VMB-423 Remembers: Book 1, Part 1

Interview of Major General Norman J. Anderson, USMC (Ret.)
Commanding Officer of VMB-423 in 1944 and 1945

Interviewed by Janet Kennelly
Marine Corps University Archivist _ October 9, 1998 

Question: Why the Marine Corps - _ what brought you to the Marines? 

Answer: The dominant thing was appreciation that I received through my father, who
served in the Navy during the period of the White Fleet, for the things the Marine
Corps represented, and, of course, his admiration for the Marines was transmitted early
to me. 

I was born in Wisconsin, but my family moved to Southern California when I was about
ten. After high school in Glendale I entered UCLA in 1930 where I took ROTC for all
four years and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Reserve. I must have
had a special interest in and perhaps aptitude for the military in general because during
my last summer in high school I attended the Civilian Military Training Corp
encampment for one month at the Presidio of Monterey, CA with a cavalry unit _ and
loved it. 

At any rate, on the afternoon of my UCLA graduation a friend and I returned to the
armory where we noticed a sign on the bulletin board to the effect that any ROTC
graduate wanting to learn to fly with the Marine Corps should contact Capt. Ferry
Reynolds, USMCR at the Naval Reserve Air Station, Long Beach, CA. Being a bit
clickey, we took down the notice and, together with three or four close friends whom
we contacted, reported as ordered. Of those five, all completed flight training by early
1937 and had joined units of Marine Corps aviation either at Quantico or San Diego.
The friend with whom I discovered the notice in UCLA's armory, William Gise, lost his
life in combat in early 1943, while commanding the first Corsair squadron flying out of

I received my wings in February, 1937, and was immediately assigned to this very
spot, Brown Field at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, and many times walked or taxied
over the very place where all of us today enjoyed a touchy_ feely thrill with one of our
very own PBJs. 

So, my father's memories of the Marines, and my own good fortune with Bill Gise,
brought me to the Marines. 

Question: What was life like at Brown Field in those days? 

Answer: We flew lovely little biplanes called F4Bs, made by Boeing. We flew as an
entire squadron in the Cleveland Air Races in 1938. That year we also participated in a
Fleet Exercise in what amounted to a two-month deployment to St. Thomas in the
Virgin Islands and San Juan, Puerto Rico. It took us seven or eight days to move from
Quantico all the way to San Juan, a flight of two and a half hours today. We carried
only enough fuel for three hours at about 105 knots, so our flight plan called for
stopping at numerous bases en route: Ft. Bragg, N.C., Parris Island, S.C., Jacksonville,
FL, and Miami, prior to settling down for a high level maintenance check before
attempting the long over-water flight to Cuba. We were now in our fifth day as we
landed to refuel at Camaguey, Cuba, then on to Guantanamo Bay, the base which
Castro attempted to deny us in the 1960s by depriving the then occupants of a reliable
water supply. Since Guantanamo was run by Marines at that time, it was an old-times
reunion, causing the passage of another day before taking off for Porto Prince, Haiti.
We were much in demand there also which, this time, didn't require a lay_over, so it
was on to San Juan and Isla Grande Airfield at last. Isla Grande also was the West
Indies base for Pan American Airways flying boats, thrilling company for us. We now
knew what water looked like so on the next day, without hesitation, we pressed on to
St. Thomas. 

The most noteworthy flying event and possibly the only truly tactical employment of
any value was participation with ships of the Atlantic Fleet in a landing exercise during
which we dropped two 250-pound bombs in support of the ground Marines, also from

To be honest, we met a lot of other training objectives. Nevertheless, in retrospect,
what we really had was a good time before returning to our Quantico base, for that was
the end of an era soon to be changed by Hitler and his cohorts in Europe and the Far
East. No more games. 

Question: I understand you flew for a while as a pilot with American Airlines. 

Answer: My obligated service, as it is called today, terminated in February 1940 by
which time I was fully sold on a career in the Marine Corps and had applied for a
commission in the regular service. While waiting I flew for about nine months as a
co_pilot with American Airlines. It was April, I suppose, when I finished the special
training given by American and began regular flights between New York and Memphis.
I was very impressed with the way the captains of American handled those great big
things and themselves too, as it happened. The special training mostly was
instrument-related, a blessing, for at that time the services were way behind the
commercial pilots in this flying specialty. The latter, of course, owed their livelihood to
their ability to operate in all kinds of weather, whereas we in the services hadn't given
it much emphasis. We thought of instrument flying as an emergency measure to get out
of trouble in case we encountered a weather problem during a CAVU flight. 

The point was, when I did receive my permanent regular commission, I'd had serious,
thoughtfully planned, intentional weather experience. As a result, when once again I
returned to Quantico in mid_year 1941, I was assigned the job of aide to the Wing
Commander, Brigadier General Roy S. Geiger, mostly to improve his mobility in that
he, hopefully, would be able, with his aide as co_pilot, to fly anywhere any time
without disrupting anyone else. In truth this worked out quite well, not that I ever was
needed to take the controls. He was accustomed to going where he wanted _ to hell
with it. 

Question: By this time the war wasn't very far away. How were you affected? 

Answer: In the broadest and truest sense, nothing ever affected me more thoroughly.
With the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Gen. Geiger's Wing deployed (scrambled is
a better word) to San Diego, lock, stock and barrel, almost instantly. I myself was on
my way on December 15 for the West Coast, leading a flight of 3 SBC_4s. In this case
I followed the General who, as might be expected, was among the first, leaving his
co_pilot to help in cleaning up the mess that rapid launch left in its wake. On Dec. 17th
I caught up with him at NAS, North Island, on the other side of the United States,
almost the last flight of a deployment that broke all the rules but put his Wing in a
position to be of use in the war. Of special interest, none of the approximately
seventy_five of his aircraft was permitted to file a flight plan, lest the enemy be alerted
to the reinforcement. We complied. We arrived at every base unannounced and
departed without telling anyone where we were headed. All we wanted was fuel, 'if you
please.' My little flight of three broke the rules at Atlanta, Jackson, Shreveport,
Abilene, El Paso, and Tucson. Ah Liberty! Ah Independence! 

Question: When, in fact, did Gen. Geiger's 1st MAW get into the fighting? 

Answer: It was Guadalcanal in August of `42, the first counterstroke by the United
States. The Japanese were rebuffed at Midway, a costly battle for both sides, but from
then on we were on the offensive, for his losses were more critical and we had behind
us the determination and resources of a wounded giant. True, at Guadalcanal we
fumbled a lot as we mustered our scant but growing forces, searching for refinement of
techniques and learning precious lessons. In November our forces came close to
getting kicked off the island but growing power at sea saved the day as reinforcements
transited the Pacific. The Marines held and tasted ultimate victory in the air and on the
ground. It was not long before the march up the Solomons reached the stronghold of
Rabaul which land-based Marine Air and the Navy's carrier aviation thoroughly
decimated. Little did I know that that stronghold would again dominate my life, and

But for the time being, my role way down the line in all this was as a transport pilot
re-supplying Marines of General Vandegrift's 1st Marine Division and of General
Geiger's 1st Marine Air Wing. Aids to navigation were rudimentary or non_existent
during those early days, so approaching the various islands was primarily by dead
reckoning which lead to some exciting moments and challenges. Refueling at
Guadalcanal was totally out of the question (in fact in October we flew gas in rather
than take it out). This forced some difficult decision making _ "With a headwind,
should we steer for a landfall at the eastern end of Guadalcanal where interference
from Zeros was minimized but fuel consumption appreciably greater? Or should we
navigate directly to Henderson Field, holding cruise altitude longer, thereby using less
fuel but taking a chance on encountering Zeros, for whom this lone aircraft would be a
delicious piece of cake?" I took the latter choice on one flight, only to find upon my
return to base at Tontouta that the Ops officer was as hungry for cake as any Zero pilot
could have been. To put it mildly, he challenged my judgement and he chewed my __
rear end. 

In January of 1943 I took charge of our developing way-station on the island of
Espiritu Santo which had become a major base with plenty of everything including
aviation gasoline. The thirteen-hour New Caledonia _ Guadalcanal round trip had
become a thing of the past, greatly improving our efficiency by doubling our payloads.
In another three months, R&R in Australia and New Zealand for the combat pilots
needed to be managed on the spot which led to a drastic change of venue for me. I
became the rest facility coordinator in Sydney. 

Question: How did your transition to PBJs come about? 

Answer: In another four months I was on my way back to the glorious USA, having
gotten orders and a ride to Honolulu on top of a load of mail bags in an Air Force
B_24. Since no air travel was available at Pearl Harbor, I hooked a ride to San
Francisco in a homeward bound destroyer which became a doubly thrilling experience
mid_way, when the ship's destination was changed to Alaska. As its companion was to
continue on course to San Francisco, a breeches buoy was rigged to transfer me to it,
not a messy operation under some conditions but in the rough seas west of the Golden
Gate this particular transfer verged on the hazardous. The ships did not roll in concert
at all so I was alternately dipped into the briny and then jerked above the masts.
However soaked I was, we made the transfer amid profuse apologies and within a day
were dockside in San Francisco Bay. Having expressed an interest in the PBJ program
(the Air Force B_25) to General Geiger, my orders were to report to Cherry Point
where these new squadrons were to be put together by Colonel Carl Day, a Marine
Reservist whom I knew in New York as the American Airlines operations officer who
cleared our flights to Memphis. By good fortune I was assigned to the second of the
squadrons to be commissioned, VMB_423, commanded by Lt. Col. John Winston, an
acquaintance from my affiliation with the Marine Corps Reserves at Floyd Bennet
Field, New York, during my American Airline days. Once organized and with a few
airplanes we took up intensive training at MCAS, Edenton, fifty miles up the road from
Cherry Point. 

Question: Since you have given us a sound understanding of your aviation experience
to the point of your affiliation with VMB_423, we will try to piece together the rest of
VMB_423's story from the others who have been interviewed. Thank you very much, 

Answer: You're welcome of course, but there are a two points I'd like to make before
closing. The remainder of my career following 423 is not germane to the squadron's
tale. For one thing, I want to pay tribute to the people who were key men as this
squadron went on to earn its great reputation. We were very fortunate to have three or
four splendid senior officers, headed by Major John Pritchard, a hard working, hard
driving Executive Officer; Major Harry Taylor, the Operations Officer; and Major A.
Carter Lowell, something of a free-wheeling trouble shooter. All were fine pilots and
dedicated Marines. 

I'd be terribly remiss were I not to recognize the contribution of our top enlisted men,
starting with Sergeant Major Woods, who functioned as the chief of administration and
senior NCO, keeping me out of trouble with timely advice and accurate mandatory
reports up the chain of command. Of course after him came the key person of any
aviation unit, the head of maintenance. Our strong maintenance department included
Capt. Sweet, precise and experienced, Gunner Hoover, in whom I had developed great
confidence as my crew chief during my earlier tour in the Solomons, and last but far
from least was Master Sergeant Bender, who knew the airplane from top to bottom and
showed great skill in getting the most out of the people who worked for him. These
were all young Americans who knew their jobs thoroughly and performed them with
hardly a hitch. There were many others who come to mind as I reflect upon those days,
but the formal list has already grown long. 

My evaluation of our mission is the other subject I should like to enlarge upon. Most
of VMB_423's work was conducted from Green Island, which is 40 or 50 minutes east
of marvelous Simpson Harbor, on the northern edge of which rests the city of Rabaul.
The harbor is formed by the junction of two islands defining the Coral Sea, which the
early explorers named New Britain and New Ireland. It is easy to guess what country
the explorers represented. 

