I'm sitting here with my grandfather who just turned 92 years old and will be relaying everything for him. He grew up in various parts of Ohio, was active in the boy scouts, and remembers the days when trains, streetcars, and trolleys were the main ways for people to get around.

He enlisted into the Marine Corps during WWII and served as a pilot in the South Pacific. He flew F4U Corsairs.

After the war he returned back to Ohio where he met and married his wife of 65 years (who passed away two years ago), and started several successful businesses. We'll go for as long as he feels comfortable, so ask away!

Proof: http://imgur.com/a/DQ7Dj

Edit: Okay folks, we're gonna wrap it up here. He's getting a little tired and I've got to drive to another state. I'll try to answer other questions that have been posted here if I already know and see if I can't get a few more answers from him over the next few days here, but I will try to do a few more with him over the next few months as opportunities provide themselves. Thanks for all of the great questions and sorry I couldn't answer more!

Edit 2: I'm going to answer a few more questions about his history that I can, plus say that there are some really good stories that I may just tell because they're worth telling - if/when I get him to do this again, they're definitely worth asking about to get all of the details (for instance, he's colorblind and memorized the colorblind test so he could pass it and become an aviator). Anything that came straight from him will be in quotation marks, and I did the best I could to capture everything he was saying but definitely know I couldn't always keep up. I'm glad everybody enjoyed it so much! I relayed many of the thanks for his service to him, and he appreciated them.

Edit 3: I've answered a few more of the questions that were left over. He was very impressed when family from the other side of the country called him up to tell him he was famous on the Internet.

Comments: 785 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

iCrackMyselfUp69614 karma

You look quite young for being 92 years old.

What's your secret?

admiralkit1282 karma

"Peanut butter. Just keep eating peanut butter. There's good health in eating peanut butter."

He's also a big fan of eating extremely slowly. As he has said before, "Time spent eating doesn't count against time spent living, so the slower you eat the longer you live."

kmrose51 karma

I love it! I've been made fun of my whole life for eating slowly. My mom would even time my dinner at home then take my plate away to get me accustomed to eating in the amount of time allowed for lunch at school. I'm glad to hear your opinion! I still eat slowly and enjoy every minute. :)

admiralkit76 karma

We were out to dinner one time when I was visiting, and as we're eating dinner my grandfather starts telling a story about something or another. We had finished our meals, and for another 30+ minutes he keeps telling this story while waving his fork around with a piece of pork chop still attached to it. He still had about 2/3 of the pork chop left on his plate, too, so he obviously wasn't in a rush.

bsbbtnh331 karma

What is his views on the wars fought today?

admiralkit631 karma

"Well, they're gradually moving to drone warfare. Makes it a little simpler than having all of them people up in the air. Airpower is what won World War II, but it isn't the same now. It's a changing world. And with the instant replay, it's all on CNN and HLN, it's probably a less dangerous world but we learn whatever's going on so quickly we can probably reduce conflicts among big powers, but could possibly increase the number of overall conflicts."

KingNick28315 karma

What businesses did you start up?

Do you think there will be a war to the scale of WWII again?

admiralkit690 karma

"My first one was a Liberty Magazine route. I'd usually make about $2 per week if I sold 150 magazines. Had some special customers, like Homer at the Stude[baker] garage. There was a house that I walked by with some girls on the porch, and they asked what I was selling. I told 'em it was magazines. They said come up on the porch and wait a bit - they were right by the train tracks. The train would come in and have to wait 20 minutes for another train to pass, so at least 4 guys would jump off the train and the girls would make them buy a magazine before they went into the house. The cat house was near the top of my delivery list for the day every day after that!

I worked at Celeryville after that in Jr. High. There were the Krugers and the people that came from Holland, and they loved that black peat ground where they could plant celery. They would pay you ten cents to plant a row, or a big bunch of celery. If I did two or three rows (an hour and a half per row), I would usually take the celery and sell it to relatives or friends (and once to Bishop Brown!) - you could get 35 cents for a bunch of celery if you marketed it right.

In high school, I got a job at Shockler Meyer's clothing store. I worked four hours a day after school every day and 12 hours a day in high school. Then I got a job at the [local paper] to write up the school news - I got $4/week and filled a whole bunch of space talking about every kid at school. Old editor Gosshorn thought it was great because he sold more papers. Then I worked at the old North Electric factory inspecting relays - $0.25/hour yielding about $10/week.

When I got back from the war, I started a sign company with some of my bonus money from the war. Illumilite Displays were something I developed using 3M reflectorized paints - I worked with the National Lead Company in partnership with Dutch Boy Paints and would put up signs that would reflect headlights all over the state of Ohio. The sales were easy, but the problem was finding spaces that were close enough to the highways [ed.: pre-Interstate days] that would catch the headlights and reflect back at the drivers.

