Remembering Lieutenant William S. Robb

Robb and Barbeiri were ex-lawyers. That’s what I found in “the Book”.

I couldn’t have found a better source to pay homage to the 39 pilots posing for posterity on 15 July 1942.

It started with their names below a fuzzy image.

Robb’s name appears 15 times in the book. I don’t think he flew missions but what he did was most important especially for morale and the well-being of VF-5.



 

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VF-5 Recognition

While searching in the book for more information on Ensign Benjamin Franklin Currie…

I was quite surprised to read this from the author, especially when I was asking myself if all these posts about 39 pilots were worth writing.

FIGHTING FIVE’S VALEDICTORY

Beginning 17 October VF-5 reassembled at Efate after its eventful tour at CACTUS (11 September-16 October 1942). In a sense a phantom squadron, VF-5 contributed mightily to the defense of Guadalcanal, although it never received proper recognition of that fact. The big Navy squadron brought twenty-four F4F Wildcats and ultimately thirty-two experienced pilots to CACTUS at a time when Marine fighter strength ebbed. Credited with 45 kills (12 fighters, 21 medium bombers, 5 float-Zeros, and 7 float planes), Japanese records indicate VF-5 actually accounted for some 22 enemy planes (7 fighters, 8 land attack planes, 4 float-Zeros, and 3 float planes).

During the same period, victory credits for VMF-223, VMF-224, and VMF-121 totaled 100 planes, while enemy sources point to the real tally as about 38 (12 of 31 fighters, 15 of 47 medium bombers, 3 of 4 dive bombers, 1 of 2 reconnaissance planes, 2 of 3 float-Zeros, and 5 of 13 float planes). VF-5 lost six pilots killed or missing in action and four wounded and evacuated. Combat cost seven F4Fs, operational accidents six, and seven sustained bombs or shells on the ground).

In an analytical action report and with detailed interviews, Lieutenant Commander Simpler distilled the vital lessons from VF-5’s battle experiences on Guadalcanal. They were especially important, for VF-5 saw the must protracted combat of any carrier fighting squadron. For the first time Navy VF fought from a land base rather than a flattop, and Simpler considered that “far more intense and difficult for VF”‘ than shipboard service. He found it necessary to watch his pilots carefully to see the effects of the “stress of continued action.” The lack of adequate sleep and living conditions at Guadalcanal proved crucial: “A man’s ‘guts’ is directly proportional to how rested he is nothing more or less.” Simpler also elucidated his basic philosophy of command, which he followed to the letter at CAC’T’US:

In wartime, a squadron commander has got to be a squadron commander: he can’t be wishy-washy: he has to take responsibility freely. He’s got to assert himself always and never send anyone where he wouldn’t go himself.

He described in detail the familiar drawbacks of the Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, namely low climb rate, slow speed, and insufficient range. He added the interesting observation:

The common practice is to judge a fighter by the number of planes it destroys. This is most misleading. Any fighter’s worth is determined by the number of enemy planes who escape to return again.

Under this criterion the noble Wildcat indeed proved deficient at CACTUS.

Simpler’s action report received favorable endorsements up the chain of command from ComSoPac to CominCh in Washington. Rear Admiral Fitch (1 December 1942) described it as an “excellent presentation,” and Admiral Halsey (20 December 1942) called it “timely, well concerned and most informative.” On 17 January 1943 VAdm. John Towers, ComAirPac, noted “the effectiveness of our carrier squadrons in combat operations from advanced shore bases is gratifying.” Certainly their training and fundamental doctrine appeared sound. Yet he was concerned about the misuse of specialist pilots, noting that they operated from ashore only from “grave necessity.” He desired the carrier pilots be reserved for sea duty if at all possible. On 22 February Rear Admiral Spruance, Pacific Fleet Chief of Staff, seconded Towers’s comments and stressed the need to conserve carrier pilots. He considered the “performance at Guadalcanal of Fighting Squadron Five, under the command of lieutenant C:onunandel Simpler, … highly commendable.”

Next week…

 

Remembering Ensign Benjamin “Mole” Currie – Update

The footnote led me to Benjamin Franklin Currie.

Footnote

I was able to search for more information using the above article written in 1945. Being the son of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Currie of Raeford, North Carolina, I got more and more curious. 

This is what I was able to find.

Benjamin F. Currie was born on April 3rd, 1920 in Raeford, North Carolina. He was the son of David Scott Currie and Emma Lee Gwaltney. Benjamin died June 28, 1988.

You can click here if you want to learn more.

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Remembering Ensign Benjamin “Mole” Currie

Mole’s name is found many times in the book. 30 times  to be precise.

