The Blue Raiders

Introduction

There have been many movies and a few television series informing the public of the great achievements and sacrifices made by the Army Air Corps and their B-29s and B-24s of WWII. Less has been told about the OTHER bomber squadrons, the Navy’s B-24s Liberators and Privateers.

MaplewoodPressBlueRaiderPatchersPatch

Blue Raider Patch designed by Walt Disney Studios

In a local newspaper dated June 3, 1943 an article called “July Draft Call”, it listed “Youths becoming 18 years of age who registered during the month of May included:…” and in that list was my father’s name and address, just like all the other local boys. So began my father’s wartime involvement with the PBY-4 116th Squadron known as the Blue Raiders. I would like to tell you more about these brave young men and their amazing aircraft.

MaplewoodPressCrewCal

“LISTEN TO THE JINGLE, THE RUMBLE AND THE ROAR,

AS WE GO DOWN THE RUNWAY IN OUR OL B-24

OVER THE MIGHTY ROAR OF THE ENGINES,

YOU CAN HEAR THE PILOTS BAWL,

IF WE DON’T GET UP SOME AIR SPEED-

WE WONT GET OFF AT ALL… “

(from “the Blue Raiders Hymn” by Robert E. Rosati from VPB-116. )

……

The Blue Raiders and Iwo Jima:

This past Memorial Day I watched a TV special on the battle for Iwo Jima. There was no mention of the Patrol Bombers. I couldn’t help but think how frustrated my Dad must have been when his squadron the VPB-116 Blue Raiders was never mentioned in these specials. They were the guys who decreased the enemy resistance and communications before the marines or other units would move in to fight locally. His squadron island hopped. This brought them to Tinian, Iwo Jima and Peleliu to name a few.

From my Dad's collection: "our camp on Peleliu"

From my Dad’s collection: “our camp on Peleliu”

With regards to Iwo Jima, they patrolled around that island ahead of the invasion, then when the men on the ground managed to capture one of the airfields, the Blue Raiders began landing DURING the battle.

The 116th camp on Iwo Jima. "my tent"

The 116th camp and Mount Sarabatchi on Iwo Jima. “my tent”

My Dad said the conditions were pretty bad on Iwo Jima and the ground very hard. They also had to watch out for snipers all the time. It wasn’t until I read other accounts did I find out how bad it was, including rationing drinking water. He never discussed the fine details.

And he never told me which actual plane he flew in. He mentioned a couple times that crews sometimes were shuffled about to make up for missing men or planes. Missing, what a sad word. Did he mean injured, or they didn’t survive a ditching?

One crew in front of this plane.

One crew in front of this plane.

Another crew in front of this plane. Just a prop, or did they switch off?

Another crew in front of this plane. Just a prop, or did they switch off?

Unlike the bombers flown over Europe, the Navy Patrol Bombers if damaged, did not afford their crews a safe escape. A crew could only wish for a controlled ditch where they could gather their rafts and prepare to try and survive in the water. They could only wish for friendly planes or ships to spot them. My father spoke of many men lost to sharks and enemy fire. Going down meant almost certain death. Then if you were on one of the frequent solo plane missions and went down, your fate may never be known. They just never returned.

I believe a lot of veterans suffered a level of “Survivor Guilt”. My Dad spoke of looking out and seeing planes go down. He thought of the men that were not injured, but maybe their pilot was, or it was just the plane was too badly damaged, so those men were all forced to go down with it. Ten to twelve healthy young men, unable to defend themselves, new friends made, now gone. If by rare chance the crew survived a bail-out over land they felt they would face torture and death. It has been rumored they got their name from “Tokyo Rose”, the English speaking Japanese radio personality, who mentioned their exploits. This notoriety only increased their chances of death if captured. And they all knew that. Such brave young men every one.

The silk they were issues to carry on them always to explain who they were and who their allies were. Some sewed it to the back of their flight jackets.

The silk they were issued to carry on them always in case they were shot down. Some Aviators sewed it to the back of their flight jackets. They also carried small currency of many nations so they could secure help.

