VAW-VRC Foundation February 2017 1MC Newsletter!

February 2017 1MC Announcements:

  • VAW VRC Foundation President’s remarks
  • Final Flight Memorial Honors
  • San Diego 2016 VVF Reunion
  • USS MIDWAY MUSEUM restores E-2C interior
  • E-2D Advanced Hawkeye arrives in Japan
  • E-2D Advanced Hawkeye lands in Japan
  • Navy upgrades Pacific carrier air wing with new E-2D Hawkeye
  • S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, Tigertails Tread in New Territory
  • Trader Joe’s brought back to life in downtown Pensacola.
  • EARLY BEGINNINGS OF VC-12/VAW-12 (If you wondered where “pregnant guppy” came from, read hear!

From the President

Dear VAW VRC Community Members –

We hope this first issue of “The 1MC” for 2017 finds the New Year going well for you and that the rest of the year brings you only the best. The Foundation has hit the ground running after wrapping up the last reunion and surviving the holiday season. Even though the last reunion is only few months behind us we have already started the planning for the next one. As of now we are tentatively planning for the next VAW VRC Reunion to be held in late summer 2018. Our other big task at hand is responding to a request from the E-2/C-2 Wing to see if we can help them with a Community issue. We are currently working with the Wing on the details and will provide more information on our possible new role in the future. Another of our ongoing projects is finding ways to expand our membership numbers and to increase our membership demographics. Currently, our majority demographic is on the older end of the age spectrum and we are not doing a good job of getting the active duty and recently retired demographic interested and involved. We are hoping our new relationship with the Hawkeye Greyhound Balls will help us with the active duty folks but there is still a lot of work to be done. If the Foundation is to survive, grow and achieve its mission and vision we need to increase and broaden the number and variety of Community members taking part. If you have any ideas and recommendations on how we can achieve this goal please let us know. We need your help.

We can also use your help as we continue to build and maintain our Community membership database. Over the past 18 months Mike Maurer has gone above and beyond the call of duty setting up the database and gathering, entering and updating the data. The information goes beyond just contact information and includes career data on each person (squadrons, aircraft, positions, etc.). Since you are reading this you are already in the database but many of your friends and acquaintances are not. Please help us by reaching out to other Community members you have contact with and encourage them to pass along their information. We feel strongly this database can be a tremendous resource for the Community and the more comprehensive it is the greater resource it will be.

The big news in the VAW VRC Community of late is the arrival of the VAW 125 Tigertail E-2C Hawkeyes at MCAS Iwakuni . The Tigertails, the first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye squadron, is the first Air Wing FIVE squadron to arrive at Iwakuni, the new air wing homeport. VAW 115, the current Air Wing FIVE Hawkeye Squadron, will be returning to CONUS by June and will be homeported at NAS Pt Mugu.

If you missed the reunion last fall, and far too many of you did, you missed a great event. We received a lot of positive feedback from the attendees. So the attendees can remember the great time they had and those of you who missed it can get a small idea of just what you missed see the reunion write-up below and the following link provided to see photos of the reunion.

We hope you are finding our newsletter, The 1MC, of interest. We are constantly trying to improve it and add to it to maintain an information flow on the Foundation and to keep you abreast of what is going on in the VAW VRC Community. We welcome your feedback on how we can improve it and your contributions of any news, information, etc., you think may be of interest to others in the Community. We especially want to know of any Community members who we have lost so we can honor them by including them in our “Final Flight” memorial.

Mark your calendars, the east coast Hawkeye Greyhound Ball is set for 30 Sept at the Marriott Waterside in Norfolk and the west coast Hawkeye Greyhound Ball is 21 Oct at the Crown Plaza in Ventura. The active duty part of the VAW VRC Community would like to get more Community “alumni” to attend the balls so please consider attending. They are great events and I am sure you will enjoy it. More details to follow.

Randy Bannister

President, VAW VRC Foundation

Final Flight Memorial Honors

For a more inclusive listing of those we have lost, visit the Final Flight Memorial at:

2016 VAW-VRC Foundation Reunion

On the weekend of 22-25 September 2016. Approximately 200 Foundation members gathered at the Hilton-Doubletree, San Diego

Highlights of the Reunion events included:

A Senior Leadership Panel where six of our prominent active duty members presented on different aspects of our community and the future of VAW-VRC:

  • VADM Herm Shelanski, Naval Inspector General – Navy leadership perspective
  • RDML Yancy Lindsey, Commander, Navy Region Southwest – Shore commands
  • CAPT  Karl Thomas, OPNAV (Former Commanding Officer, USS Carl Vinson) – Operational commands
  • CAPT  Valerie Overstreet, Commodore, Airborne Command Control and Logistics Wing – fleet readiness
  • CDR Evan Morrison, Commanding Officer, RVAW 120 – transition from E-2C to E-2D
  • CDR Jeff McAlwee, Commanding Officer VRC-30 – Greyhound readiness and the future of logistics support.

