Remembering VF(N)-101

How can VF(N)-101 best be remembered?

I created this blog back in 2015 when Flight Lieutenant John Kelly’s son sent me this picture of his father on a group picture.

vfn-101

Collection John Kelly (courtesy Gunnar Kelly)

This is how I got started writing a blog with the idea of remembering unsung heroes.

There were 8 faces but only one name. 

Richard Emerson  Harmer was also smiling, as well as other night fighter naval aviators from VF(N)-101 aboard the Enterprise, but I did not know who he was… 

vfn-101-richard-emerson-harmer

Then Bob Brunson, another naval aviator on that picture, found my blog and I could add his name on another smiling face.

robert-brunson

Bob Brunson who knew Richard Harmer’s son gave me his email to contact him. What evolved from this contact was more than 3 gigabytes of files about his father Richard Harmer.

Photos like this one…

Lots of documents, and foremost his complete 1944 diary.

The start of the transcription is here.

 

I just had to turn back time, and start writing on each of the 39 naval aviators seen on the deck of USS Saratoga 15 July 1942…

VF-5 July, 1942

Top row (left to right): Price, Reiplinger, Altemus, Gunsolus, Eichenberger, Innis, Gray, Kleinmann, Morgan, Roach, Dufilho, Smith

Center row: Currie, Robb, Wesolowski. Starkes, Davy, Holt, Daly, Presley, McDonald, Tabberer, Barbieri, Haynes, Bass, Blair, Bright

Bottom row: Kleinman, Stover, Crews, Brown, Southerland, Harmer, Simpler, Richardson, Green, Jensen, Clarke, Stepanek. (photo from the collection of Capt. H. W. Crews)

I just had to turn back time before writing about VF(N)-101.


To contact me you can write a comment or use this contact form.

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Preserving the Past – 22 April, 1944

21-22-23 April 1944

 

April
22
Saturday

D-Day. The troops went ashore without opposition. The fight won’t start evidently until our boys get close to the airfields. Nothing of interest out here. Had standbye tonight. Was notified that we will get launched (two of us) tomorrow morning to fly a dawn patrol over the transports. Von and I are going. Put a call in for 0345 and turned in, in ready room, at 2200.


 

Von Sprecken

group picture of VF(N)-101 Von Sprecken


Feel free to add comments or to suggest corrections on errors that I made transcribing.

Tomorrow, April 23, 1944…

21-22-23 April 1944

Up at 0430 just in time to man the planes…

Preserving the Past – 21 April, 1944

21-22-23 April 1944

 

April
21
Friday

The D-1 strikes have gone off as scheduled. Not a life lost and only two planes forced down. Woody Hampton got hit by AA and had to land in the drink in Tanahmerah Bay. I got the job of escorting a couple of SOCs in to pick him up. Von Sprecken came with me. I practically had to lead those SOCs in which was tough to do in an F4U. Their max speed is about 110 and that’s as slow as I like to get. However we made it without trouble and found Woody in his rubber boat rowing like mad and tossing dye marker over the side. The SOC went down for a nice landing and picked him up. The pilot had to climb out on the wing to help him aboard. After the rescue I took a look along the shoreline and couldn’t see a sign of enemy defenses – just a little native village. Searched up the coast for possible survivors as far as Humboldt Bay and then back to the ship. Found a little jap tanker at Humboldt which had been hit and was burning. I straffed it once and then came on home. Good landing aboard. Quiet evening and to bed at 2100.


 

Von Sprecken

group picture of VF(N)-101 Von Sprecken

SOC planes are SOC Seagulls.

SOC_is_lowered_onto_the_port_catapult_of_USS_Minneapolis_Wake_raid_5oct43

Tanahmerah Bay

USA-P-Approach-p46

Douglas_SBD-5_Dauntless_covering_landings_at_Tanahmerah_Bay_(Hollandia)_on_22_April_1944


Information on Operation Reckless:

http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/H/o/Hollandia.htm

Excerpt

Operation RECKLESS

In early 1944 the Allies decided to bypass Wewak, and it was determined that Hollandia was the best site short of Geelvink Bay for developing a major base. However, this would be the longest leap along the coast yet attempted by 7 Fleet. Pacific Fleet carrier support could be provided only for the first few days of the landings, and the nearest Allied airfield was at Nadzab, 500 miles (800 km) away. MacArthur therefore ordered a simultaneous landing at lightly-held Aitape, on the coast 125 miles (200 km) east of Hollandia, to capture the Tadji airstrip and establish a blocking position for any movement westward by the encircled Japanese army at Wewak (Operation PERSECUTION). The landings were scheduled for 22 April 1944.

The Japanese meant to make western New Guinea an important link in their inner defense perimeter, and in December 1943 2 Army (Teshima) at Manokwari was assigned a new infantry division and 7 Air Division. In March 1944 two more divisions were ordered to 2 Army from China. Adachi’s battered 18 Army in eastern New Guinea was put under Teshima’s command at this time, and Teshima ordered Adachi to move west. Adachi ignored the order because he was convinced the Americans meant to land at Hansa Bay. The Americans carried out heavy bombing raids, ship bombardments, and patrols against Wewak in order to reinforce this impression. However, on 12 April Anami, who was senior over both Teshima and Adachi, sent his chief of staff to Wewak to build a fire under the recalcitrant general. As a result, two regiments of 18 Army were already headed west by 22 April.

