By Joe Bierce (Tuesday, July 3, 2018)
It was 1943. WWII veteran of the United States Navy, Mr. James F. McVey, received that well- known during-the-1940’s message from the President of the United States that started out, “Dear Mr. McVey, Your friends and neighbors request the honor of your service and you will report for induction.”
Mr. McVey, if I can call him Jim, reported in and was drafted for “six months or the duration.” That duration lasted until 1946. Jim accepted the call, reported for duty and was sent off to school. His particular schooling was to become a flight engineer onboard a PBM also known as a “flying boat”.
His duty was to read the instruments, make sure that the fuel transferred from one tank to another so that all engines could function and to report anything to the pilot. He was the one, other than the pilot, responsible for keeping the plane in the air.
On reporting to his duty station in Bermuda, the vacation paradise, he was assigned to aircraft that provided cover for ship convoys leaving the United States for the war zone in Europe. Their job was to determine if there was any enemy activity lurking below the sea surface and to assure the convoy that the way ahead was clear.
Consider this: the air speed of the aircraft at that particular time was a bit over 100 miles per hour. (We’re not talking about a supersonic jet.) The altitude of the aircraft above the convoy was approximately 1500 to 2000 feet. Any higher than that and they would not be able to see below the water surface.
The forward speed of the convoy through the water was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 miles per hour. The difference between the aircraft during surveillance and the surface craft they were providing surveillance for obviously was 90 miles per hour. Think about it. Very soon the aircraft overran the convoy and their job could not be done. So, the Navy solved its problem by having the aircraft fly a pattern above them. When they reached a point they turned, flew to another given point and turned, flew to another given point; and, if you’re following, you realize that they’re basically going back to the starting point. Jim and his crew repeated this process daily providing cover for a convoy for 16 hours per day. During the time of this service none of the ships in a convoy that he was providing protection were lost.
Some have said, “I didn’t do much, I just rode in an airplane.” Not doing this much in Jim’s case provided necessary cover for the ships to accomplish their mission; the safe transport of troops.
When they did spot enemy submarines off the eastern coast of the United States, responsible parties were then dispatched to take care of them.
Jim turns 100 this month.
Pictured above: James F. McVey, Lebanon WWII Navy veteran