……

The Amazing Planes

In 1942 the Navy needed long-range aircraft that could cover the many miles of the Pacific Ocean. The Army gave them B-24 Liberators which the Navy re-named to PB4Y-1 (Patrol Bombers with 4 engines). These planes could fly for almost three thousand miles with maximum speed of 279mph. They could carry eight thousand pounds of bombs, and were armed with ten .50 caliber guns. The Liberators can be recognized by their distinct tail shape.

The next year the Navy wanted a plane they didn’t have to modify for their unique needs. This design would have a single fin, be longer, and two more guns were added. This plane was called the Privateer PB4Y-2. Their range was a little less than the Liberator, and a little slower, but their bomb load capability was almost doubled. The Privateers would go on being used after the war in other countries and as civilian fire bombers.

If you search the internet you can see some vintage footage of these planes in action.

The planes were simple and rudimentary compared to today’s military planes that can fly themselves. They were also amazingly resilient like their crews. They could take quite a bit of damage and still limp home, or the crew could improvise repairs while flying. Because of this “take a lickin’ and keep tickin’” ability, they were most beloved by their young crews.

I had the chance to tour a restored B-24 and saw how it was just skin and bones. There are no creature comforts, and to move from the front to the tail section is to take your life in your hands getting around the bombs/bay doors, and the skeletal supports.

The Gunners had only the thickness of the planes hull to protect them, which was next to nothing. Bullets did go straight through them. Seeing that plane was a very moving experience for me. I paused to think of my Dad sitting in the seat behind the pilots as their Radioman and top turret Gunner. From this vantage point he could pretty much see what the pilots saw and heard what they had to deal with. Pilots that were just in their mid twenties responsible for an eleven man crew usually of guys younger than them: boys plucked out of the Midwestern farmlands like my Dad at age eighteen, or maybe an inner city, or from a small town down south. Boys who may have never seen an ocean and now flew daily over them, putting all their faith in those young men in the cockpit to get them safely back home.

These planes were given the title of VB, then in 1944 VPB, for Navy Patrol Bomber. The word Patrol in their name had two meanings. Theses crews were skilled at flying search missions for downed planes and would fly low and mark their position and drop rafts if needed. The other part of their name, Patrol Bomber, meant just that. They would attack targets of opportunity, any ship or boat that might be bringing supplies to the enemy, or might provide communication about American military operations. They usually flew in pairs, with one plane circling the target shooting at it, while the other prepared for the bombing run. If one was damaged, then the surviving plane would have to do it all.

In completing their missions, the young pilots pressed their planes to do things their designers never dreamed of. Of course they could fly at higher altitudes, that was expected, but these pilots also flew them very low to the water to avoid enemy radar, for the element of surprise, to accomplish precision bombing, and to keep enemy fighters from getting under them. My Dad said they often “licked the waves.“ and would buzz fishing boats, that is how low they went.

The way B-24s dropped their bombs was not like today’s planes where their target is marked and the bombs hit spot on. The technology was simpler back then, and getting that bomb to hit its mark depended on human skill, perfect wind/weather conditions, and machinery working perfectly. Crews were lucky if on the first attempt everything went as planned and the bomb was dropped and they could fly off unscathed. If not, they had to reset and try again, and again, and again. This was more common than not. Each time they had to turn around and try again they risked being shot up or shot down. Another risk they faced being that close to the target was from the exploding bombs that could knock their plane around or send up shrapnel. I can’t imagine the stress these guys went through on a constant basis.

…………..

“Hours of boredom, followed by minutes of sheer terror.” (My Dad’s summation of each mission)

 A big threat the Patrol Bomber crews faced was from enemy single engine fighter planes. They were the swift, easily maneuverable, nasty little things attacking what looked like a big lumbering giant. The Americans, in their Liberators and Privateers, biggest defense against them were the ten or twelve guns and the young men who manned them. Having these guns mounted at different areas of the plane, they could defend themselves pretty good. Add a skilled pilot who could maneuver his plane to capitalize on the spray of his guns and the crew’s survival increased dramatically .

Class notes taken by my Dad.

Class notes taken by my Dad.

My Dad’s take on being a top gunner: His face took on that famous teasing grimace and he said, “Most of the time you just fired like hell and hoped you got lucky. It all happened so fast!”

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The talents of these pilots and crews actually forced the Navy to change their “Ace” distinction from the classic single engine Fighter Pilot’s accomplishment to recognizing the whole bomber crews as Aces.

