BOMBING SQUADRON 13
Bombing Squadron Thirteen(VB-13) was commissioned on 1 November 1943 at NAS, Wildwood, N.J. Commanding Officer LCDR, USN, Richard L. Kibbee and XO LCDR, USN, Carl "Swede" Holmstrom were Regular Navy, graduates of the Naval Academy- the remaining compliment of 48 pilots were reserves. The senior pilot with combat experience was LT. John H. "Jack" Finroe, USNR, flight officer, who had previously flown off the Enterprise in the South Pacific as a pilot in VS-10 during 1942 combat operations as had more briefly, LT(jg) K.R. Miller. Six LT(jg)s, "Dutch" Bomberger, Milt Bonar, Kilmer Bortz, Joe Eisentuth, Dick Harding, & E. John Weil had just returned from a tour of duty on Guadalcanal, flying SBDs, Douglas Dauntlesses in VB-11 & VS-11. Ensign L.S. Feldner, who had previous experience flying South Pacific WW-II missions off the CHENANGO rounded out the available total of conflict tested aviators! The squadron was equipped with the new SB2C, Curtis Helldivers.
After a training stint at NAAS Oceana, VA. Air Group Thirteen (AG-13) consisting of VF-13, flying F-6-Fs, Gruman fighters, VT-13, in TBF Gruman torpedo planes and VB-13 exhibiting their new found confidence in SB2Cs went aboard the just commissioned Essex-class carrier FRANKLIN and headed for the Pacific war. A sham practice strike against the Panama Canal and shore leave drinking bouts in the "Blue Moon" bars of Colon provided some excitement on the trip west. Leaving FRANKLIN off Hawaii, the Air Group flew into NAAS Puuenene, Maui, TH. for final combat readiness training.
On 16 June 1944, we departed again aboard "BIG BEN" for the war, arriving at Eniwetoc just after the First Battle of the Philippine Sea. Joining Task Group 58.2, a part of the famous Task Force 58, we headed for initial combat at the Bonin Islands on the 4th. of July, and had a lively celebration flying strikes against Iwo, Chichi, and HaHa Jima Islands. The big change in the Japanese defenses observed by veterans of earlier South Pacific combat was the increase in both volume and accuracy of the AA fire! One of our group, LT(jg) Milt Bonar, who had previously flown from Guadalcanal, and his gunner, were lost in that first day’s actions.
Strikes against the Mariana Islands followed and more raids on the Jimas. On 4 August a Japanese convoy of five cargo ships, eight barges and luggars were discovered steaming northward with an escort of four destroyers (DDs) and additional cargo ships were found at Chicho Jima with a light cruiser (CL) or DD underway. AG-13 joined in the attack on these vessels, claiming two DDs sunk, a third damaged and on fire and four cargo ships sent to the bottom.
While at sea during the first few weeks of warfare an unusual, almost humorous, dive off the bow of our flight deck by LCDR. James Moye, the air group’s flight surgeon, was recorded for posterity. Moye’s General Quarters station was in the ship’s island just off the flight deck. Each morning, when GQ was sounded before sun up he would leave his cabin, take a starboard ladder from the hangar deck to the flight deck, then turn back to his battle station . In the pre-dawn darkness of the morning of 18 July, for some reason Jim climbed a port ladder, made his usual left turn, which headed him toward the bow of the ship, in total darkness. With nothing to stop him, he simply walked of the bow of BIG BEN, falling eighty feet to the ocean below. Fortunately he hit head first and was washed clear of the ship’s side by the bow wave; although he was not wearing a life jacket he had a whistle which he blew frantically! A crew member heard these feeble bleeps and sounded the man overboard alarm.
There was no way that the carrier, cruising in the war zone, could take direct action for a rescue, but a screen destroyer was informed of the predicament and ordered to search the ship’s wake. Moye, who was a strong swimmer, was picked up by the DD OWEN and returned to FRANKLIN by breeches buoy. The destroyer requested the usual ten gallons of ice cream (WW-II destroyers had no facilities to make this treat) for the rescue of a Naval Aviator and were sorely disappointed to learn that a flight surgeon failed to rate this award! The dunking doctor made history with this feat and took quite a razzing for the balance of the tour.
In September, Dick Kibbe was promoted to CDR. and made Commander Air Group 13 (CAG-13). As Swede Holmstrom and Rube Weber, the squadron’s next two senior aviators had both been lost in action, Lt. Charles Skinner was ordered aboard from VB-11 to be the new squadron CO. He was fresh from the training command with no combat experience-facts that caused some concern among the squadron’s pilots.
