Mission from Okinawa: A Morning with VPB-118

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Sunrise on Okinawa. Yontan Airfield, May 1945.

In early May of 1945, Ensign Tom Binford, a U.S. Navy photographer, arrived on Okinawa after spending part of the previous months snapping pics of seaplane tenders around the Marianas. He embedded with VPB-118, one of the USN’s patrol bomber squadrons that had just reached the island, where the crews would soon be flying long range anti-ship missions over the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea.

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Dawn at Yontan Airfield.

Binford was a masterful photographer, and his photos documenting the preparations for one of those missions are both dramatic and artistic. The compositions are especially striking.

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Last hours before the day’s mission.

 

VPB-118 was commissioned in July, 1944 outside of San Diego. The crews flew practice bombing missions around San Francisco throughout the fall of 1944. (Can you imagine the Navy doing that today? Holy smokes!).  In late ’44, the squadron shipped out and arrived on Tinian to join Fleet Air Wing 1, flying its first mission in January 1945. On April 22nd, VPB-118 moved to Yontan Airfield on Okinawa while fighting still raged on the island.

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Two aviation machinist mates make final preparations before the day’s mission.

 

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Mission briefing for a patrol along the Korean coast.

 

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Shortly after Binford took these photos, one of the squadron’s PB4Y Privateer bombers went missing somewhere on patrol. The crew lost included:

Lt. J.A. Lasater
Ens. M.L. Gibson
Ens. C.J. Milner
AMM2c E.W. Smith
ARM3c W.J. Hawkins
AMM3c C.W. Jacobs
AOM2c R.E. Miller
AMM2c S.C. Bryant
ARM3c D. McAllsiter
ARM3c H.F. Brockhorst
AOM3c W.L. Thornton
AMM3c R.A. Carr

Altogether, the “Old Crows,” as the squadron named itself, lost thirty-one men killed or missing in action.

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Categories: World War II in the Pacific | Leave a comment

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