Ensign Currie  is part of the Guadalcanal history. He was  one of the 24 Navy pilots part of the Cactus Airforce. 

Ensign Benjamin F. Currie was evacuated to Espiritu Santo 5 October 1942.

Footnote

I have found nothing about him after. If you have more information please use this contact form.

Remembering Lieutenant (jg) James C. Smith

Very few information on the Internet about this pilot. No ship with his name.

Smith is a very common name so I had to look carefully for the right Smith in this book.

The name Smith appears 118 times.

Lieutenant (junior grade) James C. Smith’s name is under the group picture but without his first name nor his rank…

I found his full name in the book when he landed on the Saratoga. He had made the 61,000th landing.

Lieutenant (junior grade) James Smith died as he was leading SCARLET STANDBY into the battle on August 24th, 1942.

This is all we know about how he died with Ensign Horace Bass and Bill Reid on August 24th, 1942.

Bustering north from TF-11, the VF-5 standby division of Jim Smith, Ike Eichenberger, and Ens. Horace Bass joined the melee just as the Zuikaku carrier bombers entered TF-16’s AA fire. Either Zuikaku Zeros or AA accounted for Smith and Bass, as well as Bill Reid of Runyon’s RED 4.. Ship observers noticed a dogfight develop off the port bow, from which one enemy plane and one F4F fell out of control. Wrapped in flames and wings badly damaged, a second F4F plunged vertically into the water 4,000 yards off the Balch’s port beam.


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Remembrance Week – U.S.S.MISSISSIPPI, 12 May 1939

We are ending this Remembrance Week with this…

A letter dated 12 May 1939.
Full text version


U. S. S. MISSISSIPPI

IN REPLY ADDRESS
COMMANDING
OFFICER AND REFER TO FILE NO.

BATTLESHIP DIVISION THREE
U. S. BATTLE FORCE

12 MAY,1939
NEAR CALIF.

DEAR FOLKS,

IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO WRITE ALL OF YOU A LITTLE LETTER TELLING ALL ABOUT THE PRESENT RECALL OF THE FLEET TO HOME WATERS. I KNOW THAT SOME OF YOU ARE ALL WORRIED ABOUT WAR IN GENERAL. FIRST OFF LET ME TELL YOU THAT WE ARE NO NEARER WAR THAN WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN. IN FACT I THINK THAT WE ARE FARTHER FROM THE OLD FIGHT NOW THAN WE HAVE BEEN FOR THE LAST TEN YEARS. GERMANY AND THE POWERS THAT BE ARE NOT READY TO FIGHT AND WILL TAKE A LOT OF COAXING BEFORE THEY DECIDE TO TAKE THE FINAL STEP WHICH TENDS FAIR TO WRECK ALL THAT THEY HAVE BUILT UP DURING THE PAST TWENTY YEARS THAT’S THAT.

THAT TELEGRAM THAT I SENT HOME MUST HAVE BEEN QUITE A PUZZLE TO ALL HANDS. IT’S REALLY EASY TO EXPLAIN. WHEN CANCELLATION OF ALL LEAVE FOR OFFICERS AND MEN WAS ANNOUNCED OVER THE RADIO  FROM WASHINGTON I WAS NOT ABOARD THE BAND WAGON. IN FACT I WAS IN THE FAIR CITY OF BALTIMORE HAVING A LITTLE CHAT WITH OUR FRIEND LOU KRAUS, THE INSURANCE MAN WITH WHOM ALL OF YOU HAD SO MUCH FUN. KNOWING THAT THE SHIP WOULD SEND TELEGRAMS TO ALL THOSE OFF THE SHIP AND KNOWING THAT THOSE ON THE SHIP DIDN’T KNOW WHERE WAS THE LOGICAL THING TO FIGURE WAS THAT THEY WOULD SEND WORD HOME FOR ME. THEN FOR SURE NONE OF YOU WOULD HAVE KNOWN WHAT IT WAS ALL ABOUT. TO MAKE THINGS CLEAR I THOUGHT THAT I WOULD SEND A TELEGRAM. FUNNY BUT IT MADE THINGS WORSE THAN EVER. ANYWAY IT WAS A GOOD IDEA FOR THE SHIP HAD INTENDED TO WIRE ME BUT MY BOSS KNEW THAT I WASN’T HOME SO HE JUST HELD UP THE TELEGRAM LIKE A GOOD BOSS SHOULD. THAT’S THAT.

