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Generation to Generation


As some of you may know, we continue to move our provocative film project, Guardian Angel – A True Story, forward. Some might not know that the inspiration for this film is the grandfather of PBY Catalina Foundation's founder. It was Commander Leonard H. Wagoner’s sacrifice, service, and courageous heart that motivated his grandson, Allen James, to build the foundation and now pilot down the long path of producing a movie: a powerful film to honor those who dedicated their lives for our freedom.

From generation to generation, the baton is passed, the links continue.

The following video highlights, in a marvelously moving way, what generational connections and love can bring to our lives. The images below this inspirational video are real military members, from the same family, generation to generation. Let us never forget: “History that is not remembered is history that never happened.”

Please return to our site often, there will be much more info coming on our film project and how you can participate – thanks!

Experimental Aircraft Association Presentation


I had the privilege of being invited to speak at the Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 124, at the Sonoma County Airport, on July 2, 2014.  The subjects were the PBY Catalina, the PBY Catalina Foundation and the various projects we are working on.  I want to thank Capt. Raymond W. Shipway and John Palmerlee for the invitation and their contact with our PR person, Jill Mead.  I also want to thank the Chapter President, Wayne Cook, for his guidance and hospitality.
Our evening began with the “breaking of bread” and much conversation.  Remember, these are pilots, therefore, the talk was about flying and other great adventures – reasonable exaggeration accepted!  Afterwards, tables and chairs were put away and their business meeting began with Chapter updates and finished with a patriotic song with most on key. 

(Picture: From left is Jill Mead, Wayne Cook, Allen James, John Palmerlee)

After a short break, my talk began. I was greeted by 30 plus smiling faces and many questions just after my introduction.  The first question was “What does PBY stand for?”  The answer: Patrol Bomber and Y is code for Consolidated Aircraft Corporation, the builder of the PBY.   I then moved into our DVD presentation of the PBY including some historical video of the aircraft along with black & white news video.   This set the mood for the power point to follow.Ron Schilling - Nolte Media

The power point began with a walk into PBY history by presenting a picture of XP3Y-1, the test platform that would produce the first PBY 1.

Pictures of commercial and military PBY aircraft with interior shots along with modern flight deck pictures for comparison continued the walk into history.  I also showed the diverse environments that the PBY operated in during WW II.   On one hand, Alaska, winter 1944, polar wear!  On the other hand, Pacific Island, winter 1944, beach wear!

Ron Schilling - Nolte MediaWe did stop for a moment to talk about the PBY 5 “Take-Off Check List” and the “Landing Check List”.  Remember, these are pilots!  There was also much discussion about the distance a seaplane needs to take-off verses a land based PBY 5A.  Seaplanes measure take-off in time not in distance. 

I began to close my presentation by talking about what the Foundation has completed over the years with little support.  I mentioned the two memorial flights with full military honors along with our MIA projects.  I finally finished with an update on our major project called “Guardian Angel, A True Story”.  Ron Schilling - Nolte MediaThis is a film project we are developing to document the heroism of an aircraft and her crews that saved many lives and for the children and grandchildren of the rescued to remember why they are alive today.

Thank you EAA 124 for listening.

Allen L. James, President , PBY Catalina Foundation

Saving Lives The Dumbo Way


WW2 was rife with violence, misery, death. But not all missions were about the taking of lives, many were about saving them. And the PBY Catalina seaplane – with knicknames such as The Black Cat, Noman, P-Boat….Dumbo, was instrumental in rescuing hundreds of men who fought for our freedom in that troublesome time.

More Than a Memorial - A Challenge

Thoughts on The Memorial Service for Commander Leonard "Snuffy" Wagoner
By RK Schilling -- 4/18/14


When I got a call 24 years ago to videotape a memorial service of a Navy pilot, I took it – it was a job. Not the most exciting job – I mean, I’d filmed in war-torn Nicaragua, out of hot air balloons, at comedy clubs – but it was money. Little did I know the effect that event would have on my life.

In my youth I had been an anti-Viet Nam war protestor: I was firm in my beliefs, I was prepared for jail. And in those days, people in the military weren’t held in the highest regard by many of my generation. Those sentiments, for me, softened and evolved over the years but some residual negativity still lingered.  Being able to capture, on video, the memorial for a particular service member, Leonard H. Wagoner, and the resulting activities that led to the exploration of his life, changed that.