While I was still doing Illumilite, I had two brothers and my oldest brother Paul was a machinist who knew how to run the automatic lathes. He and a couple friends bought, I think, 6 rather old Brown & Sharp single spindle lathes. They seemed to be doing good, at one point, I think after the Korean War finished, they had some bills and needed to borrow $2500. I said I don't have it to loan to you, but I'll cosign a loan at the bank. They were supposed to pay $50/month for two years or something like that, and after about 3 or 4 months I get a call from the bank and they say, "Hey, we ain't getting no payments!" I go to see what's wrong, and my one brother was in debt and he was going to have to go bankrupt. It turned out that Paul would work on Monday, but by Tuesday he would take the brass chips from the lathes down to the junk yard for scrap money, and that was enough for beer for two days so he wouldn't come back to work until Thursday, so the bills weren't getting paid.

As the Illumilite displays were getting displaced as the Interstate took hold, I studied up on machining and quite a few people in town needed to buy parts. There was a spark plug company that needed to buy a shell to make the spark plug out of and a brass nut to go on top, and I got orders from Trojan Spark Plug, the Galion Iron Works for the ball joints they needed to weld to their Graters, and the dump body company Hercules all needed different parts for their hydraulic parts, and it occurred to me that whatever we could make they would buy, as long as we were competitive. So we started making parts for all of those companies, and we found out that if we had automatic spinning lathes, then we could start bidding on military parts as well. We took an order around 1956 that was for parts usually for Picatinny Development Grounds in New Jersey, called the Picatinny Arsenal. There were 7 different parts that went into the front-end of a 20mm fuse [a type of bullet].

I used to shoot something similar, but those were single-barrel machine guns that could fire about 1,000 minutes. These bullets were for a new invention by General Electric called the 6-barrel gatling gun. We ended up making the first experimental 400,000 round run at 50,000 rounds per month. They soon decided to put this gun on all of the airplanes and the helicopters and even the ships from the Navy. We were nimble enough to selectively gamble on buying new machinery with the latest threading and machining at the same time so that by 1966/67/68 from 40 cents per set for the fuse parts to down to 16 cents a round, and then began furnishing them with empty projectiles for their loading plants.

We had two plants, one in north central Ohio and one in southern California, and were their best low-cost producer of parts for their 20mm cannon rounds. Fuses, cases, links. We had value engineering changes to reduce their costs and eventually merged with companies in St. Louis and Florida. We were then known as Valentec International, where Valentec stood for Value Engineering Technologies. We started doing business with companies in Europe with NATO. In 1984 we were attractive to the conglomerate company out of Connecticut, Insilco (International Silver Company) and they made an offer to buy the company that couldn't be refused. I worked with them for a couple more years before I hit 65, and by their rules I had to retire at which point I left the company.

Since then, I continue to be active in several family companies. In 1985, the government was selling off a large warehouse that they weren't using anymore that I partnered with another family to purchase. [He remembers a lot of the details, but for privacy reasons I'm filtering them out here]. We've rented the building for some 30 years to a tire company. We also purchased and have run a farm in 1967, and invested in other family businesses."

He continues on with details about the family history that I'm not going to detail here.

Edit: added some paragraph breaks to make it easier to read.

DStoo154 karma

Did I read that correctly? A bunch of prostitutes invited a young boy to hang out on the porch and forced customers to buy magazines before going into the brothel?

admiralkit80 karma

From how I heard it, mostly correct. I think they only forced him to stick around the first time, and then afterwards he'd make sure they were stocked up to resell his magazines for them.

Ethnologizer37 karma

This was really interesting to read, your grandfather was an entrepreneur in the true sense of the word. I bet if they had let him he would have kept working at Insilco into his 70's at least.

admiralkit49 karma

He probably would have. As it was, he ended up getting involved in some other ventures, and retirement gave him and my grandmother some time and more inclination to do things like travel the world. He has stepped foot on all seven continents.

sirfail2much10 karma


Picatinny. I know you were probably typing as fast as you could while he was talking but just thought you should know. Amazing story!

admiralkit6 karma

Good to know. I certainly wanted to keep the thoughts flowing and the interruptions to a minimum, but thanks for letting me know the correct spelling. I may go back and edit that later.

admiralkit465 karma

On another war the scale of WWII - "Not on this planet."

CoughCoughMom254 karma

To the grandchild: enjoy his stories. Record them if possible. They're priceless.

