Lucky’s Life

I just had to buy the book Lucky’s Life when I read what was written on the back cover.

Source Amazon…

Back cover

The story of my uncle, William Rudolf Larson- nicknamed “Lucky” by his fellow pilots, is the account and authentic voice of a WWII TBF pilot told in his own words from more than 60 family letters and postcards to his proud parents and his kid-brother – my father. Lucky served on the USS Nashville before WWII, participated on the Doolittle Raid as a SOC pilot, and then trained in the new Avenger plane before shipping out to the Solomon Islands and bombing Japanese positions during the Bougainville Campaign of 1943. Several of his aviation exploits were chronicled in the Chicago Daily News, the Oakland Tribune, the Divide County Journal, and the Williston Herald. Lucky’s letters to his home were saved in a pinewood Naval trunk for 70 years within the family. Upon researching his life, the War Diary of his radioman was discovered and filled in the rich WWII history of Lucky and his fellow VC 38 squadron. Recent declassified mission reports of VC 38’s heroic actions during the Bougainville Campaign also provide an insight into Lucky’s war experience and air battles. Sadly, Lucky never returned to the family farm in rural Divide County, North Dakota. Lucky was posthumously awarded the Air Medal. This book includes condolence letters from family members and VC 38 pilots, along with their individual stories and photographs. 43 TBF mission reports and over 150 unpublished WWII-era photographs and maps are included.

Some of the reviews on Amazon…

Don has created an incredible tribute to his uncle and the largely unsung heroes of US Navy Composite Squadron 38 (VC-38) who served so courageosly in the South Pacific in World War 2. This book will forever hold a special place in my life and helps complete the legacy of not only Don’s uncle, William, but also of my father, Richard “Wag” Wagner, Lucky’s radioman, whose life ended before I could ask so many of the questions Don has answered in this incredible book. Lucky made the ultimate sacrifice to protect this great country, as did many others whoso stories Don’s book also memorializes, thanks Don for bringing their stories to life and preserving them for all time. I’m proud to have been associated with this great story, even in a small way, and simply cannot express my gratitude to Don for creating this great work.
Wonderful real-life accounting of the life of a WWII fighter pilot. The book contains history of a young man growing up on the plains, going into the service, and letters and pictures sent home of the day-to-day happenings during WWI. It contains a love story, and many personal accounts from Lt. William R. Larson that paints of picture of his amazing life. Such a wonderful read!
This is a heart warming story written by a nephew about an uncle that he never knew. He found an old trunk in his Grandmother’s house containing all the letters he had written home and many other things. The author did a great deal of research and the book contains a lot of information on WWII but the story of his uncles life is wonderful and sad, like so many of the men who lose their life in wars. It would make a great movie!
William R. “Lucky” Larson’s nephew, Donald J. Larson, who never met his uncle, has written one of the most personal, engaging and heartwarming stories you will ever read regarding any part of WWII. Through an impressive collection of Lucky’s letters, notes and flight logs along with letters from shipmates, friends and family, a great and unique story has been written. William Larson was a US Navy pilot that flew off both crusiers and carriers, who fought from Alaska to the South Pacific and earned his “Lucky” nickname multiple times. A strong, humble, midwestern kid, he was a deep thinker, an educated and kind man and one who was loved by officers and enlisted men alike. Other than a strict autobiography (Helmet For My Pillow by Robert Leckie comes to mind), there is no WWII story that can detail the life of a WWII serviceman to the extent this book does. That is partially due to the tremendous number of letters saved coupled with a museum worthy collection of documents and photos, both personal and official. By the end of this book you not only feel like that Lucky was your best friend, you feel like you grew up with the entire family.
This is an outstanding and engaging work, worthy of a permanent place on any reader’s bookshelf. Highly Recommended.
Steven Bustin, Author, “Humble Heroes, How The USS Nashville CL43 Fought WWII.
I loved this book!!!! It is a raw, intimate account of an intelligent, mature, handsome young man who unselfishly served his country in WWII. What makes this book unique is that it is portrayed in Lucky’s own words through his personal letters to various family members, friends, and fellow servicemen. Through his correspondence, it is easy to visualize “Lucky” and the optimistic, yet careful soldier he was. It is obvious he knew he was living in dangerous situations and in dangerous times, but his letters home minimized those fears by discussing girls he met on leave, places he visited, and people he had met. By the end of the book, the reader feels as though he knows Lucky, his parents, his brother, his friends, and the rugged area of North Dakota in which he called home. Although the reader knows from the beginning the fate of “Lucky”, one finds him/herself hoping that the ending is not really going to happen. The book will make you laugh, smile, and cry. The author, Lucky’s nephew, who never met his uncle does an excellent job of adding details and background information to enhance Lucky’s story. This book is a great read for anyone who wants to follow the goodness of humanity.
Isn’t that what this blog is all about?
Charles Eichenberger was my step brother and I would greatly appreciate hearing from anyone that knew him or knew about him.
You can contact me if you want to share information on any of the 39 pilots.

