Time of the Aces: Marine Pilots in the Solomons – Update

This is an updated version of what I have posted. I am still learning more and more about the Guadalcanal Campaign. I had found more information about it and I want to share it…

Excerpt (see below for the whole story)

The dedicated personnel of CUB One performed these feats for 12 days before Marine squadron ground crews arrived with the proper equipment to service the aircraft. The crucial support provided by CUB One was instrumental to the success of the “Cactus Air Force” on Guadalcanal.

 

ORIGINAL POST

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I have to admit I have had a hard time explaining why there were wrong information in that book.

Reading yet another chapter of Feux du ciel led me to search one incident that happened on the day before the ambush on Admiral Yamamoto.

Supposedly there was a raid on Henderson Field and Corsairs took off to intercept. Clostermann described how one Corsair pilot was shot down and was trapped in his burning plane when he crashed…and someone had to shot him because they could not save him.Further reading found Clostermann talking about Yamamoto being aboard a Sally not a Betty. This is how I finally ended up visiting this Website…https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/npswapa/extcontent/usmc/pcn-190-003122-00/index.htm

And on YouTube visiting Henderson Field…

Better resolution…

I am so glad I have read Feux du ciel once again 55 years later.


 

UPDATE

Closely reading about Time of the Aces: Marine Pilots in the Solomons, this is what I had found worth sharing.

‘CUB One’ at Guadalcanal

On 8 August 1942, U.S. Marines captured a nearly completed enemy airstrip on Guadalcanal, which would prove critical to the success of the island campaign. It was essential that the airstrip become operational as quickly as possible, not only to contest enemy aircraft in the skies over Guadalcanal, but also to ensure that badly needed supplies could be flown in and wounded Marines flown out.

As it turned out, Henderson Field also proved to be a safe haven for Navy planes whose carriers had been sunk or badly damaged. A Marine fighter squadron (VMF-223) and a Marine dive bomber squadron (VMSB-232) were expected to arrive on Guadalcanal around 16 August.

Unfortunately, Marine aviation ground crews scheduled to accompany the two squadrons to Guadalcanal were still in Hawaii, and would not arrive on the island for nearly two weeks. Aircraft ground crews were urgently needed to service the two Marine squadrons upon their arrival.

The nearest aircraft ground crews to Guadalcanal were not Marines, but 450 Navy personnel of a unit known as CUB One, an advanced base unit consisting of the personnel and material necessary for the establishment of a medium-sized advanced fuel and supply base. CUB One had only recently arrived at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides.

On 13 August, Admiral John S. McCain ordered Marine Major Charles H. “Fog” Hayes, executive officer of Marine Observation Squadron 251, to proceed to Guadalcanal with 120 men of CUB One to assist Marine engineers in completing the airfield (recently named Henderson Field in honor of a Marine pilot killed in the Battle of Midway), and to serve as ground crews for the Marine fighters and dive bombers scheduled to arrive within a few days.

Navy Ensign George W. Polk was in command of the 120-man unit, and was briefed by Major Hayes concerning the unit’s critical mission. (After the war, Polk became a noted newsman for the Columbia Broadcasting System, and was murdered by terrorists during the Greek Civil War. A prestigious journalism award was established and named in his honor).

Utilizing four destroyer transports of World War I vintage, the 120-man contingent from CUB One departed Espiritu Santo on the evening of 13 August. The total supply carried northward by the four transports included 400 drums of aviation gasoline, 32 drums of lubricant, 282 bombs (100 to 500 pounders), belted ammunition, a variety of tools, and critically needed spare parts. The echelon arrived at Guadalcanal on the evening of 15 August, unloaded its passengers and supplies, and began assisting Marine engineers the following morning on increasing the length of Henderson Field.

In spite of daily raids by Japanese aircraft, the arduous work continued, and on 19 August, the airstrip was completed. CUB One personnel also installed and manned an air-raid warning system in the famous “Pagoda,” the Japanese-built control tower.


