A heroic story emerged as members of a Marine Corps Fighter Squadron from World War II reunited in Prince William County, Virginia. 20 original members of VMF 422, along with a Navy lieutenant who has become part of their family, began their reunion with a visit to Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, Virginia, where some started their military experiences.
It was a chance to tell their dramatic story to 35 relatives and friends and a new generation of Marines who welcomed them. VMF 422, known as the “Flying Buccaneers,” lost almost all its aircraft in what has been called the worst accident in naval aviation history.
On January 25, 1944, the squadron was on a flight over the Pacific Ocean, when it ran into a horrific storm and lost six men. 13 aircraft were forced to crash land in rough waters. Survivors spent three days in a dozen life rafts, threatened by sharks and overwhelmed by rain. They fired flares and pistols and were spotted by US Navy Lt. George Davidson and his “flying boat.” The group was too heavy for Davidson’s patrol bomber to lift, so he called for help. The Marines were eventually taken to safety by a US Naval destroyer.
They found George Davidson in Florida nearly a half-century later and invited him to attend their first reunion in 1991. He and his wife of 58 years, Barbara, have met with the group ever since.
This year’s was probably of the last reunion for members of VMF 422 who are in their 80s and 90s. “We hope we can have several more reunions, but it looks doubtful. Most of the original members are getting to the point they can’t travel,” said Dan Brouse, who organized this year’s reunion, and whose father, Jack Brouse, is president of the VMF 422 Association.