To grandpa: thank you for your years of service. You, my sir, are a hero & make America grand. Hats off to you!

admiralkit262 karma

He shares them from time to time, and we've tried to get him to do a memoir but he's been hesitant to let anyone else do it. He doesn't quite get how an AMA works, but he's happy to tell these stories to me and I'm happy to get them written down.

admiralkit208 karma

Well, looks like we got caught in a filter and blocked from hitting the new feed. We'll try scheduling something some other time.

Edit: we've been passed through the filter. Ask away!

Devvils42 karma

My dad served in WWII in the pacific - Papua New Guinea. Where did your grandfather serve?

admiralkit30 karma

I know he served a lot of time in the Solomons, especially out of Bougainville. When he was relaying the story of when he was shot down, it started off a lot like he was going to tell a story out of the book he mentioned so I prompted him if he served there and he was like, "Well, yes, I did most of my service there." He's mentioned a few other bases over the year, but I don't recall the specific names of them.

My1Addiction146 karma

Semper Fidelis Sir, thank you for your service so that I may serve today! Sergeant of Marines with 10 years of active time.

admiralkit170 karma

"Semper fi!"

trevster6129 karma

Does he think our economy is heading towards something like the Great Depression? Was he greatly affected by the Depression?

admiralkit439 karma

On the Great Depression: "It probably was a healthy thing. I was fortunate to be in a family that had a small farm, a blind horse, and Uncle Milty who knew what needed to be done first. 'Get the corn in before the 10th of May!' For a young kid growing up to be able to help, Uncle Mitly couldn't see well and the horse was blind so it was my job to make sure the horse was planting the corn rows straight.

You learned how to take care of the blind horse, and then you went to town to help Uncle Milty make it home. He'd get his old age pension check, go to the penny store and buy new long underwear that he'd wear year-round, and some new farm shirts and overalls. Then he would get a haircut and a shave. Then after '33, Prohibition was over. I'd wait with the blind horse and he'd go into the saloon, and after a while I'd have to go in after him.

The blind horse knew the way home. It was brick highway #19 that went to Bucyrus, but she knew just when to get off the highway to get home. She could bring him home herself, but if he was in there too long someone else would have to get into the stall to get the harness off. Every kid should have a blind horse and an Uncle Milty to learn from."

Sorry, he's kind of in story telling mode at the moment. I've not heard some of this stuff myself, so I'm not interrupting him too much.

DissonanceDogma40 karma

I know I've missed the majority of the thread, but I want to throw in that I live in Bucyrus, right off of 19. That bit of history just amazed me, and I'd love to know something like the name of the bar, where he lived, and whatever else he has to say!

admiralkit31 karma

Check your inbox and go check out the parade if you can.

TN17124 karma

If you could relay one piece of advice for our generation, what would it be?

admiralkit378 karma

"Learn as much as you can to be prepared for life, both in taking care of your own health and fitness and to be able to help somebody else."

harriviv107 karma

Despite the drastic times, did you enjoy serving in WWII?

admiralkit251 karma

"It was a great adventure, and matured us all early."

_Sherman_101 karma

Any war stories?That is if he feels comfortable talking about them.I have an interest in WW2 Aviation and would love to hear stories of the famous Corsair!

admiralkit353 karma

"Well, there's a new book out and I just bought some, I think the guy's name is Gamble [ed: He shows me the book, Bruce Gamble, Invasion Rabaul] that is a trilogy about the longest battle of WWII. It was the biggest part of my war. We did fighter sweeps over Rabaul to gain air superiority, then bomber support to knock out their six airfields around the volcano crescent."

He pauses for a minute or two here.

"Lark Force was a group of Australians that had been conscientious objectors to going to Europe and fighting for England, and they were mostly members of the Salvation Army. They were recruited and forced into a military unit. They were mostly Bandsmen and Marching Band people, typical of the Salvation Army. They were originally sent to an outpost to simply scare off anyone from simply moving in, but the Japanese who were so successful in 41, 42, and half way through 43, no one seemed to be able to stop them. Their hope was to occupy as far as Northern Australia and New Zealand. Their biggest fortress was in the Caroline Islands, a group of islands with a place called Truck Lagoon in the middle of it, it was a big anchorage for warships and merchants. As soon as they had the flanks solidified, they moved south out of Truck into northeast Papa New Guinnea. They moved into Bouganville and the northernmost part of the Solomon group. Rabaul already had an airfield, but Simpson Harbor was even better of a harbor than Truck Lagoon that they quickly occupied all of New Britain and New Ireland islands (eastern half of Papa New Guinnea. They quickly built 5 more airfields so they would have air command over New Guinnea, northern Australia, and the Solomon Islands with the hope they could move south into New Zealand and seal off Australia from any assistance from any direction.