Training at MCAS Edenton and, in the early part of 1944, at MCAS, ElCentro, had
proceeded along normal lines, although we experienced our share of mishaps. One
unique mishap occurred to me however, in that I got squarely on the wrong side of the
CG at North Island, who was responsible for readying Marine squadrons for combat.
Spare parts for our PBJs came from the USAF through the Navy supply system, a very
awkward but necessary arrangement. At the squadron level, the end of the line, we
developed an 'auxiliary' chain of supply by exchanging favors with certain Air Force
supply personnel at March AFB near San Bernardino. This was a commendable
innovation until I made the fatal mistake of describing it in a letter to my good friend
back at Cherry Point, Col. Carl Day. He'd had his own supply troubles and my letter
was just what he was looking for. Quite naturally, he enclosed it verbatim in a letter to
the then Director of Marine Aviation, Gen. Claude Larkin, as ammunition for getting
the Navy supply people at the Washington level off the dime. Simultaneously and
rather thoughtlessly, however, he advised the Marine Air Command at North Island of
his action, also attaching a copy of my letter. I was soon called before Gen. Wallace
and his staff for an explanation of why I chose to cast aspersions on the adequacy of
the supply system for which his command was responsible. Needless to say my words
met with nothing but cold stares _ except for the ensuing Letter of Reprimand. After
making his case, Gen. Wallace closed his summary with the following: "Were it not for
the exigencies of the present military situation, I would prefer General Court Martial
charges against you for conduct deleterious to the war effort." Some lessons are hard
to learn but that one stuck, demonstrating one more time the power, for good or evil, of
the written word. 

Question: That's very interesting. Please give us your view of the mission assigned to
the squadron where and when finally deployed. 

Answer: Yes, that is the second subject I want to talk about. But first, let me say one
more thing about Gen. Geiger, from whom I learned a lot without giving much in return.
I did help a little by writing some press releases for him which he seemed to
appreciate. As for lessons that stick, he said to me one time after expressing his
appreciation for something I'd written, "Andy, you've got to watch what you put down
on paper because you never know what will happen to it, who at what level will read it.
Keep that in mind _ that the written word never dies until the last copy is destroyed."
Those words have guided my thinking ever since. 

But he wasn't always right. When I was promoted to Captain the time had come for me
to get back into a flying job. He scribbled a note to his Chief of Staff, "Send Andy to
transports. He's to old for fighters." That was April 1942. I was 29. 

Now, to get back to evaluating our mission _ VMB_423's role in the war. We ferried
our planes across the Pacific in March of 1944 to the western end of the Solomons.
Due to the superiority of our cutting edge, that is carrier and Marine aviation, with a
good bit of assistance from General MacArthur's Southwest Pacific Command, Rabaul
had been reduced to virtual impotence. Our job was to make sure it remained that way,
for there was indeed a credible threat of secretive revival. To keep this from occurring,
our squadron, and in due course three others of Marine Air Group_61 on the island of
Emirau, were charged with blockading and in essence maintaining the isolation of the
fortress-like base the Japanese had built there. In effect, we freed the fighter/attack
squadrons for their cutting-edge missions up the line. Our missions were low level if
the targets selected were suitable for that type of attack, and medium altitude
horizontal bombing otherwise. A lot of our work was done at night _ I would say 50%
of our flights were flown at night for two logical reasons: First, the Japanese anti-
aircraft guns did not seem to be equipped with very effective range finders so they
were limited to visual fire, making it reasonable for us to exploit the protection of
darkness. Secondly, the targeting group at the 1st Marine Wing Headquarters on
Bougainville correctly reasoned that reinforcement activity by the Japanese would also
occur under the cover of darkness, so that's when we flew. 

These types of missions continued for about a year, until late in the first quarter of
1945. As the war became totally dominated by our forces in the Far East, the tempo of
our work slowed to permit physical consolidation at Emirau with the other squadrons
of MAG_61. In another month, as our forces began to close in upon the enemy
homeland, VMB_423 deployed to the southern Philippines, in position to participate in
the final assault on Japan. As is commonly recognized, the nuclear weapon put the
need for invasion to rest. By this time most of the original squadron personnel,
including me, were homeward bound, relieved by another group of hard_ charging Sea
Horse Marines. 

Question: By the way, how many combat missions had you flown when you were
relieved by Lt. Col. Lou Frank and what were the highlights of your career after leaving

Answer: My log book shows I flew 107 combat missions while with VMB_423. As for
highlights and sequence you'll find them laid out in the attached page from the "Golden
Eagles Chronolog", a publication of the association of naval aviators, an honorary
whose formal name is "The Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators' Association." (See

Question: Tell us, if you will, about your Silver Star award. How did it come about? 

Answer: I'll provide you with the the write-up. (The following is extracted from an
early biographical sketch): 

Serving as Deputy Commander of Marine Aircraft Group_33 aboard the USS Badoeng
Strait (familiarly known as the 'BingDing'), Col. Anderson was awarded the Silver Star
Medal for gallantry in action in that capacity on August 17, 1950, during the Pusan
Perimeter fighting. The citation states in part: 

"Organizing and leading a well-planned aerial attack against an enemy- held bridgehead
across the Naktong River, south of Taegu, Korea, (the then) Lt. Col. Anderson
succeeded in clearing the area for later occupation by Marine ground forces. When
advancing Marine troops became pinned down by intense gunfire from enemy positions
along a ridge line, he daringly marked out enemy targets for his aerial attack group
despite the defiladed and camouflaged nature of the hostile positions which
necessitated the execution of extremely low passes directly over fire_spurting enemy
guns. After the bombs and rockets of his aerial group were expended, he led his flight
in bold strafing attacks against a cornered and desperately fighting enemy in support of
advancing Marine troops." 

That's about the way I remember several events of that assignment, except I wasn't the
only flight leader, just the senior one. The CO of VMF_323 was a marvel named
Arnold Lund, another Scandinavian and a Marine of great quality. 


Date of Designation: February 1937 

NA # 5127 

Dates of Active Duty: 

July _ September 1935; 

January 1936 _ March 1940; 

(AA Pilot March 1940 _ December 1940) 

December 1940 _ July 1972 

Total Flight Hours: 7,500 

Carrier/Ship Landings: 

Fixed wing: 65 Helo: 50 

Approximate Flight Hours: Jet: 400 

Prop: 7,100 Helo: 25 VF/VA: 4,000 VR/VP: 3,000; VS: 100; VT: 400 

Other: American Airlines (DC_3) _ 800 

Combat Tours: 

WW II: MAG_25, Resupply Guadalcanal _ 15 missions. 

VMB_423, Feb. 1944 _ Aug. 1945, 

blockade Rabaul _ 107 missions. 


VMF_323 aboard Badoeng Strait (Pusan Perimeter, Inchon, Wonsan), Aug._ Oct 1950
_ 69 missions. 

Vietnam: 2 missions. 

Combat Awards: 

Silver Star (For action at Pusan Perimeter, while in VMF-323) 

4 Distinguished Flying Crosses 

11 Air Medals 

Aviation Commands: 

CO, VMB_423, May 1944 _ Aug. 1945. 

Deputy CO MAG_33 and Group Tactical Officer, Aug. _ Oct. 1950. 

CO, MAG_ 11, Dec. 1959 _ Jul. 1960. 

COMCABS East and CG, MCAS Cherry Point, Mar. 1964 _ Jun. 1965. 

CG, 2nd MAW, May 1966 _ May 1967. Cherry Point, NC. 

Deputy Commander III MAF (Air) and CG, 1st MAW, May 1967 _ Jun. 1968.
Danang, South Vietnam. 

Deputy CG, FMFLANT, Jul. 1968 _ May 1969, Norfolk, VA. 

Deputy Chief of Staff, Atlantic Command June 1969-July 1972 

Summary of Significant Career Events 

(1) Flew with VMF_1 at Cleveland Air Races in 1938. 

(2) Deployed with VMF_ 1 to Caribbean in 1938 for winter air_ground maneuvers at
St. Thomas and Isla Grande, Puerto Rico, taking ten days in Boeing F4B_4s for transit
from Quantico via Ft. Bragg, Page Field_ Parris Island, Jacksonville, Miami,
Camaguey_Cuba, Guantanamo_Cuba, Porto Prince, Santo Domingo, and San Juan.
Attacked targets at sea with two 250 GP bombs. Returned six weeks later with one
litre Bacardi slung between rudder pedals. Transitioned to Grumman F3F_2s in 1939. 

3) Flew DC_3s as co_pilot for American Airlines in 1940, learning the tricks and
science of instrument flying before returning to active duty and a commission in the
regular Marine Corps in 1942. Assigned as aide to BGen Roy S. Geiger, CG, 1st
Marine Air Wing. 

(4) Deployed to New Caledonia with VMR_253 (R4Ds) to provide air supply and
evacuation for Marines on Guadalcanal. Operated 1st MAW rest facility at Mascot
Field, Sydney, May _ August 1942. Returned to Solomon Islands in spring 1944, with
VMB_423 after transitioning to PBJs at Edenton, NC. Participated with other MAG_61
squadrons in blockade of Rabaul. Moved to Malabang, P.I., in July 1945. 

(5) As Group Tactical Officer and Deputy Commander of MAG_33 in August 1950,
deployed with VMF_323 to WesPac aboard Badoeng Strait as air component of 1st
Marine Brigade in defense of Pusan Perimeter. Supported Inchon landing in September
and transited to support landings at Hungnam and Wonsan in October. Assigned to
CINCPACFLT Evaluation Group to analyze Navy and Marine Corps participation in
Korean War and subsequently brief major commands in U. S. and Europe on the

(6) Commanded MAG_33 at Atsugi and deployed to Cubi Point during winter of 1960,
returning to Atsugi to land on his new runway ahead of base commander. Group
established new safety record, receiving plaudits from CMC and CNO. Arranged flight
in F9F for then Representative Inouye to his ancestral home in western Japan. 

(7) As Deputy Commander for Air, III MAF and CG, 1st MAW through winter of
1967_68 (Tet and Khe Sahn) in Viet Nam, brought air-ground coordination to enviable
level, resulting in action by COMUSMACV to force similar performance by 7th AF for
units of the US Army. Met many interesting Air Force officers who began studying
close air support and Single Management. 

Editor's note: This is not a verbatim transcript. By invitation, General Anderson revised
and edited the transcript from the original, to reflect later thoughts and to better satisfy
the purposes of this book. 

The Q and A format was retained for convenience. T.W.R.. 

This is really an answer to "What Did You Do in the War, Grampa?" 

By Howard (Army) Armstrong

Howdy, ol' Brian, ? 16 yr old grandson 

Almost impossible to realize that it is JUNE ALREADY, ESPECIALLY SINCE THE
SAVE THE AIR CONDITIONING _ wOOOps - I hit the capitol letters again- 

CORPS SQUADRON OF 13 airplanes was based on a little island, Green Island,
North of the New Hebrides in the Pacific, about 2 degrees below the equator_ hot hot

John Kline and I and a crew of 3 gunners and navigator had been assigned a mission of
one plane to scout the northern tip of the island of New Britain, about 100 miles from
our small doughnut atoll, as the Japs were bringing in supplies for their troops on the
island by submarine. This was in the evening, cloudy, so we were using our radar to
find our way along the coastline, flying low and armed with depth bombs rather than
regular bombs, and of course we had our 13 50_caliber and 30-caliber machine guns ( I
was the Gunnery Officer and Ordnance Officer in charge of the armaments for the

It was tricky flying in and around the little islands dotting the area at the tip of New
Britain island. Our nose gunner called on the intercom after sighting a whaleboat of
Japs going hellbent for leather across a passage between two small islands. Of course
we immediately took off across the top of a small atoll between us and the whaleboat.
This turned out to be a trap. As we went across the island, lining up for a strafing run
on the whaleboat, all hell broke loose -_ small-arms fire from the dense treed isle
started hitting us, bullets going through all parts of the plane, one tracer ( burns as it
travels through the air leaving a visible track about one tracer per 15 armor-piercing)
hit the parachute on which I was sitting but the thick folds of silk stopped it and it
burned itself out, others went between our legs, through the plexiglass nose where the
gunner was lying _ about 30 or maybe more hits BUT none hit us or anything vital on
the plane! We peeled off and John, who was on this flight in command of the plane, was
an easy- going laconic pilot who was hard to anger -_ but this made him angry to have
been suckered into a trap, so after discussing it with us and making a circle at about
300 ft altitude we attacked the island with all machine guns, 50 caliber and 30 caliber
weapons strafing the jungle AND dropped our depth bomb. This was a futile but
satisfying action, as the depth bomb is designed to detonate under water at a preset
water pressure ( example 100 foot depth) _ all it did was supply the Japs with 400
pounds of 

black powder unless it hit one of them on the head. Anyway, we found no submarine;
after the war it was found that they had an underwater cave excavated, allowing them
to go unseen into an under- mountain water cave to load and unload. 