A well documented case of these bombers thinking like fighter planes was the air battle involving two from his VPB-116 squadron, nicknamed Dazy May and Tyn Yan Ty Foon. Alan C. Carey’s book “Above an Angry Sea” details the incident. They were attacked near Iwo Jima by seven Japanese Fighter Planes. The two American Patrol Bombers were credited with shooting down six of the seven attacking Fighters with only slight damage to one of their planes. A more personal account can be found on line at YourHoustonNews. They posted on 11/21/2010 on the passing of WWII Veteran Robert “Bob” Otto and wrote about his experience in the air-battle as a member of the Dazy May crew when he was only eighteen years old. He spoke of the phosphorus bombs the Japanese Fighters tried to drop on the American planes. He stated the chemicals released from the bombs could eat through the aluminum and cause the fuel stored in the wings to explode. The article included this quote, “It was miraculous, “ said Otto about the battle. “We were under fire for 45 minutes. My pilot was only 24 years old. The pilots were outstanding and knew their work. That’s why we lived.” . There is another mention of this air battle in the Los Angeles Times on-line 10/1/1999. They were reporting on the closing of Chuck Bresler’s restaurant and he mentioned he was a waist gunner with VP-116 during WWII and he retold the story about his squadron.

The Crew of the Dazy May at the time of this photo.

The Crew of the Dazy May at the time of this photo.

Written on the back;

Crew 10: Back Row L-R, Prindle, Mato, Berridge, Stephen, (Fred) Hunter, Piercey. Front Row L-R, Gilmartinn, Ens.Forbush, Lt. Teague, Ens White, Seiple

Sadly, in Carey’s book “Above An Angry Sea: United States Navy B-24 Liberator and PB4Y-2 Privateer: Operations in the Pacific: October 1944-August 1945” the plane Tyn Yan Ty Foon is listed as lost in action five months later. Those boys won that battle, but perished in another. My Dad kept a copy of a painting showing that battle for the longest time. It was the type of view he probably saw often from his own plane. I do recall him mentioned the phosphorus bombs. Did he witness this air battle? It was his squadron.

When I was a young adult I found a box in my parents home of my Dad’s WWII memorabilia. I pulled out these photos of different crews posing in front of planes and asked my Dad who they were. Dad easily told me their names. I naively asked him if he was still in touch with them. He quietly responded, “They all died over there.” and walked out of the room, not returning to give me details of any of the other photos. I was so stunned as I looked at all those young faces, near my age at the time, I didn’t make note of which crew he was referring to, or was he referring to all of them? Now many years later, I relook at these photos and these “boys” are the ages of my sons and from a parent point of view, just gives me chills.

Part of Crew 4 of the 116th

Part of Crew 4 of the 116th

On this photo Dad wrote on the back: “Crew 4: Front row l-r; Bruno, Shorty, Jona, Abbot. Back row; Chis, Blackie, Rosie, Joe.” I looked up the plane number in the book “Above an Angry Sea”. If this plane was a member of the VPB-116 and was recorded as 38922, then it is listed as a loss on 7/28/1945, along with planes 38858, 38868, 38915, 38855.

……….

How does one cope with horrid conditions, harrowing missions, loss of comrades?

One way was a few days of fun on Tinian for the 116th and other crews.

Once the island of Tinian was secured, it grew to be a large community with planes coming and going. One man who was there in a support role, became a favorite “nose art” artist and the guys of the 116th took advantage of his skills. They would pool their money together, offer Pin- up Gal picture ideas to Hal Olsen and he would decorate their beloved planes.

I love the story of how the crews tried to hide the nude paintings when commanding officers went to inspect them. They would rub mud on, or used water based paint to make a bathing suit. Officer gone, the plane and the modesty washed away!

The Easy Maid was one of several of the 116th Blue Raider planes painted by Hal Olsen. The actual nose art survived and is part of an exhibit at “The American Air Power Heritage Museum.”

Crew of the Easy Maid of the 116th

Crew of the Easy Maid of the 116th

She was a favorite of many of the guys in the 116th.

She was a favorite of many of the guys in the 116th, including my Dad.

Sometimes a break and fun came to them: I found this picture of what looks like guys relaxing.

