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Bomber Squadron Seventeen

Discussion in 'Those Who Served' started by Lynn Camp, Jul 15, 2018.

  1. Lynn Camp

    Lynn Camp New Member

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    My mother married three WWII officers (first two died in combat and training exercises). She has a silver platter that was given to them "From the Officers of Bomber Squadron Seventeen". Her husbands were fighter pilots - so trying to figure out why she has this platter and if it should be gifted to a museum or individual associated with the squadron. I don't even see info on the web on the squadron by that name. Thanks for any help.
     
  2. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    She married three of them in succession?

    Anyway, the 17th Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy) was constituted on 28 March 1944, activated 1 April 1944, and inactivated 15 April 1946. It was assigned to the 16th Bombardment Group and stationed at Dalhart Field Texas, then Fairmont Field Nebraksa, and finally Northwest Field Guam. It flew B-29's in combat missions against Japan.
     
  3. Lynn Camp

    Lynn Camp New Member

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    Thank you for your prompt response. Your dates for the bomber squadron really helps me narrow down which husband and why it was awarded. In fact now that I see those dates, I feel certain that it was awarded to her first husband, Lt. Harry Wiltsie Worley, who flew around 20 missions against the Japanese fleet and was mortally wounded while trying to protect bombers. He dove his plane into the bow of a Japanese aircraft carrier - narrowly missing. I would bet that bomber squadron sent her that platter in gratitude for Harry's (and her) sacrifice.

    And yes, she married them in succession with of course some time in between. .Lt. Worley died in combat. Her second husband, Lt. Cmdr. (or LTJG?) Burton Francis Haker, the Naval Academy graduate and squadron leader, went off the end of an aircraft carrier in a training exercise shortly after the war with Japan ended. Lastly, my Dad, Capt. Harry Emerson Irwin was sent to tend to her affairs after Haker died. He kept in touch with her and my sister until she agreed to marry and go with him to Guam where I was born in 1950. His 33 year service substantially began as the war ended and he was put in charge of resupplying the Pacific Fleet. He continued to serve all over the world in the Supply Corp until his last tour with Robert McNamara and DOD at the Pentagon.

    Speaking of Burton Hacker - My sister has tried and tried to get his service record from the National Personnel Records Center who referred her to Navy Personnel Command. Finally NPRC told her his "military record had been removed from the file area in order to reply to a previous inquiry". She also tried calling the number 314-801-0800 listed on the responses and they always say they are too busy and can not take any more calls...call back. Very frustrating especially if what my sister has been told is true … that she is the only one who will be able to request the records … and not her sons?
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    If we're talking Navy, it could be Bombing Squadron 17 (VB-17), which flew SB2C Helldiver dive bombers from the carrier Bunker Hill (CV-17).
     
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  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Well, he was with VB-9 aboard the Yorktown. Lt. Worley, a divebomber pilot, died in the attack on the Yamato. He had bombed Yahagi and went to assist in a torpedo attack on a destroyer. His aircraft was damaged, and crashed just short of the destroyer. I believe the destroyer may have been the Hamakaze, but I need to do some more research.

    Additionally, VB-17 was flying off the Hornet from February-June, 1945, and both participated in the Yamato attack. So, there is a very strong probability that Carronade is correct.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    He was a LT(j.g.) in 1942, and held the rank of Lieutenant Commander when he died, commanding VF-72, on August 19, 1948. As far as I can tell, VF-72 was not on deployment, as the sources I have show the squadron with USS Leyte(CV-32) July-November, 1947, and not deploying again until January, 1949 aboard USS Philippine Sea(CV-47).
     
  7. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    And presuming the USN squadron, VB-17, from CVG-17 . . .

    It was not unusual at all for an individual to transfer from one type of squadron to another and it is not difficult to find folks who went from community (as they are known in the vernacular) to another. I can think of not just a few such individuals right off the top of my head, mostly because I either knew them or was otherwise aware of the switch: Dudley Adams (VS-71, later VF(N)-79 and VF(N)-104); Joe Smith (VS-2, later VF(N)-106 and VF-19); Stanley Vejtasa (VS-5, later VF-10 and VF-97); Birney Stockton (VS-5, VS-10, VB-85, later VBF-85); Turner Caldwell (VS-5, later VF(N)-79 and VF(N)-41); his brother, David (VB-7, later VBF-7); Hugh Nicholson (VB-17, later VF-17 and VBF-17); Ralph Cousins (VB-2, VB-11, later VBF-11); and that’s without trying hard. Others, I’d have to search for others, such as Alva Abernathy (VS-45, later VF-44); George Anderson (VP-210, later VF-39); Frederick Bamman (a VF instructor at NAS Jacksonville, later VT-94); or James Crane (VP-101, later VT(N)-90), but that can get more than a little tedious, kind of a line by line thing.

