My son John Hunter Bannon Snow is understood to every one as Jack. I’ve written about Jack earlier than. And his love of fishing, taking pictures, and searching brings pleasure to this gun author’s coronary heart.
Although Hunter is a well-liked identify nowadays—the place I stay in Montana you possibly can’t swing a prairie canine with out smacking a “Hunter,” “Bridger,” “Kody,” or “Maverick” within the chops—bestowing that identify upon Jack had nothing to do with chasing deer, Western dwelling, or the outside.
Hunter is a household identify that dates from 1944. My father is John Hunter Fox. His father, my grandfather Philip Fox, named him in honor of his greatest pal, John Charles Hunter. (How I grew to become a Snow, quite than Fox, is a story for an additional day.)
My grandfather met John Hunter, who was also referred to as Jack, at Annapolis the place they have been midshipmen collectively at the US Naval Academy. They have been each from Philadelphia and that shared background is a part of what introduced them collectively. They performed sports activities collectively—Jack Hunter was a stand-out wrestler for the Blue and Gold—and have become shut throughout their years on the academy.
Upon commencement in 1936, they went their separate methods. My grandfather’s first project was aboard the united statesPennsylvania, whereas “Pappy” Jack Hunter went to the united statesNew York. Each these venerable battleships carried 14-inch weapons and have been commissioned simply previous to the First World Struggle.
The Naval Academy class of 1936 entered service at concerning the worst time possible. The careers of these younger Ensigns intersected with World Struggle Two with devasting outcomes. Few graduating courses within the Naval Academy’s historical past suffered the next casualty price.
Jack Hunter was considered one of them.
Following his stint on the New York, Hunter served on the united statesLouisville after which in October 1939, he was promoted to Lieutenant JG and went to Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida to study to fly. In June the next yr he reported aboard the united statesLexington (CV-2).
He flew within the Lexington’s Scouting Squadron, piloting a Dauntless SBD-3 dive bomber. Like Hunter, the Dauntless was new to Naval aviation. Its first official flights occured in Might of 1940, just some weeks earlier than Hunter received behind the yoke of his personal SBD.
The Dauntless was the Navy’s important carrier-based Scout/Dive Bomber throughout World Struggle Two. Whereas SBD stood for “scout bomber Douglass” it additionally earned the airplane it’s nickname: gradual however lethal. Throughout the battle the Dauntless despatched extra enemy ships to the underside of the Pacific than some other allied plane.
On December 5, 1941, two days previous to the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, the Lexington was in path to Halfway to ship Vindicator dive bombers to Marine Scouting Squadron 231. Within the fast aftermath of December 7, 1941, the “Day of Infamy,” the Lexington was ordered to show round for Pearl Harbor as quick as attainable. Her mission was to seek out and destroy the Japanese fleet that had attacked Hawaii.
The subsequent morning, Wednesday, December 8, Hunter went on patrol looking for the enemy because the provider steamed south-southeast towards Pearl. His airplane developed engine bother about 175 miles from the Lexington and 125 miles from the closest ship, and he and his radioman made a pressured touchdown within the tough seas a bit after 8 a.m. One other Dauntless pilot on the patrol noticed Hunter and the radioman, Earl W. Lang, exit the plane unhurt and climb into their small rubber life raft.
Gasoline operating low, that pilot ultimately returned to the ship. Due to the extraordinary circumstances of being thrust into battle, the Lexington couldn’t divert its path and an instantaneous rescue try was unimaginable. Round 3 o’clock within the afternoon the united statesDrayton, a destroyer assigned to the Lexington’s job power, and a number of other airplanes arrived within the space the place Hunter and Lang splashed down. They looked for the remainder of the day, and thru the evening. At midday on the next day, the rescue try was known as off.
Per naval customized, they have been declared useless a yr to the day following the unsuccessful search, December 9, 1942, having been listed as “lacking” for the 12 months prior. When my father was born June 28, 1944, on the Charlestown Navy Shipyard outdoors Boston, Lieutenant Fox named him for his greatest pal.
I take into consideration Pappy Jack Hunter each Memorial Day, and at different occasions too. I attempt to think about myself in that younger man’s place, in a raft within the huge empty expanse of the Pacific. How lengthy have been he and Lang capable of endure that pitiless sea? Did they ever catch a glimpse of a distant ship or hear the drone of the engine from the airplane of considered one of their fellow naval aviators? Or was their isolation full after their wingman was pressured to fly away?
I wish to assume they took some consolation in one another’s firm, however there’s no means their finish got here with out being awash in horror.
Within the tally of the U.S. Navy’s useless, Hunter is listed as an “operational loss,” an antiseptic time period used for accidents and different deaths in a roundabout way associated to fight. That’s how most aviation casualties in World Struggle Two occurred. Dogfights and anti-aircraft batteries are the hazards we think about pilots confronting, however the mundane actuality is that engine failures, tools malfunctions and coaching accidents are what claimed most aviators. Amongst Hunter’s and Fox’s class of ’36 shipmates, ten different males have been aviators whose deaths have been “operational losses.” 4 others have been pilots killed in motion.
My son is now the age that Jack Hunter was when he entered the Naval Academy. I can’t take a look at my Jack—filled with the hopes, desires and fears that each younger particular person has, bursting with beliefs and ambitions, a naturally curious and delicate soul—with out imagining his namesake as properly. How a lot they’d have had in frequent, I can’t say. However like my Jack, Jack Hunter was affable, extensively appreciated by his classmates, and had a love of wrestling and soccer. Have been they to satisfy, I wish to assume they’d have been pals.
Within the late Nineteen Thirties the winds of battle have been stirring, however I doubt that any member of the U.S. Naval Academy class of 1936 may have foreseen the scope and nature of the conflagration that engulfed the globe. Nonetheless, these younger males rose to the problem and helped rescue the world from tyranny and oppression, a lot of them paying for that triumph with their lives.
Through the years, numerous women and men have achieved the identical, elevating their arms and swearing an oath to guard us, come what might. For them, and for all their sacrifices I’m grateful.
We are able to by no means repay the debt we owe them. Even our means to honor them has its limits. However we will keep in mind them. And so long as they’re remembered, whether or not in previous photographs, shared tales, and even in a household identify, part of them, and data of the deeds they achieved, lives on without end.