Remembering the members of US Navy Squadron VC-66
On Christmas Eve 1943, Composite Squadron 66 (T-1) detached from the USS TRIPOLI (CVE-64) and reported to NAS San Diego to spend a quiet and uncertain Christmas. The squadron's pre-deployment training was now complete and its men were awaiting orders for their next assigment. The training on TRIPOLI had been costly. On 23 December, two of the squadron's fighters were involved in a mid-air collision resulting in the death of Ensign E.B. "Deg" Degankolp. The men did not have to wait long for their new orders. On 29 December, VC-66 detached from NAS San Diego and embarked aboard USS WHITE PLAINS (CVE-66) for transportation to the then Territory of Hawaii and the Pacific Theatre of Operations. The only thing the men of the squadron knew when they left San Diego was that they were going west to join an as yet unidentified carrier for a new operation somewhere in the Pacific. The carrier turned out to be the USS NASSAU (CVE-16) and the operation would be the invasion of the Marshall Islands.
On Christmas Eve 1944, Composite Squadron 66 Tour Two (T-2) was assigned to NAS Alameda, California where it had recently been re-formed. The men were anxious to begin the training that would prepare them to participate in the final push against Japan - a push that everyone knew would be very costly. While the Japanese were being dislodged from the islands that they had conquered, the fighting was fierce and was expected to get worse the closer U.S. forces got to the Japanese home islands. If Japan itself had to be invaded - which everyone expected would be necessary, it was estimated that American casualties might be as high as one million. On 29 December, VC-66 (T-2) got its orders and departed Alameda for the Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Arcata, California to begin training in earnest. The men were excited to get started.
To the men and families of VC-66 (T-1) and (T-2), thank you for your service to our country. Here's hoping that your 2011 holidays are happy ones and that you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!