VPNAVY VP-5 Mercury Capsule Recovery
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HistoryUSS Onslow (AVP-48) HistoryHistory

Circa 1964

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "03JAN44--Patrol Squadron SEVENTEEN was commissioned at 1000 on January 3, 1944 at NAS Norfolk, Virginia; in accordance with CominCh Confidential letter 03974 of November 9, 1943; and ComAirLant letter of November 30, 1943. Lt. Comdr. Kenneth A. Kuehner, USNR, of Minster, Ohio, was designated as commanding officer of the squadron, which was temporarily based at Norfolk awaiting the assignment of officers, men and aircraft. At the time of commissioning six members of the squadron were on hand, the skipper, two other officers, and three enlisted men. On January 11th VP-17 was transferred to NAS Harvey Point, Hertford, North Carolina, for fitting out and shakedown training. The first airplane, a PBM-3D, was received on January 22nd and flight operations commenced on the 24th. As more pilots, crews and planes arrived, the training program increased progressively. The squadron remained at NAS Harvey Point, Hertford, North Carolina until the middle of April. From March 31st to April 9th a detachment of 11 crews under the command of Lt. jg Coyle was sent to Key West, Florida for training in anti-submarine warfare. About the middle of April the squadron moved by plane and rail to the West Coast. NAS Harvey Point, Hertford, North Carolina was a good operating area, although limited transportation and liberty did not make it the best area for personal enjoyment. As a result the squadron was pleased rather than annoyed by ComAirLant secret dispatch transferring it to ComFair Alameda, California. By April 24th VP-17 began its transfer to Alameda, via Eagle Mountain Lake, Texas and San Diego, California. En route to San Diego on May 3rd Lt. J. H. Dornbox and his crew were forced to parachute to safety near Palo Alto. The Squadron did not spend much time at Alameda. The first two planes departed NAS Kaneohe Bay, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on April 30th. Lt. Swanson and Lt. Roberts being PPC's. Complete squadron transfer to Fleet Air Wing Two, however, was not completed until May 31st, which gave most of the squadron considerable time to enjoy the comforts of NAS Alameda, California and ample provisions for good liberty afforded in San Franciso and Oakland. At NAS Kaneohe Bay, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for three months from June 1st to September 1st the squadron underwent intensive training in anti-submarine warfare, and completed final training in all phases of PBM operations. During this time VP-17 flew 117 operational patrols in the Hawaiian area. Conditions of living and recreation at NAS Kaneohe Bay, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii were fine for both officers and men. Operating conditions were very suitable although usual quirks were encountered of a minor nature, including a forced shallow water landing by Lt. Healy on July 25th causing minor hull damage, and one plan, Lt. Temple, PPC, running aground on a reef in Kaneohe Bay on August 1st. During the period June 1st to September 1st the squadron received two officers, one enlisted man, plus seven planes temporarily attached. Through transfers two officers and one plane were detached. Several weeks before departure to the forward area a squadron party was held on the beach near BOQ with ample supply of steaks, barbeque, baked beans and beer. A softball game between the officers and enlisted men was the highlight of the afternoon. On September 1st the Skipper leading 5 planes left Kanaohe for Ebeye, Kwajalein Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. This squadron movement was performed exactly as scheduled, 5 planes departing NAS Kaneohe Bay, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii each day for three days. The entire movement was completed without incident, which was considered more than satisfactory. This Movement to Task Force 59 at Ebeye was the transition point between training and action. The squadron was the last moving toward the forward area. On September 5th a 5 plane detachment was sent to Eniwetck for duty with VP-21 were it flew 11 negative searches and one photo reconnaissance hop over Wake Island. This detachment returned on the 13th receiving high praise for its work, the subject of a letter of commendation from the commanding officer VP-21 to ComAirPac. The Balance of the squadron meanwhile was awaiting orders to a more forward area. Lt. Coyle with a 3 plane section flew to Saipan on September 11th. A week later the remainder of the squadron transferred to Saipan and moved aboard the U. S. S. Hamlin (AV-15) in the outer harbor at Tenapag. While taking off from Ebeye Lt. Temple hit a submerged object, seriously damaging the hull of his plane. CASU 18 did a fine job in effecting emergency repairs so that the plane could be flown to NAS Kaneohe Bay, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for replacement. Lt. Temple later rejoined the squadron at Saipan. Administration was moved to Saipan September 18th. At Tanapag the Squadron flew 34 search, 18 dumbo and 4 cargo missions. Included in these flights were hops to Iwo Jima and Chici. While on one of the cargo missions to Kossol Passage, Palau, Lt. W. R. Lasser sighted an enemy submarine, but Seventeen's first enemy sighting proved fruitless. Being on a cargo mission, Lt. Lasser was carrying no bombs or depth charges, therefore allowing the submarine to submerge unharmed. On October 1, 1944 Patrol Squadron SEVENTEEN had its designation changed to Patrol Bombing Squadron SEVENTEEN. The squadron moved from the U. S. S. Hamlin to the U. S. S. Curtis (AV-4) on October 6th and remained there for a week prior to departing for Ulithi Atoll in the Western Caroline Islands. On October 9th Lt. J. L. Leidecker took on advance detachment of six crews to Ulithi. Based on the USS Onslow (AVP-48) the detachment flew night anti-submarine patrols. When the balance of the squadron moved to Ulithi on October 13th it based aboard the U. S. S. Hamlin. Operations at Ulithi continued until December 24th and included just about everything in the books for PBM's. During this period SEVENTEEN flew 2,932 operational hours which comprised day and night anti-submarine patrols, convoy