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Colonel Phillip C DeLONG, US Marine Corps was born in Jackson, Michigan, in 1919.
After graduating from university in aeronautical engineering, he would become the leading VMF-212 Squadron fighter pilot and represents the MARINE CORPS contribution to victory in the SOLOMON ISLANDS campaign and that of the inverted gull ‘bent wing’ CORSAIR F-4U-1As in WW2. After the Naval Cadet program and his flying training in NAS Miami with carrier qualification on USS Wolverine, he flew three combat tours on VMF-212 in the Solomons from June 1943 to May, 1944.
On January 9th Phillip had his first two ZEKE victories and damaged a third, this over Kabanga Bay. From January to mid-February he would account for 7 Zekes, more than one Hamp and 3 Val dive bombers, these last who were attacking a largely New Zealander-led landing on to Green Island. On the morning of 23rd after supporting friends attacking and destroying a Zeke, he found himself alone with five of them following him but unable to close because of the CORSAIR’s extra speed. One by one the Zekes gave up the chase, with Phillip waiting to turn back and attack them when they did. The last one turned away but saw that the Corsair would catch up and attack, so turned back straightaway to face the Corsair head on. They both fired at each other and Phillip saw the Zeke explode and flew right through the debris.
Col LeLong flew from USS Bataan in the Korean war, this time with VMF-312 Squadron, where he flew a further 125 combat missions and added two more victories against Yak-9 aircraft to his total. For his service, he received a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit, DFC with 6 gold stars, an Air Medal with 16 gold stars and a Navy Commendation Medal. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1969.
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