Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 143
"Devil Dog Avengers/Rocket Raiders"
VMSB-143 (VMTB-143) / VMTB(CVS)-143
United States Marine Corps (USMC)
On March 1, 1942 Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 143 (VMSB-143) was commissioned at NAS San Diego at Camp Kearney, CA under the command of Commanding Officer (C. O.) Major William K. Pottinger. During training, equipped with SB2U Vindicator and later transitioned to the SBD Dauntless.
On October 15, 1942 the squadron departed the United States aboard the SS Lurline including seven pilots and 57 enlisted men and departed across the Pacific to the South Pacific (SOPAC) as part of Marine Air Group 12 (MAG-12) on Guadalcanal. The squadron was On November 12, 1942 nineteen more pilots arrived at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal equipped with the TBF Avenger under Commanding Officer (C. O.) of Major J. W. Sapp, Jr.
First Tour of Duty
On November 17, 1942 the squadron began flying combat missions from Henderson Field on bombing missions against targets in the Solomon Islands. Later in the month, nine more pilots arrived as replacements.
On February 20, 1943 the squadron flew a bombing mission against
Munda Airfield on New Georgia. Over the target, the formation was a four plane diamond formation then made the glide bombing attack in a column bombing the runway and revetments and claimed two twin engine bombers as severely damaged. During the attack, TBF-1 Avenger 05970 piloted by 1st Lt. Homer J. Cornell reported diving at a speed in excess of 400 knots (460.3 mph) when he returned the fuselage had a slight buckle, several wing rivets were spring and wing ribs stretched 1/2 inch and was the opinion of ground crews that it achieved a speed of 425-450 knots (489-517 mph).
On February 24, 1943 at 9:45am nine TBF Avengers led by Major J. W. Sapp, Jr. took off from
Henderson Field on a glide bombing mission against Munda Airfield on New Georgia. The Avengers were armed with 500 pound bombs and flew in three divisions of three planes each. The Avengers rendezvoused over Lunga Point with the rest of the strike force including fourteen SBD Dauntless plus escorting fighters including eight F4F Wildcats, eight P-39s and eleven P-38s and flew northward over the east coast of New Georgia. The weather was clear over the target with clouds at 5,000' to the north. Over the target at 11:45am, the Avengers began their glide bombing attack from at 3,500'. The first division encountered practically nil anti-aircraft fire. The second division and third division encountered light to medium anti-aircraft fire. The squadron's bombs were seen to fall across the northeast end of the runway and revetments and a twin engined bomber in the middle of the runway as claimed as destroyed plus two other planes in revetments that were possibly wrecks and a fuel dump was set on fire and a row of tents were strafed. Two bombs fell into the sea and two bombs failed to release.
On February 28, 1943 the squadron took off from Henderson Field on the first Avenger night bombing mission against Kahili Airfield and Japanese shipping off southern Bougainville. Lost was TBF "Peggy" 06109 pilot Captain Alexander Rae Berry (1 MIA, 2 POW one executed, one survived).
On March 21, 1943 the squadron took off from Henderson Field on a bombing mission against Kahili Airfield (Buin) on southern Bougainville. Lost is TBF Avenger 06091 pilot 2nd Lt. Ellis E. Matheson (3 MIA).
On May 19 1943 thirty TBFs from VT-11 and VMSB-143 damaged the Houn Maru and force her aground aground at Erventa Harbor (Buin Harbor) on southern Bougainville. Lat 6 48' N, Long 155 49E. Lost is TBF 06239 pilot Lt(jg) Frederic B. Sleyster (3 MIA)
On June 1, 1943 the squadron was redesignated VMTB-143.
On January 29, 1944 took off from Munda Airfield piloted by 1st Lt. Dan R. Meulpolder on a bombing mission against Tobera Airfield. Lost is TBF 47748 (2 MIA).
In June 1944 departed the South Pacific (SOPAC) across the Pacific to to Santa Barbara. On November 5, 1944 redesignated VMTB(CVS)-143.
Second Tour of Duty
In March 1945 embarked aboard aboard USS Gilbert Islands (CVE-107) with Marine Fighting Squadron 512 (VMF-512) aboard USS Gilbert Islands (CVE-107). Together, these two squadrons formed Marine Carrier Air Group 2 (MCAG-2). During late May 1945, the squadron flew ground support missions over Okinawa. During June 1945 flew missions against outer islands in Okinawa Prefecture.
NARA VMSB-143 Report of dive bombing attack on Munda Airdrome, New Georgia, May 10, 1943
"Statement of 1st Lt. Homer J. Cornell, concerning circumstances involved in diving TBF-1 model aircraft in excess of stipulated maximum allowable speed [on February 20, 1943 mission]"
NARA VMSB-143 Action Report, February 24, 1943
Do you have photos or additional information to add?