MaplewoodPressDutchTreatDad wrote on the back of this photo that a Dutch ship was torpedoed off their island and cases of beer washed up. When he and I looked at this picture together, he could not help but chuckle at the memory. He said they all got roaring drunk and even tossed a few Officers into the water. I am glad he had some good memories.

“WE’RE FAR FROM BEING EAGER, AND TO GIVE TO YOU STRAIGHT,

WE’LL ALL BE GOOD AND HAPPY TO SEE THE GOLDEN GATE.

WHEN YOU SEE A 4-Y COMING, ITS ENGINES CREAK AND GROAN,

BREAK OUT THE BEER AND WOMEN, A BLUE RAIDER IS COMING HOME….”

(from the Blue Raiders Hymn”)

MaplewoodPressBlueRaiderHymThe saved copy.

WWII Vets are a tough group. When they came home they wanted to put the war behind them. They developed coping mechanisms to deal with traumatic memories, some good, some not so good. They usually never spoke of their wartime experiences to family, only to fellow Vets in private. They didn’t want to stir up the memories. Often during the war they were made to vow to keep what their missions were about secret, and they took that information to the grave. My Dad was like that. It wasn’t until he was well into his late seventies and eighties that he began to share with me some information. Some is the key word. I let him tell me what he felt comfortable telling me. Sadly after he died from cancer, I am left with so many artifacts and photos of handsome young men I have no idea who they are or their stories. Just that each one caused a reaction in him, bringing him back to those three years he shared with them. Dad was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, yet he would not talk about that mission. He was proud of his service, but private. I will respect his desire to remain private. He would want me to focus this article on all of the young men who flew in the Patrol Bombers and those that vanished into the sea.

………

In Closing

I can only hope that everyone will learn more about the courageous Navy Patrol Bomber squadrons of WWII. I hope to assist in that by deciphering more of my Dad’s artifacts and hopefully find out more about the men in the photos. We can not forget them. They spent their tender years hopping from island to island, clearing a safe path for those coming behind them, and when not on missions, looking for downed pilots and crews. Many did not come home, and those who did, were forever changed.   As the saying goes, “Freedom is never Free”

Atwood…. looking to the skies and giving thanks to those wonderful planes that brought my Dad home, and to the brave crews of the 116th Blue Raiders.  Thank you to all for your service and sacrifice.

………

The original “Blue Raider Hymn” was written by Robert E. Rosati from VPB-116. He wrote a sequel for their 1992 reunion I found in the handout my Dad saved. It ends with these fitting stanzas.

“ALL THOSE YOUNG MEN NOW ARE OLD MEN,

THEIR WEAPONS ANTIQUATED

BY TECHNOLOGY AND SCIENCE 47 YEARS OUTDATED.

BUT TO THOSE OF US WHO KNEW HER

STILL CAN HEAR HER ENGINES ROAR

KNOW THEY’LL NEVER BUILD AN EQUAL

TO OUR OLD B-24.

SO REMEMBER THE JINGLE, THE RUMBLE AND THE ROARr

AS WE ROLLED DOWN THE RUNWAY IN THAT OLD B-24

SHE GAVE US SOMETHING SPECIAL

THAT NO ONE CAN TAKE AWAY

A PRIDE, A COMRADERY, THAT BRINGS US BACK TODAY.

A TOAST TO ALL WHO KNEW HER,

THOSE STILL HERE AND THOSE WHO’VE GONE,

THOSE WHO TOOK HER INTO BATTLE

AND THOSE THAT SHE BROUGHT HOME.

AND TO THAT VERY SPECIAL MOMENT

IN THE PRIVATE OF OUR MIND

WHEN WE PULL THE CHOCKS AND CLIMB ABOARD

TO FLY HER ONE LAST TIME.”

…………

For this article the book “Above an Angry Sea: United States Navy B-24 Liberator and PB4Y-2 Privateer: Operations in the Pacific: October 1944-August 1945” By Alan C. Carey was referenced along with documented first person accounts, on-line resources, and the artifacts and memories of my Father. Photos are from his collection.

This article is copyright © Atwood/N.A.M. 2016, 2020. All content and images are copyrighted unless otherwise noted. Please do not use in any form without request of author. Links to our articles, short quotes with credit, and associated links are allowed.

Medals received by Blue Raider: M. E. M.