As our squadron arrives into Vela la Vela, we're there a week or two and a month or so earlier they (the US) had taken a piece of Bouganville Island (closer to Rabaul) to where the CBs in 3 days had built an iron runway. That put us close enough to Rabaul that we no longer needed to use the belly tanks to reach our destinations. We would escort B-25s, B-24s, and occasionally some B-17s. MacArthur, operating out of Port Moresby, southern half of Papa New Guinnea, had claimed that he had neutralized Rabaul using his B-17s. The problem was, high altitude bombing did no damage to the runways or the shipping in the harbor. The bombs rarely hit anything except the water.

My orneriest mission was on a B-25 escort, where I was given what was called low/underneath cover. My wingman and I were on the backside of the formation underneath to weave back and forth to prevent any Zeroes or other enemy aircraft to come in from underneath. The route usually would go westard to Point St. George and St. George's channel (runs between New Ireland and New Britain). Cape St. George is where they (Japanese) had an AA gun established as well as radar. They put up so much AA material that would go above the formation and then drop phosphor bombs. They rarely did much damage, but with everything going on above the formation with the top defense formation dropping all of the extra AA flak and linkage material from the fighting going on above it was like I was being rained on with aluminum. Somehow I ended up sucking some junk into my oil cooler that caused me to start loosing oil, and I noticed that my oil pressure was dropping quickly. When the engine sputters and you can't keep up, flight school teaches you to point your nose down and maintain gliding speed, turn into the wind. From 20,000 feet, I was fiddling with switches and things to see if I could get it going again. The Corsair would stall at 90 knots, so you had to maintain 140 knot airspeed to keep the plane under control. This meant about a 45 degree downward glide, and there's no way to keep up with the formation. Usually during the day, the sun beating down on the ocean causes cotton-candy clouds forming from about 4 to 12 thousand feet, and I glided through looking for a place to bail out. At 10,000 feet, I'm within sight of Duke of York island, which is occupied by the Japanese. I pop the canopy and wait until 5000 feet and I'm away from the island but the water doesn't look good to land on. At 2500 feet the water looks much better, but there's not enough air left so I take the plane down to the water... I made one of my better landings.

As I hit the water, I hit the gunsight (I had unhooked the harness while looking for the right place to ditch) and get some lacerations on my arm. In 3 seconds I'm out of the cockpit. 5 seconds later, the plane is 45 degrees in the water with the cockpit underwater and the engine dragging it down. I swam away trying to avoid any potential vortex from sucking me down. After 20 seconds the plane is down to Davy Jones.

I look around and realize that nobody has seen me and nobody has followed me. I'm sitting there with my parachute on and a lifejacket bobbing in the water, and my first thought is "How can I stay invisible?" This was about 3 PM, and I waited until about 6 PM (around twilight) and I decide, "Now I'll get the raft out." The raft is right under the seat cushion, and there's a CO2 bottle to trip it, and I wish somebody had told me beforehand to tie it onto myself. I trip it, and the raft jumps 10-20 feet away. I'm wearing these L'il Abner shoes and it's tough to swim. That was tough to catch, the wind was moving it, but I was able to get to it.

I got into the raft, there was a little paddle system, and my parachute and harness system were still floating. I took my shoes off because they were an obstruction, so I tied them to a raft. I'm really tuckered out by this point. I look around and can't see anybody. We'd gone north to get to the target and then the plan was to go south to get back home. I had a canteen of water hooked to my belt, a Smith & Wesson police revolver, a .38 caliber? A .36? I think it was a .38, and the bullets were tied up in another pocket in my suit. The bullets seemed dry and I could blow through the cylinders to dry it out, so I loaded it up with tracer shells. Then I decided 'Wait a minute," took out the tracer shells, and put in regular shells.

I had some peanut butter, there was a guy in our squadron, he was a little beaver guy, and one time when we were in the ready tent and I asked what he was doing. He had gone to the quartermaster and was always wheeling and dealing, and he'd fill up the toilet paper tubes with the peanut butter and would seal them up in a bag. He was putting them into his survival cushion, so I traded him a bottle of White Horse scotch for 6 of these peanut butter tubes to put in my survival kit. So I was having peanut butter for supper.

So I get pretty comfy, and I fell asleep. All of the sudden in the middle of the night, I can hear dogs barking. It reminded me of an uncle who always wanted to go coon hunting (he made me hold the lantern), but it sounded just like those dogs when they pick up a scent. I don't know what to do, I don't want to expose myself, but I need to figure out what's going on. So I pull a one-cell flashlight out of my survival kit, and here are a bunch of little sea lions barking at me and giving me some looks. So I quickly shut off the light, they bark some more and then they go away and I go back to sleep.

