www.VP-21.org, and www.VPB-111.org

John G. Esposito, Editor                  WINTER EDITION 2010




This is the first newsletter of the New Year.  For many of us, 2009 was not all that great.  We lost many squadron friends and some loved ones.  Here’s wishing all of you a much better 2010. 


Back in the day when we were all young, all courageous, all handsome, and all members of VP-21, the best squadron in the United States Navy, it was the practice of the wardroom to present each departing officer with a plaque commemorating his time in the squadron.  The plaque consisted of a wooden shield holding a bronze replica of the Blackjack insignia and a brass plate with the information regarding the departing member (name, rank, tour dates).  The wooden shield and the brass plate are easy to come by but the bronze insignias are really special.  When the squadron was disestablished in 1969, Bob Savage (‘69) came into possession of two of the bronze insignias.  He has generously contributed them to the Association and they’ll be raffled off at the next reunion.  Thank you, Bob.

It was a tough thing to lose Frank Balogh, our friend and long time Webmaster.  His shoes will be difficult to fill but Herm “Smitty” Schmidt has generously volunteered to try.  He’s agreed to take over our website.  Please give him all the moral support possible





The following named persons have generously made contributions to our

Organization since the last issue of the newsletter:


Bruce T. Balicki, Jr. - David E. Barr - Dewey Brigati - Fred Cattrysse -

Gerald N. Gaus - Geraldine B. Huber - H. Clark Island - Harold J. Johnson -

Henry C. Punches - James L. Raab - Joseph Rainey - Raymond H. Vaughn -

Richard R. Weber - Walter S. Willey


Thanks to each of you for helping to keep our organization airborne.




PLEASE NOTE: The VPB-111/VP-21 Veterans Association charges no dues. Our operations are totally supported by the generous contributions of our membership, and by the sale of our squadron products. The association comes under section 501(C) 19, of the Internal Revenue Code as a "Not for Profit" organization.   As such, contributions are legitimate tax deductions. Please make your contribution checks payable to the "VPB-111/VP-21 Veterans Association" and forward them to the Treasurer, Richard S. Webb, 219 Montoya Drive, Lady Lake, Florida, 32159-8642.










By CAPT Melvin Ray Schultz, CHC, USNR (Ret) and AFCM Thomas A. Powell. USN (Ret)


       The scene: early lunch aboard Bon Homme Richard some years ago. A young LT seated opposite a Reserve Chaplain peered at the chest device being worn by the chaplain. He had never seen one like it before. LT: "Chaplain, what is the insignia you're wearing?"  CHAPLAIN: "Combat Aircrew Wings." LT: "What are they?" The chaplain explained the procedures, training, and requirements by which one became qualified to wear CA wings permanently. A questioning look crossed the LT's face. CHAPLAIN: "What's the matter?  Don't you believe me?" LT: "Oh, yes sir. I believe you.  I was just thinking, "That's a hellavaway to earn a pair of wings."


       Combat Aircrew Wings, rarely seen today, were awarded for serving in aerial combat as an enlisted Navy or Marine Corps aircrewman. Although the insignia was intended primarily for enlisted ratings, any commissioned or warrant officer, other than pilots or designated Aviation Observers, who met the requirements were eligible to wear the wings. The insignia authorized in 1943, was retroactive to December 7, 1941. With the authorization of the straight aircrew insignia in 1958, the combat aircrew insignia was no longer issued, excepting for Marines, including Navy hospital men, attached to Marine Corps aircraft operating under combat conditions. Prior to and early in WWII, technical competence in Navy ratings was acquired through OJT. All flight personnel were volunteers. (To quote an old salt, “Of course, flight skins were a major incentive for volunteering.”)  Fresh boot camp graduates were apprenticed to leading chiefs for training in such fields as radio, ordnance and mechanics. After adequate training, strikers were declared qualified. Following additional specialized instructions, they were declared 'qualified air'.


       One early sailor related his preparations for aerial gunnery qualification: "We were allowed 300 rounds of shotgun ammo to be used on skeet targets so as to accustom us to leading targets. We then received four hours of recognition and gun sight training. Aircraft recognition cards were hung on hangers and office space. We later used gun cameras for firing. Live firing and apparent-speed-sighting transpired only after we had arrived in Hawaii and been assigned to our carrier."


