VMSB-235 In South Pacific

Many of the below photographs were contributed by Dick Cropley (pictured on top row).

Dick Cropley is a remarkable member of the Death Angels. He was a "Plank Owner" of the squadron, having joined the squadron as it was initially commissioned at NAS El Centro, CA on 1 January 1943 and he was in attendance when the squadron was decommissioned (53 years later) at NAS Miramar, CA 14 June 1996.

He was born in Akron, Ohio in 1920 and attended high school in Youngstown, Ohio. Having been rejected by the Army (can you believe - hay fever?) he entered Naval Flight Training as a "Cadet" in 1942 at NAS Opa-Locka, (Miami) Florida. In basic training he flew N3Ns.

From Opa-Locka he went to NAS Jacksonville where he trained in SNJs and OS2Us and then he returned to Opa-Locka for advanced training in SBCs and BTs (Northrop's first dive bombers).

At the conclusion of Advanced Flight Training, he was given his commission in the Corps and his Navy Wings. He was sent to NAS Great Lakes for carrier qualifications.

Today's carrier decks are a far cry from the one that Dick first qualified on. It was a converted cruise ship with - believe it or not - a paddle-wheel propulsion system. Dick qualified in SNJs with 8-10 traps and naturally (or maybe not so naturally) the same number of "Free Launches" - catapults not being within the realm of technology at the time. Neither was their an optical landing system. Qualifications were in the dead of winter on Lake Michigan.

Lt Cropley was then ordered to El Centro, CA where he became a "Plank Owner" of the forming VMSB-235 "Death Angels." After three months' training the squadron embarked on board the USS Kitty Hawk for Hawaii where they conducted more training from Ewa. They embarked on 12 June 1943 in the USS Chandeleur, USS Chincoteaque, and USS San Pablo and arrived in the New Hebrides in July 1943. They participated in combat missions in Guadalcanal, Arundel, New Georgia and Balale.

These pictures were taken during the squadron's combat tour. Most of the photos were taken by Lt. Bob Carter, who is also pictured.

Dick lives with his wife Ann in San Clemente, California.


VMSB-235 In South Pacific

July 13, 2010