We held a golf Tournament at the Riverwalk Golf Course: Joe McNamara and Terry Magee hosted. A great time was had by all the golfers.

Also on Friday we conducted several bus tours:

  • The USS Midway recently welcomed a special group of veterans who were attending a VAW VRC Foundation reunion in San Diego. Escorted on tours by fellow Midway Docents, they had come from all over the country to reconnect, share their memories and remember shipmates who had flown their final flights. Their backgrounds ran from E-1B Willy Fudd’s to E-2A/B/C Hawkeyes and C-2A Greyhounds. Their Naval services spanned from before Vietnam and up through Desert Storm. Walking around Midway, their stories came alive again for themselves and their families. Many had served aboard the USS Midway and several had actually flown the E-2C “Hummer” stationed on Midway’s flight deck. They also enjoyed going into the VAW/VRC Ready Room, created by the VAW/VRC Foundation. Upon departing the ship, their smiles proved that Midway had worked her Magic once again. VAW VRC Docents who lead the tours are Toney Herlevic, Mark Fellows, Ron Hartinger, John Plunkett and Pence Parsons. Tom Whitehead help brief our ready room.  Photo by Wes Westney.
North Island Tour 2
Click on this and other images to expand!


More photos at:

  • Tour of USS Carl Vinson, Rocky Mountain coordinated arrangements with the ship and Lee Lilly shepherded the attendees. Special thanks to LT Brad Wilkin of VRC-30 and LCDR Dave Barnet of CVN 70 for their help with the tour.
  • Visit to VRC-30 flight line to view Fleet C-2A and E-2D aircraft. Many thanks to the ACCLOGWING staff and the squadron members who volunteered their time to interact with the Reunion attendees.

On Saturday, we arranged a bus to the Miramar Air show to see the flight demonstrations and the Blue Angels. Following the air show, our dinner at the Doubletree was highlighted by remarks by Foundation President Randy Bannister and distinguished Guest Speaker VADM Shelanski.

The Foundation would like to thank the attendees for sharing this weekend with each other and welcome others to join in future events.

USS MIDWAY MUSEUM Restores E-2C Interior

E-2C Interior 2






Credit: Photo from Midway Currents Volume No. 49 Winter 2017

E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Arrives in Japan

From Commander, Naval Forces Japan     Date: 2/2/2017 10:23:00 AM

Iwakuni Fly In

IWAKUNI, Japan (NNS) — Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125 arrived at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Feb. 2.

The “Tigertails” of VAW-125 are relieving the “Liberty Bells” of VAW-115 as the early-warning squadron of the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, supporting the Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Carrier Strike Group.

“We are excited to join the forward-deployed naval forces at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in the amazing city of Iwakuni,” said Cmdr. Daniel Prochazka, VAW-125’s commanding officer. “I would like to thank the city for its hospitality and for warmly welcoming us to this incredible place. This is my second time in the forward-deployed naval forces. My fond memories make me personally very thrilled to be back.”

VAW-125’s arrival also brings enhanced capabilities to the region, as the squadron’s five E2-D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft provide substantial upgrades over the E-2C Hawkeye platform. VAW-125 is the U.S. Navy’s first operational fleet squadron to utilize the E-2D.  VAW-125 is the first and most experienced E-2D squadron in the U.S. Navy,” Prochazka said. “This aircraft has the most advanced airborne radar in the world, and the people who fix and fly it are the best in the U.S. Navy.”

Among the improvements in the E-2D are an all-new electronics suite, enhanced turboprop engines, modernized communications, and upgrade potential for mid-air refueling capabilities. The U.S. Navy first took delivery of the E-2D July 2010, and began a phased replacement of the venerable E-2C aircraft which has served the fleet since 1973.
Prochazka added the forward deployment of VAW-125 to MCAS Iwakuni is in accordance with the U.S. Navy’s strategic vision for rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, putting the most advanced and capable units forward in order to support the United States’ commitment to the defense of Japan and the security and stability of the region.

“I am proud to bring the E2-D Advanced Hawkeye to Japan and to help strengthen the alliance between our two great nations,” he said. “I am confident that our people and equipment will continue to build upon the vital relationship between our two countries.”

For more information, visit,, or

For more information on Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 125, visit

For more information on the E2-D Advanced Hawkeye, visit

For more news from Commander, Naval Forces Japan, visit

E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes land in Japan

February 3, 2017

Photo: US Navy

MCAS Iwakuni Article

A squadron composed of five U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft landed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, to join the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Carrier Strike Group.

