There was no storage facility for the depth bombs at the grass strip at Houma, so once they were loaded onto the aircraft they remained there until used or temporarily removed for extensive maintenance. When major maintenance was necessary, the planes would be flown to Biloxi for the work, and returned ready for more patrols.
On 1 August 1942, Chief Aviation Pilot White and Aviation Radioman Boggs, in J4F-1 V-212 on patrol off the Mississippi River delta, sighted a German U-boat on the surface. White turned the J4F-1 to approach the submarine from the rear, but the U-boat's crew sighted the attacking aircraft and began a crash dive. Not willing to let the sub get away, White turned sharply and made his attack from abeam. The J4F-1 had no bomb sight, and everything depended on the pilot's eye. At a very low altitude, White signaled Boggs to release the single depth bomb. It hit almost on the disappearing conning tower and exploded. While debris and oil was sighted following the attack, it wasn't until after the war that records proved White and Boggs had sunk U-166, the only German submarine sunk by Coast Guard aviation during WW-II. For this action, Chief Aviation Pilot White was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and ARM1/C Boggs received the Air Medal. The J4F-I V-212 was sold after the war, but was recovered from the civilian market and is now on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Florida.
J4F-1 V202, one of the aircraft at the Houma, Louisiana detachment.
USCG J4F-1 V212, in which Chief Aviation Pilot White and Aviation Radioman Boggs, on patrol off the Mississippi River delta, sighted and sunk German U-boat U-166 on August 1, 1942. Aircraft is now on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.
BARATARIA BAY, LOUISIANA
A Vought OS2U-3 Kingfisher. Note the 325-pound depth charge under the port wing. Another was carried under the starboard wing. Another detachment, using five Navy-owned, Coast Guard-operated Vought-Sikorsky OS2U-3 "Kingfisher" aircraft, was established in Barataria Bay. This is same bay used by the pirate Jean Lafitte during the War of 1812 to attack the British who were attacking Andrew Jackson at New Orleans. The detachment consisted of five pilots, five Aviation Radiomen, and three Aviation Machinist Mates, who flew the OS2U-3's on five four-hour anti-submarine patrol missions daily. As at Houma, everyone helped at every task. Flight crews were also the maintenance crews, and activities went on around the clock, every day.
The OS2U-3 was a single engine low wing all metal monoplane with a single large center float when used for water operations. With its Pratt & Whitney R-985 engine, it had a range of 800 miles at 120 miles per hour with one pilot and aviation radioman/gunner. It could carry two 325 pound depth bombs.
The USS CHRISTIANA YAG-32, a converted auxiliary vessel serving as a seaplane tender, supported the aircraft at Barataria Bay. The planes were moored to buoys between missions and for routine maintenance, returning to Biloxi for major maintenance. The personnel lived on board the CHRISTIANA and all operations were flown off the water. This detachment's operations lasted into 1943, when it the six OS2U-3 aircraft were returned to Biloxi, where they continued their daily patrols.
Kingfisher with two 325-pound depth charges. The two beaching crew members in waders will turn the aircraft around and remove the beaching gear attached to the center float. The pilot will crank over the starter, starting the engine and prepare for another anti-submarine patrol in-pair with an SO3C-3. Lieutenant "Bud" Muench recalls: "You got as much air speed on your take off run as possible, then handcranked the flaps down quickly to help make the OS2U jump in the air for take-off."
1943 - With its R-985 engine running, OS2U-3 Kingfisher #92 prepares for launch from the seaplane ramp at Biloxi Air Station. The aircraft plane captain assists the pilot while the aviation radioman/gunner climbs into his rear seat position. While there are no depth bombs installed, the release and sway braces are visible. The aft machine gun is installed in the stowed position. Beaching crew members will remove the wheeled beaching gear when the aircraft is afloat on its center pontoon.
1943 - Two Aviation Machinist Mates work on the R-985 engine of OS2U-3 Kingfisher #93 in front of the hangar at CGAS Biloxi. Off to the right in the background is a float mounted N3N-3 used primarily for float operation training of new pilots.
