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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Awaiting the New PBY-5s

"We were an operating squadron again."

During that almost idyllic but rather boring peaceful time, I maintained a desultory correspondence not only occasionally with the family back home, but also with Patty Cross, Elaine, and Shirley Mills.  The latter did not last.  Somehow I was just not much interested and her letters were not the breezy, chatty notes that I got form Elaine and Patty.  Shirley’s letters tended to have a rather possessive flavor to them.  I decided that I could do with less letter writing so, finally, I wrote her that we were not meant for each other—a sort of “Dear Jane” letter.  In return she sent me a new portrait of herself inscribed, “To Conrad, a boy who will always have a spot in my heart”.  I thought that would be that.
I kept up my correspondence off and on with both Elaine and Patty, keeping them up to date and asking about people and things at home.  Elaine was the most faithful to answer.  She wrote as delightfully as she talked, often skipping blithely from subject to subject and always was interesting and entertaining.
Around the first of November (I did not record the exact date in my diary) every one of us were on the ramp the day the new PBY-5s came sweeping around Bird Island and over the bay.  They were a magnificent sight when they made one pass in formation over the base before they peeled off to land.  They were powered by the latest supercharged Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 engines that produced 1,450 horsepower each.  That gave them better takeoff capability, a cruise speed of 110 knots, and improved climb capability.
There were external changes that were obvious.  They flat sliding waist gunners hatches had been replaced by Plexiglas gun “blisters” that also gave good visibility for anti-submarine patrols.  The shaped of the rudder had been changed to a straight trailing edge.  Instead of the silver fuselages and rudders with squadron stripes, the new airplanes were painted a camouflage blue on the topsides and light grey on the bottom in an effort to make the airplanes harder to see by potential enemy either from above or below.  All in all, the PBY-5s had much more businesslike appearance than the old PBY-1s and the deep-throated roar of those big fourteen cylinder radial engines literally sent delighted shivers along my spine.
Our rather sullen non-cooperation with Lt. Delaney, born of boredom and inactivity, was suddenly forgotten.  We enthusiastically reinforced the beach crew with volunteers (me included), splashed the big 600-pound side mounts into the water, and in record time brought those beautiful aircraft ashore.  We were an operating squadron again.

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