    My initial thought was that perhaps there was someone who made the switch from VB-17 to VBF-17 when the latter was established in January 1945. That sort of change happened quite a bit, with pilots from air group bombing and even torpedo squadrons making the switch to fighters in early 1945. On the other hand, that sort of internal air group transfer rarely generated that sort of memento, but you never know.

    Further, though, a check of the air group and squadron histories quickly squashed that thought anyway. VBF-17, when formed, was noted as being completely made up of aviators drawn from VF-17, essentially taking half the aviators from VF-17 and transferring them to VBF-17. Hugh Nicholson, as noted above, who had previously been XO of VB-17 and had moved over to XO of VF-17 on 24 August 1944, became CO of VBF-17 on 11 January 1945. He was killed in action on 14 May 1945 and his XO, Edwin Conant, formerly of the AVG before returning to the USN, took over as CO.

    Interestingly, there is a notation in the VB-17 history recording that when the air group was ashore just prior to going on its combat deployment aboard Hornet, all the VB-17 pilots were checked out in F6Fs, just in case.

    Presentation of such items of silver for various reasons or occasions was fairly common in stateside stationed units . . . old Navy, and Army, for that matter, custom. I’ve quite a few such items from the 1940’s through the 1960’s that were given to my parents as group gifts from the members of various commands. The earliest such item I have is a cigarette box (it was customary in the old days when smoking was more prevalent to have a nice box or two out on the coffee table for guests to reach into when they ran out at parties and such) which is engraved on the inside as being from the officers of VF-42 and dated 13 September 1941, a wedding present. Events such as weddings, births (silver baby cups were common), transfers to other units, and such, are typical events for which one might receive one of these mementoes. I would not really expect to see such a presentation if transferring from one squadron to another in the same air group, however, unless the individual being so presented was the squadron commander or executive officer . . . Joe Ensign, going from the VT to the VF squadron in the same air group would probably not get much more than “we’ll see you around.” A well thought of squadron commander fleeting up to CAG, on the other hand, might receive something nice from the members of his former squadron.

    What to do with it? If you are anxious to be rid of it, you might want to check with the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, they have a nice collection, and see if they’ve anything from VB-17 in WW2. They might be happy to accept a donation. The thing of it is, as with donating anything to any museum, you really don’t know if it will ever be displayed or simply catalogued and stuffed in store room somewhere never again to see the light of day. If you want to be mercenary and it is sterling silver, sterling, not plated, then you could always sell it for the value of the silver, about $15.75/troy ounce. Personally, if there is some personal or family attachment or connection, I’d keep it.

    And if you keep reading, you will see the connection to VB-17.

    In your other post you used the last name Hacker, hence my response in that thread that there was no Hacker who was a USNA graduate until the 1980’s.

    Now then, with the last name Haker, as you wrote in your above post, and some 317 rows down my H’s spread sheet . . . That is all together a totally different story . . .

    Burton Frank Haker, USNA 1940, “Butch”
    ENS, USN on 6/6/1940
    LTJG, USN on 4/15/1942
    LT, USN on 10/1/1942
    LCDR, USN 10/1/44
    The only wartime duty assignment my records show for him is being in VF-41 at NAS Seattle when the squadron was established on 3/26/1945.

    My friend, Pat McConnell, who runs a USNA Virtual Memorial notes that he was lost at sea on 19 August 1948 while CO of VF-72. Sleuthing around a bit with that info and we can find that he had just taken command of the squadron on 6 July 1948, the mishap was a landing accident and he was probably flying an F8F at the time.

    For another name you mentioned I’ve a bit more information:

    Harry W Worley
    ENS USNR AV(N) on 10/16/1942
    ENS USNR AV(N) VB-17 NAS Norfolk 9/1/43
    ENS USNR AV(N) VB-17 USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) 9/14/43
    LTJG USNR AV(N) on 10/1/1943
    LTJG USNR AV(N) VB-17 USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) Air Medal for action on 11/11/1943
    LT USN – I don’t have a date for this promotion, my suspicion is sometime in December 1944.

    My records show him with VB-9 at NAB Ponam, Admiralty Islands on 1/1/1945; aboard USS Lexington (CV-16) still in VB-9 on 2/16/1945; and was killed in action (still VB-9 USS Lexington) on 4/7/1945. His decorations included the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and at least 4 Air Medals. His back seater was Earl W Ward, ARM2c USN. He had been augmented from USNR to USN while the squadron was at Ponam.

