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WWII Patch, USN, VC-10 Composite Squadron

WWII Patch, USN, VC-10 Composite Squadron

Product Information
WWII US Navy Squadron Patch
USN VC-10
Navy Composite Squadron 10
USS Gambier Bay CVE-73
Battle off Samar

Walt Disney Design
5.5 inches

USS Gambier Bay (CVE 73) & Composite Squadron VC-10
USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73) was a Casablanca class escort carrier of the United States Navy. She was sunk in the Battle off Samar after helping to turn back a much larger attacking Japanese surface force.

With shipmates dead or dying and many trapped on board, it was a heart wrenching decision to abandon ship.   With men in the water and the USS Gambier Bay sinking, the Japanese Cruiser Tone kept shooting. We did not lower our flag to surrender. That would have been disgraceful for our nation and our US Navy.  War time censorship prevented telling the full story.  Ambushed by the largest Japanese Naval force ever brought together, our small Task Unit was forced to leave us survivors behind, as well as survivors from 3 of our escorts that were also sunk. Pursued by a vastly superior enemy fleet, the coordinates at which the USS Gambier Bay was sunk were not correctly reported.  Over a two day period, 1,110 men drifted more than 60 miles in shark infested waters without food or drinkable water. Finally, rescuers from Patrol and Landing Craft found the survivors in the dead of night. The rescuers, with spot lights aglow in waters that enemy submarines patrolled, placed their own lives in danger to find and rescue the survivors still floating about at sea. If not for them, we would be modern day "Flying Dutchmen."  Our oath...Total commitment to "God and Country."  --account of Tony Potochniak

Named for Gambier Bay on Admiralty Island in the Alaska Panhandle, she was originally classified AVG-73, was reclassified ACV-73 on 20 August 1942 and again reclassified CVE-73 on 15 July 1943; launched under a Maritime Commission contract by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, Vancouver, Washington on 22 November 1943; sponsored by Mrs. H. C. Zitzewitz, wife of Lieutenant Commander Zitzewitz, the Senior Naval Liaison Officer (SNLO) assigned to Kaiser's Vancouver Yard from the Navy's Bureau of Ships; and commissioned at Astoria, Oregon on 28 December 1943, Captain Hugh H. Goodwin in command.

The ship was referred to as the "Bonus Ship" by yard personnel because she was the 19th carrier delivered in 1943. The yard had originally projected 16 carriers would be delivered before the end of 1943, however, in September the Navy asked the yard to increase that number by at least two more. To rally the workers, Kaiser initiated a campaign called "18 or More by '44" to meet the new challenge. Gambier Bay, being the 19th and last Kaiser-built carrier commissioned in 1943, hence was dubbed the "Bonus Ship". No ships in her class survive to this day.

NARRATIVE HISTORY OF COMPOSITE SQUADRON TEN
by Capt. Edward Huxtable.
 
THE FIRST CRUISE
Composite Squadron Ten was commissioned 23 September 1943 at Sand Point Naval Air Station Seattle, Washington. The Commissioning Officer was G. L. Richard, Lt. Cdr., USN, Commanding Officer of CASU 7 . Lieut. John R. Stewart, USNR, was acting Commanding Officer of the Squadron. Lt. Cdr. E. J. Huxtable, USN, took command of the squadron on 29 September 1943. Planes and material allowance for the squadron was drawn at Sand Point.

The squadron moved to Clatsop County Airport, Astoria, Oregon, on 5 October 1943 and there, conducted their preliminary training in bombing, gunnery, field carrier landing practice, formation flying, navigation, and combined tactics.

November 17th marked the first accident to the squadron personnel when Ens. Dugan's plane had engine failure and he was forced to make a water landing in the Columbia River. He was uninjured. On November 23rd Ens. J. Lischer's plane caught fire and he was forced to bail out at sea. He was uninjured.

While the fighter pilots remained in Astoria, the torpedo pilots moved to NAS Whidby Island for torpedo training on 6 December 1943. There they studied torpedo tactics and each pilot dropped two dummies and one live torpedo.

