Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Navy 1
Rank:
Seabee MM2C 1
Birth:
10 Jun 1923 1
Treichlers, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, USA 1
Death:
03 Oct 2010 1
Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, USA 1
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Personal Details

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Birth:
10 Jun 1923 1
Treichlers, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, USA 1
Male 1
Death:
03 Oct 2010 1
Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, USA 1
Burial:
Burial Date: 06 Oct 2010 1
Burial Place: St. Paul's Indianland Church Cemetery, Cherryville, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, USA 1
Residence:
Place: Williams Avenue, Walnutport, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, USA 1
From: 1953 1
To: 2010 1
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Birth:
Mother: Olevia Amanda Heckman 1
Father: Horace Franklin Anthony 1
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World War II 1

Branch:
Navy 1
Rank:
Seabee MM2C 1
Service Start Date:
02 Sep 1943 1
Service End Date:
17 Dec 1945 1

World War II 1

Branch:
Navy 1

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Obituary

Merritt Paul Anthony, 87, of Walnutport, passed away Sunday, October 3, 2010, in Lehigh Valley Hospital Center, Cedar Crest. Born in Treichlers, he was the son of the late Horace and Olevia (Heckman) Anthony. He worked as a diesel mechanic at Arrow Carrier in Allentown for 25 years, retiring in 1982. He was previously employed at Michael Buick in Slatington and at Fritzinger's Garage in Walnutport. He was a life member of the Allen O. Delke Post 16 of The American Legion in Slatington and the Diamond Fire Company in Walnutport. Merritt was a World War II veteran of the Navy Seabees, serving in the Central Pacific Theater of Operations at Eniwetok, Marshall Islands in CBMU 592.  Survivors: His wife, four daughters, two sons, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren.  He was predeceased by his sister, Irene E. Vogel Fredo, and his brother, William F. Anthony Services: Private, at the convenience of the family. Arrangements, Harding Funeral Home, 25-27 N. Second St., Slatington. 


Published in Morning Call on October 5, 2010

“Normal Requirement” The Navy’s Worst Ever Aircraft Accident By David Trojan, USN Retired, story updated 4 June 2009

Eniwetok

On 9 August 1944, there were 340 aircraft parked in the carrier aircraft replacement pool area crowded on the small island of Eniwetok and lined up along the sides of the short airstrip.  Maximum use of all available space was used to park all the aircraft and most had just arrived that day.  The carrier aircraft were assigned to a Carrier Air Service Unit as replacement aircraft as needed to support the rapidly advancing forward operating units. Safety factors normal to rear areas due to the continual operations were by necessity reduced.  The usual right of way clearance on either side of a through runway simply did not apply.  

 

At 10:26 pm, Lieutenant R. C. Anderson attempted to take off his overloaded PB4Y-1, Buno 38766, ex USAAF B-24 serial number 44-40348, assigned to VB-116.  The PB4Y-1 was carrying nine 500-ld bombs, a full load of .50 caliber ammunition and gasoline.  Its gross take off weight was 66,000 lbs; the emergency maximum gross weight of the PB4Y-1 aircraft was listed at 64,000 lbs. During the war the combat loads regularly exceeded 65,000 lbs, often at 67,000 plus. Operating PB4Y-1 aircraft in excess of their recommended gross weight had become routine and a normal requirement in the area to accomplishment its combined mission of reconnaissance and strike.  