One of the scariest of our missions was to go one plane at a time at night, and make
timed runs with our radar and navigation headings and timing to drop one bomb at a
time on their (Japs') camouflaged airfields on Rabaul. They in turn put search lights on
us, shot at us, and occasionally used phosphorus shells to detonate at our altitude,
lighting up great areas with the burning, exploding phosphorous. At the time it seemed
an exciting game of war, but we lost 6 crews, one at a time, and never heard from most
of them. Of course, the jungles in the Solomons and New Guinea area could swallow
up a plane with no trace. 

Tokyo Rose (an American Jap who was in Tokyo on the radio) would taunt us with
very accurate reports of our operations and occasionally name the downed plane's
crews. I wonder if she was the one whom the ground Marine troops are said to have
buried on Guadalcanal on her back with a tube in the mouth to the surface and a funnel
attached _ that was the urinal for all the Americans passing through. Are you sure you
want to go into the military? ? I hope not! Grandy. 

Enough of this reminiscing. We are going to have a squadron reunion in Myrtle Beach
in October. These 18 year-old crewmen are now 75 years old and most still living _ of
course those who have passed away will not attend (a given, I think we could safely


I love you tons! Grandy 

Navigating While Foggy 

By Harold C. Bauer (Browski)

One thing I remember is... 

my young son asking me, "Whose side was you on, Father?" 

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? 

In this tale of one day's activity, you (the reader) are unable to hear the New York
accent of one Marine from Nova Scotia, raised in Brooklyn, and the other Marine a
survivor of the Pig Irish of Brewery Town and Fairmount in North Philadelphia. That's
your loss. 

After Green Island, the majority of the navigator/ bombardiers and radio men were
assigned to Operational Training Squadron 813 (OTS 813) at Cherry Pt. While at
Cherry Pt. we obtained a British navigational aid called LORAN... (long range
navigation). Upon completion of a study of this LORAN, a small group of nav-bombs
were assigned a "check out" flight to Boston Mass. In Boston, some of us visited a
section of the city called "Skully Square." The patrons of the establishments there
assumed it was their patriotic duty to supply us with a few quaffs of alcoholic
beverages. (One kind patron assisted Jim. C. and me to acquire two fifths of booze.) 

Now, "checked out" and "fortified," we were ready to return to Cherry Point. We
strapped ourselves onto the bench seats of the DC3, secured for take off. Directly
across from a nav-bomb who had had a bit too much, was an Army Officer of high
rank. As we began to taxi out for take_off, the young nav-bomb barfed all he had eaten
and drank in a large splash that reached over to the Army man's shoes and up his pants
almost to his knees... Mr. Army man howled and yelled so loud and angry that the pilot
taxied back to the place we had left only a matter of minutes earlier... The young, sick
nav-bomb came alive and asked: "Did anyone get the time on that hop?" 

Back at Cherry Pt., later that same day, Jim C., me, and two fifths were strolling
around the base. We had drained one fifth and I had the second one opened and
upturned for a draw when a Jeep with two MPs appeared. 

One MP took the bottle and suggested that we accompany them to the Provost Hut.
Jim. C. and I were invited to enter. The bottle was on the desk, and the Corp. of the
Guard was sitting behind the desk, looking quite upset. I figured it was time to
negotiate. I told the Corp. of the Guard that Jim. C. and I were willing to share some of
the contents of the bottle with him and even with the two MPs. He called out -- and the
Sgt. of the Guard appeared. I now informed the Sgt. of the Guard that Jim. C. and I
were willing to include him, also. While we were negotiating, someone in the back
summoned the Sgt of the Guard. There was some laughter, and then more laughter, and
the Sgt. of the Guard reappeared. The Sgt. of the Guard handed me the bottle, called in
the two MPs and told them to bring Jim C. and me back to where they found us.... 

Interview of Lee Bender and Joseph Mack

This is Mike Miller, senior archivist at the Marine Corps University at the Marine
Corps base at Quantico, Virginia on October 8, 1998. We're doing war history
interviews here at the Ramada Inn where VMB-423 is having its reunion.. 

MM: Will you please state your full names? 

Joe: Joseph J. Mack from Syracuse, New York -- home of the Orangemen! 

Lee: Lee Bender from Buffalo, New York. 

MM: How did you get in the Marine Corps? How did this all start? 

Joe: Well, it was World War II. The attitude at that time was gung-ho, get in there and
defend your country. I joined on my 18th birthday, much to my mother's dismay. It was
December of 1942. 

MM: Why the Marine Corps? 

Joe: The only reason is I wanted to be one of the best. 

Lee: I just got out of high school. It was September, 1941. Jobs were scarce at that
time. My Dad thought it would be a good idea for me to go to college. I didn't think
much of that idea at the time, but I wanted to do something as an alternate. Someone
had given me a brochure about the Marine Corps and it looked good to me. So I went
uptown to the Federal Building, walked around the corridor about five times before I
got up enough nerve to walk in and went in and signed up. Went through all the exams
and physicals and passed. On September 19, 1941, I and two other fellows were sworn
in at the Buffalo recruiting office. One question was asked, I still remember it, the
officer swearing us in said if any of you want to change your mind, take a step back. I
believe if one had stepped back, all three of us would have. So we were now Marines. 

MM: At this time, in the summer of 1941, what was the mood of the country, before
Pearl Harbor? Did you feel that this country was going to go to war or was it something
the people didn't think about much? 

Joe: As a 16 or 17-year old kid I wasn't that aware of politics or of what was going on
around the country. I was concerned with where we were going to play football and that
sort of thing. I was struggling to get out of high school and pass, these were my main
concerns. I can remember being at the local corner grocery store, hanging out with three
or four of my buddies when the news came over the radio, and it was a complete shock
that the country was at war. 

MM: What the reaction? Were people upset? 

Joe: No. I don't think people had a chance to get upset, but the fact that we were at
war, that was enough of a shock in itself. We weren't mad at anybody. 

Lee: When I decided to enlist, I thought you had to be 18 and I was only 17, so I found
my birth certificate and I changed it. (Laughter) To make sure I got in. I didn't want
anything to get in the way. Like Joe said, it was over my mother's objections, she
wasn't too happy with my decision. Ironically, I was here at Quantico on Pearl Harbor
day, stationed here, when the news came. I had been downstairs in the mess hall and
when I got upstairs, someone was saying they'd bombed Pearl Harbor. But as a young
kid, I don't think it really sunk in. But on the way to Parris Island we had to change
trains in Washington, D.C. We ran across a Marine in the station. (When we saw
anybody in a Marine uniform we'd question him about how it was going to be and all
this and that). And he had just recently returned from China and he said we were going
to have trouble with the Japanese, based on what he could see of what was going on in
China. And this was September, so some people were aware there would be a problem.

MM: Parris Island, lovely place. (Laughter). Give me your first impression of what
happened to you there and so forth. 

Lee: We got off the train in Port Royal, I guess it was, and were greeted by the Sgt. He
got us all lined up and the first thing he said was, "There's two kinds of people I hate in
this world: recruits and civilians, and you're both!" (Laughter) That's how we were

Joe: Our last stop was Yammassee. Talk about being low, and disheartened and
fearful! I never went through anything in my life like that. Here you are, a 17 or just
18-year old kid and I think it's the farthest I ever was on a train, and to come in to such
a desolate place! All there was was sand and nothing else -- the only building was the
train station and then to be greeted by some drill instructor. Wow! It was a shocker. My
DI was Sgt. Burkhalder - have you ever seen the Marine bulldog? He looked like the
Marine bulldog. He had played college football for Clemson and he was at that time
the toughest son of a gun I'd ever run into in my life. All he had to do was look at you
and he'd scare the pants right off you. 

MM: So, what was your introduction to Marine Corps life the first few days? 

Lee: I wished to hell I was back home. (Laughter) 

Joe: It was just a blur. But that was so many years ago. But I can remember the guys in
their zoot suits, city guys, some from Philadelphia, with duck's ____ DA haircut and
stuff like that, and you were in a barber's chair and they got the clippers and cut it all
off and the guys were almost crying that they were losing their hair that they had
trained for so long. Of course the zoot suits went and we were in line getting pants and
blankets and all this stuff and it's more of a blur than anything. It was rather hectic. 

MM: What were the barracks like? 

Joe: Ours were with a coal-fired stove. 

Lee: Ours were wooden barracks out on the road out to and near the rifle range. 

MM: How about the DIs - were they combat veterans? What kind of things did they
pass on to you to get you ready for combat? 

Lee: I can recall one statement of the DI as we were going through bayonet training. He
said two things: "Next year at this time probably half of you won't be here." And while
running the bayonet course, "You better learn this cause it's either kill or be killed."
They instilled that into you. 

Joe: I don't recall any grand thing. You did all the stuff they told you to and got a
different attitude than you ever had before. I mean you got to figure I was just a
17-year-old kid and I weighed 117 pounds - just nothing. We were taught that you've
got to take care of yourself and you've got to take care of your buddies. 

MM: Any amusing stories about training? 

Lee: When we would fall out in the morning, the DI would say "Fall out!" This is a
wooden barracks with one normal-sized door on it. As I recall, there were about 70
fellows in the platoon, and he'd say "Fall out!" You try to get 70 guys through about a
30-inch door in ten seconds; he'd say "Too slow! Try it again!" We'd go back in and
he'd say "Fall out!" Over and over again. And when they'd do inspection - I trained
with '03 rifles, and when you do inspection and pull the bolt back, so many guys would
pull the bolt back and right out of the breech, and they're standing there with the rifle in
one hand and the bolt in the other. Even the DIs, tough as they wanted to seem, had to
smirk sometimes, it was so funny. 

One of our recruits must have goofed up somehow. His name was Malloy and he had
to run around the barracks with this pail over his head saying "I'm Foo Foo Malloy." 

One night at the barracks, the guys got unruly. The civil war was fought all over again.
So the next thing I know the DI comes running in; the lights are out. "Fall out!" We
didn't get a chance to put anything on. The way you were was the way you fell out. We
had to run around the barracks, no clothes, no shoes, however you were dressed, that's
the way you ran. 

MM: How about rifle range. What was training like? 

Joe: Well, we had M-1s. And I had never had a rifle in my hands, you know I'm from
upstate New York. And a lot of my friends, including Nicolodi, my best buddy, they
were all big hunters and stuff, from Pennsylvania, did deer hunting and stuff like that.
And I do recall I kidded them for years and years afterwards; here I was, a 17-year-old
skinny kid, never had a rifle, and what did I score at the range? Sharpshooter!

Lee: I wasn't so lucky. I didn't qualify. I had never had a gun in my hands, either. I
didn't catch on to it. I think now I never learned to squeeze the trigger, and that's the
secret. I didn't pay enough attention, I guess, and as a young kid didn't think it
important. I just went out there and pulled the trigger. It was unfortunate. 

Joe: I'll say this: I've never had one in my hand since. 

MM: How about the food at Parris Island? 

