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
served in the Navy during the period of the White Fleet, for the things the
Corps represented, and, of course, his admiration for the Marines was
I was born in Wisconsin, but my family moved to Southern California when I
ten. After high school in Glendale I entered UCLA in 1930 where I took ROTC
four years and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Reserve. I must
had a special interest in and perhaps aptitude for the military in general
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
At any rate, on the afternoon of my UCLA graduation a friend and I returned
armory where we noticed a sign on the bulletin board to the effect that any
graduate wanting to learn to fly with the Marine Corps should contact Capt.
Reynolds, USMCR at the Naval Reserve Air Station, Long Beach, CA. Being a
clickey, we took down the notice and, together with three or four close
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
The friend with whom I discovered the notice in UCLA's armory, William Gise,
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
spot, Brown Field at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, and many times walked or
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
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
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
Virgin Islands and San Juan, Puerto Rico. It took us seven or eight days to
Quantico all the way to San Juan, a flight of two and a half hours today. We
only enough fuel for three hours at about 105 knots, so our flight plan
stopping at numerous bases en route: Ft. Bragg, N.C., Parris Island, S.C.,
FL, and Miami, prior to settling down for a high level maintenance check
attempting the long over-water flight to Cuba. We were now in our fifth day
landed to refuel at Camaguey, Cuba, then on to Guantanamo Bay, the base
Castro attempted to deny us in the 1960s by depriving the then occupants of
water supply. Since Guantanamo was run by Marines at that time, it was an
reunion, causing the passage of another day before taking off for Porto
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
Indies base for Pan American Airways flying boats, thrilling company for us.
knew what water looked like so on the next day, without hesitation, we
pressed on to
The most noteworthy flying event and possibly the only truly tactical
any value was participation with ships of the Atlantic Fleet in a landing
which we dropped two 250-pound bombs in support of the ground Marines, also
To be honest, we met a lot of other training objectives. Nevertheless, in
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
East. No more games.
Question: I understand you flew for a while as a pilot with American
Answer: My obligated service, as it is called today, terminated in February
which time I was fully sold on a career in the Marine Corps and had applied
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
training given by American and began regular flights between New York and
I was very impressed with the way the captains of American handled those
things and themselves too, as it happened. The special training mostly was
instrument-related, a blessing, for at that time the services were way
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
it much emphasis. We thought of instrument flying as an emergency measure to
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
thoughtfully planned, intentional weather experience. As a result, when once
returned to Quantico in mid_year 1941, I was assigned the job of aide to the
Commander, Brigadier General Roy S. Geiger, mostly to improve his mobility
he, hopefully, would be able, with his aide as co_pilot, to fly anywhere any
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
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
With the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Gen. Geiger's Wing deployed
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
I followed the General who, as might be expected, was among the first,
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
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
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,
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
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
us the determination and resources of a wounded giant. True, at Guadalcanal
fumbled a lot as we mustered our scant but growing forces, searching for
techniques and learning precious lessons. In November our forces came close
getting kicked off the island but growing power at sea saved the day as
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
Rabaul which land-based Marine Air and the Navy's carrier aviation
decimated. Little did I know that that stronghold would again dominate my
But for the time being, my role way down the line in all this was as a
re-supplying Marines of General Vandegrift's 1st Marine Division and of
Geiger's 1st Marine Air Wing. Aids to navigation were rudimentary or
during those early days, so approaching the various islands was primarily by
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
than take it out). This forced some difficult decision making _ "With a
should we steer for a landfall at the eastern end of Guadalcanal where
from Zeros was minimized but fuel consumption appreciably greater? Or should
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
In January of 1943 I took charge of our developing way-station on the island
Espiritu Santo which had become a major base with plenty of everything
aviation gasoline. The thirteen-hour New Caledonia _ Guadalcanal round trip
become a thing of the past, greatly improving our efficiency by doubling our
In another three months, R&R in Australia and New Zealand for the combat
needed to be managed on the spot which led to a drastic change of venue for
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,
gotten orders and a ride to Honolulu on top of a load of mail bags in an Air
B_24. Since no air travel was available at Pearl Harbor, I hooked a ride to
Francisco in a homeward bound destroyer which became a doubly thrilling
mid_way, when the ship's destination was changed to Alaska. As its companion
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
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
However soaked I was, we made the transfer amid profuse apologies and within
