This day 67 years ago: Tales of evasion, apprehension and escape from the 362nd FG

On June 17, 1944, despite a low ceiling between 1500 and 3000 feet, the 362nd Fighter Group flew a series of armed reconnaissance missions from Cherbourg to Laval, landing at the advance field A-6 after the first mission and flying three further squadron-sized missions. The 378th attacked a causeway at Buoneville, destroying docks, warehouses, trucks and horse-drawn carts loaded with ammunition. The 379th flew three missions, including a 12-plane mission that destroyed five trucks during their patrol; Bob McKee caught a truck full of troops and splintered it with a strafing attack. A second mission led by Lt. Bill Flavin destroyed three more trucks. Four planes pilots were lost during the day. Lt. Richard Gordon in P-47D-22 42-26117 ran low on fuel, possibly after a hit to his fuel system, and was conferring with Lt. Frank Lee in P-47D-22 42-26117 when the two pulled into some clouds and collided. Both men bailed out, and Lee’s P-47D-20-RE 42-25304 was seen to plummet to earth and impact in a cloud of dust. The two 379th FS pilots were spotted by a French woman, who also noted some German troops in the area; she distracted them and Lee and Gordon reached the ground about a mile apart without being spotted by the enemy. Lee hid out in the countryside, while Gordon was hidden by some townspeople in a barn for the evening. A few French civilians brought Gordon food in the afternoon, which he gratefully accepted and then tried to communicate his thanks despite the language barrier. All the while, the Germans were searching for both men, although their efforts were disorganized and hinted at the panic sweeping the Wehrmacht following the D-Day landings. Just the same, several people in the village were arrested and jailed by the Germans after being suspected of helping the two airmen.

Soon, Lee and Gordon were brought together and put in the custody of Commander Gilles (the code name of Rene Billaud), the leader of the local Maquis forces. They were moved to a safe house owner by a farmer, but the Germans were still on the lookout. Gordon and Lee stayed for two days, feasting on the farmer’s jam, until Commander Gilles arranged for their transportation aboard a motorcycle to the mansion of Mdme. Pean Ponfilly in Breffeillac Pommeret on the northern coast. A resistence member named Jaquemin made two trips to shuttle the men north, changing routes and ducking enemy patrols the entire time. The manor was host to some 80 men fleeing the Germans: Polish and Russian laborers, Italians, German deserters and a Czech RAF warrant officer, Robert Ossendorf. A radio message soon came to deliver Lee, Gordon and Ossendorf to the allies. The men traveled first to Pont D’Jour, then to allied lines on the night of 12-13 July 1944. Lee and Gordon traveled back to England about the British boat MGB 503. Their escape experience was such that they were transferred out of theatre.

A third 379th pilot, Lt. William R. Fredenberg, went down in P-47D-11 42-75593. His aircraft came skidding down in a field, sending troops from the 15th Fallschrimjager Regiment of Hitler Youth who were training there scattering, and he was quickly apprehended. Fredenberg was captured, interrogated and sent to first the manor at Lambeth, then to Frontstalag 133, a provisional camp near Rennes. On July 5, the 600 men at the camp were notified that they would soon leave this camp for another in Germany. The presence of trains attracted air attack; at one point in the day, some stray 20mm flak shells hit the camp and killed an American pilot. That night, the men were loaded onto “40 and 8” rail cars, with the guards in a separate passenger car, and they set out toward at about midnight, traveling to Redon on the west coast of France.

The next night, the train headed for Nantes. The food rations consisted of a loaf of bread per man every three days, plus a pair of large pitchers of water for each car every day. The train remained near Nantes until July 9, when it set out again along the Loire, arriving next in Angers, where the rail yard was a “scene of total destruction, with locomotives and cars thrown end over end as the result of Allied bombing,” wrote one of the prisoners later. The train paused only briefly before heading for Tours; when they arrived an air raid was in progress. The train stopped outside of town and on July 10, the locomotive was removed and sent to pull a cargo considered more important by the Germans.

