This book is dedicated to those Marines of VMB-423
who didn't come back.
May we be ever conscious of their sacrifice.
It is also dedicated to our children and our nephews and nieces;
With the passing of time, they have expressed an increasing desire
to know about us and about the times in which we lived.
Finally, it is dedicated to VMB-423 itself -
its men, its machines and its history.
It was our squadron. It was us. We love it!
We honor the Marines of VMB-423
who gave their lives for their country
James P. McCullough 11/1/43
Charles E. Schwieman 11/1/43
Thomas S. Szymanski, Jr. 11/1/43
Irving R. Werner, Jr. 11/1/43
Anthony J. Gallo 3/3/44
James W. Lee, Jr. 3/3/44
Robert W. Lide 3/3/44
Bert C. Sanders 3/3/44
Henry E. Seeman 3/3/44
Thaddeus H. Banachowski 4/20/44
Alden R. Carlson 4/20/44
John T. Gunn 4/20/44
Raymond T. Marks 4/20/44
Reber H. Smith 4/20/44
Clyde E. Yates 4/20/44
John A. Donovan 4/22/44
Dwight D. Ekstam 4/22/44
Wayne R. Erickson 4/22/44
Laverne A. Lallathin 4/22/44
James A. Sisney 4/22/44
Walter B. Vincent, Jr. 4/22/44
John D. Yeager 4/22/44
Roderick H. Herndon 6/2/44
Thornwell Rogers 6/22/44
Clifford S. Buckley, Jr. 6/22/44
Jewel T. Hawkins 6/22/44
Vernon R. Kistner 6/22/44
Richard B. Lucy 6/22/44
Edwin J. McDowell 6/22/44
Winton G. Walk 6/22/44
Richard A. Edmonds 6/29/44
Dewett T. Greene, Jr. 6/29/44
Raymond M. Hallbauer 6/29/44
Roy H. Morrison 6/29/44
Nimrod C. Olinger 6/29/44
Loren N. VanBuskirk 6/29/44
Willie T. Phillips 12/23/44
Three (3) by Hank Bauer (Ski)
Size 10½D Bombsight
The Nav/Bombs were issued a 45 cal. pistol. The purpose was to shoot and destroy the Norden Bomb-sight if there was the possibility of enemy acquisition. I had been in possession of the Norden Bomb-sight on only a few occasions . What I'm saying is, that we were not issued this bomb-sight for routine night heckling. But I did obtain an old Army bomb-sight. It was wooden and "L" shaped, with marked graduations along the bottom extension. A string was attached to the vertical portion. After calculating the forward speed, the height, the weight and drag of the missile, and the rate of decent , the angle could be obtained when to release the bomb.
The string could then be attached to the bottom extension at the correct angle alignment. When coming on target I called the co-pilot for the known factors then figured the angle. Sighting along the string I was now able to talk the pilot on target and toggle the bombs as needed.
After getting into a position to be able to sight along the string, extend my left arm to open bomb-bays and reach for the toggle switch, I noticed my sight and position of my lower extremity (foot) were in line with the string. The bomb- sight was no longer required. I explained this to my pilot, Lt. Cannon. He smiled and called me "Bomb-sightSki".
"Ours not to reason why
Ours but to etc..."
Upon graduation from Boot Camp, I was assigned to Field Telephone School at New River. The training was quite extensive and physically demanding. Telephone, switchboard, semaphore, ship flags, forward observation and fire-direction.
Scuttlebutt was the order of the moment: "The Germans were going to land in Brazil and come up via Mexico"Some of us were to be selected to go to South America to establish communications to monitor the movement of the invading Germans. These rumors seemed to persist.
Our residence after Telephone School was Tent City, Camp Lejeune, New River, N.C. Most of the class were assigned to complete the need of the 23rd and placed in the developing 25th Regiments. A few of us were told we were to be a part of a project called "Danny" and await further orders.
One incident worth mentioning - A platoon of newly boot camp graduates were sent directly to Tent City, not having been given the traditional Home Leave from Parris Island. Members of this platoon spoke to the Chaplain, he in turn advised them to take their leave. The recruits were classed as AWOL, rounded up and placed in chains. The platoon, chained in two sections with the Chaplain (also chained) at the lead point, marched in this manner to and from various destinations in camp. I am not sure whether this platoon became part of the 23rd or was placed into the 25th.
On February 9th, 1943, I joined AES44 at Cherry Point. I mustered at 0800, was told to get lost and mustered again at 1700. No one had any idea why a Field Telephone man was there or what I was supposed to do. To keep busy, I cut the bottom out of cans and smashed them flat with a wooden maul.
March 1st 1943 VMO351 was commissioned and I joined on March 5th therefore I was one of the original members. VMO351 consisted of a few officers, one or two pilots, a dozen or so enlisted men. On a door in the hangar loft, there was lettered VMO351, 3rd MAW, and no aircraft. The Marines were at one end of the hangar and the Navy at the other, across the way was a hangar for the Army and, I believe, the CAP. Again I fell into the routine of arriving at the hangar for muster at 0800, was told to get lost and mustering at 1700. Somehow I befriended a Capt. 'A' who was interested in learning Russian. Soon I was helping him sing some Russian songs as a simple way to learn the pronunciation of the Russian words and also the alphabet. One day a Sgt. Popo (Popovich) asked me if I knew anything about machinery. I told him I was a millwright apprentice prior to joining the Corps. I was henceforth the carpenter of Service Squadron 35, 3rd MAW, made Corporal and NCO in charge of a crew of two, and became totally disgusted with the whole set-up. This was now the end of June, 1943. I continually bugged Capt. 'A' to be transferred to a line combat unit and this happened. The Army had a yellow piper cub sitting by their hangar, that one of my crew and I towed to our end of the hangar and asked the painter to make it Marine Green. He had a problem with the size and where to position the newly designated emblem of the Circle and Bar. I also obtained most of our lumber from the construction site of the Women Marine barracks. I temporarily lost one of my crew when it was discovered that he had the knowledge of building
a boat. He obtained some cypress planks and was dispatched to build a boat for the C.O.C.P.
Lo and behold, Capt. 'A' gave me a 71-hour pass, a five dollar bill, an 8" piece of pipe and wished me luck. When I returned, Capt. 'A' informed me that I qualified for a Nav-Bomb School, that he placed the request on my behalf
Dec. 1st, 1943, I was a Nav-Bomb, VMB-423, MAG61, 3rd MAW, FMF Edenton, NC.
(Editor's note: Can you guess what the 8" pipe was for? I couldn't - I had to ask Ski. His response: "Captain 'A" knew what kind of neighborhood I came from in Philadelphia. He wanted me to be able to protect myself." )
"The Night They Got Us"
I misplaced my flight-log, therefore I'm not sure what night-heckling mission this night was, first second or third.
We flew to Green From Stirling during the day-light hours. The enlisted crew members were assigned to a tent to await our turn to go on target. How the time slots were selected I haven't the slightest idea.
While we waited, the VMB-413 ground crew would get the plane ready: gas, bombs etc.. The crew members of 413 would visit with us and relate some of their experiences and tell us what to expect in the areas we were to heckle.
On the flight line there was a refreshment hut. I had gotten a cup of tea and a biscuit of hard tack on this night. This hut was the charge of a Naval Officer by the name of Milhouse Nixon. (A bit of name dropping.) We came on target during the dark hours. I crawled into the nose ready to look for any lights and/or activities to drop a bomb on. I noticed some sort of light flashing and suddenly we were in day-light. Another flash was rising up toward us and burst below and to the side. Phosphorous fragments similar to a July 4th rocket, umbrella fashion, spread out and down.
An excited voice came over my head-set ... Big Gun! Big Gun! They got us! They got us!!
When I heard that I knew I had to "get the hell out of here." I looked around at my plexiglass enclosure and I ducked down along side of the ammo canisters. I figured that maybe "they" wouldn't be able to see me.
Another voice came over my head-set... "Well Dick, you got us in; you get us out!!"
A short time later the beam began to waver and soon became erratic. When I calmed down I felt quite foolish. I then made some decisions that lasted DOW.
A Memorable Letter
from Mike Bosak to Ned Wernick
Many thanks for your letter including the xeroxes of the two pictures ... As for me, just growing more fat, dumb and forgetful. Health is great thank God ... Must tell you about my75th birthday last December. My three daughters and spouses asked me to save Saturday, DEC 13th for lunch and a day with them. I was told to wear casual cloths and that someone would pick me up mid morning. They did and when I asked where were we going the answer was, "Chino" about 1 1/2 hr drive from my home. Well the only thing I could remember about Chino was dairy farms. We went to lunch at Flo's Diner at the Chino Airport. and as we drove up, I noticed all sorts of old WWII airplanes and I commented that I hope we had time to explore them.
After lunch the three cars of us drove to the entrance and there was the WarBirds Museum. Well, they had arranged for a personally guided tour of all the planes for us. Had our pictures taken in front of the plane of our choice. You know mine, the good old PBJ. Big disappointment, they didn't have a PBJ, but as were we leaving I spotted one behind a fence adjacent to the museum. It was gleaning aluminum just like the new PBJs we ferried to the Kansas plains for demolition after the war. That was great fun, once more pictures.
The guide said if we hurried to the other end of the field, there was a B-25 preparing for take off. I still didn't tumble! So, off we went. As we drove up the old beat up PBJ there were big signs taped to it. "Surprise" and "Happy 75th Birthday" The kids had located this plane and arranged for all of us to go up for an hour or so. We flew to Catalina and I and my older sons in laws, had a chance to take the controls. What a thrill after almost 50 years. On the return flight the pilot went through the mountain passes low level and then dropped to water level as went flying the length of a reservoir. Up over fishermen and back down. Finally, up to miss the dam and back to the field.
I must admit the pilot did not make the standard short U-turn approach that we made but made the standard Air Force 5 mile straight in approach. The plane had been fully restored, bomb bay full of dummy bombs, all turret, tail and top 50s in place, also in the side windows and on the side of the fuselage. Even had a bomb sight in place. The greatest part of this gift was that all of us were able to go up and we crawled from nose to tail. Yes I could still squeeze through the passage over the bomb bay, into the nose and to the tail gunners position! A great day!
So, thanks again Ned. For your letter and give my best wishes to all the gang that attend. I wish Bunny and I could be with you. Cheers, Mike
(Bunny Bosak died Feb 22nd, 2000)
Memories of Before and During My Tour With VMB-423
By Joseph Cope
My tour of duty in the Marines was a great experience. My first day started with a train wreck that delayed my arrival in Philadelphia.
Entering the office I was told to undress, down to my shorts, for a physical. The officer on the other side of the room told me to join the other group. I was sworn in wearing my jockey shorts, holding my clothes in one arm, right hand raised.
The next morning we went to the station to head south to Parris Island. The train was full so I was put in the club car. We stopped in D.C. where they cut the club car without us knowing. The train rolled out of D.C. station heading south only to back up to get the few left behind. I was blamed for late arrival at P.I.
We had roll call next morning for everyone but me. Nobody called my name at this stage of the game.
We had a mid-boot physical exam to check progress in conditioning. I was last in line again, because I had had no physical in Philadelphia. They were getting ready to send me home, until I asked where the Navy recruiting office was located.
The rifle range was next on the schedule. I worked targets the day before record day. I made a statement about honesty of boots. The D.I. heard what I said and kicked me off the range, and put me on work detail at P.I. We returned to range and I was set up for the next problem. I was standing near the D.I. when a big bully next to me hit me with his elbow on my chin, knocking me down spitting blood. I picked my rifle up by the barrel end and swing, hitting him in the shins, putting him down for the count. I left P.I. hoping for better times.
My first morning I was put on guard duty.
I returned from the shower to find my first pay stolen.
We were told Cherry Point was on high alert because German subs were off the coast.
I was put on a gate to the bomb dump with special orders: nobody goes through without a pass signed by the C.O. My first challenge was a colonel and three Navy Officers. He said he was C.O. of the base, but had no written pass. I turned him around, along with the Sgt. of the Guard, and the O.D.
When they came back they had a pass. The colonel was Col. Cushman, the base C.O.
I got the book thrown at me next morning for embarrassing the colonel. They told me I would be on guard duty, and liberty would not be given very often.
I was sent to school in Jacksonville, FL, and saw very little liberty. I was assigned guard duty on week-ends, then back to Cherry Point and guard duty again.
The time came for more school, this time on the West Coast. We were in San Diego only a few days when I got sick. I had the mumps and chicken pox at the same time. The Medico took about 8 of us by truck to a remote spot on base. It was a typical Marine resort: water front, tents with holes and outside plumbing. We didn't see anybody for two days. The third day, a fire was started to attract attention. We were moved to a new location, with good care, food, water and plumbing.
The day we got orders to ship out for the Pacific, I had all my clothes plus my rifle moved by mistake or stolen. I went to the QM for new issue using fake name and ID.
I know about the scotch at Espiritu Santos. I was the one who knocked the end out of the warehouse. Falling debris broke a few bottles, the rest vanished that night. I didn't get in on the scotch parties.
The next day while cutting poles for bunks, I had a hornet nest land on my head. They counted 83 stings from head to waist. Two weeks off duty.
I broke my ankle two days before shipping out for Green Island. I was lucky, a SeaBee set it and told me how to care for it.
Green Island was a place for a little pleasure mixed with work. The worst problem we had was with sharks. We found a small boat, put a motor in it and used it to scout around the island.
Left Green Island to head home. Boarded ship only to have my name called out to report to the Brig. I was assigned guard duty for 8 to 20-year prisoners heading for Kansas.
The train ride was peaceful until we got to Virginia. I don't know how many got food poisoning. It was so bad the aisles were impossible to walk through. The train stopped in D.C. and it was a mad dash for the door. I left the train in D.C. instead of Philadelphia.
I reported back to Cherry Point with a lot of confusion. I was on a flight line where I saw one of our co-pilots. He asked me if I wanted to fly with him the next day. I got the ride and scare of my life. He looked edgy taxiing out to take off. I did the pre-flight for him. I had my hands full once we started to roll. I won't mention his name, but he didn't impress me as a pilot. We were only up about 15 minutes, returning against traffic.
These are some of my memories of a great outfit.
Semper Fi, Joseph W. Cope
P.S. The news of Bob Deemer's death was a sad day for me. We were together our entire tour of duty and became great friends. We had many close calls on Green Island with rafts, boats, sharks and explosives. He is gone but all the memories will remain of my friend and fellow Marine.
A War-time News Item
sent in by Joseph Cope:
For Immediate Release (Undated)
By Sergeant Walter F. Mackie of Washington Elms, Cambridge, Mass., a Marine Corps Combat Correspondent, formerly of the Boston Evening American.
Somewhere in the South pacific (Delayed). - A battle-scarred PBJ bomber nicknamed "Old 38" by her crew, is the first Marine plane of its type to fly 100 combat missions since Leatherneck medium bomber combat operations were begun in March, 1944.
"Old 38" has flown 355 flights since her first hop from the North American factory. She has spent more than 900 hours in the air and dropped an estimated 150,000 pounds of bombs on jap shipping and installations in the Solomons and Bismarck Archipelago.
She has had four new engines since she started combat flying last May and has returned safely from 41 night missions, 25 daylight raids and 34 low level attacks on enemy barge traffic emplacements and other installations.
She has countless flak patches on her wings and fuselage, but the big plane has been badly hurt only once. This occurred when she was sent to the aid of the crew of another plane which had been shot down within range of Jap shore batteries. While making a diversionary strafing attack so that the flyers could be picked up, "Old 38" sustained a direct hit which put one engine out of operation.
Her present pilot is Lieutenant Colonel Norman J. Anderson, of Glendale, California, Co-pilot is First Lieutenant Charles E. Pearce, 21, son of Mr. And Mrs. Charles N Pearce, 5507 glennbrook Road, Bethesda, Md. Other members of thecrew of "Old 38" include: Corporal Paul R. Carly, 20, son of Mr. And Mrs. Paul R. Carly, 423 Wallace Avenue, Farrell, Pa., radio gunner
Responsible for keeping "Old 38" in the air and in fighting trim is Staff Sergeant Leon P. Peterson, 22, of Burt Avenue, Bridgeton, N.J., crew chief. Others among the ground and repair crew are: Sergeant Joseph W. Cope, of Manheim, Pa. Corporal Robert D. Deemer, 20, 11 Lefferts Rd., Yonkers, N. Y. , Corporal Fred Jaroslowsky, 19, of 108 179th Street, New York City, and Corporal George Wardle, 19, 266 79th Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. .
No. 38's GROUND CREW - these are the Leathernecks who nursed the first Marine B-25 bomber through 100 combat missions:
Front L to R, Corporal Raymond E. Lawrence, Springfield, ILL., Corporal George Wadle, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Sergeant Joseph W. Cope, Manheim, Pa. 2nd Row Corporal Robert D. Deemer, Yonkers, N.Y., Private First Class Charles E. Dillow, New Albany, Ind. Back row: Sergeant Robert D. Lee, Steubenville, Ohio, S/Sgt. Leon P. Peterson, Bridgeton, N.J., crew chief; and Corporal Fred Jaroslowsky, New York City, N.Y.
broadcast our problem. We asked the field below to blink their lights once for every 1000' of runway. We had no idea where we were so I couldn't identify the field for their frequency. At any rate, the lights blinked many times I thought and we started to let down after telling them of our intention. We were in the final with everything Go when I looked out the window and saw a man reading in his living room at almost eye-level. What the Hell? I hit the throttles and just in time to hop over a fence at the end of the runway. Things were getting hairy at this time!!!! There was the end of the runway!!! Hit the ground very close to the end---fishtailed the bird and did everything else I could think of get the damned thing stopped because all we could see was the a fence coming at us from the other end!! Anyway to make a long story longer, we did stop it with no damage to anything. Turned out that the field was in Blackstone Va. and was an operational base for P-47s going to Europe. The sign on the back of the welcoming jeep read--Field Elevation 550 feet. No wonder I could see the guy reading his newspaper.
We later found out that the runway was 2200 feet long. Took a hell of a ribbing from the Army pilots about Naval navigation but also received a lot of praise for putting that PBJ down on that runway.
Ted Eckhardt, Pilot
By Tom Evans
While stationed on Green Island, my crew and I were assigned a mission to search for a native policeman who had been dropped off on the east coast of New Ireland to do some undercover work. When the Australian coast watchers returned to pick him up the following night, he failed to meet them.
This young man had been raised and trained by Australian Army Captain John Murray, a member of the Australia New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU).His name was Silas (pronounced "Sea Lass"). He was a small, rugged, sharp Micronesian man who wore a red laplap with a spotless web belt and a spit-shined brass buckle. He spoke only pidgin English..
During our briefing, we were given a detailed grid map of the area to be searched. If we sighted Silas, we were to mark the location on the chart, but not circle. We were then instructed to insert the chart in a drop tube located behind the pilot's seat and drop it near the Mission building on the tiny island called Lihir ... a few miles east of New Ireland.
During the flight to New Ireland, my co-pilot Wayne "Deke" Hicks and I discussed the possibility of sighting a single individual in
the jungle. We figured the chances were poor to nil. But the weather was clear and we had six pairs of eyes working for us. We began our search at the southeast end of the island at an altitude of 500 feet flying northwestward along the shore at about 125 knots.
After a few minutes, I could hardly believe my eyes. There in a small clearing was our boy Silas ... madly waving his red laplap!
We remembered not to circle but we did give him a little wing-waggle before proceeding eastward toward Lihir.
Upon arrival over Lihir, we circled the mission building, marked the chart, placed it in the drop tube and shoved it overboard . We watched the little parachute deploy and drop near the building. We later learned that we almost knocked the steeple off the mission building.
The Aussies picked Silas up successfully and returned him to Green Island.
To show his appreciation, Captain Murray
arranged for Deke Hicks and I and Captain Tom
Waller to take a five day cruise on a boat that supplied
medicine, ammunition, etc to the various ANGAU
island outposts. Included in that cruise was a stop at
Lihir Island where we got to meet the coast watchers
who ran the show.
Tom Evans, PBJ pilot, VMB-423
Joining the Marine Corps
Getting Prepared for VMB-423
By Ralph (Chuck/Charlie) Gardner
I joined the Marine Corps in September, 1942, and went through boot camp at San Diego. The first week was hell, mentally. With the DI's abusive talk and instructions, they literally owned your soul. In getting your clothes issued, you marched in line, never stopping. They had men that would eyeball you for whatever garment they were issuing, size you up, and throw to you whatever size they thought would fit you. If it fit ... great, if not ... you wore it just the same.
We were issued a scrub brush and bucket to launder our clothes. After laundering our clothes at the end of each day, we hung them on a clothesline outside to dry. Before we got our names stenciled on our underwear, some of the men would grab the first item they came to. You would wind up not knowing whose underclothes you had. Whenever you were checked to see if you still had the same number of items that were issued, you had better be sure that you had them, or there would be hell to pay. We were not issued dress shoes while in boot camp, because we were not going anyplace, anyway. Only brogans (work shoes) were issued, and you literally had to shine them for the day of inspection. I used two cans of Kiwi polish to shine mine and actually got a compliment on the shine from the inspection officer.
You lined up to get your shots with corpsmen on either side of you. When they gave you a shot, they would not ask you to move on ... if you just stood there, they'd pop you again. I saw this happen to a couple of guys ahead of me. They barely had time to put the needle to me!
One of my pet peeves was helping to pick up cigarette butts off the ground. I did not smoke, but ... yep, I picked up just as many as the other guys. The physical fitness did not bother me. Being fresh off the farm, that part was a breeze for me ... no problem. Those fellows out of the factories and the office workers would fall out left and right until they got in shape.
One day a Texan and a New Yorker wanted to fight the Civil War over and started fighting each other. The Di went and got a pair of boxing gloves, put them on the two men, and had the rest of the platoon form a large circle. He had the two men get inside the circle and have at it. They fought until they thought they were given out. The DI informed them that he didn't think that they had enough yet and made them fight until they were unable to raise their hands. Needless to say, there were no more discipline problems in the platoon.
The Marine Corps' reputation, richly deserved for physical toughness, courage, and demands on mind and body, attracts those who want to prove their manliness. Perhaps, unwittingly, the Marine Corps exploits and builds on these two basic desires: to believe in something and to prove one's manliness. In the process, the Marine Corps gains two of its most important virtues --- spirit and discipline. These are virtues which are the mark of excellence in any military organization, and which are absolutely essential to success in combat. I can say that after the first two or three weeks of boot camp, there was definitely discipline, but I cannot say the same for spirit. However, after we learned to obey orders from the DI and to do what they asked to the best of our ability , that spirit began to come around. I never knew of a recruit who won an argument with a DI.
I enjoyed the week at the rifle range. We weren't fenced in for a change and had access to a bit of pogy bait. The day we fired our rifle for qualification, I scored 322 points out of a possible 340. That was enough to be classified as an expert rifleman and an automatic $5.00 a month increase in pay for 12 months. The next day, I was contacted and invited to join the Carlson Raiders. No, thank you!!! I had put in for aviation duty earlier and was hoping this would come through .... not knowing at the time where I would be placed.
The first night that I had liberty after boot camp ... not being away from camp for about 2 ½ months ... I thought I was ready. I'd been brainwashed by those DIs, and I thought I could whip anything that crawled or walked. Wound up in one of those San Diego barrooms. Everything was going fine, everyone sipping suds and their drinks, having a big time. All of a sudden, I heard a bottle hit the wall, and in no time at all, it looked as if just about everyone ---- Marines, sailors, soldiers --- was fighting. I don't think it mattered with anyone who they were pounding, just so they had someone to hit. Bottles and fists were flying everywhere. My buddy and I crawled under a table (we didn't have a dog in this fight), for it seemed the safest place to be for the moment. If you've never viewed a San Diego barroom brawl from under a table, you need to do so just once. This Mississippi plowboy got a barroom brawl education right quick. I also found out that maybe I wasn't as tough as I thought I was. Those sailors and soldiers could hold their own, too. Someone hollered, "Shore Patrol!," and you wouldn't believe how fast that room cleared out. I'm sure the SP loaded their wagon, but I didn't hang around to see.
You were usually assigned 30 days of KP or 30 days of guard duty after completing boot camp. Luckily, I got guard duty and was sent across the bay to North Island. We were on guard duty 24 hours, on standby for 24 hours, and got the third day off. Late one afternoon, a dense fog rolled in. I've never seen a fog that dense before or after. It looked just like low banks of clouds rolling in ... visibility was almost zero. The officer of the day instructed the guards going on their post that night to be extra alert, especially those guarding the planes. The situation was ideal for anyone around who wanted to sabotage a plane. It would be easy to slip around and do so. I was walking a post adjacent to another guard who had a group of SBDs assigned to him. Around 01:00, I heard the most awful commotion taking place between two people on this other guard's post. It lasted for about ten minutes. Being dark, and due to the foggy conditions, I could not see or tell what was going on. When this group of guards got relieved, and we got back to the guard house, I asked a fellow who was walking that post what had happened. It seemed that this officer of the day who was on duty and this guard had had a previous run-in. The officer was going to use the situation to slip around and do a little something to a plane to get this guard into trouble. This guard detected someone in close vicinity. There happened to be a broken wheel chock with the 2 ½ foot long piece of 2 x 4 timber, separated from the other two pieces on the tarmac. The guard picked this up. He kept quiet, with his attention on the approaching footsteps. He managed to get behind the officer, and when he raised one foot up on the trailing edge of the plane, and started to pull himself up into the cockpit, the guard hit him on his butt with the 2 X 4 as hard as he could. That's when the commotion took place. Yes, we were armed with rifles, but he preferred to challenge the officer with the 2 x 4. What happened to the guard later is another story.
After the month of guard duty, I was transferred to Norman, OK, to attend aviation mech school. For some reason, upon arrival, I was put in charge of 24 men. The duty required me to muster the men each morning for roll call and calisthenics, to march them to class each day, and to pick up their mail. For this, I received a pass for liberty on Wednesday night, whereas the other men only got liberty on the weekend. On the way to class one morning, before daylight, the men were in columns of threes .... just walking along, talking, and horseplaying. A Navy officer appeared out of nowhere and stopped us. He wanted to know who was in charge of this group. Well, that fell on my shoulders. He didn't exactly chew my ass out, he chewed all around it, and when he finished, it just fell out! He turned me in to the C.O. Man, was I dreading to face him. It turned out he was a Marine officer and very nice. He gave me some advice that came in handy for the rest of the time I was in service. I was well-pleased with the meeting. After this, there was no more grab-assing or horseplaying on the way to class .... everyone in step, and no talking, either.
We had excellent instructors and were given a test each week. If anyone failed, they were immediately transferred to the infantry. I only remember one person failing. After we had been in school for awhile, a large group of WAVES came to be stationed on the base ... fresh out of basic training. They had been confined to their base during training and were ready for some freedom. Talk about partying .... it went on for 2 or 3 nights. Marines and WAVES together. It didn't take administration long to catch on and set up a bunch of rules and regulations ending this partying while on base.
Duty was good in OK. The people in Norman and Oklahoma City were very nice to the servicemen.
After school, I was transferred to headquarter squadron in El Centro, CA. I worked on TBFS, SBDS, and F4U Corsairs. I got to experience that hot desert air during the day in July and August. A couple of fellows and I went out on the town one night and missed the last bus back to the base. We were standing on a street corner pondering the situation as how best to get back without walking those 7 or 8 miles. This car came along, pulled over to where we were standing, stopped, and the driver asked if we had a problem. We explained the situation. He told us to get in, and he would drive us there. He was a doctor and told us that he didn't know if he had enough gas to make the round trip or not, but would chance it. We had only traveled about a mile when somehow the subject of the Army came up. We three Marines immediately started downing the dogfaces and saying how sorry the Army was. The doctor replied, "Fellows, if that's the way you feel about the Army, I'll turn around here, let you get out, and you can walk the rest of the way. My son happens to be in the Army." We had our foot in our mouth, but that Lager Beer did an about face on the conversation. All three of us apologized, and suddenly the Marines were the underdogs, with the Army and their men being the best there was. He drove on to the base gate. I was sitting in the front seat, leaned over, looked at the gas gauge, and the needle was resting on "Empty." We got out, thanked him, and reassured the doctor that the Army was a fine outfit. I've wondered many times if he made it home before running out of gas.
In September, 1943, 1 was transferred to Cherry Point, NC, and assigned to VMB-423, the 2nd PBJ squadron that was commissioned for the Marines. One day while at Cherry Point, a pilot who lived in White Plains, NY, a co-pilot, and I flew to Newark, NJ. Of the many flights I took in the PBJs, I cannot tell you the name of one pilot or co-pilot that I flew with. The pilot told me what time to be at the plane for the return trip. They went on to visit his family, and I went into town to kill time and pick up a few bottles of whiskey for some of the fellows back at the base who had asked me to do so. I was at the plane at the designated time, and here came the pilot and the co-pilot. I could tell by the way they were walking and talking that it would be no boring flight back to Cherry Point. After they started the engines, I got in the plane, and we taxied out to the runway. They checked out the engines and got clearance from the tower for take off. It didn't seem that we had rolled much over 200 feet until we were airborne. Then the pilot decided to circle the Empire State Building. A small plane had collided with the building a few days ago, and he wanted to see how much damage was done to the building. I was expecting the squadron headquarters to hear about this, especially at the low altitude he was flying. Evidently, no one reported it. The rest of the trip was uneventful, and the fellows were happy to get their hooch.
The squadron moved to Edenton, NC, in October for further training. Just how good were we at this point? A couple of days after we got there, a pilot and co-pilot came to the plane and said they needed a mech to go up with them on this flight. I got in the plane with them. After we had been in the air for 15 or 20 minutes, the co-pilot handed me two pieces of equipment and asked me to go in the nose section to look out for other planes ... that they were going to do some blind flying. They had this black curtain that could be attached to cover all the plexiglass in the cockpit, which obstructed their view of anything outside. If I spotted a plane in close vicinity, I was to let them know. After getting into the nose section, I checked out the equipment the co-pilot had handed me. I determined that they were a pair of earplugs and earmuffs. After all, the PBJ is a noisy son-of-a-gun. Have you ever tried adjusting a set of throat mikes to use as earplugs??? The Lord was with us on that flight. Hell, I was a mech, not a radio man. I didn't know how to operate the throat mikes and earphones --- but I did learn --- before taking another flight!!
On one night training flight, we were at the end of the runway and had clearance for take off. There was a forest fire nearby, and smoke had visibility to about zero. The pilot and co-pilot were arguing about take off. The co-pilot said that we would never make it off without crashing. The pilot replied, "I'm not worried about take off. It's the landing I'm concerned about." Made me feel real good to be in that plane! However, we did get up and back down without a mishap.
We shipped out, back to my old stomping grounds, El Centro, CA, around the 1st of January, 1944, for more training. We were housed in tents there. I knew how hot it could get in July and August, but I hadn't experienced just how COLD it could get at night in January while sleeping in a tent with no heat of any kind. At night, we would put everything we found loose on our cot to try to keep warm.
A few days before we departed El Centro, administration gave the squadron a party. It was held off base, out in the desert, where there were some old abandoned buildings. The party had got going in a big way when along came some Army guys in their tanks. They were holding maneuvers out in the desert. Three of them saw what was going on and came by and stopped, each in a different tank. We offered to share food and drink with them. That's all the arm-twisting that was needed. After a couple of beers and some food, one of them asked if some of us fellows would like to take a tank ride. Some 12 or 15 of us, each with a can of beer in hand, crawled on. I got on the left front side where I could sit with both feet braced against the left light guard, and my right arm around the cannon barrel. The others were hanging on wherever they could. The driver started out and headed full speed for the first sand dune, which was probably 6 or 8 feet high. About the time the front of the tank reached the peak, I looked around. It looked as if we had flushed a covey of quail .... 10 or 12 beer cans flying in every direction. I looked forward and the front of the tank was headed straight down. I'd decided that maybe I had chosen the wrong place to get --- but it was too late now. I thought, "If that light guard gives away, I am going to slide right under the left tracks." What a feeling!! After about a ten-minute jaunt over those dunes, he drove back to the starting point, with only about 4 men still hanging onto the tank. The driver got out laughing and said, "I see that you're the only one still holding a can." Starting out, the can was full. When we stopped, it was crushed in and not a drop of beer in it. I hadn't taken the first sip out of it and was all wet in front. I don't know whether it was beer or piss ---- I won't deny if it was some of both!!
What a ride. It was equal to one of Ed Hazlehurst's test hops in a PBJ ... a wild one!!