On 9-10 October, now a part of VADM. Bill Halsey’s Third Fleet, strikes were flown against the teeming harbor and air fields of Okinawa Shima--- the first raid against this juicy target. Several cargo ships, caught at anchor, were sunk and many planes destroyed on the ground. While planes were being taken aboard in the late afternoon, BIG BEN was visited by four medium bombers, one of which managed to crash into the flight deck, sliding across the heavy planking and falling off the starboard side with little damage except to rip the pants off of the Landing Signal Officer (LSO), a LT., by name of Winters, who had been busy waving his paddles before diving into the safety net.
Raids continued throughout the Philippines in operation for an invasion of Leyte. During the night of 23 October word was received that the Jap fleet was moving down toward the 200,000 American soldiers in process of landing at Leyte. The 24th was a busy day for the air groups searching out and attacking the oncoming enemy forces. Near Panay VB-13 pilots dove on a cruiser and two destroyers sinking the former and leaving the DDs blazing and listing. Later in the day, main units of the Japanese Second Fleet were sighted 150 miles from San Bernadino. The task group launched a second flight, including two divisions of VB-13 SB2Cs which sank the battleship (BB) MUSASHI and hitting the YAMATO, a second BB, diminishing its speed and effectiveness. The VB-13 contingency was led by LT. Jack Finrow with LT(jg) Jake Miller on his wing and LT(jg) Charles Emling leading the second section. Finrow made a direct hit on the MUSASHI and received the Navy Cross ( posthumously, as he was lost in action the next day) while his two charges received Distinguished Flying Crosses for damaging near misses.
At this point, reports began arriving about a powerful carrier force, the Japanese Third Fleet, that was moving south. Task force 38.4, with FRANKLIN as one of its four fast carriers, was ordered to rendezvous as a part of Halsey’s Task Force Thirty Eight (TF-38) and intercept this enemy fleet. VB-13’s pilots knew that tomorrow would bring the opportunity that every dive bomber savored as priority one---dropping a bomb on a Japanese flat top!!! This engagement was to go down as the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where more ships were engaged in mortal battle than ever before in naval history!!! Nor has the world ever seen a sea battle of such proportions since!
From the "Final Carrier Battle,"authored by WW-II dive-bombing pilot Harold L. Buell, comes the following report of the next day's operations from one of the VB-13’s senior pilots.
"Up at dawn, I was to lead the second division of six Helldivers following the skipper’s division. Archie Morrison briefed us about expected targets, which included carriers and battleships. The next thing we knew we were in the air and on our way to attack the Jap fleet accompanied by a large concentration of fighters and torpedo planes from FRANKLIN as well as the other carriers of our task force---it was 25 October 1944.
Off the northwestern tip of Luzon at Cape Engano we found the enemy force comprised of four carriers, two battleships, three cruisers and six destroyers. Each squadron was assigned a carrier to attack by the Air Group Commander calling the shots. We spread out and pushed over to start our dives. The AA was extremely heavy and the skipper lost a wing man when LT(jg) Tom Noreck and his gunner were shot out of the sky before getting into his dive. From 14,000 feet in clear weather with light winds I led my following planes down on a Nip carrier with a meat ball painted towards the bow of its flight deck making a bull’s eye in my sight. Reported enemy fighters were not in evidence and those in the air were taken care of by our F6F escorts.
Half way down I was in a skid, which would cause a miss, so I fought the controls until the ball was back on center and the sight’s pip on target. This brought the drop altitude considerably below procedure , but I wanted a hit at this moment more than anything else in the world! Amid unbelievable AA fire I released my 1,700 lb. armor piercing bomb and pulled out, leveling off at 600 feet or less. My gunner, shouted over the intercom,"Direct hit, direct hit." I was jinking and headed for the deck when passing right alongside one of the battle wagons; with its huge pagoda mast covered with firing AA batteries. The height, vastness and limitless fire power were unbelievable. My gunner photographed an AA burst exploding just behind our tail!!
Safely back aboard FRANKLIN the reports showed that all four enemy carriers were hit and burning. I had hit ZUIHO, an old veteran, and the ZUIKAKU one of those of Pearl Harbor fame was also among those going to the bottom. Three more strikes were launched against the fleet of damaged sinking ships assuring their demise before the day was over."
The effort was not without grievous losses. VB-11 gave up three planes and crews to the murderous AA, including the previously mentioned Tom Noreck, our flight officer, Jack Finrow, the squadron’s most experienced combat aviator and pilot LTJG D.A. McPhie.
Helping destroy the last Japanese carriers to put to sea was the final combat effort for Air Group 13. Four days later, 29 October 1944, BIG BEN took a hit from a kamikaze and when the fires were extinguished the damage was so great that she was ordered for repairs to Bremerton, WA., with AG-13 aboard.
