Crash Boat "Vera G" in Fairfax Harbor at Port Moresby
This vessel was used by the U. S. Army Air Force, 5th Air Force
to rescued downed fliers in the sea. In the background is Paga Hill and Port Moresby town and in the distance Lolorua Island and Gemo Island.
Leslie Grimes researched the story of this boat:
"My friend Skip (Bill McClendon)
lives in Oklahoma and does not have a computer makes getting info difficult. If it is indeed the same boat, Skip would be blown away. Skip told me the Vera G had been taken over by a U.S.
Coast Guard group who had been sent down there after the move to Hollandia and they had promptly
sunk her. At any rate Skip told me she was built by Lars Halverson in Australia.
Skip came to be in charge of the crash boats at Moresby
He was driving a jeep, and gave a couple fellows a ride
down to the docks. On arriving he noted some fellows struggling to install an engine in one of the boats there. Knowing
alot about engines, he was giving them some direction. Col. Victor Bertraindeis
was apparently watching and recognized his ingenuity and leadership, because he inquired as to the young
Lt.'s name, etc. and then promptly floored him by teeling him that he was to take charge of the
boats there. Stunned, the young Lt. replied that the only thing he knew about boats was that the
pointy end was in the front ad the square end was in the back. Nevertheless, the Col. just
mumbled w something like "We'll see about that." and that was that.
Even though my friend Bill McClendon was a P-38
pilot and was EX-O of the 475th for a period of time, he did a stint as a courier for Gerneral MacArthur, had a boat shot out
from under him by friendly fire and spent 36 hours in the water before being rescued, was injured in a
jap bombing of Biak, among other things many other thing, he went on to fly in the Korean War and
to have a distinguished career: still, one of the high points of his 80+ years seems to be the rescue
mission he undertook piloting the Vera G 2,400 miles from Port Moresby down around Milne Bay and
all the way north to Biak. This would have been in early 1944. He
says the Vera G only ran at about 6 knots and that the current between Biak and Owi at that time was also
6 knots, so getting through there was some feat!
He took with him 4 men. Harry Edge, and Gus Kaufhold and 2 natives by
the names of Sully and Arden. They were both expert seamen and had worked on Australian lugers
before the war. It was only with their aid in reading the current, reef depts, etc. that they were
able to make the trip at all. My Dad as rescue coordinator for the VBC sent C-47s with drums of
fuel which had to be dropped very carefully.....too high and they would break open. They also
had to be close enough to be retrieved. After the fueling, they filled the drums with sea-water
to sink them, so as not to alert the Japanese of their presence since they were traveling deep into enemy
territory. After Finchehaven, the rest of the way to Northern Biak was all enemy held territory. Asked
what they ate, it was mostly army C rations. They had a little single gas burner
for occasionally boiling water.
I don't know how long it took them to make the trip, but apparently there
were other pilots who kept track of not only their progress, but who dropped notes and supplies to the
air crew anxiously awaiting their rescue. It is just one
more tribute to the resourcefulness, ingenuity, heart and spirit of our guys. What the many were
willing to do for the few who were their own, and what the few were willing to do for the many. This telling philosophy was demonstrated time after time, illustrating the key factor
in defeating the mighty adversary that was Japan.
Joe E. Brown
on Vera G
In between shows he gave in
the area. He was morning the loss of his own son who was also a pilot. He
received the news while there, but did not want to let his loss interfere with
the laughs he brought to "his other boys." He felt so
keenly their need for laughter as nourishment for their souls. He
really loved and respected our soldiers.
Credit: Victor Grimes Date: May 29, 1943
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