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HistoryVP-142 HistoryHistory

Circa 1945

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...FAW-2, VPB-15, VPB-47, VPB-53, VPB-100, VPB-109, VPB-123, VPB-124, VPB-142, VPB-144, VPB-152, VPB-153, VPB-200 and VPB-205 - FAW-2 War Diary 1 APRIL to 30 APRIL 1945..." Official U. S. Navy Records (National Archives and Records Administration) via Fold3 http://www.fold3.com/ [17OCT2012]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...LT(jg) George Gender who flew combat missions in WWII and KOREA. He flew PV-2 harpoons in WWII and PBM Mariners in Korea. He flew with VPB-142 in WWII and VP-731 during the Korean War..." WebSite: EBay http://www.ebay.com/ [18MAR2009]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: History ThumbnailCameraVPB-142 History "...ARM3c Frank William Gardiner..." Contributed by John Lucas JohnLucas@netzero.com [06MAR2005]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...NAVAER-4111 (Rev.9-44). Aviator's Flight Log Book. April 24, 1945 VPB-142. Riley, Charles Thomas, 2835071, AMM2c(ca), USN..." Contributed by John Lucas john.lucas@netzero.net [23JUN2002]

VPB-142 History VPB-142 History VPB-142 History
VPB-142 History VPB-142 History VPB-142 History

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: APPENDIX 3 Submarines Sunk by Patrol Squadrons During World War II - Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/dictvol2.htm [04MAY2001]

I-165, 27 June 1945
Type: 1 st Class Fleet Class Submarine, Kaidai Type 5, Class A Laid Down: 1929
Commissioned: 2 June 1931
Commander: April 1944 June 1945, LT Yasushi Ono
Career: Originally designated I-65, redesignated I-165 on 20 May 1942. Assigned: SubRon 8 Indian Ocean, SubDiv 30, 1 March 1943 31 August 1944. I-165 was removed from active service and assigned as a training ship to the Kure Naval District on 15 December 1944. The submarine was converted to a Kaiten (suicide torpedo) carrier on 1 April 1945 and reinstated into active service with the Combined Fleet. The captain and crew assigned to I-165 during her service with SubRon 8 in 1943 to 1944 were accused of atrocities after the war, for machine-gunning survivors of sinkings in the Indian Ocean.
Successes: Numerous small cargo vessels, Indian Ocean

Fate: I-165 departed the Inland Sea of Japan on 15 June 1945, for a Kaiten attack on the U.S. fleet east of the Marianas Islands. A VPB-142 PV-1 Ventura spotted the submarine at 0232 hours, 480 miles east of Saipan, position 15°28'N, 153°39'E. Lieutenant (jg) R. C. Janes and crew made an attack on the surfaced submarine, which appeared to be carrying the Kaiten miniature submersibles on its deck. I-165 was straddled by the depth charges. Debris, two of the Kaitens and oil were seen on the surface after the attack. 95 crewmen were lost, including the commanding officer.

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "27JU45-- Japanese naval vessels sunk: Submarine I-165, by naval land-based aircraft (VPB-142), Central Pacific area, 15 d. 28'N., 153 d. 39'E..." http://www.cyberplus.ca/~chrism/chr45.txt


Circa 1944

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...History of FAW-6 - 02NOV43-31DEC44. History Submitted: January 24, 1945. Squadron's Assigned: VP-12, VP-41, VP-42, VP-43, VP-45, VP-53, VP-61, VPB-62, VPB-91, VPB-120, VPB-131, VP-135, VP-136, VP-138, VP-139, VP-142, VPB-144, VP-146, VP-151, VPB-199..." Official U. S. Navy Records (National Archives and Records Administration) via Fold3 http://www.fold3.com/ [28NOV2012]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Location of U. S. Naval Aircraft - Dated 11 Jan 1944..." WebSite: Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/ [29SEP2006]

VP SQUADRONS MENTIONED

VD-1, VD-2, VD-3 and VD-4

VJ-1, VJ-2, VJ-3, VJ-4, VJ-5, VJ-7, VJ-8, VJ-9, VJ-10, VJ-11, VJ-12, VJ-13, VJ-14, VJ-15, and VJ-16

VP-6 Coast Guard

VP-11, VP-12, VP-13, VP-14, VP-15, VP-16, VP-17, VP-18 and VP-19

VP-20, VP-23 and VP-24

VP-32, VP-33 and VP-34

VP-43, VP-44 and VP-45

VP-52 and VP-54

VP-61 and VP-62

VP-71, VP-72, VP-73 and VP-74

VP-81 and VP-84

VP-91, VP-92 and VP-94

VP-101, VP-102, VP-103, VP-104, VP-105, VP-106, VP-107, VP-108 and VP-109

VP-110, VP-111, VP-112, VP-113, VP-115, VP-116 and VP-117

VP-126, VP-127, VP-128 and VP-129

VP-130, VP-131, VP-132, VP-133, VP-134, VP-135, VP-136, VP-137, VP-138 and VP-139

VP-140, VP-141, VP-142, VP-143, VP-144, VP-145, VP-146, VP-147, VP-148 and VP-149

VP-150 and VP-151

VP-201, VP-203, VP-204, VP-205, VP-208 and VP-209

VP-210, VP-211, VP-212, VP-213, VP-214, VP-215 and VP-216


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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News Magazine "...Only A Single Plane Lost - Naval Aviation News - November 1944..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1940s/1944/1nov44.pdf [07NOV2004]

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Circa 1943 - 1946

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons CD-ROM: Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons Vol. 2 Stock No. 008-046-00195-2 The History of VP, VPB, VP(HL), and VP(AM) Naval Historical Center, Department Of The Navy, Washington, D. C...." [16JUN2000]
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Open VP History Adobe FileCHAPTER 3 Patrol Squadron (VP) Histories VP-142 25KB


Circa 1943 - 1945

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...The crew of the PV-1 - Jane Garvey - 9/15/2000..." WebSite: General Aviation News http://www.generalaviationnews.com/editorial/articledetail.lasso?-token.key=2158&-token.src=feature&-nothing [25NOV2005]

It's just past midnight on the weary freighter, one of many pressed into desperate service hauling the literal life's blood of a beleaguered nation. The ship rides low in the water, rolling slightly, engorged with oil for the great round engines that propel the valiant few aloft again and again. The coal hold below the watchman's feet is only marginally darker than the moonless night as the lookout sweeps the horizon with his binoculars. Only the vague outline of the closest members of the convoy can be made out in the blackness. There's no chance of spotting the Cyclops eye stalk of an underwater predator, of course, but he looks nonetheless. Pregnant and slow, the convoy is a juicy target for any steel sharks gliding silent and dark beneath the swell. "Maybe we'll be lucky tonight," he thinks to himself, "since they got 'em one today."

"They" were the crew of a PV-1, the Navy's first land-based bomber. A direct descendant of Earhart's Lockheed Electra, the original combat version was the British Hudson. The later Vega Ventura, designated PV-1 by the Navy, was bigger, faster and a better hauler. The single-spar twin-engine bomber hauled torpedoes and "ash can" depth charges for antisubmarine warfare. Equipped with fuel drop tanks, the PV had the range to help to keep Allied shipping lanes clear while still able to operate out of small Pacific outposts.

Consider the versatility of a medium bomber equipped with nine guns that could haul itself and up to 2-1/2 tons of ordnance aloft from a hot, rough, 4,000-foot runway. Initial crew configuration was five — two officer pilots and three enlisted men — with the copilot doing double duty as the navigator. The Navy added a sixth crewman, generally an enlisted navigator.