On 20 August, 19 planes of VMF-223 and 12 dive bombers of VMSB-232 were launched from the escort carrier Long Island and arrived safely at Henderson Field. The Marine pilots were quickly put into action over the skies of Guadalcanal in combat operations against enemy aircraft.

The men of CUB One performed heroics in servicing the newly arrived Marine fighters and bombers. Few tools existed or had yet arrived to perform many of the aircraft servicing jobs to which CUB One was assigned. It was necessary to fuel the Marine aircraft from 55-gallon drums of gasoline. As there were no fuel pumps on the island, the drums had to be man-handled and tipped into the wing tanks of the SBDs and the fuselage tanks of the F4F fighters. To do this, CUB One personnel stood precariously on the slippery wings of the aircraft and sloshed the gasoline from the heavy drums into the aircraft’s gas tanks. The men used a make-shift funnel made from palm-log lumber. Bomb carts or hoists were also at a premium during the early days of the Guadalcanal campaign, so aircraft bombs had to be raised by hand to the SBD drop brackets, as the exhausted, straining men wallowed in the mud beneath the airplanes. No automatic belting machines were available at this time as well, so that the .50-caliber ammunition for the four guns on each fighter had to be hand-belted one round at a time by the men of CUB One. The gunners on the dive bombers loaded their ammunition by the same laborious method.

The dedicated personnel of CUB One performed these feats for 12 days before Marine squadron ground crews arrived with the proper equipment to service the aircraft. The crucial support provided by CUB One was instrumental to the success of the “Cactus Air Force” on Guadalcanal. Like their Marine counterparts, the personnel of CUB One suffered from malaria, dengue fever, sleepless nights, and the ever-present shortage of food, clothing, and supplies. They would remain on Guadalcanal, performing their duties in an exemplary manner, until relieved on 5 February 1943. CUB One richly earned the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to the unit for its gallant participation in the Guadalcanal campaign.

—Arvil L. Jones with Robert V. Aquilina

Although this was probably taken much later at Guadalcanal, at 9:24 you can see how drums were unloaded…

 

Time of the Aces: Marine Pilots in the Solomons

51xrEP7VAbL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_

I have to admit I have had a hard time explaining why there were wrong information in that book.

Reading yet another chapter of Feux du ciel led me to search one incident that happened on the day before the ambush on Admiral Yamamoto.

Supposedly there was a raid on Henderson Field and Corsairs took off to intercept. Clostermann described how one Corsair pilot was shot down and was trapped in his burning plane when he crashed…and someone had to shot him because they could not save him.

Further reading found Clostermann talking about Yamamoto being aboard a Sally not a Betty.

This is how I finally ended up visiting this Website…

https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/npswapa/extcontent/usmc/pcn-190-003122-00/index.htm

And on YouTube visiting Henderson Field…

Better resolution…

 

 

 

I am so glad I have read Feux du ciel once again 55 years later.

 

Intermission – Feux du ciel Update – Did Clostermann meets Beurling ?

I wonder if this is all important…

While My Forgotten Hobby III is still on pause for this summer, I have continued with reading Feux du ciel written in 1951 by Pierre Clostermann.

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There is a chapter about Malta and Buzz Beurling which I found quite interesting, especially with some vivid recollections of what was going on in Malta. So vivid in fact that I was intrigued by what I was reading about Buzz Beurling.

Clostermann had also written that he had met Buzz Beurling in 1944 while both were at RAF Catfoss. Clostermann had even met Richard Bong and the three of them became inseparable friends.

So I was curious and I went on the Internet… “Did Clostermann meets Beurling ?”

This is what I found on an old thread posted in 2008 on RAF Commands Forums…

http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?3348-Clostermann-meets-Beurling


Thread: Clostermann meets Beurling ?

12th November 2008,
From Brian
Senior Member
Clostermann meets Beurling ?

