I got an email today from WWII historian Barrett Tillman pointing out that I posted an article that was in error some time ago. I am posting his correction and clarification here, with my apologies. I got the story from a fellow historian but did not verify it, so the fault is mine.
Thanks, Barrett, for your correction, and also for your fine coverage of the war in the Pacific.
Following is Mr. Tillman's correction:
"Congratulations on your web site and Untold Valor. Your tribute to the genuinely heroic airmen who served the nation will be appreciated by so many people.
However, the post about "Andy Cowan" needs serious scrutiny. I'm a professional author and historian with over 40 books and 500 articles published, mainly on aviation history, so I'm confident of my sources.
I tried registering to post on the blog but could not sign on so I'm sending you the info directly.
Here’s the facts of the message and video, point by point:
The flakked-up Hellcat sliding to a stop against the carrier’s island bears the “high hat” insignia of Fighting Squadron One, which flew from USS Yorktown (CV-10) in 1944. The name Andy Cowan does not appear on any VF-1 roster I’ve found.
When I first spoke aboard “The Fighting Lady” in Charleston, SC, I asked some ship’s veterans about the oft-seen footage of Number 30 sliding into the superstructure, possibly crunching a fire fighter. I was told that the “hot papa” ducked inside the island just in time. Nobody was hurt.
Furthermore, the Navy doesn’t have “crew chiefs.” It has plane captains. Anyone who’d ever been in the U.S. Navy would know that.
The longest-serving Navy fighter pilot in WW II was the late Captain Jim Daniels, an Enterprise aviator whose Wildcat was shot down by American gunners on December 7 ‘41. On VJ-Day he was off Japan, flying from USS Boxer. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association declared him the only fighter pilot airborne on the day the war started and when it ended. There’s no mention of anybody named Cowan.
The Naval War College does not present “Top Gun” briefings to fighter pilots. It teaches national strategy and military theory to senior officers. Anyone who’d ever visited the War College would know that. In truth, “young fighter jocks” get their education at the Naval Strike Warfare Center in Nevada.
On December 7, 1941, USS Ranger was not in Cuba. She was off Trinidad. Anybody who had been aboard the ship would know that.
For someone who had four carriers shot out from under him, 'Andy' had to move around a great deal. Considering that we lost four flattops in 1942, he would have to transfer from Lexington in May to Yorktown in June, to Wasp in September, to Hornet in October. Since each had a different air group, nobody served in more than two of those ships in that period. So…presumably our hero was aboard the light carrier Princeton off the Philippines in October 1944, and-or one or more escort carriers between 1943 and 1945.
'Andy' claims 4.5 aerial kills, apparently believing that he could sneak in beneath the “ace radar.” But Dr. Frank Olynyk’s exhaustive study of Navy aerial victory credits shows nobody named Cowan scoring in any squadron. (Consider this: anyone who flew combat for 44 months and only scored 4.5 kills wasn’t very good at his job.)
We are told that andy served with Jimmy “Thatch” (I knew him: he spelled his name with one T), Butch O’Hare, Dave McCampbell, etc, etc. The First Team, John B. Lundstrom’s exquisitely detailed two-volume history of Navy air combat in 1942, lists every pilot in the eight Pacific Fleet fighter squadrons. Nobody with AC’s name appears in either book.
Dave McCampbell (whom I knew) commanded Air Group 15 aboard USS Essex in 1944, at the same time Princeton was sunk. Furthermore, nobody named cowan ever served in VF-15.
We are told that cowan is “a recognized expert” on the Japanese Navy. But a sampling of genuine historians—the New York Yankees of IJN history—have never heard of him before this email began circulating. Neither has any publisher, since Cowan the Expert has never written a single book on that subject. Nor, according to Amazon.com, on anything else (though his name appears in credits for books on cooking and music.)
Conclusion: Andy Cowan (reportedly he lives near Salinas) is a fake, trading on the achievements of vastly better men than himself. Furthermore, he spins tall tales to gullible people who unfortunately take such statements at face value. It would be interesting to know the original source of the story, which has been on email circulars for several months now.
I recomment the following book by Mr. Tillman: http://www.amazon.com/Clash-Carriers-Story-Marianas-Turkey/dp/0451219562/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217789077&sr=8-2