Over the course of the war, the PV's original wingspan of 65 feet 6 inches was lengthened, the rudder surface was expanded to enhance low-speed handling, and a full ton of payload was added. Eventually the PV-2, known as the Harpoon, became one of the most heavily armed aircraft of World War II.

Gross weight ran between 31,000 and 33,000 pounds. The PVs were powered by two Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp supercharged R2800-31 engines, two rows of nine radial cylinders putting out 2,000 horsepower. The dry weight of the engine was 2,280 pounds. Hang it on a beam and the other side could balance two empty Cessna 152s. As is typical for oil-hungry radials, each engine's capacity was 15 gallons of lubricant, with another 35 gallons in the auxiliary tank. Fully charged, the PV carried more oil than most of us do gas. Then again, with an allowable consumption of 7-1/2 of those gallons per hour at max continuous power, it burned about as much oil as a Cessna 152 does gas.

Both engine and airframe became famous for taking damage while bringing their crews home alive. Nearly 200 pounds of added armor plating at six critical stations was one reason why. Even factory fresh, the PV was a tough bird. In one instance, the "enemy" was a Pacific thunderstorm. During the brief but vicious battle that ensued, hatches and windows departed the aircraft, the PV's fuselage twisted and both main wing spars buckled. Nevertheless, the fatally injured Ventura bore her crew 500 miles back to safe harbor.

Think your fuel system is complicated? Try 14 individual tanks scattered throughout the aircraft with the potential for adding an additional four ferry tanks, capable of carrying 1,700 gallons. That's two full standard fuel trucks and not quite half of a third. The POH for the PV-1 has four different tables for fuel management in particular situations, each with up to eight rows and nine columns of switch settings. One of the fuel tanks was the pedestal for the navigator's table, a less-than-comforting use of space in a war zone. Depending on model, the combat range was up to 1,800 miles.

Will a couple of pints of hydraulic fluid hold you? You'd need 6-1/2 gallons to charge the system on the PV-1 and an additional half gallon in the emergency gear-extension reservoir.

Heavy ordnance included internal racks for six 325-pound depth charges or 500-pound bombs. It could also be rigged for heavier depth charges and up to a one-ton torpedo. Outside, the PV could haul two additional depth charges or bombs. The primary mission might have been bombing, but some versions of the PV bristled like a porcupine with a serious attitude, sporting nine .50-caliber machine guns — five forward, two "tunnel" or stinger guns and another pair in the turret. Despite its weight and armament, the PV-1 could, and did, outrun the vaunted Japanese Zero, with a service ceiling around 25,000 feet. Navy PV pilots often came from the ranks of PBY drivers and many expressed delight at transferring from the Navy's slowest patrol bomber to its fastest. Because of its durability, armament and speed, Japanese fighters often were reluctant to engage the PV-1 and would "pursue" only briefly and well out of range.

The faster PV-1 commenced dive runs at 300 KIAS, well above redline. The POH pegged maximum dive speed at 326 knots. Glide bomb runs were conducted at 270 KIAS. Approaching from 4,500 feet, as the target crossed under the nose, a steep glide was established. Bomb drop and pull-up occurred at roughly 2,000 feet. Unfortunately, the big radials cooled significantly during the glide and the initial response was often a belching black smoke before they roared back to life. Since the enemy in the Pacific took no prisoners, it was a hesitation for which the crews didn't particularly care. Officially intended for high-level bombing, reality dictated instead that crews often pulled palm leaves out of the bomb bay doors after a run. Land-based attacks generally began with multiple aircraft beginning a diving approach from around 6,000 to 8,000 feet, assuming an attitude of roughly 45° down. Ship and pinpoint attacks were frequently single aircraft strafing and bombing runs.

Despite its speed and power, some of the normal operation speeds would be familiar to pilots of much smaller birds. Stall speed clean and at maximum gross was a hefty 91 knots (78 with flaps and gear out), but gear and flap extension speeds topped out at 148 and 123 knots, respectively, with initial approach at 95 knots, power on. Takeoffs were a bit more ponderous than the average Cessna or Piper, of course. Nevertheless, they did well in tight places. Even when heavy, hot and high, the PV could clear 50 feet from less than 5,000 feet of turf. The no-wind ground run on a sea-level hard surface on a standard day at average weight was less than 2,000 feet. Standard takeoff occurred at 2,700 rpm with a manifold pressure of 52 inches and a fuel consumption of 300 gallons per hour per engine. Maximum continuous cruise settings were 41 inches and 2,400 rpm. Fuel flow at those settings was a bit over 200 gallons per hour per engine, depending on altitude. Economy cruise dropped those settings to 32 inches and 2,100 rpm. At 15,000 feet, the engines sipped a mere 85 gallons per hour apiece.

According to the pilots, losing an engine on takeoff with the PV-1 was exciting, to say the least. "You had to fly it all the time," offered one, an observation familiar to every tailwheel adept. Transitioning pilots often found the PV inherently unstable but became comfortable with it quickly. Pilots familiar with both agreed that flight stability improved significantly with the -2, but in the words of one, the earlier version could "fly the pants off it."

The Ventura played an important role following one of the most famous ship sinkings in history, but in rescue rather than attack. Three days after it was sunk in a torpedo attack after delivering "The Bomb," the survivors of the USS Indianapolis were spotted by a Ventura crew from VPB-152 out of Pelelieu. Lieutenant Wilbur C. "Chuck" Gwinn and his crew dropped their own life vests and rafts into the water and remained nearby until rescue craft could arrive. By the end of the war, nearly half of all Navy squadrons were flying Harpoons, which remained a staple of the patrol fleet for years after the war. Eventually, the PV-2 gave way to its direct successor, the P2V Neptune, but the tough and sturdy Harpoon continued to render valuable service in reserve units for more than a decade. In a curious historical footnote, the PV-2 was an initial component of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, formed in 1951.

My introduction to and affinity for the Ventura and Harpoon are genetic, inherited from a Navy navigator father and honed during the several squadron reunions I have attended with him.

In December of 1943, the first Venturas of Navy squadron VB-142 took off from NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, bound for Tarawa, arriving only days after the island had been secured. Because of the efforts of the Japanese to resupply their positions in the Marshall Islands, Allied pickings were good, with 11 freighters sunk or badly damaged together with several picket and patrol boats. In addition to sector searches for enemy ships, the squadron and their PVs engaged in low-level bombing and strafing attacks on bases in the Marshall Islands. On New Year's Day, Lieutenant Dave Walkinshaw ushered in 1944 with a successful attack on a surface vessel near Mille. During the ensuing months, VB-142 and its Venturas went after the major enemy base at Mille, eventually eliminating a strategic locus. A later detachment established at Majuro targeted and kept neutralized the Japanese air base at Tarawa. In May VB-142 sent all 12 aircraft against Nauru, which had been largely bypassed in previous major operations. Despite extremely heavy antiaircraft fire, all 12 PVs returned home after dropping nearly 20,000 pounds of bombs on the runway.

The second operational tour for this squadron — now VPB-142 — began in May of 1945 after departing California for Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Intrepid. While en route, many navigators boarded their moored and silent aircraft, taking star fixes and tracing the ship's progress. From Pearl Harbor the squadron flew to NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, now in PV-2s. Training and shakedown continued, including the previously secret weapon called radar, which would be used for night bombing and rocket attack. The PV-2 was found to have structural wing problems, however, which limited the squadron to photo reconnaissance and patrol duties. After settling in on Tinian, VPB-142 worked sector patrol and daily supervision of Truk, the one-time "Bastion of the Pacific," now a bypassed enemy backwater still bristling with concealed antiaircraft guns. They patrolled over 100,000 square miles of hostile blue water each day, concentrating on the main shipping lanes to Guam and Saipan. In June of that year, a PV commanded by R.C. Janes caught an enemy submarine on the surface. Quicker and more maneuverable than the crash diving sub, the PV dropped three MK 47 depth charges to good effect while the decks were still awash.

