1 December 2009
MEMO TO: MY FELLOW MARINES AND VMB-613 FRIENDS
Let me begin by wishing each and every one of you and your families a most joyous Christmas. As for my Jewish Leatherneck brothers and their families, I also extend my best wishes for a very happy Hanukkah.
SPECIAL THANKS: I would like to offer a special thanks to Charlie Knapp and Jim Garls for their many years of faithful and dedicated service to the VMB-613 Association. Charlie has served over fifteen years as the Association’s President while Jim has served an equal amount of time as Secretary/Treasurer. A quick calculation revealed that throughout their tenure they published over 180 newsletters, planned and coordinated at least six reunion events, and accounted for—to the penny—thousands of dollars. Both Charlie and Jim remain on duty serving to provide me with their continued guidance, support and encouragement.
NOTES FROM MEMBERS AND VMB-613 FRIENDS: I received a surprise phone call from VMB-613’s last commanding officer, Dave Danser in Pompano Beach, Florida. Dave called to tell me how much he has enjoyed receiving the squadron newsletter and to pass his regards to all the guys. Dave suffered a stroke a few years ago, however I’m pleased to report that he is doing much better now—although he will probably not be flying PBJs anytime soon. I mentioned to him that aircraft mechanic Sam Wolfe told me of his skill as a pilot to me a few months ago. Dave recalled Sam as well as a few others whose names I mentioned to him. I also spoke to Dave’s son Rick, who indicated that his Dad is currently 92 years of age. I informed Rick about our squadron website, unfortunately our conversation was cut short when the call unexpectedly disconnected. I have included information about locating and viewing our website on the bottom of page 3 of this newsletter for Dave, Rick and any others who might find themselves near a computer over the holidays.
I also received a surprise e-mail from Lorna Scott-Porter, daughter of flight surgeon, Jim Scott. Lorna recently visited our website and wrote to say hello. Most will recall that Jim passed away in 2006 at the age of 99 following a distinguished career as a psychiatrist. Lorna and I then exchanged a number of e-mails in which she shared some memories her Dad told her about, such as the sailboat that was constructed on Kwajalein named “Light Duty.” Lorna also recalled seeing her father’s home movies that he took while on Kwajalein as well as a few other photographs, including one which shows him in a grass skirt, dancing the can-can in a chorus line along with other squadron members in grass skirts. However, because he seldom talked about his service, she was pleased to find and view our website with its numerous photographs of the men, the buildings where they lived and worked, and the lagoon where they sailed and swam. Lorna added that father endeavored, as often as possible, to travel anywhere that squadron reunions were held, until he was well into his early 90's. She closed leaving us with the thought that there was never a moment when her father forgot his comrades from the Second World War.
Ordnanceman, Herb Schwartz called to let me know that his wife, Annette, had heart valve replacement surgery in early November. Later in the month Herb informed me that he brought Annette home on 21 November and that each day she feels a little stronger and better. Needless to say, I was very glad to hear this good news. Herb also indicated that he was simply amazed with the information in last month’s newsletter about John and Doris Siergiewicz’s granddaughter, Leigh, completing the Marine Corps Marathon. He thought, and I agree, that it was certainly a noteworthy accomplishment. Herb also brought up the name of construction chief, Robert Augustine, who was also mentioned in last month’s newsletter. Herb remembered him and added that he visited him once sometime between the end of World War Two and the Korea War although he didn’t recall the exact year.
From Colorado Springs, Colorado, Charlie Knapp reported that he is feeling pretty good now, although his back gives him some pain from time to time. During the course of our conversation Charlie asked me if I had any color photographs on our squadron website. I told him I had only two, both of which were sent to me by Terry Manning, son of pilot, Francis Manning. He then mentioned that he recalled some members took color photographs on Kwajalein. Charlie asked me to pass to everyone that is you have any good color photographs, please loan them to me so that we can add them to our website. Any photographs loaned will be promptly scanned and returned undamaged.
From Austin, Texas, we received the accompanying Thanksgiving Card from Betty Robinson, wife of intelligence clerk, Frank Robinson. This card was addressed to the entire VMB-613 Family and says: As you gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving may your family circle be joined with Love that keeps you close through all the years to come. Betty added that she enjoys receiving the newsletter with its information on all the 613-family and closed with her best wishes to all and hugs to Charlie Knapp.
