When it first opened in 1942 NAS Los Alamitos was a training station for brand new pilots.  It was what was commonly called an elimination base.  If the would-be pilots couldn’t handle the basics, they were eliminated as a naval pilot.  In mid 1943, the base took on a new role — a support base for full replacement carrier air groups.  It became the home for VF-19, a newly-organized full air group which meant it had three components, bombers — two-man planes made straight-in dive bombing runs at enemy ships, torpedo bombers – three-man operations which flew low over the water runs to release their weapons, and the single-manned fighters which provided escort duties for the other planes on their sorties.  While all part of the same unit, and worked together on raids, all three had different roles, and trained separately while at Los Alamitos.  Like the other units, Bomber 19 was a tight crew which after training at Los Alamitos, was assigned to the carrier Lexington, and went through some of the toughest battles of the Pacific Naval Air War.  A long tiome after the war, bomber pilot Bill Emerson began collecting memories of their time which he published in book form for his old mates at their reunions.  It was called “Voices of Bomber 19.”  We republish the Los Alamitos sections here.  But the complete book — detailing further training in Hawaii, assignment to the Lexington (and her task force ships, Essex and Langley)  and subsequent action against the Japanese during the Pacific air war ending with devastating attacks by kamikaze planes — is available here.

 

THE VOICES OF BOMBING NINETEEN

 

This book was written by and for the men of VB-19.  It covers, loosely chronologically, that special period of time from August 1943 to December 1944.  The words are from the men themselves.  Some come from log books or other papers written at that time.  Other words were written recently – in letters sent to the editors.  The “titles” listed in the Table of Contents should be considered more like “headlines” than titles.  They serve as timelines which help put the stories into sequence.  The underlined questions throughout the book were sent out by Stu Crapser in 1983-84.  They are followed by the responses he received with some additions by the editors.

We are indebted to Stu Crapser and Tom Bratten, who got it all started.

 

 

Compiled and Edited by

Bill and Kathy Emerson

 

First Edition

August 1993

 

Second Edition

August 1995

 

Web Version

Uploaded by Hugh Emerson

December 2002

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PAGE                               CHAPTER 1 – N.A.S. LOS ALAMITOS, CA 4

 

15 AUG 1943               SQUADRON COMMISSIONED

16 NOV 1943               ENS FRANKLIN P. HART AND THEODORE G.SCHECK, ARM3 KILLED ON DIVE BOMBING RUN NEAR SEAL BEACH, CA

3-4 JAN 1944             CARRIER LANDING QUALIFICATIONS, USS ALTAMAHA, OFF SAN DIEGO, CA

– – – –                                ON DUTY LOS ALAMITOS

– – – –                                OFF DUTY LOS ALAMITOS

 

 

CHAPTER 2 – MAUI, T.H. 22

 

21 FEB 1944                ENTRAINED TO ALAMEDA FOR FURTHER TRANSPORTATION WEST

24 FEB 1944                DEPARTED FOR PEARL HARBOR, T.H. ABOARD USS LEXINGTON

28 FEB 1944                ARRIVED PEARL HARBOR

29 FEB 1944                TRANSFERRED TO  N.A.S. KAHULUI,  MAUI, T.H.

APR 1944                     RECEIVED FIRST SB2C-1’S FOR TRANSITION TRAINING

MAY 1944                    RECEIVED SB2C-3’S

11-13 JUN 1944         REFRESHER CARRIER LANDING ABOARD USS FRANKLIN

– – – –                               OPS MAUI

– – – –                               OFF DUTY MAUI

 

 

CHAPTER 3 – OFF TO THE WARS 39

 

21 JUN 1944              DEPARTED  MAUI AND BOARDED USS INTREPID FOR   TRANSPORTATION TO ENIWETOK

30 JUN 1944             ARRIVED ENIWETOK

– – – –                              LIBERTY ENIWETOK

1-10 JUL 1944          MOVED TO USS BUNKER HILL

7 JUL 1944                REFRESHER CARRIER LANDINGS ABOARD USS BUNKER HILL

 

 

CHAPTER 4 – USS LEXINGTON – JULY, AUGUST 1944 43

9-10 JUL 1944          PERMANENTLY BASED ABOARD USS LEXINGTON

10-14 JUL 1944        PROVISIONING AND REARMING AT ENIWETOK ATOLL

18-21 JUL 1944        FIRST COMBAT MISSIONS – AGAINST  GUAM

25-27 JUL 1944       STRIKES ON PALAU GROUP

4-5 AUG 1944           STRIKES ON BONINS – KAZANS – IWO JIMA

10-29 AUG 1944      REARM – PROVISION – ENIWETOK

 

CHAPTER 5 – USS LEXINGTON – SEPTEMBER 1944 60

6-8 SEP 1944             STRIKES ON PELELIU ISLAND

9-10 SEP 1944          STRIKES ON MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES

12-14 SEP 1944        STRIKES ON VISAYANS – CEBU – MACTAN

21-22 SEP 1944        STRIKES ON LUZON – MANILA

24 SEP 1944               STRIKES ON VISAYANS – CEBU – NEGROS

25 SEP-7 OCT 1944 REARM – PROVISION – PALAU AND ULITHI

 

 

 

