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VF-17 - THE JOLLY ROGERS
Comission Place: NAS Norfolk

VF-17 - Fighting Seventeen THE JOLLY ROGERS

LCDR J. T. (Tom) Blackburn founded, trained, and led in cobat one of the outstanding squadrons in the annals of air warfare. During two combat tours in the 1943/1944 deployment to the Solomon Islands/Rabaul Arena, VF-17, called the "greatest Navy fighter squadron in history," valiantly experienced what it meant to be the uttermost tip of the spearof naval power. The squadron was commissioned January 1, 1943 at NAS Norfolk and was to become the first US Navy squadron to see action with Corsairs. The first flight for most nuggets in the F4U was in February '43, but Skipper Blackburn checked out in the Corsair first: "I went through a last minute cockpit scan and pushed the throttle to the stop as I began to roll. Habits die hard; I applied right full rudder - a must with the F4F Wildcat. A snowbank on the right side loomed large, and then my overcorrection threatened to plough the Corsair into the left snowbank. My zigs and zags, highly erratic at first, gradually damped out and I managed to lift off the the center of the runway. The thermometer stood at 25 degrees, but I was bathed in sweat. I had already learned a few valuable lessons that needed to be imparted to my eager beavers back at Norfolk." Several losses of aircraft and/or pilots were sustainedas the result of resolute, arduous, and continuous training in preparation for deployment. Training operations included integration with the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) Air Group. After shakedown VF-17 was disembarked from Bunker Hill for logistic reasons and sent to the South Pacific where land based Marines were operating Corsairs. Combat engagement commenced in late October 1943 while stationed at Ondonga, New Georgia.After a December standdown for engine changes, training of replacement pilots, anda short R&R, the squadron was based on Bougainville. VF-17 covered the assault and landing on Bougainville Beach andgave air and ground support during the subsequent battle. During one period of 5 days while defending the beachheadfrom air attacks from Rabaul, the squadron destroyed over 60 enemy aircraft. After the Seabees had constructed two airstrips, repeated and determined bombing attacks were made against strong Japanese facilities at Rabaul, warships in the harbor, and the surrounding enemy airstrips by Navy, Marine, and Army Air Forces. New  Zealand P-40's flew close support. Dive bombers, torpedo bombers, B-24's and B-25's all took their turns. One of the outstanding contributions made by VF-17 during this time was providing proof, under battle conditions, of the suitability of the F4U for carrier operations. In March 1944, the squadron left the theater and on April 1, 1944 put into the port of San Francisco onboard the USS Prince William. Credited with 154.5 enemy aircraft destroyed, the squadron was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation and individuals were awarded an assortment of Navy Crosses, Silver Stars, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Air Medals, and Purple Hearts. In the execution of assigned missions, 13 youthful pilots of VF-17 gave their lives. Fifteen pilots became Aces, more than in any other Pacific fighter unit. After decommissioning, several squadron members joined other airgroups and distinguished themselves in further air combat in WWII.For further and in depth information about the Jolly Rogers of VF-17, contact the research library at the National Museum of Naval Aviation or pick up a copy of Tom Blackburn's book, JOLLY ROGERS, published by Crown Books.


