December 7, 1941 shocked the nation, and he immediately drove to San Francisco to enlist in Naval Aviation Training…after a short wait he was told to report to Pre-Flight School at St. Mary’s in Moraga, CA as a Seaman Second Class and later as a Cadet. He moved to E Base at Livermore, CA…The E stood for Elimination and the Indoctrination Officer informed the Cadets that they’d either leave by the front gate as pilots, or the back gate in a casket. Corpus Christi, TX, and training at Cudahy Field, and fighter training at Kingsville followed. In May 1943, he graduated as a 2nd Lt., choosing USMC aviation. Following receiving his Gold Wings, he went to Great Lakes Naval Station for carrier training and to Jacksonville, FL for combat training.
Overseas orders soon followed, and he arrived in American Samoa to fly SBD’s in VMSB-151. This tour flew patrol around the Ellis Islands and moved with the fighting to the Gilbert and Marshall Islands and raids on the Carolina Islands.
Returning to the U.S., he married Marian Hennen La Voy on September 26, 1944 at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral with their dear friend, Rev. Luigi Roteglia officiating. They had been married 9 months and were living at Cherry Point, NC when overseas orders arrived to report to Malabang (Mindanao) Phillipines to do air support of both Army and Navy ground forces. Flying SB2C’s, the squadron moved to Okinawa to prepare for the invasion of Japan. The war ended and VMSB/244 moved to Tsingtao, China where pilots flew the China Wall patrol and bombed railroads to check Mao Tse-Tung’s moves on Chiang Kai-shek forces. Returning to the states, “Big John”, as he was fondly known decided to make the Marine Corp his career. He was stationed at MCAS El Toro-MB Quantico and MB Camp Lejeune where he was sent to Ellingson Field at Pensacola FL for helicopter training. Shortly thereafter, he received orders to Korea and joined VMO-6 and spent a year on the front lines evacuating wounded Marines and Soldiers.
Returning to El Toro for four months, he was deployed to Gifu, Japan for over a year as there was a fear that Chinese troops would once again be deployed to Korea.
Kaneohe MCAS was next and he was CO of Headquarters Sqdn. The Honolulu newspaper honored him with a headline that referred to him as “Mr. Rescue” for all the downed pilots and civilians that he rescued off the coast of Oahu. Sikorsky Corp. also honored him for his bravery.
Edenton MCAS and Cherry Point found him back in fixed wing aircraft. He next “Bootstrapped” at The University of Nebraska at Omaha, receiving flight time at Offutt AFB. He graduated in 1962 with a BS in Military Science and moved on to Senior Officer School in Quantico, VA.
Vietnam beckoned, and as CO of HMM-364, he took a squadron of young helicopter pilots to Da Nang. Their heroics are legendary and not one man in the squadron was lost. The Legion of Merit with combat V was presented to him by USMC Commandant Major General Wallace Greene at the historic H and I base in Washington DC. He ended his career at the Pentagon where he worked for the Secretary of the Navy in The Office of Program Appraisal until 1969, and then became President of The Naval Examining Board. He retired in 1970.
We honor you, John LaVoy.