The Short Snorter was a roll of money the crewmen carried in case they needed it when shot down. It became an “autograph book”, the men collected the names of other crewmen they encountered.

Please go to our Maplewood Press Facebook Page for additional photos and memories.

Added July 18, 2016 : Here are two Youtube links I found interesting;

This one is the B-24 Liberator in vintage footage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXksSkNXfuA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXksSkNXfuA

And here is the later version PB4Y-2 Privateer that is still in use now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuG4xTECPpY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuG4xTECPpY

For more information on the Blue Raiders and other Patrol Bomber Squadrons, go to www.vpnavy.com

William L. Thomas and his crew receiving Air Medal 1945: Posted in www.vpnavy.com by his son Charles. Click on the picture to learn more.

Updated 5/27/2018: The following photos are from my Dad’s collection. No names are attached, but I do see they were crewmen serving with him from other photos and the above crew shot. I am going to post them here in case someone should recognize them.

Please continue on and read the follow-up article: “The Nose Art of the WWII Navy Patrol Bomber Squadrons”: September 2016

The Nose Art of the WWII Navy Patrol Bomber Squadrons

28 thoughts on “The Blue Raiders

  1. Charles Thomas

    My father William L. (Bill) Thomas served with VPB-116. He arrived as a crew member for a PB4Y-2 on Iwo Jima in April 45. He served with Bronson’s crew. He was the starboard waist gunner. They flew off of Iwo Jima for 3 months and then rotated back to Tinian. His crew was flying out of there when the Enola Gay executed her mission. He never talked much about the missions. He did say they attacked picket ships and feared running into a ‘Q’ ship. Apparently that was a ship that was a gun platform and was tricked out to stay afloat even when hit heavily. He said the Japanese filled all the empty spaces in the bulkheads and bilge with pingpong balls. After the surrender, they flew missions dropping leaflets with surrender instructions on lots of outlying occupied islands. I still have one in his photo album.

    Reply
    1. Maplewood Press Post author

      Thank you for sharing your Dad’s story. We need to keep letting others know about this squadron and these brave men, and what they endured. Did he save any pictures, and do you recognize any of the men in the photos I posted?

      Reply
      1. Charles Thomas

        I do have his photo album, but the only crew pics I have are his crew. They passed thru Honolulu on their way to Iwo. He took a picture of each crew member in front of the King Kamehameha statue you see all the time on Hawaii 5-0. I have a few of the pictures scanned on my computer. I’d have to find the album to label the crew members. (We just moved so it’s still in a box in the basement.) One interesting shot was taken from his turret. You can see a picket ship executing a hard turn to port. The tail of the aircraft frames the shot. But when you look closely, you can see that the ship is shooting at them! I asked him how he had time to take a picture in the middle of a firefight. He said that the waist turrets had pegs on the gun traverse so that you wouldn’t shoot your own wing or tail. He said, “I couldn’t shoot, and there was no where to hide, so I took a picture.” This venue won’t let me paste it here.

        Reply
        1. Maplewood Press Post author

          What a great quote! And what a precarious position he was in being a waist gunner. That took a lot of courage! I am going to add the link for the VPN Navy website where some of your pictures and others have been posted. For those who do not know about this website, it contains information on the different squadrons and their crews, and people have been adding pictures.

          Reply
        2. Minoru Kamada

          Thank you for asking me. AAR stands for Aircraft Action Report. The National Diet Library in Tokyo bought rolls of microfilmed AARs from the National Archives, Washington DC but some AARs for VPB-116 are missing. I would like to read the missing reports. By the way, are you a son or a relative of Mr. Stoughton Atwood for VPB-115 ? Minoru Kamada

          Reply
  2. Minoru Kamada

    Hello, my name is Minoru Kamada in Tokyo and I have studying combats of VPB squadrons for years. I know many people study about fighter squadrons so I fear that I am one of extinct species. Now I am working on an air attack that two PB4Ys attacked on two small fisherman’s boats off IZU peninsula on July 22 1945. I checked AARs for VPB-102, VPB-121, VPB-108 but no joy. I tried finding it in AARs for VPB-116 but I don’t have AARs between July 20 (#65) to Aug.4 (#69). In other words (#66,#67,#68) are missing. I just wonder if any of you have a copy of AAR for VPB-116 on July 22 1945. Any information is welcome. Arigato.