were dockside in San Francisco Bay. Having expressed an interest in the PBJ
(the Air Force B_25) to General Geiger, my orders were to report to Cherry
where these new squadrons were to be put together by Colonel Carl Day, a
Reservist whom I knew in New York as the American Airlines operations
cleared our flights to Memphis. By good fortune I was assigned to the second
squadrons to be commissioned, VMB_423, commanded by Lt. Col. John Winston,
acquaintance from my affiliation with the Marine Corps Reserves at Floyd
Field, New York, during my American Airline days. Once organized and with a
airplanes we took up intensive training at MCAS, Edenton, fifty miles up the
Question: Since you have given us a sound understanding of your aviation
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
Answer: You're welcome of course, but there are a two points I'd like to
closing. The remainder of my career following 423 is not germane to the
tale. For one thing, I want to pay tribute to the people who were key men as
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
driving Executive Officer; Major Harry Taylor, the Operations Officer; and
Carter Lowell, something of a free-wheeling trouble shooter. All were fine
I'd be terribly remiss were I not to recognize the contribution of our top
starting with Sergeant Major Woods, who functioned as the chief of
senior NCO, keeping me out of trouble with timely advice and accurate
reports up the chain of command. Of course after him came the key person of
aviation unit, the head of maintenance. Our strong maintenance department
Capt. Sweet, precise and experienced, Gunner Hoover, in whom I had developed
confidence as my crew chief during my earlier tour in the Solomons, and last
from least was Master Sergeant Bender, who knew the airplane from top to
showed great skill in getting the most out of the people who worked for him.
were all young Americans who knew their jobs thoroughly and performed them
hardly a hitch. There were many others who come to mind as I reflect upon
but the formal list has already grown long.
My evaluation of our mission is the other subject I should like to enlarge
of VMB_423's work was conducted from Green Island, which is 40 or 50 minutes
of marvelous Simpson Harbor, on the northern edge of which rests the city of
The harbor is formed by the junction of two islands defining the Coral Sea,
early explorers named New Britain and New Ireland. It is easy to guess what
the explorers represented.
Training at MCAS Edenton and, in the early part of 1944, at MCAS, ElCentro,
proceeded along normal lines, although we experienced our share of mishaps.
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
Spare parts for our PBJs came from the USAF through the Navy supply system,
awkward but necessary arrangement. At the squadron level, the end of the
developed an 'auxiliary' chain of supply by exchanging favors with certain
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
back at Cherry Point, Col. Carl Day. He'd had his own supply troubles and my
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
the Navy supply people at the Washington level off the dime. Simultaneously
rather thoughtlessly, however, he advised the Marine Air Command at North
his action, also attaching a copy of my letter. I was soon called before
and his staff for an explanation of why I chose to cast aspersions on the
the supply system for which his command was responsible. Needless to say my
met with nothing but cold stares _ except for the ensuing Letter of
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
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
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
I did help a little by writing some press releases for him which he seemed
appreciate. As for lessons that stick, he said to me one time after
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
Those words have guided my thinking ever since.
But he wasn't always right. When I was promoted to Captain the time had come
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
our planes across the Pacific in March of 1944 to the western end of the
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,
had been reduced to virtual impotence. Our job was to make sure it remained
for there was indeed a credible threat of secretive revival. To keep this
our squadron, and in due course three others of Marine Air Group_61 on the
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
squadrons for their cutting-edge missions up the line. Our missions were low
the targets selected were suitable for that type of attack, and medium
horizontal bombing otherwise. A lot of our work was done at night _ I would
of our flights were flown at night for two logical reasons: First, the
aircraft guns did not seem to be equipped with very effective range finders
were limited to visual fire, making it reasonable for us to exploit the
darkness. Secondly, the targeting group at the 1st Marine Wing Headquarters
Bougainville correctly reasoned that reinforcement activity by the Japanese
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
1945. As the war became totally dominated by our forces in the Far East, the
our work slowed to permit physical consolidation at Emirau with the other
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
the final assault on Japan. As is commonly recognized, the nuclear weapon
need for invasion to rest. By this time most of the original squadron
including me, were homeward bound, relieved by another group of hard_
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
Answer: My log book shows I flew 107 combat missions while with VMB_423. As
highlights and sequence you'll find them laid out in the attached page from
Eagles Chronolog", a publication of the association of naval aviators,
whose formal name is "The Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators'
Question: Tell us, if you will, about your Silver Star award. How did it
Answer: I'll provide you with the the write-up. (The following is extracted
early biographical sketch):
Serving as Deputy Commander of Marine Aircraft Group_33 aboard the USS
Strait (familiarly known as the 'BingDing'), Col. Anderson was awarded the
Medal for gallantry in action in that capacity on August 17, 1950, during
Perimeter fighting. The citation states in part:
"Organizing and leading a well-planned aerial attack against an enemy-
across the Naktong River, south of Taegu, Korea, (the then) Lt. Col.
