In Memory of
Francis D. Tyler, Jr. PE
by Shermie Wiehe

This webpage is dedicated to Francis D. Tyler, my good friend and neighbor.  I spent many hours with Francis from 1999 through 2005, visiting and working with him in resolving issues with his home computer or installing upgrades.  He was very happy having his computer to use in communicating with his family and friends throughout the US.  I often would spend many afternoons visiting with him, upgrading his software to keep it in tip-top-shape.  We had many great and fun afternoons together talking about the past and be enjoying all the stories about his exciting past experiences in life.  I'm most thankful to receive many pictures from him family to share with you in his memory.  Francis will forever be remembered as one of my best friends in life and I'm happy to share all the wonderful words and photos that were provided to me by Francis and his family.  I hope you enjoy the website and I'm happy to share this with you, Francis D. Tyler, Jr. PE.

Francis Tyler - US Navy Pilot
This article was provided to Shermie by Francis

Francis D. Tyler, Jr. PE, PBM, Patrol Bomber Mariner (PBM) US Navy Pilot   First, I think I should tell you how I got in the Navy.  Some of you also registered for that first draft, back in October of 1940.  I have a brother, two years younger; his number was in the first 100, while mine was 8809.  He was called up in February of 1941.  Then by the time I was classified 1A, I had seen a friend home on leave in a sparkling white uniform with beautiful Gold Wings on his chest.  I decided that was the part of the service that I wanted to serve in, so I enlisted.  I finally got sworn in, on December 30, 1941, twenty-three days after Pearl Harbor.  In March of 1942, I received orders to report to the Naval Air Station at Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans, Louisiana.  I had become a Naval Aviation Cadet.  My early ideas of flying revolved around the fact that I had acrophobia, and I was concerned if I could fly.  My first flight cured my fear, the instructor wrung out that little plane with loops and rolls and I hung on by the seat of my pants and was fine.  After 11 hours of flight time, I made my first solo flight.  In June I was transferred to the Naval Air Station, in Pensacola, Florida.  Six months later I was designated an Ensign and Naval Aviator.  I was then assigned to the Transitional Training Facility at Banana River Naval Air Station, Florida.  Here we were introduced to the plane we would fly, the PBM, Patrol Bomber Mariner, as designated by the Navy.  The Squadron in which I flew was VPB 209 was commissioned on January 1, 1943 and a full compliment of 15 planes was reached in June of the same year.  The Squadron was originally assigned to the Breezy Point Naval Air Station near Norfolk, Virginia.  In order we then operated out of Harvey Point, NAS, Coco Solo, NAS, on the Eastern entrance to the Panama Canal, then Salinas, Equador, NAS, & finally The Galapagos Islands, NAS.  Here we also made flights as far north as Corinto, Nicaragua for over night and return next day to the Galapagos NAS.  A bit about the crew of the PBM is extremely important.  To begin with each plane had a crew of 3 Naval Aviators, one of who were a Patrol Plane Commander and the pilot, a second pilot and a navigator, bombardier, and duties were shared on every flight.  The remainder of the crew was made of Navy trained experts, machinists, radiomen, gunnery-men and specialists in handling Naval Air craft like the PBM.  This part of the crew varied from seven to ten men.  Each plane had Plane Captain who often was a Chief Petty Officer.  This person was a machinist who was responsible for the operation of the engines as well as the crew performance on the plane.  These men were in a great part responsible for the successful operation of any PBM flight mission.  Not too much credit can be given to these men.  (Many of who were boys).  On night flights over the water, when the Navigation was my responsibility, I particularly liked making three star fixes to determine our location; modestly I can say we were right on.  The prime objective was to be part of the Anti-submarine warfare against the German U boat fleet.  Our squadron was one of many that were commissioned for this purpose.  When I was assigned to the squadron, new PBM’s were being delivered from the Glen L. Martin factory in Patuxent, Maryland.  They were put in service immediately to fly protective cover over the giant (up to 200 ships) convoys that were sailing from the East coast ports towards Europe with war materials.  It should be noted that there was never a ship lost when the PBM’s  were flying cover.  As it turned out, a PBM could spot a submarine on Radar a hundred miles away and then hone in on the submarine and drop depth charges or torpedoes and sink the submarine.  After a few submarines were sunk the U-boat fleet learned to respect the PBM.  The U Boat detection system would enable the submarine to submerge before the PBM could make bombing run.  If this happened the Flight Wing Commander would set up a hot spot and an expanding square search would be started, in the hopes that the submarine would again have to surface and could be destroyed.  The Navy realized early on that the Submarine fleet could be controlled from the air.  The planes overhead could keep the submarines from surfacing to recharge their engines.  Because of this, the planes that were delivered to Squadron 209, were returned to the factory to become PBM 3S, a stripped version that eliminated the three machine gun turrets, and replaced the weight with tanks and fuel, where the bunks had been in mid-ship.  This then allowed for 12 to14 hour flights, which was what we did when we were flying cover for the convoys.  This could take place since we had to take-off before dusk and land after dawn, again because we had an assigned landing area in Chesapeake Bay.  