Chapter 26

To keep up our gunnery skills we were sent out to the range for skeet shooting.  I liked the doubles with a clay bird from both the right and left tower at the same time which meant you had to get on target fast.  This in some respects was similar to aerial machine gunnery.  The PBMs carried 50 caliber guns in both port and starboard waist hatches, with one topside also.  The bubble on top could be used by the navigator for star shots also.

 

The PBM was very unforgiving as to weight and balance and would start to porpoise on takeoff if it were out of CG, (center of gravity) and once started if allowed to continue through more than two oscillations it would most likely go down nose first into the water.  This happened to one of ours killing the entire crew in sight of the station.

 

We soon had the opportunity to remodel the old Quonset huts to be used for living quarters for dependents should we desire to bring them out.  I talked with Jennie and she was looking forward to joining me there.  I worked every evening on the huts and we would be put on the waiting list for one when they were finished.  By a stroke of good fortune they decided that I should have one half of a duplex in housing at “Termite Village” which was a dependents housing facility right on the base.  441A was our new address and even a phone numbered 72835.  Roy Lightfoot and his wife and small son were just across the street from us.  He was an aviation chief machinist mate in our squadron.

 

Jennie had come to California to stay with one of my elderly relatives out there, Mary and Gilbert Austin who were glad to have the company.  I wanted Jennie to fly out but she would have none of that and elected to wait for a ship.  In the meantime I had the opportunity to take a “transpac” back to the west coast and spend a short leave with her while she waited for passage on a ship.

 

Now our PBMs were getting some age on them and we would be taking the older ones that were not too reliable any more back to the west coast for either major overhaul and new engines or to be scrapped.  These things cruised out at about 115 knots and the thought of a thirteen hour flight over water in them did cause some concern.  After waiting a few hours for a cable line I was able to make a call telling Jennie I was coming the next day.  We loaded up with fuel, coffee and sandwiches, double checked everything and attached the JATO bottles to the waist hatches.  This was our jet assisted takeoff to allow us to get off with the heavy fuel load we had.  We would crack the first two to get the plane up on the step and the other two to get it off the water.  With this much of a load we would be about 75 miles out to sea before we were able to get out of ground effect and begin to gain altitude.  Murphys law went into effect.  The navigator had failed to account for some food and stores that had been put through the bow hatch into the galley and we were out of CG enough that it started to porpoise.  The JATO bottles had been cracked and it was sundown allowing us no time to rearm for another attempt.  The next evening we readied for another try.  This time all appeared to go well until near the halfway point.  As I indicated, these old things were just not too reliable.  The port engine propeller went into flat pitch and we thought it was coming through the side of the fuselage right into the flight deck.  Throttling back for a while and exercising the prop control brought it back to life.  By now we were nearing the picket boat which was on station at sea at about the halfway point.  If you are having trouble or lose communications before the halfway point you are required to turn back.  Murphy again popped up and the radio went out.  I had no spare to put in the rack and couldn’t bring it to life so we had to turn around and return to Kaneohe which brought us in about daylight.

 

By now we began to wonder if we were jinxed.  Two days later we received our orders to take PBM Bureau number 59244 along with Pilots Moore, Barnum and Spurlin and crew members Saburn, Carpenter, Bridges, Lutz, Flanagan and myself for delivery to Commander Fleet Air Wing, west coast.

 

We got off this time without any problems and after a stint on the flight deck I took a short nap in the after bunks.

 

Out plans were to deliver the plane to Alameda Naval Air Station and our orders permitted us to take off on liberty coming back Monday morning to pick up leave papers.  I had put on my dress aviation greens under my nylon flight suit so that I wouldn’t have to waste any time getting ready to go out the main gate.

 

The beaching crew met us and put the dolly wheels on and pulled us up onto the ramp.  As soon as they put the ladder up to the waist hatch I went out and headed for the main gate leaving Moore and Spurlin to turn in the papers.

 

I caught a cab to the bus depot and grabbed a bus for Modesto where Gilbert Austin met me to take me to his home in Denair where Jennie was waiting.  We had the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday before I had to report back to pick up some leave papers so Jennie and I went up to Oakland and got a hotel room for the night.  We went over to San Francisco and walked down Van Ness Ave. to Jennie’s sister Susan’s apartment at #288 So. Van Ness and spent the day and that night there.  Susan and her husband Ronnie and their little daughter Carol took us to the park and showed us around a bit with a side trip to the amusement park.

 

Monday morning I returned to the Air Station to pick up my leave papers.  I was notified they could find no record of me or a leave.  In further searching they discovered that right after my departure they found the plane was to have been delivered to San Diego and the rest of the crew boarded her and took off.  Now I was in a mess, I left Jennie in the hotel, got a flight to San Diego and got the leave straightened out but had to stay overnight to get a flight back the next day.  Making it back without further incident I picked Jennie up at the hotel and we took the bus back to Denair.  After my short leave was up I was ordered to report to TADCEN at Shoemaker for transportation back to Oahu.

 

I caught a ship back this time and soon Jennie received her departure date on the Arthur Middleton.  She wasn’t troubled by the rough seas but everyone else in the cabin got seasick and they had to wet the table cloths to keep the dishes from sliding back and forth on the table.

 

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