ROSTER OF FIGHTING-17 OFFICERS
October 1943 - March 1944
Anderson, Robert S Bob, Andy
Baker, Bradford W. Brad MIA
Beacham, Shelton R. Ray
Beeler, Edward E. Ed
Bell, Thaddeus R. Thad, Juggy MIA
Bitzegaio, Harold. J. Bitz
Blackburn, J. Thomas Tommy, Tom ACE
Bowers, George F. Hap
Burriss, Howard M. Teeth ACE, KIA
Chasnoff, Jack W. Jack
Chenoweth, Oscar I. Oc ACE
Cole, Marvin W. Ace
Cooke, Lemuel D. Lem
Cordray, Paul Paul ACE
Cunningham, Daniel G. Danny ACE
Davenport, Merl W. Butch ACE
Diteman, James E. Dite
Divenny, Percy E. Perce MIA
Dixon, James C. Jimmy
Dunn, Clyde R. Clyde MIA
Einar, Robert W. Ine
Ellsworth, John O. Fatso
Farley, James Jim MIA
Fitgerald, Louis A. Lou
Freeman, Doris C. Chico
Gilbert, Carl W. Gibby
Gile, Clement D. Timmy ACE
Gutenkunst, Douglas H. Doug KIA
Halford, James A. Sunny Jim
Hedrick, Roger R. Rog ACE
Hill, Robert H. Windy
Hogan, Robert R. Bob KIA
Innis, Donald A. Stinky
Jackson, Robert H. Hal
Jagger, Frederick A. Andy Gump
Keith, John H. John KIA
Kelley, Louis M. Lou
Kepford, Ira C. Ike ACE
Killefer, Tom Tom, TK
Kleinman, John M. Johnny
Kropf, Thomas F. Kropf KIA
Kurlander, Melvin M. Mel
Landreth, William L. Country
Malone, Donald T. Don KIA
March, Harry A. Dirty Eddie ACE
Matthews, Marvin Matty
May, Earl Earl ACE
McQueen, Donald R. Mac
McQuiston, Louis T. Cue
Meek, William P. Willie
Miller, James Jamie KIA
Mims, Robert Bobby ACE
Peterson, Earle C., Jr. Pete
Pillsbury, Charles A. Chuck KIA
Popp, Wilbert P. Beads, Peter
Richardson, Harold B. Rich
Schanuel, Mills Mills
Schub, Walter J. Walt
Smith, John M. Smitty
Streig, F. James Jim ACE
Wharton, Whitney C., Jr. Whit
CAPT Tom Blackburn died 3/21/94


VF-17 Enlisted Roster
AOM2 L.T. Barak      AMM2 D.E. Glover
PO2 C.R. Baskins       AMM1 E.W. Gober
AMM3 F.M. Brandenburg       AMM1 C.H. Goyette, Jr.
AMM2 K.G. Bretz       AMM2 D.C. Green
AOM1 G.G. Cantrell       AMM2 N.R. Grochowski
AMM1 R.K. "Doc" Condit       AMM3 J.J. Grogen
AMM2 B.L. Cox       PO2 R.A. Hamilton
PO2 J.A. Craig       AMM3 J.J. Hare
AOM3 J.T. Dineen       AMM2 E.A. Homewood
PO1 G.C. Duke       PO2 B.C. Hoyle
AMM2 L.R. Edmisten       AMM3 B.H. Hyder, Jr.
AMM3 A.J. Emanuel       AMM2 E.W. Jacobs, Jr.
ARM2 E.O. Engler       AMM3 W.A. Jamison
ARM2 H.E. Engler       AMM3 L.W. Jordan
AMM2 L.F. Fehr       AEM1 C.J. Kern
AMM3 T.B. Fisher       AMM2 G.H. Lampe
AMM3 E.W. Flynn       ACMM G. Mauhar
AOM3 C.R. Foutty       AMM3 T.A. McCabe
AOM1 G.F. Furze       AOM1 G.J. McDonough
AMM3 J.H. Gafford, Jr.       AMM3 D.D. McLaughlin
AMM3 H.M. Gill       PO1 E.R. McLean
PO3 H.V. Mether       PO2 M.E. Shore
AMM1 E.R. Morfield       AMM3 N.F. Simoneaux
ACMM B. Murray       AMM3 D.G. Sletterink
PR2 J.L. Neil       AMM2 R.E. Taylor
AMM1 F.R. Odem       PO2 R.J. Turner, Jr.
AOM3 R.J. Olaes       PO2 E.M. Wert
AMM3 W.L. Parker       AMM2 E.C. Wesphal
AMM2 T.S. Pitts       AMM2 L.E. White
AMM2 F. Polite       AMM1 M.A.B.White
AOM3 D.M. Rankin       PO2 R.N. Whitley
AMM3 B. Rasmussen       AMM3 A.K. Wood
AMM2 J.A. Samecki       AMM2 W.M. Yager


Based on code developed by Richards Consulting Group