You might recognize Ed Fayle. He visited Naval Air Station Lemoore on Pearl Harbor Day, took a tour of the Search and Rescue Unit and got a chance to view one of VFA-97's jets up close and personal. 

But you may not know his story, of his years spent as a pilot fighting in World War II.  

Fayle was born in St. Medard-en-Jalles, near Bordeaux, France in July of 1920. His father, Edmond, a former US Naval officer during the first World War, had returned to the Merchant Marine and was sailing the world. His mother, Mercedes, stayed in St. Medard to be near family.

"I must have been about nine months old when I first met my father, his first chance to get home to Bordeaux." Fayle said.

As a young boy, he was schooled and educated in France. When he graduated school in 1939, the storm clouds of war were once again settling over Europe, and his family fled to America to escape the Nazi oppression that would soon envelope France.

His family rented an apartment in New Jersey, where Fayle enrolled at Saint Peters University in Jersey City. Due to the advanced education he received in France, he was able to take a year of physics classes and received a degree in 1940.

He enrolled in the Naval Aviation Cadet program, and after flight training in Jacksonville, Fla., he received his wings at Naval Air Station Miami in 1941. Later that year, he joined Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) at Norfolk, Va., where they were assigned to the new aircraft carrier, USS Hornet.

It wasn't long until the day of infamy plunged the US into war.

By March of 1942, the USS Hornet, her air wing and a newly minted Ensign Fayle were departing Norfolk for the war in the Pacific, via the Panama Canal. After a brief stop at Naval Air Station Alameda to on load some Army B-25 bombers, Fayle headed off to history.

On April 18, 1942, the USS Hornet was 600 miles from the coast of the Empire of Japan, launching the 16 B-25 bombers under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle.

Fayle watched the big planes fly off the small deck into rain and wind, wishing all the airmen Godspeed.

"As they departed the ship, I thought to myself that they were a great bunch of guys, but I hoped they were better airmen than they were poker players," Fayle said. "We won quite a bit of money from them."

The ship immediately turned about and headed back to Pearl Harbor.

During a brief stay there, Ed was part of a midnight requisition party to acquire fresh pineapples and sugar cane from a local field. However, the angry farmer didn't get the appropriate forms, and the sailors involved ran for their lives.

In the ensuing retreat, Fayle received a deep wound to his leg from a knife he was carrying when he jumped a fence. He was admitted to the hospital and would spend several weeks recovering.

In the days that followed, the ship received orders to set sail, and Fayle had to watch his squadron mates get underway without him. Little did he know he would never see most of those pilots again.

During the ensuing action that would become known as the Battle of Midway, VT-8 launched a strike against a Japanese task force of four aircraft carriers. With the outdated Devastators, they never had a chance, and every aircraft was shot down, with only one of 30 men being rescued.

That man, Ensign George Gay, was returned to Pearl Harbor, where he and Fayle grieved for the loss of their comrades.

After he recovered, Ed was able to reunite with his unit, now flying the TBF Avenger. Flying from the USS Saratoga, he saw action in the Solomon Islands, attacking Japanese targets at Guadalcanal.

After their carrier was damaged in a torpedo attack, VT-8 was sent ashore to the captured Japanese airfield, now named Henderson Field. They became part of the legendary Cactus Air Force.

"For me, one of my biggest worries were the Japanese snipers that would shoot at out airplanes during take off," Fayle said.

On a later mission, Fayle's plane was attacked by two Japanese Zero-type aircraft and, while his crewmate managed to shoot one down, his aircraft received bullet damage. That damage caused a fuel leak and he and his crew crash landed near Nura Island, where they were stranded for two weeks before being seen by a passing aircraft.

His crewmate received a shrapnel wound, and it made it difficult to walk while it healed.

"He was the one who could climb the tree's for the coconuts, but since he was injured, we had to shoot them down out of the trees with our pistols, which went well until we ran out of ammunition," Fayle said.

After being rescued, he was sent back to Pearl Harbor for some well deserved time off.

Unable to connect with his original squadron, he was assigned to Torpedo Squadron Three, and went right back to the Guadalcanal campaign.

Once there, he continued flying missions until the end of that campaign in early 1943.

Shortly thereafter, he received orders to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., where he was involved in testing and evaluating captured enemy aircraft. He was able to fly the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and the Messerschmitt BF-109 as well as several new types of American aircraft.

Later, he went to Naval Air Station New Orleans for flight instructor school, and then onto Bunker Hill Naval Air Station where he instructed British aviation cadets.

While there, he met his future wife, which he married later while stationed at Naval Air Station Memphis. After the war, he was sent to Naval Air Station New York/Floyd Bennett Field and was the officer in charge of the Naval Reserve unit there. He was honorably discharged from the US Naval Reserve in 1950.

After his military service, Ed went to work for Levitt & Sons, and helped work on their projects that became Levittown in New York and Pennsylvania, Willingboro, N.J. and Bowie, Md.

In the 1960s, he went to work for the Maryland Board of Education as an inspector, and retired from there in the 1970s. Divorced, with three grown children, he built a house in the Florida Keys, and spent his time sailing the waters of the Caribbean for 20 years.

These days he spends his time visiting his three adult children and their families in California, Ohio and Florida, looking to stay warm.

He no longer flies, having resigned himself to let others do it for him. For him, it has been a life full of history.

"I'm a little hard of hearing. Had someone told me that sitting behind a Pratt and Whitney for eight years would make me deaf, I would have wore earmuffs," Fayle said, laughing.  

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