Arthur Caldwell Cason Jr.
Captain Arthur Caldwell Cason, Jr. died at his home in Bradenton, FL in 2005 after a long, valiant battle with cancer. He was 87. Casey, as he was known to his friends, was born March 20, 1918 and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. He signed up to become a naval aviator and was commissioned an Ensign in the Navy in 1941, joining the Pacific Fleet in February 1942 as a dive-bomber pilot.
For 30 years, Casey made the Navy his home. He rose rapidly through the ranks to Captain, retiring in 1972.
In 1942, then Ensign Cason, shipped out to the Pacific Theater, where he distinguished himself as a Dougles Dauntless dive-bomber pilot, Hellcat fighter pilot and landing signal officer in all the pivotal battles of the Pacific. He earned many combat awards, including the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross on October 19, 1942 from Admiral Nimitz for "bombing and strafing fleeing enemy forces without regard for his own safety" in the Battle of Midway, where he sank a cruiser and damaged a transport ship. While on a mission in the battle of Midway, he returned to the Hornet only to find it on its way to the bottom of the ocean. He and the rest of his squadron were forced to land on another carrier.
He served with equal
valor in many other battles such as the Coral Sea, Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal,
Santa Cruz, Leyte Gulf and
Philippine Sea. He was aboard the carrier Hornet when General Doolittle launched
his raid on Tokyo.
Many of the carriers on which he served--the Hornet, Lexington, Enterprise and Franklin--were heavily damaged or sunk. While on the Hornet, three Japanese planes crashed into the ship, one passing through his stateroom. He had flipped coins and was sitting in the ready room at the time rather than his room. While seated there, a bomb plunged through the deck and in front of the chair on which he was resting his feet. The pilot next to him was killed, but Casey survived. His extraordinary good luck held later near Bougainville when, separated from his squadron in bad weather and with his radio out, he descended from the clouds, by chance, over a Japanese fleet of fifteen warships. Braving intense anti-aircraft fire, he strafed and bombed repeatedly a transport before his guns jammed. His fuel low, he searched in vain for his carrier. With only five minutes of fuel remaining, he spotted a fleet in the distance, but could not identify whether it was friend or foe. Approaching, he was challenged by radio but couldn't respond. He was then fired on by his carrier's escort vessels, but Navy air cover identified him as friendly and he landed unscathed.
After W.W.II, he served as a flight instructor and then became a 'hurricane hunter' out of Miami. Joining the anti-submarine patrol bomber community, he eventually became Commander of Fleet Air Wing Eleven in Jacksonville,Florida, overseeing some 120 planes. His wing achieved notoriety for having taken the first photos of a Soviet nuclear submarine on the surface of the ice at the North Pole. Later, his planes participated in the naval blockade of Cuba, taking photos of the Soviet ships with nuclear missiles heading to the island. Later in his career, he servedas Commodore of the Middle East flagship, the Greenwich Bay, and was Executive Officer in Jacksonville Naval Air Station and at the French Navy base in Port Lyautey, Morocco. He was a student at the Naval War College near the end of his career, and upon retiring he worked for several defense contractors as a consultant.
Captain Cason passed away in April of 2005 at age 87.
Stepfather of my Uncle David Bassett (his biological father was assistant platoon leader of the Airborne Test Platoon and killed in a helicopter crash in the 1950s).