During a 36-year career, ‘Red’ Carmody went from flying dive bombers in World War II to commanding an aircraft carrier off Vietnam.

The contact report on October 26, 1942, came from Lieutenant Commander James R.“Bucky” Lee, commanding officer of U.S. Navy Scouting Squadron 10 (VS-10): “Carriers Zuikaku and Shokaku sighted, sector Easy, 8 miles, course 190.” VS-10 was about to become involved in the Battle of Santa Cruz. Lieutenant junior grade Martin “Red” Carmody pulled out the plotting board in his Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless, noting his position. He banked and led his wingman, Lieutenant junior grade Leslie J.“Les” Ward, toward the Japanese. But before they reached their roll-in point they were bounced by seven Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighters. During the ensuing dogfight, the gunner in each Dauntless shot down a Zero. Then Carmody and Ward made a quick exit, heading their SBDs toward nearby cloud cover. For Red Carmody, it was a gratifying end to his first brush with combat. But it was far from his last.

Sixty years later, looking back on an extraordinary career that spanned three wars and a wide range of challenging assignments, retired Rear Adm. Carmody reflected on his 31⁄2 decades of service in an interview with R.R. “Boom” Powell.


Originally published in the May 2007 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here