Relieving the “Liberty Bells” of VAW-115 as the early-warning squadron of the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, the “Tigertails” of VAW-125 landed in Japan on February 2.

The move is in accordance with the Navy’s strategic vision for the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, a plan to put the most advanced and capable units forward to support the United States’ commitment to the defense of Japan.

VAW-125’s arrival also brings enhanced capabilities to the region, as the squadron’s five E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft provide substantial upgrades over the E-2C Hawkeye platform.

VAW-125 is the U.S. Navy’s first operational fleet squadron to utilize the E-2D. “VAW-125 is the first and most experienced E-2D squadron in the US Navy,” Prochazka said. “This aircraft has the most advanced airborne radar in the world, and the people who fix and fly it are the best in the U.S. Navy.”

Among the improvements in the E-2D are an all-new electronics suite, enhanced turboprop engines, modernized communications, and upgrade potential for mid-air refueling capabilities.

“We are excited to join the Forward Deployed Naval Forces at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in the amazing city of Iwakuni,” said Cmdr. Daniel Prochazka, VAW-125’s commanding officer. “I would like to thank the city for its hospitality and for warmly welcoming us to this incredible place. This is my second time in the Forward Deployed Naval Forces. My fond memories make me personally very thrilled to be back.”

The U.S. Navy first took delivery of the E2-D in July of 2010 and began a phased replacement of the venerable E-2C aircraft, which has served the fleet since 1973.

The first variant of E-2 series entered service in 1964, making the Hawkeye the Navy’s longest serving carrier-based aircraft.

Navy upgrades Pacific carrier wing with new E-2D Hawkeye

By Tyler Hlavac,  Stars and Stripes, February 03, 2017

The Navy bolstered its airborne radar and detection capabilities in the Pacific with the Thursday arrival of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 125 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.

VAW-125’s presence signifies a shift for the Navy as it continues relocating the bulk of Carrier Air Wing 5 — the USS Ronald Reagan’s aviation wing — from Naval Air Station Atsugi, southwest of Tokyo.

The squadron flies the new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft, the latest variant of the E-2 Hawkeye series.

The E-2D “employs long-range radar and electronic communications capabilities to oversee the battle space and detect threats beyond the sensor range of other friendly units,” said a Navy statement that described the aircraft as the “digital quarterback” of the fleet.

New features include an AN-APY9 radar capable of both mechanical and electronic sweeping. The new radar has been touted in defense journals for its potential to detect stealth aircraft.

The aircraft also includes an “all glass” tactical cockpit and an upgraded mission computer and data-link capabilities, the statement said.

Hawkeyes are the Navy’s longest-serving carrier-based aircraft.

Congress appropriated $12.5 billion last year for the first 40 E-2D models; the Pentagon is requesting another $9.5 billion for 35 more new Hawkeyes in future years, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonpartisan policy institute.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force also plans to use the new Hawkeye to help monitor foreign aircraft approaching their airspace, including those from China and Russia.

The Defense Ministry should acquire four E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes by March 2019, a spokesman told Stars and Stripes.

Those aircraft will be used to conduct early warning and surveillance missions, including near the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, which China claims as its own, the spokesman said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, Tigertails Tread in New Territory

By Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego | Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, February 02, 2017

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — U.S. Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 125 “Tigertails” arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Feb. 2, 2017.

The Tigertails’ journey from Norfolk, Virginia, to the air station is to support the strong, enduring alliance with the government of Japan through the forward deployment of the most capable U.S. Navy ships and squadrons in Japan.

“The arrival of VAW-125 with the E-2D signals the United States’ commitment to the defense of Japan and our Pacific partners,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Shane Tanner, the executive officer for VAW-125. “This move is in accordance with the Navy’s strategic vision for the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, which puts the most advanced and capable units forward in order to maintain stability and security in the region.”

The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye possesses highly sophisticated air radars and systems, which increases its capabilities and ability to defend Japan. It is the centerpiece of the Navy Integrated Fire Control–Counter Air (NIFC-CA) system.

“The E-2D is the most advanced Airborne Command and Control platform that the U.S. has in its inventory,” said U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Russel Kinder, a naval flight officer with VAW-125. “Equipped with the new APY-9 radar, the weapons system will detect and track targets earlier and more accurately in littoral, overland and overwater environments than the E-2C’s APS-145. The advanced sensors, on-board tactical data processing systems and voice and data link communications systems onboard this platform will instantly enhance, expand and integrate the air and missile defense capability of this region.”

Kinder also said VAW-125 will continue the Hawkeye tradition as the “digital quarterback” for the Carrier Strike Group and the theater air and missile defense architecture. They will maximize blue force lethality, survivability and mission effectiveness by providing real-time battle space management, command and control and situational awareness of even the most advanced threats.

