These PBM-5 Mariner seaplanes and crews were assigned to VPB-18 on Kerama Retto located about 15 miles west of
Okinawa. On October 6, 1949, nine members of Lt Marr’s seaplane and two members of Lt Hart’s seaplane were buried
in Section E Site 178 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
Lt Jg Marr, Irving Everett, Pilot
ARM3 Arney, Clyde L
AOM3C Carroll, Jack V
Esler, Richard Lee
AMM3C Priest, Alfred Floyd
Ensign Robuck, Harold Newton
AOM3C Taylor, Carl Wayne
Ensign Wagner, Kenneth Walter
AMM3C Wahl, Jack David
AMM3C Waite L. KIA
ARM3 Barnes, H.D. Honolulu Memorial Cemetery
Lt Hart, M., Pilot
Day, Edmund Joseph Jr,
Morey, Richard Francis
Lt Dixon, E.
Ensign Hecht KIA
AOM3C Worley, C.L.
AMM2C Parshall, R.C.
AMMF3C Spring, K.E.
ARM3C Decain, D. D.
ARM3C Clark, J. H.
AOM3C Armnecht, R.
AOM3C Graf, R. G.
IRVING MARR WAS MY
LATE FATHER'S BROTHER WHO DIED JUST BEFORE WORLD WAR II ENDED. THIS IS HIS STORY!
PATROL BOMBING SQUADRON 18
c/o FLEET POST OFFICE
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
the war is over, and censorship has been relaxed, the personnel of VPB-18 wish to pay tribute to some of its members who made
the supreme sacrifice, in the Okinawa campaign.
Every member of the squadron knew how vastly important to the war effort
the patrol plane had become in the operation. Ours was the job of cutting off the home island of Japan from all outside aid,
in the form of raw materials and other supplies which were being shipped in from China and the captured islands to the South.
This entailed long arduous patrols through adverse weather conditions , at all hours of the day and night. Strong enemy resistance
resulted in bullet riddled planes returning to base day after day, with crews worn out from the terrific pace that was set.
True, it was no picnic, but the job had to be done, and how well it was done will live long in Naval history. Ours was a big
contribution, but we also had to pay the price which goes with war. We would like to tell the story of two crews who helped
make our enviable record possible. Due to losses of personnel in the engagement, the action of each individual concerned cannot
be told. We will speak of them as crews, but they, each individually, will be remembered with reverence.
At 0630 on
the morning of 15 May, two PBM Mariner seaplanes of Patrol Bombing Squadron Eighteen took off from Kerama Retto, Okinawa,
on a routine search and reconnaisance mission of the Tsushima Straits area. The crews of these two planes consisted of:
E. Marr, Ensign K W Wagner, Ensign H. Robuck, Wahl, J.D. Amm3c, Waite, L. Amm3c, Esler, R.L. Amm3c, Priest, A.F. Amm3c, Arney,
C.L. Jr. ARM3c, Barnes, H.D. ARM3c, Carroll, J.V. aAom3c, Taylor, C.W.AOM3c,
Lt. M. Hart, Lt. E. Dixon, Ensign Rumberg,
Ensign Hecht, Worley, C.L. Aom3c, Parshall, R.C. Amm2c, Spring, K.E. Amm3c, Day, E.J. Jr. AMMF3c, Decain, D.D. ARM2c, Clark,
J.H. ARM3c, Morey, R.F. AOM2c, Armnecht, R.H. AOM3c, Graf, R.G. AOM3c,
At 1045 the flight sighted a 200 freighter off
the coast of Kamino Shima in the Tsushine Straits. LT. MARR made the first run staffing the decks with his bow turret, and
dropping two bombs, which straddled the ship. Lt. Hart followed close behind and dropped one bomb, also a near miss. They
both made several more runs and liberally sprayed the target with their machine guns. At that point, the ship was dead in
the water and sinking fast, so they abandoned it to its fate, and continued on patrol.
