Proudly posing with their scoreboard on the hangar deck of USS Essex, VF-15’s roster of pilots included many aces, the top being David McCampbell with 34 victories. The F6F Hellcat he flew to attain such a score is the backdrop for the photo, the famed “Minsi III”. McCampbell is seated to the right of the scoreboard.
Willis Bradley Haviland (1895-1944) was the 16th aviator to join the famed Lafayette Escadrille, the result of which is that he is one of the first Americans to engage in aerial combat. Joining the navy after America’s entry into World War I, he is seen here during World War II when he served as the first Executive Officer of NAS Whidbey Island, and then its second Commanding Officer.
In these photos, Haviland is seen standing on the left in front of a SB2C Helldiver, and center, before a JRF Goose during a visit to NAS Seattle. In honor of the former skipper, a hangar is named for him at NAS Whidbey.
The date is December, 1942, and this is the first PBY to arrive at the brand new NAS Whidbey Island seaplane base. (Note the construction material littering the ramp in the background.) The installation was intended to be a support facility for PBYs from NAS Seattle, but even before work began the plan was altered to where Whidbey would be its own base.
This PBY’s arrival was not without some apprehension. The pilot, Lt. Morrison, stated that he circled the area for quite some time before spotting the “red girders of the seaplane hangar under construction.” Even then he had to land four or five miles out due to an abundance of logs floating in the harbor. After carefully picking his way through the debris he was met by a boat that succeeded in clearing a path for the incoming aircraft.
This hangar (minus the ordnance carts parked alongside) still stands today, but with a different mission: It is now the Navy Exchange (NEX) department store. From this angle, the former hangar looks pretty much the same now as it did then.