While goal oriented toward providing support in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the Tigertails will also focus on building relations within the local community.

“VAW-125 is already integrating with the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni team and its tenant commands,” said Tanner. “We intend to help build, expand, and strengthen the services, facilities and overall fantastic esprit de corps of this burgeoning community for the service members and their families.”

Tanner said on a personal level, the Tigertail service members and their families are looking forward to developing a strong and lasting bond with the city of Iwakuni.

“This bond will be built upon a foundation of trust, respect, and cultural engagement,” said Tanner. “As a squadron, we will develop professional relationships with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force through routine operational training and engagement. This will improve interoperability and solidify our ability to conduct combined operations at sea.”

Video Link:

How many of us have been to Trader Jon’s? Check out a short video on the bar.

Trader Joe’s brought back to life in downtown Pensacola. (THANKS TOM HOOD) 


Number 2


By Michael Peck

October 23, 2016

U.S. Navy

What is that strange-looking aircraft, that looks like an airliner with a giant mushroom perched on top?

What is that strange-looking aircraft, that looks like an airliner with a giant mushroom perched on top? From that giant mushroom perched high up in the sky, perhaps over Iraq or Syria or the South China Sea, invisible beams of radiation stream in all directions.

Be it America’s AWACS [3], Russia’s A-50 or China’s KJ-2000 [4], flying radar stations have become a fact of life in modern warfare. From their high-altitude vantage point, Airborne Early Warning & Control, or AEW&C, aircraft can peer into places that ground-based radars can’t. Utilizing their radar data, they can function as aerial command posts to manage an air battle with a speed and efficiency that 1918 or 1945 air commanders could only dream of.

But the flying radar station actually dates back to World War II, the first conflict to feature ground-based radar guiding fighters to intercept enemy bombers conducting daytime raids. But to detect night bombers cloaked by darkness, radar was soon installed on night fighters, usually twin-engined heavy fighters or converted bombers sprouting insect-like antennae from their noses. Yet these were short-range devices designed to enable an interceptor to detect, stalk and then maneuver into firing position to shoot down a bomber.

However, in February 1944, the U.S. Navy had a thought: instead of a short-range combat radar, how about a more powerful device that could perform long-range search? Thus was born Project Cadillac.

Project Cadillac (named after the Maine mountain that is the highest on the East Coast) was an “ambitious program to develop an AEW system that would be deployed with the fast carrier forces in the Pacific,” according to a series of articles published by the U.S. Naval Institute [5]. “It was envisioned that the system would be in place for Operation Downfall, the projected invasion of the Japanese homeland, slated for some time in early 1946.”

“As originally envisioned, Cadillac would consist of two sections: one airborne (“AEW Aircraft”) and the other shipboard (“CV CIC”). The airborne unit would carry the APS-20 radar, IFF and VHF comms and relay equipment, acting as an airborne radar and relay platform for the ship. Back on the ship, the radar picture from the airborne unit would be relayed via a VHF video data link and displayed on a dedicated PPI (Plan Position Indicator) scope. Communications with far-flung fighter CAP would also be relayed through the airborne unit. Sorting out friend from foe would be via the newly developed IFF or Identification Friend Foe system which relied on an aircraft responding to electronic ‘challenge’ signals with a coded pulse train. The airborne unit would also have the ability to display its own ship’s radar picture and have a limited capability to control fighters, but this was planned to be a fallback capability.”

If this sounds like a modern radar aircraft, such as the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye [6], the resemblance is not coincidental. The difference, though, was that Project Cadillac aircraft would function

solely as radar stations, rather than exercise command and control like the AWACS or the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye carrier-based aircraft.

Project Cadillac combined British development of the cavity magnetron — the same technology that today heats up your dinner in the microwave — with American development of electronic relays that extended the range of radar beams. The massive effort involved 9 out of the 11 research labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Radiation Laboratory, as well as the Navy’s Naval Research Laboratory, Bureau of Aeronautics and Bureau of Ships.

As it turned out, a flying radar station was exactly what the Navy needed. By the summer of 1945, the Navy was taking a beating from kamikazes, with dozens of ships sunk and hundreds more damaged. Combat Air Patrol fighters and shipboard anti-aircraft guns took a fearsome toll, but suicide aircraft continued to slam into American ships. Most vulnerable during the Battle of Okinawa were the radar picket destroyers, whose lonely vigil as the distant eyes of the fleet rendered them kamikaze bait. Clearly a better solution was needed then sacrificing ships and crews to gain a few precious minutes of early warning.

The AN/APS-20 was the world’s first AEW radar. Tests showed the airborne radar could detect aircraft as far as 100 miles away. However, the only carrier-based aircraft large enough to mount the APS-20 radar and its eight foot antenna was the TBF Avenger torpedo bomber designed by Grumman, or more specifically the TBM model manufactured by General Motors.