Some 10 miles north, they encountered
a large freighter of about 3500 tons. LT. MARR again made the first run on this choice target. He dropped a string of seven
bombs all that remained after his 1st attack. Of these two were direct hits, one forward and the other aft of the superstructure.
There followed an explosion, with smoke, flame, and debris rising to a height of 300 feet. The ship lay dead in the water
and as LT HART turned to follow up the attack, the entire ship exploded with extreme violence and literally disintegrated.
immediately the flight spotted another, still larger, freighter about ten miles to the north. It was estimated at about 4000
tons. LT HART made the first attack on this target and scored a very near miss with a 500 pound bomb which rocked the ship
violently. Serious underwater damage must have resulted from this and in conjuncture with machine gun fire from both planes,
the ship was soon laying helplessly in the water, billowing smoke, and slowly rolling over on its side. As LT. HART started
to make a second bombing run, his port engine started cutting out, so he was forced to break away, and start for home. He
later discovered that gunfire from the ship had hit his engine, and damaged it. He dumped all spare gear over the side, and
all ammunition except 200 rounds per gun, which had to be saved in case of fighter attacks on the way home.
two planes came abreast of Kamino Shima again they passed through a rain squall. Coming out of the squall, LT (jg) MARR spotted
a group of enemy fighters below him. Both planes started down for the water, a much better place to fight a seaplane, than
up high. At about 1000 feet a Jap plane made a bow on run on LT MARR'S plane. The PBM's Starboard engine was hit, and started
to flame. His bow gunner, meanwhile was pouring out a deadly fire with his twin 50 calibers. The Jap plane fell off on a wing
and was seen to crash into the sea. It is supposed that the Jap's bullets found their mark in the PBM cockpit, as well as
hitting the engine, for MARR's plane immediately entered a steep dive from which it never recovered. It crashed near the spot
where the Jap had hit, and exploded sending up a column of smoke and water 300 feet high.
At that point, Lt Hart
was left alone with 9 Jap fighters to contend with. It must be remembered that he was operating with one engine, and had only
200 rounds per gun. The Japs came in 2 or 3 at a time, and all the turrets pourted out their fire in answer. In the next 45
minutes of the running fight, the crew members saw 5 Japs go down trailing smoke. The remaining four Japs became obviously
discouraged at the apparent indestrutibility of the PBM, and their own mounting losses, and discretely withdrew to safer territory.
elevator controls had been shot out in the engagement, however, and his plane continued to settle toward the ocean. The waves
were 30 to 40 feet high and due to the lack of control, a very rough forced landing was made. Five bounces were made before
the plane finally came to rest. The third of these was so violent, that all the instruments in the panel popped out, scattering
glass and parts in the pilots laps. On subsequent bounces a wingtip float was carried away. Both pilots later stated that
it was little short of a miracle that a safe ditching was made with conditions as they were
Word for abandon ship was
passed, and rubber rafts were broken out. All men abandoned ship, but remained in the water approximately 3/4 of an hour holding
on to boats, since three of the Jap planes had returned and were buzzing the downed plane, without straffing however.
the enemy planes left, five men crowded into each of the two remaining 4 man life rafts. They had difficulty in rescuing three
other members of the crew, Ensign Hecht, Day and Morey, due to the rough seas, and the high winds. The men in the rafts finally
became exhausted by their efforts to fight the 40 knot wind and could not reach the men still in the water. When last seen
they disappeared behind a large swell.
The men in the boats all soon developed sickness from all the salt water, and
gasoline they had swallowed. The rough sea kept capsizing the boats, sand all in all they spent a bad night at sea. At 6:30
in the evening they were spotted by two planes sent out by this squadron, but it was not until early the next morning that
a submarine arrived on the scene. All hands were so sick and weak, they had to be carried on board the submarine.
rescue was affected two (2) miles off the shore of the enemy held island of Shiro Shima, one of the small islands of Goto
Retto, off the west coast of Kyuchu.
