"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 Hellcats  over  PROVENCE  
            VF-74 & VOF-1 IN OPERATION DRAGOON



 

 
Above and below:  All eyes are on Rear Admiral Durgin (seated with back to camera and his blue wool ball cap in hand) as he speaks with the pilots of VOF-1 after their return from another mission on 8/16/44. One of the pilots sports a survival knife with cast aluminum handle, either made aboard ship, or a private purchase item, which hangs from the front of his Mae West (to the left of, and below, the coffee cup held by LCDR John Sandor, squadron, XO). Note the pilot to Sandor's left has the squadron's patch on the chest of his flight suit. 
Below:  Our photos illustrate the use of QAS parachutes by the pilots of both squadrons, as would be expected at this stage of the war. This VOF-1 parachute rigger shows us how the parachute packs were transported to the aircraft where they would be placed in the cockpit, awaiting the pilot's arrival and attachment to his harness. Of interest is the non-regulation addition of a length of parachute webbing with "V" ring and snap hook used to secure the pararaft (AN-R-2 / AN-6520) and seat cushion to the pack.
Above:  Once again, we see the Admiral, but in this larger print, we can also confirm that he is standing with LT (jg) Olszewski, who's last name is stenciled on his Mae West. In 1942, then Captain Durgin was in command of USS Ranger during Operation Torch, the North African landings.

Below:  VOF-1's LT David Stanley Crockett, a descendant of the legendary Davey, was shot down over Toulon Harbor and taken prisoner on 8/20/44. On the 23rd, after a day of bombardment, the German officer commanding the arsenal summoned Crockett (the ranking Allied officer) and surrendered himself and his men. Crockett and his fellow prisoners then marched the 500 German troops out and turned them over to nearby French Forces of the Interior. He was back aboard Tulagi by the 26th with quite a story to tell. This portrait of Crockett gives us a good view of the squadron's patch which portrays their diverse missions. The artist's rendering of the VOF-1 squadron patch, adopted in February, 1944, is courtesy of: http://bluejacket.com/
Above:  Although the subject of the Naval Aviation News cover photo is not identified in the publication itself, the name stenciled on the left parachute riser reveals that the pilot seen here, waiting to board Hellcat number 16, is none other than VOF-1's ENS Walter A. Foley aboard Tulagi during Operation Dragoon. Aircraft number 16 can also be seen on page one of our article.

Below:  Ensign Foley wears a converted deck helmet (probably blue?) that has had light colored strips of fabric sewn over the seams, with chamois covered TC-66 ear cups and a TH-37 headset. His goggles appear to be commercial SeesAll or H.B. Rockets, both of which offered a wide field of vision, similar to that of the navy-issue Mk-I goggle.

Bottom:  A period film showing damage done to the German occupied French coastal defenses at Toulon Harbor.