On 20 December 1943, the entire squadron moved to NAS Holtville. Night flying was emphasized there with training in day and night low-level bombing, fighter gunnery, fighter strafing, and practice in combined attack tactics.

After a month at Holtville, the squadron moved to NAS Brown Field on 20 January 1944 for advanced training in group tactics, bombing, gunnery, navigation, and the use of radar. They also received field carrier landing practice, catapult practice, and some work in amphibious support. Ens. Don Kreymer was detached on 23 January.

Carrier qualifications were taken aboard the USS ALTAMAHA (CVE 18) beginning 12 February 1944, after which the squadron returned to NAS BROWN FIELD for further training in air support.

A four day shakedown cruise was made aboard the USS ALTAMAHA beginning 2 March 1944, in which emphasis was placed on squadron tactics, deck load strikes, and bombing and strafing of a towed target. It was on this cruise that the first fatal accident occurred when Ens. Hovey Seymour, USNR, crashed into the water on a carrier approach. The crew was rescued.

The fighter pilots returned to NAS Brown Field while the torpedo pilots went to NAS Inyokem on 7 March 1944 for rocket training. Each pilot fired twelve live three inch rockets in that training with runs of 20 and 40 degree angles. Ens. Dan Selders was detached 23 March.

April 5, 1944, the squadron went aboard its own carrier, the USS GAMBIER BAY (CVE 73), for an eleven day shakedown cruise. Emphasis was placed on deck load strikes, bombing and strafing of a towed target, navigation, fighter director training, radar training, and torpedo tactics. The squadron, which had had 195 men and 31 pilots, was streamlined at this time, and the surplus over complement was transferred to the GAMBIER BAY. Ens. Nick Carter made two water landings on two consecutive flights during this cruise. The cause was engine failure each time.

April 15th to 30th was spent at NAS San Diego where the squadron went through rigorous air support and amphibious support training. There was also work in torpedo tactics and fighter formation flying. The full wartime allowance of material was drawn at this time and the complement of new planes filled. Ens. Carter was detached on April 16th and Ens. R. L. Crocker and Lt. (jg) John R. Jackson attached to the squadron on the same date.

On May 1,1944, the squadron departed from San Diego aboard the USS GAMBIER BAY and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 8 May 1944. Ensigns, Tetz, Wallace, Zeola, Osterkom, and Shroyer joined the squadron. May IOth to 17th was spent in a shakedown cruise on the GAMBIER BAY with briefing and staging for the forthcoming invasion of the Marianas. Parachute supply drops were practiced together with group combined tactics.

On May 3 1st, the ship departed Pearl Harbor enroute Roi. On this trip the squadron practiced group attacks and flew ASP and CAP. Lt. ( jg) Owen Wheeler made a water landing on June 4th and he and his crew were rescued, but Lt. (jg) Weatherholt made a water landing on June 6th in which P. E. Collins, ARM3c, was lost. The ship arrived at Roi on 8 June, remained there until 1O June and departed for the Marianas as a part of Carrier Division 26. Again the squadron flew ASP and CAP.

June 15th was D-Day for the Marianas and the ship arrived there on 14 June and immediately commenced operations. The squadron did air support work over Saipan and quite a bit of aerial observing serial spotting. Lt. Cdr Huxtable did excellent work as air coordinator. On June 15th, Lieut. J. R. Stewart was shot down over Saipan, but made a water landing, was rescued by a destroyer and returned to the squadron fifteen days later.

June 16th marked the beginning of the First Battle of the Phillippine Sea and the GAMBIER BAY was in for some excitement. The ship was subject to a dive bombing and torpedo attack the afternoon of June 18th, to a torpedo attack the afternoon of June 19th, and to another dive bombing attack the morning of June 20th.

