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Circa 1937

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...History of FAW-2 - History of Headquarters Squadron Fleet Air Wing Three - History: 01OCT37 - 15MAY45 . Squadron's Assigned: VP-1, VP-4, VP-6, VP-8, VP-10, VP-13, VP-16, VP-21, VP-22, VP-23, VP-24, VP-25, VP-26, VP-27, - Submitted July 5, 1945..." Official U. S. Navy Records (National Archives and Records Administration) via Fold3 http://www.fold3.com/ [24NOV2012]

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Circa 1939

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...One Hung Up By Albert Richards (LT. USN, Ret.)..."Air War! Magazine 1939-1945 - Air Classics Special Air War No. 2 - Page 40 through 42 - 1986 Volume 2 [17SEP2001]

Our perennial PBY pilot AI Richards recounts an adventure concerning the hazards of night bombing with the Black Cats of VPB-24.

IN THE DRIVE through the Gilberts, Marshall, and Marianas Islands, the Allied forces during World War II bypassed many of the Jap-held bases on their way to Japan. Looking at a map of the Central Pacific, you can see the path taken: Tarawa, Makin, Majuro, Aniwetok, Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian and Guam.

The Jap-held bases left behind were to be neutralized by forces at the bases held. At Majuro there was a Wing of Marine F4Us and VPB-24 with PBY-5A Catalinas, the Black Cat. During the day the F4Us would pound the hell oLT of the neighboring Jap-held bases, and at night VPB24 would see that they didn't get any sleep by dropping 500 pounders on the hour. The Jap fighter planes had been knocked oLT by Admiral Halsey's carrier fighter boys so there was no air opposition. BLT they had plenty of AA, and they could make it extremely hot when you came in close.

The reason for fooling with them was that Jap subs were using the bases for refueling, and as they got low on food they were killing the natives so they wouldn't steal their food and other equipment. The hot- test of these islands (actually they were atolls) were Mili, Jaliut, and Wotje.

Besides VPB-24s' duties of night harassment, we would fly dumbo (air sea rescue) for the F4Us during the day. Hardly a week went by for a while that we would try and make an open sea landing to pick some- body up. This was when we found oLT our chances of making an open sea landing in the PBY-5As and get- ting away with it were pretty slim. In fact, we lost seven planes in the first six months trying to land in even a moderate sea. First, if there were swells running it was almost impossible to keep one of the wing floats from catching in the crest of a wave and tearing the wing off. The second was if you hit a swell with any force head on, the bow wheel doors would break in and the impact of the wave would split the hull open-even in a full stall landing.

The record of VPB-24 was some- where around 54 rescues, but if we had been flying helicopters there would have been many more. There is nothing more sickening than to see a guy shot down in the morning, make it into the sea, get oLT OK and into a life raft, and cover him all day with every plane that could fly but with thirty knots of wind blowing and seas that were heavy, knowing it would be impossible to land. If you did try and land you would only risk the lives of seven men to save one. For years you wake from a dream seeing him wave to you as it is getting so dark you can barely see him, and the next day go back and find nothing. It wasn't easy facing the boys from the F4U group either.

The atoll of Jaluit had a pretty I heavy concentration of AA, and . headquarters wanted us to see if we could pick oLT the gun emplacements at night. To draw their fire we loaded up two five-hundreds and scheduled a midnight takeoff. It took us aboLT 40 minutes to get to the atoll. We made a couple of low level passes to wake them up. Then we climbed to aboLT eight thousand AIR WAR for a drop run. Everybody had a, map of the atoll, and they were 1 to mark the spots when they saw AA.

Our plan was to' drop one five- I hundred pounder, get the hell oLT of there, and come back later to , check what we had. Being Black Cats we didn't think they could see I us very well. Approaching the atoll I we pLT the nose down and added , full throttle.

As we got over the edge of the reef we let the five-hundred go. They, had AA all right! Banking away as I sharp as we could and diving for the water, we came oLT withoLT get- ting hit. BLT everyone was pretty badly shook up, so we flew far enough away so they wouldn't hear us. We waited for an hour or so to get up enough nerve to go back , and decided we could see a lot more i with a little altitude. Coming in high wasn't any better as they threw i everything at us. With the 500 armed we weaved around until we got in , position and pulled the release. Flak i was all around us, but they didn't i even scratch us.

However, we had one little problem. The 500 was still there! Rocking the wings didn't help, so we nosed over into a dive and pulled back figuring the added Gs would pull it off. Nothing happened. Climbing up to ten thousand we nosed over and dove toward the water. Not straight down but steep enough that it took the two of us with our feet on the instrument panel to pullout. The SOB didn't come off. Switching it on SAFE, we decided to head back for Majuro.

