David Weaver, who grew up in Charleston, S.C. and joined the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1943 when he was 21, was sent to the Pacific Fleet and assigned to Escort Carrier Group VF-60 at Saipan.
“We flew F6F Grumman Hellcats, the best fighter plane in the Pacific,” the 90-year-old World War II warrior explained. “They were steady, hard to knock down airplanes built by ‘The Grumman Iron Works.’”
“The Hellcat was superior to the Japanese Zero when diving. If you got a Zero on your tail all you did was dump it and dive. You could out dive him,” Weaver said.
“Another reason the Hellcat was so good, it had a Pratt & Whitney 2800-10 supercharged engine with two rows of cylinders in front of you. So in a head-on shootout the other fellow usually got the worst of it. The plane was armed with three .50-caliber Brownings in each wing. By the time we got out to the Pacific the Hellcat also had six or eight rockets under each wing. These rockets were equal to the five-inch main guns on a destroyer.”
Two weeks before the end of World War II, Weaver and his squadron was formed on Saipan in August 1945.
“We were flying off a little airstrip at the north end of Saipan, near the cliffs where the Japanese committed suicide by jumping off,” he said. “Our main mission was to fly around the island and some of the nearby smaller islands and fire our rockets into caves where enemy soldiers might be hiding.”
Weaver flew about a half dozen of these missions at the tail end of the Second World War.
During the five months he and his buddies in VF-60 spent on Saipan they had some peculiar encounters with Japanese troops.
“Four of us borrowed a Jeep and took a tour around Saipan. My section leader, Tony Garland, took a picture of me standing by some trees. When we got the prints back there I was with a Japanese soldier standing behind me in the trees,” Weaver recalled more than 65 years later.
“We had night movies. They made a movie screen by stretching a white sheet between two palm trees. The Japs would come down from the hills and watch the movie with us from a distance in the brush.
“We lived in a Quonset hut the Seabees built for us. It had an adjoining shower. Our security force would make the rounds a couple of times a night. One night they found a Japanese soldier who had come down from the hills and took a shower in our bathroom.”
Several months after the war ended Weaver and his squadron boarded the USS Chenago (CVE-28) a Jeep carrier and sailed for San Diego, Calif.
“Once I reached San Diego I got orders to report to the Training Command at Corpus Christie, Tex. I stayed there from the beginning of 1946 until the end of 1947. At that point I was released from active duty,” he said.
Weaver returned to his job at the Charleston Navy Yard for a few months until his late wife, Harriet, talked him into attending the Citadel in 1949. I studied pre-veterinary medicine until I ran out of classes in his subject to take and then I transferred to Clemson.
“It was there in March 1951 I received a letter from the Navy Department saying: ‘We Need You!’ I went back on active duty and was sent to Atlanta Naval Air Station where I started flying F-4U Corsairs.
“I was transferred to Tactical Air Group-7 in Quonset Point, R.I. From there I was transferred to Korea. Most of the time I flew F9F Cougar jets with VF-71 in Korea.
“I had a flameout flying an F9F while approaching a carrier,” Weaver said. “All I could do was pucker up and put it in the water. The rescue helicopter came out to get me. I was the first water rescue the chopper pilot made and he almost drowned me.
“After the flameout my squadron commander said I needed more carrier landing training. I had about five hours flying time when they started me landing with the F9F on the carrier. Most pilots have at least 50 hours practice landing on carriers.”
One of Weaver’s jobs he is proud of is the time he spent with two other sailors producing the 1952 Cruise Book of the USS Bon Homme Richard he flew off of during the Korean War. He was editor of the publication.
A notation in the back of the book reads: “We owe our most sincere appreciation to Lt. David G. Weaver, USNR, Julio Granda, DMS, USN, and Robert J. Mendonca, AO3, USN. These three men remained in Japan and worked with the publisher in order that this book might be completed by deadline date.”
In the mid 1950s Weaver took a course at the University of Southern California in Aviation Safety. A short time later there was a military reduction for all branches that affected everyone.
“So I got out of the Navy along with a lot of other people,” he said. “Because I made an impression with the people at the University of Southern California and the admiral in charge of aviation safety I got a job teaching aviation safety at Southern Cal.,” he said.
All the while Weaver remained in the Naval Reserve and flew an S2F twin-engine Tracker anti-submarine plane. By then Weaver was 60, it was 1981,” he said. “It was at this point the Navy sent me a letter thanking me my service. By then I had served 41 years and had the rank of a Navy Commander. I had started working in the ship yard in Charleston on Jan. 2, 1940 and I retired from the Navy on Aug. 1, 1981.
“My wife and I moved to Florida in 1989. The following year I was involved in the development of the Military Heritage & Aviation Museum in Punta Gorda. We have three children: David, Joseph and Patricia, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.”
Dave Weaver has written two war novels
NavCad tells the story of Bruce Weber, arrested for running bootleg whiskey and given a choice by a judge of jail or the Navy. He took the latter and wound up in the Navy’s Pre-Flight training and eventually Pensacola, Fla.’s advanced flight training.
In his second novel, The Eagle and the Osprey, Ensign Bruce Weber graduates from Pensacola and winds up flying a Grumman Hellcat fighter plane as a replacement pilot in the Pacific during World War II. The young ace shoots down a dozen enemy planes. Then he is confronted by Kenji Okada, “The Osprey,” a super Japanese ace.
Contact Weaver at 941-624-6107 for a signed copy of his books. Both books are available on Amazon.
Name: David G. Weaver
D.O.B: 1 Aug. 1921
Hometown: Charleston, S.C.
Currently: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Dates of Service: 2 Jan. 1940 to 1 Aug. 1981
Wars, operation, or conflict: World War II, Korea
Commendations: World War II Victory ribbon, Asiatic Pacific medal, American Theater medal, National Defense Service Ribbon, Naval Reserve medal, Navy Expert Pistol, United Nations Service medal, Korean Service medal
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Monday, July 30, 2012 and is republished with permission.
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