Kenneth Ambrose Walsh (24 November 1916 - 30 July 1998) was the fourth ranking United States Marine Corps fighter ace in World War II with a record of 21 enemy planes destroyed.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Walsh enlisted in the Marines on 15 December 1933, at age 17, becoming a mechanic and radioman. Upon receiving his Wings of Gold in April 1937 he was still a private, but was promoted to corporal soon thereafter. He flew scout-observation aircraft over the next four years before assignment to VMF-121 in North Carolina. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was a technical sergeant, becoming a warrant officer in May 1942, and was commissioned a year later. He was also one of a handful of Marine aviators qualified as an aircraft carrier landing signal officer.
Assigned to VMF-124, Walsh was one of the most experienced pilots in the Corps' first Vought F4U Corsair squadron. The unit arrived at Guadalcanal in February 1943 and was immediately committed to combat. He claimed his first three Japanese planes on 1 April 1943 and two more in his next combat, 13 May 1943, becoming the first Corsair ace.
Walsh brought his score to 20 by the end of August 1943, including two combats over the Solomon Islands that earned him the Medal of Honor. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 8 February 1944.
He returned to combat in 1945, flying with VMF-222, scoring his last kill at Okinawa on 22 June 1945.
Walsh remained in the Marine Corps for a full career, flying transports in Korea and retiring as a lieutenant colonel in February 1962. He was a frequent participant in history seminars and often assisted researchers and historians interested in the Pacific War.
He died at age 81 from a heart attack. He left a widow, Beaulah and a son. LtCol Walsh was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
For extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron 124 in aerial combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area.
Determined to thwart the enemy's attempt to bomb Allied ground forces and shipping at Vella Lavella on 15 August 1943, 1st Lt. Walsh repeatedly dived his plane into an enemy formation outnumbering his own division 6 to 1 and, although his plane was hit numerous times, shot down 2 Japanese dive bombers and 1 fighter.
After developing engine trouble on 30 August during a vital escort mission, 1st Lt. Walsh landed his mechanically disabled plane at Munda, quickly replaced it with another, and proceeded to rejoin his flight over Kahili.
Separated from his escort group when he encountered approximately 50 Japanese Zeros, he unhesitatingly attacked, striking with relentless fury in his lone battle against a powerful force. He destroyed 4 hostile fighters before cannon shellfire forced him to make a dead-stick landing off Vella Lavella where he was later picked up.
His valiant leadership and his daring skill as a flier served as a source of confidence and inspiration to his fellow pilots and reflect the highest credit upon the U.S. Naval Service.