The majority of the ground echelon and some of the flight crews boarded a train February 19, 1944, headed for Alameda, CA. There we boarded the USS Prince William, a converted aircraft carrier. The sky was overcast with a slow drizzle of rain. I can say that this was not the happiest day of my life. The hangar and night deck were loaded with planes, fighters, torpedo bombers, and dive bombers. We had been boarded for about an hour when the ship pulled out of dock. I think about all of our squadron was on the flight deck as we slipped under the Golden Gate Bridge, none of us knowing where we would land. I can assure you there were many thoughts that went through my mind before that bridge disappeared.
As the days passed, there were plenty of pinochle, poker and occasional crap games going on. At night, all lights were out on the hangar and flight decks. It was a challenge to maneuver your way around those planes and tie down ropes after dark to get to your destination aboard ship.
We had been out to sea for some 8 or 10 days and had a fire somewhere aboard ship. The fire alarm sounded, and everyone was supposed to get their life jackets and go up to the flight deck. I was lying on the hangar deck .. some kind of seasick. The fellows came by and said, "Come on, Chuck. There's a ship fire, and we're supposed to go up to the flight deck." I replied, "Let it burn. I don't care whether it sinks or floats at this point." I never did move. You "ain't" been sick if you've never been seasick.
Everybody needs to experience taking a shower in salt water. That's what we had aboard ship, straight from the ocean. You never felt clean after one --- soap would not lather. After being out for about twelve days, some of us were on the flight deck, and could see that we were approaching a rain shower. We decided this would be an excellent time to get a good bath. We went below, took off our clothes, got our soap, and back up to the flight deck. It was a good rain. We all got lathered up and were feeling right proud. About that time, the ship changed course. It ran out of the rain, leaving us all soaped up. Back down to the salt water shower we went. You have to throw some modesty away when going to war! The ship went in a zig zag pattern all the time to help keep the Jap submarines from zeroing in on her, so we were caught with our britches off.
Finally after about 18 or 20 days, we dropped anchor off shore from Espiritu Santos in the New Hebrides group. It was a beautiful sight from the ship. With our gear, we climbed down the rope ladder hanging over the side of the ship into a Higgins landing craft that carried us to shore. They trucked us to our camp ... small bungalow huts built in a coconut tree grove.
Since our planes would not be there to work on, the captain in charge at the time decided to make an impression. He organized work details to keep everyone busy, which was fine with us. He got ticked off about something and was going to make everyone work all day on Sunday. Some of the fellows approached the chaplain about this and got the matter taken care of. Needless to say, church was well-attended! It seemed as the days went by, this captain got worse and worse and could not be satisfied. He was making things miserable for all. Some of the men organized a group to throw coconuts on top of the captain's hut to keep him awake all night. This continued for several nights. He instructed the guards to catch the guilty parties. It just so happened that the guards were in on the deal. Therefore, no one was ever apprehended.
After our planes arrived, we moved up to Luganville, where the landing strip was located, and the situation got much better after the C. 0. arrived. I don't know what happened to that captain. It was rumored that he left in a straight-jacket. He didn't stay with the squadron. I know this was the only real personnel problem that we had.
The worst experience that we had while training at Luganville was losing two planes with their crews. I went on a flight the next night after we lost the second plane. For awhile, the pilot thought he picked up a distress signal from the plane. He kept circling until it was determined the signal was not from the lost plane.
The plane that I was assigned to work on came up for a 60-hour check while here. The crew had removed all the cowling from both engines. When lunch time came, the work had not been completed. Thinking there might be a chance for rain while we were at lunch, we placed the cowling back on the engines ... only fastening each corner. When we returned to the plane revetment, there was no plane. Upon checking around, we found out that a flight crew had taken off in it. Man, did we sweat this out!! Not even one half of the fasteners were fastened to hold on the cowling. No safety wire on any of the gas draincocks. It was a disaster just waiting to happen. The crew made it back without mishap, but never was there another plane to leave without at least one of its ground crew present. I don't remember who the pilot was. It wasn't Bill Hopper---he would have spotted one loose Dzus fastener 150 feet away!! The mechs respected Bill's close inspections and his mechanical knowledge of the PBJ. I can say that none of the mechs would ever release a plane to fly if they knew of any slight problem with it. We treasured our flight crews ... also, we mechs had a habit of crawling aboard quite often for a flight.
Leaving Espiritu Santos, we were on our way to Green Island and ---- war. This was an experience. While on Green Island, weather permitting, flights were scheduled days and nights. We were at last in war. Besides regular maintenance, those Japs liked to shoot holes in those PBJs .... creating a lot of extra work.
At one point while there, some of the planes began to experience running out of gas on one engine on some of those lengthy missions. It was fortunate that we never lost a plane due to this, but had quite a few to make it back with only one engine operating. The mechs knew those tanks were full before leaving. We always topped the tanks off, even after we had run and checked out the engines before the flight crews arrived for a mission. Upon checking the possible fuel consumption for the time of the flights, there was no way they should have run out of gas. It caused some head scratching. The problem turned out to be that the fuel tanks were collapsing. The tanks were of the self-sealing type ... made out of rubber composition. Solution: change out the tanks --- quite a task. We did not have any electric screwdrivers in those days to remove all those screws ... just burn some more midnight oil.
On one occasion, parts supply got hold of a bunch of bad spark plugs. Our crew changed out three sets of plugs (a total of 168 for both engines) on one inspection before we could get an acceptable RPM drop on one mag. On another occasion, after a complete engine change on a plane, everything checked out perfectly, except the supercharger would not engage. We tried everything in the book: diluting the oil and what have you. After the second day, someone suggested removing the oil sump housing. The housing and matching part had a channel that the oil flowed through to drive the supercharger. Somehow at the factory, the hole in the gasket that fits between the two parts did not get punched out (must have been made in Florida), therefore blocking the oil flow. There was always a constant challenge.
On some of the night flights, if some of the mechs decided they wanted a "cool one" after the plane got back and was secured, they would hide a can of beer in the plane before the mission. You had to hide it really good---the flight crew liked beer, also. Some used a C02 fire extinguisher to cool them, but once this was discovered by the chief, it was promptly nipped in the bud. There was no way to put out an engine fire with an empty fire extinguisher.
The night that Capt. Edmonds and his crew crashed returning from a mission, I was in the sack,. dead to the world. The plane I was assigned to had been heavily damaged a few days prior to this, and our crew had had very little sleep the past three days and nights. The crash occurred less than 100 yards from my tent where I was sleeping. The crash didn't awaken me. The first thing I heard was the guard shouting to clear the area --- that a PBY (at the time, he thought it was a PBY) had crashed, it was loaded with depth charges and was on fire. I grabbed what I thought was my clothes and started making tracks! After getting to a safe distance, I proceeded to put on my clothes. But --- I didn't have any clothes. What I had grabbed was a towel and my mess gear --- left me standing there with my shorts on.
The ground echelon was in a different area from the flight echelon. About the only time we were in contact with them was when they arrived at the plane for a mission. This definitely was not a social time. The pilots were busy checking and inspecting their planes, while the crew was getting inside, checking gear and getting squared away. After the mission was completed, they got out of the plane and headed for a debriefing.
Even after 57 years, I can still see the flight crew with their names printed on their flight jackets, and that's pretty much the way I remember them. My hat is off to the flight crews. They always appeared professional and went about their task as if it was just another day's work. The ground crews worked their tails off, but it was the flight crews who were placing their lives on the line for each combat mission. Sadly, many of them didn't make it back.
While on Green Island, we more or less got to witness the beginning development of the "smart" missile. The TDR was nothing more than an oversized radio-controlled model aircraft. It was a small twin engine, mid-wing monoplane aircraft with a wing span of forty-five feet and length of thirty feet, powered by two 220 HP Lycoming engines. It was capable of carrying a 2,000 pound bomb. In October, 1944, some of these planes were launched from the same runway on Green Island that our planes used. The mother ship to the TDR was a TBM Avenger (one TDR for each TBM). The TBM would be at the end of the runway, and get the TDR airborne. The pilot of the TBM would control the TDR by a joystick, much like the control mechanism on today's TV video games, with a function guide. The mother ship always trailed the TDR at a great distance. Different targets were attacked ... enemy ships, bridges, ammo dumps, and anti-aircraft batteries. Strong radio interference in route to Rabaul by friendly forces caused some to fly erratically and miss their targets. Some had equipment failure, both mechanical and electronic, and fell short of their targets. From September 27, 1944, to October 29, 1944, a total of forty-four TDRs was launched against targets at Rabaul and Bouganville. The success rate was scored at about 45 percent. No KIA, no MIA, no injuries, and no loss of aircraft.
I would say that you could have divided our entire squadron personnel into three categories: the live wires, the quiet ones, and those in between. I do not claim to be in the live wire group, but there wasn't too much that I missed while in VMB-423. It was a great group of men with ingenuity, good work ethics, and compassion for each other, who were assigned a job to do, and they did it with honor. With a C. O., namely retired Maj. Gen. Norman J. Anderson --- men do not come any better and competent than he --- what else is there to say?
Something for us Marines to think about: As Marines tell it, after the fighting in the American Revolution was over and the nation's military forces were disbanded, all that remained was a corps of mules and two battalions of Marines. The Army and the Navy tossed a coin to determine who would
take the mules and who the Marines. The Army won the toss --- and took the mules.
Chuck Gardner, mechanic
...More from Chuck Gardner
Mrs. McDonald's comment on the tank ride (see my previous "Memory") and safety features, reminded me of an incident that occurred on the flight line while we were on Green Island. All was set for a 12-plane daylight mission, all crews inside their planes with engines running. Col. Winston was in Loren Sheckler's plane that day. He usually always flew Burnside's plane and Dick Hohman (he was one of Sheckler's mechanics) closed the front hatch, stooped low and came out from under the plane between the engines and them running. He turned around to give the Col. all thumbs up, but the Col. motioned for Dick to come to the cockpit. Dick did the reverse, stooping down, going under the plane between the engines, on up to the cockpit. Col. Winston chewed him out about the way he exited from under the plane while the engines were running, a safety lecture in general and for him to always go behind the engines while they were running. Well, what did Dick do? He came down the hatch, closed it, stooped real low, came right under the plane, between the engines and gave Col. Winston the thumbs up. Col. Winston just shook his head, relesed the brakes, taxied out ready to lead the raid. On return, Col. Winston did not mention the incident but Dick Hohman changed his manner of coming from under the plane and never again, while engines were running, did he come out between them. He took a ribbing from us mechs and never lived it down. I'll agree the prop wash was unpleasant to deal with, but nothing compared to what a prop could do to you while turning.
Then, there was Robert Deemer, made himself a sail boat and during his off time you could see him sailing out in the lagoon, something he really enjoyed. This one day he was sailing and had approached the only opening from the ocean into the lagoon, when the wind quit blowing. The tide was going out, taking Deemer and his boat toward the ocean. This didn't concern him for he figured the wind would pick up at anytime. As time went on, still no wind and he was getting further out into the ocean away from land. He said it came decision time and he begin the swim back to the island. The tent that Bob Nicolodi and I shared was next to a road and about sundown here comes Deemer walking in the road, just bareley putting one foot before the other. We had seen him earlier in the afternoon sailing and Bob asked him what was the deal. He told us what had happened and when we inquired abut his boat, he said that he scuttled it, did not want any Japs sailing in his boat. I don't know how far he had to swim, but it must have been a great distance, and against the tide, then he had 3 or 4 miles to walk on the coral. I've never seen anyone more bushed, but he still had that Deemer smile. Saw him at the Milwaukee or Hershey Reunion and, of course, we had to rehash his episode. Then his untimely death by falling through the attic of a friend's garage while helping out.
All I can say is that the man upstairs smiled on a lot of us Gyrenes back in those days.
Semper Fi, Chuck
"There's One in Every Crowd" (Sometimes Two)
by Howard Heck
As you know, many of the crew members attended Navy schools at different locales. Quite a few of us attended ordnance school at NATTC, Memphis.
Ed Huie, Dick (Peanut) Graves and I were in the same class. Ed and Dick were natural comedians and gave the rest of us many laughs during a sometimes very boring time.
Our barracks were in charge of a master-at-arms by the name of Wirtz. In our vernacular, he was a s___-bird. Wirtz was a real hard-ass as to how we kept the barracks. You had to give him credit though, because he got us numerous liberties by beating the other barracks in weekly inspection. We did scrub the floor (deck) on hands and knees. Wirtz was adamant about "QUIET" after lights out. He often came out of his cubicle and told us to shut up. Nevertheless, Huie and Peanut often kept verbally going back and forth with comments making the rest of us laugh loudly. One night Wirtz was especially grumpy and came out of his cubicle several times
shouting "Shut up!" After the fourth or fifth time he exclaimed, "One more peep and it is seabags and outside!"Quiet descended and as he turned to leave, a small "Peep" was heard. It was Graves.
The lights flicked on and "Hit the deck!" was heard. We packed our seabags and headed outside. We formed up, put seabags on our shoulders and marched.
Our barracks was between sailor barracks and even though it was past "lights out", the swabbies leaned from the windows and gave us jeers and cheers.
We must have marched back and forth for over half an hour when a Navy officer happened by, stopped us, chewed Wirtz out, and sent us inside. We returned to our bunks a little tired but happy and full of good spirit over the "Peep." We had laughs over that for a long time.
I still smile thinking of the humor Ed Huie and Peanut Graves gave to the rest of class G8-E and later in Purcell, Oklahoma and VMB-423.
Semper Fi, fellows.
by Joan Higgins (widow of Sigfried Higgins, Jr., pilot)
Growing up, Sig and I were in the same group of young people, all 16 - 17 years old. Sig and all of my eventual brothers-in-law graduated from St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, New Jersey, a well-known prep school. I lived in Montclair, New Jersey and Sig in the next town, Verona (where we eventually lived and raised our family.)
In college (St. Peters in Jersey City) he was in his Junior year. Several local colleges participated in a program called Civilian Pilot Training. Sig had said "When I go in service, I would prefer to fly." Later, he was accepted in the Naval Training Program and trained at Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the University, then to Lambert Field, St. Louis and eventually Pensacola.
One night, in the middle of an air raid drill (remember them? - my mother was the air raid warden for our street) - it was dark, all lights were out, and the phone rang. It was Sig calling from Pensacola. He was about to graduate and he suggested, since he would be in navigation school in Hollywood, Florida, for a month, it would be a great place for a honeymoon. He was right! It was! (The Beach Hotel was quite famous!)
We were married in The Church of the Little Flower, just north of the Hollywood Circle on August 1, 1943, a Sunday afternoon. He couldn't get Saturday off, as his superior officer said, "Remember, young man, there is a war on!"
We met several members of "423" there as well, including Bill "Swede" Carlson who later became a Lt. Colonel and also served in Viet Nam. He was in our wedding party. Also, Bill Schlegel from Newark - we were in his wedding party after the war.
As you can imagine, in those days a whole month in Florida, plus two weeks leave when we arrived home was an unbelievable gift of time.
When Sig returned to Cherry Point, I joined him in New Bern, North Carolina, which began my friendship with many of the wonderful squadron members who would remain our life-long friends. They include Bob and Kitty Kotalik, Roger and Patti Dickeson as well as Bob Ryan. These friendships would continue more closely in Edenton, N.C., our next base, not only members of the squadron but their wives and their wives-to-be.
Several incidents come to mind. In Edenton one night Sig took me out to the base and I met Bill Hopper, the crew's 1st pilot. Later, we visited him several times in San Francisco. Bill and I still stay in touch. And I remember Ralph Jones who, with a deep southern accent said, "I would like you to meet Miss Grace Middlebrook." I was so glad I did because Grace became, and still remains, my very dear friend. Another Georgia member of the squadron, Ben Jones, was busy as well, meeting his musically talented wife Dorothy, and I am so glad he did! What great friends I've made!
There was a corner "eatery" on the road leading out to the base where some of the girls would meet for breakfast. One morning, a distraught Joe Egan came in looking for his mother's wedding ring, which she had given him. He didn't want to go overseas without it!
Edenton was situated between a Navy base at Hertford and an Italian POW camp in the opposite direction. We were very fortunate to find a place to live in rooms above the church. We helped Father McCord, who was the Pastor. We helped get the church ready for midnight mass, do his dishes and whatever else was needed as he had no other help. It had been warm and the flowers were out, but the weather turned sharply cold at the end of the week. The roses froze on the bushes around the church.
One of the amazing memories was hearing the Italian prisoners of war, standing up in the bed of a big truck, singing beautifully as they were driven to Mass. You could hear them for miles in the clear, cold air.
We met people from all over the country and learned many different ways of doing things. R.O. Wilson's wife, from California (I can't remember her name - a beautiful little girl) had never seen snow, nor much cold weather. They were staying outside of town with a nice family and when she hung some wash out on the line, it was frozen stiff. She had never seen anything like this, and thought she had made some sort of mistake.
One of my fondest memories was when we stood up for Garnie Gahagan and Norma Elmer when they were married in the church in Edenton. It has been such a pleasure to remain friends throughout our lives. Many years later when Norma passed away we met Garnie's new wife Betty and all I can say is, Garnie has great taste!
The squadron left Edenton for El Centro, most by train. Sig and Garnie Gahagan were assigned as Recreation Officers, and had to round up books, cards and whatever for the long journey. I did not go to California, as I was expecting. Sig's dad and brother and I, along with Bill Schlegel's fiancee, drove home to New Jersey together.
I returned to Montclair, N.J. to my home (my father, Dr. J. C. Yunkers and Agnes, my mother, also two sisters, Agnes and Betty - I was the youngest) to await the birth of our son on May 20, 1944. Most of Sig's subsequent letters concern this event.
I found much to my amazement that I could not deliver a child normally, so on Saturday the 20th I had a C-section and thus Sig III arrived. The trauma of this time was difficult without Sig. Fortunately, my father was a big help, as was the rest of my family. Mother wrote Sig the news. He said that he had come in from a mission, and picked up the mail unopened and had a good sleep. When he awoke and read the letter of course there was much excitement! I believe that only Ray and Ginny Martin's son is older than Sig III. (Eventually I had eight C-sections and was on the front page of the Newark Evening News. Unfortunately, a boy, Paul and a girl, Mary, only lived a few days, so we raised six children, Sig, Joan, Peter, Patricia, Peggy and Mary Ellen).
After the war Sig returned to Montclair where we lived until we bought a home in Verona, as we were having another son. Sig was very fortunate, as during the summers of his college years he had worked for McNeil Construction in Newark. So when he returned from service, he spent a weekend home, then went down to check on the job. Not having time to get into civilian clothes, he wore his uniform. That was the last I saw of him! He went right to work. I have to say he was very successful and enjoyed his work and the people involved. He eventually bought the business, expanded it and it is still going strong, run by family members. Sadly, he gave up flying, as he felt his family was more important. But whenever possible, he would eat his lunch parked at Newark airport, watching the planes.
I apologize that I did not share my thoughts sooner, as the events of these years are some of my most treasured memories! True, it was war, but we were all so young we were never afraid. We felt that what we were doing was right. Also, the whole country was behind us! And the wonderful friendships formed have lasted a lifetime, too.
Best wishes to all, Joan
PBY Story Triggers Some Memories
By Ben Holden (radio-gunner)
It's been a long time since I've used a typewriter but I still retain some of the key locations.
I enjoyed Adventures in a PBY by Ken Meyer - it brought back some of my memories.
After radio school in Jacksonville, FL a few of us were sent to Cherry Point to another radio school that was a preparatory school for something that was too much for most of us and we were transferred to Norfolk NAS to yet another basic radio school that was for Navy boots [fresh] and with five experienced Coast Guardsmen who didn't know what they were there for either.
Our barracks were actually on the tarmac of the station and they formed a fence for the area where they pulled the PBY's up on the ramp for maintenance and for loading the depth charges.
Anyway, we all enjoyed liberty in Norfolk because the Navy Shore Patrol took us under their wing. There were so few Marines that they gave us all an open invitation to imbibe in the Chiefs' club. Made use of it every time we had liberty. It was greatly appreciated for liberty call was at 1600 and all the joints were dry before 1700. Back on the NAS we ate with the swabbies in a huge mess hall with typical Navy food but nowhere as good as some we were soon going to get. I have no clue as to the date, for it should have been imprinted on all of us. As we, John Gunn and 1, were eating there was an explosion. I was blown across the table and nearly stuck John with my fork. By the time we got untangled and back outside someone came through with the word that all the Marines were to immediately report to the Marine Barracks on the main base. "On the double" and take nothing with you except the clothes on your backs. We were issued all new stuff at the M.B. Also now that we were now stationed there they assigned us to fence, gate and shore patrol duties. It seems that a string of twenty-four depth charges had gone off and our five barracks were no longer there! We lost everything we owned. All of us would rather have remained in school.
Had a Marine PX in the building and no swabbies were allowed. Also ate at tables with white table cloths, with mess attendants serving us. You know that did not last long.
We climbed aboard trucks, with our gear, and off to gunnery school at Dam Neck, VA. which was the home of the shipboard five-inch gunnery school. Did not see them but we sure did know when they were firing!
We did a lot of small arms firing and hours on the skeet and trap ranges. We could check out shot guns to use in the swamps behind us for duck hunting (that is directly in the wildfowl flyway) and all donations to the mess chief were readily cooked and served during the next noon or evening. Most times there was enough to go around. Not there for long and then off to join VMB 423 in Edenton.
Sorry that I cannot remember who else was with us but it was an interesting sojourn for me. By the way, I was never interested in flying in a PBY thereafter.
Semper Fi, Ben Holden
Life's Little Happenings
By Bill Hopper
I just recalled one happening at Edenton .... This must have occurred in the winter of 1943. At least five or six engine blocks were not drained and they froze. These were motor pool vehicles. Col.Winston called the officers together and 'requested' a donation. My memory is hazy but I think it was about $100 each. We ponied up. Capt.Bell, the Material Officer, and perhaps another person took a truck and drove northward until they located, purchased and loaded the required number of engine blocks.. I have no recall as to who was in charge, either officer or enlisted. Maybe some of the other pilots recall this happening?
One other thing. Life's little happenings: When our squadron received new planes they were ferried into either Cherry Point or Edenton. I personally 'signed for' 15 aircraft.. Me, a lowly lieutenant! I really thought this was strange. But it did not bother me. Talk about trying to get blood out of a turnip! At that time I could not have afforded the price of even a set of tires for one plane!!
...I thought of another happening while we were in the South Pacific. It was probably in the fall of 1944 when a B-24 went down somewhere north of Green Island. Some of our flight crews were sent out on sector search patrols which lasted about five hours as I recall. To sit there and sweep the horizon with binoculars was very tiring. Sig Higgins and I would take turns. The other crew members were also searching. We did not find any sign of the B-24, but someone observed some whales who were spouting. About that time a request came to practice a little gunnery on them. I vetoed the idea and we continued the search until we had to return to base. Frankly, I did not consider myself an environmentalist but saw no point in killing whales. Maybe it came from a farm environment where we only shot the number of birds we would eat. Over the past thirty or so years I have, on rare occasions, asked an extreme environmentalist: Would you want a dinosaur in your backyard?
Wishing you all the best! Bill
Just a Matter of Judgment
By Ernie Hughes
We were on Espiritu Santo, where the rain was continuous, day and night, day in and day out. The humidity was at least 150%. All our clothes were saturated, with mildew growing on everything.
We, at that time, had little or nothing to do. All our senior officers were in Australia. A planning conference, I believe it was called or so we were told. In any case, that left Captain "S" in charge. I never knew exactly what Captain "S's" job or duties were. He walked around and looked for someone to talk to. He cornered me a couple of times and told me the story as to how he became the youngest officer in the A.E.F. (the American Expeditionary Forces, WW I). That being true, he would now have to be at least 100 years old. So, I doubt he"s still around to object to my telling what happened.
What happened the day of The Incident, was that I used dubious judgment. I was in the Dallas hut, sitting on my mildewed cot, when in came a clerk from the office. His message was that Capt. "S" wanted to see me. Dutifully, I dashed through the rain to the office, where I spoke to Captain "S". He informed me that I was to go to Headquarters Squadron to fix roof leaks.
I explained that the people in HQ Squadron knew where the leaks were and that they were their leaks, so let them fix them themselves. I don't believe Captain "S"' liked my answer. So ... he told me it was a direct order. "Get a crew together NOW and go fix their leaks." Again, I used somewhat dubious judgment. I tried again to reason with the good Captain. I explained that the only clothing we had that was dry was the clothing on our backs. At this point, Captain "S" stated that if I didn't obey his order he would charge me with disobeying a lawful order.
His impatience did not match mine. I reached across the table and took a swing at my tormentor. Luckily, I missed. However, to this day, I can still hear the Captain's voice, "Corporal of the Guard, Corporal of the Guard, Corporal of the Guard, ..." Finally, someone realized he was the Corporal of the Guard and came in, whereupon he was ordered to place me under arrest.
It was at this point the Captain found that there was no brig to put me into until a trial could be held. He solved that problem an hour later by giving me a court martial. It was a short trial. The judge was the plaintiff, witness and prosecutor. No testimony was permitted from the defendant. The sentencing was swift ... ten days in the brig. The fact that no brig existed was again visited upon Captain "S".
The rest of the day was really hectic ... a lot of talk when the captain was absent, a lot of snickering. Finally, someone asked me, "What are we going to do with you?" I said, "I should be paroled and sent back to a hut until tomorrow. With a fresh mind we will figure it all out." About thirty minutes later, that is what the Captain did, with the admonishment for me "not to leave my hut." Being a good Marine, I stayed put - until it was time for the movie.
The next day ... more confusion. Finally, it was determined that Headquarters Squadron had the responsibility to provide a place of confinement for the prisoner ... me! So, I was escorted to Headquarters Squadron. Two P.F.C.'s with M1's (no bullets) delivered me to a lieutenant, whose name I cannot remember. I do remember he graduated from the University of Minnesota. A lineman on their football team, he was about 6'3", 275 pounds and a tub of flab. He wore glasses with lenses like the bottom of coke bottles. He had many of the qualities of Capt. "S". However, he was one up on Capt. "S". They had found something he could do ... oversee a desperate criminal!
Again the problem of "no brig" was visited upon my captors. Somewhere in Headquarters Squadron someone found a solution. I was placed in charge of - building my own stockade! That is, if you could ignore the one-armed private, whose choice was either to guard me or help me. In any case, we set up an old rotten two- man tent in the center of three palms. Then we took barbed wire and walked around and around the three palms with each pass going a little higher until we ran out of wire. Then my guard ran a stick under the bottom strand and I crawled under it. I was now, at last, beginning my ten days. You've heard of people digging their own grave. Now you've heard of someone building his own prison.
The first full day of my confinement began about 7 a.m. when the guards came for me. (The good Lieutenant from Minnesota forgot to post guards at night, but at least he remembered to feed me.) I was escorted to the mess hall as a desperado. I had to eat separate from everyone else. As I began eating, I heard someone say, "Hey Ernest! What are you doing here?" I looked up and there stood Charlie Gardener. (He was a boy I went to grammar school with ... in fact, he was a good and steady friend through grammar school.) I replied, "Hey, Charlie!" I stood up and shook hands and asked him to sit down and eat with me. He and his buddy (both from Headquarters Squadron) sat down and we began reminiscing. Then I remembered I was a prisoner. So, I informed him of this little detail and introduced him to my guards. Since they were in the same squadron, they already knew each other. My guards just had not been instructed on how to handle this situation. So they moved very close behind me, like an old hen warming her biddies. Soon Charlie and his buddy had to go to work and I was left alone with my guards.
Now was the time to start the hard labor portion of my ten days. My job? Well. it was to burn out outhouses to kill flies and odor. It doesn't take long to toss a quart of gasoline into an outhouse pit and throw in a match. So, in about an hour, I was all caught up on my new job. As I waited for my new instructions, the good Lieutenant came by and told me a couple of football stories about the University of Minnesota.
Stories or no stories, the problem of hard labor still existed. This is where they made 'The Great Mistake'. Some great mind decided I could wash pots and pans in the Senior Officer's Mess.
My caretakers escorted me to the kitchen door of the S.O. Mess. We were admitted but the S.O. cook decided that three extra people in a small kitchen was a bit too much. He told my caretakers he would take all responsibility for me and asked that they wait outside. Not knowing any better, they complied.
A handful of senior officers don't mess up a lot of dishes at breakfast. Again my work was caught up with and I was left with some time on my hands. The cook and I started talking. He asked the questions everyone asked. "Where are you from? What outfit? What's your name?" "Ernest Hughes. What's your name? "Milheim Rahaim." "Hey the girl I'm engaged to is named Rahaim." "Ye-ah, where does she live?" "In Jacksonville, Florida." "Hey, I have cousins in Jacksonville. What's her name?" "Beatrice," I said. "Hey, she's my cousin." At this point, a whole world opened up for me. After lunch was served, Milheim asked me, "What do you want for lunch?" I didn't know how to answer that question ... lamb's tongue, Spam, or Vienna sausage. Milheim answered the question for me. " How about a steak?" I thought I surely must have heard him wrong. He continued, "How do you like yours?" "Rare," I managed to say.
Doing brig time is not always so bad. Where, when, plus who ... can make all the difference in the world. From that moment on, I had an easy job and good food (steak and eggs for breakfast ain't bad!) but that all changed too soon. On my sixth day, shortly after lunch, I was told to get my stuff and go back to my hut. I sadly left my new heaven. As I walked away, I looked back and all I could see was the signs that said, "Restricted ... Authorized Personnel Only." Somehow, I knew they were painted just for me.
When I got back to the hut (with all my excess candy bars, which my many sympathizers had tossed into my prison over the last six days) I had lots of company wanting to know how I survived in that terrible place. For me, telling was easy ... for them, believing was hard.
Someone told me the C.O. and the EX.O. had returned from Australia. I felt I was told this good news to ease my pain. I wondered, "Why hadn't they stayed away just a few more days? "
About an hour after I got back, I was informed that I was wanted in the office. "What now?" I wondered. I dutifully presented myself to the First Sergeant. He looked up at me and said, "As of the first of the month, you will be paid as a 'Staff Sergeant'." I had never heard of anyone being promoted while serving time in the brig. It's usually the reverse.
I still do not know why I got a reduced sentence or how it was entered into my records. Maybe not at all ... for I was discharged on time. No 'add on' for brig time.
Even today, sometimes in the middle of the night, I think I can hear Captain "S" yelling, "Corporal of the Guard, Corporal of the Guard!"
Gentlemen, Thank You!
By Rudy Inman
At the VMB 423 reunion in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Oct. 12-15, 2000, some members of the ground echelon of VMB 423 were presented with tongue-in-cheek awards of Order of THE DZUS FASTENER and the ORDER of THE CLECKO PIN. While this was done in fun it did express the appreciation of the flight echelon for the support provided by the ground echelon. Seeing these men being recognized caused me to do some serious thinking.
As turret gunner in Lt. Burlingham's crew, I now find it hard to believe how nonchalant we became about the aircraft we used. While it's true we all had a check-list of things we were supposed to do before we took off, many of us became very casual about these checks. We came to the point where we just accepted as fact that the flak holes would be patched, the engines would run perfectly, the ammo and the correct bomb-load would be installed, and everything else would be just as it should be. For my part, I took it for granted that my turret would go around, my twin fifties would go up and down and they would fire as needed. (Heck, I never even tested my parachute because we were assured that if one didn't work, all we had to do was bring it back and get another one just like it.) We knew that the photos of the target area would be exact, we knew we could rely on our radios and instruments, and (if it was a
night flight) Doc Bozik's people would have a night-cap for us when we returned.
In recent times some members of the flight echelon have received Air Medals and Distinguished Flying Crosses for their activities while members of VMB 423. I just want to say to the members of the ground echelon----- from the guys who hauled the bombs and ammo from the magazines, to the ordnance men who loaded them, to the mechs who kept the planes flying, to the metal smiths who patched them, to the photographers, to the radio and instrument repair men, to the guys who packed the 'chutes, and, yes, even to the cooks who did a great job with what they had to work with---- we in the flight echelon could not have done our job if you guys had not been so good at what you did!
Gentlemen, my hat is off to you! I sincerely regret that I didn't say this to you many years ago when more of you were alive to hear it. The medals we have received were authorized, and in most cases were presented, by people who had never heard of us until our name came across their desk. Your "fun" awards, on the other hand, were made and presented by guys who knew you and knew what you did, and who appreciate and respect you for it! Maybe they weren't really tongue-in-cheek after all.
Gentlemen, THANK YOU
Rudy Inman, Turret gunner, VMB423
by: Harold J. "Johnny" Johnston, pilot
I was born in Thomaston, Connecticut, home of the Seth Thomas Clock Company ...in fact, the town was named for the man whose many clocks bore his name. I was born on April 24, 1917, which means that I am now 85 and still going strong, with a few exceptions, such as Parkinson's, etc.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, I enlisted in the Navy and on a cold night around mid-night we arrived (all 30 of us) at the State Pier in New London, CT. It was there that I had my first meeting with a Chief Petty Officer who had to be called out of bed to find a place for a bunch of recruits who arrived unexpectedly..boy, was he nasty, and to my way of thinking he was always the same. Meaner than hell!
