Bob Hanson was born on February 4, 1920, in Lucknow, India, to Methodist missionaries. After graduating from Hamline University in 1942, Hanson entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Marine Corps and was commissioned a 2d Lt on February 1, 1943, and designated a Naval Aviator at NATC Corpus Christi, Texas, on February 19, 1943. He joined VMF-214, the famous Black Sheep Squadron, in June 1943, and shot down 2 enemy aircraft before joining VMF-215 in October 1943. Lt Hanson served with VMF-215 until he was killed in action on February 3, 1944. While flying with VMF-215, Hanson was credited with another 23 aircraft destroyed in aerial combat plus 2 probables, for a total of 25 destroyed and 2 probables during World War II, all while flying F4U-1 Corsair fighters. He was posthumously promoted to Captain and awarded the Medal of Honor.
His Medal of Honor Citation reads:
For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as fighter pilot attached to a Marine Fighting Squadron in action against enemy Japanese forces at Bougainville Island, November 1, 1943, and New Britain Islands, January 24, 1944. Undeterred by fierce opposition and fearless in the face of overwhelming odds, First Lieutenant HANSON fought the Japanese boldly and with daring aggressiveness. On November 1, while flying cover for our landing operations at Empress Augusta Bay, he dauntlessly attacked six enemy torpedo bombers, forcing them to jettison their bombs and destroying one Japanese plane during the action. Cut off from his division while deep in enemy territory during a high cover flight over Simpson Harbor on January 24, First Lieutenant HANSON waged a lone and gallant battle against hostile interceptors as they were orbiting to attack our bombers and, striking with devastating fury, brought down four Zeros and probably a fifth. Handling his plane superbly in both pursuit and attack measures, he was a master of individual air combat, accounting for a total of 25 Japanese aircraft in this theater of war. His great personal valor and invincible fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.