Major General Bob Butcher (USMC-retired) will discuss his experiences and changes to the airplane, the squadron mission and the training of pilots flying the A4. MajGen Butcher, a Marine aviator with worldwide service; is the recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and 15 air medals. June 20th at 11AM-12PM.
KIMBERLY REED is the 2015 recipient of the Irene Ferguson Marine Wife Recognition Award. She is being honored for her wide-ranging commitment to volunteerism. Kimberly actively seeks out opportunities to generously share her time and talents in support of the Marine Corps, her fellow military families and the local community.
Kimberly has volunteered with several organizations over the past few years, including the Lifestyle, Insights, Networking, Knowledge & Skills program (LINKS), the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) and Youth and Teen Programs. She is an active volunteer with the San Diego Military Family Collaborative and at her children’s school. Never hesitant to tackle a challenge, Kimberly is the first to step-up and assist. She is a model citizen, always ready to help her friends and colleagues. Kimberly leads by example. She is an inspiration to her fellow Marine spouses and volunteers with a “can do” attitude towards every challenge and project.
Kimberly Reed is an exceptional woman. Her passion for life, dedication to her family, friends and the Marine Corps, and her desire to serve others is an inspiration to all. The Flying Leathernecks salute Kimberly Reed as; Marine Spouse, mother, volunteer leader and, for upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps.
CYNDI STAMPS is the 2014 recipient of the Irene Ferguson Marine Wife Recognition Award. She is being honored for her personal sacrifice and commitment to the betterment of her family, the Marine Corps and the local community. Cyndi’s generous giving of her time, talents and knowledge is in keeping with the highest traditions of a Marine Wife. Her tireless efforts have greatly impacted many throughout the Corps and the related civilian community.
Cyndi embodies the spirit of an exemplary Marine spouse by her passionate support of organizations such as LINKS, the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, the Command Family Readiness Program and several youth and church organizations. Her dedication to her family and the Corps has proven immeasurable. Cyndi has shown great strength and resiliency during the past year as mother of three, a graduate student, Marine Corps Spouse and as an avid volunteer.
Cyndi Stamps’ character, patriotism and astounding selflessness are an inspiration to all who know her, or have been touched by her generosity and kindness.
Lieutenant Minoru Wada
By John M. Curatola, LtCol, United States Marine Corps (Retired)
With assistance from the Log Book staff
On August 9, 1945, Nagasaki was devastated by the second atomic bomb attack on Japan during World War II. The attack by the B-29 ‘Superfortress, “Bockscar,” piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney, was followed only a day later by a truly unique episode of World War II.
On August 10, 1945, with Japan’s surrender just days away, a flight of Marine aircraft took to the skies and attacked entrenched Japanese positions on the Philippine island of Mindanao. In the lead plane, directing the Marines was a captured Japanese officer, Lieutenant Minoru Wada, locating targets and pointing out positions in the thick jungle. This event was the first, and only time, during the war that a Japanese Imperial Army officer served as part of an American combat flight crew.
The events of August 10, 1945 were unique in their own right, but were only possible because of events that occurred much earlier in the Pacific war. Some background information is necessary to fully understand the circumstances that led to Lieutenant Wada’s assistance to the US Marines conducting aerial combat operations on Mindanao.
General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) on April 18, 1942. The SWPA included Australia, New Guinea/Papua, the Philippines and originally part of the Solomon Islands. MacArthur’s Allied forces command primarily consisted of United States and Australian forces.
By June 1945, MacArthur’s command had successfully fought a lengthy campaign to remove the Japanese forces from the New Guinea/Papua area, thus freeing Australia from potential invasion. Philippine Islands were the next to be retaken. Shortly thereafter, MacArthur moved his headquarters to Manila. On June 21, 1945, the Battle for Okinawa was over. By August, MacArthur’s USAAF units under General George C. Kenney’s command had already moved their headquarters to Okinawa. Army Air Forces in the Pacific were now focused on bombing the Japanese homeland.
In defeating Japanese forces in the SWPA, General MacArthur’s armies had bypassed some strong points in the Japanese defense, as had the United States Navy bypassed the Japanese Naval base at Rabaul. However, MacArthur could not ignore the bypassed Japanese forces in the Philippines. Most of these forces refused to surrender, regardless the impossibility of their predicament. They threatened the survival of the local Pilipino population.
One of these bypassed holdouts was the Imperial Japanese Army’s 100th Division, commanded by General Jiro Harada. Although severely reduced in strength, it remained entrenched on the island of Mindanao. Opposing Harada’s forces were the United States Eighth Army and Allied forces under the command of General Robert L. Eichelberger. His forces were given the task of destroying all remaining Japanese defenses and completing the island’s liberation. In dealing with Harada’s remaining forces, Eichelberger was supported by the First Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW).
The 1st MAW became famous as the first Marine aviation unit to arrive on Guadalcanal in August 1942 and was the genesis of the island’s famous Cactus Air Force. By 1945, the focus of the 1st MAW was guard duty of the Solomon Islands. Major General Ralph J. Mitchell, 1st MAW commander from April 1943 to June 1945, was tired of his men being relegated to heckling bypassed Japanese garrisons and had been pressing superiors to have at least some of his squadrons participate in the Philippine campaign. With the campaign in the Western Pacific moving to the Philippines, ground based Marine aviation resources to include the 1st MAW were transferred to MacArthur’s 5th Air Force under General Kenny’s command.
Admiral William F. Halsey, whose Third Fleet was assigned to cover and support operations around Leyte, knew that 1st MAW’s four Corsair squadron’s (MAG-12) were assigned “to missions far below its capacity.” He also knew that Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, (Commander, Allied Naval Forces) under MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific area had complained about “insufficient air cover.”
Halsey’s “awareness” prompted him to contact MacArthur, and the role of ground based Marine aviation in the Western Pacific campaign began to change, especially for Marine Bombing Squadron 611 (VMB-611) of Marine Air Group-32. VMB-611, flying PBJ Mitchell bombers would become the only PBJ squadron to operate in the Philippines during the war. By April 1945, both VMB-611 and MAG-12 Corsair squadrons were flying from airfields on Zamboanga, a peninsula projecting from the west side of Mindanao.
The August 10, 1945 mission was conducted by PBJ aircraft from VMB-611, Major David Horne commanding, accompanied by MAG-12 Corsairs from Marine Fighter Squadron 115 (VMF-115), Major John S. Payne commanding.
VMB-611was commissioned October 1, 1943 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, as a PBJ-1 Squadron with Captain Prescott D. Fagan in command. Originally assigned to MAG-61, the squadron was transferred to MAG-32 when ordered to the Philippines.
VMF-115 (“Joe’s Jokers”), was organized on July 1, 1943 at Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara, California, as an F4U Corsair squadron and Major Joseph Foss assumed command later that month. In late 1944, just before the squadron’s move to the Philippines, Major Foss’ “ever present malaria attacks” forced him to relinquish command and return to the States.