 

As the aircraft just lifted off, the Pilot cut throttles and aborted his take-off due to darkness, load and rolling runway. With the extra weight of the aircraft the controls were mushy and soft. The pilot thought he was still on the runway mat, but was actually airborne. With a thirty degree cross-wind the plane drifted left and crashed into the parked carrier planes immediately adjacent to the runway. As the plane collided with the first row of parked airplanes, it carried away wing tips off the folded wings, canopies and came to rest in the parking area fifty-yards past the end of runway and twenty yards to the left. The PB4Y-1 plane burned with the fire spreading to other parked aircraft.  The fire then caused the low order detonation of all nine 500-lb bombs and was instrumental in extending sphere of devastation to include the loss or damage of 106 aircraft.  The succession of explosions and detonations of .50 caliber ammunition continued for a period of approximately two hours. During the catastrophe men worked without regard to their personal safety in close proximity to the burning and exploding airplanes and ammunition in isolating and localizing the fires and clearing the debris to bring the conflagration under control.  Eighty four planes out of the 106 were destroyed or so damaged as to be unfit for further use. The type of planes destroyed included F6F-3, 16 aircraft; FM-1, 11 aircraft; SB2C-1, 12 aircraft; SB2C-3, 3 aircraft; and TBM-1, 42 aircraft. Another 22 aircraft were damaged, but repairable.  Nine members of the crew were killed, but miraculously, two crewmen survived.  

The crew included:  Pilot Lt Romone C. Anderson A-V(N) USNR/Killed, Ens T. M. Pettit AV(N) USNR/Killed,Ens O. B. Tully A-V(N) USNR/(died of injuries Aug 15th, 1944), AMM1c L. Johnson USN/Seriously injury, Sea1c H. A. Heper USNR/Killed, ARM1c J. W. Chalmers USNR/Killed, ARM3c A. F. Burkhartemeyer USNR/Seriously injury, AOM2c J. D. Rothwell USNR/Killed, Sea1c A. A. Van Winkle USNR/Killed, Sea1c E. Petri USNR/Killed, and AOM3c G. A. Ehinger USNR/Killed.

  

 It was the Commanding Officer of VB-116 opinion that “The accident was due to failure of the pilot to react to imperceptible drift, and to his temporary misjudgment of the fact that his plane had become airborne.”  The error on the part of the pilot was aggravated by the crowded conditions of the airfield.  The carrier type aircraft that arrived that day were required to be parked at the edge of the upwind end of the mat, because no other space was available. This left insufficient room for any deviation on takeoff from the exact center line of the runway. It was realized that the maximum use of all available space on forward area air strips was vital to the furtherance of the war effort.  A number of recommendations were made to preclude another event of this magnitude from happening again.

  

 The accident on the island of Eniwetok may be the greatest loss of aircraft due to a single aircraft crash in naval history.  Many factors were involved in this incident, but the demands caused by wartime conditions undoubtedly played a major role.  The U.S. Navy was building up for the final assault on the Japanese homeland. The large number of aircraft destroyed would have been a set back for operations, but only for a short time. By late 1944, the U.S. dominated the Pacific skies with overwhelming numbers of aircraft.    The recommendations from this tragic accident were forwarded up the chain of command and war operations continued. However, exceeding the maximum gross take off weight allowance for the PB4Y-1 aircraft remained as the normal requirement due to the long patrol distances.  Other PBY-1 accidents were to follow.  Less than one month later, on 8 September 1944, another heavily overloaded PB4Y-1 plane ran off the end at Navy Advance Base, North Field, Tinian airstrip.  The aircraft was a complete loss; however there were no injuries or deaths and no other aircraft were destroyed. The demands of war continued to stress the limits of the aircrews and aircraft. 

 

http://pacaeropress.websitetool box.com/file?id=942063

Dad told me he helped pull dead bodies out of a burning airplane that had crashed on Eniwetok's only runway - forgot to tell me about the bombs and ammunition - did mention he thought the entire island was going to blow up. He celebrated his 21st birthday in June of 1944 onboard the USS Yarmouth, an Army troop transport ship, headed for Island X.

Williams Avenue's "Mr. Fix It"

Merritt Paul Anthony aka "Williams Avenue's Mr. Fix It"

The skills Dad developed while serving in the Seabees were utilized by him throughout  his entire life. He first worked as an auto mechanic for two local Buick dealerships.  He helped me pick out my first car...a beautiful Burgundy 1965 Buick Skylark.   Five years later I was the proud owner of a Diplomat Blue 1970 Buick Skylark GS. Blue was one of his favorite colors.   Did I mention Buicks were his favorite cars? He later worked as a deisel  mechanic at a local trucking company until his retirement.  