coverage, mail runs, photo-reconnaissance missions, transport flights, coverage for landing operations and Dubo missions. While at Ulithi VPB-17 encountered some of its more unusual experiences. On a night coverage flight, Lt. G. H. Gile lost 18 inches off one propeller blade and was forced to make a single engine open sea landing in high seas, (20 to 30 foot swells). His damaged plane was rescued by the U. S. S. ONSLOW and towed 250 miles back to Ulithi. One hundred and four nights and eighty day patrols, which included reconnaissance of Yap Island were flown in this period. One Japanese prisoner was taken during a mission covering landings on Ngulu. Escort flights consisted of 27 flights which included a flight by Lt. Whelan on December 15, plus flights on December 19th and December 21st by Lt. Comdr. Coyle and Lt. Temple on the U. S. S. Reno, U. S. S. Houston, and the U. S. S. CANBARRA, which had been damaged by the enemy action. Mail runs were made between Saipan, Palau, Ngulu and Ulithi and 4 Dumbo flights were flown to NAS Agana, Guam and Woleai. For five days beginning November 5th 13 planes were evacuated without incident to Saipan because of typhoon conditions at Ulithi. On December 24th, 25th, and 26th the squadron moved back to Tanapag Harbor Saipan, and base aboard the U. S. S. YAKULAT (AVP-32) until the U. S. S. HAMLIN arrived on the 29th. It remained at Saipen until January 19, 1945. During this period 3 ASP flights were flown daily for a total of 556 hours. All patrols flown were with negative results; so the squadron was pleased to receive FAW-1 orders transferring it to Kossol Roads, Palau. On January 20, 1945, 5 planes departed for Kossola Roads. Operations at Palau were conducted from the USS Kenneth Whiting (AV-14]. Thirty-six day searches and seven night anti-sub patrols were flown. Operating conditions at Kossol Roads were generally very poor due to extremely high seas. Many planes were damaged by boats and rough water take-offs. Lt. D. N. Brown of Ortonville, Minnesota lost a float and submerged his wing on a take-off in rough water. However, by exceptional skill he managed to get his plane airborne and later affected a safe landing. The excellent work and efficiency of the USS Kenneth Whiting (AV-14] saved one plane with a hole in her hull below the waterline. A plane already on the deck had to be put over the side before the damaged plane could be brought aboard - an excellent piece of work. On February 5th VPB-17 once again moved to Ulithi; this time to the U. S. S. CHANDLELEUR (AV-10) for inspection of planes, and then to the USS Kenneth Whiting (AV-14] which did the actual maintenance. From February 12th to 15th pursuant to ComAirPac orders the squadron moved to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, P.I., aboard the USS Currituck II (AV-7) . On February 20th the squadron moved to the U. S. S. SAN PABLO (AVP-30), after having sent a detachment of planes and crews to Lingayen. This Nucleus of the squadron remained aboard the U. S. S. SAN PABLO until March 31st and then moved ashore to NAB, Jinamoc for the first three weeks of April. While based in San Pedro Bay the squadron flew 165 missions totaling 934 hours. Sixteen airmen were rescued at sea and 110 persons were transported, including Lt. General Eichelberger, U.S.A., Commanding General 8th Army. Missions included photo reconnaissance, cargo flights, supplying guerillas, dumbo for army and marine air strikes, landing operations and air-sea rescue. There were also pre-invasions bombings of Iloilo, San Carlos, Panay, Zamboanga, Davoa and Malabang, Mindanao, Cebu-Negros, and Legaspi, Luzon by VPB-17. Squadron planes flew dumbo missions on the days of invasion of the above mentioned cities and islands also. On the second day of the invasion of Iloilo, Lt. Johnson lost an engine and was forced to land several miles north of Iloilo. An LST towed the plane to a safe area among invasion craft, where it was stripped of all salvageable parts and equipment and then sunk. Complete cooperation was given the crew by the landing craft officers and men present. There were several flights of interest and significance during this period which are worthy of mention.. Lt. J. A. Wallace of Alberta, Canada on February 19th made an open sea landing in swells of from 15 to 20 feet, off the southeast coast of Samar and picked up 1st Lt. Dan T. Doyle, 028241, and F4U pilot. The next day Lt. G. D. Mulford of Woodbury, New Jersey transported 1500 pounds of supplies to guerilla forces on Palawan and picked up Cpl. Elmo S. Deal, U. S. Army, who had been a prisoner of war since the fall of Corregidor. On the 22nd Lt. Alan Washinton, Nashville, Tennessee evacuated 14 battle casualties of the 182nd Infantry Division from Behind enemy lines near Allen on the northwest tip of Samar. At the same time blood plasma was delivered to the Army Medical Officer in command. Lt. D. N. Brown flew a photo reconnaissance hop over Jap held Ticao and Burias Islands off southwestern Luzon on the 26th of February. This flight was in preparation for a subsequent successful Army landing. On March 1st Lt. Comdr K. A. Kuehner, the squadron commander, and Lt. Wallace evacuated 2nd Lt. J. B. Lampe and his crew of 11 from a downed B-24 at Davao, Minanao. This mission, deep into enemy territory was completed without assistance of fighter cover. Lt. C. M. Nixon evacuated Major P. B. May, Commanding Officer Marine Fighting Squadron 211 and Major Teafilo Rivera, Regimental Commander of 130th Infantry Guerilla Force from the same location. Invaluable intelligence material was received form this guerilla leader. On March 26th Lt. Bouchard of Los Angeles flew two 8th Army Intelligence officers and Lt. General Eichelberger from headquarters to Cebu and returned the General on the 28th. When the Skipper and six crews went ashore on April 1st from the U. S. S. Pablo to Jinamoc Island to continue air-sea rescue operations it marked the first time since leaving NAS Kaneohe Bay, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii that any part of the Squadron was shore based despite undeveloped and limited facilities the squadron personnel thoroughly enjoyed the welcome change and the cooperation and facilities afforded by the CASU and ACORN 30. While the squadron was at San Pedro a detachment of 6 planes and 8 crews under Lt. Comdr. Coyle