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Clifford N. "Cliff" Seaver

Clifford N. "Cliff" Seaver

Clifford N. “Cliff” Seaver, from New Jersey, joined Butch O’Hare’s fighter squadron at San Diego, CA in the spring of 1943 – just a day or two earlier than Hersch Pahl and a lot of other guys. We were about the same age (23) and had about the same date of rank. We both fell in love with the new Hellcat fighter and set about trying to learn all there was to know about that plane – inside and out.

Chief Williams, Buzy Baur and others welcomed us to help with the routine maintenance checks and taught us what we wanted to know. We flew the plane as much as we could trying to learn how to get the most out of it. We both cherished the time that Butch spent with us as he taught us tactics and techniques.

Very early on, we both gravitated to the engineering department and soon qualified to fly engineering test flights when needed. In May of 1943, we both made refresher landings on the old USS Altamaha CVE-18 and received our first carrier catapult launch.

VF-6 in USS Cowpens (CVL-25) - One flight (12 planes) of VF-6, Lead by George Bullard, was assigned temporarily to the U.S.S. Cowpens during the fall of `43 and became a part of Air Group Twenty-five.

VF-6 in USS Cowpens (CVL-25) - Click Image for Larger View

When we deployed to Puunene, Maui we were organized into divisions of four man teams. Cliff and I were in the same division and flew that way through the Central Pacific Island raids we made against Marcus Island, from the USS Independence (CVL-22) and Wake Island raid and the invasion of the Gilberts from the USS Cowpens (CVL-25).

In early 1944 , when the squadron went aboard the Intrepid for the invasion of the Marshall Islands, we were still flying together. One day during the battle to take the northern Islands of Kwajalein Atoll, I watched Cliff blow up a huge ammunition storage or dump. Cliff did not get hurt, but it was a sight to see.

6th Div VF-6 on Independence (CVL-22) Marcus Raid, Sep '43 L-R: Bud Loesch, Foster Blair, Nichols, Hersch Pahl and
Cliff Seaver

Cliff - Left with Hersch's 'Rugged Sixth Division - Click Image for Larger View

When the fleet made the first big raid on Truk Atoll, Cliff and I were assigned to escort our TBF Avenger torpedo-bombers in for a strike at shipping, at which time, we were intercepted by jap fighters. The fight started above 20,000 feet. A short time later the fight and the attack was all over. My wing-man, Hoot Hutt and I had both shot down one fighter each.

As we circled in a rendezvous area, we joined Cliff and his wing-man. Cliff indicated that he had shot an enemy plane down, so that made three kills for our division in just a few minutes.

Cliff and I both liked to sing; however, Cliff and Al Fairbanks emerged as the leaders of the off-hours, song-fests we had whenever we were ashore. One evening after a USO show at Hilo, Cliff and the rest of VF-6 singers, played host to the famous Dennis Day who joined in as we sang for hours.

In telling the story of how Cliff and I worked together, flew together, lived together, worried and had fun together is much like telling the whole story contained in my book, 'Point Option', as we did the last three war time cruises of Fighting Squadron Six together and that is what the book is all about.

To point out, or recount some of those special events and happenings:

1. We both had mid air collision with another hellcat — Mine was at sea, while Cliff’s mid air happened over the tall red wooded area of northern California. Joe Scoggins, the guy that collided with Cliff bailed out and landed OK, but injured his ankles while Cliff landed in the top of a tall red wood tree. After many hours shivering some 80 feet from the ground, he was finally rescued.

2. We were both making night carrier qualification landing on the Cowpens when it was rammed by an escorting destroyer about 0230 in the morning.

3. In Wailiku Maui, we both purchased beautiful negligees for our wives.

4. Flying from the USS Cowpens, We both attacked Wake Island and later chased a high flying Japanese snooper and shot it down.

5. We both mourned the loss of our beloved skipper, Butch O’Hare.

6. The night the Lexington was torpedoed (December 4, 1943) we watched, waited and worried together from the decks of the near by Cowpens.

7. Christmas, 1943, the squadron met with our dear friends, Frank and Ethal Hoogs, at Wailiku, Maui for Christmas Dinner, at which time we joined the Hoogs family and others, in memorializing our late skipper. We later participated in the 21 plane Memorial Flight of Hellcats back to Barber's Point on Dec 26, 1943.

8. We worked hard together to get our squadron aircraft ready to fly aboard the new USS Intepid in January 1944.

9. During the invasion of the Marshall Islands we made several strikes together against installations on Kwajalein. And mourned the loss of our buddies Bobby Neel and Tom Hall.

10. At Truk we escorted a flight of Torpedo Bombers. I was high and to the left of the formation and Cliff was high and ahead on the right. Enemy fighters intercepted us and soon we got involved in our first dog fight. In a very short time our division accounted for three shoot downs.