As American troops made progress in eliminating pockets of bypassed Japanese units on Mindanao, they captured a number of Japanese soldiers. Among POWs was Second Lieutenant Minoru Wada. Wada had been with the 100th Division for over a year, and had served as a transportation officer. He had excellent knowledge of the island and its terrain.
Lieutenant Wada is somewhat of an enigma. Beyond the events of August 10th, 1945, very little is known about his personal history. Although born in the United States, Wada returned to Japan before the war to pursue his education. He was educated at the University of Tokyo and eventually attended the Kyushu Military Academy. When pressed into military service, Wada began to think deeply about the nature of the war. As Japanese losses mounted, he became disillusioned and loathed the conflict.
After his capture, Marine Corps intelligence officers interviewed Wada extensively. In the course of these interrogations, Wada admitted “he had never been convinced his country should have started the global conflict they did…and he would do anything, even sacrifice his own life to stop the war and bring ultimate peace to the people on the Japanese home islands.” Furthermore, Wada believed “[the Japanese] generals and admirals, the old tough military, forced this war on the people… [and that] the common Japanese person does not want war.” While the nature of Wada’s capture raised some suspicion with the Americans, he eventually convinced his interrogators that he wanted the war to end as soon as possible and looked forward to a peaceful future.
In early August, American forces were trying to rout out the remaining elements of the Japanese 100th Division. This was no easy task. Japanese troops were entrenched in thick jungle and steep hills the terrain on this part of Mindanao, which provided good hiding places for the Division’s troops. At some point, Marine interrogators suggested to Lieutenant Wada that he might be of help in locating his unit’s headquarters and disrupt their command and control structure.
Initially repulsed by the request, Wada eventually reasoned that if he could assist the Americans here on Mindanao, many more lives might be saved overall and the war may come to a close even faster. With this reasoning in mind, Wada agreed to help the Americans dislodge his former command. Looking for a way to break Japanese resistance in the jungle mountains of Mindanao, Wada’s information was keenly welcomed.
During the pre-flight briefing, Wada pointed out Japanese positions on maps and pointed out the location of potential targets. After the briefing, he flew in the lead PBJ piloted by Major Sidney Groff.
Sitting in the radio-gunners compartment aboard the lead bomber, Wada had an excellent view of the airstrike. Because Wada spoke very little English, Gunnery Sergeant Charles Imai was assigned to relay Wada’s instructions to the flight crew. When Imai translated Wada’s instructions, he passed the information to the air strike coordinator, Major Mortimer H. Jordan. Major Jordan was aboard the same bomber, but seated in the nose compartment. Once Imai passed the information to Jordan, he then radioed that information to the strike aircraft.
According to Major Jordan, Wada identified a number of critical targets and his navigation to those targets was very accurate. With Wada’s help, the Marines pounded the target area with napalm, fragmentation bombs, rockets and heavy machine gun fire. Jordan reported “the Japanese officer put us zero on the target and we did the rest…maybe [we] overdid it.” After several tons of bombs were dropped, the battle damage assessments concluded that the 100th Division’s command capability was destroyed.
After the mission, Wada was naturally melancholy, but did not express any regret over his actions. Watching the Marines conduct the air raid, Wada was impressed with the flying skill of VMB-611 and stated “you clazy six er-reven Malines pletty good fryers.”
Ultimately, Lieutenant Minoru Wada was a minor participant in the Second World War, and most of his activities during the conflict have been lost to history. However, upon returning from the mission of August 10th, several Marines reported that Wada appeared to be happy and at peace with what he had done. Marines that participated in this raid believed Wada was happy because he had accomplished something he believed to be important in his life – making a contribution to the end of the war.
After the mission on August 10th 1945, Lieutenant Wada became a man without a country. He was given a new identity and appearance by the Allies to protect him from retribution. What happened to Wada from that point forward remains unknown. The records of the events of that day remained classified for over 35 years, and even to this day do not appear in any official historical records of the US Marine Corps.
 Part of the Imperial Japanese 35th Army, the 100th Infantry Division was activated in early 1944 on the island of Mindanao. Consisting of crack Japanese troops, with significant combat experience, the 100th Division was tasked with repelling the American invasion “at all costs.”
 During the Korean War, Marine Corps ground based aviation forces were again under command of the USAF’s 5th AF.
 The headquarters elements of Wada’s 100th Division were located in the mountains near the Kibaw-Talomo Trail, running northwest from the city of Davao.
Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation did well during our first-ever participation in giveBIG Day!
The Foundation’s generous supporters gave a total of $2400 through the San Diego Foundation in support of FLHF on giveBig Day. This qualified us for incentive pool funds, and so our final total will be larger.
We owe a huge thank you to all of you who donated, shared or visited after receiving social media updates and emails throughout the day. We are glad you stuck with us to make it a success.
The giveBig Day campaign is sponsored by the San Diego Foundation every two to three years. FLHF did well this year and benefited from the awareness building activities as well as association with nonprofit leaders in the community. This could be a great mechanism to turn website and Facebook followers into members and donors in the future once they have had more time to engage with FLHF.
This 24-hour online giving campaign was designed to increase philanthropy and community awareness of local nonprofits. It’s a chance for all of our supporters to come together and make a big difference.
All tax-deductible contributions through giveBIG will be used to support programs and services at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.
Sorry, we are closed Sunday, April 20 for the Easter Holiday.
We wish all of you and your families and very Happy Easter. Please make plans to visit the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum and Historical Foundation as soon as you can.
If you are already here in the San Diego area, consider some of these great Easter activities [via San Diego Family Magazine]:
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Egg Hunts, Bunny Visits & Spring Activities
Bunny Photos. See the Easter Bunny and pose for photos! March 29-April 19. Mon.-Sat., 11 am-7 pm; Sun., 11 am-6 pm. Gazebo in Macy’s Courtyard, Grossmont Center, 5500 Grossmont Center Dr., La Mesa; www.grossmontcenter.com.
San Diego Zoo Play Days. Delight in the climbing, prowling and plunging skills of the Zoo’s animals at this year’s event. Also, have up-close encounters with animal ambassadors, see live performances, join a digital Easter egg hunt around the Zoo and pose for photos with the Easter Bunny. April 6-20; visit website for hours. Free with admission. $36-$46. Balboa Park, San Diego; www.sandiegozoo.org/playdays.
Easter Spring Fest for Kids at Shepherd of the Hills. Free kids’ crafts, a movie about the Easter story plus a nighttime egg hunt. April 4, 6-8 pm. Bring your own basket and flashlight. 9191 Fletcher Pkwy., La Mesa; 619-469-4197.
Easter-Themed Piñata Workshop. Families make a piñata in the shape of an egg, chick, rabbit, carrot or sheep. April 5, noon-2 pm. $15-$20. Call to RSVP. Casa Artelexia, 2400 Kettner Blvd. #102, San Diego. www.facebook.com/artelexia/events; 619-544-1011.
