Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command

14, Long Island departed Suva for Efate to

make the swap, but the VMF-212 pilots did

not come aboard until the day before the

ship departed for Guadalcanal on August


Captain USS Long Island, Commander Donald B. Duncan, on the deck of his ship while at anchor in Norfolk,

Virginia, October 26, 1941. Note the installation of a makeshift mast.

unnoticed by any American radars and

eased within 40 miles of the carrier as it

continued tracking her course.

At 1400 hours Long Island reached her

launch point off the tip of San Cristobal

Island, 200 miles south of Guadalcanal.

The strange-looking ship had begun life

on January 11, 1940, as the C-3 cargo

liner Mormacmail. Taken over by the

Navy March 6, 1941, she had emerged

from the yards with her superstructure

removed and replaced by a 362-foot flight

deck, becoming the first of a new class

of aircraft carrier – Auxiliary Escort

Carriers – which would over the next few

years become the most numerous class

of aircraft carriers in the world, by then

known as CVEs, which their crews would

a month in preparation following

notification on July 5 that they were

deploying to the South Pacific, the pilots

and gunners had packed themselves

aboard the little carrier in Pearl Harbor

on August 2 and Long Island set sail

unescorted into the great unknown of

the war-torn Pacific. Their ground crews

and other key personnel from MAG-23,

and all the necessary ordnance, fuel, and

supplies needed to begin air operations

departed separately aboard the transport

William Ward Burroughs.

On August 9, 1942, completely unaware of

conditions on Guadalcanal, Long Island

had neared her launch point when Captain

Duncan learned of disaster suffered in

the Battle of Savo Island the night before.

“Receiving orders to bomb-up our airplanes was an

eye-opener to just how difficult things were where

we were going.”

(LtCol Richard Mangrum; VMSB-232)

claim stood for “combustible, vulnerable

and expendable.” Long Island’s captain,

Commander Donald Duncan, ordered full

speed ahead. Black smoke poured from

the horizontal funnels on her starboard

side as Long Island’s single diesel engine

strained to bring the ship to her maximum

speed of 16.5 knots – half that of a fleet


For Long Island and her precious cargo of

F4F-4 Wildcats of VMF-223 and SBD-3s of

VMSB-232, this was their second attempt

to get to Guadalcanal. After less than

March 2023

Duncan turned around and headed for

the American base at Suva, Fiji, to await

clearance to launch his cargo of precious

aircraft and pilots. Upon arrival, he

informed Admiral Robert Ghormley that

most of the pilots were too green to be

committed to combat. Ghormley bucked

the matter to Admiral McCain, who ordered

eight more experienced pilots transferred

to VMF-223 from the well-trained but

unbloodied Vila-based VMF-212, which

would take 223's least-experienced pilots

in trade and train them further. On August

To Guadalcanal!

On the way out from Pearl, the Marines

had worried about getting off the carrier

while in the Pacific “doldrums” where

there was no wind over the deck. Dick

Mangrum recalled “we had no idea how

far south this equatorial condition would

be found, and considered ourselves

fortunate to discover our destination

was far enough south to be well away

from this situation.” With the southeast

tradewind adding another 10 knots to the

breeze over the flight deck, the crews in

the 12 new SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers

checked the gear and equipment – spark

plugs, starter cartridges, tool kits, even

spare tires – they had stuffed in their

cockpits the night before to support

themselves for the two weeks they would

be on their own before their ground crews

arrived. The squadron was six airplanes

short of its authorized strength because

these 12 had been the only Dauntlesses

available in the Ford Island fleet pool

when Mangrum learned of their coming

deployment. Each Dauntless carried

a 500-pound bomb to supplement the

small supply on Guadalcanal. According to

Mangrum, “receiving orders to bomb-up

our airplanes was an eye-opener to

just how difficult things were where

we were going.” Second Lieutenant

Eugene Trowbridge noted in his officallyillegal diary (that he kept regardless):

“A lot of excitement today as there are

enemy subs all around, and today we get

the new experience of being catapulted

from the ship as the flight deck is too short

to fly off. We are all set to leave. Engines

warm and tested, baggage all secured,

everything all set. Finally, we’re off.”

The flight deck crew pushed the first bomber

into position. Bombing-232’s skipper,

Major Richard. H. Mangrum’s 12 years as

a fighter and bomber pilot and 3,000 flying

hours, made him the most experienced

of all 31 pilots in the two squadrons.

Mangrum later recalled that “Our launch

was delayed to the afternoon since the

Japanese visited Guadalcanal at mid-day,

and thus, arriving later, we were less likely

to get an unfriendly reception from our

fellow Marines.”

Two minutes later, 2nd Lieutenant

Lawrence Baldinus, a Polish expatriate

and former Marine enlisted pilot who had

been commissioned after Pearl Harbor

INFO Eduard