John R. Bertie

Ens. John R. Bertie, City, Wounded Twice, Bags 3 Jap Planes in Tinian Raid
ABROAD A CARRIER FLAGSHIP OFF THE MARIANA ISLANDS, February 22 (Delayed) (AP) The "four black chickens" were the first American planes to hit Tinian Island in the bold sunrise attack today and to open the day of devastation for Japan's medium bomber base on the Mariana Islands.

Only three "Black Chickens" returned to their carrier, and one of these was injured, but the little fighter squadron brought home a bag of five Zeros to help compensate for the missing member. 

The squadron leader, Lieutenant Commander Evan Peter Aurand, Houston, TX, son of Major General Henry S. Aurand, Sixth Service Command, Chicago, led the flight through a rain squall for a strafing run on the large Tinian Airfield.

Enemy bombers and fighters were parked wing to wing, three deep at points.

After the first pass, Aurand climbed and dove again to find some Zeros just taking off. After the third run,  Aurand became separated from  his wingman, Ensign John R. Bertie, Eau Claire, WI, who became the outstanding ace of the day in the next few minutes.

Ensign Norman Lawrence Davisson, Sacramento, CA, likewise became separated from his wingman and was not seen again.

As all four planes emerged from the clouds on their opening runs, they were jumped by enemy fighters. Aurand, who won the Navy Cross as a dive bomber during the Lae, New Guinea Campaign last year, got on the tail of one Zero and saw the enemy craft turn on its back and arch into Saipan Channel 1,000 feet below.

After one burst from Davisson's guns, another Zero flamed and fell into a cloud. Then the Californian strafed a sugar mill and large cargo ship and returned to base with Aurand.

Bertie had a more difficult time. Emerging from a cloud to find himself astern a Zero, he fired at the cockpit and the enemy plane began to smoke; then veered off  into the water.

Purple Heart to Bertie, Now Lieutenant 'jg'
Former Local Boy Recently Promoted
According to the ship's paper, published by the plane carrier on which he is serving, Lieutenant (junior grade) John R. Bertie, U.S. Naval Flier, formerly of Eau Claire but now of St. Paul, has been awarded the Purple Heart. Recently, he was awarded the Naval Cross for his feat in downing three Jap Zeros in his first air battle in the South Pacific and the Purple Heart decoration was for the wounds he received in that battle. 

He has also recently been promoted from Ensign to Lieutenant, junior grade.

The paper also lists him as the only member of  the crew of the carrier, which is now observing its first anniversary in the service, to have won the Navy Cross.

In a letter to a friend here, received recently, he said it would probably be two months before he would be able to write him again, and it is believed that he has been engaged in some of the recent naval and air actions in the South Pacific.

Lieutenant Bertie flies a fighter plane.

Navy Cross Award to Ensign Bertie
Ensign John R. Bertie, son of Mr. and Mrs. John B. Bertie, now of St. Paul, but recently of Eau Claire, has been awarded the Navy Cross, according to a story carried in the St. Paul Pioneer Press

The Cross was sent to his mother, along with the citation.

Ensign Bertie attended St. Patrick's Grade School and also St. Patrick's High School, from which he was graduated two years ago. 

Cites Heroic Conduct
The following is what the St. Paul paper had to say about him and his exploits in the South Pacific fighting:

"On January 1, Ensign John R. Bertie, 20-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. John B. Bertie, 1890 Lincoln Avenue, Eau Claire, began an assignment in the South Pacific as a fighter pilot. 

"By February 22, he had already so distinguished himself by heroic conduct, superior airmanship, and disregard of personal safety in the execution of a certain mission that he was awarded the Navy Cross.

"Bertie won the Cross after an assignment to destroy enemy aircraft at Tenian and Saipan Islands. After participating in four strafing runs on enemy airfields, he destroyed an enemy airborne fighter plane, according to his citation. Then, despite wounds in his left arm and leg and damage to his plane from enemy fire, he engaged and shot down two more fighter planes. 

"Without a compass, he then navigated his plane 133 miles back to his carrier by the sun. Although weak from loss of blood and with his left arm incapacitated, he succeeded in manually lowering his flaps and wheels, putting his guns on safety, and landing."

Written by Harold (Diz) Kronenberg

After graduation from St. Patrick's High School, John R. Bertie entered the Navy. He entered pre-flight school and later became a Navy pilot. He was sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations where he flew the F6F Navy Hellcat fighter against the Japanese. 

On one mission, while flying from Tenian and Saipan Islands, he shot down three enemy airplanes, two of them after he was severely wounded in his left arm and leg. Despite his injuries and without any navigational instruments, he flew his fighter plane 130 miles back to his aircraft carrier and landed safely.

For his heroic actions, Ensign Bertie received the Navy Cross. Next to the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross is the highest medal given by the Navy for actions above and beyond the call of duty.