A Terror of the Pacific, Hellcat Pilot Lt. Bill Gorden

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Lt. Bill Gorden in his Navy dress whites. Photo Credit: MAAM

Many of us remember where we were when we heard that the World Trade Center Towers fell in Manhattan. The Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was a similar event for the Americans who came to be known as the Greatest Generation. Bill Gorden was 18 years old when he heard President Roosevelt announce to the nation, that the United States had been attacked for the first time since the War of 1812. Mr. Gorden knew that, being of military age, he had two options; to wait for the draft; or, to enlist in the service. He chose the Navy Air Corps, and was taken into training by the Navy in February of 1942. He was sent to a school in Worcester, Ohio, where he spent six weeks learning basic navy skills such as communicating with ships. He did not receive a uniform until almost three weeks into his training, due to a shortage at the time.

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USS Hancock Photo Credit: MAAM

After Basics school, Mr. Gorden was accepted into training as a Naval aviator and began his flying in the Navy at the controls of Piper Cubs and Aeroncas while he was stationed in Kalamazoo for about four weeks. Following his first taste of flying he was transferred to Iowa where he went through preflight and primary flight school flying Navy Stearmans. Upon completion of this training, he was stationed at NAS Corpus Christi where he flew the North American SNJ, the Navy version of the famous T-6 Texan. While at Corpus Christi, the main focuses were formation flying, communications with flags from the cockpit, and bombing and shooting practice. Mr. Gorden received his instrument training in the SNJ in Beeville, Texas. After completing his training, he received his wings at Corpus Christi, and was ready to take the controls of a frontline fighter. He picked up his F6F Hellcat in Daytona Beach, Florida. Mr. Gorden flew his Hellcat for about three weeks, and practiced the skills necessary to land on an aircraft carrier on land. Shortly after he successfully made his first trap on an aircraft carrier in his Hellcat. With some time off to briefly visit his family in Detroit, he received orders to report to San Diego and was assigned to squadron VF-7.

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An F6F Hellcat on final approach to the USS Hancock CV-19 in 1944 Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Upon shipping out aboard the U.S.S. Hancock, CV-19, and Essex Class Aircraft Carrier, Mr. Gorden spent the last 6 months of the war flying strafing, escort, and bombing missions in the Philippines, Okinawa, and Japan. The tactic that they used was to pursue Japanese planes and do their best to get home themselves. Mr. Gorden had countless close calls and had hits on his aircraft, but was never shot down during his time in the Pacific Theater. At the conclusion of the war, Mr. Gorden left the Navy, and rejoined and was a part of the Navy Reserves as a “Weekend Warrior” shortly after. In the reserves he flew Hellcats on the weekend for four years where he and his squadron worked on bombing, strafing and formation flying. When Mr. Gorden moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, he was forced to resign from his squadron at the rank of Lieutenant. Shortly after his retirement, The United States became embroiled in Korea. He had a family to raise but he seriously considered signing up again before his squadron, VF-7 shipped out to Korea. Mr. Gorden has not taken the controls of an aircraft since.

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A Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat from VF-7 making and emergency landing after takeoff from the USS Hancock on July 6, 1944 Photo Credit: crash-aerien.news

Mr. Gorden is one of the finest examples of the Greatest Generation, who answered his country’s call in one of its greatest times of need. He fought against the Japanese during their most vicious point in the War as they were being pushed back to mainland Japan. Mr. Gorden is a true American hero. Upon questioning him about whether or not he and his squadron mates knew that they were a part of history , he stated, “you just wanted to keep someone from killing you (and just) think about what you needed to do”. The heroes response…

 

 

Interview and Article By: Thomas Reilly

For Our Warbird Scale Modelers Out There…

 

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Check out our friends over at Amateur Airplanes, they build some really detailed scale models.

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B-24J Liberator “Witchcraft” model Photo Credit: Amateur Airplanes

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F-86D Sabre Dog model Photo Credit: Amateur Airplanes

The Collings Foundation Needs Your Help!

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From Bottom to Top: The Collings Foundation’s B-24J Liberator, B-17G Flying Fortress and ultra rare TP-51C Mustang flying in tight formation. Photo Credit: Collings Foundation

“Based in Stow, Massachusetts, the Collings Foundation (501c3) is recognized internationally for the preservation, exhibition and operation of unique and rare historic aircraft and organizing educational living history events. The Stow museum features an incredible collection of over 75 classic automobiles, historic aircraft, tanks, military artifacts and machines.

