VB-139, 1st tour.


Format: Squadron Code(R=replacement)/BuNo, Date moved out of the Squadron, Destination, Remarks


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VB-139 Patrol Bomber Squadron was  commissioned on 4/1/43 at Whidbey Island. Training at Whidbey continued until 7/22/43, then the squadron was moved to NAS Alameda, CA to install new instrument panels to the planes. VB-139 returned to Whidbey Island on 8/15/43 to complete new instrument syllabus.

7 October 1943 the squadron arrived to Amchitka and began patrol searches. Part of the squadron at the same periiod was operating from Adak.

10 December 1943 VB-139 moved to Attu and replaced VB-136


For further details please refer to VB/VPB-139 Historical Survey

Patteson_X20_ 33282 enhanced.jpg
26/33282 Transferred to Hedron/X20. Used as a backdrop for VB-139 and VB-135 squadron photos in May-June 1944. Flown to Whidbey Oct 23-26 1944 by Lt. M.A. Mason
First mission flown 4/20/44
4/17/1944, Hastings sighted Betty on sector search flight, 50-48N, 158-50E
12/16/43, A.G.Neal- landed high and long, skidded off the runway, destroyed by fire.
1/15/44, Lt. Rehill- landed on slippery runway and slid into snow bank. Minor damage, no injury.
5/18/44, Lt Lowe- crash on take-off. Crew escaped, plane destroyed.
3/25/44 crashed upon take-off in Massacare Bay
Former X6 of Hedron, to VB-139 1/13/1944
3/25/44, W.Whitman- crashed on the slope of Mutnovsky volcano, Kamchatka, USSR
First mission flown 4/25/44
12/30/43, V.C.Austin- crash landed on Cape Sebak, Agattu
12/9/43, E.M.Watson-skidded on runway, 
First mission flown 2/4/44
5/18/44 Lt. Norem sighted and attacked Jap picket boat 51-50N, 160-40E. Copilot Lt. (jg) Clifford M Tambs was killed during the 3d strafing run, hydraulic system was knocked out, unable to lock landing gears, belly landing. At least 18 hits on the plane, but only light damages.

Planes of VB-139

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Kurabu Zaki 2/20/44
Kurabu Zaki 2/20/44

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VP-139 and Empire Express patches
VP-139 and Empire Express patches

Image courtesy Ted Spencer, Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum

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VB-139 X5, 29V, 32V
VB-139 X5, 29V, 32V

Amchitka, 12/7/1943 BuNo 33345, X5 BuNo 33352, 29V BuNo 34640, 32V

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Crews of VB-139

Comments by Cmdr. Thomas "Bob" McKelvey

VB-139 crews - Version 4.jpg
VB-139 crews - Version 4.jpg

Birsdall, Daniel, radioman

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29V 5-5-44 Holloway
29V 5-5-44 Holloway

Top row, L-R: Hoffstedler, ACMM Lt. Holloway Lt. McGrath Bottom row: Meyerhoffer, ARM3/c Harshow, AOM3/c J. A. Dayton, AMM2/c

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30V 5-5-44 Dexter
30V 5-5-44 Dexter

Top row, L-R: Lt. D. Dexter, Lt (jg) D. B. McMillan, J. L. Griffin, AMM2/c. Bottom row, J. D. Ward, ARM/2c, N. C. Roessler, AMM2/c, V. L. Orth, AMM2/c

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VB-139 aircraft movement and accidents:

The Navy commissioned VB-139 on 1 April 1943 under the command of LTCOMDR George H. Huges, and assigned it to Fleet Air Wing Six at Ault Field.  Commander Stevens relieved him on 8 July.  The squadron trained as a unit and deployed to Naval Air Station Alameda, CA, on 22 July where new instrument panels were installed in its PV-1s.  It returned to Ault Field on 15 August where it completed its instrument training before departing for the Aleutians. (Hist, VPB-139, 1 Apr 1943-1 Jan 1945, p. 1.)

33136 KTOA A, test flight

7/23/43 the following planes departed NAS Whidbey for NAS Alameida for transfer:
33433 (NAS Whidbey Island War Diary - till 11/1943)

8/15-8/22/43 the following planes arrived to Whidbey from Alameda:

8/19/43 34637 (J. L. Rehill, VB-139 NAS Whidbey Isl) ACC C- accident-unidentified, over Everette during instrument training flight.
No record in War Diaries, insignificant damage?
Bratton, Melvin C.,  Mantius, H. K.,  Rowles, C. G., Becker, G. W., Anderson, D. A., Aspenwall, H. M.

8/29/43 34637 (Lt. Comdr. R. R. Beacham) missing from routine flight to Navy areas 3-4-5, reason unidentified. Crew: Ens Charles E. Nestor, Carl A. Brown, AMM3c, Robert W. Gray, AOM3c, Peter D. Lavalle, ARM3c, Livio E. DeMarco, AMM3c

10/6/43 VB-139 arrives at Adak and proceeds to Amchitka to relieve VP-61


1 Oct 1943: Navy bombing squadron VB-139 departed Ault Field, Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, WA, for the Aleutian Islands in three, five-plane divisions under the command of the squadron commander, LTCOMDR William. R. Stevens.  It encountered bad weather and mechanical difficulties en route and twelve of the fifteen PV-1s arrived at Amchitka Island on 7 October.  It began flying patrol missions the next day. It operated from Amchitka until 10 December with a detachment of three crews at Adak.  Except for weather, patrol missions were uneventful.  The offices lived four Quonset Huts with the commander, executive officer and operations officer occupying one and the 34 remaining officers the other three. Two more Quonset Huts were later added.  The officer quarters were furnished with an oil heater, chairs and lockers. The officers added sofas, shelves and tables, which they made. Laundry facilities were also provided.  A separate Quonset Hut was set aside for recreation.  It contained a radio phonograph, card tables, writing tables and overstuffed furniture. The enlisted men occupied three Quonset Huts with their mess hall being adjacent to the officers’ and equal distance from the runway and their quarters.  (Hist, VPB-139, 1 Apr 1943-1 Jan 1945, pp. 2-3.)


