The Aleutians
The Lands of 50 mph Fog
The 10th Emergency Rescue Boat Squadron
11th United States Army Air Force Alaska - WWII Scapbooks: Sherman Clark Green
The Disney Studios cobbled up this design, and we painted plywood disks about 18" diameter for each side of the pilothouse on all our boats, although we used blue tints instead of green as the North Pacific waters are NOT tropical, if you'll recall.
#1. This scale model of P-115 memorializes her late skipper, Donald deSomery who commanded this first 104-foot offshore rescue vessel to motor north from Sacramento to Alaskan waters in 1943. She was built in the Stephens Bros. yard, and was the first of a long series of these boats to be commissioned by the then 924th QM Boat Co. (AVN). In 1944 the unit was re-designated as an Air Force outfit, Tenth Emergency Rescue Boat Squadron. P-115 was 104', 9" long, 19 ft. beam, and 5 ft. draft. She was powered by three Hall-Scott gasoline engines of 640 hp each. She carried 4000 gallons of avgas in a metal tank, and could cruise at about 17-18 knots for twenty hours -- about 350 miles out, then return. Scale 1" = 4' Her designer, the late Benjamin Dobson, of Fair Harbor, MA, had designed rumrunners in the 1920s. [Original B&W]
Note: The original photos sent to us were fairly small in size, some out of focus or blurry. I’ve attempted to enhance and enlarge them to present a more quality image using AI photo enhancing software. Sometimes we get good results, other times not so much. If you click on the thumbnail image you will be presented with a 2x enlarged version of the original photo. If you click on the “Original B&W” link you will be presented with the original file as received. The enlarged files are subject to a bit of distortion given the original photo’s small sizes and lack of detail…it is difficult to enlarge data that is blurred, of low resolution or lacking detail to begin with and expect a perfect image as a result!
Plane Down! by Sherman Clark Green, 10th ERBS December 7, 1941 -- an historic day in the Pacific war. But three years later, in 1944, Dec. 7 was not especially marked. Well, not yet. P-512, an 85-foot offshore rescue vessel, rather resembling a PT boat, and almost as fast, was on station off Alexai Point, Attu, out at the end of the Aleutian Island chain. Alexai Point was a P-38 fighter base for the 54th FS. On this cold, bright, winter day at the standby buoy in the southeast end of Massacre Bay our crew of fourteen were mostly at leisure or busy on individual tasks below decks. Now and then, a radio voice check call could be heard from S/Sgt. Driggs' cramped wireless room below. And, as always in cool weather, the engineers would fire off our twin Packard-Allisons about every hour to keep them warmed and ready. Chief Engineer WOJG William K. Leise was a stickler for engine maintenance and readiness. "FOXTAIL ONE-TWO; ALEXAI TOWER: WE HAVE A PLANE DOWN!" The control tower operator's voice was strained and loud -- the usual cool cat jive-talk radio code language totally ignored in his excitement. We all dropped whatever we were doing, grabbed warm heavy gear and scrambled to our stations. Engines coughed, boomed and rumbled as deck crewmen slipped the mooring bridle and P-512 swung around and gathered speed toward the outer reefs instead of heading for the harbor entrance. Chief Leise on the intercom protested that the engine's warranties were being voided. "The hell with that" shouted Skipper CWO C.M. (Mike) Hatton, "Give me all you've got" Alexai Tower had fixed the spot where a P-38 ditched in the water a couple of miles SE off the point within sight of the beach. "Bring him back any way you can," tower had said. "The pilot has the squadron's Christmas funds in his pocket!" How Mike snaked us through the reefs, I'll never know. We all expected the bottom to be ripped out any moment as 512 charged among the snaggle-toothed expanse of rocky reefs. A mile or two ahead we could see an orange dot bobbing on the surface. As we neared the raft, we could see the pilot seated, but still upright. He'd been on the water about twenty minutes--almost three times the usual survival interval in those Bering Sea waters. Mike slackened speed as we came closer. Two husky crewmen unrolled a cargo net down the side as the boat circled to bring him alongside to port. They clambered down to water's edge, and each with a opposite arm, swung him bodily up and on deck to hands waiting to grab him and hustle him below. The pilot had been unable to move or assist in his rescue, being cold and stiff -- almost comatose. Down below we peeled his bulky soaked flight suit and boots off, as well as most of his clothing. No way could he be stuffed into one of the 24-volt "bunny suit" warmers that resembled Dr. Denton's. He was too wet and awkwardly stiff, so three guys peeled to their skivvies and piled on the berth with blankets over all to try to warm him. At full speed back we crossed back into the bay, pulled into our Casco Cove floating dock base about 15 minutes later to meet a waiting air base ambulance. For Lt. Bennie Stone, 54th FS, the date, Dec. 7, had become doubly memorable. Not only was he intact, so were the funds for the squadron's Christmas celebration. On P-512 we painted a red cross on another small, white disk that showed from the side of the flying bridge. Lieutenant Stone later told us that after ditching the plane with its dead engines, he sank slowly in it. He'd been too busy to slide back the cockpit canopy and escape. The cockpit became a darker and darker green, then almost black until the descent slowed, then it started up again and the canopy grew lighter. When the plane surfaced, he had a moment to pop the slider back and roll out on the wing as the plane sank again. "It was like sitting perfectly level in an elevator going down, then up," he said. "I thought it was all over for me on the way down. It was impossible to slide the hatch open against the water pressure," he had explained. Fortunately, God