succeeded in clearing the area for later occupation by Marine ground forces.
advancing Marine troops became pinned down by intense gunfire from enemy
along a ridge line, he daringly marked out enemy targets for his aerial
despite the defiladed and camouflaged nature of the hostile positions which
necessitated the execution of extremely low passes directly over
guns. After the bombs and rockets of his aerial group were expended, he led
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
only flight leader, just the senior one. The CO of VMF_323 was a marvel
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
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
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
_ 69 missions.
Vietnam: 2 missions.
Silver Star (For action at Pusan Perimeter, while in VMF-323)
4 Distinguished Flying Crosses
11 Air Medals
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
St. Thomas and Isla Grande, Puerto Rico, taking ten days in Boeing F4B_4s
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
litre Bacardi slung between rudder pedals. Transitioned to Grumman F3F_2s in
3) Flew DC_3s as co_pilot for American Airlines in 1940, learning the tricks
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,
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
Field, Sydney, May _ August 1942. Returned to Solomon Islands in spring
VMB_423 after transitioning to PBJs at Edenton, NC. Participated with other
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
Marine Brigade in defense of Pusan Perimeter. Supported Inchon landing in
and transited to support landings at Hungnam and Wonsan in October. Assigned
CINCPACFLT Evaluation Group to analyze Navy and Marine Corps participation
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
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
in F9F for then Representative Inouye to his ancestral home in western
(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
level, resulting in action by COMUSMACV to force similar performance by 7th
units of the US Army. Met many interesting Air Force officers who began
close air support and Single Management.
Editor's note: This is not a verbatim transcript. By invitation, General
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
By Howard (Army) Armstrong
Howdy, ol' Brian, ? 16 yr old grandson
Almost impossible to realize that it is JUNE ALREADY, ESPECIALLY SINCE THE
WEATHER IS SO MILD AT NIGHT THAT WE OPEN THE WINDOWS AND
SAVE THE AIR CONDITIONING _ wOOOps - I hit the capitol letters again-
NOSTALGIC MEMORIES_ IT IS THE YEAR 1943_ OUR PBJ MARINE AIR
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_
John Kline and I and a crew of 3 gunners and navigator had been assigned a
one plane to scout the northern tip of the island of New Britain, about 100
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
find our way along the coastline, flying low and armed with depth bombs
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
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
Japs going hellbent for leather across a passage between two small islands.
we immediately took off across the top of a small atoll between us and the
This turned out to be a trap. As we went across the island, lining up for a
on the whaleboat, all hell broke loose -_ small-arms fire from the dense
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
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
gunner was lying _ about 30 or maybe more hits BUT none hit us or anything
the plane! We peeled off and John, who was on this flight in command of the
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
weapons strafing the jungle AND dropped our depth bomb. This was a futile
satisfying action, as the depth bomb is designed to detonate under water at
water pressure ( example 100 foot depth) _ all it did was supply the Japs
black powder unless it hit one of them on the head. Anyway, we found no
after the war it was found that they had an underwater cave excavated,
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,
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
lighting up great areas with the burning, exploding phosphorous. At the time
an exciting game of war, but we lost 6 crews, one at a time, and never heard
of them. Of course, the jungles in the Solomons and New Guinea area could
up a plane with no trace.