CHAPTER 6 – USS LEXINGTON – OCTOBER 1944 72

 

10 OCT 1944               STRIKES ON OKINAWA

12-14 OCT 1944         STRIKES ON FORMOSA – PESCADORES

21 OCT 1944                STRIKES ON CORON – ROMBLON

24 OCT 1944                STRIKES ON JAPANESE BATTLE FLEET, SIBUYAN SEA AND ON LUZON

25 OCT 1944                STRIKES ON JAPANESE CARRIER FORCE – PHILIPPINE SEA

26 OCT-1 NOV 1944 STANDBY AT LEYTE AND PROVISION AT ULITHI ATOLL

 

 

CHAPTER 7 – USS LEXINGTON – NOVEMBER 1944 90

 

5-6 NOV 1944              STRIKES ON LUZON

5 NOV 1944                  HIT BY KAMIKAZE PLANE OFF LUZON

– – – –                                 FAVORITE COMBAT TALE – LEX

10-22 NOV 1944        REPAIRS AT ULITHI ATOLL

– – – –                                 LIBERTY AT ULITHI

 

 

CHAPTER 8 – GOING HOME 104

 

23 NOV 1944               RELIEVED BY AIR GROUP 20 – TRANSFERRED TO USS   ENTERPRISE  FOR TRANSPORTATION TO PEARL HARBOR

– – – –                                 ABOARD THE ENTERPRISE

– – – –                                 LIBERTY AT PEARL

8 DEC 1944                   ABOARD USS LONG ISLAND FOR TRANSPORTATION TO SAN DIEGO

– – – –                                 ABOARD USS LONG ISLAND

14 DEC 1944                 ARRIVED SAN DIEGO

 

CHAPTER 9 – MORE SEA STORIES 112


CHAPTER 10 – SOME LAST WORDS 134

 

CHAPTER 1

 

N.A.S. LOS ALAMITOS, CA

 

15 AUG 1943 – SQUADRON COMMISSIONED – N.A.S. LOS ALAMITOS, CA

 

WINTERS (CAG):  We all (VB-19, VF-19, and VT-19) were commissioned 15 Aug. ’43.  Jung had not yet arrived, so I was acting CAG and read the orders to the three squadrons assembled.

 

STRADLEY:  Lieutenant Commander Richard McGowan, USN, Commanding Officer, with about fifteen pilots and an equally small number of enlisted men, represented VB-19 at the ceremony.

 

McBRIDE:  The first impression of VB-19 wouldn’t be complete without a little previous background.  After finishing cadet training, followed by instructor training, I went to instructor duty.  We instructed in every phase of flight training.  Every department head was a Naval Academy graduate.  We had to walk a more narrow line than a cadet.  Discipline, regulations and performance were stringent.

When I came to Squadron 19 I couldn’t believe I was in the same navy — the pomp and starch were gone.  The facilities, including the skipper’s office, were one big eyesore.  There was no order, and everything seemed to be going in all directions.  The dress code was shocking; however, everyone was quite friendly and helpful.  This ole boy had to make some fast adjustments.  The airmanship and airdiscipline made one’s hair stand up.  Tactics were appalling.  After hearing lecture after lecture from such as Butch O’Hare, Thatch, and others on the latest fleet, here we were years behind.

Somehow things started coming together.  The wild ass carefree Ensigns showed they could and did produce.  Later I found this to be the best all around group that I have ever been associated with.

 

ENGEN:  Jack Scott and I reported to the Squadron Duty Officer of VSB-19 located in Hangar Two, and found ourselves directed to the Squadron Administrative Officer, Lt Ben Buttenweiser, USNR.  The Commanding Officer was Lt. Com. Richard S. McGowan, USN, and the Executive Officer was Lt Billy Gates, on whom we made the obligatory office calls.

Each pilot had ground responsibilities in respective administrative areas, but these were relatively minimal.  Flying was our primary role.  I was assigned as Assistant Navigation Officer under Lt Joe Williams, Navigation Officer.

Scouting Bombing Squadron Nineteen was redesignated Bombing Squadron Nineteen in September.  We had 36 SBD-5s, the latest model of SBD and top of the line at that time.

The mix of experience and inexperience in the squadron became a problem for our Skipper.  Besides himself and three others there was no combat experience in the squadron. The Ensigns coming from operational training were the best trained dive bombers because of their recent intensive training.  The remainder of the squadron pilots were former instructors who had finally “escaped” to fleet duty.  Our radiomen gunners, except for one second class radioman who flew with the CO, came as recent graduates of the fleet gunnery school.  I was assigned Radioman Gunner Theodore Stevenson, whom I was to fly with for the next fifteen months. Our tactical assignment was as the number two wingman on Lt Emil Stella, who in turn was the second section leader for Lt William McBride’s six plane division.

I started flying on September 8th and flew a number of individual familiarization flights.  These were an open invitation to revisiting old haunts in Southern California and to indulge in some time honored but strictly forbidden “flat hatting”.  After a few flights to get to know the airplane I headed for my home near the foothills of the Sierra Madre Range in Altadena.  I dropped down to fly west to east along Crary Avenue, the site of my home there, and flew down the street at tree height to alert my younger childhood friends who still had not left home.  The SBD had a very characteristic engine sound, and it alerted people to come out on the street.  On the last pass down the street, I asked Stevenson to unlimber his twin .50 caliber gun mount to show my friends his guns, which he did.  As we flew down the street now much lower, I saw my Mother in her apron waving, kids running around in the street waving, and the mailman riding “no hands” down the street on his bicycle waving both arms over his head.  It was heady illegal stuff, but we got away with it by not coming back again.