I was at that base long enough to become a third class petty officer, Signalman 3rd class, and always had a strong desire to fly so four of us put in for a transfer to Floyd Bennett field in Brooklyn, N. Y, where a review board of three top Navy officers sat in judgement while we were told to tell them about ourselves and why we wanted to be Naval Aviators.
Dan Casey and I were the only ones who were chosen and I didn't see Dan again until after WW2 was over and we were both coming home ... that meeting took place on Tarawa, of all places.
I left Floyd Bennett field in February 1943 for pre-flight school at Chapel Hill, N.C. and after that it was Bunker Hill, Indiana, for actual flight training in those great old Stearman biplanes and finally in September 1943 to Pensacola where I made the grade and got my gold wings in January 1944. I was assigned to photo school for about four months which consisted of flying SNJ's with a student photographer in the back seat, and following that I was transferred to EDENTON, N.C., since I had chosen the rank of 2nd Lt. in the Marine Corps Reserve and there at Edenton, I had my first experience with a PBJ.
In fact, my whole life changed while at Edenton. It was there that I met the girl to whom I have been married for almost 60 years. It was there that we had a darn good dance band of some 14 pieces and the band was directed by Captain Dick Graves who was also a pilot and the girl trumpet player who later became my wife was Corporal Virginia Clawson. The only other band member that I can recall, was Louis Nicolas, who was also a pilot in VMB-423 and lived in Iron Mountain, Michigan. In addition, Lou was a trumpet player and I played piano --- in fact I flew a few night heckler missions with Lou later on.
Edenton was a base like no other facility, whether it was Army, Navy or Marines and there are so many wonderful memories associated with Edenton, that I could write an entire book about what happened there. The most memorable thing, however, was the fact that while a war was waging in two areas of the world and obviously trained pilots were needed, I was "detained" at Edenton for more than a month after completion of PBJ flight instruction in order to play piano for a show that was produced by the staff. Anyone who was in attendance at that show will never forget it. Sure was great!!
After leaving Edenton, I was transferred to Cherry Point and after going through more training I became a member of a crew with pilot Ed MacDonald, and for the life of me the only crew members that come to mind were Maldonado, Raines, Johnson and Anderson--all of whom were terrific at their jobs--but I can't remember the tail-gunner's name although he was a wonderful kid and I can only remember what he looked like, rather than his name.
Finally, in January 1945 we took off in PBJ-lJ-38981 which was the latest model from North American and after arriving at San Diego, we were transported (18 PBJ'S) on a Kaiser-built Aicraft Carrier, the USS Attu, to Honolulu, and after unloading all 18 planes, they were flown by their crews to Ewa, which is (or was) the Marine Corps base near Barbers Point.
We left Ewa and flew the PBJ out to the combat area and on one occasion we were almost shot down by our own troops because we approached Bougainville from the wrong direction and our IFF was not set properly. On March 3, we departed from Hawaii and after dodging thunderstorms and generally lousy flying weather we made it to Palmyra. From there it was Canton, next stop was Funafuti, followed by Espiritu Santo. It seems to me that the next stop was Guadalcanal, and following that it was the approach to Bougainville (referred to earlier) and the landing at B-ville was our first on a portable mat. Wow! What a racket --- it sounds like you're dragging about 100 metal garbage cans, loaded with nails. We finally arrived at Emirau on March 10 and after processing the PBJ we were sent to Green Island and that was our base of operations until later that summer when we moved to Emirau.
How well I remember the first day at Green Island. We were pretty tired as well as hungry and anyone who was there will vouch for the fact that the flour that was used to bake the bread, had small boll weevils or just plain bugs and you could tell who the new people were by watching them poking the bugs out of the bread. It wasn't too long before you forgot about the bugs and ate the bread --- bugs and all!! Apparently the flour was shipped in cargo holds and although it was OK when shipped, however during the long voyage the bugs somehow began to appear.
Probably the next most difficult thing to overcome was the living conditions. We had so damn many rats that no matter how many you killed, there were always as many--or more--to take their place. I remember that someone had sent me some chocolates and the first night I baited the traps with them. Good Lord, within a half-hour the candy was gone but we had rats, rats, and more rats. Captain Moe Iverson lived in a tent nearby and one night he got so fed up with rats that he started shooting at them with his .38 GI pistol. Man, bullets were flying everywhere and that charade had to stop before somebody besides the rats were killed. At least, Moe was relieved of the frustration, for the time being.
I remember that the cot which I slept on was made of a frame consisting of 2 x 4's, with huge rubber bands stretched across the frame. Oh yes, there was a pad in addition the bands, which I later learned came from cutting up old inner tubes that were no longer useable in aircraft tires. Recently, my wife, Jinny, bought a mattress and box springs for a small twin bed which, on sale cost over $200. The beds we slept on probably cost around $3 ... and even with adjustments for inflation and the time involved... represented an increase of more than I care to think about.
I well remember the first shower that I took while living in a tent on Green Island. For the benefit of those who have never taken a shower in warm salt water, IT'S THE PITS!!!! Of course, everything had fungus growing on it and when I got back to civilization, the first thing I did was to have my uniforms, shirts, socks, and everything else, THOROUGHLY CLEANED. All in all, however, it wasn't too bad and I'm sure that many service people had a lot worse to contend with.
I remember that almost all of the food that we ate, was either fake or SPAM. One day, we were lucky enough to find a 40-quart can full of ersatz milk. Powdered, that is. So, it was relatively quiet on the flying side so we took the milk up to 9,000 feet and after flying around for an hour or so, we solved the problem of how to cool the milk. Boy, was that good drinking. (I'm sure General Anderson didn't know how we cooled that milk--but I'm sure he wouldn't have cared after a nice cool glass of milk).
When we first arrived on Green Island, we were told that it was the rainy season and the temperature was always in the nineties and you can readily see what a combination like that would add up to. However, as long as I was in the South Pacific, the weather was always the same. Now I know why they trained us to be so damn tough. it wasn't for the war --- it was to live and work under such difficult conditions.
There are many episodes that I remember, such as the R&R in Australia and how difficult it was for the people to get food to eat. I remember that fresh meat was not to be had at all. One market that we went into had some rabbits that had a fancy price tag but the folks in Sydney were not buying, either because they didn't like rabbit or because they balked at the high price. The crew I was with wasn't looking for food... they had girls on their minds. Our navigator-bombardier PFC Raines was probably the most like an entrepreneur, and as I later learned, he had somehow smuggled a case of Lucky Strikes aboard the plane and I found him selling individual packs on the sidewalk for a dollar. He claims to have made a bundle on that deal and I didn't doubt him for a minute.
The flying was pretty much routine and there was no time for horse-play and believe me that was as it should have been. I guess I was lucky to have had good instructors, etc, as I was awarded three Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross and perhaps the happiest day was in September, 1945 when I heard that the war was over. At the time, I was putting TIME on an over-hauled engine and almost did a slow roll in that PBJ.
Many things took place following that but it's now back to Manus and there to await the first available transportation home. I got a ride from Manus to Ewa on an R-5-C, which was a big piece of junk-- powered by two engines and built by Curtis--and the first pilot was a man by the name of Hoopes, who just happened to have been my instructor at Pensacola in twin engines. Since these pilots were flying day and night (MATS) they were dead tired and when Hoopes learned that I had many hours in PBJ'S, he had me flying as co-pilot all the way to JOHNSTON Island. Finally, we arrived at Hawaii.
Next, how to get to Continental USA and just by luck there was a Pan-American Seaplane with one empty seat and I got home ahead of all the rest of the crew who came by ship. What luxury!! We left Hawaii around 5 PM and 16 hours later we landed at Alameda.
Many people want to know how I ended up in Ohio, after an early childhood in Connecticut. The trumpet player, Corporal Virginia Clawson, happened to be from Akron. As a matter of fact, it wasn't until we were filling out forms prior to getting married, when she first learned that my first name was Harold, not Johnny. Johnny was the name I had picked up in the service ... and it has been my name ever since.
I was released to inactive status in December 1945 but was recalled in 1952 during the Korean war. Finally. I was honorably discharged in March 1953 with the rank of Captain.
ONCE A MARINE, ALWAYS A MARINE.
Semper Fidelis - Johnny Johnston
"Even Now, I Remember..."
By Robert Kritz (Radio gunner on Lt. Robert Friedman's crew)
Here's a quick vignette: One night on Green Island, Lt. Armstrong invited a few of us (John Donovan, Sully [Steve Sullivan] John O"Donnell, Hank [John Hanczyk] and Ben McGee over to the officers' rec room, where they had a beat-up old piano. He took out his trumpet, and we "jammed." Not really jammed in the jazz sense, but in the sense of us stumbling our way through some of our most nostalgic melodies. Armstrong's was "I Had the Craziest Dream," which he tried to play to sound like Harry James, which he didn't, along with me trying to figure out the right chords to accompany him, which I didn't. At least not entirely.
Then came Sam Carlson -- I forgot, he was there, too, with Tom Wallimann -- and Sam asked for "Rain, When Ya Gonna Rain Again,"
and when we finally got through it, Sam sang a chorus with gusto along with Armstrong's trumpet muted, and my quiet and tinkling piano, trying to keep up.
Then Donovan asked for his favorite song - "I'm Getting Tired so I can Sleep" (second line: "I want to sleep so I can dream"). We played it, and Donovan sang it, in his very sentimental, somewhat shaky voice.
I always felt close to Donovan, a very gentle, very decent, very concerned human being. When his plane didn't come back from a flight 3 days later, I had trouble sleeping. Sometimes, even now, I remember him with great fondness. Once in a while he even shows up in a dream, and his face is smiling and calming. Even now.
Best Regards to all! Bob
A CHRONICLE OF MY SERVICE IN THE U.S. MARINE CORPS
By Elvin E. Krumsee
SEPTEMBER 17,1942 I got up at the same time in the morning that I always did, to go to work. The only difference was that I got dressed in my suit rather than my everyday clothes. My mother wanted to know why I was dressed up. I told her I was going out with some of the fellows after work. I did go to the shop however. I told them I was taking the day off because I was going downtown in Chicago to enlist. (Make note, in those days, when anybody went downtown in Chicago, they got dressed up)
The recruiting offices were at the city hall. I walked in and told them I wanted to enlist. There were ten of us signing up. After the paper work and physicals were done, we were told to report back on October 1 to be sworn in. I returned home and when I walked in, it was about 1400, my mother wanted to know how come I was home so early. I then told her that I didn't go to work, instead I enlisted in the Marine Corps. She was shocked. I must tell you that my father had been in the Army Engineers before World War I, and he always said no son of his was going to go into the Marine Corps. When he came home later that day, with only one foot in the door, my mother told him what I had done. At that point, I walked out the door and didn't see him until the next evening. As long as I was in the Marine Corps, Mom and Dad tried to get me to admit that I was sorry I enlisted. I NEVER WAS, and wouldn't have admitted it if I ever had been. I feel that was the day that I became a man. It was my decision, nobody knew, not even the girl that I was going with. It left everyone in shock.
OCTOBER 1, 1942 On this day, at 1900, I was sworn into the United States Marine Corps and left for the San Diego, CA Marine Corps Boot Camp, Serial #466519.
OCTOBER 4, 1942 Arrived at the San Diego, CA Marine Corps Boot Camp
NOVEMBER 25, 1942 Upon finishing boot camp, I requested that I be transferred to the Carlson Raider Battalion. However, because I had some machinist's experience and they needed machinists, I was transferred to the North Island Naval Air Station, CA.
DECEMBER 19, 1942 Worked on F4U Corsairs, preparing them for overseas shipment, until I was transferred to Great Lakes Naval Station, IL to go to machinist school.
DECEMBER 22, 1942 Arrived at Great Lakes Naval Station, IL
APRIL 19,1943 Finished Machinist's school and was assigned to guard duty.
MAY 5,1943 Finished guard duty, left Great Lakes and transferred to North Island NAS, CA.
MAY 8. 1943 Arrived at North Island NAS. Since a period of five months had elapsed since I was scheduled to go to machinist's school, by then they had too many machinists and didn't know what to do with us.
JUNE 2,1943 Transferred to North American Aviation PBJ (B25) school at Inglewood, CA.
JULY 7,1943 Finished North American Aviation School and transferred back to North Island NAS.
JULY 20, 1943 Transferred from North Island NAS to Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, NC.
JULY 26,1943 Arrived at Cherry Point and was assigned to VMB413 as a PBJ Mechanic.
AUGUST 27,1943 I got up that morning with a terrific pain in the lower abdomen. I couldn't eat breakfast so I went right out to the flight line and checked in. Then I went out to the plane, sat down doubled up, in the shade of the wing. When it was time to go to the mess hall for lunch, I went to the sick bay on the flight line. When I arrived, the doctor was examining some new pilots that had just arrived. I sat on the floor, doubled up and finally the doctor said he had better check me and told me to get up on the table. The table was one of those flimsy tables they used for years. When the doctor started to examine me, the table tipped over with me on it. They stood the table up again and then told me to get back on it. After the doctor finished the exam, he told me to go back to my barracks, take a shower, get some clean clothes and go to the hospital. He also told me that I had an acute appendicitis. I must mention that the flight line to my barracks was a little over a mile; the hospital was about a half mile from the barracks, and in my condition I had to walk that mile and a half. When I arrived at the hospital, the corpsman asked the nurse if she thought that they would operate on me that day. She said, "No, not for an acute appendicitis." Shortly after that, I was laying in bed, when two doctors came over to examine me. The next thing I knew, I was being shaved, put on a cart and being taken into surgery. When I arrived in surgery, they told me they were going to give me a spinal injection and that I would be awake during the surgery. After the injection, I laid there for a short time, and when the doctor came over to me and asked if I felt any pain, I said I did. He waited about a minute and asked again if I felt any pain, I said I didn't feel a thing and he replied, if I did, I would have known he had just cut me open After he finished, he showed me my appendix and said if they had waited until the next morning, it would have burst. After that, I went back to my bed in the ward. To this day, I cannot praise the Cherry Point hospital and the surgeon enough. From the time they put me on the cart to take me into surgery and then back to my bed, only 15 minutes had elapsed. I was in the hospital for seven full days. The doctor had come from Mayo Clinic.
SEPTEMBER 4,1943 I was discharged from the hospital and assigned to the pilots' Ready Room, for light duty, having to report to 2nd Lieutenant Laverne A. Lallathin. My job was to make coffee, make sure the refrigerated chest was kept full of carbonated soda and see to it that the place was kept clean of any litter. One day, Lt. Lallathin saw me carrying a case of soda. He stopped me and told me to put it down. He then reminded me that I was on light duty and that if anything heavy had to be picked up or moved, I should get one of these guys sitting around (referring to the pilots.) He also told me that they weren't any better than me. That was the beginning of our close relationship. He was called Lally by all of the officers that knew him. He told me that whenever we were alone, he wanted me to call him Lally, not Lieutenant, and he called me El, short for Elvin. Lally had a close friend, 2nd Lieutenant Jasper A. Bates. It was amusing when each of them bet that they could quit smoking. They gave me the bet money to hold. It was quite a coincidence that both of them smoked Phillip Morris cigarettes as I did, and Lally smoked the same kind of pipe tobacco that I did. Well, what do you think the two of them were doing? That's right, they were bumming cigarettes from me, and Lally was bumming the pipe tobacco as well. That went on for almost two weeks when somehow they caught on to each other. Then they both told me to keep the bet money to pay for the cigarettes and pipe tobacco of mine they had smoked.
OCTOBER 13,1943 Transferred to
OCTOBER 15,1943 Squadron VMB-423 moves from Cherry Point to Edenton, North Carolina. MCAS. Men and gear transferred by truck convoys.
NOVEMBER 1, 1943 On this day, one of our PBJs, while on an instrument flight, blew up in the air, cause unknown. One of my buddies, PFC Charles E. Schwieman, a gunner, was on that flight. The plane's two engines were found a mile and a half apart. There were four men aboard that flight, all were killed. When the bodies were found, Chuck's was without his head, which they never found. Being his friend, I volunteered to take his body home to his mother and the rest of his family in Chicago, Illinois. This ended up being quite an experience in responsibility, compassion and consideration for people's feelings.
NOVEMBER 5,1943 I boarded the train with Chuck's body in Edenton, North Carolina, going to Norfolk, Virginia. It was an old train; each car had only four wheels, wicker seats and a potbelly stove for heat, with the stovepipe going through the roof. The train got into Norfolk late. Once in Norfolk, I had to go to the Chesapeake Bay Ferry. Wouldn't you know, there weren't any arrangements made for me to get transferred to the ferry. I had to find a truck driver to take the coffin and me to the ferry. At the train station, they tried to talk me into continuing on to Chicago alone and they would take care of shipping the body to Chicago. I told them there wasn't any way that I would leave the body and that it was my responsibility to stay with it. They had to call ahead to hold the ferry and the Chesapeake and Ohio train on the other side of the bay for me, which they weren't very happy about. When I arrived in Chicago late in the afternoon on November 6, the funeral director was there to pick me up. On the way to his establishment, he told me that Chuck's mother had been quite ill and on the first day she was out of bed, she received the telegram informing her of Chuck's death. When we arrived at the funeral parlor, I shaved and cleaned up, after which Chuck's brother and brother-in-law came to pick me up and take me to the house. They asked me about the details as to what had happened. I told them as best I could and then mentioned that it was a sealed coffin. They asked me not to tell his mother the condition of his body, or how it happened. When we arrived at the house, I introduced myself to his mother, who was in bed, and to his sister and sister-in-law, and then sat down on the edge of the bed along side of Mrs. Schwieman. She proceeded to ask me questions, and finally, asked if his body was in one piece. I told her that it was. Did he suffer a lot, was he in a lot of pain, and was his body burned? After each one of these questions, my answer was no. Finally I had to say, "Mrs. Schwieman, you won't be able to see Chuck's body because the coffin is sealed." With that she started to cry and it took me a good twenty minutes of solid talking to quiet her down. Then, when I stood up, I had the sister crying on one shoulder and the sister-in- law crying on the other shoulder. The funeral was held on November 9, 1943. That was another hard day, because of the minister. His sermon was so long that we had to change the honor guard three times, and every person in that funeral parlor was crying. When it was time to go to the cemetery, the minister insisted that he ride in the hearse. I had to be firm with him stating that I was the one who had to escort the body to the cemetery. Consequently, he wasn't very happy with me. After the service at the cemetery was over, the family asked me to come back to the house with them so they could thank me for what I had done. I left them a while later to go home to my parents' house, (19hundredNorthand32hundredWest). Mrs. Schwieman, her daughter Mildred and son-in-law George Sellers lived at 9235 South Manistee Avenue ((28 hundred East). This made it a long trip back and forth (22 miles each way), and this was on a streetcar.
I returned to Edenton on November 12, 1943. Shortly after I returned, our commanding ofticer, Lt. Col. John Winston received a nice letter from Mrs. Hattie Schwieman, thanking him and me for the fine way in which Chuck's body was returned. I was called in to see the letter and always wished that I could have been given it. However, I was told that it had to be put in my file. The good that happened from this experience was the gaining of good friends. Mrs. Schwieman and the Sellers visited my parents and my parents visited them. They came to my wedding and when my parents died, they came to their funerals. I have always felt that this experience (I was 22 years old at the time), helped me to mature and become a better man.
NOVEMBER 12,1943 Returned to Edenton Marine Corps Air Station after the burial. DECEMBER 6,1943 Went home to Chicago on a furlough, to spend time with my parents, family and friends.
DECEMBER 16,1943 Returned to Edenton MCAS. DECEMBER 30,1943 VMB423 departs from MCAS, Edenton to MCAS, El Centro, CA.
JANUARY 5,1944 Arrived at MCAS, El Centro, CA. The night that we arrived, we were put up in tents. We didn't have our sea bags or our blankets and froze at night, as it was quite cold. In the morning, by 10:00 AM, we would be stripped to the waist.
FEBRUARY 4,1944 I was in the mess hall, about to have my lunch, when one of the mechanics came up to me and said, "Hey Krumsee, do you know that the plane you work on is burning up?" Hearing that, I ran out to the taxiway but by then it had burned down to the ground. A machine gun on another plane, parked across the taxiway, had been accidentally fired. I was told, it was the tracer bullets that caused the fire. I don't recall how long we had to wait for a plane replacement.
FEBRUARY 18, 1944 Departed from MCAS, El Centro, CA., by truck to the El Centro train station. Boarded the train and left for Alameda, CA.
FEBRUARY 19,1944 Arrived at Alameda dock. Boarded the U.S.S. Prince William, a baby carrier, and left at 14:00. The baby carrier transports planes such as fighters, dive-bombers, etc., (those planes that are not capable of flying the distance overseas.) VMB-413's planes were transported on ships of this size, but our planes flew over to Hawaii and then island hopped until they reached Espiritu Santo, an island which is part of the New Hebrides group in the South Pacific
MARCH 3,1944 One of our planes, #89, crashed in the Hawaiian Islands. There were no survivors. It disintegrated in the air.
MARCH 6,1944 Arrived at Espiritu Santo, and became attached to MAG 11 (Marine Air Group.).
MARCH 11, 1944 Priority cargo ship arrived at Espiritu Santo, with all of the squadron's equipment on it. It was unloaded and the equipment was stored between two Quonset huts which were located near the docks. Although there were security guards stationed in that area, our squadron had two men at a time guarding our equipment, 24 hours a day. Then one day some of our men were noticed to be drunk. The officers thought to themselves, they can't be getting that drunk on the low alcohol beer that we were able to get. What happened was that before going overseas, the officers bought quite a bit of whiskey; had it crated up in a number of wooden boxes, and had it shipped with the squadron equipment. They went down to the dock to get some of their whiskey. Guess what, they couldn't find any. It was all gone. They weren't too happy, so they called a surprise inspection. We had to fall in outside, with our sea bags in front of us and empty them. As they went up and down the ranks, they couldn't find any. When they were finishing up and turned around, there was one bottle on the ground. Nobody knew where it came from. With that they started to put some men in the brig, those that they had seen as having had too much to drink.
APRIL 5,1944 Five of our PBJ5's arrived. Piloting one of them was our C.O., Lieutenant Colonel John Winston. When he was told what had happened with the whiskey episode, he had the men released from the brig. He then told the officers that they should have gone and retrieved the whiskey themselves and that they would have done the same thing the men did if they had been in that position.
APRIL 8,1944 The squadron moved to another side of the island so that we could operate from Lugan Airfield.
APRIL 20,1944 PBJ 77 crashed, with a crew of six. There were no survivors. First Lieutenant Alden P. Carlson was the pilot. The flight was a night navigation training flight.
APRIL 21,1944 I went up on a flight in PBJ 03 that I was a mechanic on. The weather was so bad that night that you couldn't see the nose of our plane from the cockpit. The pilot told me that our squadron received our bearings from the Army Air Force that night. Well, wouldn't you know, when we were supposed to be over Lugan Field, we were approximately fifty miles away. To this day, I don't know how we got back alive. I still thank the man up in heaven, and the flight crew that I was flying with.
Not so lucky that night were the men in the plane that was piloted by Lieutenant Laverne A. Lalathin. After the other planes returned to the field, Latlathin's plane had not. The ground crews sat on the ground by the taxiway, nobody talking, straining our ears and praying that we would hear the sound of the engines of that PBJ. At about 0200, Lt. Col. Winston came out and told us to go back to our tents to get some sleep so that we could get the planes up early; to go out on search missions. We did our search missions, but were not able to locate the wreckage. Later on we found out that they had crashed into the side of a mountain on another island in the New Hebrides Group. On July 30, 1997, the plane was found, but there were no bodies at the site. The loss of my friend Chuck Schwieman was hard to take, but the loss of Lt. Lallathin has been much harder to accept. In a way, I still mourn his death. He and I had developed a good rapport. I said this at the reunion in Branson, MO; and I must enter it in this biography: "There have been three men that have left a lasting impression in my life. One was my father, the second was General Norman Anderson, and the third was First Lieutenant Laverne Lallathin." At one time he said that if he ever got lost while flying, he was going to set the throttles back as lean as he could, sit back and sing the song: "Pistol Packin' Marna." I have often wondered if in fact this is what he did that night.
MAY 11, 1944 Nine of our planes left Espiritu Santo, flying north to Stirling Island.
MAY 14,1944 The last three of our planes, and the flight echelon left Espiritu Santo and flew to Sterling Island.
MAY 15, 1944 The planes and flight crew of VMB-413 arrived at Espirito Santo and the ground echelon of our squadron VMB423 serviced and maintained their aircraft.
MAY 18, 1944 Crew Chief Loren Scheckter's plane #88 crashed on landing. No one was injured.
MAY 23,1944 Crew Chief, August Hunna's plane #86 crashed on landing. No one was injured.
JUNE 10, 1944 Began loading VMB-423's equipment on board the U.S.S. President Tyler.
JUNE 11, 1944 Time: 16:00 The ground echelon boarded the U.S.S. President Tyler, leaving Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. D destination: Green Island.
JUNE 13,1944 Time: 1700 The ship arrived at Guadalcanal.
JUNE 15,1944 TIME: 2200 The ship left Guadalcanal.
JUNE 16,1944 TIME: 1400 Ship arrived at the island of Mmda.
JUNE 17,1944 TIME 1300 Left the island of Mmda.
JUNE 18, 1944 TIME 0900 Arrived at the island of Bougainville
JUNE 19,1944 TIME 1000 Left the island of Bougainville
JUNE 20,1944 TIME 0800 Arrived at our destination, Green Island. When we disembarked from the ship, we had to climb down rope nets, into the landing boats. All of the squadron equipment was still on the ship. Upon arriving at the campsite, we received quite a shock. It was raining, the ground was alll mud with puddles, tents were down, laying in the mud and water. As we began to put the tents up, we found they were rotted and had holes in them. We had no choice but to use them. It rained that night; we had to put our ponchos on top of the mosquito netting that we had over our cots. When we got up in the morning, our sea bags and shoes were standing in mud and water, and our socks were wet. There were a lot of mosquitoes, bugs and lizards on the island. Words can't describe what it was like.
JUNE 21,1944 TIME 1530 Maj. Anderson, Executive Officer of VMB-423, leading a flight of 9 PBJs from Stirling Island, landed at Green Island.
JUNE 22,1944 Lt. Col. Winston, Commanding Officer of VMB-423, arrived on Green Island from Sterling Island.
Plane #90, Crew Chief Sullivan's ship, was lost,.with pilot 1st Lieutenant Kistner and crew on board. They had been on a night heckling mission over Rabaul, and the plane crashed about ten miles from Rabaul.
JUNE 23,1944 Three of our planes plus planes from other squadrons went out to search for our lost plane and crew. All of the planes returned to base and reported that they had no sighting of the crashed plane or crew.
JUNE 23, 1944 I asked permission of pilot Robert Freidman to go along on a raid over Rabaul, New Britain. The plane was crew chief Leon Peterson's ship. It was the first of many missions that I went on. Being a mechanic, I wasn't required to go on these missions. I went because of my love of flying. Lt. Freidman and Lt. Robert Kotalic were the pilots on this mission over Rabaul. Take off time was 1130. There were nine planes on this mission that was led by Lt. Col. Winston. Everything went smoothly, no ack-ack or planes sighted. We carried four 500-pound bombs. All nine planes missed the target. We returned to Green Island at 1335.
JUNE 29,1944 TIME APPROX. 0200 Lost plane #87; Ernest Hughes was the crew chief of the ship. It had more missions on it than any of our other ships. The plane crashed on Green Island, about a half block from the tent I was sleeping in. What woke my fellow tent mates and me was the sound of the engines, and the crashing of breaking trees the plane was hitting. When the plane got to the edge of the trees; which were at the shoreline of the Green Island lagoon, it flipped over on its back and came to rest in the water. There was an explosion and fire that caused the fifty caliber bullets to explode. The campsite was cleared in case of further explosions. Members of Marine Aircraft group #14, which our squadron became attached to on Green Island, went to the crash site to see if there was anyone alive and to remove the bodies of those who died. I went back to my tent to get my flashlight and returned to the site. I saw some of the bodies that were burned. One of the bodies had all of the flesh burnt off from the waist down. There were no survivors. They confiscated my flashlight and told me to leave. I said I wouldn't leave until my flashlight was returned to me. I left without it and they put me in the brig. The next morning I was taken to see Captain Dollard in our squadron office. He said he would take care of the situation. He told me that I should have listened to them, and to go back to my regular duties. I never did get my flashlight back. As anybody who was out there knows, the only way that you could get a flashlight was to have one sent from home.
JULY 3,1944 0845 HRS: Lt. Col.Winston led the nine-plane raid over Rabaul. I flew on this mission in plane #81 with Capt. Doss Wilhite and Lt. Armstrong. They led the third section. Each plane carried four 500-pound bombs. The targets were the ack-ack positions on Rabaul that had been shooting at us but didn't hit any of our planes. We returned at 1100. Afterwards, I was told that the mission went fairly well.
JULY 12,1944 Ten of our planes went on a daytime low level skip bombing and strafing raid over Rabaul. It was the first raid of its kind made by a Marine bombing squadron, using medium bombers. The targets were Japanese barracks. The raid was a success. None of our planes were damaged and there wasn't any opposition at all.
JULY 16,1944 TIME: 0900 TO 1200 Nine of VMB-433's planes arrived at Green Island. Members of VMB-423's ground crew were assigned to service their planes until their ground crews arrived. The crew chiefs came with their planes. I was assigned to be assistant crew chief on one of their planes. Clarence Miller, one of our mechanics, joined me in servicing their plane. The planes weren't in good condition. We didn't see much of the crew chief assigned to the plane. We had to strip them of excess gear ourselves.
JULY 19,1944 Lt. Col. Winston was detached from VMB423 to assume duties of Executive Officer of MAG 12 at Emirau. He was succeeded by Lt. Colonel Anderson, formerly Executive Officer of the squadron.
AUGUST 15,1944 VMB-433's other five planes arrived. Plane #114 crashed on landing at Emirau. No one was injured.
AUGUST 22 and 23,1944 VMB-433's planes and crew left Green Island for Emirau. When the flight crew came out to the plane that Clarence Miller and I had been assigned to take care of, the pilot dropped one of his bags. One of the items in the bag was a fifth of Apricot Brandy. Wouldn't you know, the cap cracked. He couldn't take it with him so he asked if we wanted it. Naturally, I said yes. After the planes took off, I asked Clarence if he wanted some. He said no, that he didn't drink alcohol. I couldn't let it go to waste, so I sat down on the ground, out in the hot sun, and drank the whole fifth by myself. Soon after, I caught the shuttle truck going back to our campsite, went to my tent and into my cot. This was at noon and the tent was out in the sun. I went right to sleep and didn't wake up until the next morning. There was a big poker game going on in our tent that night and even that didn't wake me up.
AUGUST 23,1944 I joined ground Crew Chief John Burnside's crew, on ship #36.
AUGUST 26,1944 TIME OF FLIGHT 0930 TO 1200 I went on a ten- plane raid that was led by Lt. Col. Anderson. I flew with the Colonel in plane #36. The mission consisted of medium altitude bombing, skip bombing and strafing. The bomb load was eight, 100-pound bombs that we dropped from an altitude of eleven thousand feet. Two 500-pound bombs were skip-bombed from an altitude as low as seventy-five feet. The speed that we were flying at was between 180 and 200 knots. On the low-level runs we made some pretty sharp turns; one was about 88 degrees.
SEPTEMBER 1 THRU SEPTEMBER 30,1944 I went on mess duty in MAG 14's Officers' Mess Hall.
SEPTEMBER 15,1944 Celebrated VMB 423's first anniversary. We had two hundred cases of beer, cakes, pretzels, cheese and cigars. Our highly respected Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Anderson, gave an informal speech. One of the cakes had a large candle on it; our C.O. blew it out and then cut the cake. A good time was had by all.
SEPTEMBER 15 THRU SEPTEMBER 20,1944 TIME 1100 Our squadron Doctor Albert Bozic turned me into the sick ward. I was having some chest pains and it was a little difficult for me to breathe. They gave me some oxygen I was never told what it was or what caused it. I was released after five days and went back to my regular duties.
OCTOBER 1, 1944 It was two years ago today, that I was sworn into the Corps and never have I had any regrets.