June 17th, Ens. Lee Giger was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over Tinian. He made a water landing and was picked up by a destroyer escort. June 18th, Ens J. B. Holleman was shot down by anti-aircraft fire. His plane caught fire and he was forced to make a water landing in Tanapag Bay. Holleman was picked up by an LCVP and taken to a hospital ship, transferred from there to a hospital on Guadalcanal, from there to the hospital at Mare Island, and later discharged from the service. Nothing is known as to the fate of his crew, J. Bacon AOL3c, and H. Rivers, ARM3c. June 18th, Ens. W. C. Shroyer had his engine cut out "in the groove", but he made a water landing and he and his crew were rescued.

June 18th, Seitz, Dugan, Courtney, Lischer, Harders, Gilliatt, and McGraw ganged up on a Betty at 24,00 feet and shot it down.

June 18th, Lieut. Eugene Seitz shot down a Fran, which was making a torpedo run on a nearby carrier, within one minute after takeoff and at only 100 feet of altitude. (Picture shown below. The torpedo wake can be seen as a white trail through the water in the foreground of the picture.)

June 18th, Lieut. H. J. Harders damaged a Fran and forced it into the water. June 19th, Ens. J. F. Lischer and Lieut. Richard Roby teamed up to shoot down a Kate in the traffic circle of Ushi airstrip on Tinian. Each received one-half credit.

June 19th, Lt. (jg) Dean Gilliatt crashed into the water on a flyaway takeoff. He was apparently killed instantly. On June 28th, Ens. Henry Pyzdrowski was forced to make a water landing after a power failure. He and his crew were rescued.

July 2nd, Ens. Bernard E. McCabe formerly on the USS MIDWAY (later known as the USS SAINT LO), was attached to the squadron.

On July 3rd the ship left Saipan enroute to Eniwetok. The squadron flew CAP and ASP. Ens. Joe McGraw on July 3rd had a wing tank break loose and tear off his horizontal stabilizer. He bailed out from 2,000 feet and was picked up by a destroyer.

The ship reached Eniwetok on 5 July 1944 and spent a welcome week there, leaving 12 July 1944 for Tinian. They arrived at Tinian on July 14th and immediately started their duties in air support for the invasion. They did quite a bit of reconnaissance work and some aerial spotting. On July 26th, Lieut. John P. Sanderson spun in on a catapult takeoff. The depth bombs on the plane exploded and he and his crew, J. Richards, ARM3c, and B. Zanon, AOM3c were lost. The ship arrived in Guam on I August 1944, staying there until 5 August, at which time she departed for Eniwetok, arriving on 8 August. At Eniwetok , Lt.(jg) C. F. Hunting, Ens. Jack Turner, and Ens. D. C. Bennett were attached to the squadron.

Eniwetok was left on August 10th and the ship arrived at Espiritu Santo on August 15th. The traditional Shellback Ceremony was performed as they crossed the Equator on 13 August 1944 at 162' 21' 30" East Longitude. Ens. R. B. Barrows, Ens. John S. Phipps, and Ens. Paul Bennett were attached to the squadron on August 15th.

On August 22nd, the ship left Espiritu Santo, arriving at Tulagi August 24th. August 25th to 27th saw another shakedown cruise near Savo Island breaking in the new pilots and staging for the Palau invasion. On September 8th, the squadron left for Palau, arriving there September 14th.

September 14th to 20th was the invasion of the Palau Group. The squadron did air support work over Peleliu and Angaur and attacked a tank column on Peleliu on September 15th. Barrier patrols and ASP were flown, and quite a bit of reconnaissance work was done over Korror, Babelthaup, and the Kossal Passage areas. There were no losses to squadron complement and no enemy planes attacked.

September 20th the ship left Palau and on September 21st the squadron made an attack on Yap Island. This was a fighter strike only and they bombed and strafed the airstrip on Yap in addition to the reconnaissance work for which the flight was scheduled.

September 22nd, Ulithi was occupied and the squadron flew Target ASP and CAP over and near that island. There was no resistance.

