Logo from a painting by Robert Morris

Memories of a Plane Captain
Crew #6 VJ1/VW3 flying out of NAS Agana, Guam, 1952-1954
by Earl E. Beach AD1

Assigned to VJ1 March 1952 NAS Sand Point, Seattle, WA For crew training in a 6 plane squadron of
PB4Y2 Privateers.  We departed 26 July 1952 for Guam.  After stops at Alameda NAS, California, Barbers
Point, HI, Johnston Island, and Kwajalien, we arrived in Guam 31 July after 42.9 hours flying our new
home for the next 2 years.

We flew regular weather flights daily, with one crew assigned to Sangley Point, Philippines on a 10 day
rotation that had each crew flying at least every 4th day.  The 11 hours plus flight with pre flights and
post flight duties made for a long day, but what the heck, I was only 22 years old, no problem.  The 10
days in the Philippines was nice if we didn't have a typhoon to track.  We usually had a chance to visit
Kowloon, China for a couple of days on the way back to Guam.

Most of our routine weather flights were actually beautiful. Low level, over the ocean, and small Pacific
Islands.  The colors of the waters around these islands and atolls, you couldn't imagine without seeing

Now comes the serious part.  There was always plenty of tropical storms and typhoons to keep us busy.
We penetrated many typhoons with winds over 100 miles per hour in my 2 years.  It was quite an
experience. One that I will always remember.

To penetrate the eye of the typhoon, low level, the pilots would use the wind force to help push us in
keeping the wind on our starboard tail as the aircraft went spiraling in towards the eye.  To exit they
would setup with the wind on the portside tail area for spiraling out.  They would watch the water
blowing across the swells making it very easy to tell wind direction.  With the manual of sea state
pictures we could also compare to estimate winds speeds. This was all being done as both pilots were
on the controls trying to maintain altitude, heading, and keeping the wings level as we were being
buffeted around like a feather.    I could look out my window and see numbers 1 and 2 engines just
flopping up and down and rain so hard I could not see the wing tips at times.  I often wondered how
those engines could keep running with all the water being drawn through the intakes.  It was always
comforting hearing those Pratt & Whitneys doing their part.

Once we break into the eye, we can all take a deep breath.  It's hard to believe what you see in the eye,
birds flying, sun shinning, very calm as we circle around, but you can always look out and see the wall
that is waiting for you.  The aerologist and the radar man try and find a soft spot as we depart for our
journey out and all hell breaks out again.  I don't recall how long it took to get in and out of the eye but
it seemed like a very long time.  Even on the outer edges it was always raining, very dark, and the flying
was rough.

Once we clear the roughest part the crew will be very busy, the navigator getting our position, the
radioman sending messages to Fleet Weather Center, Guam with our position and weather data.  We
are also a little relieved, but we know our job and we will be back soon to get another fix on this storm
or another one.

After a couple of these flights I always had a lot of confidence in our crew and the Privateer.  It was like
the Times commercials, "It took a licking but it kept on ticking".

On 16 December 1953 we lost one of our crews in Typhoon Doris (winds recorded up to 150 knots).  Not
one piece of the aircraft or crew ever found after searching both from the air and by the brave
shipmates on the USS Whitehurst at sea.  They have a great story of their own!!
This story is in remembrance of that crew and my many shipmates from VJ1.        Earl E. Beach AD1


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