John “Tommy” Blackburn was an Annapolis graduate and was serving as a flight instructor when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He commanded VGF-29 aboard USS Santee (CVE-29) during the Torch landings. Most of their Wildcats got lost in bad weather, Blackburn himself spending three days in the water before he was rescued. He was then reassigned to command VF-17 “jolly Rogers” on the new F4U Corsair. At the time the Navy decided that the Corsair was unsuited for carrier operations and VF-17 deployed to an airfield on Ondonga, New Georgia in October 1943.
The deployment produced thirteen aces, including Blackburn with 11 victories. His best day was on 06FEB44 when he claimed four A6M Zeros. He survived the war and eventually rose to command the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CVB-41) in 1958. He retired from the Navy as a Captain in 1962.
This is the F4U-1A Corsair of LCDR Tommy Blackburn, Commanding Officer VF-17, operating from Ondonga, New Georgia, November 1943.