WWII Snapshot – Four Pilots of Blackburn’s Jolly Rogers, VF-17 Identified F4U Corsair Pilots

Windy Hill, Merl William Davenport, John Orrin Ellsworth and William Lee Landreth in Bougainville

Windy Hill, Merle William Davenport, John Orrin Ellsworth and William Lee Landreth in Bougainville







Merle William Davenport

 “Butch” Merl is the only true fighter ace pictured in the snapshot.  He was credited with 6 confirmed aerial victories during his time in the PTO. Merl passed away in 1989.

John Orrin Ellsworth

John's Stateside Grave Marker

John’s Stateside Grave Marker

William Lee Landreth- The last Living Original Pilot from VF-17

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From Country’s 2012 obituary:

“He grew up to pilot the powerful F4U Corsair with fighter squadron VF-17, the Jolly Rogers, and was eventually its last surviving original pilot. “Country”, as his squadron mates dubbed him, was credited with 3 kills and 1 assist while his squadron destroyed 154 planes in 76 days of combat in the South Pacific. No bomber escorted by VF-17 was lost to enemy aircraft, no ship ever hit by a bomb or aerial torpedo. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/venturacountystar/obituary.aspx?pid=158047970#sthash.OJ6tGm6u.dpuf
Mr. Landreth eventually passed away due to complication from a WWII injury sustained during his stint with the VF-17.  My heart goes out to his family. I hope they find this page and this snapshot of him with his comrades.

WWII Original VF-17 “Jolly Rogers” F4U Corsair Pilot Photo Grouping


One of my favorite avenues of collecting has to be Marine or Navy photographs related to aviation.  The Corsair pilots of the Pacific were certainly some of the toughest pilots of the war!  I’ve read numerous articles, books, and publications related to the VF-17 and finally had the opportunity to purchase some original snapshots from the unit.  Although they were a bit expensive, they now have a solid place in my collection.  These were taken on Bougainville, likely at Torokina airfield.  Identified pilots include Lemuel D. Cooke, Doug Gutenkunst, Windy Hill, John Orrin Ellsworth (Fatso) and Robert R.  Hogan.


VF-17 Mechanics


VF-17 Unit Insignia


Inscription on Reverse


Doug Gutenkunst, Bob Hogan, and Lem Cooke




Windy Hill and Fatso



Windy Hill Bougainville

Windy Hill Bougainville (Source)

The above photo shows Corsair pilot Robert “Windy” Hill posing near the Bougainville scoreboard and was taken by U.S Navy photographer Charles Fenno Jacobs (1904-1975).  Jacobs was known for capturing the melancholy side of the war in the Pacific.  For more info on Jacobs and his wartime work, please check out the National Archives website.