Tales & Anecdotes

Espirito Santos Gunslingers
"...I remember bore sighting aircraft with no proper tools available. We'd lift the tail by manpower onto a jack, setting guns (all six at 300 yards). When I went home on leave in October, I discovered Goodyear was still bore sighting them at 250, 300, and 350 yards."
-Mel Hynde

Outdoor Recreation "...Movies in the rain (officers and men alike)."
 -Mel Hynde

Technique "...An F4U freezing up at 20,000 feet and pilot bailing out. The pilot broke his leg on the horizontal or vertical stabilizer. Major Fontana gave him hell for improper bailout."
-Mel Hynde

Two Down and Locked "...After three weeks with no mishaps in the F4Us, Lieutenant Percy made an unintentional wheels-up landing. Exiting the aircraft in disgust he threw his helmet to the ground and muttered 'I forgot!' Major Fontana put him in hack for a week."
-Mel Hynde

Fire "...While performing maintenance on an F4U, a fire erupted with Frank Poole in the cockpit. We all thought Frank had 'bought it' when, in fact, he dove out the other side and was watching it burn also from 100 feet away."
-Mel Hynde

Tedium "...I was always looking for a hop to relieve the tedium. Lieutenant Johnson was very accommodating to all the enlisted men. I'll never forget that smile of his. One day he had just checked out in the float plane and I finagled a ride with him. We loaded up with cans of peanuts and candy to drop to a native girls school on the nearby island of Malakoolar. Lieutenant Johnson flew low over the students in the fields they were cultivating while I dropped the goodies. Some Australian sisters had rounded up these young girls to save them from the older chiefs who would marry them at 2 or 3 years old in order to save them for themselves. These people had bones through their noses and we heard they ate "long pig" cannibals! Lieutenant Johnson was quite a guy. It was typical of him to think of helping those sisters."
-Bernie Coleman

Fuel Dump Fire "...Noting a fire in the fuel dump I ran for help to the ready tent. Major Brackett gave me hell for being abrupt with him. Years later, when he came through Kinston on an inspection tour, I denied that he knew me!" -Mel HyndeFloating Instruments "Although MGen Fontana still blamed Deacon Collins for this at the '94 reunion in Pensacola, let me now set the record straight. When I arrive at Guadalcanal I had no military occupational specialty assigned so I was assigned to the 'bull gang.' (The bull gang were basically common laborers.) One of our maintenance officers (who shall remain nameless) ordered us to dig a 12-foot by 24-foot by 4-foot deep hole in the ground. (The scale could be off a little after all these years!) The purpose of the hole was to store the spare aircraft instruments safely from bomb damage and whatever else harm might befall them. After we dug the hole, we put the instruments in place and then erected the tent over the top of the pit, with the side flaps tied down. I asked the lieutenant if we should put the flaps on the OUTSIDE pile of the dirt bordering the hole so that if it rained the water would not run into the pit. 
Continued >> 


The lieutenant told me to mind my own business. Well, during the night (you guessed it) it rained. Boy did it rain! The next day, when I arrived at the tent, the boxes holding all the instruments were floating in a pool of water approximately 12' x 24' x 4'. Well, I started to laugh but unfortunately the lieutenant was standing there. I was told to get the smile off my face. But I just couldn’t. He said he was going to put me on mess duty. I responded that I would eat better than him. The lieutenant was a Marine who had come up through the enlisted ranks. He didn't seem to like any of us, which was unfortunate. He had almost 30 years in the Corps, so I think he resented the fact that many of us (not me however) were getting promoted so rapidly.

We had two other officers that we worked for. One was Marine Gunner (Warrant Officer) Philip R. Hembree, who was the Personnel and Mess Officer, as well as and squadron Adjutant. The other was Marine Gunner Donald W. Houston, our Material Officer. He was a good man, and smart! He later took me under his wing and then put me in the tool crib in order to help me learn about the tools. After that, he put me with Eddie F. Reynolds in engineering. There were no tools put down in that squadron without being cleaned. And I took care of that. Eddie recommended me for a rate. The lieutenant turned it down. Gunner Houston asked him why he disliked me. The lieutenant said it was because of the blunder with the 'floating instruments,' and that I'd be the last man to receive any rate. Within three months, however, I would receive three rates. Our men where falling like flies due to malaria. Replacements, senior to me, kept coming in. One day I was told to take some of them out to the flight line to get the F4U's ready for Guadalcanal. The replacements asked me what I wanted done. I told them I was a private and didn't tell corporals and sergeants what to do. The lieutenant came out awhile later to the flight and asked me if the planes were ready. I told him these corporals and sergeants hadn't told me, a private, what to do. The lieutenant called my ploy and pulled ALL the men off the line except me. He then told me to get to work. "Yes sir," I replied. I was out on the flight line till dark. But I got the aircraft ready. After that is when I received those promotions. -Norm Ebel.

