NOTAM 3-2016 (Bonner)
Golden Eagle NOTAM
Col Joel E. “Pete” Bonner, USMC (Ret)
Dear Golden Eagles,
It is my sad duty to inform you that Emeritus Member, Col Joel E. “Pete” Bonner, USMC (Ret), 93 years old, made his Last Take-Off on January 13, 2016 at his home in Fort Belvoir, VA. Col Bonner was born on March 23, 1922 in Dallas, TX, to Joel Edward and Marion Jackson Bonner. He graduated from Waco High School (Waco, TX) in 1939 and attended North Texas Agriculture College, Arlington, TX, for 2 years. He entered flight training at NAS Dallas in May ’42, underwent further training in Miami and Daytona, FL, and carrier qualified on Lake Michigan. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and designated a Naval Aviator in January ’43.
In 1944 he joined VMF(N)-532, the first single engine night fighter squadron in the Marine Corps. He deployed to the Central Pacific and flew 116 combat missions and participated in aerial combat operations at Tarawa, Kwajalein, Eniwetok and Saipan and he was credited with a probable kill of a Japanese “Betty” Bomber.
Returning to the US, he served at NAS San Diego; MCAS Eagle Mountain Lake, TX; MCAS Cherry Point, NC; and MCAS Miramar, CA, as a night fighter pilot and instructor. Pete met Joanne Healy in 1947 in Hawaii and they were married in Los Angeles, CA, in 1948. In ’49, he went to MCAS Quantico, VA, where he served as Air Field Operations Officer and flew on the Close Air Support Demonstration Team and attended the Amphibious Warfare School. In July ’50, he was assigned to VMF(N)-542 at MCAS El Toro, CA, and was deployed to Korea in September ‘50. The squadron entered combat at Kimpo Airport near Seoul. He flew night and day Close Air Support missions in support of the First Marine Division in the battle to take the city of Seoul and subsequent operations in the link-up of Army forces from the South. In December 1950, he flew night and day Close Air Support missions along with carrier aircraft at Ham Hung and Wosan. The squadron was deployed back to Japan in January’51 and he flew long range night missions from the Island of Kyushu to Korea as far North as Pyongyang, North Korea. He flew 92 combat missions during the 11 months in the Korean War. Rotating back to the U.S. in September ’51, he served as Executive Officer of VMF-232 at MCAS El Toro before assignment to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, HI. In ’54 and ’55, he was Commanding Officer of Marine Photographic Squadron TWO (VMJ-2) flying F9F-6P aircraft, one of the first swept wing jet aircraft in the USMC.
Pete was assigned to MCAS and Marine Corps Schools Quantico, VA, until ’59 when he reported to the First Marine Air Wing in Japan where he was the S-3 Operations Officer for MAG-11. He attended the University of Maryland, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Military Science in 1961, and next he became the CO of the Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment at Andrews Air Force Base for two years. In ’63, he served a 29 month tour in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OP-05). In May ’66, he was Commanding Officer of Marine Air Group (MAG-14) in MCAS Cherry Point where he trained, equipped and deployed A-6 squadrons to Vietnam. After MAG-14, he became Chief of Staff of the Second Marine Air Wing.
In February ’67, Pete went to Vietnam and became the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 Operations Officer. This assignment included providing air support for units and troops in the Battles of Khe Sanh, Hue, and Dong Ha during the 1968 Tet offensive. Pete flew 29 combat missions during this tour. He completed a total of 237 combat missions in WWII, Korea and Vietnam and was awarded the Legion of Merit with combat “V” and Gold Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and 8 Air Medals. He returned to the U. S. in the summer of ’68 and became the Deputy to the Legislative Assistant for the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and he retired in June 1971.
Subsequent to the Marine Corps, he was on the professional staff of the U.S. Senate Committee for Appropriations for 10 years. Leaving the Senate as Staff Director of the Committee, he joined the Reagan administration and became “The Honorable Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management, Logistics and Installations”. In the summer of ’83, he became the Manager of Washington Engineering Operations for Hughes Aircraft Company. He retired from Hughes in December 1989.
Joanne and Pete were married for 67 years and had three children; Suzanne Romatowski (Peter); Joel Edward III; and Nancy Tierney (James); and four grandchildren, Catherine and Anne Romatowski, and Sarah and Matthew Tierney. Joel Bonner III told me by phone that his father was inducted into the prestigious “Golden Eagles” in 1999, an exclusive association of “Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators Association” and his DAD was most proud of that honor. Earlier in ’92, he was inducted into the University of Texas at Arlington’s Hall of Honor established by the University’s Military Science Department for outstanding contributions to our country. We have lost another three war Marine of “The Greatest Generation” and a wonderful gentleman. He will be missed!
The family announced that a Catholic Mass service at Fort Meyers Chapel followed by a burial at Arlington National Cemetery will be conducted in the future. The Golden Eagles will be notified of the service plans. Regarding donations, the family requests, in lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society in Pete’s name.