Squadron Flight Log Entry

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VC-21 - COMPOSITE SQUADRON 21
Comission Place: NAS Sand Point, Seattle, WA.

VC-21 HISTORY OF COMPOSITE SQUADRON 21

A few men with combat experience, a few senior flight instructors, but mostly newly commissioned fighter and torpedo bomber pilots were ordered to report to Seattle, WA to commission Composite Squadron Twenty-One. At 0900 on 30 October 1943, at Sand Point, the squadron was born. LCDR Thomas O. Murray took command and led the squadron through 10 months of preparation which moved them from Seattle and Pasco, WA; North Bend, OR; Los Alamitos; Otay Mesa; and finally to San Diego, CA. The basic aircraft used were the General Motors version of the Grumman Wildcat (FM-2) and the GM-built Grumman Avenger (TBM). The skipper is shown on the previous page presenting the Air Medal to LT Nelson R. Charles for his previous combat operations in the Solomon Islands Campaign. The citation related to the award was signed by ADM W.F. "Bull" Halsey. The first squadron pilot loss was a fighter pilot, ENS Jon Joyce, killed in a mid-air collision during a multi-squadron training mission over southern California. Stateside training complete, the squadron boarded the USS Marcus Island (CVE-77), and set sail from San Diego, CA., on 20 July 1944, bound for the South Pacific. A brief interlude at Pearl Harbor was ordered for night carrier landing qualifications. A second fighter pilot, ENS Sherwood Wilson, was lost during night carrier operations near the Hawaiian Islands. He is memorialized in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, HI, and the Veterans Memorial in Charleston, WV. Arriving at Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, the squadron was involved in intensive training missions using Guadalcanal Island as a target. It was on one of these training missions that ENS William M. McLemore, a fighter pilot was killed during a practice run on the island. Mac is buried in gravesite 1025 in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, HI (the Punchbowl). Combat losses were related to major actions in which the squadron was involved. The first combat action was the invasion of Peleliu and Angaur in the Palau Islands where the squadron was involved in close air support of the troops. ENS John Jeffs, a fighter pilot, was killed by enemy fire over Koror Town on Peleliu. He is memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Republic of the Philippines. The second major combat involvement for the squadron was the landing at Leyte in the Philippines. With the previous experience in the Palau Islands, this operation was almost routine. There were some exceptions. The first occurred when RADM William Sample, whose flag was aboard the Marcus Island, decided to have a firsthand look at the progress of the Leyte landings. ENS Willy Balk was selected to carry RADM Sample in his TBM for a casual look. It turned out that the plane took a direct hit from a Japanese shell which injured the Admiral. The plane was badly damaged but returned safely. The second exception occurred when the Escort Carrier Task Force, code name Taffy, came under attack by the Center Force of the Japanese Fleet. VC-21, along with other squadrons, demonstrated their skill and courage by repeatedly attacking battleships, cruisers and destroyers of the Japanese Center Force. The torpedo bomber pilots were successful in hitting many ships with accurate drops that helped to turn the Japanese Fleet around. 


The fighter pilots added strafing attacks with their 50 caliber guns, even making dummy runs when the ammunition was exhausted, causing the huge ships to change heading and slowing their ability to overtake and annihilate the Escort Carrier Force. VC-21 lost an outstanding fighter pilot in this valiant effort to save the fleet and prevent the destruction of the landing forces on Leyte. He was LT Bill "Cactus Jack" Garner. He is memorialized in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial at Ft. Bonifacio, Republic of the Philippines. By 30 October 1944, the Marcus Island and VC-21 were relieved from this campaign. They had shot down eight enemy planes in flight, had destroyed five on the ground, had obliterated many trucks, tanks, supply and munitions dumps and had wrought heavy damage on the Japanese Fleet. It took a total of 1,599 grueling hours to do all this, with each pilot flying as many as 12 hours in one day. The Task Force Commander, ADM Kinkaid, commented: "My admiration for your extremely outstanding work today is unbounded. You have done a job only larger carriers could be expected to do. Well done!" Unable to rest on accolades, the Marcus Island carried VC-21 back to sea to escort the Visayan Attack Force to the landing on Mindoro. Although the landing was unopposed, the air at times seemed to be full of Japanese planes bent on sinking all of our ships by crashing their planes into them. The Kamikazis were swarming. The Marcus Island was the target of two Zekes, both of whom tried to hit the forward elevator. Thanks to the excellent planning of CAPT Charles F. Greber, the ship's painters had painted a dummy elevator on the extreme forward end of the flight deck. The left wing of one Japanese plane hit the starboard bow, killing the lookout. The other plane crashed into the sea just off the port bow. The explosion spewed debris over the flight deck, injuring several crew members. During the 10-day period the ship was in the Sulu Sea, the squadron flew more than 578 combat hrs. and shot down eight Japanese planes. The last combat operation for the squadron was the liberation of Luzon. The squadron provided combat air patrol for the fleet as well as support for the landings at Lingayen Gulf in January 1945. They were also the support for the landings at Subic Bay. Another fighter pilot, ENS Chester Chapman, was killed during the action near Luzon. He is memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery at Ft. Bonafacio, Republic of Philippines. The Marcus Island and VC-21 retired from the combat area the night of 31 January 1945. With commendations from all of the commanders, the ship and its squadron felt they had made a great contribution to the liberation of the Philippines. The pilots, aircrew and ship's company received the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with three stars and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two stars. Of the known awards for pilots of VC-21, three Navy Crosses, four Silver Stars, 22 DFCs and 27 Air Medals were awarded. They had also recorded 18 confirmed victories of downed aircraft, one probable and many destroyed on the ground. For a full story of VC-21, see "Pilots, Man your Planes!" by Dr. Donald M. Loudermilk in the Emil Buehler Naval Aviation Library, National Museum of Naval Aviation, NAS Pensacola.