Leafing through the microfiched official war diaries for the unit, it would be easy to overlook its most momentous event, one that undoubtedly spared the lives of many squadron members. The Aug. 1, 1945, squadron report recounts 153 patrol and reconnaisance flights, including daily flights over Truk, specified by miles, latitude and longitude, 4,900 rounds of 50-calber ammunition, 15 100-pound bombs and six depth charges expended during July. They weren't carried by this squadron, of course, but two additional pieces of ordnance delivered a few days later brought the end of the war in the Pacific.

A grainy black-and-white photo has resided on my father's wall for more than 50 years, inconspicuous amid the other clutter. Like a thousand other such mementos on a thousand other walls, a gaggle of skinny young men forms a smiling, ragged array under a bulbous, metal nose. It's not until you look closely at the picture my dad took of his mates so long ago that the shiver of history on the hoof strikes, when you notice the name on the nose: Enola Gay. That most famous B-29 of all was based on Tinian, with VPB-142. Following her historic and decisive flight, squadron notations indicate that patrols continued in the absence of official word on surrender, every plane conducting its regular business but keeping a keen ear to the morning news broadcast out of Saipan. While they waited, hazardous duty remained. Would the large Japanese garrison on Truk, impervious in its volcanic caves, fight on? Had they even gotten the word that surrender was pending? In typical American fashion, the commander of a routine reconnaissance flight decided to find out. When the initial buzz of the landing field brought no hostile response, he continued circling the runways for nearly an hour and a half, sometimes at eye level with the hillside guns. After being greeted only by skyward faces and a few waves, Lieutenant Wayne Verdegren was able to report upon his return that, for VPB-142, the war was over.

Far from the dashing and well-creased image projected in the home-front movies of the period, the Pacific islands were flat, hot and sandy, decorated primarily with lizards and ordnance-shredded or decapitated palms. John Wayne never had to water a coral runway it keep it alive so it wouldn't turn to loose sand or had a metal runway mat roll up under the wheels on takeoff.

Rain brought lots of fungus and mold but little relief. Prudence generally dictated that bread be inspected and denuded of the additional nitrogen supplied in the form of bugs baked into the loaf. One of the primary forms of entertainment for the squadron was the unintentional humor of the land-challenged gooney birds or albatross. Unquestioned masters in the air, gooney birds were comically ungainly on land, needing about 30 feet to stagger into the air, and every landing appeared to be executed by an untalented student pilot. Gooneys ceased to be amusing, of course, when the heavy birds lumbered aloft in a cluster during takeoffs. Of course, the squadron's confrères occasionally provided moments of interest as well. Notable among these was the Corsair that bounced and skipped repeatedly during landing. When the pilot finally got it stopped, they discovered that a 500-pound bomb hung up underneath was what they had been skipping off of.

A decade ago, during private pilot group school, I surrendered the balky cardboard contraption that came with my official student pilot kit and replaced it with the E6B that my navigator father brought home from the Pacific. That splendid anachronism now nestles comfortably amid all the clutter of modern aviation, next to the computer tower that downloads DUAT and real-time satellite maps, among high-tech charts thick with radio aids that didn't exist or were scarce and unreliable when it was new, back when it was often the only way tired warriors and their equally weary birds found their way into and back from harm's way over a vast and indifferent sea. Fingering its well-worn circumference, I can almost hear the drone of ghost engines as it relives times past.

Those faint echoes from a half century ago and half a world away are a precious, tangible connection with my father and the millions like him. There are far too few of those quiet heroes left today and, sadly, fewer still with each passing year. Among the most cherished times in a not inconsiderable life have been the social sessions of the squadron reunions I have been privileged to attend with my dad.

As I listen and watch and occasionally nudge with a question, the decades begin to slough away. Listen a bit longer and the eyes clear and the hands steady. More years fall away and before long I see across the tunnel of time the cocky, honorable and courageous young men who were called upon to protect their homes from tyrants. I look around the room at men who understood responsibility and duty and, in quietly doing what was right, saved the world for us all. To them and to others like them, I offer heartfelt thanks.

***

A VANISHING BREED . . .

The surviving squadron members of VB/VPB-142 will assemble next month in Nashville, Tennessee. Of the roughly 50 attendees expected, 30 or so are actual squadron members, including pilots, mechanics, radiomen and navigators.

In many ways these get-togethers have become more family reunion than military commemoration, with many surviving wives of departed members and interested children having been folded into the group over the years.

As with each reunion past, a glass will be lifted in fond remembrance of those who have "gone west" since last they met, and many a tale will be told about, and in honor of, those departed. But mostly they will laugh and banter and enjoy each other and the prosperity and liberty their sacrifices so many years ago secured for us all.

***

The author, Jane Garvey, is an instrument-rated commercial ASEL pilot. She owns a Cessna 182 that can generally be found decorating the skies of North Carolina and environs on the weekends. She is NOT the FAA administrator. Yet.

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General Aviation News - 800.426.8538
P.O. Box 39099
Lakewood, WA 98439


Circa 1943 - 1944

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...PV-1 Ventura In The Pacific - Squadron Mentioned: VB/VPB-142 and VB-150..." WebSite: Flight Journal http://www.flightjournal.com/fj/articles/ventura/ventura_1.asp [01JAN2005]

The PV-1's upper turret was a Martin model that had twin, .50-caliber machine guns with a profile interrupter to prevent the gunner from inadvertently shooting his own plane down. When we strafed ground targets and vessels, the turret was turned forward and depressed as far as it could go with one gun on each side of the navigator's Astro dome; as we passed the target, the guns would be swung to stay on it and would be fired straight aft as we left it. If the guns were aimed at any part of our plane, the profile interrupter would stop them from firing (if everything worked correctly!).

This story is about a plane that those of us who rode it into battle see as the greatest medium bomber that ever flew—the U.S. Navy Lockheed PV-1 Vega Ventura. Many of us owe our lives to it, and it seems almost impossible to believe that it is now nearly extinct.

When the U.S. Navy started its War-ending drive straight across the Pacific, it had the Ventura among its arsenal. It was a fast, medium bomber that had been designed to operate from captured Japanese air bases, but it was hardly a new airplane. It was first built in 1938 as a commercial airliner, the Lockheed Model 18; it had been modified for the British when the War started in Europe in 1939, and it was known as the Hudson bomber.

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Cmdr. Clayton L. Miller USN was VB-142's CO. He was a tough commander who occasionally showed his compassionate side.


After the war in the Pacific had begun, the airplane was given new Pratt & Whitney 2,000hp engines, radar and improved armament, and it became the U.S. Navy's first land-based patrol bomber. The Navy took delivery of 1,600 Venturas that subsequently saw action from Guadalcanal to Tokyo. Although 122 Venturas were lost in the Pacific, only one loss was confirmed to Japanese fighter planes. The PV-1 Ventura was also used in antisubmarine warfare in the Atlantic.

While Lockheed developed this truly great warplane from a pioneer airliner, North American Aviation designed and developed the B-25 Mitchell bomber; it was under-powered and never came close to equaling the performance of the PV-1. The B-25 is frequently seen at airshows and often pictured in aviation magazines, but the PV-1 Ventura is fading into oblivion. It is as though the plane that contributed so much to winning the War was a secret weapon, and it's a shame that the true story of this great plane and its pilots and crews is rarely told.