Tokyo Rose (an American Jap who was in Tokyo on the radio) would taunt us
very accurate reports of our operations and occasionally name the downed
crews. I wonder if she was the one whom the ground Marine troops are said to
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
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
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
accent of one Marine from Nova Scotia, raised in Brooklyn, and the other
survivor of the Pig Irish of Brewery Town and Fairmount in North
After Green Island, the majority of the navigator/ bombardiers and radio men
assigned to Operational Training Squadron 813 (OTS 813) at Cherry Pt. While
Cherry Pt. we obtained a British navigational aid called LORAN... (long
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
assumed it was their patriotic duty to supply us with a few quaffs of
beverages. (One kind patron assisted Jim. C. and me to acquire two fifths of
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.
across from a nav-bomb who had had a bit too much, was an Army Officer of
rank. As we began to taxi out for take_off, the young nav-bomb barfed all he
and drank in a large splash that reached over to the Army man's shoes and up
almost to his knees... Mr. Army man howled and yelled so loud and angry that
taxied back to the place we had left only a matter of minutes earlier... The
nav-bomb came alive and asked: "Did anyone get the time on that
Back at Cherry Pt., later that same day, Jim C., me, and two fifths were
around the base. We had drained one fifth and I had the second one opened
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
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
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
summoned the Sgt of the Guard. There was some laughter, and then more
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
Interview of Lee Bender and Joseph Mack
This is Mike Miller, senior archivist at the Marine Corps University at the
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
time. My Dad thought it would be a good idea for me to go to college. I
much of that idea at the time, but I wanted to do something as an alternate.
had given me a brochure about the Marine Corps and it looked good to me. So
uptown to the Federal Building, walked around the corridor about five times
got up enough nerve to walk in and went in and signed up. Went through all
and physicals and passed. On September 19, 1941, I and two other fellows
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
MM: At this time, in the summer of 1941, what was the mood of the country,
Pearl Harbor? Did you feel that this country was going to go to war or was
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
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
anything to get in the way. Like Joe said, it was over my mother's
wasn't too happy with my decision. Ironically, I was here at Quantico on
day, stationed here, when the news came. I had been downstairs in the mess
when I got upstairs, someone was saying they'd bombed Pearl Harbor. But as a
kid, I don't think it really sunk in. But on the way to Parris Island we had
trains in Washington, D.C. We ran across a Marine in the station. (When we
anybody in a Marine uniform we'd question him about how it was going to be
this and that). And he had just recently returned from China and he said we
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
MM: Parris Island, lovely place. (Laughter). Give me your first impression
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
DI was Sgt. Burkhalder - have you ever seen the Marine bulldog? He looked
Marine bulldog. He had played college football for Clemson and he was at
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
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
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
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
MM: How about the DIs - were they combat veterans? What kind of things did
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
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
17-year-old kid and I weighed 117 pounds - just nothing. We were taught that
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
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
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
to run around the barracks with this pail over his head saying "I'm Foo
One night at the barracks, the guys got unruly. The civil war was fought all
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
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
upstate New York. And a lot of my friends, including Nicolodi, my best
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
skinny kid, never had a rifle, and what did I score at the range?
Lee: I wasn't so lucky. I didn't qualify. I had never had a gun in my hands,
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
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
a vegetable. If we were lucky, we'd have that. I can always remember we'd go
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
poisoning. Next thing you know, there are convoys of ambulances up there.
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
breakfast at Parris Island, we hadn't had a good meal in a while. When they
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
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
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
MM: People from all over, north and south; How long did it take you to feel
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
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,
group suffered. So, if one guy was weak in some respect, you'd do your best
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
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
really badly? K platoon? But we'd all do anything not to be sent there, not
ostracized. There might not have ever been such a thing, possibly, but they
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
mechanically inclined and went to a technical school, maybe that helped, I
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
going from hell to heaven. The chow hall was family style. You held up the
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
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
been paid in a long time and we had no money. We were broke. And at that
smoked. We had to pool our money to get some cigarettes, until we got paid.
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
Joe: I was just the average Joe. I could change a fuel pump on my brother's
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
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
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
Bruce Hudson I think. He was good. I remember another one who briefed us on
engine that was then being developed. It was at that time quite advanced in
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
to VMB-423. We then moved to Edenton. But Cherry Point was really nice
to the other places we had been. We were in a nice brick barracks, and the
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
some people there. I don't remember what my status was. I think I was a
when I joined it. They took some personnel out of VMB-413, the first PBJ
and transferred them to 423. Shortly afterwards, both squadrons were sent to
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
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
mechanical ability, although I had graduated from aviation machinist mate's
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
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
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
Lee: I remember at Edenton, many's the day and night we worked 48 hours
sleep, because the training was intense. The planes were flying around the
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
plane would come in and the stack would be gone. We had to have a humungous
pile of number 7 and number 9 exhaust stacks. I don't know why they'd break
Joe: They looked like they were cast metal, and something happened to make
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
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
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
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
unit and keep up the work?
