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James "Jim" Driver

Jim" Driver in his F6F Hellcat

James "Jim" Driver joined Fighting Squadron Six (VF-6) at Santa Rosa Calif in the summer of 1944 while the air group was re-forming and getting ready for the next two combat cruises which would see them through to the end of WW-II. Jim was a dive-bomber pilot and had flown the Douglas Dauntless (SBD-5) with bombing squadron VB-98 during a previous tour of combat duty from Guadalcanal and on through the Solomon Islands.

Jim flew many antisubmarine flight escorting friendly supply lines and had a number of other contacts with the enemy. Back in the "States" in early summer '44 and after 30 days leave he commenced training in VF-6 F6F Hellcats at Santa Rosa.

Retraining with this fighter squadron included, gunnery, rocket practice as well as night field carrier landing practice and then refresher carrier landings on the old USS Ranger (CV-4) with the whole air group.

Jim deployed with the squadron in November '44, arriving at Hilo Hawaii about Thanksgiving 1944. While the air group waited to be assigned to a carrier further west, VF-6 concentrated on fighter tactics and target practice with all kinds of ordnance.

In late Feb 1944 Jim enjoyed a leisure trip west with the whole air group aboard the old USS Long Island (CVE-1). We finally arrived at the big fleet anchorage at Ulithi Atoll on 8 March.. On the 9th of March '44, Air Group Six (AG-6) embarked aboard the USS Hancock (CV-19). Jim and I were paired off as room-mates and together we elected to live in a small room located in the same space with the machinery of the forward deck edge crane. We knew that it would be noisy when being operated during replenishment operations, but we chose it any way as it was under the armored hanger deck, was warm and close to the Officers Ward Room.

"Jim" Driver and Hersch Pahl await flight in Ready Room - Click here for Full Image

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Jim attempted to teach me to play the game of cribbage. I didn't become very good, but it was a good way to pass the time.

We flew in different divisions: however on 19 March we were both standing buy in the ward room ready to be sent out on any emergency that might come up. Our picture was taken while our task group was under attack. I was listening to the anti-aircraft guns while Jim appears to be working on his navigation board which was about the time the USS Franklin (CV-13) was hit by a kamikaze which was the beginning of her terrible fight for her life. My division was sent to give her close-in air support but Jim's division drew a dull combat air Patrol mission.

U.S.S. Franklin CV-13 was beginning her fight for dear life after being hit by Kamikaze,
30 October 1944

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It seems a bit odd that Jim and I were never scheduled on the same mission; however, our support for each other was limited to helping each other prepare for our various assignments. This mutual support was invaluable. I don't see how we could have made it without it.

After the war ended, I recall that we went ashore together to visit the devastated city of Yokohama. We used our C-rations as bartering material to purchase a souvenir or two. I came back to the ship with a black derby hat made in England, a Japanese army bugle and some saki cups. Jim had something similar.

As our ship, in a "home coming" task force neared the coast of California, Jim and my division volunteered to be launched the day before arriving at San Pedro to make room for the many guests the ship was preparing to host on our Navy Day celebration.

When we arrived at North Island, I called Bonnie by phone like I had done many times before and asked her to come and get us at the field. Within a few minutes Jim and I as well as the rest of my division (Dick Olson, Daryl Grant and Morice Shay) were in our home in Coronado, savoring the smell of a roast turkey dinner which was all prepared and ready to eat. I was already making some feeble attempts to meet and get acquainted with my new 6 month old son, Randy. As a second surprise, Jim's lady friend, Connie, was there too, helping Bonnie with the "fixins". To this day we have never understood just how the girls learned that we were into NAS North Island a day early - nor when. We will always believe that we had a secret friend in either the Air Group or in the Captain's office. What a beautiful way to return home from a war!

VF-6 Pilots gather at a reunion in 1998

Left to Right - Dick Olson, Hersch Pahl, Willie Moeller, Jim Driver, unknown pilot, David Kipp and Ray Killian.

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Three Hellcat Pilots (L-R)- Jim Driver, Hersch Pahl and Joe Robbins get together at Jim's home in Ramona, California in 1988 to talk over old times on the Hancock in 1945

November 10, 2009 marked a very sad day for me, as I got a call from Jim's son Tim Driver, notifying me of his dad's passing. Tim informed me that his dad passed away from a Stroke suddenly, just a day before Veteran's Day. I can't express the sadness that this news brought to me! He and I had been close friends for over 65 years, and a true Light in my life has gone out. But I know that Jim lives on, and the knowledge that I will see my good friend again one day, gives me comfort.

Thank you Jim, for being my friend and shipmate. Fly those azure skies where you can now reach out and touch the face of God.

"Roger all the way" old friend!

- Hersch Pahl

Jim Driver's Obituary - November 10, 2009
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