~ The Avengers ~
Photo from Edwin Hoyt's, "McCampbells Heroes."
Cdr. Valdemar.G. 'VeeGee' Lambert, squadron Leader VT15.
Lambert flew a Grumman TBM Avenger in the South Pacific
The Avenger had a crew of three. One manned a ball turret behind the pilot and a tail gunner crouched in the belly,or ' bilge '. The airplane carried a ton of torpedoes or bombs, and was designed for low-level attack. Lambert commanded VT-15, which became the most successful squadron of torpedo bombers in WWII. Every pilot was awarded the Navy Cross.
In the battle of Sibuyan Bay on Oct 24, Lambert sortied with 16 of his Avenger torpedo bombers, which were armed with assorted bombs and a few topedoes. He describes the action as follows: "Coming in through the most intense and accurate AA yet experienced, the squadron made three hits on one battleship, two hits on another battleship, and two hits each on two different heavy cruisers. In this action two planes were lost, but the pilot and turret gunner of one plane, Lt jg W.F. Axtman and gunner J.T. O'Donnell were rescued by friendly forces after seeing the entire action from their rubber boat."
The day's fighting had hardly ended before word came that a third Japanese column, big carriers with their escorts, was bearing down from the north. The ESSEX and the ships of her disposition sailed northward to meet the challenge.
RADM. V. G. Lambert National Archives and Records Administration.
A Tribute to my Father
My Father, Lt. Commander Carlo J. Palermo flew with VT-83 aboard the USS Essex, March to September 1945. Unfortunately he died in a plane crash at the Kingsville NAS in August 1955. I have pieced together a brief military history, however do not have all the specifics of his career as a naval aviator.
VT-83 was commissioned May 1, 1944 at NAS, Quonset Point, R. I. And his flight crew consisted of Gunner, K.O. Johnson and Radioman, J.R. Eberhart.
K.O.Johnson, Joe Palermo, and John Eberhart.
Photo courtesy of John Eberhart
Lt. Comdr. Palermo flew 31 missions aboard the Essex and the squadron was credited with sinking or damaging 265,000 tons of enemy war shipping and 77,000 tons of merchant shipping. Lt. Comdr. Palermo was awarded the Navy Cross during action against the Japanese at Kure Naval base on March 19, 1945. Other commendations: Distinguished Flying Cross - three stars, Air Medal - four stars, Asiatic Pacific - two stars, Philippine Liberation, Navy Commendation Ribbon and Presidential Unit Citation for actions in aerial flight against major units of the Japanese Fleet at Kure Naval Base, Honshu, Japan, July 28, 1945.
Lt. Comdr. Palermo was discharged June 1947 and returned to active duty some time in 1949. He was assigned to VS-21 (the first squadron designated Air Anti-Submarine Squadron). VS-21 and AEW Team Number One of VC-11 embarked on the USS Sicily (CVE 118) on July 4, 1950, nine short days after the Korean War flared into existence.
This was the first carrier-based squadron to leave the continental limits of the U.S. following the Korean outbreak. They were temporarily based in Guam until October 21, 1950. Shortly after arriving in Japan, the squadron transferred to the USS Bairoko (CVE-T 115). On December 10, 1950, squadron personnel manned TBM-3E aircraft and flew to Yon-Po to assist in the evacuation of wounded personnel from Kotori airstrip nearby the Chosen reservoir.
The airstrip was regained for the second time shortly prior to VS-21s arrival. On the following day the detachment was ordered to return to Itami AFB, evacuating ten men and one F4U Corsair-type aircraft. VS-23 relieved VS-21 on January 15, 1951. VS-21 went on leave for several months and then resumed training and in October 1951 received its first guppy (AF2W) hunter aircraft and the Sugar (AF2S) the killer aircraft.
VS-21 set many firsts. They were the first to fly anti-submarine problems for a CV, the Valley Forge in August of 1952. During the previous month VS-21 recorded 1763 flight hours, more than any other flying unit in the Pacific Fleet. In July, VS-21 set a ground control approach (GCA) landing record under actual conditions at North Island, which brought several favorable articles from Aviation Publications. The squadron operated from many other carriers: USS Kearsarge (CVE 33), USS Philippine Sea (CV 47), USS Bataan (CVL 29) USS Badoeng Strait (CVE 116), USS Rendova (CVE 114)
Lt. Comdr. Palermo remained with VS-21 through January 1954. He became a flight instructor shortly afterwards and stationed at NAS Kingsville until his death in 1955. His last flight was in a S2F.
I hope everyone who visits this site is encouraged to write about friends, family and associates and enlist their support in adding many more personal histories and stories.
John Eberhart ARM2, VT83 1945
My Essex Experience
I entered the Navy May 5, 1943, went to boot camp at San Diego, CA. then to NATTC Memphis Tenn. for Radio and Radar schools, then to Hollywood Fla. for Arial Gunnery school. I was then sent to NAS Opaloca Fla. and assigned as an aircrewman with K.O. Johnson to our pilot Ens. Joe Palermo for operational training. We stayed together as a team until the end of the war.
