McGuire Jr.
Major Thomas B. McGuire Jr.

Major Thomas B.McGuire Jr. (1920 - 1945)

Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr., a native of Ridgewood, New Jersey, was a third-year aeronautical engineering student at Georgia Tech and a cadet sergeant major in the Army ROTC Battalion when he left school to become a flying cadet in the U. S. Army Air Corps in 1941. He received his commission and pilot wings and flew patrols over the cold, fog-bound Aleutian Islands for a year before assignment to the South Pacific as a P-38 pilot with the 49th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force. Five months later, assigned to the 431st Fighter Squadron- "Satan's Angels" in the 476th Fighter Group, McGuire was flying top cover for bomber strikes at Wewak, New Guinea. Attacked by Japanese aircraft, McGuire shot down three enemy aircraft. The following day, August 19, 1943, near the same spot, he downed two additional enemy planes to establish himself as an ace in his first two engagements.

A major before he was 24, McGuire downed 38 Japanese planes in a 16-month span and became America's second-leading air ace of all time. Leading a group of four P38's over a Japanese held airstrip on the Los Negros Islands in the Philippines, Major McGuire died in a fiery crash within a month of his scheduled return to the States. Responding quickly to a call for help from one of his men under attack, he flew into a tight situation at low altitude. In a gallant rush to relieve his comrade, Major McGuire had violated a warning he had impressed upon his pilots. He took on a Japanese fighter at low altitude without first dropping his heavy auxiliary fuel tank. His plane stalled and crashed. Major McGuire received the Medal of Honor posthumously. His other decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross with three silver stars, six Distinguished Flying Crosses and 15 Air Medals. In 1949, the AFB at Fort Dix Military Reservation was named in honor of Major McGuire. A P38, similar to the craft he flew, is mounted on a pedestal in a circular plaza near the base entrance, a monument to his sacrifice. Colonel L. D. Wright, at the time commander of McGuire AFB, characterized the New Jersey pilot as a "genuine hero of American military aviation: he was not only a fighter ace many times over, he was a commander of the first order.

Major McGuire is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr., second leading fighter ace of World War II, Medal of Honor recipient, a man of courage and valor, was enshrined on May 17, 1997.