Operation Watchtower: The Guadalcanal Campaign

Intermission – About Guadalcanal

The Unwritten Record

Co-Authored by Kelsey Noel and Corbin Apkin.

This August marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Watchtower, otherwise known as the Guadalcanal Campaign. Operation Watchtower was a series of engagements between the Allied forces (comprised heavily of U.S. Marines) and the Japanese military. The campaign began on August 7th, 1942 with the first amphibious landings by U.S. Marines on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida islands. By August 8th, the Japanese airfield at Lunga Point was secured.

Other nearby islands including Gavutu and Tanambogo were taken by Allied forces in quick succession over the next several days, but the campaign was not soon over. The Allies and the Japanese continued to engage throughout the region through air strikes and amphibious operations for six months, making Guadalcanal one of the first extended campaigns in the Pacific. Finally, on February 9th, 1943, following a four night long Japanese…

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David Hansen’s Corsair, a fitting tribute to VF(N) 101

A Corsair for Bob

Collection David Hansen


Model by David Hansen


Colorised version done by Pierre Lagacé


Bob Brunson in 1946 (Collection Bob Brunson via Tom Harmer)







































More on David Hansen



Remembering Charles Arthur Tabberer (1915-1942)

 This is a draft post I had written 5 months ago using what I had found on the Internet.

1942 VF (5) Squadron Saratoga 3-22 Tabberer

Charles Arthur Tabberer-born on 18 December 1915 in Kansas City, Kansas -enlisted in the Naval Reserve on 12 October 1939 and was appointed an aviation cadet on 11 January 1940. Following flight training in Florida at Pensacola and Miami, Cadet Tabberer was designated a naval aviator on 1 November. He was commissioned an ensign in the Naval Reserve on 12 December. After further training at San Diego, California, he was ordered to report to Fighting Squadron 5 (VF-6) which was then assigned to Yorktown (CV-6).
Ens. Tabberer served with VF-6 throughout his short naval career. Promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) on 29 May 1942, his squadron was assigned to Saratoga (CV-3) for the invasion of Guadalcanal in the southern Solomon Islands. Lt. (jg.) Tabberer was one of the 11 “Wildcat” (F4F) pilots lost when elements of the Japanese 26th Air Flotilla opposed the Guadalcanal invasion force on 7 August. Through the efforts of Tabberer and his comrades, the Japanese aerial forces were beaten back. For his sacrifice, Lt. (jg.) Tabberer was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, posthumously.

A ship was named after him.
(DE-418: dp. 1,350, l. 306’0″, b. 37’7″, dr. 13’4″, s. 24.3 k. (tl.); cpl. 222; a. 2 6″, 10 40mm., 3 21″ tt.; cl. John C. Butler)

Tabberer (DE-418) was laid down at Houston, Tex., on 12 January 1944 by the Brown Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 18 February 1944, sponsored by Mrs. Mary M. Tabberer, and commissioned on 23 May 1944, Lt. Comdr. Henry Lee Plage, USNR, in command.
On 27 June, Tabberer headed toward Bermuda for shakedown training. At the end of a fortnight’s postshakedown availability at the Boston Navy Yard, she got underway on 16 August to escort Severn (AO-61) to the Hawaiian Islands. The two ships transited the Panama Canal late that month and reached Pearl Harbor on 7 September. For over a month, the destroyer escort conducted underway training in the waters surrounding the islands. Her exercises included antisubmarine warfare drills and gunfire p ractice. She also screened carriers Coral Sea (CVE-67), Ranger (CV-4), and Saratoga (CV-3) during night flying qualifications and amphibious support training.

