Jun 28

Our Readers

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 12:01 AM

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The best compliments are often the most unexpected. When a member or reader lets us know what we do here at USNI is valued it puts a smile on everyone’s face. Below is an email Mr. Keith Quilter sent us on 1 June 2016 that we loved so much we decided to share it.

I have just finished watching the video at the end of the description of “Harnessing the Sky” the biography of Frederick ‘Trap’ Trapnell by his son and a grand-daughter. I was so completely fascinated by the presentation given by the co-authors and the memories I have of the dear old Corsair I just had to write to tell you.

My name is Keith Quilter I am 94 and a WW2 veteran of the Fleet Air Arm, the aviation branch of the Royal Navy. I did all my flying training in the USN in 1943 via Grosse Isle, Pensacola and Niami and was awarded my wings at Pensacola in November ‘43. had my first flight in a Corsair – a Mk1 with the ‘birdcage’ canopy at USNAS Lewiston, then joined a newly formed squadron (1842) equipped with Mk2 F4Us at USNAS Brunswick early 1944. We did our first deck landings on the USS Charger in Chesapeake Bay, then when we had completed our working up we returned to the UK and flew aboard HMS Formidable in July and stayed as one of her two fighter squadrons right up the end of the war out in the Pacific. Before we sailed for the Pacific we carried out three strikes on the Germen battleship Tirpitz when she was hiding in a Norwegian fjord way up in the arctic circle.

Corsair fighter flying during World War II, possibly taken over Bougainville in early March 1944. (NHHC)

Corsair fighter flying during World War II, possibly taken over Bougainville in early March 1944. (NHHC)

During operation Iceberg we were hit twice by Kamikazes but thanks to our armoured flight decks, although we lost men and aircraft, we were able to resume flaying within only a few hours on both occasions. After returning to our main base at Sydney, Australia to lick our wounds we returned to the north Pacific and became an additional task group and an integral part of Admiral Halsey’s 3rd fleet and were flying strikes and ramrods over the main Japanese islands alongside the USN right up to VJ Day. Although I was shot down and ditched in a small Jap harbour called Owase on 23rd July and spent the last three weeks of the war aboard the USS Scabbardfish which was on Lifeguard Patrol near Owase and came right into Owase Bay on the surface to rescue me.

USS Scabbardfish (SS-397) on 30 May 1944 (NHHC)

USS Scabbardfish (SS-397) on 30 May 1944 (NHHC)

I often feel that I am almost as much a veteran of the USN as of the RN since I trained as a pilot in the USN, I was equipped with the very best USN fighter aircraft the CORSAIR and when in distress inside a Jap harbour I was rescued by the USS Scabbardfish. I was in a reserve squadron post war and flew the Seafire (the naval version of the Spitfire) and the Hawker Seafury, both lovely aircraft but my first and abiding love will always be the Corsair.