28 April 2010
MEMO TO: FELLOW MARINES AND VMB-613 FRIENDS
Spring is here and I hope that by now most of you are enjoying the much warmer weather. Although April has not been a particularly busy month as far as news, I did hear from quite a few members with some information that I hope you will all enjoy hearing.
NOTES FROM MEMBERS AND VMB-613 FRIENDS: In last month’s newsletter I reported having received Dave Snider’s dog tag from ordnanceman, Herb Schwartz. I wanted to follow-up that I sent that dog tag to Dave’s daughter, Davey Ellen Bayer, following her return from Israel. Davey Ellen sends her thanks to Herb for holding on to this item for so many years and taking the time to locate it and send it to her as it will be a treasured memory of her father.
Diver and VMB-613 friend Bill Remick sent us an article from the Kwajalein Hourglass dated 14 October 1945. The article is about the island’s radio station, WXLG, and is provided in its entirety on the last two pages of this newsletter. Of special interest is that the article attributes Kwajalein’s title as “Crossroads of the Pacific” to none other than VMB-613 pilot, James Cunningham. This title remains in use to this day. Bill acquired the article when he bought a collection of 1945 Hourglass newspapers. Hopefully he will treat us from time to time with an article or two that will bring back some good memories to our members.
This month I spoke to aviation supplyman and VMB-613 Association President, Charlie Knapp. Charlie is doing pretty well—provided he does not to move too fast as he is still nursing an old back injury. Charlie sends his best wishes to one and all and left me with instructions to “continue to march” with the newsletter.
From Pekin, Illinois, VMB-613 Association Secretary, Jim Garls reported that he too, remains well. Jim reported a lull in the cold weather late last month which permitted him to take his beloved dachshund on a walk. Jim, like Charlie, provided me with some great encouragement and in closing asked me to pass his regards to all his fellow 613’ers and their families.
I received a nice series of e-mails from ordnance-gunner George Tisdale in Redlands, California. George is doing well and asked me if I recalled a few incidents that occurred in Newport, Arkansas. George mentioned being there when a 100-pound practice bomb was accidentally dropped and impacted in a farmer’s shed, demolishing the structure. With the assistance of VMB-613 friend and Newport resident Ron Broadaway, I was able to piece together George’s recollection; however it appears that VMB-613 was innocent of this act. At the time of the incident George had been reassigned to VMB-622 and VMB-613 was in California on its way to the Pacific. A Newport newspaper, the Tuckerman Record, dated 3 November 1944 indicated that “A practice bomb from a Marine airplane was accidentally dropped onto the barn of Oscar Roberts at Diaz. It ripped through the roof and was embedded in the ground four feet. The solid lead fake bomb was presented to the Roberts as a souvenir.” George also recalled a few pilots scheming on whether or not they could fly their PBJ under the White River Bridge, and then rapidly climb to clear the buildings in downtown Newport. George reported that eventually one of the pilots accomplished this feat to the amazement of many, although this too was not one the antics of our pilots. Nonetheless, George’s recollections make for some interesting conversations of what duty in the Marine Corps was like during the Second World War. A photo of the White River Bridge in Newport is provided below.
This month I received another note from pilot, Lou Amber from Stuart, Florida. Lou shared with me the fact that his wife, Katherine was childhood friends with Jim Cotton’s wife, Jane—as they both grew up in Plymouth, North Carolina. Lou also wanted to pass word that his grandson was recently accepted for Marine Corps Officer training and will be attending Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia this summer. Lou did not know if his grandson would be putting-in for flight training, but though that it would be great to have another pilot in the family. While reading Lou’s letter I recalled a photograph that was taken in the officer’s club at Cherry Point in which he appeared, and I thought I would inquire as to the identity of the woman. The Marines are, from left to right, VMB-613 pilots Robert Brueggestrass, Ed “Jolly” Rogers, Jim Cunningham, and Lou Amber.
From Colville, Washington I received a letter from radio technician, X. Ray Hickey. Ray reported that he “turned the corner” at 90 last August and only regrets that he did not take better care of himself when he was younger. According to Ray, the weather in Colville has been beautiful since almost before Christmas—pretty much setting a local record for a mild winter. Ray closed by wishing the best of health to all his fellow 613’ers and enclosing a recent photo, displayed to the left.
