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First Name: Lee

Last Name: Reininger

Birthplace: Denver, Denver, CO, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Walter

Date of Birth: 1923

Date of Death: 05 June 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 04 June 1942

Rank: Private First Class

Years Served: 1939-1942

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Lee Walter Reininger

Private First Class, United States Marine Corps.

Distinguished Flying Cross

Lee was the youngest of four children born to Morris Reininger and Edna D. Montgomery who married in 1905 in Philadelphia, PA. Lee's siblings were Marius Denver, Gwendolyn Rose, and Robert Montgomery. Marius served four years in the US Marine Corps between 1925-1929 earning a Good Conduct Medal and an honorable discharge. Morris, who was born in Manhattan, NY, was a registered pharmacist and owned a pharmacy store (called Jewell pharmacy) in Denver, CO for many years. He died suddenly in his store on 30 May 1930. His widow, Edna, was a pedestrian who was fatally injured when she was struck by an automobile while crossing a street in Denver on 23 Aug 1937.

Lee completed his 3rd year of high school prior to submitting an application for enlistment in the US Marine Corps in the fall of 1939. Lee provided all the necessary paperwork, sat for an aptitude test, passed a physical and dental exam and received his legal guardian's consent to enlist (His sister Gwendolyn) . There was some question as to whether he was underage (below 17 yrs) when he enlisted. According to the 1930 Denver, CO federal census Lee was 6 yrs old. In the 1940 Federal census, he was enumerated in the Marine Barracks in San Diego, CA. His age was 19. If he was born in 1923 or 1924 his enlistment was illegal. If he was born before 17 Nov 1922 his enlistment was legal.


Lee W. Reininger enlisted as a Private in the US Marine Corps on 14 Nov 1939 at DHS, Denver, Colorado. He was transferred to the Recruit Depot, Marine Corps Base (MCB), San Diego. He arrived in San Diego on 16 Nov 1939 and commenced recruit training. He qualified as a marksman on 13 Dec and completed recruit training about 10 days later. He received orders to the 2nd Engineer Company, 2nd Marine Brigade in San Diego. He reported for duty on 23 Dec 1939. During Jan 1940 he was assigned to mess man duties.

On 09 April 1940 Private Reininger was transferred to the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, Second Marine Brigade in San Diego. He was assigned to Company "H" and several weeks after reporting for duty he became very ill and was sent to the US Naval Hospital, San Diego, for 16 days. The nature of the illness is unknown. On 6 July 1940, he re-qualified as a marksman. Pvt Reininger transferred on 26 Sept 1940 to 2d MarAirGrp, FMF, NAS, San Diego for duty. After arriving at his new command, Marine Utility Sq. Two, 2d MarAirGrp, Reininger advanced in rank to Private First Class (PFC) on 26 Oct 1940. On 09 Dec 1940, PFC Reininger advanced in rank again to Corporal and received training as an aerial gunner. It was in Dec 1940 that his squadron was relocated to the navy yard at Pearl Harbor, T.H.

Sometime before 1 Apr 1941 Reininger's squadron was moved to Ewa, Oahu, T.H. On 3 Jun 1941, Corporal Reininger was tried by Special Court Martial (SCM) for leaving his post without being properly relieved on 31 May 1941. He was reduced in rank to the next inferior rank and was to perform extra duties for 2 months. In late December 1941, Reininger received orders to detach from his present command and transfer to Marine Scout-Bombing Sq. Two Hundred Thirty one (VMSB-231) on Midway Island. On 07 Jan 1942, PFC Reininger embarked on board the USS Thornton (AVD-11) as a passenger. Thornton departed Pearl Harbor later that day and arrived at her destination, Midway Island, about 12 Jan 1942 where PFC Reininger disembarked.

VMSB-231 would be redesignated VMSB-241 in April 1942. On 1 Apr, Reininger was assigned as an aviation gunner with Lt Daniel Iverson's Vought SB2U Vindicator until mid-May, when he was assigned as the gunner for the squadron's new commanding officer, Major Lofton Henderson, who relieved "Buddy Chappell on 17 April 1942.

Early on the morning of 04 Jun 1942 aircraft of MAG-22 including Maj. Henderson's squadron flew off from NAS Midway to find and attack the Japanese Mobile Force that was approaching Midway. At 0755, Henderson and his group flying at 9500 feet sighted the enemy. As they began their dive-bombing approach toward the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu the American dive bombers were met with slashing attacks by Japanese Zeros. As the flight leader, Henderson and his gunner, became the focus of the enemy who were trying to break up the attack. Henderson's plane was riddled by machine gun and canon fire until his plane's wing burst into flames. Reininger's .30 caliber machine gun was no match for the swarming Zeros. The plane was last seen falling toward the water below. Neither man was ever seen again. Their remains were unrecoverable. They were declared missing in action on 04 June 1942 and presumed death on 05 June 1943.

PFC Reininger was (Posthumously) awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation w/ribbon, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze Battle Star, and the World War II Victory Medal.


The Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Lee Walter Reininger, Private First Class, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a Radioman-Gunner in Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron TWO HUNDRED FORTY-ONE, during the Battle of Midway, 4 and 5 June 1945. In a determined attack against the invading Japanese Fleet, Corporal Reininger, serving as rear-seat free machine-gunner, maintained fire in the face of overwhelming enemy fighter opposition and fierce anti-aircraft barrage. Because of circumstances attendant upon this engagement, there can be little doubt that he gallantly gave up his life in the service of his country. His courage and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 311 (February 1943)


Marine Air Group 22 Presidential Unit Citation:

"For conspicuous courage and heroism in combat at Midway Island during June 1942. Outnumbered five to one, Marine Aircraft Group 22 boldly intercepted a heavily escorted enemy bombing force, disrupting their attack and preventing serious damage to island installations. Operating with half of their dive-bomber's obsolete and in poor mechanical conditions, which necessitated vulnerable glide bombing tactics, they succeeded in inflicting heavy damage on Japanese surface units of a large enemy task force. The skill and gallant perseverance of flight and ground personnel of Marine Aircraft Group 22, fighting under tremendously adverse and dangerous conditions were essential factors in the unyielding defense of Midway."


PFC Reininger's family received a commemoration from President Roosevelt. It reads:

In grateful memory of Lee Walter Reininger, United States Marine Corps, who died in the service of his country at Midway Islands, 5 June 1943 (Presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live, and grow, and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives – in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

(signed), Franklin D Roosevelt

President of the United States of America


[Combat Action Ribbon (CR) note:

None of the Navy/Marine flight crews in the Battle of Midway were eligible for or were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon (CR). See Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (SECNAVINST M-1650.1 of 16 Aug 2019, Appendix 2C.1.c (3) Amplifying Guidance). It reads in part, “The CR will not be awarded in connection with aerial flight, . . . “ The CR was established in 1969 and made retroactive to 07 Dec 1941. According to the Awards Manual, when deemed appropriate, the award for aerial combat was/is the Air Medal.

[Bio #225 composed by Gerry Lawton (GML470)]

Honoree ID: 100527   Created by: MHOH




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