A WWII  Screamin' Demon of the 7th FS

Robert Dehaven's story..


Robert M. DeHaven


Robert Marshall DeHaven was born on 13 January 1922 in San Diego, California. He attended Washington and Lee University but left to join the Army Air Corps in February 1942. Earning his pilot's wings, he was assigned to P-40 training in Florida. In February 1943 he was sent to Hawaii, then on to Port Moresby, New Guinea via Australia in May. He was assigned to the P-40 equipped 7th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group at Dobodura.

Lieutenant DeHaven scored his first victory on 14 July 1943 and became an ace on 10 December. He participated in the offensives which took Buna, Lae, Markham Valley, Hollandia and Biak Islands. During these battles, he downed a total of ten enemy aircraft with the P-40, one of the highest P-40 scores for USAAF pilots, other than AVG pilots.

DeHaven liked the P-40, surprisingly, even preferring it to the highly acclaimed P-38. In Eric Bergerud's Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific , DeHaven explains:

After training I requested duty in the Pacific and I requested being posted to a P-40 squadron and both wishes were granted. This was early in 1943 and most pilots already desired more advanced types and some thought my decision a mistake. Yet I had been inspired by the deeds of the Flying Tigers. We had also heard accounts that the P-38 was difficult to bail out of because of its twin-boom tail and that it was difficult when flying with one engine. I also knew that P-38s were still rare in the theater and I wanted to get into the war as soon as possible. That wish, too, was granted. I never regretted the choice.

If you flew wisely, the P-40 was a very capable aircraft. In many conditions, it could outturn a P-38, a fact that some pilots didn't realize when they made the transition between the two aircraft. The P-40 kept me alive and allowed me to accomplish my mission. The real problem with it was lack of range. As we pushed the Japanese back, P-40 pilots were slowly left out of the war. So when I moved to P-38s, an excellent aircraft, I did so not because I believed that the P-40 was an inferior fighter, but because I knew the P-38 would allow us to reach the enemy. I was a fighter pilot and that was what I was supposed to do.

The 7th Fighter Squadron transitioned to P-38s in July-September 1944 for the Philippine invasion. On 27 October, leading the 7th Squadron, DeHaven became one of the first AAF fighters to "return" to the Philippines. Within seven days he acquired four more victories. After leave in the U.S. he rejoined the 49th at Lingayen as group operations officer, serving into the occupation of Japan.

Following World War II, DeHaven joined the Hughes Aircraft Company as an engineering test pilot and personal pilot to Howard Hughes. Eventually he became an executive of the firm and manager of the Flight Test Division for over 30 years. He was also elected a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and served as President of the American Fighter Aces Association.

TALLY RECORD: 14 Confirmed and one Damaged

DECORATIONS: Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 OLCs, Air Medal with 13 OLCs, and the Presidential Unit Citation with one OLC.


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