Jack Wardell Petit, "Quiet Hero"

Jack Wardell Petit, son of C.W. and Hattie Petit, was a First Lieutenant for the United States Marines. Missing in action near the Phillipines, some of the links below give us an accounting of what his life in the service might have been like. We know that he flew a Corsair in the Pacific.  Evidently, most of the Corsairs flown in WWII belonged to the Navy, and for a period of about one year, 1943-1944, the Marines joined the aerial fight in the Pacific. They were commissioned to fly the Navy Corsairs. A real challenge for them was the lack of training in landings and take-offs on carriers, as well as the condition of the planes. But they had joined the fight in the air - flying "aces" were born.   According to one story (listed below), Petit fought with a group named the "Swashbucklers" in the first and second tours in the Solomons campaign. Led at different times by Majors George Britt, Henry Ellis and Bill Pace, they flew "Wildcats" and then "Fighting Corsairs." This team claimed about 20 aerial victories and included two aces. On October 20, 1943,  Captain Jack Petit was reported Missing in Action . He won the Air Medal with two Gold Stars for his heroism and received the Purple Heart.


War stories amaze and humble us. Lives lost for our country and for the sake of freedom leave an empty spot that future generations fill with stories, so that the memory and honor of those who sacrified so much for us will not be forgotten. Little was shared with me about the life of Jack Petit, but what I came to understand was that he was just a very nice young man whose family wished he had come home. What I also have learned, is that he had some very fine friends when he was in VMF 214 and VMF 215. A very special thanks to O.K. Williams for sharing the story of Petit's last journey with me, and to Mac McCall for stories of earlier tours.


VMF214 -  SWASHBUCKLERS
Taken in the Russell Islands; Major Pace, Bob Hanson, McClurg and one other must have been flying
Standing Top Row: Petit, McCall, Sigel, Scarborough, Knipping, Fidler, Rankin
Second Row from Top: Cavanaugh, Synar, Hatch, Miller, Burnett, Bookman, Eisele, Carpenter
Third Row Down: Hernan, Hazelwood, Moak, Bernard, Williams, Jensen, Dunbar
Sitting: Taylor, Tomlinson, Deetz, Hunter, Curran, O'Dell

This was taken in November or December of 1942 at Ewa in the Hawaiian Islands.  Two in this picture were not pilots, and the corps wanted 27 pilots so we never left Ewa until the middle of February for Guadalcanal. - O.K. Williams
Sitting: - Schaefer, Carpenter, Lanthier, Miller, Burnett, Ellis, Britt, Pace, Kraft, Bernard, Cavanaugh, Fidler, Hazelwood
Standing: - Luthi, Deetz, Petit, Hollmeyer, Sigel, Rankin, O'Dell, Hoover, Scarborough, Williams

Kneeling: left to right - Petit, Dunbar, Sigel, Williams, Carpenter, Bernard, Hazelwood, Hollmeyer, Blakeslee, Deetz, Taylor
Standing: Miller, McCall, Doctor, Kraft, Fidler, Pace, Scarborough, Britt (CO), Rankin, Ellis (EXC), O'Dell, Burnett, Lanphier, Tomlinson, Cavanough, Jensen, Moak

VMF 214 based on Fighter One, Guadalcanal, April 1943. It was our first tour of combat lasting nine weeks. After this tour Majors Britt and Ellis were transferred to headquarters.  Major Bill Pace took over as we moved to Russell Islands.  We were there two weeks when Pace was killed and we moved up to Munda on New Georgia for five weeks. That was our 2nd tour.  Boyington was given the number 214 and what was left of us were split into 215 and 221, replacing losses in those squadrons. - O.K. Williams

Below are links to some personal war stories involving Jack Petit as depicted in the book The Black Sheep, by Bruce Gamble, 1998. To find Petit's listing with the American Battle Monuments Commission, select the first link on the right below, "Jack Petit's listing - American Battle Monuments Commission", then select WWII at the top. In the search box, put in Petit and a link to his  page will appear.

Anyone having information concerning Jack Wardell Petit please contact Donna Field

Petit's Personal Story - as told by McCall and Williams Jack Petit's listing - American Battle Monuments Commission
First Blood - story from Gamble book Decoration of Marine Flyers in the South Pacific
The Chincoteague - story from Gamble book Life for VMF 214 in the Solomons during WWII
Birth of the Swashbucklers - story from Gamble book Stories about the"Black Sheep" and "Swashbucklers"
Lost over the Shortlands - story from Gamble book VMF-214 Roster of Essential Pilots and Ground Officers
60th Anniversary and Memorial of the Solomons The Corsair