Bombing Squadron VB-142 was commissioned at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, on June 1, 1943, with Lt. Cmdr. Clayton L. Miller as commanding officer. After 15 crew-training flights, 15 Venturas were loaded onto the USS Prince-William, a jeep carrier docked at NAS Alameda, California near San Francisco, for the Squadron's trip to Pearl Harbor. The Venturas covered the flight deck, and their wings extended far over the water. There were no other aircraft aboard, and as we departed late in the evening on August 10, 1943, the word was that we would pick up our escort after we passed the Golden Gate. Early the next morning, I went up to the flight deck to see the escorts, but there was nothing but ocean; it remained that way for the next six days.

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VB-142 squadron members take time out for a group photo on Tarawa. They served in the central Pacific from December 15, 1943, to July 15, 1944.

On the third day out, the weather warmed, and gasoline began to leak out of the planes. Their tanks had been filled before the planes were loaded onto the ship, and the fuel had expanded in the warmer weather. This was a major problem because the gas soaked into the wooden flight deck and dripped from the wing drop tanks as they hung far out over the water. The "smoking" lamp was definitely out almost for the remainder of the voyage. To make matters worse, a story circulated on board that if a Japanese submarine were to fire two torpedoes in succession, one would go through the engine room, and the ship would go down so fast that the second torpedo would go over the flight deck. At that point, I fully expected to be burned or drowned before the ship docked.

After offloading at Pearl Harbor, we flew across the island to NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and we were deployed to Midway Island—the U.S.'s most western base. From there, we flew daily patrols, and our enlisted navigators learned how to find their way back to a dot in the middle of the Pacific from 500 miles away. While at Midway, I bolted a piece of steel armor-plating to my gun-turret seat to serve as protection from ground or ship fire; that was one place I didn't want to be wounded!

The other turret gunners and I learned more about aerial gunnery in the Pacific than we had learned at the Naval Aerial Gunnery School in Purcell, Oklahoma. At school, there hadn't been any planes, turrets, or machine guns; we learned to hit moving targets by firing shoulder-held shotguns (equipped with machine-gun ring sights) at clay pigeons.

We arrived on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, in the Gilbert Islands on December 15, 1943, with 15 PV-1 bombers of Bombing Squadron VB-142, and we found complete devastation. It was just after the four-day battle for this one-mile-long and half-mile-wide island that resulted in the loss of 1,400 U.S. Marines and 5,000 Japanese defenders. Navy Construction Battalion 74 (Seabee) had repaired and extended the runway to 3,500 feet so it could handle our Venturas. The scene that surrounded our 108 officers and men was one of total destruction and filth; in places, bodies and body parts remained unburied on this hellhole of an equatorial island.

This place—where not a single undamaged palm tree remained standing—was to be our home for the next seven months, and the stench would never be forgotten. As a land-based Navy bombing squadron, we endured more hardships, flew more hours and made more contacts with the enemy than any carrier-based bombing squadron, and we operated from islands that were hot, filthy and far from being paradise. Our drinking water was hardly potable, and the food barely sustained us. The squadrons aboard carriers would have mutinied if Spam and crackers had been on their mess tables almost every day. We seldom received mail, lived in oven-like tents and only bathed in torrential rain showers or brackish well water.

On the second day after its arrival at Tarawa, the Squadron started its campaign to neutralize the Japanese air bases in the Marshall Islands. The targets were on the atolls of Milli, Maloelap, Wotje, Kwajalein and Jaluit, which ranged from 300 to 800 miles north of Tarawa and on Nauru and Ocean (Banaba) Islands, southwest of Tarawa. According to official records, the 15 planes of VB-142 conducted 302 bombing attacks that delivered 541 tons of bombs, and another 88 tons were dropped on targets while patrolling an area of 600,000 square miles to blockade the Japanese bases. Eleven Japanese supply vessels were attacked; six were confirmed sunk and five were seriously damaged and probably sunk. The first Japanese supply vessel was destroyed by Lt. David Walkinshaw and his crew on January 1, 1944.

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PV-1 pilots felt that flying the Ventura was just like flying a fighter. It had a cruise speed of 300mph, and it was very maneuverable (photo courtesy of author).

From our arrival on Tarawa until mid-February, we were bombed almost every night by high-flying Betty Mitsubishi Type-1 medium bombers. When the air-raid signal was sounded, we wasted little time as we ran to the stinking bomb shelter that the Japanese had built with coconut logs. As I watched the Japanese bombers approach and saw our antiaircraft fire exploding, I had mixed emotions. Although I had a profound hatred for the Japanese, I also knew what those flight crews were experiencing and that our situations would be reversed the next day.

Sometimes, the "all clear" didn't sound for an hour or more; then, we would return to our tents only to be awakened later the same night by another raid. On the night of December 25, 1943, a Japanese raid destroyed two Venturas on the ground that had been loaded with bombs, ammunition and fuel for their early morning missions. As those planes burned and the bombs and ammunition exploded, they created an unforgettable Christmas fireworks show as chunks of the Venturas flew across the island.

U.S. Army B-24s staged through Tarawa to bomb Kwajalein, and on the night of January 10, 1944, two of them crashed into the lagoon during takeoff, with no survivors. On that same night, two Japanese soldiers were discovered as they ate in the natives' mess tent. The B-24s had been parked together, and it was believed that those Japanese soldiers had sabotaged the planes by adding water to the fuel tanks.
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On February 26, 1944, crew number nine led seven Venturas on a strike to bomb Japan's Toroa Air Base on Maloelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands.


On January 20, 1944, the first plane from the VB-142 was lost in combat when 12 planes attacked Japanese ship and land targets at Jabor on Jaluit Atoll. The planes flew in four groups, and we approached our targets across a 14-mile-wide lagoon; the land targets were radio and radar antennas, torpedo shops, gun emplacements and buildings. Flying at 280mph and 25 to 50 feet off the water, I glanced over and saw the starboard wing of the Ventura flown by crew number eight break off near the engine nacelle; it had probably been hit by a 75mm round at close range. The plane struck the water with such force that there was no possibility of anyone surviving. While flying across the lagoon earlier, I had seen a friend, turret gunner Jack Daley, with his guns facing forward as we closed on the targets. Only a few seconds later, the plane was no longer there. Daley and I were both 18 and had attended ordnance and gunnery schools in Oklahoma together; we had been assigned to VB-142 when it was formed at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. Before then, neither of us had ever been in an airplane. Five other crew members died with Daley in that far-off patch of worthless water: pilot Lt. M.E. Villa; copilot Ensign P.J. Inuzzi; mechanic W. Patayzyn; navigator L. Nedrebo; and radio operator G. Stepanek.

After seeing the loss of that plane and its crew, and then sighting the target that we had risked so much to hit, I could see nothing there that could justify the loss of those six men. Unlike the other islands, Jaluit didn't have a runway that needed to be destroyed to protect our fleet; it was a long, quiet trip back to Tarawa.

Four days after the raid on Jaluit, our plane found a Japanese supply vessel as it left Alinglaplap Atoll late in the evening to supply the Japanese air base on Maloelap or Wotje. It might have succeeded if it had waited half an hour before leaving the sanctuary of the lagoon. There was just enough light left for us to see the vessel pass through the only entrance to the lagoon. We made our attack to the west with the ship silhouetted in the fading light.

