KITS 05/2023

BuNo 70597, Lt. James L. Pearce, VF-17, USS Hornet, March 21, 1945

James Lano Pearce became not only a Naval

fighter but also a remarkable aviation personality.

He enlisted with the Navy on July 3, 1941. After

getting his “wings” and promotion to the rank of

Ensign he served with VS-52 flying scout planes

from Bora Bora, Society Islands, from December

1942 to July 1943. Following he was transferred

to VF-18 and he probably shot down a Zeke on

November 11 in vicinity of Rabaul and shared

0,25 of the victory over a Betty on December 25,

1943. A damaged Betty bomber on January 1944

was his last achievement with VF-18 prior to his

return to west coast, where he helped to reform

VF-17 from March 1944. He returned to combat

aboard USS Hornet (CV-12). He shared one Myrt

shot down on March 18, 1945 and his best day

came on March 21, when he sent down two Betty

bombers and finally recorded 5,25 victories plus

15 aircraft destroyed on the ground. After the

war he was stationed at the Flight Test Division

at NAS Patuxent River until his departure from

the Navy on August 27, 1948. He then continued

his career of test pilot with Grumman, but just

after six months he changed employer and for

the next 15 years helped with the development

of the North American Aviation aircraft. During

this service he lost his left leg below knee in 1953

but kept flying. Another change came at the early

stage of the Apollo space program. Jim Pearce

was placed in charge of test and check out of

the Apollo Command and Service Modules for

the Lunar program and remained at the Kennedy

Space Center until 1967, when he decided to start

his own business, which he run until February 9,

2011, when he died.

BuNo 72663, Ens. William A. Sinnott, VF-24, USS Santee, July 7, 1945

July 7, 1945, was not a lucky day for the escort

carrier USS Santee units VF-24 and VT-24. During

the landing procedure the arresting hook of the

Hellcat flown by Ens William A. Sinnott broke, the

aircraft cleared all the barriers a ran into parked

planes, causing a fire. Four Hellcats and two

Avengers were jettisoned, six torpedo bombers

were damaged and one of the pilots of the parked

aircraft was killed. VF-24 was on its second tour

from March 27 to July 19. During this spell the

pilots were mostly tasked with ground attack

missions, as they were supporting the Allied


INFO Eduard

landings on Okinawa from April 1 and helping

British carrier forces to deny Japanese units to

use the airfields on the Sakishima islands. On

June 16, USS Santee launched a fighter bomber

mission against targets on Kyūshū, Japanese

mainland. On June 19 the ship arrived at Leyte

Gulf and undergo minor repairs. She was in

action again from July 1 and at the time of the

Sinnott’s crash was covering minesweeping

operations west of Okinawa. During the whole

second tour the pilots of VF-24 achieved just

three aerial victories, which was down to the

nature of their tasks. Two months and two weeks

after the crash on the deck of USS Santee, the

VF-24 was disbanded on September 20, 1945. As

a part of the Carrier Division 22, their Hellcats

sported white tails and white rectangles on the

leading edge of the starboard wing’s upper side).

The aircraft of USS Santee were distinguished

by two yellow stripes on the rear fuselage and

on the wing, accompanying the white rectangle.

Aircraft from USS Chennango sported one yellow

stripe, USS Suwanee two white stripes and USS

Sangamon one white stripe.

May 2023