1 September 2009
MEMO TO: MY FELLOW LEATHERNECKS AND VMB-613 FRIENDS
With the summer is finally over and I’m glad to report that my family has survived another tourist season on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As for VMB-613, this month marks the 65th anniversary of the squadron making preparations at Marine Corps Air Facility Newport, Arkansas for departure to the Pacific Ocean Area.
NOTES FROM MEMBERS AND VMB-613 FRIENDS: In a message I received from radio-gunner Allen “Doc” Protheroe, he confirmed the existence of the video jukebox at Boca Chica that Robert Shock mentioned in last month’s newsletter. “Doc” indicated that having grown up in a small town he was utterly amazed when he first saw it in operation. He added that one of the selections he remembered was performed by the Andrews Sister. “Doc” also recalled liberty in Havana and provided the accompanying photograph which show him, Eric York, and Norman Crotty enjoying a drink in Sloppy Joe’s with its magnificent mahogany liquor cabinets in the background. “Doc” also recalled making a seashell necklace which he sent home to his mother. His creation now belongs to his wife, Jane, and has been proudly displayed in his living room for many years.
Corpsman, Willis Roose also wrote to tell me that he made a number of seashell necklaces while on Kwajalein and sent them home to a few girls he knew. Willis recalled appropriating his supplies of cotton and wire to create his necklaces from flight-surgeon James Scott, and dental officer George Biedermann. As for beer rations, Willis remembered receiving two cans each Tuesday and Thursday but did not specify which brand was his favorite. Willis also mentioned that he recalled Ralph McClain, who was mentioned in last month’s newsletter, as a “helluva” softball pitcher who hailed from West Virginia. He was also pleased to hear about Herb Schwartz in the last newsletter and closed with the remark that “…those guys from ordnance were something special.”
I received a call from ground radio operator, Jim Packard. Jim said he and Buzz are both doing well and he sends his best wishes to everyone. During my conversation Jim told me that his assignment to VMB-613 was somewhat of a fluke. Following radio school he was assigned to Cherry Point and was awaiting orders. One day he walked out onto the flight line and noticed some PBJs. Thinking they were rather interesting he went to get a closer look and bumped into one of his high school friends—none other than Jim Cullom! When Jim Cullom found out that he was unassigned he went and talked to someone in the squadron office. Shortly thereafter Jim was assigned to VMB-613. In recalling his memories of Kwajalein Jim indicated that he often worked in the communications office on the night watch. He became good friends with many of the squadron’s cooks, especially Charles Horvath. Jim added that on one particular evening Horvath cooked him a special treat of at least a dozen fresh eggs. Jim also recalled drinking beer with Dave Snider the evening before he was lost over Ponape. He added that he had a very good photo of Dave that was taken that evening and that he was going to try to locate it so I could send a copy to Dave’s daughter, Davey-Ellen Bayer.
During August I received a note from former-resident of Kwajalein, Bill Remick. Bill is also a diver and his relationship with VMB-613 goes back many years. In 1989 Bill began working to establish the history of the aircraft at the bottom of Kwajalein Lagoon. His research led him to contact VMB-613 members John Gavin and Farley Lund who were able to provide him with the necessary evidence to establish that the B-25s at the bottom of the lagoon were in fact VMB-613’s PBJs. As you read this newsletter, Bill is once again on Kwajalein and hopes to dive the northern area of the atoll to see if he can locate and film any more of the squadron’s aircraft. Thus far only five of the eleven PBJs that were dumped in the lagoon have been filmed so Bill certainly has his work cut out. We will update you as to the results of his diving experiences in future newsletters. Bill can be seen in the accompanying photograph pursuing his passion for diving as he visits one of our PBJs.
Navigator-bombardier and retired Marine Corps Brigadier General George Bartlett wrote to let us know that there will soon be a B-25 on display at the Museum of Flight, located at Paine Field, Everett, Washington. The aircraft, a B-25D, was recently purchased by a man from Seattle and will be flown from its current location in England to Washington State via Iceland, Greenland, and Canada. George added that the flight would be a fun trip and he asked if there were any volunteers. He recalled a somewhat similar flight he made in 1944 when he was transferred from VMB-613 and sent overseas to join VMB-443 with fellow 613’ers Brooks Kaufman, James Mattas, James Lockhart, and Frank Lacy. George indicated the entire trip overseas took 44-hours of flying time from California to Emirau Island via Hawaii, Palmyra, Canton Island, Christmas Island, Funafuti, Espiritu Santo, Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and Green Island.