Spring Fling. Meet the Easter Bunny and enjoy face painting, a bubble game, a live bunny from the San Diego Zoo and more. April 5, 9:30 am-12 pm; egg hunt for ages 12 & under at 10 am. Rancho Bernardo Community Park, 18448 West Bernardo Dr.; 858-538-8129.
Glow-in-the-Dark Egg Hunt. First Church Children’s Ministry offers an evening of glow-in-the-dark games, desserts and a one-of-a-kind egg hunt for kids of all ages!April 11, 7-8:30 pm. Free. Please bring a basket. First United Methodist Church of San Diego, 2111 Camino del Rio South (west of Texas St.), Mission Valley.www.fumcsd.org; 619-297-4366.
Ride the Bunny Train at Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo. Receive a surprise from the Easter Bunny, make a craft and hunt for eggs. April 12, 13 & 19, 11 am & 2:30 pm. $5-$15. For reservations, visit www.psrm.org.
Vista Optimist Hosts Egg Hunt & All-You-Can-Eat Pancake and Sausage Breakfast.Also, a bonnet contest (9 am) and Easter Bunny photos. April 12, 7-11 am; egg hunt for ages 11 & under, 10 am. $5. Vista Optimist Club, 600 Optimist Way.www.cityofvista.com.
Parade of Wheels & Egg Hunt. Plus arts and crafts, popcorn and punch. April 12, 9 am-noon; bike decorating, 9-10:15 am. Egg hunt for ages 2-12. South Clairemont Recreation Center, 3605 Clairemont Dr. www.sandiego.gov; 858-581-9924.
Paseo del Rey Church’s Egg Hunt. Hear the Easter story, play games, make a craft and find eggs with treats. April 12, 9:30-11:30 am. Free. Activities for first graders & younger. 900 Paseo del Rey, Chula Vista. www.paseodelrey.org.
Eggs, Eggs, Eggs in Ocean Beach. Age-specific egg hunts starting at 10 am on April 12. Robb Field Athletic Area, 2525 Bacon St. www.sandiego.gov; 619-531-1563.
Bunny Bash at Grossmont Center. Hop on down to Macy’s Courtyard for Easter treats, Mad Hatter paper bag hat decorating, balloon art, an egg hunt for ages 3-10 and more. April 12, 10 am-noon; egg hunt, 10 am (line starts at Coldstone Creamery at 9:30 am). Free. 5500 Grossmont Center Dr., La Mesa. www.grossmontcenter.com.
Bates Nut Farm’s Egg Hunt. Also, crafts and the Easter Bunny. April 12, 9:30 am-noon. Crafts from 9:30-10:30 am; egg hunt at 10:30 am. 15954 Woods Valley Rd., Valley Center. www.batesnutfarm.biz; 760-749-4902.
Eggs & More at Tecolote Recreation Center. Face painting, a jump, crafts, free popcorn and goodie bags. April 12, 1-3 pm. 4675 Tecolote Rd., San Diego.www.sandiego.gov; 858-581-9930.
Eggs & Treats at Santa Clara Recreation Center. Free egg hunts for ages 13 & under plus face painting, photos with Mr. Bunny, arts and crafts, and concessions. April 12, 11 am-2 pm. 1008 Santa Clara Place, San Diego. www.sandiego.gov; 858-581-9928.
Spring Egg Hunt at Montgomery-Waller Recreation Center. Plus a visit with Mr. Bunny. April 12, 10 am-1 pm. For ages 3-12. 3020 Coronado Ave., San Diego. 619-424-0466.
Easter Treasure Hunt & Other Surprises at Old California Restaurant Row. Free balloon sculptures and photos with the Easter Bunny. Kids, ages 12 & under, can also receive a gift bag with goodies after completing a treasure hunt. April 13, noon-2 pm. Free. 1080 W. San Marcos Blvd., San Marcos. www.oldcalrestaurantrow.com.
Shows at Balboa Park’s Puppet Theater. April 2-6: The Tortoise and the Hare; April 16-20: Peter Rabbit. Wed.-Fri., 10 & 11:30 am; Sat. & Sun., 11 am, 1 & 2:30 pm. $5; under 2 free. www.balboaparkpuppets.com; 619-544-9203.
Spring EGGStravaganza at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Make a shark egg craft, join an underwater egg hunt, take a closer look at animal eggs and more. April 18-20, 11 am-3 pm. Free with admission. $12.50-$17. 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla.www.aquarium.ucsd.edu; 858-534-3474.
Easter Bunny Teas at The Westgate Hotel. Enjoy an egg hunt, the Easter Bunny and cool magic tricks. April 18 & 19, 2:30-5 pm. $30-$45 plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, go to www.westgatehotel.tix.com. 1055 Second Ave., downtown San Diego. www.westgatehotel.com.
Carlsbad’s EGGstravaganza Spring Festival. Get the most out of Easter with exciting games, a scavenger hunt for the family, photos with the Easter Bunny, a preview of the Parks & Recreation Summer Camps program and a Fun Zone with a giant slide, bounce houses and an opportunity to ‘soak the bunny!’ April 19, 10 am-1 pm; egg scramble, 10:30 am-12:30 pm. Free admission; activity cards and Unlimited Fun Zone wristbands available for purchase. Visit website for details. Poinsettia Park, 6600 Hidden Valley Rd. www.carlsbadca.gov/parksandrec.
Kroc Community Church Presents Free Easter EGGstravaganza. Find a basketful of fun things to do! Enjoy visits and photos with the Easter Bunny, arts and crafts, carnival games, music, prizes and the new Toddler Zone. More than 15,000 eggs are up for grabs on The Kroc Center’s Recreation Field! April 19, 10 am-1 pm. Egg hunt for ages 4-11. Don’t miss the Easter service tomorrow at 10:30 am; free breakfast at 9 am. The Salvation Army Kroc Center, 6845 University Ave., San Diego.www.kroccenter.org.
Egg Hunt at Poway Community Park. Also, a pancake breakfast, games, a visit from the Fire Dept., bounce houses and a fun zone at this event hosted by Living Way Church. April 19, 8 am-1 pm. Breakfast $4; other activities free. 13094 Civic Center Dr. www.poway.org; 858-486-1441.
Spring Party with Bunny. Hang out with a friendly bunny, be part of a stuffed bunny hunt, pet real rabbits and more. April 19, 10-11:30 & 11:30 am-1 pm. $18 per child; regular admission fees apply to accompanying adults. For ages 2-6. Pre-registration required; visit website for details. San Diego Botanic Garden, 230 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas. www.sdbgarden.org.
North Clairemont Recreation Center’s Egg Hunt. April 19, 9:30 am (ages 1 & 2); 10 am (ages 3-5); 10:30 am (ages 6-8) & 11 am (ages 9-12). Free. 4421 Bannock Ave.www.sandiego.gov; 858-581-9926.
