Frank Presley was born on June 20, 1920, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Navy on August 15, 1941, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Marine Corps and designated a Naval Aviator on June 2, 1942. After completing fighter training he joined VMF-121 in September 1942, arriving at Guadalcanal in October 1942. Lt Presley was credited with destroying 5 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, all flying the F4F-4 Wildcat, before returning to the U.S. in March 1943. His next assignment was with VMF-112 at MCAS Miramar, California, from July to November 1943, followed by service with VMF-324 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, and later at Midway from December 1943 to August 1945. Capt Presley left active duty and joined the Marine Corps Reserve on July 12, 1946, and returned to active duty on August 8, 1950. Maj Presley served as Operations Officer, Executive Officer, and finally Commanding Officer of VMF-312 during the Korean War from August 1950 to June 1951. During this time he flew combat missions from Wonson AB, South Korea, and later from the light aircraft carrier USS Bataan (CVL-29). His next assignment was as Executive Officer, Operations Officer, and Commanding Officer of VMF-232 at MCAS El Toro, California, from August 1951 to January 1952, followed by a short period in the Marine Corps Reserve from January to August 1952. Maj Presley served as Executive Officer and then Operations Officer of VMF-235 at MCAS El Toro from September to October 1952, and then Executive Officer and Operations Officer of VMF-224 at MCAS Edenton, North Carolina, from October 1952 to May 1953. His final assignment was as Executive Officer of VMA-225 at MCAS Edenton from May 1953 until his death on active duty on September 21, 1954. Maj Presley fell overboard and drowned while embarked upon the light aircraft carrier USS Saipan (CVL-48) in the Atlantic Ocean.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Frank H. Presley (0-10906), First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as a Pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE (VMF-121), Marine Air Group FOURTEEN (MAG-14), FIRST Marine Aircraft Wing, in aerial combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands Area during the periods 9 October 1942 to 23 November 1942, and from 1 to 30 January 1943. During an extremely tense and dangerous period when our positions on Guadalcanal Island were ominously threatened, First Lieutenant Presley, while serving a six weeks' tour of duty, participated in numerous engagements with hostile forces and, by his expert marksmanship, shot down three enemy planes. In the latter period, despite the dangers involved in combat with numerically superior forces, he skillfully operated his fighter on offensive patrols and accounted for the destruction of two hostile craft. On one occasion, when ten dive bombers and twelve Zero-type fighters attacked Task Force Sixty-Seven, for which his four-lane patrol was serving as protective cover, First Lieutenant Presley displayed superb airmanship in shooting one bomber out of the sky and contributing to the severe losses inflicted on the enemy. His relentless fighting spirit was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.