OCTOBER 3,1944 Squadron planes went on a day mission over the island of New Ireland. It was scheduled to be a skip bombing and strafing raid. Crew Chief Volpe's ship #40 was hit at 1400. One engine was on fire when it went down. It made a crash-landing about two miles off the coast of New Ireland. Lt. Kenneth Meyers was the pilot. All of the crew got out and into a seven-man raft. All the time they were in the water, the Japanese were shelling them from the shore and sunk the raft. Our planes covered them while they were in the water. PT boats picked them up at 2130. The Japanese had new installations on this island. Pilot Captain Lemke strafed them until he was out of ammunition. He then made another run and threw three of the nose guns at them. On his last run, his plane, #38 got hit. The oil- line on the right engine was cut; then another slug lodged in the battery. On the way back, he had the crew throw the radio gear, parachutes and a few other things overboard in order to get more speed. When they got back to Green Island, he made a perfect landing.
Lt. Milone, flying crew chief Walter Hilmer's plane #32, returning from this mission, made a real hard landing that sprung the super structure and blew a tire, putting it out of commission for good.
October 6, 1944 We, the ground crew, have half (7 months) of our overseas tour of duty in today.
OCTOBER 8,1944 TIME OF RAID - 1330 TO 1630 I went on a skip bombing and strafing raid with Lt. Charles Milone. Our plane carried four 500-pound bombs with 45-second delay fuses. Three bombs hit square into buildings. The fourth went over the target by about 100 yards. When dropping the bombs, our speed was between 200-240 knots.
OCTOBER 10, 1944, TIME OF RAID 0900 TO 1200 I went on a skip bombing and strafing mission with pilot Lt. Thomas Evans in crew chief Raymond Coulter's plane #03. We flew wing with Major Pritchard, who was flying plane #04, and led the four-plane raid over New Ireland. The target was a plantation. When we returned, our plane #03 had twenty- eight holes in it. Six hydraulic lines were shot away in the Navigator's compartment. Lt. Evans had everything ready for a crash landing or else to bail out. He found out that the trim tab cables were cut in three places. He made the decision to fly it back to Green Island although I had to manually pump the landing gear down and crank the flaps down. He made a good landing but had to use the air brakes, which caused us to come to an abrupt stop.
Crew chief Loren Sheckler's plane #04 came back with two holes in it. Lieutenant Jasper Bates was taking off in plane #30 when the right tire blew out, causing the plane to swerve to the right and go into the ditch alongside of the runway. The nose of the plane was tom off, destroying it. No one was injured.
OCTOBER 11, 1944 TIME OF RAID 1400 TO 1700 Lieutenant Edward Hazlehurst flew plane #38, in a four-plane raid over New Ireland. Upon returning to Green Island, he found that when lowering the landing gear, the nose wheel wouldn't lock in the down position. He flew around for a while and finally landed on the main landing gear and the tail skid. As soon as the tail skid touched the runway, he had the crew crawl into the tail of the plane to hold it down so that the ground crew could service it. The plane wasn't damaged and gave it its ninety-fifth mission. OCTOBER 12, 1944 Lt. John Klein, flying plane #07, was hit at Buka. They went down to strafe a barge. The Japanese were shooting at him and he got hit. He had a big hole in the right wing; another one came up into the Navigator's compartment and lodged itself in a parachute. The plane returned to Green Island without anyone being injured.
OCTOBER 19,1944 TIMIE OF RAID 1430 TO 1600 I went on a mission with our C.O. Lt. Col. Anderson in crew chief Raymond Coulteer's plane #03, the plane I was assigned to as a mechanic. The mission was a medium altitude raid over New Ireland and consisted of four planes. The target was an American downed Drone airplane that had crashed and didn't explode the way that it should have. Each of our planes carried demolition bombs. All four planes missed the target.
NOVEMBER 10, 1944 (APPROXIMATE DATE) Crew Chief Leon Peterson's plane #38 reached its one hundredth mission.
NOVEMBER 22,1944 I went on a mission with Lt. Frederick Eckhart, in crew chief Coulter's plane #03. The mission consisted of six planes, led by Lt. Col. Anderson. It was a low-level skip- bombing and strafing mission and we were flying wing with the Colonel. When I used to go on the missions, I would sit on the parachutes, behind the co-pilot's seat, or kneel just behind and between the two cockpit seats. This time I was kneeling, we were down to 35 feet altitude, above the ground. Lt. Frederick Eckhart was concentrating on his strafing; watching for the tracer bullets to enter the target so that he could drop the bombs. The co-pilot was pointing out the targets that the other planes were going to hit. Just then the co-pilot and I happened to look forward and there was a palm tree. We hit it about ten feet from the top, with the hub of the propeller hitting the trunk of the tree. We were very lucky. If we had hit the tree a little further out with the wing, it would have spun us around or would have taken the wing off. Either way, we would have crashed. When we returned to Green Island, the other crews that saw us hit the tree said that we stopped in mid-air. We went to check out the damage. The bottom of the right nacelle, the leading edge of the wing, and the right rudder were damaged. Inside of the nacelle, there were wood chips and chewed up leaves. Naturally we had to remove the propeller and the engine. The amazing thing was that the prop wasn't knocked out of balance. We all got back alive; thanks to Lt. Eckhart being a good pilot, who I would fly with anytime.
NOVEMBER 27,1944 I went on a test hop in plane #03, with Lieutenants William Hopper and Joseph Egan. I got my first stick-time in with Lieutenant Egan I never realized the controls were so touchy. When Lt. Hopper returned to the cockpit from the rear of the plane, he told me to go to the tail of the plane and watch for another PBJ. I didn't have to look for long when one came up behind us. It was Lieutenant Monnie Lusky, Lt. Hopper's buddy. They would put on a show for the natives, like a dog fight exhibition. When we returned to Green Island, they made me swear that I wouldn't tell anybody what went on up there. That afternoon, our engineering officer, Gunner James Hover, came up to me and wanted to know what they were doing up there because they had used up so much gas. As I was sworn into secrecy, I couldn't tell anyone. I just told him we were just flying around, checking the plane out.
DECEMBER 1, 1944 Planes #03, #21 and #36 left for Leyte, in the Philippines, to navigate for the F4U Corsairs going there. The crew chiefs went with their planes.
DECEMBER 10, 1944 I went on a skip-bombing and strafing mission in plane #03, with Captain Morris Iverson piloting. The target supposedly was said to be a hot spot. For the first time, I was scared. It ended up that I had no reason to be scared. They didn't fire one shot at us. The mission was a success.
DECEMBER 20,1944 (APPROXIMATE DATE) Crew chief Edward Fallon's plane, #07, flew its 100th mission.
DECEMBER 23,1944 Nine of our planes went on a medium altitude mission. Six planes came back with holes in them. Tail Gunner Willie T. Phillips was killed. He was flying in crew chief George Glier's plane #21. The plane came back with over 100 holes in it. Crew chief Raymond Coulter's plane #03 came back with twelve holes in it. One of the holes was about eight inches in diameter. Although I was sad, I was glad that I hadn't gone on that mission.
DECEMBER 24,1944, TIME 1330: Willie T. Phillips was buried on Green Island.
JANUARY 1. 1945 This is the date that the original flight crews, pilots and enlisted personnel start their transfer back to the United States, and the new replacements arrive to take their place. JANUARY 5,1945 Crew chief Raymond Coulter's plane #03 flew its 100th mission. Of the crew, I was picked to paint the bomb marking on the side of the plane.
JANUARY 6,1945 On this date, plane #03 was scheduled for a night mission. That afternoon Maj. Lowell's co-pilot, Thomas Evans, came out to check the plane out. He then told us it was to be a skip-bombing and strafing mission by moonlight. The major would have a hard time getting the plane down low enough because he was going to be pulling back on the yoke to keep the plane from going below 500 feet. That night when Maj. Lowell came out, knowing that I always went on raids, he asked if I was going up with them. I told him that I wasn't interested in going along. He then started to needle me and called me "chicken". That did it; I changed my mind and went with them. I wasn't sorry that I joined them. It was really something to see, looking up at the top of the trees at night as we flew by them, seeing the tracer bullets enter the target, then drop the bombs, pull up and bank away and head back to Green Island. I was told that the mission was a success and it was the first time that a night mission of this type was ever done.
JANUARY 6,1945 VMB-423 planes start to ferry Marine Corps ground troops, unit 222's men and some of their gear to the Philippine Islands. It made us laugh at what we had seen on the newsreel at the movies, General Douglas MacArthur saying that the retaking of the Philippine Islands was going to be an all Army affair. Here he was, calling for the Marine Corps to help retake the Philippine Islands. The Squadron also escorted a flight of F4U Corsairs to the Philippines for navigational purposes.
JANUARY, 1945 THROUGH MAY, 1945 VMB423 continued with its high altitude, medium altitude, night heckling, skip bombing and strafing missions. The New Zealand Squadron NZ2, which was flying the Lockheed Ventura (PV-s), went on bombing missions with our squadron. Their planes weren't equipped with bombsights, so they would fly with our planes and would drop their bombs when our lead plane dropped ours.
MAY 26,1945 I was part of a group of eighteen men from VMB423 who boarded a cargo ship to help load the squadron's gear and equipment, which was being shipped to the Philippine Islands. There wasn't a dock on Green Island for the ship to dock at. It couldn't anchor itself off the coast of the island because the water was too deep for the anchor to touch the bottom. What they had to do was to keep sailing back and forth along the coast of the island. It was good duty and the food was great. They couldn't get over how much we could eat, especially at the first evening chow. We hadn't had that kind of food for quite some time. From our squadron, First Lieutenant Joseph Beinor was in charge of us, but he didn't stay on board the ship, as we did.
JUNE 8. 1945 We disembarked from the ship, went to our campsite to pack our sea-bags. All of the ground troops had already left Green Island and had been flown to Manus. There was a truck waiting to take us to the flight line so that our PBJs could fly us to Manus as well. Once we arrived there, our paper work could start to be processed for our departure to the United States. JUNE 12, 1945 The men from VMB-423, plus some other Marines as well as some Army personnel boarded this old transport ship, USS Sea Scan, that dated back to World War I. It was also an Army Transport ship that had an Army officer in charge. With the cargo holds empty and only the troops returning to the states aboard, plus the fact that it was in calm water, one third of the screw was above the water. When we departed from Manus, the Captain announced over the radio that if anyone fell overboard, they would not stop to pick them up because of Japanese submarines. The hold that we slept in had bunks stacked six high. They were canvas and so close that you had to sleep on your back. If you lay on your side, the person above you would be laying on you. It was hot and smelly down there. For these reasons, many of the men slept out on the deck. One night, a Marine, one of many sleeping on the deck, decided that he needed some exercise. He decided to do some chin-ups. Where he was lying, there was an opening in the railing for a gang- plank to be fastened to when in dock. There were link chains across the opening and he decided that he would use the chain to hang on to. He slid his body under the chain and lowered himself over the side of the ship while hanging onto the chain, and started to do his chin-ups. Guess what happened next. The chain snapped and down he went into the sea. Calls went out, "Man overboard." The Captain stopped it the ship, turned on all of the search- lights and circled the area. When they finally spotted him, they lowered the power launch and sent it out to pick him up. That wasn't an easy task. The water was so rough that it almost capsized the launch. They were finally able to get to him so that they could pull him out of the water. All I can say is that he was one lucky fellow and one hell of a good swimmer as he was in the water for over an hour. Once aboard, he had to go see the Captain. Nobody said a word about what he was doing when he fell overboard. He told the Captain he was sleeping on the deck and in his sleep, he rolled over, went under the chain, and fell overboard. The Captain apparently believed his story and dismissed him. One of the crew members told me that a Japanese submarine was spotted in the area the day before and he was surprised the Captain stopped the ship. I guess we were all lucky to get away from there alive. I never did find out who the Marine was or if he was one of our group. The ship was scheduled to dock in San Francisco, however one of the Marines had an appendicitis attack. It was determined that it was an emergency and that San Diego was closer. The ship changed its course and headed for San Diego. As far as our group was concerned, San Diego was better for us; it saved us from having to take a train ride from Frisco to San Diego. The Army troops aboard the ship were lucky to be on an Army ship. They didn't have to do anything but lie around. The Marines had mess duty right from the start. There was lookout duty up in the crow's nest, which I had one night, from 2200 to 2400. It happened to be pouring rain that night and there wasn't any rain gear issued. I really got soaked. When a ship pulls into port, an inspector comes on board to check for cleanliness. That meant we had to clean up the quarters that we slept in; even wash the bulkheads. What made it worst of all, they sent the Marines in to the Army quarters, where we had to clean up while many of the Army men were laying around in their bunks.
JUNE 30,1945 The ship docked in San Diego, CA. We disembarked and were bussed to the MCAS Miramar, California. Once we were settled in, they started on our paper work. We had to have physical exams to check that we were physically fit and that we didn't bring in any kind of disease. Once that was done, we went to be issued new uniforms. After everything was taken care of, we were ready to leave on what was called a "transfer furlough." This was a thirty-day furlough after which we were to report to Cherry Point. We were told that once we arrived at Cherry Point, we would join new squadrons, help train them and go back overseas in six months.
JULY 5. 1945 At this time there were quite a few of us from VMB-423 that were leaving Miramar. We boarded a Southern Pacific railroad train and left for our individual destinations, to begin our furloughs. The passenger train we were on was being sidetracked for everything from freight trains, cattle trains, other passenger trains and whatever else they could think of. This was not a troop train. There were civilian passengers aboard, as well. We arrived in Texarkana, TX late one night. Most of the passengers were asleep. I was awake and decided to go out on the platform of the car I was on. I heard a couple of men arguing nearby. One was a Marine captain, the other, a railroad yard supervisor. 'The captain was complaining about the way the train was being sidetracked all the time. He told him there was a large group of Marines that just got back to the States and were going on their 30-day furlough. The remark the supervisor came up with was "I don't give a _ _ _ _ if they don't get home in time for the end of their furloughs. With that, the captain turned around and walked away from him. I only wished that a lot of our guys were up and heard what he said. I don't believe that he would have been able to walk away from that area without a lot of difficulty.
What should have been a three-day trip to Chicago took five days. When we arrived in Chicago, I hailed a cab to take me home. When I arrived at the house, I was in for a great surprise. My grandparents owned a two-flat building. My grandparents lived on the first floor, and my parents and I lived on the second floor. The house had a front porch, the width of the house, and had a wide stairway from the sidewalk. The surprise was a sign, the width of the stairway, hanging down from the porch roof. In large letters were the words, "WELCOME HOME." My grandfather, Edward Gentzen, had originally made the sign for my uncle Herb, when he returned from World War I. It was made of wood; the letters were hand-carved. He had it wrapped up in the basement all those years.
It was a great beginning for my furlough. I arrived home on July 10, 1945, one day before my mother's birthday, perfect timing for her and for me. It was great to be home and to see the whole family again.
One day, to my surprise, I received a telephone call from Master Tech. Sergeant Bob Vernon, who also was from VMB423. He asked me if I would stand up at his wedding. How could I say NO? I felt honored that he would ask me to be in his wedding party, and it was one of the highlights of my furlough.
I also was home for my twenty-fourth birthday. My parents had the whole family over, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. It was wonderful to be home and to see every one again.
AUGUST 9,1945 This was the end of my furlough. I said goodbye to my parents, boarded the train and headed for Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point.
AUGUST 10. 1945 Arrived at Cherry Point. I reported in and was assigned to a squadron and barracks. I reached my barracks, got my belongings and bunk squared away, then went out to the flight line and checked in with the squadron I was assigned to. By then it was time to call it a day. At that time I started to run into some of my VMB-423 buddies, even some of my tent mates. We were all being assigned to different squadrons, although some of us were able to be together in the same outfit. At first we didn't have a lot to do, so we played a lot of pinochle. Later, I was assigned to a PBJ crew.
18 AUGUST 15,1945 A BIG DAY! - THE DAY THAT JAPAN SURRENDERED - What celebrations went on!! It also meant we wouldn't have to go overseas again! The Cherry Point Marine marching band was playing while marching up and down the base streets, all evening. The following night, there was a dance on the base. In the next few days, the talk on the base was how soon before we can expect to get discharged.
LATTER PART OF AUGUST, 1945 The PBJ I was assigned to had to make a trip to Chicago to pick up a major and two captains. They had made the trip to Chicago for the All-star football game between the College All-stars and the National Football League champions. When we arrived at Midway airport, the pilot told me to be back at the airport the next morning at 0700. I went home for the night and the next morning my father drove me to Midway. I don't know where the pilot and co-pilot spent the night, but they were at the plane about 0745. While we were waiting for the major and captains, the pilot told me that the major and one of the captains were going to fly the plane back. Well, 0830 came and went, and no officers had arrived. Finally, a little after 1000, a cab pulled up and the three of them crawled out. I took one look at them and said to the pilot who flew us here, if they think they are going to fly this plane back, they have another guess coming. I would ground the plane because of mechanical problems. They were so drunk that it wasn't funny. Without saying a word, they climbed up into the back of the plane, and we finally took off at 1030. When we were over Pennsylvania, they started to sing and then turned on the radio. Their singing was being broadcast over the air. The pilot picked up a call from an airport tower, telling him to get whom ever was singing, off the radio. I had to go back there and fix the radio so they couldn't turn it on again. For those who don't know, to get from the front to the back of this plane, there is a crawl space over the bomb bay that you have to lay on your stomach to go from front to back and vise versa. On the whole, it was an interesting trip.
Because of my love of flying, I continued to go up on flights whenever I had the opportunity. One spectacular flight that I went on was over Washington, DC. As we were approaching Washington, the pilot told me to go back in the tail of the plane and let him know if I saw any planes coming up behind us. The only planes I saw were the PBJs from our squadrons at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point. Then my eyes opened wide; it was as if the heavens opened up. There were planes merging behind us, coming from every angle you could think of. There were all types of planes, from the Marines, the Navy and the Army Air Force. All combined, there were a thousand planes flying over the capitol of the United States of America, all at one time. What a sight to behold! I felt so privileged to be part of it and to experience such an unusual event.
SOMETIME AROUND THE MIDDLE OF SEPTEMBER, 1945 This was a date I erased from my mind. In fact I did such a good job of erasing it, I still can't remember it. It was the day I received a "Dear John" letter from the girl I was going with. (At the time, I didn't realize that she actually did me a big favor.) After receiving that letter, I had pretty well made up my mind: I was going to stay in the Marine Corps. Later, after a lot of thinking, I realized that my father was quite ill and was in and out of the hospital a lot. With that, I knew that my place was at home, and that my life as a Marine was coming to an end.
OCTOBER,. 1945 Here at Cherry Point, the men were starting to be discharged. As the days were going by, the groups being discharged grew larger. I was losing many of my VMB-423 friends, knowing that we would probably never see each other again. I continued working on the plane, keeping it in good flying condition, doing the scheduled routine maintenance checks. I continued to go up on an occasional flight.
On the morning of November 1, 1945, I was pre-flighting the plane for take off when a fellow from the office came out to the plane and hollered out "Hey, Krumsee, get to the office for discharge." I shut the plane down and headed for the office where I had to sign a few papers. I was told to get all of my belongings packed and report for discharge the next morning at 1000. The next day, November 2, 1945, I got up at 0600, shaved, finished packing for the last time as a Marine, and went for morning chow. After chow, I picked up all of my belongings and headed for the field in front of the Cherry Point main office. There, all the men scheduled to be discharged at 1000 were present and accounted for. We were lined up in formation and called to attention for the last time, and then told to stand at ease. As they began calling our names, we had to front and center, to receive our final pay and discharge papers. After this procedure was completed, they wished us "Good Luck" and we were told we had one hour to be off the base. I had completed three years, 2 months and one day as a Marine. For me, it was a very sad day that left a hollow and empty feeling in my stomach. The thought of never entering another Marine base, knowing what I had in the Corps, and not knowing what was ahead of me on the outside, was difficult to face. As I was growing up as a child, I always dreamed about being around aeroplanes. That is the way it was spelled in those days. So being in the Corps fulfilled those dreams. Now what was running through my mind was, what is going to happen to fill my life? After leaving the base, I headed for Portsmouth, Virginia, to spend a few days with family friends. Then I headed for Chicago and home.
It did feel good to be home, but I was already missing the Corps. As I continue, you will learn that those feelings came to an abrupt halt. I didn't waste anytime going back to work. The day after I arrived home, I contacted the company I had worked for and went to work the next day.
NOVEMBER 22,1945 I learned from a friend, Orville, that another friend of mine, Casey, was home on leave from the Army Air Force and that he had re-enlisted. I went to his home, rang the
doorbell and his mother, Mrs. Apolinski, came to the door. She and her daughter, Virginia, were cleaning house at the time. That was the first time I had seen Virginia. Casey wasn't home so I asked them to tell him to get in touch with me. He did get in touch with me later that same day. I asked Virginia if she would go out with me and she accepted. We made some plans to go on a double date a week later. Our first date was on November 29, 1945, the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day. That was the day that my life really changed for the better. It didn't take long to realize that I was very much in love. I had the kind of feeling that I never experienced before. I just knew I was in love. Three weeks later, I asked Virginia if she would do me the honor and become my wife, and she said yes. On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1945, I gave her an engagement ring, which made it official. We were married the following November 23, 1946. Believe me, I couldn't have made a better choice. She has been a wonderful wife and mother to our children. This coming November 2002, we will be celebrating our 56th anniversary. We have two sons and one daughter, and we are very proud of them. Our eldest son, Arthur, lives in the Columbus, Ohio area with his wife, Dianne and is doing very well in the computer field. He has a daughter Kirstin who will be starting college in the fall. Dianne has a son, Daniel, who is attending school in Florida. Our second son, Thomas, is married to Joan, and has his own business. He is a manufacturers' rep. Their daughter, Christine is in her third year at Iowa State University, and their son, Eric, will begin his first year at the University of Wisconsin, this fall. Our daughter Barbara, married to Joseph, both retired, no children, also have their own business. She is a Master Doll Maker, and also teaches the art of doll making. As you can see, I have been blessed with a wonderful family.
My life is rather filled with activities related to the Marine Corps. Many of the members of our Marine Corps Squadron VMB-423 get together once a year and that, I'm happy to say, includes our commanding officer, General Norman J. Anderson and his lovely wife, Irene.
I also belong to the Marine Corps League, of which I am the detachment Chaplain. Another activity I enjoy is going to the Veterans' Administration Hospital in North Chicago, IL once a week, to visit with hospitalized Marine patients. I have arranged with Entennman's Bakery to pick up donated bakery goods every other week, to bring to the hospital where it is used in the reception area with coffee, and by the outpatients who visit the hospital.
There are some sayings, (authors unknown), which many Marine vets acknowledge to be so true:
"You can take the Marine out of the Corps, but you can't take the Corps out of the Marine."
Once a Marine, always a Marine!
Semper fidelis (always faithful)
"A Great Experience..."
by Ray Martin
Some thoughts on my experiences while in our squadron - - and this is not about my flying experiences--thats another story and a lot of that is hard to remember.
I joined VMB-423 in Sept. '43 when the squadron was formed, right out of Pensacola and OTS 8, and was assigned my crew shortly after that. My co-pilot was Bruce Craig, and crew Sgts. Grandell, Sullivan, Hatzman, and DeCesari.
It was shortly after that I met Lt. Col. Anderson who was our exec. officer and without a doubt our best PBJ pilot. Col. Winston was our C.O. At that time I was also made Transportation Officer and when we got to Edenton we acquired 140 pieces of rolling stock, i.e. jeeps, bomb trucks, half tracks, 6X6's, etc. Sgt. Hines was my main man there. When we left Edenton all this equipment had to be loaded on flat cars - that was part of our 11 day trip to El Centro and I had to go with the train and I missed flying to California.
After our training session in El Centro the 140 pieces had to be driven to San Diego for loading on a cargo ship--I made many trips in convoy to get all the equipment on board. Lt. Bill Schlegel was my assistant and he and I and 6 or 8 officers and some enlisted personnel rode the ship for 17 days on a zig zag course to Espiritu Santos. Again I missed flying across the Pacific. At that time I was disappointed but looking back it was a great experience.
While on Espiritu I met my brother who was on an LST and had just got back from Guadalcanal and was in dry dock and I had not seen him for over 2 years. He also came to visit me at our pilots' camp and I even took him for a short hop.
Col. Winston led our 1st day-time combat mission and was then transferred to MAG 61 headquartered at Emirau. Col. Anderson took over the reins and I believe he kept them until the end of the war.
General Norman Anderson had a remarkable career in the U S MARINE CORPS and I am so proud to have served under him. He was one my heroes. He looked out for all of us and had to make many decisions that affected our lives. He was an excellent pilot and when he led an attack it was with great precision and attention to detail--he got the job done and he expected no less from those under him. Being a Marine is one of the things that I am most proud of and I have many fond memories of those years.
"...Assigned to 'Olie's Raiders'"
By John M. McGhee
On March 4,1943 at the age of 17, I joined the Marine Corps. Even now, the only number I can remember quickly is 516-983, my serial number. I had just started the second semester of 10th grade and didn't complete high school until I was 21. That doesn't mean I didn't go to school.
After boot camp they asked me what I would like to do in the Marines. I promptly said, "Be a Carlson's raider or a tail gunner," so I was assigned to Miramar photo lab! Soon after, I petitioned to be reassigned to aviation ordnance school (because it was the shortest school). I was sent to Norman, Oklahoma class 52-43 for that training and graduated Oct. 2, 1943.
I volunteered for aerial gunner school, took all tests and passed... then they said I had to go to radar school... so I did.
At Norman they had the senior system for chow. That meant the new class went to the end of the line - which would have been OK if they had cooked enough food... but they hadn't. Weight loss was common... so we fixed them! We went to the PX to eat. So... they fixed us... no more PX allowed!
The day we were lined up to go to gunners' school they decided to give us another physical exam. The doctor looked up my nose and said, "you have a deviated septum." I told him I knew that and had never had any trouble with it. He said it would give me trouble with oxygen at high altitudes, so he failed me. Thank God he wrote in pencil. As I went to the next station I rubbed it out. I never did have trouble breathing at any altitude
So on I went to gunners' school at Purcell, Oklahoma. That school was great! After an electrical-hydraulic turret examination the instructor called me out of class and said "You are the only man who has ever gotten 100 % on that test." Was I ever proud! I must admit, though that it was probably a lot of good guessing. Anyway, I graduated 2nd in our class 3.44, on Nov. 17,1943 class '42-'43.
I don't recall any outstanding experiences at operational training at Jacksonville Naval Air Station class 82 (VTB-OUT#2) except that it was cold! Flying PBYs (flying boats) was great fun. I had a chance to land one. We graduated Feb.6, 1944.
When I arrived at Cherry Point I told them I wanted to get into a squadron going overseas. I was informed there were no squadrons going overseas now..."But you could join MAG 61 Headquarters Squadron as a gunner replacement." That sounded good to me. A bunch of us signed up. August L. (Augie) Stark (VMBb 413) killed feb. 27, '45, Caree (Porky) Pingilley (VMB 413), Nelson B. Rader (VMB413), A. V.. Kowalczyk (VMB?), James P. (Pop) Taylor (VMB?), Carter B. (Windy) Ward, Jr. (VMB 443), William B. Weber (VMB 413), Glen (Red) Maxwell (VMB 413), M. Wilson (VMB 413), Alvin R. Myhand, Jr. (VMB?) and John M. McGhee (VMB 423). We left for overseas may 26,1944 on the USS Cape Esperance CVE- 88... sleeping under the planes!
We did not realize at the time that we were going to be assigned to Olie's Raiders: kitchen duty, digging latrines, loading bombs, general work detail - for almost six months. By this time we were overseas on Emirau in the Admiralty Islands.
All the new guys were going right into squadrons. All we were doing was going to Olie's lineup. What's more, all the new guys were sergeants while we were PFCs and Corporals! The only Sergeant among us was Maxwell. He didn't have to do KP! He was nice about it, though. He retired as Major after staying on throughout the Korea and Vietnam wars.
After six months of hope, disappointment and frustration I wrote a letter "To Whom It May Concern" explaining all our schooling for gunners and that all we were doing was labor work and I didn't think we were being treated fairly!
I gave my letter to MT/Sergeant Block of MAG 61. The next day he called me in to explain that he was sorry there were no openings for gunners... but he would give the letter to Captain Holecomb. Next day Captain Holecomb called me in expressing his sorrow for all of us but there was nothing he could do, however, he would pass the letter on to major John T. Pritchard, Jr., who called me in, brought out all the charts and showed me that there were no vacancies. "I'll give your letter to Colonel P. K. Smith though." About now rumors were flying around asking what I had said in the letter. The very next day I was informed that I would be transferred off Enirau Island to VMB 423 on Green Island, Oct. 27,1944. Thank the Lord! All the rest of Olie's Raiders were transferred to squadrons also.
Now that I was going to be an aerial gunner I needed some equipment. I went to the supply sergeant who told me be didn't have any and I should have been given that before leaving the USA. Marines are trained to be self reliant (or scroungers) out of necessity. I salvaged an old flight suit off the dump, for a flight jacket I traded a bottle of whiskey, gloves I bought from a fighter pilot, I don't recall where I got my oxygen mask... Oh, yes I do! I found it! My folks sent ne a white helmet from the states and somewhere I scrounged up a pair of goggles.
For twenty missions I flew with anyone who needed a tail gunner, then, Jan. 2nd '45, I was assigned to Major Lowell's crew. He was our new Executive Officer, an ex tank man. I believe he thought our PBJ was a tank. I used to look up at the trees, not down as I expected to, and I never thought we were supposed to be hit by our own bombs as we looked eye to eye with the enemy!
Jan. 11, '45, we went to Leyte, Philippines, escorting fighter planes. After landing, Major Lowell assigned me to stay with the plane. It just so happened that an air-raid siren went off... what was I to do? The Major had said, "stay with the plane." so I climbed into the plane and stayed. After all, I didn't know the area.
It's about time to end this tale (the whole truth).
I returned to the USA on the USS Sea Scan, arriving in San Diego June 30,1945.
They assigned me to Cherry Point, N.C., where I was sent to radio school and then to Marine scout bombing squadron (MSBSQ) 932 9th wing MAG 34, SB2C (Hell Diver). It's a good thing the war ended. If it hadn't, I'd probably be dead.
I went overseas a corporal and was discharged as a corporal Nov. 21, 1945, 20 years old going on 21.
74 (really 76) combat strike missions as
102 flights in combat area.
Married Rosemary 1954; adopted 7 children;
proud grandparents of 13 and
great grandparents of 7.
Occupations: Journeyman electrician- contractor
Teacher: Art - Electricity
Missionary: Quito, ecuador & Peoria, IL
Director of Catholic Relief Services
Promoter of many self-help programs
Deacon- Roman Catholic Church
John M. McGhee*
Though never credited, Corporal McGhee is the artist who created many of the illustrations in the original "yearbook" VMB-423 Seahorse Marines. With the artist's permission, many of those now memorable illustrations are used again throughout this book.
Adventures in a PBY
By Ken Myer
On May 16th, 1943, I was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the United States Marine Corps, Aviation Department of the Navy, at Corpus Christi, Texas. I was supposed to get 30 days leave upon graduation but instead I got a four day week-end and orders to report to Jacksonville Florida for duty.
I arrived at Jacksonville and checked in. I was given a check flight and assigned command of a PBY-5 (sea plane) the likes of which I had been trained at in Corpus Christi. I was assigned a new 2nd Lt. as co-pilot and a newly commissioned Ensign as navigator. I was also assigned a Navy Chief Petty Officer as crew chief and three other Navy personnel as crew.
The passengers were seven Free Frenchman from the Island of Martinique. We were supposed to train them to fire 30 caliber machine guns from the observation blisters of the PBY. Now I neither spoke nor understood French and they spoke no English, so you can imagine there was a lot of sign language going on during the instruction. My big worry was that when I flew past the smoke bombs we used as targets they would keep firing and shoot off part of the tail of the PBY.
The first hour and a half of the three-hour flight was spent training the men on when to fire and when not to. The other hour and a half was spent circling the little islands for oil slicks hoping to find a German cache of oil and ammunition that we thought the submarines might be using.
It was very pleasant flying at about a thousand feet above the water with the sun high over head. We could see perhaps a hundred feet down into the water and see schools of fish, turtles, sharks, gars, and huge fans of coral waving back and forth in the water. These flights lasted about 30 days. To get to cruise that many hours that way would now cost a fortune. We saw two water spouts. One was about an estimated two hundred feet in diameter and disappearing in a cloud about 400 feet above the water.
Our last flight, on 20th July 1943, combined the training flight with a resupply of food to a small radio post on Greater Exuma Island in the Caribbean. It was a 6.4 hour flight. Upon landing and tying up to a buoy in the harbor my crew threw me in the water as an initiation to observe the tradition of keel-hauling for King Neptune. Since I had never been south of the Tropic of Cancer before this was my initiation. Fortunately I had brought a change of clothes in my flight bag.
