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Highlighting the World Wars I & II Memorabilia Collection of Dave Sleeper

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Bell, Gordon A.


Rank: Major
Serial Number: 005179
Military Branch: VMSB-141, USMC
Origin: Washington
Date of Death: 1942-10-14
Honolulu Memorial
Featured: No

Gordon Arnold Bell was born January 9, 1913 in Chehalis, Washington, the son of Roscoe and Ethelin Bell. Bell went to high school in Hollywood, California, and later to UCLA, graduating in 1935. During his college years, he was in the Army ROTC, and was a 2nd Lt. in the Army following graduation. On the 12th of September, 1935, he was sworn in a 2nd Lt in the Marines at a ceremony in Seattle, Washington. He then reported to Marine Barracks, Philadelphia Navy Yard for student basic school. On June 24, 1936 he reported to the Marine Detachment, USS Pennsylvania as commander of a battery detachment. He remained at that assignment until June, 1937 when was assigned to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Florida as a student Naval Aviator. He became a Pilot on May 20, 1938 whereupon he was assigned to Bombing Squadron 1 at Quantico, Virginia. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in September, 1938. In October, he was assigned as squadron Propeller and Assistant Engineering Officer. In January, 1939, his outfit went to San Juan for excercises, returning stateside in April, 1939. Again in January, 1940, they went to Puerto Rico for a few months where he was Squadron Engineering Officer. He had several assignments including a stint in San Diego until October 1940. In late 1940, he was in Guatanimo "in connection with returning bodies and salvaging SDB-1 airplane No. 1607".

In January, 1941, he was assigned to the USS Wasp for instruction as Landing Signal Officer until April. In June 1941, they embarked on USS Wasp at Norfolk. His outfit was re-designated Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron 132, First Marine Air Group, First Marine Aircraft Wing, FMF. They held maneuvers at sea and stateside until September, 1941. In October, he ferried aircraft between the east and west coast. In October he was commissioned Captain as Squadron Flight Officer in California. He was temporarily appointed the rank of Major in May, 1942. In August, 1942, he was assigned to VMSB-141, MAG-14, as Squadron Commanding Officer. In early August 1942, they embarked on the SS Lurlene at San Diego and transited via several ships eventually landing at Camp Gaiger, New Calidonia on August 30 where they remained until being transferred to Henderson Field, Guadalcanal on October 8, as part of the "Cactus" air force.

In just 6 days, at 0200 in the wee hours of October 14, he and his staff took a direct hit from Japanese large caliber shellfire, and were killed. The above details of his service were taken from a copy of Bell's 5 page Marine records that are part of the group.

This group consists of Major Bell's dress blue uniform, visor cap, pants, vest, gloves, Sam Browne belt riding crop and dress shoes. The uniform parts are all named. The collar and hat emblems are marked sterling and have maker's mark of H&H. Also included are letters, copies of pictures of Bell in this dress blue uniform,  copies of original appointments and official correspondence to the family together with much internet research, and research done by the prior owner of this group. An interesting letter dated 1991 plus photo from Victor Falk, tells about him being the VMSB Flight Surgeon, and how escaped being killed by being sent closer to the field to fly casualties out the next morning. He had been in Bell's tent just before being moved. An original copy of the book, "The Last Plane Up" by Douglas Pricer is included.

UPDATE: Since acquiring the group described above, I acquired a second group belonging to Bell that was in the hands of a fellow collector. It turns out that Bell's effects were auctioned off years ago in California. As a result, the group was broken up among several collectors. The second group I acquired consisted of Bell's green uniform with with sewn on gold bullion wing, Sam Browne belt, visor cap and side cap; summer tan uniform with Sam Browne belt and pith helmet; dress white uniform  with visor cap, ribbon bar and sharpshooter medal. Most items are well named. The pith helmet has "Major Bell" inked on the inside. All uniforms have EGA and rank insignia. The greens and tan uniforms include shirts with rank insignia and neckties. All caps have the proper EGA device.

The only pieces missing from this amazing group are Bell's medals, that would have included Bell's posthumous Purple Heart. If anyone out there knows their whereabouts, please contact me.