Windy Hill, Merle William Davenport, John Orrin Ellsworth and William Lee Landreth in Bougainville
Merle William Davenport
“Butch” Merl is the only true fighter ace pictured in the snapshot. He was credited with 6 confirmed aerial victories during his time in the PTO. Merl passed away in 1989.
John Orrin Ellsworth
John’s Stateside Grave Marker
William Lee Landreth- The last Living Original Pilot from VF-17
From Country’s 2012 obituary:
“He grew up to pilot the powerful F4U Corsair with fighter squadron VF-17, the Jolly Rogers, and was eventually its last surviving original pilot. “Country”, as his squadron mates dubbed him, was credited with 3 kills and 1 assist while his squadron destroyed 154 planes in 76 days of combat in the South Pacific. No bomber escorted by VF-17 was lost to enemy aircraft, no ship ever hit by a bomb or aerial torpedo. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/venturacountystar/obituary.aspx?pid=158047970#sthash.OJ6tGm6u.dpuf
Mr. Landreth eventually passed away due to complication from a WWII injury sustained during his stint with the VF-17. My heart goes out to his family. I hope they find this page and this snapshot of him with his comrades.
Here’s a set of shots I recently picked off eBay. They were taken on the deck of the USS Philippine Sea, and show Corsairs of the VF-114. I particularly like the vibrant reds and yellows of the Kodachrome film. What a treat!
A quick snippit from the wikipedia page for the unit:
“VF-114 was established as VBF-19 (Bombing/Fighter squadron) on January 20, 1945 at NAS Alameda, California. Soon thereafter, VBF-19 moved to NAS North Island, California, where it first flew the Grumman F6F Hellcat and then the Vought F4U-4 Corsair. As with many squadrons after World War II, VBF-19 made several designation changes. The first change was two years later, on 24 August 1948 when it became VF-192, and its final change was on 15 February 1950 when it became VF-114. At this time, VF-114 was known as the “Executioners”.
VF-114 participated in the Korean War deployed on the USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) on July 5, 1950. It flew its Corsairs for several months and conducted over 1,100 strikes against North Korean and Chinese forces. After its return from Korea, VF-114 moved from propeller aircraft to jets, first flying the Grumman F9F Panther. This was soon followed by the McDonnell F2H Banshee and in 1957 VF-114 transitioned to the McDonnell F3H Demon, the first jet operated by the squadron able to carry air-to-air missiles. Now based at NAS Miramar, California, VF-114 made two cruises with the Demon from USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) and one cruise with the Demon from USS Hancock (CVA-19). In 1961, VF-114 transitioned to the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, becoming the first deployable Pacific Fleet fighter squadron to do so. At this point, VF-114 also changed its name and insignia to an Aardvark, apparently inspired by the resemblance between the F-4 and the cartoon character Aardvark in the “B.C.” comic strip. This change became official in 1963.”