Robert M. Hanson

Robert Murray Hanson was born February 4, 1920, in Lucknow, India, where his parents were missionaries. He was a light-heavyweight and heavyweight wrestling champion in high school, and the sports field at his alma mater, Woodstock School in the Indian Himalayas, is still called Hanson Field.

Before returning to the U.S. to attend college, he cycled through Europe and happened to be in Vienna during Anschluss. He was in college in Minnesota when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He enlisted and began flight training in 1942. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps on February 19, 1943, in Corpus Christi, TX.

Hanson arrived in the South Pacific in June 1943, and quickly became well known for his daring and death-defying feats. He was a master of individual air combat and shot down 20 enemy planes in six consecutive days.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on two separate days, November 1, 1943, and January 24, 1944.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and above and beyond the call of duty as fighter pilot attached to Marine Fighting Squadron 215 in action against enemy Japanese forces at Bougainville Island, 1 November 1943; and New Britain Island, 24 January 1944. Undeterred by fierce opposition, and fearless in the face of overwhelming odds, 1st Lt. Hanson fought the Japanese boldly and with daring aggressiveness. On 1 November, while flying cover for our landing operations at Empress Augusta Bay, he dauntlessly attacked 6 enemy torpedo bombers, forcing them to jettison their bombs and destroying 1 Japanese plane during the action. Cut off from his division while deep in enemy territory during a high cover flight over Simpson Harbor on 24 January, 1st Lt. Hanson waged a lone and gallant battle against hostile interceptors as they were orbiting to attack our bombers and, striking with devastating fury, brought down 4 Zeroes and probably a fifth. Handling his plane superbly in both pursuit and attack measures, he was a master of individual air combat, accounting for a total of 25 Japanese aircraft in this theater of war. His great personal valor and invincible fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.