William Lee Landreth
* - 2012
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CDR William Lee "Country" Landreth, USN (ret.), 90, passed peacefully from this life on Memorial Day, May 28, 2012. The cause of death was lingering effects of a WWII injury.

He joined his dear wife, Ginger, and their son, Bill II, who went before him.

Bill is survived by his daughter, Linda Phelps, and her husband, Art; grandchildren Ahna Cafaro, Ashley Landreth, Ginger Vandament, Craig Landreth, and Benjamin Phelps and their respective spouses. He is also survived by Jan Landreth Hoblitzell, her present husband, Bruce, and 4 great-grandchildren.

A well-attended memorial service was held at Bill's home on May 30th in Camarillo, CA and private burial with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery will take place later this year.

Bill's life began as a barefoot kid in overalls who looked up at Nebraska's blue sky and dreamed of flying. He grew up to pilot the powerful F4U Corsair with fighter squadron VF-17, the Jolly Rogers, and was eventually its last surviving original pilot. "Country", as his squadron mates dubbed him, was credited with 3 kills and 1 assist while his squadron destroyed 154 planes in 76 days of combat in the South Pacific. No bomber escorted by VF-17 was lost to enemy aircraft, no ship ever hit by a bomb or aerial torpedo.

In March of 1945, on his first day of combat with fighter/bomber squadron VBF-10, Country Landreth was launched from the carrier Intrepid and never returned. Country's plane went down after flying through the explosion caused by his low-level strafing of a camouflaged ammunition dump. After 3 days in a raft in freezing rain with a broken back, he was captured and spent the last 6 months before liberation as a POW in Ofuna, Japan.

Country's Navy career highlights included CO of VS-37, a carrier-based anti-submarine squadron; staff member at COMCARDIV 17; the Naval Research Laboratory in Chesapeake Beach, MD; and Pt. Mugu's Liaison Officer to Vandenberg AFB. Decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star; Air Medal with 4 Gold Stars; Purple Heart; Navy Unit Commendation; Prisoner of War Medal; and numerous theater ribbons.

After retirement from the Navy, Bill promised Ginger their move to Camarillo was their last. Bill earned two Master's Degrees in the field of education and became the Founding Director of a degree-granting college program at Point Mugu Naval Base, then helped start similar programs on two other military bases. He followed those accomplishments with yet another career in insurance sales.

Bill will be remembered as an avid golfer and was among the first members of Camarillo Springs Golf Club. Bill Landreth was blessed to have lived a full, rich life. He got his first choice in career and life's companion.

Bill's unfailing love and support as well as his entertaining "sea stories" will be sadly missed by his family and many devoted friends.

You may have flown west, Dad, but we will see you again in glory.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Ventura County Star from Jun. 17 to Jun. 20, 2012.
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4 entries
June 22, 2016
I was lucky enough to meet Country at the Indy airshow around 2003. Country stayed with my Dad in Terre Haute and he told me lots of the stories of them at Bouganville. I am getting ready to present some photos of VF17 at the EAA Airshow in July 2016 and including brief histories of all of the crew I can find. If you get a chance, please contact me at jbitzegaio@gmail.com.

Country was a great hero to my Dad and a they were great wingmen to each other.


Jim "Bitz" Bitzegaio
Jim Bitzegaio
August 27, 2015
Bill's family should know that his original WWII Jolly Rogers leather flight jacket which he gave me in 1983 shortly thereafter was donated to the Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, FL, where it rightfully belonged and currently resides, proudly displayed with other famous WWII squadron jackets.
Dr. Lou Antonacci
June 20, 2012
I am very sorry to hear of the passing of such a hero or WW II. I did not know Commander Landreth but have read of him in the book, "The Jolly Rogers", by his skipper, Tom Blackburn. I also have the DVD on the "Jolly Rogers". What a fantisic group he was associated with. His family must be sad at his passing but extremly proud of his great service to his country.
Bruce A. Reeve
U.S.S. Essex CV9
June 18, 2012
My heartfelt condolances to Bill's family during this difficult time. I knew Bill for over 20 years when he serviced the bank I worked for with his insurance products. He was the gentlemen of gentlemens- always professional, suited up for every occasions, punctual for every appointment and a true friend. Our lunches were always happy times filled with business and a story or two that I will never forget. Bill was a gracious and generous man with a heart of gold. My prayers are with his family. Susan Marshall
Susan Marshall
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