Capt Francis P McCarthy

Capt Francis P McCarthy

Milton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 4 Jun 1942 (aged 25)
Midway Islands, U.S. Minor Outlying Islands
Burial Mattapan, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Plot Section 16, Lot 8
Memorial ID 55019830 · View Source
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Bio of Capt. Francis Peter McCarthy, USMC

William Joseph McCarthy and Marie L. Raymore were married on 30 Nov 1905 in Boston, MA. William served in WWI attaining the rank of Major serving with the 101st Infantry, 26th Division, US Army. William and Marie were the parents of at least four children; William Joseph Jr., Marie Laura, James R., and Francis Paul McCarthy. According to the 1940 Newton, MA federal census Francis had completed four years of college.

Francis P. McCarthy did not graduate from the Naval Academy class 1938 as some have speculated. He enlisted on 15 Jun 1939 as a Private First Class (PFC) at the Marine Corps Reserve Aviation Unit (MCRAU), First Reserve District, MBNY, Boston, MA. He was sent to the Marine Corps Reserve Aviation Unit (MCRAU), Naval Reserve Air Base (NRAB) at Squantum, MA to undergo elimination flight training. He completed that training and returned to the MCRAU in Boston on 26 July 1939. He was discharged as a PFC on 09 August 1939 to accept an appointment as an Aviation Cadet in the Marine Corps Reserve (MCR). That rank was effective from 25 July 1939. He was detached from his unit in Boston on 18 Sep 1939 to report to the Marine Barracks (MB), Naval Air Station (NAS), Pensacola. He reported to NAS Pensacola, FL and was assigned to active duty on 21 Sept 1939 whereupon he began flight training under instruction on 25 Sept 1939 as a student naval aviator. After almost nine months of intensive flight training under instruction, Aviation Cadet McCarthy received his designation as a Naval Aviator and was commissioned Second Lieutenant USMCR (AVN) on 27 Jun 1940. He was Naval Aviator #6417. He detached from NAS Pensacola on 04 July 1940 and after a short leave period 2d Lt McCarthy reported to VMS-2, 2d Marine Air Group (MAG), NAS San Diego on 22 July 1940 as a naval aviator. On 20 Dec 1940 he was detached from VMS-2 and he was transferred to Marine Fighting Squadron Two (VMF-2) in San Diego for duty. A few weeks later on 11 January 1941 McCarthy embarked in the USS Lexington (CV-2) in San Diego for transportation and temporary duty in the Hawaiian area. He disembarked with other VMF-2 personnel in Pearl Harbor on 22 Jan 1941. The temporary duty station for the squadron was the Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, T.H. Almost six months later on 4 July 1941 Lt McCarthy was detached from VMF-2 in Hawaii and transferred to the new squadron being organized; VMF-221 that was attached to the Rear Echelon of the 2d MAG at NAS, San Diego. He embarked 05 July 1941 on the new Cimarron-class fleet replenishment oiler, USS Sabine (AO-25), disembarking in San Diego on 11 July 1941. After reporting for duty, Lt McCarthy was sent on Special Temporary Aviation Duty (STAD) at NAS San Diego with a number of other VMF-221 pilots in connection with ferrying naval aircraft.

On 7 Dec 1941 Lt McCarthy and a number of other VMF-221 pilots embarked on the USS Saratoga (CV-3) in San Diego. Also loaded on Saratoga were fourteen Marine F2A-3 Brewster Buffalo fighters destined for VMF-221 on Hawaii. The pilots and planes were supposed to disembark in Pearl Harbor on 15 Dec 1941. However, Saratoga stopped only long enough to refuel then hurriedly got underway the next day in an attempt to reinforce the garrison on Wake Island. Lt McCarthy and thirteen other VMF-221 pilots and the fourteen Brewster fighters were still onboard and were to be off-loaded at Wake. Saratoga rendezvoused with USS Tangier (AV 8) that had relief troops and supplies on board. Also, as part of the relief force, USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Enterprise (CV-6) were to provide distant cover for the operation. However, the Saratoga force was delayed by the low speed of its oiler and by a decision to refuel the destroyers on December 21st. After receiving reports of Japanese carrier aircraft over the island and Japanese landings on it, the relief force was recalled on December 22. Wake fell the next day. Several days later on 25 Dec 1941 Saratoga got within Brewster flight range of Midway. The fourteen planes were launched and landed on Midway later that day. The pilots, all from VMF-221, were Maj. V.J. McCaul; Captains H.W. Bauer, J.L. Smith, J.L Neefus, and R.M Hanes; 1st Lts F.R. Payne Jr., J.F. Dobbin, and C.J. Quilter; 2nd Lts J.F. Carey, H.A. Ellis Jr., M.E. Carl, F.P. McCarthy and P.R. White and enlisted pilot (NAP) Master Tech Sgt Robert L. Dickey.

On 10 March 1942 Midway radar detected an unknown aircraft that turned out to be a Japanese flying boat approaching Midway on a photographic and reconnaissance mission. After the island's aircraft had scrambled aloft four VMF-221 fighters were vectored to engage the "bogey." McCarthy was one of those pilots. For his part in the shoot-down of the "Emily" flying boat he was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross medal by Admiral Nimitz during his inspection visit to Midway on 02 May 1942. Following the excitement in March McCarthy was discharged from the USMCR (Marine Corps Reserve) on 25 Apr 1942 to accept a commission on 26 April as a 2Lt, USMC with a date of rank of 15 April 1940. That was followed on the same day with his accepting a commission as a 1st Lt USMC with a date of rank of 2 Dec 1941. The following month on 08 May 1942 McCarthy was promoted to the rank of Captain, USMC.

