Lt. John "Bill" W. B. Gage
VF-81 Hellcat Pilot
KIA February 16, 1945 over Tokyo Bay

 During the Famous 2 day Battle of Tokyo Bay Feb 16 - 17, 1945
Gage shot down one Japanese plane before being shot down himself
His service number is 0-84159
Lt.Gage was a Flight Leader in VF-81 scoring two air victories
Dec 14th, 1944  h08.40:   type: Frances- location: over Batengas A/F
Feb  16th, 1945  h15.55 - 17.00: type: Oscar- location: Tokyo Bay
See more of Lt Gage's history from the WWII Memorial web site
More from the National Archives

Extremely RARE Engraved Posthumous Awarded Navy Medal Group

   Late in the afternoon of February 16th, 1945, the aviation assets of
The USS WASP were engaged in a furious struggle for supremacy of the
skies over Tokyo, Japan. The air battle had raged since the early part
of the day, and as the day wore on the US Navy Fighter Pilots of VF-81
found themselves locked in a life or death contest with the best
remaining pilots that the Empire of Japan could muster at this late
stage of the war. The American Naval and Marine pilots were the hardened
tip of a spear that comprised the largest Combat Naval Fleet ever
assembled in the history of warfare, an awesome armada that streched
from horizon to horizon, and it is doubtful that the likes of such a
fleet will ever be seen again. The Americans were fighting for a quick
end to a war that could only have one outcome, and the Japanese were
fighting to a level born of desperation; to keep the Americans off the
soil of their beloved Home Island.
  Into this setting flew one brave American Naval Officer from Austin Texas,
Lt. John William Beverly Gage. "Bill" Gage, a 6 year US Navy Veteran
and a Flight Leader in VF-81, would ultimately bring down a Japanese aircraft
on that afternoon of February 16, 1945 over Tokyo Bay. Only minutes later he would
be shot down himself by enemy aircraft thus making the supreme sacrifice for his country.

I would like to thank Amy C, a pretty young housewife from
Austin, Texas for finding this group for me. She truly found a piece of history!
Also I want to thank the VF81 Veterans I spoke with as well as their family members
for all their invaluable information they provided me on VF81 and Lt.Gage.
VF81 was such a small fighter squadron that on Feb 16, 1945 it only consisted of
36 Hellcats so information on VF81 is very hard to come by. I would like to thank
Walter Grant who sent me his fathers (William Grant) printed diary called 'The Sting Of The WASP
Memoirs Of A Navy Fighter Pilot WWII'. Walters father Wiliam, also in VF-81,
flew Hellcats over Tokyo Bay the day Gage was KIA. Next I want to thank
MD Miller of VF-81 for the information he sent me on the squadron and Glen Edwards another
VF81 Vet who loaned me his logbooks and citations which greatly have assisted me in my research of Lt.Gage.
Edwards was awarded the Air Medal for meritorious achievment for his efforts on Feb 16, 1945 with Gage
during the Battle of Tokyo Bay. He went on to fly fighters in Korea with VF781 and earned the DFC.
Also a big thank you to Herman Wiesensee of Struthers Ohio for sending me info on Gage's Burial site
as well as some other valuanble information including Gage's service number
Lastly I would like to thank Larry Stone for his countless hours in assisting me in finding
the real story behind "Bill" Gage and these engraved medals that Amy C found laying
on a blanket at a yard sale in Austin, Texas one hot summer day.

see larger of above scan here
Distinguished Flying Cross Cased with Gold Star Hand Engraved
Purple Heart Cased Hand Engraved
Air Medal Cased Hand Engraved
Navy Pilot Wings "Amico" 10K Sterling Silver - Early WWII Type
WWII Victory Medal
American Defense Medal
Note the box addressed to his Mother and postmarked July 19 1945
Navy records show his next of kin (wife) was Mrs. Miriani Quick Gage
Address at time of death, 2423 Park Street Houston, Texas
The same address that is on the box addressed to his mother!
 The cases for the Defense and Victory medal were added to the group by
us and are not original to the group but they are authentic real period cases

see larger scan of above here

see larger scan of above here

Paper that came with his engraved DFC
The back of the Cased DFC is engraved exactly to what is printed on this official paper