I spoke to Jim Garls a few times in November and he seems to be doing well. Just before Thanksgiving he mentioned that he was able to go outside and enjoy an unusually warm day for this time of the year in Pekin, Illinois. Jim also shared with me some of his memories of California while the squadron was getting ready to head overseas in the autumn of 1944. Jim vividly recalled going to the Hollywood Palladium which was located between Argyle and El Centro avenues. The art deco Hollywood Palladium featured an 11,200 square-foot maple wood dance floor and a coral and chromium interior with Streamlined Moderne swoops and shimmering chandeliers. It boasted six bars serving liquor and two more serving soft drinks. The theater opened 23 September 1940 with a concert by Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Dorothy Lamour was there to cut the ribbon as were Jack Benny, Judy Garland and Lana Turner. During the War, the Palladium hosted radio broadcasts featuring Betty Grable greeting the song requests of servicemen. Jim recalled that when he was there with a number of guys from the squadron, Woody Herman and his orchestra were playing. The accompanying postcard shows the Palladium in all its glory with the marquee validating Jim’s recollection of Woody Herman. In closing Jim added that following their night at the Palladium he and his group of 613’ers went to eat at a local Italian restaurant. Following their dinner those in Jim’s group began slowly to disappear until there was no one left to pay the bill except for Jim. Jim chuckled that “…those rascals disappeared and left me with the bill—I’m only glad that I had enough money with me to pay.”
I received a very nice e-mail from Julie Craig, daughter of aircraft electrician, James Squire. James passed away in October as a result of Alzheimer’s and Julie wrote to express her appreciation for our condolences and to tell us a bit about her Dad. James remained in the Marine Corps Reserves after World War Two and got recalled for Korea. Following the Korean War he returned to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to finish his degree in electrical engineering. He was one semester short of graduation when he and his wife, Judy, moved to Marquette, then to Newberry, Michigan. In Newberry he opened the Squire-Carmody Store in which he sold clothing, shoes and dry goods. James retired in 1988 and he and his wife of 57-years were blessed with two sons, a daughter, three grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
In last month’s newsletter, cook, Norbert Gibbs, inquired as to the identity of the Marines who make Raisin Jack moonshine in the barracks on Kwajalein. Well, as a result of that question I received a few recollections and one confession. Jim Garls did not know who was making Raisin Jack but he recalled one instance in which he discovered a few of his guys drinking some in a tent on one occasion. As they were not on duty and not causing any commotion, he recalled just letting them have their fun. Corpsman, Willis Roose, seen to the left, recalled the Raisin Jack too although he did not know who was responsible. Willis suspected though that the raisins were probably “borrowed” by cook, James “Curly” Edwards, who hailed from North Carolina. Willis added that “Curly” and his cohorts were also known to pilfer quantities of grapefruit juice to blend with Doctor Jim Scott’s 190-proof Ethyl Alcohol. The actual culprits though were identified in an e-mail I received from Anne Bazinet, daughter of radio-gunner Randy Clow. Randy and fellow radio-gunners Jim “Red” Nelson, Philip “Pop” Payne, and Gerry Gutshall were those responsible for the infamous spirits. Randy, seen to the right indicated that he was not exactly sure how it got started, but once it did it evolved into a favorite pastime. He recalled that they ran the idea past the squadron medical staff and received permission as long as they didn’t let it ferment for more than three or four days. Using a one-gallon brown jug they filled it to about two-thirds full with raisins, then added two or three tablespoons of dry yeast, a cup of sugar and the remainder of the volume with water. Once full, a rag was placed over the top of the jug to keep the bugs out. The jug was then vigorously shaken and placed in the open storage area where it would ferment in the sunshine. Three days later, the raisins were removed and discarded while the remaining liquid, which was milky-yellow in color, was strained into a helmet or other container. At first there was some reluctance to sample this concoction; however being brave Marines they all took a sip. Initially, it reportedly tasted slightly rotten but as things progressed they found a very pleasant glow creep over them—the only problem being to know when to stop. Randy and his fellow radio-gunners made the stuff for quite a while however it eventfully declined as the squadron’s operational tempo increased. Well, there you have it—although I’m not entirely convinced that our friend Norb Gibbs did not have some part in the production of this alcoholic treat.