The 200-foot ship had two antiaircraft batteries firing at us as we closed low on the water with our bow guns and turret guns firing; we released our bombs as we pulled up, barely clearing the ship as we crossed over it midship. I swung my turret around and continued to fire aft on the vessel as the bombs exploded. The first three bombs hit the water short of the target, but one 500-pound bomb hit, and two others caused substantial damage. The number-nine crew during this mission consisted of: pilot Lt. J.M. Swenson; copilot Ensign A.W. Keagle; radio/radar operator A.B. Smith; mechanic/gunner R.M. Ringstrom; navigator M.P. Selbin; and ordnance/gunner R.C. Clotfelter.

The most unusual repurcussion of the action at Alinglaplap took place on the following morning. Cmdr. Miller had conducted an investigation into that bombing, and he had decided to replace our pilot, Lt. Swenson, for failing to bomb according to Squadron procedures. Swenson was censored for sinking a vessel in one attack instead of two. The Squadron rules required that when attacking a vessel, three bombs would be used. If it were necessary to drop additional bombs, a separate second attack would have to be carried out. In my statement, I said that I witnessed the release of six bombs and had assumed that they were released in succession because darkness would have prevented us from carrying out a second attack. I didn't mention that I had only 250 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition remaining in the turret after the attack, or that if a second attack had been conducted, that ammunition would have been expended in 10 seconds. Later inspection showed that the nose guns had even less remaining ammunition. I never again left the ground without carrying four extra canisters of .50-caliber ammunition to reload the turret.

The last three bombs that we dropped were the ones that sank the ship. If we had followed the rules, those bombs wouldn't have been dropped, and we would have made a second attack without enough ammunition to sweep its decks and interrupt its gunners. This action at Alinglaplap was literally within sight of four Japanese air bases; it wouldn't have been in our best interest to be caught 400 miles from Tarawa without ammunition and with a need to conserve fuel. I feel certain that I speak for the four other crew members when I say: thank God for a pilot who bent the rules. Lt. Swenson was our crew's only pilot, and we had confidence in his decisions under fire as well as in his piloting skills.

The worst thing Lt. Swenson ever did was to name our plane Miss Tot for his fiancée, Miss "Tot" White. Other planes in our squadron were: Miss US Flak, Blue Streak, Thiando, The Bad Penny, The Goop, Frivolous Sal, The Boomerang, Kuuipo, Katharine the Great, Hells Bells, The Tall Canine and Feeorreeious Corn Traption. Our plane, number 34697—the best and meanest Ventura of all—carried the name Miss Tot. But even though Lt. Swenson was no longer our pilot, we kept the name because changing it would have brought bad luck. Lt. j.g. John Horan was our pilot for the rest of our tour.

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Left to right: Lt. Sampsom, Ensign De Vries, Lt. Winn and Lt. Jacks discuss the results of a strike on Kwajalein during a debriefing.

After losing crew number eight at Jaluit, the VB-142 Squadron perfected the glide-bombing technique, which kept the plane farther from the target. This method required that the bombing run be started at about 4,500 feet, and as the target passed under the plane's nose, the pilot would enter a steep glide, reduce power and then pull up sharply at about 2,500 feet as the bombs were released. Then he would close the bomb-bay doors, increase power and get the hell out of there as the cooled-down engines backfired a couple of times.

Our bombing proficiency was phenomenal even though we didn't have bombsights. In our plane, I improvised a system to help us place the bombs on the targets: I put a mark on the windshield for pilot Lt. Horan to use as a reference point that would be held on the target while in the glide.

Our PV-1s were hit many times by antiaircraft fire that inflicted damage that would have downed other aircraft. War correspondents wrote stories about the plane's durability. John Bishop, who flew with Lt. J.H. Guthrie and crew, described the mission to bomb Japanese-held Wotje air base in the June 24, 1944, Saturday Evening Post. Entitled "Best Damn Pilot in the World," the piece described the speed and durability of the planes and the skills of our pilots. On that mission, Guthrie's rudder controls had been shot away, but he was still able to return to and successfully land at Tarawa.

By this time, zinc-chromate patches that covered bullet holes had became standard aircraft markings, and no one in the Squadron still believed that war was exciting. Some of our most apprehensively flown missions were the flights to drop surrender leaflets; these were flown mostly at night—low and slow over Japanese-held islands that had been bypassed. To prevent the papers from being blown away when dropped from the flare tube, the leaflets were wrapped around cans of New Zealand mutton. It seemed ironic that we might be shot down while delivering leaflets and food to the enemy. Unlike the air war over Germany, in this theater, the Japanese beheaded downed American fliers. Consequently, we were each issued a six-shot, .38-caliber side arm for protection if downed—five rounds for the enemy and one for ourselves.

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On March 4, 1944, VB-142 paid another visit to Toroa Air Base on Maloelap Atoll to bomb and strafe its Japanese defenders.

On the night of January 30, 1944, our crew was ordered to search a sector 250 miles northwest of Tarawa to locate and identify a group of ships that had been reported by army aircraft earlier in the evening. It turned out that we had to take off with full fuel and armaments at 0300 hours in typhoon-like conditions; the heavy rain obscured half the runway. After the preflight engine checks, we began the takeoff, and as the plane's speed increased to flying speed, we encountered "lakes" of water on the coral runway that slowed us down, so takeoff had to be aborted. After several such attempts, the takeoff was finally successful because each run used up some of the heavy fuel and the plane's wheels had successively splashed more water out of the deep pools that had slowed us.

The torrential rain continued as we set our course for the vessels, which we expected to be Japanese. After flying in heavy turbulence for more than one and a half hours (our radar operator A.B. Smith was unable to locate any clearings in the weather), the starboard engine began to run intermittently. None of the efforts from the cockpit improved the situation. Under these circumstances, Lt. Horan decided to reverse course, his main concern now being our survival. We wondered whether our navigator could find Tarawa even if we were lucky enough to fly that long with one engine performing at far less than half power and the other running at full emergency.

We were losing altitude and were down to 500 feet when both wing-mounted fuel tanks and the six, 500-pound bombs were jettisoned. I assumed my ditching station: I sat on the deck with my back against the oil tank and my hand ready to pull the door release on the plane's second impact with the water. The timing was important because the first impact would be a bounce, and if the door (with the life raft attached) was released at that point, it would be far behind the plane's final resting place. In retrospect, that wouldn't have mattered in those typhoon conditions, as there wouldn't have been any survivors.

We continued to fly for what seemed to be an eternity, and the weather started to improve. Dawn was breaking in the east, and miraculously, the starboard engine started; soon, we were back on solid ground, and even though it was Tarawa—the hellhole—it was beautiful. After we landed, I gave Miss Tot a big smacker. The supposed Japanese vessels turned out to be four American LSTs with two destroyers—so much for U.S. Army aircraft vessel identification.

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VB-142's bomb loaders prepare Miss US Flak for another strike against the Japanese.

Some other memories remain with me: one night, at the end of an eight-plane bombing raid on Nauru Island where the antiaircraft fire had been intense, several Venturas were bracketed in Japanese searchlights. This was our first encounter with searchlights, and they were totally unexpected. The lights blinded the pilots, and they maneuvered the planes so violently that only a Ventura could have taken that abuse. I fired the turret guns at the lights as we twisted and turned our way across the island after releasing our bombs. When we reached safety and assessed our damage, radio silence was broken for a sound-off from each plane, and then Cmdr. Miller said, "All right, men, close up and make this look like a military organization." We were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in the middle of the night, and he was concerned about how our formation looked. Later, when we had landed safely on Tarawa, Miller showed a softer side by making sure that every man on this strike was given two ounces of medicinal brandy to help him relax and fall asleep before the sun rose and turned the tents into ovens.

