KITS 08/2023

BuNo. 55643, VC-69, USS Guadalcanal, spring/summer 1944

FM-2s played a significant role in the Atlantic,

where the Composite Squadrons focused on

support of anti-submarine missions as the

German U-boats were a major threat to supply

convoys. The Composite Squadrons operated

from small Casablanca or Sangamon class

escort carriers and consisted usually of the TBM

Avengers and the FM-2 Wildcats. Smaller size of

FM-2 suited better to the cramped conditions on

board than the massive Hellcats. USS Gadalcanal

was converted from the freighter Astrolabe

Bay and entered service in September 1943.

During her maiden voyage she destroyed three

submarines. As a flagship of the Task Group 22.3

USS Guadalcanal added two more U-boats to her

score on the second tour. More to it, the TG 22.3

managed to capture lightly damaged German

submarine. After that tour the VC-8 was replaced

by VC-69 in the fall. The unit was activated on

July 1, 1943 and first was placed on board of USS

Bogue from May to July 1944. During this cruise,

pilots were credited with the destruction of the

Japanese submarine I-52, which was on a secret

mission to German-occupied Lorient, France.

No further similar successes were recorded

by this squadron aboard USS Guadalcanal, and

the unit was inactivated on June 22, 1945. Her

FM-2s bore the later Atlantic livery of Dark Gull

Gray and white. The inner part of the propeller

blades were painted white to lighten the

appearance of the “dark hole” in the nose of the

aircraft. The unit’s emblem was a wolf’s head

with aviator’s goggles; VC-69 aircraft sported it

on both sides of the nose.

BuNo. 74626, VC-8, Lt.(jg) Harry N. O’Connor, USS Nehenta Bay, August 1945

Combined Squadron VC-8 operated aboard the

aircraft carrier USS Nehenta Bay from May to

September 1945. Prior to that, it had operated

from the decks of USS Mission Bay and USS

Guadalcanal. With USS Nehenta Bay, she left the

Atlantic theater and moved to the Pacific. USS

Nehenta Bay had been operating in the area since

June 1944, when she joined with TF-51 aboard

for offensive operations against the Marianas.

Subsequently, from August 1944 to January 1945,

August 2023

she escorted and protected, with VC-11 aboard,

tankers for refueling at sea, allowing for more

efficient use of naval forces. She returned to the

U.S. on February 19, 1945, for repairs at San Diego,

and on May 9, already with VC-8 aboard, she

arrived at Ulithi, where she prepared for attacks

on Okinawa as part of Task Unit 52.1. She then

protected tankers again from late June until early

August, and after the fighting ceased, anchored at

Pearl Harbor on September 24. There, VC-8 was

inactivated on October 8. This aircraft, with Lt.(jg)

O’Connor in the cockpit, crashed on landing on

August 5, striking the aircraft on board. Two other

FM-2s (BuNos. 75081 and 74508) were destroyed.

The aircraft bore the identifying markings of the

carrier and Task Unit, i.e., white fields on the

ailerons (extending slightly into the wing) white

aft under the horizontal tail surfaces, and twin

yellow stripes on the wing and fuselage in front

of the tail surfaces.

INFO Eduard