KITS 05/2023

BuNo 72296 Lt. Louis A. Menard, jr., VBF-12, USS Randolph, February 17, 1945

Louis Arthur Menard, called Lou, joined the Navy

on July 21, 1941. He was designated a Naval Aviator

on January 31, 1942 and promoted to the rank of

Ensign. His first combat deployment took him to

North Africa on board of USS Ranger as a member

of VF-9. There he achieved one confirmed and one

probable kill flying F4F-4 on November 9. A year

later, on November 11, he added two Zekes to his

tally still as a member of VF-9, but aboard USS

Essex. After shooting down a Kate on January 29,

1944, he made himself an ace as he shot down two

Kates and two Petes on February 17. Promoted to

the rank of Lieutenant on April 1, 1944, he was

attached to the VF-12 and, on January 2, 1945,

moved to its sibling squadron VBF-12. February 16

was the day of his last victory. He shot down one

Judy, but the next day he had to bail out over the

ocean and strong wind dragged him through the

water. The crew of the destroyer Taussig finally

saved him. This ended his tour and he returned to

the USA. He stayed in active duty until 1968, when

he retired in the rank of Commander. He was XO

of VF-33 from June 1953 and CO of VF-102 from

September 1954. Regarding the Navy loss list,

Menard flew Hellcat BuNo 72296 and a painting

accompanying the interview with him portrays the

aircraft with tactical number 32. We thus assume

it was the one Lou had to bail out from. Another

source states the aircraft was BuNo 72635 and

to make the things even more complicated, there

were two Hellcats with number 32 on board of

USS Randolph. Which of them was this No. 32

Hellcat of VBF-12 is not clear. The decals offer

both BuNo. options.

Flottille 1F, PA Arromanche, French Indochina, 1951

The French Navy bought 124 F6F-5s and fifteen

F6F-5Ns between 1950 and 1953. The plane

equipped several combat units, including famous

wartime I/6 Corse and II/6 Normandie-Niemen

squadrons. The Naval 1F Flotille was another unit

to convert to Hellcats and one of those fighting

in Indochina, where France tried to reinstate

May 2023

its pre-war colony but faced the communists

opposition led by Ho Chi Minh. The unit was

transformed into 11F on June 20, 1953, while back

in France, and sent back to French Indochina

immediately. The Hellcats were also used by 54S,

57S and 59S training squadrons. French scrapped

their Hellcats in 1960 and replaced them with the

F8F Bearcat. Their Hellcats were painted in Gloss

Sea Blue and had a modified French roundel

with an anchor. The aircraft sported the famous

symbol of the Seahorse on the vertical stabilizer.

The appearance of the seahorse varied from

aircraft to aircraft.

INFO Eduard