Flat hatting was definitely illegal, but the war and people’s interest in the airplanes combined to permit some frequent digressions, until one day.  That day was when Jack Scott and I were flying our SBDs and decided to go to Pasadena and say “hello” to Mary, who lived in a house overlooking the Arroyo Seco Canyon and the Rose Bowl.  I was flying lead and Jack dropped back just a little to fly behind me as I dropped down over the Devil’s Gate Dam to fly at tree top height through the Arroyo Seco, until we came to the Rose Bowl at which time I pulled up to clear the cliff and passed very low and fast over Mary’s house.  Jack did the same thing and we returned to Los Alamitos feeling that we had achieved our goal of giving Mary a loud “hello” and we would say nothing about it to anyone. Mary heard and knew right away who it was.

That evening I drove to Pasadena to see Mary and knocked on the door to be met by her father, for whom I had a great deal of respect.  He was very somber faced and told me to come with him as he led me into the dining room.  There he pointed to a large crack in one of the walls and admonished me to never do “that” again.  I was suitably contrite and apologetic and allowed that I would not do “that” again.  Mary and I departed the house shortly, and as we walked out, she started to laugh.  She told me that the crack in the dining room wall had been there for ten years.  But Mr. Baker made his point.  This and the fact that Arnie Jancar’s brother, who was an aircraft spotter on the Devil’s Gate Dam, had reported two unidentified airplanes “dive bombing the Rose Bowl” caused me to think twice in the future.  I confined my low flying to uninhabited areas and over the water after that.  Some of my squadron mates were not quite as lucky and were caught flat hatting to receive the irate attention of the CO and restriction to the BOQ.  Being placed in “hack” had different variations.  The punishment was effective.  We Ensigns stopped flat hatting.

One afternoon, while conducting Squadron dive bombing at Kearny Mesa, our flight leader, Lt Billy Gates, became furious with what he felt was the consistently slow rendezvous that our eighteen airplane flight was making after each dive, so he placed us into an eighteen plane right echelon in parade formation to have a chance to “chew” on us on the radio.  The sun was setting in the West, and with the northbound direction of flight, that placed us all looking directly into the sun for the 45 minute flight to Los Alamitos.  It made a lasting impression on all of us.  Lt Gates was transferred later and given command of another bombing squadron where he was killed in combat.  He was a hard taskmaster but deeply respected.

 

GRIFFIN, W:   I reported for duty with VB-19 in Aug.’43.  Stu Crapser, Johnny Cavanaugh and I had all been together in operational training.

N.A.S. Los Alamitos, CA, was the home of the newly commissioned carrier Air Group 19 (CAG-19), consisting of VF-19, VB-19, and VT-19.  Lt. (JG) Sobol gave me my check ride in the SBD-5 (Dauntless) and what a sweet dive-bomber she was!  Training was fun in the squadron and we soon were feeling good about our cohesion into a smoothly coordinated fighting machine.  All was not smooth and easy though–we lost our first pilot and crewmember, Ens. Leon Hart and ARM T. Scheck on a practice dive bombing mission, and a young ordnanceman who was caught in a target sleeve and dragged off the ground to his death.

On the lighter side, I remember the fun times at the Long Beach Pike Amusement Park–the Sunday afternoon Tea Dances at the Long Beach City Woman’s Club–the piano player who always played “Anchors Aweigh” as we came down the steps of Eisenhood’s cocktail lounge near the train stop in Long Beach, and last but not least, the many mornings we could sleep in a little later because there was almost always a thick fog each morning at Los Al, and we couldn’t fly until about 10 or 11 A.M.

 

NEWMAN:  Reporting to VB-19, after living around military bases most of my life, was unusual to say the least.  The “laid back” approach to a war probably kept many more of us alive than we realize.  Who else had a Chief Flight named “Whiskey Bill”?  Fun things kept our minds off the dangers, but did not take away from what we knew to be the job at hand.

 

NIEMEYER:    HIGHLIGHTS – LOS ALAMITOS:

The excitement of finally not being a flight instructor after two years and becoming part of a group that flew real aircraft and were really going to do something.

The pleasure of meeting a great group of men with whom I would be associated at work and play for the coming years.

The recreation time in Los Angeles.

The way we began flying together as a group.

Bob Hope and Frances Langford – particularly Frances Langford.

 

GRIFFIN, W:   The Skipper Gives Me A Choice!!

