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VP-91 Up-Floats

VP91 Up-Float's

Contributed by George B. Winter pbycat@bellsouth.net

April 25, 1944

A routine Dumbo resuce (contributed by George Moak).

"On April 25, 1944, VP-91 Flight Crew #9 flew a 6.0 hour Dumbo orbit assignmet from Treasury Island. The plane was a PBY5, Serial #08401. Pilots were PPC Lt. Jack McLaughlin, First Pilot Lt. (jg) Joseph Panetta and Second Pilot Ens. Chester Elick. Crew members were: Plane Captain ACCM Merlin Naylor, Second Mechanic AMM2/c George Weingartner, First Radioman ARM1/c L. L. Matysek, Second Radioman ARM2/c George Moak, First Gunner ACOM Handley Mayer, and Second Gunner AMM2/c J. E. Case."

"The target of Marine SBD dive bombers was the large Japanese supply base of Rabaul on the island of New Britain. The bomber pilots knew that if their planes were disabled by Japanse gunfire, they would have a greater chance of being rescued by gliding to a landing on the surface of the sea or by parachuting into the water, thean by heading to an island where, if they survived, they would probably be taken prisoners."

"As we were circling above St. George's Channel between the islands of New Britain and New Irelandwithin sight of Rabaul, we watched a crippled SBD crashland on the water beneath us."

"PPC McLaughlin made a landing near the life raft. He shut off our port engine as we taxied up to the raft to avoid injuring the survivor with the whirling propellor. We lifted the SBD pilot into our PBY through the open port blister. He was not injured."

"Up to this point, it had been a textbook operation. However, the starter failed and we were unable to take off with just one engine. Our PPC sent me up on the wing with a three foot long crank. I inserted the crank at the base of the engine nacelle. Overcoming the big engine's inertia was a slow process, but we rehearsed this scenario in training. With all my strength, I slowly turned the crank and each revolution became a bit faster. It seemed like an eternity, especially since there was a boat racing towards us from the shore about half a mile away. Mr. Mac grinned up at me from the pilot's side window and suddenly the engine came alive."

"I was barefoot. I stepped on a metal protuberance on the wing surface, hurting my instep so much that my knee buckled. I tumbled off the trailing edge of the wing onto the top of the fuselage, but still kept my grip on the crank. One of the gunners helped me back through the port blister and we took off in the nick of time."

"The resuced Marine had been flying his last mission and was scheduled to return to the states. His radioman/gunner had flown every mission with him and was also going back home. Both were wearing life jackets and jumped into the water after landing. The pilot asked the radioman if he was okay and the rply was yes. The pilot had only a few seconds to pop out the life raft and inflate it before the plane sank. He yelled to his radioman to get into the raft, but he disappeared."

"The Marine was overcome with grief. Our navigator's drawer contained a flat pint of whisky to be opened in such rescue situations. A half cupful was offered to the flyer which he refused because he never used alcohol. So, all we could do was to assure him that he was now on the first leg of his journey back to his loved ones. We brought him to our Seaplane Tender, the U. S. S. Coos Bay at Treasury Island. The remarks column in my flight log book does not mention his name or rank. We never saw him again."

UPDATE "...I read the account of Dumbo and the rescue of C. R. Munsey ARM2c and Ens Mike Harbushka on the VP-91 Up-float Stories Summary Page on the internet just now. I was especially interested because it seems that my father has an account of this incident in his flying log book – he was then in the RNZAF and was in one of the two New Zealand Venturas involved in the rescue. His log book account reads as follows..." Contributed by Grant O’Sullivan daddio@vodafone.co.nz [27APR2015]

Date: 14 April 1944
Operations from Munda.
Bombed and Strafed.
Nauma – Nauma Area.
Observed Allied PV.1. shot down off Ballale.
Dropped dinghy and parachute. Sent PSN to base.
PBY “Dumbo” picked up PV.1. crew under heavy shell fire. – photos taken – FLAK about us.
Pretty – Wild +; Landed Stirling Field.

There are three photos attached in Dad’s logbook along with a couple of newspaper clippings. I found one of the clippings on the internet – here is the link for your information. http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/

History ThumbnailCameraNew Zealand Herald, Volume 81, Issue 24877, 26 April 1944, Page 4


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