IT IS NOW ONE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING AND WE ARE RAPIDLY APPROACHING THE FAIR CITY OF LONG BEACH. FAINT LIGHT ON THE FAR HORIZON INDICATE THAT WE ARE VERY NEAR THE SHORE. YOU MAY BE SURE THAT EVERYONE IS LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING OFF THIS IRON TUB AND WRAPPING HIMSELF AROUND A BIG COLD DRINK OR SOMETHING ELSE. SINCE WE LEFT THE CITY OF NORFOLK – NO REAL LAND HAS BEEN UNDER FOOT AND LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING. WHEN ONE GETS AWAY FROM AMERICA AND AMERICAN CUSTOMS OR A SPELL IT IS ONLY THEN THAT HE REALLY APPRECIATES THE TRUE VALUE OF THE GOOD OLD UNITED STATES. DURING THE LAST FIVE MONTHS I HAVE VISITED  ENOUGH HOLES TO DO ME THE REST OF MY LIFE. THE EXPERIENCE WAS UNDOUBTEDLY A GOOD THING BUT AS A WHOLE THE ENTIRE TRIP WAS JUST ANOTHER VERY HOT CRUISE IN A VERY UNPLEASNT COUNTRY WITH NOTHING TO DO BUT SWEAT TO YOUR HEARTS CONTENT .

I SUPPOSE THAT I WILL SEE GEORGE SOMETIME THIS WEEK AS WE ARE SUPPOSED TO REMAIN ANCHORED IN THE CITY OF LONG BEACH FOR A FEW WEEKS. AFTER THAT NO ONE KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT WE WILL DO EXCEPT THAT WE WILL VISIT THE FAIR AT SAN FRANCISCO FOR A FEW DAYS. I DO KNOW THAT WE ARE SCHEDULED TO REPORT TO DRYDOCK AT BREMINGTON SOMETIME DURING THE WINTER MONTHS. HOWEVER, I EXPECT THAT WE WILL SPEND VERY LITTLE TIME IN THE VICINITY OF LONG BEACH.

HOPING THAT ALL ARE WELL AND ENJOYING THE FINE SPRING AIR UNTIL NEXT TIME I AM WITH LOVE, YOUR SON, MARION.

Marion

 

P.S.

Mother’s Day Sunday is set aside to recall to some that they have a mother. To us it’s constantly remember home and mother and father. It is a good occasion anyway.

 

1938


FIRST OFF LET ME TELL YOU THAT WE ARE NO NEARER WAR THAN WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN. IN FACT I THINK THAT WE ARE FARTHER FROM THE OLD FIGHT NOW THAN WE HAVE BEEN FOR THE LAST TEN YEARS. GERMANY AND THE POWERS THAT BE ARE NOT READY TO FIGHT AND WILL TAKE A LOT OF COAXING BEFORE THEY DECIDE TO TAKE THE FINAL STEP WHICH TENDS FAIR TO WRECK ALL THAT THEY HAVE BUILT UP DURING THE PAST TWENTY YEARS THAT’S THAT.

U.S.S. Mississippi late 1930s

U.S.S. Lexington 1942

U.S.S. Dufilho

U.S.S. Dufilho

U.S.S. Dufilho

Remembrance Week – What really happened…

I found different versions of what happened when Butch O’Hare shot down several Mitsubishi G4M1 ‘Betty’ bombers.

 

In the meantime Lexington had taken part in several other operations, with ‘Fighting Three’ as its fighter squadron. During an attempted raid against Rabaul the ship had been detected by the Japanese. Lt Edward  ‘Butch’ O’Hare and his wingman Lt(jg) Marion W Dufilho intercepted a group of seven Mitsubishi G4M1 ‘Betty’ bombers and shot all of them down before they could attack the task force. O’Hare was credited with destroying five aircraft to become the US Navy’s first ace of-the Pacific War, his outstanding success resulting in him receiving the Medal of Honor.


The streams of tracer fire crisscrossing the sky so impressed Thach that he later described it as “the red rain of battle.” Gunners in the Japanese formation fired hundreds of rounds at O’Hare, but incredibly only one bullet struck his Wildcat, disabling the airspeed indicator. Meanwhile, Dufilho gamely made several feints at the formation, drawing some of the heat away from O’Hare.


Marion W. Dufilho (May 22, 1916-August 24, 1942) was Butch O’Hare’s wingman on the day in February 1942 when O’Hare attained lasting glory defending Lexington on his Medal of Honor flight. Dufilho, who graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1938, was killed in action on August 24, 1942, when he was shot down during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. He was awarded a posthumous Navy Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Purple Heart. The destroyer escort USS Dufilho, DE-423, was commissioned in his honor in 1944.