Sometime in Sept/Oct 1943 while at NAS LOS ALAMITOS I was summoned into the C.O.’s office and as I stood at attention in front of his desk, he admonished me in very firm and precise terms: “Griffin,” he said, “it has come to my attention that many enlisted men are in the habit of addressing you as ‘GRIFF’.  Is that correct?”  This caught me completely off guard and I was hard pressed to give a rapid answer.  After what seemed a long period of silence and our eyes locked on each other, I finally admitted that it was true that a few of the men did address me as “Griff”, but I thought it was only at those times and places where other officers were not present.  Evidently this was not the case or I would not now be standing before the C.O, red-faced, embarrassed, and a little angry.  No one can really understand the feeling unless they had previously been an enlisted man for some years and were now newly commissioned as an officer.  You never ever forget your status as an enlisted man and the importance you play on the “Navy Team”.  I was one “Helluva Good Sailor” and at the same time I was very proud to have been selected for flight training and eventually commissioned as an officer.  In addition to this pride my shipmates, to a man, were as happy and proud that “one of their guys” made it!!  It was no secret that I was a former aviation machinist mate and some of the men, as discreet as they could, thought they could address me as “Griff” without putting me on the spot.  I knew the difference between an officer and an enlisted man, but on the occasions they addressed me as “Griff” I did not take offense and did not correct them.

The Skipper closed the conversation with these words: “Griffin, if you want that white hat back on your head again, I can see that it happens in a couple of weeks.  Do you understand?”  “Yes, sir,” I said, did an about face, and left his office.  Needless to say I was really shook-up and was in a quandary as to how I could remedy the situation.  I knew I could not all of a sudden become a “Prussian-type” officer and ream out each man that called me “Griff”, so after long deliberation that night I contacted our leading first class line petty officer, Joe Nance, the next day, and explained the whole situation to him.  I’ll never forget his words when I had finished – he just casually said, “Don’t worry about a thing.  I’ll take care of it.” And take care of it he did.  Within hours the entire VB-19 crew were addressing me as “Mr. Griffin” and emphasizing in strong and loud terms, “Yes, sir”, “Aye, aye, sir,” or “No, sir”!!  I never heard the term “Griff” again from one single enlisted man.  The loyalty and camaraderie that they felt for “one of their guys that made it” could never be breached or betrayed.  Needless to say, I never heard another word from the Skipper – or any other Skipper in my entire 25 years of active duty in my beloved Navy.

 

NICKENS: I was flying with Louis Heilmann when he made his famous wheels up landing at Los Alamitos.  It came at the end of a night flight. The landing was actually smoother than many conventional landings.  I was surprised by the sudden loud noise, and you would not believe the shower of sparks.  When the plane came to a stop, we both made a hasty departure, because we didn’t know if it was going to blow.  When questioned by the Skipper, Louis maintained that the gear was down, and collapsed on landing.  I backed him up on this.  To this day I don’t really know if the wheels were down or not, but suspect they were not.  Louis was only 19 at the time, and not quite dry behind the ears.  Not wanting to see him get into trouble, I corroborated his story.

 

NEWMAN: During one of our long weekends off, a group of us (8) went to Big Bear Lake.  Arno Jancar had a friend who owned a house there.  It was right on the lake and 2 stories tall.  The lake and area were beautiful.  Many people from Hollywood own homes there, and some people live there the year around.  Mrs. Jancar (Arno’s mother) fixed us a lot of food – ham and turkey and fixings.  It was B.Y.O.B. and we did.

Late the first evening Squeaky Heilmann, who played a great cornet, played a number of songs from the 2nd floor balcony.  The music bounced off the hills and around the lake.  After several drinks and at about 2200, Squeaky decided the lake needed some military attention, so he blew Taps.  I must admit it sounded beautiful.  Lights came on all over the lake.  The next morning at 0630 Squeaky played Reveille.  I think we were the only ones he woke up.  We just knew they would send the high Sheriff.  That evening more music and at 2200 Taps.  This time lights went off all over the lake.  As we were packing to leave, several people came over to see us off.  We just knew that we were going to get it.  One older gent said, “Hate to see you boys leave.  We have enjoyed seeing you here and having a good time.  I don’t know how we are going to know when to go to bed and when to get up after you’re gone.  You must be pilots.  God go with you and return you safely.”

We gave Mrs. Jancar a silver loving cup with our names on it, for being a great Navy Mom.

 

SADLER:  Some firsts:

  1. I was the only one who managed to put an SBD in an inverted spin at 5000′ while trying to loop.  Either Scotty or Don was with me at Los Alamitos.  McGowan wanted me to tell the squadron how to get out of the spin–I didn’t know how I did it.
  2. I was also the only one to have my appendix out Christmas Day ’43 and grounded for six weeks during which time I missed SBD carrier qualification at San Diego.  My first day back I was flat hatting at Redondo Beach to impress my future mother-in-law and future wife, Betty.  Result–ten days in hack, loss of pay, a marine guard at my door and finally six months delay in promotion (later rescinded).  McGowan must have seen some potential as he took me to Maui.

 

EMERSON:  Remember Peck and Duncan setting their rear ends on fire with 100 octane and running through the lounge of the mini-BOQ where some of us unmarried and lower ranking Ensigns lived at Los Alamitos?  This action would hopefully scare out the newly assigned WAVE Officers that had been moved into that building, as we (VB-19 Ensigns) had been told we would have to move to the main BOQ.  Needless to say, we eventually moved as directed, but not without a “flaming” protest.  Male occupants of the mini-BOQ were, of course, Peck, Duncan, Crocker, Lewis, me, and what pictures I have indicate that Fisher lived there also.