From up in Hebron, New Hampshire I received a note from carpenter Robert Akerman. Robert indicated that he has been enjoying the newsletters. He mentioned that he was a replacement who was assigned to VMB-613 while overseas. Robert added that while on Kwajalein he was the victim of a hit-and-run accident which resulted in him spending nine of his 25 months in the Marine Corps in the hospital. In reading that, I recall Charlie Knapp telling me once about a Marine who was severely injured as a result of being run over by a jeep following one of the evening movies. I’ll bet money that that Marine was Robert.
From Stanton Island, New York I received a call from aircraft mechanic, Carmine Nasta. Carmine is doing pretty good and asked me to pass his best wishes to everyone. During the course of our conversation Carmine recalled what a great time he had playing baseball on Kwajalein. So, for Carmine and the rest of our members, I have included a photograph of VMB-613’s baseball team. Those in the photograph are: Front row (L-R) Stanley Burek, Andrew Stepen, William Hudson, George Nevils, David Danser, and Richard Haley. Middle row (L-R) Carmine Nasta, Clarence Mode, Manuel Souza, Donald White, Robert Lochner, and Edward Kreig. Back row (L-R) Carl Ellison, Frank Noland, Frank Lukasek, Alfred Dick, Theodore Pyrch, and Herbert Schwartz.
TAPS: It is with great sadness that I have to report the loss of a number of members and family members since our last newsletter. I was notified of the loss of:
1. Marlys Varner, wife of pilot Allan Varner. Marlys passed away on 29 March 2010 at the age of 88 in South Bend, Indiana.
2. Pilot, Robert Brueggestrass passed away on 11 April 2010 as a result of congestive heart failure according to his daughter, Jane Bagley. Robert initially trained with VMB-613 but was sent overseas as a replacement pilot where he served in the Southwest Pacific with VMB-413. A recent photo of Robert appears to the left.
3. Pilot, Richard Newton passed away on 14 April 2010 according to correspondence received from his nephew, Doug Stone. Doug mentioned that following the war, Richard served with the Central Intelligence Agency.
4. Mechanic-turret gunner Calvin Russell passed away on 22 April 2010 according to his wife Joyce. No other details or information have been received. A photo of Cal, taken at the 2008 VMB-613 Reunion in Quantico appears to the right.
We extend our condolences to the Varner, Brueggestrass, Newton and Russell families on their loss and hope that they may find solace with the knowledge of our thoughts and prayers for them, and for Marlys, Robert, Richard, and Calvin.
OLD ASSOCIATION BUSINESS:
1. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this newsletter through correspondence and telephone conversations. Your efforts are appreciated and make the newsletter more informative and interesting to all of our members.
2. To the right are four memorabilia items I currently have in stock. All prices include shipping. At the top is our license plate frame, priced at $5. It is constructed from red plastic and has gold lettering proclaiming “U.S. Marine Corps” and “VMB 613 WWII.” The popular VMB-613 ball cap is shown next and is priced at $12. On the bottom left is the VMB-613 pin which is one-inch in diameter and mounts with a clutch-back fastener. This pin can be ordered in either a pewter finish (shown) or a gold-plated finish with a hand-painted VMB-613 insignia and is priced at $5.50. Last is an official squadron patch. This felt and embroidered patch is six-inches in diameter and is an exact reproduction of VMB-613’s insignia that was used on Kwajalein. They are an excellent value at $7 each.
3. Remember, donations made to the VMB-613 Association are tax-deductible for individual federal income tax returns to the extent permitted by law. Our appreciation is, extended to those who have contributed in this manner, as each gift helps to preserve our proud Marine Corps aviation heritage.
NEW ASSOCIATION BUSINESS:
1. Thanks once again to those who paid their annual dues to maintain their membership. Members who have paid their dues during the month will find a laminated membership card enclosed with this newsletter. As membership dues are paid for 2010, I will include laminated membership cards in future editions of the newsletter. Checks for membership dues in the amount of $20 should be made out to the “VMB-613 Association.”
2. Members wishing to contact me via telephone are asked to call anytime on the weekends, or after 6PM (Eastern), Monday through Friday as I’m at work earlier each workday. My contact information is provided at the header of this newsletter.
Robert J. Yanacek
M/Sgt, USMCR (Ret)