US Navy Captain Scott McCuskey is a World War II ace credited with 13 1/2 aerial victories during combat in the Battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, and the Philippine Sea. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1915, he attended the Universities of Alabama and Arkansas before entering Naval Flight School at Pensacola, Florida, in 1938. He earned his wings and commission as an ensign in the Navy in October 1939. McCuskey's first operational assignment was Scouting Squadron VS-41. The unit transitioned to the F4F-3 Wildcat and became VF-42.
His first sea duty was aboard the carrier USS Yorktown on convoy escort and neutrality patrol duties. The routine quickly changed after 7 December 1941. The Yorktown was reassigned to the Pacific and the men of VF-42 readied themselves and their aircraft for the action to come. McCuskey first tasted combat on 1 February 1942 when he and his wingman, Johnny Adams, downed a Kawanishi Type 97 Flying Boat off the Marshall islands--it was the first aerial victory for both Fighting 42 and the Yorktown. In May 1942, during the Battle of the Coral Sea, and in June 1942, during the Battle of Midway, McCuskey added six more victories and three probables to his record before returning stateside.
Until mid-1943, he instructed and extensively studied aerial combat tactics with the Advanced Carrier Training Group at Norfolk, Virginia, and the Army Air Force. He helped develop aerial team tactics to counter the Japanese Zero and also tested the "G" suit and other anti-blackout equipment. Volunteering for combat again, he joined VF-8 in June 1943 and took with him a vast store of knowledge, which he passed on as the squadron's tactical officer. VF-8 was the first Navy unit to use the "G" suit in combat. VF-8, flying F6F Hellcats from the attack carrier USS Bunker Hill, achieved much success during the island-hopping campaign across the central Pacific in 1944.
Following the war, McCuskey served as a strategic and aviation planner in Washington, D.C., and, during 1949-50, was personal aide to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations. Later he commanded an anti-submarine squadron and served as Operations Officer aboard the attack carrier USS Hornet. Captain McCuskey is a graduate of the Air War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF), having served on the staff of Air University and the faculty of ICAF. Retired from the Navy in 1965, he earned his Ed.D. and served as Professor of Economics at St Petersburg Junior College until 1980.
At 0915 on 8 May 1942, Scott McCuskey launched from the Yorktown in an F4F-3 Wildcat with "Fighting 42" to escort the Douglas TBD Devastators of Torpedo Squadron VT-5. The targets were the Japanese carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku, the backbone of a striking force charged with destroying Allied forces on New Guinea. Four enemy fighters attacked McCuskey. During the fray, he scored one victory and diverted the enemy fighters from attacks on the TBDs. Earlier, during a raid on Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, McCuskey had successfully attacked a destroyer. These actions earned McCuskey the Navy Cross and helped to turn the tide toward Allied victory in the Pacific.