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The History of VC-63

MAY 20, 1943 - AUGUST 15, 1944

Commander S.S. Searcy Jr., VC-63

VC-63 VT Pilots


Pilots (top row) Gunners (kneeling) Radiomen (seated) Some radiomen and gunners mixed

Pilots have their gunners and radiomen lined up in front of them. Reading left to right.

1. Hansen, Hodge, Torrijas. 2. Cook, Murray, Coit. 3. Miller, Rollins, Swales. 4. Rivers, Kowal, Watson. 5. Douglass, Papineau, Jirash. 6. Bevis, Anderson, Benson. 7. Goransen, Barron, Bailey. 8. Lynn, Karavos, Thompson. 9. Costar, "Skinhead", Bjornstad. 10. Nutt, Eskro, Forman. 11. Wiegand, Gerfen, Gibson. 12. Cresto, MacDonald, Kennedy.  13. Laing, Thayer, Wright.  14. Hutchison, Burgos, Ortiz [mis-spelled in logbook as Ortez]. 15. Strong, Grayson, Gleason. 16. Lang, Cruz, Yochman. [17. ?? not listed in Logbook ]
Far left kneeling. Sq. Tech. Schlee.

[Photo caption information updated on April 10, 2011]


Composite Squadron SIXTY - THREE (VC-63) was commissioned at the Naval Air Station, Alameda, California on May 20, 1943. The squadron commissioning was by Lieutenant Commander S.S. SEARCY, Jr., U.S. Navy and Flag Instructions were made clear. Temporary duties were assigned to the squadron officers to be held until full complement had reported.

After being commissioned, the squadron was issued F4F-4 Fighters and TBM-1 Torpedo planes. SNJ and SBD type aircraft were used for instrument and utility flights.

The following shall be a running account of the squadron's activities while based on the West Coast, at the Naval Air Station, Alameda, California, with Commander Fleet Air, Alameda the next higher echelon of command, and while in the San Diego area with Commander Fleet Air, West Coast the next higher echelon of command.

May 28, 1943. Ensign E.R. Lange crashed on take-off in F4F type aircraft. Pilot was un-injured while airplane suffered a buckled left wing tip and damaged left landing gear. June 2, 1943. Ensign C.L. Shannon ground-looped F4F-4 Fighter at N.A.A.S., Crows Landing, California, with slight damage to plane. Pilot cracked vertebra and was hospitalized at U.S. Naval Hospital (Oak Knoll), Oakland, California, for several weeks.

June 23, 1943. At 1545 this date, Lt. Joseph A. Styles, A_V (N), USNR, Executive Officer, was killed in crash of TBM-1 , bureau No. 24561 near Rio Vista, Calif. while on oxygen flight. Lieut. Styles' home address was 554 Main St. Worcester, Mass.

August 23, 1943. On this date, 27 officers and 55 enlisted men went to N.A.A.S., Vernalis, California, for night flying. The good weather was fully appreciated and the squad-ron accomplished a lot of good work. Ensign G.D. Lott had the only accident when he ran off the end of the runway during his landing roll, hit a ditch and flipped over on his back. There were no injuries to the pilot although the plane was damaged considerably.

September 10, 1943. Ensign R.J. Mann had an emergency landing in the waters of Half Moon Bay, was picked up by the Coast Guard and flew back to base. From the above date, the squadron started acquiring FM-1 type fighters.

September 29, 1943. The squadron moved this date to N.A.A.S., Holtville, California, where it was to finish with night flying plus limited day operations. One night while flying at Holtville, squadron personnel noticed that the Station Public Works building was on fire. All airborne flights were landed, all hands turned to and put out the fire, and then resumed night flying without missing a scheduled hop.

October 19, 1943. Having finished basic points of night flying syllabus, the squadron departed this date for the Naval Air Station, Los Alamitos, California, where they carried on gunnery, bombing and other general operations. Part of operations included work at N.A.A.S., Ream Field, San Diego, California, such as Field Carrier Landing Practive, arrested landings and land catapult shots. During one night of F.C.L P., Ensign R.J. Mann hit a high tension line with his landing gear and blacked-out half the city of Santa Ana, Calif. with no damage to either plane or pilot.

October 29, 1943. On this date, while Part-icipating in a night flare attack out of San Diego in area H-14, the squadron lost one torpedo plane with pilot and air crewmen. Ensign A.H. Campbell, who was flying the flare plane, rogered his instructions for dropping flares, executed these instructions, and has never been seen nor heard from since. Searches were flown for four days out as far as 150 miles but no trace of a life raft or plane could be found. Ensign Campbell;s crewmen were McGahuey, Chester C., AM3c - Gunner - Pulliam, Julian (n) ARM3c - Radioman.

