As you are doubtless aware by now, I am privileged to be a mostly passive participant in a bunch of email strings with other retired Navy spooks (I generate too much of my own blather), and generally respect (and protect) their privacy and stories. I have saved several of the strings about places like Cambodia and the long mostly cold opposition to the Soviet Union which could curdle the cream in your coffee. Maybe the whole NORK Nuke thing brought this all around to me this morning.
I mentioned yesterday about blankly staring at the variety and diversity of the types Newman’s Own salad dressings at the Harris Teeter supermarket in my neighborhood, and his amazing image featured on each bottle. I had to look it up when I got home (Ranch is what I got, but I will be back) and being startled by the fact that a man who was the epitome of youth and vigor in my growing-up years (Like Clint Eastwood was, as wrangler Rowdy Yates on the small screen) has been in his grave nearly a decade, and his lovely wife is suffering the same indignity as my folks, having her memories of a magical life and very personhood stolen from her.
I did not compile the below, but our pal Jim did, and I feel I have lived at least part of it. I am grateful to the amazing pals we have who do what they do. From Jim’s account:
Paul enlisted in the Navy in 1943, after graduating from high school and just days before his 18th birthday, hoping to become a Navy pilot…..
Failing the eye test, he was instead sent to boot camp and aviation training to become a radioman-gunner and was assigned to the TBF “Avenger” Replacement Air Group (RAG) at Barber’s Point on O’ahu’s western shore.
He was eventually assigned to “Torpedo Eight” (VT-8) … the one we have talked about frequently of battle of Midway fame – and flew combat missions in the Western Pacific, evidently mostly aboard USS Hollandia….
Maybe the highlight of his career was missing an assignment to USS Bunker Hill with the rest of his squadron during the Battle of Okinawa… his pilot had a “medical down” (Flight Surgeon says you can’t fly) and the crew and aircraft did not shift carriers with the others.
Bunker Hill would be hit by two Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa and lost almost 400 men. VT-8 was heavily hit and lost almost two dozen…..
This piece of luck had a profound effect on Paul and his future outlook on life…….
The Avenger was the largest single-engined Navy acft of the time, 18,000 lbs… and had a 50′ wingspan….. and a 3-man crew, pilot, bomb/nav, and radioman-rear gunner.
Like the Grumman F4F Wildcat, it employed a new innovation …. the STO-wing mechanism developed on the XF4F-4 prototype by Leroy Grumman (1895-1982), a founder of Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, proved to be crucial to the USN’s carrier successes during World War II.
The mechanism could not only fold the large wings, but also pivot them rearward in order to save deck space. E-2 Hawkeye early warning and aviation control aircraft still used his feature in all my time at sea.
Newman mustered out at Naval Air Station Seattle in 1946 and go to college on the GI Bill … and onward…which is where you came to know him. I don’t know who the other guy in the picture below is.
Later, Paul said he felt ‘lucky’ and fortunate to have survived, and was later noted for some significant philanthropic efforts…some based on salad dressing.”
One notable Avenger pilot was future American President George H. W. Bush, flying a TBM Avenger off the light aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) in 1944.
Most of them noted another famous American, Lt(jg) George Bush… as a very young Avenger pilot…and at the time the youngest Naval Aviator on active service.”
My great thanks for this account of a great American’s early life, and particularly to our peripatetic pal Jim. There is a lot more to share- but it may have to be in a book reviewed by the security dweebs.