Joe: There was really no problem that way at all. You accepted it as this is
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
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
(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
someplace on the way, because I also had responsibilities - packing a lot of
records and equipment. The nearest thing we had as a celebration was in a
store near the train station, buying beer and stuff. It wasn't your typical
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
for the jug, I guessed. Finally somebody straightened it all out. Then we
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
Joe: Pretty much so.
Lee: Yes, the line crew and mechanics groups. They had a crew chief,
chief and they had a group of fellows that were a crew. And ordnance had a
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
MM: For how many planes?
Joe: But you had the transportation unit, maintained the trucks. You had the
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
You had the quartermaster who took care of clothing. You had the mess hall,
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
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
one time our C.O.'s crew chief, when he flew earlier in the war in '42, and
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
Lee: If one didn't know, there was always someone there you could go to and
Joe: Plus - another thing was that quite a few of our group, rather than a
gone to North American Aviation school - in Englewood. So they had
education, if you will, in PBJs. So there was a nucleus of guys who knew
opposed to the raw mechs who came out of the Jacksonville school. And didn't
PBJ from a piper cub. So you had good solid leaders plus you had this
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
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
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,
needed to carry us from San Francisco to Oahu. At which point, as we went
of the crew went by sea from Alameda
Joe: The ground crew went on this baby flat-top from Alameda. The U.S.S.
William. It carried not only us, the ground crew but also fighter aircraft
transported to someplace out there.
Lee: And all this equipment we stripped down in El Centro was unloaded off
transferred to Hawaii and then they went on to the New Hebrides, to Espiritu
And we, the group of us that flew over, reassembled all of this stripped
and got ready to fly into the Pacific. I think that took six or eight weeks.
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
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
back together. After that, the ground crews were then put on a Curtis
we flew from Oahu to Palmyra to Canton, to Funafuti and then we eventually
Espiritu Santos. We had some training flights from Espiritu Santos and lost
there, on two nights in succession. One of them, we just found out here at
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
Lt. Caroselli, I think he was a ground officer, he went into the jungle and
native who had gotten one of the pistols of one of the crewmen from the
MM: When was it you finally got to where you could say "I'm in the war
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
Rabaul, New Britain and New Ireland. They combined the two squadrons with
ground crew, VMB-413's, and we packed up and went to Green Island. The air
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
the South Pacific with different weather. Any changes?
Lee: Well, now every morning a plane flew a weather mission over or near the
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
lights at night.
Lee: We were pretty much governed by what was required by the missions. We
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,
bombs, and it blew a tire on the nose wheel on its take off run and crashed
side, off the runway, but there was no explosion and no one was hurt. Then
another plane returning from its 50th mission, #38, Peterson's plane. They
to have an honorary ceremony for it, when it landed. Its nose wheel wouldn't
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
tail down. As he finally came to a stop the whole crew rushed out and jumped
tail and held it down, while another bunch got a jack under the nose by the
plane came to a stop.
MM: What was the reaction of the ground crew when a plane didn't come back
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
night flight. We still don't know what happened. He mis-judged it to the end
runway and crashed into the end of the island right along the bay near our
burst into flames. All the crew was lost on that one. Then Lt. Myer was shot
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
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
Lee: Yes. I really celebrated. But I was disappointed that some of them were
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.
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
buildings. The ground crew had to load everything aboard ships and they went
the Philippine Islands. Also, while we were capturing the Philippines we
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,
rest went on down Sydney. We were given some money to bring some goodies
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
plane that night to load the cargo bay.
MM: What was the hardest part of keeping the men's morale up with 14 months
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
Joe: There were natives but they were nowhere near us. For such a small
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
read all kinds of pocket books. Actually, it wasn't too bad on the Prince
baby flat-top. You could get a sundae sometimes. But some of these tramp
we were on were pathetic.
Lee: The ship we took from Espiritu Santos to Green Island was a World War I
the President something or other. I remember being on guard duty one night
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
must have been lying in water. The ship was so crowded there was no place
for them to
MM: When you first got back to the states, how did you get squared away,
haircuts, beards and so forth. Did you have to get the squadron back in
Lee: We all went our different ways. We went on our 30-day leave and we
Joe: I was only in San Diego a day or two, or three at the most. We got
our uniform tailored so it didn't look so baggy, had a steak and a few beers
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
the atomic bomb was dropped.
