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Last World War II Marine Flying Ace Dies, Leaves Legacy of Service


Dean Caswell, 100, the last living U.S. Marine Corps fighter ace of World War II, died Sept. 21 at his home in Austin, Texas.

The fighter ace joined the Marine Corps at the age of 20 in September 1942. He has been credited for shooting down seven enemy aircraft in aerial combat.

In his career he flew 10,000 hours and 110 combat missions, according to his obituary. He also flew with the Blue Angels.

During World War II, Caswell was assigned to the Marine Fighting Squadron 221 and the Vought F4U Corsair, where he launched strikes against Japanese airfields from the Essex -class aircraft carrier Bunker Hill, according to the American Fighter Aces Association.

Retired United States Marine Corps Col. Dean Caswell, 2016 Gathering of Eagles honoree, shares his experiences as a fighter pilot during WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, during the Air Command and Staff College’s 2016 Gathering of Eagles Event, May 31, 2016, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. (Melanie Rodgers Cox/Air Force)

While on a combat patrol, Caswell’s patrol came across 25 Mitsubishi A6M Zeros headed to attack land installations at Okinawa, Japan. In the ensuing dogfight, Caswell was credited with shooting down three A6M Zeros.

After World War II, Caswell continued to serve in the armed forces. He flew two tours during the Korean War, flying night-fighter F7Fs and F4Us, according to the American Fighter Aces Association.

He retired from the Marine Corps in 1968 as deputy chief of staff for Marine Air Group 32, having attained the rank of colonel, according to his obituary.

Caswell received numerous medals for his service in the armed forces, including a Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses with three gold stars, an Air Medal with four gold stars and a Congressional Gold Medal.

No bullet holes had ever been found in Caswell’s aircraft, suggesting he never had been hit by enemy fire, according to his obituary.

Over the next 40 years of his life, he made a career as an agent and adviser for New York Life, according to his obituary. During his post-military years, he also served four years as president of the American Fighter Aces Association. The former pilot would also author several books about his life and experiences, particularly in the service.

He is preceded in death by his first wife, Audrey, who passed away 16 years ago. He was survived by his wife, Mary Donahue, his 12 children, 20 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild.

The local Austin American-Statesman reported that he loved Grey Goose vodka martinis full of olives.


Originally published by Military Times, our sister publication.



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