With its big underbelly bulge housing the radar gear, the TBM-3W entered service in March 1945. The Navy ordered about 40 aircraft, though the war ended before they became see combat. The TBM-3W became operational in 1946, though ironically, it was paired with the TBM-3S armed anti-submarine aircraft to hunt subs. The TBM-3W’s radar signal would bounce off a sub, and then be picked up by a radar receiver aboard the TBM-3S, which would then swoop in for the kill.

By modern standards, the first flying radar station was not impressive. The APY-9, mounted on the latest E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, can reportedly detect aircraft 350 miles away. Yet today’s radar planes are the direct descendants of Project Cadillac.

This story was originally published by The National Interest 

Michael Peck is a frequent contributor to the National Interest and is a regular writer for many outlets like WarIsBoring. 


This is a story I was motivated to tell beginning with a visit to the USS Midway museum in San Diego. In passing through the VAW ready room, I noticed several references to VC-12/VAW-12. When I returned home I Googled VC-12 and found the website of the VC-12/VAW-12 reunion organization. I then emailed a contact, Roger Smith, to inform him of my early involvement. In his reply, Dr. Smith said that the organization had very little information other than a couple of dates about the early days of VC-12. I then decided to put together, with the aid of my log book, an account of some of the more salient things I remember of the early days. This turns out to be one man’s story of remembrances.  Were others able to add their recollections, it would become a much better account.

Before I start the account, I must offer my apologies for the large number of I’s, me’s and us’s in this story. I am not a historian, and I can only tell about events which I know from a personal involvement.

At the beginning of this account in early May of 1946, I was 20 years old, unmarried, an Ens, USNR, in charge of a 30-man 24/7 air/sea rescue radar installation out in the boonies of NAAS, Ream Field, the home base of FAETU-PAC (in San Ysidro, about a dozen miles south of NAS, North Island, San Diego).  I reported to NAS, Los Alamitos. I had a BSEE from CalTech, had gone through the Naval Reserve Midshipman’s School at Notre Dame to get my commission, and had completed the Fighter Director School at St. Simons Island, Georgia, to become CIC qualified.  I had just received orders to shut down the radar installation. I was aware of a small group on base which had a mission to restart the carrier-based AEW program, which essentially had been abandoned when WWII ended. The “Cadillac” program at the MIT Radiation Lab (in the days when the Pacific war was building toward its climax) had an urgent goal of developing the highest-powered airborne search radar possible at that time, capable of installation in a carrier-based aircraft. The intent was to put an antenna 25,000 feet up, with a radar horizon of 200 miles, over the carrier task forces around the Japanese waters.  The extreme urgency of the program was due to the success of the Kamikazes in approaching under the ship’s limited horizon. The end equipments were the AN/APS-20 radar, the air-to-ship radar relay system, and the VHF communications relay system. TBM-3E’s were modified to the TBM-3W configuration at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Johnsville, PA. Some 35 aircraft were produced. As a corollary to the program, approximately a dozen B-17G aircraft were modified to the PB-1W configuration with an airborne CIC. These ended up at NAS Patuxent River, in a squadron designated as VX-4. At WWII’s end, several TBM-3Ws were headed to the Pacific, but the farthest they had reached was Honolulu. For all practical purposes, when the war ended the aircraft were left wherever they were and the trained personnel were discharged. The Navy decided early in 1946 to re-start the program. The officer in charge of the group at Ream Field was Lt Roger (“Dick”) Dickeson, reporting to the CO of FAETU-PAC. Dick had been with the Cadillac program, and he knew the AEW equipment well. He had the administrative and aircraft maintenance support of FAETU-PAC, but he had only a few people reporting to him, including  Lt(jg) Jerry Wieland. Dick’s mission was simply stated: gather in all the aircraft from wherever they were, bring them up to operational status, train pilots to fly them in the AEW mission, and train radar people to operate and maintain the equipment. He needed help.

Hearing about my shutting down the air/sea rescue radar installation, Dick approached me about joining his group. I told him that I would love to do that, but that I didn’t know anything about his program or its equipment. He replied that he could teach me at night and weekends, and I could teach the students during the week. It sounded like an unwieldy arrangement, but in the end we agreed to do it. My log book shows my first flight in a TBM-3W on May 27, 1946.