On days when there wasn't any flying or maintenance to be done, there was little to occupy us. There were no telephone links to the mainland, and reception on the few portable radios that were still operational was sporadic, at best. We passed a lot of time on the flightline: lying in the shade under the wings, looking for cat's eye coral and tuning a plane's radio to Tokyo Rose. This English-speaking woman, whom we later learned was from Los Angeles, spouted Japanese propaganda and played the latest American pop tunes. Although we knew that everything she said was a lie, she knew how to hit where it hurt. For the married men, she would ask, "What do you think your wives, working the swing shift at Douglas Aviation in Long Beach, are doing after eleven p.m. with the draft dodgers they work with?" For everyone on our island she would say, "The Imperial Japanese Navy will soon annihilate the American fleet in the Marshall Islands and isolate you fliers at Tarawa. You will soon know how it feels to starve." After the War, she was returned to Los Angeles and tried and convicted of war crimes.

During daytime, the native women could come only to Betio from other Tarawa Atoll islands to work with the native men; contrary to their custom of being naked above the waist, they were required to wear navy T-shirts that had been issued by the island commander.

I was fortunate to visit Abiang Island on a Higgins Boat to load palm fronds that had been gathered by the natives to be used to build shelters in our tent areas. Abiang hadn't been disturbed by the War and was covered with thousands of palm trees. Throughout the seven months of our bombing and blockading campaign in the Central Pacific islands, I was glad that we didn't target native villages in an effort to reach Japanese who may have been there.

With their usual food supply of fish, fruits, coconuts, pigs and chickens, I thought that the natives would survive without too much hardship in spite of the War. But after the War, I learned that the native population suffered severe hardships at the hands of the Japanese forces. Their food was confiscated, and a soldier was placed on every outrigger fishing canoe to take most of the fish caught. At the War's end, it was learned that on Nauru, 300 Japanese had died from starvation, and many others had resorted to cannibalism to survive. Although we had cut their food supply, we were not responsible for their conditions; their leaders put them in that situation. We were often in extreme jeopardy in what were wasted efforts to persuade them to surrender. They didn't know that we contemplated using crude napalm against them. Barrels of oil would have been dropped from the bomb bays to burn the dry brush on Nauru, and that oil would have been ignited with incendiary bullets.

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Above, left: crew number nine consisted of (back row): navigator M.P. Selbin; mech./gunner R.M. Ringstrom; radio/radar operator A.B. Smith and ordnance/gunner R.C. Clotfelter. Front row: Lt. j.g. John Horan, who replaced our original pilot, Lt. J.M. Swenson, and copilot Ensign A.W. Keagle. Above, right: VB-142 Venturas on the coral runway at Tarawa.

The Ventura's sound is one that I will never forget. After a strike, they would roar over Tarawa in echelon formation. Their propellers created a whistling sound; each plane would break off in sequence to lower its gear in a vertical bank and then enter the landing pattern as if it was a Corsair. Few people have experienced flying as a Ventura crew member did. We were part of a renegade, coral-runway Navy. These scenes were not recorded for posterity, and in a few years, no one will be alive who remembers firsthand the Ventura's role in history.

My flight log shows that during the August 1943 and August 1944 Pacific tour of Bombing Squadron VB-142, our crew performed 70 patrols, 26 bombing missions, 18 special flights and nine propaganda-leaflet drops (while deployed to Midway Island, Johnson Island and Tarawa Atoll) plus 26 training flights from NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Multiplying these 149 flights by the 18 crews in the squadron shows that VB-142 performed 2,682 flights during 382 days of deployment or 7.2 flights per day—all in modified airliners. Much credit for this phenomenal record must be given to Carrier Aircraft Service Unit 17, which endured the hardships of Tarawa while providing major maintenance and repair services for our PV-1s.

On July 15, 1944, VB-142 was relieved by VB-150. We boarded the USS Windham Bay in Honolulu and arrived in San Diego—regrettably, without two flight crews—one year and 17 days after leaving NAS Alameda, California. On February 14, 1945, VB-142 was returned to the Pacific as Bombing Squadron VPB-142, and it operated from Tinian Island. We were there when the B-29 Enola Gay, also based at Tinian, delivered the first atomic bomb and the War came to an end.

I have often wondered about the supply vessel that we attacked on January 24, 1944. We saw no identification markings (Japanese name or numbers) that would allow me to trace the origin. It was a small, fast supply ship on a desperate mission to deliver food and ammunition to starving isolated forces, and it was apprehended by an American warplane crew that was determined it wouldn't complete its mission. The ship's Japanese crew and the American fliers were young men who knew that one group or the other would not succeed; the ship would be sunk or the plane would be downed—or possibly both.

I have tried to find out who those men were and whether there were any survivors, but the Japanese government has never released any information concerning this loss. The Pacific War archive at the University of Hawaii has no record of it, and time is passing quickly. I am the sole remaining crew member of my plane, and if there were survivors of that ship, I hope that they have also had a good life with a family, as I have.

When I started transition training for the PV-1 Ventura, it was March 1943, and I had just returned from a tour in the Pacific flying PBYs. I had plenty of twin-engine time, but there was a huge difference between the PBY and the Ventura. Flying the PV was like flying a fighter; it handled much better and had a lot more performance than the PBY. The PBY was heavy on the controls, and you had to work to make it do anything, but the PV was just waiting for you to tell it what to do, and it responded immediately.

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PV-1 pilot Lt. David Walkinshaw and his crew sank the first Japanese vessel of 1944.

One surprise about the Ventura was how fast it was for its size. I've been told it was the fastest airplane of its class, and I believe it. In level flight, we could easily hit more than 300mph. During training, it took a little while to get used to slowing it down for landing. You had to start losing altitude and speed a long way out or you would find yourself too close to the airport and still flying too fast.

After about 50 hours in the airplane, I was assigned a crew; we trained in all aspects of combat flight. We practiced lots of low-level bombing and strafing because our mission was seen as an interdiction of shipping, so we would use our machine guns as much as we used our bombs. This crew was to remain intact for the duration of our tour, and we melded very well; in the airplane, we were a united crew that worked together as one.

To me, this was a great airplane, and although we operated off a relatively short field, I had no trouble with takeoffs or landings. The PV-1 had a reputation of being "hot" and needing a lot of runway, but I never found that to be true. I flew it in true Navy fashion by coming in fairly slowly to make tail-low landings, and that always allowed me plenty of room for stopping. The Army Air Force pilots always predicted that we would sail off the end of the runway, but I don't remember that ever happening.

In August 1943, we left NAS Whidbey Island, Washington where we had been training and were sent to Hawaii by ship. We continued our training out of NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Midway and Johnson Islands. I remember flying "combat" with F4Us and F6Fs, and it impressed me that the PV-1 was so fast that the other planes could only make one pass at us. This gave us a lot of confidence; we knew that when we ran into Japanese aircraft we'd be able to take care of ourselves because we were fast and well armed. I'm not sure, but I think our top speed was close to that of a Zero.

During my training phase in and around Hawaii, I learned a very important lesson about one aerodynamic aspect of the airplane's wing—the high-speed tip-stall. As I practiced dive-bombing on rocks at the south end of Molokai, I started the run from 4,000 feet; in my initial turns, I banked too steeply and pulled too hard. The wing stalled and the airplane snapped over onto its back so fast that I didn't see it coming; there was no buffet. I had rolled into the turn and pulled, and just that quickly, the world was upside-down. I came screaming downhill in a split-S; using all the muscles I could muster, I pulled out at 400 feet. This gave me a huge respect for how well the plane had been constructed. I don't know how many G we pulled, but after that incident, I had a new confidence in the airplane.

We flew the squadron to Tarawa and arrived at the war-devastated island of Betio on December 22, 1943, about three weeks after it had been captured by the Marines. The 3,500-foot-long runway was coral and Marston matting.