Our squadron leader was Lt. George Gay who was the only survivor of Torpedo Squadron 8 in the Battle of Midway. Needless to say we were all impressed with him and he was an outstanding leader. At the conclusion of operational training we were assigned to VT83 as part of CVG83. The airgroup did further training in Ayers, Mass. and NAS Punnene Hawaii until Feb. 1945.
The Air Group boarded the Essex at Ulithi 10 March 1945 and we immediately headed for Okinawa and Japan on our first combat cruise to provide pre invasion strikes on Okinawa and neutralize the airfields on Kyushu. After the invasion of Okinawa on 1 April we alternated between air support on Okinawa and strikes on the airfields of Kyushu and the chief Naval center at Kure, where the remaining Japanese carriers and battleships were anchored. This first combat cruise ended after 79* days on 1 June 1945 when we pulled into Leyte in the Phillipines to re-provision the Essex.
One of the most satisfying missions we flew was on 20 May, when the Army called for a close air support mission. They had been stalled for 3 days and had suffered 385 casualties trying to take a ridge. We landed at Yonton airfield and after a special briefing we took of and made extremely low level runs on the target, dropping 5 sec. delay fused bombs within 150 yards from our own troops. This mission was so successful that our troops were able to take the ridge without further casualties.
SECOND COMBAT CRUISE 1 July - 15 August we concentrated on the Home islands of Kyushu and Honshu, striking air fields and fleet units and merchant shipping. We were in the air en route to the Tokyo area when we received word to cease operations against the enemy the morning of 15 August 1945. In the period 16 - 31 August - participated in air operations leading to the occupation of Tokyo Bay Area. We also spotted several prisoner of war camps dropping them food and clothing.
John Eberhart ARM 2/C
* 51 of the 79 days spent in combat. Along with CVLG47 USS BATAAN; believed to be the longest unbroken period of action during the war. This first cruise cost CVG83 in casualties 27 pilots and 11 Aircrewmen. RS
On 28 March 1945 while flying a raid on Mirami Daido, Carlo Palermo and John Eberhart were hit by AA fire and suffered considerable damage to the wing of their TBM. John flew 23 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Gold Star.
John standing next to damaged wing.
Jim Purtell ARM1, VT83 1945
A note from Jim ...
I served on the Essex in March of 45 until the end of the war. After boot camp in Newport Rhode Island I went to radio school in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania. After that I went to Memphis, Tennessee for naval air technical training and then on to gunnery school in Hollywood, Florida.
I was assigned for training in torpedo bombers at Jacksonville, Florida. Then I went to Quonset Point, Rhode Island and joined Torpedo Squadron 13 for training to be the first air group to board the USS FRANKLIN. After the shakedown cruise on the Franklin I was transferred to another squadron. Torpedo Squadron 83, and eventually boarded the Essex in I think March 10, 1945. I made Aviation Radioman first class and flew missions until the end of the war. As a matter of fact, on my last mission when we were about forty-five miles from the target we were called back to the ship and told the war had ended
I flew 25 missions. I remember August 9, 1945. The day the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. After a bombing mission on Northern Honshu we developed a problem and had to ditch at sea. We had a two man life raft and three of us. The pilot was Lt. Dewey LeClair, the gunner Joe Fitzgerald, and myself.
We floated around for several hours and then were picked up by the destroyer USS WEDDERBURN DD684. Two or three days later we were transferred back to the Essex and I flew some more missions until August 15.
During the combat period I was awarded four Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Of these I am very proud. Many others did a great deal more than me, but I like to think my little bit helped.
This photo was taken on Okinawa after we landed on Yonton airfield for a briefing by field officers. After the photo we took off and bombed Jap positions within 150 yards of the American front line*. After the bombing the troops captured the enemy stronghold without losing a man.
(*The area attacked was so close to our front lines that the Army called for air support only as a last resort, in what the Army termed the " Closest , most hazardous mission yet attempted " RS )
In the photo John Eberhardt is standing next to me with his arm around my shoulder. The young man kneeling in front on the right with the dark hair is a fellow named Bray. Just before we left the carrier he was notified that his brother had been killed in action.
David Miller VT15
David Miller (Gunner), Jerry Crumley (Pilot), 'Sliver' Jackson (Radioman)
David Miller Remembers
Me: I enlisted in the Navy September 16, 1941, on a "Kiddie" cruise. I'd finished boots and spent some time in "Out Going Unit" at the Lakes and had spent the day December 7, 1941 on a Pullman (no troop trains in those days!) on my way to NAS Jacksonville, for Aviation Machinist's Mate school. We arrived in Jacksonville about 0400 on a rainy December 8. A Lt.Cdr. lined us up and announced that the japs had bombed Pearl Harbor and that a state of war existed between the US and the Japanese Empire. Talk about one scared kid! I could envision the sneaky slant-eyed little devils crawling all over the beach.