Leonard H. Wagoner - Nolte Media - Ron SchillingCommander Wagoner had a long and distinctive career in the Navy, both during WW2 and after. He affected many men’s lives with his calm leadership, his congenial approach. But it was one singular event that remained foremost in his heart and mind throughout the rest of his life; an event, three weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, that established the respected man he became.


On the lookout for the Japanese invasion fleet, Pilot First Class Leonard “Snuffy” Wagoner and his untried PBY-5 crew patrolled through turbulent skies off the coast of Hawaii. Hundreds of miles from base, they spotted nine downed US airmen, struggling to stay afloat in a pair of half-inflated rafts. Lost at sea for 4 days, things looked dark for these soldiers.


The PBY radioman telegraphed Pearl about the discovery of the missing men. The airfield responded with firm orders: Attempting a PBY Catalina Foundation - Ron Schilling - Nolte Mediarescue would be too dangerous; return to base before the storm hits. Snuffy and the crew faced an agonizing decision: obey orders or save the lives of nine desperate men.


They chose life. Battling forty-foot waves and 20-knot winds, they rescued the stranded crew, and piloted through adverse conditions back to base. It was a choice to do the right thing, not the “correct” thing.

When Allen James – Snuffy’s grandson who hired my company to videotape the memorial service – told me this story an idea was born: we should share Snuffy’s experience with others. Our first attempt, in the 80’s, was an award-winning documentary entitled: The Warrior Spirit. This film explored what it meant to be a warrior (a soldier, a fire fighter, a teacher) and the tough decisions people face in their everyday lives.

Allen James - Ron Schilling - Nolte MediaAllen went on to found and direct the PBY Catalina Foundation whose basic goal is to remember the history of WW2 and the PBY; to remember the hard choices that were made then; and to apply those lessons to today’s rough seas.


Presently, we are involved in fundraising for a feature film on this same topic: Guardian Angel – A True Story. This film will recount the harrowing and emotionally dramatic story of Snuffy’s PBY sea rescue – what it meant to the young soldiers then, what it means to us now.


My involvement with The Warrior Spirit, The PBY Foundation, Allen, and Guardian Angel has brought me to a keener understanding of the universal challenges we all face. When we strip away our uniforms – a Navy pilot’s flight suit, or the cargo vest of a video producer – we are simply individuals, each faced with personal decisions. It is then we determine whether we have the fortitude to step up when confronted with a difficult choice; and to do, not the “correct” thing, but the right thing.

A Few Gallons More



At the PBY Catalina Foundation’s 1994 reunion, Santa Rosa, California, we had a real treat. Bob Swan, the pilot/navigator of the PBY that first sited the Japanese Invasion of Midway on June 3, 1942 shared a remarkable piece of information.

Per Bob, his PBY had been searching for the Japanese invasion fleet for several days. Each day they flew 650 miles on the outward leg, turned 90 degrees fro about 100 miles and then returned to Midway.
PBY Catalina - Ron Schilling - Nolte Media

On each patrol, as they reached the 650 mile turning point, a Japanese twin engine Nel 96 plane would put a few holes in their beloved PBY. Even though they fired their 50 caliber blister guns at the meatball painted plane, no real kill was noted.

At Midway, the U.S. Army had sent some B-17s to bolster the defense of the island and they had a new type of 50-caliber machine gun bullet.  It had an exploding projectile that blew up on impact causing greater damage than that of the regular type projectiles. Swan and his crew were able to scrounge five rounds of the new bullet.  They placed three rounds in one gun and two in the other.  They were going to get the NIP aircraft that put holes in their PBY.

The best part of Swan’s tale was about the plane’s captain, R. J. DeRouin, who had a wife and two children. For some unknown reason, Chief DeRouin decided, on their behalf, to add 50 gallons of fuel for each member of his family, a total of 150 extra gallons!  Off they flew.  At the 60 mile point where they would have turned their 90 degrees – no Japanese aircraft – no bullet holes in their PBY!

Disappointed, Swan asked Jack Reid, the patrol plane commander, if they could continue on for a few minutes more with the hopes of trying out the new bullets.  They really wanted to use the exploding rounds on the Jap plane.

