Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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The operational training cruise lasted from late August to the end of October, bad weather here and there after a nearly perfect if hot summer prolonged it a little. In this time my total flight time was boosted from just under 300 hours to well over 400, over half of this being in seaplanes. It was a good course, ably directed by Lt. Karabenis, but included very little we hadn’t had before. If it had been possible to practice real cast recoveries with a cruiser, going through the whole and rather tricky procedure of landing in its wake as it turned and then taxiing up to its sled to be hauled aboard, we’d really have been prepared for VO–VCS duty, which is probably the toughest form of aviation sea duty. As it was we did try some simulated cast recoveries, an improvised sled being towed behind a launch in the river, though this was something to do little more than “aim” for since it wasn’t substantial enough to support a plane.

Night catapult shots night
were the only other new exercises for us, but they were about as exciting as anything I’ve ever done or should care to do in the way of flying. Sitting there waiting to be catapulted into inky space was indeed a very helpless feeling, and about all we could do was sit tight and hope for the best. We had longer regular night flights but on the only one to sea, the chase pilot, a young fellow scarcely more experienced than us, didn’t like the way the sky merged into the sea with practically no horizon discernable and made us turn back before we got very far out. Our last several day flights were particularly long, about four hours, combining some pretty complicated navigation, a little gunnery, and even some dive bombing all within that time. As before we flew in groups, but no longer took turns piloting, everyone of us having an assigned aircrewman to fill his rear seat. My gunner’s name was Gandy. He was rated as an AMM2C, but was completely inexperienced as an aircrewman, and though he came along all right, I don’t know what happened to him after we finished the course. “Ernie” Wood, Paul Garbler, “Rash” Raschio, “Tim” Brennan, who had got board time the same time I did back in Squadron 11, Ed Franz and Joe Dauchy were the other boys besides the original three I often flew with.

Leave came with November and lasted two short weeks. first leave
It was my first leave from the Navy and the first time home in practically eleven months and so naturally was made the most of. The only thing that could have been better about it was the time of year, though even so the folks and I spent several days at Squam, and Nance was there for one. As usual I climbed old Morgan, for the 20th odd time. squam
I also managed to get down to Gardiner, which was the last time I saw Gamidy before she died. Even with these two trips I seem (from Pa’s diary) to have been fairly gay about Boston, perhaps the best evening there being spent at a dance in the company of (when she wasn’t running off with someone else) True Storey, who seemed about a foot taller than when she was just a few years younger.

When we got back from leave our various orders had not come in as expected. unexpected change
of duty
The demand for cruiser and battleship sea plane pilots happened to be at a low ebb at that time, but we figured that it would be just a matter of time before each of us, in ones, twos, or threes reported to the U.S.S. so and so, the U.S.S. such and such or, like many of our predecessors, to any one of several inshore patrol squadrons in the Caribbean area. It therefore came as quite a surprise when some fifteen of us, after only a week of being chase pilots for some of our cadet friends, in the case of some of us, got orders to VSB Instructors School at Miami. to miami
VSB, or scout-bombing, meant carrier type planes and therefore good bye to sea planes. The idea was to make us into assistant instructors for use in the Jacksonville area, which was becoming less of a primary and intermediate flying center, but more of a preoperational and operational training base.