1Lt. Robert T. Whitten

June 30th, 2014
1Lt. Robert T. Whitten

1Lt. Robert T. Whitten served with VMO-251 until early 1944. In September 1942, while performing a high altitude climb to intercept Japanese aircraft approaching Guadalcanal, his oxygen system failed. He blacked out from anoxia. In a newspaper article published in the Wilmington Delaware Journal April 17, 1943, Whitten says he "snapped out of it just in time."

When he returned from that intercept, he and several pilots were immediately sent on sick leave. This incident, coupled with the debilitating effects of malaria that he had contracted, later led to being taken off flight status.

Working on Chapter 3

June 19th, 2014
Working on Chapter 3

Above: VMO-251 mechanics work on F4F-3 Wildcats on Espiritu Santo sometime in late 1942. Photo: Tailhook Association.

Working on chapter 3 of the book. It covers VMO-251s time at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides and at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands from August 1942 to June 1943. (Pull out your maps if you don't know where these islands are located ). This will be the most difficult chapter. Squadron records from this time period are sparse, and in some cases missing. I have constructed a timeline based on casualties sustained and Japanese planes downed by the squadron. Secondary sources will have to be used to fill in the gaps when it comes to air operations: The First Team and Operation Ke. Background on the Guadalcanal campaign will come from USMC histories and other sources.

Credited Kills and Probables

June 7th, 2014
Credited Kills and Probables

Above is 1Lt. Joe McGlothlin, one of 17 VMO-251 pilots credited with shooting down at least one Japanese plane. Note the hastily applied "rising sun" near the cockpit. For a complete list of all kills and probables, a PDF has been attached. It is one of the appendices in the book.

A Wildcat Written Off

June 6th, 2014
A Wildcat Written Off

Grumman F4F-3 (BuNo 1890 -- squadron plane number 9) piloted by 2Lt George S. Kobler crash landed at Tontouta Airfield in New Caledonia on 22 July, 1942. It was stricken from the record seven days later. Kobler later died in an accident on Guadalcanal. Photo courtesy of the Tailhook Association.

An Important Photo Mission

June 2nd, 2014

While working on chapter two of the squadron's WW2 history, I have come across the names of the four VMO-251 photographers who snapped the pictures of the invasion areas of Guadalcanal and Tulagi on July 23 and August 2, 1942. They flew on B-17s belonging to the 11th Bombardment Group. The mission was led by LCDR Robert S. Quackenbush, Jr., who established and ran the Navy's Photography and Photo Interpretation Unit based out of New Caledonia. Once the pictures were developed and analyzed at New Caledonia, they were flown via PBY Catalina and air dropped to the invasion fleet. Vandegrift finally had current photos since his maps were pretty much worthless. The four 251 photographers were: TSGT Marcus N. Harper Jr., NCOiC of the squadron’s photographic section; SSGT Jay W. Morris, SSGT Wilbur L. Peak, and SGT Homer E. Collier Jr.