On January 1, 1944, our flight was assigned to photograph Majuro Island in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands. En route, we found a Japanese cargo ship and made three runs at it, dropping one bomb on each run. We used the twin .50-caliber nose guns and the top turret with twin .50-caliber guns to strafe the ship while making dive-bomb runs from about 4,000 feet. We were shot at and hit by the gunners on the ship, but with our .50s pounding it on the way in, they were having trouble hitting us. On our third pass, the bomb was a direct hit, and the ship was sunk; we were written up as sinking the first enemy ship of 1944.

The 12-plane raid on Emidj was very interesting, and we were fortunate to have lost only one plane. The mission was to attack the known shipping in the harbor. We were in tight formation in four, three-plane sections. I was number two off the leader's port wing. About an hour out, I dropped to 100 feet for the run to the target and ran along the waves for the rest of the way in. The weather was good, but hazy, and our leader spotted the shipping about 30 degrees to his left. Without signaling, he turned his plane into us, and I had to pull up hard to avoid being hit; I then rolled into a hard left turn and slid back into a right-echelon position while he continued the run.

We were right on the water, and just after dropping the bombs, my plane was caught in the leader's slipstream; we came close to slamming into the harbor. I had to shove the throttles forward to the stops, and the PV pulled level at such a low altitude that I would have hit a canoe if one had been out there. We crossed the island doing more than 280 knots; we were really moving! Some of the crew swore we trimmed the tops of palm trees, but as there were Japanese shooting at us from everywhere, by staying right on the treetops we came and went so fast that they couldn't track us. We had broken formation, but were back in position within a few seconds. Again, the airplane proved to be very maneuverable and fast, which probably saved our lives.

With careful cruise control, the PV-1 had great range. We had three or four flights of more than seven hours—one of those was 7.6 hours. I understand that after the War some of these airplanes were converted into executive transports because they were so fast and comfortable.

The squadron was also used to help navigate for the Marine F4Us when they moved to advance bases. The Corsairs would form up on us like a mother goose with her brood, and we would lead them to their new bases. The PV-1 was fast enough so they could fly a loose formation without having to come back on the throttle.

After seven months on Tarawa and 14 months in the PV-1, on our return to San Diego, I was transferred to NAS Anacostia to fly VIP. The PV-1, however, was one of my favorite airplanes, and when it came to attacking shipping, it was certainly one of the more effective aircraft of the War.

—by Lt. David Walkinshaw, USN (Ret.)


Circa 1943

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Location of U. S. Naval Aircraft - Dated 31 May 1943..." WebSite: Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/ [02OCT2006]

VP SQUADRONS MENTIONED

CASU

PATSU

VD-1, VD-2 and VD-3

VJ-1, VJ-2, VJ-3, VJ-4, VJ-5, VJ-7 and VJ-10

VP-1

VP-11, VP-12, VP-13, VP-14 and VP-15

VP-23

VP-32, VP-33 and VP-34

VP-43, VP-44 and VP-45

VP-52, VP-53 and VP-54

VP-61, VP-62 and VP-63

VP-71, VP-72, VP-73 and VP-74

VP-81 and VP-84

VP-91, VP-92 and VP-94

VP-101, VP-102, VP-103, VP-104, VP-105, VP-106, VP-107, VP-108 and VP-109

VP-125, VP-126, VP-127 and VP-128

VP-130, VP-131, VP-132, VP-133, VP-134, VP-135, VP-136, VP-137, VP-138 and VP-139

VP-140, VP-142, VP-144 and VP-146

VP-201, VP-202, VP-203, VP-204, VP-205, VP-206, VP-207, VP-208 and VP-209

VP-210, VP-211 and VP-212

History - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Location of U. S. Naval Aircraft - Dated 09 Nov 1943..." WebSite: Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/ [01OCT2006]

VP SQUADRONS MENTIONED

CASU and PATSU

VD-1, VD-2, VD-3 and VD-4

VJ-1, VJ-2, VJ-3, VJ-4, VJ-5, VJ-15, and VJ-16

VP-6 Coast Guard

VP-1

VP-11, VP-12, VP-13, VP-14, VP-15 and VP-16

VP-23 and VP-24

VP-32, VP-33 and VP-34

VP-43, VP-44 and VP-45

VP-52, VP-53 and VP-54

VP-61, VP-62 and VP-63

VP-71, VP-72, VP-73 and VP-74

VP-81 and VP-84

VP-91, VP-92 and VP-94

VP-101, VP-102, VP-103, VP-104, VP-105, VP-106, VP-107, VP-108 and VP-109

VP-110, VP-111, VP-112, VP-113, VP-114, VP-115 and VP-116

VP-125, VP-126, VP-127, VP-128 and VP-129

VP-130, VP-131, VP-132, VP-133, VP-134, VP-135, VP-136, VP-137, VP-138 and VP-139

VP-140, VP-141, VP-142, VP-143, VP-144, VP-145, VP-146, VP-147, VP-148 and VP-149

VP-150

VP-201, VP-202, VP-203, VP-204, VP-205, VP-206, VP-207, VP-208 and VP-209

VP-210, VP-211, VP-212, VP-213, VP-214, VP-215 and VP-216


History - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...PV-1 Ventura in the Pacific - Flight Journal, Feb 2003 by Clotfelter, Ralls, Walkinshaw, David..." http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3897/is_200302/ai_n9204252 [29MAR2005]

This story is about a plane that those of us who rode it into battle see as the greatest medium bomber that ever flew-the U.S. Navy Lockheed PV-1 Vega Ventura. Many of us owe our lives to it, and it seems almost impossible to believe that it is now nearly extinct.

When the U.S. Navy started its War-ending drive straight across the Pacific, it had the Ventura among its arsenal. It was a fast, medium bomber that had been designed to operate from captured Japanese air bases, but it was hardly a new airplane. It was first built in 1938 as a commercial airliner, the Lockheed Model 18; it had been modified for the British when the War started in Europe in 1939, and it was known as the Hudson bomber.

After the war in the Pacific had begun, the airplane was given new Pratt & Whitney 2,00hp engines, radar and improved armament, and it became the U.S. Navy's first land-based patrol bomber. The Navy took delivery of 1,600 Venturas that subsequently saw action from Guadalcanal to Tokyo. Although 122 Venturas were lost in the Pacific, only one loss was confirmed to Japanese fighter planes. The PV-1 Ventura was also used in antisubmarine warfare in the Atlantic.

While Lockheed developed this truly great warplane from a pioneer airliner, North American Aviation designed and developed the B-25 Mitchell bomber; it was under-powered and never came close to equaling the performance of the PV-1. The B-25 is frequently seen at airshows and often pictured in aviation magazines, but the PV-1 Ventura is fading into oblivion. It is as though the plane that contributed so much to winning the War was a secret weapon, and it's a shame that the true story of this great plane and its pilots and crews is rarely told.

Bombing Squadron VB-142 was commissioned at Whidbey Island, Washington, on June 1, 1943, with Lt. Cmdr. Clayton L. Miller as commanding officer. After 15 crew-training flights, 15 Venturas were loaded onto the USS Prince-William, a jeep carrier docked at NAS Alameda near San Francisco, for the Squadron's trip to Pearl Harbor. The Venturas covered the flight deck, and their wings extended far over the water. There were no other aircraft aboard, and as we departed late in the evening on August 10, 1943, the word was that we would pick up our escort after we passed the Golden Gate. Early the next morning, I went up to the flight deck to see the escorts, but there was nothing but ocean; it remained that way for the next six days.

