Lt jg. Warren V. (Slick) Trammell      
  Left to Right: Ensign W.V. Trammell, with Lt (jg) C.L. Brooks, Lt (jg) W.L. Tribble, and  Lt (jg) K.G. Nebeker (need to verify order)  The group photo shown above was included in the Squadron VC-97 Farewell Book  
  The photo above was taken by Warren Trammel and shows Barney MacDonald flying his TBM Avenger over the island of Okinawa.  Read Warren's account below.

2015-10-17  "As soon as I saw that photo of the TBM over Okinawa, I knew who took that picture as I was the only pilot to accompany Barney on his photo missions over the island. The bomb bay of his avenger was outfitted with aerial cameras and after a bombardment by Naval ships he would fly over the island and take pictures of the damage and I was sent along as his fighter escort, hence the picture".  Lt jg. Warren (Slick) Trammell

  South of the Border  

My wife and I arrived in Holtville California just after lunch on October 19, the day before my 21st birthday, we registered at the only hotel in town and I reported to the base where I joined the squadron VC-97 which had formed in Seattle several months prior. I was told to return the following morning at 0800 for an orientation flight. My first assignment with the squadron was to join Lt Barney McDonald and his TBF crew on an orientational flight around the area. We were scheduled to fly to Indio CA, to Blythe, CA and back to Holtsville.  I had never been west of the Mississippi before, much less flown over the area.  I assumed Barney and his crew were familiar with the area and that was why he had been assigned to lead me around. I simply flew on his wingtip committing the significant landmarks to memory. We were on the last leg headed back to Holtville. I sensed it was time to be picking up the Holtville beacon and gave Barney an inquisitive look, to which he responded by placing his hands over his ears indicating his radio was not functioning. He then signaled his intentions of continuing on a westerly heading until we reached the Pacific ocean at which time we would head north to the first airport. Unfortunately, we had not gone north along the coast very far until the weather turned really nasty. The clouds were right on the ground and appeared to go as high as we could see. We were out of luck finding an airport in that mess so he turned south.


The image shown above was drawn by JB Kennedy and published in the July 21, 1945 issue of the USS Shipley Bay's News Buoy [Read More]


We continued south along the coast line without spotting a single landing strip.  His TBF carried considerably more fuel than my fighter so it was I that ran out of fuel first. Just as my needle was approaching the big E, I spotted a dirt landing strip on the top of a hill a mile or so from the ocean. It appeared to be long enough for me to set down safely, so I signaled Barney that I was headed for it. As I made my approach, the needle was on empty and the wheels were still up. I noticed the side of the cliff I was approaching was straight up and down.  If my engine quit now, I could still reach the landing strip but if I lowered my wheels, the drag would increase and if the engine quit then there was no assurance I would clear the face of the cliff.  Decision time, wheels up landing it is.The engine quit just before I touched down so only one blade of the prop was bent and the belly of the plane was scuffed. I climbed out of the airplane and waved to Barney, who had been circling, that I was all right. Barney continued south searching for a real airport. I later found out he never found one and was forced to make a belly landing in the surf and he and his crew were rescued by a Mexican fishing vessel. The fishing vessel had a hold full of ice and refused to return to port to drop Barney and his crew so they went fishing for a couple of weeks before they were able to report their location. I also learned that Barney was just as new to the squadron as I and did not have any prior navigation experience in California so our initiation flight in the squadron was sort of like the blind leading the blind with rather serious consequences.

I remained with my plane a couple of hours until several Mexican men in military uniforms carrying side arms approached my aircraft. They were not threatening but since I did not speak Spanish and they did not speak English it was definitely uncomfortable. They made it clear that I was to accompany them so I did. We went to their facilities which consisted of several buildings apparently occupied by them and their families. I noticed a pair of wires going into one of the buildings and as they made no move to stop me, I entered the building. There was as I expected a telephone there so I picked it up and started talking. For several minutes, all I heard was Spanish, but finally some one started speaking English. I gave them my name, told them I was not hurt, did not know where I was, and asked them to notify the US Navy. They listened to what I said and then hung up without replying. I immediately called again but whoever spoke English had obviously left for all I got this time was Spanish so I finally hung up not knowing if any action was being taken or not. Later that evening, the mail man returned from his tour of delivering the mail. He was an American and apparently the only person in the area that spoke English. I told him my story and he made a few phone calls and said yes the Navy had been notified and a rescue team was on its way but it might be a few days before they arrived.

Back at Holtville, when we didn’t return and enough time had elapsed to know we were not still airborne, someone asked was he married? There is only one hotel in town, if he is she will be there. A quick call determined that a Mrs. Trammell was indeed there and anxiously awaiting my arrival with a big birthday cake as it was my 21st birthday. All they could tell her at that time was I had gone on a flight and not returned and they had no news to report. So I spent my 21st birthday in a Mexican jail. The next few days I spent wandering around with a couple of Mexican soldiers accompanying me and at night I was locked in their jail. My rescue crew eventually arrived with a flat bed truck and equipment to load the aircraft on it. I had made my landing approximately 305 miles south of the US border in Baja Mexico. The crew had a Mexican high ranking officer in attendance to interpret along the way. When we we ready to leave, he embarrassingly informed me the local military personnel requested I give them $6 for my 3 days room and board in their hotel. I had no money so I borrowed from one of the rescue crew. The journey north to San Diego Navy base took several days as often road work by the crew was required to allow the truck with its cargo to pass. In one instance the removal of a farmer’s tree was required. He wasn’t too happy about it but our Mexican military interpreter set him straight. When I finally arrived back in Holtville, there was still no word as to the whereabouts of Barney and his crew. I told them what I knew but that wasn’t much help. Before they could organize a search of the coast line south of where I had landed, the fishing vessel finally returned to port and Barney’s whereabouts was known.

  1945-01-20  Photo of Air Squadron VC-97.  The location and list of men is not known at this time.  
  VC-97's final flight  
  2011-06-18  Warren Tammell reviews one of VC-97's photo albums during the Fredericksburg Meet-and-Greet reception party the night prior to the Fredericksburg Memorial Dedication.  
  2011-06-19 Fredericksburg Memorial Dedication
Veterans (L-R); Edward Synatschk (US Army,Pacific,Korea, Tuggle's Brother-in-law), Gilbert Meyer, (US Navy, Pearl Harbor), Max Dunks (US Navy, Vietnam), Warren Trammell (US Navy, VC-97, Pacific); Loren Elliot (US Navy, Makassar Strait, Pacific)

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