 On The 'Canal... Welcome
"...Mac Corwin, a fellow ordnance man and Quantico school mate, was a rough and ready type with whom I got thrown out of the Lotus Club in Washington, D.C.. Mac met us at Henderson Field in a 1937 Japanese Chevy 'look-a-like' flat bed pick-up truck. He greeted us with "Well buddy, you really learn how to pray here." We spent the rest of the morning digging foxholes at the top of a ridge where a sick bay was located. We were scared silly from Pistol Pete's shelling, while the pilots sat in the ready tent calmly playing 'Acey-deucey.'" -Mel Hynde

Fontana's Pre-game Pep Talk "When the rest of VMF-112 joined us (the advance party) at Guadalcanal, the C.O., Major Fontana, called us all together for a talk. All I remember are his last words: 'This is where we separate the men from the boys!'" -Peter Gregory

Post Maintenance Testing "...Whenever I needed a good post maintenance test flight performed, I would always try to get Ken Kirk. He always asked me why I wanted him. I told him I trusted him and knew I'd get the best test performed that I could. And that way, I was sure it was good enough to perform for any pilot assigned to fly a mission."
-Norm Ebel

Clipboard Diplomacy "...When Fighter #1 got to be in such horrible condition, we moved our scramble crews to Henderson Field.
Continued >>


We were told that an Army ship was unloading food. Captain Fraser suggested taking a clip board and a jeep down to the landing area. Awhile later he and his driver returned with chocolate, gallon cans of peaches, etc. Captain Fraser, who stuttered slightly, said 'ma..ma..maybe we'd ba..ba..better bur..bur..burn the evidence.' So we built a fire and burned crates. (Who would question a Marine captain with a clipboard?)"
-Mel Hynde

Ground Loop Right "...On fighter #2, I recall wishing every plane landing in trouble would ground loop to the right because we needed a left wing. When we got one, a whole crew of men would hold it in place until it could be bolted on."
-Mel Hynde

Confiscation "...I remember one pilot landing an F4F all shot up. Leaving the plane to be bandaged up, he returned to the aircraft quickly to get his sunglasses from the bottom of the cockpit before they were 'confiscated.'"
-Mel Hynde

Man's Man "...I recall Technical Sergeant Conti's propeller monument plaque reading 'A Man's Man,' We not only lost a comrade, we lost the squadron's barber."
-Mel Hynde

 Silas "...I remember Silas Bates, an Apache Indian, right off the reservation, was on the 'canal only a few days. He was shipped back to Espiritos Santos because he looked too Japanese!"
-Mel Hynde

Sharing "...Officers buy their clothing and hence own them outright. However, enlisted personnel are issued their clothes. In essence, the clothes are still property of the government. One of our Technical Sergeant (Tom Hurst) who was a Naval Aviation Pilot, ditched after a mid-air collision with a Japanese Zero. He was rescued and, after two days, returned to the squadron, barefoot and wearing only a Navy shirt and trousers. After a rousing welcome, his tent mates sheepishly confessed that they were wearing his extra articles of clothing. Looking at his tent mates Technical Sergeant Hurst grinned and said 'You bastards, you could have waited at least a week!' (We hit Guadalcanal with only one change of clothing. The rest of our gear was supposed to be sent up from Espiritos Santos later. It never happened. I left the 'canal with only my original shoes. The rest of my clothes I 'acquired' from Army clotheslines!)"
-Mel Hynde

Tim Vasquez's Son, Rene, Reflects (Dec 08) "Like most WWII vets, my father was pretty modest about his military service. To him it was his duty, so to get any detailed stories was like pulling teeth. With the current war going on there has been a resurgence in veteran appreciation events. They are always looking for WWII vets to honor (not many left anymore). My brother-in-law and I have been prompting my dad to go to some of the veteran events in the area. Dad did a coin toss at an Arena Football League game. There, they took some pictures of him with the cheerleaders (I think that was his favorite part). He has been honored at minor league hockey and soccer games; getting his picture shown on the jumbo-tron (along with the reading of a mini-bio). He was one of four guests of honor at a recent chamber of commerce dinner. At one of the games he attended, they gave him a standing ovation and his reaction, though grateful, was: 'I don't understand this, I didn't do anything special!'. After talking to more and more old timers, it truly was the greatest generation."