He repaired broken toys and bicycles for neighborhood children, helped  neighbors get their lawnmowers and vehicles started, and taught me (a girl) to change a tire, and do routine maintenance on my cars.  Dad could fix anything!  He passed his skills on to me.  I am in no way helpless when it comes to fixing things or doing household repairs.  

Thank you Dad!!!

 

Eniwetok Atoll, in the Marshall Islands
With the capture of Eniwetok Atoll on February 20, 1944, control of the Marshall Islands, which had been in Japanese hands since 1914, passed to the United States. The atoll was to be developed principally as a Navy and Marine air base and a fleet anchorage, with no shore facilities other than a recreational area.

Eniwetok Atoll, consisting of 30 small islands of sand and coral, lies about 326 miles northwest of Kwajalein. The circumference of the atoll is 64 miles and the maximum elevation is 15 feet. There are three entrances to the lagoon.

Eniwetok Island is two miles long and one-quarter of a mile wide. Engebi Island is triangular, each side measuring one mile, and has a good landing beach on the lagoon side. Parry Island is two miles long and very narrow, with a sandy beach on the lagoon side.

The 22nd Marines and elements of the 106th Infantry captured Eniwetok Atoll in a swift amphibious operation that lasted less than five days, landing February 18, 1944, on five small islands in the atoll, just southeast of Engebi Island. Engebi, forming the northern tip of the atoll, was the site of an airstrip, the most important installation on the atoll. Bombardment of Engebi continued throughout the day and night, and the following morning the assault began. Our forces moved rapidly inland, and the island was in our hands by late afternoon. While mopping-up continued in the northern section of the atoll, other Army and Marine units, on the morning of the 20th, landed on Eniwetok Island, the southeastern anchor of the atoll and the largest island of the group. By late the next morning, enemy forces had been eliminated. On the morning of the 22nd, our forces landed on Parry Island, site of a seaplane base, northeast of Eniwetok, and by evening that island also had been captured. No Seabee units participated in the initial assault.

Echelons of the 110th Battalion arrived at Eniwetok between February 21 and 27, 1944, and immediately began clearing for a bomber strip. On March 11, the first plane landed and on April 5, the first mission by permanently based bomber squadrons was flown from Stickell Field. The completed field, 6,800 feet long and 400 feet wide, had two taxiways, facilities for major engine-overhaul, and housing for aviation personnel in quonset huts.

As activities increased, land area became insufficient to support these activities properly. To overcome this difficulty, quonset huts were erected atop one-story buildings, a measure which proved very practical.

On Parry Island, the 110th Battalion developed a seaplane base, using the existing Japanese ramp, and provided a coral-surfaced parking area, and shops for minor aircraft and engine overhaul. This base was capable of supporting one squadron of patrol bombers, but activities were limited by the eistence of only one ramp and by tides which were unfavorable to beaching activities.

Wrigley Airfield, on Engebi Island, was built to support four squadrons of Marine fighters until sufficient space at Eniwetok became available for their operation. The 126th Battalion arrived at Engebi on March 11, 1944, and took over development of this airfield from the 47th Army Engineers. Aviation facilities, when completed, included a fighter strip, 3950 by 225 feet, taxiways with 150 hardstands, and engine-overhaul shops.

A tank farm of twelve 1,000-barrel tanks, with piping, a floating pipe-line, 1,200 feet long, and a tanker mooring, was completed for aviation gasoline on Eniwetok Island by May 1944. Completion had been delayed by the explosion of an LCT in March, which reduced the status of completion of the farm from 80 to 30 percent. An aviation-gasoline tank farm, with a capacity of 146,000 gallons and all appurtenances, was also erected on Engebi.