September 23rd the ship left Ulithi, arrived at Hollandia, New Guinea, on September 28th and arrived at Manus October I st. The ship left Manus 12 October 1944 for the Philippine area, briefing and staging enroute for the forthcoming liberation of the Philippines.

During the month of October, 1944, the ship and squadron participated in the seizure of Leyte, Philippine Islands. From 20th to 25th October, the squadron provided direct air support for the landing operations in progress. Many bombing attacks were made upon the enemy ground installations and troops. Fighters were provided to protect American ground forces and transports from hostile air attacks. As a part of its daily routine, eight fighters were launched each morning one hour before dawn to be on station by daybreak over the transport area 100 miles away. On October 1944, seven enemy aircraft were shot down by the squadron members.

On 25 October 1944, Task Unit 77.4.3, of which the ship and squadron were apart, fought a day surface battle with a vastly superior Japanese force, consisting of approximately four battleships, eight cruisers, and an unknown number of destroyers. All but two of the planes were launched while the ship was under gunfire. These planes made repeated attacks on the enemy ships and succeeded in turning a column of heavy cruisers and contributed to throwing the whole enemy formation into disorder. This gave the Allied force momentary but valuable respite from withering gunfire in a battle where time was an element which the enemy could ill afford to lose. The GAMBIER BAY was subjected to heavy gunfire from three cruisers (which it returned with its single five inch gun) but avoided serious damage for about one half hour by maneuvering. The ship then had the misfortune to receive an eight inch hit which put one engine out of action and rendered the vessel an easy target for the enemy heavy cruisers which maintained continuous heavy fire into the ship until it capsized and sank. Upwards of 700 men abandoned the ship and after about two days in the sea, were rescued. Out of a total of 849 officers and men embarked on the ship during this action, only 727 ultimately survived. The squadron was busy during all these days. On October 20th a successful Napalm bomb attack resulting in the destruction of from 300 to 500 Japanese troops was conducted by Stewart, Harders, Abercrombie, D. C. Bennett, Giger, Oliver Turner and Zeola.

October 23rd Lt. Cdr. Huxtable made a forced landing in the water after engine failure in the landing circle. He and his crew were rescued.

On October 24th Ens. Courtney assisted in breaking up an attack on American transports by more than 15 twin engine bombers. He was credited with assisting in destroying one Sally and the probable destruction of one Lily. The same day Lieut. R. W. Roby shot down one Lily and assisted in shooting down one Sally and Lieut. Seitz shot down a Sally. Lt. (jg) Phillips probably destroyed two Zekes and Lt.(jg) Dugan down two Sallys. On the same day, Joe McGraw and others in a CAP flight intercepted a group of fifteen to twenty one twin engine bombers escorted by six to eight Zekes. McGraw destroyed two Lilys and damaged a third.

On October 25th, Lt. Cdr. Huxtable was launched without any bombs or torpedo and, despite that lack, made repeated dummy bombing runs on the column of enemy cruisers in order to divert the intense anti-aircraft fire from the other planes of the force. He acted as air coordinator and organized and lead the early morning attack against the enemy surface units. As a direct result of his leadership, the column of enemy ships was forced to turn away from the American carriers at a crucial point in the battle. That same morning Ensign William Gallagher took off while the ship was under enemy gunfire. His plane was loaded with a torpedo, but only thirty-five gallons of gasoline. He had his choice of proceeding to another group of carriers about twenty miles away for refueling, or to attack at once. Ensign Gallagher elected to attack the enemy and, in conjunction with a torpedo pilot from another carrier, made a torpedo attack on an enemy battleship, knowing that by so doing he would be forced to make a water landing very soon when his gasoline was expended, if he survived the attack. He was seen to make and press home his attack at close range and, according to one report, he made a direct hit on the battleship. He flew through a terrific concentration of anti-aircraft fire and received numerous hits which forced him to make a water landing less than ten minutes after completing his attack. Ensign Gallagher and his two air crewmen, L. Holley, AMM3c, and G. M. Saint, ARM2c, were not recovered.