 

 

The annihilation of that first wave of bombers was gratifying, though when a second wave of eight Bettys arrived, only five recently launched Wildcats had enough fuel left to make an attack. One of them was piloted by Lieutenant Edward “Butch” O’Hare and another by his wingman, Lieutenant Junior Grade Marion Dufilho. The other three were widely separated. Dufilho’s guns jammed almost at once so that O’Hare faced the challenge of fending off eight medium bombers virtually alone. The Bettys may have lacked armor, but they bristled with armament. Each plane had a machine gun in the nose, another in a blister on the top of the fuselage, two more in blisters on the sides, plus a 20 mm cannon in the tail. It took remarkable courage for one pilot to assail a formation of such planes; O’Hare had to know that as many as two dozen gunners would be aiming at him. However, unlike the Japanese, who were flying in formation, O’Hare had freedom to maneuver, and he began to pick off the Japanese bombers one by one. With only thirty to forty seconds’ worth of ammunition, he attacked the starboard plane first and then worked his way through the formation. “When one would start burning, I’d haul out and wait for it to get out of the way,” he said later. “Then I’d go in and get another one He shot down three bombers and badly crippled two more, continuing his attack until he had


The first inkling of more danger for TF-11 occurred at 1649 during Nakagawa’s dramatic suicide attempt against the Lexington. Her radar detected bogeys thirty miles north-northeast, but things were still too chaotic aloft for Gill to wring out some F4Fs to check out this possible new threat. Seven minutes later the Patterson, busy rescuing Howard Johnson, noticed a formation of aircraft circling about ten miles north-east of the ships and flashed a warning to the flagship. Gill confirmed the observation at 1700, when his radar placed bogeys nine miles east. He loosed Butch’s section against this new enemy and tried recalling Thach and Gayler to protect the force.

Rather surprised to discover themselves the only available fighters, Butch and Dufilho raced eastward. Seeing the enemy bombers wheel around to the south, Butch cut inside their turn to get between them and the ships. Following standard procedure, he and Duff charged their guns, turned on the light bulbs in the temperamental N2AN illuminated gun sights, and triggered brief test bursts. Butch’s four .50-caliber M2 Brownings worked fine, but to Duff’s consternation, none of his would shoot. Butch gestured his wingman hack to the ship, but Dufilho would not leave even after Butch “shook his fist at him.”

By 1706 Butch and Dufilho had caught up with Ito less than a dozen miles astern of the task force. Reaching twelve thousand feet, they enjoyed an altitude advantage of a thousand feet or so over the descend


Rear Admiral Aubrey Fitch assumed command of TF 11 on 1 April, his force consisting of Lexington, the heavy cruisers USS Minneapolis (CA-36) and USS New Orleans (CA-32) and seven destroyers. The newly returned ‘Fighting Two’ was ordered back aboard CV-2 on 15 April.

Since VF-2 lacked pilots with combat experience, the squadron was ‘fleshed out’ with combat veterans from ‘Fighting Three’. They were transferred in on 12 April when unit strength was increased from 18 to 27 Wildcats. Lt. Albert O Vorse became the second division leader, with Ens Edward L Sellstrom as his wingman, and Lt(jg) Robert J Morgan as element lead and Ens John H Lacket as his wingman. Lt(jg) Marion W Dufilho, who had been O’Hare’s wingman in the epic fight against the bombers off Rabaul, where he had shot down two Bettys’ himself, took over the third division, with Ens Newton H Mason as his wingman. Lt Noel A M Gayler, who had scored three victories with ‘Fighting Three’, became the fourth division leader, with Lt(jg) Howard F Clark as element lead and Ens Richard H Rowell as wingman. Finally, Ens Willard E ‘Bill’ Eder and Leon W Haynes joined the fifth division. The task force sailed from Pearl Harbor on 15 April.


Dufilho gamely made several feints at the formation, drawing some of the heat away from O’Hare.


Navy Cross citation for Marion William Dufilho

Lieutenant Marion William Dufilho Navy

For service as set forth in the following:

CITATION:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Marion William Dufilho (NSN: 0-81070), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Fighter Plane and as Section Leader of the Fifth Division, Fighting Squadron FIVE (VF-5), attached to the U.S.S. SARATOGA (CV-3), in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands, on 7 August 1942. Upon sighting a hostile force of eleven dive bombers intent upon raiding our transports and other surface vessels, Lieutenant Dufilho, often pursuing his target through bursting shells of his own anti-aircraft fire, personally shot down two of the planes and damaged a third.

By his cool courage and superb airmanship, he contributed materially to the success of our forces in a vigorous attack which destroyed a totalof nine Japanese bombers and effectively disrupted the enemy’s plans. The conduct of Lieutenant Dufilho throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.