by the Jolly Rogers
The day was April First. The year was 1945. The place was Ready Room Three onboard USS Bunker HIll, on station one hundred miles off the coast of Okinawa. This day would mark the beginning of the invasion of Okinawa. Fighters Squadron SEVENTEEN would participate in the invasion, providing air support in the area. Fighter Squadron SEVENTEEN's reputation in the Pacific theater was well known, and Japanese pilots feared the sight of VF-17's Skull and Crossbones emblazoned F4U Corsairs.
Ensign Jack Ernie and the other squadron pilots completed their preflight briefings and headed to the flight deck of USS Bunker HIll to man their aircraft. Jack and his fellow pilots had already shot down over 100 Japanese aircraft, and anxiously awaited the day's opportunity to add more Japanese kills to their record.
Two hous later, however, over the skies of Okinawa, Ensign Jack Ernie began losing engine oil and in an attempt to disenage from the fight with his crippled Corsair, was attacked by two Japanese Zeroes. Without the full power of his engine available, Jack was at a disadvantage, but he fought valiantly, splashing one of the Zeroes before being overcome by the second. As his Corsair plummeted earthward he made two transmissions; "Skipper, I can't get out" followed by a short pause and then, "Remember me with the Jolly Rogers."
For his actions that day, Ensign Ernie was posthumously awared the Navy Cross. His remains were not recovered until many years later, after VF-17 had been decommissioned and the Skull and Crossbones insignia adopted by Fighter Squadron EIGHTY-FOUR. After its commissioning in 1955, in an attempt ot trace the history of its squadron insignia, the story of Ensign Jack Ernie was revealed to VF-84 by Jack's family and upon their suggestion and consent, Jack's skull and femurs were encased in glass and presented to the squadron, thereby fulfilling Jack's last request of being remember to the Jolly Rogers.
To this day, Ensign Jack Ernie is retained on the squadron rooster and his skull and bones go with the Jolly Rogers wherever they go, serving as a symbol of courage and heroism for all Jolly Rogers to follow.