ONEHOPE ACT Today! for Military Families 5K/10K Run/Walk & Family Festival.Make a difference in the lives of military children with autism at this annual event that also features a one-mile fun run, a kids’ egg hunt, live music, booths and a kids’ zone. April 19, 6:30-11 am. $20-$45. Tecolote Shores Park, Mission Bay.www.acttodayformilitaryfamilies.kintera.org.
PQ Spring Egg Hunts. April 19, 10 am. Free. Peñasquitos Creek Park, 8021 Park Village Dr.; Rolling Hills Park, 11082 Carlota Dr.; South Village Park, 14756 Via Azul; Ridgewood Park, 12604 La Tortola. www.sandiego.gov; 858-538-8198 or 858-538-8131.
Breakfast & Eggs-treme Fun in Coronado. A hearty breakfast, an Easter Bunny visit, an egg hunt and crafts. April 19, 9 am. $8-$11; under 16 free (tickets are limited; call for details). From 1-3:30 pm, egg hunts, carnival games, a life-sized Candyland game and more. Egg hunts free; fee for some activities. Coronado Community Center, 1845 Strand Way. 619-522-7342.
Find Eggs in La Jolla. April 19, 10 am-1 pm. Free. La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect Dr. 858-552-1658.
Children’s Spring Festival & Egg Hunt. Eggs filled with treats, games and refreshments. April 19, 10:30 am-noon. Free. For grades 3 & under. La Colonia Park, 715 Valley Ave., Solana Beach. 858-720-2453.
Breakfast with Peter Cottontail & Egg Scramble. Feast on pancakes and sausage at the Williams Barn from 8-10 am on April 19. $4-$5. After breakfast, toddlers through 5th graders can hunt for eggs with prizes. Come early for carnival games, jumps and a photo op with Peter Cottontail. $5 per family. Walnut Grove Park, off Twin Oaks Valley Rd. on the cor. of Olive & Sycamore, San Marcos. www.san-marcos.net.
Torrey Hills Spring Egg Hunt. Plus crafts, face painting and games. April 19, 9 am-noon. 4260 Calle Mejillones, San Diego. 858-552-1687.
Standley Recreation Center’s Egg Hunt. For ages 10 & under. April 19, 10 am-noon. Please arrive early with a basket and meet in the gym. 3585 Governor Dr., San Diego.www.sandiego.gov; 858-552-1652.
Bunny Sighting at Scripps Ranch Farmers Market. Get treats and have your photo taken with the Easter Bunny (10:30 am-12:30 pm), enjoy face painting and balloon art, and take part in a free treasure hunt. April 19, 9 am-1 pm. 10380 Spring Canyon Rd.; www.srfm.org.
San Carlos Recreation Center’s Spring Carnival. Egg hunts for ages 12 & under, jumps and live music. April 19, 10 am-1 pm. 6445 Lake Badin Ave., San Diego.www.sandiego.gov; 619-527-3443.
Egg Mania in Linda Vista. Participate in an egg hunt and pose with the Easter Bunny. Participants will be grouped by age. April 19, 10 am. Linda Vista Recreation Center, 7064 Levant St. 858-573-1392.
Scout for Easter. Scout @ Quarters D transforms its one-acre garden into a springtime wonderland! Easter egg dyeing, an egg hunt with prizes, basket decorating, a butterfly photo booth, food truck fare and an art project courtesy of The New Children’s Museum. April 19, 11 am-3 pm. $10-$20. For tickets, visit website. NTC at Liberty Station, Point Loma. www.scout-home.com/scout-for-easter.
Hunt for Eggs at Cadman Recreation Center. Also includes family activities. April 19, 12:30-2:30 pm. 4281 Avati Dr., San Diego; www.sandiego.gov; 858-581-9929.
Eggs & Goodies at Pacific Beach Recreation Center. Egg hunts by age plus games, food, a jumper and crafts. April 19, 9 am-noon. Food/game tickets: 4 for $1; egg hunt free. 1405 Diamond St.; 858-581-9927.
Fill Your Basket with Easter Eggs at Carmel Valley Community Park. April 19, 9 am-noon. Free. 3777 Townsgate Dr. 858-552-1616.
Easter Fun in Encinitas. Jump houses, face painting, prizes and 20,000 eggs for the taking! April 19, 10 am-1 pm. Free. Ecke Sports Park, 278 Saxony Rd.; www.encinitasparksandrec.com.
Egg Hunt at MLK Recreation Center. April 19, 10 am. Free. 6401 Skyline Dr., San Diego; www.sandiego.gov; 619-527-3415.
Easter Treats at Adams Recreation Center. An egg hunt, face painting, crafts and live music. April 19, 9 am-noon. 3491 Adams Ave., San Diego; 619-235-1149.
Oceanside Egg Hunt. Look for hidden treasures and see the Easter Bunny. April 19, 10-11 am. Free. Buddy Todd Park, 3000 Mesa Dr.; 760-435-5041.
Spring Eggstravaganza at Santee Lakes. Continuous egg hunts for ages 8 & under, a petting zoo, carnival rides, crafts and pony rides. April 19, 9 am – 3 pm Activity/ride tickets $.50 each. 9310 Fanita Pkwy.; www.ci.santee.ca.us; 619-258-4100, ext. 201.
Egg Hunt at Willie Henderson Sports Complex. Also, jumps, photo booth and a game truck. April 19, 10 am-2 pm. 1035 S. 45th St., San Diego; 619-527-3407.
Easter Eggs, Crafts, Jumps & More. April 19, 10 am-noon. Carmel Mountain Ranch/Sabre Springs Recreation Center, 10152 Rancho Carmel Dr.; 858-538-8100.
Easter Surprises at Belmont Park. Get hoppin’ and hunt for treat-filled eggs on the beach and throughout the park, and pose for pictures with the Easter Bunny. April 20; beach egg hunt, 9 am-noon; park egg hunt, noon; bunny pictures, 2-4 pm. Also, bring your appetite to WaveHouse Beach Club’s delicious Easter brunch from 9 am-3 pm. For reservations, call 858-228-9283. Park egg hunt is free; $5 each for egg hunt on the beach. Online registration required. 3146 Mission Blvd., San Diego; www.belmontpark.com/easter.
Easter Worship Services
Interactive Easter Vigil. Experience Easter in a whole new way at this event that incorporates glow sticks, water, bubbles and homemade musical instruments. April 19, 3 pm; crafts starting at 2:30 pm. Free. 16275 Pomerado Rd., Poway; www.stbartschurch.org.
Balboa Park’s Easter Sunrise Service. Musical performance by the Cathedral Mass Choir and an Easter message by Pastor George A. McKinney of St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God in Christ. April 20, 6:30 am. Spreckels Organ Pavilion; 858-454-7324.
Easter Worship at Foothills United Methodist Church. Traditional worship service at 8:30 am on April 20; contemporary worship service at 10:30 am. 4031 Avocado Blvd., La Mesa; www.foothillsumc.org; 619-670-4009.