The prisoners remained imprisoned in the 40 and 8 cars for 10 days, watching air raids near them but thankfully never becoming a target. On July 21, a locomotive was hooked to the train and started pulling the prisoners east, but that night an Allied plane strafed the locomotive. The guards fled to the surrounding fields, leaving the prisoners to their fates. A replacement locomotive had to be brought up, and at about 1 a.m., the train began to roll again. Lt. Fredenberg brought with him a small hammer, so he and a group of men decided to knock a hole in the already-damaged end of a car and make an escape. After an hour, they broke through and pushed aside the metal plates on the outside of the car. In groups of two and three, the prisoners squeezed through the hole and onto the tracks.

Fredenberg was in the third group; he and another man watched the train roll into the distance, then used a compass Fredenberg had also squirreled away and headed for the River Char. They hid at the river’s edge until the following day, when they saw French farmers working in the fields. With some difficulty, they asked one of them for food; when he was convinced they weren’t Germans, he sent his son running to fetch food and water. While waiting, they saw a long train come under attack by two P-38 Lightnings; the first pass stopped the locomotive, and the next saw bombs strike the cars, which were loaded with ammunition. Within minutes, the entire train was ablaze and Germans were fleeing in every direction. Fredenberg and his companion decided to hit the road to avoid this ruckus, but the farmer’s son arrived just then with a basket of food, and they paused to eat for the first time in 36 hours.

Their next action was to search the riverside for a boat. The effort was fruitless and at 2 a.m. the pair decided to catch some shuteye. Fredenberg was soon awakened by German voices; he clamped his hand over his sleeping buddy’s mouth as they marched within 20 feet of their hiding place, searching for the men. When an aircraft flew over, they took advantage of the noised to remove heir boots and blacken their faces with river mud. They crawled on their bellies away from the river into a cabbage field, which at its far end had a German soldier every few rows. Somehow, by crawling quietly and slowly, the two men eluded their pursuers. Abandoning the river as a means of escape, they doubled back to the rail line.

The next morning they headed through a thick wood, encountering two French civilians, who helped them orient themselves and tipped them off to the many Germans in the area. They promised to bring help, and that evening they were led to a Maquis camp and given civilian clothes. They were taken to Amboise, where on July 24 they were treated to a hearty meal, then taken by car to a Maquis camp, crossing a bridge that was guarded by two flak guns. To their relief, the German guards made no effort to stop them. Soon, they reached a Maquis camp in the Brouard Forest, commanded by Georges le Coz. They were met by two other men from the train. The Americans were folded into this group, going on forays into the country for food and hunting for collaborators and German patrols. After three days of this, the camp was moved, and the men learned of seven more Allied troops hiding nearby, all escapees of the same train.

After a few days, the Maquis realized the Germans were closing in on them. They abandoned their vehicles and much of the equipment and tried to melt through the German dragnet; they reassembled on a farm near Cusson. They continued their operations, adding more allied personnel to their ranks and adding them to their partisan army. In August, the Allies captured the area where Fredenberg and his fellow partisans had been hiding, and he returned to England.

The 378th was not immune to losses, either. Blue Flight was on an armed reconnaissance mission and had just broken below the overcast south of Rouen on the Seine when German gunners “laid an accurate barrage,” reported Lt. Howard Kelgard. “Blue Leader took us to the left of the town (Mantes-Gassicourt). Blue Three and Four were ahead of Blue Leader because of the flak. Through the overcast came a flight of 16 fighters, heading out. I called them in at two o’clock, then they started to break in on our rear. I told Blue Leader we’d better break into them. Blue Three (Lt. Frank Glover) was in the lead; he broke and I latched onto his wing. The Jerries’ flight had strung out considerably in an arc, for as we turned into one or two, they were in a position to shoot us from the rear. On the second Lufbery turn, I saw a P-47 heading for the deck in a 70-degree dive. The wings were level, but it never pulled out. It exploded when it hit. There was no chute seen.”

This was Glover’s plane, P-47D-22 42-26548; German fire ignited the fragmentation bombs on his right pylon. Glover was burned but he jumped just before the P-47 exploded in mid-air. On the way down, German infantrymen fired at him with their rifles, but missed; Glover used his compass and the maps provided for just such an occasion to head for friendly lines. Some French farmers provided hiding places and food; others were not so eager to aid the American pilot. Eventually, Glover ran into some American troops who greeted him by leveling their carbines and Thompson submachineguns at him. These wary troops were from the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, and their S-2 officer made sure Glover was on a C-47 back to Headcorn the next day.