CURTISS SO3C-3 SEAPLANES AT BILOXI In June, 1943, the Navy also transferred six Curtiss SO3C-3 seaplanes for Coast Guard operations at Biloxi Air Station. These aircraft were flown to Keesler Army Air Field where they landed on their wheeled gear. After landing, the wings were folded and the six aircraft were towed through town to the Coast Guard Air Station. There, the wheels were removed and a single large center-line float and wing tip outriggers were installed on each aircraft for water operations.
Powered by a single Ranger V-770-8 engine, this low-wing, all-metal monoplane with a pilot and aviation radioman/gunner had a range of 1150 miles at 125 miles per hour. However, the S03C-3 with the V-770 engine was under-powered and could not carry depth bombs. A decision was made to use them in a team effort with the OS2U-2s. An early version of air-sea radar was installed on an SO3C-3, which would then act as the hunter, while an OS2U-3, with two 325 pound bombs, would be the killer. While no submarines were destroyed, these effective patrols severely curtailed German U-boat activities in the Gulf.
Also that summer, CMDR W. D. Shields, Coast Guard Aviator #34, became the new Commanding Officer at Biloxi.
A Curtis SO3C-3 in flight. The 12-cylinder aircooled V-770 Ranger engine was too underpowered to carry 325-pound depth charges. The aircraft did have an early odel ASB radar. At Biloxi, SO3Cs were operated as the hunter in-pair with a Vought OS2U-3 which carried the depth bombs as the killer on anti-submarine patrols.
1944 - ARRIVAL OF THE PBY-5A Both the OS2U-3s and the SO3C-3s were returned to the Navy in late 1944, and the J4F-1s, JRFs and PBY-5As took over the patrol duties. In addition, the RD-4 V-127, the Hallboats V-166 and V-170 were decommissioned and scrapped. As the year passed, it became clear the war on U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico was being won. The Armed Forces now had much more sophisticated aircraft, anti-submarine weapons, and tactics. The Coast Guard maintained patrols with the J4F-1 and JRF aircraft. These were eventually joined by a more modern amphibian, the Consolidated PBY-5A patrol bomber.
Although all the PBYs at Biloxi were Navy-owned, the first two received at Biloxi Air Station were actually built in Canada by Vickers as OA-10A aircraft for the US Army Air Forces. The remaining aircraft were PBY-5As from U.S. Navy sources. The PBY-5A had two Pratt and Whitney R-1830-92 engines, mounted to the parasol mounted 104-foot wing atop an all metal boat type hull. Hydraulically operated tricycle landing gear that retracted flush into the hull for water operations made this a true amphibian. The large wing was partly metal and partly fabric covered. The wing tip floats retracted electrically to the wing tips, reducing drag in flight, and to prevent damage during wheeled landing gear operations. The PBY-5A had a 2500 mile range at 100 miles per hour, crew positions for two pilots, navigator, radar operator, aviation radioman, flight engineer mechanic and two gunners/scanners. There was ample room for survivors.
These aircraft were referred to as "Dumbos", "P-Boats", or simply PBYs. As they came from many sources, they also came in a variety of color schemes - all white, all black, all blue, two-tone blue, and two-tone blue and white. Biloxi's station compliment eventually rose to seven PBYs. For much of 1944 and 1945 one was temporarily stationed at the Houma, Louisiana, Lighter Than Air (Blimps) Naval Air Station, and another at Lake Charles, Louisiana, Army Air Field. The aircraft were primarily used for Air Sea Rescue duties.
November 1944 -- AIR-SEA RESCUE AGAIN BECOMES THE PRIMARY MISSION Dealing with accidents resulting from the increasing number of military aviation operations over water as the war progressed had to evolve as well. Much like the early anti-submarine tactics, the early response plan was often not much more than, "If you see an accident, try to give aid and notify someone."