November 9, 1943. Ensign C. Horan had an accident while landing at N.A.A.S., Ream Field. Plane suffered a damaged wing tip while there were no injuries to pilot.

November 12, 1943. Flight of seven (7) TBM's and six (6) FM's arrived at San Diego, Calif. Where they were put aboard the U.S.S. COPAHEE, CVE-12, for a three day cruise of carrier qualifications. On Saturday, November 13, while operating from above mentioned CVE, Lieut. Frank Crane, USNR, landed in water off the bow of the ship after a catapult failure. He was picked up uninjured by the escorting destroyer.

November 23, 1943. The entire squadron left N.A.A.S., Los Alamitos, California for San Diego where they went aboard the U.S.S. NATOMA BAY (CVE-62) for a qualification and shake-down cruise. While on this cruise, Lt. Comdr. SEARCY crashed in water off the bow of the ship during take-off. He got out uninjured and was picked up by the escorting DE. There were numerous accidents while on this cruise such as barrier crashes, blown tires, etc. Upon return from this cruise the squadron reported to C.A.S.U. FIVE, San Diego, for temporary duty.

December 7, 1943. Ensign H.G. Dersam ground-looped an FM-1 at N.A.A.S., Ream Field. The left wing was slightly damaged.

January 2, 1944. While stationed at North Island, N.S. San Diego, one of the squadron operations was night field carrier landings at N.A.A.S., Ream Field.

January 4, 1944. The squadron set sail at 1030 this date from the Naval Air Station San Diego, California, on the U.S.S. NATOMA BAY (CVE-62). Arrived at Pearl Harbor on January 10th, received orders and were underway at 0830 on January 13, 1944, for a short cruise of carrier operations, including carrier landings, group attacks, etc. Put back in at Pearl Harbor on January 18th. On this shakedown cruise in the Hawaiian waters, the squadron operated with-out accident of any kind and received a "Well Done" for their good work. Shoved off from Pearl Harbor for operational cruise into enemy territory on January 23, 1944.

January 28, 1944. Crossed International Date Line this date. On the first day out from Pearl Harbor, Ensign J.P. Lang, and aircrewmen, werelost and spent the night on a sister carrier, the U.S.S. NASSAU, and were returned the next day. Ensign R.J.Mann had an engine failure and was fished out by the destroyer escort, with his crew J.S. Evans Jr., AOM3c, Gunner. and R.L. Davis, ARM3c, Radioman. Operations consisting of Anti-Sub Patrol and practice group exercises were the main work of the squadron for the next few days.

January 30, 1944. Covered landings at Majuro, in the Marshall Islands on D-Day. The U.S.S. NATOMA BAY (CVE-62) was the first U.S. carrier to drop anchor in Jap mandated waters.

February 1, 1944. First bombing strike of VC-63 was made by Lt. W.C. Rivers and Ensign J.D.Wiegand while on reconnaissance flight over Maloelape Atoll. They dropped six 350 # bombs with damage unknown. Ensign Wiegand's plane was hit by AA fire but landed aboard safely.

February 7, 1944. Ensign R.I. Goranson,and crew, E.R. Bailey, AOM3c, Gunner; E.B.Barron, ARM2c, Radioman, had an emergency landing at 0940, while on ASP around Majuro. Air and surface searching parties were sent out but no sign of either pilot,crew or plane could be found. They were officially listed as missing.

February 12, 1944. Lt. Strong, Lt. (jg), C.B. Wright Jr, Lt. (jg) J. Cresto, Ensign W.Brown and C.J. Hodge, AMM1c, went aboard the U.S.S. INTREPID for spare plane parts. The ship set sail before these men could be returned to their own ship. They went to Truk, where the INTREPID caught a torpedo at 0015, February 17, 1944, and had to return to Pearl Harbor T.H. for repairs. The above men were flown to Espirto Santo, where they waited for the NATOMA BAY and returned aboard said ship on the 14th of March. They had covered 8,000 miles in this one month.

February 13, 1944. two fighters spotted for naval gunfire at Taroa, Marshall Islands, also two more for search of Taroa and Wotje. ASP patrols were flown at all times.

February 18, 1944. Launched two different. strikes at Wotje Atol, Marshall Islands.

