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.


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… 


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


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.


About Richard “Chick” Harmer

There is nothing more in Richard Harmer’s diary after July 17, 1944.

17 July 1944

The last entry is on the last pages…


Here’s to the best Skipper a Navy man could have, and I hope the pleasure of serving with him continue.

Swede Kullberg

Swede Kullberg

Here is to a human skipper a Navy could have. May your dreams & aspirations come true.

group picture of VF(N)-101 Orphanides

Chris Ophanides

To a real guy whose relationship with the officers and men of his command have made my first real duty the pleasure it has been. May I be able to help him to the best of my ability.

Here’s to Chick – a man’s man, a real guy and a beautiful pilot. I hope that I am and will be a credit to his labors and teachings, and to help him through their applications.

group picture of VF(N)-101 Von Sprecken

von Sprecken

I’m proud to be a member of a squadron who has such a wonderful skipper as Chick Harmer. I’ll do my darndest to make him proud of his squadron and maybe I’ll be able to show all my gratitude for what he has done for me and the squadron. Bob H.

group picture of VF(N)-101 Holden

Bob Holden

To the finest and most capable skipper I could ever have served with. One who is a companion, a brother, & an able adviser all in one. In all, Chick is the best damn fellow we could ever meet.
Bob Poirier

group picture of VF(N)-101 Poirier

Robert Poirier

The newcomer is happy and proud to be aboard VFN 75. May they come 1/2 mi dead ahead, Skipper.
Frank Burgess.

Preserving the Past – 17 July, 1944

17 July 1944


A quiet day that passed rather slowly. It feels good to be on the way home but I would feel better if I knew Dolly would be there to meet me. The huge stack of letters I found waiting were wonderful but they bought the news that she is still in Vienna. San Francisco will be dull without her and I will have to spend at least a week there. I can’t get over feeling low about the fellows who were left behind especially Von and Bunky. They did all but a month-and-a-half aboard with us but it did them no good. They can’t help but hold it against me for sending them back when I did.

The only check I get is out of getting our yeoman Smith back to the states. He has been out 27 months and is really homesick. This is a nice ship, nice quarters, friendly officers, and movies every night. Turning in at 2200.

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

Tomorrow July 18, 1944…

17 July 1944

Next time…


Here’s to be best…

Intermission – Jeep Carriers


While I was searching for information about USS Salamaua CVE-96, I stumbled upon this photo of CV-6.

NH 97266

Title: USS Enterprise (CV-6)

Description: Anchored off Saipan, circa mid-1944, while painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 4Ab. The photograph was taken from the flight deck of an escort carrier (CVE).

Courtesy of Don S. Montgomery, USN(Retired). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph.

Catalog #: NH 97266


Preserving the Past – 16 July, 1944


Up at 0830. Conference with Capt. Gaffin. Got Smith, Yeo1/c transferred to the home going outfit. Got aboard the “Salamaua”, a jeep carrier at 1100. All gang checked in at 1300. Underway for S.F. at 1400. Left a lot undone didn’t say goodbye to any of the ship’s officers, etc.



TBF “Avenger” makes the first takeoff from the newly commissioned escort carrier during shakedown off the U.S. Pacific Coast, 1 July 1944.


Salamaua (CVE-96)

(CVE-96: dp. 7,800; l. 512’3″; b. 65′; ew. 108’1″; dr. 22’6″; s. 19 k.; cpl. 860; a. 1 5″, 16 40mm., 20 20mm., ac. 28; cl. Casablanca; T. S4-S2-BB3)

A town in New Guinea taken by the Allies on 15 September 1943.

Anguilla Bay (ACV-96) was reclassified CVE-96 on 15 July 1943; renamed Salamaua on 6 November 1943; laid down under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1133) on 4 February 1944 by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Co., Vancouver, Wash.; launched on 22 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. W. J. Mullins; and commissioned on 26 May 1944, Capt. Joseph I. Taylor, Jr., in command.

Following shakedown off the west coast, Salamaua transported planes and cargo from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, then returned to California, whence she conducted a similar run to Finschhafen, New Guinea. On 1 September, she returned to Alameda; underwent overhaul; conducted training exercises; and, on 16 October, again sailed west from San Diego. She arrived at Ulithi on 5 November, thence continued on to the Palaus and the Philippines. From the 14th to the 23d, she furnished air cover for convoys in the Leyte Gulf area; then proceeded to the Admiralties to stage for the invasion of Luzon.

She departed Seeadler Habor on 27 December and moved north. On 6 January 1945, she arrived off the entrance to Lingayen Gulf. Her planes began blasting enemy positions ashore and providing air cover for the approaching Allied ships. On the 9th, they provided air cover for the troops landing on the assault beaches; then continued that support until the 13th.