    From the VB-9 history, narrative for 1 April 1945 through 30 June 1945, these passages regarding the action of 4/7/1945, this associated with the demise of the Japanese battleship Yamato and most of her consorts:

    “Prior to the attack signal Lt. Harry W. WORLEY broke his section from the flight abeam of the target and commenced his dive. The section consisting of WORLEY, BOWERS and BELL did not, however, score any hits as they came in in from the port beam. Upon recovering, a call for strafing was heard from a lone TBM whose torpedo had failed to release on two successive runs against a DD. WORLEY evidently not seeing any VF and in position for strafing pushed over and started raking the DD with 20 mm. fire. BELL followed suit but immediately pulled out when he found his cannons to be jammed. BOWERS had already started for the rendezvous sector and did not see the ensuing action.

    “Worley was brought under intense A/A fire, allowing the torpedo pilot to make his run unopposed, but half way in his glide was seen to be hit. He recovered enough to pull out and break his glide despite smoke flames which was trailing his aircraft and then again resumed a 60° dive towards the DD resulting in a crash off its starboard bow. No survivors were seen to parachute or in the water."
    (pages 5 & 6)

    “The loss of Harry WORLEY and his gunner, Earl W WARD, was a tough blow for the squadron. Harry’s heroic action was in character for he had chosen the Navy for his lifetime career and the Captain had administrated the oath while the air group was based at Ponam. Both WORLEY’s and WARD’s previous combat experience had aided greatly to the training of new men. WORLEY’s extensive knowledge of aircraft engineering resulted in the high percentage of operational planes the squadron was able to maintain, and his personality won the admiration and friendship of his shipmates.” (pages 7 & 8)

    I would be willing to bet that the silver tray from VB-17 was a wedding present. Oh, and Earl Ward was also his backseat radio gunner in VB-17.

    Rich
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  8. Lynn Camp

    Lynn Camp New Member

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    My Mother, sister and Lt. Cmdr. Haker were stationed at Annapolis at the time of the accident. So that would make sense that his unit was not deployed. Mom told us he was a squadron leader doing some training and went off the end of the aircraft carrier (not sure if that is the right terminology). They never recovered him. She was not familiar with his service record (other than the Naval Academy) and we were hoping to get the details for my sister and his grandsons.

    THANKS a million for the additional information! It is much more than what we had.
     
  9. Lynn Camp

    Lynn Camp New Member

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    I can't express how grateful I am for all of your help. Thanks so much for the additional information. I will research the names you have given me … I thought Worley was a fighter pilot -- so will be fascinating to look at the ships you referenced and discover the significance of being a "divebomber pilot". I have a hand written list of all of his missions (are they called sorties?). It is very impressive. I am going on a trip but will look for it when I return and post it. One quite interesting thing about Worley is that his parents were will known Chinese missionaries.... and buried in China.

    I found the following -- but have no idea who wrote it: There is a gravestone with Worley's name on it in China next to his parents … but obviously he is not there. His mother wrote a fascinating book on the society of the Chinese at the time … casually mentioning how they would drown female babies.

    Lt. Harry Wiltsie Worley
    Birth 5 Apr 1920
    Fujian, China
    Death 7 Apr 1945 (aged 25)
    At Sea
    Burial
    Foo-Chow Mission Cemetery
    Born in Futsing, Fujian Province to missionaries Rev. Harry Wescott Worley and Zela Cyrena (Wiltsie) Worley.

    Married Agnes Elizabeth Sullivan on August 16, 1943 in Norfolk, Virginia. There were no children from this union.

    Lieutenant Harry W. Worley (NSN: 0-156808), United States Naval Reserve, is awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Dive Bomber, in Bombing Squadron NINE (VB-9), attached to the U.S.S. YORKTOWN (CV-10), in the fleet action of the East China Sea, on 7 April 1945. Lieutenant Worley skillfully and courageously led his Division in a coordinated attack against an enemy task force including a battleship, cruiser and screening destroyers. Upon completion of a hazardous low-level attack on the cruiser, he responded to a call for assistance to divert enemy gunners so that a torpedo plane could make a run on a destroyer. With complete disregard for his own safety he made a lone strafing attack on the destroyer and succeeded in directing intense anti-aircraft fire to himself so that the torpedo attack could be pressed home. In the attack, his plane was severely damaged and he made an apparent attack to crash dive the ship. His devotion to duty for which he gave his life and courage in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
     

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