This hit illustrates the capricious aspects in war. Eight of VB-13s senior pilots were having a meeting, chaired by the skipper, in the ready room when the incoming attack was announced. Some suggested that we move to the safer confines of the ward room which was under the hangar deck’s armor plating while others preferred to remain and conclude our business. Fortunately the former group prevailed and we went below. The Jap plane and its bomb wiped out our ready room and also the adjacent one assigned to our air crewmen, killing everyone there.... and it could have claimed the squadron’s leadership too! The ship suffered over sixty fatalities from this hit including six VB-13 radio gunners and one mechanic.
During its combat tour in FRANKLIN, VB-13 flew on practically every type against every type of target. It supported three invasions and attacked the Jap fleet. Squadron pilots assisted in sinking three enemy carriers, hit two battleships (one sank) probably sank a cruiser and sank numerous destroyers. They hit 25 merchant ships of which seven sank, three probably sank and two went down with the assistance from other squadrons. Losses were inflicted on a total of 50 enemy ships totaling 275,000 tons. One of the most decorated squadrons of the Pacific war, VB-13 airmen were awarded 22 Navy Crosses, a Silver Star, 25 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 149 Air Medals.
During Bombing Squadron Thirteen’s tour of duty seven pilots and fourteen air crewmen were Killed in Action (KIA) Their losses were deeply felt by there squadron mates. It is also of interest to note that the squadron suffered no operational losses in training or while in combat.
VB-13 OFFICER'S ROSTER
Naval Aviators and AV(s)s (NonFlying)
Award Codes: NC = Navy Cross, DFC = Distinguished Flying Cross, SS = Silver Star, AM = Air Medal
Other Codes: KIA = Killed in Action, * = Awarded Posthumously
|KIBBEE, R.L., CDR, USN ||C.O.;9/44 promoted CAG-13 || |
|HOLMSTROM, C.B., LTCDR,USN ||Executive Officer(X.O.) || |
|SKINNER, C.A., LT,USNR ||Replacement C.O. || |
|WEBER, R.J., LT,USNR ||Replacement X.O. || |
|WOOD, L.N.,LT,USNR ||Replacement X.O. || |
|FINROW, J.H.,LT,USNR ||Flight Officer&Wing Leader || |
|MORRISON, A. R., LT,USNR ||AV(S) Intelligence Officer || |
|MILLER, K.R.,LT,USNR ||Wing Leader || |
|ROWAN, R.P., LT,USNR AV(S) ||Personnel,Duty Officers |
|BONAR, M.J.,LT,USNR ||Section Leader || |
|BORTZ. K.S.,LT,USNR ||Division Leader || |
|BOMBERGER, G.K.,LT,USNR ||Section Leader || |
|WEIL, E.J.,LT,USNR ||Section Leader || |
|HARDING, R.R., LT,USNR ||Section Leader || |
|MIZE, L.R., LT,USNR AV(S) ||Gunnery Officer |
|EISENHUTH, J.J.,USNR ||Section Leader || |
|MARQARDT, G., LT USNR ||Section Leader || |
|FELLNER, I.S.,LTJG,USNR ||Section Leader || |
|BARKSDALE, B.C., LTJG,USNR || || |
|BEVAN, T.Q., LTJG, USNR || || |
|SHINAULT, L.H.,LTJG, USNR ||AV(S)Radio,Radar Officer || || |
|BOGAN, J.D., LTJG,USNR || || |
|BARCLAY, B.R. || || |
|BARNETT, M.D.,LTJG,USNR || || |
|LOWERY, J.P.,LTJG,USNR ||2-AM |
|HALSTROM, P.R., LTJG, USNR ||NC,2-AM |
|CARLON, K.E.,LTJG, USNR || || |
|HARRISON, J.C., LTJG,USNR || || |
|HEIZER, D.,LTJG, USNR || || |
|HERN, J., LTJG, USNR || || |
|HONGOLA,G.A.,LTJG,USNR || || |
|ALLEN, H.R.,LTJG,USNR || || |
|BERRY, L.D.,LTJG,USNR || || |
|BROACH, L.D., LTJG, USNR || || |
|KEHOE, J.J.,LTJG, USNR || || |
|MILLER, V.L., LTJG,USNR || || |
|EMLING, C.A., LTJG, USNR || || |
|EVERDELL, R., LTJG,USNR || || |
|HOWARD, R.E.,LTJG, USNR || || |
|HOYT, R.E.,LTJG,USNR || || |
|LUTHER, E.F.,LTJG,USNR || || |
|MILLER, J.E.,LTJG, USNR || || |
|PICKENS, P.C.,LTJG, USNR || || |
|BARRUCH, H.R.,LTJG,USNR || || |
|MOYERS, L.V., LTJG,USNR || || |
|YOUNG, D.J., LTJG, USNR || || |
|COLE, J.S., LTJG, USNR || || |
|McPHIE , D.A.,LTJG,USNR || || |
|HALE, C.C.,LTJG,USNR || || |
|PINGREY, C.R., LTJG,USNR || || |
|NOREK, T.G.,LTJG,USNR || || |
|RILEY, R.G., LTJG,USNR || || |
|WESTPHAL, R.A., Ensign,USNR ||Replacement Pilot 9/44 |
|CONSTANCE, W.E., Ensign, USNR || || |
|GARRETT, J.E., Ensign, USNR || || |
The outstanding record of VB-13 during WW II was only made possible by the distinguished performance of the squadron's enlisted personnel; air crewmen flying in dive bomber's rear seats as radiomen-gunners, ordinance men, mechanics and plane captains who so devotedly saw to it that their charges were flyable!