    Reply
    1. Maplewood Press Post author

      Thank you for your interest in the Blue Raiders. Can you clarify what you mean by an “AAR”? I am not sure I am familiar with that term. Atwood

      Reply
  3. Minoru Kamada

    Thank you for asking me. AAR stands for Aircraft Action Report. The National Diet Library in Tokyo bought rolls of microfilmed AARs from the National Archives, Washington DC but some AARs for VPB-116 are missing. I would like to read the missing reports. By the way, are you a son or a relative of Mr. Stoughton Atwood for VPB-115 ? Minoru Kamada

    Reply
    1. Maplewood Press Post author

      Thank you for the clarification. I thought that it might have to do with their mission reports. I wonder if some of the reports for the 116th are missing because of their classified distinction? My Dad was with the 116th, Atwood is my middle name. I have been contacted by other children of the 116th, I am sure they and I would be interested in anything more you might find out.

      Reply
      1. Minoru Kamada

        I suspect that photographer was careless and forgot taking pictures of these three reports. Sometimes they took the same picture twice or missing pages. Thank you very much. The AARs are open to the public so there is nothing the National Archives has to hide. Thank you very much. Minoru

        Reply
  4. Dave S.

    Great story!
    My Dad served as a waist gunner in VP117.
    I actually contacted Alan Carey about 10 years ago. He was able to provide enough info so that I was able to contact the other two surviving crew members. Pilot called my Dad after they had lost contact with each other over 60 years ago!
    Corresponded with each other until a few years ago, now I believe Dad is the last!

    Reply
    1. Maplewood Press Post author

      That is great they were able to reconnect. Please tell your Dad thank you for his service, and I would love to hear any stories he would like to share. Atwood

      Reply
    2. Ed Kittrell

      To Dave S:

      Saw your note. I just finished writing a book about VPB-117. My father was a plane commander ion the squadron. If you’d like to email, my address is below.

      Ed

      Reply
      1. Maplewood Press Post author

        I look forward to reading your book. Thank you for writing it. So little is out there in the mainstream about the Navy Patrol Bombing squadrons. My own knowledge is limited to what I have posted and read. Please let us know when it is published.

        Reply
      2. DaveS

        Ed Kittrell,
        Would like to contact you but email addesses do not show up.
        Also recently scanned some pics of my Dad’s crew.
        He’s 93, enlisted Jan of ’43, on his 17th Bday.
        DaveS

        Reply
        1. Maplewood Press Post author

          I have noticed several people who have posted would like to get in touch with each other. Because of privacy issues, we will not post e-mail addresses. There is a Maplewood Press Facebook page and there are some pictures posted. Maybe you can reach out to each other there? Any other suggestions are welcome. Thanks!

          Reply
  5. Blake Montero

    My Uncle was Fred Hunter. He was in VPB 116 and you have him in one of your photos as a crew member on the Dazy May. He has passed on now and he never liked to speak about his time serving in WW2. I have his log books and one photo of him posing next to Easy Maid. His Pilots were Lt. Bentley, Lt. Teague, Ens. White, Lt. Flanagan, Lt. Demolin, Lt. Hamilton and various others.

    Reply
    1. Maplewood Press Post author

      Thank you, Blake for responding. That is wonderful to hear you recognized your Uncle-I will edit the photo to add his first name. He sounds just like my Dad, he too kept his experiences to himself. And I love that he too posed in front of the Easy Maid! She must have been a real favorite! I should post the Officer photos from my Dad’s collection to see if anyone recognizes them. Does the log book have names of the crews he served with?

      Reply
  6. Michael Chester

    My father, Stanley Chester, was in VPB-116 and served as the Radio Man crew member on the “Easy Maid”. He lied about his age when he joined the Navy at age 17. He was sent to radio school and later assigned to the Aleutian islands and eventually the Pacific Theater to fly on the Easy Maid. I have some of his memorabilia after he passed away in 2007. He was laid to rest up on Point Loma at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

    Reply
    1. Maplewood Press Post author

      That you for sharing your Dad’s service with us. I bet our fathers both being radiomen probably crossed paths. What brave young men they were!

