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VP-91 Up-Floats

VP91 Up-Float's

Contributed by George B. Winter pbycat@bellsouth.net

October 15th, 1942

"I joined VP-91 on 6 AUG 1942 at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and flew with Snyd...by Bill Pugh"

"I joined VP-91 on 6 AUG 1942 at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and flew with Snyder's crew in 91-P-ll from K.B.till about 5 SEP. At that time the squadron was ordered to the South Pacific. We flew as singles by the way of Palmyra, Canton, Suva, and Noumea. We were able to stay at Noumea (which was to have been our home base) only long enough to gas up, then on up North to Espirito Santos (code name BUTTONS) arriving there 11 SEP because of another jap foray at Guadalcanal. Still with Snyder's crew we patrolled out of BUTTONS till 11 OCT. With no sightings, five of our planes were deployed further north to Vanikoro, to patrol on their (jap) task force again headed for Guadalcanal."

"The first two of these four days were uneventful, but the third day was cloudy and at about the end of our 700 mile leg we ran into a zero float plane who made a firing pass at us (missed) and we immediately dropped our 500 pound combination surface/depth charges(four of them) and lost him in a cloud bank. Shortly there after we ran into their whole task force, about 15 in all, battleships, heavy and light cruisers, and destroyers, but no carriers. We stayed out of range of their anti-aircraft fire and after getting off our radio reports, we headed back to our advance base. Our tender at Vanikoro, was an old WW1 Tincan, USS Ballard converted for advance base use. Soon after leaving that task force our radioman picked up the message from Butler's plane saying they were being hit by carrier zeros. (Our plane was the only one to pick their message). They were never seen or heard from again."

"The fourth and last day as we neared the outer point of our first leg (approx. 1100) and flying about 6000 ft. We ran up one lone jap carrier. By the time we got off our radio reports, two zeros were coming up to us from the rear. On their first pass at us they sparked off one of our two tanks (starboard). We carried 1760 gallons and with their diving passes at us first from the rear then from the front, by the time we got down to the water the after part of the starboard wing (fabric) was burnt off out to the wing tip float."

"I was in the nose compartment on the 30 caliber machine gun (which had jammed) and expected the pilots to make an open sea crash landing and we would then get into the two life rafts but without warning we plowed right into the water nose first and the next thing I knew, I was underwater and free of the plane and instinctively trying to get to the top. I think the impact broke open the forward hull and on the way down the in rush of the water carried me out the top of the open gun hatch."

"I sustained a compound fracture of my right leg, both bones, and a dislocated right shoulder and some abrasions. The wing and swells had taken the flames away from me and I first grabbed a hold of one of the radioman's sea bag that was conveniently floating near by. After it started sinking I spotted the starboard wing-tip float off at a distance and made for it. The vee strut was still attached and after awhile I noticed a pby approaching from a distance. It turned out to be one of our planes from the advance base. (They had been about 70 miles to our rear picking up some of our radio reports and seeing us trailing smoke) and came up to see what was gong on."

"Approaching me at about 200 feet off the water they first tossed the life raft to me and it appeared to get caught in the slipstream and hit the water way off at a distance. Circling around again they tossed the second one out but it was as far away as the first raft, so they came around and made an open sea landing and picked me up. I was the only one to have made it to the top of the water and the rest of the crew went down with the plane, they were probably knocked unconscious when the plane hit the water. I'll never know why I wasn't."

"We arrived back at our rear base and was hoisted aboard the sea-plane tender curtiss. I was told at that time that our third plane had been lost also and that I was the sole survivor of all three planes. I was treated for my injuries and about a week later the hospital ship solace came through the area and transported me to and army field hospital at Suva, Fiji Islands. After more recuperation I was put aboard the converted ocean liner troopship Mount Vernon and sent to the naval hospital at Mare Island (Vallejo, CA.) and then to the naval hospital at Pensacola, FLA. My wife and two children were living at pensacola at that time. Of the eight crew members on our plane only two of us were married and I was the only one with children. Undoubtedly the Lord had his hand in this episode. I was not hit by gun fire, I was not knocked unconscious by the impact, not bothered by the sharks not bothered by the fire on the water and rescued by a plane that ordinarily would have been a couple hundred miles apart on our individual sector searches."

"After a three year limited duty tour at Pensacola (the broken bones of my leg slipped out of place before knitting and took tree times as long to heal) I reverted back to my ACMM rate and stayed in the Navy for 22 years."

"VP-91 crew 11 (91-P-11) 1st Pilot LTjg Gordon B. Snyder San Bernardino, CA; 2rd Pilot LTjg Richard Rasmussen Yonkers NY; 3rd Pilot LTjg James R. McGovern New York, NY; enlisted pilot W. V. (Bill) Pugh Pensacola, FL; Plane Capt Ammle Robert Sayers New York State; 2rd Mech ACMM Raymond Strange New York State; 1st Radioman RMLE Joseph Kopicko Walthemm, MA; 2nd Radioman RM3E Clifford Phillips Rome, Ga....1997-1"


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