Night Torpedo Squadron 55 was commissioned at 1000 on 1 March, 1945, at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, by authority of Comfair Quonset. Conf. MGM. 061642 of February, 1945.
Lt. Comdr. John E. O'Dell, Jr., USN, assumed command at Westerly, Rhode Island. The Squadron being at Quonset Point. Lt. (jg) Paul Roedel, being the first to report aboard, was acting executive officer until Lt. Donald F. Carr, Jr., USN, reported five days later from Vero Beach, Florida. Lt. Irving Levine assumed the duties of Flight Officer. By the end of March the compliment was complete.
First accident in the Squadron was fatal. March ninth, Lt. (jg) Harold Boren was killed at Westerly during instrument training.
Despite availability, and bad weather, flight was seriously started on the fourteenth of March. Many day hours were flown before March nineteenth, when the first night hop took off.
The first night accident was April sixth. Lt. (jg) J. F. KaIb was killed in a take off collision. Lt. (jg) W. F. Leeker was seriously injured. The entire Squadron was present at memorial services held three days later at the station chapel.
Hours were really piled up by day, but night operations seemed to falter because of weather.
The ''Snake Pit" and the ''K.I." felt the effects of a foggy night by the musters we held there.
Then the twelve to twelve schedule went into operation with such a resounding effect that one Ensign Prater declared he hadn't slept for three days.
Gas was fairly difficult to find around Quonset, and several pilots were stranded in the snowy hills of Rhode Island because of dry tanks. Prater seemed quite put out when acting as rescuer at 0400 on one of these occasions, he too ran dry. The Squadron was a success socially, despite our limited nights off.
Two pilots, Dilgren and Patterson, received the air medal and the silver star, respectively,
at this time.
May first, the Squadron moved to NAAF on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, a small island off Cape Cod. It seemed very deserted and lonely in comparison to Providence. Morale hit a low.
We met our fighters for the first time, and immediately the eternal feud between VT and VF started.
Weather, once again, hampered night operations, but hours mounted and by the end of two weeks, we were considering ourselves night owls.
There was a constant fight with ground fog, always threatening to move in and blanket the field before the airborne planes could return. This happened several times, but only once did we have to send planes to Hyannis for the night.
The Vineyard, at this time, was very poor liberty, but the married men were set upfine. They proceeded to prove it by rentingvery elegant summer homes.
A beer party at Katama Beach was the first Squadron party. The First Division laid waste to several hundred bottles of beer and still managed to carry out the schedule that night.
Hyannis was on our list in the second week of this month for some torpedo drops and mine laying (besides a few visits to Club Panama, and the Bucket of Blood).
The destroyer Maggie escaped several 'near misses' by the more eager of our boys. Kreuter and Toth seemed determined to sink her.
Once again, we were a social success. Morale soared upwards.
May twelfth, the first navigators reported for duty, and were immediately indoctrinated into the Squadron duty.
Eight pilots were transferred to NAG-TU at Sanford, Maine; Ensigns Prater, Kincaid, Toth, Long, Padgen, Regina, Schultz, and Schulz.
The Vineyard was beginning to look like a different place now. The vacationists were beginning to arrive by the numbers. Several of more flush pilots secured quarters off the station.
Field carrier work commenced at once upon our return from Hyannis, and with but a few scares and grey hairs, we were set to go aboard within two weeks.
Hanging around the ready room, a person couldn't help but notice the uniform expression of relief on the faces of the pilots afterthey had flown their first night bounce. It wasn't nearly so horrifying as they had expected.
Gag had his cocktail party, and the effects are still visible. Who can ever forget "Susie Glutz"?
First of June, we went aboard the USS Mission Bay. The struggle that followed for our landings gained us a commendation as the best day or night group operating from Queen. Crosby Olinto made landing number 9000 aboard the Mission Bay, much to the disgust of Sarn, who had to take a wave off cause of a fouled deck.
We returned to the Mission Bay days later for some real operations with the crews, and newly learned tactics.
June twenty-eighth, Ensign Kreuterh what could have been a minor disaster on night hop. A flare failed to fall from the hot bay after release. It threatened to fire entire plane. His radioman, Don Roed, bailed out. He displayed some sound judgement and training with his survival equipment as he was fished out one hour later by a cruiser.