Joe: I was an awfully particular eater as a kid. Meat and potatoes and gravy and maybe
a vegetable. If we were lucky, we'd have that. I can always remember we'd go through
the chow line and Nick would be right behind me. He'd say, "Aren't you going to take
that?" I'd say "I don't like the looks of that." He'd say, "Take it! I'll eat it!" Every meal
we had, he'd have one of his and half of mine. One day we're at the rifle range, down in
prone position, someone said, "Look at that behind us!" Here are all these Marines
coming out of the mess hall and they're dropping over like flies. They all had food
poisoning. Next thing you know, there are convoys of ambulances up there. So, some
of the food was good and some was bad. 

Lee: I'd say the food wasn't the best but it wasn't that bad. I remember the first
breakfast at Parris Island, we hadn't had a good meal in a while. When they said "Sit!"
everyone somehow had a fork and by the time they finished saying "SIT!" there wasn't
pancake left on that plate. But I actually gained weight in boot camp. 

MM: After Parris Island, what happened? Did you have any options? 

Joe: Yes. I was interviewed. I guess I was unique in a way. I was a high school
graduate with a Regents diploma. So they knew I could at least read and write. I put in
for electrician's mate school in Newport, Rhode Island and quartermaster school in
Philly. Thinking I'd have the best chance for the best liberty if I got into one of those
locations. Where did they send me? To aviation machinist mate school in Jacksonville,
Florida! (Laughter) 

MM: People from all over, north and south; How long did it take you to feel like part
of a unit? When did it suddenly start to click? 

Lee: I think it was close-order drill and the manual of arms. When you did that, in
unison, then you felt: This is it -- this is it. 

Joe: And then you were ready to help one another. Because if one fouled up, the whole
group suffered. So, if one guy was weak in some respect, you'd do your best to help
him get over that. 

MM: So, did everybody complete the training? 

Lee: We had one guy, had to go home because of a death in the family. He had to
finish later. He didn't want to do that, either, because he might have to start over again.
Everybody wanted to hang in there, no matter what. 

Joe: What was that place or outfit they always said you'd be sent to if you fouled up
really badly? K platoon? But we'd all do anything not to be sent there, not to be
ostracized. There might not have ever been such a thing, possibly, but they always
referred to it. 

MM: Joe was sent to Jacksonville, what were your choices? 

Lee: I was chosen for aviation, also. How that came about, I don't know. I was
mechanically inclined and went to a technical school, maybe that helped, I don't know.
And so I came to Quantico, from boot camp. 

MM: Was aviation what you wanted to do? 

Joe: Not necessarily. It was the luck of the draw. 

Lee: Yes, for me, too. 

MM: What was it like at Quantico back then? 

Lee: Well, for one thing the food was excellent. Coming from PI to Quantico was like
going from hell to heaven. The chow hall was family style. You held up the plate and
the kid would fill it again. One of the things I remember was they had french toast at
breakfast, it was cinnamon french toast. As I said it was like going from hell to heaven.

MM: What was it like at Jacksonville? 

Joe: Jacksonville, all I can remember of it was the chow was awful. I spent most of my
money at the PX, eating packaged sandwiches and ice cream. I subsisted on those for
the most part. 

MM: So, was your school Navy or Marines? 

Joe: Ours was all Marines. 

Lee: We landed in Jacksonville Christmas week around New Year's eve and we hadn't
been paid in a long time and we had no money. We were broke. And at that time, I
smoked. We had to pool our money to get some cigarettes, until we got paid. We got
there as they were forming the first class, and we got started. 

MM: What was school like for you? 

Lee: As I said earlier, I was mechanically inclined, so it was very interesting for me
and I liked it. In fact, after we finished, they kept me on as an instructor. 

Joe: I was just the average Joe. I could change a fuel pump on my brother's '36 Ford
and stuff like that, but as far as being mechanically inclined: No. It was all foreign to

MM: How about the rest of the class - was it the same way with them? Was it people
drawn together by chance? 

Lee: Yes. I'm trying to think if there was anybody from my platoon there... I'm trying to
think. Yeah, there was one guy from my platoon. He still owes me 20 bucks.

MM: How did they actually teach you to be mechanics? 

Joe: I'm trying to recall the classroom portion of it. The part of the training I recall
most, they had a few old planes on the flight line. They used to practice taxiing them
around. I don't remember carrying around a big bunch of books, though. 

MM: It was more learn by doing? 

Joe & Lee: Yes, pretty much. 

Lee: When I went through it they had a lot of good instructors, military, and they had a
few civilians. I remember they a fellow from Bendix Aviation who was excellent.
Bruce Hudson I think. He was good. I remember another one who briefed us on the jet
engine that was then being developed. It was at that time quite advanced in the R&D
stage. That was in '42. 

MM: What happened to you after school was done? 

Lee: As I said, they kept me on as an instructor. After a while I got tired of it. I tried to
transfer out. I didn't want to spend the rest of the war there. But it was hard to get a
transfer. I guess after a while they got tired of me submitting requests for a transfer. I
know I wanted to get out and go over and do what I was hired for. Eventually, they sent
me to Cherry Point and put me in a B-25 squadron. Excuse me, in PBJs. 

Joe: I graduated from school and was sent back to Cherry Point, where I was assigned
to VMB-423. We then moved to Edenton. But Cherry Point was really nice compared
to the other places we had been. We were in a nice brick barracks, and the chow was
better, I thought, and there was also a civilian cafeteria on the base and that was a real
change for us. 

MM: And you joined the squadron at Cherry Point? 

Lee: Well, it's kind of vague in my mind but as I remember it, first we had only three or
four airplanes and they were working on them out on the flight line. I was introduced to
some people there. I don't remember what my status was. I think I was a staff sergeant
when I joined it. They took some personnel out of VMB-413, the first PBJ squadron,
and transferred them to 423. Shortly afterwards, both squadrons were sent to Edenton. 

MM: What were your jobs? 

Lee: My first assignment was as line chief. I was line chief for all that time and then I
was made leading chief of the squadron in the South Pacific. 

MM: What does the leading line chief do? 

Lee: Responsible for all the repairs and operation of the mechanical maintenance of the

MM: For the whole squadron? 

Lee: For the whole squadron, in charge of it, of the crew chiefs. 

MM: What was your rank then? 

Lee. I think I had made technical sergeant. I can't remember just when I made master
sergeant. It may have been over in the islands. 

MM: What was your job? 

Joe: My big job was putting gas and oil in the planes. (Laughter) What with my limited
mechanical ability, although I had graduated from aviation machinist mate's school, I
was supposed to be a mechanic. We moved to Edenton and I don't know what
happened to bring it about but the next thing I knew, it was probably because I was so
inept as a mechanic, I became engineering clerk and I worked indirectly for Lee, under
Lt. Lallathin - first Lt. Sweet, then Lt. Lallathin took over. I kept the books and the logs
and I was the gopher. But they still called me, Hillmer still calls me, the gopher.

Lee: Well, records are important. After so many flight hours an inspection has to be
done and after so many more hours, a complete inspection had to be done. 

Joe: I couldn't type so I had handwritten logs for each engine and the overall plane. I
recorded everything that was done to them and everything that was scheduled to be

Lee: I remember at Edenton, many's the day and night we worked 48 hours without
sleep, because the training was intense. The planes were flying around the clock and
that's the reason. 

MM: What were some of the special problems you had with the B-25? 

Joe: Exhaust stacks! 

Lee: Oh, yeah! Number 7 and number 9 were losing them all the time. I remember a
plane would come in and the stack would be gone. We had to have a humungous stock
pile of number 7 and number 9 exhaust stacks. I don't know why they'd break off. 

Joe: They looked like they were cast metal, and something happened to make them
brittle, and when the planes landed, they broke off. 

Lee: In fact one of them was almost the cause of my demise over in the islands. We
were taking off. The C.O. was in the plane taking off ahead of us, and it was in a heavy
rain storm. The pilot probably figured, if the C.O. can take off, I better, too. Our plane
took off right after his and we hit one of his stacks. It blew the tire on our nose wheel
and the pilot hit the air brakes and blew the other two tires and we stopped just short of
the bay. But otherwise it was just normal maintenance except for those stacks. When
they broke, the studs holding them into the cylinder often broke off and that was a
bugger getting them out. 

MM: How about other problems with B-25s. Would you say it's a great plane to

Lee: It's a great plane in my estimation. Theoretically, somebody told me the thing
wasn't supposed to taxi down the runway much less to fly, but it did a great job for us. 

Joe: It was a very reliable plane. 

Lee: Reliable, yes. It was very reliable. 

MM: Let's go back to those 48-hour work shifts. How did you maintain morale in the
unit and keep up the work? 

Joe: There was really no problem that way at all. You accepted it as this is the way
things are, and its got to be done, and you did it. 

Lee: I agree. 

MM: From Edenton, you went to the west coast, to El Centro? Did you feel you were
getting close to the war now? 

Lee: Yes, we knew we were on the way to the Pacific. And it was quite a good
adventure, going to El Centro. A small group of us flew with the squadron. And we had
a first stop at Shreveport, Louisiana and we got weathered in - on New Year's Eve!
(Laughter) We were there two or three days. It was good. 

Joe: I can remember that New Year's Eve. I was guarding a box car in some train yard
someplace on the way, because I also had responsibilities - packing a lot of stuff,
records and equipment. The nearest thing we had as a celebration was in a grocery
store near the train station, buying beer and stuff. It wasn't your typical New Year's
Eve party. 

Lee: When the flight crew arrived in El Centro, a lot of the flight crew had to carry side
arms and they got off the plane carrying side arms and the next thing we knew we were
surrounded by MPs. The marched us somewhere, right out of the planes, and headed
for the jug, I guessed. Finally somebody straightened it all out. Then we did more
training at El Centro. A lot of low level flying over the desert. 

MM: At this point did each plane have its ground crew that serviced that plane? 

Joe: Pretty much so. 

Lee: Yes, the line crew and mechanics groups. They had a crew chief, assistant crew
chief and they had a group of fellows that were a crew. And ordnance had a crew chief
and crew, not for each individual plane but he had a couple of planes to take care of.
And the radio people had certain planes to take care of. 

MM: How many Marines does it take to keep a plane going? 

Lee: Half a dozen, but it depends on what you mean. During inspections there's quite a
bit to do, pulling wheels and so forth. 

Joe: Do you mean altogether? Something in the back of my mind tells me it's 300. 

MM: For how many planes? 

Lee: Fifteen. 

Joe: But you had the transportation unit, maintained the trucks. You had the gas trucks
and the oil trucks and you had the tinsmith operation that took care of the shell of the
plane. You had the carburetor team, instrument specialists. If the regular crew had a
problem with a particular thing they couldn't fix, they'd go to the carburetor man or the
instrument man, like if the altimeter was a problem. You had the parachute riggers.
You had the quartermaster who took care of clothing. You had the mess hall, cooks
and bakers. So to speak. (Laughter) So it came to around 300. 

Lee: Ground crew, though, I'd say half a dozen per plane. 

MM: Who were some of the best at that? Best mechanic, best trouble shooters and so

Lee: Hmmm. 

Joe: Well, I think he's being rather modest but we had a good group of leaders with Lee
and Horton and Stachowski and Gunner Hoover. 

Lee: Actually, we had an engineering officer come to us, Gunner Hoover. He was at
one time our C.O.'s crew chief, when he flew earlier in the war in '42, and he brought
him into our group as the engineering officer. He was a good leader. 

Joe: He was a good leader, he had a good work ethic and he was knowledgeable. 

Lee: If one didn't know, there was always someone there you could go to and get help. 

Joe: Plus - another thing was that quite a few of our group, rather than a smattering, had
gone to North American Aviation school - in Englewood. So they had specialized
education, if you will, in PBJs. So there was a nucleus of guys who knew that, as
opposed to the raw mechs who came out of the Jacksonville school. And didn't know a
PBJ from a piper cub. So you had good solid leaders plus you had this nucleus of
people who had gone to a specialized school, for that particular airplane. 

Lee: I can truthfully say to the best of my knowledge we never lost a plane due to
mechanical failure. Why we lost some of them, we don't know. 

MM: How then, did you get out to the Pacific, closer to the war? What was the next
jump you made? 