Preparations for the landings at Hollandia began on 30 March – 2 April 1944 with a deep carrier raid against Palau, where Combined Fleet posed a threat to any move against Hollandia. This was successful at forcing Combined Fleet to retreat to bases further west. At the same time, 5 Air Force struck Hollandia with over 80 B-24 Liberators escorted by P-38 Lightnings modified for greater range. By mid-April Hollandia was finished as an air base complex, and over 340 wrecked Japanese aircraft were later found on the runways, with an estimated additional 50 aircraft shot down over dense jungle. As a result of this debacle, the commander of 6 Air Division, Itahana, was relieved in disgrace.


More information and photos:

http://www.3rdattackgroup.org/hollandia.php

Excerpt

Hollandia-Aitape Invasion

Hollandia was the principal Japanese rear supply base in New Guinea. A sheltered but undeveloped harbor located on Humboldt Bay, it provided the only protected anchorage of any size between Wewak and Geelvink Bay. The airfield area, shielded from the sea by the high Cyclops mountain range, was near Lake Sentani, about twelve miles from Humboldt Bay and midway to Tanahmerah Bay to the west. The bulk of the enemy’s remaining New Guinea air strength was based on three large airdromes in this area. Hollandia also served the Japanese as a important trans-shipment point for the unloading and transfer of personnel and cargo from large transports to smaller coastal vessels. A considerable backlog of supplies was observed on the beaches and in the vicinity of the airfields. Intelligence estimated the number of Japanese troops in the Hollandia-Aitape area at the end of March to be 15,000; at Wewak-Hansa Bay, 30,000; at Wakde-Sarmi, 5,500; and in the Manokwari-Geelvink Bay area, 11,000. A large Allied task force was gathered in expectation of a difficult campaign. The closest teamwork of all participating components would be required to accomplish the largest operation and the longest amphibious move yet attempted in the Southwest Pacific Area. The projected operation involved a distance of 985 miles from Goodenough Island, the principal staging area, and over 480 miles from Cape Cretin, south of Finschhafen, the advance staging point.


Feel free to add comments or to suggest corrections on errors that I made transcribing.

Tomorrow, April 22, 1944…

21-22-23 April 1944

D-Day….

Preserving the Past – 20 April, 1944

19-20 April 1944

 

April
20
Thursday

The day before D-1 at Hollandia. No intruder mission for us. We get a little job of escorting VOS planes* into the beach to pick up pilots who are forced down. That is something. Not much prospect of night action. The japs haven’t got anything to hit us with. Looks like another dull operation for us. Had standbye tonight but only got a good nights sleep out of it.


 

VOS planes are Vought OS2U Kingfishers.

Vought OS2 Kingfisher

https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/vought-os2u-3-kingfisher

Feel free to add comments or to suggest corrections on errors that I made transcribing.

Tomorrow, April 21, 1944…

21-22-23 April 1944

The D-1 strikes have gone off as scheduled…

Preserving the Past – 18 April, 1944

 

17-18 April 1944

April
18
Tuesday

Up before G.Q. Just got to ready room as first CAP was getting ready to man planes. Word came down to send off 2 VFN on CAP. Got Von Sprecken and hurried into flight clothes. Got off O.K. but in testing radio accidentally broke radio silence – the unforgivable sin. The radioman had neglected to wire the switch in the “off” position. Spent all day writing up a letter of explanation to the admiral. No matter what the circumstances are I am at fault of course. I am glad I did it instead of one of the kids. No evident harm done by it yet but of course we can’t tell yet. It doesn’t help our reputation any.

Von Sprecken

group picture of VF(N)-101 Von Sprecken

 

Feel free to add comments or to suggest corrections on errors that I made transcribing.

Tomorrow, April 19, 1944…

19-20 April 1944

Just routine…

Preserving the Past – 17 April, 1944

 

17-18 April 1944

April
17
Monday

Not much of interest today. Sat in a conference held by the C.O. concerning coming strike. Got some sun this noon and a workout this afternoon. Played a game of deck tennis with Bill Martin. Beat him badly but he invited me over to his room for a battle of beer. My first unauthorised drink at sea. Conference tonight in ready room and to bed at 2200.


 

Feel free to add comments or to suggest corrections on errors that I made transcribing.

Tomorrow, April 18, 1944…

17-18 April 1944

Up before G.Q….

Preserving the Past – 16 April, 1944

 

14-15-16 April 1944

April
16
Sunday

Went to church today. Two F4Us went up, Poirier in one at 0930 and Holden in the other at 1130. Got some sun and exercise this afternoon and had standbye duty tonight.


Poirier

group picture of VF(N)-101 Poirier

Holden

group picture of VF(N)-101 Holden

Feel free to add comments or to suggest corrections on errors that I made transcribing.

Tomorrow, April 17, 1944…

17-18 April 1944

Not much of interest today…