Captain James E. Westfall USN
Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale
Flight Instructor for the Grumman TBM
& Search for Flight 19
He was born Sept. 1, 1923, near Spencer, Ind., to John Christopher and Nina Atlanta (Smith) Westfall.
He graduated in 1942 from Greencastle High School, Greencastle, Ind.
He married June Alexander in 1942. He later married Gayle E. Ellsworth in 1947. She preceded him in death in 1998. He then married Jessie H. McCarty in 2003.
With the onset of World War II, he entered the U.S. Navy V-5 air cadet program. He completed pre-flight school courses at the University of Georgia (Athens) and went on to finish flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla. With his naval aviator wings and commission as an ensign, he was shipped to the South Pacific in 1944. In that theater of the war, he saw action primarily at the controls of the Douglas SBD Dauntless. After his return from combat in 1945, he was based at Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale in Florida. While there as a flight instructor in the Grumman TBM Avenger, he played a role in the search for Flight 19 — the mysterious disappearance of five Avengers off the coast of Florida on Dec. 5, 1945, arguably the most famous aviation incident associated with the Bermuda Triangle.
Briefly on inactive status following World War II, he worked for Aero Sales in Jacksonville, Fla., and operated a private flying school. Recalled to active duty, he was a flight instructor at Pensacola Naval Air Station before being assigned to the USS Boxer (CV-21) and USS Kearsarge (CV-33) during the Korean War. From the decks of these aircraft carriers, he flew his favorite airplane, the Vought F4U Corsair. For part of this period, he served as navigator aboard the oiler USS Chickaskia (AO-54). In the 1950s, he piloted the Lockheed R7V Super Constellation for MATS (Military Air Transport Service). His transport flights from Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, Hawaii, took him all over the world and into Southeast Asia at the beginning of the Vietnam War.
He marked most of the 1960s with service in naval air reserve training commands at Jacksonville, Glenview, Ill., and Omaha, Neb. From 1967 to 1969, he was at the Pentagon, where he was responsible for base programs on the staff of Vice Admiral Thomas F. Connolly, USN, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air) and namesake of the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. He retired from the U.S. Navy as a captain in 1971. He then moved to Longwood, Fla., where he worked in real estate for many years at Sweetwater Oaks and other developments. He relocated to Melbourne in 1990, settling at Indian River Colony Club. He was an outdoorsman who enjoyed fishing and hunting, and he was an avid golfer.
Burial will be Aug. 2 with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.