Joe: I was at Cherry Point when the war ended. I saw guys in trash cans and
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
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
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
Lee: We had 2 USO tours that stopped on our base. Bob Hope came and so did
Joe: We worked and when we weren't working I don't remember being bored. We
the club, there was always a card game - especially right after pay day.
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
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
friendships. I'll start to cry here. You have your friends, and Nick and I
They came to our 50th wedding anniversary. We shared their joys and
in their lives and they shared ours. I don't mean that we had a hundred
stuck together like glue, but you might have had a dozen of them because of
that they lived in your state or around your state and you were closer to
obviously than some guy that lived in California, and you know, an exchange
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
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,
Winston, and our Exec, who was Colonel Anderson and is going to be at this
became our C.O. They were always there for us. We had a great group from the
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
MM: Okay. If there's nothing you want to add, that wraps it up. Thank you so
tomorrow . . .SPAM
(Excerpts from a Letter)
As for specific memories or stories, one tends to remember the extremes. The
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
in tidal pools. Wish I could do that today. Wonder if, on Green Island, the
population has built up again!
+ I remember Bob Weaver, who made a rough landing after a long flight,
storms all the way, ran out of oxygen, and almost out of fuel. While it was
landing, at least they were back. It wasn't till morning when the plane was
that we found out how hard the landing was. The landing gear struts were
into the wing and it seems to me the wings were bent away from correct
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
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
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
take notes of what we spoke of and send them to you. The stories will flow
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
PBJ, back to Green on one engine and making what I thought was the smoothest
I'd ever witnessed. It was a night heckling mission. They blew a hole in the
that was almost a perfect circle with a diameter about 10 or 12 inches. Bob
and trimmed and we lost quite a bit of altitude on the way back from Rabaul,
guided that baby over the trees and I couldn't even feel the tires meeting
Once I recounted this to Tom Wallimann and he looked at me and said,
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
occasion." And Tom said, "Heh, that's right. I forgot about those
It's been a long time. We remember different things and forget them too. I'm
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
lone B_25 revving up on the runway to take off for another heckling mission.
of engines as the plane took off could be heard, followed by the sight of it
the trees and climbing past the theatre. I seem to remember all heads in
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
happen. Maybe I was dreaming again.
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
The top sergeant said he'd separate the twins if it was the last thing he
shipped the top sergeant out before the twins, and the next sergeant didn't
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
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 Jack were the only twins in the Marines from Philadelphia who served
during WWII. They didn't go to Iwo Jima but someone could have heard about
and incorporated it into the movie.
There was a story I heard about french fries. They blew up a tent. I believe
make the french fries. Mike Gallo would know more about this story or Milton
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
"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
Hope my stories are a little different than ones you have. Bill said it was
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
twins did host one of the reunions in Philadelphia. Maybe some day I'll make
Sincerely, Semper Fi.
PETER FRANCIS DUNNE, JR.
This is Mike Miller, Senior archivist at the Marine Corps University here
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
for Colonel Anderson who was the CO of our outfit. This is the first reunion
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,
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
New London, Connecticut. I didn't want to go to school again, which was the
so I joined the Marine Corps. I went to PI, did my tour there as everyone
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,
was an ad put out by Lucky Strike in 1943 that showed a Marine dive bomber,
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
like - they were the dirtiest, nastiest, most miserable people in the whole
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
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
was one tree ---one tree! ...and we were out there, we had to stay there,
gnats and it was hotter than all heck. It was miserable. But once you got
16-day inspection everything was fine, because then you were on the way out.
could do the rest of your time standing on your head. It was a great
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
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
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
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
together as a platoon?
PD: When you became a cohesive group. When you got chewed out and up and
and backwards and sideways and all you had was your buddies. You go ahead
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
But PI to me -- well anyone who's been there will never, never forget it. It
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
PD: My choice was to go to radio school because they told me that was my
Actually, I put in for radio school. The rear-seat gunner in an SBD has to
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
to graduation from college today, and I think if you are active at all, both
socially, and so forth, you have a leg up on some people who weren't. And
being snobbish, it's the truth. And you'll find it will help you in what you
what you are trying to do, whatever your goals are. Of course my goal was to
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
correction, I believe it was four months. At any rate, not knowing anything
you had to know code first thing.