 

LEWIS:  You may remember at Los Alamitos when the bachelors’ quarters got overloaded, they put about six of us lowly Ensigns in six separate rooms that had formerly been Chiefs’ quarters in a separate building.  Well, we had a ball with our separate lounge and pool table!  Later, the Admiral at San Diego ordered that the WAVE officers be moved out of the BOQ and they doubled up the six of us and moved the WAVE officers in some of what we claimed were our rooms and were building a partition between them in the hallway.  The first night they were there, Duncan and Peck (our original bad boys) got into one of their frequent altercations, and Duncan squirted lighter fluid across the seat of Peck’s pants and threw a match at him.  Peck came running through the lobby where the girls had gathered, flaming like a torch.  I finally put him out with the Saturday Evening Post, and the poor gals looked as if they thought they had moved into an institution and that this was just the beginning.

 

BOWEN:  Looking back at my Bombing 19 experience is mostly enjoyable, sometimes sad, occasionally outrageous and often embarrassing.  The untested I was an argumentative, aggressive bundle of energy and noise, obsessed with the thesis that Franklin D., the communists and Eleanor were responsible for the mess we were in.  I’m still a black fascist, right-wing reactionary, but have substantially modified my aggressiveness.  In my four years as a line officer, I never fully embraced the niceties of “naval courtesy and etiquette” which probably accounts for the number of scrapes that befell me.

On one memorable evening of drinking and bravado in the BOQ at Los Alamitos, I was involved in pinning CDR Jung’s back to the floor in a virtually unbreakable wrestling hold.  What made the situation so untenable was not the fact that he was the CAG, but that he was considerably bigger than I and was screaming about the mayhem he would inflict on me when he got loose.  In the bedlam that followed, some brave souls helped me escape and like turbulent wind, the matter dissipated.

 

16 NOV 1943 ENS FRANKLIN P. HART AND THEODORE G. SCHECK, ARM3 KILLED ON DIVE BOMBING RUN NEAR SEAL BEACH, CA

 

ENGEN:  On November 16, 1943, while bombing a slick off Huntington Beach, Ens Frank Hart and his gunner Theodore Scheck were killed when they dove into the water after failing to pull out of their dive.  Glassy water gave little indication of height and although we were all aware of this fact, and watched our altimeter with our left eye in the dive while our right eye was on the reticle sight, a mistake was fatal.

 

NEWMAN:  Frank Hart’s death was an eye opener.  We had spent the prior two days in L.A. and made the most of it.  I think most of us decided after this accident, that planes can kill, and you need to keep your mind on your business.

 

WARNKE:  Fresh from Aviation Radioman and Free Gunnery schools, I checked in at Los Alamitos in August 1943 to become a member of the newly commissioned VB-19 – brought some friends of mine along, too — Ted Scheck, Albini, Stankevich, et. al.  I was assigned to LT(jg) Ray Wicklander for safekeeping, and we flew together for the remainder of the time I was in the squadron.

SBD-5 Dauntless dive bombers were provided free of charge by Uncle Sam, and we used them to tour the Long Beach/Los Angeles/coastal area. I must admit that I never knew where the hell we were, but my trusty chauffeur did, and that’s what counted.  Dive/glide bombing practice plus many opportunities for free-gunnery target practice on towed sleeves.  My main claims to fame are that I never hit the tow plane, never put a round through our own tail section, and occasionally put a few holes in the target.  Bore-sighting and cleaning our “twin thirties” was practically a daily routine plus plenty of “aircraft recognition” training classes.

Liberty was plentiful – Long Beach, LA area, Santa Monica, and surrounding areas.  A group of us spent an evening at a bar (name long forgotten) near the Douglas plant, and I’ll always remember the bartender turning the bright lights on at closing time and shouting, “Take a look and see what ya’ got!”  We were often escorted by our squadron “mascot”, a little white Spitz dog.  Poor thing, we also taught him the evils of alcoholic drinks.

Never to be forgotten, on November 16th, was the loss of my good friend, Ted Scheck, and I must admit that I shed a lot of tears upon his demise.  It was my first experience of losing a good buddy.  Unfortunately, several more of my friends were to meet the same fate in months to come, but at least they were lost under combat conditions.

 

ENGEN:  We lost an airplane when the engine quit on a navigation flight over water.  The pilot landed in the water and the crew was rescued.  Several other SBDs were lost by other squadrons at about the same time.  One day in December 1943, my time for an engine failure came.  I was flying between San Clemente and Catalina Islands when the engine abruptly quit.  I can’t describe how “loud” that the distinct lack of noise can be when you are over water out of sight of land.  Determined to try everything before I hit the water, my third or fourth alternative of using the electric primer brought a surge of power and a smile on my face.  But, I found that I had to hold the primer “ON” in order to keep the engine running.  So, I devised a way to put the sole of my right shoe on the primer switch while I headed for Los Alamitos.  Since I was the first to bring back an SBD-5 with this problem, Lt Don Banker and I flew to the Douglas aircraft plant in El Segundo to talk with the design engineer, Ed Heinemen.  He determined that a fuel line passing through the firewall had been bent during the manufacturing process at more than the standard 45 degrees.  Because of this, vapor lock could result.  Douglas and the Navy made sure that all fuel lines were checked and fixed, and we lost no more SBDs for this reason.

