Warren A. Skon, at 92; pilot downed 7 planes in WWII

WASHINGTON - Warren A. “Andy’’ Skon, 92, a retired Navy captain who was an ace fighter pilot in the Pacific theater during World War II, died Jan. 19 at his home in McLean, Va..

His wife of 67 years, Hazel M. Skon, also 92, died three days later at their home. Both had pneumonia, their daughter Nancy Jedele said.

Mr. Skon was a highly decorated pilot who took part in several major air-combat operations during his two years as a naval aviator in the Pacific. He participated in the Navy’s first nighttime fighter actions from an aircraft carrier and was awarded the Navy Cross, the service’s highest award for wartime valor, which is second only to the Medal of Honor among US military awards.

He was credited with shooting down seven Japanese airplanes during the war, making him an ace. (An ace is a pilot who downs at least five enemy aircraft.)

In 1943, when he was assigned to the USS Enterprise, Mr. Skon was the wingman to Edward H. “Butch’’ O’Hare, who was the Navy’s first ace and who received the Medal of Honor in 1942.

On the night of Nov. 26, 1943, a formation of Japanese torpedo bombers was detected flying toward the Enterprise and other ships in what the Navy called Task Force 58 near the Gilbert Islands. O’Hare, Mr. Skon, and other pilots scrambled into action to confront the enemy planes, downing several in the Navy’s first nighttime airborne firefight.

Mr. Skon, then an ensign, was awarded the Navy Cross for his role in intercepting the enemy airplanes and repelling the attack.

The award was bittersweet, however, because in the midst of the battle, O’Hare was shot down and lost at sea. Neither he nor his plane was ever found.

Mr. Skon was later assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in the Pacific. Flying an F6F Hellcat, he shot down three Japanese planes, including two dive bombers, within a nine-day period in June 1944.

He downed two Japanese fighter planes on July 3, 1944, and two more on Sept. 21, for a total of seven. He damaged four other aircraft in aerial combat and, although it could not be confirmed, was believed to have shot down an eighth plane.

Warren Andrew Skon was born in 1919, in St. Paul, and attended the University of Minnesota for two years before entering a Navy flight training program in 1942. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from George Washington University in 1966 and a master’s degree in international affairs, also from GWU, in 1968. He also completed courses at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

His wife, the former Hazel Marie Nelson, was also born in St. Paul. She volunteered with Navy charity groups and, along with her husband, was a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church in McLean. They had lived in McLean since 1963.

He leaves two daughters, Nancy Jedele of Laurel and Joy Maziarz of Quincy, Mass.; and a granddaughter.