of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was based at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon aboard the U. S. S. ORCA from February 14th until the middle of March when it moved by degrees to Puerta Princessa, Palawan aboard the USS Pocomoke (AV-9). Operations at Lingayen Gulf consisted of dumbo, air-sea rescue, evacuation, guerilla supply and photo reconnaissance flights, with primary emphasis on air-sea rescue. Of particular note was the rescue of February 20th by Lt. L. H. Roberts of Green County, Pennsylvania of two survivors of a ditched B-25 just south of North Island. He landed and took off in 30 knot winds with a cross swell running about 16 feet. On the 25th Lt. G. H. Gile of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and crew distinguished themselves by effecting two landings and take-offs 4 and 8 miles respectively from the southwest coast of Formosa. In the first landing Lt. Scott M. Alexander of a downed P-47 was rescued. On the second landing, although a wreckage of a P-51 was searched, the crew was unable to locate a survivor. Both landings and take-offs were made in 30 knot winds with 14 to 16 foot cross swells. Another flight of interest occurred on march 2nd when Lt. C. Mellerup, Cambridge, Massachusetts was called to the northwest coast of Formosa to pick up survivors of a downed B-25. After prolonged search he landed and rescued 2nd Lt. J. C. Discon, 2nd Lt. A. C. West and Sgt. D. D. Bowers of the 823rd Bombing Squadron. During his return flight Lt. Mellerup was tailed by an enemy fighter, but no attack was made. Field missions flown by this detachment included the delivery of supplies and scouts into unfriendly territory and evacuating wounded and other personnel from behind enemy lines. On May 9, 1945 the squadron received a letter from Walter Krueger, General, U. S. Army Commanding 6th Army commending them for the work of this detachment at Lingayen. With its work at Lingayen complete this detachment was transferred March 9th to 18th to Palawan where it flew searches in the South China Sea. On March 20th the squadron was augmented by its first two replacement crews. Recreation at Purta Princessa was excellent and the squadron had numerous baseball games and beer parties with the USS Pocomoke (AV-9) and the U. S. S. ORCA ship's company. On March 18th the squadron was disposed as follows: 6 planes on U. S. S. SAN PABLO, 3 planes at Jinamoc, 1 plane at Lingayen, 4 planes at Palawan. From this time forward until April 22nd the squadron crews and planes were shifted about detachments throughout this area. The month at Palawan went all too fast before the detachment received the call to rejoin the squadron and report to the U. S. S. TANGIER (AV-8) at Lingayen Gulf for Black Cat duty. On April 22nd the squadron moved from Jinamoc to Lingayen Gulf where it went aboard the U. S. S. TANGIER. From this time on until June 29th the primary mission of the squadron was night reconnaissance or Black Catting along the China Coast and the western coast of Formosa. This area was covered by two sectors, one extending from Swatow, China to Hainan, and east along the shipping lanes from Hainan Straits; the other from Hong Kong, to Foochow, China, to the northern tip of Formosa and along the western Formosa Coast. The direction in which the sectors were flown was determined by the most effective use of moonlight. These missions were flown to intercept enemy shipping which ventured under cover of darkness into the waters and bays of the China Sea. Flights took off from Lingayen Gulf with 2500 gallons of gasoline, four 250 pound and six 100 pound G. P. Bombs, 3400 rounds of .50 cal. Ammunition and six to eight 25 pound fragmentation bombs. Take-off time varied according to the hours of darkness, moonrise and prospective targets. It was always prior to darkness and flights returned after daylight on the following day. To insure that no flight would be delayed on take-off, all planes scheduled for flights and stand-by planes were water-tested every day in advance of departure time. The doctrine set forth for Black Cat missions was "plenty rugged." The first consideration after take-off was gasoline. It was necessary to conserve in every possible way. Low power settings were used constantly. The only difference between the attack run and the cruise was that the engines were put into auto-rich when in range of enemy fire. The flight to target area was maintained at an altitude of 250 feet or less and, once over the target area, altitude many times was lowered to absolute minimum in order to effect undetected attacks on enemy strongholds. Radar served as the eyes of the plane, guiding it in between and over numerous protruding rocks and islands which lined the coast. Entries into bays and rivers were made on radar. The attack run was guided by radar, the target often remained invisible until illuminated by the plane's .50 cal. Tracers. Radar operators, whether they were ordiancemen, mechs, or radioman, were soon able to distinguish between rocks, junks and prospective targets. No matter how proficient the radar operator, or how good the radar, there were no substitutes for contact flight under a full moon. Flights were completed in darkness, in fog, or in moonlight. It was not the policy to cancel flights or return to base because of weather. Fronts were usually entered without a change of heading, but at low altitude to avoid turbulence. The entire crew was unconsciously under continual strain. During the two months of Black Cat operations VPB-17 worked a heavy schedule and achieved remarkably good results in destruction and damage inflicted upon the enemy, considering the curtailment of Japanese shipping between the East Indies and Japan. Although there were numerous creditable attacks, there were a few in particular that were especially worthy of mention. On the night of May 18 and 19 in the sector between Formosa and the China Coast Lt. Warren B. Lasser of Waterloo, Iowa attacked a five ship convoy totaling 17,000 tons and completely destroyed it. One Fox Tar Baker, One Fox Tar Charlie and two Sugar Charlies were sunk and one Fox Tare Baker left burning furiously. The following night Lt. E. H. Ross of Shelbyville, Tennessee sank one and left two remaining Sugar Charlies down by the stern and listing to port. On May 28th Lt.jg J. Centa of