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Raised in Prineville, Battles provided air cover for oil tankers that supplied the fleet in the Pacific operation

PHOTO COURTESY OF BOWMAN MUSEUM
 - Jerry Battles, a local high school graduate, joined the Navy in 1941.

Jerrold F. "Jerry" Battles was born in Prineville on Dec. 16, 1921. His parents were Asa and Leola Estes Battles.

His father served as Crook County Judge from 1940 to 1954. Battles grew up in Prineville and graduated from Crook County High School in 1941. He was an accomplished athlete and attended the University of Oregon for one year. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he withdrew from school and joined the Navy. He graduated from Naval Air Training Center at Corpus Christi, Texas, and was commissioned an ensign. He later received a promotion to Lieutenant.

He was assigned to Composite Squadron 77 and flew a Wildcat fighter based on an escort carrier in the Pacific Theater of War. The Composite Squadron carrier group was the first to enter the South China Sea.

Lt. Battles flew escort missions and air support operations for the Palau, Philippines, and Iwo Jima invasions. The Iwo Jima missions were among the worst of the war. More than five planes were shot down by enemy anti-aircraft fire. During the operations, severe typhoons threatened the baby flat top carrier, which was their base of operations. Some accompanying destroyers were capsized during the storm.

Battles flew a total of 31 combat missions. Part of his flight operations were to provide air covering for fleet oil tankers that supplied the fleet in the Pacific operation zone. He also was part of the bold Third Fleet offensive that took place in the South China Sea. Composite 77 pilots flew 280 sorties during the Iwo Jima operation. They fired 131,000 rounds of ammunition and 454 rockets and dropped 362 bombs.

He served throughout the war and was discharged from the Navy in January 1946. After the war, he returned to Prineville and became engaged with his father in an insurance business, Battles and Battles. He married Pauline Clay, and they had two children. He was active in local civic affairs and was a popular young man in the community.

On July 31, 1955, he was floating a boat on the Crooked River near The Cove with friend Marty Martinson and two other men. The boat capsized in a rapids, and Martinson and Battles were drowned. The other two men survived.

The pilot who had survived numerous hazardous missions during the war had died at the age of 33. He was buried in Juniper Haven Cemetery in Prineville.

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