January 1945 until September 1945

Attached to Air Group 85 on the USS Shangri-La, CV-38

 

 
Email from Bob Chorak 20 Feb 08

 

My cousin John is a model airplane builder and has completed what I recall as being a 1/5 scale F4U-1D in honor of his uncle and my Dad (aka., Anton) Tony, who passed July 5. 2006. It actually takes a special motorcycle engine as the power plant ... so it is the real deal. John also located and talked to John Chapman, so I will check with him and get some of the photos of his plane and that he has found. John still lives in Streator, so I will also ask him to take photos of the Owens Glass Factory Stacks and the Vermillion River bridge, to go with the news article he dug up and I am attaching. 

In a joint research effort, John found your site and shared it with me, we continue to share information. Dad was Chapman's wingman (who was shot down, due to the SQ leader delay and circling before the attack - his canopy defroster failed at the same time and had to pull out at low altitude & wait for the heat to defrost his canopy - the CAP over Chapman allowed him to catch-up and land with the wing.) ... the leader he referred to as the "Texan" was a balls to the wall guy who dove right away before the Jap's could zero their AA .... the men all liked the Texan - the new mission leader dove first and never got shot down - but managed to get others hit or shot down. Guys like this flight leader never went on deck at night, as they had a way of disappearing, according to Dad. He said the Jap's were good shots and did not like flying into their fire.  He most often flew the oil spewing # 28 Corsair and often had to land with his head outside of the cockpit.

He flew photo cover over Hiroshima one hour after the bomb and was astonished by the level of damage. Like alphabetical home room in high school he often took off in the dark for early airfield strikes on Kamikaze's. And on two a day missions took off in the light and landed in the dark (luck of the draw with a last name of C), where he said senior officers would bet on would hit the 3rd wire, crash and the like. After the Typhoons with waves crashing on the deck he never went a ship at sea again, even for a cruise.

The "Shang" (Shangri-La) was Adm. Mc Cain's flag ship and he was an early proponent of night fighting and flight, before it had been perfected. As an aside I found VBF-85 was also on the WASP and detached from the ship after it took heavy damage; thus some of the unidentified shoulder patches on the example jacket. The Ship patch for the Shangri-La (the subject of many "Tokyo Roses" broadcast was desired target ,as FDR named the ship after something that could not be found) is smaller an rectangular with an orange/red like fill). The "Sky Pirates" Patch was a stylized Asian Demon, riding the lightning bolt of retribution, with implications of night flying with moon and stars in the background. Dad's original jacket was stolen out of a friend's car in San Diego upon returning stateside

Anyway you have a very nice site honoring these men who did their jobs and landed most of the time under condition "Queen" less than 50 gallons (as a special target CV-38 always moved out to sea after takeoff and returned just to the missions wing range). Dad was a wild careless driver that God protected as a dare devil (just right for a cocky fighter pilot and all of these guys were very well trained and exceptional pilots. He took it little too far upon return doing stunts flying under low bridges and between factory smoke stacks in a small town 70 miles South of Chicago. As a consequence of getting grounded, he ultimately missed Korea, likely saving his life as nearly all the Korea reservists called up were KIA. The article is attached. As an aside, the only other Naval Aviator fighter Pilot from Streator, IL., was Bill Chatham Dad's high school home room buddy ... so it was not a big mystery who the offending pilot was for patrons of the Chorak families Tavern. On the day VBF-85 was relieved by the "Tall Dogs" of VF-2, old # 28 would not fly, so Tony had to wait on the deck for his plane to be taken down and repaired and while waiting VF-2 landed and the two old high school buddies got a chance to catch-up at Wars end.

Bill may still be alive and is a very colorful guy, who I have met and had dinner with. He stayed in the Navy Reserves and pursued a movie career with Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and was only one of a handful of straight guys with all those beautiful women. I think he too has a website, just remember he is a showman, as well as one of the smoothest lady's men I have ever met. His Hollywood drinking buddies were the Little Rascals, David Jansen, Jeff Chandler and the like.

I think your idea of sharing e-mail input is a good one and you have my permission to include the above and all the attachments I have shared.

Bob Chorak