Under long hours of Dick’s tutelage, I became quite proficient in the operation and maintenance of the equipment.  We trained many electronics technicians and electronics officers to operate and maintain the equipment successfully and to become somewhat proficient in the Fighter Director skills needed in flight. We were aided on the pilot-training side by having in our group Lcdr Norman D. (“Bud”) Champlin, better known as “Champ”.  He was an outstanding aviator with a ton of carrier experience in flying TBM’s. In the end, Dick’s mission was accomplished successfully. All the TBM-3Ws (something like 31 remaining) were gathered in and brought up to flight status, crews were trained for the AEW task, and eventually squadrons were established on both coasts to provide AEW teams for aircraft carriers going to sea. Lt Dickeson deserves a lot of credit for the rebirth of the AEW program under his outstanding leadership.

My log book shows an interesting event later that year. Champ flew Dick and I up to the Douglas plant at Mines Field (now LAX), where we all were on the Mockup Board for the AD-1W on September 24, 1946. The aircraft morphed into the AD-3W before it was delivered to the Navy. It was a good layout, and the Board asked for only a few changes before approving the design. It would take nearly three years before VC-12 would take delivery of its first AD-3W at the end of August, 1949.

In October, 1946, AEW Team #1 was formed with Champ as the leader. A team was comprised of 4 aircraft, 6 pilots, an electronics officer, and 6 enlisted operator/technicians. It was to draw administrative and aircraft maintenance support from whatever command it was attached to. Later that month, Team #1 was ordered to Key West to work with a captured U-boat and a modified (snorkeling) US submarine to acquire extensive data on detection and tracking ranges in all sea states. Detection of snorkeling submarines was of high-priority interest because the Navy had no successful tactic at that time to counter them.

In November, 1946, AEW Team #2 was formed under Lt Robert (“Hymie”) Young. I was the electronics officer.  I had a crew of 4 CPOs and 2 3rd-class electronics technicians. In this time period, my commission as Ensign, USN, which I had applied for some months earlier, came through. In January, 1947, Team #2 was ordered to Norfolk to be attached to VA-2B on the USS Roosevelt for a six-week fleet exercise. Accompanied by an R4D to carry some of the personnel and our spares and supplies, we flew to Norfolk where Roosevelt was waiting. After a local flight to allow Roosevelt and Leyte to check out their shipboard radar relay equipment, our planes were loaded onto lighters to transport them out to Roosevelt at anchor. We were not very popular with the ship’s company or the air group.  We had been late getting across the country due to a combination of weather and mechanical problems, and Roosevelt had lost her dock space and had been anchored in the stream for several days waiting for us.


When the TBM-3Ws were hoisted on board the Air Officer said something like “Wow! What a beast!  It’s gotta weigh at least 20,000 pounds!” We tried to convince him that it weighed less than 16,000 pounds, but we could see he wasn’t buying that. We had been under such pressure to get on board that we had neglected to have a plane weighed for documentation. After he had catapult cables fabricated for the aircraft, we found out that he really did believe that the TBM-3W was a heavy beast.  The first catapult shot, on February 8, 1947, was so strong that we left the ship in a frightening nose-up attitude, our eyeballs tumbled, and half the little knobs on the control/indicator console went flying past our heads into the tail-cone area of the fuselage. They rattled around there for the remaining life of the plane. Needless to say, after that, we tightened all the knobs and connectors on any piece of equipment we could find, and the Air Officer revised his estimate of aircraft weight.

There was another curiosity aboard in addition to the AEW team. Sikorsky had talked the Navy into sending one of their helicopters, flown by their chief pilot, along on the cruise to demonstrate that the helicopter could do better plane guard operations than the destroyers. The helicopter proved its worth conclusively during the cruise, and soon the Navy put helicopters on board all of its big carriers.

Although the original thought in the Cadillac project was to put an antenna up at 25,000 feet altitude, in practice it never happened.  First, the 25,000-ft markings on the altimeter in the TBM were largely decorative, — it simply took a long time, in high blower, if it ever made it at all. It was just not a practicable altitude for daily operation of the TBM.  Second, we could not reliably detect small flights of aircraft at a range of 200 miles. As a result, we seldom went above 10,000 feet. In the years that I went up in the TBM-3W, I can’t recall using the oxygen for anything other than as a hangover helper.

There were no night operations aboard Roosevelt except for a 4-aircraft team of night fighters with F6F-5Ns. To my knowledge, none of the air group pilots or our pilots was instrument-rated or night carrier qualified. The six-week cruise was fairly uneventful for the AEW team, not so for the air group and the ship. They lost a lot of planes, primarily due to SB2C-5 accidents and having the planes spotted forward on the flight deck when we unexpectedly hit a monster storm. Fortunately, our four were down on the hangar deck at the time. At about 4 weeks into the cruise, we put into San Juan and took on 47 F4U-4 and SB2C-5 replacement aircraft. On March 18, 1947, after a trip down to Trinidad, the team flew off the ship to NAS, Norfolk and became based at Breezy Point under FAETU-LANT, Cdr. Allen M. Shinn. At the end of July, we were joined by the aircraft and personnel of AEW Team #1, who had completed their assignment in Key West.