Ensign A. Root had another close one on a night bounce hop. He came into the groove and hit a power line pole, shearing the starboard flap etc. off. He also did a 4.0 job of recovery and landed safely. Every one was concerned with that accident as the line he hit was the power line for the entire side of the island, and for the base.
Gayhead wreck saw the improvement in our night bombings. Several direct hits were reported during the blackest of nights in the last weeks we worked on her.
Mickey and Madam, fight director stations, were a constant aid and morale booster to our boys.
Several tans were completed by the end of June. The Vineyard beaches had more than their share of our spare time, especially after some vacationists arrived.
One of the luckier of the Ensigns, A.T. Johnson, made the supreme sacrifice in June. Several of the boys attended the wedding to kiss the bride.
July tenth, several of our aircrewmen were transferred to NACTU. Our complement was once again completed.
July twelfth we left the Vineyard, and many memories, to report to NAS Alameda by July twenty-third. Despite Chicago, every one made it. Two days later we were on our
way to Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Shiply Bay.
July thirty-first we were stationed ashore at NAS Barbers Point, Oahu, and began a very busy schedule. Using NACTU's planes, and being blessed with good weather, we piled up an amazing number of hours. Saki airfield was hit more times than a certain pilot flew NAV Yokes back at Quonset.
Nineteenth of August was the real beginning of our carrier work aboard the USS Saratoga. When we finished, every one had at least ten night landings, not to mention the grey hairs. Ensign Kteuter made landing number 96,000 aboard the Sara. Once more, we were commended for safety, etc., in our carrier work.
The Japs gave in, and we, like the rest of the world, celebrated. The skipper's quartets was the scene of a very unforgettable night.
The next three weeks were very confusing. Rumors flew by the dozens; permanent air group aboard the B.H.R., permanent air group aboard the Enterprise, decommissioned, recommissioned, world cruise, occupation forces and many more.
The Squadron was elected for anti-sub patrols for three long days. August twenty-seventh, eighth, and ninth.
Pilots Ursch and Dilgren received the silver star and distinguished flying cross, respectively.
We received our own planes in the second week of September. Eighteen brand new TBM-3E5. We also received the final word. We would go aboard the USS Enterprise for flight duty, and an air show in New York City.
Rejuvenated by the news, we settled down to hours of group formations, rendezvous, breakups, and parade formations.
Our executive officer, Mr. Cart, now a Lieutenant Commander, took command of another squadron. His desk was filled by "Major" Sam".
Several men rated discharges by points or medals; Ford Draper, our able ACT officer, Charles Patterson, Ralph Ursch, Chiefs Johnston and Conway, and "Sam.
With Sam's departure, Lt. Dyer assumed the executive officer duties. We were settled back smoothly again, and started throwing some parties.
September twenty-fourth we went aboard the USS Enterprise as her air group. We went aboard minus two of our pilots who remained in sick bay, and were detached from the Squadron, Ensigns Brosseau and Bee.
We weren't as green as the usual air group with our experience, but we made our little mistakes anyway.
September twenty-fourth, we left Pearl Harbor for New York via the Panama Canal.
The Squadron sent up only two flights during this trip to Panama. Both working very closely with VF. We had four "Guppy"planes and crews added to the Squadron at this time.
October eighth, the first liberty party went ashore at 1000 in Balboa. Those three days in Balboa and Panama City will probably be remembered and relived (with moderations) to grandchildren to come. "A good time was had by all" is a mild statement.
Being the group flag ship, the big E was host to foreign dignitaries, and high ranking officers. Two Presidents came aboard during our four days in the Republic of Panama.
October twelfth we reached the Caribbean and immediately launched planes for photographic purposes with war correspondents aboard. This gave us a new duty, parallel on publicity.
|DATA OF THE AIR SHOW AND DECOMMISSIONING
We can always be proud of ourselves. We, as a Squadron, did our job safely and sanely, performed our duties well. This parting of the ways for most of us, means the termination of our navy careers, but will open up a firm future for us all.
We can't say it was an easy cruise, these past eight months, but the friendships we've gained and fun we've had make it seem so.