 

SADLER:   Los Alamitos, SBD:

  1. Right landing gear slowly collapsed resulting in a ground loop with lots of sparks and a wing tip ground off.  I rapidly exited and Smolinski stayed in the aircraft turning off the radio.  I remember shouting “Get the Hell out of there.”  Someone took me to the O Club and bought me a drink.  A Snyder by Doc Fox the next morning.
  2. Rolled over on a bombing run off the coast and was drowned in engine oil.  Maydayed and returned to base for a straight in approach.  Result–about 1/2 of the oil supply, about ten gallons, lost.  The plane captain did not replace the oil filter cap–it was in his pocket.
  3. The fighters were parked in a row parallel and facing the runway.  Upon landing I started to swerve to the right and the rudder couldn’t straighten things out and lo and behold there was no brake.  It soon became obvious that I was going to tangle with the row of fighters.  I jammed the right brake causing a severe ground loop toward the fighter line.  Severe damage to the right wing and wing tip.  Further inspection revealed a crossed thread on the hydraulic line to the left brake.  There evidently was enough pressure and fluid for us to taxi to takeoff–then none.  I was reprimanded for not noticing a hydraulic leak during the walk-around pre-flight inspection.

 

DULONGThe Gunner Who Lost His Guns

Dec. 4, 1943 – The squadron was training in Los Alamitos – several flights each day.  I was scheduled to go on a gunnery hop with Glumac at 11:00 AM.  When a radioman became ill and couldn’t make the 10:00 AM dive bombing hop, I volunteered to take his place.

When we returned from the bombing hop and taxied to the apron, another radioman ran over to the plane and told me that they were waiting for me for the gunnery hop and that he had put the guns in the plane for me.  So off we went.

Flying away from the coast we made free gunnery passes at the tow sleeve until the ammo ran out, and then started the fixed gunnery passes.  When the tow plane made a 180 degree turn to return to the coast, I unfastened my seat belt, bent under the scarf ring and began collecting the brass from the floor of the cockpit and putting the brass in the chute for removal on landing. `

That is when Glumac called me on the intercom and asked if I was still back there.  I grabbed the mike – told him I was – and he told me to hang on.  He then did two slow rolls.

Still without a seat belt, I hooked one arm under the scarf ring and pushed down with both feet to lock myself in, the brass and remaining ammo belts flying past my face.  A few minutes later I turned around and saw that the twin 30 machine guns were no longer there.

After Glumac finished his fixed gunnery passes on the way back, I told him the guns were missing.  He then told me to say that the guns fell out during a fixed gunnery practice.

When we returned to the field, the gunnery officer was waiting for me as we taxied to the apron.  He asked me what had happened, and I told him the guns fell out on a fixed gunnery run – a story I was to repeat many times.  He then took me directly in to see the Skipper – who, as we all know was eight feet tall, had steely blue eyes, and never smiled.  The Skipper asked me what happened, and I gave him the story.  He told me to report for Capt’s Mast the next day.

At the Capt’s Mast he told me I would have to stand for a Deck Court-Martial since I was responsible for the loss of Title B equipment.

At the Deck Court, the Skipper was attended by Mr. Buttenweiser, Squadron Personnel Officer, and the Squadron Yeoman.  The stage was set: a table with large blue covered book, a flag, and me in my best dress uniform.

The Skipper said, “I will now read the charge,” and did so reading from a 3X5 card, accusing me of failing to lock the guns in the plane – causing their loss.  He then asked “Do you agree to be tried on this charge?” and when I said, “No, sir,” everything came to a screeching halt.

I explained that I had not failed to lock the guns in the plane, since I did not put the guns in the plane.  I had only failed to make sure all was secure in the rear cockpit.  Then all three were leafing through the blue covered books looking for a reference for failing to make sure something was done – without luck, of course.

After a while, the Skipper looked up at me and said that if I allowed them to go on with the proceedings, it wouldn’t make any difference to me as long as I was with the squadron.  He then gave me a long lecture on why I shouldn’t lose my guns in combat, and fined me $20 a month for two months.

Everybody should have known the guns couldn’t have fallen out during fixed gunnery passes where all the G’s are into the plane.

I never did get my Good Conduct Medal.

 

3-4 JAN 1944       CARRIER QUALIFICATIONS, USS ALTAMAHA,  OFF SAN DIEGO, CA

ENGEN:  In early January we flew our airplanes to North Island to conduct carrier qualifications in USS Altamaha.  The night before we went to sea I was reminded of my age.  I never really stopped to think about the fact that I was 19 and that most of my compatriots, except for Squeaky Heilmann, were a little older.  Four of us had gone into San Diego to see the town.  We entered a local bar.  John Butts and two others were before me. As I went through the door last, a very buxom blonde bouncer leaned over and put her arm in the doorway blocking it and said to me, “Not you, honey.”  My compatriots laughed and went into the bar to leave me outside nursing my wounded pride.  I returned to USS Altamaha thinking that life was not fair.  I could fight for my country, but I could not have a drink.

Each of us pilots made the required number of carrier landings, but because of the long ocean swells off the coast of California and the proclivity of the CVE to roll, it took three days for all 50 of us to get our landings.  By the time a few got airborne there were some sick pilots that looked forward to getting into the air to stop the rolling motion.