In a letter received from Plover, Wisconsin, pilot Robert Litzau wrote to say how much he enjoyed the last newsletter with its photograph of the squadron’s PBJs on the flight deck of the USS Tulagi. Robert also wanted to comment on the photograph of the unidentified airstrip that was published in the July newsletter. He is certain, like most others, that it was not the airstrip on Kwajalein Island. He added that the damaged aircraft hangar and the circular ammunition bunker in that photograph were definitely of Japanese design. As to the location of that particular airstrip, he offered the possibility that it may have been taken after the War on one of the larger Japanese-held islands, or possibly on the island of Iwo Jima. He was also fairly certain that the airstrip in the photograph was not of either airstrip on the island of Ponape.
Charles “Casey” Coleman gave me a call from Ore City, Texas looking for an update on his friend, Jim Garls. Apparently by the time “Casey” received last month’s newsletter, Jim Garls had been discharged from the hospital and was in a new facility undergoing some additional rehabilitation. I was able to track Jim down through his niece and passed his new address to “Casey” so that he could give him a call. During the course of our conversation “Casey” said that he was given his nickname by fellow Texan and ordnanceman, Walter Seal. He also reported that both he and his wife are doing pretty good despite the fact that Mary has had a broken a hip followed by a broken leg over the past year and a half. “Casey” closed by asking me to send his best regards to one and all, especially his fellow radio-repairmen, John Kennedy.
Carmine “Tojo” Nasta called in August to pass his regards to everyone. I took the opportunity to ask him about his most unusual nickname. Carmine explained that for a period of time while he was serving with the squadron he sported a shaved head which reminded his buddies of Japanese War Minister Hideki Tojo. We spent the remainder of the time talking about softball and baseball and how the VMB-613 team won the Kwajalein Island Championship in 1945. In memory of that event, you will find a team photograph on the following page of this newsletter.
I called radio-gunner Robert “RL” Marx a few weeks ago to apologize for an error in last month’s newsletter in which I incorrectly identified radio-gunner Eric York as “RL.” “RL” was very understanding concerning the error. Both “RL” and Alice continue to do well and he sends his best regards to his fellow radio-gunners and to all the guys from VMB-613. To set the record strait, the good-looking Leatherneck in the photograph to the right is “RL” Marx, circa 1945.
HEALTH REPORT: I spoke with Charlie Knapp a few times this past month and I’m happy to report that he continues to improve. Charlie remains at an assisted-living facility in Colorado Springs and may by contacted by calling 719-576-9892. He now has his computer set up so he is also able to send and receive e-mail from those who wish to contact him in that manner. Charlie also expressed his appreciation to everyone who has assisted me by providing photographs, notes and verbal information for the monthly VMB-613 Newsletter.
In early-August Jim “JD” Garls was discharged from Pekin Hospital and transferred to a skilled nursing facility to undergo further rehabilitation. Jim’s niece, Georgia, passed this word to me and added that Jim’s condition is better now than before his fall—certainly good news. I spoke with Jim recently and he is now back at home, having been released from the skilled nursing facility in mid-August. Jim is happy to be home with his beloved dachshund, Ozzie—although he does miss some of the friends he made over the past few months while he was hospitalized. Jim asked me to pass his thanks to all members who sent him cards or gave him a call. Anyone desiring to call Jim may do so at his home phone number: 309-346-8492.
VMB-433 pilot Bill Parks wrote to inform us that Robert C. Woten has been seriously ill with pneumonia recently, although his condition has improved. Robert is 94 years of age and was VMB-613's first commanding officer when the squadron formed in October of 1943. He remained as the commanding officer until the following month when Major Harry D. Baker Jr. checked-in and assumed command. In mid-1944 Robert was transferred to MAG-61 and was then reassigned as a replacement to VMB-433 where he served as a pilot with that squadron in the Southwest Pacific through the end of the War. Please keep our first “Skipper” and his family in your prayers.