You know, a funny thing is, I had a biology teacher in high school who was a
radioman and he told me you will never forget code - no matter how old you
won't ever forget it. And I find myself driving along today looking at signs
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
in the morning ... and that was the other thing about Parris Island that was
thing in the world - at five o'clock in the morning you had rock and roll,
stomach, grabbing your ankles and rock back and forth. But once again, now
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
Hollywood, Florida. After that we went to Newport, Arkansas where there were
pilots and ten gunners and we were trying out SB2Cs at that time and that's
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
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
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
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
MM: So what is it like in the back of an SBD or a hell diver, during a dive,
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
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
however - we flew upside down over a girls' school. Someone wanted to know
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
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
super. In fact we had a picture, one of the guys brought it in, of his
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
there three or four times. We'd take a B-25 and strip it down and we'd take
with us. Cigarettes at that time were 50 cents a carton. We'd get a case,
be 50 cartons, the black market value of cigarettes was $13.50. So we had a
(after a while); we had people who made uniforms, we had the guy who gave us
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
Cheyenne, Wyoming which a block and a half long, but at any rate the bar was
size and the gal who ran it was named Freda, and all of our insignias were
bar, of 423 and of all of the MAG61 squadrons of which 423 was a part. And
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
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
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
personally I got in touch with a couple of them - I met their families down
is kinda nice. And this buddy of mine who didn't show up for this reunion
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
Beach (world-famous for Aussie lifeguard training and competitions) which
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
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
down, we got rid of those, so we had an empty bomb bay, obviously, so we
back Johnnie Walker scotch which was a dollar or two dollars a bottle, and
eggs, which you couldn't get, and we'd bring back big cartons of them and
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
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
MM: Let's get to the combat, combat missions.
PD: Combat missions - I had 48 of them. They were mixed: medium altitude,
altitude and low altitude strafing and bombing. And they were primarily
Japanese on Rabaul. And of course that was by-passed during the war as you
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
in the back and twin thirties I think in the turret on top. And then single
bombardier was. Mine officially was radio and the gun. So when you're flying
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
down that low?
PD: Whenever you're at low level, you fire, period. I don't know what you
Probably like us it scared the hell out of you. On a low level strafing run,
obviously can see ahead, but you can't see anything till you're past it. And
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
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
PD: The weather coming back was bad in a lot of them and you bumped around
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
way, but when you're young enough you follow what obviously the man's doing,
is a well-qualified pilot no question about it. In fact everyone was in a
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
place. No one bothered us there. And of course the Japanese at that time
anything to come and fight us with. They were by-passed. I'm sure they had
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
shooting from B to A. OK? You're up there and you're firing and if you see
you fire at it.
MM: Is there mental pressure from a couple of minutes of terror and then
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
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
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
which were both unpopular actions. As for Desert Storm, it was also a
but never finished properly, in my opinion.
MM: Well, let me ask you this: How many months did you spend overseas, do
have any idea?
PD: Yeah, I think I was over there eleven months and fifteen days, something
In that area. And the reason I can't really say is ...we were having a query
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
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
to verify it. And when a Major General writes and says yes he was a member
crew you've got to believe that carries much more credence than Corporal
saying hey, I did this.
MM: Okay, a couple more questions, one of which is: Coming back. What were
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
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
back, I'm trying to remember. (Laughter)
MM: One last question: What does it mean to you today... looking back after
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
Marines. And you were part of one of the most elite outfits going. And you
great friends - you know after my 12-year hiatus when I didn't know they
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
is here today. Bill Rogers is here today. Uekert will be here tomorrow I
- 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
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
and has to go through Springfield, Illinois to see his daughter in Chicago.
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
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
Malabang in a TBF from Headquarters Squadron MAG 12. The "all but two
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
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,
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
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'
Neither of us can remember if we hitched a ride or were assigned as radio
that flight. Understand our memories are a little rusty after such a long
The trip was to be a day trip but, due to bad weather, we were forced to
Zamboanga overnight. We both recounted it was a great evening. We sampled
tasted the local brews, attended a social gathering out in the boonies and
delightful young ladies from the local finishing school. The two young
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
flight home was uneventful until we made our final approach. As I remember,
strip we took off from was a long, level strip. However, we seemed to be
uphill. According to the war diary, our left wing hit a tree. After sliding
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
through the water and night soil for a hundred yards or more fearing the
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
Boot Camp never, never volunteer), or were assigned the dubious honor of
craft until the someone decided what to do to alleviate an untenable
can't account for the time between returning to the plane and the rest of
leaving the crash site with a group of Philippine scouts for their return to
After the rest of the crew took off, we took one look at each other and
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
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
looked out. We sure did. There was a slew of little people watching from a
distance away, not saying anything, just watching. Obviously, we didn't know
were and it was a little spooky. Mel tells me that as night approached, we
from the nose of the plane completely around the wings and tail. We attached
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
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
brave young Marines for duty above and beyond the call . . Wrong, straight
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
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
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.
