Facing Fearful Odds: The Siege of Wake Island

By Gregory J. W. Urwin | Go to book overview

XXII
"IT WAS WATCH, WATCH, WATCH, DAY AND NIGHT"

The Siege Drags On, 15-19 December 1941

"A Truly Remarkable and Almost Magical Job"

As Lieutenant Kinney expected, Technical Sergeant Hamilton was surprised to awake on 15 December and find Wildcat No. 9 ready for dawn patrol. Kinney received a surprise of his own before the morning ended. Aviation Machinist's Mate 1 C Hesson, wounded in the previous day's second air raid, left the hospital and returned to duty at the airfield. Hesson still carried a few pieces of shrapnel in his hip, but he knew how badly VMF-211 needed a man with his training. Following the completion of a light-proof hangar, Kinney conducted airplane repairs around the clock. Only with Hesson's help could the engineering section hope to maintain such a schedule.1

Throwing themselves into their work, Kinney, Hamilton, and Hesson became the pride of VMF-211. Major Putnam stated as much when he discussed squadron repairs in a postwar report: "Maintenance and repair were entrusted to the extremely capable hands of Second Lieutenant John F. Kinney, Technical Sergeant W. J. Hamilton, and Aviation Machinist's Mate First Class J. J. Hesson. . . . These three, with the assistance of volunteers among the civilian workmen, did a truly remarkable and almost magical job. With almost no tools and a complete lack of normal equipment, they performed all types of repair and replacement work. . . . In the opinion of the Squadron Commander their performance was the outstanding event of the whole campaign."2

Of the two F4F-3s left to VMF-211, the one that gave Kinney the most concern was Wildcat No. 8, which had barely survived the first air raid.

-367-

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