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Navy Spitfire pilot, a D-Day Remembrance


pararaftanr2
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pararaftanr2

Another image of Hammersmith while he was in England, with his fellow VCS-7 Spitfire pilots. He is in the front row, far left.

 

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pararaftanr2

Thank you Jerry, I know you appreciate it.

 

I've made a couple of recent additions to the display. One two dimensional and one three dimensional:

 

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pararaftanr2

Thank you. I still need to clip the wings on the model though for better accuracy. It was purchased completed and added to the base.

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BlueBookGuy

a formidable job as always Paul, even though that's virtually needless to say. But it's 100% right pointing it out.

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  • 11 months later...
pararaftanr2

Updated for the 76th anniversary with some additional photos of the men and machines of VCS-7. These previously unpublished images were discovered in the National Archives by Forum member Dustin a couple of years ago, so a big "thanks" to him.

 

First we see LT (jg) Charles S. Zinn, USNR, seated in the cockpit of a clipped-wing Spitfire LF Vb (serial number unknown) coded "4X", the squadron's most-photographed aircraft. In this case, the "4" designates the squadron, and the "X" the individual aircraft. Invasion stripes were hastily applied at most airfields on the day before D-Day, to preserve secrecy. Period photos show the outlines typically being chalked on and the stripes being brush painted, rather hastily, in most cases.

Next is LT (jg) W. F. Lathrop, USNR, is seen here in the same aircraft, but is photographed from the starboard side. The squadron's assigned aircraft were second-hand machines from the RAF, but well maintained and of much higher performance than anything the scouting squadron pilots were used to. Zinn and Lathrop both flew from USS Tuscaloosa. The caption for this photo states that the LT is "about to taxi his Spitfire out of its pen for a flight to France". We can see that "4X" is in an earthen revetment at one of the dispersal areas around the airfield at RNAS Lee-on-Solent. None of these photos are dated, being credited only to "SHAEF" and having been received by the Bureau of Aeronautics on February 17, 1945, but had to have been taken between June 6 and June 25, 1944.

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pararaftanr2

Once operational after D-Day, the one USN, two RAF and four FAA squadrons of the spotting force pooled their ninety aircraft, so the American pilots could have flown any of VCS-7's twenty assigned planes or any of the other squadron's Spitfires, or Seafires, that were available on any given day. USN pilots did always fly together in pairs, however. Maintenance duties were shared between USN, RAF and FAA ground crews. Below we see Louis W. Orsie, AMM3c, USNR, who looks on as radio mechanic John Dillon of the Fleet Air Arm makes an adjustment inside the radio compartment. Note the fabric cover over the Mark II gyro gunsight in the cockpit.

 

Lastly, another image of the ground crewmen.  From left to right, Ralph D. Malstrom, AMM3c, USNR, Corp. Edmund Oxtoby, RAF (on the ground) and Albert J. Dellevelt, AMM2c, USNR work on the Rolls Royce V12 Merlin engine of an RAF Spitfire. The two Navy men appear to be wearing the one-piece HBT coverall, standard issue to mechanics in the Army, as well as the Navy. An auxiliary power unit can be seen at the lower left, known to the RAF as a "trolley acc", it provided extra battery power to help start the plane's engine.

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Excellent thread and unique equipment used by Mr Hammersmith.

 Great job on keeping his memory alive.

 

Semper Fi

Phil

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  • 6 months later...
5.45M18Hellcat

Hello there, gentleman. Let me start off by saying this. Finding Mr. Hammersmiths flying helmet on the forum, let alone anything about him is utterly astonishing to me. I knew Harris personally for years as a younger boy living in his neighborhood when he was a very elderly man, I have gobs of stories he told me when I would walk over after school to hear his amazing tales of being an American fly boy in a Spitfire. I remember him quietly sitting in his favorite chair at the edge of the garage with his sweet little black puppy and a good old cup of Joe, watching the neighborhood almost as if he was our guard. I drove with him to get his favorite Mcdonalds coffee often, and watched him swish it around his mouth with every sip, before he began talking about anything serious with me. I could go on and on about how great of a character he was. One hell of a man, even in his old age. Back on topic though. The flying helmet. When I was younger I was getting into collecting militaria, and was aware of the treasures Mr. Hammersmith had as far as his personal flight gear goes. I also vividly remember him passing, and than discussing with my father if his belongings from the war would hopefully be preserved considering the role he played in Normandy was extremely historical, despite many people not knowing that. I remember there was also his leather flying jacket, with a big white fur collar and gold wings with his name right underneath. I saw it almost daily and asked him how warm it was while flying. Unfortunately, at the time it was already deteriorating so badly the wire hanger it was on was poking through the leather shoulders from years of storage in the garage!! God knows where that jacket is now, but hopefully someone with knowledge of this great man kept it. He gave me some things as I got older, he knew I was into military gear and one day he sat me down in his garage and took his dress uniform off the old coat rack full of old uniforms, and cut his embroidered naval pilots wings right off with an old timer pocket knife and silently handed them to me as if he was bestowing his hard earned wings to a 12 year old boy who would soon know just exactly what they meant. Pararaftanr2, thank you so much for keeping the memory of LT. Hammersmith alive. And thank you so very much for keeping his belongings safe and sound, its a breath of fresh air in this 2020 disaster to know some of his things are still around besides the wings he gave me. I love the pictures and all the information you have about his squadron as well. Great stuff, obviously!! Have a great night everyone, lets talk soon. God Bless and be safe.

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5.45M18Hellcat,

Welcome to the Forum and thank you for your post.  I read it with both surprise and great joy! Hearing just the few anecdotes you have related about the man is priceless. From what little I know, some of his items were put up for sale on ebay a few years after his passing in 2012, specifically a green service dress aviator's tunic and the flight jacket you spoke of. I have no idea where they ended up. At the time, I was unable to secure them, but when the second grouping with his flight helmets was made available a few years later, apparently coming directly from his son to a local coin dealer for sale on ebay, I knew I had to do my best to acquire and preserve them properly.

Attached below are auction photos I saved of the above mentioned items, which you, most likely, will remember seeing in person. I would even hazard to guess that this is the very tunic your wings were removed from.

Best regards, Paul

 

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  • 5 months later...
pararaftanr2

One new addition to the Hammersmith display from 2020. This is an original War Savings Stamp poster, 15" X 15", showing the squadron insignia of VCS-7.

 

 

 

 

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pararaftanr2

Two photos of VCS-7 CO Bill Denton. The red marks are from a Navy censor at the time.

 

 

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