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Bascomb "Pearley" Gates

Bascomb "Pearley" Gates

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Bascomb "Pearley" Gates joined Butch O'Hare's fighter squadron in San Diego, CA in the spring of 1943 and deployed to Maui, T.H., in July with the whole squadron. Bascomb Gates was bound to carry the nick name of "Pearley".

When we were first organized into teams or divisions, "Pearley" was teamed up with "Bob" Hobbs, Tom Hall, "Hoot" Hutt, and their leader was Robert "Moose" Merritt.

Gates was a part of the 2/3 of VF-6 that Butch O'Hare took with him on the USS Independence (CVL-22), for the raid on Marcus Island early September, 1943 and was photographed with Merrit's division with a Hellcat on 9/6/'43.

In late October, after the USS Cowpens (CVL-25) was put out of action by a Destroyer (DD) colliding with her during night carrier qualification landings, the USS Independence was sent south to get in on an operation against Rabaul scheduled for early November. The new skipper, Harry "Stinkey" Harrison was now on the Independence with 1/3 of VF-6., as "Butch" had become the new Air Group Commander and was on the USS Enterprise (CV-6) with VB-6 , VT-6 and VF-2.

George Bullard's 1/3 of the squadron was still assigned to the Cowpens; however, the ship was in dry-dock in Pearl Harbor getting fixed up after the collision.

The Indepencence joined the Essex and the new USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) as they went south in late October, to become the Southern Carrier Group.

Admiral Halsey had already hit Rabaul on the 5th of November with the USS Saratoga (CV-3) and USS Princeton (CVL-23) and then on 11 November 1943, the Essex, Bunkerhill and Independence went into Rabaul again to further reduce the air power there. It was during the air activity over Rabaul that "Pearley" Gates disappeared. At one moment he was there flying in the "tail-end-charley" position or wing-man for Bob Hobbs. - and the next moment he was gone. No one observed what happened to him. It is assumed that enemy action of some kind was responsible. Engine problems or fuel starvation was definitely not the problem.

It was considered by the squadron, that the loss of "Pearley" was the first loss of a VF-6 pilot due to enemy action.

Moose Merritt's Division - L-R:- Robert "Bob" Hobbs, Robert "Moose" Merritt, Bascomb "Pearley" Gates, Tom Hall and Wilton "Hoot" Hutt.

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Close-up of
Pearley Gates

Robert "Moose" Merritt's Third Division on the USS Independence CVL-22, on the way home from the carrier raid on Marcus Island early Sept 1943. L-R:- Robert "Bob" Hobbs, Robert "Moose" Merritt, Bascomb "Pearley" Gates, Tom Hall and Wilton "Hoot" Hutt.

Note: Essex class CV in the background

- Hersch Pahl

"For those who fought for it...
freedom has a flavor the protected will never know!"

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October 1, 2007