We are in the process of expanding the facility to build the American Heritage Museum. This will be a state-of-the-art museum that will feature America’s history in the periods of WWI, WWII, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War and Gulf War. Military artifacts will be presented in a museum environment that is both educational and captivating.

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The Race of the Century hosted at the Collings Foundation’s HQ in Stow, Massachusetts. Photo Credit: Collings Foundation

Over the last two years we have been dealing with the mind numbing process of getting the approvals needed through the Stow boards. Apparently, the Planning Board of Stow are the only ones who can dictate what is considered educational. After two years of Planning Board meetings, the board has determined that museums are not educational. The Collings Foundation had another meeting with the Stow Planning Board Wednesday, July 29th. In a three to two vote the Planning Board made the determination that the Collings Foundation’s living history events, staff and docent tours, preservation and exhibition of historical artifacts and aircraft, school tours, STEM programs, Veteran round-table discussions, and so on – are not educational. Sorry to say, we are not making this up. More so, two out of the three on the Planning Board of Stow, Massachusetts who say our programs are not educational and mere “entertainment” – have never attended a living history event or public tour at the Collings Foundation’s museum! Wow….

Most recently, the building inspector usurped the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Commission in regulating aviation. After 37 years of continuous flying from our Stow property, the Stow Building issued a cease and desist order against the Foundation on March 26, 2015 prohibiting take-offs and landings.

Roughly 95% of the Collings Foundation’s flight operations happen during our Open House / Living History events that total six days of the year. People from Stow and all over New England have enjoyed the fantastic experience of flying in these aircraft for years.

We operate in compliance with all FAA regulations and the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission has long approved our airfield. The Aeronautics Commission, in fact, notified the authorities in Stow on May 5, 2015 that the bylaw the Building Commissioner relied upon for his actions was “invalid and unenforceable.” (I have the letter if you want to see it)

Litigation that concluded in 2004 in Middlesex Superior Court confirmed that our operations were in compliance with the bylaws. The Town of Stow’s Zoning Board of Appeals was a party to that action, and it defended, at considerable taxpayer expense, the Collings Foundation’s activities as being in compliance with the bylaws.

Ironically, the very same Town Council who then defended our airfield use is now taking, in the absence of any changed circumstances, but in the face of the same considerable expense, the contrary position that our activities violate the bylaw. No, you can’t make this stuff up!!

Our second living history event called Race of the Century happened on July 25th and 26th. A major part of this event is the exhibition of one of the oldest flying aircraft in the United States – a 1909 Bleriot. National Geographic TV had planned to document this incredible feat of early aviation. After all these years, it is a terrible shame that we could not fly this amazing machine for all to see.

This is just a sampling of the nefarious actions the Stow boards have created in their “selective” governance. We can’t begin to express our most deep disappointment in the town’s elected and appointed officials. What the heck is happening with this town? Is this the sign of things to come once our WWII Veterans are gone? According to the Stow Planning Board, anything that should be considered educational must have Planning Board approved curriculum and testing at the end.

Such a sad state of affairs. Are you as upset as we are with this? Contact the officials in the town of Stow and let them know what you think. As always, it is the people who support educational foundations like the Collings Foundation that make a difference.

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The Collings Foundation’s North American TP-51C Mustang, a fully dual controlled version of the rare “razorback” P-51. Photo Credit: Fence Check

Board of Selectman: selectmen@stow-ma.gov 978.897.4515

Town Administrator: townadministrator@stow-ma.gov 978.897.2927

Building commissioner: building@stow-ma.gov 978-897-2193

Zoning Board of Appeals: townclrerk@stow-ma.gov 978.897.8780

Any questions? Call me directly.

Hunter Chaney
Director of Marketing
Collings Foundation
978.562.9182″

Photo Credit:

Collings Foundation

Fence Check

The Warbird Watcher Recognized By Connecticut Air And Space Center

 

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Steve Ferraro, part of the T-33 Crew, posing with the new gear door. Photo Credit: Connecticut Air and Space Center

Thank you to our friends at Connecticut Air and Space Center for your shout out with regard to the gear door, we helped locate for your TV-2 Seastar.  Pretty cool, that you guys were able to acquire one after nearly 15 years of searching. One step closer to completion. Keep up the good work.

Donate or get involved at the Connecticut Air and Space Center help save history!