Gen. Payne was 104 when he died, and was the oldest surviving US fighter ace.
During two and a half weeks in 1942, from behind the guns of his Grumman F4F Wildcat flying over the Pacific near Guadalcanal, Mr. Payne, a major at the time, downed three Japanese bombers and two Zero fighters, having already shared credit with another pilot for bringing down an enemy bomber.
Gen. Payne received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions.
With Mr. Payne’s death, there are 71 surviving aces, said Arthur Bednar, coordinator of the American Fighter Aces Association.
According to Mr. Bednar, only 1,450 American pilots qualified to be called ace, a distinction reserved for pilots who downed at least five enemy planes in aerial combat during World Wars I and II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam; in addition, six aces are recognized from the Russian Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the Sino-Japanese War and the Arab-Israeli War. Mr. Payne was credited with five and a half kills.