Concert & Egg Hunt at Seaside. This celebration by Seaside Center for Spiritual Living presents musical artist Karl Anthony, a brass band, an inspiring choir and the annual Easter egg hunt. April 20; services at 6, 9 & 11 am; egg hunt at noon. Pancake breakfast follows 6 am service; youth services available at 9 & 11 am. Free. 1613 Lake Dr., Encinitas. www.seasidecenter.org/easter; 760-753-5786.
Sunrise Service at The Flower Fields. Usher in the joy of Easter at this service hosted by The Fields Church. April 20, 6:30 am. Free breakfast following the service. Please dress warmly. 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad; www.thefieldschurch.org.
X-treme Family Easter Service. Celebrate Easter, the most extreme expression of God’s love, by being part of pint-sized, 40-minute services where you can learn just how extreme God’s love is through music, puppets and more. April 20, 9:30 & 10:30 am. San Carlos United Methodist Church, 6554 Cowles Mountain Blvd., San Diego.www.sancarlosumc.org; 619-464-4331, ext. 307.
Easter at City View. Free breakfast, door prizes, Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny, a petting zoo and family photo booths from 9-10:30 am on April 20. At 10:45 am, adults are invited to join the Easter service while the kids go to fun classes filled with activities. After the kids’ classes, each child in attendance receives a bag of treat-filled eggs. City View Church, 8404 Phyllis Place, San Diego. www.cityviewsd.com; 858-560-1870.
Celebrate Easter at First United Methodist Church of San Diego. Attend the 8, 9:30 or 11 am sanctuary service with choirs, brass, timpani and organ music. Also, modern worship at Water’s Edge service in The Cove at 9:30 am, and F5 in Linder Hall at 11 am with bands. Children’s Sunday School at 9:30 & 11 am include an egg hunt. 2111 Camino del Rio South, Mission Valley. www.fumcsd.org; 619-297-4366.
Hornblower’s Champagne Brunch Cruises. Enjoy a brunch buffet and breathtaking bay views, and have your family photo taken with the Easter Bunny. April 20, 11 am & noon. Visit website for fees and reservations. Departs from San Diego Grape St. Pier, 1800 N. Harbor Dr., downtown San Diego; www.hornblower.com.
Easter Brunch at the Zoo. Have your fill of sumptuous buffet selections. Continuous seating from 11 am-3 pm on April 20. $18.95-$42.95 plus tax, gratuity and Zoo admission. Treetops Banquet Room at Albert’s Restaurant, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park; www.sandiegozoo.org/zoo/alberts/special_events.
Brunch with Shamu. Feast on a buffet breakfast with an omelet station and French crepe station, and hang out with Shamu and friendly trainers. Seatings at 9:30 am & 12:30 pm on April 20. $27-$55 plus tax, gratuity & park admission. Reservations required. SeaWorld San Diego, Interstate 5, exit SeaWorld Dr.; www.seaworldsandiego.com; 800-25-SHAMU.
Champagne Brunch at The Westgate Hotel. Great food, a visit from the Easter Bunny and face painting for the kids. April 20, 10 am-3 pm. $29-$65 plus tax and gratuity; ages 5 & under free. 1055 Second Ave., downtown San Diego; www.westgatehotel.com; 619-557-3655.
The Del’s Easter Celebration offers a champagne brunch at the Crown Room and the oceanfront Ballroom with live music from 9 am-3 pm, egg hunts for hotel guests of all ages from 10-10:40 am & noon-12:40 pm (call 619-522-8815 to register), a fun zone with crafts from 9:30 am-1:30 pm and photo ops with the Easter Bunny. For details and reservations, visit website. 1500 Orange Ave.; www.hoteldel.com/events/easter-sunday-april-20.
Kid-Friendly Easter at Marina Kitchen. A buffet featuring homemade dishes (9 am-3:30 pm), a photo booth, fun with the Easter Bunny (11 am-1 pm) and poolside egg hunts (11:30 am & 12:30 pm). $13-$48. San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina, 333 West Harbor Dr., downtown San Diego; www.facebook.com/marinakitchensd; 619-699-8222.
The Flying Leathernecks are proud to be a part of this year’s Presidio to Pacific Powerhouse exhibit that encompasses military and history museums across San Diego, Calif. county. You can pick up your passport here at the museum, and get your first stamp with us!
San Diego has been a military town since ever since 1774 when it was officially made a presidio guarding the coast of California against the encroachment from other European nations like England and Russia. Built atop a hill, in what is today Presidio Park, Spanish soldiers lived with their families inside the fort, seeking out an existence in defense of the Spanish Crown in the New World.
Since then, San Diego has been a training ground for all services of the United States military and today, San Diego is still inextricably tied to the United States military with naval, Marine, and Coast Guard installations scattered throughout the county. The United States Navy is the second-largest employer in the county and many of the service members who have come through the region during their enlistments have stayed and started families. Many have started their own businesses as contractors to the United States military.
Throughout its existence, San Diego has been impacted in some way by the military’s presence and has benefitted from its proximity as well. Presidio to Pacific Powerhouse: How the Military Shaped San Diego is a nine-museum collaboration that tells the story of San Diego’s relationship with our military.
The San Diego History Center is the exhibition’s hub with nine other museums telling supplementary stories! Pick up a Tour of Duty Passport at The History Center and catch this exhibition at:
By Bill France
Significant accomplishments in aviation and astronautics during the mid-1950s and early 1960s were regarded as major news events. This was certainly true on July 16, 1957 when Senator (then Marine Major) John Glenn became a national hero by setting a new transcontinental air speed record. On that day, Major Glenn flew an F8U-1P Crusader (BuNo 144608) from NAS Los Alamitos, California nonstop to NAS Floyd Bennett Field, New York at a record speed of 725.55 mph. The flight lasted just three hours, 23 minutes and 8.4 seconds, which beat the previous record holder (an F-100F Super Sabre) by 15 minutes. In total, four pilots would break the transcontinental air speed record in 1957.
John Glenn’s record setting flight was certainly not a publicity stunt. The purpose of the Project Bullet flight was to prove that the Pratt & Whitney J-57 engine could tolerate an extended period at combat power – full afterburner – without damage. After the flight, Pratt & Whitney engineers disassembled the J-57 and, based on their examination, determined that the engine could perform in extended combat situations. Accordingly, all power limitations on J-57s were lifted from that day forward.
On July 16, 1957, Major Glenn secured his place in aviation history and became an inspiration to thousands of young people in the United States. Project Bullet secured his reputation as one of the country’s top test pilots. He was awarded his fifth Distinguished Flying Cross and, shortly thereafter, was named to NASA’s first astronaut class.
Unlike John Glenn, few pilots have had an opportunity to break or set significant aviation records. Undoubtedly, these aviators have a “special spot in their heart” for the aircraft that helped them obtain their place in history.
Although John Glenn’s accomplishments as a Marine aviator are well documented, little is known about the subsequent history of the Crusader flown on that record setting flight in 1957.
