Homer Pirie Garrison
The following is a compilation in narrative form of some of the information I have gathered either through official documentation or personal interviews of surviving members of Homerís squadron.†
Homer Pirie Garrison was in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 26, 1943 signing up for service in the United States Navy.† Homer was not yet 17 years old.† Homer reported for service on August 4, 1943, his 17th birthday.
†After Basic Training and Gunnery School, he was assigned to Patrol Bombing Squadron VPB-121.† During the fall and early winter of 1944, the squadron was training at NAS, San Diego and NAS Brown Field in California.† During these training exercises in California, the squadron was assigned PB4Y-2 patrol bomber aircraft, a modified version of the B-24 Bomber.
On January 6, 1945, the squadron began its trans-Pacific flight to NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii.† At this point, the squadron consisted of 18 flight crews of 11 or 12 men per crew.† Homer was a member of Crew 12.† Once in Hawaii, the squadron began intensive training in radar navigation.
On January 26, 1945, at least part of the squadron was relocated to Midway Island and put on barrier patrols.† The squadron returned to NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii on February 1, 1945. †
Apparently, the entire squadron very seldom all flew together.† When the squadron was moved from place to place, they flew in groups of four to six aircraft.† Each group leaving on a different day.†† It took several days for the entire squadron to complete a relocation.
On March 1, 1945, the squadron was transferred to Eniwetok.† By March 4, 1945, only five squadron aircraft were at Eniwetok - Crew 1 (Pflum), Crew 3 (Rainey), Crew 8 (Randleman), Crew 9 (Magie) and Crew 12 (McElwee - Homerís crew).† These five aircraft were part of a search effort on March 4th and 5th, for Lt. General Millard Harmon, Commanding General, USAAF, Pacific Ocean Area.† His plane had crashed at sea near the Marshall Islands on February 26, 1945.
The five squadron aircraft returned to Eniwetok on the morning of March 6, 1945 with orders to bomb the airstrips at Wake Island at dusk the same day.† However, the planes bomb bay fuel tanks had to be removed in order to carry the specified load of bombs; and, because there was not enough time left† in the day to remove the tanks, load the bombs and make the trip to Wake Island before dark, the bombing mission was moved from dusk on March 6th to dawn on March 7th.† Wake Island was a 537 mile flight - one way.††
The five aircraft left Eniwetok at 2:30 in the morning of March 7, 1945. Shortly after takeoff, one plane returned to Eniwetok because of radio and radar problems. The other four (including Homerís crew) continued to Wake Island arriving there at approximately 6:30AM. The bombing runs on the airstrips were to be made in succession, one aircraft after another. Homerís plane was the third aircraft in the succession to make its bombing run on the airstrips. The first plane did not encounter any anti-aircraft fire; the second plane encountered light anti-aircraft; Homerís plane was hit by intense anti-aircraft fire and burst into flames. The plane went down in about 10' of water in the lagoon at Wake Island and continued to burn. No survivors were recovered; all were presumed dead.†
The remaining three planes returned safely to Eniwetok.
Members of Homerís squadron told me that on subsequent bombing runs over Wake Island they could see the plane lying on the bottom of the lagoon in two pieces.† One member of the squadron, a former POW, told me that he has spoken to someone that landed on Wake Island immediately after the war on his way back to the states.† Supposedly, this man saw the burned out plane lying in the lagoon.† The planeís fuselage was broken into two pieces with all four engines lying scattered about the plane.
An interesting point: Homerís plane was the first PB4Y-2 shot down in World War II.† Homerís squadron, VPB-121, had the first PB4Y-2 shot down in World War II and the last, the only two aircraft the squadron lost.
Homer Keith Garrison