Navy Patrol Bombing Squadrons 102/14 Association

Bombing Squadron VB-102

Enemy Contacts

Archive and Microfilm Research
by Louise Thoman

U.S. Navy PB4Y-1

When training was completed, VB-102 departed NAS Kanehoe Bay, T.H. and deployed to Carney Field, Guadalcanal, arriving on 1 May 1943, Except for occasional flights out of Espirito Santos (Buttons) all operations were conducted from Carney Field until the squadron was relieved and returned to the United States for leave and reassignment.

Operational Area Map
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Between the dates 30 April 1943 and 8 November 1943, VB-102 flew approximately 990 sorties. An estimated 1,350,00 nautical miles were flown, averaging 125 hours per plane per month. 164 enemy aircraft were sighted. Of these, 74 were engaged in combat and 16 destroyed. 136 enemy ships were sighted. Seven were submarines, 74 were assorted war ships, 55 were AK (Cargo Ships), AP (cargo\personnel ships) , etc. Of these, 31 ships were attacked. They included two submarines, six warships and 23 AK or AP.

On 9 June 1943: Don Butler and crew flew a night mission over Bougainville dropping propaganda leaflets to the natives wherever a large number of small fires indicated a village was located. The leaflets were in pidgin English and urged natives to help downed allied airmen and not to help the Japanese.

On 16 June 1943: Don Butler and crew encountered and chased a Betty twin-engine bomber but the aircraft escaped into heavy cloud cover.

Japanese Betty
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On 27 June 1943: Two aircraft bombed Balalae under the glare of searchlights. Moderate anti-aircraft fire was observed. Unable to assess the damage.

On 30 June 1943: Burton Albrecht and crew conducted a night attack on nine AK’s (cargo ships). Two were left burning and one listing badly.

2 July 1943 - American Troops Invaded New Guinea

On 04 July 1943: Bruce Van Voorhis and crew bombed one AK (cargo ship), one DD (destroyer) and one DE (destroyer escort). Inaccurate anti-aircraft fire from DD.

On 6 July 1943: Bruce Van Voorhis and crew were lost while bombing the Japanese held island of Kapingamarangi (see Medal of Honor and Killed in Action).

On 6 July 1943: Howard Nopper and crew, while searching for enemy shipping that was returning from night action at Vella Lavella reported sighting survivors of the sinking USS Helena. He later reported sighting a Japanese destroyer (DD) and Heavy Cruiser. His aircraft was first attacked by five Zekes and then an additional three joined the group. On the second pass, the number two engine on the PB4Y was hit and the propeller froze in the drag position. William J. Bartek was killed in this attack while manning the top turret. The turret was destroyed. Three additional crew members were seriously wounded. They were Ralph Bircher, Charles A. DiGiulian and Ray C. Mitchell. The aircraft was severely damaged but landed successfully. Two Zekes were destroyed, two damaged and one was observed smoking heavily. Two additional Zekes were hit. (See Killed in Action and Wounded in Action)

USS Helena
"Sunk 6 July 1943 by Three Japanese Torpedoes"
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On or about 07 July 1943: Gordon Fowler assumed command of the squadron.

On 8 July 1943: Don Butler and crew engaged a Betty in dogfight. Plane captain Paul Van Nostrand suffered serious shoulder injury when thrown to the deck during a violent maneuver as he attempted to photograph the Betty over the left shoulder of the waist gunner with the K-20 camera. Neither plane appeared damaged.

10 July 1943: Three of the squadron aircraft executed a night attack on several Japanese warships . The group included four destroyers and two Light Cruisers. PBY’s from a Black Cat Squadron guided the PB4Y-s to the scene and dropped flares. Frank O. Burton and crew destroyed the lead ship on the first attack. Three of the ships were destroyed and two damaged.

17 July 1943: Three PB4Y’s dropped cluster bombs over Kahili Field, Bougainville. They were intercepted by one night fighter. One unidentified Japanese aircraft was seen to crash and burn. John B. Haskett and crew were lost on this mission. It was presumed they were shot down by enemy fighters. Later, Japanese records show the aircraft was shot down by an Irving from the 251st Air Group piloted by Shigeru Okado and CPO Masao Onuma. Ironically, Don Shiley, who had orders to return to the states, was along on this flight to enjoy one last combat flight. (See Killed in Action)

20 July 1943: Herbert S. Thompson and crew sighted Betty’s on two occasions. Engaged one and possibly destroyed it. A second Betty was also attacked and possibly destroyed. There was no confirmation on either aircraft. Later, two Ak’s (cargo ships) were sighted. Attacked one AK and set afire.

