George Kovach's Memories - 1942



My life in the Navy can almost be co-titled VP-205 memoirs; except for boot camp, some incidental training enroute, and riding home on an available ship at war’s end, I was in VP-205 the whole time -- in both the Caribbean and Pacific theaters.

My first memory of VP-205 started in Norfolk in November, 1942, when I joined the fledgling squadron at its commissioning. There were some 25 enlisted that showed up with me, some seamen and some third class petty officers, of which I was the senior (Actually, I was an ARM-3, an aircraft radioman). There were so many people checking in at the same time, that there was no room in the barracks at NAS Norfolk and we ended up in a barracks in Portsmouth, VA with me assigned as the Master-at-Arms... And there we stayed until Christmas day, when late in the evening we made the move to NAS.

We started training right after New Year’s day (1943) in PBM aircraft; my logbook tells me they were PBM-3s. However, on 21 January, my USN/VP-205 career almost came to an early end. I was one flight away from finishing my training (to be first radioman on a combat flight crew) when I was sent up on the wing (on the ramp) to sweep some snow from the top of the wing preparatory to launch. No one had ever checked me out on this procedure, and I had never been on the wing before; what safety harness??

Unfortunately, just as I got positioned behind the starboard prop, somebody on the flight deck decided to "run the prop through", obviously without checking to see if anybody or anything was in the way... Now that wing is slippery even without snow, and with no warning that a prop was to be turned over, when that blade moved, so did I!! Right off the trailing edge of the wing I went, landing on my back on the concrete ramp. The PBM is a high wing aircraft, and when sitting the "stilts" of the beaching gear, it sits quite high above the deck.

Why this fall didn’t kill me outright has to be a miracle. It did leave me with multiple broken ribs, a punctured lung, a concussion, some leg/hip damage--- and a broken wrist which was not discovered until two weeks after the accident. (I was in such bad shape, coughing up blood etc., that the wrist injury went unnoticed).

The squadron finished its shakedown, and left for Puerto Rico with me still in the hospital. I was still there 2 months later, and according to the medical personnel, awaiting discharge. But I had gone this far to be in the squadron, doing what I had been trained to do, so I faked a much better physical condition than was the case, and I joined VP-205 as a radioman in March (1943). Unfortunately my status was so uncertain that the squadron had ordered in a replacement for me and he arrived about the same time I did. Since he was a second class ARM, I was assigned as second radioman (to crew 9, same crew as my replacement).

That still wasn’t the end of my injury-plagued beginning (I was limping badly, and my wrist was so weak I couldn’t properly charge the machine gun I was assigned as gunner during battle stations). The squadron wanted to send me back to the states, but I convinced them that I could perform the job, so I was put on physical probation for a time.

I finally did take my place as first radioman on crew 9, where I stayed throughout my VP-205 tour. I also made first class petty officer, which is what I left the Navy as when the war ended in 1945.

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