"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
Above:  Lt. Colonel Marion Milton "Black Mac" Magruder, USMC, Skipper of VMF(N)-533, poses with his F6F-3N Hellcat 'Little Mac". It was exquisitely maintained and always highly polished to gain even the slightest speed advantage. When the squadron arrived at Eniwetok, they were well trained and ready for anything thrown at them. To their chagrin, and despite what they had been lead to believe, their new home turned out to be a "backwater" area with no enemy activity, although the atoll had only been secured two months earlier. High command had feared the Japanese were planning to counterattack the Marshall Islands, but this proved not to be the case.

Below:  Tech. Sgt. Joseph "Big Joe" Rosenberger, Magruder's plane captain, was the man who made sure "Little Mac" was always in top shape. The plane's nickname was a tribute to Magruder's first born son, Marion Milton, Jr., who was 3 years old.
Above:  The Skipper tours the flight line with Navy LCDR F.B. Stafford. "Doc" was the squadron's flight surgeon. Note the squadron ID painted over the rear wheel well of the Jeep and a squadron decal applied aft of the right front finder.

The fine coral dust on the atoll played havoc with the mechanical systems of the planes and their electronic equipment, but the dedicated men responsible for the squadron's aircraft maintenance consistently worked small miracles on a daily basis to keep their Hellcats operational. Despite their best efforts, the squadron's F6F-3s, which they had been flying since January, started to become unsafe, prone to losing power when at full throttle for take-off. Fortunately, new Hellcats began to trickle in as replacements, however, they were day, not night fighters. The squadron technicians once again did what was thought to be impossible, by removing the radar equipment from the old, tired, F6F-3Ns and re-installing it to convert the new planes to F6F-5Ns*. This undertaking even impressed the executives back at the Grumman factory and VMF(N)-533 was the only squadron to accomplish this feat in the field during the war. *See page 5 for how they did it.

Below:  This photo from the official squadron war history shows four of the newly converted F6F-5Ns.
Above:  Lt. Colonel Magruder with his XO, Major Homer G. Hutchinson, Jr., in front of aircraft #2, "Little Mac", Stickell Field, Eniwetok Island, fall 1944. Both wear summer flight jackets over their khaki uniform shirts and trousers. 

"Little Mac" met its untimely demise on the rainy night of February 16, 1945. While holding on a taxiway, delaying his takeoff so a flight of R4D transports could land and clear the field, one of the large twin-engine planes took a wrong turn and taxied right over the Hellcat, a prop chewing off the empennage to just aft of the cockpit. Fortunately, the Skipper was uninjured, but his plane was a total loss.

Left:  A Kardex file, as fitted inside the chart board each pilot would have carried in the cockpit of his night fighter. This example has a sectional chart of Eniwetok Atoll, one of Eniwetok Island and also Engebi Island. All are dated December 1944.

Below:  The detailed chart of Stickell Field on Eniwetok Island, home to VMF(N)-533 from May to November 1944. Note, the landing strip itself was 6900 ft. X 300 ft. and the tower call sign was "Laurel 272".
Below:  A year and a day after arriving at Eniwetok Atoll, the flight echelon of VMF(N)-33 set out for Okinawa, with scheduled stops at Saipan and Iwo Jima to refuel. This 2500 mile trip, doubted by some as being impossible for single seat fighters, was the longest over-water flight made by single engine aircraft in the Pacific war.  Here we see Black Mac, in front of a Quonset hut housing the Operations, Intelligence and Aerology sections, about to board his Hellcat for the grueling flight ahead. Note the early Bastian-Blessing Co. Rego #4388 male quick disconnect coupling on the end of his A-14 mask hose, something you would not expect to see in 1945.
Above:  After six months of uneventful night combat air patrols over Eniwetok, the squadron was moved north 20 miles to join the bulk of MAG-22, stationed at Engebi. After another six months of perfecting their craft, the long wait was finally over. Orders were received on May 4, 1945, to redeploy to Okinawa and join the shooting war.

Below:  Also from the war history, this photo shows the squadron's tent city on Engebi. Decks and frames were constructed to reinforce the pyramidal tents against strong tropical winds and rain.
Below:  Aerial views of the landing fields on Eniwetok (left) and Engebi (right).