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Francis Register – North Dakota’s First Ace


Nicknamed Pinky, Francis Register was born in 1917 and raised in Bismarck. Pinky always had an interest in airplanes and with the coming of World War II, he joined the Navy Air Forces and became a full-fledged flying officer on December 12, 1941, just 5 days after the US entered the war.

As a flight officer, Pinky received a second nickname from his fellow flyers. Francis “Cash” Register. “Cash” entered the battle against the Japanese at a far away South Pacific Island called Guadalcanal. The Allies had a small toe hold on the Island and fought desperately to hang on.

Register flew the Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter against superior Japanese forces that were trying to retake the small portion of the island held by the Americans. The Guadalcanal force often had to make do with what they had, as supplies could not get through. Keeping the planes flying was very difficult with almost no spare parts. Damaged planes were quickly cannibalized to keep others flying. Register flew as many missions as possible, shooting down enemy planes. When Cash sent down his 5th Japanese plane on September 27th, 1942, he became North Dakota’s first bonafide Ace.

As the fighting on Guadalcanal continued, Register downed several more enemy planes, but his physical condition was deteriorating. He had trouble eating and was losing weight. He was succumbing to the tremendous strain of flying almost every day under terrible conditions.

On October 1st, Register was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, personally pinned it on his uniform.

On October 11 Cash was grounded by the Navy doctor, and on October 14 he was flown back to the states. After several months leave, Register returned to duty, headed for the North Pacific where Japan had taken several islands in the Aleutians off Alaska.

Register served on the escort carrier, USS Nassau, supporting the landings on Attu to drive the Japanese from the island. The weather in the Aleutians was described as some of the worst in the world to fly in. On this date in 1943, Francis Roland Register, while assisting ground troops, crashed into a hillside and was killed. He was buried at the military cemetery on the island, but in 1948 his remains were disinterred and reburied in Bismarck.

Today’s Dakota Datebook was written by Scott Nelson

Sources: Book, My War-From Bismarck to Britain and Back, Christine Woods.

Book, Pinky, The Story of North Dakota’s First Aerial Combat ace, Franklin Hook

History of ND Archives, Diary of Francis R. Register