11. The next day after the USS Intrepid had been torpedoed, we assisted in the erection of a huge sail on the bough of the flight deck to assist in keeping the ship on course (Damage from the torpedo attack had rendered the ship’s rudder inoperative).

12. While re-forming and retraining the squadron, summer 1944, at Santa Rosa, Cliff and his wife Rose, shared a summer cottage with Bonnie and myself. We lived together.

13. We both received special training at Inyokern, CA with the new HVAR 5" rockets and flew for the making of a rocket training film.

HVAR 5" Rocket Training at
Inyokern, California, August 1944

Click Image for Larger View


Wider View showing our F6F Hellcats on the line at Inyokern, California, August 1944

Click Image for Larger View

14. October 1944, we both made refresher landings on the old USS Ranger (CV-4).

15. We went aboard the USS Hancock at Ulithi Atoll on March 9 1945 and then proceeded to fight the rest of the war together. Many of the important missions found us together too numerous to single out, as we worked our way through the battle of Okinawa and the mainland of Japan.

16. On March 27 (D-5 of Operation Iceberg), just two days before event #17 below, (the Somerville rescue operation), Cliff and I, with our divisions of Hellcats provided air cover and ground fire support for the Marine invasion of the small Kerama Retto Islands located 20 miles west of Okinawa. The operation was a success and a base for our seaplanes was established there before the actual invasion of Okinawa began.

17. On March 29, '45, Cliff Seaver and I were both airborne and involved in pre-invasion activities for "Operation Iceberg" for the invasion of Okinawa, he and his division escorted two float planes to Kagoshima Bay to rescue Pete Somerville from his one man life raft in enemy territory. While providing air cover for the rescue operation, Cliff shot down an enemy twin engine aircraft and his wingman Jerry Hoveland shot down another enemy fighter. The rescue operation was a success and we were all happy to have Pete Somerville back aboard the Hancock.

(You can read more about this Rescue event along with Pete Somerville's personal observations on his Dedication Page)

18. We were there together when the enemy surrendered and then flew POW missions and helped support them until they were rescued.

19. Together we mourned the loss of Petty Officer Roger Gunn and participated with deep sorrow as we ceremoniously committed his remains to the sea – the last VF-6 life to be lost in this long tragic war.

After the war, we each went our own way. Cliff stayed in the Navy also and eventually became the commanding officer of an aircraft carrier. He was the host for the VF-6 reunion in San Diego in 1990. And attended later reunions in Oceania, Va.

Other VF-6 Reunions

The active military life of Cliff Seaver was like looking at a mirror for me. He was a vital part of my experiences – to him I will always be grateful and proud to have know him — as one of my heroes.

Unfortunate news came to me this past July, 2010, when I received word that my old friend of many years who had been fighting cancer for some time, had finally succumbed and passed away. These events seem to be coming on to me more and more frequently as all of us are getting old and wearing down.

Cliff was always an inspiration to me and as I said before, he was always one of my heroes, whom I will never forget and will look forward to seeing again one day.

Rest in Peace, old Friend!

- Hersch Pahl


Cliff Seaver at Morro Bay -
Summer of 2007
Here for another Picture

Cliff Seaver
Captain Clifford N. Seaver, US Navy (Ret), a Naval Aviator and former football player for Temple University, died June 10, 2010, in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, from cancer.

Captain Seaver was born on 21 November 1920; growing up in Westmont, New Jersey, where he attended Collingswood High School before entering Temple University in 1939.

He left Temple just after Pearl Harbor and started flight training for the U.S. Navy at the Philadelphia Naval Air Station in March 1942.

He was commissioned Ensign in December 1942 at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas.

Captain Seaver served two tours of duty in the Pacific Theater during World War II with Fighter Squadron Six, attached to Air Group Six, flying from aircraft carriers INDEPENDENCE, COWPENS, INTREPID and HANCOCK.

After WWII, Captain Seaver served in various naval commands including a tour as a flight instructor at Pensacola, Florida.

He became Officer in Charge of a Night Fighter Detachment on the USS BOXER CVA-20 in 1949; Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron 52 in 1957; Officer in Charge of Jet Transitional Training Unit, Olathe, Kansas, in 1957; and Commanding Officer Advanced Training Squadron 21 at NAS Kingsville, Texas, in 1960.

Captain Seaver served as Operations Officer and Executive Officer of USS Ticonderoga CVA-14 in 1961-1963 and Commanding Officer of USS Pine Island AV-12 in 1965.

His staff duties included tours of duty on First Fleet and as a member of the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon from which he retired in 1969.

His military decorations included the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and seven Air Medals.

Captain Seaver will be buried with full military honors at Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veteran's Cemetery in North Hanover Township, New Jersey.

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