On the third day out, the weather warmed, and gasoline began to leak out of the planes. Their tanks had been filled before the planes were loaded onto the ship, and the fuel had expanded in the warmer weather. This was a major problem because the gas soaked into the wooden flight deck and dripped from the wing drop tanks as they hung far out over the water. The "smoking" lamp was definitely out almost for the remainder of the voyage. To make matters worse, a story circulated on board that if a Japanese submarine were to fire two torpedoes in succession, one would go through the engine room, and the ship would go down so fast that the second torpedo would go over the flight deck. At that point, I fully expected to be burned or drowned before the ship docked.

After offloading at Pearl Harbor, we flew across the island to MCAS/NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and we were deployed to Midway Island-the U.S.'s most western base. From there, we flew daily patrols, and our enlisted navigators learned how to find their way back to a dot in the middle of the Pacific from 500 miles away. While at Midway, I bolted a piece of steel armor-- plating to my gun-turret seat to serve as protection from ground or ship fire; that was one place I didn't want to be wounded!

The other turret gunners and I learned more about aerial gunnery in the Pacific than we had learned at the Naval Aerial Gunnery School in Purcell, Oklahoma. At school, there hadn't been any planes, turrets, or machine guns; we learned to hit moving targets by firing shoulderheld shotguns (equipped with machine-gun ring sights) at clay pigeons.

We arrived on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, in the Gilbert Islands on December 15, 1943, with 15 PV-1 bombers of Bombing Squadron VB142, and we found complete devastation. It was just after the four-day battle for this one-mile-long and half-mile-wide island that resulted in the loss of 1,400 U.S. Marines and 5,000 Japanese defenders. Navy Construction Battalion 74 (Seabee) had repaired and extended the runway to 3,500 feet so it could handle our Venturas. The scene that surrounded our 108 officers and men was one of total destruction and filth; in places, bodies and body parts remained unburied on this hellhole of an equatorial island.

This place-where not a single undamaged palm tree remained standing-was to be our home for the next seven months, and the stench would never be forgotten. As a landbased Navy bombing squadron, we endured more hardships, flew more hours and made more contacts with the enemy than any carrier-based bombing squadron, and we operated from islands that were hot, filthy and far from being paradise. Our drinking water was hardly potable, and the food barely sustained us. The squadrons aboard carriers would have mutinied if Spam and crackers had been on their mess tables almost every day. We seldom received mail, lived in oven-like tents and only bathed in torrential rain showers or brackish well water.

On the second day after its arrival at Tarawa, the Squadron started its campaign to neutralize the Japanese air bases in the Marshall Islands. The targets were on the atolls of Milli, Maloelap, Wotje, Kwajalein and Jaluit, which ranged from 300 to 800 miles north of Tarawa and on Nauru and Ocean (Banaba) Islands, southwest of Tarawa. According to official records, the 15 planes of VB-142 conducted 302 bombing attacks that delivered 541 tons of bombs, and another 88 tons were dropped on targets while patrolling an area of 600,000 square miles to blockade the Japanese bases. Eleven Japanese supply vessels were attacked; six were confirmed sunk and five were seriously damaged and probably sunk. The first Japanese supply vessel was destroyed by Lt. David Walkinshaw and his crew on January 1, 1944.

From our arrival on Tarawa until mid-February, we were bombed almost every night by high-flying Betty Mitsubishi Type-1 medium bombers. When the air-raid signal was sounded, we wasted little time as we ran to the stinking bomb shelter that the Japanese had built with coconut logs. As I watched the Japanese bombers approach and saw our antiaircraft fire exploding, I had mixed emotions. Although I had a profound hatred for the Japanese, I also knew what those flight crews were experiencing and that our situations would be reversed the next day.

Sometimes, the "all clear" didn't sound for an hour or more; then, we would return to our tents only to be awakened later the same night by another raid. On the night of December 25, 1943, a Japanese raid destroyed two Venturas on the ground that had been loaded with bombs, ammunition and fuel for their early morning missions. As those planes burned and the bombs and ammunition exploded, they created an unforgettable Christmas fireworks show as chunks of the Venturas flew across the island.

U.S. Army B-24s staged through Tarawa to bomb Kwajalein, and on the night of January 10, 1944, two of them crashed into the lagoon during takeoff, with no survivors. On that same night, two Japanese soldiers were discovered as they ate in the natives' mess tent. The B-24s had been parked together, and it was believed that those Japanese soldiers had sabotaged the planes by adding water to the fuel tanks.

On January 20, 1944, the first plane from the VB-142 was lost in combat when 12 planes attacked Japanese ship and land targets at Jabor on Jaluit Atoll. The planes flew in four groups, and we approached our targets across a 14-mile-wide lagoon; the land targets were radio and radar antennas, torpedo shops, gun emplacements and buildings. Flying at 280mph and 25 to 50 feet off the water, I glanced over and saw the starboard wing of the Ventura flown by crew number eight break off near the engine nacelle; it had probably been hit by a 75mm round at close range. The plane struck the water with such force that there was no possibility of anyone surviving. While flying across the lagoon earlier, I had seen a friend, turret gunner Jack Daley, with his guns facing forward as we closed on the targets. Only a few seconds later, the plane was no longer there. Daley and I were both 18 and had attended ordnance and gunnery schools in Oklahoma together; we had been assigned to VB-142 when it was formed at Whidbey Island. Before then, neither of us had ever been in an airplane. Five other crew members died with Daley in that far-off patch of worthless water: pilot Lt. M.E. Villa; copilot Ensign P.J. Inuzzi; mechanic W. Patayzyn; navigator L. Nedrebo; and radio operator G. Stepanek.

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...LOCKHEED PV VENTURA and HARPOON - by Jack McKillop..." http://www.microworks.net/pacific/aviation/pv_ventura.htm [23JUN2002]

Waiting for permission to post entire article.

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: VB-142 History "...CDR Clayton L. Miller VB-142's Commanding Officer..." Contributed by John Lucas john.lucas@netzero.net [14JUN2000]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: VB-142 History ThumbnailCameraVB-142 Squadron "...CDR Clayton L. Miller VB-142's Commanding Officer..." Contributed by John Lucas john.lucas@netzero.net [14JUN2000]


Circa 1941 - 1948
CDR Carl A. "Art" Larsen

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Beginning in mid-1941, combat pilot Carl A. "Art" Larsen flew with VB-136, with VP-41 during the Aleutian Islands Campaign for which his commander won a Navy Cross, with VB-142, VPB-2 OTU-4, and FAW-6. He flew throughout the South Pacific including at Tarawa, Guadalcanal, Midway etc. all the way to Naval Seaplane Base Brisbane, Australia. His 160-page intensively detailed LOG BOOK entries chart his entire career from his training days in 1941 before Pearl Harbor through until 1948 when he was flying around occupied Japan. The Log Book is also up for auction along with the corresponding silk maps from his flights. Larsen reached the rank of Commander..." WebSite: EBay http://www.ebay.com/ [07JUL2007]

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Circa 1941-1944

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...History of FAW-8 - History from 08JUL41-31DEC44 Submitted April 12th, 1945. Squadron's Assigned: VP-16, VP-18, VP-19, VP-20, VP-21, VP-22, VP-25, VP-26, VP-27, VP-28, VP-43, VP-61, VP-62, VP-63, VP-72, VP-81, VP-82, VP-83, VP-84, VP-92, VP-118, VP-123, VP-133, VP-137, VP-140, VP-142, VP-144, VP-148, VP-150, VP-153, VP-198, VP-205, VP-208 and VP-216..." Official U. S. Navy Records (National Archives and Records Administration) via Fold3 http://www.fold3.com/ [01DEC2012]

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