The problem was, we' had fooled around so much trying to get the damn thing off, we had gotten our- selves good and lost. Asking Sparks for a RDF bearing, he came up with nothing so we started a square search. North for two minutes, East for two minutes, South for four minutes, and West for four minutes, North for six minutes, and low and behold there was an atoll. After several radio calls the tower answered that they had us on radar and gave us a bearing home.

We weren't over Majuro, we were over Arno. that didn't bother us as one of our crews spent all night in a Jap-held lagoon before he- and they- discovered where they were. In the distance we could hear a B-24 calling Majuro, and it was our extreme desire to get down be- fore he got there. Calling the tower for landing instructions, we informed them that we had a 500 hung up and requested a bomb crew, crash truck, fire truck, and last but not least an ambulance.

On final approach we took the Aldis Lamp and spotted it on the wing. It was still there. Every pilot always tries for a good landing. This time there was enough adrenaline flowing in that P8Y to let us down on fluid. We touched down with hardly a whisper of the gear touching the ground. Taxiing to the parking area off the ramp everyone got oLT as fast as they could and scrambled under the wing to see how it was holding. IT WASN'T! IT WAS GONE! AboLT that time everything we had ordered had arrived.

Everybody started yelling at once. "There's a 500 somewhere on the runway!" A couple of us jumped on the bomb crew truck and we headed back up the runway. AboLT four hundred feet up, there it was, sitting just off the center of the runway headed the same way we had landed. It was sitting aboLT six inches deep in the coral, and behind it was a trough in the coral aboLT one hundred and fifty feet long where it had ploughed along. Thank God we hadn't landed on Marston matting or a cement runway.

By this time we could hear the 8-24 and didn't know if they had heard aboLT it. The operations jeep drove up aboLT that time and he called the tower and pLT the 8-24 in a holding pattern until the bomb crew could get the 500 up. We all pitched in to fill -up the trough it had made. The bomb crew was quite positive that it would not have gone off as long as it was on SAFE. May- be not but the thought of 500 pounds of Torpex dropped from anywhere from ten feet to thirty feet at sixty or seventy knots is not the kind of game we wanted to play.

The crew was pretty quiet driving up to the chow hall, and later it seemed everyone was having trouble getting the coffee cup up to his mouth withoLT spilling it.

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Circa 1939 AIRCRAFT SCOUTING FORCE - Rear Admiral A. B. Cook - MEMPHIS (CL-13) - CAPTAIN S. A. Manahan..." Contributed by John Lucas john.lucas@netzero.net [15DEC98]

PATROL WING ONE - CAPTAIN C. P. Mason

TENDERS

USS WRIGHT (AV-1) - CDR W. K. Harrill
USS PELICAN (AVP-6) - LT H. J. Dyson
USS AVOCET (AVP-4) - LT J. M. Carson

SQUADRONS

VP-11 - LCDR F. T. Ward, Jr.
VP-12 - LCDR A. C. Olney, Jr.
VP-13 - LCDR S. H. Ingersoll

PATROL WING TWO - Rear Admiral Arthur L. Bristol

TENDERS

USS LANGLEY (AV-3) - CDR A. C. Davis
USS CHILDS (AVP-14) - LCDR H. F. Fick
USS SWAN (AVP-7) - LT J. F. Greenslade

SQUADRONS

VP-21 - Cmdr. S. L. LaHache
VP-22 - LCDR W. P. Cogswell
VP-23 - LCDR G. Van Deurs
VP-24 - LCDR D. C. Allen
VP-25 - LCDR A. R. Brady


Circa 1934

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: History ThumbnailCameraCDR H. R. Bogusch "...United States postal history. April 25, 1934. Ship mail cover postmarked on board the USS Wright while stationed at Coco Solo Naval Base, Canal Zone. Very good strike of ship postmark. Signed by Commander H. R. Bogusch, Patrol Wing, Canal Zone. Commander Bogusch was in charge of VPB-24, a patrol bombing squadron, in 1934. Cover is addressed to Edward Robertson, Nampa, Idaho. The USS Wright (AZ-1/AV-1) was a one-of-a-kind auxiliary ship in the United States Navy, named for Orville Wright. The Wright was built as a lighter-than-air aircraft tender. Experiments with balloons launched from the Wright were unsuccessful and spent most of her career as a seaplane tender, servicing Naval air patrol squadrons. Launched in 1920, she earned two battle stars for her World War II service..." WebSite: EBay http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZdocronl [04NOV2007]


Circa 1933

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...USS Avocet I (AM-19/AVP-4) - (Passages pertaining to VP squadrons)..." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ships/dafs/AVP/avp4.html [03MAR2003]

Avocet's inactivity, however, lasted only a little over three years. Reconditioned for service at Cavite, the ship was recommissioned on 8 September 1925, Lt. Grady B. Whitehead in command. Avocet was recommissioned to serve as an "auxiliary aircraft tender", assigned to the Asiatic Fleet's air squadrons.