I wake up around dawn, and I pull my emergency map out to figure out where I am. At night, there's a 4 knot current flowing south through the channel, but it only flows south [ed note: towards friendly forces and away from enemy forces] during December and January and it's now January 22nd. I'd drifted about 50 miles south, and I'm now out of the channel. I said, 'Oh, there'll be another mission and they'll come over, I'm in good shape.' They came later that day, but were way up, probably 15,000 feet. I fired two tracer shells at them, but nobody came down to investigate. So I waited for them to come back, and I shot all of the tracers I had and had thrown my emergency dye in the water, but nobody comes down. Now I'm thinking, "Wow, I'm in big trouble." I'm in a raft, the wind is picking up and I'm being blown north and I don't really have any drag.

At about 4 in the afternoon, I'm dozing but then I realize that there's a plane nearby. It's another Corsair, it's only at about 500 or 600 feet, so I get my emergency mirror out and flashed it at him. He comes down to the deck to investigate, I wave at him and he waggles his wings at me and heads off. A while later, here comes Dumbo - a Catalina PB-Y float plane. I'd run a few Dumbo escort missions in my tours. The sea wasn't whitehorsing, but there were some swells so they couldn't pull right up to me. They get as close as they can as they circle around and toss me a rope, and boy do I know what a walleye feels like when it gets hooked. Bam, that thing yanks me right out of the raft and I'm holding on. Everything I had on got ripped off me - pistol, holster, flight suit, all I've got left is a stretched out t-shirt. They pulled me in one of the gun blisters, and as they pull me in they go, 'Lieutenant Marsh?' I'm like, 'No, I'm Smith.' They weren't looking for me, but they found me somehow. We got on the radio so they could figure out who I was, and realized I was another pilot so we got back up in the air to keep looking for Lieutenant Marsh. We found him about an hour later, and the water was smooth enough that we could just taxi right up to him and pull him in without needing the rope.

Marsh and I got together every year after that until our wives both passed away in 2012, then we didn't get together."

get_me_ted_striker151 karma

Not that I wish I was in any war, but that story alone is more interesting than pretty much my whole life.

trenchknife40 karma

Be glad.

admiralkit80 karma

Can't emphasize this enough. Before my grandmother started developing Alzheimers, we were sitting around the table for Thanksgiving one year and he started telling a story from the war. He had to have been in his 70s by that point, he'd been married for well over 40 years, and when he was done and left the room for a slice of pie she commented quietly that she'd rarely heard him talk about the war and never heard that particular story before. The trauma that war inflicts on people (even the survivors) is incredible, and I'm fortunate enough that my grandfather is able and willing to share his stories.

admiralkit80 karma

Ed note: If you check out the book You Are Not Forgotten you can see a picture of Lieutenant Marsh and my grandfather together in 2013 for a book signing about another lost pilot.

readonlymemory21 karma

Fantastic, thorough answers. Thanks for doing an AMA the right way.

admiralkit13 karma

I let him talk when he wanted to talk and wrote down as much as I could. Had to paraphrase a bit to keep up with him.

admiralkit65 karma

He's got many stories. I'm trying to keep the stories short, but I'm 8 paragraphs into the Black Sheep story trying to get to that story. Give me a few minutes.

bloo_regard66 karma

How did you view the enemy during the war?

admiralkit211 karma

"They shoot at us, and we gotta shoot at you."

Ed: As someone who has grown up around him, he doesn't really give a damn about racial stuff, people are all people.

Linguist20861 karma

Did you ever meet or fly with the Black Sheep? Or Greg Boyington?

admiralkit176 karma

"I finished flight school at Corpus Christi, Texas, the new aviator college there. I originally trained to be a Kingfisher pilot, which would originally get duty on a cruiser or a battleship - it was a float plane, triple floats, and had been part of the Navy since the 1920's. The scuttlebutt at Corpus Christi was to take Kingfisher training, which was known as Scout Observation, and then just before graduation was to be commissioned into the Marine Corps. Supposedly, you would get sub patrol in the Carribean! Two or three of us did that, and were sent to Cherry Point, NC, where there was a Marine Air Station there. We were on our way! When we arrived and turned in our papers, they said, 'We've closed the float plane base in St. Thomas, USVI, you're going to be in a fighter squadron.' And we have some new planes, they were originally delivered to the Navy for carrier duty but it had too many problems for carrier duty. They sent someone from the factory to help conquer the problems, and it was none other than Charles Lindbergh.

He spent a week with us in the barracks, where he spent the week watching us take off and land. After the week, he says we're going to forget everything that they told us at flight school about tail first landings. The left wing would stall out before the right wing when landing, and it would cause them to crash on the carriers. Lindbergh advised us to land front-wheels first above stall speed and then cut your throttle, let the tail land on its own. If you wander off the runway, don't kick the rudder or you'll go into a ground loop - kick opposite rudder. I heeded his advice for my five years of active duty.

