Harold "Hal" Buell
Navy dive bomber pilot
and Research By;
Ernie Hamilton Boyette
Harold Buell, Pilot
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By Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette
"Hal" Buell was born on November 4, 1919 in Keokuk,
He was the only son of Waldo and Gertrude Buell. Orphaned at age four, he was
by a couple who took him in and became his new parents. He describes these
people as very good and kind. Hal told me that he was very fortunate. He became
interested in aviation when he was about eight years old.
As with most young males of the time he built flying balsa wood and
tissue paper airplanes that were powered by rubber bands. Aviation was new and
everyone would run out of the house whenever they heard an airplane fly over.
1937, after graduating from high school Harold had no financial backing to go
right into collage. He worked to get an athletic scholarship and delayed
entering collage by one semester to earn the extra money to attend with the
scholarship assistance. He finally earned the funds he needed and attended
Parsons Collage located in Fairfield,
started flying in the fall of 1939 during his second year at Parsons. The school
was one of the many across America
at the time that had the government Civilian Pilot Training Program. Harold
found himself flying a 65 horse powered Cub. He learned to fly, earned collage
credit, and earned a private pilot’s license.
wanted to go further with his flying and the military was the only route. He
knew that at the time the government was desperate for new pilots. The war in
was raging and adventure was in Hal’s blood. He was no different from any
other young American man his age. Hal realized that military flight training was
the best way to go. He discussed this with this adopted parents. They all sat at
the kitchen table as he calmly explained that the Navy would be the only way he
would ever be able to afford further flight training. His mother and father
understood and let Hal make the decision himself. He said that his parents
respected Hal for including them in the decision. Most young men would just come
home one day and tell their parents that they had just joined the Navy.
the spring of 1940, Hal and a couple of friends hitch hiked down to St Lewis and
took the physical exam. Even though there was a demand for pilots, the quality
and physical abilities needed to be a pilot was not relaxed. It was tough. Of
the thirty-five men in for the exam that day, only four made it with Harold
being one of the four.
joined the Naval Aviation Cadet program in January 1941. He was commissioned an
Ensign with Wings of Gold a month before the attack on
. Hal was well aware of the war in Europe and the Japanese in
but he had no idea what was about to happen. Hal actually believed that if he
ever saw combat it would be in the
against Hitler. After the Japanese attack, Hal figured that the American Navy
would serve in the Pacific more so than in the
. He was assigned to VS-5 on the Yorktown arriving only two weeks before the
. During this engagement he flew scouting missions. He did not actually see
combat at the
, but the tensions and combat stress was the same. His job was to keep an eye
out for the enemy sneaking up on the American Fleet as he looked for submarines
and downed American pilots.
Second War Cruise.
back at Pearl Harbor, Hal was reassigned to the Saratoga. The Sara was delayed at
for some repairs. The
busied them self’s repairing damage and re-supplying their foods, medical
supplies and bombs. They planned to sail back out as soon as they were ready.
Everybody knew that something big was happening and tensions were high. Within
days orders where handed down and the carriers
Enterprise, Hornet and the
were ordered to sail for Midway. The
followed the American carrier Fleet out to Midway a day later. Hal flew
scouting missions off the Saratoga as they sailed toward the expected area that the battle would actually take
Japanese were in for a surprise. During the
of the Coral Sea the
was so badly damaged that the Japanese were under the impression that they sunk
the carrier. The Yorktown made it back to Pearl Harbor
on May 27th where she was placed in dry dock. Amazing as it may seem
but forty-eight hours later the
was setting sail for the Battle of Midway. The damages were not all completed
to the satisfaction of the Navy however the carrier was a water based airport
that carried many aircraft that would prove to be useful during the next battle.
may have been staggered but her airplanes always proved deadly to the Japanese
carriers. All the
needed right now was a good deck, a good engine and a full complement of
aircraft. Civilian contractors sailed on the carrier out to the next battle all
the while trying their best to repair everything before the next battle begun.
They labored tirelessly getting the carrier back together. Need we remember here
the unsung stories of the many dozens if not hundreds of civilian contractors
who perished along with the brave sailors and airmen who went down with our
warships. During enemy attacks on the American ships the civilian contractors
always joined in to fight fires, clear away debris and helped to care for the
injured and dead. I thank you all for your heroic and unsung service to our
country in such a time of need. You repaired, you fought and then you repaired
some more for our country. Thank you.
