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



 

 
Above:  VOF-1 during operations from USS Tulagi in support of the D-Day landings. Scale models of their Hellcats have been produced in recent years showing a red cowl ring, however, the photographs of squadron aircraft seen here do not appear to support this. Although a red nose and yellow wing stripes were used on single seat aircraft by the USAAF as a theater recognition marking in the MTO, we have found no evidence of these markings being applied to U.S. Navy aircraft during Operation Dragoon.  At right, a standard blue nose is seen on the VOF-1 Hellcat shown in this color photo. Also of note are the two white stripes on the under surface of the wing flaps that can be seen on some, but not all, of VOF-1's planes. Their purpose is as yet undetermined, but currently under investigation. If you look closely at the crash photos below, and the color images at right and below, they are visible in each.

Below:  Aircraft number 5 takes a trip down the forward elevator after it's recovery aboard while number 11's deck position is being adjusted by muscle power. Both aircraft display the mysterious short white stripes painted on their flaps. Also seen on both aircraft are the zero-length rocket launchers, fitted to all the planes in both squadrons, but of note here due to their white finish. It was not uncommon to see these, drop tanks and main wheels all bearing white paint, but fitted to otherwise all glossy sea blue Hellcats, as components completed before the change in camouflage were used-up without having their color updated at the Grumman factory.
Below:  This sequence of seven photos shows a barrier crash by aircraft number 18, BuNo 58688, flown by ENS William C. McKeever, which occured at the end of flight operations on 8/15/44. Despite the destruction of two aircraft, fortunately, there were no injuries reported. The shaken pilot (to the right of the prop in the 4th photo below), after being helped from the cockpit, can be seen surveying the damage with deck personnel as ordnance men scramble to remove any remaining .50 ammunition. Aircraft number 6, BuNo 58314, which  landed just prior to McKeever, and was piloted by LCDR Bringle, has absorbed the brunt of the crash, having it's entire empennage crushed. Both planes were damaged beyond repair so were stripped of vital equipment and pushed off the stern.
Above:  Rear Admiral Calvin T. Durgin, a brown-shoe admiral (at left in blue cap), flew his flag from Tulagi. He was in command of Task Force 88.2, comprised of USS Tulagi, USS Kasaan Bay, 2 Royal Navy CVEs, 2 R.N. anti aircraft light cruisers and six U.S.N. destroyers.  
LT (jg) E. W. Olszewski is at right.

Below:  A well know photo commemorating a total of four victories achieved in aircraft number eight by these two pilots. At right is ENS Alfred Wood, who destroyed two HE-111s on August 20th, and at left is LT (jg) Edward Olszewski, who shot down two JU-52s on the 21st. As recounted in the January 1945 issue of FLYING magazine, Olszewski faced some adversity when scoring his victories, despite the victims being un-armed transport aircraft:

"Later, LT (jg) Edward W. Olszewski, USNR, of Richmond Heights, Mo., and ENS Richard V. Yentzer, USNR, of Sheridan, Wyo. ran into three Junkers Ju-52s over the Rhone River. Both American planes had previously been damaged by flak in attacks on Nazi motor columns and had used up most of their ammunition. Olszewski had only one of his six guns firing, but he shot down two of the enemy planes and Yentzer got the other."

Bottom:  LT (jg) Edward W. Olszewski in flying attire. You will note the conspicuous absence of survival equipment worn by the pilots of our two subject squadrons (other than parachute, raft, pistol and Mae West) that we are so used to seeing in photos of Navy fliers in the PTO. It would appear that backpad survival kits and pistol belts laden with gear were felt to be unnecessary in the more "civilized" European environment.
Above:  USS Tulagi, with VOF-1 Hellcats embarked.

Below: Observation Fighting Squadron One's skipper, LCDR William Floyd "Bush" Bringle, USN. This photo is believed to have been taken on the Island of Malta (note VF-74 aircraft number eleven in background), during operational training prior to the invasion.
Above:  RADM Durgin welcomes LCDR Bringle back aboard after the latter "got his feet wet". While conducting a two plane spotting mission in the Marseilles area on 8/25/44, his aircraft was hit by medium AA fire. Upon his return to the Tulagi, he was unable to lower his arresting hook as a result of the damage. The ship ordered him to proceed to an emergency landing field ashore, but he ran out of gas on the flight and was forced to make a water landing near some Allied ships off of Cape Sicie. Later that same day, he was returned to the carrier by U.S.S. Kendrick, DD 612, which can be seen in the background of this photo, having just transferred him back to Tulagi, none the worse for wear, via breeches bouy. The carrier's action report did not record how much, if any, ice cream the destroyer recieved as ransom for the squadron CO's return. Note that Bringle is wearing a kapok filled "knapsack" style life jacket, while Durgin wears a pneumatic life belt.