 

GOOD:  I have mentioned this incident to a number of bombers and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why no one of them remember it – especially Wally, who was one of the main characters involved.

The incident occurred when all of us were being transported by navy bus from Los Alamitos to North Island for additional carrier landing practice aboard the USS Altamaha.  The bus driver was a young seaman.  I don’t remember his rate, but I do recall his slight build and nervous appearance.

Well, before we had travelled 20 miles a big political discussion surfaced.  Ben and I were sitting in the rear of the bus, so we had good seats for the show.  Opposing political views were being put forth by Wally and George Bowen in not a gentlemanly manner.  Soon others joined (mainly Glumac), choosing sides.  Before long most of the squadron was involved and emotions and shouting were turned way up.  The racket was awesome.  Then, as usually happens, a few personal remarks were cast, leaving violence the last resort.  Pure pandemonium took over.

Now, consider the little driver travelling down the highway at 50 miles per hour with a busload of crazy navy dive-bomber pilots of commission rank on the verge of killing one another and destroying his charge!

That terrified boy did the only thing he could do.  He stopped the bus, opened the door, and ran for his life out into the middle of the adjoining pasture and absolutely refused to return.

As I recalled, Ben walked out to where the driver was and talked him into returning to his post upon the condition that peace and tranquillity would prevail thereafter.

The transport was resumed and all hands were refreshed by the experience just as all good dive bombers should be after a near miss.  But, alas, the little seaman did not drive us back to Los Alamitos after our mission was over.

 

ON DUTY LOS ALAMITOS – What single “on duty” event stands out in your memory of the squadron training period at Los Alamitos?

 

BOWEN:  Ten (10) days in “Hack”!

 

BUTTENWEISER:  During Carrier Quals (USS Altamaha) the sea got so rough that we had to secure from flying.  One of our shipmates lying in his bunk moaning for some Oklahoma dust and one of the crap shooters in alarm yelled out “that wave shook the whole building”!

 

CHAPMAN:  My making a wheels-up approach in the CO’s airplane.  I got a wave off.

 

CROCKER:  Survival!

 

EMERSON:  (1) The ordnance ground crewman being dragged to death, after being caught in the gunnery target tow line as it was being lifted off by VF.  I, and others, were doing FCLP on the parallel runway.  (2)  Our first casualties, Frank Hart and Scheck, 16 NOV 43.

 

ENGEN:   Flying at the end of an 18 plane echelon led by Billy Gates.

 

GLASGOW:  The plane following the one I was in on a bombing practice on a sled at sea failed to pull up as I watched.  About a 75 degree crash.

 

GOOD:  Out shooting Billy Gates with 50 cal fixed guns.

 

GRAY:  Buttenweiser got barracks exempt from inspection on Fridays.

 

GRIFFIN, W:  The day the sun came out at 7 AM and no one ready to fly!!

 

GUNTER:  (1)  “Bounce” drill at night – HAIRY!  (2)  Carrier Qualifications on the ALTAMAHA.

 

HEILMANN:  A night flight when I made a perfect wheels-up landing.  I could swear they were down and locked.

 

HELM:  Checkout in SBD-5.

 

LEAF:  Flying at night with search lights trained on us.

 

LEWIS:  Being commissioned official squadron bootlegger by CO McGowan to procure liquor taken to Maui and eventually aboard the Lexington.

 

McBRIDE:  My birthday, Dec 16, 1943.  Flew thru the trees on a pre-dawn mission, then in P.M. on practice bombing run – High speed stall, left wing streaks on water on recovery.

 

MEEKER:  Carrier landing Qualifying on jeep carrier.

 

NICKENS:  When the engine of the plane in which I was flying conked out, and we landed in the Pacific Ocean.

 

NIEMEYER:  How good we got in hitting a 50′ circle dive bombing.  The day we peppered the sled towed at sea.

 

NEWMAN:  Death of Frank Hart.

 

ROSS:  Crash landing on the runway due to Stromberg carburetor cutting out on the SBD.

 

SADLER:  Getting out of an inverted spin in SBD.

 

SCOTT:  The pick up of our new SBD’s at the Douglas El Segundo plant.

 

SIMMERMAN:  Allowed to fly SBD-5 from the rear seat.  What an experience.

 

STELLA:  During new engine break-in fuel line parted and had to make a dead stick landing at an Army base in South L.A.

 

WICKLANDER:  Don Banker leading division in formation practice over mountains near San Diego.  Scared hell out of me.

 

WODELL:  Gunnery practice at sea.  Carrier landings on the ALTAMAHA.

 

OFF DUTY LOS ALAMITOS

What single “off-duty”, or liberty, happening do you remember best from the squadron’s time at Los Alamitos?

 

BOWEN:  The time Bill Good & I introduced Ralph Meeker to the “Ghost”.

 

CROCKER:  Making nightly muster at the Sky Room in the Hilton Hotel.

 

DUNCAN:  Not reportable.

 

EMERSON:   I can’t possibly pick one!  They were all so, shall we say educational!  Best remembered is the fact that whatever happened, it usually got its start at the top of the Wilton (Hilton?).

 

EMIG:  Squadron Parties.

 

ENGEN:   The Air Group party at the BOQ where the CAG’s wife passed out on the steps to the dance floor, and the crap game in the bar where I lost all my money.

