Air Rescue Squadron
In June 1945 VP-114 became an air-sea rescue squadron. We carried life rafts instead of depth charges. I got to help rescue some Norwegian sailors whose ship had sunk. A big storm had occurred about 100 miles north of Terceira where it sank. We flew up north and found the sailors and dropped our life rafts for them, then we circled 2 hours and send MOs (a series of dashes) so a destroyer could home-in on the sailors. A destroyer did arrive and rescue the sailors.
One morning as I walked into mess hall for breakfast I saw a friendly face, we both said good morning. After I got inside I started thinking, where I had seen that face before? Then it came to me, it was Charles Lindbergh. I saw him later that day watching the tennis players. He stayed until the next day when he got on a plane going to the US. I think Lindbergh had been in Germany studying airplanes used during the war.
During the summer I got to visit bases in French Morocco. VP-114 had a contingent at Port Lyautey. The Navy still had an officers club at the airport. The waiters at the club were left over Italian prisoners of war. They were a happy group. They didn’t seem to want to go back to Italy.
While at Port Lyautey we took a trip inland by command car to Fez. We stayed at a hotel which had been a sultan’s palace. At Fez, Port Lyautey and Rabat the natives were not seen much, and seemed to roam around at night. We flew down to Casa Blanca to do some shopping. I had a Parker 51 pen which alot of people wanted then. I was surprised that alot of teenagers had a big wad of cash and wanted to buy my pen. I finally traded it for a pretty red rug. Our next trip was to Gibraltar. We didn’t get to tour the rock, but we did get to visit a small Spanish town at the base.
Hurricane Hunting in the Caribbean
In May I lost my crew and became part of the squadron commander’s crews. The squadron commander’s name was G.W. Smith. We got along fine and took several trips together. The squadron had gotten another assignment, hurricane hunting in the Caribbean. One crew was assigned to Miami to look for and track hurricanes. On June 2, 1945 in the evening we took off from Terceira for Bermuda. It was a long trip through thunderstorms. Sometimes with the throttles at idle we would be climbing 1000 feet per minute, and shortly after, with three throttles at full power, would be descending at 1000 feet per minute. We got a little lost because in that kind of weather it was hard to navigate. Bermuda is a small island, about 3 miles wide and 17 miles long. We didn’t pick it up on our radar. We called them on the radio, they said turn on your IFF, we did and they gave us a heading to the island. After the 16 hour flight we landed at Bermuda, had breakfast and took off for Miami. It took eight hours to get to Miami. We spend the night at Miami and went to Key West. I think we spent a day or two at Key West and took off for Guantanamo Bay Cuba. I am not sure why we went to GTMO, but I remember the landing.
It was a short runway, about 6000 feet I think. It was on a plateau with a cliff at both ends. I landed a little long but got stopped ok. I think the skipper didn’t think we would get stopped in time. I remember him saying, “STOP YOU SON OF A BITCH”. He was talking to the plane, not me. We did not stay overnight at GTMO but took off and flew to San Juan Puerto Rico where we did stay all night. The next day we flew back to Key West. That took nine hours. We stayed two days at Key West then flew to Norfolk. That took six hours. We stayed several days at Norfolk and got a new airplane. Since the war was over in Europe airplanes were plentiful. We flew back to Terceira via Bermuda. We got back June 19th.
The rest of my tour was uneventful. I got to go home in November 1945 after the war was over. On my way home I had a one day layover in Washington DC. I took a one day tour there. I saw the Smithsonian Museum which held Lindbergh’s airplane, The Spirit of St Louis which was suspended from the ceiling. I got to see Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. It was very impressive, the front yard stretched out about a mile down to the Potomac River. After Washington I got an air ride to the Great Lakes Navy base which was about 50 miles north of Chicago. I got out of the Navy there and got home by Thanksgiving.
After I got home from the war, I finished college and got a job at Bendix. But I missed flying. I quit Bendix found a job at Boeing.