Two coral-fill piers, one 80 and the other 150 feet long, were built on Eniwetok Island, and two beaches were developed for LCT's. Small-boat-repair shops were also built, and a floating dock for small ships was assigned to the base. At Parry Island, a marine railway was installed on an existing Japanese pier, and boat-repair shops were also erected. The Seabees repaired a 30-by-150-foot Japanese pier at Engebi, with timber piling, to accomodate small craft, including LCM's.

Medical facilities were provided by three dispensaries with a total capacity of 200 beds, one each at Eniwetok, Engebi, and Parry islands. Quonset huts and tents were erected for base storage and housing.

By June 1944, the major work projects on Engebi had been completed and CBMU 594 reported to take charge of maintenance activities. The 126th Battalion, pending its departure in October, was assigned to small projects on several islands in the atoll, including construction of a fleet recreation center on Hawthorne Island. CBMU 608 arrived in

 

--325--

 

 


Quonset Hut Variation at Eniwetok
Operations building, showing quonset huts erected atop one-story buildings

August 1944 to relieve the 110th Battalion, which left in September. The air base on Engebi was decommissioned on September 18, 1944, and by May 1945, all activities except a token garrison had been transferred to Eniwetok.

In June 1945, the 67th Battalion reported at Eniwetok, to build a fleet recreation area for 35,000 men and to extend carrier-aircraft service-unit facilities at Parry Island. V-J-Day found the 67th and CBMU 608 still stationed at Eniwetok.

DO YOU REMEMBER?

MARCH 1944 - 1st CBMU 592 was born in wedlock (?) out of the 139th Battalion and the 143rd Battalion . . . . 11th - We left Gulfport, Mississippi, (and Bay St. Louis with its barbecued pigs and beer) . . . . 15th - Arrived at Port Hueneme and met Hollywood, Santa Barbara, L. A., the beach towns, the Palladium, Janis Paige (anyhow, somebody met her).  

APRIL 1944 - Between liberties we got our first taste of Quonset hut construction, special schools, provost-marshall details . . . . 28th - Lt. Slater replaced Lt. Key as Officer in Charge.

MAY 1944 - Business as usual and all those luscious liberties. "How many 72's did you get, Mac?" 

JUNE 1944 - Things happened this month . . . . 2nd - Restricted to the base. . . . 4th - Farewell party at the "Barn" and some of the fellows didn't recover until they were three days out at sea. . . . 6th - "D" day!!! Remember seeing those newspaper headlines from the trucks on the way to the pier? and how seasick you were those first few days on the boat? How many said they were sending for their families because they refused to take the same trip back?. . . . 21st - "Invasion" of Eniwetok.  Established beach "head", put up pup tents and went to sleep. 

JULY 1944 - We went to work. We worked for the 110th NCB, then they worked for us.  We built shops, Quonsets for barracks, took over air strip maintenance, unloaded our supplies.  We did not build "our" galley. 

AUGUST 1944 - We finally were settled for a long stay.  Our Quonset huts were finished, the shops were completed, every activity on the Island who wanted anything knew our location and phone number. . . . 10th - We found out what a major air raid would be like. A loaded patrol bomber crashed on the strip and the resulting holocaust destroyed or damaged about 160 planes.  Dunkley and C. O. P. Werely pulled some of the boys out of the plane. Doughty, Brooks, Burner, Coulter, Crain and Fox had their hands full with bulldozers, keeping the fire under some sort of control.  The other fellows who could help were working on the strip, pulling planes our of reach of the spreading flames.  That night convinced us wer didn't want any air raids. We didn't build "our" galley!

SEPTEMBER 1944 - The hurricane season arrived and we spent lots of time getting ready for something that never happened . . . . The 110th finally left after a rather exciting game of "put and take" with equipment. Somebody found a front end loader in a big hole . . . .  Island Command took over the galley to show us how it should be run.  

OCTOBER 1944 - We salvaged a boat on our spare time, fixed it up for fishing parties, - and then were thanked very nicely by the Boat Pool when they took it back. . . . We set some sort of a record in laying pipe and electrical wire across the airstrip, completing a nine hour job in an hour and twenty minutes. Still no galley!

