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Lieutenant General Karl S. Day, USMCR, Deceased.


Lieutenant General Karl S. Day, A pioneer in Marine Corps aviation, died at Long Island, New York Nassau Hospital January 19, 1973, following a long illness. He was 76. LtGen. Day was interred at Arlington national Cemetery in Washington, D. C. on January 1973.


LtGen. Day was credited with pioneering advances and innovations in Navy and Marine Corps aviation in instrument flying and radio navigation. Upon retiring from the Marine Corps Reserve March 1, 1957, he was promoted to Lieutenant General, a rank never before held by a Marine Corps Reserve Officer.

On Monday, March 4, General Randolph McCall Pate, the then Commandant of the Marine Corps, presented the third star to LtGen Day at a retirement dinner given at the Ambassador Hotel in honor of the retiring reservist. More than 200 Marine officers from the New York area joined with the Commandant in paying tribute to LtGen.Day upon his retirement from an active career in the regular Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve.

Born in Ripley County, Indiana, May 30, 1896, he graduated from Ohio State University in 1917.

LtGen. Day’s service in the Marine Corps began in May 1917 when he was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to first officer School at Quantico, Virginia. Upon graduation he was one of 18 young officers assigned for flight training to “The 1st Aeronautic Company” at the Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pa. this Company was the first Marine unit with an official aviation designation. Its early training facilities consisted of one hanger and an assigned quota of “two land aero planes, two sea aero planes, one school land aero plane and two kite balloons.” The hanger was built on the river bank with openings at either end- one for seaplanes and the other for land planes.

In July 1918, he was promoted to captain and sent to France with Squadron C, First arine Aviation Force, Northern Bombing Group. That organization had everything from aerial operations except airplanes. But the British had airplanes and no pilots so Captain Day did most of his World War I flying in Royal Air Force Squadron 218, flying the DeHaviland-9. Just prior to the Armistice the Marines received a few airplanes, and the Captain made his last raid in an American DeHaviland-4 Bomber. He was awarded a Navy Cross Medal for this feat. The Navy Cross is second in valor only to the Navy’s Medal of Honor.

Navy Cross Citation reads….(WW1) The Navy Cross is presented to Karl S. Day, Captain, U. S. marine Corps, for distinguished and heroic service as an Aviator of an aeroplane while serving with the First Marine Aviation Force, attached to the Northern Bombing Group (USN), in active operations co-operating with Allied Armies on the Belgian Front during September, October, and November 1918 bombing enemy bases, aerodomes, submarine bases, ammunition dumps, railroad junctions, etc.

Captain Day resigned his regular Marine Corps commission in 1919 and spent the next decade in a variety of civilian jobs in different parts of the world, but always where he could do some flying.

He joined Curtiss Wright Flying Service in 1929 as assistant Business Manager and three months later became Operational Manager.

In 1932 he moved to American Airlines as a pilot and was assigned as an instrument flight instructor. Describing this job the General said, “I learned by teaching and wrote the book on instrument flying and radio navigation more or less in self-defense, because I had so many other things to do I didn’t have time to spend with the boys.” With American Airlines he was successively Line Pilot, Check Pilot, Assistant Flight Superintendent, and Director of Flight Dispatch.

While flying the mail in 1933, he was forced to bail out of a disable airplane and thus became a member of the exclusive Caterpillar Club. The Caterpillar Club is an informal association of people who have successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft.

When the first aviation unit of the Marine Corps Reserve in the New York area was organized at Floyd Bennett Field in 1935, Major Day was given command of the Squadron, and he retained that command until called to active duty in December 1940. Immediately upon mobilization, he was assigned to Admiral Halsey’s staff to try to work out carrier tactics which would permit pilots to make tactical use of bad weather. He found Navy and Marine Corps pilots lacking in knowledge of instrument flying, which was basic to bad weather operations. In February 1942, he was assigned to the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics under the then Captain Arthur Radford, who would go on to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), to work out a practical but quick method of teaching Navy and Marine Corps pilots to fly instruments. Looking back on this assignment the General said, “This was probably the most useful thing I ever did and my close association with Admiral Arthur Radford my greatest experience; he is the ablest man I had ever know, either in or out of uniform.

In 1943, Colonel Day organized and commanded Operational Training Squadron 8, and later, Marine Operational Training Group 81, at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, to provide training of Marine flight crews for multi-engine bombers. The Marines had acquired PBJ-5’s (Army Air Corps B-25’s) for use as low and medium altitude bombers. MOTG-81 modified the equipment and developed the techniques for low altitude skip bombing, lining up the targets by airborne radar. This kind of bombing was particularly effective in night raids on Japanese shipping, just off the coast of Japan.

In the summer of 1944, Colonel Day went to Pearl Harbor to participate in the operation for Peleliu and went ashore there on D-Day as Air Base Commander. “Thanks to two of the best Seabee Battalions in the Pacific we had the field on Peleliu operational on D-plus 6”, reminisced Major General Day. “Peleliu became the principal staging area for the Philippine show and we sometimes had as many as 150 Army Air Corps transports and more than 1500 transients as overnight quests. We produced the best transient service for planes and people in the Pacific, again, thanks to a lot of guys with plenty of know-how and drive.”

On June 15, 1945, Colonel Day was wearing two hats, one as Commanding Officer of Marine Air Group 21, Guam, and Commanding Officer of TAG (Transport Air Group). “We had these outfits all lined up for the Kyushu Operation and I had extended for the ride when the Japanese surrendered” said LtGen Day.

Following World War II, LtGen Day was most active in Marine Corps Reserve activities. From 1953 to 1956, he was National President of the Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association. He served from 1948 to 1955 as Commander of a Volunteer Training Unit in New York City. He also served as a member of the Reserve Forces Policy Board.

In 1959, while on special assignment, Lt Gen Day, as a coordinator of Boeing operations, had a major part in integrating jet aircraft into American Airlines operations. He retired from American Airlines, June 1, 1962. He and Mrs. Day continued to enjoy life from their home in East Williston. “I think this “Six Saturday Every Week Club” is a wonderful organization: we have not been bored for onr minute since I retired and even yet, I don’t have time to do half the things I want to.

In looking back over his four decades of flying experiences both civilian and military LtGen, Day said “Probably the man who did most to make a man out of me was my boss with Curtiss, Major E. H. (Chief) Brainard, formerly Director of the Marine Corps Aviation; as hardboiled, straight shooting and square as any man who ever wore a Marine Corps uniform. But there were also many, many others who left their mark on me for better or worse. I’ve been a very lucky guy all my life but the luckiest thing that ever happened to me was getting into the Marine Corps in 1917.”



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