On 16 October, Tabberer sortied from Pearl Harbor with Task Group (TG) 12.7, a hunter/killer group built around Anzio (CVE-67), formerly Coral Sea (CVE67). Upon arrival at Eniwetok on the 23d, the ships joined Admiral Halsey’s 3d Fleet and, on 27 October, stood out of Eniwetok as TG 30.7. After stopping at Ulithi during the first three days of November, the task group headed for the 3d Fleet fueling group’s operating area to conduct antisubmarine sweeps. On 18 November, TG 30.7 registered its first kill when Tabberer’s sister-ship Lawrence C. Tavlor (DE-416) sent I-41 to the bottom after a coordinated depth charge attack with Melvin R. Nawman (DE-416). Following a replenishment period at Ulithi, Tabberer sortied with TG 30.7 on 9 December to resume antisubmarine sweeps of the Philippine Sea during Task Force 38’s Luzon strikes in support of the Mindoro landings.

On 17 December, as Tabberer was steaming in company with the 3d Fleet fueling group to the east of the Philippine Islands, rising wind and a choppy sea forced her to break off preparations to take on fuel. The barometer dropped precipitously as the weather grew worse. By evening, the little warship was fighting a full typhoon. During the night, Tabberer lost steerageway and could not fight her way out of the deep troughs. She frequently took rolls up to 60 degrees and, on several occasions, approached an angle of 72 degrees from the vertical.

The high winds and seas continued to batter her on the 18th. By 1830, her mast and radio antennae were gone. At 2130, a signalman trying to rig an emergency antenna sounded the “man overboard” alarm. Tabberer rushed to the rescue. Once on board, the sailor reported that he was from Hull (DD-360) and that his ship had gone down about noon that day. Thus, she was the first ship of the 3d Fleet to learn of the tragedy of 18 December 1944. Though unable to call for help, she immediately embarked upon a search for other survivors. Her rescue efforts continued through the night, all day on the 19th, and into the 20th. In all, she saved 55 officers and men both from Hull and Spence (DD512). Later, Tabberer was relieved by other units of the fleet, and they rescued an additional 36 men, a few of whom belonged to the crew of the typhoon’s third victim Monaghan (DD-354). Outstanding rescue efforts during the storm won several members of Tabberer’s crew Navy and Marin e Corps medals, Lt. Comdr. Plage, the Legion of Merit, and the ship, the Navy Unit Commendation.

On 21 December, the destroyer escort reentered Ulithi lagoon before heading back to Hawaii. She stopped at Eniwetok early in January 1945 and reached Oahu soon thereafter. Following a short availability, she stood out of Pearl Harbor on 29 January. She steamed via Eniwetok and Saipan to screen TF 38 during the air strikes in support of the marines who stormed ashore at Iwo Jima on 19 February. Tabberer remained in the Voleano Islands through the first week of Mareh, screening the carriers from enemy submarines and aircraft. Though the task force was subjected to several air attacks and carriers suffered kamikaze and bomb hits, Tabberer sustained no damage. On 7 March, she headed for the Philippines and entered San Pedro Bay Leyte, on the 12th.

From late March to early May, the destroyer escort cruised with various task groups of TF 38 during the invasion of Okinawa. Once again, she protected the American earriers from Japanese submarines and aircraft while their planes struck enemy positions. Although she operated continuously for 52 days and sighted many unidentified planes, the ship never came under attack. Frequently, she rejoined the Anzio hunter/killer group for night antisubmarine sweeps.

