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A GREAT F7F Mystery-- need your help

Posted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:48 pm
by Leatherneck MIA
While reading a history of Marine Bombing Squadron VBM-612 which flew PBJ's (Marine B-25's) off of Saipan and IwoJima (the book was called Cram's Ram's by Thomas Honeycutt), I came across a mystery regarding a new fighter in the Pacific, the F7F Tigercat.

On April 20, 1945, in dense fog, three of the PBJ bombers either wrecked short of Runway 1 or ditched off shore. At the same time, two F7F's crashed one behind the other in this same fog. Pacificwrecks only has information about the F7F during the Korean war but no coverage or losses in WWII. I can't find any squadron history covering this time frame (only that the planes arrived on Okinawa just after the war ended and none saw combat).

I have no pilot, buno, squadron, anything other than pages 210-212 of this excellent squadron history which noted the eye witness account of the two F7F wrecks.
Can anyone confirm whether these planes actually wrecked on Iwo Jima April 20, '45?

Re: A GREAT F7F Mystery-- need your help

Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:26 pm
by RSwank
I think the witness has mis-remember or confused an incident. There was a crash of two P-61s Night Fighters on Iwo Jima on that date.

Here is a link to a photo:

Here is a brief description: ... oads3&c=75

P-61B-1-NO, S/N 42-39403 and 42-39405 Black Widow, " The Spook " ''Anonymous III''. 548th Night Fighter Squadron. The 42-39403 Crashed on landing in a heavy fog, Iwo Jima, April 20, 1945. Condemned to salvage. Pilot, Lt. Melvin Bode. Radar, Lt. Avery J.

I suspect that since the F7F was being tested as a night fighter, the witness may have mis-remembered the incident. I don't think any F7Fs were on Iwo.

Re: A GREAT F7F Mystery-- need your help

Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:45 pm
by RSwank
There may have even been a 3rd P-61 lost at the same time. 42-39560, which seems to have gone down 3 or 3 mi off Iwo after the crew bailed out.
"20 Apr 1945"
"Iwo Jima, 2-4 miles NE "
"Crew bailed out and crashed at Iwo Jima. Condemned inventory Jun 11, 1945"

Re: A GREAT F7F Mystery-- need your help

Posted: Sun Jul 13, 2014 5:24 pm
by Leatherneck MIA
Super-- thanks for the research and pictures. It appears that you solved the mystery-- those planes appear similar.

Here are some snippets what was written up on page 211 of Cram's Ram's

First Lt. Samuel C. Balthrop, pilot of a new PBJ-1 was returning from his anti-submarine patrol of sector 5. The aircraft's radar gear failed and LT. Balthrop attempted to land in heavy fog, with the aid of a ground control approach station on this field. The PBJ crashed short of the runway at 0350 K. Killed in the crash were 1LT Joseph J. Bottalico, co-pilot; MTSgt Benjamin S. Goodwin, navigator-bombadier; SSgt. Albert L. Chivis, radar gunner; Corp. William Winkler, radio gunner; SSgt. Joseph A. Clementi, aerial gunner. Lt. Balthrop died in the 41st Field Hospital several house after the crash.

Bob Weier, who was on duty at the flight line on this fateful night observed, "LT Balthrop crashed first. The F7F then crashed into one that had also crashed. Balthrop was alive in the ambulance after the crash. The ambulance got hit when the second F7F came in. A crowd gathered immediately and began to strip the bodies of those already dead of any rings, watches, and other personal items. The radio and radar gear was stripped from the crashed aircraft before our security detachment was able to take charge.

( My guess is that the accusation of robbing the dead was really misplaced because this was a popular crew)

(I am hoping that Justin can post the stories from this squadron (VMB-612).... trying to send him all the information that I can on 9 wrecks, bunos, crew, stories, etc.