Even though we had brought 800 lbs of food and a case of whisky, we had be told not to order a drink from the bar that used whisky. I asked what drink was made from local liquor, which was rum. Some one suggested a rum swizzle which had a catchy sound. The bartender started by pouring a little from each bottle on the bar into an old malted milk glass, used when malts were in fashion at soda fountains. I learned much later there were 16 different kinds of rum in the drink. The bartender ended by taking two sticks about ¼ inch in diameter and 6 inches long and rolling them in his hands until the bark was shredded and then stirring the drink vigorously. It was very smooth and had a rich aroma.
1 had to drink it rather quickly because evening mess had sounded and it was not good manners to carry a drink from the bar to the mess hall. They had very good evening meal and since it was getting dark we headed for the open air theater for the evening movie. As the projector came on and the news reel began, I suggested to my escort, "Why don't he focus the projector?" at which time their base commander suggested my escort take me to my quarters while I could still walk.
The next morning my head felt about the size of a bucket and I had a dark brown taste in my mouth. I had some coffee and finally began to think I'd live. There was a heavy fog on the ocean so I was relieved at not having to fly for a while.
About noon things cleared up,. even my head, so we took off and headed for Jacksonville. The flight was pretty routine on the 6-hour flight until we got about 60 miles from Jacksonville. I was checking the navigator's log and getting other gear ready to turn in upon our arrival at JAX.
I had given the co-pilot instructions to let down slowly through the afternoon scud, the bottom of which was about 3500 feet. As we came out of the clouds someone said "Fishing boat." I thought fishing boat 60 miles out in time of war?.
So I stepped up between the co-pilot and navigator in my seat. I saw the vee in the water. Suddenly it disappeared. It was the trace of a periscope of a sub diving. We had been briefed that there were no friendly subs in our area. So this had to be a German sub. The crew wanted to go after it but he was 4 miles away and we were at 3000 feet. Besides our depth charges were only 350 lb and set at 25 feet so we wouldn't even scare him. I had been briefed to report it. I had the navigator take two radio fixes on two stations in Jacksonville.
I landed in the St. Johns River and the beaching crew hooked the plane and put on the wheels. Then a tractor pulled the plane up on the ramp. I told the co-pilot and navigator to turn in all the gear - code machines etc. I took the map and headed for operations which was about ¼ mile down the ramp and up on the third floor of a big hanger. By the time I got there I was winded and panting.
As I burst through the door, a Navy Lt, asked "What's the matter, Lt?" I said "I just saw a German Sub." He put his finger to his lips meaning don't say any more. He put his hand on my shoulder and guided me into the next office. There sat a full commander. "Now what's this about a German Sub?" Between gasps for breath, I explainedabout the sighting. He ask where this sighting was. I had almost forgotten about the map under my arm. I showed him the map with the radio fixes marked on it. He studied it for a minute and looked up at me and said,"Thank you." I must have looked crestfallen and disappointed.
I asked, "Can't I go with you to get him?" His reply was, No you've done your job and you're going on leave." And again, "Thank you." Disappointed, I left the hanger and caught a cattle wagon to officers country. I shaved and showered and dressed for the evening meal.
As I walked to the mess hall I heard this funny sounding engine. I looked up and there was a blimp heading out to sea, I surmised to shadow the sub.
Next day was spent checking out of the base. It takes a day to check out of all departments whether you used them or not.
The following day I boarded the train headed for Chicago. We stopped at Atlanta and a porter selling papers was yelling "German U-boat shoots down blimp." I thought good heavens my sighting has cost a man's life and pain to others.
A couple of weeks later I saw a little notice in the paper - "Navy Gets German sub Off Florida Coast". The incident was soon forgotten and was only mentioned when relating war stories with other officers.
In September 1951, while teaching in the Marine Aviation Technical Schools , several of us instructors were organizing another course which involved spreading out a lot of paper. Since the three of us had children it would be impossible to- work at anyone's quarters. During the week a lot of tables at the officers club would not be in use and we could work there undisturbed.
I arrived a little early. There were only two people standing at the bar. I stepped up and introduced myself and said, "I don't recognize the wings." "Lighter than air." said one. "'Blimps," said the other. I said,"I guess the closest I ever came to working with you fellows was back in July 1943. I spotted a German sub off the coast and I saw a blimp going out that night."
"I was the pilot of that blimp." said the senior of the two officers.
You could have knocked me over with a feather. I stood there in awe.
He then gave me a short resume of the incident and what led up to the demise of the German submarine. He related how a hunter-killer got him with a magnetic rocket bomb that blew a hole in the side of the sub. Then a Navy hard hat diver had gone down and got the Germans' code book and ship's log, etc.
The Commander said, "Your radio fix was dead on because we bracketed him on the first spread of soni-buoys". They later learned the sub had sunk over 40 ships off the Florida coast.
I began to feel proud of the little things that helped win the war.
I bought the next round of drinks.
S/Sgt. Clifford Louis Paul, USMC -- His Story
"Moments I Will Never Forget"
Enlisted in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sept. 15, 1942. Discharged Nov. 3, 1945.
Boarded train to Paris Island. Upon arrival, quartered in Quonset huts, issued uniforms, all hair removed from head, etc.
Next day given a very thorough physical along with 50 or more other boots. We were assembled in a large room, each dressed with a number in mercurochrome on our backs & chests. (This did not disturb me…I grew up with six brothers.) In addition to the physical, various personal questions were asked: Do you wet the bed? Are you a mama's boy? There were others, I'm sure. I did learn one thing though. Not all men are created equal.
We were issued Springfield 03 rifles, new and packed in a substance I had never heard of before. (Cosmoline.) How were they cleaned? And by whom? What's your guess? I'm sure it's obvious.
After 6 weeks of intensive training, we were sent to New River since the firing range at P.I. was already booked. Before departing, we were ordered to turn in our spotless 03's. Upon arrival at New River, we were issued "new M1s" that would be the weapon that we would fire for the record. Bet you can't guess the material in which they were packed. Not just packed in…dipped in. Oh, how I hated that stuff.
This was a two-week training in the use and firing of the M1. Five boots were assigned to each instructor. It was a feather in his cap if we each fired well. Our five didn't fare too badly. We all qualified as sharpshooter. (Not as good as expert, but don't knock it…our salary was increased by five bucks.)
Boot camp over. On to Cherry Point. Choice of schools. Chose aviation mech. Sent to N.A.S. Jacksonville, Fla. It was now December, 1945. After 30 days mess, started mech. school February, 1942. A twenty-four week course. Upon completion, promoted to Corporal. Volunteered to become an air gunner. After two weeks radar training, sent to gunnery school at Hollywood, Fla. A four week training exercise, including instruction in the use of aerial gunnery. Promoted to Sergeant. Back to C.P. After short furlough, assigned to Squadron VMB 423, tail gunner on Lt. Robert Weaver's crew. Other members were CO-Pilot Lt. John Kline, Navigator/Bombardier Sgt. Harold King, Radio Sgt. Ross DeLong, and Turret Sgt. Frank Light. Trained with squadron and crew until entire unit was sent to Edenton, N.C. for additional training. At some time during this period we turned in our spotless M1's for "new carbines" and before departing the U.S. of A., we turned in our spotless 45's for 38's. Here it gets a bit scary. I was beginning to like the stuff (cosmoline). I wondered what the feeling would be like to take a bath in it. Perhaps I already had.
Long train ride to El Centro. More training flights over the desert. Water-bombed the Salton Sea. Planes made ready at North Island to enable them to fly to Hawaii. Boarded new aircraft carrier Hornet to N.A.S. Ewa. Lots of free time to shoot skeet and liberty to Honolulu while planes were being modified for combat.
Our crew drew the lucky straw. We ferried one of our planes to Espiritu with overnight stop at Palmyra.
More training and orientation flights at Espiritu.
April 22, 1944 was one of the saddest days of my life. Lt. Lallatin's crew failed to return from a night exercise. His Tail Gunner Sgt. John Yeager was not only a very close buddy, he was my pinochle partner. It would be difficult to estimate the hours we spent playing that silly game.
On to Sterling and Green. My recollections of our combat experiences closely parallel those of Lloyd Rogers that he alluded to in the April Sea Horse News.
Fantastic R&R on two trips to Sidney. We were treated royally by the Aussies. The food, the booze, the entertainment. White Horse Scotch, Sidney Bitter Ale (18%). I remember it well. How about those Steak & Eggs? They were a bit more tasty than canned lamb's tongue stew. Best not to dwell too much on entertainment.
Hoho. Promoted to Staff Sgt. (another salary increase).
Oh happy day. We were relieved in January, 1945. Shipped out aboard a converted aircraft carrier. 30 days to the good old U.S. of A. San Francisco docking at Alameda. The morning fog and sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge were moments that I will never forget. Overnight at Treasure Island en route to San Diego and Miramar for a clothing update.
Train to Chicago (accommodations not bad, compartment car had plenty of booze with meals in the diner). Greyhound to Cincinnati. 30 days to report to Cherry Point. Upon reporting, was assigned as gunnery instructor. Flights with students took place off the coast near Cape Hatteras; many piloted by officers from our beloved VMB 423.
I had expressed an interest in flight training. I was encouraged to apply for OCS and flight training. Then, I thought about the commitment - and decided against, because I had another commitment. Was married in Cincy while on furlough in August 1945. Returned to duty with my bride. We lived off the base until my discharge.
Shortly after returning to civilian life, joined the sales department at Container Corporation of America (our Cincy plant manufactured corrugated shipping containers). CCA was later acquired by Mobil Corp. After nearly 37 years, I retired March 1, 1982.
Having vacationed on the southwest gulf coast of Florida for several years, we fell in love with the area and purchased a home here in Bonita Springs in early 1981. Became Florida residents in early 1982, permanent ones in 1988.
It's very apparent that I was one very lucky Marine.
"The Foist was the Woist"
-- also By Cliff Paul, Turret Gunner
VMB-423 was relieving VMB-413 on Sterling Island in May, 1944.
The very first combat mission for Lt. Bob Weaver & crew was night submarine patrol. Shortly after take off, they encountered a severe thunderstorm and it was necessary to climb to over 10,000 feet to get above it.
They had no oxygen aboard. In a very short time, contact with their base at Stirling was lost. After several hours, contact was finally made and they were soon guided to the base. Crew members reported that the runway light looked like a Christmas tree.
All went well until landing. (Remember, there was no oxygen for several hours at over 10,000 feet.)
The plane was landing and the pilot was about to touch down. However, depth perception had been lost and the plane was several feet above the runway. How many feet is unknown. They crashed. The nose wheel and the right landing gear collapsed. Fortunately no one was injured. Their first thought was fire, and to vacate as quickly as possible. When the rear hatch was opened in the darkness, they did not know that the nose was down and the tail was up. Luckily again, no one was injured when they tumbled out onto the coral runway, a drop of several feet.
The plane was damaged beyond repair. Needless to say, the Japs were hated more than before.
It's in the book...when your number's up,
By George Phillips
When I entered the Corps in June 1943, our family owned a beautiful German Shepherd, named Von. He was truly a handsome animal. Sometime during my enlistment period my dear mother heard of the the USMC War Dog program. She reasoned that Von could protect her one and only son from the bad guys. So, Von goes off to war.
One day, while sitting on a log on Green Island, mail call was announced. I received a letter from my mother. In this letter was a piece of correspondence from Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. Part of it reads: "Dear Mrs. Phillips: We are glad to notify you that your Geman Shepherd , VON, Marine Corps Serial No. 372, has been promoted to the rank of Corporal, Effective 25 May, 1945." It was signed by H.W. Buse Jr., LtCol, USMC. It was dated 14 August, 1945.
I couldn't believe what I read! For a brief moment I thought my old pal, Von, had outranked me, since I was a Corporal at the time.
What makes this story one for the books is when I returned home there was a little flag hanging in our living room window with two stars embroidered on it.
To this day I do not know if the top one was mine or Von's. I was afraid to ask.
End of Tale.
Semper Fi, George Phillips
Ready and Willing to Serve
by Lloyd Rogers
Although my memory isn't the greatest at this age, events and happenings of many years ago in the Marine Corp. somehow still come to mind. I've always shared some of my experiences with my wife, so I'll attempt to jot down a few with her help.
Together with my brother, I enlisted just out of High School in Sept. 1942. We of course, were sent to Parris Island for our basic training - Boot Camp. It was rough and tough but as "depression"
kids" raised on a farm with lots of hard work, we were ready and willing to serve our country, especially after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japs.
At Cherry Point we could cut trees with a cross cut saw like no two others. The wood was being used to build airstrips which at that time had only one hangar and one airstrip. We even thought the chow wasn't bad.
A couple of incidents stand out in my mind. The D.I. didn't like the way we were coming out of the barracks when he yelled "Fall out'. He said "Get back in there, and when I yell "Fall out', all I want to see is ass-holes and heels." On our second try with 75 men in our platoon we hit the door with such force we took the door jams off the barracks. His only remark was, "That's better."
One of the main objectives of Boot Camp was to learn to take orders.
The other incident involved a fellow who lost his locker key. His consequences were to pick up his fully loaded locker, hold it over his head while running through the ranks until he collapsed, saying "I'm a horse's ass from Yemasee because I lost my locker key". A lesson well learned for all.
After Boot Camp only five of our Platoon were chosen and assigned to Marine Aviation. I always felt I was one of the fortunate to be chosen. We received 24 weeks of training at AMM School In Jacksonville, FL. plus 2 weeks of radar schooling. Then to Cherry Point, NC for Air Crewman School and assigned to VMB 423 as a mech-gunner which was just being formed at Edenton, NC. From there to the West Coast. Our crew with Bob Ryan as pilot and Bill Schlegel as co-pilot. We landed in Shreveport, LA. on New Year's eve, 1943, for the first stop.
Mechanics of crews drew lots to choose who would refuel the planes. You might know I was the "lucky" one, with fifteen planes to gas, while the others had liberty in town. However, I was able to join them later, making up for lost time.
We trained in El Centro, CA before going overseas. After arriving we were in tents which I well remember as being very cold at night. We put our cots together to share blankets with flight suits overtop. The first night we went to PX wearing our shoulder holster with '38 revolvers. The MPs put us in the Brig. We were rescued when my co-pilot told the MPs "They aren't going to leave their '38s in the tents unguarded."
Said Good-By sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge on the Prince William. Paul White reminded me that I sang "The Wabash Cannonball" every night while sleeping under the wings of the planes. Landed in Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. Our planes with other crews flew to Hawaii before joining us.
We had many training flights, then on to Stirling Island where we first flew our combat flights - Bouganville, Rabaul & New Britain. From there to Green Island which was a shorter flight to our primary target, Rabaul.
As a tail gunner I remember one mission when we dropped 500 lb. bombs and magnesium fragments which looked like match sticks as they were dropping. As we left the island, I observed it being a complete inferno.
I had 48 missions coming back several times on a single engine. Bob Ryan was one of the best pilots, returning us safely to our island. Besides anti-aircraft, weather was a big factor and a big enemy too. I credited Bob Dayton, our navigator, who was able to find our tiny island in bad storms.
I very distinctly remember Skinny Herndon being swept off a cliff by a large wave, and Al Hatzman trying desperately to rescue him, but sadly he wasn't able in the shark-infested waters.
Paul White has aptly described our lives on the islands in the Remembering Book, and our war experiences, so I will not repeat them.
My return to stateside in January, 1945 was delayed and took a somewhat different turn of events than the others in my squadron. When our replacements came, my orders were not with the rest of the crews'. After a couple of weeks, they were found in the glove compartment of a jeep command car. Also a Navy corpsman's but I don't remember his name. Together, we went to Admiralty Islands where we embarked on a hospital Merchant Marine ship manned by the Army heading for the states. Top speed was 5 knots per hour. We were 30 days coming back before we arrived in San Francisco. All able bodied men had to take a job. I volunteered to bring up the food from freezers to mess hall, and while on the job, I found a case of horseradish which really hit the spot after the chow in the islands. While at sea we buried several men who had died from wounds. Their bodies were placed in a canvas weighted bag and after a short service slid down the chute into the water. Those were sad times.
It was a welcome sight when the Golden Gate Bridge came into view. We received our shots and a GI issue of clothing, and boarded a train going east. When we reached NYC we were given our furlough for a 30 day leave. I spent one night in the city, but couldn't wait any longer to start home.
So I boarded a train for Geneva, NY. Upstate NY had endured a very snowy, long winter. As I neared home I saw my first snow in 3 years. Those 30 days went fast. And then I returned to base at Bogue Field in NC and was assigned to an SB2C dive bomber squadron. I flew several times with Major Pritchard who was from 423 and was assigned to the squadron.
My first hop in a dive bomber was quite an experience, diving from 11,000 to 2,000 feet. We were to start pulling out at 2,000 feet, just at water level. The gravity forces felt like you were being pushed through the bottom of the plane. You would get a hazy feeling but not black out.
In August of 1945 1 was prepared to go back overseas for carrier duty. When the war ended they replaced us with gunners who had never seen active service before. I was sent to Bainbridge, MD where I received my discharge.
Incidentally, we were restricted to base on VJ night while everyone else could celebrate. I felt I was very fortunate to be home safe with no injuries or disabilities, thanks to the Good Lord. It was an experience I will never forget. I made some great friends and it shaped my life forever. I never regretted serving my country.
Semper Fi - Lloyd
"...Thank you, fellows..."
By Bill Schwartz, radio gunner on a great crew:
Some of my memories of the squadron:
I was either the last man to join VMB-423 or the second to the last. Hank Ross thinks he may have been the last. All I know is that they flew me up to Edenton one afternoon after Christmas of 1943. I took my sea bag and went into the office where Sgt. Woods told me to go over to the barracks # so and so and get ready to walk Guard Duty that night. A real nice welcome.
Next came the train ride to El Centro over New Year's.
Then came the ride on the Prince William to Espirito Santo where we all know some things happened - like unloading the ship and the spilled booze. I'm sure if you dug around certain palm trees you just might come up with a fifth.
Also, the wild pigs at night while we were on guard duty. Also the getting of a new adjutant. Lots of talk about that item.
Next was on to Stirling Island and the rumor about a Tribal Princess living on some part of the island.
Then came Green Island where we spent the rest of our days overseas. Lots of good memories also some sad ones.
Four or five of us radiomen adopted a little dog - which we called Japper. Even took her on some night missions. I can remember how scared she got when we got picked up in the search lights.
Just want to say a few words about our ground crews. They were always a happy-go-lucky bunch and always had the planes in good flying order. Thank you, fellows.
In closing I would just like to say that I was always proud to have been a Marine - also very proud and honored to have received my medals. But the thing I was most proud of was that I was a member along with the greatest bunch of Marines who were all for a part of one the greatest Marine Bomber squadrons in World War II - VMB-423!!
Thanks to you all and Semper Fi!
"...They taught me some things I never knew..."
By Carl Sipprelle, photographer
My military career was not off to an impressive start when I flunked introductory ROTC 3 times in a row (once at the University of Alabama and twice at the University of New Hampshire). That may very well be a record. Then I failed the physical for the Army Air Cadets and was 4F in the draft because I was 6' 5/12" tall, one and one half inches over the height limit for the armed services. When the armed services were getting close to the bottom of the barrel I finally talked my way in--after they x-rayed my head and I was examined by a psychiatrist.
After I passed the physical I selected the Marine Corps because I thought it would provide the best opportunity to shoot Japs. However, after Boot Camp, the Marine Corps decided I would make a better photographer, which I already was, than a Jap shooter, which I had never been. It sent me to the Navy Photographic School in Pensacola, Florida.
In Pensacola I became friendly with another student, from the Navy. He had his wife there with him and persuaded me that I could have my wife with me. From that time on, my wife Marian, on three of my placements, left her job in Boston, took a train to where I was stationed, found a place for us to live off base, and got a job because Privates First Class were not highly paid. Strangely, until I finally shipped out, those were good days for us. The Marine Corps was not noted for sensitivity for low rank enlisted men but it always gave us all our nights and weekends together.
Of course it was too good to last, and when I was stationed at Miramar, California, I shipped out and eventually reached Green Island. On the way up from Guadalcanal the plane stopped at Bougainville. There was a PX, and everyone was pigging out except for one man. I asked him how come. He said he was broke so I gave him, total stranger though he was, some money. I knew I would never see him again. When the plane reached Green Island he and I both got off and the rest went on.
He looked at me and said, "You are a lucky bastard."
I asked him why and he told me he was a cook. Having an in with someone in the kitchen proved to be very desirable. He slipped me goodies not always on the menu, I slipped him photographs and a bottle after my Sydney trips, and we got to be good friends.
Pusillo and I and another photographer named Soda were there as replacements for the existing photographers, who were due to be sent stateside. I am not sure of the names of the men we were replacing but I believe they were Pat Ryan, the chief photographer, Scoop Schell, and Eddie Leonard. They taught us much about the duties and in a few days Larry Kihner, the new senior photographer, along with Bynum, Marks, and another one (whose name will not come to my mind) arrived. Pat and the other outbound photographers got us sufficiently indoctrinated so they could leave.
Photography was housed in a fine air cooled trailer built for that purpose and in a part of a Quonset hut with metal sides designed to bake photographers alive when they were enclosed in the darkroom. My memories of VMB 423 are too numerous to report here, They are mostly made up of discrete events like the above. I call them Snippets and save them for my children and grandchildren. My Snippets, while in the squadron, would be too long for me to write, and too dull for you to read, but amateur writers never refuse an invitation, or an opportunity to write so:
In my many hops as an aerial photographer I rode with a variety of pilots. Most air crewmen were members of a crew consisting of pilots, gunners, etc. They got accustomed to each other and made a variety of flights together. The photographers never knew who they would go with before briefing. And that variety added considerable spice to my life. Most pilots were pleasant and a very few were unpleasantly officious. With a few who bounced back into the strip, we set foot on terra firma with a sigh of relief. I had many rides with Colonel Anderson and he was at the top of my list. He was never unpleasant and never bounced a single bounce when I was aboard.
Photographs were desirable and I wanted some way to make them available to anyone who wanted some. I selected an assortment that most would want and, with Colonel Anderson's authorization, made this offer to as many as I could reach: "If you give me five dollars and your home address now, when I get back home I will mail a copy just like these to your home address." When they asked me how they knew I would send the pictures after getting their money I had to admit that they didn't know. I estimated that sum(as I now remember it)would just handle the expense to my father's studio and return receipt insurance. I no longer remember the size of the sum or the number who trusted me, but I do remember that I got all the return receipts but one. That one sent me a very angry letter and I promptly sent him two sets in the hope of canning his wrath. I still got the money to put in my own pocket because my father did most of the printing and mailing and refused to accept the money I had collected and sent home via money orders for that purpose.
I still have pleasant memories of the two trips I made to Sydney and the many wholesome activities and friendships there. On one return trip we stopped overnight in a little town in the outback to connect with one of our pilots who had visited a ranch there. For some reason I no longer remember, the pubs were closed and the members of the crew were busy trying to find a drink and/ or a girl. I, by myself, poking around our almost deserted hotel, looked in an open door, and saw an attractive young lady and a little girl washing a monstrous stack of dirty dishes. Perhaps the scene recalled the times my wife and I had done a stack of dirty dishes after one of the dinner parties she liked to give. I rolled up my sleeves and pitched in.
When we were finished she took me down to the darkened pub, unlocked a back door and ushered me in after warning me not to turn on a light or answer any knocks on the door. She seated me at a table that was in the light from a streetlight and away from the window and brought me a nearly full bottle of good whiskey, a bowl of ice cubes, a pitcher of water, and some kind of snacks. I sat there guzzling the good stuff, enjoying the company of this attractive young lady and her young sister, and listening to the repeated knocks on the door by persons not able to get a drink in that town at that time. Finally she had to close up as it was past her young sister's bedtime and she had to put her to bed. Readers now hear this; SOMETIMES VIRTUE BRINGS IT'S OWN REWARD.
When the war ended and we were abandoned in a field in the Phillippines, time dragged and boredom set in. I surmised that nobody would report me--or lie for me--and made a pleasant several-day trip to Zamboango (forgive my spelling, when we recently moved to assisted living I had to give up all my books but a dictionary). My little jaunt was like the hitchhiking I did in college except now I hitched on planes. When I returned, the chief photographer was envious and ordered me to conduct him on a similar trip. I willingly complied and we took a somewhat longer and more satisfying break in the monotony.
Being a photographer for VMB 423 was an enjoyable adventure, and it was something I owed my country. I even enjoyed Boot Camp. Our DI was big and meaner than a junk-yard dog. I have spent my life as an educator and he, for the goals he had to achieve, was one of the finest teachers I have known.
I never ceased to marvel at the complexity of our squadron's task, the skill of the pilots, and the incredible skill of our mechanics. In all the flights I took, those who planned the sorties, those who prepared the equipment, and those who executed, to the best of my knowledge they were flawless-with one exception. Coming back from one run we blew a tire on the landing. How in hell could our pilot, Colonel Anderson, manage, I believe, to instantly gun the engine and cut the brakes on the blown tire side and cut the engine and hit the brakes on the good side and keep that plane on the strip. I assume that is what he must have done. It still takes me time to keep all that straight in my mind if that is what he did. I didn't wait. I bailed out and into a ditch while the plane was still rolling.
Our letters home were censored. At first that tended to limit the intimacy I was accustomed to have and express with my wife. Finally I said to hell with it and began to write it like I thought it. After Marian expressed some concern for that, I wrote and told her it was the censor's problem and not ours. Whoever he was he was a big boy and would not be unbearably shocked.
Another contact with a censor was not so pleasant. I was ordered to report to (I believe he was termed) the Intelligence Officer. He also conducted much of the briefing before a sortie. When I showed up he handed me a photograph I had taken at a briefing, showing him and details of the day's target. I had put it into a nice newsy letter to my wife. How I could have been so stupid I do not know. He reamed me out first class, as he should have done. That was not one of my better days. A copy of that picture is now in my album and I still wince when I come to it.
I enjoyed our flights. On my first low level, I, six foot five and one half inches and my camera were assigned the tail gunner's position. After I wormed my way in the pilot called back and asked if I had made it. When I reported I had, I heard him wonder aloud: "How in hell are we going to get him out of there." One time, when we were really low, I looked out and saw the bomb bounce up behind us. I found myself face-to-face with it. It seemed to be following us. Nobody had told me about delayed fuses.
I was privileged to have made friends with many Aussies and New Zealanders. They taught me some things I never knew. Like to them it was a bad mistake to treat a Maori in any sort of a racist way One good friend was a New Zealand officer. They didn't share our concern with rank. I was uneasy sometimes when we were seated together at the movies and one time when the whole camp seemed intoxicated on some holiday (I don't remember which). Late that night the only action was in the American Officer's Club so he took me in there where two pilots were sharing the final bottle and we helped them drink it. The world did not come to an end.
This could go on and on but I will call this enough. I had, from October 12, 1943 to April 1, 1946, the privilege of serving in the United States Marine Corps. I take pride in that. I matured more than three years in that time. And on top of that the GI Bill gave me, who had previously flunked out of college, another seven years of higher education that led me into my life's work. I am deeply grateful for what the USMC did for an intractable civilian.
Remembering - and Wondering, Too
By Fred Stay, tail gunner
I have some information that I think is pertinent to the history of VMB-423 and would appreciate having it recorded in our new book.
First off, I've always been curious as to why our crew picture (Lt. Griffitts) as shown in the original hard cover squadron book, reveals only five (5) crew members - no bombardier/navigator. To make things even a little more blurry, I couldn't remember who our bombardier/navigator had been or why he wasn't in the picture.
Over the last year and nine months,, I've written or spoken to my pilot, Griffitts, my co-pilot, Powers and my turret gunner, Phillips. Through Griffitts and Powers I learned that our bombardier/navigator was Tech. Sgt. Dick Shepherd. After numerous conversations with Dick Shepherd about how and when he became Griffitts' bombardier/navigator and then getting that special announcement that Norm Anderson had been notified that plane, K-104, with 1st Lt. Lallathin's and his crew - that crashed into a mountain on April 22, 1944 in Espiritu Santo - had been found on July 30, 1997, Shepherd and I theorized that originally Shepherd was Lallathin's bombardier/navigator and Tech. Sgt. Walter Vincent was Griffitts' bombardier/navigator.
Shepherd vaguely remembers that on that fateful night of Lallathin's accident, he (Shepherd) couldn't fly for some reason - had a cold or was sick or something - so Vincent took Shepherd's place on that particular training exercise. As we all know, Vincent was lost along with the rest of Lallasthin's crew.
Lallathin's crew picture, in our original squadron book, does show Dick Shepherd as his bombardier /navigator.
You know, after all these years, I can't remember Vincent. As far as that goes, I didn't remember much about Dick Shepherd until I made contact through Ned Wernick and our squadron. I guess that bomb bay separated the gunners and radiomen from the guys up front more than we realized.
It's kinda eerie and ironic that Dick Shepherd could have been the one lying on that mountain in the New Hebrides and I could be talking to Walter Vincent on the phone. It's all too easy, sometimes, to forget just how plain lucky we have been.
Semper Fi -- Fred
...A Gentleman and an Officer
By Richard Stewart, mechanic
Was going through my copy of Remembering VMB 423 recently and chuckling over Ned Wernick's story about "The day the can was burned." If my memory serves me correctly., the squadron had a group of personnel that were more or less maintenance people. We called them the 'bull gang.' Lt. Joe Beinor was the man in charge. As an aside, Joe Beinor, the story goes, was a graduate of Notre Dame and also played football for them as a guard or tackle. If you can remember what he looked like you wouldn't say no.
Also of interest was the fact that he wore very thick eyeglasses. Often wondered how he got into the Corps. Well, anyway, Joe and his gang used to prepare the holes for the latrines Ned talked about and they didn't do it with chisels. They did it with dynamite. If you can remember some of those explosions, they would sound like we were under attack. Then everyone would laugh and say, 'It's only the bull gang. One day they'll sink this island'
Ned was right that kerosene was usually used to burn out the pits. However, on the day he talks about, they either forgot to bring the kerosene or were out of it. Pal Joey now says, "Not to worry, we'll use aviation gas. The story gets less funny when he ignites the gas which explodes. He can consider himself very lucky that he wasn't killed although he was slightly injured.
Have a story for you that Lt. Harold Sweet might recall. We were at Edenton and I was on the flight line fueling my plane. When that event was completed, the fuel truck driver, whose name can t recall tells me that he has had problems with his battery all day and now he can't start the truck. He points out a "mule" which is standing close by and states that if I drive the mule and give his truck a push, he'll be able to get started. Sounds O.K.. to me and we do it. However, it takes a little longer than a quick push but eventually the truck starts and the driver goes on his way. Park the mule where I found it and start to finish securing my plane. Someone now approaches me and tells me that I'm wanted in the squadron office on the double and that I'm in big trouble. Can't remember who gives me this refreshing news but as you can imagine, I respond immediately wondering all the way what I could have done or failed to do. When I arrive at the squadron office which is located on the second floor of a building which overlooks the flight line, Lt. Sweet is waiting for me and not too patiently, I might add. He wants to know why I was chasing a fuel truck around the flight line and if I ran into to it, did I have any idea of the consequences. When I explained what had actually transpired, he was less agitated but only after the truck driver confirmed that I had spoken the truth.
In all fairness, I have to report that the Lieutenant was indeed a gentleman in addition to being an officer.
"...those crazy pilots..."
By Harold Sweet
During the final days at El Centro we and a crew from North American Aviation had a hectic time readying the aircraft for overseas departure. All engines were changed, five flight hours put on the new engines and the required engine maintenance done. The NAA contingent installed the package guns on the fuselage. One of the NAA troops was an engineer whose primary function was to assist us in any way he could including check out of all flight and engine instruments. Some years later I encountered this engineer (then in NAA flight test) when we in the technical section required some flight test work. His first question was, "Were you in a Marine squadron at El Centro?" Then he launched into his story of "the crazy pilots". I can't verify his story since I was not a participant but his claim was that for checking the instruments in flight (pilot unnamed) he was kneeling in the bombardier's compartment with his back to the aircraft nose and his arms and head in the back side of the instrument panel. When he finished and looked around he found he had been tinkering with flight instruments while flying well down in the Grand Canyon. From then on whenever the two of us were in any meeting those present had to hear about those crazy pilots in VMB 423.
On Espiritu Santos one day when we were moving from the fighter strip to the bomber strip on the hill at Luganville I observed the ultimate in dedication to physical exercise. I am returning from the bomber strip to the fighter strip when I meet Joe Musselman going uphill with his semi loaded with crated engines. Nothing unusual in that except that Joe was walking up the hill next to his cab.