Barberton, Ohio sank a Sugar Charlie. On June 23-24 Lt.jg Willie F. Sander of Brenham, Texas scored a clean sweep when he destroyed a 200 foot M/V and two Sugar Charlies by bombing and strafing, and later on the same flight sank two 150 foot 3-masted schooners with a single bomb hit. In the way of retaliation the enemy did some damage during the squadron's career of Black Catting. On May 26th Lt.jg F. W. Forman, Baltimore, Maryland failed to return from a mission. It was not until July that it was found that his plane had been shot down. The only survivors were Lt. Forman of Baltimore, Maryland and his co-pilot, Ens. R. S. Bunge, East Hartford, Conn. They made there way to the China Coast and, on the basis of their evasion and escape knowledge, located friendly Chinese who evacuated them inland to Kunming. Those lost included Ens. A. Ligrani, (A1), USNR, 419577; Cass, W. S., AOM3c(T), USNR, 565 75 01; Shoemake, C. M., AMM1c, USN, 295 82 35; Suck, G. R., AOM3c, USNR, 664 52 93; White, R. D., ARM3c(T), USNR, 816 25 08. On May 30th Lt.jg V. B. Moore sighted seven schooners with probable destruction of five before he ran out of ammunition and bombs. Another example of the accuracy of Japanese AA fire was the plane brought back to the squadron the morning of June 6th. That PBM had 380 holes in the after end of the plane, but miraculously enough there were no injuries or casualties among the personnel. On June 22, Lt. Edward Harmeyer sank one Sugar Dog and two Barges. On the same night Lt.jg G. R. Hauser of Yorkville, New York sank a Fox Tare Charlie. On June 25th Lt.jg E. Peterson of Marquette, Michigan sank a Sugar Charlie. On the night of June 28th the squadron's last Black Cat Missions were flown. While Lt.jg James B. Nourse of Wocester, Massachusetts was attacking a PC off the Pescadores Islands, enemy fire wounded his Mech, W. F. Snyder, AMM3c, of Passaic, New Jersey in the foot. Thus ended VPB-17s night sorties against the enemy. While the squadron was busy Black Catting the USS Currituck II (AV-7) steamed into Lingayen Gulf on June 24th. The following day VPB SEVENTEEN left the U. S. S. TANGIER and moved aboard the USS Currituck II (AV-7) . On the 16th the Squadron's new commanding officer, Lt. Comdr. Leeds D. Cutter, USNR, reported to replace "Skipper" Kuehner. The change of command ceremonies took place on June 21st with the squadron present in the hanger of the USS Currituck II (AV-7) . On June 29th VPB-17 ended its Black Cat operations and started its movement to Tawi Tawi in the Sulu Archipelago, off the coast of Borneo. As the main flight to Tawi Tawi was leaving Lingayen on June 30th the squadron suffered it first serious known operational loss. A few minutes after take-off, Lt. Comdr. Cutter had both engines fail and crashed three miles inland from Dasol Bay.The plane caught fire and was completely destroyed. Ensign Stadtler and six enlisted men were killed. Lt. Comdr. Cutter, pilot, Ensign Jensen and three men were badly burned. A few minutes later Lt. L. D. Hicks, USN, also had both engines of his PBM cut out but was fortunate in being able to reach Dasol Bay where he made a skillful landing without injury to anyone. Upon examination and investigation it was found that Lt. Hicks engine failure was caused by the presence of salt water in the gas tanks. It is presumed that Lt. Comdr. Cutter crash resulted from the same cause. With the exception of the crews involved in the emergency landings at Dasol Bay the squadron completed its transfer to the USS Pocomoke (AV-9) in Chongos Bay, Tawi Tawi between July 2nd and 4th. In the meantime while Black Catting was going on at Lingayen a detachment of three planes and crews headed by Lt. J. T. Whealan had been sent to Tawi Tawi on June 7th and had been augmented on the 14th by an additional three planes and crews. Although this detachment was originally based aboard the USS Pocomoke (AV-9), it moved to the U. S. S. HALF MOON (AVP-26) on the 11th where it remained until July 5th at which time it rejoined the squadron on the USS Pocomoke (AV-9). Operations at Tawi Tawi consisting almost entirely of anti-submarine patrols continued throughout July and August until VPB-17 was relieved of operational duties by VPB-25 on August 21st. Most of the ASP's were of a dull routine nature and all had negative results. Barrier patrols covering the Brunei and Balikpapah landings lent a spark of excitement, however, in an otherwise uninteresting operation. The searches or patrols from Tawi Tawi covered the convoy shipping lanes between Morotai and Borneo and extended south through Macassar Straits to the southern tip of the Celebes and Borneo. The Tawi Tawi operation provided the only submarine attack made by a plane of Patrol Bombing Squadron SEVENTEEN. On June 17th, 1945 Lt. J. T. Whelan, USNR of Rocky River, Ohio made a run on a RO class Japanese submarine and was credited with a class A attack and probable destruction of the enemy. On June 21st Lt. jg C. D. Heitert, while returning from a patrol through Macassar Straits heard a distress transmission and on his own initiative located and rescued Lt. Ferguson, U.S.A., and 10 survivors of a ditched Liberator attached to the 380th Bomber Group. Another air-sea rescue incident took place when Lt.jg W. O. Phillips of Easr Akron, Ohio and his crew sighted a survivor on a life raft west of Morotai. Lt.jg Phillips contacted a destroyer of a nearby convoy and directed it to the location of the survivor. Meanwhile two more life rafts were detected. As a result of this cooperation between air and surface craft Lt. Callison and four other members of an RAAF Liberator crew were rescued. In addition to anti-submarine patrols VPB-17 flew several missions at the request of in cooperation with Allied Intelligence Bureau. Most of these flights were of a transportation nature, carrying supplies and personnel from Morotai to guerilla groups on the coast of North Borneo. Capt. Chipper of the Australian Army often participated in these flights and was extremely helpful in supplying information about such places as Semporna, Labuan Island and Marudu Bay. Toward the end of the war in late July and early August these flights were made all the more interesting by the evacuation of prisoners of war who had been held captive by the Japanese in North Borneo." Contributed by Thomas Edwin Russell tompbm@aol.com