February 19, 1944. Put into Majuro Harbor and left the next day. Continued with ASP. In and out of Majuro again. Received replace-ment planes from the U.S.S. NASSAU.

February 27, 1944. Received aboard six VF from U.S.S. MONTEREY, six VF from U.S.S. COWPENS, six VT from U.S.S. YORKTOWN and two VF from U.S.S. BUNKER HILL. They were launched and returned to their own ships the next day.

February 28, 1944. Exchanged six TBM's with the U.S.S. YORKTOWN. The ones the squadron received were pretty well banged up.

From the 2nd of March until the 6th of March, the ship was anchored in Majuro Harbor.

March 7, 1944. At 1645, March 9, 1944, crossed the Equator at 172 degrees E. Longitude.

March 12,1944. Anchored at Espirito Santo, New Hebrides, Islands.

March 14, 1944. Thirteen FM-1 airplanes were flown to beach to be transferred.

March 15, 1944. Fifteen FM-2 airplanes were flown aboard along with four TBF-1C type planes. This was the first time that FM-2 aircraft were used by the squadron. ASP and CAP continued.

March 18, 1944. Lt. G.H. Douglass and aircrewmen went into the water after being catapulted. All men were picked up by the escort destroyer.

March 20, 1944. Lt. J.H. Dinneen and Ens. R.P. Kirk received joint credit for a Jap aircraft-type Judy.

March 22, 1944. Probable sub contact was made by Lt. (jg) M.R. Miller at 1630.

April 1, 1944. Dropped anchor at Tulagi, where all pilots left the ship for a rest period.

April 9, 1944. Shoved off from Tulagi. Six TBC-1C and 1 FM-2 replacements planes landed from Guadalcanal. ASP and CAP continued.

April 14, 1944. Ens. E.R. Lange was re-ported missing after a CAP hop. The flight was lost in a storm and each were left to their own devices. Lt. J.H. Dinneen landed on the beach at Emirau, and in the process flipped over on his back receiving no injuries. Ens. L.D. Venable landed in water along side the crash boat in Emirau harbor. Ens. H.V. Jamieson landed back aboard. Searches for Ens. Lange were conducted for several days but no trace of pilot, crew or plane were found and he was officially listed as missing. During this period the squadron was flying every minute of every day escorting convoys from Guadalcanal to Emirau Island, St. Matthies Group. Also, squadron planes covered four battleships of New Mexico Class in bombardment of Kavieng, New Ireland, spotted for naval gunfire and flew ASP and CAP.

April 22, 1944. Flew strikes, ASP and CAP at Aitape, New Guinea. Strikes were against Tadji Airdrome, New Guinea, and covering of landings for troops. Moved up to Hollandia Area with TASK FORCE 58. The ship's engines broke down so had to proceed to Seadler Harbor, Admiralty Islands, Lt. (jg) H. Coster made a perfect night landing with 15 knots of wind over the flight deck in a blinding rainstorm with all ships lights out.

April 28, 1944. Entered Seadler Harbor, Admiralty Islands. Pulled out May 7,1944 for the Hawaiian Area.

May 18, 1944. At 0630, eight VF and eight VT were launched to fly to the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe, Oahu, T.H. At 1100 docked at Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor. May 20, 1944. Squadron flew planes from N.S. Kaneohe to NAS, Pearl Harbor.

May 22, 1944. Squadron detached from U.S.S. NATOMA BAY and at 1400 left NAS, Pearl Harbor for NAS, Barking Sands, Kauai, T.H.

May 25, 1944. Squadron operations at NAS, Barking Sands, consisted mostly of gunnery for fighters and glide bombing practice for torpedo bombers.

May 30, 1944. Ens. R. P. Kirk landed in water just off the Barking Sands field after engine cut-out. He was picked up unhurt by the crash boat.

June 10, 1944. Squadron now based at NAS, Kaneohe, Oahu, T.H.

June 12, 1944. Squadron pilots left for five days at a local rest home. All enlisted personnel left for five days rest at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

June 20, 1944. Ten VF pilots and six VT pilots volunteered for ferry and replacements to squadrons now operating in the forward areas.

June 21,1944. Lt. (jg) R.E. Bevis and Ens. W.J. Bienemann answered request for volunteers to go aboard the U.S.S. INTREPID for temporary duty. They ferried two planes to Eniwetok, Marshall Islands and then returned to the squadron. From the above date until July 9, 1944 the squadron kept on routine gunnery and bombing flights.

