"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
         Hellcats  over  PROVENCE  
                           VF-74 & VOF-1 IN OPERATION DRAGOON
Above:  In an oil painting by Max Crace, from the collection of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, a VF-74 Hellcat is seen following down a damaged JU-88 as it makes it's fatal plunge toward the countryside in the area of Valence, France near the Rhone River on August 19th, 1944.
Jumped by LCDR Harry Brinkley Bass' division, the JU-88 proved to be "easy pickin's" and the victory was shared by the skipper and his three fellow pilots, LT Leo Horacek, Jr. (Bass' wingman), LT (jg) Edwin Castanedo and ENS Paul Pavlovich. Using artistic license, the painter has provided the Hellcat with fictitious markings that appear more similar to those used by VOF-1 in their placement, rather than VF-74, and added a code letter "D" as well.

Below:  In their ready room aboard Kasaan Bay, the squadron receives it's pre-dawn briefing on D-Day, August 15th. Sitting front row, center, we see LCDR Bass in a photo from a  publication done for the ship's crew titled "Log For '44 USS Kasaan Bay The Biography of CVE 69". Tragically, on August 20th, 1944, the day after the above mentioned encounter, LCDR Bass was killed in action while leading a strafing run near Chamelet. His F6F-5, bureau number 58109, was seen to be hit by small arms fire, lose control, crash and burn. The squadron's Executive Officer, LT Harry Basore, assumed command for the remainder of the operation.
Above:  Also from the previously mentioned publication, we see a rare photo showing one of five TBM-1Ds having come to grief in a landing accident. These Avengers (two with VOF-1 and three with VF-74), fitted with ASD search radar, provided anti-submarine protection for the task force. Although the photo quality is poor, the light tones of it's white under-surface tell us it wears the tri-color camouflage scheme and is fitted with rocket rails.  

Below:  VF-74's LT Leo Horacek, Jr. is seen second from right in this photo from earlier in his time as a naval aviator, probably taken in 1943. He is wearing an NAF-1092L intermediate flight helmet with single aperture Polaroid 1021 goggles.
Above:  LCDR Bass, as seen while in the PTO as a LT, prior to his promotion and command of VF-74.