Lieutenant (jg) Arthur Ray Hawkins:
Navy Ace with 14 Aerial Victories to his credit.
Born in Zavalla, Texas on December 12, 1922
Attended Lon Morris College in Jacksonville Texas but decided to join the Navy at the age of 19 on April 29,1942 after the death of his older brother, an Army Air Force fighter pilot, who was shot down in the South Pacific.
He took his flight training at NAS Corpus Christi Texas and NAS Opa Locka Florida. After graduation on January 1, 1943 he received his commission as an Ensign.
On May 1, 1943 Ens. Hawkins was attached to the newly formed Fighter Squadron 31 (VF-31) under the command of Lt. Cmd. Robert Winston at NAS Atlantic City New Jersey. He served with VF-31 on board the USS Cabot from January 1944 through October 1944. During his tour of duty aboard USS Cabot he became a Naval Ace downing 14 enemy aircraft. Lt Hawkins was one of the 10 original pilots from VF-31 to signup for a second tour of duty aboard the USS Belleau Wood from June 1945 through October 1945 when VF-31 was dissolved.
Engagements flown in which Lieutenant (jg) Hawkins shot down enemy aircraft:
Medals Awarded to Lieutenant (jg) Hawkins while serving with VF-31
- Navy Cross
- Gold Star in lieu of 2nd Navy Cross
- Gold Star in lieu of 3rd Navy Cross
- Distinguished Flying Cross
- Gold Star in lieu of 2nd Distinguished Flying Cross
- Gold Star in lieu of 3rd Distinguished Flying Cross
- Air Medal
- Gold Star in lieu of 2nd Air Medal
- Gold Star in lieu of 3rd Air Medal
Lt. Hawkins flew with the US Navy Blue Angles precision flying team as a wingman from 1948 through 1950. He flew the last air show performance that the Blue Angels performed using the Grumman F8F Bearcat piston aircraft and the first air show performance with the Grumman F9F-2 Panther jet aircraft.
In 1950 when the Korean War broke out Lt. Hawkins once again found himself in the seat of a Navy fighter plane in combat. He flew with the other members of the Blue Angels in VF-191 as Executive Officer off of the USS Princeton during the conflict. Lt. Hawkins flew on the first carrier based jet bombing mission of the Korean war.
After his service in the Korean War Lt Cmdr. Hawkins resumed his work with the Blue Angels as their flight leader from 1952 through 1953 and was the first pilot to survive bailing out of an aircraft going faster than the speed of sound.
Captain Hawkins retired from the US Navy in 1973 and worked as Secretary/Treasurer of the The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola Florida, retiring in 1997 as chief of staff.
On October 7th 1984 Captain Arthur Ray Hawkins was inducted into the Aircraft Carrier Aviation Hall of Fame.
On November 1, 2001 Captain Arthur Ray Hawkins was inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame.
Captain Hawkins is to be inducted into the National Museum of Naval Aviation Hall of Honor.
Arthur Ray Hawkins passed away on March 21, 2004
Lt. (jg) A. R. HAWKINS
A record of total aircraft tonnage shot down in one flight can probably be claimed by Lt. (jg)Arthur R. HAWKINS of Lufkin, Texas. The Hellcat pilot of Fighting 31 destroyed a Japanese bomber and three twin-engine transport planes in an air battle over the Philippines on 21 Sept.
In the action over Clark Field near Manila, HAWKINS went down to strafe the airfield with other planes from the squadron, and in
pulling up, HAWKINS joined in an attack on a bomber trying to escape. He headed into the bomber, fired and pulled away, missing it by a few feet. Looking back, HAWKINS saw the pilot parachute out. After turning away to return to his ship, HAWKINS sighted a formation of five transports.
"It was a fighter pilot's dream," he said." dove on them and cut my speed to stay behind. From a closer position, I started firing, and the nearest plane went down.
"1 turned to the next, and he also began to burn and crashed. Other Hellcats had joined in the attack and finished off the remaining planes.
"We again headed back toward our base when a Jap fighter came down on us from above. I turned into him, and he broke away with me chasing.
"In the middle of the chase, I saw another formation of transports larger than the first. left the fighter and continued my dive for the transports. My terrific speed kept me from settling behind the formation, but as I went past, I got good shots into one plane and brought him down in flames.
"Climbing again for a second attack, I ran across another Jap Zero. I fired on the Zero, and he went into a cloud, smoking. I was too late for another shot at the transports-other Navy fighters had them all smoking and burning when I got back."
The day's bag of four brought HAWKINS' total score of planes destroyed in aerial combat to 14, one of the leading records for a Navy pilot.
HAWKINS' highest mark for one day came on 13 Sept., when he was escorting bombers on a mission against an airfield in the Central Philippines. When his formation was intercepted over the target, HAWKINS shot down five Zeros and damaged three more in the dogfight that ensued.
"I dove with the first Zero close to the deck, and must have hit the pilot, as the plane went down without burning and bounced across the field," HAWKINS said.
"While banking around to see what happened, I was attacked from behind by two Zeros. I quickly turned into them and shot down one as I went past.
"As I climbed, I spotted Jap planes taking off from the field. I dove on one and he went back to the ground, burning. I regained my altitude and saw a Zero above, preparing to attack. I turned toward him and went up under his belly, firing until we almost collided. After we turned together for a short while, he fell out and crashed to the ground.
"I got the fifth Zero when he turned away from three Hellcats jockeying for a position behind him. I got a perfect shot, and the plane was riddled from stem to stern," HAWKINS continued. "During the melee, I saw my shots hit three other Zeros, but could not tell what became of them because of my violent speed and other enemy planes demanding my attention."
In the Battle of the Eastern Philippines, HAWKINS shot down three of the 27 Japanese carrier planes that were destroyed by Fighting 31 in the day's fighting.
"We had heard all kinds of stories about the skill of Jap carrier pilots and this was our first chance to find out the truth," HAWKINS commented. "I was in a six-plane Hellcat division led by Lt. J. S. STEWART of Beverly Hills, Calif. When about 50 miles from our task force, we intercepted more than 30 Zeros. They were above average Jap pilots, but in about five minutes, our six Hellcats had shot down l5 and other Hellcats had taken care of the rest. The sky was full of parachutes, burning planes and Hellcats were looking for something to shoot at."
Despite his high scores in other actions, HAWKINS said shooting down a single plane during the raid against Truk was his toughest job. Launched during a torpedo attack, HAWKINS flew through a heavy barrage of anti-aircraft fire thrown up by his own task force, and shot down a Japanese torpedo bomber penetrating the protective screen of the carrier force.
HAWKINS, who holds the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Flying Cross, shot down one of nine Zeros trying to escape from Guam.. Meanwhile, other Fighting 31 pilots were destroying the rest.
In a long-range attack on enemy shipping in the Philippines, HAWKINS sank a Japanese coastal craft by strafing it.
In his nine months of combat duty in the Pacific, HAWKINS flew on more than 25 bombing and strafing missions against enemy airfields, gun positions and ground installations.