Lee: Again, I was fortunate. I flew. We stripped our planes down of all armor plate and
unnecessary equipment so as to be able to fly them from Hamilton Field, I think it was,
near San Francisco, to Oahu in Hawaii. Before we flew they removed the turret and put
in an auxiliary fuel tank which I think held approximately 300 gallons, which was
needed to carry us from San Francisco to Oahu. At which point, as we went there, part
of the crew went by sea from Alameda 

Joe: The ground crew went on this baby flat-top from Alameda. The U.S.S. Prince
William. It carried not only us, the ground crew but also fighter aircraft to be
transported to someplace out there. 

Lee: And all this equipment we stripped down in El Centro was unloaded off of this,
transferred to Hawaii and then they went on to the New Hebrides, to Espiritu Santos.
And we, the group of us that flew over, reassembled all of this stripped down material
and got ready to fly into the Pacific. I think that took six or eight weeks. When I
arrived, I was on one of the first planes to fly over. We landed, I think there were 3 of
us flew out on that first night. After that the rest of the squadron was weathered in for
around two weeks at Hamilton Field. The three crews that were in Hawaii, we couldn't
do anything. Unfortunately, after sitting there for so long we decided to take a little
flight around the islands. On that jaunt we lost a plane. To this day we don't know what
happened. Then when the rest of the aircrews got there we proceeded to get the planes
back together. After that, the ground crews were then put on a Curtis Commando and
we flew from Oahu to Palmyra to Canton, to Funafuti and then we eventually arrived at
Espiritu Santos. We had some training flights from Espiritu Santos and lost two planes
there, on two nights in succession. One of them, we just found out here at the reunion
that through some organization that has been going through the Pacific looking for these
sites and they found one of ours. After the first one, I went up with Lt. Bates and Lt.
Hazelhurst to search, but we came up with nothing. On that same day that we went up,
Lt. Caroselli, I think he was a ground officer, he went into the jungle and contacted a
native who had gotten one of the pistols of one of the crewmen from the ill-fated flight. 

MM: When was it you finally got to where you could say "I'm in the war here." 

Lee: In Espiritu Santos. When we finished our training, the flight echelon flew up to
Stirling Island, where the sister squadron, VMB-413 was. 413 was then in combat at
Rabaul, New Britain and New Ireland. They combined the two squadrons with one
ground crew, VMB-413's, and we packed up and went to Green Island. The air crews
then went to Green Island and we were all reunited. 

MM: Now you were in the war zone. How did the planes function now that you were in
the South Pacific with different weather. Any changes? 

Lee: Well, now every morning a plane flew a weather mission over or near the target,
with meteorologists aboard, to bring back weather reports. 

MM: What was the daily routine like at Green Island? 

Joe: It really wasn't much different. You just didn't work from 8 to 5:30. You did what
you had to do, no matter how long it took. And in some instances you worked under
lights at night. 

Lee: We were pretty much governed by what was required by the missions. We kept
them ready to go. 

MM: Did you have any shortages out there? 

Lee: If there were, we were never made aware of it. I can't recall. We had once in a
while a "hangar queen." If you needed a part you took it off a plane that was grounded
or waiting for a part but you had to be careful not to strip it too much or it would be
hard to get it back together. 

MM: Was there any time you had to get a plane up for a mission and couldn't? 

Lee: No. I can't recall any time like that. I recall one plane going out, loaded with
bombs, and it blew a tire on the nose wheel on its take off run and crashed into the
side, off the runway, but there was no explosion and no one was hurt. Then we had
another plane returning from its 50th mission, #38, Peterson's plane. They were going
to have an honorary ceremony for it, when it landed. Its nose wheel wouldn't come
down. So it flew around for a while and when it finally landed, with nose gear up, we
had the whole ground crew waiting on the end of the runway and he came in with his
tail down. As he finally came to a stop the whole crew rushed out and jumped on the
tail and held it down, while another bunch got a jack under the nose by the time the
plane came to a stop. 

MM: What was the reaction of the ground crew when a plane didn't come back from a

Lee: On the first night after the crews had been reunited at Green, we lost a plane. It
was Kistner and Lucy. And the other time was Captain Edmonds was coming in after a
night flight. We still don't know what happened. He mis-judged it to the end of the
runway and crashed into the end of the island right along the bay near our area and
burst into flames. All the crew was lost on that one. Then Lt. Myer was shot down. He
ditched. And fortunately all were rescued. 

MM: When you lost planes, how did you get replacements? 

Lee: They flew them in from somewhere. I don't know where. 

MM: How long were you out there in the combat zone? 

Joe: I always figured I was out there 14 months, from the time I left San Francisco by
boat to the time I got back to San Diego by boat. 

Lee: Yes, 14 months or somewhere around that. 

MM: What was your reaction when you knew you were coming back. Any celebration?

Lee: Yes. I really celebrated. But I was disappointed that some of them were not
relieved of duty. I felt bad for them but, naturally, good for myself. 

MM: How did you get back to the states? 

Joe & Lee: Boat! 

Lee: Slow boat to China. We flew to Manus in the Admiralties. Then by boat. Do you
remember how long it took, Joe? 

Joe: I think it took 12 or 13 days. 

MM: So what was your reaction at your first sight of the mainland? 

Joe: Nothing in particular. I didn't kiss the ground. 

Lee: No. But I didn't mention when we left Green Island, we had to destroy all our
buildings. The ground crew had to load everything aboard ships and they went up to
the Philippine Islands. Also, while we were capturing the Philippines we were running
escort flights for fighter planes. 

MM: Did you ever get to Australia or New Zealand? 

Joe: No. Did you? 

Lee: (Laughing) Yes, I did. I went down as a mechanic. Just to Townsville, while the
rest went on down Sydney. We were given some money to bring some goodies back for
the ground crews. We brought back milk and I don't know what else. 

Joe: Milk and eggs and decent meat. 

Lee: Our pilots who flew that plane didn't know how many times we went back to the
plane that night to load the cargo bay. 

MM: What was the hardest part of keeping the men's morale up with 14 months in the

Joe: We had movies. 

Lee: And the Seabees built us a club. 

Joe: It was like an NCO club. We had beer and cigarettes, candy. Juke box. 

MM: Was the island big enough that you could go out? Were there natives there? 

Joe: There were natives but they were nowhere near us. For such a small island, you
rarely saw any of them. 

Lee: They did hire some of them for work groups. 

MM: So really, when you're off duty, what could you do? 

Joe: Go to movies, play cards. 

Lee: I can say I was never bored. 

Joe: I think I read a lot. I know I read a lot on board ship, going and coming. That was
absolutely boring. The food stunk. You existed on candy bars or something. I know I
read all kinds of pocket books. Actually, it wasn't too bad on the Prince William, the
baby flat-top. You could get a sundae sometimes. But some of these tramp steamers
we were on were pathetic. 

Lee: The ship we took from Espiritu Santos to Green Island was a World War I ship,
the President something or other. I remember being on guard duty one night when we
were going through the Buka Passage, there was a thunder and lightning storm, it was
raining hard and I was walking in water and here were men lying on the deck and they
must have been lying in water. The ship was so crowded there was no place for them to
move to. 

MM: When you first got back to the states, how did you get squared away, with
haircuts, beards and so forth. Did you have to get the squadron back in shape? 

Lee: We all went our different ways. We went on our 30-day leave and we scattered. 

Joe: I was only in San Diego a day or two, or three at the most. We got haircuts, got
our uniform tailored so it didn't look so baggy, had a steak and a few beers and the
next thing I know I'm on a train going to the east coast. 

MM: So, was the squadron ever put back together after that leave? 

Lee: No. In fact, just about then is when the war ended. I was home on my leave when
the atomic bomb was dropped. 

Joe: I was at Cherry Point when the war ended. I saw guys in trash cans and culverts
and everywhere. The celebration was tremendous. 

Lee: They had beer blasts to end all beer blasts. They brought truck loads of beer right
onto the base. 

Joe: I got out November 5th of 1945, so I only had to wait two months after the war
was over to get on my way home. 

MM: Let me just back up a little. Do you have any stories to tell about your time on
Green Island, any funny things that happened? Or tragic things? 

Joe & Lee: Not really. It was just work and rest and we just weren't bored. 

Lee: We had 2 USO tours that stopped on our base. Bob Hope came and so did Jack

Joe: We worked and when we weren't working I don't remember being bored. We had
the club, there was always a card game - especially right after pay day. (Laughter) 

MM: Okay, let's just wind it up. Looking back on it after all these years, having been a
Marine, what has it meant in your life? 

Lee: I think once a Marine, always a Marine. 

Joe: Absolutely. And it's amazing - I had a brother who was in the Air Corps, in a
B-29, first raid on Japan. Another brother who was a radio man with a P-51 outfit in
England. They hardly ever, ever talk about the people they associated with - and we -
we've been having these reunions here for a long time and in addition created life-long
friendships. I'll start to cry here. You have your friends, and Nick and I were together.
They came to our 50th wedding anniversary. We shared their joys and disappointments
in their lives and they shared ours. I don't mean that we had a hundred friends that
stuck together like glue, but you might have had a dozen of them because of the fact
that they lived in your state or around your state and you were closer to them
obviously than some guy that lived in California, and you know, an exchange of
Christmas cards or anniversary cards, and I put on the sheet I filled out that I think
these reunions that we have are the highlight of my life! I mean that. I absolutely do,
and that's no baloney. We're just a nice group of people. 

Lee: It's really a great group. We had two C.O.s. One left us at Green, Colonel
Winston, and our Exec, who was Colonel Anderson and is going to be at this reunion,
became our C.O. They were always there for us. We had a great group from the C.O.
right on down 

MM: What advice would you have for a young 18-year-old who wants to become a
Marine and go to Parris Island or to OCS? 

Lee: You'll never be sorry. You may be for a few weeks but that's all. 

Joe: That's for sure. 

Lee: It'll be with you till the day you die. 

Joe: Yes. Absolutely. 

Lee: There's something about it - whereever you go -- you'll always remember it. 

MM: Okay. If there's nothing you want to add, that wraps it up. Thank you so much. 

Michael Bosak 

Lobster today, 

tomorrow . . .SPAM

(Excerpts from a Letter) 

As for specific memories or stories, one tends to remember the extremes. The good
times, i.e. lobsters in the wee small hours of the morning after a long night flight. When
at low tide and a full moon, we would catch them using forked sticks and burlap bags
in tidal pools. Wish I could do that today. Wonder if, on Green Island, the lobster
population has built up again! 

+ I remember Bob Weaver, who made a rough landing after a long flight, thunder
storms all the way, ran out of oxygen, and almost out of fuel. While it was a hard
landing, at least they were back. It wasn't till morning when the plane was inspected
that we found out how hard the landing was. The landing gear struts were driven up
into the wing and it seems to me the wings were bent away from correct position. 

After Ken Meyer and crew were shot down, I remember how angry we were at
MacArthur's headquarters for delaying giving us permission to cross the "MacArthur
Line" to fly strafing missions and protect the crew until a PT boat rescued them all. 

I still remember Garny Gahagan every time Bunny or I buy a can of Spam. When the
mess served what we called "Spam again!" Garny would shout, "That is not Spam, that
is processed meat!" 

Ted, the next time we have a drink or a beer with another Marine from the squadron, I'll
take notes of what we spoke of and send them to you. The stories will flow faster then.

Give my best to all the gang. 

Semper Fi (s) Mike Bosak 


By Sam Carlson

What I remember now and then is our pilot, Bob Ryan, bringing the B_25, or maybe
PBJ, back to Green on one engine and making what I thought was the smoothest landing
I'd ever witnessed. It was a night heckling mission. They blew a hole in the left engine
that was almost a perfect circle with a diameter about 10 or 12 inches. Bob feathered
and trimmed and we lost quite a bit of altitude on the way back from Rabaul, but Bob
guided that baby over the trees and I couldn't even feel the tires meeting the tarmac.
Once I recounted this to Tom Wallimann and he looked at me and said, "Sam, you
must have dreamed that up. How could they see you at night to shoot at you?" I said,
"Well, sometimes the moonlight was very bright. Plus they did use searchlights on
occasion." And Tom said, "Heh, that's right. I forgot about those searchlights." 