Avocet then operated out of the Fleet Air Base, Pearl Harbor, through early April 1933, local operations punctuated only by upkeep in the navy yard. She sailed independently for French Frigate Shoals on 15 April, anchoring there on the 17th to commence advanced base operations--the first such evolutions for Pearl Harbor-based flying boats. She got underway on the 19th to reach her plane-guard station, and soon logged in the arrival of 30 flying boats from Patrol Squadrons VP-1, VP-4 and VP-6. She supported VP-6, providing berthing and messing facilities for the squadron's officers and men, over the next several days, out of French Frigate Shoals, until recovering the seaplane moorings and breaking camp on 28 and 29 April. She sailed the latter day for Pearl Harbor in company with the small seaplane tender Pelican (AVP-6). Arriving back at the Fleet Air Base on 2 May, Avocet operated locally for the remainder of the year 1933, acting as plane guard for familiarization flights, night flying, and, on one occasion, salvaged the wreckage of a crashed Douglas PD-1 flying boat from VP-9, during August 1933, recovering the body of one of the pilots and parts of the aircraft.

Avocet plane-guarded the last leg of the inbound flight of the new Consolidated P2Y flying boats of VP-10 as they arrived at Pearl Harbor on 11 January 1939, and then operated locally until heading for Kahului, Hawaii, with the seaplane tender USS Wright (AV-1), on 20 January.

Underway for Corinto, Nicaragua, on 3 April, Avocet tended the Martin PM-1 flying boats from VP-7F and VP-9F from 13 to 15 April, and briefly served as the flagship for Rear Admiral Alfred W. Johnson, Commander, Aircraft, Base Force, while at Corinto.

One highlight of this period came on 10 May when Avocet received word that one of VP-9F's planes had been forced down, and was under tow of a merchant ship, SS Prospector. Underway from the Bay of Caldera at 1304 on 10 May, the ship rendezvoused with Prospector at 2238, and at 0040 on the 11th, first took the Martin PM-1 under tow and then hoisted it on board for repairs later that day.

Again she served briefly as Rear Admiral Johnson's flagship in August, 1934, and provided VP-9F with berthing and messing facilities while at Cordova.

Arriving on 8 May, this advanced party, despite "rain squalls and continued bad weather," succeeded in "skillfully and expeditiously" accomplishing its task. over the days following, Avocet supported seaplane operations out of Midway, accommodating men from VP-8 on board during this time.

She returned to Johnston Island later the same month, and supported advanced base operations there with VP-4, there and at Pearl and Hermes Reef.

Subsequently transporting passengers to Kahului and Hilo, Avocet tended VP-1 at the latter port from 23 to 31 August 1937 before she returned briefly to Pearl Harbor. She sailed thence for French Frigate Shoals on 1 September, and tended, in succession, VP-8, VP-10, VP-6 and VP-4, until 19 September, at which point she returned to the fleet air base.

March 1938--returned to French Frigate Shoals on 23 March 1938, supporting advanced base evolutions of VP-8; during this time she took on board gasoline from the submarine Nautilus (SS-168). Departing French Frigate Shoals on 28 March, Avocet proceeded directly to the village of Makua, on the coast of Oahu, and arrived on the 30th. The following morning she attempted the salvage of a crashed flying boat of VP-4, recovering the body of a radioman; she hoisted the wreckage of the plane on board on 1 April.

Before the year 1938 was out, Avocet conducted two periods of advanced base operations at Midway, tending VP-6 from 25 to 27 July and VP-4 between 25 to 27 October.

Avocet spent the first six months of 1939 operating out of Pearl Harbor, interspersing the routine local evolutions with advanced base maneuvers-once at Hilo, twice at Midway, and once at French Frigate Shoals--and an inspection of Lisianski Island. During this time Capt. Whiting again flew his pennant briefly in Avocet and the ship supported VP-4, VP-6, VP-8 and VP-10 at varying times.

Sailing from Pearl Harbor on 23 June 1939 for San Diego, Avocet arrived at her destination on Independence Day, having plane-guarded for VP-1 en route.

Performing plane-guard duties en route, Avocet arrived at Pearl Harbor on 9 April, and got underway for French Frigate Shoals four days later, to establish an advanced base for the Consolidated PBY flying boats of VP-24 as part of the "Maroon" fleet in Part VI of Fleet Problem XXI, the last of the large-scale fleet maneuvers.

With all of VP-24 in the air to conducted search missions on the 20th, the seaplane tender found herself alone when a formation of "Purple" cruiser-based scout planes arrived overhead.

For the rest of the summer, Avocet and USS Curtiss (AV-4) , and then tended VP-22 at Hilo.


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