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History Of VT-11/VA-12A/VA-115/VFA-115
On October 10, 1942, ten months after Pearl Harbor, the predecessor of Attack Squadron ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN (VA-115), was commissioned as Torpedo Squadron ELEVEN (VT-11) by the Navy Department. So began the history of one of oldest squadrons still activated in the Pacific Fleet. They flew the Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger, a carrier-based torpedo bomber affectionately known in the fleet as the "Turkey".
The Avenger took part in every carrier-verses-carrier battle and indeed almost all carrier operations from Midway onwards, working from every fast carrier and escort carrier of the Pacific Fleet. At Guadalcanal and in subsequent campaigns it was also operated from land bases.
The squadron was land based from January 1943 to mid summer 1944. The planes operated from Kanton Island, Guadalcanal, Pearl Harbor and Fiji Island. The assignments during this time period included anti-submarine defense, search and rescue, patrol missions, strike and mine laying.
While based at Hilo, Hawaii, the squadron planes spotted a Japanese submarine in the area. The planes proceeded to bomb the area and were credited by the squadron commander with a probable sinking.
VT-11 was part of Air Group ELEVEN (CVG-11) and in June 1943 conducted the first daylight raids against Bougainville and the Solomon Islands, from the USS Hornet (CV-12).
On October 10 the squadron participated in the first strikes against the Japanese forces on Okinawa.
On October 25, the Japanese Fleet, in three elements, converged on Leyte to oppose the landings. While 340 miles from Leyte, which was beyond the normal combat radius for World War II carrier aircraft, VT-11's aircraft were launched for a strike on the central element of the Japanese Fleet. The TBM’s arrived over the enemy fleet after it had broken off its engagement with the American escort carriers and destroyers guarding the landing and supply ships. The squadron planes struck the retiring Japanese Central Fleet, scoring hits on a battleship and two cruisers. All the squadrons aircraft returned, completing a 600 mile round trip combat flight. Eight of the pilots were awarded the Navy Cross for their participation in this action.
For the remainder of 1944 and into early 1945, the squadron continued to provide support for operations at Leyte, the Philippines, Luzon, Mindoro, Formosa, Cam Rahn Bay, French Indo-China, Pescadores Islands and Hong Kong.
CVG-11 accounted for over six hundred aircraft destroyed and twenty-four destroyers, three cruisers, and more than two hundred thousand pounds of merchant shipping sunk during the two years at the battle front.
On June 25, 1945, the original squadron patch drawn by Walt Disney, was approved by the Chief of Naval Operations. A new patch was approved on September 17, 1956 and is still in use today.
On October 10, 1942, Torpedo Squadron Eleven (VT-11) was commissioned at NAS San Diego, flying TBF Avenger, a carrier based torpedo bomber known in the fleet as the "Turkey." Over the next five years, the squadron upgraded through several models of TBF and TBM Averngers.
Members of VT-11 at Guadalcanal in May 1943.
The crews of VT-11 on USS Hornet
, 8 December 1944.
In January and February 1943, a detachment of 6 squadron aircraft were sent to Kanton Island for antisubmarine defense and search missions. The squadron's first combat was flown from Honiara International Airport during the Guadalcanal in April-May 1943 as part of Carrier Air Group Eleven (CVG-11). The squadron was landbased at Guadalcanal, and in June 1943, VT-11 pilots conducted the first daylight raids on Bougainville and the Solomon Islands. They flew patrol, search, spotting, strike, and night mine-laying missions.
On 5 May 1944, squadron aircraft were involved in an antisubmarine attack off the coast of Hilo, Hawaii. The attack against the enemy submarine was assessed as "probable" by the squadron commander. From 29 September 1944 to 1 February 1945 VT-11 was deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. In October 1944, the squadron participated in the first strikes against Okinawa and two weeks later converged on Leyte Gulf to protect the landing and supply ships engaged in the liberation of the Philippines. On 25 October, the Japanese Fleet converged on Leyte to oppose the landings. Squadron TBMs were launched from 550 km (340 mi) away (well beyond normal range) to strike the fleet. The TBMs struck the retiring Japanese ships, scoring hits on a battleship and two cruisers. All the squadron’s aircraft returned, completing a 1.000 km (600 mi) round trip. Seven Navy Crosses were awarded to VT-11 aircrews during this campaign.
In November and December 1944, the squadron continued to provide support for the cccupation of Leyte, striking targets on Luzon in support of the landings on Mindoro. In January 1945, the squadron struck ships and targets on Formosa and Luzon in support of the landings in Lingayen Gulf, Luzon. The squadron participated in operations in the South China Sea (the first time an American Task Force had entered these waters since the beginning of the war), striking targets at Cam Ranh Bay and a convoy off Qui Nhon, French Indo-China, shipping at the Pescadores Island, and Hong Kong.
I work with a woman who, some 20 years ago, found a small box set at curbside at the house next door to hers. She has kept this box and its contents all this time. We were speaking one day about veterans, war, history and the like and she mentioned she had a small collection of militaria but had no idea what it was. I asked her to bring it to work one day and I would gladly identify it for her. She did.
My jaw hit the floor when I saw the box addressed to a Warren William Fehneman from Brooklyn, NY and labled "One (1) Air Medal for:. . " The box was clearly from the late 1940's. I opened it to find a genuine treasure. Inside was a Navy Rank/Rate patch, a ruptured duck pin, a Navy Reserve Honorable Discharge pin, the Air Medal, 2 photographs, a CBI (China Burma India) theater patch, a button that read "FLEET AIR WING ELEVEN - 3447 - HEDRON",a set of Combat Aircew Wings, and several ribbon bars.
I immediately set to identifying the ribbons. It was easy at first, the American Campaign, Pacific Campaign (with 2 Bronze Stars), and Air Medal (with 2 Bronze Stars) were familiar to me. Next I was able to identify a Presidential Unit Citation and Navy Unit Commendation (with 1 Bronze Star) but the last of the ribbons I had never seen before. The ribbon bars had been shelacked some time ago and what were originaly white stripes on the unknown ribbon had yellowed. I checked all my references for the blue and yellow ribbon but found nothing. One last look at a medals chart I have and it hit me right between the eyes! This is the Distinguished Flying Cross!
I was floored. How close had the service and memory of this man, this proud American Hero come to being lost forever. Thrown away with household trash! I immediately began work on this memorial page for Warren - the VERY least I could do in his honor.
My research will continue until I can record as much as possible. So, if you or anyone you know can shed any additional light on Warren's military service and history, please contact me at WOLFECSS@BELLSOUTH.NET
Thank you and, as always, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE
AMAZING UPDATE! I have located Warren's son! He lives just 3 hours from my house. We will be returning Warren's effects to the family shortly after the new year. I'll take pleanty of pictures and post them all here.