See Mac on the History Channel

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Chuck Sweeney

My condolences on the passing of a very wonderful man. I remember the first time that I met “Mac” McWhorter was at Gillespie Field where he was on a panel of Pilots discussing tactics during WWII and he stood out as being very articulate but humble. My fondest memory of him was in May of 2004 aboard the USS Midway before it was open to the public. They had a “Handshake across the Oceans” ceremony with a large group of Japanese Zero Pilots who were touring the United States and wanted to meet US pilots from WWII. Mac was selected to be the U.S. representative to do the handshake with one of the Japanese pilots and he did a great job as always. Of course he stood head and shoulders above all of them but he was very gracious about the whole thing. With the help of an interpreter, he met a Zero pilot who happened to be in one of the same air battles with him but we figured they didn’t come across each other in the sky or the Zero pilot wouldn’t have made it through an encounter with Mac.

Mac was awarded five Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFCs) and was a great supporter of the DFC Society and the Lindbergh Chapter. His legacy with the DFC Society will continue as he is in a painting by the renowned artist Ruth Mayer entitled “Distinguished Flying Cross” .

The original of the painting is in the San Diego Air & Space Museum and will eventually be part of an interactive exhibit at the Museum. I will personally miss Mac very much and just feel lucky to have known him even for such a short period of time. I am also glad that I was able to meet so many members of his fantastic family.

Chuck Sweeney,
DFC Society

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Mac recounts a battle victory

Leading the Hellcats was LT Hamilton W. "Mac" McWhorter III, now on his second combat tour in the Pacific after becoming the first Hellcat ace of World War II and the Navy's first double-ace of the war during his first Western Pacific tour a year earlier:

"We were orbiting at 12,000 feet on combat air patrol, when we were given a vector to intercept four bogies at twenty-thousand-plus. We applied full power and started climbing. By the time we got to 20,000, I spotted a single airplane ahead at 24,000, just making a bit of a contrail. I was climbing faster than the others in the division, and hit the water injection to catch up to him. I was right up on him at six o-clock and about one hundred feet below when I opened fire. He never made a move, but the engine went up and then his fuel tank caught. I was so close when he blew up that I had his engine oil all over the canopy. He went straight in as a fireball all the way down."
The date was May 12, 1945 - the Myrt was McWhorter's twelfth and final victory of the war.

Dad's Obit

UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
April 24, 2008
Hamilton “Mac” McWhorter was 7 years old when a barnstorming pilot visited his hometown and he took his first ride in an airplane.

From that moment, he knew he never wanted to do anything else.

The future Navy commander was a naval aviation cadet undergoing training when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Within a couple of years he had become the first American pilot to achieve “Ace” status flying a new airplane, the Hellcat.

By May 1945, he had shot down at least 12 Japanese planes and escaped danger on several occasions. In a book he wrote more than 50 years later, retired Cmdr. McWhorter recounted his war experiences, including battles over North Africa and the Pacific.

Cmdr. McWhorter died of natural causes April 12 at his home in El Cajon. He was 87.

His wife, Louise, said he loved flying and that was a big reason he made a career in the Navy. He later taught three of their five children to fly and after retiring from the Navy, he became a flight instructor at Gillespie Field.

“He was so proud that so many of his students became airline pilots,” she said.

Cmdr. McWhorter didn't talk much about the war to his family until he joined other fighter aces and started touring air shows where the members of the “greatest generation” shared their experiences.

Cmdr. McWhorter was born Feb. 8, 1921, in Athens, Ga., to Hamilton McWhorter Jr. and Nettie Lou Peurifoy McWhorter.

He met his future wife in November 1942 in Norfolk, Va., at a party thrown for a friend who had been shot down over the Atlantic during the invasion of North Africa. The friend had been reported dead, but when his friends found out he had been rescued, they threw a resurrection party.

Eight weeks later, Louise and “Mac” McWhorter were married. The couple had five children and later opened their home to a struggling Chinese immigrant family for a few years.

Cmdr. McWhorter was a member of the American Fighter Aces Association, the Distinguished Flying Cross Society and the Tailhook Association. He received several military honors including five Distinguished Cross Medals. Cmdr. McWhorter was elected to the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 1989.

The family moved to El Cajon in 1968, and he retired as the executive officer of Naval Air Station, Miramar in 1969. Cmdr. McWhorter spent the ensuing years as a “gentleman farmer” tending to avocado trees at the family's home, as a flight instructor and an author.

He coauthored a book, “The First Hellcat Ace,” that was published in 2001. In 2006, Cmdr. McWhorter was interviewed for a History Channel segment on dogfights.

Besides his wife, survivors include sons, Donald of Lemon Grove, William of El Cajon, Hamilton IV of San Diego and Jon of San Diego; daughter, Georgia Scheingross of San Diego; and six grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church of El Cajon. Ashes will be interred at 1 p.m. May 5 at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

Donations are suggested to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.