UPDATE "...My name is William Cass. I wrote a poem in memory of my great uncle who was killed on patrol in a PBM on May 25, 1945. I have attached a poem about the Purple Heart his mother received.. William Cass wscass69@speakeasy.org..." [Crew Added 09DEC2001 | 01DEC2001]

By William Scott Cass in loving memory of William Stephen Cass
VP-17 History ThumbnailCameraCrew

Top Row from Left to Right: Marion Nutter, P. Orberdorffer, W.S. Cass, Chester Shoemake, Gerry Slick, Oliver Plumb Front Row from Left to Right: Ralph Halstead, Robert Bunge, Fredrick W. Forman, Amedo Ligrani, Robert White

At the bottom of the beautiful laden sea,

lies the grave of someone I knew, but never met.

He lived his life as a sailor, but he died as a savior.

The ones he left behind will always

remember his passing, he received a

blessing, that should be in red, not in purple.

The red would stand for the blood

spilt to receive it, the gold

figurehead stands for the First

Commander who gave it.

The colors that hold it stand for the

Glorious Country that cries each time it is given.

On the back of the medal the names are

scrolled to remember those who received it.

The shape is in that of a heart to show

where the true idea of giving it came from.

The purple and gold are in memory of

where you may be now, and where we

someday may join you.

Circa 1958

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...I was a Damage Controlman aboard the USS Onslow (AVP-48) from 1957 thru 1959 and did crash-boat duty for seaplane operations, cruise of 1958. The following photograph's were taking in 1958..." Contributed by Bob Beedles rbbinaz@yahoo.com [02OCT2010]

    LEFT to RIGHT:
    Taken from a seaplane - Okinawa
    Captain of the Onslow, Stockton Birney Strong and Chinese National Naval Officer
    Makung City Pescadories Islands (115 miles away from port)
    Refueling plane off stern
    Seaplane Bouy Repair 1958 DC1 Absher & PF3 Wallace. Vogel, Carslile, Guizlo in background.
    Refueling seaplane.

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-46 Mishap - 00 AUG 58 A/C: P5M Marlin Location: Quemoy Harbor Strike: Yes BUNO: 130304 Recovery effort..."

UPDATE "...Received this information from Bob Beedles rbbinaz@yahoo.com......" Forwarded by John Szalay john.szalay@att.net [02OCT2010]

First off, that plane was not shot down nor damaged by enemy action. It happened near Makung island, Pescadories Islands. I was in the USS Onslow (AVP-48)'s crash boat at about dawn when it overran the sea lane marked out by sea buoys and cut power, but not in time, and ran into a coral reef ripping a large gash in bottom. We were first boat on the scene. Plane was in no danger of sinking as was in shallow water and "impaled" on coral keeping it pretty much in one place. By late afternoon we had put all portable pumps available, (all from the USS Onslow (AVP-48) and some borrowed from other ships in the area) into use. Had plugged the tear to the bottom as much as possible but with the coral still protruding through the hull it was impossible to re-float her enough to complete the patch making her completely seaworthy.

In the late afternoon it was someones decision (not a very good one it would turn out!) to secure all work boats to the planes hull, keeping the pumps running, and tow the plane off the reef to deep water where the USS Onslow (AVP-48) was anchored, tie the plane to the fantail and replace all the boats P500 & P60 pumps (most using inductors) with ships pumps via 6 inch suction hoses. The idea I suppose was that the plane would be so dry inside that a band-aid would stick. Didn't work that way. It was well after dark and as soon as the P500/60 pumps were secured, and I mean immediately, the plane started sinking and the boats that were under the wings barely got out from under in time. I learned later that Chief Engineer CPO Cox had anticipated this happening and had men with axes stationed at each bollard to cut the lines tying the plane to ship. The boats got away, the lines were cut and the plane sank like a rock in deep water. ( I dont remember the numbers anymore but the boats pumps output far exceeded the ships pumping ability!). The USS Onslow (AVP-48) remained on station and divers were flown in from somewhere to retrieve the planes electronic gear and a barge to lift her was coming.

The plane was lifted, set on the barge and that is where my recall of the events come to an end.

Later on in that same cruse, October 1958, another P5M did basically the same thing at Buckner's Bay, Okinawa but this time experience and smarter thinking had her towed ashore and beached before it was able to sink.

Just another aside to the story and the period. Myself and another damage controlman had requested a "fly along" whenever there was an opportunity. At some time in Aug or Sept we were granted that. The purpose og the P5M flights at the time was to do low level photo recon of ship and boat movement around Quemoy and the Chinese Mainland. Our pilot claimed at the end of the flight that he had taken us over the Chinese mainland. He also claimed he was the Navys first & only African seaplane pilot. When I saw the web site http://mysite.ncnetwork.net/res12e522/ColdWar.html for "22 September 1958 The People's Republic of China complained that a US military aircraft had intruded into Chinese airspace" I had to wonder if this was us!

I have enclosed 2 photos (one with better resoulition ) showing P5M #12 being pumped out while still on the coral reef. (I'm the guy in ball cap and T shirt.) (My photo is dated Sept 58 but may have been Aug) (The Life Mag photo wing # is 12) The other pics are just from the same area and period. Hope this can shed some light on the false info that she was "shot down etc."

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UPDATE "...Received this (one of several emails detailing the loss of VP-46 plane 12). I have his permission to send this to you for posting......" WebSite: Google Image Search http://images.google.com/hosted/life/ Contributed by John Szalay john.szalay@att.net [13MAY2010]
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UPDATE "...Recently Life Magazine (US) and Google placed the Life Magazine photo archives on-line. USS Onslow (AVP-48) Quemoy Straits - Aug 1958 - Photographer: John Dominis..." WebSite: Google Image Search http://images.google.com/hosted/life/ Contributed by John Szalay john.szalay@att.net [13MAY2010]
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UPDATE "...Recently Life Magazine (US) and Google placed the Life Magazine photo archives on-line. A US Navy in Quemoy harbor. Salvage divers on wing of 0304 Ship in background is 16..." WebSite: Google Image Search http://images.google.com/hosted/life/ Contributed by John Szalay john.szalay@att.net [18APR2010]
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Circa 1955

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...1955 VP-47 Cruisebook...[Squadron Designations: VP-47, VPB-27, and VPMS-7]..." Contributed by Bruce Barth bbarth1@austin.rr.com, Director Mariner/Marlin Association [29NOV2000]

The squadron we know as VP-47 came into existence with the commissioning of VPB-27 at NAAS Harvey Point, North Carolina on 1 June 1944. On I5 May 1946 the squadron was redesignated VP-27 with its home port at MCAS/NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. On 15 November 1946 the squadron was redesignated VPMS-7. On 1 September 1948 the squadron was assigned its present designation of VP-47 and has had home ports of MCAS/NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; NAS North Island, San Diego, California; and presently NAS Alameda, California.

During the squadron's operation and participation in various campaigns, including three full tours in the Korean conflict, personnel attached have been awarded the following medals:

  • Air Medal
  • Korean Presidential Unit Citation
  • American Defense
  • American Theater
  • Asiatic Pacific Campaign
  • World War II Victory
  • China Service
  • World War II Occupation
  • National Defense
  • Korean Service
  • United Nations

    The squadron has flown PBM and presently P5M-2 model aircraft and has operationed with the following Seaplane Tenders: USS Onslow (AVP-48), YAKUTAT, SHELIKOF, ORCA, PINE ISLAND, SUISON. SALISBURY SOUND, GARDENERS BAY. CORSON. and WHITING.