GOOD PAY FOR GOOD MEN: I though it might be of interest to
publish the pay chart from 1945 so each member can show their children and
grandchildren their monthly pay during the Second World War. It’s amazing to
see, for example, that the most senior officer in the Navy, Fleet Admiral
Chester A. Nimitz, made less than $20,000 per year in 1945! Today, most people
wouldn’t even get out of the rack for that amount—let alone for the $600 annual
pay of a Private! The pay chart can be found on the final page of this
newsletter. Please note that I have rounded the pay figures to the nearest
dollar and that the base pay figures do not include flight pay or foreign
service pay. The instructions for computing flight pay and foreign service pay
is provided in the “Notes” section of the chart as both were a percentage of
one’s base pay. For the purpose of comparison, a Boot-Private in 2009 makes
$1,295 per month.
COWRIE SHELL NECKALCE: In last month’s newsletter I mentioned that some members may have recalled making jewelry from seashells and sending them back home. Allen “Doc” Protheroe sent me the accompanying photograph of one such necklace that he made for his mother in 1945.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT: I would like to ask all squadron members to be on the lookout for some wartime photographs in their collection. I am looking specifically for a photograph for each of VMB-613’s first two commanding officers—Major Harry D. Baker Jr. and Captain Robert C. Woten. In addition I also realized that I do not have a photograph of radio technicians “Casey” Coleman or X. Ray Hickey. Lastly, I am also looking for a good copy of the group photograph, displayed to the left showing the squadron photographers and First Lieutenant Manning that was taken on Kwajalein. Should any member have any of these photographs or any others you feel would be of interest, I would grateful to be able to borrow them so I can digitally scan and add them to our squadron website. Anything loaned to me will be and promptly returned.
VMB-613 FLASHBACK: The below photograph is for those who do not have Internet access to our website. This photograph was provided by Diane Hindy, daughter of our adjutant, Art Navarre. Shown is VMB-613’s Island Championship ball team of 1945: Frank Vanek, Leo Rivers, Andrew Stepen, Frank Noland, Ralph McClain, John Chappell, Eugene Hansen, Lester Robinson, James Serenta, Richard Haley, Carmine Nasta, John O'Donnell, Teddy Murzyn, and Carl Ellison.
OLD ASSOCIATION BUSINESS: The VMB-613 ball caps have arrived and they are very nice! I received them from Nathan LaRicca and have sent them those who have ordered them. As a reminder to those who received their hats, please remit the amount I indicated using the self-addressed envelope I included in the package. Right now I have no more hats in stock, so if you would like one, let me know so I can place the order. These hats must be ordered by the Association in increments of twelve, so I will not place the order until I have orders for at least six. These hats make great gifts for children and grandchildren and are priced, including shipping, at $12 each. Our sincere thanks goes to Nathan for doing such a fine job working to make these ball caps available to the membership.
NEW ASSOCIATION BUSINESS:
1. In light of the recent illnesses of Charlie Knapp and Jim Garls I have taken on the responsibility of managing the Association’s operational bank account. This account is used primarily to pay for costs associated with the publication of the newsletter, and to purchase of any other items ordered by the Association for the enjoyment of its members. I am currently providing a monthly report to both Charlie and Jim regarding all bank transactions to ensure sound fiscal oversight.
2. Any members having new business they would like submitted to the membership for consideration are asked to forward your items to me, as both Charlie Knapp and Jim Garls are still recovering. For those wishing to contact me via phone, please 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 by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
VMB-613 ASSOCIATION MEMBERSHIP:
1. On behalf of the membership, I would like to welcome aboard Bill Remick as an associate member. His support of the VMB-613 Association is greatly appreciated.
2. The following is a summary of VMB-613 Association members and friends:
45 Active Members (Dues paid through 2009)
54 Inactive Members
38 Wives of Deceased Members
50 Friends (Includes children & grandchildren of members)
3. Many thanks to those members who have contributed to this newsletter through their correspondence and telephone conversations. This provides me with excellent information to pass in the newsletter and it undoubtedly makes it more informative and interesting.
4. I also wish to thank everyone who recently sent their annual dues to maintain their membership. As you know our annual dues of $20 help defray the costs associated with the publication of this newsletter and permits us to send flowers on behalf of VMB-613 for the funeral of deceased members. Members are asked to check their records to ensure their dues are current. Checks should be forwarded to me and should be made out to the “VMB-613 Association.”
Robert J. Yanacek
M/Sgt, USMCR (Ret)