WWII fighter pilot inducted into NJ Aviation Hall of Fame

  • Published
  • By Tom Griffin, former pilot, 141st Tactical Fighter Squadron

Photo left: Steve Riethof, left, the president of the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey, Janis Keown-Blackburn, center, a trustee of the NJAHOF, and retired Col. Arthur A. Martone, a honoree of the NJAHOF, pose for a photo during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Teterboro, N.J. Nov. 12, 2018. (Courtesy photo)

Photo right: Portrait of retired Col. Arthur A. Martone.


Retired Col. Arthur A. Martone was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame of New Jersey on Nov. 12, at a dinner honoring him and three other New Jersey aviation notables. The Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to aviation in the state.

A long time member of the New Jersey Air National Guard, Martone served in the 119th and 141st Tactical Fighter Squadrons. He commanded the 141st and was the deputy commander of operations in the 108th Tactical Fighter Group and 108th Tactical Fighter Wing, Newark Airport, N.J.

Yet, Martone distinguished himself as a fighter pilot during World War II.

In January 1944, soon after arriving at his fighter base, he was assigned a convoy patrol mission to search for and destroy enemy vehicle convoys. During that mission, he observed a German Focke-Wulf FW-190 fighter aircraft passing through their patrol area.

Although their mission was ground attack and the FW-190 was a superior air combat fighter, Martone led his wingmen in a dive to attack the enemy fighters. In a close pursuit of the retreating fighters, he damaged the aircrafts with his aircraft’s guns, causing them to crash.

During a mission on May 4, 1944, while serving in the European Theater of Operations, Martone was wounded when his aircraft was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire. With a failed engine, he was able to glide and land on the Anzio beachhead. After his wounds were treated, he returned to combat flying with his squadron. Martone was awarded the Purple Heart for his combat injuries.

During another 166th ground attack mission to destroy convoys about 50 miles north of Rome, Martone’s Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter aircraft was shot down behind enemy lines. His aircraft was struck by debris from an explosion of a fuel truck he had just strafed and destroyed. His aircraft began to lose liquid coolant as his engine was severely damaged. It then caught fire and he lost power. Forced to bail out of his airplane, he landed about 65 miles behind enemy lines.

Although he was injured in the parachute landing, he was able to quickly find a place to hide from the searching German soldiers. Fortunately he was soon located by friendly Italian civilians who had also been pursuing him for rescue.

With the help of his Italian rescuers he was able to evade the enemy for six days and eventually return after he was found by advancing American forces who were pressuring the German troops to retreat in Italy. Following his recovery he returned to the United States where he put his combat experience to work as a P-40 instructor pilot, which was uncommon for returning pilots since possible capture could lead to punishment for their prior cooperation with Allied forces.

Immediately after his wartime military service, he joined the Air Force Reserve at Newark Airport, where he flew Boeing-Stearman Model 75 trainer airplanes for proficiency flying. He supported the Civil Air Patrol based in East Orange, including piloting cadet orientation flights, fostering interest in aviation among New Jersey youth.

In June 1947, Martone joined the NJANG’s 119th Fighter Squadron at Newark Airport, where he flew North American P-51 Mustang fighters. In 1951 he became a member of the 141st TFS and was soon recalled to active duty with the squadron during the Korean War.

Soon after their activation, the squadron was deployed to Turner Air Force Base in Albany, Georgia, where it became a unit of the Strategic Air Command with a bomber escort mission. Martone led the squadron’s training as its mission changed from air superiority and ground interdiction to bomber escort.

Martone was selected to be the 141st TFS commander soon after the unit was released from active duty in December 1952. In the 1950’s Martone led a successful effort for the NJANG to acquire the bombing and gunnery range near Warren Grove. The range was and still is essential for training aircrews in ground attack and self defense skills. He served as commander until 1959.

Martone’s last military flight was in a 108th Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter bomber on June 30, 1980. He continued flying as a recreational pilot with the Monmouth Area Flying Club and served as the clubs president for 10 years. His last flight as pilot in command was Aug. 6, 2016 at the age of 93!

With the recent recognition, Martone joins other New Jersey Air National Guard members in the Hall of Fame, including Maj. Gen. Donald J. Strait, Maj. Gen. Francis R. Gerard, Brig. Gen. James Young, Maj. Gen. Richard C. (“Craig”) Cosgrave and astronaut, Maj. Terry J. Hart.