    Circa 1953

    HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: VP-42 PBM ThumbnailCameraVP-42 PBM SA-6 "...A shipmate suggested I send you this pix of PBM SA 6 VP-42 refuelling from behind USS Onslow (AVP-48) during an Alaska deployment. Circa 1953..." Contributed by LCDR Harvey Herzog, Retired HHerzog991@aol.com [04MAY2000]

    Circa 1946

    HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...1946 The War Diary of the U. S. S. Chandeleur (AV-10). The story of a Seaplane Tender in World War II. 19 November 1942 to 19 November 1945. Compiled and edited by The Staff of "Tender Topics," the Ship's Paper...Squadrons Supported: VP-14, VP-21, VP-71, VP-202, VP-216, VH-1, and FAW-1..." Contributed by Bruce Barth bbarth1@austin.rr.com, Director Mariner/Marlin Association [30NOV2000]

    of the

    The Story of a Seaplane Tender in World War II
    19 November 1942 to 19 November 1945
    Compiled and edited by
    The Staff of "Tender Topics," the Ship's Paper

    The Tale of a Modern Mariner

    It is said that the life of a ship begins when her keel is laid. The keel of the U. S. S. CHANDELEUR was laid at 1615 on 29 March 1941 by the Western Pipe and Steel Co. of San Francisco, California. At 1343 on 19 November 1941 she slid down the ways, sponsored by Mrs. W. T. Thea, wife of Rear Admiral THEA, USCG.

    One year later to the day on 19 November 1942, after successful trial runs had been made the U. S. S. CHANDELEUR was officially accepted for the Navy Department by Captain William SINTON, U. S. N. who, at the same time, took over as her first Commanding Officer.

    For those who sailed aboard her it will be interesting to note that the CHANDELEUR was named for Chandeleur Sound which, with the islands of the same name is located off the coast of Louisiana, north of the Mississippi River delta. The Sound was discovered on 2 February 1699-Candlemas Day, and so was named "Chandeleur," French for Candlemas.


    After her commissioning the CHANDELEUR started on a series of cargo runs which carried her twice to HAWAll and the NEW HEBRIDES ISLANDS. It was seven and one-half months after going into commission before the AV-10 did any seaplane tending. However, the fact that the CHANDELEUR was doing her part in the war effort is testified by a mailgram received from ComAirSoPac congratulating the ship on her cooperation and by a personal letter received by Captain SINTON from Admiral TOWERS, Com Air Pac.

    It may be of interest to note that on 14 February 1943, at Apia, British Samoa, many months before PBM's were commonly in use by the Navy in the Pacific, the CHANDELEUR hoisted aboard a damaged PBM-3R for transportation back to the United States.


    On the Fourth of July, 1943 the U. S. S. took over the job for which she was built, tending seaplanes. On that date, at ESPIRITU SANTO, N. H., VP-71 came aboard and began operations using this vessel as a base. This patrol squadron conducted searches, bombing missions, and Dumbo operations using fifteen PBY's.

    An interesting sidelight on the Solomons Campaign was an incident which took place on 12 January 1944 at GAVUTU HARBOR, FLORIDA ISLAND. A New Zealand PBY was taking off and, while making its run, hit an anti-submarine net and tore a large hole in its hull. Boats from the CHANDELEUR were immediately dispatched. When the plane landed it was brought alongside and hoisted aboard. The ship got underway and by maneuvering in very close to HALA VO BEACH, it was possible to beach the damaged PBY on the seaplane ramp by hoisting it into the water and towing it up on the beach.

    Thus ended this phase of the CHANDELEUR'S seaplane tending career but bigger and more important things were in store for the A V-10.


    After the departure of our second PBY patrol squadron, VP-14, the CHANDELEUR'S next job was to make a run up to Bougainville Island's CAPE TOROKINA with a load of Marine Airmen. VMF-218, Marine Air Group 11, First Marine Aircraft Wing and VMSB-244, Marine Air Group 21, Second Marine Aircraft Wing were our passengers on this trip. This was on the 25th of January, 1944, when BOUGAINVILLE was being bitterly contested. The AV-10 came to anchor at 0659 on 25 January and was underway again at 1749 on the same date. The C.0. of the Marines on BOUGAINVILLE presented the ship with a certificate of merit for the effective expediting of this mission.

    MUNDA in the New Georgia group was the next stop on our cargo run and was followed by another series of trips between the NEW HEBRIDES and GUADALCANAL.

    Then came our long awaited orders home- back to stateside via Pearl Harbor. The CHANDELEUR passed under the Golden , Gate Bridge 21 March 1944 and tied up at the Carrier dock, NAS Alameda, California to discharge passengers and cargo.

    March 24, 1944 found us in the yards of General Engineering and Drydock Company, Alameda, for thirty days availability for overhaul and repair. Six days of this time was spent in drydock. After completion of our period of availability in the yard, we made a cargo run between N. S. D., Oakland and Pearl Harbor and returned to Oakland for the final loading for our next assignment overseas.


    On 18 May 1944, the U. S. S. CHANDELEUR got underway from N. S. D. Oakland for Pearl Harbor. From Hawaii our next stop was KW AJALEIN in the Marshall Islands, which we reached on 5 June 1944. After two weeks at KW AJALEIN, we departed for ENIWETOK. Arriving at ENIWETOK the CHANDELEUR took over the duty of tending these patrol squadrons. Each squadron was made up of fifteen PBM-3D's.

    Then came our orders to get underway and on 23 June 1944 we left for SAIPAN, MARMARIANAS, which had been invaded by U. S. forces less than 10 days before. Arriving at SAIPAN on 26 June we immediately began tending our PBM's under the overall command of Captain TAFT, C. 0., U.S.S. POKOMOKE. Captain TAFT was succeeded soon after our arrival at SAIPAN by Commodore Dixwell KETCHAM, U. S. N., Commander FAW-1.