Here is the rest of the story…
Glenn’s F8U-1P Crusader remained in active service but was re-designated as an RF-8G. At some point after the flight, a small brass commemorative plaque was affixed to the port side of the aircraft. Over the next several years, Glenn received notes from aviators who had flown it. As time went on, Glenn started hearing stories of the demise of the Crusader. One story had it that the aircraft was shot down over Vietnam. Another stated that it was damaged during a carrier landing in the Indian Ocean and went over the side.
The “damaged on landing” story comes the closest to the truth. Commander Tom Scott (USN, Retired) was the last pilot to fly Major John Glenn’s Crusader. Commander Scott provided the following account of the demise of this historic aircraft.
Commander Scott began his Naval aviation career in 1965 as a F-4B Phantom back seat RIO. In 1969, Scott received his pilot wings and flew A-4’s and F-8’s. In May 1972, Scott’s unit (Light Photographic Squadron VFP-63 Det-4) acquired Glenn’s Crusader from the aircraft bone yard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The Crusader was fitted out and returned to active duty in short order. Scott first flew it May 12, 1972 at NAS Miramar. On May 18th, he flew it to the USS Oriskany (CVA-34) during work ups for the pending West Pac cruise. The USS Oriskany arrived in the Gulf of Tonkin and air combat operations began in June.
On Friday December 13, 1972, then Lieutenant Scott launched on a flight over North Vietnam. In general, it was an uneventful flight. Scott conducted his mission as planned and then returned to the Oriskany for landing. Little did he realize that his day was about to get really exciting!
Due to poor weather and rough seas, Scott’s first attempt to land failed to catch the arresting wire on the flight deck. With the flight deck rising and falling in a fairly consistent cycle, Scott set up for a second approach to the ship. However, passing over the stern of the ship, the cycle unexpectedly reversed and Scott’s aircraft hit the flight deck’s round down belly first which tore off the right main landing gear. The plane then bounced up and came down on its nose before bouncing back into the air where Scott fought to keep it under control with one hand on the stick and the other ready to pull the secondary ejection handle between his legs.
With calls from the ship of “eject, eject, eject” exploding in his helmet, Scott pulled the ejection handle but initially could not over come the resistance of the handle. He tried again with all his strength to eject. Giving everything he had, Scott was finally successful ejecting out of the cockpit, as his aircraft passed the ship’s island.
The parachute opened and Scott thought with a little luck, he might land on the deck. However, common sense kicked in at that point. He said, “I realized that if I missed the deck, I could crash into other deck equipment or other jets on the flight deck. Neither of which seemed acceptable.” As Scott guided his parachute away from the carrier in preparation for landing in the Gulf of Tonkin, he inflated his flotation device. Scott hit the water hard ripping his hands from the parachute koch fittings. He was now being pulled face down in the water by the chute. With great effort, Scott managed to release himself from the chute as it pulled him closer to the Oriskany.
As soon as Scott felt he had everything somewhat in control, he looked up to the ships rescue helicopter coming for him. The helicopter hovered near and lowered a rescue crewman to within approximately 20 feet from where Scott was located. As luck would have it, this was the crewman’s first in-water rescue. Fortunately, the crewman was young and a good swimmer and soon made it to Scott. At this point, he realized that his rescuer forgot his personal flotation device. The inexperienced crewman became fatigued and was actually holding on to Scott to remain afloat. Unfortunately, a single flotation device was not sufficient to keep both men on the surface.
While Lieutenant Scott and the rescuer decided who was to rescue whom, the helicopter crew was dealing with their own problems. The intercom between the pilot and the hoist operator at the door was not working. The pilot had no idea where to go or even if the downed pilot was aboard. However, after considerable effort, the flight crews finally lowered the rescue harness and passed over Scott a few times until both men were able to grasp the harness and were hoisted aboard the chopper.
After any aviation accident, an investigation is conducted and an incident report completed. As a result, Scott learned that the secondary ejection handle should been normally be set to 20 about pounds of pull. However, Scott believed that the ejection handle in his Crusader may have been set at about 100 pounds of pull as was the case on several of the F-8’s aboard the Oriskany. He commented, “This was well out of the tolerance limits for that aircraft.”
Scott lamented the loss of this historic aircraft. However, he was grateful that he was able to overcome the ejection problems and did not do down with the aircraft. Certainly, this series of events was fortuitous for other aviators that flew the F-8s that may have had ejection handles incorrectly set to 100 pounds. Scott believed a loss of an aircraft could have positive result in that other aircraft and pilots could be saved by the corrective actions taken as a result of the loss. Unfortunately, in this case, it had to be John Glenn’s record breaking Crusader that was lost.
By Frank Lorey ©2012
Over seventy years ago, in 1938, the Navy came up with a specification for a new carrier-based fighter, with the Bell, Grumman, and Vought companies entering designs in the competition. The Vought prototype flew in May, 1940, and eventually the experimental version became the United States’ first 400 MPH single-engine fighter, winning the contract.
Around 15,000 Corsairs were built between 1940 and 1952, and the fighter saw American service in both World War II and Korea, being phased out of reserve service in 1957. In World War II, the Corsair achieved a 3-to-1 victory ratio over the Japanese. The long-lived plane continued in foreign service until the early 1980’s, with the result that many have been available for preservation and restoration by collectors.
General Bob Owen was a Marine Corsair pilot who started his career at Pensacola in 1939 flying VG-1’s, the Great Lakes biplane dive bomber. He transitioned into SBD Dauntless dive bombers, went to Hawaii, got married, and then the war started.
“I got married in October, 1940, and since the war started in December, I had a pretty short honeymoon,” he lamented. Since almost all the American aircraft in Hawaii were shot up, Owen was sent back to Santa Barbara, arriving the day after a Japanese submarine had shelled the oilfield at nearby Goleta.
“The locals thought we were the Marine reinforcements, and were very glad to see us,” Owen recalled. His job at Santa Barbara was to form the 240th Fighter Group, and eventually the 215th Fighter Squadron. They had to re-train on the SNJ Texan, old models of the F4F Wildcat, and then on to the new F4U Corsairs.
“We were flying the old ‘birdcage’ model Corsair, with a large cushion on back of the seat, and lots of torque when the engine started. I never thought it would be a good carrier plane–it bounced a lot,” Owen stated, adding that “if you bounced and missed the hook, you had lots of problems.”
Owen was sent back to Hawaii, based at a tiny rock in the ocean–French Frigate Shoals. The island only had enough room for the airstrip, and crewmen based there had to stay on an old ship that had been put around for that reason. He became the Executive Officer of the 215th Fighter Squadron for three combat tours in the Pacific. They were based in and around the Bouganville Island area. Most of the mission were ground-strafing attacks, hitting enemy airfields. The squadron also had a total of 137 1/2 aerial victories. Owen himself accounted for seven of the total, leading to a few interesting stories.
“One time I saw a ‘Tony’, and I was going about 100 knots faster than he was. I hit him, but then my wingman fired after I went by and damaged my plane,” Owen related, adding that he had to “land in the ocean, a beautiful landing between the waves in the troughs, and I was picked up about 30 minutes later.
