Larry Katz, VP101/VPB29
Dialogues with Susan Conner and Milton Bush 2003
Katz: Susannah, just read your E Mail to Dave Hanson at daveswarbirds. My name is Larry Katz and I operated out of Green Island in a PBY squadron. Most of my patrols out of Green Island were from June 1st of 1944 to October of 1944. when we left for Woendi , Los Negros, Treasury Island, to run Black Cats and Dumbos. Our squadron was VP101 until June of 1944,until our designation was changed to VPB29; we were a PBY squadron all the time we left Pearl Harbor right after the attack on December 7,1941. So you see this is not a youngster. I am 85 years young and still going at it. Have a few photos of our planes and crew off Green Island where we were based and also on tenders. Good to hear from a daughter of a veteran that built Green Island. In fact have a photo of myself on one of our engines after pulling a 30 Hour check. Lets see if I can help out..............Larry Katz, Radioman of PBY's.
VP21, VP22, VP101, VPB 29.....Dont
let the patrol squadron names confuse you, all four squadrons became one
when we broke up. After Pearl Harbor,we all were sent to Perth, Australia
to become one outfit. We were one of the oldest squadrons in the Pacific
after the attack on Pearl Harbor
Susannah very pleased for the quick reply as it does bring back so many memories of that place. To me each island that we operated out of seems the same, for one rock out there was just like the rest. However Green does stay in my mind as one of the funniest incidents happened to me there.
Yes, I was at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. I was a radioman 3rd Class, been there since June of 1941. At that time I was one of the oldest in my squadron, a 23 year old sailor from Brooklyn, N.Y....I had enlisted in the Navy as I did not want to get drafted into the Army at that time.
I was in a PBY squadron from the time I got out to Pearl Harbor, until I got back to the states in December of 1944. On June 1st, 1944, we left Port Moresby to Samari, where we pulled a few patrols and Dumbos, and Black cat flights until the 12th of June, 1944 when we started on that tour. We went from Samari to Treasury Island, in the Solomons, On the 14th of June, we went on our 1st Rescue Patrol and went to pick up a downed PV plane, however we got there five minutes late as another Catalina picked up the crew. Anyway into so many things. I will get back to you with some photos taken on the strip at Green Island and pictures of our plane there and of some of our crew and then I will tell you that funny story that happened to me while on Green when we went on a beer bust and I tried to do some trading at one of the huts on the island with some of the natives.
I left the Navy as an Aviation Chief Radioman after flying nearly 2900 hours in Corpus Christi, Texas, where I met my wife of 57 years. We have lived here in Arkansas for over 50 years. We are in a town 60 miles north of Memphis, Tenn. In fact last October we were in Washington, D.C. where our PBYCIA had our reunion (PBYCIA is a group of men who flew in Catalinas from all over the world). At the museum at Pensacola, we have just donated a Cutaway exihibit of one of our PYY's. My granddaughter is in school at Rutgers. I am a retired Jeweler and my youngest son has our Jewelry store here, my oldest son is an attorney for the government in Dallas, with the FDIC. My wife is a retired school teacher from Oklahoma, who was teaching in Corpus when we met.
Bush: Assume you saw Bob Hope and Jack Benny on your tour. Did you ever stop by the PT Boat base across the lagoon? I am told that the wild pigs on Green are very tasty. Some Corsairs had to dodge them on the runway. Your group probably got to the island about 2 weeks before Dick Nixon left. His main job seemed to be playing poker.
Katz: Milton to answer a few of your questions, while at Green we never had a chance to see Hope or Benny. We did stop at the PT Boat base across the lagoon; in fact have a picture of three of us coming back on one of the PT boats. In that picture have a photo of a Joe Sommers who was shot down around Kendari in Oct. of 1944, captured and then beheaded. He was an old timer in VP101 who like myself became VPB29. In fact here is the address of our skipper at that time and his name is in the Green Island accounts. His name is as follows
Capt: Steve Johnson, 6626 NE 153rd Place, Bothell,Washington 98011, Phone Number:1-206-488-8675
He was the skipper of VPB29 when we arrived in Green Island. My pilot was William "Bill"Lankford Sure wish I knew if he is still here or what. Steve Johnson did not know. Anyway if you can contact Steve Johnson, I guess he would have so much more on Green Island than I do. Will tell you a funny story regarding Green Island
While there we went to one of the Native Huts for a trading session. We would trade with the natives things that we had for their trinkets like shell bracelets, necklaces, or stalks of bananas or anything native. We would trade razer blades, sheets, pillow cases, (they called them LOP LOP). I had an I.D. Bracelet that my mother gave me with Naval Wings on one side with my name, and on the other side engraved was "Mother." While in the hut one of the natives that we were trading with spotted my bracelet and started pulling on it gently. He wanted it and in return he took both hands of his and put the two forefingers and thumbs together forming a shape like a triangle. He then called out to someone in the back of the hut and a young native girl came out.
