PBY Catalina Day

Willis B. Haviland – Pioneer American combat pilot.


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.


1942: The first PBY arrives at NAS Whidbey

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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.

“Lone Ranger” – The XPBB-1



The XPBB-1 “Sea Ranger” was Boeing’s effort at fulfilling the Navy’s need for a better long-range flying boat. Such aircraft are always a battle between aero and hydro dynamic engineers, but the XPBB was a remarkably streamlined and efficient design. Internal bomb bays with sliding doors were incorporated into the wing were one such aerodynamic feature.

First flown on July 7, 1942, the XPBB proved a winner from the start and seemed to have a bright future, but…other forces were at work. Despite the Navy’s satisfaction with the project, Boeing’s talents (and factories) were needed for the B-29 program. This was given priority, and, with only one example built, The XPBB project was cancelled. The B-29 program, coupled with the Navy’s growing lack of enthusiasm for the future of large flying boats, caused the one and only XPBB-1 Sea Ranger to became known as the “Lone Ranger”.

Laundry day in Tokyo Bay


On August 28, 1945, PB2Y-5Z (7073) was the Coronado flying boat that flew Admiral Nimitz from Saipan to Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremony aboard USS Missouri. Having completed their mission, the Coronado crew had nothing else to do but wait for Admiral Nimitz to complete his historical mission. The perfect time to catch up on such chores as laundry.

This PB2Y was modified to a VIP transport complete with a flag officer cabin. I assume the pants swinging in the breeze were dry before the admiral had a chance to see how useful the twin tails truly were.


Something for the Seahawk fans

Arguably the best of its type ever built for the US Navy, the Curtiss SC came too late to play a significant role in WWII.Webp.net-resizeimage (28)It’s hard to believe there are no surviving examples of this fine aircraft. That being said, the remains of two of these aircraft were recently seen when the wreck of the USS Indianapolis was discovered. But they are 18,000 feet deep, and in pieces.Webp.net-resizeimage (26)Webp.net-resizeimage (24)Only a handful of these were built: the SC-2Webp.net-resizeimage (25)Post-war photo of 33654 and 35594 resting upon the catapults of an Iowa class battleship. “CA” was the code for VO-1C of NAS Terminal Island.Webp.net-resizeimage (27)Hopefully, this was not as fatal as it looks. Bureau no. has been airbrushed out.

The 零式艦上戦闘機 of the US Navy

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The  “零式艦上戦闘機” (or, “rei-shiki-kanjō-sentōki”) is better known to the rest of the world as the Mitsubishi Zero. The first image is the intact Zero brought back from the Aleutian Islands in 1942. It is seen here at NAS North Island in that same year. The second image is of what I assume to be a different aircraft some six or seven years later at NAS Whidbey Island.

I was quite surprised to find this photo showing a Zero still around well after the war. It is at least 1948: There are P2V Neptunes in the background as well as an R5D coded “RS” of VR-5. That tail code entered service in 1948.

PBY-5A (48386) of VP-62

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The plane crashed at the base of Old Women’s Mountain on Kodiak Island Alaska in 1945.  Of the 15 crew and passengers were aboard, 8 were killed. The aircraft, after several failed approaches in the weather, flew in to rising terrain and stalled while attempting to climb out of the situation.  Upon stalling, the aircraft plunged nose-first in to the ground.  Photos taken at NAS Kodiak.

The immortal Kingfisher


In my dad’s 40+ years of flying, first for the navy, then United Airlines, there was only one plane he managed to destroy, and that would be an OS2U Kingfisher, as follows.  NAS Corpus Christi, 1942, and dad is getting checked out in an OS2U.  He landed in the bay,  and had slowed to about 25 knots, when the aircraft lurched to one side and started sinking fast – the main float mounts had broken. He and the instructor inflated their Mae West’s, and headed for shore.  Dad was sure his career was over. The instructor, paddling on his back, was non-committal. He only said “not the first swim I’ve taken, but hell, I just got these shoes last week.”

PS. They hauled the wreck from the bottom of the harbor, and it was discovered that the float attach bolts were corroded to dust.