Hi guys,
I expect many of you have a copy of, or at least read, Pierre Clostermann’s FLAMES IN THE SKY, which was originally published in 1952, in which he wrote of an encounter with Screwball Beurling at CGS Catfoss in 1944. Closterman was quite specific:

“I met S/Ldr George Beurling DSO DFC DFM and Bar, for the first time at Catfoss at the end of July 1944.”

Firstly, as far as I am aware, Beurling was in Canada the whole of 1944, and was not a squadron leader. Clostermann goes on to say that Beurling was publicly ‘ticked off’ in his presence by the station commander Grp Capt Sailor Malan. He also says that he became pals with the US ace Richard Bong while at Catfoss.

From what I have learned of Beurling’s post-Malta movements is that he was at CGS Sutton Bridge in mid 1943 as an instructor, and back in Canada by early 1944.

So, did Clostermann meet Beurling at Sutton Bridge in mid-1943, not Catfoss in mid-1944? Where does Malan come into the equation? Was he at Sutton Bridge in 1943? Was Bong in the UK at all? Or was Clostermann name-dropping to make a good story?

Very interesting, don’t you think? I would appreciate comments.

Cheers
Brian


Brian got some feedback from Norman…

Brian,

I don’t know whether this will help you but I recently read a book called “COMBAT READY!” by Alastair Goodrum, all about air combat and air gunnery training at RAF Sutton Bridge on the borders of Lincolnshire and Norfolk. Alas, I can not remember reading Closterman’s name but do recall the following: Station Commander Sailor Malan, Spitfire ace and Central Gunnery School Chief Flying Instructor Allan Wright (who helped Sailor Malan form the CGS), Flying Instructors: Al Deere, “Wimpy” Wade, Bob Dafforn, Jamie Rankin and Canadian “Screwball” Beurling.

Norman

Then another feedback from Chris…

Buzz Beurling arrived back in Canada (Halifax, Nova Scotia) on the 8th of May, 1944. You might be interested in knowing that while at Sutton Bridge, Buzz had three flying accidents.

Cheers,
Chris

Brian was still wondering…

I wonder if Clostermann and Beurling met prior to May 1944?

Cheers
Brian

Norman followed up with this..

Brian,

Further to my earlier post. First a correction, Sailor Malan was the CO of the CGS not CO of RAF Sutton Bridge. He was at Sutton Bridge just long enough to set up the CGS from Apr 42 to Jul 42 he then went on to become a Station Commander in the South of England. Screwball Beurling was at Sutton Bridge Apr43 to Jul43 – 3 months or less. Sutton Bridge had a fighter wing and a bomber wing (Wellingtons). The CGS moved out to RAF Catfoss, Yorkshire in Mar44. I have not been able to find any evidence of Clostermann serving at Sutton Bridge though he could easily have flown in for a visit. I understand the former Bull Hotel at Long Sutton was the flyers drinking hole.

Norman

Then this about Richard Bong from Dick…

Hi Brian

Take a look at http://usfighter.tripod.com/bong.htm which seems to indicate that Bong spent his operational career in the Pacific Theatre and was not put to training until fairly late. It might suggest that the encounter between him and Clostermann at Catfoss was, at least, unlikely in 1944.

From your quote of his book it might be interesting to find out where Clostermann met Beurling for the second time!!

Regards

Dick


All this led me to read some excerpts from Nick Thomas’s Sniper of the Skies.

This is what I found…

Beurling embarked for Canada on 30 April (1944), the Queen Elizabeth docking at port 8 May

If Clostermann never met Beurling, Bong and even Sailor Malan when he was posted at RAF Catfoss in July 1944, are there other anecdotes that he made up in Feux du ciel?

Why then the need for name dropping and making up anecdotes when you are “Le Premier Chasseur de France et Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur”?

Just a few words on why I wrote this post…

I have read Le Grand Cirque when I was 12 or 13 years-old. I still have the original 1948 edition.

Like so many others, I probably owe my passion for aviation to Pierre Clostermann…

That doesn’t take anything away from the respect of his commitment during the war…

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