Six-volt automotive batteries were like gold and always scarce. Early on at Green Island things were in good shape because the Navy CB's had a battery overhaul facility. When the CB's left things became tight and many vehicles had to be towed or pushed to start. One day it was necessary to fire up the cat. In the process of towing it the operator in engaging the transmission succeeded in dropping it into reverse gear. Being a fuel injected diesel it started and ran although not very efficiently. Lots of smoke and instead of 5 speeds forward. and one speed reverse we had 5 speeds reverse and one speed forward. I don't recall who the operator was but repeating the process and getting it right returned the cat to a useable piece of equipment.
Also on Green the ground officers were billeted in a tent by the flight line. One night a PBY landing on the airstrip bombed us, dumping two bombs at the approach end of the strip. I don't recall the time but it was dark and we were all dead to the world when it happened. But "Gunner" Hoover, who had been on Guadalcanal, was outside digging a fox hole before the rest of us were awake.
I have a vague recollection, but can't recall the details, of Rich Stewart's ride on a mule (See his story above). - Harold Sweet
"Son, if ...you become a parachutist ... you'll probably never come down."
Remembrances of Robert C. Vernon
Before commencing my Marine Corps experiences, let me return to the days before my enlistment. I graduated in June 1941 from Central High School, Akron, Ohio with little chance of
obtaining a job, since the European War had already begun and employers were not hiring the young and able who might soon be drafted. However, my family had a very close friend who was chief engineer for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and suggested that I contact him to see what might be available. I did make the contact and later sat in Mr. Beiswenger's office while he telephoned several colleagues looking for an opening. Nothing seemed to be available except a U.S. Government Training Program in aluminum hand-forming, located in the old Kelly-Springfield Plant in East Akron. Mr. Beiswenger asked whether I would consider that employment. The wages were good, the working hours were good, and it was a start. So, I accepted the offer and began a six-month training in aluminum shaping, only to find out that I had a talent for making aluminum follow my hammer. At the end of my six-months training, the school offered me an appointment as an instructor in the same program and I accepted.
During the months that followed, although I was still instructing, my own hand-forming abilities increased greatly, and other opportunities began to open. There was scuttlebutt that Goodyear Aircraft in Akron was opening a new plant (Plant C) for the purpose of assembling a new aircraft, called the B-26; a single tail, twin engine, hot take-off and landing speeds, about the size of the B-25 (which, by the way, I had not seen yet). Opportunity knocked, and I was offered a position to provide training for 125 lady "Rosie-the-Riveters." Little did I realize that this personal training in hand-forming and aircraft assembling would serve me well in the Marine Corps and that VMB-423 would eventually be my home for months of additional training and eventual combat duty in the South Pacific. While at Goodyear Aircraft, B-26s began to take shape, some so heavy with screws that the test pilots were hesitant to fly. But, fly they did.
By this time, the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and the urgency to build more aircraft, and in greater numbers, became the order of the day. Also, I was getting older and putting pressure on my parents to let me enlist. Finally, after much arm twisting, my family said yes, and it was only a matter of a few days before the Marine recruiting office was contacted. The swearing-in ceremony took place in Cleveland, following our physical examinations. When the ceremony was over, each Marine grabbed his suitcase, boarded the bus to the Cleveland Train Station, some departing for boot camp in San Diego, CA. and others for Parris Island, S.C. There were many of us in line during the medical examinations, and when we were medically approved, we were given the "choice of the draw." The first man (odd numbers) was assigned to the regular Marines and went to Parris Island, while the second man (even numbers) was assigned to the reserves and went to San Diego. I was an even number, and off to San Diego I went. I'm probably still in the reserves to this day and don't know it.
SAN DIEGO RECRUIT DEPOT
The train ride to boot camp was uneventful, just long. The San Diego training center is a beautiful military base in downtown San Diego, surrounded by San Diego residences on the hillsides. The buildings at the Recruit Depot were, and still are, awe inspiring. Our first stop, of course, was to the barber, where he took our manhood (hair) and gave us nothing in return. Then, on to the Quartermaster, where we were provided with clothing, personal conveniences, wash boards and buckets for the next 3 months. And, finally, to our platoon drill sergeants, who were formidable objects. Just big enough to kill us, but knowing they shouldn't.
Boot Camp was as difficult then as it is today, for the simple reason, we were all enlisted (no drafted Marines until 1943), and we received absolutely no leniency from anyone, especially the drill instructors. During those years, if a trainee mouthed off too much, the drill instructor would arrange a private meeting behind the barracks, and take the trainee on. Our training was the most inclusive of all military training in those years, and if you were going to survive this war, you wanted to be trained by the U.S. Marine Corps.
BALBOA PARK NAVAL BASE
Upon graduation from boot camp in March 1943, I was assigned to the Balboa Park Navy Base (which is now the San Diego Zoo) to complete my mental examinations and then receive my final assignment. The men had the option of joining the Sea School Marines, the Parachute School Marines, the Aviation School Marines, or any number of line companies. My first reaction was to enter the parachute school and, as such, I took the first steps to sign up. When the Sergeant looked up from his paper work and saw me standing there, all 5ft. 7inches tall, 120 lbs, he said, "Son, if I let you become a parachutist, and you make your first jump, you'll probably never come down." Little did I know then that the minimum requirement for a parachutist was 5ft. 11inches, and 160 lbs. However, I'm glad my first would-be assignment was so momentous, and, had I been permitted to join the Parachute-Marines, I might "never" have come down.
The examination results, combined with my former work experience at Goodyear Aircraft led to my assignment at Navy Pier, Chicago, Ill. This adventure was to be the start of a new person, a new life, and a new dignity. The person became a Marine with ideals; the new life showed me how to cope with adversity; and the dignity showed through in confidence, integrity, and honor. The Marines had just changed a life from playboy to responsibility. During the 6-months of aviation training at Navy Pier, I experienced two separate events that also shaped my life, but to a lesser degree than becoming a Marine. During the Navy schooling, it became evident that much, if not all, of the aluminum training I was to receive was a duplication of previous experiences, and the Navy teaching staff elected to have me take the final examinations without going through the class room activities. However, they did expect me to be in attendance during class, but to be helpful to others who might be having problems. Upon my graduation from Aviation School, I received the rank of Corporal (skipping PFC) and a rating of "honor-man" in the company.
My second experience at Navy Pier was to audition for and eventually be accepted, for the Navy Choir. Among the multitude of performances that were required of the Navy Choir, each of us had the opportunity to audition for the male singer position with band leader, Orren Tucker, who directed the "Ahoy America" program, with girl singer "Patricia Willis" during weekly broadcasts from Chicago's radio station WGN. I had the great distinction of winning that vocal contest ("Ahoy America") and appeared with Orren Tucker's orchestra during my stay in Chicago. What an experience!
CHERRY POINT MARINE BASE
In August 1943 I was assigned to the Cherry Point Marine Aviation Base, N.C., which also became my introduction to VMB-423, although the squadron was not commissioned until September 1943. At that time I had no idea how truly fortunate I was to be chosen as one of the first twelve members before the squadron was even commissioned. As a corporal, having just graduated from Navy Pier, and an aluminum specialist, I was assigned to the metal shop, where we prepared to open the shop, maintain whatever aircraft was assigned, and get into the business of ground support for the squadron. We also provided support for the various pilots and their flight crews regarding the construction of aluminum clipboards, lighting devices for the clipboards, and other personal items that each pilot felt necessary. By October 1943, the squadron and our particular shop had grown in personnel. Since the squadron was now commissioned, we were required to have certain numbers of personnel with certain ranks. Sometime in October 1943, the squadron was transferred to Edenton, NC, where we wintered over while still learning to work and live with each other as a team. On 16, November 1943 I was raised to the rank of sergeant and became NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge).
EDENTON MARINE AIR BASE
The duties while at Edenton, NC were probably the very best for all of us. We were stationed for the first time with lady Marines, and this made quite a sensation. The war, while we were stationed at Edenton, seemed very far away, since men and women could be together on the base, date each other, and eventually plan marriages to each other. The older, married members (pilots, etc.) of the squadron sent for their wives, while the to-be-married members were setting up their wedding dates. Life was very natural (almost like home), but the reality of the war was just around the corner. Time moved on and the squadron was alerted to depart for El Centro, CA in January 1944. Those leaving as well as those remaining, were devastated. I remember parading through the base, and out of the main gates, in full dress green uniform, with flags flying. There was probably not a dry eye. But war had come, and we were part of that war.
EL CENTRO MARINE AIR BASE
El Centro was a small airbase on the edge of the Mohave Desert, east of San Diego, CA and probably the coldest place on earth at night during the months of October, November and December. During the day, the weather was tolerable, but when night came, the only way to stay warm was to place your rubber poncho around your canvas sleeping-cot while wearing full clothing. To this day, I remember the Mohave Desert and the cold.
Our workload at El Centro was similar to Edenton, NC except that our training, from flying to ground support, was improving and it became obvious to the squadron that we would soon be alerted for overseas duty. That notice arrived in the early days of February 1944, when we boarded a train, destination, San Francisco, CA. What a ride! We were in full dress greens with heavy woolen overcoats, rifles and backpacks. We rode that train all night, sleeping sitting up in the coach. When we reached the San Francisco Embarcadero area in the early morning, a rain was lightly falling. We made our way up the ramp into the bowels of our new home, namely the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Prince William, a small converted Liberty Ship. Sickness, starvation and boredom came upon us during the 30-day voyage while zigzagging across the Pacific Ocean, trying to outwit the Japanese Navy and not provide an easy target for them. Some men went directly to their beds and never stood again until the ship docked on the other side of the world. Their only food came from comrades who brought them dry crackers or bread from the galley during the day. Believe me, it was hard to stay well during this shipboard duty. However, we did get to hear some of the newer teen-age music (music we had not heard yet) that was in vogue during 1943 and early 1944,through the ship's deafening loudspeakers.
One very beautiful experience I remember was to sleep on the top deck of the aircraft carrier tied by my belt to the aircraft's guy wires. The belt was to keep me from becoming a casualty by rolling off the edge of the deck during nighttime, while the ship continued to zigzag, and roll in the waves. Some of these waves reached 20-feet-or-more during the course of the 30-day trip. I also remember, dress green uniforms floating in the Pacific as we continued on to our destination. What a strange sight, to see uniforms with outstretched arms and legs floating in the ocean. But, of course, we didn't need this heavy clothing where we were going.
In March 1944, we arrived at the British held island of Espiritu Santo, the largest island in the New Hebrides group. We were in the South Pacific, on the other side of the International Date Line, and the other side of the Equator, and northeast of Australia. You talk about the Mohave Desert being un comfortably cold at night, but nothing is hotter than a South Pacific island when you are near the Equator, where temperatures reach 105 degrees during the heat of the day.
THE NEW HEBRIDES
Soon after reaching Espiritu Santo, I was promoted to Staff Sergeant. While becoming acclimated to the tropics we read, laid in the sun, played volleyball, basketball, baseball, and any other sport (mostly poker) that one could think of. Many of our aircraft had not arrived on the island when we got there, but when the planes began to arrive, we resumed our training posture, trying to get back the edge that was lost during the trip across the South Pacific. I don't remember many things about the New Hebrides, except that we were housed in metal Quonset huts, which were unbearable during the heat of the day. The ground crew lived with MAG 11 during the several weeks before the entire flight echelon arrived. Much of our gear had been lost or damaged by water during the trip over. It was during this time that we experienced our first causalities. We lost Lt. Carlson and crew and then two nights later, we lost Lt. Lallathin with his crew, but were never able to retrieve the bodies or the Lallathin aircraft.
(Only recently, within the last 5-years, has it come to our attention, that Lt. Lallathin's aircraft (same serial number), was found by natives in the New Hebrides jungle some55-years after crashing, but due to our Government's stretched resources, we are told, the remains cannot be immediately recovered, DNA tested, and returned to the United States for proper burial. I can't believe this has not been corrected yet. Perhaps our squadron should write to President Bush, suggesting that he assign responsibility to someone for further action and let the living children or grandchildren of these Marines, know of their ancestor's fate).
GREEN ISLAND MARINE BASE
We received our orders to move forward in January 1944, and the squadron was ordered to Green Island in the northwest Solomon Group. Green Island is an atoll, a ring-like coral island surrounding a lagoon. Its size is approximately a half mile wide and 8 miles long.
Little did we know that this island would be our home for the next 17 months. Leaving the island would be easier than taking the island. I say this in jest, since when we were deployed to Green Island, we did not know whether the Japanese were still there. The ground crew, or at least my echelon, embarked from the Espiritu Santo on a small troop ship, and after reaching Green Island, we disembarked down the customary rope ladder, with full packs and rifles to the landing craft below. The landing craft was then maneuvered to the shoreline, and the front gate was lowered. When our feet touched the coral, we saw a sight we didn't expect: a sign with the words, "Sorry Marines, the Sea Bees were here first." So, without question, we knew that the Japanese were gone. That ride in an LST, and that island invasion, was the last of this Marine's "line company training" until I returned to the States.
By this time, my military rank had gone quickly from Staff Sergeant through Technical Sergeant and by 21 January 1945, I was presented with my Master Technical Sergeant stripes. It was here at Green Island that the squadron began to reap the rewards of their early training. Our tent shops went up near the flight lines and we were quickly in business to prepare and keep in working condition the various 12-out-of-15 aircraft that would fly each day, weather permitting. My shop consisted of 12 men at this time, but then came the announcement that each department would have to cut back to only a portion of their staff. Then came that terrible, sinking-feeling, that some men would have to go. Which men would be transferred? And, after working together for so many months, would they understand? The men were being sent to create new squadrons where they could contribute their talents in combat positions further to the north, nearer Japan. My staff eventually was cut to 7 men (including me) but, being selfish, I kept those with diverse talents. Talents that the squadron would need for whatever problems came along. One man was a good welder (both aluminum and metal); one man was very thorough when the aircraft needed patching following flack damage; one man could read blue prints quite well and analyze what needed to be done; one man was an expert trouble shooter.
One man I'll always remember was Roland (Zeek) Seckinger, who now lives in Ft Lauderdale, FL, and whom I see frequently. Staff Sergeant Seckinger was my assistant and capable of handling any emergencies. I remember when one of our PBJs returned from a mission with more than 100 anti-aircraft holes throughout the fuselage, wings, and tail sections. Some holes were as large as 12-inches in diameter. Seckinger and I commenced work on the aircraft as soon as the body of the tail gunner, PFC Willie Phillips, could be removed from the tail gunner's position. The turret gunner, Sgt. Ed Huie, had been slightly wounded. The aircraft was rolled near the hanger and we commenced removing the small irregular holes in the aluminum and filling the area with new sheet material. The larger areas needed some hand forming to help the aluminum follow the double curves in the aircraft body, both forward and aft, as well as top to bottom. This took some considerable time, so we decided to continue working on a 24-hour basis so that this injured bird would be ready for duty when called upon. We worked continuously for 36-hours without rest, and I told S/Sergeant Seckinger that if he would remain on site for a few more hours, I would get some rest, return and finish up the work. Seckinger stayed on the project for another 4-hours or more while I rested and to this day, I believe, he stayed on the project after I returned until the aircraft was finished, and only then did he get any rest. His dedication is indicative of the men we had, not only in our shop, but also throughout the squadron.
Green Island is situated in the northwest corner of the Solomon Islands, and is not far from the Japanese air base and ground-troop stronghold of Rabaul. That proximity was probably the reason Green Island was chosen as a base from which to launch our assaults..
Our pilots and flight crews knew only too well what their assignments were. Those of us on the ground knew the seriousness of these missions, but only from afar. However, since I was on flight pay I needed to satisfy certain requirements in order to get the pay. The main requirement was that I fly at least 4-hours per month. Some of these flight hours could be obtained by simply flying non-combat missions, where our test pilots were reviewing damaged areas on the aircraft that had been repaired, and certain department heads were requested to fly along. However, the alternative often surfaced, where the only flights remaining were combat flights. In my situation, there were several combat missions that I took to satisfy this flight pay requirement. Other than my hourly flight notes that were turned in each month to the squadron office, no other records were ever kept, so I can't specifically identify the combat flight taken. What I do remember about the combat flights is the Japanese anti-aircraft fire that exploded around the aircraft. Some explosions appeared very close to the fuselage, while others were obviously quite a distance away. But, throughout the many hours in the air (from approximately May 1944 through June 1945), I do not recall any shrapnel piercing the skin of the aircraft during my flights. One flight I will always remember as a "mystery," I described in a recollection published in the first book of memories, Remembering "VMB-423. I consider that flight the most dangerous and, at the same time, the most rewarding of all my flight activity while in the South Pacific.
When the ground echelon was given sleeping assignments, we were paired up four to a 16ft by 16ft tent. This seemed to work for a time, but eventually the men who worked together or had other friends, didn't want to bunk together. Early on, my bunkmates, were from the metal shop, but we decided to make some changes. I eventually shared a 16ft by 16ft tent with Bob Hatch, of the parachute department. Staff Sgt Hatch later went on to become an all-American football player at Boston College, and subsequently became the Athletic Director at Bates College.
Our flight line duties were very intense: First, we had to keep up to date with normal repairs to planes -- that meant repairing flack and small arms damage as quickly as possible. When new aircraft came aboard, we had certain updates that needed our attention These included: adjusting the side package 50-caliber guns to fire directly forward. To do this, from manufacture's pre-engineered plans, we first constructed, a welded tubular apparatus that fit over the two 50-caliber guns Only when the guns were aligned with the longitude of the plane would the guns fit in the apparatus. Secondly, with the pilots help, we worked together to develop a gun-sight, made of aluminum, that was attached to the instrument panel. This gun-sight of course, was to allow the pilot to aim the side-package guns at a target by aiming the aircraft at it.
Another modification was short lived, since it involved a 20-mm cannon on the port side of the aircraft and in the aluminum portion of the nose cone. When the cannon was fired, it caused considerable damage to the skin by causing large cracks to develop, which also could have provoked structural damage, and possibly the loss of an aircraft. Replacing the normal size rivets with larger rivets was our attempt to combat this problem, but it did not stop the cracking. This all became moot eventually for the simple reason that the 20-mm cannon was rejected and the later PBJ models came to the squadron without the cannon.
TYPICAL DAY on GREEN ISLAND
Our typical day on Green Island consisted of the following: reveille at 6:00am, toilet needs, an early shave and shower, breakfast, drive or walk to the flight line, clean and oil all instruments and equipment, monitor and dry the aluminum sheet stock (4ft X 8ft) for excess moisture, and in general, wait for the line chiefs (M/Sgt. Bender, M/Sgt. Horton, or M/Sgt Cox) to request repairs to damage inflicted the previous night. When lunch hour came, we probably all headed to the chow hall, except the men that might be out on the flight line in one revetment or the other, and not finished with their repairs. The afternoon was similar to the morning: repair, weld, braze, silver solder, or hand-form any of the objects that were necessary to keep the aircraft flying. At dinnertime (between 5:00 and 6:00pm), we would return to our tents, probably take a swim in the ocean partly for medical purposes if we had received cuts during the day, take a shower with brackish water, and have our chow. The evening was free (depending on our work load) to play cards, drink beer, join in with a sport activity, write letters home, read, go to a movie, or just drop off to sleep.
In other off duty hours, we constructed rainwater holding-tanks from 50-gallon drums, where we placed cheesecloth over the top opening, and used the tent run-off water to fill the tanks. This was used for brushing teeth or cleaning up between showers, but never for drinking. We also built a boat made by cutting an old bomb bay gasoline tank into two longitudinal pieces, welding tie struts between the two halves, and forming a catamaran type boat. With this boat, we worked ourselves toward the center of the island lagoon, and using bomb detonator caps, released the caps into the water, and waited for the explosions, not realizing how dangerous this was. However, we retrieved many fish.
During our occasional treks into the jungle we picked long, green bananas, which became edible after a week or so under paper bags. It took the darkness to ripen the fruit. While exploring the island, I occasionally ran into wild boar. This could be disturbing, since I couldn't tell whether or not they were friendly. The better part of valor was to leave the area immediately - those tusks were just too big. Occasionally, I would meet up with natives (called Tunganese), who resembled the Japanese people (I have often wondered why no one was shot).
For complete relaxation, I enjoyed walking in the surf around the perimeter of the island, looking for seashells and other marine life that could be used to make bracelets, belts and other items. These walks, in bare feet, could be dangerous because of the stings caused by the underwater creatures with spine needles that numbed our feet and lower legs for many minutes, sometimes an hour or more. The walks were also breath-taking, for the scenery and the colors of the foliage, the ocean, and the sky were so beautiful and vivid. These were colors that I had never seen before or have ever seen since.
REST and RECUPERATION in AUSTRALIA
One interesting aspect of being in the combat zone was that occasionally the men would be given an R & R visit to the city of Townsville, Australia. Townsville is in the northeast part of Australia, on the ocean. Fortunately, someone must have thought I needed a rest, so, I was advised by one of the flight Master Sergeants to pack my bag and be available on a certain day to fly with our PBJ crew that was scheduled for Townsville to purchase steaks, eggs, and beer, while also doing chores for the big-brass. Sometimes this meant transporting shoes or other gear from Australia to Green Island for the Army.
There were two of us going on R&R and when we arrived in Townsville we were let out on the tarmac and told to meet at that same location in 2-weeks. We weren't told which way to walk to the city but, being Marines, we figured that out. Both of us were dressed in our khaki uniforms, dress hats, and dress shoes, knowing that we would be subject to inspection by the shore patrol. Being dressed in a full uniform, after spending months in a combat zone, was hard to handle. But, when the shore patrol saw us for the first time, with sleeves rolled-up to keep cool, we were read the riot act and told, "no more rolled up sleeves."
Up to now, we had no place to stay overnight, so we spoke with other military and they directed us to an establishment that cared for transients. The home was large, with a screened-in porch that overhung the sidewalk, with some 10-or-more canvas cots set parallel to each other in the upstairs porch area. The windows had no glass, but were all screened, and the bathroom was, fortunately, on the porch level, but without a shower. Separate rooms with showers were available in the basement, made with concrete block, painted white, with drains in the floor. It was O.K.
Townsville appeared of average size (25,000 more or less), with very friendly people, no off-the-street beer bars, except for hotels, where they did serve alcohol at certain times of the day, but very limitedly. The off-the-street bars were called "milk bars" where one could get ice cream, sodas, sundaes, chocolates, and other items to satisfy the sweet tooth at any time of the day or late evening. Townsville, as I recollect, was behind the times, since every billboard was advertising the purchase of "electricity." I know it was early 1945, but I can't recall that the States, when I left civilian life, were still advertising for this utility. In any event, Townsville seemed to be a city not quite up to date.
When I visited families in their residences, I found the homes to be nicely kept. Those near the ocean were up on stilts, without landscaping, only sand around the buildings. The families were very friendly and appreciative of Americans helping to push the war toward the Japanese mainland and away from the Australian coast.
Nightly events that pleased me very much were the organized concerts in the park. These were great for listening, as well as for meeting local families and for being invited to dinner. The Townsville Symphony Orchestra performed the concerts, with the audience sitting on blankets placed on the ground, surrounded by slightly rolling hills, which acted as an amphitheater. I can't remember when music sounded so beautiful. How quickly a war can be forgotten when you are removed from it temporarily and you are surrounded by such beauty. I won't forget Australia.
RETURN TO GREEN ISLAND
Two weeks later, I stood on the Townsville tarmac, ready to board the aircraft, and return to reality. When the flight touched down on the return trip, some 6-7 hours later, Green Island looked the same, with the same problems, but I'm sure I met those problems with a different attitude after spending two beautiful weeks recuperating.
Only later, did we realize that during this time frame Marines had invaded Iowa Jima on 19, February 1945, and the Okinawa invasion occurred in April 1945, where it took 83 days of combat to clear that island as a major Japanese stronghold.
Sometime around April 1945, Sergeant Major Woods called me into the office tent and asked whether I would consider transferring, leaving the squadron, and returning to the States to enter OCS (Officer's Candidate School). Of course, I said yes, and days passed while I waited to hear about my departure date. Nothing materialized for at least another month and, at this time (May), we all began to anticipate when our replacements would arrive (supposedly, an 18-month combat tour was maximum) and we would be sent back to the States for further training and reassignment. The squadron's status took on a period of uncertainty during this time and the Master Sergeant who was to replace me arrived toward the middle of June, so I returned to the States without knowing the final results of OCS school. To this day, I don't know the full story.
My return to Stateside was aboard the U.S.S. President Tyler, a troop ship that probably carried 7,000 men. We were provided with 2 meals a day, not nearly as good as the food on the trip over some 18 months before. Of course the difference between 350-men versus 7,000-men, and the difficulty this created for the Navy cooks, made a difference. The return trip took approximately 7 days, whereas the trip over took 30 days.
When I did return to duty following my 30-day furlough, I was assigned to a special two-week survival training course at a base near Cherry Point. Upon completion of the survival course, we were to return to the South Pacific for a second tour. When the atom bomb was dropped, and the Government became aware of the results, the survival course was canceled.
I returned to Cherry Point and was assigned as NCOIC of the metal shop. This was a big operation, since the shop was responsible for repairing all aircraft from different squadrons for the entire base. There was probably 60-men assigned to this shop when I got there, no department head, with everyone coming and going as they chose. This made my job difficult when certain repairs were needed and the men with that expertise were missing. So, I remember initiating a morning check-in and organizing the men into units of 10, each unit with a leader, and each leader responsible to me. This improved the situation.
Up to this time, my aviation repairs had been confined to the B-26 and the B-25. Looking around Cherry Point's flight line, I could see aircraft that I had never seen before. I remember thinking more than once: how good it would be if the telephones would go dead, and no engineering officer would call for repairs that day. However, the telephones never did go dead, and engineering officers did call requesting repairs ranging from the common problems associated with aluminum aircraft to welding engine manifolds of stainless steel (not easy to do, since the metal would drop away quickly).
Then in late November 1945 I received word that my
discharge from the Marines was imminent. My replacement, Master Sergeant Bob Kingsley, arrived and I worked with him for several days, getting him up to speed. He purchased the house that I had leased in Morehead City, NC, as well as the furniture, so that he could bring his family on board.
On November 20th, I was discharged.
I'm sure I didn't realize what I was leaving. The Marines had been good to me, giving me a lot of responsibility at such a young age, and soon the light would be out. Using Public Law 346, I returned to College in 1947, receiving a Bachelors Degree in 1950 and a Masters Degree in Fine Arts in 1951.
Just like the rest of our squadron, I have remained a Marine throughout my lifetime, and will be buried as a Marine.
These "remembrances," written in June 2002, represent just a small portion of one life in the Marine Corps during World War II.
Robert C. Vernon
"The Greatest Sight I Have Ever Seen"
by Sgt. Richard Voss
As we all know, Lt. Kenneth Meyer's PBJ was shot down while on a low level bombing and strafing mission. Many years afterward, Ken wrote a recollection of that incident that he titled "The Lord Was Our Shepherd." (That story was included in our first book, Remembering VMB-423).
Sgt. Richard Voss was the radio-gunner on Ken Meyer's crew. Sgt. Voss wrote the following letter to his pilot after first reading "The Lord Was Our Shepherd."
"It Was Like This..."
By Tom Wallimann
One morning at Cherry Point, after we had come back from overseas, some of us radio-gunners were hanging around in the radio shack, doing nothing constructive I'm sure, when in walked Lt. Ball. He was looking for Jack Brun whom he had promised to take up for a hop in an open-cockpit two-seater. Jack was nowhere to be found, so Lt. Ball asked if any of us would like to take his place. I said I would. That was my first mistake. He told me to pick up a chute and meet him at hangar such and such. I did, and off we went into the wild blue yonder, and I do mean wild. After we were away from Cherry Point and up high enough, Lt. Ball started TRYING - I emphasize the word - TRYING - to do a complete backward loop. Three times he tried, three times he failed.
A little while later, we were flying along and the plane started rocking side to side, over and over again. When I got up enough nerve to look up I found out he was trying to signal to me asking if I wanted to take over the controls. I respectfully declined. Meanwhile, I said to myself - of all the lousy, rotten days to leave my St. Christopher medal back at the barracks. Me and my big mouth. I could still be hanging around the radio shack, maybe even picking up a few easy bucks playing pinochle. Instead I'm up here with this Evel Knevel of the airways attempting somersaults.
The next thing I knew we were at some dinky little airport - somewhere in North Carolina - and Lt. Ball was going to practice landings. He got the go-ahead from the control tower but his first two attempts were unsuccessful and on his third approach the tower waved him off. I guess they figured they didn't have enough ambulances and fire engines on hand. Anyway we returned to Cherry Point where Lt. Ball made a perfect three-point landing. I thanked him for the experience and headed back to the radio shack to calm my nerves. It was then that I realized how soft I had it sitting in the back of that B-25 with Hazlehurst at the controls.
I hope Lt. Ball is still alive and if he reads this won't hate me too much and remembers this episode somewhat the way I do.
(More Memoirs of World War II)
By S/Sgt. Paul E. White, tail gunner
Within a half hour it was drizzling rain. I got quite damp before abandoning the post, assuming all of the men were aboard. The "choicest" spots amid the gear and aircraft anchored to the deck by steel cables were quickly taken. Some lucky lads may have gotten cots, very likely the very ones used on Espiritu Santos and on Green Island. The blanket roll and poncho (or shelter half) served as mattress and mattress cover. What luxury! I do not recall wearing a life jacket at any time. That is not to say we did not. At this moment in time I would sleep with it on, wear it to mess, and maybe to the shower if I should be so lucky as to be able to take one.
For unknown reasons, light ropes hung over both sides of the ship, reaching the water. Nothing was said when someone tied a garment to the rope and let it be towed through the water. When it was retrieved a little later it was in tatters. The results stopped this practice quicker and more effectively than a sign or verbal warning would have.
At sea there was nothing to see but sky and sea except when we encountered a school of flying fish. We were far from Mandalay. The destroyer escort (less powerful than a destroyer) was ever on the go to protect our collective butts. Never learned its identity.
Several buddies have told me a bunch of Curtis Helldivers, SB-2Cs, Scout Bomber 2 by Curtis, were tied down on the flight deck. It utterly baffles me that I never saw them as they were large single-engine planes with large fins and rudders. A year or two ago, the History Channel on TV had a program featuring U.S. Navy planes including the SB-2C. After landing it on a carrier, the pilot called it a Son of a Bitch-2nd Class.
Ol' buddy Lloyd W. "Buck" Rogers, no relative of Roy, but one of the sons of a cabbage farmer, had been a member of a country or western band in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Well, he would let loose with a ballad, or two, or three, as we stood at the railing watching the sun go down. He wasn't half bad either. You might say his rendition of the Wabash Cannonball was Finger-Laking good.
Aircrewmen got their daily rest at their own discretion. Some would hit the sack upon return from the last heckling patrol of the previous night. I didn't. I stayed up and went about the day as usual. If I was on the next-to-last heckling patrol, I would hit the sack upon return but got up when the ones who hadn't flown got up. There was no reveille. Time between flights was spent roaming around, BSing, reading, writing, washing & repairing clothes. BSing was most popular.
The Marine Corps became a tad dissatisfied with the way the Navy was rendering close support for Marine ground forces, so Marine F-4U fighter planes, under Marine command, were put aboard certain carriers. In keeping with close support, VMB-423 did some high-speed, simulated attacks over water and over land. Things were really rough back in the tail - tougher on the plane than on the tail gunner!! The fins and rudders shook so much I wondered when the tail assembly would shake apart.
In Sydney, Australia, I bought 3 or 4 bottles of liquor in a "store open only to Americans." Returning to our rooms at the residence, I took a taste of each. Not much later, I took another taste of each. I fell asleep on my sack. In the AM, ol' Bax let me know in no uncertain terms that he had cleaned up what I had thrown up and would never ever do it again! He never had to. I finished them off little by little.
When our crew was in Sydney, Australia, in November 1944, Bax and I went to see the famous Bondi Beach. It was slightly pre-season, too cool for people, too warm for penguins, windy enough to fly a kite. Bax snapped me with my little English camera. We returned to the states on the escort aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Long Island - the only carrier with no island - and no escort, either!!! On this January voyage, once across the equator, it was soon too cool to sun bathe. I recall going under the Golden Gate Bridge, a short stay on Treasure Island which may have been a transient depot. It was a real treat to take a real shower again. Chow was good, too. We saw an excellent new actor, Gregory Peck, in "Keys of the Kingdom" one night.
While ashore in Honolulu, I passed by a civilian giving a sermon to any and all who would stop to listen. He quoted James 1:27: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world." How does a memory recall a sentence and not remember anything occurring during a couple weeks aboard a crowded ship? Easy!! Memories do as they please.
