he repeatedly flew combat missions in helicopter gunships and jet fighters.

Carl received his second star as a major general in 1967, commanding the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina from 1968 to 1970. He subsequently served as Inspector General of the Marine Corps, until retiring in 1973. By then he had logged some 13,000 flying hours, more than twice as much as most contemporaries.


Carl returned to his native Oregon, where he and his wife Edna settled near Roseburg. Marion Carl's memoir, Pushing the Envelope, coauthored with his friend Barrett Tillman, was published in 1994.[5] In 1998, at age 82, he was shot to death during a robbery, defending Edna from a home invader.[6] Carl had entered his living room late one evening and had found an intruder pointing a shotgun at his wife and demanding money and car-keys. Carl lunged at the intruder who fired his weapon, the shot grazing Edna's head and leaving her injured. The attacker then turned the weapon on Carl, fatally shooting him and the former then fled, stealing cash and the couple's car.[7] Carl was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.[8]

His murderer, 19-year-old Jesse Fanus, was apprehended one week later. In April 1999, he was convicted on two counts of aggravated murder (and 11 additional felony charges) and sentenced to death. In 2003, his conviction and death sentence were upheld by the Oregon Supreme Court. In December 2011, the sentence was overturned based on the prisoner's inadequate legal representation.[9][10] Fanus was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on May 7, 2015.[11]

Carl's widow Edna passed away in 2007.[7] His two children were Bruce and Lyanne.

Awards and legacyEdit

Carl's decorations include (having declined any personal medals for service in Vietnam):[12]

Naval Aviator Badge
Navy Cross w/ one Gold Star Legion of Merit w/ Combat "V" and three Gold Stars
Distinguished Flying Cross w/ four Gold Stars Air Medal w/ two Silver Stars and two Gold Stars Air Medal
Combat Action Ribbon Presidential Unit Citation w/ two Bronze Stars American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/three Bronze Stars World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal w/ one Bronze Star Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Service Medal w/ two Bronze Stars
Korean Defense Service Medal Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Vietnam Campaign Medal

First Navy Cross citationEdit


The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Captain Marion Eugene Carl (MCSN: 0-6053), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving Section Leader and a Pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE (VMF-221), Marine Air Group TWENTY-TWO (MAG-22), Naval Air Station, Midway, during operations of the U.S. Naval and Marine Forces against the invading Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942. Leading his section in a dauntless and aggressive attack against a vastly superior number of Japanese bomber and fighter planes, Captain Carl aided in the disruption of enemy plans and lessened the effectiveness of their attack. As a result of his daring tactics, he succeeded in destroying one OO Isento KI Navy Fighter. The courageous leadership and utter disregard for personal safety displayed by Captain Carl in this attack were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[13]

Second Navy Cross citationEdit


The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross to Captain Marion Eugene Carl (MCSN: 0-6053), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as a Pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE (VMF-223), Marine Air Group TWENTY-THREE (MAG-23), FIRST Marine Aircraft Wing, in aerial combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomons Islands Area from 24 August 1942 to 9 September 1942. With utter disregard for his own personal safety, Captain Carl, during the period of sixteen days, shot down ten enemy aircraft unassisted, and with the help of another Marine Corps pilot, succeeded in shooting down the eleventh plane. His brilliant daring and conspicuous skill as an airman served as an inspiration to other pilots of his squadron and contributed greatly to the security of the positions of the United States Forces in the Solomon Islands. His courageous and loyal devotion to duty is in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Goldstein, Richard (1998-06-30). "Maj. Gen. Marion E. Carl, 82, Marine Air Ace in World War II". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-13.
  2. ^ Carl's action on that memorable day is documented in Edward H. Sims' book Greatest Fighter Missions, as the first chapter of that compilation.
  3. ^ Because of the unexpected resistance offered by the defending VMF-221 fighters, the Japanese fleet admiral decided to launch another (previously unplanned) attack on the island, a decision which ultimately resulted in the near-complete destruction of the Japanese attack force.
  4. ^ Eric Brown, Wings on my Sleeve, Phoenix Press 2006
  5. ^ Carl, Marion E. and Barrett Tillman. Pushing the Envelope: The Career of Fighter Ace and Test Pilot Marion Carl, Naval Institute Press, 1994. (ISBN 1-59114-866-9)
  6. ^ Willetts, Joyce. "In Memoriam: Major General Marion Carl, USMC (retired), Vietnam Veteran, 30 June 1998". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 21 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-02.
  7. ^ a b "Family of Maj. Gen. Marion Carl doesn't want war hero's killer released from prison -".
  8. ^ "Marion E. Carl, Lieutenant General, United States Marine Corps". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 2006-07-02.
  9. ^ "No death penalty for killer of WWII Marine ace". Associated Press. December 29, 2011. Archived from the original on January 24, 2012. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  10. ^ [1] War Hero's Killer Must Wait Until 2015 for New Sentencing Hearing, Roseburg News Review, 1 November 2013
  11. ^ "Jesse Fanus resentenced to life in prison in death of WWII hero Marion Carl -".
  12. ^ "Veteran Tributes".
  13. ^ a b "Marion Eugene Carl". Military Times.
  14. ^ Halley, Blaine (September 19, 1992). "Ceremony Will Honor 5 Test Pilots". The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. p. B2 – via
  15. ^ "Gathering of Eagles Foundation | Honoring airpower heritage to inspire military and community leaders of the future".
  16. ^ "Roseburg Regional Airport". Public Works Department, Roseburg, Oregon. Archived from the original on 2006-09-25. Retrieved 2006-07-02.
  17. ^ "Marion Carl Memorial Mud Run". Marine Aviation Support Group 23. Archived from the original on 2006-09-19. Retrieved 2006-07-02.
  18. ^ "Annual Marion Carl Marine Mud Run". Archived from the original on 2007-04-22. Retrieved 2006-07-02.
  19. ^ "K-Bay gets new name, status". Honolulu Advertiser. Marine Corps Times. 2009-05-25. Archived from the original on 2012-02-23. Retrieved 2009-05-27.


  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
  • Major General Marion E. Carl, USMC, Who's Who in Marine Corps History, History Division, United States Marine Corps.

External linksEdit

  •   Media related to Marion Eugene Carl at Wikimedia Commons
  • Arlington National Cemetery
Preceded by Human altitude record
Succeeded by