On one of the first missions to fly cover, our plane was selected to be part of the cover for President Roosevelt who was crossing the Atlantic in a battleship on the way to Yalta to meet with Churchill & Stalin.  Our Squadron was assigned to fly cover half way to Bermuda.  Another similar squadron would then take the convoy 350 miles past Bermuda, where jeep carriers would act as escort to the various ports in Europe.  One of our planes was out at night and had an emergency.  He was forced to go on single engine and make an emergency landing.  He called the tower and reported that he was on the water.  The Tower called back immediately, “Don’t move, you’re in a mine field”.  Steering the plane was done by use of the rudders on the vertical stabilizers, located directly behind the propellers.  Taxiing up wind was simple because the plane naturally weathervane into the wind.  Crosswind or Downwind taxiing the pilot had to be alert to prevent the plane from swinging around into the wind.  Taxiing crosswind was accomplished by using rudders and more power on the upwind engine.  Just before take-off, each engine mag was checked at 1800 rpm, the engines were run up 43 inches of manifold pressure and checked to see if the engines developed 2600 rpm.  With these conditions met, the wing flaps were set down 20 degrees, the elevator tab was set up 5 degrees, the throttles were advanced smoothly to 43 inches, now the plane will come up out of the water.  As the plane falls back on the “step”, ease back on the yoke, hold it steady and it will be air born.  Landing the PBM was, as you might imagine, a task that had to done very care fully.  Here again the surface of the water was most responsible for the approach.  If it could be determined visually, that the surface was smooth, a power on landing could proceed.  Usually we had the whole ocean to land on.  If, we found that the surface was rough because of wind, we would make a full stall landing, which we would let the plane drop in to the water with full weight, so that the plane would stay on the water.  Otherwise the sea could not put the plane back in the air, with out full control.  As you might guess if a night landing was made, much greater caution had to be taken.  When we were assigned to the Coco Solo NAS, our main duty was to protect the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal, again ASW, anti submarine warfare.  We had what we called the milk run, which took us in an easterly direction toward Venezuela.  On nearly every flight, we would pick up a blip on the radar, most often it would turn out to be a small fishing boat, how ever it was always approached as if it were a submarine, and we were ready for a submarine attack with bomb bay doors open.  In doing so we most likely scared the h--- out of the fishermen.  Some of our planes were equipped with a million candlepower searchlight.  On all flights we were briefed as to what we might encounter in the regular shipping lanes, but we had to maintain radio silence.  One night one of our planes, approached a large vessel that appeared to be a warship, and because of darkness the ship could not be identified.  Briefing did not mention that a battleship might be in the shipping lane.  He therefore made a searchlight run on what turned out to be the USS Texas with a Four Star Admiral on board.  Need less to say the Pilot was greeted at debriefing with a summons to the Admirals quarters the next day.  At the meeting with the Admiral, the Pilot stated his flight orders were to properly identify any warship.  Since it was pitch black at night and the ship would not use any means of identification, his action was to use the searchlight and identification was made.  The admiral fumed but told our friend, he was glad he carried out the flight orders.  Our squadron was ordered to the Salinas, Equador NAS.  This was a temporary stop as the base on the Galapagos Islands was being prepared for our arrival.  Again we were assigned to fly what turned out to be protection for the western entrance to the Panama Canal.  The best intelligence thought that the Japanese might have submarines operating near the canal.  It was at this location that we encountered real open sea takeoff and landing.  This turned out to be quite a challenge.  You all know that the open sea can be very capricious.  This was when the sea came forward in a hurry, and the take-off could result in the plane acting like a porpoise, nose up and down, up and down, one had to cut the engines and start over, otherwise the plane could nose dive and be a goner.  I have a friend who was on board a plane when this happened; he was one of five that survived of the eleven on board.  As I noted before, more often than not we had the whole sea to land on.  However the wind could be very tricky.  One plane made a normal approach to the landing bay that we used on the Galapagos NAS.  A good landing was made, but as he landed the wind switched 180 degrees, and he approached the rocky shore at a much greater speed than he knew, would stop the plane before crashing on the rocky shore.  He masterfully cut one engine, and poured full power on the other, and did his own 180, and let the plane come to rest on the water.  I saw it from the shore, as did others, and we were all very happy.  We broke out the “Companasoule”, that night.  At one point, I was designated to be the PPC in charge of a flight from the Galapagos Islands Naval Air Station to the Coco Solo Naval Air Station at the eastern end of the Panama Canal.  The flight plan would cover approximately 1000 miles and take about eight hours.  The plane that was assigned for the flight was due for major overhaul.  I was advised that extreme care was to be taken, so that a successful flight would be made.  A careful study of the weather conditions showed that there was a stationary heavy weather front in the path of the flight, which could not be flown around.  Every thing else was normal, it was a clear bright day and we were scheduled for an early morning take-off.  I had a good crew assigned.  I was told that there would extra passengers, mostly crewmen due for change of duty or leave.  