The morning of the 25th Ensign P. A. Bennett took off while the ship was under heavy attack. Without bombs, he made two strafing attacks in his torpedo plane on the attacking fleet, once on a cruiser and once on a battleship in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire. Later in the morning he landed on the MANILA BAY, from which he was launched with four five hundred pound bombs. As a part of a strike group from that ship during a subsequent attack on the retiring enemy fleet, he scored three direct hits on an enemy cruiser despite heavy anti-aircraft fire.

After the sinking of the GAMBIER BAY, Ensign McGraw also landed on the MANILA BAY and, on the afternoon of the 25th, he was launched with other pilots from that ship. During this afternoon flight his group intercepted a formation of ten to twenty Vals flying in to attack the escort carriers. McGraw, in this engagement, shot down one Val and one Zeke.

Action on the 25th was fast and furious. Lieut. J. R. Jackson made one direct hit on a Japanese heavy cruiser with a five hundred pound bomb. Ens. W. C. Shroyer made two direct hits on a heavy cruiser with five hundred pound bombs. Lt. (jg) C. F. Hunting shot down a Zeke.

After the GAMBIER BAY was sunk, the Squadron continued to operate from Leyte fields and from other carriers. From the 25th to the 27th, Lieut. John R. Stewart organized and lead four combat air patrols from Tacloban airfield on to Leyte which resulted in the destruction of four enemy aircraft. He is credited with one Oscar and assistance in the destruction of a Tony during that time. Lieut. C. A. Wickersham shot down one Oscar and assisted in the shooting down of an Oscar and a Tony. Ens. Lischer shot down one Val and assisted in shooting down a Tony. Ens.R.J. Wallace assisted in shooting down an enemy plane.

Losses to squadron personnel were inevitable. On the 24th Lt. (jg) Walter Dahlen, returning from a strike with a full load of bombs, was caught in slipstream as he approached the ramp of the carrier. Attempting to take a waveoff, he caught one of the wires and went over the side. He and his two crewmen were picked up by a destroyer. The next day during the Battle off Samar, while still aboard the destroyer, Dahlen was killed by shrapnel while acting as aircraft spotter for the ship.

On the 25th, Lt. (jg) Hunting was shot down by Allied anti-aircraft fire, but was rescued by natives in an, outrigger canoe. Ens. Turner developed engine failure and made a water landing. He was picked up by a rescue boat in the vicinity. Three officers and one of the ground crew lost their lives aboard the ship during the battle. These were Lieut. Vereen Bell, the Air Combat Intelligence Officer, Lt. Cdr. W. H. Stewart, the Flight Surgeon, Ensign John S. Phipps, a torpedo pilot and W. Mentlick, ART I c.

With its ship gone, the Leyte invasion marked the end of the squadron's activities as a unit. In small groups the members went by various methods to Manus, Pearl, San Francisco, and then home on leave. Some were transferred to other units for duty. Nineteen pilots and twenty-five of the crew chose to stay with Lt. Cdr. Huxtable and form the nucleus of a new Composite Squadron Ten, to be reformed in January 1945.


Reformed Squadron VC-10 - A Narrative History of Composite Squadron Ten by Harry T. West, Lieutenant, USNR

Officially, in the Records Office in Washington, the records say:"-VC 10 reformed at NAAS Ventura County Airport ,1 January . Lt. Cleland S. Hattaway,USN 95583, acting Commanding Officer.". And thus began the second cruise of Composite Squadron Ten.

Actually Compron Ten was steel tempered in the great Battle for Leyte Gulf, and forged in the action off Samar Island on the 25th of October in 1944 when a handful of escort carriers and their screening destroyers engaged a major Japanese task force for more than two hours in broad daylight, fighting a heroic and successful battle " in the highest tradition of the service", although the cause seemed hopeless. Compron Ten was reformed on an ideal, an ideal best exemplified in a skipper who in the thick of battle, without bombs or torpedoes, made repeated dummy runs at low altitude over the enemy column of heavy cruisers in order to divert the intense anti-aircraft fire from other planes in the squadron. The extraordinary heroism and leadership he displayed became a symbol for the rest of the squadron and an ideal on which to base the future greatness of Composite Squadron Ten, the second.

