J. Ned Corman
Ned Corman- QB #36390 – OGG – Oct 9, 1921 – May 4, 2008
A few days before he went west, Ned Corman told me he was one of the luckiest guys in the world. At the time, he was lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV and looking pretty frail, so you might wonder at the sentiment. But you’d be wrong.
Ned was born and raised in Pennsylvania, graduating from high school at 16. He attended Penn State, finishing in 1942 with a degree in agronomy and a pilot’s license attained through the military’s Civilian Pilot Training program. Fifteen months later, he was a USMC second lieutenant, carrier-qualified in an F4F Wildcat. Arriving in the South Pacific in September 1943, he finished a crash course in the F4U Corsair, a slight improvement on the Wildcat. Ned said the first time he flew the Corsair, he was so awed by the performance that he was 5,000 in the air before he got the gear up.
With 40 hours in the cockpit, he was assigned as a replacement pilot to VMF 214, Pappy Boyington’s Black Sheep Squadron. Ned scored one aerial victory during his time with the Black Sheep, a Tony in a group of five that he found on Christmas Day 1943. As he was alone after being separated from his group during a bomber escort mission, he then beat it for home. He later recalled how Boyington chewed him out something fierce for not getting all five. Also for being out by himself. Ned said Boyington was big on teamwork.
Ned served with VMF 218 after 214 was disbanded, and was there when Charles Lindbergh (QB #637) flew with the squadron as a technical representative. He recalled seeing Lindbergh on a bombing mission over Rabaul, saying, “You couldn’t get him off the target.” Sent back to the states when his tour was finished, he started training new second lieutenants in Corsair combat operations. He noted that all of them had more total time in the F4U than he did. He never mentioned that surviving a combat tour might have been a little more valuable than their stateside training. He also carrier-qualified in the F6F Hellcat in preparation for the invasion of Japan, then avoided that trip when the atomic bombs made it unnecessary.
Returning home after his discharge in late 1945, he found the silence unsettling. Although there were thousands of pilots looking for work, Pan American World Airways wanted college graduates. When both Pan Am and the USMC both offered him regular employment, he opted for the airline. Thirty-five years later, retiring at age 60, he had no regrets. His list of airplanes included the DC4, DC6, DC7, L749 Constellation and B377 Stratocruiser. He made captain in a Boeing 707 during the Vietnam War, and finished his career in the left seat of a Boeing 747.
He retired to Lake Tahoe, only to have a stroke in 1993 make the high altitude environment medically undesirable. He moved to Maui in 1994, where he lived a happy and quiet life with his long-time companion, Ruth Hodson. We Quiet Birdmen only learned of Ned’s presence on the island in 2004, and he was initiated into the hangar a year later. He was an abnormal QB only in that he was pretty quiet. He exuded contentment at our meetings, surrounded by his fellow flyers. The best story he ever told was opening the Osaka run for Pan Am. He was treating his entire 747 crew to dinner, so he asked the Japanese contract mechanics for their recommendation on the best food in town. They immediately responded, “Shakey’s.” His crew must have thought him a tad cheap, but he told us it was the best pizza he’d ever eaten. He also ran into the mechanics there. Turned out that both flew fighters for the other side during WWII. According to Ned, they got along fine over a few beers. As I said, he just liked being around pilots.
A Marine honor guard fired a 21-gun salute at Ned’s memorial, followed by Taps blown on a polished USMC bugle. His ashes will be interred later this year back in Pennsylvania. But he had a remarkable run, and he was grateful for every moment. We in the Maui hangar echo that sentiment, especially for the time he shared with us.
Submitted by Jim Tang, OGG Beam Man