    Operating conditions at SAIPAN were not always of the best due to rough water, high winds, and enemy shore batteries. This vessel was anchored in GARAPAN BAY and on several occasions the ship's planes came under fire from enemy shore guns scattering shrapnel and doing some minor damage to the PBM's. At one time, there was a bad run of weather with 15 to 20 foot swells. Plane maintenance crews had to go over the side into their boats via cargo nets and the sea made working on the planes extremely hazardous. .

    During the CHANDELEUR's stay on SAIPAN we went to General Quarters many times but were never under actual attack, the raiders seemingly being intent on creating a nuisance and preventing the ship and squadron personnel from getting much needed rest.

    During our stay on SAIPAN, the planes of VP-202 and VP-216 conducted long range searches and photographic missions. Planes of VH-1, a rescue and evacuation squadron, were also assigned to us for maintenance on 5 July giving the CHANDELEUR a total of 36 (thirty-six) PBM-3D's to keep flying.

    On 10 July 1944, well before the island was secured, the CHANDELEUR placed the first PBM on the ramp of the Japanese seaplane base at SAIPAN for maintenance work. Some Chandeleur men received a commendatory mass from Capt. Goodney for their work in preparing the ramp for operations. Putting this ramp to use greatly facilitated seaplane maintenance during this important operation.

    Early in September 1944 we were ordered to make preparations for a new operation. Our plane maintenance crews had thirty-six seaplanes to check before leaving and also eighteen engines to change but all work was accomplished with time to spare.


    On 3 September 1944, Commodore Dixwell KETCHAM, U. S. N. came aboard the CHANDELEUR as Commander FAW-1 and Commander Task Group 59.3. This flag remained aboard the AV-10 until 15 October. After completing all checks on the planes of VP-202 and VP-216, and VH-1 the U. S. S. CHANDELEUR was ready to go and on 12 September, 1944 this vessel got underway as part of Task Group 59.3 consisting of the U. S. S. CHANDELEUR, USS Pocomoke (AV-9), USS Mackinac (AVP-13), U. S. S. YAKUTAT, and USS Onslow (AVP-48). The task group proceeded to a position latitude 7 degrees 30 minutes north and longitude 138 degrees east to await further orders. Upon receiving the expected orders the task group set its course for KOSSOL PASSAGE, PALAU ISLANDS and arrived at 1130 on 16 September 1944. Hundreds of mines were being sunk on all sides, many even after we were anchored.

    The operation at KOSSOL PASSAGE proved to be one of our toughest jobs since the water was almost continuously rough. During one day, 7 November 1944, a wind of hurricane force hit this area with gusts up to 75 knots. Many of the seaplanes rode out this typhoon on the water but despite everything the planes were kept in commission and the patrols were met. Food had to be floated to the planes on a rubber life raft, towed by a boat, since the water was too rough for a boat to come alongside a plane. It was very important that the patrols be made as our planes were flying coverage for the invasion of the PHILIPPINES.

    While at KOSSOL PASSAGE, VPB-202 was relieved by VP-21, the last crew of VPB-202 being relieved on 24 October. VH-1 was detached from our cognizance on 6 October and VPB-216 left for home on 21 November leaving the CHANDELEUR only VPB-21 to tend.

    The operation at KOSSOL PASSAGE was uneventful in respect to enemy action. A few nuisance raiders came over from nearby BABEL THUAP ISLAND but there was only one instance of a bomb being dropped. On Thanksgiving Day, 30 November 1944 we got underway for dispersal due to an expected enemy air attack. The "attack" came off exactly on time but consisted of only one plane which dropped a bomb (causing no damage) and left the area. The only harm done was to everyone's disposition due to having a fine Thanksgiving dinner spoiled by General Quarters.


    Having completed her mission at KOSSOL PASSAGE, the U. S. S. CHANDELEUR got underway Christmas Day 1944 for ULITHI, CAROLINE ISLANDS, arriving the next day. We stayed at ULITHI for over a month carrying out routine maintenance on the fifteen PBM-3D's of VPB-21 and enjoying a breathing spell from the "no-liberty" port of KOSSOL PASSAGE.

    On 8 February 1945 we got underway for SAIPAN, MARIANAS, where we remained until 23 March. The routine here was much the same as at ULITHI. However, things began getting busier during the end of our stay at SAIP AN and we knew that another opera- tion was shaping up.


    On 23 March 1945, the U. S. S. CHANDELEUR embarked on what was to be the most important and difficult operation of her career. The task group consisted of three AV's (HAMLIN, ST. GEORGE, CHANDELEUR) and four AVP's (ONSLOW, HERING STRAIT, SHELIKOF, YAKUTAT) with Commander FAW-1, Commodore Dixwell KETCHAM, in the HAMLIN as CTG and OTC. While still underway we learned that our destination was KERAMA RETTO, a small group of islands in the NANSEI SHOTO or RYUKYU chain, seventeen miles west of OKINAWA.

    Task Group 51.20 arrived at KERAMA RETTO 28 March 1945 only one day after the 77th Division, U. S. Army had landed and secured part of the group. Thus 28 March found us at KERAMA RETTO on D plus 1 Day for that group and D minus 3 Day for OKINA W A itself where the initial landing was made on 1 April 1945, Easter Sunday morning.

    Immediately prior to leaving SAIPAN, our squadron, VPB-21, completed a change-over from PBM-3D aircraft to the PBM-5 type. Throughout the OKINA W A campaign VPB-21 used fifteen PBM-5's on their bombing, search, and rescue missions.

    On 29 March 1945, before any planes had departed on flights, this vessel assumed control of seadrome operations and remained Seadrome Control Tender until relieved by the U. S. S. KENNETH WHITING on 5 August just before our departure for SAIPAN. During the period 29 March through 30 April 1945 the CHANDELEUR also had the duty of FLEET POST OFFICE ANNEX and handled air service for the press to COMMANDER IN CHIEF, PACIFIC OCEANS AREA, Public Relations, Guam.

    At KERAMA RETTO the seaplane maintenance problem was made more difficult because of the number of planes returning from missions badly damaged from enemy action-frequently in a sinking condition. Then, too, much valuable working time was lost due to Red and Blue Alerts. In order to keep the planes flying, it became necessary to work even during Flash Blue, using dimmed lights at night. Only when General Quarters was sounded, did the maintenance crews leave their work.

