Brigadier General Frederick Payne USMC ret., better known as “Fritz,” has slipped the surly bonds of earth at 104 and gone on to Eternal Rest.
During two and a half weeks in 1942, from behind the guns of his Grumman F4F Wildcat flying over the Pacific near Guadalcanal, Mr. Payne, a major at the time, downed three Japanese bombers and two Zero fighters, having already shared credit with another pilot for bringing down an enemy bomber. When he was awarded the Navy Cross, the citation read in part: “Throughout that strenuous period when the island airfield was under constant bombardment and our precarious ground positions were menaced by the desperate counterthrusts of a fanatical foe, Major Payne repeatedly patrolled hostile territory and intercepted enemy bombing flights,” downing six aircraft in “five vigorous fights against tremendous odds.” He was also awarded the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
I suppose if you can live through this, you have a pretty good chance of passing the century mark.
While he saw combat throughout the Pacific, from the Aleutians to New Guinea, Mr. Payne recalled that his only brush with death was when, suffering from malaria, he vomited in his oxygen mask and passed out. He recovered as his plunging plane passed 8,000 feet, but managed to pull out and land safely.
With his passing, there remain only 71 out of 1,450 American pilots recognized as achieving the status of ace in all conflicts since World War 1.
Godspeed and thanks, Fritz. RIP.