“Another time I had taken a student pilot up, but ran into Zeros,” he recalled. “When Zeros were all around you push the throttle as fast as you can, which I did, but the student pilot passed me three times on the way down and back,” Owen stated.
General Owen went on to compare the two main Navy fighters of the time–the F6F Hellcat and the Corsair, saying that the Corsair was faster and better at diving, but the Hellcat was a better carrier plane, easier for inexperienced pilots to handle.
Second Lt. Roger Conant was General Bob Owen’s wing-man for three years, and had joined up with the squadron with only about 200 hours total flying time. He had been taken out to a Corsair, and in about fifteen minutes all the switches and controls were pointed out to him, then he was told that he was on his own.
“I went out a circled a brush fire for a while, came back and landed, and the next day I was sent overseas,” said Conant. He felt the Corsair was a tough plane to fly–“it had poor front visibility with the nose 13 feet in the air, and night take-offs were really hazardous, since until the tail wheel lifted off you couldn’t see where you were going.”
Conant did say that the Corsair “was a beautiful plane in flight–once it was airborne you could get it to do anything you wanted.” He recalled one particular mission where the Corsairs were escorting B-24 Liberators to Bouganville. The fighters job was to weave back and forth in the midst of the bombers, providing cover from enemy fighters.
“We saw 30 or 40 Zeros and Tonys hanging around in the distance, and once the B-24’s dropped their bombs they flew into the clouds,” adding that “we told them if they went into the clouds they would have no escort.”
“We took off after the Zeros and Tonys, and I saw a Tony on Bob’s tail,” Conant related. He thought that the Tony would get to his leader before he could get to the Tony, but Conant was able to close faster.
“I shot him up pretty good, hit the fuel tank, and he went straight down,” Conant remembered. At that point, another Zero took out after him, causing Conant to dive away from trouble.
“That night, Tokyo Rose said that Corsair pilots turned tail and went home when Zeros showed up, and I knew she was taking about me,” he related. The victory that day was just one of Conant’s total of six enemy kills.
Conant had also flew the F4F briefly before his time in the F4U Corsair, where he became an ace. He was flying the F7F Tigercat when the war ended, and flew F6F Hellcats after the war.
“I went to the airlines for about five years, and then was called back into the Marine Corps for Korea, flying the F9F,” Conant said. He went to work for Douglas Aircraft after Korea, and flew just about everything they had—the A3D, A4D, and ended up with what became his favorite aircraft—the DC-10.
About his experience with warbirds, Conant remarked that he “didn’t really like the Wildcat, it was a good airplane, but I didn’t fly it much. The Corsair gave us a pretty good advantage over the Zero, it was dependable.”
Two Corsair pilots had remarkable careers flying in the F4U. Both became quite famous for their exploits in the Marine fighter.
Archie Donahue made the transition to the F4U Corsair from the F4F Wildcat, and it made quite a difference to him—“I was flying the Corsair, and we had to get into engagements—we couldn’t get into them that often.” Donahue was one of the real rarities—he shot down five enemy aircraft in one day twice.
“I didn’t think it could happen [again], and it was on my last flight, off a carrier at Okinawa,” recalled Donahue. He added that they “ran into a flight of 16 [enemy aircraft], I got five, and we got all of them.”
Col. Jim Swett was awarded the Medal of Honor for destroying seven Japanese aircraft in one day while flying the Corsair. He recalled that action as happening so fast that he “didn’t know Zeros were in the air or where they were.” He was operating off Guadalcanal with Fighter Two, and was shot down to conclude his eventful day of action, just off Tulagi.
“I landed in a couple thousand feet of water, but it only took 15-20 minutes to get rescued as a Coast Guard picket boat saw me hit the water,” he recalled. Swett ended the war with 15 1/2 confirmed victories, and another four probables.
Major Bob Porter flew just about everything the Marines had–the F4F Wildcat, F4U Corsair, and F6F Hellcat. He only flew the Hellcat as a night fighter, however.
“My favorite was the Corsair, since I flew that right after the Wildcat. It had power, and its performance was incredible,” Porter remembered. He ended the war with five victories confirmed and another one as a probable.
Wally Thompson entered the service in October, 1941 as a Naval Cadet. He was given the opportunity to switch to the Marine Corps, becoming a 2nd Lieutenant in August, 1942, mainly because, as he put it–”I could put holes in the target sleeve, and no one else could.” After flying the F4F Wildcat, he transitioned to the Corsair in June 1943, training at Pearl Harbor, then going on to serve three combat tours with VMF-211 at places such as Espiritu Santo and the Solomon Islands.
“I was on the flight that Pappy Boyington was shot down,” Thompson recalled, relating that “there were lots of clouds that day.” Boyington decided to drop down through the clouds, flying along at sea level. Thompson said that they couldn’t see him after he dropped below the clouds, and “when we got back we were shocked that he was lost.”
Once, in the Solomon Islands, Thompson was assigned to test out a Corsair that had a replacement wing due to an accident. He started down the runway and got to around 60 knots when the wing came off.
“I saw I was headed into a group of P-40’s [Warhawks] that were at the other end of the runway. The plane fortunately veered off to the side and into a swamp,” Thompson remembered, saying that “I did complain about that one.”
Another close call came when he was flying an F4F at night, up at 10,000 feet. His engine quit cold, but Thompson managed to get back. Later in his career, while serving back in the States as a test pilot at Patuxent River, another incident came to mind.
“I was flying a F7F [Tigercat], shooting the 20-mm. cannons at a target 40 miles offshore. There was lots of smoke, too much smoke for the oxygen mask to help,” Thompson related. When he got back, everyone was looking at his aircraft. The guns had misfired and shot out the whole nose section.
Thompson did score victories over two Japanese Zeros at Rabaul. His group was on a “48-plane sweep at 25,000 feet, watching all five Jap bases, and we could see the dust clouds as they rose up.” The action started when they spotted two Zeros about 5,000 feet below their flight.
“I went into a steep dive into them, and the wingman broke back and forth, eventually even flying upside down,” Thompson recalled. The leader just kept flying straight and level, apparently not seeing either the motions of his wingman or the approaching Corsair. Thompson eventually shot both of them down.
Lt. Jack Callahan got right into the Corsair in training at Santa Barbara, where three or four squadrons were learning how to fly the new high-powered fighter. Callahan kept getting held back at the state-side base when the time came to go overseas, mainly because they wanted him to serve as ordinance officer, engineering test pilot, and accident investigator at various times.
He finally got to get into the action at Iwo Jima and Okinawa late in the war, serving alongside F6F Hellcat squadrons on the USS Bennington with VMF-112. He recalled the action as “fast and furious.” Callahan said “I was never really mad about going to war, but I was when I found out they were firing real bullets at us.” He also almost got shot down by his own wingman.
“Four of us Corsairs were in a dive over our carrier, my wingman was drunk and decided to charge his guns,” Callahan remembered. “I got hit in the windshield, got glass in my eyes, and the wind was tremendous,” he added. The other planes were allowed to land first and get out of the way.