Tabberer put into Apra Harbor, Guam, on 11 May to replenish and make repairs. On the 23d, she departed again and rejoined Anzio for further antisubmarine operations on the sea lanes between Okinawa and the Marianas. On 31 May, Anzio planes scored a kill, and Tabberer assisted Oliver Mitchell (DE-417) in recovering evidence of their sueeess. Following a visit, lasting just over a fortnight, to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, she resumed antisubmarine sweeps with the Anzio task group. For the remainder of the war, she hunted Japanese submarines and protected the logistics group during the 3d Fleet’s final air assault on the Japanese home islands. During the final month of the war, she destroyed mines and rescued four d owned Anzio airerewmen.

After the cessation of hostilities on 15 August 1945, Tabberer remained in the Far East to support the occupation forces. She escorted ships between Okinawa; Jinsen, Korea, and Tientsin and Taku, China. She also destroyed mines in the Yellow Sea. On 22 December, the little warship departed Tsingtao, China, to return to the United States. Along the way, she made stops at Okinawa, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor before entering San Francisco on 15 January 1946. In April, she shifted to San Diego where she was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 24 April 1946.

Tabberer was recommissioned at San Diego on 7 April 1951, Lt. Comdr. Willard J. McNulty in command. In June, she changed home ports from San Diego to Newport, R.I., and in August reported for duty with the Atlantie Fleet. For the next nine years, she operated along the Atlantic seaboard from Key West, Florida, to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Frequently, she operated in the Caribbean area, often near Guantanamo Bay and Vieques Island. Tabberer participated in a variety of exercises and, on several occa sions, embarked Naval Academy and NROTC midshipmen for their summer cruises. She left the western Atlantic only once during this period-in the fall of 1957-for a two-month deployment to the Mediterranean. After that, she resumed her operations along the east coast.
On 19 April 1959, the destroyer escort put into port for the last time. At Philadelphia, she began preparations for deactivation. Tabberer was placed out of commission, in reserve, in May 1960 and was berthed at Philadelphia for the remainder of her career. On 1 August 1972, her name was struck from the Navy list and, on 3 October 1973, she was sold for scrapping to Mr. David Hahn of Key West, Florida.
Tabberer earned four battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation for service in World War II.

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Remembering Lieutenant (junior grade) John B. “Jughead” McDonald Jr.

Ensign McDonald’s nickname was Jughead according to excerpt from the book.

His name also appears here with Richard Harmer’s name…

Pages 167-168

The Japanese Fight Their Way Out

Apparently eleven Shokaku and six Zuikaku carrier bombers, three Shokaku and five Zuikaku Zeros survived the bomb runs against TF-16. However, many enemy aircraft bared the way out, including CAP F4Fs, IAP SBDs, returning search planes low on fuel, and strike planes. The first encounters in this phase of the battle took place at low altitude near TF-16. A set sequence of events cannot be given, necessitating an episodic treatment.

Fighting Five

Chick Harmer (VF-5’s XO) and wingman John McDonald of SCARLET 4 had contested the attacks of the lead pair of Shokaku carrier bombers. After chasing Seki’s wingman Imada into fierce AA, Harmer circled the black blizzard of shell bursts looking to ambush other dive bombers emerging lower down. Against one his above-rear run silenced the rear gunner, but the pilot reefed steeply in front, forcing him to roll out of the way. Seeing a large splash he thought perhaps that Aichi had succumbed. The next dive bomber turned the tables by charging hard up Harmer’s tail at 500 feet. Exhibiting excellent marksmanship, its pilot riddled the F4F’s fuselage and cockpit with sixteen to twenty 7.7-mm slugs and severely wounded Harmer in both thighs and the left ankle. More bullets bounced harmlessly off the armor plate behind his seat. Hurt and flying a battered airplane about to run out of gas, Harmer veered southeast toward the Saratoga. Meanwhile “Jughead” McDonald caught a carrier bomber that tried S-turns at 50 feet to avoid his tracers, but to no avail, as his full-deflection shot flamed the VB.



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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 with writing a blog with the idea of remembering unsung heroes.

Faces but with just a 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 him… 


Then Bob Brunson, another naval aviator on that picture, found my blog and I could add a name to 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…

Documents…, and foremost his complete 1944 diary.

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)

Before writing about VF(N)-101.

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