It's been a long time. We remember different things and forget them too. I'm planning on
contacting Bob Ryan to find out if he remembers that scary flight. Hell, maybe I did
dream it up. 

I remember, too, many of us sitting on benches in that outdoor theatre and hearing the
lone B_25 revving up on the runway to take off for another heckling mission. The roar
of engines as the plane took off could be heard, followed by the sight of it rising over
the trees and climbing past the theatre. I seem to remember all heads in that outdoor
theatre turning gradually as the plane passed overhead, all eyes following it until it
disappeared into the night over that ocean, headed toward Rabaul. Maybe it didn't
happen. Maybe I was dreaming again. 

Double Duty 

John F. Dunn - William A. Dunn 

By Ellie Dunn (Mrs. William A. Dunn) 

I'm writing for Bill and Jack Dunn, both deceased.

The twins were supposed to be separated because of what happened to the Sullivans.
The top sergeant said he'd separate the twins if it was the last thing he did. They
shipped the top sergeant out before the twins, and the next sergeant didn't know they
were brothers, so off they went together. 

When they had to stand guard duty, Bill would tell me they would split the time in half.
Each one would stand 4 hours instead of 8 hours. No one could tell them apart. 

In the movie "The Sands of Iwo Jima" the twins were from the City of Brotherly Love
(Philadelphia) where Bill and Jack were from. Someone told me they checked and Bill
and Jack were the only twins in the Marines from Philadelphia who served together
during WWII. They didn't go to Iwo Jima but someone could have heard about them
and incorporated it into the movie. 

There was a story I heard about french fries. They blew up a tent. I believe trying to
make the french fries. Mike Gallo would know more about this story or Milton Smith

My niece (Jack's daughter) told me this story: One twin was in sick bay. He had a date
that night. The other twin took his place. The doctor examined him and remarked,
"That's the quickest recovery of hemorrhoids I've ever seen." Jack told this story to his
daughter many times. I know the twins did take each others place sometimes on dates. 

Hope my stories are a little different than ones you have. Bill said it was great having
his brother with him but they worried about each other all the time. 

Please keep my name on the list to be sent notices of future events with the group. The
twins did host one of the reunions in Philadelphia. Maybe some day I'll make another

Sincerely, Semper Fi. 

Ellie Dunn 


This is Mike Miller, Senior archivist at the Marine Corps University here outside the
Marine Corps base at Quantico on October 8, 1998 and we're doing war history
interviews at the reunion of VMB-423. 

MM: Will you please state your full name. 

PD: My name is Peter Dunne. Peter Francis Dunne, Jr., actually. I was a radio gunner
for Colonel Anderson who was the CO of our outfit. This is the first reunion I've been
to - ever! I talked to the guys last year in Pensacola, they said "Where the heck have
you been? We've been looking for you for twelve years." But believe me, Mike, I
wasn't lost . It's been a blast so far 

MM: Lets go back to the beginning. How'd you get into the Marines? 

PD: Well, it's very simple. My dad wanted me to go into the Maritime Academy in
New London, Connecticut. I didn't want to go to school again, which was the academy,
so I joined the Marine Corps. I went to PI, did my tour there as everyone did. 

MM: Why did you choose the Marine Corps, why not the Army etc? 

PD: Well, number one I wanted to fly, primarily. This may sound ridiculous, but there
was an ad put out by Lucky Strike in 1943 that showed a Marine dive bomber, an SBD
Douglas Dauntless; the title on it was "A pair of aces back to back." ...because the
gunner sat backwards. That was one of the reasons I joined, plus the fact that my dad
wanted me in the other place and I didn't want to go in the Navy 

MM: Do you remember the date? 

PD: Originally in February of 43. I graduated high school in June of 43, went to PI and
I came out a PFC - I thought that was the highest rank in the whole Corps. 

MM: When did you know you belonged to the USMC, as a Marine? 

PD: Probably when I got out of Parris Island. Well, you know what drill instructors are
like - they were the dirtiest, nastiest, most miserable people in the whole world. There
was an old habit they used to have, they'd put a bucket over your head and hit it with
their swagger stick. So I'm the old Corps by today's standards, but I'm not a China

MM: When you first went to Parris Island, what was that like? 

PD: Parris Island at that time was desolate. I remember on the whole rifle range there
was one tree ---one tree! ...and we were out there, we had to stay there, there were
gnats and it was hotter than all heck. It was miserable. But once you got through your
16-day inspection everything was fine, because then you were on the way out. You
could do the rest of your time standing on your head. It was a great experience. You
take a guy just out of high school who was, I guess, kind of cocky, and you go into the
Marine Corps and you realize you're not the cockiest person in the world. In fact you're
not sure you're even a person at that point. So all told I had a great time. I really did. I
enjoyed it thoroughly. I even remember my DI's name it was Joseph Edward Duffy and
he was harder on me and every other Irisher in the bunch. He was terrible. But at any
rate it was a fun time and out of that I went to radio school. 

MM: At what time in the process of becoming a Marine did it finally start to click -
that you were a Marine? That here you have these guys from all over the east, from all
walks of life, and backgrounds; at what point did it all begin to click and you came
together as a platoon? 

PD: When you became a cohesive group. When you got chewed out and up and down
and backwards and sideways and all you had was your buddies. You go ahead and
make it that cohesive unit and then you realized that there was something to all this -
and the Marine Corps, let's face it, they're the cockiest outfit in the whole world, but
step quietly, so it makes a lot of sense. But PI was an education. 

I grew up in a fairly well-to-do family. I didn't have a lot of drawbacks to speak of. I
played all my sports in school. I had 3 sisters that spoiled me beautifully. I was a
vegetarian also. I went into the Marine Corps and found out my 1st Sgt wasn't going to
give me the meals my mother gave me. So I started to eat meat and have been doing it
ever since. 

But PI to me -- well anyone who's been there will never, never forget it. It was
different!! As for me, to this day, I've never forgotten. 

MM:. When you got out of PI what were your choices or did you get any choices? 

PD: My choice was to go to radio school because they told me that was my choice.
Actually, I put in for radio school. The rear-seat gunner in an SBD has to know radio.
And that was part of my reason for that. 

MM: Do you think that being a high school graduate put you up in a higher MOS so to
speak, such as radio or more technical training? 

PD: Yes it did . I think graduation from high school in those days was in juxtaposition
to graduation from college today, and I think if you are active at all, both athletically,
socially, and so forth, you have a leg up on some people who weren't. And that's not
being snobbish, it's the truth. And you'll find it will help you in what you are doing,
what you are trying to do, whatever your goals are. Of course my goal was to be the
Commandant of the Maine Corps! (Laughter). I made corporal and that was it. 

MM: What about radio school? Where was it, etc.? 

PD: Radio school was in Jacksonville. It was four months, I believe, subject to
correction, I believe it was four months. At any rate, not knowing anything about radio
you had to know code first thing. 

You know, a funny thing is, I had a biology teacher in high school who was a Navy
radioman and he told me you will never forget code - no matter how old you are you
won't ever forget it. And I find myself driving along today looking at signs and spelling
them out in code. I'm not alone, I'm sure other guys are doing the same thing. You look
at things, like this little HBO guide, the first thing you say is .... -... --- --. ..- .. -.. . 

At any rate, you learn discipline there, along with your schooling you have calisthenics
in the morning ... and that was the other thing about Parris Island that was the worst
thing in the world - at five o'clock in the morning you had rock and roll, on your
stomach, grabbing your ankles and rock back and forth. But once again, now when you
look back on it, it was a marvelous thing to go through! 

So I got out of radio school and went to gunnery school. Gunnery school was in
Hollywood, Florida. After that we went to Newport, Arkansas where there were ten
pilots and ten gunners and we were trying out SB2Cs at that time and that's when the
SB2C had trouble with the tail, the empanage, the skin coming off it, so it was back to
SBDs. And from there we went to California and from there we thought we were going
overseas in SBDs, but when we got overseas they put us in B-25s. 

MM: Were you matched with a pilot at that time? 

PD: Out of gunnery school we were matched with a pilot, yes. And like anything else,
the pilots were all second Johns and you were a corporal at that time, and for the next
two years, you were a corporal and they got to be captains and what have you... at any
rate, yeah, you were matched up with a pilot. .. and pretty much matched with someone
you had a rapport with, you know, and we did very well, in fact the guy I flew with was
John Hatch. I remember his name. I don't know where he is at this point ...it's been a
long time. 

MM: So what is it like in the back of an SBD or a hell diver, during a dive, sitting in
the back seat, looking up? 

PD: You make sure the tail doesn't come off. (Laughter) And you make sure that - you
know you have dive brakes on an SBD -- and when you're going to pull out you have
to yell "Mark!" so those things can come back up and you can get out again. It was
scary. It was like the worst, and best, roller coaster you've ever been on in your life.
To this day, going over the hump, I can still see the tail shaking... all the way down
until we pulled out of the dive. 

What we'd do is go up to 18 thousand feet and go straight down and pull out at 2, and
you corkscrew on the target all the way down. We did one thing that wasn't called for,
however - we flew upside down over a girls' school. Someone wanted to know who it
was. None of us knew - "Our people wouldn't do that!" 

So we got overseas. I met the general, he's here today, the man I flew with, and this was
just random selection. I was selected to be the radio gunner on his B-25. His name is
Norman Anderson, he went through and became a Lt. General. He was a light colonel
at that time, and, subject to correction, he was in charge of all of the Marine aviation in
the Korean War and the Viet Nam war. I just met him again this afternoon and he's
super. In fact we had a picture, one of the guys brought it in, of his hundredth mission,
flying against Rabaul from Green Island. With myself, our host Ned Wernick -- he is
the host here, and Bill Rogers, and we signed the picture. And so we spent all of our
time down there. Now the best part of that is going down to Australia ...we went down
there three or four times. We'd take a B-25 and strip it down and we'd take cigarettes
with us. Cigarettes at that time were 50 cents a carton. We'd get a case, which would
be 50 cartons, the black market value of cigarettes was $13.50. So we had a bootlegger
(after a while); we had people who made uniforms, we had the guy who gave us money
for the cigarettes. (Laughter) 

MM: So, what were some of the places you'd go to in Australia? 

PD: King's Cross, a very favorite bar for all Marines. Not as big as the one in
Cheyenne, Wyoming which a block and a half long, but at any rate the bar was a good
size and the gal who ran it was named Freda, and all of our insignias were above the
bar, of 423 and of all of the MAG61 squadrons of which 423 was a part. And that's
where I learned to love steak and eggs. And you know that's ...you have to learn to talk
like that - I had flaming red hair at the time and the nick-name for a red-head in
Australia is "Blue." 

MM: How did the Australians like Marines? 

PD: I think very much. The gals liked us. While we were at Green island the Aussies
had PV Venturas that, I believe, the Navy had given to the Australians, so a lot of the
guys from Australia were right next to us, contiguous to our unit on Green Island, and
personally I got in touch with a couple of them - I met their families down there, which
is kinda nice. And this buddy of mine who didn't show up for this reunion today, Bob
O'Connor. He was a Master Sergeant and he started out in Vindicators, I guess it was
back at the start of WWII, at any rate Okie and I had a place over- looking Bondi
Beach (world-famous for Aussie lifeguard training and competitions) which was
probably the nicest place in Australia and it was partly due to the fact that we had
money from the sale of cigarettes ... (Laughter) Are you sure you want to go through
with this? (Laughter) 

MM: Oh, sure, this is the good stuff. (Laughter) 

PD: Well, coming back, incidentally, I didn't tell you that... when we took the cigarettes
down, we got rid of those, so we had an empty bomb bay, obviously, so we brought
back Johnnie Walker scotch which was a dollar or two dollars a bottle, and eggs, fresh
eggs, which you couldn't get, and we'd bring back big cartons of them and when we'd
get back in it was a field day. You'd never know it to look at us today but at that time
we were seventeen years old. It was a fun war then. And of course Anderson was, and
is, one of the nicest guys you ever want to meet. And he's 86 or 87 right now . He was
here all afternoon. It was such a pleasure to be with him. And these are guys I haven't
seen in 53 years . Its been a long time.... and when someone says "You're hair is no
longer red," you say "What the hell - you don't have any hair!" 

