Robert M. McGann

  • Lieutenant Junior Grade
  • WW II


Robert Moore McGann was born in Waterbury, Connecticut on 5 September 1919. He was the youngest child born to Oliver and Isibela McGann. He was a 1937 graduate of Colt Memorial High School, Bristol, Rhode Island. Robert entered Rhode Island State College (RISC) in September 1937 with the class of 1941. He was a member of Alpha Tau Gamma Fraternity, the Society of Civil Engineers; and he participated in the Army ROTC program for two years. Robert graduated from RISC with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering in June 1941.

After graduating from RISC, Robert enlisted in the U.S. Navy Aviation Cadet Program. He attended air cadet training at Floyd Bennet Field, New York; aviation training at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida; advanced aviation training at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, Texas and Advanced Carrier Landing Training Group, Norfolk, Virginia. He was commissioned an Ensign, U.S. Navy Reserve in 1943.

Ensign McGann was assigned to the US Navy Bombing Squadron 9 on board the Aircraft Carrier USS Essex (CVE-9). Following her shakedown cruise, the Essex moved to the Pacific in May 1943. The Essex participated in carrier operations against the Japanese on Marcus Island in August 1943. Her next action was against Japanese occupied Wake Island. A six-carrier task force led by the USS Essex arrived on station in early October 1943. Japan’s fortifications of Wake Island were extensive. Approximately 65 artillery pieces were deployed around the island. The Japanese garrison consisted of over 4,400 Army and Navy personnel and 24 tanks and 55 aircraft.

The initial attack on Wake Island began at dawn on 5 October 1943. Our force dropped 320 tons of bombs on the enemy forces, destroyed 31 enemy planes on the ground and 30 enemy planes in the air. Sadly, we lost 13 planes during the attack to include Lt (jg) McGann’s Hellcat Fighter which was shot down during the attack and lost at sea on 6 October 1943. Lieutenant (jg) Robert Moore McGann was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and his name is on the Tablets of the Missing, Honolulu Memorial, Hawaii. Later, his family had a grave stone dedicated in his memory at the North Burial Ground, Bristol, Rhode Island.

Lieutenant (jg) McGann’s courage and devotion to duty contributed to the success of our forces in defeating the Japanese and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He was a son of Rhode Island State College who answered the call to service during World War II and gave his life in service to the State of Rhode Island and our country. Another member of the “Greatest Generation.”