“I came in and caught the #2 wire, but all the time I was circling I was throwing glass out of the cockpit,” Callahan recalled. Those on the deck of the carrier were not too happy with him, as several of the chunks hit the deck and scattered like shrapnel.
Callahan was strapped to a litter and carried to the sick bay, where a doctor added medicine and novocaine to his eyes. He was told to keep his goggles on so that he would not rub his eyes.
Callahan summed up his experiences saying that he “had a lot of wonderful times flying the Corsair.” He recalled flying many “gas calibration hops” in training, and saw many celebrities at the Santa Barbara base. “Joe Foss [Marine Ace] was at Santa Barbara also, and Lindbergh came through–lots of famous people,” Callahan said.
Some of his test work came firing rockets out of Inyokern, a remote base in the high desert. Callahan recalled the planes having “eight rockets each, and we went around firing at dry lakes like Muroc.
Mel Locke was also a late entry into the war, serving as a Marine Corsair pilot on an escort carrier out of Hawaii. They usually circled around and came back for a landing on their ship, but one day he did not get the message that their assignment was different.
“The first thing I knew, the leader’s message to us was ‘Which runway do you want to use?’, Locke recalled. Since he had not heard the part about landing on an island, he had no idea of what was going on. They obviously were not used to having a choice of runways on a carrier.
Locke had trained at El Toro with its long runways, and after the war he did occupation service in Japan. There they had runways as short as 2400 feet, which could go by very quickly.
“At Tokyo Bay, there was a runway that had a sea wall at the end,” he remembered. Locke came in too fast, and realized he was running out of room. The only thing he could think of was to lock the tailwheel. He wound up doing a ground loop.
Locke was brought back into the service for the Korean War in 1952. He was assigned again to El Toro for refresher training in the Corsair, and started F9F Panther simulator training. At that time, his wife gave birth, so he got out of further training to be with her. Since he did not finish with the Panther, the Marines sent him overseas as a Corsair replacement pilot. He was assigned to VMA 323, the “Death Rattlers.”
Locke had a memorable time in Korea, serving with former New York Yankee Jerry Coleman, who later went on to become a San Diego Padres broadcaster and manager. Coleman was a “hot-shot” jet pilot, and liked to pull a few pranks. One of his favorites was go into a dive right over the mess hall, causing a sonic boom that sounded like a 500-lb. bomb going off.
“One day he did it while a general was in the mess hall,” Locke remembered. Coleman got caught, and was about to be sent to Japan, which would mean an early return to the United States. Coleman pleaded with the general, and was asked what his secondary specialty was, which turned out to be forward air controller.
“He got the duty for our squadron–calling out targets, and assessing the damage afterward,” Locke said. Since Coleman was friends with Locke, he always gave them 100% marks on target, which “usually didn’t happen, but he gave it to us.”
The Corsairs were valued in Korea, even though they were well past their prime, because they could stay over a target for up to four hours. They could also be used for just about any mission. Locke remembered missions with the “daisy cutters,” a bomb that exploded into one-inch shrapnel that would cover about 100 yards.
Locke had some excitement while testing out a plane that had a replacement tail hook. He came in high and fast, lowered the nose, cut the throttle, and hit six wires with none catching. He hit the brakes, but still went over the side.
“Someone threw me a life raft, and an escort carrier came alongside,” he related. Locke was stripped of everything, and told that “you are ours–we saved your life.” They rigged a “breeches buoy” to send him back over to the carrier, but had a little fun while at it. While he was suspended between the two ships, the destroyer would move in close, dropping him into the water, then backing away to rocket him up into the air. Officers on the carrier told them to knock it off, and the experience was enough to convince Locke to never put a plane into the water again. He finished off his service as a flight instructor.
Phil De Groot served in both World War II and Korea, flying combat missions in the F4U Corsair fighter.
DeGroot had signed up in 1941, but wasn’t sent off for training until August 1942 as one of fifty recruits from the University of California billed as the “Golden Bears” after the school mascot. Training started at Oakland, then switched to Livermore for three months. He recalled Livermore as “an e-base, for elimination.”
From there it was on to Corpus Christie to fly Stearmans and other trainers including the AT-6/SNJ Texan, where he graduated in February 1943 and joined to Marines.
“We were sent to Opa Locka, Florida, and flew the Brewster Buffalo, which was just plain dangerous,” DeGroot remembered. They also flew the obsolete OS2U, an aircraft meant for launching from catapults and landing on a pontoon.
DeGroot said “from there we were sent to the Great Lakes in SNJ’s for carrier qualifications off the old Wolverine. We had to have a certain wind on the lake, about 30 knots, or we couldn’t take off. The SNJ had a tailhook rigged with clothesline to trip it.”
After the carrier quals were done, DeGroot had a brief leave and then reported to Miramar, California to join with his squadron, VMF-224, to El Toro. At first they had no planes to fly as they were waiting for Corsairs, so they went down to San Diego to fly F4F Wildcats.
“On the way back to El Toro, my engine quit just north of Oceanside,” DeGroot recalled, adding that “I bailed out over the sea, got out low–about 900 feet–and was heading toward a fire burning below.” It turned out to be his aircraft, and the wind from the fire fortunately blew him out of harm’s way.
After receiving the Corsair and training for about 10 hours of flight time at Mohave, they were finally sent overseas. They even got to hear one of the Lindbergh lectures on flying as part of the training.
DeGroot was based at Samoa, Tarawa, Funafuti in the Ellis Islands, and Kwajalien. Many times at night they were bombed by a single Japanese aircraft, which once got lucky and hit the ammo depot, leaving a crater 40 feet in diameter and 40 feet deep. It took out most of their food supply, also. Most of the missions were to hit the Japanese-held island that were by-passed by the invasion fleet.
After an accident, DeGroot was sent to a hospital in the U.S. and remained stateside for six months. He reported back to El Toro and was sent to Gillespie for the final year and a half of the war, serving as the base commander up until the base closed about three months after the war was over. He recalled the parachute training towers and a large swimming pool that were once part of the facility, but now long since vanished.
DeGroot remained in the civilian reserves and was called back to duty in 1950 for the Korean War. After three months of refresher training as a flight officer, he went over in January 1951 with VMF-223, but only remained in combat until being shot down in April of the same year.
“We were part of the campaign against the North Korean’s spring offensive that had a British regiment surrounded on a hill north of Seoul,” DeGroot stated. Eight Corsairs went on the mission, led by an air controller who directed the bombing at the base of the hill.
DeGroot remembered “the controller called out enemy activity, and I took my wingman down to take a look, but just as I said ‘I don’t see anything’ I got shot in the leg. I tried to fly back, but got faint. I jettisoned the belly tank and made a wheels-up landing.”
He was flown in an L-5 to a MASH outfit, only to find it had moved, so they went to Seoul to a field hospital. It was the end of DeGroot’s war and military career, being mustered out as a Captain.