 

GLASGOW:  The big sendoff party.

 

GLUMAC:  Weekend at Arrowhead.

 

GOOD:  Rose Bowl football game on New Years Day.

 

GRAY:  Eno Leaf and I went out on last nite and I lost my I.D. card.  Was checked coming in.

 

GRIFFIN, W:  Liberty down on the Pike!!

 

GUNTER:  When our car was stolen.  A month later I recognized it at NOB San Pedro and we recovered it.

 

HEILMANN:  (1)  When a group, led by Jancar, went to Lake Arrowhead and I blew reveille at 6:00 AM and woke the whole place up.  (2)  Once in San Diego a group of us went to a burlyque show where the feature stripper always gave an autographed picture to a serviceman in the front row.  I think we stayed for 2 or 3 shows to get these choice seats.  We all decided that whoever got the picture it would say “All my love to Dunc”.  Anyway, we got it and then mailed it to Duncan’s girl in Kansas.  He really caught hell about that.

 

HELM:  Attending Earl Carroll’s.

 

LEAF:  Met my wife on a liberty in L.A.

 

LEWIS:  (1)  My standing reservation at the Biltmore in Los Angeles which had five bars and was a town unto itself.  (2)  When one of our squadron enlisted men, with a bogus ID card was hitchhiking from Long Beach to Los Alamitos late one night and had the misfortune of flagging down McGowan, I was assigned to look into the matter and defend him.

 

McBRIDE:  Going to the “Black Outs” in L.A.

 

MEEKER:  I’ll take the fifth on this one.

 

NICKENS:  L.H. Brown and I once hitchhiked to Phoenix and back one weekend.

 

NIEMEYER:  Bob Hope and company visit – particularly Frances Langford.

 

NEWMAN:  All trips to L.A. were great.  My getting involved to get the name “Frosty”.

 

ROSS:  Visiting the various Hollywood shows.

 

SADLER:  Xmas at Lake Arrowhead.  Bill Good being sucker punched by Jung, the Air Group Commander.

 

SCOTT: The squadron dinner dance at the Lakewood Country Club.

 

SIMMERMAN:  Playing golf in Long Beach.

 

STELLA:  Squadron party and dance.

 

THURMON:  Going up to the mountains to ski – and the lift was broken.

 

WICKLANDER:  Peck chasing Duncan through lobby of BOQ squirting lighter fluid on rear.  Both in their shorts, then lighting it.

 

WODELL:  Going into Long Beach with Jack Meeker & “Frosty” Newman.

 

ENGEN:  16 February we flew our airplanes to the Naval Air Station Alameda to be loaded in USS Lexington (CV16).  I returned to Los Alamitos, and Mary and I drove our car north to Alameda.  We had a great time in San Francisco even though the pall of departure hung over us.  We said our goodbyes on the carrier pier at Alameda at 0900 on 24 February in the shadow of the Lexington.  Goodbyes are hard.  Wartime goodbyes are even harder.  Mary drove back to Pasadena to live by herself in her father’s house and to have our baby alone.  Wars and experience make strong people.

 

GOOD:   Long ago I vowed to tell only anecdotal accounts of my service adventures.  Since this one is now declassified, I feel safe because I suspect my costar in the story has gone over to the other side.  The tale deals with an unfortunate incident at the Los Alamitos BOQ one libationary evening just the day before the squadron left for Maui.  Because I played one of the leading parts, I tried to cover things up, so few knew of it.  Remember Commander Carl Jung?  Well, he and I, after much bourbon and water, severely disagreed on the merits of the soon to arrive SB2Cs versus those of our beloved SBD.  The argument heated to a point where Ensign Good announced throughout the barroom that in his opinion Commander Jung was full of shit; whereupon the Commander demanded satisfaction at once, out in the parking lot.  Now hear this!  Incorrectly, I judged, with the help of a bellyfull of bourbon, that 150 pound Ensign Good could handle anything a pudgy 230 pound Commander could dish out.

To this day I do not know the answer to that speculation because while descending the steps, side by side, off the BOQ front porch, Crafty Carl blind-sided me with a roundhouse right fist which was as big as a Smithfield Ham.  Thereafter, I slightly recall getting off my back from that cold concrete porch, though somebody later said the Commander unsuccessfully chased me around the parking lot.  Luckily for both of us, the excitement of leaving the next day subdued any comments about the night before; either that, or because of the Commander’s characteristic lack of recall ability – I felt I was home safe – and not to worry.

Enter non-combatant Benjamin J. Buttenweiser!  Several weeks later on Maui, Lt. Commander Richard McGowan, having been told by Ben of the matter, drove me in his jeep to a private area, and after hearing from me what happened, further discussion obviously disclosed McGowan’s veiled desire for little Ensign Good to bring some sort of charges against Jung which would possibly rid the Air Group of the colorful Commander whom he plainly felt too undignified to even wear the ring – let alone be CAG.  Serving as such a pawn, I would face a rotten future in the Navy, so I declined to take action by stating that since we were both in the bag, the gentlemanly thing to do would be to forget it.  McGowan showed his disappointment; I got off with a near miss except for the one-inch scar on my chin (which really did not disappear until around 1965, and unfortunately did not qualify me for a Purple Heart award). Alas, such is life!

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