26 July 1943: Robert E. Nadeau and crew searching for shipping off Bougainville sighted a Japanese convoy and was attacked by 15 Zekes. Two were destroyed. The PB4Y suffered damage, but no personal injuries.

5 August 1943: While on a routine search patrol, Robert E. Dimmitt and crew bombed a Japanese destroyer.

Japanese Destroyer
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07 August 1943: Two PB4Ys independently attacked a 12,000 ton cargo ship escorted by a destroyer. Accurate and intense anti-aircraft fire was encountered..

11 August 1943 - Allied Forces Invade Munda

15 August 1943 - Vella LaVella Invaded

8 September 1943: Gordon Fowler engaged a Betty that ran towards Kahili. A second Betty feigned attack, but broke off when the PB4Y turned in to it.

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14 September 1943: Nine aircraft of VB-102 ,escorted by 10 F4U (Corsair) fighters, bombed Kahili using 20 x 120 frag cluster bombs. There was a thorough saturation of the field and adjacent dispersal areas. There was no enemy interception. Approximately 24 aircraft were on the ground at Kahili. None were observed at Kora.

16 September 1943: W. R. Bullard and crew sighted one large cargo ship (AK) escorted by a destroyer. Made two bombing runs and set the AK afire amidships.

20 September 1943: Buren L. Detour and crew sank a small AK (Cargo ship) with one bomb hit and several strafing runs.

20 September 1943: Robert E. Dimmitt and crew on a routine photo mission over Bougainville engaged a Dinah but the aircraft broke off and ran near Treasure Island.

20 September 1943: Leroy G. Norton and crew intercepted a Pete but the aircraft broke and ran after several attacks. No Damage was observed and there was none to the PB4Y.

27 September 1943: Gordon Fowler and crew engaged 5 Zekes while approaching Nauru. During about 25 minutes of intermittent combat, one Zeke was destroyed. Fowler and crew returned safely to base.

28 September 1943: Burton Albrecht and crew sighted eight Japanese destroyers headed for Buka Straits . He was attacked in two phases by 6 Zekes and 2 Haps, then by 6 Haps and 2 Zekes. 1 Zeke and 1 Hap were destroyed.

28 September 1943: Robert E. Nadeau and crew, from an altitude of 5,000, feet scored near misses on a diving submarine of the seaplane carrying class.

Japanese Submarine
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28 September 1943: Curtis Vossler and crew engaged a Betty while on patrol northwest of Guadalcanal. With the PB4Y at full speed, the Betty disengaged and proceeded towards Kahili. Although some of the 50 caliber shells from the PB4Y struck the Betty, it remained airborne. The Betty was somewhat faster than the PB4Y and could always run for home unless surprised at close range.

30 September 1943: Curtis F. Vossler and crew engaged a Betty that dropped and air to air phosphorous streamer, which fell short. Again hits were scored on the Betty, but again, the Betty remained airborne and ran for home.

Note: Japanese aircraft used phosphorous streamers with little or no effect until the war ended. They were still being used near Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The phosphorus streamer is an air to air device that is lobbed from the attacking aircraft. It explodes in the air and phosphorus streamers spread in many directions. The object is to place the device ahead of the aircraft being attacked, so that it fly’s through the streamers. The phosphorus eats through the metal on the aircraft and potentially weakens structures and control surfaces.

1 October 1943: William R. Bullard and crew sighted four Japanese destroyers while on patrol. Five Zekes, flying cover for the destroyers, attacked. The attackers seemed reluctant to press hard. No damage was inflicted on any of the aircraft. Bullard reported the vessels and aircraft and continued patrol of the assigned sector. On the return leg, after dark, the destroyers were sighted by radar and the crew tracked them into Tonoloi. This was also reported.

On the same date, Francis Lencioni and crew sighted and tracked four Japanese destroyers. They were attacked by three Zeros. No damage was inflicted on any aircraft.

5 October 1943: Gordon Fowler and crew, while on a routine patrol, shot down a Japanese Betty. From Japanese records obtained later, it was learned that the Betty was from the 751st AG. It had departed at 0430 to search a sector referred to as N7. The Japanese report stated the aircraft “failed to return”. The Pilot was listed as PO2C Yukio Ogawa.