At the day’s end, Lt. Robert Day damaged P-47D 42-75042 in a landing accident at Headcorn.

This day 67 years ago: a rough day for the 362nd

Armed with 500-pound bombs, the 362nd Fighter Group went after road traffic on the highway leading south from Argentan on June 13, 1944. The planes bombed an assortment of railroad tracks, small bridges, box cars and a few trucks. Strafing, however, was much more profitable. The 377th claimed 21 military vehicles left in flames, and an additional 10 damaged. These vehicles were tough to see because the Germans had taken to hiding under trees when allied planes were around. The 378th’s 16 P-47s destroyed two staff cars and four trucks and damaged two trains, a command car and several more trucks, but while attacking traffic early that morning the squadron lost Lt. Ken Skeen. “At 0705, we made an attack on two trucks on a road lined with trees,” said Lt. Charles Naerhood. “We made one pass, then Lt. Skeen made another. He pressed the attack too close and crashed into the trees on the side of a road.” The plane slapped down into a nearby field, and Skeen climbed from P-47D-11-RE 42-75441 relatively unhurt; before he was taken prisoner, he destroyed his P-47 with the incendiary grenade in the cockpit carried for that purpose.

The day’s second mission wasn’t launched until 2000, but it also resulted in good hunting for the strafing P-47s once they had dropped their bombs. The planes scoured the roads leading from LeMans for traffic. The 378th destroyed eight flat cars, a box car and four trucks and strafed 15 trucks. Sadly, 2nd Lt. Leon Bentley of the 378th was killed by his own bomb while attacking a rail target at low altitude. Bentley’s bomb struck the top of a boxcar and bounced before exploding, catching his P-47D, 42-26114, in the blast. A similar fate befell Lt. Burleigh Curtis of the 377th in P-47D 42-75227; caught in his own bomb blast, his damaged P-47 tumbled out of the air, hit the ground and exploded. His squadronmates accounted for 31 military vehicles and 10 more damaged in the area around St. Andre de Briouze. The 379th sent two missions of 16 planes and 15 planes to the area around Argentens and “left trucks burning all over the area,” according to squadron records.

The 377th lost another pilot in June 14. Lt. Ralph Phillips in P-47D-20 42-76388 was flying as part of Blue Flight, looking to split rail lines west of Vire. Two of the planes in the flight had aborted, leaving Phillips flying on the wing of Lt. Fred Humphries, the flight leader. “Phillips orbited while I bombed,” said Humphries. “He then went down to bomb while I orbited. He pulled up after bombing and called to say he had me in sight. However, he failed to rejoin formation, and I circled for about two minutes, calling Phillips on the radio, but receiving no answer. I heard Philips call ‘Kingsley’ on ‘B’ channel for a homing to the beachhead emergency strip.” Phillips didn’t make it; he was killed when his aircraft crashed.

Gone West: Frank DeLorenzo

On May 27, Capt. Frank DeLorenzo, Naval Aviator Number 6449, passed away in Florida at the age of 96. A kind, friendly man who was generous with his time and sharp even in his old age, he was known as “DeLo” to his many friends. I knew him through the Midway Roundtable; although he was not an active combatant in the battle, he was a very active participant in the study of the Pacific war.

DeLo spent the war flying the PB2Y Coronado, the Navy’s forgotten flying boat. The PBY is well known, and the PBM was a staple into the post-war period, but the PB2Y entered service and departed with little fanfare. It was a good plane, with long legs and great reliability – a lot like DeLo, come to think if it.

Frank DeLorenzo in the cockpit of a PB2Y Coronado

Two years ago, I interviewed DeLo. Here’s the man in his own words:

Chris Bucholtz: How do you feel about the Coronado’s reputation? I know many people considered it a difficult plane mechanically; is that partly because it was perhaps the most complex plane the Navy had ever ordered when it first came to the fleet?

