Atwell, Melvin Kenneth, LT

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Last Rank
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1941-1943, 131X, VP-91 Black Cats
Service Years
1942 - 1943
Lieutenant Lieutenant

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Tommy Burgdorf (Birddog), FC2 to remember Atwell, Melvin Kenneth, LT.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Norfolk, VA
Last Address
1911 Llewellyn Ave
Norfolk, VA
(Wife~Helen Gwendolyn Atwell)

Casualty Date
Mar 05, 1943
Non Hostile- Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Sea
Pacific Ocean
World War II
Location of Interment
Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial - Honolulu, Hawaii
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Court 5 (Cenotaph)

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Guadalcanal Campaign (1942-42)/Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands
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The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Santa Cruz or in Japanese sources as the Battle of the South Pacific, was the fourth carrier battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II and the fourth major naval engagement fought between the United States Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy during the lengthy and strategically important Guadalcanal campaign. In similar fashion to the battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and the Eastern Solomons, the ships of the two adversaries were rarely in direct visual range of each other. Instead, almost all attacks by both sides were mounted by carrier or land-based aircraft.

In an attempt to drive Allied forces from Guadalcanal and nearby islands and end the stalemate that had existed since September 1942, the Imperial Japanese Army planned a major ground offensive on Guadalcanal for 20–25 October 1942. In support of this offensive, and with the hope of engaging Allied naval forces, Japanese carriers and other large warships moved into a position near the southern Solomon Islands. From this location, the Japanese naval forces hoped to engage and decisively defeat any Allied (primarily U.S.) naval forces, especially carrier forces, that responded to the ground offensive. Allied naval forces also hoped to meet the Japanese naval forces in battle, with the same objectives of breaking the stalemate and decisively defeating their adversary.

The Japanese ground offensive on Guadalcanal was under way in the Battle for Henderson Field while the naval warships and aircraft from the two adversaries confronted each other on the morning of 26 October 1942, just north of the Santa Cruz Islands. After an exchange of carrier air attacks, Allied surface ships were forced to retreat from the battle area with one carrier sunk and another heavily damaged. The participating Japanese carrier forces, however, also retired because of high aircraft and aircrew losses plus significant damage to two carriers. Although a tactical victory for the Japanese in terms of ships sunk and damaged, the loss of many irreplaceable, veteran aircrews would prove to be a long term strategic advantage for the Allies, whose aircrew losses in the battle were relatively low and could be quickly replaced. The high cost of the battle for the Japanese prevented their carrier forces from further significant involvement in the Guadalcanal campaign.
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
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To Year
Last Updated:
Jun 12, 2008
Personal Memories

Lieutenant Atwell, contacted a suspicious object about 30 miles distance. He closed to a point where the dark outline of a large ship could be seen moving in an easterly direction at a high speed. Shortly after contact the ship moved under a 1,500 foot overcast and stopped. Lieutenant Atwell circled over the ship twice at low altitude in an unsuccessful attempt to identify it. He then climbed back to 1,500 feet and at 0150 when about two miles from the ship the plane was fired upon by two bursts of 20-mm. followed by a 5" AA projectile which burst under its starboard wing. Lieutenant Atwell decided upon a dive bombing attack and attacked immediately from about 1,400 feet as the ship opened up with heavy anti-aircraft fire and commenced to gain headway. The Co-Pilot, Lieutenant Mather, dropped the two starboard 500-pound contact bombs at about 650 feet altitude. These bombs landed about 75 feet on the target's starboard quarters. The Pilot released the two port bombs of the same type at about 600 feet altitude while still in a dive. Both bombs were seen to explode abaft the first stack of the target which was illuminated by the explosion and identified as a Japanese heavy cruiser of the AOBA class. All anti-aircraft fire ceased after the last two bombs hit. The plane suffered numerous but not serious hits from shrapnel and the concussion from the bombs exploding blew out radio tubes and lights. Recovery from the dive was affected at about 20 feet above the sea. No personnel were injured. The pilot suspected gasoline leaks and immediately headed for his base. About 20 minutes later a large orange flash was seen in the vicinity of his former target. About ten minutes later a larger and more prolonged orange flash was seen in the same position. The plane and crew returned safely.

My Photos From This Battle or Operation
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  57 Also There at This Battle:
  • Harp, Edward Blaine, RADM, (1929-1961)
  • Rhodes, Raleigh Ernest, CDR, (1940-1961)
  • Siebler, Jerome, S1c, (1942-1942)
  • Vejtasa, Stanley Winfield, CAPT, (1938-1970)
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