I received an email from Ezra Cason’s daughter Lois. He wanted to make known the pride he took from being a Headhunter, on the occasion of his 98th birthday. Right back at you, Ezra. We are enriched by your membership in the finest fighter squadron in the world.
My Dad turned 98 on June 12, 2016. He insisted that we notify his Squadron that he celebrated his 98th birthday. He is still mentally pretty alert and doing fairly well for his age. I have been scanning a lot of family pictures and slides. I have other photos of the war that I have digitized just in time before they totally faded out. I would be happy to send some of them out to you or anyone working on the history of the squadron.
Just let me know is anyone would want to see them. Sincerely, Lois Cason Eldridge
Leonard Ezra Cason, Jr. born June 12, 1918 just celebrated his 98th birthday and his 65th Wedding Anniversary in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his wife Isabel, family and friends. He is the eldest of seven brothers who all served in World War II.
Ezra enlisted in the Army Air Corps on August 24th, 1941 and is a member of the prestigious 80th Fighter Squadron known as the “Headhunters”. He trained as an armament specialist and served for 47 months between 1941 and 1945.
Early in 1942, Ezra was sent to New Guinea with his squadron to train on the new P-38 planes. Ezra was also known as “Ma” Cason – he cut hair, sewed on buttons, repaired ripped seams, etc. He also traded his cigarettes (he didn’t smoke) with the natives for doing his laundry or for chicken or eggs which he would cook on a grill on the beach.
His squadron was responsible for shooting down 400+ Japanese planes (Ed. note: the official count was 225 enemy destroyed. I suspect that Ezra is right and the 400+ is a low figure.- as confirmed by Norb Ruff, Kirby and Paul Murphey) which was a record for the Pacific theatre. They flew several missions with Charles Lindbergh even though Lindbergh was a civilian. Sometimes there were crashes where the pilots had to parachute into the jungle. Their unit was named “The Headhunters” because the natives in the New Guinea jungle were headhunters. These headhunters were friendly to the American soldiers and would help find their pilots and bring them out of the jungle and back to camp. On December 5, 1944, the squadron landed in Mindanao in the Philippines where they bombed French Indochina and other Japanese held islands. Ezra had obtained the rank of Master Sergeant at that time. In May of 1945, close to the very end of the war, he had to have an emergency appendectomy. While in the tent hospital, his name was drawn to be discharged. He recovered enough to leave the medical tent to go back to his squadron, but they had already been shipped out, and he was all alone. His captain finally got him on a boat, but most of his friends were gone and he never saw them again. Some of the guys Ezra worked with and kept up with were: Max Barz, Bob Foustand Ben Byland. They were in Ezra’s armament group.
Ezra and Isabel attended four 80th Fighter Squadron reunions over the years. One in Ohio, one in Florida, one in San Antonio Texas and the last one in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2010. Two of his three daughters, one son-in-law and a great granddaughter attended the Colorado Springs reunion.
Ezra is on the bottom right with 4 of his brothers, Charles, Lee, Billy and Ralph Cason.
2010 Headhunter Reunion, Colorado Springs, CO. Leonard “Ezra” Cason and “Cyclone” Davis
Ezra and Isabel Cason at Ezra’s 98th Birthday June 12, 2016 Charlottesville, Virginia
HOTDAMN!, I love this job-Tex
How interesting, my Father-in-law Robert (Swede) Hanson was in New Guinea and surrounding islands, flying the P38. He was a wingman.
Swede, do you know which squadron he was in?