Codes: * = Non-flying personnel, # = Killed in Action
|ABSTON, L. D.,AMM2c, USNR* ||ALEXANDER,F.R. PR1c,USN* ||ALBANESE, ARM3c,USN.# |
|ANDERLIK,J.E.,ARM3c,USNR ||BEACH,E.J.,ARM3c,USNR ||BORJA, .E.,ARM1c,USNR# |
|BROOKS,W.,ARM1c,USNR# ||CARTER,J.L.,ARM3c,USNR ||CECCHINI,W.L.,ARM2c,USNR |
|CHANDLER,.R.D.,ARM2c,USN# ||CHRISTENSEN,S.ARM3c,USNR ||CLINE,O.J.,ARM3c,USNR |
|CONERTY,C.S.,ARM2c,USNR ||COTTON,R.A.,ARM1c,USN ||DAUBENSPECK,H.C.ARM3c,USNR |
|DOMEL,L.G., AOM2c,USNR* ||DUNSTAN,R.ARM2c,USNR ||FERRIS,R.B.,ARM3c,USNR |
|FIKE,W.J.,ARM2c,USNR ||FITZGERALD,G.M.,ARM2c,USNR ||FOLSOM,N.B.,ARM3c,USNR |
|GAGEN,R.E.,ARM2c,USNR ||GEORGE,G.F.,ARM3c,USNR ||GRAY,R.A.,AMM2c,USNR* |
|HANSFORD,J.E.,ARM3c,USN ||HARLIN,A.E.,AM1c,USNR*# ||HARRIS,,A.,ARM3c,USNR |
|HATT,J.L.,ARM3c,USN# ||HEARD,M.G.,AMM1c,USNR* ||HORTON,L.A.,ARM3c,USNR |
|IMMARIGEON,R.A.,ARM2c,USN ||JONES,B.L.,ARM3c,USNR# ||KELLEY,M.E.ARM2c,USNR |
|KILGORE,J.D.,ARM2c,USNR ||KIRTS,W.M.,ARM3c,USNR ||KLESCH,T.L.,ARM3c,USNR |
|KNOCKE,R.H.,ARM3c,USNR# ||KREIDER,R.D.,ARM2c,USNR ||LANGE,W.A.,ACMM(T)USNR |
|LEBER,C.W.,ARM3c,USN ||LOENTHAL,A.D.,ARM3c,USNR# ||MARTELL,H.G,ARM3c,USNR |
|MASEK,C.C.,AOM1c,USN* ||McDONALL,J.F.,ACEM,USNR * ||MERA,R.I..ARMC3c,USNR |
|MOUSEL,R.J.,ARM2c,USNR ||MSZYCO,C.A.,AMM1c,USNR* ||MURPHY,R.J.,CY(Y).USN |
|NEPIARSKY,J.,ARM3c,USNR ||OCHOA,H.G.,ACRM,USN* ||O’KEEFE,J.M.,ARM2c,USNR |
|OLSEN, W.J.,ARM2c,USNR# ||OUTTEN,H.W.,ARM3c,USNR ||PICKENS,L.,ARM3c,USNR# |
|QUAY,R.,ARM3c,USNR ||SCANNELL,G.E., AMM1c,USNR* ||SHAW.H.,ARM3c,USNR |
|SHOEMAKER,R.M.,ARM3c,USNR ||STEELE,H.J.,ARM3c,USNR# ||STEVENS,R.E.,ARM3c,USNR |
|STEWART,E.C.,ARM1c,USNR ||STUDSTILL,C.W.,ARM3c,USNR ||SZTUKA,T.J.,AMM1cUSNR |
|UNRICH,T.F.ART1c,USNR* ||WIDING,L.E.,ARM3c,USNR ||WILLIS,O.Jr.ARM1c,USNR |