Now to a personal issue to lend a better understanding of the kind of times we lived in. Not having any aviation designation, I had to rely on getting flight orders as a TO (Technical Observer) to collect flight pay.  It wasn’t full flight pay, but it was better than nothing. But TO orders had to come from BuPers in response to the submittal of a detailed request and justification, and they terminated automatically when any change was made in the orders. But I was in an activity where my orders were changed frequently, so flight pay was very difficult to come by. As a result, I frequently flew over lengthy periods without any form of flight pay. Cdr Shinn understood the problem, but he noted that the only practical way I could avoid it was to have an NAO designation. FAETU-LANT had a 6-month course for NAO(R), but I didn’t have the time to take 6 months away from the team. Cdr Shinn finally agreed to put me in for the NAO(R) designation without taking the course, but only if I could pass all the written, lab and flight exams.  I went to work on that late in September, progressed through rapidly, and took my last flight exam (for Loran-C) in a PB4Y-2 with 8 other students on October 27, 1947. Cdr Shinn put me in for NAO(R), and it came through on January 2, 1948. I was surprised to learn that he had arranged for it to be back-dated to October 10, 1946, so that I could get full flight pay back to that date. I don’t know how the other AEW electronics officers handled the problem. The Navy probably found a way eventually to make the problem go away.

AEW Team #2, with some changes in team members, was ordered aboard Midway for a 5-month deployment to the Mediterranean. We went aboard in the final days of October, 1947, attached to VA-4B. Near Malta, we received orders to send an AEW aircraft off the ship to Malta, for an undisclosed further destination, for an undisclosed duration, in an undisclosed climate (we weren’t cleared for that information). The Captain apparently was prohibited from giving us a hint even on what kind of uniforms we should take. With the uncertainty of what spares we had to take and what we were going to be doing, I decided to go rather than send one of my men.  The pilot who was selected was Lt(jg) David T. White. Dave and I went to Malta, where they hoisted our aircraft aboard the British carrier HMS Illustrious. It turned out that Illustrious had bent a propeller shaft and was headed up to Southampton on the southern coast of England (at a slow speed) for repairs. When we arrived there, our aircraft was hoisted off the ship and towed to the RAF/RN base at nearby Thorney Isle (in some ways like our NAS, Patuxent River).  We arrived there on December 12, 1947. There we learned that we were to be in the UK for a couple of months, demonstrating our equipment and comparing it with the latest developments in Britain. All the extreme secrecy, which we thought ridiculous, had to do with international relations. At Thorney Isle, weather permitting, we flew 2 – 4 flights a day to demonstrate the equipment to flag-rank officers from the Air Ministry and Admiralty in London.  We also flew some flights to compete against British developments. They just didn’t have the power in their equipments that we had. On January 5, 1948, we flew to an RAF base in St. Merryn, Cornwall.  We were there for a couple of weeks, generating data on detection and tracking ranges against wooden Mosquito aircraft over various sea states. We moved on to Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on January 14. There we worked with a snorkeling submarine, commanded by their hottest skipper, to demonstrate our ability to find him in various sea states.  His task was to avoid detection by minimizing the wake and the amount of the snorkel showing above the surface.  Our task was to find him. We continued that until February 13, 1948, when we left to fly across the UK and France to rejoin Midway in the Gulf of Hyeres. It was amazing to us that the Guppy and its equipment were still in good shape when we returned to the ship. The ship continued its deployment, and we returned to Norfolk in March, 1948.

In the ensuing months, our priorities shifted markedly to the ASW mission.  Based on the data gathered by AEW Team #1 at Key West, the Navy began to plan its ASW hunter/killer tactics using the AEW aircraft.  The pilots scrambled to get their instrument tickets and to become night carrier qualified.  They largely depended on FAETU-LANT aircraft (SNBs and others) to get their instrument training, and they mostly used TBM-3Es to do their night FCLPs and night carrier quals.

In July of 1948, we were formed into a squadron, designated VAW-2, with Cdr. Shinn as skipper. I believe VAW-1 was formed at the same time on the west coast. At the beginning of August, 1948, an AEW team was ordered aboard the escort carrier USS Mindoro (CVE-120) to continue developing the ASW hunter/killer tactics (along with a squadron of TBM-3Ss carrying sonobuoys and homing torpedoes). The Navy devised a standard around-the-clock exercise of 72 hours to be run repeatedly in order to test and refine the procedures. The exercise took place in a square area, 200 miles on a side, with a submarine required to cross the area in a major dimension. The exercise ended when (1) the submarine was “sunk”; (2) the carrier was “sunk”; (3) the submarine transited the area; or (4) time expired. The carrier put each hunter/killer pair in action for a 3-hr period in a search pattern, and then relieved them with another pair. The longest flight I experienced approached 5 hours. Our search pattern could carry us as far as 150 miles from the ship. Since the search altitude was 1,000 feet, and since we had only VHF communications, we relied on the TBM-3S to do any MF communications with the ship. Finding a snorkeling sub in moderately heavy seas with the APS-20 was akin to finding fly specks in the pepper – but it could be done, especially if the submarine skipper got careless. During all these exercises, a few submarines were  ”sunk”, the carrier was “sunk” a couple or three times, and many submarines made it safely across the area, especially in high sea states.