Frank DeLorenzo: I thought the PB2Y was a great airplane and I know there were a lot of differences of opinion as to its overall reputation. This poor reputation originated very, very early in World War II when VP-13 was tasked with flying the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, to Pearl Harbor to inspect the damage inflicted by the Japs on Dec. 7. At that time, VP-13 only had four PB2Y-2s and none of them had self sealing gas tanks. In topping off the plane designated to carry the SecNav, several fuel leaks were observed coming from the rivets in the bottom of both wings. Several attempts to cure the problem were attempted and different planes were used. This caused a 24-hour delay in getting SecNav into the air and on his way to Pearl Harbor. It also cast a black cloud over the reputation of the Coronado among ranking people in Washington! In my opinion the Coronado never completely recovered from this unfortunate event and I feel the aircraft completely vindicated itself in subsequent, prolonged operations throughout the rest of WWII!

The problem was not too much later on permanently fixed by installing bullet-proof, self-sealing cells in all of the wing tanks.

The Coronado was not really mechanical “difficult.” It had four Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines – good reliable engines with electric props, of which the inboard props could be reversed for fantastically easy maneuvering on the water. The PBY did not have wing flaps and the PB2Y did have them but there were no mechanical problems with them. We just had two more engines to care for than the PBY.

Chris: Why did the inboard props have four blades while the outboards had three?

DeLo: Early models of the PB2Y had all four bladed props. By experience it was determined that the two inboard props were subjected to excessive pitting, corrosion and wear due to the spray emitted by the hull on takeoffs and landings. This spray, naturally, was greatest in areas closest to the aircraft hull. With four-bladed props the same amount of “lift” could be generated as the longer dimensions of the three-bladed props, with much, much less damage of pitting and corrosion.

Even so, props of planes operating on water would suffer some pitting and corrosion in any event and the mechanics would have to “dress” the props with a file to remove the pits and yet ensure that the weight and balance and aerodynamics of the props were not jeopardized.

Your next question should be: “If two of the props were four-bladed and the other two were three bladed,wouldn’t it be difficult to keep all four engines synchronized during flight?” The answer is no. There was no problem with synch-ing, even with all four engines turning at the exact same RPM’s!

Chris: What did it take to start the PB2Y before a mission?

DeLo: For patrol missions: Load depth charges in internal wing bomb bays, load .50-cal. ammo in hydraulic turrets in nose, camelback and tail and the manually-operated single 50’s in the two waist hatches. For bombing missions, change wing bomb bay load to bombs vice depth charges. Fuel load according to estimated time in air to and from target or destination.

Chris: Once she was going, did you have to handle the Coronado differently on the water than other flying boats?

DeLo: It was actually easier to handle than the twin-engine PBY due to the two extra outboard engines as well as the reversing props on the inboard engines when in confined water spaces or when making a buoy. Also by having more”freeboard” it would weather-cock into the wind with no coaxing or urging.

Chris: What were you doing when you learned about the attack on Pearl Harbor?

DeLo: I was still a bachelor living in a huge three-story old Victorian house in Coronado, California along with three other ensigns in our squadron, Patrol Squadron 13. We had invited our girlfriends over for some brunch and bloody marys. Sometime around noon, the phone rang and one of the gents answered it and we could hear him saying: “oh, yeah, and the moon’s made out of green cheese, too!” and he hung up the phone.

The phone rang back immediately and the same gent answered it. We could hear him saying: “Oh, no! Yes sir, yes sir, I understand. Yes sir.” He turned to the group, which had pretty well gathered around him by this time, and said: “The dirty bastard Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor! We are at war and are to report to the squadron immediately!”

That ended not only our “brunch” but our living in our big three-story house, which we called our “snake ranch!”

I was assigned a patrol down the coast of Baja California, but far enough at sea so that we could still observe the coastline. We flew down past Guadalupe Island looking for any Japanese activity. While our intelligence, at least at the squadron level, was very sparse, we had heard rumors that the Japs were apt to make an amphibious landing somewhere on the Mexican Coast and thence “invade” the U.S. from the South! Our patrol yielded no enemy activity whatsoever. We returned to North Island about 0200 the next day (at night) and got a little sleep on canvas cots in the large barrel hangars. That was also to be our “home” for about the next 10 days.

We never did return to our “snake ranch” except to retrieve our clothes and personal effects. We continued to make early morning patrols out of San Diego until shortly before Christmas. On Christmas Eve I was one of the pilots that flew Adm. Nimitz from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, arriving on Christmas Morning, so that Nimitz could take command of the Pacific Fleet.

Chris: Did you participate in the missions to Wake Island in January and February, 1944?

