Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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By a very curious coincidence a new instructor appeared and turned out to be the older brother of russ keller Pat Coolidge’s husband, Willie [actually John] Keller. Russ had been on the Ranger for two years, and I had not known him before. We had some very pleasant walks together and would have had more if he hadn’t been sent to Melbourne for fighter training, only to get back just a short time before I left. In that time, however, he became a very good friend indeed. He was one of the most polite, considerate people I've ever met and altogether a prince of a gentleman, and it hit me pretty close when I heard he was lost off Kyushu.

Because I so often made such unusual use of my days off, I didn’t get to know many people off the station but did meet a few, including oakes ames Professor and Mrs. Oakes Ames, of Ormond. Having heard he was a botanist I stopped in one time, which turned out to be the first of several, each pleasanter than the last. Without a car it seemed too much trouble to bother much about girls, though there were several attractive ones including two knock-outs, Mimi Forester and Jordan Phillips, seen more than once. As a whole, however, there wasn’t even a contest between the birds, the bees, and the trees on the one !! hand, and wine, women, and song on the other once Merrilynn Zook left.

Orders to Comm Fair West Coast, at San Diego came in april, 1944 early April, 1944, by which time N.A.S. Daytona Beach had been pretty well turned over to operational training in fighters—F4F’s and FM’s, later to be replaced by F6F’s. Since it was a poor April for weather up north, leave leave might have been even better than it was. Green-winged Teal and Greater Scaup seen down at the Moat brought my all-time Groton bird list up to an even 150 birds species.

I had stopped en route in washington
with a.h.r.
Washington to see [sister] Nance, staying at an officers’ club. We had a more than pleasant Easter week-end together, going to Easter Service in the National Cathedral, walking from the Jefferson to the Lincoln Memorial and by the cherry trees, seeing the art galleries, etc.

From n.y. with
Groton I took the train to N.Y. to see [brother] Ham and Edie and my little nephews, and a show* and a museum or two before flying to San Diego. Arriving a day early and then having to wait another two days for orders gave me a good chance to look around the san diego countryside and for this I was more than lucky to be able to hire a car at Coronado, where I was staying. Driving all the way around the bay and further to the north, I added quite a collection of new birds such as long-billed curlews, shovelers, northern phalaropes in great flocks and a good representation of land birds.

I joined may 1, 1944
in alameda
VB–17 in Alameda on May 1 and found the squadron already pretty well organized. Lt. Cmdr. Bob Ware and Lt. Hugh (“Nick”) Nicholson were, as expected, the skipper and exec, respectively. Nick soon made Lt. Cmdr. and left to become the fighter exec. and eventually the skipper of the fighter-bombers, and Doug Yerxa, our senior lieutenant from old VB–17, replaced him. Also above me were Lieutenants Bob Bollinger and Fred Bowen and, just outranking me because of a lower file number, Lt. (j.g.) “Lady” Pyne, all these like myself former instructors never having been to sea. There was quite a bunch of lieutenants junior grade returning from the old squadron, including Van Stone, Vail, Bristow, Walker, Chinn, and a whole bunch of ensigns. The majority of them from Daytona. Charles (“Dusty”) Dusi became and remained my wingman for the whole time. Henry, ???, and Richel were the only others who stayed with the squadron for the whole cruise, Kochevar (sp.?), King, and Calcote (sp.?) leaving the squadron, the latter to be killed later, as were Claus, Davis, and Stecker while still with us, in California.

The whole air group was based at Alameda for six months, though we had short stays at Vernalis, just inland of the Coast Range for night flying and at Fallon, Nevada, for rocket firing. At Alameda the fog interfered with with flying somewhat, especially for the first part of the morning and at night, but we got plenty of flying in and were perhaps even overtrained, if anything, at the end of the period. SB2C’s, better known as “Helldivers,” were new to all of us except the boys from the old squadron, and it took a little time to get used to them. Compared with the SBD’s they were appreciably faster and better climbers, but much heavier on the controls. We were lucky enough to get SB2C–3’s to train with, and, with their increase in horsepower from 1250 to 1900 and various other improvements, they were far superior to the worse than mediocre SB2C–1’s and –2’s.

* By a remarkable coincidence met Ives, my aircrewman & parents there.