The ensuing months were taken up with putting teams on Mindoro and Sicily, with occasional operations on Wright and Saipan. In September, 1948, the squadron was re-designated VC-12 and moved to NAS, Quonset Point. In October, 1948, Cdr Shinn himself took a team on board Mindoro to experience the operations first-hand.  I remember that one night (October 21) he flew in the back end with me to get a feel for the operation of the equipment during the mission. He was a highly respected leader.

At Quonset Point VC-12 had half of a hangar and worked on an awkward schedule of three days and two nights each week to accommodate the heavy emphasis on all-weather operations. We had a limited number of AEW aircraft, so the Navy had to be selective in providing teams for the carrier operations. At that time, the highest priority continued to be placed on the ASW mission. The squadron, as it grew, was very busy getting pilots instrument and night-carrier qualified and in continuing to maintain the equipment and train new personnel.  Those were busy days and nights.

I can’t identify the exact dates or the ship involved, but in the winter of 1948/49 VC-12 sent a team onboard a CVE (probably Mindoro) for a two-week cold-weather operation in Baffin Bay. We wore rubber-like exposure flight suits (good waterproof protection with integral pockets for the feet but with ineffective strap closings at the wrists and the neck). The suits didn’t breathe, so perspiration was a problem both in the ready room and in flight, and the admonition that we could last only 5 minutes in the icy water was a constant concern. The cruise also brought special attention to the fact that the TBMs had no de-icing provisions, a problem we had encountered on several occasions over the years.

VC-12 was given the task of preparing an operating manual for the AEW equipment, and in February, 1949, the task was expanded to include the land-based AEW.  In late February, VX-4 sent four PB-1W aircraft from their home base at Pax River to NAF, San Juan, to take part in a one-week fleet exercise. I was sent from VC-12 with them to observe their operations for the manual.  I had visions of sunning at the pool for long hours, but it didn’t work out that way. One of their CIC officers became ill, and I was pressed into duty to fill in for him. I logged 47.5 hours over a consecutive 6-day span and never saw the pool. The PB-1W aircraft could stay on station for a long duration.

Activities at VC-12 continued in similar fashion in the ensuing months. One day I learned that I was about to be ordered to a desk in BuAer. That caused me to think critically about my future. I loved the Navy, but I didn’t want to leave the fleet operations. I finally decided upon a career change, and I submitted my resignation.  It was accepted, and I left the Navy officially on September 9, 1949. In late August, VC-12 had taken delivery of its first AD-3W aircraft. Lcdr Champlain and I were given the opportunity to check out the aircraft and its equipment in a flight on August 31, 1949.  It was an impressive aircraft. Many more were to follow.

NN12I went back to CalTech for graduate studies, married a Navy nurse, and subsequently spent 34 years in the aerospace industry, working mostly on USAF Projects.

I have just a bit to add to Knox’s memoir:

From June 1944 until July 29 1945 my father, CAPT John W.Davison, was the engineering officer at NAMU, Johnsville, PA. During this duty he supervised two developments which were the only two things that he particularly mentioned in his obituary. These were development of the AEW capability implemented in the PB-1W and the TBM-3W that provided carrier based AEW capability, and the F6F drone that was the precursor of today’s reconnaissance and attack pilotless drone aircraft. We lived in an old farmhouse just beyond the end of the main runway. One day, at a unit picnic on our place a TBM fitted with the APS-20 flew over after takeoff. The project engineer asked his wife what she thought of his baby. Her reply was that it looked like a pregnant guppy. As we all know, the name stuck.  At the end of Dads tour he was ordered to the Pacific to coordinate carrier AEW for the invasion of Japan. The war ended just as we arrived in San Francisco and his orders were changed to OPDEVFOR to be in charge of F6F drones to fly through the radioactive clouds to collect samples at Operation Crossroads, the Bikini nuclear tests. He went on to other duties and I grew up to go to the Naval Academy and become a guppy pilot in VAW-12.

Guppy 3






Best regards to you and all squadron mates, Jack Davison

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VAW-VRC Foundation February 2017 1MC Newsletter!