DeLo: Yes. There were a series of four different missions (raids) on Wake. VP-13 and VP-102 combined to make the flights. Some crews made different numbers of flights, ranging from one to four, to give more crews an opportunity to participate in the raids. My crew and I flew on the 30 January and the 4 February bombing raids. We were subjected to A.A. fire on both flights.

My reaction to the news of the impending attacks on Wake were probably very different from what a lay person might think. We had flown so many patrols looking for the enemy subs, aircraft and ships with practically no positive results (by ascertaining what part of the ocean was empty means, obviously, that the enemy isn’t there) that promise of a positive engagement with them was a tremendous boost in our morale! We were all most eager to engage the enemy! VP-13 was assigned the low-level attack with 12 planes and VP-102 was assigned the high-level attack about 25 minutes later. The low-level attack went in very, very low to avoid radar detection and gain the element of surprise. I was in the high-level group and we made our run at about 8000 feet. We also had the advantage of an almost full moon downrange of the island which gave us an additional distinct visual advantage as well. The low-level group did an outstanding job of navigating and finding the island without the use of their radar, which could have cancelled the element of surprise by Japanese electronic devices.

The low-level group encountered practically no opposing fire due to their lack of detection. Our high-level attack encountered anti-aircraft fire but no hits. Nonetheless, one’s first encounter with enemy A.A. fire is attention-getting even without being hit!

There were a series of four attacks on Wake by the combined efforts of VP-13 and VP-102. The efforts were spread among the crews of both squadrons. My crew participated in two of the four attacks. We all felt good about giving the Japs a “bloody nose” even if it was on relatively isolated Wake Island!

We had a U.S. submarine station about 10 miles off of wake as a “lifeguard” ship, in the event an aircraft sustained damage severe enough to prevent it making its way back to Midway! This, indeed, was a confidence and morale builder!

Chris: What was the feeling on board the boat as you approached Wake Island for the first time?

DeLo: Both excitement and apprehension! All of us had been under fire in various circumstances before, but not in an offensive mission such as this. We were at 8000 feet and in the final approach to the target when I turned over control of the plane to the bombardier by means of the auto synchronization of the autopilot and the Norden Bombsight. This meant in the final approach to the  target the bombardier was flying the plane through the bombsight. We were taking a lot of A.A. fire and the rest of the crew felt helpless and yet very, very vulnerable! The A.A. fire was close (or so it seemed to me and the rest of the crew) but there were no hits. As soon as Sam Moskowitz, my bombardier (with whom I am still in touch with to this day!) announced thru the intercom “Bombs away!” I disengaged the autopilot and took evasive action. My lookouts reported no known enemy aircraft which was another relief to us. Mission accomplished!

Chris: Were you able to pick out specific targets, or was it more like area bombing?

DeLo: We could pick out specific targets if they were large, i.e. barracks, runways, fuel dumps, hangars, etc. but aside from the large targets it was more like area bombing from our higher altitude. The first wave of planes that went in at very low level could pick out more specific smaller targets and could also hit them with greater accuracy than we could from higher altitudes. The first attackers went in at very low altitude to give them a greater element of surprise and more accurate bomb drops. We went in at higher altitude for greater safety from A.A. fire as the element of surprise was long gone.

I should also mention that when the Intelligence Officers gave us our “pre-raid briefing” on what enemy opposition we might encounter, they told us that the Japs’ A.A. fire directors were based on a “sound detection” principle and could home in on the harmonics of our propeller synchronizations. For some reason, being in my 20s with an abundance of curiosity and imperviousness, I decided to NOT desynchronize my props! What a mistake! I was met with much, much more severe A.A. fire than the other planes were getting! With a hand motion faster than the eye could see I quickly de-synched my props! I also related this action to the intelligence debriefing officers when we got back to Midway Island so that they could affirm the accuracy of their pre-mission briefing. Fortunately, none of the extra excessive A.A. fire struck our plane.

Chris: Obviously, damage assessment at night was pretty tough. Did the Navy or Army Air Force go back and take a peek at what was hit later? And if so, what did they find?