Photo of Gage out of "Prep Charlie"
The official 1945 Cruise Book of the USS Wasp
which VF-81 was stationed on
VF81 was a very small squadron with only 36 Hellcats and 55 Pilots
scan of the extremely rare "Prep Charlie" which I found and is now part of this group

scan of inside "Prep Charlie" here

VF-81 which consisted of aprox 55 Pilots and 36 Hellcats on Feb 16, 1945
were know as the "FREELANCERS". Lt.Gage was one of the first members of this
elite group which was the first attack strike squadron on Japan. Actually
it was the second strike EVER on the Japanese homeland, the first being the
Doolottle Tokyo Raid. Task Force 58 pilots, which the Freelancers were a part of,
swept airfields in Tokyo and the surrounding regions. They claimed 344 victories
 Confidential Memorandum instructing Task Force Fifty-Eight Pilots
as dictated by M.A. Mitscher Vice Admiral US Navy

         VF-81 WWII Squadron Patch                                             VF-81 Original Squadron Patch
     see larger scan out of Prep Charlie here                     see larger scan of original patch here
     email me if you have an VF81 material                        This patch was obtained from a VF81 Vets family

Lt Minos Miller relayed the following information to me regarding the FREELANCERS patch
"The cards are Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 -- 2. In a
bridge hand that would be tantamount to a "Grand Slam." In fighter
terminology the term Grand Slam means that the fighters shot down every
single enemy plane in sight -- which of course, is exactly what every
fighter wants and intends to do. The black panther was one of the best
stalkers and hunters because it was quick & lethal -- which is exactly what
every fighter wants and intends to do!!! The lightening symbol at lower left
follows this same theme. I was told that Walt Disney studio's prepared this patch"
Lt Minos Miller's War Diary while in VF-81 here

  1. Military Record of Gage - This two page report was sent to me at my request under the Freedom Of Information Act from the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis, Missouri. See page two here
  2. Group Photo of VF-81 Squadron - Photo of the entire squadron taken March 1, 1944 at NAS Atlantic City, New Jersey the day VF-81 Squadron was commissioned. Lt.Gage is sitteng right next to the Commander of the squadron Frank Upham. Photo provided by Lt(jg) Robert Turnell of VF-81.
  3. Group Photo of the Freelancers - Lt(jg) Dale Norquist identified for me Lt Gage in the photo. I scanned this from page 152 of Prep Charlie. The picture was taken in Hawaii  probably 1944
  4. Confidential Memorandum instructing Task Force Fifty-Eight Pilots which VF-81 was a part. Memo was dictated by M.A. Mitscher Vice Admiral US Navy. I still can't believe I am reading this!
  5. Gage is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of The Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii - Plot N - Grave 281. Gage was first buried at the USAF Cemetery at Yokohama #1 Japan but was reburied in Hawaii at the request of his wife Miriani
  6. Gage Headstone at the National Memorial Cemetery of The Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii - Plot N - Grave 281. This photo was taken by Jim Messner an employee at the cemetery
  7. Letter from Gage's Wingman in VF-81, Lt(jg) Dale T. Norquist who is now a 79yr old gentleman living in California. Dale writes a great letter on a few experiences he remembers with Gage
  8. Letter from VF-81 pilot Lt(jg) Robert Turnell who adds a few thoughts on Gage and his VF-81 experience
  9. Photo of Hellcats just taking off of the USS WASP and on to Tokyo Bay -  Feb 16, 1945 the day Gage was KIA. This photo is on page 202 of 'Prep Charlie'. I could not believe it when I saw the photo date. One of those planes has to be Lt John W.B. Gage!
  10. USS Wasp Memorial Service March 11,1945. Note Gage on list
  11. Info on VF-81 here
  12. Info on VF-81 written by Lt (jg) Claude Briggs a Pilot with VF81 who flew with Gage
  13. Citation for Ensign Glen Edwards of VF-81 for meritorious duty on Feb 16,1945 Tokyo Bay
  14. First Carrier Task Force Citation for Edwards for meritorious duty on Feb 16,1945 Tokyo Bay
  15. Edwards Original Logbook noting the Feb 16,1945 attack date on Tokyo Bay
  16. Citation to Edwards for meritorious duty against Formosa, Luzon, etc. on Jan 3 - Feb 25 1945. Gage would have also had this citation and flew on these mission alos up until Feb 16, 1945 when he was killed
  17. Edwards Original Logbook entries of his attacks on Formosa, Luzon, and French Indo China. I am sure Gage's logbook had the same entries!
  18. Document naming the USS WASP and Edwards for Navy Unit Commendation May, 1944 - Aug 1945
  19. Info On Hugh Virgil Sherrill - VF-81's only Ace who also flew with Gage on Feb 16,1945

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