       Such craft guild methodologies were overwhelmed by the rapid build-ups of WWII. Naval Air Technical Training Commands were created to educate, train, and prepare the large number of individuals necessary for manning aviation units. Schools in radio, mechanics and ordinance were established. After volunteering as well as qualifying physically, mentally and emotionally, sailors underwent lengthy periods of technical, professional and aerial training prior to being assigned to combat units.


    Students attended Class A School for approximately 16 weeks and Top Secret Radar School for two weeks. Aerial Gunnery School, seven phases of four days each, ensued. Operational training, often with the pilot with whom one was to fly combat, followed. Wings were awarded upon completion of operational training. It was generally understood that the enlisted Airedale was to fly combat within one year or have his coveted wings removed. Naval Personnel Circular Letter Number 174-44 of 16 June 1944 stated, "That this qualification as combat aircrewman and the authority to wear (combat) aircrew insignia will expire 12 months after the effective date, should the requirements outlined above not be met."


Eligibility to wear the aircrew insignia was acquired after one had served a minimum of three months as a regular assigned member of an aircrew of a combat aircraft, i.e., an aircraft which was designed and fitted out for offensive or defensive operations. The three month minimum could be waived if a crewman suffered injuries or physical impairment while engaged in combat operations after 6 December 1941, as a member of a combat aircraft. The waiver was determined by the CO of the unit to which the crewman was attached. Up to three battle stars could be inserted in the scroll of the aircrewman’s device to recognize engagement with the enemy by: (a) air to air combat; air to sea combat with bombs; (b) air to sea combat with bombs, torpedoes, or machine guns; and (c) air to land fortified positions combat. A maximum of three combat stars was authorized for display. BuPers Circular Letter Number 395-44 stated that a silver star could be worn in lieu of the gold stars. U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations, 1951: Change No. 5 of 10 April 1958 noted, "The former aircrew insignia has been redesignated 'combat aircrew' insignia." The wings are of silver metal with a gold circular shield surcharged with a foul anchor, super-imposed on wing roots with the word "Aircrew" in raised letters on a silver background below the shield. Above the shield is a silver scroll in which three holes have been pierced to receive up to three stars for mounting. Once earned, Combat Aircrew Wings may be worn permanently.


 Such is the story of one set of Naval Aviation wings. One truth is conveyed by them. The observer will see not only a sailor with earned battle stars but a sailor carrying combat scars.



Submitted by:

                Richard S. Webb

                Combat Aircrewman

                291-89-13 USN



From the Storekeeper: The Association Small Stores has replenished its supply of the popular P-2 Neptune "Two Turning  VP  Two Burning" gold embroidered Navy Blue color ball caps with a gold "scrambled egg" design on the cap visor. This ball cap can be yours for a modest $18.00 cost that includes shipping and handling. To place your order, contact Storekeeper, Carter Nute, at (352) 335-1293 or by e-mail at ccnute@earthlink.net.






A non-profit, fraternal, and historical association devoted to the reestablishment of contact with shipmates of the past, to strengthen the camaraderie among its members, to record and preserve the memories and incidents of the Association, to preserve the memory of departed shipmates, and to promote the comfort and welfare of its members and survivors. No dues are assessed!




The ‘Vagabond News’ is the official publication of the Association, and is circulated quarterly in the Winter (January/March), Spring (April/June), Summer (July/September), and Fall (October/December), as a third class bulk-rate mail from Southampton, PA, Post Office (Permit #61). All costs of the publication are supported by voluntary contribution only. To ensure that materials of interest are promptly published, members should submit same prior to the publishing quarter to John G. Esposito, 862 Central Ave., Southampton, PA 18966. All inputs will be published in a timely manner.




VPB-111/VP21 VETERANS ASSOCIATION                    

255 Mere Point Rd   

Brunswick, Maine 04011   


Non-Profit  Organization

U.S. Postage PAID

Permit #61

Return Service Requested

Southampton, PA  18966