Also reviewed night field carrier landings. On July 9th the squadron left NAS. Kaneohe for Pearl Harbor where they again went aboard the U.S.S. NATOMA BAY, this time enroute for the STATES.

The U.S.S. Natoma Bay (CVE-62) had covered approximately 44,000 miles , with squadron embarked for approximately 28,500 miles. VC-63 logged approximately 1800 landings aboard above ship.

July 16, 1944. Docked at San Diego, U.S.A. Squadron disembarked and reported to Commander Fleet Air, West Coast for reassignment and rehabilitation leave for all hands.

Period from 16 July 1944 to August 22, 1944. Upon reporting to Commander Fleet Air, West Coast, N.A.S., San Diego, Calif. the squadron was based at NAS. San Diego, awaiting physical examinations, reassignment and further orders.

Officers were reassigned and received thirty (30) days delay in reporting to new duty stations. The following officers were assigned for continuation of duties in the reforming of VC-63: Lt. W.C. Rivers assigned as prospective commanding officer. Lt. C.B. Wright, Jr., Lt. (jg) R.T. Lynn, Lt. (jg) R.E. Bevis, Lt. (jg) G.D. Lott, Ens. Dersam and Ens. Bienamann. Lt. (jg) T.R. Laing, All other officers were assigned to various units in the states.

Enlisted personnel were reassigned and thirty (30) days leave granted. Following names men were granted 30 days leave and to return to VC-63 for continuation of duties when reformed.

ANDERSON, Albert E. ART-1c
ANDERSON, William M. AOM-2c (CA)
BROWN, John W. AEM-2c
CIUCCI, Joe (n) AMMP-1 c
CRUZ, Gilberto M. AOM-2c (VA)
GERFEN, Clinton L. ARM-3c (CA)
GIBSON, Marvin D. AOM-1 c (CA)
GLEASON, James H. ARM-1c (CA)
GROSNER, Andrew M. Y-1 c
HODGE, Clifford J. AMM-1c (CA)
JOPP, Harry J. AMM-1c
KOWAL, Edward B. AOM-1c (CA)
ROUDON, Alton P. ARM-3c (CA)
SCHLEE, Willard J. AMM-2c (CA)
SCHNEIDER, Raymond L. PR-2c
TORRIJAS, Emilio (n) AMM-1c (CA)
WATSON, James, L. ARM-2c (CA)
YOCHMAN, William N. ARM-2c (CA)

All other enlisted personnel were transferred to various units in the States.

On July 22, 1944 all officers and enlisted personnel left NAS San Diego on 30 days leave. Personnel to be returned to VC-63 when reformed, reported August 21, 1944 at NAS. San Diego, awaiting further orders to NAS. Alameda where the squadron was to be reformed.


Lieutenant Commander Seth S. SEARCY, Jr. , Squadron Commander for period from May 20, 1943 to July 16, 1944.

Lieutenant Joseph A. STYLES, Squadron Executive Officer, for period from May 20, 1943 to June 23, 1943. (Killed in plane crash).

Lieutenant William C. RIVERS, Squadron Executive Officer for period from June 23, 1943 to July 16,1944.


During the training period, the squadron operated as a self-sustaining unit with a complement of 31 officers and 200 enlisted personnel. Upon enbarking the U.S .S. NATOMA BAY (CVE-62) for a shake-down cruise, 23 November 1944, the squadron was streamlined by transferring 146 enlisted personnel and 2 officers to the ship.


5-20-43 9-10-43 3-15-44


May 20, 1943 to September 29, 1943. Based at N.A.S., Alameda, California with Commander Fleet Air, Alameda the next higher echelon of command.

September 29, 1943 to Nov. 23, 1943. Based at N.A.A.S., Holtville, NAS, Los Alamitos, with Commander Fleet Air, West Coast the next higher echelon of command.

November 23, 1943 to Dec. 3, 1943. Aboard U.S.S. NATOMA BAY ( CVE-62) with said ship next higher in command which in turn was under command of Commander Fleet Air, West Coast.

December 3, 1943 to January 4, 1944. Based at N.A.S.. San Diego with Commander Fleet Air, West Coast next higher echelson of command.

January 4, 1944 to January 10, 1944. Aboard U.S.S. NATOMA BAY (CVE-62) - Ship next higher echelon of command, which in turn was under command of Commander Fleet Air, West Coast.

January 10, 1944 to July 16, 1944. Aboard U.S.S. NATOMA BAY (CVE-62) - Ship next higher echelon of command, in turn under command of Commander Air Force, Pacific Fleet.

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