When Hart ditched, his men scrambled into the choppy sea and clung to rubber rafts. They were attacked by Japanese
George fighters of the elite 343rd Naval Air Group. The flight leader CPO Takumi Sugitaki saw the men struggling in the water
and felt pity for them. He had been shot down into the sea in the Marshall Islands in 1943 and also crash landed in Tokyo
Bay in December 1944. So he took pity on Hart's crew and did not strafe them. It was customary for Japanese pilots to strafe
Americans in their parachutes and in the water. Because he withheld his fire, his wingmen did also. And that is why they survived
The leader of the Georges was Lt(jg) Akio Matsuba, an 18 victory
ace. A PBM gunner put a bullet in his foot and he was forced with withdraw. That put him out of the war.
Mr. Matsuba came with other Zero pilots to NAS Miramar in 1971 as a guest of the American Fighter Aces Association. They played golf and had a wonderful
Mr. Matsuba passed away in 1993 I think. I had written to him asking him about the details of this combat. He
was in ill health at the hospital. He told his brother to tell me that he saw a couple of parachutes from Marr's PBM and that he did NOT strafe the men in the water.
many years of derision the patrol seaplane was finally, during the war in the Pacific, recognized by all pilots as a most
useful and valuable creature. This realization came most forcefully to many as they or their friends were picked out of an
inhospitable sea by a flying boat which landed for that purpose. This phase of the airplane's activity was, however, only
one of many and by no means the most important of an extensive repertoire.
The seaplane came into its own during the
invasion of Okinawa. In the words of Commander Fleet Air Wing One, “Never before had search planes and tenders attempted
so much under such difficult combat, weather, and base conditions." And the attempt was successful beyond all but the wildest
hopes! Long before fields were available for the first land based aircraft, the seaplane organization had established a large,
protected, and well supplied floating base from which operations were established days before the initial landing on Okinawa
had taken place. For a period of weeks the only long range planes in the area were the Martin Mariners from Kerama Retto,
the group of small islands about 15 miles west of Okinawa proper.
The record of Patrol Bombing Squadron Eighteen is
one that illustrates the versatility of the seaplane and the success it achieved when flown by pilots and crews who had faith
in their airplane and ability to use its every advantage. This squadron of Martin Mariners (PBM-5) was assigned at Okinawa to the search and reconnaissance group composed
at first of only two squadrons, VPB-18 and VPB-21. The mission of the patrols flown by these units was to search out enemy shipping
and attempt to destroy it, and to locate and report the presence of any enemy attacking force threatening the invasion fleets.
The area covered included the China Sea, the Yellow Sea, the southern end of the Japanese Sea, the east coast of Kyushu and
Shikoku, and the fleet operating area east of Okinawa. The hunting along the north China coast and the ruggedly indented west
coast of Korea was very good and the success of the slow and relatively undergunned Mariner as an attack bomber was a surprise
to all but its crews.
Other Mariner squadrons were assigned the duty of maintaining a constant anti-submarine patrol
about the invasion area. The success of their effort may be realized in the fact that, to the best of this writer's knowledge,
not one enemy submarine attack during the whole operation met with success. Virtually every type of mission performable by
a patrol seaplane was assigned to VPB-18 at one time or another, and they were flown in weather up to and including a typhoon.
Routine reconnaissance patrols were the most numerous. In addition, anti-shipping block missions, night heckling and intruder
flights into the confined waters of the Empire itself, night·convoy tracking missions, and attacks against defended radio,
radar, and lighthouse land installations were undertaken. One flight was made for the purpose of dropping "surrender" leaflets
to the enemy forces occupying one of the islands surrounding the seadrome. Specific search and attack missions against shipping
were also flown, and the squadron frequently acted as an air-sea rescue outfit. Squadron policy was to attack any target the
pilot thought he could get away with, and it was carried out with vigor and enthusiasm by all concerned.
aircraft offered the greatest hazard in the air, a great many difficulties were encountered, and overcome, at the base. The
area was protected from the sea, but ground swells could and did enter the seadrome to make the heavily loaded take-offs most
difficult and hazardous. Small craft insisted, under the cover of darkness, upon anchoring in the runways, and many take-offs
were made on a dog-leg around a careless LCI with the plane bouncing from the crest of one swell to the crest of the next.