In November 1944, an Air Sea Rescue organization was formed nationwide. The Coast Guard, which, from its early beginning had the "saving of lives at sea" as one of its main missions, was placed in charge as the control agency with authorization to direct all armed forces rescue resources to respond to life saving operations. Along with the Coast Guard, the Navy and Army Air Force also had both aircraft and rescue boats dedicated solely to Air Sea Rescue and located at various locations around the Gulf of Mexico. While any unit could immediately respond to an accident, The Coast Guard Control Center at Biloxi was also contacted so that all resources could be most effectively utilized.
Rescue patrol boats were used as well as aircraft. The most common was the AVR Boat, a 63-foot vessel with a crew of eight, two 630 Hall Scott gasoline engines, and capable of nearly 50 miles per hour. Five such rescue boats were assigned to Biloxi Air Station, two of which were based in Biloxi. One was stationed at Galveston, Texas, one at Burwood, Louisiana at the entrance to the southwest entry to the Mississippi River, and the last one located in Morgan City, Louisiana, covering the large marshy area adjacent to Atchafalya Bay.
In November 1944, one of the first coordinated missions involving both the Army Air Force and Coast Guard aircraft was launched to locate a crashed B-29. Finding the downed "Superfortress", the aircraft directed a Biloxi 63-foot AVR rescue boat and crew to the scene, which rescued several survivors and retrieved the bodies of several others lost in the crash.
During the first three months of 1945, aircraft and personnel from Biloxi Air Station responded to ten aircraft crashes, rescuing several survivors during more than 300 flights over an area covering more than 12,000 square miles. Although directing surface vessels to the scene was the preferred means of completing a rescue, for immediate assistance, or if survivors were in need of emergency care, open sea landings by the PBY-5A were made to pick up the survivors. Open sea landings were always hazardous and often were used as a last resort.
As the threat from German submarines faded in the late days of WWII, the main mission of Biloxi Air Station changed from anti-submarine warfare to Air Sea Rescue. The station's aircraft, especially the PBY-5A, were once again modified, this time from U-boat hunter/killer to life saving rescue. Equipment was added and modified to improve rescue operations. This included adding extra life rafts, radios, water, smoke and dye sea markers, exposure suits, food and medicine, as well as carrying an AR-8 air-droppable life boat under the right wing. The AR-8 was equipped with an engine and shelter from the elements, and its descent was slowed by eight parachutes when dropped to survivors in the water.
GENERAL NOTES ON PERSONNEL AND EQUIPMENT 1934-1945 From its beginning in 1934 until the outbreak of World War II, the personnel manning for Biloxi Air Station, with three to five aircraft assigned, was about 10 officers and 35 enlisted. Eight of the officers were aviators, each having additional duties such as communications, maintenance, supply, administration, etc.
Twelve of the enlisted men were yeomen cooks, storekeepers, motor machinist mates, electricians, boatswain mates and seamen. The station was usually manned with one or two of each. In addition, eight radiomen were normally assigned to the radio station "NOX" which operated around the clock. The remaining enlisted men were in direct support of the aircraft - aviation machinist mates, aviation radiomen, aviation metal-smiths, aviation carpenters mates, and enlisted pilots. As usual with the Coast Guard, nearly anyone could perform someone else's job. Everyone was expected to do everything, including being a security policeman or fire fighter should it be needed.
When World War II exploded on the scene, operations were stepped up, and the aircraft compliment rose to more than 25 of at least five different types. The additional requirements swelled the manning to about 35 officers and 250 enlisted men by mid-1943. New jobs included aerographers for weather forecasting, aviation electricians, and avionics and electronics technicians for the advanced aircraft systems and radar, as well as aviation ordnancemen, parachute riggers, pharmacist mates, mail clerks, and dental technicians. In 1943, six officer and 25 enlisted SPARS, the women reserve of the Coast Guard, joined the personnel manning, serving at Biloxi until June 1946. By 1944, with the addition of the five AVR rescue boats, the detachments at Houma, Houston and Lake Charles, personnel manning reached more than 330.