NOVEMBER 1944 - More special jobs - submarine cable laid between Parry Island and Eniwetok Island; a C-54 crashed on the 18th and we salvaged most of the personal gear and the mail; on the 24th there was a near hurricane damaging, among other things, the 75 foot flagpole in front of the NAB Administration Building . . . . on the 23rd Lieut. Graf replaced Lieut. Slater as Officer in Charge . . . . we worked out a way of lifting Quonset huts without disassembling them.  No galley!

DECEMBER 1944 - Business as usual! Lt. Comander Moulton arrived as Public Works Officer for the base. . . . Christmas parties, planned and unplanned, helped a little, but we still remembered much happier Christmases.  

DO YOU REMEMBER?

JANUARY 1945 - This was the month the rates started to bounce. "Hello mate, what's your rate?" Salerno finally stopped moaning about not getting an advancement. . . . Dunkley and Werley were presented with Navy and Marine Corps Medals for their part in rescuing the fliers during the plane crash last August. . . . We received a pat on the back for repairing LCT's, but it didn't help much.  Eight months of Eniwetok was beginning to get us down. And still no galley!

FEBRUARY 1945 - Rates were still bouncing and nine months here didn't help at all. . . . We had a party at the Officers' Club and nine fellows got stiff- arms playing the one-armed bandits.  Machlin put on a magic show greatly enjoyed by the three people who watched it.  Everybody enjoyed the 51st Marine band ably supplemented by Salerno, Balistrieri and Lemolo. 

MARCH 1945 - Business as usual.  The OinC took a crack at getting us off the Island but no dice. . . . We finally went off a seven day week after ten months.  But we didn't build "our" galley.

APRIL 1945 - Big jobs completed this month included a new parking area on the strip, the NAB Brig and CB Water Works.

MAY 1945 - We lost forty men this month, the first big reduction in our strength since we were organized.  The boys were transferred to Pearl Harbor for further assignment in order to reduce the rates in which we were overcomplemented.  It meant that there were now some vacancies existing for advancement, but we sure hated to see the boys leave. . . . Lt. Sutton replaced Lt. Graff, as officer in charge on the 26th, allowing Mr. Graff to return for rehabilitation leave.  

JUNE 1945 - We received 50 new men as replacements. . . . We completed a full year on the "rock" and commemorated the event with an anniversary party. . . . The expansion of the base hit us hard by putting us back once more on a seven day work week. . . . Eddie Long went back as the first man to be discharged from this Unit under a formal discharge pattern. 

JULY 1945 - Three more "old men" went back to be discharged, and wonder of wonders, Homer Isbell went home on rehabilitation leave. . . .  We were all wondering how big the base could get without filling in the lagoon . . .  we laid a diesel pipe line under water to a raft to facilitate unloading. . . . "Our" galley - never!

AUGUST 1945 - Our first casualties, Otto Wagner and Bill Misunas - a blow torch exploded and burned them, but they quickly recovered. . . . We lost nine more men in excess rates. . . . Japan surrendered and we all hoped the surrender would shorten the war. . . . However, the only thing it shortened was the work week as once again we went on a six day week. . . .  The discharge point system, with no credit for overseas duty, came out, and it seemed, after 15 months overseas, and the surrender of Japan, that we were further away from home than ever. Who wants a galley now?

A Seabee Poem

 We work like hell, we fight like hell,

 And always come back for more:

The Navy's advance base engineers

On many a foreign shore.

On half the lousy islands

From here to Timbuktu ,

You'll find a hive of Seabees

One hell of a fighting crew.  

 

The admiral just dropped around

To chat the other night,

He said, "Now boys, I know you work

But you've also been trained to fight."

"So if there's any trouble, don't stop

To put on your jeans;

Just drop your tools, grab up your guns

And protect those poor Marines."

 

Author Unknown

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