These same LCI's also insisted upon testing their protective smoke-laying apparatus just as the morning or evening flight
of planes were maneuvering for take-off positions through the maze of shipping bordering the runways. This unexpected smoke
was the cause of one collision between two planes which resulted in "strike" damage to one of them. In addition, the surrounding
islands were still in enemy hands, and since some plane moorings were almost within throwing distance of the beaches, an armed
guard had to be maintained on each airplane at all times. This later developed into one of the most pressing problems encountered,
as it became impossible to maintain the security watch on as many as 18 planes, fly the schedule required, and still permit
the crews to get some rest aboard ship. Naturally, the rest aboard ship went by the board.
Another most serious problem
was unique to Kerama Retto. Due to the number and variance in air attacks upon the shipping in the anchorage, no plane, friendly
or enemy, was permitted to enter the area while an attack was in progress, and the daily attacks sometimes lasted four to
six hours. This unavoidable policy frequently forced planes with engine trouble, or with an engine failure, or with battle
damage to keep clear of the area until the attack had ended. A plane from another squadron was forced to land outside the
area one night, and the landing attempt was unsuccessful, killing the entire crew.
In March, 1945, Patrol Bombing Squadron
Eighteen had been in the forward area for ten months and had faced very difficult operating conditions but no sign of the
enemy. The squadron was at this time at Saipan readying planes and equipment for the move to Okinawa. On the night of March
28, the twelve twin-engined Mariners took off from the Saipan lagoon and in three-plane sections started climbing up through
the overcast on a heading of northwest. In addition to a full load of ammunition for the eight 50-caliber machine guns and
a full load of bombs, each plane carried the personal effects and equipment of its crew, as this was also a squadron movement.
Apprehension also rode in each plane that night. Although two squadrons had moved forward the night before, this was still
a flight into the unknown with no return.
The apprehension was justified as one plane soon suffered an engine failure.
Fortunately the pilot had enough altitude to permit him to jettison his ammunition, bombs, personal effects, and anything
else that could be torn out of the airplane, and was able to struggle back to Saipan on one engine to make a successful night
landing in very rough water.
The remaining eleven airplanes plowed their way through the storm and arrived at Kerama
Retto at dawn on March 29. The tenders were anchored as planned and looked surprisingly peaceful. Planes from the earlier
squadrons were moored and the seaplane base was well established. The planes in the air landed and moored to buoys laid the
day before. The crews then took a short boat ride to their home, the Seaplane Tender U.S.S. St. George, where they were greeted by the remainder of the squadron, six
crews who had stayed with the ship. That night the first of the many long range patrols was sent out.
During the following
months of April, May, and June the squadron flew a total of 5,065 hours. Until July 11, 236 day patrols, 159 night patrols,
and 27 special missions were flown with an average of 15 crews and 16 planes. In the course of these flights twelve enemy
aircraft were destroyed in the air and nine others damaged. Seventy-six at-tacks on enemy surface craft (100 gross tons or
more) netted 44 (24,560 gross tons) sunk and 32 (19,000 gross tons) damaged excluding numerous junks, sampans, and lesser
craft destroyed and damaged. Varying degrees of damage resulted from attacks on 24 land installations, while 20 rescued aviators
will testify to the pilots' rescue ability.