DeLo: I don’t recall if special flights went back to assess the damage but on the first raid (remember, there were four successive raids over a relatively short time frame), but one of the planes in our high-altitude group was equipped with a camera and a high-powered flare drop arrangement. It was able to record quite accurate damage assessment on the first raid. On successive raids other aircraft were also equipped with cameras and recorded damage from not only their drops but the damage from bomb drops of previous missions. I confess I can’t recall the exact damage assessments but I know we destroyed hangars, aircraft, barracks, mess halls, fuel dumps, communication equipment and facilities, runways, etc.

Wake Island was pretty much isolated after these attacks and replenishments by the Japs were very difficult and very rare.

Chris: The Coronado had a lot of firepower in terms of crewed weapons – especially for a flying boat. What did it sound like inside the plane when the gunners started firing? And did you have many opportunities for those weapons to be used?

DeLo: Machine gun fire – you could definitely hear the firing, even from the cockpit and over the noise of all four engines. However, due to other noises generated by the slipstream, engines and being inside of a “tin can,” the gunfire noise in the cockpit area wasn’t too disturbing.

When we had certain islands in our patrol sectors like Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Ponape, etc., we could elect to strafe shore facilities if we choose to. If conditions (weather, enemy fire, target opportunities, etc.) were right we could strafe at will, but we were impressed with the fact that our primary mission was to search a certain sector for enemy forces or activities and we were not to play Hero or Dare Devil to assuage our own ambitions.

Chris: Most of the time, you flew more sedate missions – but long-distance flights can have their own forms of excitement. Were there any transport missions that stood out as particularly exciting or eventful?

DeLo: A couple. Once when I was flying between Pearl Harbor and Sydney, Australia with a Vice Admiral who was ComSubPac at the time, suddenly two fighters dove vertically past the nose of our plane and scared the bejabbers out of me and the admiral, who was sitting in the co-pilots seat. I called the crew to battle stations and then the next thing I knew the two fighters were flying formation on me and fortunately,  they were out own Navy planes. There was a U.S. carrier in the near vicinity which we had not detected but which had detected us and had sent the fighters up to verify that we were “friendlies!”

The second was the flight in which we took Adm. Nimitz from San Diego to Pearl Harbor on Christmas Day of 1941 (right after Dec. 7th) so that he could take over the Pacific Fleet. Quite an honor for us.

Chris: Was there anything about the PB2Y – outside of its range – that made it a good VIP transport?

DeLo: Yes! Its spaciousness. It had four bunks forward and four aft, an efficient galley and good food availability and service. It was not as noisy inside as in a PBY, and of course had its “long legs” for extended flights!

Chris: Was maintenance difficult when you stopped over on island destinations? And did this become any easier as the war progressed and the supply lines across the Pacific improved?

DeLo: No, for a couple of reasons. There were always two or three mechanics in each crew, and two radiomen and two ordnance men. These men (many were still just young kids) could fix most anything, as they had been trained to do in classrooms and mostly by on-the-job training! If we were going on a long flight where there would be little or no ground facilities to assist our crews, they would have brought along spare parts of critical components that were most likely to fail.

In both the Atlantic and Pacific areas Maintenance Activities called HedRons, i.e. Headquarter Squadrons, were available to do heavy maintenance like engine changes, etc., as well as assisting flight crews with routine 60, 90, 120 and 240 hour checks. (The numbers are flight hours on the aircraft before the next check was due.) When squadrons were moved for prolonged durations – like when we would island hop to patrol and operate from places like Kaneohe to Kwajalein, to Eniwetok, to Saipan and could not fly the entire squadron personnel with us – they would follow by ship or other means in order to make the squadron “whole” again.

Chris: When the war ended, how were the Coronados treated?

DeLo: Pretty shabbily! I recall flying the last of my squadrons 2Ys from San Diego to Alameda where they were turned over to an activity which cannibalized useable or sale-able pieces and components and they turned the rest of the carcass over to an outfit that melted down the steel and aluminum for scrap. There was just so very much WWII equipment available, and large and small businesses didn’t want to compete with the sale of “surplus” things like aircraft, ships, guns, cameras, ammunition, first-aid supplies, radios, radars and other communication equipment. The government went along with the scrapping concept!

The one and only Coronado left in existence is the one here at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola! It is not a combat-military model but rather the transport version with no gun turrets.

Chris: How did you feel about the end of the flying boat era?

