Sunday, May 13, 2018

Screen Legend Tyrone Power Was A Flying Leatherneck


Tyrone Edmund Power III (1914-1958) wore a lot of hats during his lifetime: He was a son of Cincinnati, Ohio; a swash-buckling hero of the silver-screen; and a U.S. Marine Corps aviator who answered the call of duty when the dark days of World War II loomed over the United States.

   For film enthusiasts, they might remember Tyrone power from 1940s blockbuster classic “The Mark of Zorro,” or 1942’s “The Black Swan,” among a long list of hits the screen legend starred in. In all, between 1932 and 1959, Power was featured in 48 feature-length motion pictures.  
Captain Tyrone Power

   However, it was a case of the leading man answering his nation’s needs when he raised his hand and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps during August, 1942. Eight months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Power graduated from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. 

Afterward, Power attended Officer’s Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant on June 2, 1943.

   Prior to World War II, Power had already logged 180 solo hours before enlisting in the Corps. He had learned to fly during 1938, when he was filming the feature “Jesse James.” Initially, Power wanted to be a glider pilot in the service, but he soon changed his mind and sought to pilot aircraft.

   Consequently, the new second lieutenant underwent short, intense flight training at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. Upon graduation, Power was awarded not only the coveted Marine Corps aviator wings but also a promotion to first lieutenant. Even though the Marine Corps considered Power too old to fly combat missions, he was cleared for piloting cargo planes, which would bring him into active combat zones.
Power was a cargo pilot during World War II

   During July, 1944, Power was assigned to Marine Transport Squadron (VMR)-352 as a transport co-pilot at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. The squadron was equipped with C-46 transport aircraft.

   The squadron was moved to Marine Corps Air Station El Centro in California, in December, 1944. After serving there, Power was re-assigned to VMR-353, which he joined on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in February, 1945. It was during his tenure at VMR-353 that he flew cargo missions into, and wounded Marines out of, the battles of Iwo Jima (Feb-March 1945) and Okinawa (April-June 1945).

   Power served as a pilot with VMR-353 until hostilities with Japan ended in September, 1945. In November of that year, 1Lt Power was returned to the United States. And, he was released from active duty in the Marines in January, 1946.

   During his wartime service with the Corps, Power earned the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars.

   Even though Power returned to starring in movies after the war, he remained in the Marine Corps Reserve. He was promoted to the rank of captain in 1951, and remained in the Reserves until his death in November, 1958. Power died of a massive heart attack while filming a sword-fighting scene in a movie. At the time of his passing, Power held the rank of major in the Marine Corps Reserve.

   During his burial, Power was afforded full military honors, including a Marine Corps honor guard from MCAS El Toro. At the time of his death, Power was survived by children Romina, Taryn and Tyrone Power Jr.

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