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Large Marine PBJ-1 Crewman Uniform Grouping VMB-423


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Well today I got in quite the grouping for all you Marine aviation buffs out there. It comes from a fellow collector who found it out in California, secondhand from the family. His collection doesnt focus on marine items but it fit my goal of finding uniforms from crewmen of each of the four major bombers used by US forces.

 

John Robert Bob Carlson enlisted in February of 1943 in Portland, Maine, his home. By enlisting Carlson was able to choose his branch of service, selecting the Marines, specifically the aviation branch. Bob attended basic training at Paris Island as part of Platoon 472 which was promptly followed by the intensive Aviation Machinist Mate School in Memphis, Tennessee. Carlson quickly built a vast knowledge of aerial mechanics, something quite foreign to a former farmboy from Maine. He graduated in April of 1944 continuing on to Navy Aerial Gunnery School in Jacksonville, Florida, completing training in June.

 

The next few months reveal a gap in my research, as I am still waiting to receive his file. I do know, however, that on December 13th of 1944 he was received into Marine Bombing Squadron 423 (VMB-423, 61st MAG, 1st MAW) where he became a flight engineer and turret gunner onboard their detachment of PBJ-1s. Stationed on Emirau Island in New Guinea, by this stage in the war VMB-423s primary objective was to harass Japanese shipping lanes and mop up the Japanese resistance on the numerous islands full of soldiers passed by as the military implemented its island hopping strategy. The squadron performed two types of missions, medium altitude bombing runs as well as ground assaults. The first mission type took the PBJs to 10,000 feet where the crew faced severe flak from Japanese bastions left completely intact. These missions found the PBJs equipped with bombs ranging from 250 to 1,000 pounds with the purpose of destroying the remaining emplacements in preparation for mopping up ground assaults. The second type of mission utilized the PBJs 11 .50 caliber guns to perform low-level strafing runs against enemy positions. These missions sometimes found the crews flying below tree level and I would wager, required some of the fanciest flying of any unit in the pacific.

 

While the PBJs did not face too much air-to-air resistance, as a gunner, Carlson did get to see some action. His wings show three combat stars and he saw nearly half a year of combat supporting many US and Australian operations in the South Pacific. Carlson also got plenty of experience as a mechanic. The squadron only maintained around 16-18 planes and the PBJs of 423 were notorious for mechanical failures. Most missions only saw around 8-12 aircraft going up while the rest being totally rebuilt or repaired. In fact, the squadron lost more aircraft to faulty mechanical errors leading to crash landings than they did enemy anti-aircraft fire.

 

Carlson returned home sometime around late 1945 or early 1946 and remembered his war days fondly. He kept many of the items from his time in the service which the family recently decided to pass on, now ending up with me. I am proud to keep the story of Corporal Carlson alive with such a great grouping from a unique and often forgotten part of Marine aviation history.

 

 

 

The grouping contains his dress tunic featuring the 1st MAW SSI, aircrew wings (unknown maker, but photo included), and plastic coated ribbon rack (still searching for his awards of the NUC). Also included are a vast amount of documents from his time training stateside. There are two notebooks containing hand drawn sketches and writings on aerial mechanics and weaponry from his time at both of the schools. Carlson also kept his gunnery school class book, a manual on the B25 Bendix Turrets, a few flight manuals, his basic Marine handbook, as well as many more papers and documents relating to his training, including the certificates for both schools. From his service overseas I have his Aviation Motor Machinist rating (never applied to his sleeve), a full original roster of VMB-423, and 9 photos from his time on Emirau. One photo shows Carlson and his crew with their PBJ and others show him in their low-level flight gear.

 

One interesting item to note is the small pair of red briefs. According to a note left when the grouping was given, the boxers were a joke gift to Carlson. In gunnery school when one missed the target a large red flag was raised. Many of the men jokingly referred to this as raising Maggies Drawers. As a joke, Carlsons buddy made him this small set of red drawers as a comment on his shooting ability.

 

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GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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My ID card for my display

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GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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Very nice! Semper Fi! Bobgee

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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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  • 2 weeks later...

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