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LtCol Mel Steinberg (From Whip Alexander)

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  • LtCol Mel Steinberg (From Whip Alexander)


    Colonel Melvin J. Steinberg, USMC (Ret) passed away on August 15, 2017 in Melbourne, Florida. Mel was born in New York City on September 29, 1925 and grew up in Ozone Park, Queens. During his formative years, he was drawn to aviation and quickly figured out that his life’s ambition was to become a Marine pilot. So, in 1942 at age 17 after academically qualifying to skip a grade in high school he signed up for the Navy V-5 cadet training program. He served his country with honor in the military for over 35 years and had an amazing career which is summarized here.

    After graduating high school, he enrolled in the engineering program at Syracuse University. He first attended flight training in New York, Iowa, and Florida and then was designated as a Naval Aviator in June 1947. Following his designation, he completed his Bachelor of Science degree in M.E. at Syracuse University in June 1950 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the USMC.

    Simultaneous to his commission war broke out in the Korean peninsula. He was assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Willow Grove, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point and MCAS Edenton for flight training. In Edenton, he joined Marine Fixed-Wing Attack Squadron (VMA) 225 and qualified in the F4U Corsair. In 1951 he was ordered to Korea and joined VMA 212 and flew combat missions in the F4U aircraft.

    Following Korea Mel was sent to NAS Pensacola to be a flight instructor in the Naval Air Training Command (NATRACOM) where he met a beautiful Navy Nurse, Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Doris Bonati. They were married in Pensacola in 1957 and remained together for the rest of his life. After Pensacola Mel and Doris were transferred to Camp Pendleton, CA where Mel became the Operations Officer of the squadron there. He next went to Rensselear Polytechnic Institute (RPI) to study and complete an advanced degree in Engineering.

    Following graduation at RPI, Mel was transferred to the Aircraft Overhaul and Repair Department at MCAS Cherry Point where his duties were as Project Officer for the FJ-4 Fury aircraft and as Program Director of the Progressive Aircraft and Repair program.

    After 3 years at MCAS Cherry Point he was transferred to MCAS Beaufort, SC where he joined Marine Fixed-Wing All-Weather Fighting Squadron VMF(AW) 235 flying the Vought F-8 Crusader. This was a Mach 2 Aircraft carrying radar, Sidewinder missiles, and 20mm cannon.

    The year was 1963 and the Cuban Missile crisis was upon us and because of the capabilities of the F-8 Crusader, VMF(AW) 235 was chosen to escort and protect a RF-8 photo reconnaissance aircraft with the mission of photographing Russian missiles on the pad in Cuba. This was successful and gave the US proof that missiles had indeed been transferred to Cuba. This information was presented to the UN. In addition, President Kennedy gave the Russians an ultimatum that the missiles be taken out of Cuba or we would destroy them. The Russians capitulated avoiding an armed conflict.

    VMF(AW) 235 also spent time in Atsugi, Japan, intercepting and escorting out Russian aircraft that flew into the Japan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). While in Atsugi war broke out in Vietnam and VMF(AW) 235 was ordered to an aircraft carrier to participate in combat operations, his first tour of duty in Vietnam.

    Returning from the VMF(AW) 235 tour Mel was assigned to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Paradise was short there as two years later he was on his way back to Vietnam as a CH-46 Sea Knight pilot. In Vietnam, he became Commanding Officer of HMM 262, the “Flying Tigers”; a helicopter squadron flying CH-46 Sea Knight assault and support aircraft based in Quang Tri, Vietnam. It was there that Mel cemented his legacy as a leader and had his fondest memories flying in over 400 combat based missions. One most memorable mission was where his crew chief Ernesto Gomez was nominated for the medal of honor for egressing the aircraft during an intense battle to save a wounded Marine. We fondly recall each year until his passing Ernesto would send a holiday card with closing remarks “Thanks for waiting for me”.

    Mel was fortunate to attend a reunion of the HMM 262 pilots last September in Albuquerque, NM where he was honored for his bravery and leadership.

    After his tour in Vietnam Mel was assigned as the Executive Officer of the Naval Air Rework Facility at MCAS, Cherry Point, NC. He served there for 4 years and then was transferred MCAS New River where he became Commanding Officer of Marine Air Group (MAG) 29. Following New River Mel was transferred to Thailand to serve as the Inspector General of the US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) 7th Airforce.

    His final assignment in the Marine Corps was Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic (FMFLANT) in Norfolk, VA as director of Aviation Weapons Systems. When he retired from the Marine Corps he had flown over 800 plus combat missions and had logged 6,000 flight hours in both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. After retirement from the Marine Corps he became a college professor teaching Engineering based subjects.

    Mel retired in Melbourne, Florida where he spent his remaining years enjoying time with his family and many friends in the military community. Mel never forgot service to his country, attending many events including a ceremony where the American flag was presented to a family of a Marine in HMM 262 that was missing in action until his dog tags and remains were found by a farmer in Vietnam many years after the war ended. He is survived by his wife Doris, their four children; Bill. Jim, Jane and Bob, and four grandchildren; River, Grey, Cathy, and Alex.

  • #2
    RIP Col Steinberg!
    Semper Fidelis

    Phu Bai tower:
    YW-11 for Phu Bai DASC-
    Remember, These are "A" models!
    YW-11 BuNo-151939
    '65 Model CH-46A


    • #3
      I will miss him at the reunions, a real gentleman with some great stories to share.


      • #4
        TAPS RIP Brother
        Semper Fi