News: A leader in the skies: Claude A. Larkin
Story by Pfc. Garrett White
MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. - “December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States while addressing Congress after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
After that fateful day, the United States was thrust into one of the bloodiest wars mankind had ever seen.
Claude A. Larkin is one Marine that distinguished himself during the attacks.
Born June 21, 1891 in Garfield, Washington, Larkin spent most of his childhood working on farms. Anticipating American involvement in World War I, Larkin enlisted in the Marine Corps.
His first duty station as a Marine during World War I was aboard the USS Oklahoma. After almost two years of being an enlisted man, Larkin was selected for the Candidates Class for Commission in Washington, D.C. In July 1917, Larkin was commissioned a second lieutenant and returned to duty in Cuba with the famous Horse Marines.
Between WWI and WWII, Larkin saw many different duty stations, to include Haiti, China and the Virgin Islands. It was also during this time he was transferred to aviation, and after training at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, he became a Naval Aviator.
On December 7, 1941, Larkin was in command of Marine Aircraft Group 21, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, on Oahu, Hawaii. At the onset of the attack, Larkin was en route to Ewa from Honolulu. Twice on his way to the air station he was strafed by Japanese Mitsubishi Zero aircraft. Once he arrived, he immediately began to organize the defense of the station, which had already lost all of its aircraft. A third attack by a Zero left Larkin with gunshot injuries to the hand, leg and foot, he refused immediate medical attention and continued to direct the defense.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Larkin continued overseeing air activities as the senior naval aviator present (SNAP) for Marines in the Pacific for the first eight months of World War II. In November 1943, Larkin was awarded the Legion of Merit for his outstanding service during Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, and in the battles of Midway and the Solomon Islands.
Throughout World War II, Larkin filled several different billets, including commanding general of the 3rd Marine Air Wing, from December 1943 to April 1944. In September 1944, Larkin took charge of air operations in the Northern Solomons as deputy commander and later acting commander of aircraft. From May 21, 1944 to June 14, 1944, Larkin was commanding general of Marine Aircraft, South Pacific. From August to December of 1944, Larkin served as commanding officer of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in the Pacific. Finally, now a Lieutenant General, Larkin served as commanding general of Marine Fleet Air, West Coast, until he retired from active duty, March 1, 1946.
On November 2, 1969, Larkin passed away at the Air Force Base Hospital, Riverside, Calif., with 31 years of honorable service in the United States Marine Corps.