DeLo: Sad and nostalgic – but realistic! The flying boat carried a lot of its disadvantages with it – launching and recovering operations (including the necessity of special beaching gear when it went to strange or distant destinations), hull vulnerability to submerged objects and coral heads, and beaching crews to assist in bringing it ashore. But let’s not forget its big advantage! It could operate in strange and foreign places without the need of land-based runways!

Yes, I’m sad and nostalgic – but realistic! Progress has overtaken the seaplane! There were a couple of jet propelled seaplanes like the Convair Sea Dart, but the water ingestion problem made them impracticable!

End of era!!

Midway +69 Model Display – the Photos

Yesterday, I was able to go aboard USS Hornet before museum hours and set up the Battle of Midway display. Here’s a “guided tour” of what’s in the case:

Here’s an overview of the display. All the cards have the name of the plane, the names of the crew and their unit, a description of what that crew did during the battle, and the technical specifications of the plane in question. (An aside – I was astonished at how much lighter the B5N2 and D3A1 were in comparison to the Devastator and Dauntless – they’re larger planes, but each is about 1000 pounds lighter than its counterpart!)

Azusa Ono built this terrific D3A1. You notice we didn’t call it a “Val” – since those names had yet to be introduced in 1942, we thought it best to use the comtemporary nomenclature.

Here’s my SBD-3, built as Clayton Fisher’s plane on June 4. He was Stanhope Ring’s wingman as Ring led Bombing 8 and Scouting 8 in the wrong direction, a decision that’s still controversial today.

Brian Sakai worked miracles to complete an MPM SB2U-3 Vindicator, flown by James Marmande. This familiar plane failed to return on the morning of June 4; it disappeared during the return flight to Midway after VSMB-241 attacked the battleship Haruna.

Daisuke Nakabayashi built the B5N2 commanded by Joichi Tomonaga, who led the torpedo attack on Yorktown. This plane was shot down by “Jimmy” Thach and it failed to score a hit, although two other Hiryu B5N2s did successfully torpedo the carrier.

Here’s the Zero that was well-documented in this blog. Iyozoh Fujita probably shot down four TBDs on June 4 before being downed himself by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.


Kevin James Bennett and Mark Schynert also build B5N2s; both of their planes – one from Kaga and one from Akagi – were present at the battle but never flew. They were aboard their carriers, being re-armed for the third time the morning of June 4 – when America dive bombers struck. They were destroyed along with their ships.

Controversy remains to this day about the role this E13A1 played in the Japanese fleet. Tone’s No. 4 scout was delayed on take-off by 30 minutes by a malfunctioning catapult, but poor navigation and messed-up timing may have actually helped it spot the Yorktown. Jim Priete built this Hasegawa kit.

Then we have the Wildcats – a mess of them, all built from the Hasegawa kit. Ed Ingersoll of Florida built Thach’s plane from the morning escort of VT-3 – he downed three Zeros, and later shot down a B5N2 during the torpedo attack on Yorktown.

Laramie Wright did Marion Carl’s F4F-3 using the Quickboost wing conversion.

I built Tom Cheek’s VF-3 Wildcat in 2002. Cheek scored one confirmed victories, and possibly two more, over the Japanese fleet, and may have been the only person to see all three Japanese carriers hit.

Mark Rezac built Bill Leonard’s VF-3 Wildcat; Leonard claimed a victory during the Japanese torpedo attack.

John Carr built “Pat” Mitchell’s F4F-4; Mitchell and his 10 fighters were victims of Ring’s navigation and all 10 had to ditch. Seven of the pilots were eventually rescued.

Here’s Beverly Reid’s VF-6 machine, built by Laramie Wright. Reid was another enlisted pilot who scored a kill during the battle.

Laramie also fought a battle to the death with Special Hobby’s F2A-3 Buffalo. His model depicts William Humberd’s VMF-211 plane; Humberd survived the fight between Japanese Zeroes and Buffalos over Midway, putting him among a select few.

And finally, two views of John Ferdico’s awesome Airfix TBD-1 Devastator. John built the plane of John Waldron, who broke away from the rest of the Hornet Air Group and attacked the Japanese carriers alone, losing every plane in the process.

The display is in the Doolittle Raid Room aboard Hornet – it’s much more impressive in person than in pictures!