MM: Let's get to the combat, combat missions. 

PD: Combat missions - I had 48 of them. They were mixed: medium altitude, high
altitude and low altitude strafing and bombing. And they were primarily against the
Japanese on Rabaul. And of course that was by-passed during the war as you know.
But they still had something like 35 or 40 thousand troops there, but they were all dug
into the mountains. It was kinda strange in that you never saw them. The first time I
flew on a low level I kept wondering why our tracers seemed to be coming back at us
... I thought they were reflecting off the ground. Uh uh. It was them shooting back at us.
So that makes for an interesting mission. 

MM: What were your typical duties on the PBJ? 

PD: Mine were left mid gunner. There are 2 fifties on either side, there are twin fifties
in the back and twin thirties I think in the turret on top. And then single where the
bombardier was. Mine officially was radio and the gun. So when you're flying - you
have to be in touch with the rest of the squadron and so forth and that was one way to
help. Incidentally, I heard of the death of President Roosevelt by... I think it was Tokyo
Rose, I'm not sure... coming back from a mission. What we'd do is we'd have split
earphones, you'd listen to what you were supposed to in this ear, and anything else you
could find in the other. So as I say, I repeat it again, it wasn't a really bad war when
you stop and think about it. And it was an experience .... a learning experience. 

MM: Where were the radios in the plane? Were you up behind the pilot? 

PD: No. You know the configuration of the B-25? Okay, this side of the bulkhead is
the bomb bay , so in the front is the cockpit, your bombardier, your co-pilot and pilot,
and then the crawlspace through where the bomb bay was and then right behind that,
facing out from the left hand bulkhead was the radio position. 

MM: So if you were flying with Colonel Anderson you were always in the lead plane? 

PD: We were in the lead plane all the time. 

MM: So whatever was up there you hit it first? 

PD: Well, what there was to be hit. I mean, none of us in our tour were really hit,
period. There's some people in the squadron that died and I don't know all the details. I
do know that, yeah, we were the first one in with him. And his low levels were
something else. I got my license after, in 1952, and I thought that chasing trains out in
Wyoming was a pretty good experience, flying at about the same level as the trains, but
it was nothing compared to his level at low level bombing. 

MM: How low did you get? 

PD: Oh, I'd say a hundred feet. That's low. 

MM: Skimming along how fast? 

PD: I don't know what the speed was. Probably 250, 300. I know on a dive like that in
SBDs we'd hit 300 or so. It's hard to recall all that stuff. In fact talking to you like this I
didn't think I'd remember what I have. (Laughter) 

MM: On low levels, did you fire your machine gun at the Japanese, or did you get
down that low? 

PD: Whenever you're at low level, you fire, period. I don't know what you hit.
Probably like us it scared the hell out of you. On a low level strafing run, the pilot
obviously can see ahead, but you can't see anything till you're past it. And the only
thing you're looking for is to see if you have any other interferences any other way but
when you fire you're firing in the second quadrant of the plane ... 

MM: How about the radio equipment, was it reliable? 

PD: Yeah. I think they were. We could pick up lots of good stuff. In fact if you get a
chance go in there and look in the second room in there, there's one of the radios in
there and there's a 50 caliber in there too. 

You'd get more information looking in that room than anywhere else. 

MM: On your missions to Rabaul ... anything stand out in your mind, anything
especially dangerous? 

PD: The weather coming back was bad in a lot of them and you bumped around all
over the place. In the 25s. And I think at the age we're talking about... you know if
someone told me to go in an SBD today and go over the hill from eighteen I'd say no
way, but when you're young enough you follow what obviously the man's doing, and he
is a well-qualified pilot no question about it. In fact everyone was in a learning
experience ... that's what a war is - a war is a learning experience. You know: "Am I
going to be scared?" "Yep." "Am I going to be scared less than I should be with a
defecation?" "No." But I'm sure if you're in a foxhole on the ground you would be. It
was a pretty clean way to be doing what you're doing. And Green Island was a neat
place. No one bothered us there. And of course the Japanese at that time didn't have
anything to come and fight us with. They were by-passed. I'm sure they had planes but
I'm sure they didn't have gas to go with the planes. 

What else, Mike?. 

MM: That's an interesting point. You know in a ground war you're up against it a set
period of time...... in an air war you're pretty much in and out. 

PD: Well, in an air war it's not as realistic as shooting from A to B against someone
shooting from B to A. OK? You're up there and you're firing and if you see something
you fire at it. 

MM: Is there mental pressure from a couple of minutes of terror and then getting out
and coming back around and all of a sudden you're back getting.... 

PD: Well I think your second run on a low level is one that makes you think more than
your first one does. Because they know you're coming back ... 

MM: Now they have time to get ready for you. 

PD: But I don't recall any one really at that point getting seriously damaged. I'm sure
there was some but it's something I just don't know. You know, once you get down,
you say "Boy! Good! I don't have to do that again until tomorrow." It was a "good war"
in this respect: we had 100% backing of the American people, unlike Nam and Korea,
which were both unpopular actions. As for Desert Storm, it was also a "good action"
but never finished properly, in my opinion. 

MM: Well, let me ask you this: How many months did you spend overseas, do you
have any idea? 

PD: Yeah, I think I was over there eleven months and fifteen days, something like that.
In that area. And the reason I can't really say is ...we were having a query about air
medals which you get in so many flights and all this kind of stuff and I wrote to the
Navy Department and said I didn't receive mine and they said we're sorry about that
but you don't have your log book. Which burned up in a fire, so you know, tough. But I
did get one that had two stars in it - that I remember. 

MM: You should be able to use General Anderson's log book. 

PD: Well as a matter of fact I talked to him today and he said he'd be more than happy
to verify it. And when a Major General writes and says yes he was a member of my
crew you've got to believe that carries much more credence than Corporal Dunne
saying hey, I did this. 

MM: Okay, a couple more questions, one of which is: Coming back. What were your
feelings once you saw that mainland of the United States? 

PD: I really don't remember that. I do remember one thing - a fire boat met us and
Betty Hutton was on it and she was singing "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief," and that
memory is very vivid. Coming back our bunks were four decks down, none of us
stayed there, we all slept in boats on top. LCIs I think it was. I hope that was coming
back, I'm trying to remember. (Laughter) 

MM: One last question: What does it mean to you today... looking back after all those
years, what does it mean today to be a Marine or to have been a Marine? 

PD: Well there's no such thing as an ex-Marine as you know. They're all former
Marines. And you were part of one of the most elite outfits going. And you met some
great friends - you know after my 12-year hiatus when I didn't know they were having
these reunions, I'm together with four members of our crew. There are only seven in a
B-25. And that's pretty good. My buddy O'Connor we can't find, but other than that he's
the only one we couldn't find. And they're gonna be here. Anderson is here today. Ned
is here today. Bill Rogers is here today. Uekert will be here tomorrow I believe. Broker
- I don't think he's coming. I have a letter... after I hooked up with Ned again, I sent a
Christmas card to each of the people. He sent me the war diary and I saw all the
names. And I got a letter back from each one. It's a feeling of camaraderie that goes on
and on. I probably won't see these guys again except for Ned who lives in Pensacola
and has to go through Springfield, Illinois to see his daughter in Chicago. I probably
wouldn't see him again except for that. And Bill Rogers lives in Maryland. He's 92 or
3. I might not see him again. But seeing him today was worth the whole thing. All of

Is that a wrap? 

MM: Great interview. 

... all but two of the crew ... 

By Peter (Red) Dunne and Mel Wolf

In reading the war diary of VMB-423 I came across an interesting article regarding a
crash of a PBJ1J at Dansalan, Mindanao (PI) on October 18,1945. The very last line of
the report read "The passengers and all but two of the crew were flown back to
Malabang in a TBF from Headquarters Squadron MAG 12. The "all but two of the
crew" really rang a bell, because I was one of the two crew. The other was my buddy
Mel Wolf of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

Here is the rest of the story (the part not reported in the war diary). I hadn't thought of
that crash for over fifty years until Ted asked me to recall and submit a couple of
pages on how we came to be left behind. I began to think about it and called Mel to ask
him what he remembered. We talked for over an hour as to the who, what, when, where
and why. He filled in many of the blanks. 

It seems we had a chance for a little R&R in Zamboanga and we were curious about
the old saying, "the monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga." Apparently, we felt
somewhat the need to know whether the saying was true or just an old wives' tale.
Neither of us can remember if we hitched a ride or were assigned as radio operators for
that flight. Understand our memories are a little rusty after such a long hiatus. 

The trip was to be a day trip but, due to bad weather, we were forced to remain in
Zamboanga overnight. We both recounted it was a great evening. We sampled the food,
tasted the local brews, attended a social gathering out in the boonies and met two
delightful young ladies from the local finishing school. The two young ladies were
chaperoned by a rather large army type (complete with 45 caliber stuck in his belt) who
was purported to be their father. Yeah, right! It was a good evening, daddy

The next morning we made our way back to the strip in time catch the flight home. The
flight home was uneventful until we made our final approach. As I remember, the air
strip we took off from was a long, level strip. However, we seemed to be landing
uphill. According to the war diary, our left wing hit a tree. After sliding through the
water and muck for the better part of a mile or more we came to a stop in a paddy _ in
the middle of nowhere. We hit the escape hatch, dove through, got up and ran like hell
through the water and night soil for a hundred yards or more fearing the plane might
blow. It didn't, so we returned and took stock of the situation. 

We either volunteered (I can't believe either of us did that _ after all, we learned in
Boot Camp never, never volunteer), or were assigned the dubious honor of guarding the
craft until the someone decided what to do to alleviate an untenable situation. (We
can't account for the time between returning to the plane and the rest of the crew
leaving the crash site with a group of Philippine scouts for their return to base.) 

After the rest of the crew took off, we took one look at each other and asked, "why
us"? Mel thought it was because we had enjoyed ourselves the prior evening and the
rest of the crew hadn't. In any event, we attempted to settle in. We checked supplies
and found that there were none _ everything was old and rotting. 

The next thing I remember is Mel coming in and telling me, "We have company." I
looked out. We sure did. There was a slew of little people watching from a short
distance away, not saying anything, just watching. Obviously, we didn't know who they
were and it was a little spooky. Mel tells me that as night approached, we strung wire
from the nose of the plane completely around the wings and tail. We attached the wire
to a battery to created an electric barrier for protection (little did we know that our
force field wouldn't keep anything or anybody from getting to us). We located the life
raft which we inflated (it only inflated to half full), placed it in the cockpit and made it
our motel for the night. However, the little people just kept on watching and so did we. 

Sleep was at a minimum due to the thousands of bugs, led by the largest mosquitoes in
the entire South Pacific. We spent the night listening for and trying to define the strange
noises, talking about home, fighting the bugs and fantasizing about our return to base
and the certain thanks (and possibly a small medal) that would be bestowed on two
brave young Marines for duty above and beyond the call . . Wrong, straight arrow. No
thanks, no medal, no mention until "all but two of the crew" in the War Diary of VMB

The next day we were met by Philippine Island Scouts. We took a long last look at our
noble craft and fell in behind the scouts who led us through the paddy to a former U.S.
military base long since abandoned. We were told that the base was under the
command of General MacArthur's father many years ago. The barracks were still
standing and the parade ground was still in use for something or other. 