You know what he wanted me to do; he wanted me to trade the bracelet
for the young girl for my pleasure. I looked at both of them and kept shaking
my head from side to side in the no no position. At that time all my buddies
behind me kept yelling out, "Larry, I'll give you $10.00 for that bracelet,
$20.00, $30.00 and up...It was the funniest thing one could have seen.
Make a long story short. I did not trade that bracelet for anything, I
still have it in my treasure box.
Bush: Your bracelet story shows why villager areas were supposed to be off-limits to sailors..... If any of your crew mates have e-mail, please ask them to send me a note so I can contact them. They are also invited to look over the website info on Green. I have found that most vets over age 80 take a day or two to recollect the better stories, then, write them down.
Did you ever do the hand grenade fishing in the lagoon? The place is still full of fish, and a bunch of very big sharks.
Here is a tough question: The Green runways had a bamboo air control tower, about 30 feet high. Supposedly, it was between the two runways. But was it halfway down, or by the north end or the south end? I have a picture of it taken from my Dad's quonset office. Without a reference point, don't know where to put it on the map.... And we still don't know where the base hospital was.
Katz: Milton our outfit did not do that much on Green Island as we lived mostly off our planes in the four months that we were operating out of there. Our PBY's were seaplanes with no wheels; the PBY5A's operated on land and water and our squadron were strictly sea planes so they were designated a PBY5's. Most of our planes lived off tenderships where we were based, however if I remember that far back, we lived both on land (in the Green Island case) and off Tenders.
As for the grenade fishing, that we did in one of our advanced bases in Geraldton, Australia on the Western Coast. We would throw the grenades, stun the fish, and go fetch them when they floated up to the surface. We would also bring up some of the greatest Lobsters and have some clam bake.
As for the tower,honestly I cannot recall that, however if you or I can get in touch with Steve Johnson VPB29 skipper he might clue us in on something like that. What I intend to do for you is that I am going to try to Scan Jet some of the pages that I have in my log book regarding the five months that I spent on Green and let you see what I wrote on each hop out of Green Island.
I still have all my notes on the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th, 1941 that I refer to when I am asked to make speeches to different groups around that time of the year, however I have been slowing down as it does take a lot out of me. But like our Pearl Harbor Survivors, we have to keep reminding people what happened. Our motto was and still is, "REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR...KEEP AMERICA ALERT"...People today have forgotten what happened and it sure as H..L can happen again. Will get back to you....Larry
Captions for Larry Katz's photos and logbook
PBY5 This is a picture of what our planes looked like. I flew in them for nearly 2700 hours. This is a PBY 5. It took off only in water. We also had a PBY5A which was Amphibious, they took off in water and land.....When we wanted it up on land, we had a beaching crew who went out in the water with wheels that could attach to our planes, and then the tractors would pull them up to the ramp and onto the beach.
PBY5A Here is a PBY5A Catalina that could land
on both water and land. The wheels can be pulled into the body when the
plane took off. 0839Catalina
Babb,2nd radio,Lankford,Our PPC This was taken on Green Island. Short man, Babb, is my second radioman, Lankford the tall one was our Pilot. We were pulling a plane check on Green.
JOEY, ME , AND NICK..JOE SOMMERS WAS THE BEHEADED ON This is a very interesting picture. It was taken just before we left Carins, in Australia to go to our base called Palm Island. One side of the island was a Leper Colony, and we had our planes on the other side. Palm Island was off Carins: we went there to repair our planes. The reason that it is an interesting picture it was taken just before we left Palm for Green Island. The young man called Joey was a very dear friend of both myself (which is me in the middle) and Nick on the right. All three of us were from the East Coast. Joey was from New Jersey and Nick and myself were from Brooklyn. When we got back to Green Island after pulling a short term of duty, Nick left for the states and Joey and I remained. Right after that, Joey was shot down with his crew, captured and then beheaded.....What I started to say from the beginning was that the boat we left Carins in was a PT Boat....
LARRY ON ENGINE, GREEN ISLAND. 1944 This a picture of me on one of the engines while at Green Island. We were in that area in 1943 while on our first tour of duty in Port Moresby, flying over the Owen Stanley Range to bring in Australian Commandoes and New Guinea Islanders who did spotting for the allied forces. Larry
LOG BOOK PAGE 1. JUNE 1944 Thought you both would enjoys this.Copy of my log book during our tour of duty at Greeen.After Sept of 1944 we were getting ready for the Philippine invasion and to go home at the end of Nov,44 after leaving Brooklyn,N.Y. in January of 1941
LOG BOOK PAGE 2, JULY 1944
LOG BOOK PAGE 4. SEPT. 1944 Last page,leaving soon for home.