SPARs assigned to Biloxi during this period included Lieutenants (Junior Grade) G. Columbo and E. Green, supply officers; C. Clegg, public information; and H. M. Adams, pay and disbursing. Enlisted personnel included Radioman L. Meuer, Switch Board Operator, D. Kraft, Yeomen A. M. Wilkerson, L. Ramsey, E. Gearing, M. Haggerty and E. Brown, Storekeepers M. Bales, S. Hall, V. Quan, C. Boggs, Pharmacist mate B. Bryant, Link Trainer Operator, F. Krug. There were also parachute riggers, cooks, mail clerks and others.
During 1943, 1944 and 1945 Biloxi Air Station also provided manning for two twin engine JRB-4 and three single engine SNJ-5 aircraft operating at the Civil Aviation Administration, Advanced Instrument and Standardization Center in Houston, Texas. Aviators and pilots attended the Center for extensive training in instrument, night and all-weather flying operations. There were about 18 aviation personnel assigned to this operation. In September 1945, this operation was terminated and the aircraft were returned to Biloxi. As these were land planes, they were maintained and operated at Keesler Army Air Base until transferred to other Coast Guard air stations.
Wartime building was needed to accommodate the Air Station's added responsibilities. Construction included a sickbay and dental clinic, barracks, mess hall, storage igloos for depth bombs and other explosives, administrative and operation control buildings, supply warehouses, additional aircraft parking places and taxi ways, and a second seaplane ramp.
Official records show that during fiscal years 1943 and 1944, these and the other Coast Guardsmen at Biloxi Air Station made over 7000 flights, flew more than 18,500 hours, traveled 1,715,000 miles searching more than 13,603,000 square miles.
At the end of World War II in 1945, personnel manning was reduced almost overnight to about 15 officers and 85 enlisted personnel. Commander R.L. Mellen, CG Aviator #68, was commanding officer. Even though the war was over, many of the new responsibilities remained, and Commander Mellen had to carefully manage balance personnel to the expanded job list. Once again, the Coast Guard found itself back to "everybody doing everything." By mid-1946, manning stabilized at about 12 officers, eight of whom were aviators, each with additional jobs, and about 50 enlisted men. The station operated eighteen aircraft, including five PBY-5A (46502, 48447, 48323, 46618, and 48265), three J4F-1 and 2 (V-198, V-202, and 37765), two JRF-5 (84791 and 04356), and one SNJ-5 (90675). There were also one 30-foot station crash boat and a 30-foot fire boat.
1945 - RESCUE OF THE CREW OF THE USCGC MAGNOLIA One very important air sea rescue occurred in August 1945. On 24 August, at 2330 hours, the USCGC MAGNOLIA, a 41-year old buoy tender operating from Mobile, Alabama was rammed and sunk in the Gulf of Mexico by the S.S. MARGARITE LE HAND, a brand new C-3 cargo ship on its maiden voyage. As a quartermaster on the MAGNOLIA, I soon found myself swimming for my life throughout the long, dark night. The next morning, I was spotted by the pilot of an Air Sea Rescue JRF-5 from Biloxi Air Station which summoned a surface vessel which picked me up. This was my first direct introduction to Coast Guard aviation, and after 10 hours in the water, sharing a single life jacket with two other shipmates, I decided I'd give aviation a try, and was soon given the opportunity to cross train in aviation.
I transferred to Biloxi Air Station to begin training as an aviation machinist mate, and one of my first jobs was to assist Plane Captain J.R. Pierce to maintain the five land planes based at Keesler Army Air Base. One of my first training experiences was when Pierce instructed me in how to be a fire guard while he started one of the SNJ-5 aircraft. The SNJ-5 had a single R-1340 engine, and all nine-cylinders exhausted through a manifold to one large exhaust port. Unknown to me at the time, the engine exhaust lit up like a blow torch when first started. When Pierce started the engine that first time, I immediately rushed in with the fire extinguisher and attempted to put out the "fire".