    While on the subject of General Quarters and enemy attacks, it is interesting to note that the CHANDELEUR went to General Quarters 204 times between 28 March and 15 July, a period of a little over three and one-half months. During this time enemy aircraft were brought under fire by the ship's guns on eight occasions, hits being scored at least twice. One enemy single-engine aircraft was splashed at 0121 29 April 1945. This plane came through a gap between two nearby islands, headed directly toward the CHANDELEUR. It was tracked and taken under accurate fire from two 40 mm. and eight 20 mm. guns at close range, (before any other ship opened fire). The plane pulled up momentarily, then fell into a dive crashing into the water and exploding about 30 seconds later.

    The second time our guns scored hits was on the evening of 21 June 1945. At about 1838 two enemy planes, later identified as a FRANK and an OSCAR, approached our anchorage without warning and at low altitude. The FRANK immediately crashed into the U. S. S. CURTISS and the OSCAR circled to attack this vessel. Due to the alertness of the CHANDELEUR's fire control personnel the enemy plane changed its course and crashed about 10 yards short of the port side of the nearby KENNETH WHITING. Several hits were scored by our 20 mm. and 40 mm. gunners and the CHANDELEUR was credited with an assist for her part in splashing the would-be KAMIKAZE.

    It was decided to move the seaplane base from KERAMA RETTO to OKINAWA proper and so on 15 July, after 109 busy days at KERAMA, the CHANDELEUR got underway for CHIMU WAN, OKINAWA in company with other units of Task Group 30.5.

    At our new location, this vessel continued tending planes for VPB-21 with our same additional duties as Seadrome Control Tender. During the three weeks we were at CHIMU WAN, we went to General Quarters 16 times but did no firing at enemy targets.

    While at CHIMU WAN, the CHANDELEUR had to get underway twice and stand out to sea in execution of Typhoon Plan X. Due to approaching storms, we evacuated our planes and left CHIMU WAN once on 19 July and again on 1 August. The storms quickly subsided however and operations were resumed in short order with no damage being done to any of our seaplanes.

    On 5 August the CHANDELEUR was relieved of Seadrome Control and the next day got underway for SAIPAN, MARIANAS.

    During the 131 days this vessel operated in the OKINAWA area, every landing and take-off made by planes of FAW-1 was controlled by us and despite 220 (two hundred twenty) general quarters, enemy at- tacks, typhoons, and other hazards to seaplane operation, we helped keep our search planes flying.

    A few words about the accomplishments of our squadron during the OKINAWA operation would not be a risk at this point. We have tended VPB-21 continuously since 18 October 1944, eleven months together at KOSSOL PASSAGE, ULITHI, SAIPAN, KERAMA RETTO, CHIMU WAN, and now the Occupation of JAPAN at OMINATO.

    In citing the deeds of the squadron at OKINAWA only, we are not forgetting the other months of the day-to-qay patrols but since the operation at OKINAWA was undoubtedly the largest and most important seaplane operation in history, the facts about this campaign seem the most logical to present.

    During the OKINAWA operation, Mariniers of VPB-21 sank nine enemy vessels, probably sank three others, and damaged twenty-nine more. In addition to this, many land tar- gets were destroyed or damaged.

    CHANDELEUR-based PBM's drew first blood at OKINAWA being in on the kill of a large Japanese submarine two days before the invasion of OKINAWA. Our search planes spotted the giant Japanese battleship YAMATO on the morning of 7 April 1945 and warned the carrier planes that later destroyed her.

    During the OKINAWA operation, planes of VPB-21 rescued twenty downed airmen, shot down at least one Nip plane, and flew over five hundred combat missions for a total of 7,000 (seven thousand) hours.

    Close co-operation between ship an squadron made such accomplishments possible and in helping VPB-21 pile up such an impressive record, the U. S. S. CHANDELEUR has definitely fulfilled her primary functions to act as a floating base for the maintenance of seaplanes and for the caring of their crews.


    After leaving OKINAWA, the U. S. S. CHANDELEUR stopped first at SAIPAN, arriving there 10 August. Orders to get underway again came and on 12 August we departed for ENIWETOK, arriving at this Marshall Island atoll three days later. At ENIWETOK we passed from under the cognizance of CFAW-l for the first time in over a year and during our stay here the CHANDELEUR was under the Commander of the Marshall and Gilberts Area.

    The biggest news stories of the war, the atomic bomb, Russia's entry into the conflict, and Japan's surrender offer found us underway between OKINAWA and ENIWETOK and the rapid cessation of hostilities left us very uncertain as to our status.

    After seven days availability alongside the U. S. S. LAERTES (AR-20) to make critically needed repairs in the engine room, our status began to clear as cold weather gear came aboard and the CHANDELEUR was ordered to get underway again.

    The official V-J day, Sunday, 2 September 1945, found us underway en route to OMINATO, HONSHU, JAPAN. On 6 September the CHANDELEUR joined the main force of the North Pacific Fleet about 200 miles off the Northern coast of the main Japanese island of HONSHU, and thus came under direct command of Com Nor Pac, Vice Admiral Frank Jack FLETCHER, U.S. N.

    Reaching OMINATO on 8 September with the other units of the North Pacific Fleet, the CHANDELEUR was one of the first large ships to enter the harbor and anchor. The next morning, Admiral FLETCHER received the formal surrender of Northern HONSHU and all of HOKKAIDO from the Japanese envoys on a nearby ship, U. S. S. PANAMINT.

    Our PBM's arrived 10 September and using us as their base flew routine searches, Dumbo missions, and mail and passenger trips to TOKYO. The OMINATO operation was the culmination of the CHANDELEUR's war activity. On 16 October after the arrival of our relief, the U. S. S. TANGLER, we at last weighed anchor. SAIPAN, almost our home port, was our first stop, but in less than 24 hours we had provisioned, fueled and taken on passengers. On the morning of 23 October the familiar landscape of SAIPAN faded from sight and the CHANDELEUR, her days of war over, headed home.

    "USS Onslow (AVP-48) Summary Page"