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Thank you very much to Sharon Moore Colquhoun for allowing me to use the photo of Tyrone Power on the banner. Sharon's dad and Tyrone Power served in the same squadron together, for a time. She told me that the photo was sent to her "by one of the long list of former Marines I 've heard from over the years." She commented that "Tyrone Power was a Marine 'fly boy' and a part of the USMC Squadron VMR352 at one point. He wasn't one of the original members of the squadron when it was founded (as my dad was). I don't know when he joined up. I do remember my father telling me that when they landed in California, Tyrone's wife, Annabella, would always be waiting for him at the gate. It was a real treat for the guys to see a movie star! One of the Marines who wrote to me after an article I wrote was published said that Tyrone always wanted to be treated as just one of the guys - which, of course, he wasn't!"

While preparing to film 1939's movie, Jesse James, Tyrone Power's director and friend, Henry King, offered him the chance to accompany him in his private plane to the location shoot in Missouri. Tyrone accepted the offer with enthusiasm. Enroute, Tyrone was fascinated with the instrument panel on the plane, and King allowed him to take the controls for a time. Upon return to Hollywood, Tyrone began taking flying lessons, and, soon he became a licensed pilot. Little did he realize that, a few years later, the pilot’s training would be used for other than his own personal matters. Americans were unaware that a second world war was just around the corner. As history unfolded, the flying lessons that he’d taken would give him an edge in his desire to become a pilot for the U.S. Marines.

In 1942, America was at war, and patriotism was at a high across the nation. Hollywood was no exception, and many actors were joining the military for active duty overseas. Tyrone Power was an established star at that time, really at the height of his stardom. Despite this, like some other actors of the day, he prepared to put his career on hold while serving his county.

As August 1942 rolled around, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, starting out as a private. He took boot camp training at San Diego and, then, at Quantico, Officer‘s Candidate School, where he was promoted to Second Lieutenant June 2, 1943. Because he had already logged many solo hours as a pilot prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps, Tyrone Power was able to go though a short, intense flight training program at Corpus Christi, Texas, where he earned his wings and was promoted to First Lieutenant.

In the June 2001 newsletter of Marine Air Transporter, Jerry Taylor, USMC retired flight instructor, recalls memories of WWII. He speaks of training Tyrone Power as a pilot, saying, “He was an excellent student, never forgot a procedure I showed him or anything I told him.” Others who served with him have commented that he was well-respected by those with whom he served.

Tyrone served in the Pacific theater, with the VMR-352 , carrying supplies aboard a R5C into the embattled Iwo Jima and carrying the wounded out. Later, he served in Saipan.

Jim Powell served as a navigator alongside Tyrone Power and, years later, he would serve as pallbearer at his Hollywood funeral. In an interview in 2002 or 2003, with Stuart Kellogg, of the VV Daily Press, Mr. Powell reflected back on some of his war experiences with Tyrone Power. He commented, “ Tyrone Power was a quiet guy who kept to himself,” Powell says, “but he treated the rest of us well. The Marines could not have had a better pilot. “ He told one little incident that illustrated his comment. He and Power had an assignment to escort Army P-51s, which were flying from Saipan to Tokyo to fire at close range any “targets of opportunity“ in Tokyo. Powell explained, “The sky would be black with P-51s. We flew at 50 feet above the water.“ He went on to say that on one such trip back to Iwo Jima, the island was under heavy assault and they were low on fuel, and, thus, they were told to ditch the plane. “There was a pea soup fog, but the ocean was like glass. Tyrone Power made a perfect landing. Within 15 minutes, just as the plane sank, the Coast Guard picked us up. Tyrone Power broke his leg getting out of the plane.”

Tyrone Power held the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, and the World War II Victory Medal

From the Archives of the University of Colorado at Coutler Libraries, comes this comes this anecdote:

Celebrities Overseas

Letter to wife, 1945:

If I tell you how I got here you wont believe it – but here it is and it’s the truth so help me. I came up from the Marine Airfield on Okinawa to Omura with an “old friend of mine” – Tyrone Power, the movie star! He’s a Marine 1st Lieutenant and won his wings at Corpus Christi, Texas. He pilots a Marine Corps Plane from Okinawa to the Japanese city of Omura, located just 30 miles below Sasebo.

It was very funny, the whole thing. When Mattison and I were at the Marine Airfield to inquire about possible transportation, they told us to see Lt. Power who may be going up in his plane. They pointed him out to us and neither of us recognized him – Mattison approached him and asked blithely, “Are you the Mr. Power who is flying to Omura?” Tyrone looked up quzzically, as if asking himself don’t these blokes ever go to the movies, and who hasn’t heard of the great Tyrone Power and would fail to recognize his flashing smile? He resignedly replied that he was Mr. Power – and at that instant something clicked within me and I realized in a flash who he really was. Mattison however, in spite of my persistent efforts to nudge him, went naively on, and wound up with a flourish, “Thank you, Mr. Power.” He was quite appalled when I told him about it later, although neither of us bothered to explain the mistake to Tyrone. He’s quite a nice guy, with a wonderful physique and dark brown eyes, dark complexioned, sparkling white teeth – everything you could expect of a Hollywood star. I think he rather enjoyed not being recognized and catered to by us because later he seized every opportunity to come over and chat. He’s not conceited at all, and everyone at the airfield likes him. On top of that, he’s a very good pilot and takes his business seriously.

Verner Chaffin
JLS 1944

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