Kepford, Ira Cassius, LCDR

Deceased
 
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Last Rank
Lieutenant Commander
Last Primary NEC
131X-Unrestricted Line Officer - Pilot
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1945-1956, 131X, Naval Reserve Readiness Command (NAVRESREDCOM)
Service Years
1941 - 1945
Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
Illinois
Illinois
Year of Birth
1919
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Bersley H Thomas, Jr. (Tom), SMCS to remember Kepford, Ira Cassius (Navy Cross 2x), LCDR.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Not Specified
Last Address
Harvey

Date of Passing
Jan 18, 1987
 
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

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 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

                              FIGHTING 17th TOP ACE

Escape over Rabaul

The mission set for Feb. 19, 1944 was typical for the fliers of VF-17 that month: 20 planes on a strafing mission to Rabaul. Butch Davenport led the division; Ike was number 3. They took off at 0800, northwest towards Rabaul. Kepford's wingman soon developed engine trouble and was forced to return. Kepford was ordered to turn also back; he turned south, but kept rubbernecking and shortly spotted a lone Japanese Rufe seaplane. Although he was alone, Kepford dived down and opened up. The six .50's shook the Corsair and rippled holes in the enemy plane. As he pulled out of his dive, Kepford glanced back and saw the floatplane crash into the water. An easy kill behind him, Kepford turned south for home, radioing "Hog 29 here. Scratch one. Returning to base."

But then he saw many, many dots, high above him and in between him and Bougainville. He hoped to remain inconspicuous, but four Zeros peeled off to attack him. Unwilling to fight the whole group, he turned north to escape them, but the four pursuers came on fast, with their tremendous altitude advantage. As the lead Zero came on fast and opened fire, Kepford decided to "go for broke." He dropped his flaps and landing gear and nosed down until he was skimming the waves; as the Zero roared over him, he pulled his Hog's nose up and opened fire. The Zero's stabilizer crumpled under the snapshot, and the plane crashed into the waves. As Kepford pulled in his gear and flaps, the remaining Zeros bracketed him . . . he was facing 3-to-1 odds, low and slow, and he was heading back in the direction of Rabaul.

The other three Zeros spread out behind him, boxing him in, and continued to gain. Tracers streaked by! It was time to use the newly installed water injection "War Emergency Power" WEP, a temporary boost to the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine. The Jap planes stayed with him, scoring some hits on the F4U. He was really trapped at this point, unable to turn because of the Zeros behind, and forced to continue speeding north, while not gaining appreciably. Slowly, he began to pull away, but the WEP started to over-heat the engine. He got out of range and eased back on the throttle a bit, disengaging the WEP.

Kepford had to make his move now! He cut across the path of the port Zero. The Japanese plane dropped to wavetop level, opened fire, and sharply turned, trying to tunr inside Kepford. At which point the Zero's left wing caught a wave top, and the plane cartwheeled across the ocean surface, disintegrated, and sank. The other two Zeros were left behind as Kepford dashed for home, landing on fumes in his fuel tank. He struggled out of his plane, pale and exhausted. His flying suit and shoes were soaked through with sweat. As the tension of the nerve-wracking four hour mission lifted, he shook all over and tears streamed from his eyes.

With 16 confirmed kills at the end of February, Kepford was still the Navy's top ace, a distinction he retained until Alexander Vraciu went wild on June 19.

   
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 Duty Stations
Naval Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API), NAS Pensacola, FLNAS Corpus Christi/Truax FieldVF-17 Jolly RogersVF-84 Jolly Rogers
Commander Navy Reserve Forces Command (COMNAVRESFORCOM)
  1941-1942, 139X, Naval Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API), NAS Pensacola, FL
  1942-1942, 139X, NAS Corpus Christi/Truax Field
  1943-1944, 131X, VF-17 Jolly Rogers
  1944-1945, 131X, VF-84 Jolly Rogers
  1945-1956, 131X, Naval Reserve Readiness Command (NAVRESREDCOM)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1943-1943 World War II/Asiatic-Pacific Theater/Treasury-Bougainville Operation
  1943-1943 Central Pacific Campaign (1941-43)/Marshall Islands Operation
  1944-1944 World War II/Asiatic-Pacific Theater
 Colleges Attended 
Northwestern University
  1938-1942, Northwestern University
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