When at Cherry Point, NC in early 1945, there was a picture of Mrs. Roosevelt and a short article. It was taken at that little recreation island near Espiritu Santo I visited with my Navy brother. She opined "how lucky you men are to have your own private Coney Island," words falling on unappreciative swabbie ears. One innocent slip of the tongue had made her visit counterproductive. Well, the White brothers "missed" her; I was stateside and Charles was on a destroyer, U.S.S. Caperton, enjoying Kamikazes and a rough typhoon. Army brother, Raymond, was enjoying the Italian campaign.
On this page are 3 views of a PBJ. A number of variations were produced, coming to PBJ-J, the 2nd J being the modification. Notice the widespread vertical fins between which the turret gunner may fire. There are vertical and horizontal "stops" stopping the turret gunner from shooting up the tail and tail gunner. Bottom view is of the bomb-bay doors between the engine nacelles. On occasion, 30-caliber machine guns were set up on both sides of the plane at the square windows between the turret gun and vertical fins for the radioman to use. The round bulge at the bottom is the radar unit the radioman operates. There is a low and narrow crawl way over the bomb-bay for crewmen to go forward or aft. There is a crawl way at the bottom of the cockpit for the bombardier to get to his station in the nose. There is a forward and an aft hatch to enter or exit at the bottom of the plane. The odd-shaped opening at front is for the nose wheel to retract. The main wheels go up into the nacelles.
Another incident making news while I was at Cherry Point was when someone from FDR's inner circle went on an errand, or junket, accompanied by a dog. It wasn't Fala. On the return trip a soldier on furlough was bounced off a military plane in order to transport the dog in compliance with military regulations and protocol. The pooch could not be left behind and must occupy a seat. The N.Y. Daily News kept up a constant critique of the administration at all times and places.
Somehow the official photo of Clark's crew was omitted from the "VMB-423 Seahorse Marines" book printed after the war but a symbolic drawing of Keith Clark, "It pays to conform" appears on the third roster page. Well, the official photo appears at the end of this story.
I find myself looking forward to "mail call" again. There is much more junk mail than mail. (The Post Office should raise the rates for junk mail and businesses). Mail is letters from kin or friends, checks and bills. Most checks go directly into my checking account electronically and some bills are paid directly from it electronically. My phone has no answering device, caller ID, call waiting, or whatever. My radios do not go "dah dit." Instead of a radar blip to watch, I have cable TV (VCR, too). I don't have and won't have a computer - there's not enough hours in a day already. I don't have to get up to fly anymore. I do some of the hardest work of my day before breakfast - getting up. My wife of 49 years and 72 days passed on 14 July 96. We miss her.
Widening The Spectrum
More memories of WW II -- Plus
by Paul White
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I graduated from high school. Six or seven weeks later I was a bookkeeper at a retail lumber yard. Along came the war. My mother had asked me to wait until I was called. I was called eight or nine months later. I went to New York City to enlist. All went well until someone directed me to the rest room, handed me a beaker, and asked for a sample of that urine of mine. I couldn't produce a drop of it. I wasn't the only one. A future buddy with a copious yellow stream supplied a number of us, on the Q-T, of course.
Since I was a minor, the recruiters in NYC gave me a form for my parents, Madeleine Alice Marchand White and Edward Jeremiah White, to sign in the presence of a notary public. My father was in the hospital at Trenton, NJ. This was a problem as a notary public insisted on both parents being present. As a favor, the lumber yard CPA notarized it anyway, no charge, best of luck, Paul.
It was the largest swearing-in at that place up to that time. We left NYC before noon, arrived at P.I. (Parris Island) in the early evening of the following day, hungry, thirsty, tired & dirty. A group of Marines leaving gave a hearty greeting to our group arriving, "You'll be sorreeee!"
Once aboard P.I., we were taken to the mess hall. They unsecured it for us. They brought trays of assorted cold cut chunks to the tables featuring that Marine Corps favorite created and named after an equine phallus by an anonymous gourmet chef of yesteryear. They brought pitchers to the tables, probably ice water. It seemed like each of them asked if any of us was from his home town, "Anybody from Kokomo?" I'm curious whether there ever was a civilian version of that rare sausage. Is it still in the mess halls for such occasions?
We were lodged in one of the temporary barracks having separate quarters for the DIs, (Drill Instructors). PFC John L. Koons from TX and Pvt. John B. Beverley, III, from VA, acting corporals and good men. One of the first things we learned was how to make a bed. They insisted beds be made precisely as they showed us. It's amazing how much they taught us in just six weeks. A shave every morning was a definite must. The "head" was another temporary, separate building close by. I don't remember the sinks and urinals and there were no commodes, per se. Instead, a sixteen-foot length of twenty-four inch pipe was cut in half lengthwise, horizontally, forming a gutter, with wooden seats spanning across. Water ran constantly from the upper end to the lower end, flushing away fecal matter. On occasion, some comedian would make a ball of paper, ignite it and launch it at the upper end. As it sailed downstream 'neath the butts of those getting a load off their minds, it singed vital areas causing them to rise up in pain and anger, to everyone's amusement.
They marched us to the mess hall morning, noon and night. We marched forth and back in the chow line doing to-the-rear marches over and over till we got to the mess hall door. After eating, we made our way back to the mess hall on our own without ever getting lost. After evening mess we were on our very own around the barracks till about 20:30 hours (8:30 PM) That's when we fell out clad in towels and field shoes only. We marched to the shower in another temporary, separate building close by. The mosquitoes were having a feast -- no swatting permitted. Inside, everyone stood nude, soap in hand, waiting for the water to be turned on. After exactly three minutes, it was turned off along with the lights. The first time, I returned all soapy, with my soap and towel, one of my shoes and one shoe belonging to someone having big feet.
We learned to march and drill in between getting shots (hypodermic needles), taking tests, getting clothing, hearing lectures, etc, etc as scheduled. One day we returned to barracks with the '03 rifle, swathed in cosmoline, at trail arms. They taught us to clean and field strip it. "This is my rifle, this is my gun." Soon we were doing the manual of arms, standing as well as marching. "Slap those pieces!" Then the day came when the DIs inspected our rifles daily in the AM with us in formation on the drill field, the mosquitoes having breakfast and/or brunch. Soon, the bayonets were included in the inspection, extending the ordeal. Not many days after that, came physical exercise under arms, "Butts, muzzles, butts down", etc, etc.
It is said DIs can not make a recruit do anything. All they can do is make him wish he had done it, whatever it was. It doesn't ever approach that point. Are you bragging or complaining? We brag about how rough things are and don't complain how tough it is.
Incoming packages from home were opened by the recruit in the DI's presence, contents shared. One time only, one recruit was allowed to go to the PX nearby to buy "pogie bait", etc., for members of the platoon. The merchandise was checked out when he returned.
The regular site for drilling was a sandy field which has since been black-topped. Extra DIs were on hand when the drilling was heavy and prolonged, probably to prevent their getting hoarse from giving orders. Short breaks were taken during the day at which time, but not immediately, the DI announced, "The smoking lamp is lit," meaning smoking is permitted. Tradition!
After a certain needle, which would give each recipient a sore arm for the next day or two, everyone washed his clothes at the outdoor laundry facility nearby with table tops and running cold water. We had learned to wash previously, had been issued (and charged for) a galvanized pail, scrub brush, towels, soap, tie-ties, etc. Tie-ties, cords with tips like shoe laces at each end, were used to hang our clothes crosswise between two lines. A guard was posted lest an unprincipled character from some other platoon help himself to our nice, clean clothes.
Every Friday evening was field day when bunks and foot lockers were taken outside into the sandy street. Then the interior of the barracks was thoroughly cleansed. Our street was "policed up" as often as once or twice a day. Being a non-smoker, I resented picking up cigaret butts thrown on the ground by stupid people who should have torn it apart and rolled the paper into a tiny ball. I kicked sand over the butts -- never got caught or who can tell what punishment I might have had levied on me--disobeying a direct order!
On three separate occasions the platoon took written tests. I scored 138 on the GCT (general classification test),134 on the MAT (mechanical aptitude test). I got 80 on the RAT, (radio aptitude test), involving signals heard when wearing a head set. I have had tinnitus, a ringing/buzzing in my ears, all my life and couldn't much tell a dah from a dit. Both ears hear less nowadays, thanks be to the PBJ exhaust system. On the basis of these three tests men were sent to the infantry or to Cherry Point, NC where the cheery characterization and/or greeting was, "So this is the cream of the cream of the crop!"
A recruit from a Pittsburgh platoon who could not keep up with the others was dropped back into our platoon. A few days later he died. The senior DI was court-martialed and exonerated. Others may have been court-martialed as well but such news never came to our knowledge.
Koons and Beverley remained at PI when our platoon went to Tent City at New River, NC, later called Camp Le Juene, for the final phase of boot camp. We were billeted six, or eight, to a pyramid tent on a wooden deck with a small, circular kerosene heater in the center. It was November. A light bulb hung from the top of the tent on a single wire, to screw in or out, to turn on or off.
I got my first taste of guard duty here on a cold, windy night & was ever so glad when my overdue relief finally came. I can't recall the head, or the showers, in that miserable place. I can recall the platoon standing at "present arms" for forty-five minutes while the senior DI ranted and raved about things in general, but mostly about us in particular. Everything said, or done, has a reason, serves a purpose.
This mess hall was in a new brick building. Talking was strictly forbidden. Everyone stood by a seat at the table till the signal was given to sit. Food was on the table in serving bowls. One grabbed a bowl and took what one wanted and then exchanged the bowl with someone else for something else. Anyone not in our platoon at the table didn't fare so good. Sometimes the situation was reversed.
We "snapped in" with M1 rifles, firing pins removed, for one long, boring week. We practiced in pairs: one took aim, squeezed the trigger. When it "fired" his partner hit the bolt to the rear with the outside edge of his hand, representing what happened when a shot was fired. Every half hour or so, positions were switched, making for equal time in each position.
The platoon spent four days on the range adjusting windage and elevation of the sights. The fifth day was record day! Firing was at 200, 300, and 500 yards and was off-hand, sitting, kneeling and prone. Trees behind the butts had been cut off by rifle fire. I would have made expert if I hadn't gotten careless at the 500-yard line. After scoring several fives, I got a two and a three before getting back into the black again for a final of 305, one point short. Experts got $5.00 extra pay per month, sharpshooters got $3.00 extra and marksman got nothing extra. Non-qualifiers got nothing less.
Everything was much better at Cherry Point: barracks, head, showers, food, etc. 71s were given and many went home on a weekend despite the mileage limitations. 72 hours was considered a furlough and would be entered in the record book. Someone came around to each barracks to explain the courses available at certain Navy schools east of the Mississippi: Ordnance, Aviation Machinists Mate, Metal Smith, etc, etc. Questions were encouraged and answered. We had our choice.
Liberty at Cherry Point was hardly irresistible! New Bern, NC offered little in the way of diversion. It was over-run by men from nearby military installations on weekends. Going on liberty entailed getting all dressed up, enduring a stand-up trip on a bus into town and spending some of what remains of the $53 a month after an allotment and the $6.50 insurance premium was deducted.
The alternative was not to go! It made sense to avoid the bother and cost and to avail ourselves of the free meals, free movies, a slop chute offering beer at low prices. The PX offered a range of quality merchandise at reduced prices.
Amongst other things, I bought a wrist watch in 1945 and two engagement rings, one for my Navy brother. The other one was not given to the one I bought it for in the first place. It was given to my final choice.
We fell out to hear the change in the Marine Corps Hymn read to us. It would now be "in the air, on land, and sea" superceding "on land and on the sea". It is not generally known that the tune was taken from the opera "Genevieve de Brabant" by Jacques Offenbach, if you please.
The uniform of the day was posted on the bulletin board-- we had to see what to wear every day. It never varied much. If we were shipping out, that's a time to be damned sure to check it. 'Twould be worse than starting off on the wrong foot.
Following over a month at Cherry Point, a group was leaving for Jacksonville, FL. I decided to get a haircut as there seemed to be more than ample time to do so. Alas, my absence was discovered as I was getting shorn. Guys went about looking for me, many not knowing me. Two strangers would ask each other, "Are you White?" When I showed up, nothing whatever was said -- not a word by anybody. What luck! All hands scheduled to go boarded the train. It rolled southward for maybe a whole hour before it was shunted onto a siding for several hours. While standing still, lights and heat were nonexistent. An Atlantic Coast Line troop train is not luxurious. A few coaches had cracked or broken windows. We were not wearing overcoats or back packs meaning we had no blankets. The sea bags were in a baggage car. I am positively uncertain whether or not there was a dining car. There were water fountains in each coach as far as I know. The heads were in working order. Nobody was sorry when the trip was finally over.
I spent my first Christmas away from home and family in a flat, sandy environment amongst strangers and new friends in uniform. It just didn't seem like Christmas. It didn't!
The liberty situation in Jacksonville was much like it was in New Bern altho it offered more and bigger attractions, including a beach. It, too, was surrounded by military bases which flooded the city with men on weekends. I can recall being in the bus station and hearing "There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere." It was very apropos --it would be today. Somebody should rediscover it.
I saw a fruit and vegetable stand and decided to treat myself to some grapes. The woman running the place ordered me out as soon as she caught sight of me. She opined to her cohorts that she had no use for those in the military- they are a bunch of rowdies, or words to that effect.
We had been given lectures on military courtesy at various times. At first, saluting was an enjoyable novelty but it became apparent that enlisted men were not always saluting as the officers thought they should. To be truthful, our salutes weren't always returned, especially by Army Air Force lieutenants. If three, or four, of us were walking together and an officer was seen in the distance, we strung out so he would have three or four salutes to return.
At the naval base, one of the mess halls served a different kind of bean at each meal on Friday. Our class went on mess duty for a month, followed by some time policing up the area. A buddy found a $5.00 bill in a Christmas card blowing around on the ground. Once a Lt.(jg) sitting on a bicycle outside the mess hall exit, ordered me to go back inside and eat the apple I came out with. Each of us usually took a pie a day back to barracks when they were available one week. They were all the same kind.
Returning to base by bus, all enlisted passengers were required to get out of the bus inside the gate. Marine guards frisked passengers for alcohol as they dismounted. After the guard had checked the interior of the bus for bottles, etc on or under seats or elsewhere, passengers were allowed back on the bus. On one occasion, a lad from our class held up his arms, like everyone else, but holding a fifth by its neck, like nobody else. The frisker did not notice the friskee's bottle. A Navy officer sat on a bottle left on the seat by another lad from the class while the guards checked the bus. Then the officer returned to where he had been sitting. I wonder what happened to the booze the guards confiscated. It was an incentive to conduct a thoro search.
Upon completion of the AMM-3C course, the top 25 in the class became corporals, the rest became privates first class. First and second in the class chose to be instructors. I finished third and was one of those to sign up for aerial gunnery. Before leaving Jacksonville, we served two weekends of Shore Patrol duty in town. How we spent the other five days, don't ask -- I haven't the faintest.
Then we would-be gunners were shipped out to H O L L Y W O O D (Hollywood, FL that is) for 50-caliber machine gun instruction. We were stationed at the Riverside Military Academy, a once-elite boys school. One day our class defeated two successive Navy classes in a tug-of-war. Another day all but one of us completed a double-time run of 4 ¾ miles in step. A Navy instructor accompanied us--he liked our attitude. Nobody else made that run that I know of.
Again, I was one of those selected to draw guard duty, this time with an unloaded shotgun in the middle of nowheres. Again, relief was late, very late. I thought they had forgotten me. I believe this was the last guard duty I ever pulled except for once on Espiritu Santos.
Believe it or not, one Sunday a buddy and I hitch-hiked to Miami solely "so he could say he'd been there." We made it to the outskirts and turned back.
Back to Cherry Point by train we went and into plywood Dallas huts due to housing shortage then and there. A Dallas hut is about 16xl6, maybe 12xl2, hardly better than a pyramid tent. There were big, rectangular screened openings in each wall. Ventilation was achieved by lifting up a plywood flap covering the opening, giving the Dallas hut an appearance of having awnings of a sort. The huts were all painted a dull green. Even with all these flaps up it was not what could be called comfortable in summer heat. I disrecall how many dwelt in each. Showers and heads were in adjacent brick barracks, reminiscent of ye olde out-house. Should a call of nature occur during a rainy night ...
One Sunday morning, after breakfast, I did some wash, probably on the shower floor in the barracks. It was much later in time before we used the station laundry service. When I took my wash off the line a pair of my dungaree pants were missing. So I took a replacement, S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedure) As I was removing the hem from the bottom of the legs, a hut mate from Ohio asked why. I told him why. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, in comes Corporal Norman L. Duncan, Jr. from Indiana, PA (Jimmy Stewart's hometown) moaning and groaning that some dirty S.O.B. had stolen his pants. I tossed him his pants declaring I would not re-hem the cuffs. We had a good laff. I suppose I procrastinated replacing the replacement. I honestly don't recall but it's likely I did procrastinate--until the next wash day.
Our class was put into MOTS-8 (Marine Operational Training Squadron-8). My favorite girlfriend wrote that a friend of ours had gotten engaged to a lieutenant we knew in the Army Air Force -- no surprise. I was rather surprised to read further on that "we should get engaged, too, since you will soon be a 2nd lieutenant"! In my reply I ignored that suggestion and instead inquired why she hadn't congratulated me on my becoming a sergeant.
It wasn't mentioned again until both of us attended a 3-day all-classes Flemington High School reunion in Florida in 1997, 54 years afterwards. She was a divorcee and I a widower. Many FHS graduates retired to Florida. Someone started those reunions after publication of the Alumni Directory. This book lists each graduate, his or her last employer, current address, phone number, spouse's name and names of children.
Training included radar theory and operation. I disliked peering intently at a moving radius of light sweeping a dial revealing "blips." There was aircraft and warship recognition, Japan, U.S. Slides project an image on a screen in black and white. An instructor points out the different features and configurations. This goes on and on until you're quite unsure of anything. After a couple weeks, many identifications were readily and accurately made when a picture was flashed on the screen momentarily. There was simulated aerial gunnery utilizing a 3A2 trainer. There was probably more instruction and/or physical training like C.O.D.(close order drill), judo, etc., not even vaguely recalled at this point in time, it's just that this aspect is never omitted.
Returning about dusk from a short furlough we were directed to spend the night in a vacant Dallas hut. We slept on a mattress with another mattress as a cover. These mattresses are not heavy, or thick, but all there was for that night in particular. Any port in a storm, they say.
Soon we were taken to Edenton, NC and housed in old, crude, dilapidated CCC quarters in an area referred to as Peanutville. Here we had sheets and our blankets. Transportation to and from the main base was by cattlecar, open trailers with wooden seats, on a several-times-a-day basis -- don't miss it! There was a PX on the base. I doubt a movie was in operation at that time. It was at Edenton we were assigned to VMB-423, VMB-413 being organized first.
For some mysterious reason, recollections of this period are quite vague. I had my first flight in an airplane, a twin-engined Beechcraft. A pilot, with instructor, was practicing take-offs and landings. All of them were successful.
Residents of the area surrounding the base were getting frequent interference on their radios in their cars and homes from "Mike Baker" AKA Marine bomber, when tuned in to regular radio stations. It must have been irritating to say the least, like the same conversation all the time, all day long and into the night, as well.
Early one Sunday a few of us went on liberty in Edenton. We found it to be just a small town. We hadn't had breakfast on the base so we sought a restaurant. Asking what was for breakfast, the reply was, "Breakfast!" Great! After that breakfast, whatever it was, we discovered the only other activity thereabouts was young blacks wanting to shine our shoes. I reckon we returned to base early because I do not recollect lunch or dinner in that town.
A Mitchell exploded in flight one afternoon killing all on board. A detail of ground crewmen and aircrewmen were brought to the site where the main wreckage was found. We fanned out to scour the country-side picking up pieces of debris. I don't believe the cause of the tragedy was ever definitely determined. I never heard of a similar accident but then we never heard much of anything anyway,
Crews were formed. "BJ" (Joe Parisi) and I were assigned to a crew as turret and tail gunner respectively. Either the pilot, copilot, or both were assigned and reassigned more than once, leaving BJ & PW as the crew regulars. At that time the crew had no navigator/bombardier or radioman. By the time the squadron packed up all its gear and loaded it aboard railroad cars for shipment to California, the pilot problem had been solved to our satisfaction.
Good luck happened upon us. Our crew was selected to fly cross-country to El Centro, CA. First stop was at Barksdale Field, LA, a posh Army base. The area was flat and low and it rained intermittently. I recall gunners Green and Hallbauer being with us on liberty. Next stop was El Paso, TX. It was discovered an exhaust stack had come off the starboard engine. We overnighted there. The stack was replaced. A small group of us went into Mexico and had a pleasant evening, my first time ever in Mexico.
Arriving at El Centro, we were quartered in pyramid tents again. It was quite cold at night. A week later it didn't seem so cold anymore. Maybe it wasn't. A sandstorm lasted more than a day. Fine sand made its way into closed tents and into our sea bags, like snow does. There were more training flights. Long flights overland were boring and tiring. We flew a short distance in the Grand Canyon.
A small number of us went into Mexico on liberty from Calexico. To my ears, the musicians seemed to be playing the same tune wherever we went. Somehow, I returned to base safely, although alone, unable to recall how in the morning. Many Mexicans can speak English in Mexico. When they cross the border north, they can't. A few of them are all the way up here in Manasquan.
Since our crew consisted of two pilots and two gunners we borrowed a bombardier from another crew for a certain training flight. On this occasion we had gotten where we shouldn't have been, perceiving this too late. Poor communications resulted in the bombardier dropping a water-filled practice bomb. The bombardier may have been so concentrated on the bombsight he didn't hear the pilot's order not to drop. A couple civilians and a swabbie working on the raft target dove into the water when they saw the bomb-bay doors open. No one was injured--just a bit scared. The practice bombing incident resulted in the pilot getting court-martialed altho similar incidents in the past had gone unpunished. His attorney, VMB-423 intelligence officer Lt. David Rein, was confident he could win the case. It would take a little time. However, time was of the essence. Crew members testified separately, being present only when giving testimony. I like to think our pilot opted to keep his crew, remain in VMB-423, and miss promotion to lst Lt. The alternative, I suppose, was getting transferred to another PBJ squadron and maybe not getting penalized at all.
From somewhere in 423, one J. R. Baxter showed up one day to become our very own nav/bom. We didn't get a radioman until after arriving in Espiritu Santos, in the New Hebrides Group, when Jack Brun was liberated from the ground echelon. These two lads worked out just fine, outlasting BJ and me in the crew and the squadron. Gunners were the first to be relieved and returned to the states. I never ran across either of them again but they're still alive & kicking and there's a remote possibility we may get together in Pensacola.
There was an inactive volcano on Espiritu Santos. I recall Ben McGee diving and swimming in it. It was shaded and the water looked strange. I don't recall anyone else swimming there altho Ben was definitely enjoying the dip. He put on quite an aquatic display with commentary.
It's probable that Stirling is where the Aussies and/or New Zealanders made rings of aluminum inset with some kind of multi-colored stone or what is called a "cat eye". Both looked factory made. I don't know if anybody bought any -- they weren't cheap and they looked fragile.
One night on Green Island I decided to visit another movie on the island. No one would accompany me. I hitch-hiked, getting a ride in a lorrie with some Aussies and/or New Zealanders. They talked and laughed but I couldn't understand them. I was thankful to get back after the show without walking all the way. It had been a stupid thing to do. I believe the films made the circuit of the outfits on the island, our own movie couldn't have been any handier than it was. You learn by experience.
One of the gunners of another crew mentioned how that crew would leave the Rabaul area at "half time" of their patrol, and the whole crew would enjoy coffee and a snack of some sort. He was a Texan so you know it was true. Furthermore, they survived the war with nary a difficulty--it has to be a matter of not being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In Sydney I bought a couple Aussie wrist watch bands. The strap was in one piece, going behind the watch. If one of the posts, or strap ends failed, the watch would be held by the other end. This saved my watch once. The band had a molded leather cover for the watch face.
For some unremembered reason I bought a big pair of hand-operated hair clippers. I actually used them once on Green. Frank Light borrowed them on occasion, always returning them promptly with thanks.
Someone staying at the residence in Sydney figured he had been short- changed several times. I decided I would be watchful. On a tram where the conductor goes along the outside of the conveyance to collect fares, I didn't have the exact fare. He put my change into my open palm and was leaving for the next ride when I saw he had shorted me a thrupenny bit, smaller than a dime and worth less. I tapped him with my free hand and pointed to the change. He took his forefinger and moved the small pile of coins about. Voila! There it was, Yank.
When it came time to leave Sydney, I found the booze, books, and other stuff would not fit into the nice new suitcase bought for that purpose. I was lucky enuff to discover this when there was still time to buy a bigger bag. I bought a bigger bag at a shop that didn't sell luggage. He drove a hard bargain. I had to give my bag and money to boot for his old, beat-up satchel. It did the job. I still have it, store stuff in it in the attic. Moral: Don't wait till the last minute to pack.
It was wonderful returning to the states even tho it was aboard a crowded little aircraft carrier, the Long Island, which had no island, offering next to nothing in amenities for enlisted passengers. We arrived at Pearl Harbor on a sunny morning. The ship's captain wanted a quantity of ammo moved. He turned to the ranking Marine who was only too glad to comply with the wishes of his gracious host. That is how some of us who were in the wrong place at the wrong time were volunteered to perform this bit of exercise for the swabbies. 'Tweren't the work--'twere the principle of the thing. It's akin to a stage-coach passenger riding shotgun.
It was welcome news to hear we could have liberty in Honolulu. The problem for most of us was rounding up something resembling a uniform. Those who went ashore borrowed something from others. Some could not be bothered, stayed on the ship. MPs and SPs stopped government vehicles to provide free transportation into town, as well as back to the ship. A small group from 423 went into a fine hotel at the beach for lunch. Almost anything would be better than what the Long Island offered. I disremember what I ate but it was the first Chinese food of my young life. I distinctly remember a certain tail gunner tell the waiter, "I didn't order this!" It looked like vomit. It was taken away with an apology and promptly replaced. Aloha!
Pretty soon the ship docked in California and we were aboard the good ol' USA once again. After a few days at the Navy base we were on a train heading east to Cherry Point again, but not for long. Next were our thirty-day furloughs.
I found Mom and Sis doing well. Mom was working at a defense plant outside Trenton, Eastern Aircraft, making Grumman Avengers. Lorraine was in high school. We had no telephone at home -- got along quite well without it. We did some visiting of old family friends. Mainly, I sought out my favorite gal pal. While I could see her, it would be for only two or three times a week. Most guys were away in some part of the armed forces so I had no trouble filling in the gaps with three other gals I had known for years.
After the furlough, it was back to Cherry Point. Many 423 gunners were placed with dive bomber squadrons at outlying fields from Cherry Point. Somehow, someplace, I met a radio gunner from 423 whose acquaintance I had never made. It was S/Sgt Ted Rundall! I had returned from home with a late-model Nash Ambassador with overdrive. Ted credits me with his learning to drive. He was an apt pupil and, of course, I was a good DI (Driving Instructor). He mastered starting, shifting, and stopping in a few hours, the car still in good condition.
As luck would have it, I got assigned to another PBJ crew as tail gunner, the rest of the crew being green except for the pilot who was a captain and quite easy to get along with. I had to sell the car as soon as possible as we were slated for overseas in the near future.
Perhaps you recall that FDR died 4/12/45 at age 63 while at the little White House in Georgia. Here I am 80.5! Being president too long nay be hazardous to your health. Just about everybody felt a loss. We experienced gains on VE Day when Germany surrendered unconditionally a few weeks later. We experienced more gains on VJ Day when Japan surrendered unconditionally. "They"devised a point system to discharge vets as fairly as possible and as soon as possible. On 11/2/45 I was a civilian again. FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!
A few of us ruptured ducks engaged a serviceman outside the gate, can't recall what branch. He had a big, old black car, to take us to Rocky Mount, NC. On the way, the car had several blowouts, not flats, and couldn't continue. We made it to a town having a bus depot. A Trailways bus would be leaving in a few hours. We thought they were optimistic as at the moment the cylinder head was off, getting a valve job. It was ready by departure time and we got to destination without incident or accident.
I discovered a place selling cold beer in bottles. They had Camden Beer, a brand I never heard of, made in Camden, NJ. This was before a genius invented the six pack. I bought some, thought it was positively great. Maybe it was just the occasion that made it great. Anyhow, I was never able to find it anywhere else. T.S.!
My homeward journey is quite vague. I got home okay. I presume I took a train to Trenton, NJ, then a bus to a point outside of Trenton. From that point it was hitch-hiking. The next time I awoke, Mom made breakfast for her first son to return from the war. Be it ever so humble, or not humble, there's no place like home, especially after a war. Within a few months my Navy brother, Charles, four years my junior was home again, marrying soon thereafter. A few more months went by and our Army brother, Raymond, two years my junior, was home again. He was not only married, he had a son, Ray, Jr.
I didn't marry until 1947. My favorite girl friend married her favorite boy friend a few weeks after my last furlough. Actually, what she had done was marry a very good friend of mine I never met!! I got engaged to a lovely girl, one of the "other three" I knew from elementary school, only to get disengaged a couple months later, our ideas being so different. I missed out on a great honeymoon.
I met my wife at the .home of one of the other two gals from my last furlough. I believe we were meant for each other. We became parents of five stalwart sons: 1947 Edward Jay 6'1", 1948 Paul Douglas 5'9", then 1956 Russell Stuart 6'4" and 1959 Thomas Glenn 6'3", and finally 1965 Charles Raymond 6'6" on Marion's fortieth birthday. (It was agreed he would be named William Warren but my wife double-crossed me and named him after my two brothers. She had always wanted a girl to name Heather Marion.) They all got college educations. My wife suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for years. Both knees and both hips had been replaced. A knee was replaced a second time, a blood clot developed causing a heart attack on 7/14/96, the day before she was to come home from the Medical Center at Princeton.
There's the lawn I mow with an electric mower, edge with an electric edger and trim with an electric weed whacker. There're the leaves to get to the curb in the fall for the town to pick up and take away. I have an electric blower and a rake and neither way is it fun. Finally, there's snow on occasion hereabouts, you know. When the "Winter Wonderland" arrives on the scene, the walk must be shoveled. I no longer have to commute forty miles each way to work by car pool with people who are not my friends.
Shell Oil Company has been paying me for not working since 10/1/83. It's called a pension, earned while working 31 + years. Shell subsidizes our twice-a-year retiree dinners and helps with health insurance. Y'all buy Shell products now, y'hear.
I hope to have a small garden again: six each of tomatoes and cucumbers and cabbage. I really relish a vine-ripened Jersey tomato. Some tomatoes sold in stores look positively perfect and beautiful, others look so anemic. I want to eat them -- not look at them. Either is almost devoid of flavor. You should know. Grow your own.
Ye olde vet of World War II has been living
somewhat like a hermit six years already. I hardly ever go out after supper--you know what they say about that night air-- it's dark -- do it in the daylight. I have lived in this ol' house, in this summer resort town, since October 1960. The offspringers are scattered: one is in Connecticut, one is out west, and three are in northern NJ. I visit them several times a year and they visit me several times a year, as well as visiting each other. My branch of the White family has a reunion, or two, every year. My only great grandchild so far, a real Connecticut Yankee, turned three in March.
It's church, St. Mary's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and I am a lay reader. It's the club, meets weekly at 10:00 AM Thursdays, the Old Guard of the Greater Point Pleasant Area Chapter, for retired men, 246 members (there is a Lady Guard for the girls), and I am the recording secretary. Then, it's the house, the car, the TV, mail call, food, drink, sleep, and dreams, not necessarily in that order. It's THE GOLDEN YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Paul White, Octogenarian
Flying with the C.O.
by S/Sgt. Bill Woolman, radio-gunner.
I was asked to share my opinion of, and experiences with, Lt. Col. John L. Winston, the first commander of VMB 423. Since I was part of his crew, I guess that makes me an authority on every day activities.
When VMB 423 was commissioned in September 1943 at Cherry Point, N. C., we crew members were just picked at random to make flights with any crew that needed our expertise. ie: Tail gunner, turret gunner, radio-radar, bombagator, etc.
After we moved to Edenton in October, after a time, crew assignments were established and remained fairly permanent until relieved "SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC"
I wrote the story of how my assignment to Lt. Col. Winston's crew came about in my contribution to "Remembering VMB-423" and won't repeat it here.
After working with Lt. Col. Winston for some time, I realized he was a gentleman and a Marine flier. He never seemed to get upset with the crew members unless there was a good reason and that was very rare. I felt the 'Old Man' expected us to do in our jobs and to do them well, and he knew he didn't have to remind us.