Three anti-shipping patrols met with extraordinary success despite the
fact that one met with disaster. On the morning of May 5, two Mariners left Kerama Retto on a routine search up into the Yellow
Sea and through the islands forming the west coast of Korea. It was in the latter area that they succeeded in finding and
sinking four ships--three small tankers and one small freighter, each in a different devious channel--for a total of 7,500
gross tons. Effective AA fire was returned by all but one of the ships, and one of the mariners was riddled although the crew
was untouched. On June 14, two other Mariners returned to the same area in the vicinity of Fusan for a repeat performance
on a smaller scale, sinking three sea trucks and three luggers, probably sinking a fourth sea truck, and seriously damaging
three others. The third record patrol was flown on May 15 in the Tsushima Straits area. This was the "hottest" sector flown
and the search planes were almost invariably attacked by enemy fighters. This day the "Big Boats" found and sank a sea truck
and a medium freighter (4,000 tons) in the straits and a second freighter (3,500 tons) was sinking rapidly when one of the
Mariners was severely hit by return anti-aircraft fire which badly damaged one engine. The plane was immediately lightened
by dropping the remaining bombs and all machine gun ammunition in excess of 200 rounds per gun, the absolute minimum for warding
off the expected opposition. Returning to base with the damaged engine almost stopped, the two planes were suddenly attacked
by at least ten enemy fighters. At the start of the ·15 minute running battle which ensued, the undamaged Mariner and a determined
enemy fighter shot each other down. During the action the other Mariner later shot down at least four more Japs and damaged
others before the enemy broke off the action. At that time the faltering engine stopped altogether and the plane was forced
onto the extremely rough water with its empennage completely shot away. The crew was unhurt and all but three men were able
to leave the plane in rubber boats. After staying afloat for 12 hours they were rescued by a courageous submarine guided to
the scene, two miles from the enemy shore, by another squadron plane. One man then had his arm broken when the submarine's
bow plane crashed down onto the rubber boat in the very heavy seas. The three men left behind on the plane were not heard
of again, although the area was searched for days for survivors.
Two flights were noteworthy in that they featured
the PBM in a new and unfamiliar role, that of combat air patrol over friendly shipping.
On April 6, two Mariners returning from a day anti-shipping sweep encountered an enemy air raid proceeding towards Okinawa.
After reporting to base they engaged several of the enemy aircraft and shot down three, a Hamp, a Val, and a Kate, with only
slight damage to themselves. On May 4, a similar encounter took place just after two PBM's had taken off for a routine patrol. Finding an enemy raid in progress over Okinawa
they joined the fray and shot down one Kate and one Nate and damaged two Zekes which tried to intercept them. At the conclusion
of this affair both planes continued on to give full coverage to their assigned search sector. Probably one of the longest
individual air actions of the war took place the day another Mariner was on routine patrol and surprised an enemy torpedo
plane. The two planes, it soon became apparent, had equal top speeds, and the PBM had to chase the enemy about 75 miles across Tsushima Straits before its bow gunner
finally shot the Kate down.
An attack made by one Mariner resulted in unknown damage to the enemy, but was a fine
example of the aggression shown by some of the pilots. The squadron had for some time been given the task of destroying a
large enemy radar station perched on the top of a 1,200 foot hill on the China coast. Much to the pilots' chagrin, however,
the target was completely hidden by fog for many days. On this day the fog finally lifted and obscured only the top of the
hill and the target. Deciding not to lose even this long awaited dubious opportunity, the PBM made its attacks by flying just beneath the fog level until it neared the hill.
Pulling up sharply into the fog at that point it was able to fly over the target at a very low altitude.
nevertheless, was able to get lined up with his AA long before the PBM pilot or his gunners could see the target, and as a result a warm reception greeted
the plane as soon as it came within range. Not to be deterred, however, the Mariner made three separate attacks with bombs
and machine guns before it was forced to retire, badly holed. Again the crew was lucky enough to escape without injury. Planes
from another squadron on a patrol r along the east coast of Kyushu one day seized an opportunity which seemed to present itself
and proceeded inland along a small waterway to completely demolish with bombs and fire a small shipyard. VPB-18 also made
some rescues worthy of attention. On April 2 while on a day shipping block mission southwest of Kyushu one of its boats made
an open sea landing and picked up three survivors of a downed carrier TBM and then proceeded on his patrol. On April 12 another
PBM of the squadron effected a similar rescue of a downed fighter pilot off Okinawa.
Although high seas and a structural failure damaged its starboard engine mount, permitting only half its normal power to be
drawn from that engine, the Mariner's pilot made a very skillful semi-circular take-off and nursed his plane back to base.