          OFFICERS OF COMPOSITE SQUADRON TWENTY-ONE

        (As pictured, listed from left)

  FIRST ROW

  John R. Clifford (VT)         Henry Suerstedt, Jr. (VT)

  Arthur Albert (VT)            Daniel H. Wells (VT)

  Forrest L. Packwood (VF)      Grover D. Mickelwait (VF)

  James B. Janes (VF)           Robert C. Clarke (VF/X.O.)

  Daniel P. Valpey (VF)         Thomas O. Murray (VT/C.O.)

  Willis N. Penny (VF)          Zelton P. Hauck (VF)

  Charles R. Bradford (VF)      Nelson R. Charles (VT)

  Joseph L. Sullivan (VF)       Edward W. Kloth (MD)

  Robert W. Beck (VF)           Gerald L. Bridge (VF)

  W.R. Walker (VT)              Orville C. Hoover, Jr. (VT)

  J.L. Fitzhugh (VF)            Allen B. Flory (VF)

  Donald J. Klyczek (VF)        Charles E. Lakin (VF)

  Robert R. Clancy (VF)         THIRD ROW

  John B. Cypher (VF)           William J. Roberts, Jr. (LSO)

  Richard Blaha (VF)            James McAulay (VF)

 
SECOND ROW                    Emment Brown (VF)

  Ed. P. Dandridge, Jr. (ACI)   Quentin B. Evans (VF)

  John P. Burgess (ACI)         Richard W. Hyde (VT)

  Aflred D. Austin (VF)         Donald M. Loudermilk (VF)

  Luther O. Nelson, Jr. (VF)     Phillip T. Bankston (VT)

  Leonard K. Clevenger (VF)      Louis V. Shackett (VT)

  Walter L. Kuefel (VF)          Anthony M. Peyou (VT)

  William B. Doran, Jr. (VF)

  Frank O. Hamilton (VT)         NOT PRESENT FOR PICTUE

  Austin M. Hinds, Jr. (VF)      Tony Costa (LSO)

  John Chrystal (VT)             James Esch (VT)

  William A. Balk (VT)           G.B. Hill (ACI)

  Carl A. Carlson (VF)           Edgar L. Jones, Jr. (VT)

  Reginald Amback, Jr. (VF)      John B. Patton (VT)

       

      ENLISTED PERSONNEL OF COMPOSITE SQUADRON TWENTY-ONE

  Homer Adams (ACOM)            Bruce F. Funk (AMM2)

  Darrell W. Bailey (AMM1)      Warren G. Frevert (ARM2)

  Alex Barazani (AOM2)          Anton F. Ganje (ARM1)

  Robert A. Barrett (ARM3)      Raymond  Gastenfeld Jr. (AOM1)

  George Bliley (AMM3)          Lewis M. Gaver (AMM1)

  Ballas E. Blines (AMM1)       Lloyd O. Graf (PR1)

  William H. Brogdon (ACMM)     Howard T. Hardie Jr. (AMM2)

  Phillip E. Brumback (ARM3)    Raymond M. Heldstab (ACEM)

  Lawrence W. Bryan (ART1)      Howard A. Hendershot (AOM3)

  Warner A. Cartier (Y1)        Wesley H. Hendricks (AOM1)

  Rowland L. Cato (ARM3)        Lee E. Hollingsworth (ACRM)

  Michael A. Cocca (ARM3)       Rufus W. Jackson (ACM)

  Williard A. Cockerham (ACM2)  Paul D. Kent (ARM3)

  Daniel F. Conlon (ARM3)       Henry J. LeCasse Jr. (AMM1)

  Donald H. Cranston (AOM2)     Carl R. McCaffery (AMM3)

  Alexander B. Cukierski (AOM2) Mike Matovich (Y3)

  Alfred J. DeSilva (AOM2)      Edward P. McCann (AMM2)

  Lawrence A. Dolph (ARM2)      Harvey W. McEachern (ARM2)

  Wyler W. Dudley (ARM2)        Donald R. McKinght (AOM3)

  James C. Edinger (ARM2)       Orin P. McNab (ARM2)

  Norbert A. Fives (ARM1)       Otto E. Mercer (ARM2)

  Melvin L. Olson (ARM2)          Fallard C. Thompson (AMM2)

  Alfred Pagnotta (AMM2)          Michael Timko (AMM2)

  Stanislaus Para (ARM1)          Joseph A. Vaughan (AMM2)

  Kenneth I. Rinehart (ART1)      Phillip S. Vincelett (AMM1)

  Edward J. Ritchie (ARM1)        Fred R. Wheeler (ACMM)

  Melvin L. Sampson (AMM2)        Albert G. Wilson (ARM3)

  Herbert H. Stovall Jr. (ACOM)   Roderick J. Dixon (PhoM2)


Based on code developed by Richards Consulting Group