VB-139 departed NAS Whidbey for Kodiak with 15V-1s:
33278/25 Wetterhahn pp. 111, 112
33343/28- crashed in Massacre Bay upon takeoff 3/25/44 Scrivner, p. 31
                  #28 flew again on 4/20/44
33345/X5-left in HQ Squadron Pool, Adak
33346/34-12/9/43 (Edward M. Watson, VP-139 Det, Attu) TOADF A- skidded on runway, destroyed by fire. Patrol.
Brigham, Earnest T., Nielson, Rolf L. U., Goodrum, William R., Brinkerhoff, Russell A., Wilson, Herschell Jr.​
34636/31 12/16/43 Lt A. G. Neal landed high and long, ran off the runway, destroyed by fire. Minor injuries to the crew, the plane striken off for parts. (War Diary) Scrivner, p. 3 Port engine 86808/110636; starboard engine 86803/110613
Replaced on 1/13/44 by ??? from Adak. Flew again on 4/11/44
34639/X36- left in HQ Squadron Pool
34640/32- crashed off the runway due to an engine failure on takeoff on 5/18/44
                  (Lt. Lowe) Wetterhahn, pp. 141, 142
34641/33- Whitman's plane, crashed on Mutnovsky Volcano, USSR on 3/25/44
                  Replaced #33 flew again on 4/25/44

34774/34R 12/30/1943 at 18:48 crash landed on Cape Sebak, Aggatu, 3/4 mile north west of radar station, Lt. V. C. Austin. Crew returned to base aboard YP400 on 12/31/43, minor injuries to 2.
Replaced by ... on 2/4/44
33135/? (one of replacement aircrafts)
Squadron numbers 25-34 were assigned on 10/6/43, 35 and 36- on 10/9/43 (those 2 planes remained at Adak at the time of assignment)

10/1/43  detached from FAW 6 and ordered to report to Amchitka for patrol missions. 10/6-10/9: the first ten planes arrived to Adak, where remained until 10/9 along with eight Ventura's of VB-135 (only four of those were operational). On 10/9 moved to Amchitka.

12/4 or 12/8/43: From Amchitka, Austin, flying a Ventura, found and maintained contact with Army P-40 pilot after water landing by Semisopochnyi, 2 miles off Bird Cape. Rubber raft was launched. X7 (PBY-5A, Lt (jg) D. Birdsall) landed in open sea and made a successful rescue.

12/8/43: 27, 34, 36 departed for Attu from Adak at conclusion of the training

12/9/43: 33346/34V (Ens. Edward M. Watson, VP-139 Det, Attu) TOADF A- skidded on runway, destroyed by fire. Patrol.
Ens. Brigham, Earnest T., Nielson, Rolf L. U. ARM2c, Goodrum, William R. AMM2c, Brinkerhoff, Russell A. AOM2c, Wilson, Herschell Jr.​ AOM3c; no critical injuries.

12/10/43: 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 35, X5, X8 to Attu to replace VB-136
Routine searches until 1/19/44. Three crews remain at Adak for training purposes.

12/11: 26 arrived to Attu

12/12: 27 arrived to Attu

12/15/43 search for Russian merchant vessel "Valie Chaklov" (Valerie Chkalov) reported broken in two (Lt. R. T. McKelvey in X9 from Adak)

12/16/43: 31 destroyed (Neal)

12/19/43 Plus one PV-1 to Hedron

12/30/43: 34R/34774 lost (Austin)

As of 1/1/44: 12 PV-1s (34R2 arrived on 1/1 from Hedron, first mission 2/4/44)

1/13/44 31R to Attu from Adak, first mission 2/4/44

1/15/44 32 landed on slippery runway of Attu, and slid into snow bank; minor damage, no injury (Lt. Rehill)

1/20/44 First Kurile mission (3 PV's and 4 Cats)

As of 2/1/44:  12 PV-s

25,26,27, 28,29,30,31R,32,33,

34R2,35,36 in Attu;
X5,X6,X7,X8,X9- on Adak

2/1/44 36 to Adak (Lt. Rehill) for training

2/4-2/5/1944 Night Armed Photorecon Mission over the Kurile Islands (with Catalina's from VP-43)
Planes # 25, 31, 34

2/17/44: all Catalina's removed from Kurile missions (recon only). Number of PV-1's increased to six planes and twelve crews

3/25/44: 28 and 33 lost

28R, first mission 4/20/44
33R, first mission 4/25/44

5/1/44, 29749 VB-139: lost, circumstances unknown. Not confirmed by Squadron or FAW-4 docs!
29749 in VB-139 in 1944 could be only a replacement plane for either 28, 31, 32 or 34.

Lt. Lowe in 34640/32 crashed on take-off. Crew escaped, plane destroyed.
Lt. Norem in 33433/36 sighted and attacked Jap picket boat 51-50N, 160-40E. Copilot Lt. (jg) Clifford M Tambs was killed during the 3d strafing run, hydraulic system was knocked out, unable to lock landing gears, belly landing.

7/3/44 VB-139 arrived to Seattle from duty in Alaska

9/2/44 33135 (Lt Quentin E. Norem, VB-139, NAS Whidbey Island) TAC C- Taxiing accident, night bounce drill during preparation for the 2nd Aleutian tour.