On May 7 a similar landing was made in the Yellow Sea off the Korean coast and the entire crew of a PB4Y Privateer, 13 men
in all, was rescued. Light enemy surface units were close enough for a ringside seat but did not prevent the rescue. Another
PBM also landed at sea one day while on routine patrol, picked up three survivors,
and continued on. Each of these landings was made against Fleet Air Wing One policy which considered an open sea landing and
take-off by a plane heavily loaded for offensive action a poor risk. Criticism was withheld if the attempt was successful,
but the wrath of the gods would have descended upon the unsuccessful pilot who then would also have to be rescued along with
his crew and the original survivors.
Inevitably, combat success of this sort demands its price, and VPB-18 was not
excepted. On May 6 Lieutenant Collins, whose record as a skilled and daring pilot was unequalled in the area, was instantly
killed when an enemy Kamikaze plane hit the squadron tender, the U.S.S. St. George. Lieutenant Prudden was almost fatally
burned at the same time. On May 15 Lieutenant (jg) Marr and his crew and three others were lost. On June 28 a plane on night
patrol suffered a complete and immediate engine failure when a fuel line broke as the plane was flying at low altitude made
necessary by weather conditions. Recovery on single engine could not be made and Lieutenant (jg) Podlogar and three members
of his crew did not succeed in swimming away from the crash. The others were found and rescued eight days later. Another PBM pilot should have required a rescue when he had an engine shot out at a very low
altitude while making a normal attack on a picket vessel. Exhibiting outstanding skill and ability he kept his plane in the
air and flew back to base 540 miles away on one engine.
In July the U.S.S. St. George was ordered back to NAS Agana, Guam for the repair of the damage suffered when the Kamikaze hit her in May.
VPB-18 was to be left without a home, so the squadron was ordered back to Saipan on July 11 for rest, training, and recreation.
Many of the original squadron crews had been relieved by rotation crews by this time, but only the most aggressive were sorry
to leave Kerama Retto.
At Saipan, after a short period of relaxation the squadron engaged in long range anti-submarine
patrols, night anti-submarine blocks, air-sea rescue missions, and a daily flight to enemy-held Marcus Island. In addition,
for the first time in three and one half months training of the new crews could be done outside the active combat zone.
the hostilities had ended and it was decided that the fleet would enter and stay in Tokyo Bay, VPB-18 received orders to convert
its planes to cargo and passenger carriers. This was done and during the month of September this squadron operated the "Tokyo
Express," a daily flight between Saipan and Tokyo of from one to four planes carrying cargo and passengers. For maximum safety,
keeping the total weight below the single engine maximum, not more than 7,500 pounds of cargo or 22 passengers and 8 crewmen
was carried. This load was normal, and by October 3, when the service was ended the "Express" had carried a total of 594 passengers
and 387,370 pounds of mail and priority cargo. Only three flights were canceled due to adverse weather and one plane returned
to Saipan with a malfunctioning engine. On more than one occasion for periods of one to three days the "Tokyo Express" was
the only air service entering or leaving the Tokyo area. All personnel took justifiable pride in this record and were rewarded
by having a representative with the fleet in Tokyo Bay when the articles of capitulation were signed on the U.S.S. Missouri.
After the naval and military air transport services took over the Saipan to Tokyo shuttle service, the squadron duties became
less arduous. Shortly thereafter the squadron received orders to proceed to Hawaii and then to the West Coast to decommission.
The squadron correspondence, records, and gear were loaded into the planes along with personal equipment and the long move
to the U. S. was uneventful. On December 8, 1945, after having carved a well-earned niche in naval aviation history, Patrol
Bombing Squadron Eighteen was decommissioned at the Alameda Naval Air Station across the bay from San Francisco.
GRADUATE Of the Naval Academy in 1940, Lieutenant Commander Boettcher served in the cruiser Tzlscaloosa and the
carrier Hornet. After completing flight training he spent six months in anti-submarine patrol off Brazil. He commanded VPB-18
during the Okinawa operation. Later he served under the office of Naval Intelligence in the Joint Army-Navy-Air Force Intelligence
Division. He has just completed a three-year post-graduate course in Aeronautical Engineering.