On one occasion while on Green Island, he asked me to come over to his quarters. When I arrived, he invited me to sit down & we had an off the 'colonel's cuff ' talk. He was interested in what I was going to do after the war. At that point, I really didn't know - as was the case with most of us. I learned he had several high rise department stores in New York and a large dairy in New Jersey. He made me an offer at that point about coming to work either in a store or at the dairy. Both offers were open-ended until we got back to the states. I later thanked him and told him it was too far from family.
After we had been on Green for a while, I approached him to get flight training. He had the adjutant give me the application and physical forms and when I turned them in, he checked my file and called me to his office. He said he had decided that he didn't want to lose me so instead of flight training I was offered a commission as a communications officer. I was wanting to fly so much that I turned it down. We flew about 28 combat missions together before he was transferred, on 1 July 1944, to 1st MAW HQ. When he was transferred, he asked me if I would consider going with him. I declined as I felt I would be going home before he would. As it turned out, he got to Cherry Point about a month after I did. Guess I missed some experiences, but never regretted my decision.
I was sorry to see him leave but my crew volunteered to become part of John Kline and Howard Armstrong's crew. We had a good crew and I finished my 57th mission with this group
Semper Fi, fellows! Bill
At our reunions someone is always telling about something that happened "way back then," and each story inspires another from someone else. If only all those bull-sessions could have been tape-recorded, what a book they would make! Unfortunately, those conversations are not recorded. All we have is photographs of the guys yakking, and some of those photographs are included in the following pages. The one exception to the lack of written recollections occurred at the 2001 reunion, held at Branson, MO. General Norman Anderson and his charming and lovely wife, Irene, were feted by the men of VMB-423 and the rest of the assemblage. This event is especially appropriate for inclusion in a book of memories because quite a few squadron members "remembered" their commanding officer, and wrote down those memories, which were read aloud at the tribute, and are repeated here. Unfortunately, the jokes that accompanied those readings were not recorded and so cannot be included. (That is just one more reason why it "pays" to attend reunions!)
Ned Wernick "emceed" this tribute and the following biography and recollections were presented by Ted Rundall, Lee Bender, Chuck Gardner, Elvin Krumsee, Al Ueckert and Benson Jones.
A Biographical Sketch of Major General Norman J. Anderson
All four of Norm's grandparents emigrated to America from Norway. Norm's father, Anton Oliver Anderson, was raised on his parent's farm in Amherst, Wisconsin. He graduated from high school at the turn of the century and promptly joined the Navy. He was honorably discharged in 1904 as a Chief Electrician's Mate. He then went back to school and studied electrical engineering and built a life-long career in that field. He married an Amherst girl, Mabel Foxen, who had been a music teacher. Mabel gave birth to two sons, Thomas Foxen Anderson in 1911 and Norman Jacob Anderson in 1913. Both boys had the same birthday, February 7. The family moved several times to different parts of the country in pursuit of the father's business interests and they finally settled in Glendale, California
Norm's older brother achieved fame within the scientific world for his pioneering work with what was then a new instrument -- the electron microscope. He was considered several times for Nobel awards ... but somehow they never quite came about.
After graduating from Glendale High School, Norm enrolled at UCLA and while there he took four years of ROTC training. He majored in history but he says his favorite subject was definitely ROTC.
Norm, along with five close friends were accepted as Cadets, all five were sent to NAS Pensacola for
flight training, and about year later, all five received
their Wings of Gold and their commissions as 2nd Lieutenants.
When war was declared, Norm's outfit, the 1st MAW, was ordered to the west coast and then overseas. Norm served with MAG-25, flying R4Ds from New Caledonia to the Solomons. In this assignment, Norm helped to establish something new - an air transport service to deliver urgently needed materials to the beleaguered Marines on Guadalcanal. The service became known by its acronym SCAT (from South Pacific Combat Air Transport) On one of his trips to Guadalcanal, Norm was surprised as well as pleased to see that among his passengers was his old friend from college and from flight training, Bill Gise. Bill was now a major and CO of a just-commissioned squadron of Corsairs, and they were moving up to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. During the flight, Norm and Bill had the opportunity to catch up on old times. Norm learned that Bill and his squadron were scheduled to fly their first combat mission the very next day. The R4D was unloaded at Henderson Field and then reloaded for the return trip, and Norm flew the plane back to New Caledonia. The next day, Bill Gise took off on that first mission, -- but he never returned. A flyer from his squadron saw what happened but could do nothing about it. A Japanese Zero coming from out of the blinding sun attacked Bill, and Bill never had a chance.
In September, 1943, Major Anderson came to VMB-423,, as our Executive Officer. When Col. Winston was transferred to Group HQ on Emirau, in July, 1944, Norm became our CO. We are all familiar with the remainder of that tour of duty.
Norm again returned to the U.S. and again resumed various executive and command positions. During this period he attended the National War College. Shortly thereafter, his personal life changed, quite dramatically. In a letter, Norm wrote the following:
"Irene Fernandez and I were married in June, 1954. We had met about a year earlier when I completed my War College exposure. She had been employed by the CIA. (In a capacity never revealed). Our first boy, whom we named Norman Foxen Anderson, arrived on the 12th of January 1956 - and the second, Kirk Christian Anderson, on December7, 1957. Their faithful mother took wonderful care of them during my deployments, to Japan in 1959-60 and to Vietnam in 1967-68, but I must also give much credit to her father and mother in Vermont where she spent the summers. Irene also received a lot of support from her two sisters in Washington.
Norman Foxen Anderson, after receiving his degree from the University of Virginia, joined the Peace Corps serving five years in Paraguay. After that he attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. His work now is devoted to liaison between certain U. S. industries and the countries of South America, particularly Brazil. He and his Paraguayan bundle of energy have presented us with a grandson, Norman Gabriel now fifteen years old and a granddaughter, Janina, now twelve.
Kirk Christian Anderson's career has followed an academic route, specializing in the geomorphology of the Southwestern United States with emphasis on the native American civilizations of the Colorado Plateau. He and his lovely wife, who is half Irish and half Navajo, are faculty members at the University of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. They have provided Irene and me with two stalwart grandsons, Noah age seven and Ethan, two.
Irene and I make it a point to spend holidays and other special occasions with these two hospitable families several times during the year. We'll probably be in Flagstaff this Christmas. You may be sure we are very proud of the lot."
Norm retired from the Corps in 1972 but he didn't stop working. In that year he accepted the position of Executive Director of the Douglas MacArthur Memorial Foundation in Norfolk, VA. He held that position for ten years.
During the latter part of his Marine Corps career and thereafter, Norm wrote a good many articles and book reviews for the Marine Corps Gazette that give us a peek at the intellectual capabilities of the man we called our CO. They revealed the wealth of experience he had acquired during his career and his mastery of the tactics of aerial warfare. Some, such as his review of Gregory Boyington's biography, Baa Baa Black Sheep" revealed his understanding of human nature as well. He wrote a really wonderful article about the organization called SCAT mentioned earlier. These articles were written with impressive and even entertaining style.
If you consider only the bare facts of Norman Anderson's career, you might conclude that his success was merely a matter of being the right man - in the right place - at the right time. But there is more to it than that. Norm flew 107 missions while with VMB-423 and 67 missions in Korea and 2 in Vietnam. He also flew unarmed transport planes through enemy territory to bring supplies into Guadalcanal. It goes without saying that that takes bravery. But there is a special dimension to this bravery. While in Korea, Norm was 37 years old. He was not an impetuous youth. By that time, he had seen many comrades die and he knew full well that he himself was not immune to sudden death. But he flew those missions anyway. Norm would be the first to tell us that there were many combat pilots who did the same that he did, and more. So, we can add modesty to his other attributes
Here is another aspect of the man. In Korea, he was simultaneously Deputy Commander of his aircraft group, and flight coordinator for supporting the Marine ground troops - yet he flew every possible combat mission besides. (Does this sounds a little like a movie role for John Wayne?) I have come to realize that whatever his assignment was, Norm not only challenged himself to do an excellent job but he continually prepared himself for even greater responsibilities. I believe that this striving for excellence was Norm's way of fulfilling the obligation and the sense of duty he felt to the Marine Corps and to his country and was an expression of his loyalty to both.
In addition to all of the qualities previously mentioned, Norm has a nice sense of humor and a keen wit. At last year's reunion, at Myrtle Beach, Norm asked me to write an account of that reunion for the Marine Corps Aviation Association's newsletter. I was a little surprised and asked him, in all sincerity, "Do you want me to include everything we did here? He replied, with a twinkle in his eye, "Oh, No - - only the laudable things."
I conclude by giving thanks from all of us to Major General Norman Anderson for having been
our leader, and our teacher, and, as Ken Meyer recently put it, for having been our shepherd.
Aug, 18, 1944 was scheduled for a nine-plane day raid, target Matupi Island. Col. Anderson flew the lead and I happened to be the Nav.Bomb. I know I wanted to do the best possible. I don't know how many times I bombed Matupi on the way. I would sight on a white-cap, make a dry run; sight on a white-cap, make a dry run; sight on a white-cap etc. etc. etc. When we were coming on target all I had to do was sight, engage, open bomb-bays and drop. With the Col. giving me the opportunity, no way could I miss... The island was engulfed in flames as we flew away. Howard Bauer "Ski" (Navigator/bombardier)
When I was first informed that a tribute to Gen Anderson was planned for this evening, my first thought was
that it was long overdue . I knew I would be very remiss if I didn't share one or two thoughts about serving
under Gen. Anderson.
Most of my contact with the general was through our engineering officer Gunner Jim Hoover. Our crew chiefs and crews had more direct contact with Gen, Anderson when he would fly their plane on a mission. Sgt. Major Woods probably had the closest association with Gen. Anderson than any other enlisted person in the ground echelon.
There is one particular incident I would like to share with you to give you an idea what kind of CO and caring person he was. On the evening before we were to depart from Green Island for our return to the states, Gen. Anderson came down to the flight line, what was left of it, and personally said good-bye to me and thanked me for the good job our ground crew performed while on Green Island. I later found out that before he came down to the flight line he came up to our tent area looking for me.
Sir, it has been a privilege knowing you and being able to serve with and under you. To me you will always be Col. Anderson, our C.O. Lee Bender (Line Chief)
"The Old Men"...During the squadron's tourism in the South Pacific there were young men and old men....I'd heard that Major Norman Anderson's age could have been as high as thirty and Colonel John Winston was even older than that.....On our first briefing for a low-level mission the Officer of Intelligence detailed what it would be like: squadron of planes approaching target area, flying low over the ocean to try to avoid radar, rising over some designated ridge or mountain range and then powering full throttle toward the tree-tops (hopefully slightly above), skip-bombs detonating behind us (hopefully), all guns explosively strafing the enemy's position (hopefully)..... Pilots and crews left the briefing room and wandered toward the bombers, pilots in the lead, gunners following. I felt a little excitement tickling my veins as I remembered the description of what we could expect. And as my eyes touched a few of the pilots leading us into battle, I thought, Boy this could get really thrilling. I hope those old men don't have heart attacks today. .... Then I considered what somebody had mentioned about Major Anderson and my mind sputtered, Jesus, they shouldn't send him up there at his age! It just isn't right! ... Ah, the maturity of the nineteen-year-old. Sam Carlson (Radio-gunner)
.........Just as we were leaving the target, a loud, hammering sound came from underneath the aircraft. Then, the PBJ entered a steep climb as if we were entering a loop! We rose from 100 feet to 1000 feet in what seemed like a few seconds. Both Deke and I pushed our yokes forward with all the muscle we could muster..............I rolled the elevator trim wheel forward but nothing happened. The small trim cable came loose in my hand. It had been severed. I glanced back to the nav compartment and saw a gaping hole in the starboard bulkhead near all the large cables going aft that control the rudders and elevators. I also noticed a pink liquid on the floor of the compartment ... On the way back to Green, having about an hour to think about them, we reviewed the emergency procedures..........About ten minutes out , we called the tower at Green and declared our emergency. They gave us a straight-in approach and we pumped the landing gear and nose wheel down. It was necessary for me to slow the airplane down to just above stalling speed so that Mel could crank the flaps down. We breathed a sigh of relief when we saw that the main gear tires were OK............I yanked the emergency air brake lever. Both wheels locked, and the coral runway tore off a lot of rubber from the bottoms of the tires. During the de-briefing, the Major chewed my butt for leaving the formation. I explained I had nothing to do with it. The good Lord did it! Colonel Anderson told me to go take a shower and we would talk later. Bless him. Tom Evans (Pilot)
We had good pilots in VMB-423, but had only one that could taxi in via radar at night.....from the end of the runway to the planes' parking revetment. I figure he had to do it by radar because he couldn't see out of the cockpit. When he got in the pilot's seat, you could barely see him from the side of the plane, much less from the front. One rainy night while our ground crew was waiting for Norm and his crew to return from a mission, we discussed as to which one would guide him in to park. I told them to let me have the lights, that I would do it and with precision that the major would be proud of. The plane arrived on schedule, the jeep and the driver were at the end of the runway ready to escort the plane to the revetment. When they reached the proper place for the plane to enter the revetment, I held up both lights and signaled for a left turn, which the major did quite nicely, on to the back of the revetment, while I handled the signals, where he did the l80-degree turn and parked perfectly. Of course, I was proud of the accomplishment. The plane's crew disembarked, and as the major was signing the flight sheet and making notations on what part of the plane might need some special attention...he said, "You must have been a baton twirler before joining this outfit." Let every bit of the air out of my tires, for I knew what he meant! I had both of those lights up in the air, going around in circles, side to side, up and down...you name it. I'm sure the other pilots here tonight can relate to this also. Well, Norm being the man with the fuzzy balls at the time (meaning, he was the head honcho) that he had the prerogative to park anywhere and anyway that he wanted to. Norm...you may be a bit short in stature, but you did then and still do...stand 10 feet tall with your troops. Chuck Gardner (Mechanic)
My recollection is that we had no fighters based at our field at Edenton....... But for some reason a few of the pilots had started taking off in echelon formation. ........ One day I was assigned to be Col Anderson's wingman. When he started rolling I suddenly decided to take off at the same time. Why, I do not know. Just attribute it to inexperience and being about 22-23 years old. (That sounds like the same thing). We were airborne shortly before Col. Anderson. As he lifted off I distinctly recall his glancing over his left shoulder and seeing us. We flew the assigned flight and returned to base. Then the typical leadership quality emerged. Col. Anderson spoke to me when I was alone. He said it was okay to take off at the same time, but to let him know in the future so he wouldn't drift into me. Of course he was right. Many executive officers would have chewed me out...
Another thing: Col. Anderson had a real feel for the abilities and expertise of those in his command. As you recall there was an NCO club and an officers' club. He appointed me as our bartender. I felt sure it was not because of any skills or abilities I might have as a bartender, but because he knew I would be sober at the end of the evening! Bill Hopper (Pilot)
.......If my memory is correct, on a medium altitude bombing mission, there would be about 24 planes in formation of threes all following Col. Anderson. When his bombardier opened the bomb-bay doors, we all followed suit and let our bombs go when he released his in the lead plane. Col. Anderson could put the entire squadron in a steep bank to avoid the flak that was sure to follow, immediately after the bombs were dropped. ...his flying was so SMOOTH..... You didn't even realize you were in a steep bank.........My recollection of General Anderson was that he was not too tall, perhaps 5'8" in stature, but a real man who got things done by showing others how to do it. I have nothing but fond memories of General Anderson and I shall never forget what a fantastic pilot, and leader, he was - - - and more than likely still is. Johnny Johnston (Pilot)
We were on a medium altitude bombing mission to an airfield near Rabaul. Over the target ... In the radio operator's position, I felt a mild jolt, as if something had exploded nearby. Then, within seconds, a harder jolt, and I heard hundreds of metal fragments flying and spraying against the inside of the cabin. I turned and looked behind me and saw a big hole in the fuselage, just behind the crawl space, and some cables torn loose and hanging. It didn't look to me as if we could stay up. Lt. Friedman asked me to assess the damage. I told him what I saw, and I was pretty scared, but he sounded calm. Then he asked me how Huie (turret gunner) and Phillips (tail gunner) were. I looked up at Huie -- he was bleeding pretty heavily from his face, and was pretty close to panic, but he took himself out of the turret and walked over to me, and he seemed at least physically OK. Not so, Willie Phillips. I went back into the tail, and pulled on his motionless legs, and saw that he was dead. The impact of losing Willie, seeing Huie bleeding, seeing how close the hole was to me and wondering how it had missed me, plus the veering and erratic flight pattern of the wounded plane -- well, I think I was in some kind of shock. Every minute of the flight it seemed that we couldn't possibly stay up. I still don't know how we did. When we landed, Col. Anderson was the first to greet me. Medics took charge of Huie, and removed Phillips' remains, but Col. Anderson saw my state of mind.... Somehow he knew I needed something, and that this was an appropriate time for it... he put his arm on my shoulder, and said something comforting ... I can't at this time recall his exact words, but they were very reassuring. I immediately felt a sense of relief, as if I was safe again. He ordered me a vial of brandy, and I slept for I don't know how many hours.... I bet I have relived that hour before we landed a hundred times. I always get scared. And then, I see Col. Anderson's wise, direct, profoundly insightful eyes -- with that glint of humanity and gentleness -- and I hear his comforting voice ... Bob Kritz (Radio-gunner)
One evening, our Commanding Officer stopped in to see how everything was going. During our conversation, he asked me what my opinion was of our former Engineering Officer, Warrant Officer James Hoover....... I looked up at him and said: "Sir, it is not proper for an officer to ask an enlisted man his opinion of another officer, or for an enlisted man to voice his opinion" After that, he put his hand on my shoulder, laughed, then said: "You're right", and left. General, I never forgot that evening. There have been three men that have left a lasting impression on my life. One was my father, second was you General Anderson, and the third was the late Lieutenant Laverne Lallathin. I must mention him, as throughout the time I knew him, I was only a PFC, and then a Corporal, he treated me as an equal with respect and told me that he was no better than me. These three men stood out throughout my life. Elvin Krumsee (Mechanic)
......General Norman Anderson had a remarkable career in the U S MARINE CORPS and I am so proud to have served under him, and he was one my heros. He looked out for all of us and had to make many decisions that affected our lives. He was an excellent pilot and when he led an attack it was with great precision and attention to detail--he got the job done and he expected no less from those under him . ... Being a Marine is one of the things that I am most proud of and I have many fond memories of those years.
Ray Martin (Pilot)
This letter is from then Lt. Ken Meyer, whose plane was shot down during a low level bombing mission in October, 1944. There were seven Marines aboard, the regular crew of 6 plus a photographer. Ken Meyer managed to ditch the plane offshore but the crew found themselves floating withing range of enemy guns for almost 12 hours before being picked up by a Navy PT Boat. Ken's letter begins with evidence that it was not luck that saved him and his crew, but a higher power. He then continues ".....Along with these fortunate experiences we also had a Good Shepherd who stayed on station to handle the communications problems between the rescue plane and the PT boat which didn't have comparable radios. I now look upon General Anderson as in the Bible, the parable of the lost sheep, where the good shepherd left his ninety and nine - and went in search for the lost sheep. He must have been low on fuel circling above the storm and not leaving until we were aboard the PT boat. I don't know General Anderson's faith but l'm sure he thanked GOD that night after we were rescued. ......This letter is written to honor General Anderson. This is heart-felt, I only wish my crew could be here to pay him homage." Kenneth Meyer (Pilot)
Major General Anderson has always been a gentleman and a scholar in the best sense in my estimation. I experienced the effects of that trait on the flight line at Green Island....As we returned from a day bombing mission, my copilot was flying and took the plane in for landing..... he flew it into the ground and it must have bounced fifty feet in the air. At that point, I took over and landed it. As we came up to the line with a tire almost flat, Colonel Anderson came by in his jeep and said, "What the hell happened to you, Milone?" I was relieved that he didn't stick around for an answer ..... the plane was damaged beyond repair. ..... The General never said another word to me about that incident, which I appreciated to no end. He didn't waste time, nor did he embarrass his men. I loved the man!
Charles Milone (Pilot)
A Happening on Green....One afternoon I was returning from the flight line after cleaning my gun and checking its head space when I saw a jeep heading in my direction. Being a young opportunist I stuck out my hand to thumb a ride. The jeep stopped. The driver, Colonel Anderson, told me to get in. Seeing it was the boss, I damn near died since I was attired in my usual gun cleaning garb, skivvy shorts and boon dockers (not quite the uniform of the day.) The Colonel looked at me in disdain but took me up to our billeting area anyhow. There he dislodged me in my petrified state. I knew he was p-----. So, after I got out of the jeep, I had many a sleepless night wondering if I was going to be called before a firing squad or face some other kind of horrendous punishment. Neither happened. For this I have been always most grateful.
George Phillips (Tail gunner)
.......The incident I am going to relate happened while we were at Green Island. .... Major Andy received an emergency call from Australia that his presence was immediately requested. It was just at this time that we received our first replacement pilots and planes, and Major Andy decided he would take one of the new models and he wanted a first pilot ...... to go along as Copilot.....One of the replacement pilots was chosen. It was a really stormy night and they had about six or seven hours of flying before they got to Sydney, with one fuel stop on the way. When they returned we asked the acting co-pilot about the trip. He said the one surprising thing... was, as they were climbing out of Green Island in the heavy rain ... passing through about 500 feet, ...Major Andy came on the intercom and asked him where the air speed indicator in that model was! That was just one of the many times when his experience came through. Major Andy went another step higher in our eyes after that disclosure. There is no question that as an Officer, as a Marine and as a Man we in VMB-423 lucked out when we got Major Andy....... a gentleman that it was an Honor to have known and been associated with. Paul B. Robison (Pilot)
I always admired Major General Anderson ("the Colonel").....,We always considered him "one of us." His character was impeccable. He was very kind and humble as well, and the reunion at Quantico confirmed this when he immediately recognized me and shook my hand while I was at the registration desk. Incidentally, this was my first reunion and, therefore, the first time we had met in 54 years.... I am very proud to have served under him as my Commanding officer and thank him for being a "super" model Marine for all of us. Semper Fi Lloyd W. Rogers (Tail gunner)
Norman J. Anderson ..... helped shape my life, when shaping it needed .... General Anderson stood straight and tall, with a crew cut, uniforms fitting beautifully and immaculate. The very "ideal" that most of us saw in Marines before we joined this great Corps. ... My job in VMB-423 ... never let me have access to this figure that loomed so high above us. Perhaps this was "good", since not being called before him meant that I was doing my job.... General Anderson did come to my rescue many years later (1997 or 1998) when, as a final effort to get my "Commendation Letter" with Ribbon entered into my service record, I finally wrote to General Anderson asking him for his assistance... he wrote a letter on my behalf to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, requesting that this award be acknowledged and included in my record...I salute General Anderson for his lifetime commitment to his God, his family, and his men. Robert Vernon (Metalsmith)
On a trip to Manus from Green Island, as Lt. Col Anderson's co-pilot, I was asked to make some PX acquisitions..... While the Col. was at his meeting, I bought the supplies; candy, cigarettes, 100 cases of Coke, and 100 cases of beer.... There was plenty of room for the load, and the weight and balance checked out O.K., albeit only a little less than the recommended maximum. Now, no one ever called Col Andy "Captain Caution", but.... we would be flying about 400 miles over water to Green and in the dark. The Col. said to me, "I suggest you get some of that weight out, just in case we should lose an engine on the way back to Green". Well, we off-loaded the Coke, and left it in the Operations lobby (if we'd left the beer there, we would have to post an armed guard with it.)... someone had to make a trip the next day to pick up the most expensive Coca- Cola drunk in SoPac in WWII. ...Another tale... is of one my most embarrassing moments. As a very recent replacement pilot in VMB-423 and recently assigned as Col. Andy's co-pilot we were en route to Bougainville on a MAB mission. When we reached our cruising altitude, Col. Andy turned the flight over to me. We were tooling along at about 13,000 feet when a cloud appeared right on our flight path. We were leading a flight of 9 PBJ's and we had flown through clouds in formation before, so I just held the heading that took us right into a cloud that was much denser and much thicker than I had guessed it to be. When we came out on the other side we looked more like an Air Force than a Marine flight. Nine PBJs all headed in the same direction, but all over the sky! Andy knew I had learned from my mistake and never reprimanded me, but I took a good ribbing from my fellow pilots at the post-mission debriefing for not making a short detour around that cloud. Al Ueckert (Pilot)
A commander hates to lose one of the members of his organization due to an accident in training. One prepares them to fight the ultimate battle in combat and if the gods choose to take their lives such is his will. However one is never prepared to see members of their unit lose their lives training to fight. Heavy are the burdens of a Commanding Officer. Such was the case of Lt. Laverne A. Lallathin who with his crew on April 22, 1944 crashed into a mountain on the island of Espiritu Santo while on a night training mission. All 7 men on board were lost.... Proudly sitting on the flight line of the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola is PBJ-1, 35087 the aircraft serial number they were flying that unfortunate night. The museum chose to obtain and restore a similar aircraft, proudly dedicating that aircraft and serial number to honor all those who have made the supreme sacrifice. Ned Wernick (Turret gunner)
To: General Norman Anderson
Unlike a well-known comedian who don't get no respect, you do - - - - and you got it the old-fashioned way - - - - you earned it - - - - and you continue to earn it. ....Familial duties prevent me from being present today but I wish I were present. ....Semper Fi, Paul White, Octogenarian (and Tail gunner)
I am very lucky having seen a lot of Norm during the early days of the squadron - Cherry Point, Edenton and El Centro - There couldn't be a nicer guy! Humorous, thoughtful and strong code of ethics -I think back on those days with happy memories, especially knowing Norm..... Have a round on me!
Anne Winston (Widow of the late Lt. Col. John Winston, former C.O. of VMB-423)
In case you wondered
Several of our members kept a record of the when and where of past reunions. The first to answer our query was Vito Imbasciani. His records show:
No. City/State Date Host
1 Phila. PA 1969 Ernest Hughes
2 Arlington, VA July 7-9 1972 John Carres
3 Niagara Falls, NY July 11-13 1975 Anthony LaBarbera & Lee Bender
4 Milwaukee, WI. July 7-9 1978 Anthony Wojnar & Walter Hillmer
5 Hollywood, FL July 10-12 1981 Vito Volpe
6 Hershey, Pa. July 8-10 1983 Robert Nicolodi
7 Phila. Pa. Oct. 3-6 1985 Dunn brothers
8 Pensacola, FL Oct. 1-3 1987 Ned Wernick&P. Smith
9 Charleston, SC Sep. 13-16 1990 Mike Bowler
10 Milwaukee, WI Sep. 10-14 1992 Anthony Wojnar & Walter Hillmer
11 Jacksonville, FL Oct. 6-9 1994 Ernest Hughes & Rudy Inman
12 Pensacola, FL Oct. 17-19 1996 Ned&Sue Wernick
13 Quantico, Va Oct. 8-11 1998 Ned&Sue Wernick
14 Myrtle Beach, SC Oct. 11-14 2000 Ned&Sue Wernick
15 Branson, MO Oct. 11 - 14 2001 Bill Woolman
16 Pensacola, FL Oct 16 - 20 2002 Ned & Sue Wernick
And, lest we forget We owe 3 cheers, and a lot more, to the folks who have hosted our reunions.
Hip, Hip, Hooray!
Hip, Hip, Hooray!
Hip, Hip, Hooray!
*We close this book with
A few facts - a little history - and some references.
Losses Among PBJ Squadrons:
The Marines lost 45 PBJs and 173 officers and men, as follows:
Squadron A/C Lost A/C Lost Officers Men
VMB-413 2 5 13 19
VMB-423 7 3 12 23
VMB-433 1 2 4 6
VMB-443 2 2 6 9
VMB-611 2 6 11 23
VMB-612 4 7 14 25
VMB-613 1 1 2 6
*History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II by Robert Sherrod
Presidio Press, San Rafael, California
The Marine Corps had fifteen PBJ squadrons on the drawing board, but only seven made it
into combat. The eighth, VMB-614, made it as far as Midway Island but the war was over by
VMB-413: ("The Flying Nightmares") always a month ahead of us, flew combat missions from Stirling Island in the Treasury Group, beginning in mid-March, 1944. In May, the flight crews were sent to the New Hebrides for a rest period and were relieved at Stirling by VMB-423. In June VMB-413 moved to Munda, on New Georgia, to begin their second tour of operations. In October, 1944, 413 arrived on Emirau and joined 433 and 443 as a part of MAG 61.
VMB-423: ("Seahorse Marines") was based mainly on Green Island but flew initially from Stirling (1st combat mission flown in May, 1944) and later transferred to Emirau, joining MAG61 after having been part of MAG 14 and later MAG 31 while on Green Island. Squadron arrived in the Philippines just as the war ended.
VMB-433: Arrived on Green Island in July, 1944 and flew combat missions with VMB-423 through August, when it transferred to MAG 61 on Emirau, from which base it continued flying its assigned combat misssions.
VMB-443: Flight crews began arriving on Emirau in July, 1944, becoming a part of MAG 61. The squadron began flying combat missions in August. Squadron arrived in the Philippines in August, 1945, just as the war ended.
VMB-611: Joined MAG-61 at Emirau and flew its first combat missions from that base in November 1944. Their PBJs had been equipped at Ewa with under-wing HVAR (rocket) launchers and LORAN equipment. In March, VMB-611 transferred from MAG-61 to MAG 32 MAGZAM (Marine Air Group Zamboanga). Awarded Navy Unit Citation.
VMB-612: ("Cram's Rams") Flew from Ewa to Eniwetok in the Marshalls, and thence to Saipan, arriving in October, 1944 and entering combat in November. In April, 1945, the squadron moved on to Iwo Jima, where some of its missions included targets on the Japanese mainland. This was the first and only PBJ squadron to employ the Tiny Tim rocket (described as "a 500-lb bomb with a motor"). Awarded Navy Unit Citation.
VMB-613: Moved from Cherry Point to Boca Chica for training, then back to Cherry Point, then on to Newport, Arkansas and Miramar, California. Air and ground echelons finally joined up on Kwajalein, by then in U.S. hands, on 23 December, 1944. From "Kwaj," they attacked Japanese strongholds on Ponape in the Carolines as well as ocean shipping. Later, this squadron was selected to test the 75- mm cannon fitted to the PBJ-1 H.
VMB-614: Flight echelon departed Alameda 25Jul45 and arrived Ewa 1Aug45. Ground and flight echelons arrived Midway Island in late August 1945.
The "saga" of the Zoella Lykes, a freighter transporting the ground echelon and part of the flight echelon of VMB-611 across the Pacific? That ship's "rogue skipper" meandered around the Pacific Ocean for five months before the men were reunited with their squadron.
...a tail gunner survived a PBJ crash that killed three crew members spent 42 days in the jungles of Mindanao fighting his way back to the American lines.
... a blunder during the joining of two PBJ squadrons into one formation caused two PBJs to collide, killing all but one of the crewmen aboard the two PBJs. .
... A PBJ was shot down by an F4U.
... A PBJ attacked a Navy PT boat.
... the tenacity and zeal of the popular C.O. of VMB-611, Lt. Col. George Sarles, who was killed in a low-level bombing and strafing run on Mindanao.
The stories described above, and other good WWII history, are available in several books about Marine Corps aviation. Some are readily available in bookstores, others have to be hunted down in used book stores or on the world wide web.
Leatherneck Bombers by Alan C. Carey Schiffer Publishing Ltd. 4880 Lower Valley Rd. Atglen, PA 19310. 2002
(108 pages, soft cover) Available at bookstores, from Amazon.com, or from the publisher.
Marine Mitchells by Jerry Scutts Phalanx Publishing Co. Ltd 1993
(This 48-page soft-cover book is out of print but occasionally available at used bookstores. The Internet is a good source).
The two books listed above are devoted exclusively to the PBJ squadrons. They outline the main events in the history of each squadron and are also filled with personal stories of heroism, grief, humor and luck (both kinds).
Other books of interest are:
History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II by Robert Sherrod
Combat Forces Press 1952. This 494-page hard cover book is out of print but can be found in used bookstores. The Internet is a good source. (The book's rising price hints that it is becoming a collector's item) This book delivers the most complete coverage of its subject, and its subject is much broader than the others. The other three, while shorter, concentrate on either Rabaul (Sakaida) or the PBJ squadrons (Carey and Scutts).
The Siege of Rabaul by Henry Sakaida - Phalanx Publishing Co. Ltd. 1996
(This 48-page soft-cover book is available from Amazon.com and other book stores)
From the Halls of Montezuma
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We will fight our country's battles
In the air, on land and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
of United States Marine.
Our flag's unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in ev'ry clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job--
The United States Marines.
Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve
In many a strife we've fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.