Surinam Tour: October 1943- March 1944
Squadron codes B1- B12, Zandery Field, Surinam. The airfield was originally built by Pan American 30 miles inland from Paramaribo, capital of Dutch Guiana. Dutch Guiana was at that time vital base for bauxite, the crude aluminum, and the main purpose of the Squadron was to protect the bauxite ships carrying the ore to Trinidad, besides covering any convoys, heading for South America and South Africa. The detachment of three planes operated from Atkinson Field, British Guiana, so the Squadron covered an area from ~300 miles north of Georgetown, down to the northern border of Brazil, the beginning of the 13th Fleet zone.
*10/22/43 33194/131-B- (Lt. (jg) Byron C. Kern) crashed and sank off Georgetown, British Guiana between Essequibo and Demerara rivers. Mechanic Robert B. Sherman lost, the rest of the crew escaped.
11/9/43 33412/131-B-4 (Lt. (jg) John W. Powers) sent signal "landing river" (low gas, field was closed) No injuries.
11/10/43 33358/131-B-9 (Lt.(jg) Robert G. Winters) took off for search of B-4, and crashed with loss of all hands
11/28 new plane arrived to replace B-3 with civilian radar expert from the Philco company
12/2/43 33189/131-B-5 (Lt. Bradford G. Swonetz) crashed on take-off and completely destroyed. All hands escaped.
12/11 replacement for B-9 arrived
12/12 replacement for B-4 arrived
12/24 48737 arrived (replacement for B-5)
Till mid- December Army B-25s with 75-mm cannon in the nose operated from the same Zandery Field, on 12/23 a detachment of PBY-5A's from VP-94 (4 planes) arrived to help out with searches and convoys. The Squadron set up a refueling base at Cayenne, French Guiana, for coverage near the "Chop-line" between the 13th Fleet and FAW 11.
1/5/44 48737/B5 (Lt. (jg) Byron C. Kern) crashed on take-off, Zandery Field, Surinam at the same spot as Lt. Swonetz. All hands lost.
33384 was delivered for replacement. The first plane in the squadron with new fuel system.
2/15/44 ... Lt Earle: one-wheel landing with full bomb load. Plane damaged, crew escaped without serious injury.
2/17/44 B10 (Lt Malcolm E. Nafe) Shortly after take-off for the test flight, caught fire, crashed and burned, killing all hands.
New 48864 was delivered to the squadron
Click on the photo and use arrows to navigate the gallery
3/14/44 - to NAS Norfolk, VA. All planes to Hedron for maintenance, crews home for 5 days. 3/28- to Whidbey Island, WA. Old planes were replaced, all were modified for flying in Aleutian area (Dog-1 radar, ADF, ZBX, Loran, new antennas, large anti-static loop in the bow for flying in ice crystal areas, rocket launchers).
After all the modifications these planes were the most equipped Navy planes for operations in the area.
4/12/1944 33121 (Lt. Comdr. Justus U. Steele, VB-131 or HEDRON FAW-6? NAS Whidbey Island) KTOAD F- Crashed from 100 ft. after take- off, Ault field. Test flight.
R. H. Blackwell, ACMM, Floyd W. Woody, AMM2/c
6/8/44 33357 (Lt Donald R. Newby, VB-131 NAS Whidbey Island) LAC B -crashed upon landing, undercarriage collapsed. Familiarization flight. Propellers, bomb bay doors and nacelles are damaged, crew OK.
Brock, John R., Panetti, W. A., Grimes, W. B., Martin, W. E., Fry, P. A., Overton, G. D.
6/8/44 29769 (Lt (jg) Elmo L. Shupe, VB-131, NAS Whidbey Island) LAC B -Landing accident- ground looped. Familiarization flight. Fuselage strained, crew OK.
Green, Joseph H., Scheibel, A. H., Cohoon, P. G.,Hustead, J. C., Street, W. E.
Intensive training continued until 10/1/44.
Aleutian Tour: October 1944- April 1945
10/4-10/17/44 arrived to Attu, 15 planes and 18 crews
10/19/44 relieved VPB-135, 3 planes to Hedron
Squadron code/ BuNo
85- aircraft of LComdr Rolland Hastreiter, the commander. ("A Flying-fool's Machine")
89 49648 4/7/45 (J. E. Patton) while on landing approach to Casco field, was caught in turbulent wind, went into spin, and hit the water 1/4 mile off the runway. All hands lost, despite immediate search.
94 49641 11/4/44 (Lt Robert A Ellingboe, Milwaukee, WI) is missing from daylight attack. Observed to crash and burn in the sea after 5 enemy fighters attack. (Exploded on contact with water after being hit by the enemy fighters over Torishima Retto)
Wife- Ruth A Ellingboe, 3602 N 10th St Milwaukee, WI
Port engine FP041180
Starboard engine FP04119
96 49654, Lt John W Powers- 2/20/45 - port engine damaged by debris from his own rockets over Minami Zaki, attempted to land PK, escorted by 3 other PVs. Lt Dawson in one of the escorting planes was probing the weather and could not break the fog at 200 feet. Powers turned back, the crew bailed out over Lopatka while on autopilot, heading north.
Other known BuNos:
49509 (transfer from VPB-136 2/22/45)
Four Venturas of VPB-131 departed Kodiak, bound for Adak via Otter Point. After refueling at Otter Point, all planes took off for Adak, but were forced to turn back due to the weather.
33375, Lt (jg) George R. Warnock, dragged the starboard wing in landing due to the high gusty cross-winds and rain which partially obscured the landing strip, resulting in damage which will necessitate the replacement of starboard wing and extensive minor repairs. There were no injuries to personnel.
From 11/13/44: Under operational order from FAW4 Commander, Ventura planes are prohibited to carry bombs due to excessive weight and the close gasoline margin, making it impossible to proceed to alternate field if Attu and Shemya are closed in. PV's were limited to MG's and rockets.
As of 11/30, four Ventura's of VPB-136, and seven of VPB-131 were equipped with eight rocket launchers each.
None of VPB-136 crews had rocket training, and only six crews of VPB-131 had. All the planes had 8 rocket launchers installed, and the training began at the range in the island in Chichagof Harbor, Attu (dry runs). By 12/15 the construction of live rocket range on Agattu has been accomplished. The shipment of sub calibre rockets was expected by 1/1/45, and rocket missions were to be set up shortly after they arrive.
From December- searches and offensive sweeps, along with VPB-136
From 1/5 to 1/24/45- intensive rocket practice at the western tip of Agattu with
S.C.A.R. (Sub-Calibre Aviation Rockets), A.R. (Aviation Rockets): speed was too slow and too inconsistent, accurate firing from recommended 1000 yards is impossible. Range was decreased, aiming was done by the bow gun tracers.
H.V.A.R., High Velocity Aviation Rockets- OK
2/16/45, rocket mission
2/22/45 49509 transferred from VPB-136
4/7/45 49648/89 (James E. Patton) while on landing approach to Casco field, was caught in turbulent wind, went into spin, and hit the water 1/4 mile off the runway. Operational search flight. All hands lost, despite immediate rescue effort.
Lt. (Jg) Shelton, Kenneth A., Ens. Shellenberger, Dale V., Seifert, George R. AMM3c, Wanta, Joseph Hubert ARM3c, Knaws, Charles L. AOM1c.