I would like to tell my story with regards to the Navy Aircraft JM-1. I was trained as a Navy Aviation Radioman at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL (NAT Center - Naval Aviation Technical Center). After completing that course I was sent to Air Gunners school at Yellowater, FL. (Part of Jacksonville). After completing that course we took our first plane ride in a JRB- Twin engine Beach craft. Next we went back to JAX Main side Air Station to get in the air chamber for a test. They took us up to 30,000 feet, etc. While waiting for the rest of the class to complete their test, I went over to the airstrip to check out the planes. One of the planes I found that I had never seen before up close was a B-26. We use to have that plane in our recognition class and I was always impressed with the round fuselage. I walked over to the plane and saw a Marine Captain pilot under the wing and was surprised to meet my mothers grocery boy, Irving. Talking with him I asked him if his outfit needed any radiomen and he said yes. I gave him my serial number and two days later I was on a one man draft to Opalocka Naval Air station, Miami, FL (Note: I had been assigned to PBM's at Banana River (Cape Canaveral). Note: They were also were built by Martin.)
Our B-26 or JM-1 unit was called The Marauder Unit. This unit had 25 aircraft, and each plane was assigned to a detachment. I was the radioman on MJ-15 (Number 66690) and we were assigned duty on a two plane detachment at Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station, now the International Airport. The other plane was MJ-23. This plane was painted yellow. My plane was not painted.
On our aircraft we had two electric tow reels just aft of the rear bombay forward of the hatch. This plane had a hatch or window on each side. We used one reel and the other was a spare. I can't remember the length of our targets, but they were long and made of silk. The line was steel wire. I can't remember the length of wire when it was extended. Long enough so our plane would not get hit. On the end holding the target was what they called a "fish". It was spring loaded. When you wanted to release a target you would send down a small target called a "frog" which had a ring on the end around the cable. The small target would go down the wire and hit the fish. There were two hooks on the fish and when the target hit the first hook it would open the second one releasing the big target. Most of the time you would lose the small target too, but sometimes we could reel it in. The targets would be released when the pilot said release over the intercom. They were released over the far end of the landing field and checked for hits. The 50 Caliber bullets were dipped in paint which would leave a mark on the target.
Our crew consisted of a pilot, a machanic, like a crew chief in the AAC, a radioman, and sometimes an ordnance man who ran the towing equipment. On our plane we really didn't have much of radio equipment, just the simple ARA receiver and ATA transmitter. So as radioman, I didn't do much in that dept. Most of the time I would handle the towing equipment and we only would have a crew of three. The machanic flew co-pilot. Because of the props being electric operated, it was my duty every morning before we flew to check the batteries in each main wheel well, testing with a hydrometer. We would rendezvous over Hillsboro light (Pompano Beach) at angels five and head out over the ocean on 090 degrees. The TBM's (torpedo bombers) would be in a formation and we would make runs on them along each side, overhead and underneath. If you sat on the tail gunners seat during these maneuvers, it would feel like you were on a roller coaster. On the way back we would slow down almost in a stall and they would make runs on us.
Our JM-1's were stripped of guns, heavy radio equipment, etc. We had the "C" version. I always understood they had added another ten feet to the wingspan. They used to call the original ones I guess the A's & B's, The Baltimore Prostitute because it had no visible means of support. We were a tight group with four pilots, four aviation machinist mates, two radiomen, two ordinance men. Our first class machinist mate was Red Tullis. He would have been equal to a crew chief in the Army Air Corps. Red was a great guy and he knew this aircraft from top to bottom. He had gone to the B-26 school at the Martin factory north of Baltimore. Our Ordinance man was a fellow by the name of Shelton. Our main pilot was Ray Eubanks. Ray was a full Lt. and headed our detachment. The following is a list of pilots and crew. You will note most of the time there are no first names. As you know you went by your last name.
Ray Eubanks I was close to, so knew his first name. Some of the fellows had nicknames and I can't remember their last names. In the photo's I will try to name who is in that particular one.
We had three cross country flights. Ray Eubanks, Red Tulles and I got at Eastern flight out of Miami International Airport to St. Louis. We all had our parachute bags. We were to ferry one of our planes (number 66685) back that had a major overhaul. We left on December 15, 1944. Spent the night in St. Louis and flew out in the morning. I will never forget that day as it was bitter cold with snow and ice on the ground. The runway was all ice. While Ray and Red pre-flighted the plane, I was outside with the Co2 bottle. Some kind of cold. We were not allowed to fly at night, so after refueling at Millington, Memphis and spending the night in Jacksonville we flew back the next morning.
Another time we flew up to Washington, D.C. (I was from Washington.) We landed at Bowling Field the Army field and taxied over to Anacostia Naval Air Station. The Navy field had short runways. Can't remember why we flew up there, but I had called my Dad and he met us and I took him on the cook's tour of our plane. He really liked that., the crew spend the night at our house. Another cross-country was to Boca Chicka Naval Air Station at Key West, FL. They had PV1's Ventura's training there. They were testing a the Mark 18 machine gun sight. PV1's were very fast, in fact we raced one back to the airstrip and they beat us. While at Key West one Saturday we flew to Havana for the night. Had a great time. In fact so great, I really don't know how we got back.
Note: I left the Marauder Unit in 1945, and applied for overseas duty (You know what they say, never volunteer for anything). I ended up at the Santa Rosa Naval Air Station California and in an out fit called CASU 36 (Carrier Air Service Unit). For information: We had the first operational squadron of F-8's (The Bear Cat). I remember that Bear Cat pilots bet the Army pilots of a nearby Air base who had P-38's. If both planes took off together that the Bear Cat could make two runs on the 38 before they hit the end of the runway. They pulled it off. Still trying to get overseas, I finally went aboard a freighter and left San Francisco on VJ Day. Never forget, one fellow jumped off the ship as we pulled out. I ended up on Guam until I was released in March 1946.
Jack Bogle - click here for my photo album by the way, let me know if you know any of these guys, I want to talk with them.