22 Aug 2013
August 22, 2013

Local Stories: James M. Cupp

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From VMF 213 squadron diaryJamesCupp2

June 30, 1943, a typical day of that period, saw VMF 213 fly an intercept mission to Rendova in the morning and went out again in the afternoon t cover shipping in the same area.  They flew for three and a half hours, but could not locate any enemy planes. Others in the squadron Maj. Weissenberger and Lt. Wilbur Thomas were more successful, and shot down a number of Zeros.

On an escort mission to Kahili on July 17, Jim Cupp tangled with some Zeros, and finding himself alone, he fell in with a group of returning bombers for protection. He caught up with them while they were playing cat-and-mouse in the clouds with two Zeros. Cupp took advantage of the situation and flamed one of the Zeros.

While on patrol over Vella Lavella on September 17, Cupp and his section intercepted a large group of Vals and Zeros. They took out a few Zeros before attacking the Vals. The dive bombers were old and slow that at first it was difficult for the Corsairs to get in a good burst before passing over them. It was a “pathetic battle”, as the Marines disintegrated the Vals about as fast as they could line them up. They had brought down several when they were jumped by four Zeros. Cupp was hit by a 20mm shell and he considered ditching, but happily discovered that his corsair responded well when he shoved the throttle forward, and he ran for home.

The next day, he took off on dawn patrol, to catch “Washing Machine Charlie,” the regular Japanese night-time nuisance bomber. Taking off at 0500, he spotted a Jap Betty in the distance. After a long chase, he caught up, and approached the plane from his supposedly unprotected belly. To Cupp’s astonishment, the bomb bay doors opened up, to reveal a cannon, which instantly hit him three times. His Corsair caught on fire; Cupp was badly burned, and forced to bail out. He was picked up by Americans, and spent the next 18 months in the hospital recovering from 14 operations. Jim Cupp had thirteen confirmed kills and was a local resident of Manassas before his death in 2008. See his picture and a model of his airplane at the Freedom Museum