VMB-613 WEBSITE: During the holiday season many of you may have the opportunity to check out our website while visiting with your families. In addition to an extensive narrative, there are hundreds of squadron photographs, a complete personnel roster and about 70 audio recordings of great songs of the era for your enjoyment. The website can be located by typing “VMB-613” into any search engine, or by entering our web address: http://www.vmb613.com.
PHOTO FLASHBACK: The below photographs are for those who do not have Internet access to our website. Shown are one of our PBJs on the flight line, the library that was located in the recreation hall, and an aerial photograph of the airstrip on Kwajalein Island.
NEW AVIATOR: We have a new aviator in our VMB-613 family. On 21 November 2009 I took my twelve year old son, Peter, to the local airport here on the Outer Banks for a familiarization flight. Last school year as a part of his fifth grade curriculum, my son completed a course of instruction called “Wright Flight.” This course stresses the importance of education by requiring each student attain a good grade point average in school, to stay away from illegal drugs and gangs, and to pass a written examination on a variety of aviation-related subjects. Upon graduation, students are provided with a free flight in a small aircraft, courtesy of Barrier Island Aviation, and are permitted
to act as co-pilot to a certified flight instructor. In typical Marine Corps tradition we arrived early at the airport where we were greeted by pilot Jenny Hawk. While awaiting our flight, Jenny permitted us to go into the hangar and see their vintage 1942 Waco biplane. I explained to my son that this was very similar to the N2S aircraft in which VMB-613’s pilots received their primary flight instruction during World War Two. A short period of time later a Cessna 172 taxied up to the hangar and we moved out to the flight line and boarded our aircraft with flight instructor Kevin Griffinger taking the left seat and my son taking the right seat. Our flight lasted about thirty minutes and once we were airborne and at an altitude of just under 1,100 feet, Kevin turned over the yoke to my son who banked the aircraft to a heading that permitted us to fly over the location of the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903, and then our house. We then headed out to sea, descended to about 500 feet and flew along the coastline until it was time to climb and head back to the airport. Kevin made smooth landing and then presented Peter with a set of miniature wings. I also took the opportunity to present Peter with his very own VMB-613 ball cap on behalf of the officers and men of VMB-613. Our flight was a thrilling experience for both of us and we are both grateful to Jenny, Kevin, and Barrier Island Aviation for providing us with this remarkable experience.
Peter Prepares for Take-Off Location of the Wright Brothers’ First Flight
Carolina Coastline Pilots Jenny Hawk, Kevin Griffinger and Peter Yanacek
TAPS: Jill Smith, daughter of Ned Brown, called to inform us that her Dad passed away on 21 November 2009 as a result of Alzheimer’s. Ned served with VMB-613 as a navigator-bombardier for a period of time and was reassigned as part of a replacement crew to VMB-443 where he flew against the Japanese garrisons in the Southwest Pacific.
I also received a telephone call from Vurnell Cobbey informing us that her husband, Maxwell, passed away on 28 June 2008. Max served as an airborne radar technician and was interred at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
We extend our sincerest condolences to the Brown and Cobbey families and hope that they may find solace with the knowledge of our thoughts and prayers for them, and for Ned and Max.
OLD ASSOCIATION BUSINESS:
1. Thanks to everyone who have 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. Now is your chance to order some VMB-613 memorabilia items. These items also make great gifts for children and grandchildren of members, and are an excellent way to proudly display our squadron heritage. To the right are four 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. As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, donations made to the VMB-613 Association are now tax-deductible for individual federal income tax returns to the extent permitted by law. Next month, those who have contributed through donations will receive an annual statement detailing their respective contributions. 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 again to those who paid their annual dues to maintain their membership. Members who have already paid their dues for 2010 will find a laminated membership card enclosed with this newsletter. As membership dues are paid for the upcoming year I will include one to each member in future editions of the newsletter. Checks for membership dues in the amount of $20 should be made out to the “VMB-613 Association” and forwarded to me at the address provided at the header of this newsletter.
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 and I may also be reached anytime by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert J. Yanacek
M/Sgt, USMCR (Ret)