6 October 1943: Robert E. Dimmitt and crew sighted two enemy AK’s (cargo ships), one destroyer and one destroyer escort. As they climbed to prepare for a bomb run, they were attacked by a June. Several hits were scored, but fuel was short and it became necessary to return to base.

On the same date, Burton Albrecht and crew engaged and destroyed a Betty. Concentrated fire power destroyed the top turret of the Betty and the starboard engine was burning badly when the aircraft went down. No survivors were sighted. Later, Japanese records obtained, indicated this Betty was also from the 751st AB and patrolling a sector designated as N6. The pilot was listed as PO2C Osamu Shinoda.

11 October 1943: Buren L. Detour and crew attacked a Japanese submarine from 1000 feet. The bombs struck the water ahead of, but in direct line with the course the submarine was sailing. A discoloration of the water and a patch of oil were observed, but no debris. The submarine disappeared underneath the water.

26 October 1943: Curtis F. Vossler and crew sighted and attacked three AK’s (cargo ships) outside Green Island Lagoon. All bombs missed on the bombing run. Four strafing runs left one of the AK's undamaged, but two were set afire, one of which was beached. On the third run, enemy gunfire severed a hydraulic line of the PB4Y and wounded the co-pilot, Merle Lawrence. Although no Japanese aircraft were sighted, several parachute snares were seen. No activity was observed along the inner and outer beaches. Beach defenses of log and coral were observed.
For his heroic actions on this date, Co-Pilot Merle Lawrence also received the Silver Star Medal.

Note:Parachute Snares: Assembly consisted of a parachute three to four feet in diameter and a cable six to eight feet long extending downward. The suspended object could not be identified nor the dimensions estimated accurately.

28 October 1943 - Allied troops invaded Bougainville at Empress Augusta Bay.

28 October 1943: Six PB4Y-1's took part in bombing the Buka Passage airfield on Bougainville. This was done in conjunction with two squadrons of B-24's from the 307th Bombardment Group, U.S.Army Air Corps. The navy planes led the attack formation in this first daylight raid. Each aircraft carried four 500 pound bombs. The lead plane was flown by Gordon Fowler, Commanding Officer, Bombing Squadron 102. Walter Ficek Marshall, Navigator-Bombardier, was flying with Fowler on this trip, acting as lead Bombardier for the group. 18 of the 24 bombs dropped by the lead squadron impacted along the entire length of the runway resulting in craters that rendered the runway inoperative. A considerable amount of smoke and dust was observed following the bomb run. One Army plane replaced one of the naval aircraft that was forced to return to base because of a mechanical problem.

4 November 1943: Gordon Fowler and Crew observed an AO of about 5000 tons while on a routine patrol. The AO was “dead in the water” and was being escorted by a Japanese destroyer. The AO was bombed and strafed with one hit amidships and one bomb exploding to the starboard. No damage was inflicted on the PB4Y.

On the same date, Herbert S. Thompson and crew sighted a small AVP off Kapingamarangi. Close by was a quantity of gas buoys afloat. Before a bomb run could be started, eight enemy aircraft attacked. The attack lasted about 15 minutes. Enemy aircraft departed after one Ruff was shot down and two damaged.

Aircraft from U.S. Aircraft Carrier Attacked Rabaul

5 November 1943: Burton Albrecht and crew, on a routine patrol out of Carney field sighted a CPC at anchor in the lagoon at Kapingamarangi. Also sighted were five Rufes and one Pete, on the water.

Previously on the same day and in the same location, Humphrey and crew of VB-104 was attacked by eight float planes. Although his aircraft was badly damaged, he managed to return to base safely. Also, on the same day and in the same location, Herbert Thompson and crew of, VB-102, was attacked by seven Rufes and one Pete while attempting to bomb the same ship.

5 November 1943 - The U. S. Fleet Launched an Attack on Rabaul

By 15 November 1943, all personnel had returned to NAS Alameda (California) and received orders for leave and reassignment. Many of the personnel from VB-102 would receive orders to report to NAAS Camp Kearney (San Diego, California) where the squadron would reform for a second tour in the Pacific. Many of the members who had completed tours with both VP-14 and VB-102 would receive orders to other units and shore stations. The lineage of VP-14 to VB-102 would continue with a second tour for VB-102, later to be redesignated VPB-102.

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