Admiral Raymond Spruance commanded Task Force 16 with the carrier Enterprise
and the Hornet. Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher led Task Force 17 with the
Yorktown. Hal’s carrier, the Saratoga
was not involved in the epic attack of June 4th but arrived on June
5th. The day after the
battle Hal flew many missions looking for enemy submarines and downed pilots.
This was a very important mission because the battle was extensive with damage
and the sinking of the
. Buell flew missions looking for enemy submarines and downed pilots all day
taking off and landing several times from morning to night.
Battle of Midway was originally fought to keep the Japanese from taking
which would have given them a valuable asset in the Pacific. The Japanese could
have based further attacks on
from such a location. And now this island was denied them, a loss to their
Third Combat Cruise;
Midway, Harold and a newly replenished Scouting Five were assigned to the USS
Enterprise after they arrived back to
where they regrouped. They flew on board for the first time and started right
away with carrier take off and landings. This was practice for the aircraft,
deck hands, plane handlers and the pilots. One day Hal flew over seven hours.
crews were very efficient in getting their plans on and off the decks quicker
than the other carriers Hal has been assigned to. He told me that there was
something about the crew of the Enterprise
which impressed him very much. He told me that of all the carriers he served on
it was the Enterprise
that he was the proudest to have been part of during this time of the war.
Five practiced dive bombing on the
over and over. This gave the dive bomber pilots a birds eye view of attacking
an enemy aircraft carrier and what it would be like when the time came. The Enterprise
would weave back and forth to throw off the aim of Hal and the others and this
was exactly the practice they would soon need. While they were practicing diving
on the carrier they would be intercepted by Wildcats to give them chase so the
SBD crews learned how to shake off the enemy fighters more efficiently. This
training would pay off in the next few months. Something big was brewing and
rumors flew around like enemy fighters. On their last day of practice they got
to drop live five-hundred bombs on targets at a practice range that was located
on one of the
. This was also the time in which Hal really started to study dive bombing
techniques. Within the next six months Hal was considered an expert on dive
bombing. Everybody including Hal scored very well. They were ready for battle.
July 15, 1942 the
and sailed southwest. The Big “E” met up with the Saratoga
and the Wasp for the trip. Along with the task force were twenty cargo ships
filled with Marines and all their gear. Hal knew that this was not going to be a
hit and run but an actual invasion. He told me that on July seventh they took
off before sunrise with one-thousand pound bombs and headed toward the Japanese
reported that there could be three Japanese aircraft carriers in the area. The
Japanese presently held the island and was in the process of building an
airfield. The Marines were to land and stop them. They were to fight and defeat
the Japanese on the island, take the island and finish the airfield for Marine
pilots to operate from. Hal and VS-5 bombed the Japanese to soften them up for
the Marine landings. As they came over the island he saw the American
Battleships and Cruisers shelling the island. Hal said that watching the
Battleships fire their big guns was amazing. The ends of the cannon exploded
into a fireball that caused the whole ship to reverberate in the water. Then he
saw the shells hit the island exploding in torment for the defending Japanese.
read more about Hal Buell please consider one of our prints or one of our
upcoming books. Thank you.
This is a profile of the Zuikaku by another artist.
Hal and his Helldiver
Hal would definitely be considered an Ace when it came to
hitting and sinking Japanese ships! Hal hit 14 enemy ships helping in the sinking of 12 of them.
Hal Buell today in his Home and office.
Photo of Hal after his first solo.
Model of Hal's F9 Cougar he flew.
If you like building model airplanes then
consider these two dive bomber kits. Hal flew both of these dive bombers in
is 1/48 scale and is by Revell. This is a basic kit but it is easy to build.
Build both of these famous Navy dive bombers.
is 1/48 scale by Revell. This is a great kit. It is large as well.
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Hal Buell and Ernie Boyette
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research, writings and artwork are by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette.
one is permitted to republish any part of this story with out my personal
call or e-mail me for any use of this story.
do not mind sharing, just call or e-mail and ask for permission.
Ernie Hamilton Boyette
Arthur Moore Drive
Cove Springs, Florida
Edited and counter added on July 6, 2011