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  PBY-5 "Arkansas Traveler" Bureau Number 08139  
USN
VP-34
"Black Cats"

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"Black Cat Rescue"Click For Enlargement
"Flight Out Of Hell"

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Kathy Cavoli 1996

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN). Assigned to VP-34 "Black Cats". Assigned to Lt(jg) Nathan G. Gordon. Nicknamed "Arkansas Traveler" after Gordon's home state of Arkansas.

Crew History
Nathan G. Gordon died on September 9, 2008. Bratley died in 2007.

Wartime History
On February 15, 1944 took off piloted by Lt(jg) Nathan G. Gordon from Samarai Seaplane Base on a mission to provide air-sea rescue for a low level strike by A-20 Havoc and B-25 Mitchell bombers attacking Kavieng. The crew included:

Command Pilot  Lt(jg) Nathan Green Gordon (Morrilton, AR)
Pilot  Jack Kelly (Staten Island, NY)
Pilot  Leurelle Fulmer (Littlerock, AR)
Pilot  Walter Patrick (FL)
Radio  Alex Alexander
Radio Robert Murch
Mechanic  John Bratley (Cleveland, OH)
Aviation Machinist  Joe Germeau (Port Washington, WA)
Mechanic  AAM1c Wiley R. Routon (Dade County, FL)

On station near Vitu Island (Witu), this Catalina got a radio call that an A-20 Havoc had ditched and to immediately go to Kavieng to rescue the crew. Escorted by four P-47D Thunderbolts of the 348th FG from Finschafen Airfield.

That mission, Gordon made four landings into Kavieng Harbor, facing both rough seas and enemy fire to rescue four different air crews.

Fist Landing
Arriving in the area, the sea was rough, with large breakers 15-18' high. On their first landing, they unsuccessfully searched for the crew of A-20G Havoc 42-86616. According to Gordon, the found only "debris - oil, dye marker two life jackets and a half inflated raft". Unsuccessful, they took off.
[ Gordon's Recollections of 1st Landing ]

Second Landing
A 345th BG, 498th BS B-25 piloted by Major Coltharp radioed that a B-25 had ditched and provided the position. Landing, they found the crew and turned off their port engine in order to rescue the crew of B-25D "Gremlin's Holiday" 41-30041, as gunfire was directed against them from shore. Afterwards, Gordon took off and got another call of a downed B-25. Two of the escorting P-47D departed, short on fuel.
[ Gordon's Recollections of 2nd Landing ]

Third Landing
Proceeded a mile from shore to rescue three of the crew of B-25D "Pissonit" 41-30370. The remaining two P-47D escorts departed short on fuel. Gordon took off again, with ten resuced aboard and left the target area, but the B-25 radioed again that another B-25 had ditched very clsoe to shore.
[ Gordon's Recollections of 3rd Landing ]

Fourth Landing
Gordon made his landing approach over Kavieng and landed only 600 yards from shore as anti-aircraft fired at them. They rescued five crew members of B-25D 41-30531. Luckily, no enemy fire hit the PBY. Departing the target area with fifteen rescued aviators aboard.
[ Gordon's Recollections of 4th Landing ]

Low on fuel and with wounded aboard, Gordon landed at Finchafen. The crew unloaded the rescued men onto USS Pablo (AVP 30). After refueling, they returned to Samarai Seaplane Base.

Medal of Honor
Afterwards, Lt.(jg) Gordon later earned the Congressional Medal of Honor and each member of his crew earned the Silver Star. Admiral "Bull" Halsey, mentioned the rescue in a telegram after the mission: "Please pass my admiration on to that saga writing Kavieng Cat crew - Halsey".

Relatives
Michelle Hodges Blanchard (great niece)
"I was searching the Internet and I ran across your website. The "Arkansas Traveler" listed Wiley R. Routon as a mechanic AAM1c. He was/is my great uncle. The only info I have one him is that he was born in 1923 and he was named after his father. I am not sure if he is living. His sister, Annie, is my grandmother. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated."

References
Warpath Across The Pacific pages 128-129
The Forgotten Fifth pages 69-70 [ Read Excerpt ]
PBY: The Catalina Flying Boat pages 170-173
Artwork by Nicholas Trudgian: "Black Cat Rescue" & "Flight Out of Hell"

Contribute Information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
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Last Updated
January 31, 2018

 

Technical InfoPBY

Technical Info
Nate Gordon

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honr Citation

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