      Reply
    2. Melissa

      I am looking for information on VPB-116 as well for October 11, 1944
      Robert J Nauman, Radioman 3C
      I’m not sure of the name of their plane but clearly not the same as they were shot down.

      Reply
  7. Dan Kerper

    Just came across your website. Awesome additional information about these young men. My father, Richard Kerper, flew with VBP117. He survived the war and went on to accomplish a 37-year Naval aviation career. His photo can be found in the crew 12 group photo, He is the fourth from the left, back row (the shortest guy in the row). He is squinting…funny. I didn’t know much about his WW2 experiences because he would always change the subject. I found out after his passing what he really did after discovering a memento box in his closet filled with photos and other items which document much of his activity. His younger brother, John Kerper, was killed in action on Iwo Jima in March 1945. I passed copies of all the crew photos I had to Alan Carey after reading his two books on these guys (We Flew Alone and Above An Angry Sea). I’m working on a book documenting all the veterans in my extended family. This has been very helpful! Thanks.
    Dan Kerper USN AMS-2 Vietnam

    Reply
    1. Maplewood Press Post author

      Thank you Dan for commenting. I am thrilled that we will be able to put more names and histories to the faces in the pictures. I am also glad when their story is told. How sad about your uncle. My Dad would briefly talk about how horrid it was on Iwo. I believed he did not say more because he didn’t want to remember. How interesting how both our Dad’s avoid talking about it. We can only imagine the impact what they experienced and witnessed had on them. Did the crew pictures you passed on have names on the back? And thank you for your service.

      Reply
  8. james d lowery

    Have a picture of my day, ArmY Aircorp, 506fg,IWO, P-51s, he is standing next to EasyMaid

    My dad, the army Tsgt , retired USAF as E-9 June 1963
    Not sure if taken on Iwo or a place enroute to Iwo

    Reply
  9. Melissa

    I am looking for information on Radioman Robert J. Nauman of Berwyn, IL
    He was KIA on 11, October 1944.
    Do you have any information on specific crews or where we can find it?
    I am assuming that the crew that received the Navy Cross on 12 October 1944 was the one doing search and rescue when they encountered the planes.

    Reply
  10. Dwight

    My father was Thomas Brown. His nicknamed was Flea because he was 5 ft 4 in. y’all. He served as a tail gunner on the “Worrybird” in VBP 116. We have copies of the flight logs, the crew tool box, several photos & his leather bomber jacket. He never missed a reunion & I had the pleasure of attending a few of them with him. He worked for JCPenneys for 35 years. He retired & returned to his hometown in Ardmore Okla. & became the Director of the Carter County Museum. He passed away in 2015.

    Reply
    1. Maplewood Press Post author

      Thank you for sharing. I enjoy hearing about all these brave men and how they became a “family”, complete with nicknames. And that is great you have all his items that can keep telling his story. If you would like to share some of the images of them, you can contact us through the Facebook page for Maplewood Press. They can be posted there, or we can pull them off and add them here.

      Reply
  11. Dave D

    My dad served with squadron VPB-119 which operated out of Clark Airfield, Luzon, Philippines during the last 6 months of the War. Although they were only there for a short time, they lost several planes during patrol missions over the coast of China – 80 men were either killed in action or are still MIA.

    One of the early missions was flow by crew #15 over Amoy Harbor in March, 1945 ( http://www.vpnavy.org/crew/vpb119crew15_01_26feb2007.jpg ). The plane was shot down over the harbor and went into the water; 6 crew + 1 civilian observer survived and were rescued by local Chinese and a covert US Navy group named “S.A.C.O.” The survivors were assisted across China to Kunming from where they were eventually flown back to Clark Field.

    The civilian observer was a news correspondent named Don Bell. Bell and his family had been living in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded and they were imprisoned for thee years. Bell had just been freed from the prison and wanted to get back to reporting on the War effort and was given permission to fly along on the Crew 15 mission.

    After his rescue and return to the Philippines, Bell wrote a detailed narrative of the mission, shoot down, and rescue. His story was included in a Navy publication named “Air Notes from China” that was distributed as a survival guide for US personnel in the China area.

    It is an interesting story – you can read the report at the S.A.C.O. veterans website : https://saconavy.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Air_Notes_From_China.pdf

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