Within a month we were off to San Diego, where we stopped at Atlanta, to Shrevepoint then to Tuscon, and then to San Diego. My flight leader was Captain Lemons. We left Shrevepoint early in the morning and encountered a major storm, but despite his great efforts at trying to round the storm. We then climbed up to 20,000 feet, put on our oxygen, and for reasons I don't know he then dove back into the storm. It was pitch black until there was lightning, and we were facing hail the size of softballs.

I got into a tailspin, and after recovering I saw a clearing in the storm and realized I was looking at the tree tops. I was able to pull out of it and got out of the storm. Captain Lemon was not so lucky. I proceeded on to an Army air base in Abeline, TX, where I met up with another Corsair pilot. We were told to stay there until the rest of the air group caught up with us. We were there for four days when my commanding officer, Major Gordon Knott came to me and asked what happened to Lemon. I told him what happened, and he said, "Well, Smitty, you made your way and now you'll fly wing with me." Now I've gone from being in a low-level division and am now flying with the squadron commander.

We proceed to the air station at North Island, where I told Knott that I needed more instrument training. They took me out every day where I learned a lot more about instrument flying - you have to have your instruments uncaged before you get into the storm! We proceeded to the carrier Nassau, a Jeep carrier that was a converted Liberty ship to head out to the Pacific.

We didn't learn until we were offshore that we were headed to American Samoa, where we were still expecting a Japanese invasion. En route to Samoa, there was a kind of mutiny among the pilots. The Captains all felt that Major Gordon Knott was too aloof and not experienced enough. He was replaced with Edmund F. Overrand - we called him 'End-over-End.' When we get near Samoa, they catapult us off and we occupy a new airfield made of coral near the beach. We spent 4 weeks there where we learned how to shoot the machine guns. I had been asked whether I had voted against Major Knott where I was asked if I had been voted against Major Knott where I said no - I was taking instrument lessons and nobody asked me to vote. As a result, I was demoted back to the squadron and had to tow targets for most of our four weeks at Samoa.

After four weeks there, we knew the Japanese weren't headed to American Samoa so we headed to Port Villa in the New Ebradees group of islands - they're now known as Vanauatu. From there we were divided into new 4-plane divisions and I'm assigned to fly wing for Captain Steen. We're then sent north into the Solomon islands, refueling at Guadalcanal and then on to a coral strip on an island strip on the island Vela la Vela.

There, our new CO, Major Overrand, met up with our other flying veteran, Major [long pause, I haven't given him any information other than the name of the Black Sheep Squadron] Greg, Gregory Boyington. He was looking for Overrand and was hoping someone might have some spirits with them. We had all brought some of the Tolly, Scott & Tolly Gin and Brandy, but his preference was Maj. Overrand's Teacher's Island Cream Scotch. He's arm-wrestling in the skipper's tent for drinks. We had the one boy from Mississippi, we called him Zombie Blount, and Blount puts him down. Boyington then says best of 3, then best of 5, then best of 7, but Blount keeps winning. Then he decides 'Let's really wrastle outside of the tents.' By this time I'm putting my foot locker away in my tent, and Captain Steen is sitting there in distress of some sort. He finally asks, "Smitty, would you come and get Doc Wolf to maybe come see me? I'm having problems." I go to find Doctor Wolf, he was a Navy lieutenant which made him a Captain by Marine standards and was our squadron doctor. I find him and tell him that Steen asked if he could come see him. Wolf says, "Waitaminute, these guys are wrasslin' and I have to stop this match between Boyington and Blount!" Boyington had swung his leg on a tent stake, so Wolf pulled Boyington away - Boyington had broken one of the little bones in his leg and got priority.

Shortly after that Doc Wolf gets back and asks to see Steen alone. As I'm leaving, I hear Steen commenting about his wife and saying that he never should have gotten into that. The next day we have a mission briefing about our mission in the mess tent. We get there and Boyington is there with a cast on his leg! We're leaving at 4 AM with 150 gallon belly tanks to get up to Papa New Guinnea so we could get up to Rabal. We'd drop our belly tanks at St. George's for full speed and maneuverability. When I get back from the mission briefing, I learn that Steen has turned in his wings and resigned his commission. I show up the mess tent the next day and talk with my buddy Uteness, who we decide we'll pair up and scissor [a fighter technique]. We get up in the air and before we hit radio silence we're told that there are no bombers, only fighters, so we're flying over the island with Boyington on the radio yelling at them to come up and fight. Since they didn't have anything to protect, they opted not to fight since our planes were faster, and that was my first mission. Nothing happened on that trip, and we flew back to Vela la Vela. A few other groups claimed they saw planes, but we didn't see any of them."