Just before 0900 on that day, a kamikaze carrying two 250 kg. bombs crashed Salamaua’s flight deck.

Over eighty men were injured. Fifteen were killed. Damage was extensive. The flight deck, the hangar deck, and spaces below blazed with a multitude of fires. One of the bombs, failing to explode, punched through the starboard side at the waterline. Power, communications, and steering failed. One of her engine rooms flooded. The starboard engine quit. But, by 0910, her gunners had splashed two of the kamikaze’s compatriots.

Temporary repairs enabled the CVE to return to San Francisco. Arriving on 26 February, repairs were quickly completed; and, on 21 April, she moved west again. On 20 May, she arrived at Guam, whence she continued on to the Ryukyus where she joined other escort carriers on the 26th to support land operations on Okinawa. On 4 June, she joined a logistic support group; but, on the 5th, she was damaged by a typhoon. Repairs were made at Guam and, toward the end of July, she assumed antisubmarine patrol duty in the Marianas-Okinawa convoy lanes. In August, she shifted to the Leyte-Okinawa lanes, where she remained until after the mid-month Japanese surrender.

On the 25th, Salamaua returned to Leyte; replenished ; then escorted a troop convoy to Tokyo Bay. The convoy arrived on 2 September, and the CVE’s planes photographed the landing of the occupation troops at Yokohama the same day. After guarding a second convoy into Tokyo Bay, she joined the -Magic Carpet- fleet; embarked veterans for transport to the United States; and disembarked them at Alameda on 3 October.

Before the end of the year, Salamaua completed two more “Magic Carpet” runs; then, with the new year, 1946, she prepared for inactivation. She was decommissioned on 9 May 1946; struck from the Navy list on the 21st; and subsequently sold to the Zidell Ship Dismantling Co., Portland, Oreg., for scrapping on 18 November 1946.

Salamaua earned three battle stars during World War II


To learn more about that jeep carrier click on this link below:

To learn more about jeep carriers click on this link below:


The Navy’s escort carriers, called “Jeep carriers” or (by the press) “baby flat tops,” never received the headlines or glory accorded their bigger sisters. Jeeps did the routine patrol work, scouting and escorting of convoys that their larger fleet-type counterparts couldn’t do. Lightly armored, slower than the fleet carriers and with far less defensive armament and aircraft, they performed admirably when called upon.

Jeep carrier crews, who joked that “CVE” (the Navy’s designation for this type of ship) really stood for “Combustible, Vulnerable and Expendable,” became experts at hunting, finding and killing U-boats in both ocean theaters. Jeeps and their crews also provided fighter and close air support for amphibious landings, and served as aircraft transports as the tempo of the carrier war in the Pacific mounted to a crescendo.

The need for escort carriers came early in the war when German submarines and aircraft were taking a devastating toll on convoy shipping. The heaviest losses occurred far at sea where land-based aircraft couldn’t operate. The Royal Navy had experimented with catapult-launched fighter planes from merchantmen; while this was somewhat successful in combating the U-boats, the number of planes that could be embarked was limited. Something else was needed, and in a hurry. Great Britain appealed to the United States for help.

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

Tomorrow, July 17, 1944

17 July 1944

A quiet day…

Preserving the Past – 15 July, 1944


At 0950 today I was catapulted in an F6F to fly into Pearl. Kane and the A.G.-16 G.C. and fighter skipper went also. Called Dave from Com Air Pac. Saw Swede & Kirby at CASU-1 later. From COMAIRPAC learned that only those on the “E” get to go back. It was bitter news to bring to the gang at Barber’s Point. They took it swell though. Had a party in Swede & Dave room. Got kind of rough but lots of fun. I turned in about0230 but the rest played poker until 0530.


COMAIRPAC is Commander Aircraft Pacific Fleet.

CASU 1 is Carrier Aircraft Service Unit Number One.

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

Tomorrow, July 16, 1944

Up at 0830…


Preserving the Past – 14 July, 1944


Awards were presented this morning – about 150 of them. I was surprised when Bob Holden was given the Silver Star. I had recommended him for DFC as I thought that was all I could get for him but evidently Gus Widhelm went to bat and boosted it up to this medal which is just under Navy Cross. Much to my surprise I got a DFC and two air medals. Much more than my performance merits.


Silver Star


While researching the Internet there is nothing to be found about Robert Holden getting a Silver Star although being recommanded for one.


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

Tomorrow, July 15, 1944

At 0950 today I was catapulted in an F6F to fly into Pearl…

Hellcat February 1944 Truk


Colorised photo done by Doug Banks