On February 1st of this year, the 506th Fighter Group Association helped celebrate the 100th birthday of Staff Sergeant Burton W. Jones, who was a ground crew member (mechanic and armorer) with the 457th Fighter Squadron. Staff Sergeant Jones was assigned to 541 “Kwitcherbitchin”, flown by Captains William B. Lawrence and Alan J. Kinvig.
Burton’s family was hoping that he would receive at least 100 birthday cards from family, friends and well wishers. Burton actually received over 300 birthday cards!
On October 25, 2021, we were informed by Priscilla Hepburn-Jones that Burton had passed away. Like other members of his generation, Burton returned from the war and became active in his community serving in many civic organizations.
On October 24, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation. Burton’s obituary can be found here: https://www.uticaod.com/obituaries/k0030474. Our prayers are with Burton’s family during this time of loss.
Robert A. Gourley was born on December 14, 1924, in Greer, South Carolina. Bob graduated from Marion High School in 1940, and entered into Davidson College in 1941 as part of the ROTC program. Like many others of his generation, his post-secondary education was put on hold during the time he served his country in World War II.
Not wanting to be placed into the infantry, Bob enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. He earned wings and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant at Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona in 1944. In October of that year, 2nd Lieutenant Gourley was assigned to the 462nd Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group shortly after the group’s activation at Lakeland Army Air Field. At Lakeland, the 506th FG was trained specifically to fly very long range missions.
When deployed to Iwo Jima, half of the squadron’s fighter pilots ferried their brand new P-51D Mustangs to San Francisco, where they were loaded on the escort carrier Kalinin Bay and set out for Tinian. The other half of the pilots, which included 2nd Lieutenant Gourley, took a troop train to Seattle, and then boarded the converted Swedish hospital ship, the Bloemfontein. They sailed from Seattle to Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and then finally to Iwo Jima.
Lieutenant Gourley would fly a total of 11 VLR missions to Japan, and would be promoted to the rank of Capitan before being honorably discharged. Upon returning home, Bob re-enrolled in Davidson College and graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music.
Bob was a recognized community member faithfully contributing to his community in many ways. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church and served as choir director for over three decades. He was also active in the local Kiwanis Club and the Masonic Lodge. Bob played in a community band well into into eighties, and enjoyed playing golf.
On September 4, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation. Bob was 96, and was the last living fighter pilot of the 462nd Fighter Squadron.
In 2014, Bob gave a video interview as part of the McDowell Legacy Program, “Reflections of the Past”. In his interview, Bob speaks of his entry into the United States Army Air Force, and missions flown from Iwo Jima to Japan. The YouTube video of Bob’s interview can be found here: https://youtu.be/P-HsME_vCKI.
In this month’s edition of INFO Eduard, Eduard announced that their next release of their P-51D Mustang kit will be a Weekend Edition focusing on the Block 20 Mustang. The decal options include two European theater Mustangs and two Pacific theater Mustangs. The first Pacific theater Mustang is the widely recognizable The Flying Undertaker, flown by Major William A. Shomo of the 82nd TRS, 71st TRG. The other Pacific Mustang is the 458th FS, 506th FG Iwo Jima VLR Mustang, The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package, flown by 2nd Lt. Bennett C. Commer and 2nd Lt. Henry C. Seegers, Jr.
All three VLR groups were initially equipped with Block 20 D models. As losses and attrition took its toll, Block 25 D models were used as replacement aircraft. The distinctive equipment used on VLR Mustangs, the SCR-695 IFF transmitter set, the AN/ARA-8 homing adapter and twin Uncle Dog antennae, were field modifications on Iwo Jima for both Block 20 and 25 models.
Due to the fact that the 506th Fighter Group assigned two pilots to each plane, the markings on certain planes provide for interesting decal options. The Boll Weevil/A Neat Package is a nice example of this.
Kudos to Eduard for providing a multitude of 1/48th scale P-51D Mustang kits which cover blocks 5 to 25 with so many decal options. Something for everyone.
One of Eduard’s releases for October 2021 is a new Weekend Edition boxing of their popular 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat kit. Eduard’s 1/72 F6F-3 has been on the market since 2011, and this is the third Weekend Edition boxing that has been released by Eduard.
This boxing includes decals for Lt. Cdr. David McCampbell‘s F6F-3 Hellcat The Minsi. Lt. Cdr. McCampbell was the CO of CAG-15 abroad the USS Essex, and flew this aircraft during the U.S Navy’s raids against Iwo Jima which began on June 14, 1944, and continued until August 5, 1944.
Lt. Cdr McCampbell was the top U.S. Navy ace with 34 confirmed victories. While he did not score any confirmed victories in combat over Iwo Jima, Lt. Cdr. McCampbell would score 10.5 victories in The Minsi during combat over Saipan, the Philippine Sea and Guam. The Minsi was scrapped in September 1944 after suffering damage from anti-aircraft fire.
Kudos to Eduard for including decals for The Minsi in this boxing. While most modelers will prefer decals for Lt. Cdr. McCampbell’s F6F-5 Minsi III with its impressive scoreboard of kills, it is nice to have the option to build his first Hellcat.
The other decals included in this kit are: a VF-38 F6F-3, stationed on Munda Airfield, New Georgia, Solomon Islands; Lt. Alexander Vraciu’s F6F-3 “White 32”, VF-16, USS Lexington with 18 kill markings; and a VF-27 F6F-3 aboard the USS Princeton with the snarling cat mouth. Very nice decal options.
Albert Arthur Sharke was born on March 13, 1921, in New York City. He entered into Columbia University as a first generation college student. Like many others of his generation, his post-secondary education was put on hold during the time he served his country in World War II.
The 457th Squadron Unit History indicates that 2nd Lt. Albert A. Sharke was assigned to the squadron on December 18, 1944, as Armament Officer, replacing 2nd Lt. McCallick who was transferred out of the squadron. 2nd Lieutenant Sharke, and the rest of the ground echelon of the 457th Fighter Squadron, took a troop train from Lakeland Army Air Field to Seattle, Washington. They arrived on Iwo Jima onboard the H.M.S Bloemfontein, a converted Swedish hospital ship. The long overseas journey started in Seattle with stops at Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and finally Iwo Jima.
It appears that Lt. Sharke may have been the armorer for the P-51D Mustang flown by 1st Lieutenant Larry Grennan, although that cannot be confirmed. Squadron histories just do not go into that amount of detail, and we do not have any good photos of Lt. Grennan’s P-51D to see if Lt. Sharke’s name appears on the plane. Without either the pilot(s) or ground crew providing that information, that piece of information is lost forever.
Albert Sharke was promoted to 1st Lieutenant while on Iwo Jima. After being honorably discharged after the war, Albert graduated in 1947 from Columbia University with a degree in metallurgical engineering. After working briefly at Air Reduction Laboratories, he spent the duration of his career in chemical and refinery operations at Standard Oil of New Jersey.