rtwpsom220 karma

Did he ever find out what happened to Major Steen?

admiralkit62 karma

"We had no way to get him back, he had no way to get back so he stayed up with the squadron for the whole tour. After about two months we'd head back to our home island while they repaired our planes' engines, and we'd get some R&R either in Australia or New Zealand. While we were on the home island, he'd taxi around the intelligence guys who took our reports and check out our parachutes. He tried to be helpful. He never did go back to Port Villa with us, he made it back to Esperilla Stantos where he section 8'd out with two other guys, including Samuelson and Buzzard. What a nickname, Buzzard and I shared a plane for a while. He got a Dear John letter from his girlfriend and came into my tent waving around a .45 until the MPs came pretending he was going to kill himself. They eventually shipped 'em back stateside for psycho evaluations or whatnot."

He points out Buzzard in the squadron photo and points out Buzzard to me. Standing in front of the plane directly right of the vertical propeller blade. Samuelson is sitting on the wing, third in from the left side of the photo. Steen is not in the picture.

GunnyJones3 karma

Went to Cherry Point 2009 airshow.

They had one of these there. http://imgur.com/a/42NzH

admiralkit4 karma

Nice, not many of them flying anymore! Indianapolis had Corsairs as the focus plane of their airshow back in 2002 and he traveled out there for that.

skippy100000000058 karma

What's for dinner?

admiralkit139 karma

He laughs. "Wendy's chili soup."

skippy100000000019 karma

Mmmm, sounds good

admiralkit49 karma

I ended up treating him to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant instead. Thought the day deserved a better ending than Wendy's chili.

GTBlues53 karma

Well you look fabulous for 92 and I would have thought you were at least 20 years younger. If you could go back in time and give just one piece of life advice to your 20 or 30 year old self, what would you say?

admiralkit90 karma

"Whatever you're gonna do, be prepared to do it. Learn your lessons and what they teach you, whether flying or economics. Just pay attention and be prepared."

flgcanyoneer40 karma

What squadron did you fly with? My grandfather flew Corsairs as will with VMF-113.

admiralkit64 karma

He was with VMF-321, the Hell's Angels. He went back a couple of times to San Diego to visit them back when they were still operational and flying the F-18's.

Wdwdash38 karma

Good evening sir, great to see you on here, I'm a Marine C-130 aircrewman who just left Cherry Point last December after being there for 8 years. We're keeping props turning well into the 21st century!
How many hours did you fly as a Naval Aviator? When we fly across the pond these days, we have iPads and movies and music...how did you pass the time back when you were flying long legs?
Semper Fi brother!

admiralkit50 karma

"As a naval Marine aviator, maybe 650 to 700. [ed: he bought a surplus Steerman after the war for $450 and continued flying after the war] We would turn in the radio to Tokyo Rose and listen to the radio when we were flying the long legs."

TerribleStoryTelling26 karma

How many of the men in your squadron do you keep in touch with or did you keep in touch with after the war?

admiralkit62 karma

I kept in touch with Ben Elwood, he was a Black Sheep guy, he lived in Columbus and we'd go to ballgames together. Love them Buckeye tickets. We had reunions about every 10 years, I didn't make all of them, sometimes you're involved in something that you can't make it.

The last reunion was in 2000 at Laguna Beach Hotel, where we were quartered back when I was an instructor at El Toro. [reminiscing] There were so many girls that you spent your money so fast, then I went back out for the Okinawa campaign, did some kamikaze duty, take my division out to a destroyer with radar and he'd tell us what to do.

It ended up that after the first A-bomb that it was spotted that civilians were taking over the Kyushu (sp? The southern island) airfield. There was a naval station in the town of Omura, and that's where the kamikazes were coming out of... they were taking the roofing off of the buildings so we load up a DC-3 and fly our planes in, it was a grass field and I landed that Corsair there and had to hunt around to find a dry place to sleep. I found a little boat near the airfield in a canal or something.

I remember getting a parachute, a Jap parachute, out of one of the airplanes that was still there. Beautifully well done, and I brought it home over here. [ed: there's another story here that I already know, it involves a dummy over a high school football game]. I ran into a collector at the 2000 reunion, he said that the parachute would have gone for ridiculous amounts of money but I didn't have it anymore."

trecool8825 karma

Did you ever fly the P-38? What did you think of it as a fighter?

admiralkit82 karma

"I flew with them, but I never flew one. They would usually be top cover, they would race us on the way home from a mission. With water injection, we could beat 'em, but once the water was gone they could catch up with us again. Their problem was maneuvering - if they tried to pull too hard on that Davis Wing or whatever they called 'em they could end up in a horizontal spin.