A special guest would be a “Life” photographer.  On an early day in April of 1945 we were aided down the ramp in to the water.  The sea was quite calm because there was very little wind; this meant that there would be very little lift.  The take-off was longer than normal because of these conditions.  Per instructions, we were also being careful not to the get the engine cylinder heads too hot.  After take-off there was a pleasant flight until we approached the expected front.  At this point we were past the point of no return, so we had to proceed.  I had hopes of flying above the front, thinking that eleven thousand feet might top the front.  I was wrong and suddenly we were in a violent part of the front and were being tossed around like a feather in the wind.  I notified my navigator that I was going to make a spiral decent to just above the water, where we could fly under most of the front.  We did just that and for a rather tense hour, we were a couple hundred feet above the water, but passed successfully under the front.  We then climbed back to cruising altitude and made a normal approach to the landing at the Coco Solo Naval Air Station.  (I was told, later by my Crew Chief, that the guest passenger, from “Life” magazine was, to put it mildly quite frightened).  For the rest of the crew this was a typical naval flight.  This was the story that caught Bill Saunders attention when we were in the “Weather “class at Middlebury.  On another flight west of the Galapagos Islands, all of our flights were primarily searching for submarines.  A radiomen on this flight noticed a signalman, on a large freighter that was heading west, was sending a distress call by semaphore.  The radioman reported the message said that a crewman on the ship had appendicitis, and really needed to be put ashore, where he could receive proper medical attention.  The PPC of the plane had a message sent to the Wing Command, with an explanation of the situation and permission to land at sea.  The request was denied, however the PPC, who was an expert pilot, decided to land and pick up the crewman.  So he did, but he then found that the sea was too rough to permit take-off.  The ship Captain was requested to make a wide turn in front of the plane, to form a slick.  The ship did as requested, the plane took-off and a life was saved.  The PPC got him - from the Wing Command, but the Squadron Skipper defended the PPC so all became a good story, but no medal.  Any of the Navy people here are familiar with the Father Neptune ceremony when one crosses the Equator.  As you may know the Galapagos Islands are south of the equator.  Two of our pilots were assigned to take a Navy LST from Panama City to the Galapagos NAS.  On the voyage they were subjected to rigorous Father Neptune Initiation, including a crisscross cut of the hair on their heads.  They arrived at our base, and received much laughter from us.  That was not the end; they were assigned to a flight next day that would take them over the LST as it made its way across the Pacific to the war zone.  They prepared for the flight by visiting the mess commissary, so when they were over the LST, they let go with a couple dozen rotten eggs that landed with great precision on the ship, Naval Aviation Father Neptune revenge.  On another instance a plane and crew were making touch and go practice landings, on the inland smooth water near the San Blas Islands, just south of the Panama Canal area.  On one landing, the plane hit something, under the surface of the water as it touched down, the bottom of the plane was ripped open, the pilot made a quick approach to the sandy shore before the plane could sink.  However, many things were attempted to recover the plane, including trying to seal the hole with concrete, but none were successful.  Fortunately no one was hurt, but the Pilots pride.  On a flight from Norfolk NAS to Banana River, Florida NAS, one plane landed and the pilots knew that the next day they were headed to the unknown of Coco Solo NAS in the Canal Zone.  One of the pilots decided that they should take along a partially unused Jukebox.  He then organized a work party who moved the jukebox from the BOQ down to the ramp where it was loaded on a boat that would take it to the plane.  At this point the Station Duty Officer suddenly appeared and questioned the operation.  Much discussion took place, but the good intention of the pilot failed, but became one of the more famous stories of the PBM Squadrons.  The fortune for the 209 squadron was no submarine kills.  On one instance, the submarine remained on the surface, and fired a shell that ripped through the wing of the plane.  That plane returned to the safety of the home base.  Fortunately there were no casualties because of enemy contact, during the existence of the squadron.  Squadron VPB 209 had a complement of 100 Officers and about 225 enlisted personnel.  We were assigned 15 PBM 3s airplanes.  A combat air-crew was assigned to each plane.  This crew consisted of three officers, the pilot who was the Patrol Plane Commander, a 2nd pilot and a third pilot, who served as the Navigator and Bombardier.  These duties were shared.  The remainder of the Crew consisted of between 7 and 10 enlisted men of various Navy rank.  A plane Captain was often a Navy Chief, a machinist, who operated the engine instrument panel, and directed the remainder of the crew.  This consisted of a 2nd machinist, a radioman and his assistant, two ordnance-men and two buoy-men.  Each Combat Air Crew operated on a nine day schedule as follows: 1st Day - Assigned flight day, 2nd Day - Ready Crew to back up flight crew, 3rd Day - Ground School, 4th Day - Flight to Corinto, Nicaragua with over-night, 5th Day - Stand-by crew, 6th Day - Return Flight to Galapagos NAS,  7th Day - Squadron Duty Crew, 8th Day - Training Flight, 9th Day - R&R no duty.

Franics D. Tyler, Jr. - WWII PBM Pilot


Francis, Feb 2003
Picture taken by Shermie


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