Dean Caswell is a combat veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam conflict, who accumulated more than 8,000 flight hours in fighter aircraft. Colonel Caswell is best known for his aggressive fighting spirit and skilled airmanship displayed in the Pacific theater during the first half of 1945 while engaged in vicious combat against Japanese forces over their home ground. Assigned to VMF-221, Caswell and the “Fighting Falcons” were tasked with destroying the Japanese air fleet both in the air and on the ground. Between February and May 1945, Caswell flew his Chance Vought F4U-1D Corsair aircraft, with its characteristic gull wing, from the deck of the USS Bunker Hill in support of the assault on Okinawa. On 28 April he launched with two other F4Us under the callsign Viceroy 15 for a routine combat air patrol mission 120 miles north of Okinawa. Caswell and his flight mates arrived on station over two Fletcher class destroyers that were providing early warning radar support for Task Force 58 which was plagued by kamakazi attacks as it prepared for the coming assault on Okinawa. As the flight approached their station they heard a call from the ship’s radar controller of “Many bogeys dead ahead.” Due to cloud cover and a thick haze, the flight of Corsairs kicked their Pratt and Whitney engines into full throttle and climbed to 20,000 feet with the help of the massive Hamilton Standard propellers. Visibility issues at that high altitude enabled enemy fighters to remain hidden until they were on top of Caswell’s flight. Caswell found himself head to head against a Kawasaki KI-61 “Tony” fighter so he instinctively pulled the trigger of his six .50 caliber machine guns as the Tony filled his gunsight. As he fired, Caswell saw tracers whizzing past his cockpit and his radio came to life with a warning from his wingman that an A6M Zero was on his tail. With bullets passing his cockpit from the front and rear, Caswell knew the slightest movement would give the enemy an ideal target to strike. Instead, he aggressively continued his attack, squeezed his trigger, and kept faith that his wingman would take care of the Zero. In a second, the Tony in front of him exploded and as he flew through the wreckage and the radio from his wingman squawked again proclaiming he had, “got the Zero on your tail,” and cleared his six o’clock position. Caswell’s flight continued the fight that day shooting down eight confirmed and a probable nine more, despite being heavily outnumbered against 30 attacking Japanese fighters. He returned to the USS Bunker Hill to discover that his Corsair had escaped the day without a scratch. In fact, during more than 100 combat missions Caswell’s F4U was famous for having never once received damage from enemy fire. He finished the war with 10 confirmed aerial kills and another 25 enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground. Caswell continued to serve his country in both Korea and Vietnam, eventually retiring after 30 years. He was awarded the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Congressional Gold Medal. Colonel Caswell is the proud parent of seven and resides in Austin, TX with his wife Mary Donahue.
Years Honored: 2016
Aircraft/Specialty: Chance Vought F4U-1D Corsair
Colonel Dean Caswell is a USMC fighter pilot and combat veteran and of WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Assigned to VMF-221 “Fighting Falcons,” he was tasked to destroy the Japanese air fleet. In April 1945, Caswell launched from the deck of the USS Bunker Hill in support of the assault on Okinawa. Taking fire and heavily outnumbered, he and his flight scored 10 confirmed kills. He returned to the USS Bunker Hill to discover his Corsair had escaped without a scratch. Caswell’s F4U would gain infamy for surviving over 100 combat missions having never once received damage from enemy fire.