Chapter 22

My new assignment was rather temporary at CASU 36 and I had maintenance as well as flight duty and I appreciated the flight pay which I had drawn except for the period in flight school.  Flight pay was an additional fifty percent of the base pay and I was receiving four dollars a month for the DFCs.  The pay in those days was a bit skimpy, $21 for apprentice seamen, $30 for S2C, $36 for SIC, $54 for third class petty officer, $60 for 2nd class and $72 for first class which rate I held.


I took the Ford on liberty one night and wanted to see Chinatown in Frisco.  I got pretty well up the hill, the whole city was hills, and the clutch went clear out.   I started to coast backwards and steered around a corner backwards and then started forward again as I turned back into Post Street.  Oh yes, the brakes on the Ford decided to give out at this time and I finally got it stopped at Post and Market by driving into the curb.  I had a garage pick it up, put in the new clutch for $35 and promptly sold it.


Orders came through for reassignment to VT5 which was the designation for Torpedo Five of the old “Y” but the new VT5 was just forming and had no ship assignment yet.  I was granted leave prior to reporting in at Santa Rosa and took the Challenger back to Ames.  Traveling on leave I was on my own as far as expenses were concerned and I was more frugal than when traveling on orders.  The dining car was quite expensive so I got off the train at stops they made along the way.


Jennie, my brother Don and my folks met me at the station in Ames and we drove home with Don appearing quite uncomfortable during the trip.  The next day Don was worse and the doctor said he had the flu.  After a couple days in bed we got another opinion and it was determined he had a burst appendix and would need immediate surgery.  Dr. Stoner who had been seeing Don had him taken to a house in Algona that served as a hospital.  I watched the surgery through a window in the door and as they finished I saw them look at each other, shrug their shoulders and dump the whole box of sulfa into him.  Penicillin was not available yet in those days.  They didn’t hold much hope for him as they said gangrene had set in.  I wired for an extension on my leave and it was granted.  I was glad I could stick around until he began to do better and it was with misgivings that I left for Santa Rosa as Jennie was expecting and I knew I would not be around for the birth.


Santa Rosa was a nice little town and the air station was just in the outskirts and small enough so that one could get acquainted easily.  The squadron had an opening for an aviation chief radioman and as I had time in rate they gave the advancement to me.  It was to become official the next day after I was notified but the rest of the chiefs all insisted that I come over and eat in the chief’s mess and one of them gave me a chiefs cap to wear to make it look official.


We were in the process of training crew members in the TBMs which carried a crew of three to four.  Pilot, turret gunner and a radio/radar operator and gunner in the rear.


We would be training in bombing and torpedo runs and it would involve going to different bases for the different activities.  Overall familiarization with the aircraft was done here at Santa Rosa and with the loss of one of the first planes put into service.  On final approach which was over a residential district one of our planes went inverted and into a house.  The only loss of life was the crew as no one was at home in the house.  We went out to do an investigation on the scene and removed the wing flap actuating cylinders taking them back to the squadron office for safe keeping.  It was thought that one might have deployed and not the other causing the plane to invert.  The next day for reasons unknown, the hydraulic cylinders turned up missing.


The next fatality happened around 4 in the afternoon a day later when planes on the flight line were turning up for taxi and takeoff and a mechanic pulled the wheel chocks from the right wheel and walked right through the prop to pull the left one.


We were getting off to a bad start and everyone was a bit tense.  Perhaps a change of scenery would help as we took two sections north to Arcata for bombing practice in that area.  I had made a lot of friends by now, especially the chiefs among which was my old friend Tumosa, there was Pagel from Wawatosa, Wisconsin, Gordon Lyons who had his wife out there and Zeno McKay, and two others whose names escape me now.  And then there was Al Jenkins of CASU 12 who was taking care of our planes.


We made another move to Modesto, California for night flying practice where we would once more taste of bad luck.  I was line chief that night and was just in front of the line shack when one of our planes came in for a landing on the perforated steel matting that covered the runways.  They must have come in gear up as there was a loud scraping noise and a bright flash and it went up in flames.  The fire crew went out but it was completely enveloped in flames and ammunition was going off by that time.  No one came out of the plane.  Everyone was wondering if we were jinxed.


Two days later I was again line chief for night flying and was called to the tower by Waves who were working the radio that night.  They said, “chief, one of your planes is in trouble, they can’t get gear or flaps down”.  I took the mike and asked if they could hear the hydraulic pump running.  They said yes, so I assumed a loss of hydraulic fluid.  The planes interior always smelled of hydraulic fluid so a leak would not necessarily have been detected.


Now the reservoir is located just beneath and to starboard of the turret and accessible to the radioman/rear gunner.  Knowing that the crew had been on liberty most of the day I assumed that they had probably taken on quite a good deal of beer.  I wanted them to fill the reservoir but do you think I could think of the word urinate at that time.  I had to improvise and do the best I could to convey my wishes to the crew and as I understood later it took both of them to replenish the reservoir.  I assumed that the WAVES had heard the four letter equivalent somewhere before anyway.


The plane captain who was responsible for the cleaning of the system the next day wasn’t too thrilled over my solution to the problem.


Copyright ©2004-2007 Lynn R. Forshee.  All rights reserved.