Usually they would get hit first. We'd go on a mission and the Japs would be waiting for us, and they'd be up at 38, 39 thousand feet. They'd be the first getting hit, and you'd hate to see it but you'd see the two parallels coming down. The Zekes could turn inside of them, they were so maneuverable. Our strategy was to not cut throttle and try to dog fight with them at full throttle.

The roughest mission would be escorting SBDs, the Dauntless divebombers. After January '44, after we took over the Green Islands, now we were close enough to take the dive bombers in so we could take them in and back. The rule was 4 plane fighter division with every 4 plane dive bomber division. When we got to target, first leader would peel off and I would go down with him and turn on the guns to suppress the AA fire, and boy them SBDs could lay that egg right down the smokestack of a ship or on a bomber on an airfield or a series of holes right down those runways.

During the recovery, you're all single file and they're all single file, and that's usually when the Japs would jump us. We'd be trying to catch up. One time I looked in my mirror and there's a Zeke right on my wing! Did he think I was his squad leader? No, he was just trying to tease me into letting up on the throttle and fight with him. But I looked in my mirror and saw [another squad pilot, name missed] coming up behind me so I used the water injection. Then I pulled up my legs because I didn't have any armor plating there and my plane started crabwalking sideways in the air. All of the bullets are coming over my left wing because he thinks I'm turning, but since I can't work the pedals with my feet the plane is still going straight even though it looks like I'm going left."

There's another story about the SDBs that I missed trying to capture this. I should really have had a voice recorder going.

wallydee20 karma

First off, thank you for your service. How did you feel about General Patton? I've heard a variety of opinions on him from other WWII vets.

admiralkit46 karma

"Well, he was pretty much unknown to us, it wasn't until I was home on leave until December '44 that he was supposedly the savior of the Bulge battle."

Bill83c410 karma

Can we hear about what happened when he got shot down? What country was this and how did he find his way back to safety?

admiralkit26 karma

The story is already posted below - he was picked up by a Catalina PBY and taken back to his base. He was shot down between New Ireland and New Britain islands - you can find them on Google Maps.

jlkent7 karma

Do you still hold anything against the axis powers and its troops? What are your reasons for it. Do you have any confirmed kills in your F4? Thanks for defending our nation.

admiralkit9 karma

I didn't get to ask him this, but here's what I do know: he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 5 gold stars. He certainly spoke with no hostility about any of the other countries, Axis or Allied, during our conversations - he has visited Germany and Japan since the wars were over.

C3544G7 karma

Did you ever get your Eagle Scout rank?

admiralkit15 karma

I'm honestly not sure if he ever achieved Eagle, though I'm pretty sure he did. He's also got the Silver Beaver. My dad, my brother, and I all have earned our Eagle Scouts, though.

Two scouting stories for you. First, he went to the '37 Jamboree in Washington DC. The troop had to raise funds for a year, it was $50 for a scout to attend and in the end they could only send 4. They sold jars of soup for $0.25 apiece. They pitched their tents on the National Mall (he was close to the Reflection Pool), and said that he saw Roosevelt driving around waving at the scouts while smoking a giant cigar.

Second story: My grandfather was key in getting a new council building built, especially as the local councils had had financial trouble for years and had 3 councils combine together to try and streamline operations. As such, they gave him the right to name the building.

He asked if there were any restrictions on who he could name it for.

They told him he could name it after anybody he wanted.

So he told them he wanted to dedicate the building after the man who got him into scouting.

"That's great!" they told him. "What was his name?"

"Homer Simpson," he said.

They told him he had to pick another name.

Ken-the-pilot5 karma

F4Us! They're some of my favorite airplanes! What was it like flying such a beefy plane? Were there any special quirks or routines that had to be followed in such a plane as compared to any other fighter aircraft of the period?

admiralkit6 karma

He mentioned a few quirks, but I wasn't able to capture more than the advice on how to keep the left wing from stalling before the right wing on landings. As I recall (he seriously has a better memory than I do), the plane was started with what was essentially a 12-gauge shotgun blank. When he made his emergency stop at the Army Air Base in Abeline, TX, he only had 4 of those special casings and the plane didn't start until the last one. Since the base wasn't equipped for Corsairs, they didn't have any extras and he would have had to wait for extras to arrive before he could move on to the next base.

They also had water injection on the engines, which somehow sped them up. He references it a few times, but they would somehow shoot water into the engines and get about a 10% power boost for a few minutes. I don't know exactly how that worked.