Master Gunnery Sergeant Harold Calvin Woodring (1923 – 2004)
US Marine Corps, Air Wing, Pilot, WWII, Korea
Remembering – Master Gunnery Sergeant Harold Calvin Woodring – MZHS “Hero of Air Power”
Shortly after high school, Harold Calvin (AKA Cal and Woody) Woodring and his brother Floyd, sons of Otto and Lola Crane Woodring of Benezette, moved to Buffalo, NY and worked for a small aviation company. Both Calvin and his brother Floyd developed dreams of aviation and soon followed their dreams.
Like his brothers, Calvin decided to join the military services. Calvin enlisted in the Marines Corps Aviation program as an enlisted pilot in Feb. 17, 1943, and trained as a Marine pilot in the F4U Corsair preparing for the invasion of Japan. During his Marine training he also was trained in several aircraft specialties: radar technician, aircraft controller, and aviation electronics. Before he had the chance to fly WW2 ended. But by this time Calvin had really caught the aviation bug, and decided to make the US Marines Corps Aviation his career. He continued his status as an enlisted pilot (actually turning down officer status) and became a jet fighter pilot in F8 Crusaders. Soon the Korean Conflict started and Calvin found himself gaining flying experience during a couple tours in Korea. Even though aviation was always Calvin’s (Woody’s) passion, the saying “Every Marine is a rifleman” applied to Calvin also. In 1957, Calvin competed in the annual Marine marksmanship contest- the Competition- in- Arms Program in San Diego.
In 1958, Cal became the first enlisted Marine pilot, if not the first enlisted man of any military service in the world, to fly faster than 1000 miles per hour in a F8 Crusader Jet breaking the sound barrier. And he did it twice. As Marine Corps Aviation took off, so did the military aviation career of Harold Calvin Woodring. After 20 years, Calvin retired from the Marine Corps in August, 1962 having earned the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant (MGy/Sergeant) – the highest technical enlisted rank. For his service he received several medals, awards, and citations including: Presidential Unit Commendation, Army Distinguished Unit Commendation, WWII Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation w/2 OLC, Expert Marksmanship Badges, and others. But he was always most proud of his wings.
After his Marine career, Calvin continued his passion for aviation with North American Rockwell as a design engineer perfectly matching his Marine Corps flight experience. His work involved the budding space program and he was involved in the design of the lunar landing module working with many of the first astronauts. This second career in aviation spanned 15 very important years of the space program.
Calvin passed away on December 20, 2004, in Santa Ana, California. He is buried with full military honors at the Riverside National Cemetery, California. Freda May Wright, a WW2 WAVE herself, met and married Calvin during WW2 and together they raised three children.
The Mt Zion Historical Society is proud to include this enlisted Marine with our “Heroes of Air Power”.
Lest We Forget.…