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-
destination and CICPAC wanted to make sure there would be no detection.
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
For the most part, the flight was normal. We started at the southern end of
and flew North toward Kavieng at the other end. We flew about 200' off the
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
to Green Island.
In the distance, we could see a typical SOPAC squall line. Almost a perfect
the sky, slanting downward to the ocean. Behind that ominous line, was the
weather one could imagine! Rain so hard that it took the paint off the
edge. Rain so hard that it was driven thru the plexiglas wind_shield joints
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
the gear and added some flap for needed stability. I decided to go as low as
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
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
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
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
Wm. Whiteside. He even had it framed. It's too large to send but I really
who else would want it. Maybe someone who could drop by and could take it to
The photos are certainly weather-beaten but at least I know it would please
I must tell you that his son Matt put the small marine flag in his casket. I
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
time. I had a great uncle Bob who drove me to the station. I was so excited
walked right by him! He was so tanned and he had sprouted a "handle
That really threw me - he called out to me and I realized it was "my
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.
as his radioman for this trip, along with another member, Cliff Monroe, from
original crew, and of course others, also.
When it was time to go back to Green Island, the Marine billeting office in
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.
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
End of story. Sid Gross.
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,
Kinston, N.C. We had F4Us and SBDs. Colonel Charles Lindbergh, consultant
United Aircraft, who made the Chance Vought F4U fighter, was visiting MAG-34
instruct Marine pilots on fuel conservation. He was staying in our BOQ. I
also. One Sunday -- the BOQ was quite empty -- the phone in the hallway
answered it. The caller wanted to speak to Col. Lindbergh. I went to Lindy's
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,
In early spring or so of 1945, I asked one of our pilots to take me on a
He did and I gladly went. After we dropped our load (on Rabaul or Kavieng)
(I think it was Charles Linen from the Boston area) told the co-pilot, 2nd
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
My Pal, the General
MAG-61 caught up with me in 1993. I attended their reunion in 1994 in
Florida. There, I met 4-star General E.E. Anderson. He had been C.O. of
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,
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
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
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
Commandant of the Marine Corps - 1972-1976. The Commandant was General R.E.
Cushman, Jr., 1972-1976, appointed by President Richard Nixon.
By Chuck Gardner
A Haunting Memory
One incident that occurred while we were overseas that I cannot get off my
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
(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
before dark and when the ETA of the flight came and it wasn't back the
to turn to hours - it was a long night. Of course, we know the rest of the
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
while we were there and we got to be good friends with some of their ground
Finally some of our crew traded them out of the boat, how they did it has
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
Some of us in the ground crew would create a disturbance with the guard that
guarding the place that the food was stored in for the mess hall. While this
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
open the cans of corn beef, scatter it out around the boat, wait a few
the propeller of the bomb fuse, hit it on the side of the boat and pitch it
where the corned beef had been scattered. Of course those fuses were the
seconds delay type.
After it went off you could see the fish boiling up and we would jump in and
the fish and throw them in the boat. Had a few good fish fries, sure beat
Australian goats. Wheeler went out one day to start the engine and it
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,
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
States walking the gangplank with Navy on one side, single file, and Marines
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
and friend, was exercising over the bow of the ship when the chain broke and
into the ocean. The captain asked if we wanted to stop the boat, since
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
ship. It was hard to believe he had made it to the side because of the prop
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
Tom Waller, pulled the plane up just enough to miss the pigs. We didn't have
speed to take off, so the plane bounced up and down the runway several
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:
medical tents (sickbay) and sleeping quarters were a short distance away
ground-crew living area. We had heard that there were still some Japs on the
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
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
enough to see out. To my surprise and relief I saw an old mother boar hog
six little ones out there trying to find food! Isn't it amazing how the mind
tricks on you? This was just one of those jittery moments on good ol' Green
One other thing that I remember was trading good old 190 proof alcohol to a
made us raisin-jack. We preferred that to the raw stuff because it went down
smoother. We also took the 190 proof to the out door movie, spiking
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....