"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
Above, left:  A pilot's chart showing approaches to Charlie Field on Ie Shima.  Above, right:  Ie Shima from the air.

Although the average tour for any Navy or Marine squadron lasted six months, and despite the fact that VMF(N)-533 had been in the PTO for twice that long already, the situation at Okinawa was of such great concern to the Navy brass that an exception was made and the "Killers" were brought in to try and gain control of the night skies over, and around, Okinawa. Lt. Colonel Magruder's pilots did just that. Like the Cavalry in an old Western movie, they showed up in the nick of time.

On April 11, 1945 Black Mac, as the senior Marine night fighter expert in the PTO, had been summoned to an emergency meeting at Pearl Harbor to discuss the failure of Army and Marine night fighter units to protect our forces on Okinawa from nightly Japanese bombing and heckler flights that were doing a great deal of damage and keeping our men from their much needed sleep. It was here that he volunteered to lead his men on the 2500 mile flight to the combat zone and then take control of the night situation.

Arriving at Yontan Field, Okinawa on May 10th, the squadron was operational within 36 hours. Combining their efforts with the other night fighter units already in the area, they were responsible for two of the six nightly shifts until June 19th, when their schedule changed to one night in four on standby and one night sending out four two-plane intruder missions.  Despite arriving forty days after the campaign began, the "Killers" shot down 35 Japanese aircraft, all night radar intercepts, (which is almost as many as the other three night units combined) making them the top scoring night fighter squadron in the PTO.
Background:  At 00:09 hours, the Skipper, at right, briefs his pilots in the Ops Hut prior to their take off from Yontan Field, Okinawa, for a night combat air patrol in May 1945. From left to right, kneeling is 1st Lt. Karl Witt, seated is 1st Lt. Albert Dellamano, standing are 1st Lt. Johnny Peacock and 2nd Lt. Ed Ryan and kneeling is 1st Lt. William Treynor. The chalk board lists the squadron's 15 Hellcats, at left.

Below, left:  Three of six Scrappers on a night CAP climb out to take up their stations and await instructions from the "Crystal Gazers" of the GCI (ground control intercept) center, who were watching their long range radar for any incoming Bogies.

Below, right:  American airfields on Okinawa. The Scrappers moved from Yontan to Ie Shima, north and west of Okinawa, on June 15th, putting them that much closer to the Japanese Home Islands, the source of the deadly Kamikaze attacks.
Below:  We hope by now, your interest in VMF(N)-533 has been sufficiently piqued, that we can pause and say "thank you" to the primary source for this article, Mr. Mark A. Magruder, the third of "Black Mac's" five sons. He is the author of the excellent book "Nightfighter Radar Intercept Killer" (see cover below), which recounts in detail his father's military career and gives an almost day-by-day account of the "Killer's" wartime activities. Drawing from official Marine Corps records, his correspondence with surviving squadron members, his father's files, photographs and personal memories, Mark is able to provide us with the kind of detail and insight that is rarely possible when writing about events from WWII that took place seven decades ago. Prior to this work, the story of Lt. Colonel Magruder and his men has been largely unreported, outside of the official squadron war history kept on file in the National Archives. We have only scratched the surface with our short article here. For the full story, we urge you to pick up the book and learn more about this dedicated, hard-working, courageous,  leader-of-men who served the Marine Corps and his country with great distinction in both war and peace. 

Please visit Mark's website: http://www.nightfighterrik.com/index.html, or go to Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Nightfighter-Intercept-Killer-Mark-Magruder/dp/1455615315 to obtain your copy. Thank you, we know you won't regret it!
Above and below:  Two dramatically lit photos of the Skipper in flight gear. Its safe to say that he was not immediately setting out on a patrol when these were taken, as the unfiltered white light would have ruined his night vision. The night Hellcats were fitted with red cockpit and instrument lights for this reason and pilots would wear red-lensed goggles for at least thirty minutes before manning their planes to adapt their eyes. Oxygen masks were used from take-off to landing as well, to improve visual acuity. It is reported that Black Mac always kept a ChapStick in his pocket to help protect his lips from any irritation caused by wearing the rubber mask for hours while on patrol.
Above left:  Sgt. Rosenberger with the CO's new F6F-5N, BuNo 72861, squadron aircraft # "2", that replaced "Little Mac".

Above, right:  Unidentified squadron NCOs and enlisted personnel pose with one of their F6F-5Ns.
Above left:  Captain Robert Baird, the squadron's ace with six night victories, all scored in 35 days between June 9th and July 14th, 1945, over Okinawa.

Above, right:  An example of the "USN" marked attachable signal light, as seen below, being worn by 2nd Lt. Ryan, with its unique contour. Also shown is a U.S. Navy issue "Lipstick, Sunburn Preventative, Hot Climate" made by Chap Stick Co., Lynchburg, Virginia.

Below:  The un-cropped version of our background photo. While one pilot wears an M-426s flight suit, and another the green tropical nylon suit, three men wear Marine utility trousers with khaki shirts. 1st Lt. Dellamano wears a utility shirt and trousers.