All the members of the "old squadron" were on leave when the squadron was reformed, but a nucleus of the new group were present in the form of new pilots from Operational Training Schools, eager to prove that they were able to conform to the traditions laid down by the experienced pilots. This group was lead by Lt. Cleland S. Hattaway,USN, an experienced pilot, formerly with Composite Squadron Seven aboard the USS Manila Bay. "Hatt" had gone from the Fleet to Operational Training and then back to sea again as the second senior fighter pilot in the reformed squadron. Formerly from Kansas city, Kansas, Hatt had stopped off there on his way to the West Coast and reported in to the squadron on December 19,1944, only to find Ensign Edward D. Slovek already there by one day and waiting for somebody to tell him what to do. They had company the next day when Ensign G.E.Masse and Ensign John L Moore reported aboard. December 20th found Dick Arnicar, Art Custer, Bob Frank aboard, and on the next day Joe Carroll, Clyde "Chief" Caudill,Ed Gaertner, and long Bob MacGill came in. On December 22nd that ferocious foursome Oscar Ayers, Bill Fleming, Chuck Ewers , and Al Jones found themselves rooming together with "Ek" Echard, Norman Van Dine, and Dick Whitcomb in nearby huts. Rich DeSomer and John Martin came in on Dec. 22nd. "De" was so quiet and likeable, everybody thought that he was a fighter pilot for the first two weeks until they found him out.

And the "Bill Budd's Boys" began coming in and peace was known no longer in the vicinity of Oxnard, Calif. Bill chose Christmas Day to report( what a gift to the girls in Ventura County!) and found his boys all waiting for him.(They still wait for him) Don McMullen had reported in on Dec. 23rd, and John P. "Hit me ,Bill" Enright, Warren" Felix" Feldmeyer, Walter Fuchs, and Stanley "Pete" Piotrowski reporting on Christmas Eve. They were all torpedo pilots and lived in two adjoining rooms and when Merl Wee, another of "the boys", reported in from Air Group 98 on Jan. 13th, the seven caused more commotion than all the rest of the squadron combined.

In the meantime Robert Boggs had slipped quietly in on Dec. 24th and Lonnie McKeel, but not quietly, on Dec. 27th. Howard Atha came in on Dec.28th saying " You otto seen me running that CASU outfit", and "Providence Don" Mair ( pronounced "Mayuh) reported on New Year's Day with "Tex" McNabb, that genial rustler with the W.C.Field's nose. Stan Jensen reported in from Air Group 98 on Jan.13th and Charles Becker, the last of the new men, reported on Jan.28th.

In the meantime former members of the original squadron began coming aboard. The first to report was Lt.H.B.Bassett, Executive Officer, who reported on Jan.9th, followed on Jan.14th by the Skipper, LtCmdr. E.J.Huxtable. The other pilots and crew began to come in in fast order from then on until Jan. 29th when Jim Lischer reported in like a hurricane. He was the last to report and the flying personnel of the squadron was complete.

Ground Officers? Yes, we had them, but they came in more slowly. ACIC Harry West was first on the ground, reporting on Jan. 6th. Tom Smith, Personnel-Administrative Officer came in on Jan.28th. Ens.W.A.Borwnlie, Radar Officer reported on Feb.7th. The flighty Flight Surgeon,Lt.R.D.Anderson, came aboard Feb.14th, and Lt.jg. Irish Dan Sweeney, Ordnance Officer, finally showed up on March 14th.

Squadron training had been progressing satisfactorily in the meantime. Even before the first planes were delivered on Jan.6th, ground training was going strong with classes in Recognition and Navigation, and as soon as there were sufficient planes, the flight schedule went into force.