I survived AMM school and was assigned to VGF-28 in April, '42. I pulled chocks and pushed planes on the USS Suwannee during the North African invasion. Upon returning to the States, I was reassigned to VB-16, NAS Quonset Point; received flight orders and went through their first Aerial Gunnery School. However, after a shakedown on the brand new USS LEXINGTON, the powers that be decided that wrench benders did not belong in the back seat of SBD's. I lost the job that was the love of my life.
After fueling planes and washing windshields for a couple of months I found a note posted by a personnel officer who was recruiting gunners. I applied. A bombing squadron had transited the base needing replacements, but the officer was told that I could not be spared from my "critical" job. I reapplied and told the officer that I'd take any thing that he could offer, even if they were flying barn doors and I'd settle accounts with my line chief. So, VT-15. The squadron was commissioned at USNAS Westerly, RI. Ensign Jerome C. Crumley, pilot; ARM2c Eugene Shannon, radioman; and David K. Miller, AMM2c, gunner. Brief shakedown aboard another new carrier the CV-12, USS HORNET. By the time we were ready for sea duty, VB-15 was transitioning into the new SB2C's. The crews had had only about forty hours in type and we lost six of the new birds in a storm as we passed Cape Hattaras. So, we were put ashore in Hawaii for additional training. The Hornet took another Air Group and headed out to sea, only to be back in port in a couple of weeks, with a hole in her flight deck. The Essex had just come out of a refurbishing in Seattle and we flew aboard while she was at sea.
This thing is getting a lot longer than I'd intended, so I'll just say the rest of that cruise is history. We left our aircraft and other gear for AG 4, boarded the BUNKER HILL (which had a broken flight deck) and headed home in November '44. We were ready for another cruise when the bomb was dropped and the unpleasantness ended.
Admiral McCain presents David Miller the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.
Dave was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice, and 6 Air Medals. He flew a total of 39 combat missions.
Albert Werdehoff, AOM2, VT15
Albert Werdehof flew 39 missions with Torpedo 15 during his tour on Essex. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and 8 Air Medals during his tour with VT15.
L. to R.: Albert B. Werdehoff AOM2, Lt. John B. Chambers, E.K. McNaught, ARM3
AOM 2/C Werdehoff recieving the Air Medal from Adm. McCain. E.K. McNaught ARM3c was injured in the first raid on San Marcos, 19 May 1944, earning him the Purple Heart.
The above pictures... Picture of E.K. McNaught from June 25th, 1944 issue of the Buccaneer, the ships newspaper. The other pictures are courtesy of Al Werdehoff son of Albert B. Werdehoff. Thanks Al.
VT15 Enlisted Crew
Photo courtesy of David Miller ( Second row down from top, Dave is the second from left.)
Top row, left to right: Nunley, gunner; Poppel, gunner; Patterson, gunner; Dunne, radioman; Temple, gunner; Peterson, radioman; Burkett, gunner; Jackson, radioman and Price, ordanceman.
Second row, left to right: Blalock, gunner; Miller, gunner; Lifert, radioman; McAllister, radioman; Caren, gunner; Marshall, radioman; McCartney, radioman; Chirimbes, radioman; Cordeaux, parachute rigger; Cohen, radioman; Gal, gunner; Gittelson, gunner; Zwygurt, metalsmith, Dudley, gunner; Johnson, gunner; Werdehoff, gunner; & Compton, the yeoman.
The Third row, left to right: Deen, gunner; Schloss, gunner; Plotkin, radioman; Kohut, radioman; Bradley, radioman; Anderson, radioman; Gormley, gunner; Dold, radioman; Brunelle, radioman; Dair, engineer; Brockmyre, electrician; McNaught, radioman; ODonell, gunner; Gormbach, gunner; Loher, radioman; & Zirbes, gunner.
Behind the bottom row, the CPOs are: Kirk, Leading Chief; Harrel, Chief Engineer; Byrne, Chief Radioman; & Brazett, Chief Electrician.
Bottom row, left to right are: Danzig, radioman; Ehrgood, gunner: Shankle, gunner; Birnbaum, gunner; Coleman, radioman; Ellen, gunner; Kimball, gunner; Bullard, radioman; Cooper, radioman; Crampton, gunner; Sutcliff, radioman; Egger, radioman; Capola, radioman; Houdelett, gunner.
Crew member's signatures on back of the photograph above
Click on the signature photo above to see the high resolution view.
Photos courtesy of Michael Cosgrove, son of VT15 pilot Robert D. Cosgrove.
Click on photo for larger view.
Torpedo Eighty Three from TailHook
Torpedo 15 Crew Patch
Torpedo 15 Insignia designed by pilot Paul Southard
"Collect On Delivery"
Photo courtesy of Michael Cosgrove
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