Since 22 May MAG-22 on Midway had been on alert to expect a large assault on the island by Japanese naval forces at any time. In anticipation of an attack VMF-221 had split its planes into five divisions. Captain McCarthy's division was flying the new F4F-3 fighter recently delivered to Midway by the USS Kitty Hawk (AKV-1). The division was led by Capt. John F. Carey. The other pilots were Capt. Marion E Carl, 2Lt Clayton M Canfield and 2Lt Roy A. Corry Jr who was Capt. McCarthy's wingman. At 0355 on 4 Jun 1942 Capt. Carey's division provided covering patrol for a 0400 take-off of 11 PBY5A and 10 B-17s that were conducting sector searches for the Japanese Striking Force. Midway stood down from its morning alert and Carey's division was recalled to Midway at 0450. Unfortunately McCarthy and Corry, both of whom were flying the F4F-3 "Wildcats", did not received the return to base order and continued to orbit the area. Finally, at 0612 McCarthy and Corry learned over their radios of the incoming attack. They reported that they were low on fuel and requested instructions. They were ordered to land, refuel, and take-off. McCarthy and Corry had barely enough time to land, top off their fuel tanks, and get airborne again before the Japanese attack began. As McCarthy and Corry attempted to catch up to their division mates they were swarmed by at least eight "Zeroes." Fighting singly, the two Marines were overmatched. Corry later reported seeing McCarthy shoot down one "Zero" and he (Corry) shot down an enemy plane on his section leader's tail before being himself attacked by three "Zeroes." There was no further contact with Capt. McCarthy. Of the 25 VMF-221 planes that engaged the enemy only 10 returned. Capt. McCarthy was one of the 14 VMF-21 pilots who were missing. His remains were unrecoverable. He was listed as missing in action on 04 Jun 1942 and presumed dead on 05 Jun 1943. For his bravery that day he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, Purple Heart and the MAG-22 Presidential Unit Citation.
Navy Cross citation reads:
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Captain Francis Peter McCarthy (MCSN: 0-6235), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as Section Leader and a Pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE (VMF-221), Marine Air Group TWENTY-TWO (MAG-22), Naval Air Station, Midway, during operations of the U.S. Naval and Marine Forces against the invading Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942. Leading his section in a dauntless and aggressive attack against a vastly superior number of Japanese bomber and fighter planes, Captain McCarthy aided in disrupting the plans of the enemy and lessening the effectiveness of their attack, thereby contributing materially to the success of our forces. As a result of his courageous and daring tactics and because of circumstances attendant upon this engagement, there can be little doubt that Captain McCarthy gallantly gave up his life in the service of his country. He displayed the characteristics of a fine leader and excellent airman, in keeping with the highest standards of the United States Naval Service.
General Orders: Approved by the Secretary of the Navy on November 10, 1942
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain Francis Peter McCarthy (MCSN: 0-6235), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight in aerial combat with an enemy seaplane near Midway Island. During the near approach of an enemy four-engine seaplane to the Island of Midway, Lieutenant McCarthy was the pilot of a fighter plane in a command which was ordered to intercept and destroy the enemy plane. Despite difficult aerial combat conditions because of heavy cloud formations, in which the enemy plane took full, advantage of his evasive tactics, Lieutenant McCarthy pressed home his attack in an aggressive and effective manner which contributed to the destruction of the enemy four-engine seaplane. His action throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
General Orders: Heroes U.S. Marine Corps 1861 - 1955 (Jane Blakeney)
VMF-221 Presidential Unit Citation:
"For conspicuous courage and heroism in combat at Midway Island during June 1942. Outnumbered five to one, Marine Aircraft Group 22 boldly intercepted a heavily escorted enemy bombing force, disrupting their attack and preventing serious damage to island installations. Operating with half of their dive-bomber's obsolete and in poor mechanical conditions, which necessitated vulnerable glide bombing tactics, they succeeded in inflicting heavy damage on Japanese surface units of a large enemy task force. The skill and gallant perseverance of flight and ground personnel of Marine Aircraft Group 22, fighting under tremendously adverse and dangerous conditions were essential factors in the unyielding defense of Midway."
His family also received a commemoration from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It reads:
In grateful memory of Francis Paul McCarthy who died in the service of his country at Midway Islands on 4 JUNE 1942. He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives -- in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.
(Signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt,
President of the United States
According to the 1942 Navy and Marine Corps Officers Military Register, p. 784 Capt. McCarthy's middle name was Paul. It would appear that his middle name in his Navy Cross and DFC citations are incorrect.

[bio compiled by G47]

Family Members


Marine Air Fighter Pilot USMC killed in action at Midway in the Pacific

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  • Created by: James Duffy
  • Added: 16 Jul 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 55019830
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Capt Francis P McCarthy (13 Oct 1916–4 Jun 1942), Find A Grave Memorial no. 55019830, citing New Calvary Cemetery, Mattapan, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by James Duffy (contributor 46990390) .