Maj. Thomas B. McGuire, Jr., whose memory was preserved by the naming of McGuire AFB, was born in
Ridgewood, NJ on August 1, 1920. He left Georgia Tech University in his third year to join the U.S.
Army Air Corps in 1941, reporting to Randolph Field as an aviation cadet.|
During World War II, his first combat assignment was flying patrols over the Aleutian Islands and Alaska in
the P-39 Airacobra. While scoring no aerial victories in the Aleutians, McGuire was able to hone his natural
and instinctive gifts as a pilot. Returning to the United Sates in December 1942, he transitioned to the
P-38 Lightning. In March 1943, he was sent to the South Pacific as a P-38 Lightning pilot with the 49th
Fighter Group, 5th Air Force.
Five months later, the 5th Air Force decided to create an entire group, the 475th Fighter Group, of P-38
fighters, at the behest of its commander, the legendary Lt. Gen. George Kenney. Because he was a natural
leader and experienced pilot, McGuire was among those chosen to form the new group. He was assigned to the
431st Fighter Squadron. On August 18, 1943, McGuire was part of a group flying top cover for bombers striking
at Wewak, New Guinea. Nearing their target, the fighters were attacked by Japanese aircraft. During the
battle, McGuire shot down two Ki-43 Oscars and one Ki-61 Tony. On the following day, near the same
location, he downed two more Oscars. This established him as an air ace in two days, after undergoing a
frustrating year of apprenticeship with no opportunities to engage the enemy.
Over time, McGuire became one of the finest pilots ever to don an Air Forces uniform. His skill at maneuvering
the large twin-engineered P-38 was legendary, and he eventually became one of the top scoring airmen in Air
Force history. Had it not been for periodic illnesses and heavy administrative duties as Commander, 431st Fighter
Squadron, McGuire would surely have become the United States leading ace. His short life was full. Charles
Lindbergh bunked with him and flew as his wingman on a few highly unusual if unauthorized missions. McGuire
even wrote a highly prized book on combat tactics for the entire 5th Air Force. On 25-26 December, 1944, McGuire
reached the zenith of his careerdowning at least seven Japanese fighter aircraft over two days in Luzon, Republic
of the Philippines. He was two victories away from Maj. Richard I. Bong, the USAAFs all-time aerial victory
leader. However, after cheating death many times on his way to 38 aerial victories, McGuires tremendous
achievement soon came to a close.
On January 7, 1945, McGuire was leading a group of four P-38s over a Japanese-held airstrip, Fabrica
aerodrome, Negros Island. After descending through cloud cover, McGuires flight attacked a lone Ki-43 Oscar
they discovered. Unfortunately, the pilot of this aircraft was an instructor pilot with thousands of hours in that
type of aircraft, and kept McGuire and his wingman at bay. Another aircraft, a Ki-84 Frank appeared on the scene
from a nearby airstrip, and locked onto McGuire. In the turning battle that ensued, McGuires P-38 presumably
entered into a low-speed stall and crashed. He was killed on impact.
McGuire was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his outstanding duty performance, especially in the
25-26 December missions. McGuires other decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross with three
devices, two Silver Stars, six Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Purple Hearts,
and 15 Air Medals all before he was 25. He was a special man. McGuire AFB was dedicated to his everlasting
honor in January, 1948.