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  F6F-3 Hellcat Bureau Number 40695  
USS Bunker Hill (CV-17)

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April 1, 1944
Pilot  Ensign John R. Galvin (rescued)
Ditched  April 1, 1944

Pilot History
Galvin was an ace credited with 7 victories an 2 damaged. This was his fifth combat mission. He survived the war but died in 1994 in Scottsdale, AZ.

Aircraft History
Built by Grumman. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as F6F-3 Hellcat bureau number 40695.

Wartime History
Assigned to USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) to squadron VF-8. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On April 1, 1944 took off from USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) on a strike against Woleai. Over Woleai Airfield, Galvin left formation to strafe a G4M1 Betty bomber, but was damaged by anti-aircraft fire and bailed out. Immediately reported by his fellow pilots, Galvin ditched in the sea, about five miles to the north of Taugalap Island to the southwest of Woleai.

Wounded and battered in rough seas, he was observed by several escorting Hellcats. The current took him into shallow water and the reef off the island. Meanwhile, the attack continued against Woleai. Hours later, Galvin reached the beach and was buzzed by TMB Avenger several times, and dropped a raft to him, with a note instructing him to 'swim out to sea' to be rescued, but was too weak.

Serving on lifeguard duty, USS Harder SS-257 was notified at 8:40am and departed at full speed to the pilot, spotting him at 11:45am and took up a position only 1500 yards from shore In a poor position, the sub moved attempted to move to an alternate location, but then decided to remain at the original spot. The Task Force remained in the area and continued to hit the island, while the rescued was attempted.

Three members of the submarine's crew volunteered to take a rubber raft attached to a tow line ashore and departed at noon: Lt Samuel M. Logan from Kentucky, J. W. Thomason, the ship's cook from Danielsville, GA and MMM1C Francis X. Ryan from Shenandoah, PA. Meanwhile, the submarine kept the engines turning and the bow on the reef to prevent it from being beached on the reef. Another plane dropped a one man raft to Galvin, who inflated it, but was too weak to swim.

It took the rescuers roughly 30 minutes to swim to shore, and when they reached Galvin, they observed sniper fire splashing in the sea around them, and the sub returned fire at the tree line, and escorting fighters also strafed the area.

As the group was being towed back in their raft toward the submarine, an SOC Seagull seaplane landed, and attempted to reach them, mistaking them for another downed aviator it was tasked with rescuing, and accidentally severed the tow line. Thomason swam back to the sub with the tow line, while the rest of the group waited on the reef. Another crew member, Gunner's Mate Freeman Paquet, Jr. volunteered to swim out a new line, made from light weight rope salvaged off rafts by the crew and quickly tied together. Reaching the raft, they were towed back to the sub by all available crew members. Within an hour, the sub reversed off the reef and was safely away. Galvin was treated for his wounds aboard the sub.

Overhead, the entire rescue was photographed by a photo F6F Hellcat piloted by Air Group commander Andrew Jackson with observer Jerry Rian. Afterwards, the rescue was commended by Admiral Nimitz.

Thanks to James Sawruk for additional information.
Salvation for a Doomed Zoomie pages 118 - 157ss

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Last Updated
February 14, 2020


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