Pierce "got my attention," saying that was a normal operation, that it was not on fire, and he would try to start the engine again. This time, however, he inadvertently overprimed the engine, and when it started, the excess fuel ran out onto the ground and began burning. He shouted at me from the cockpit, vigorously pointing to the flames. I could not hear what he was shouting, but having learned my lesson the first time, gave him the okay sign, staying away from what I thought was the "normal operation." Eventually, we put out the fire out with no damage to the aircraft, and Pierce then gave me more detailed instructions on how to "help" during future operations!
When not helping Pierce, I assisted with duties on our rescue and fire boats. During a summer night 1946, a waterfront fire broke out in Biloxi, engulfing several large shrimp boats and packing houses. The Biloxi fire department requested assistance from Air Station personnel, and our station fire truck and the 30-foot fire boat responded. The fire boat had four 500 gallon-a-minute water pumps capable of being coupled together to deliver 2000 gallons per minute through a four-inch monitor. We brought the boat in from the seaside, spraying water where it was most needed. There were large amounts of gasoline in 55-gallon drums stored along the docks, and several exploded into damaging, spectacular fireballs as we attempted to disperse and cool them down.
We boarded several of the shrimp boats and succeeded in cutting them loose from the dock, and then towing them away from the fire, casting them loose, and returning to the docks to continue fighting the fire. Finally, after many hours, the Biloxi Fire Department got the situation under control and we returned to the Air Station to attempt to clean up and return all equipment to ready status. Our help was rewarded when we were treated to many pounds of shrimp from the "Shrimpers".
December 1945: Loss of PBY-5A 46497
The aircrew of PBY-5A 46497. Photo taken 17 Dec 1945. Al were killed when the aircraft crashed between Dallas and Ft. Worth, Texas, on 18 Dec 1945. Left to right: Hickman; Sailsbury; Jacobson; Linsay; Vallowe. Kneeling: Profitt.
From the USCG's accident data base:
Date of incident: 18 December 1945Crash related deaths:
LT Vaughn E. Salisbury (CG Aviator #162)
CAP Ernest F. Lindsey
AMMC John E. Vallowe
ARM1 William L. Hickman
AMM2 George L Proffitt
AMM1 Oswald D. Jacobson
CPL Higinio V. Marin, (U.S. Army)
Air Station the aircraft and/or crew were assigned to: Air Station Biloxi, MS
Aircraft type and Coast Guard tail number: Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina, 46497
Location of the incident: Texas
Description of the incident: While on a ferry flight from CGAS Biloxi to NAS Seattle for overhaul, pilot reported an oil leak in the right engine. Pilot then reported single engine operation and requested emergency clearance to Fort Worth. Aircraft proceeded out the north leg of the Fort Worth range where the other engine stopped due to an unknown cause, and the propeller was feathered. The aircraft emerged from the clouds in a spin to the left and impacted the ground. All personnel were killed and the aircraft was completely destroyed.
A TYPICAL RESCUE AT SEA, 1946 On 28 August 1946, PBY-5A 48447, still in its wartime all black color scheme, launched on a typical medical mercy mission that lasted more than eight flying hours. Pilots LT G. E. McGovern and Chief Aviation Pilot E. P. Ward, with the author and four other air crew members, flew more than 300 miles south into the Gulf of Mexico to land in moderate seas in order to remove a seriously injured seaman from a merchant vessel.
Making an off-shore landing was always a hazardous undertaking, and each of us on the crew had an important job to do. As the pilots evaluated the wind and sea conditions to determine how to make the landing, other crew members made the aircraft ready for a water landing. The landing gear was checked up and locked in place. The nose wheel doors were confirmed closed and locked, and any trailing wire antennas were retracted. The auxiliary power plant was started to provide emergency electrical power while on the water and to operate a built-in bilge pump. The crew members took landing positions and tightened seat belts and shoulder harness to prevent being thrown about. The pilots flew the aircraft so as to touch down in a power-on full stall. This ensured that if the sea was too rough or the aircraft bounced back into the air, the crew would have power and control to fly off and try again.