The training schedule was interrupted Jan.27th for the official Recommissioning ceremonies. This was presided over by Capt. John G. Crommelin, USN, Director of Fleet Air Training. Capt. Crommelin also presented awards earned in the Occupation of Saipan. Lt.Cmdr. Huxtable received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medals were presented to Lt. Bassett,Lt(jg).Dugan, Chiefs Blaney and Martin, and Aviation Machinist's Mate Blanford. It was a joint ceremony for both VC-10 and VC-5, also in training at Ventura County, and the two squadrons made a very nice showing in the parade grounds at the Air Station.

That same night it was decided to try night flying from Ventura County but visibility was poor and the air field's lighting inadequate, so no planes were airborne. However, night flying was in the future! Saturday, Feb.3rd brought lots of excitement for Felix Feldmeyer and taught a worthwhile lesson to the rest of the squadron. Some power lines were in the valley near Santa Paula, California, got too close to Feldmeyer's plane and he limped home(safely) with a damaged left wing and a vertical stabilizer nearly cut in two. Lucky Felix!

Feb. 9th brought its excitement to Chubby Bill Budd, but it was a different kind of excitement. A telephone call resulted in Skinny coming down to the hangar with a grin wider than a TB's bomb bay and the announcement that he was PAPA of a thirteen pound six ounce boy. Of course, as most suspected, little William Isaac Budd actually weighed only six pounds, thirteen ounces, but a few mistakes at such a moment were understand- able. Needless to say "Budd's Boys" celebrated that night.

A little now about Ventura County Airport. Also known as " Oxnard" and as "Mira Loma", Ventura County was an Auxilary Air Station under the supervision of NAS San Diego. Formerly a private flight academy and later a training base for the Army, Mira Loma was used by the Navy as a training base for ACORN units and for CASU(F) units as well as for fleet air squadrons. The usual gripes were in evidence as always with healthy young pilots. "It was too cold","it was too hot"; "It was too damp". Actually there were some legitimate complaints. The food was poor. The living quarters were cold and damp. There was no hot water. The officers and crew went unshaven for days at a time rather than try to shave in cold water. And, worst of all, a squadron in training was being controlled by units also in training and consequently inexperienced.

But in spite of inconveniences, training went on apace, and the squadron began to round into condition. Gunnery exercises, navigation, glide bombing, low-level bombing, radar training, formation flying, night flying, field carrier landings, all in order and at the proper time. A few minor accidents, of course. Those that happened to the "Old timers" brought chuckles of glee. Hattaway made a wheels up landing. He "just forgot to roll his wheels down". Stewart ground looped, Dugan made a wheels up landing. Each contributed to the "kitty fund" and the squadron made plans for a party at the expense of these luckless pilots.

The first squadron party was held at the Officers' Club, Ventura County, on Feb. 17th. It was a good party. Practically every officer was there. The married ones brought their wives. The single ones brought fair ones from all over sunny California. How those boys did get around! A good party and not too many headaches the next morning, but who cares about headaches-after the ache is gone?

Feb.27th and March 1st brought the first training in air support and the squadron began to feel as though there was a purpose in its existence. "The enemy were attempting a landing on the California coast." The fact that we were "the enemy" just made it that much more interesting. On the 27th we were to support the landing forces as they stormed the beach on San Clemente Island. By March 1st, "the enemy" were prresumed to have landed in California and to have made its way up the Eliso Canyon into Mojave Desert. "Why?", we did not ask ourselves. That was the PLAN.

Away went the squadron on schedule on the 27th. Twelve torpedo planes and fourteen fighters. The engineering department had done a great job. On to San Clemente! Only-the weather was bad and the exercise had to be cancelled. The powers that be had forgotten to notify us! But it was a nice flight down and back, good training in navigation, good training in formation flying, and particularly good training for the whole squadron in briefing practices, chart reading, code messages, and all the other details that must be covered before an operation begins. The flight to Mojave was cancelled also because of bad weather.