gave him another chance. Fifty-five years later, two of Stone's fellow fighter pilots flew via Coast Guard Hercules transport to determine if that P-38 could be salvaged and restored as a museum display. It rests right side up in only 30 to 40 feet of water. If corrosion is minimal, then just maybe it can be saved and restored to be admired again. [ Clark's Notes: P-512 was one of five 85-footers stationed at Casco Cove, Alexai Point, or Chichagof Harbor. AAF offshore rescue boats were stationed from Annette Is. in SE Alaska to Attu. I served on boats at Adak, Amchitka, and Attu. We sailed the 104' and 85' boats from Seattle and Los Angeles. The 10th Emergency Rescue Boat Squadron. (originally 924th QM Co. Boat (avn), served from Spring, 1942, to Jan. or Feb. 1946, from Annette Is. near Ketchikan to Attu in the Aleutians. Boats were stationed at Homer, Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Chernofski, Adak, Amchitka, (rotating to Kiska), and Attu. (I may have missed a couple.) Thirty boats or so, from 158-ft to 104's, 85's, and 42- footers with several smaller ones back on the AK mainland. Outfit had about 500 men; many were recruited from AK. Crews lived on their boats -- those 42' and larger, and brought the larger ones from Stateside on their own bottoms. We never lost a man nor a boat at sea, despite facing some of the world's worst weather. Saved a number of airmen, brought ill and injured men from outposts for treatment, and ferried outpost crews to and from their duties. It was good duty, but I'm glad I don't have to do it again! C. Sherman Green [ More about Clark: I was a Sea Scout decades ago, and then became a deck ape draftee in the Tenth Emergency Rescue Boat Squadron, USAAF, in the Aleutians. I was first stationed aboard the HA-2, a 158-foot "retriever" for the first six months, then wintered over 1943-44 in Constantine Harbor, Amchitka, aboard a 42-foot harbor craft, the J-680, an Owens-built cruiser yacht painted gray and equipped with somewhat larger engines than the civilian counterparts were. Then by air and rail to Los Angeles to pick up new construction -- five 85-foot high speed offshore rescue vessels designed for the tropics. We took them up the West Coast and on to Attu. First winter was pretty uncomfortable, but we added plywood panel dead air space insulation and an on-deck warehouse heater that blew hot air throughout the boat. About every twenty minutes we'd go from near freezing to breathless heat. My tour of duty in Aleutian waters went from Sept., '43 to Nov/Dec. '45 when we brought the boats out to Seattle and turned them in to Uncle Sam for sale at pennies on the dollar. The HA-2 went to the Dutch Government for $1. Just the electronics added to that boat by the AAF beggared that disposal price. ] Click HERE to learn about the "Keebirds."
The Keebird
#2. P-751 is shown coming to the aid of P-519 which had been struck by a williwaw (micro burst?) south of Chuginadak Island on her way back to the States in the fall of 1945. Located by an air search several days later, P-519 had blown-in pilot house windows, a section of foredeck peeled open, crew's quarters and clothing forward flooded, on-deck anchors ripped off and lost, and all radio gear soaked with salt water and useless. Fortunately, the main engines still worked, although the bilge pumps had failed. The 104' P-751 helped pump out the flooding 85' P-519 and accompanied her to safety. [Original B&W]
#3. On April 29, 1944, five shiny new 85-foot high speed offshore rescue boats were turned over to men of the 10th Emergency Rescue Boat Sqdn. in Long Beach CA. They were all destined for duty in the Aleutian Islands. Three were built at the Fellows and Stewart yard -- P-510, 511, and 512. Two others were constructed by Wilmington Boat Company: P-518 and P-519. Here, P-512 is shown on a trial run outside Los Angeles Harbor preparatory to departing up the coast to Seattle and eventually to Attu at the far end of the Aleutian Chain. Interiors of the three first-named were mahogany trimmed with royal blue accents on yellow-cream panels. Very yacht-like in appearance. {Original B&W]
#4. Two crash boats heading north en route to Alaska. [Original B&W]
#5. (L-R) Skipper (Bill) Wilber Green and two crewmen, Axel Nelson and Bill Johnson, onboard the P-510 during its trial run out of Long Beach, CA. Bill Green was the skipper of the P-510 from Long Beach to Adak and then Attu, and was the P-510's skipper until it was sent home from the Aleutians at the end of WWII. Before being assigned to the P- 510 and his trip south to pick it up, Bill was a WO/JG Executive Officer on the P-145 with Mike Hatton as the Skipper. These boats carried 3800 gals. of aviation gas in puncture- proof rubberized fuel tanks. They could cruise easily at 23 or 24 knots for hours, and could achieve 35+ knots wide open. Fourteen men comprised the crew with one of them as a medical technician. The boats were lightly armed with two pairs of Browning air cooled machine guns and one 20mm Oerlikon rapid fire cannon. [Original B&W]
#6. In November, 2000, veterans of crash boats from several areas and eras of war met in Newport Beach, CA, as guests of the Adventures at Sea Yacht Charter Co. The firm currently owns and operates the former P-510 as the Dream Maker, a harbor dinner, party, and excursion boat. Yes, it's really our old P-510 now all gussied up with an extra deck, dance floor, a carpeted saloon, state of the art sound system, bridal suite in the old crews' quarters, and more electronic gear than the whole 10th ERBS had in 1943-45. She's also been re- powered. Long gone are the two 1350 hp Packard-marinized Allison engines. She now has a pair of dinky diesels of 165 hp each, and dazzles onlookers at 6 to 7 knots. A "harbor queen," she is restricted by the Coast Guard to in-harbor use only. [Original Color]
Current Update: 02 Dec 2021 Last Update: 04 Jan 2013 11:54 Originally Published: 21 June 2001
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