So ends our story. It was an adventure and is as true as memory allows. However, one
memory is clear to both of us _ the monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga. 

Red Dunne & Mel Wolf 

The Day Fred Cross Saved Our Crew 

by Ted Eckhardt, pilot

In the briefing tent, we were told that the Fleet was going North to an unde- termined
destination and CICPAC wanted to make sure there would be no detection. VMB_423
was given the job of patrolling New Ireland to make sure the Fleet passed by
undetected on its way to another invasion. 

My crew along with 3 or 4 others (all at separate times) was scheduled for the flight.
For the most part, the flight was normal. We started at the southern end of New Ireland
and flew North toward Kavieng at the other end. We flew about 200' off the deck and
perhaps a half mile off shore to avoid any hostile AA fire. 

We turned at the northern end and headed south along the opposite side for our return
to Green Island. 

In the distance, we could see a typical SOPAC squall line. Almost a perfect line from
the sky, slanting downward to the ocean. Behind that ominous line, was the worst
weather one could imagine! Rain so hard that it took the paint off the wing's leading
edge. Rain so hard that it was driven thru the plexiglas wind_shield joints and soaked
the cockpit. Rain so hard that it formed a solid barrier of water on the outside of the
glass through which any visibility was almost impossible. Before too long, I dropped
the gear and added some flap for needed stability. I decided to go as low as possible
and find the shoreline as a safe route, knowing that high mountains were on my left and
the open water of St. Georges channel (between New Ireland and Rabaul) was on my
right. We were flying just over the tree tops, hardly visible thru the wall of water on the
windshield. Suddenly, a SCREAM_ "Pull up!!! Pull up!!!" Fred Cross was in the nose
and he knew we were going into the trees. I did the necessary to put that PBJ into a
steep climbing turn to the right. The next few minutes were beyond description! How
we came thru that situation I cannot say. 

Just wasn't our turn, I guess. 

After the flight, we surmised that we had flown into a horse_shoe area along the shore
line without knowing it because of the visibility. Probably, the curve of the shoe was
so sharp that we avoided contact by the steep climbing turn. 

Fred Cross saved us all that day!!! 

"...it was my Mac" 

By Peg Gallant

My mind is not working so great -- but I do have a few memories to share. 

Mac was so very loyal to the "Group." He really did enjoy the few reunions that we
were able to attend. 

I do have some pictures for your use. In fact Mac ordered a large picture of Emirau by
Wm. Whiteside. He even had it framed. It's too large to send but I really don't know
who else would want it. Maybe someone who could drop by and could take it to the
next reunion. 

The photos are certainly weather-beaten but at least I know it would please Mac. 

I must tell you that his son Matt put the small marine flag in his casket. I even still
have his uniform but I just don't know who would be interested. 

Let's see - memories flood my mind. When he returned to St. Louis, it was Christmas
time. I had a great uncle Bob who drove me to the station. I was so excited that I
walked right by him! He was so tanned and he had sprouted a "handle bar" mustache!
That really threw me - he called out to me and I realized it was "my Mac." 

Boy, you really have to excuse me. I miss him so. 

But we had over 50 years together and I have no regrets. 

He truly was Semper Fi. Fondly, Peg Gallant 

What A Great Guy 

By Sid Gross

Just a short story to illustrate what a great guy and gentlemen then Lt. Col. Anderson
was, and is. 

I was a radioman and gunner. My pilot, who was Lt. Lusky, was rotated home, so that I
was without a pilot. 

When it came time to go on rest leave to Sydney, Australia, I went with Col. Anderson
as his radioman for this trip, along with another member, Cliff Monroe, from my
original crew, and of course others, also. 

When it was time to go back to Green Island, the Marine billeting office in Sydney
advised us that the Colonel was staying a while longer, and that Cliff Monroe and I
should call them every day to see when we were going back to Green Island. On the
third day, we called in the morning and were advised that as far as they knew, we were
not leaving yet. I don't know why I called again later that afternoon, (just a hunch), but
we were told that everyone was already waiting for us at the airfield. 

It still took us about an hour and a half to get to the airport. 

Col. Anderson never said boo. All he said was, okay, now that we are all here, let's go
back to Green Island. 

About 50 or so years later, I think it was at the Milwaukee reunion, I asked him if he
remembered the incident. 

He said he didn't, but that he hoped I didn't keep him waiting for anything bad. 

End of story. Sid Gross. 

Precious Memories 

By Henry Grimac

Me and Lindy Were Like - That! 

My first station, in the spring of 1944, was with MAG-34 (Col. E. P. West, III) at
Kinston, N.C. We had F4Us and SBDs. Colonel Charles Lindbergh, consultant for
United Aircraft, who made the Chance Vought F4U fighter, was visiting MAG-34 to
instruct Marine pilots on fuel conservation. He was staying in our BOQ. I was there,
also. One Sunday -- the BOQ was quite empty -- the phone in the hallway rang. I
answered it. The caller wanted to speak to Col. Lindbergh. I went to Lindy's room and
knocked on the door. He opened the door and I said, "Colonel, you have a phone call."
Lindy said, "Thank you, Lieutenant." And that was that. 

I can say that I met face to face with one of our most famous aviation pioneers - Lindy!

For a Minute, I was a PBJ Pilot 

I only got caught up with VMB-423 the last year or so. I was engineering officer in the
squadron while it was on Green Island, Emirau Island and later Malabang, Philippines.
In early spring or so of 1945, I asked one of our pilots to take me on a bombing hop.
He did and I gladly went. After we dropped our load (on Rabaul or Kavieng) the pilot
(I think it was Charles Linen from the Boston area) told the co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Bob
Kieffer, to leave his seat and let me get in. He did, and I got in his seat. The pilot said,
"Hank, fly the plane." We were #2 in formation. I tried for a minute or so, and gave it
up - but I was very proud to get such a chance - Wow! 

I can say I had ONE mission to my credit. What a great memory to take away with me!

My Pal, the General 

MAG-61 caught up with me in 1993. I attended their reunion in 1994 in Clearwater,
Florida. There, I met 4-star General E.E. Anderson. He had been C.O. of VMB-443 on
Emirau. I asked the General if he knew the addresses, etc., of my former C.O., Lt. Col.
N. Anderson and his Exec., Major Harry Taylor - all of VMB-423. He said yes, and he
would send me their addresses when he got home to Virginia. 

Well, the General sent me a beautiful letter on his 4-star, red flag letterhead. The
General addressed me as "Dear Henry," as if we were close, old friends. He gave me
the addresses, etc. He closed by saying it was nice meeting me, and hoped to see me at
the next MAG-61 reunion. 

I didn't spare any money in having that letter mounted and framed. How many people
get a letter from a 4-star Marine General? I'm very proud of it. 

By the way, General Anderson was the first Aviation Marine to become Assistant
Commandant of the Marine Corps - 1972-1976. The Commandant was General R.E.
Cushman, Jr., 1972-1976, appointed by President Richard Nixon. 

Looking Back... 

By Chuck Gardner 

A Haunting Memory

One incident that occurred while we were overseas that I cannot get off my mind was
the expression that was the face of intelligence officer Lt. Thornwell Rogers as his
plane taxied out of the revetment, headed for the runway. He was in the co-pilot seat
(why, I do not know) and the look on his face was that this will be my last hop. And it
was. He was on the plane of Lt. Kistner, Lt. Lucy and their crew. They took off right
before dark and when the ETA of the flight came and it wasn't back the minutes began
to turn to hours - it was a long night. Of course, we know the rest of the story. 

A Fish Story 

This photo is of the ground echelon fishing crew and here's how the story goes: to start
with, the boat really belonged to New Zealand. As you will see in the picture we have
a New Zealander for a skipper. New Zealand had a squadron of PV-2s on the island
while we were there and we got to be good friends with some of their ground crew.
Finally some of our crew traded them out of the boat, how they did it has slipped my
mind. Either Chester L. Wheeler or Hubert S. Wheeler became the skipper after we got
possession of the boat. I really do not know which one of the Wheeler boys it was but
he will be the one standing just to the right of the flag in the back of the boat. 

Some of us in the ground crew would create a disturbance with the guard that was
guarding the place that the food was stored in for the mess hall. While this was going
on some others would go in and borrow a few gallons of corned beef, cooking oil and a
sack of potatoes. NEVER was there anything stolen! We would already have the
dynamite and bomb fuses on hand. The crew would motor way out into the Lagoon,
open the cans of corn beef, scatter it out around the boat, wait a few minutes, unscrew
the propeller of the bomb fuse, hit it on the side of the boat and pitch it overboard
where the corned beef had been scattered. Of course those fuses were the seven
seconds delay type. 

After it went off you could see the fish boiling up and we would jump in and pick up
the fish and throw them in the boat. Had a few good fish fries, sure beat those old
Australian goats. Wheeler went out one day to start the engine and it backfired, caught
on fire and the entire boat burned -_ end of fish fries. 

Some of the fishermen I can identify in the boat are Wojnar, Nicolodi, Shaw, Wheeler,
King, Kearney, Coulter, Gardner and Woods. 

... A wonderful group 

by Lamar B. Hall

One thing I remember is what a wonderful group I served with. I returned to the United
States walking the gangplank with Navy on one side, single file, and Marines on the
other side, single file. I looked across and saw my own brother - Navy - walking up the
gangplank beside me. 

Another time, as we were crossing the ocean, coming home, Saltman, a fellow Marine
and friend, was exercising over the bow of the ship when the chain broke and he went
into the ocean. The captain asked if we wanted to stop the boat, since submarines were
in the area. The Navy and Marines all said yes. Tried to get life boats over the side but
were unable to get them down before Saltman came swimming up to the side of the
ship. It was hard to believe he had made it to the side because of the prop wash,
etcetera, before life boats could be lowered. 

To end this story, we (the whole squadron) were all called back in the Korean war and
got to say "Hello" one more time before being scattered to different places. We thought
that being called back together we could form another squadron, but it wasn't to be.
However, thanks to these reunions, we do get together again. 

..a family of pigs 

by Dick Hansen, Radio Gunner

On one particular bombing mission that our crew was on, we were rolling down the
runway on takeoff when a family of pigs started to cross in front of us. Our pilot, Capt.
Tom Waller, pulled the plane up just enough to miss the pigs. We didn't have enough
speed to take off, so the plane bounced up and down the runway several times. Vito,
the tail gunner, hollered over the intercom, "What the #+!!@ is going on?" We all had a
big laugh when it was over. We did manage to miss the pigs 

A Jittery Moment 

by Ralph L. Harvey 
Pharmacist's Mate 3rd Class

One thing I remember when we had been on Green Island for just a short time: Our
medical tents (sickbay) and sleeping quarters were a short distance away from the
ground-crew living area. We had heard that there were still some Japs on the lower end
of the island, holed up in a few small caves. Well, one night (1:00 or 2:00 a.m.) I heard
rustling sounds in the wooded area around our tent area. Thinking this may be the Japs
trying to steal food, water or medical supplies, I tried to quietly awaken my snoring
tent mate. I had no results. He was really sawing logs. Well, I then went to the back of
the tent, got down on the dirt floor on my stomach, and gently raised the flap just
enough to see out. To my surprise and relief I saw an old mother boar hog and about
six little ones out there trying to find food! Isn't it amazing how the mind will play
tricks on you? This was just one of those jittery moments on good ol' Green Island... 

One other thing that I remember was trading good old 190 proof alcohol to a cook who
made us raisin-jack. We preferred that to the raw stuff because it went down much
smoother. We also took the 190 proof to the out door movie, spiking grapefruit juice
with it -- Well, Doctor Bozic got to missing the large quantities we were using (it came
in 5 gallon tins) so he started spiking the alcohol with quinine. We got around that by
getting long loaves of bread from the bakers, cutting the crust from each end and using
the loaf to strain the quinine out of the alcohol. But we used less from then on, so Doc
wouldn't miss it....