March 3rd was a bad day for the Ground Officer personnel. Tom Smith, Personnel Officer, left for NAS Norman , Oklahoma. He thought it was a terrible mistake and so did the rest of the squadron, but telephone calls to San Diego and two calls to Washington still left Tom with set of orders in his hand, and Tom had to go.

April 7th brought another group of medals, but these weren't the kind the boys try to win-Purple Hearts. Congratulations were in order for Leading Chief Andrews and for Dudley, Horton, Clarkson, Fauls, Chapman and Subers. The Skipper presented the awards and made the ceremony very impressive.

The first of those moral building events, the Squadron Beer Party, was held on Thursday, April 12th. Ice-cold beer was plentiful, together with coke for those who preferred it (I saw two bottles). This, plus the best frankfurters ever manufactured, made the afternoon a success for the those who believed in keeping the inner men happy. There was a volley ball game-twenty-two on a side-in which the officers soundly trounced the crew. But there was a baseball game which the officers still refuse to discuss. You can't score more than twenty-two runs in one inning! Even with both umpires favorable to the pilots, the score was decidedly unfavorable. Wheeler, as usual was thrown in the ice barrel, but beer floats on water, and so did Wheeler. Merl Wee stood too close to the wrong end of a ball bat late in the game and contributed three teeth to the good of the cause. His good sportsmanship was testified to by a bloody but toothless grin as he tried to tell the group that he was all right and not hurt a bit. It was a good party and generated good feeling among the members of the Squadron.

Things began to hum on April 15th. Carrier qualifications next week. Two hard days on bounce drill and catapult practice at Ream Field and then aboard the USS Matanikau (CVE101). April 19th qualifications began. The pilots went at it with a will and a sure know-how. The carrier's deck gang knew just what to do also. Sixty - three landings and take-offs in sixty minutes was a mark to brag about-that plus the complete absence of barrier crashes. It was a job well done. Ironically, the Landing Signal Officer, Ens. R.G. "Sandy" Sandridge reported aboard April 28th, just too late to work on the qualifications. He was to get plenty of work later on.

April 24th the squadron moved to the desert; fighters to Holtville, torpeckers to Salton Sea. Holtville was nice though hot; Salton Sea was-Salton Sea. Strangely enough the Ground Officers all decided it was essential that they stay with the fighter pilots. Both groups of pilots enjoyed this rocket training immensely, especially when they fired the five inch HVARs. The fighters were particularly proud to have been chosen the first squadron to be trained under the new "ballistic aiming" method and rightfully proud of the record they made in the rocket course. The torpedo pilots did the good job that they could always be counted upon to do.

Anti- Submarine Warfare Training! " Does this mean we'll be a hunter-killer group???" It started at NAS San Diego, May9th and that was the question on every pilot's lips. A couple of days of lectures and then bombing practice. Not good at first, in fact deplorable. Then the boys started hitting. Bill Budd set off the fireworks with thirty-four consecutive hits. Pyzdrowski never had more than one miss on a flight. " Hux" reached perfection on the second half of the course,100%, a hit for every bomb dropped. Capt. Jno.G.Crommelin,USN, in his report on the training said:

"VC-10 set a new record for bombing when compared to all carrier squadrons trained to date, although the amount of practice fell short of the syllabus time. It is to be congratulated for the interest, enthusiasm and attitude shown during the training period in addition to setting such a high standard of bombing proficiency."

After the first week the fighters left ASW and moved to Twenty-Nine Palms for training in air support work. The Fleet Post Office didn't know where anybody was, so some of the squadron mail was sent to Ventura, some to Holtville and some to Twenty-Nine Palms, and very little to San Diego. Finally it all got together, but very late. May23rd---ACIO West was talking: " I think we'll be here until the middle of August. We weren't through our training program yet and there are five Composite squadrons on the coast that have been in training longer than we have. You should be perfectly safe to wait and have your wife come out here in June or later."
for more info see: http://www.ussgambierbay-vc10.com/index.php

Price: $190.00 $170.00


Product Code: PatchUSN.010.VC10
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