Heroes Fritz Payne 104 year old Fighter Ace…
“At that time, the Navy cadet program was full,” Payne said. “The Marine Corps was full, too. My father said, ‘You’re a college graduate, go to the recruiting office and tell them you’d like to join the Marine Corps.’”
Payne’s father, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, served in the Spanish-American War and served as a lieutenant commander during World War I.
The Marine Corps agreed to Payne’s request.
Payne was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marines and, according to his flight log records, made his first solo flight at U.S. Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, N.Y., on July 1, 1935.
Payne took off on his solo flight on what soon would become hallowed ground of aviation history.
Famous aviators of the era, including Jackie Cochran and Amelia Earhart, flew from Floyd Bennett Field; Howard Hughes used the airfield as his start and finish for his July 1938 record-breaking circumnavigation of the globe.
After Pearl Harbor was attacked, Payne, by now a member of Marine Fighter Squadron 221, embarked for Midway Island aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga on Dec. 8, 1941 — the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. He went to war behind the controls of the Brewster F2A Buffalo fighter aircraft — one of the first U.S. monoplanes (a fixed-wing aircraft with one main set of wing surfaces, in contrast to a biplane or triplane) outfitted with an arresting (tail) hook and other modifications for aircraft carriers.
Payne, who was promoted to major by the summer of 1942, engaged in combat operations in battle zones throughout the Pacific, including Guadalcanal, Aleutian Islands, Kwajalein, Hollandia and Guam.