With the extra fuel, Reid agreed, with the comment to Bob, “I don’t care just so long as you get us back to Midway.”   On they went.  Again, per Bob, they had not flown very long when suddenly below and on the near horizon, was the Japanese invasion fleet heading for Midway!

The rest is a major part of our W.W.II history, the beginning of the defeat of the Japanese empire and the end of W.W.II.

Had it not been for a few gallons more of fuel, and the determination to get even with a Japanese plane, the United States Navy could have missed the Japanese invading fleet.

To the men who found this fleet – MORE THAN WELL DONE, GENTLEMEN.

Cliff Hanger: Rescued by First Responders




Marshall Gulch. Big winds. Big waves. A friend of mine and I scrambled down a raggedy path to capture some sunset footage for a music video we’re producing for The PBY Catalina Foundation. We’re taking Elton John’s moving song “Oceans Away” and adding visuals to it.

We located a great spot on the beach - ocean churning, sun heading for the horizon - and I began setting up the two cameras I brought. One was a GoPro that I’d planned to jump into the water with later - cold! cold! cold! – the other, my trusty Sony EX3.

Ron Schilling - Nolte Media - Oceans Away

Low sunlight angled into my lens and I realized it needed cleaning. My lens tissue was back at our vehicle (dumb) and I started preparing to hike back up the path to get it.  My friend, generous soul that he is, says “No problem, I'll go.“  Sure, no problem, what could happen?


A very short while later I hear what sounds like a cat mewling and I curiously glance around, don’t see anything. Then the sound rises again, this time it’s a dog baying; I crane my neck this way and that, and then – there! Thirty yards down the beach my friend lies crumpled in the sand at the bottom of the parking lot path.

What happened: Part way up the narrow climb my friend had been negotiating, ground gave way and he toppled to the bottom, landing in a twisted crunch. He was in pain. Major pain.


There was no phone reception in our area so I started scaling the path to seek assistance. Then, voices: two male hikers appeared above me. I quickly explained our situation and without hesitation they sailed off for help. (Thank you, dudes, whoever you were -- Angels?)


Within ten minutes a ranger found us, assessed my friend’s condition and radioed for back up. In an incredibly short period a medic and a sheriff arrived and minutes later a helicopter hovered overhead ready to lift my friend in a basket to a waiting emergency vehicle.

Ron Schilling - Nolte Media - Oceans Away


To these first responders: Our profound thanks. You guys are the best and we are blessed to have such caring, professional, and efficient service people at ready. You have our immense gratitude and praise.

One of the goals of the PBY Catalina Foundation is to honor the men who flew the PBY Cat during WW2 because one of their main missions was to rescue. This remarkable seaplane performed a multitude of important functions but its service as a rescue vehicle was unequalled. Many thousands of soldiers were saved from a salty grave by courageous men in an outstanding plane that could land in high seas and carry them back to safety.

We at the Foundation honor and salute First Responders; the PBY Catalina seaplane; and all other rescue heros; whether they be fireman, police officers, teachers, CPR instructors, nurses, homeless shelter operators – the list is long and valued. Thank you all – you’re the best!

P.S. My friend is okay now, albeit still sore; I am happy nothing worse happened. And, of course, as a cameraman – I got my footage.

YouTube Channel Now Online!


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We are looking to add more videos from our PBY friends, if you have something you'd like to share please let us know and we'll upload to the library: pbycat@sonic.net. Hope the new year is treating you, take care...



Help Us Offer a Helping Hand to a Homeless Vet


Happy holiday folks! Winter celebrations are upon us and this means the tax year is winding to a close. We have some special offers we’d like to share with those of you interested in tax deductions. This year we are doing what we can to make a difference with our campaign “A Hand-Up for the Homeless Vet.”PBY Catalina Foundation

A percentage of your donations this year will be going to help men and women who have served our country but now struggle with homeless issues. They need and deserve our support; from our hearts and from our wallets. We are giving you a chance to show these men and women we care and want to extend a helping hand.

We are offering our donors unique Midway Buttons as a thank you gift for any donation over $20 and for larger amounts we have Marshall Islands WW II aircraft coins in brass or silver - quite classy and a real value.


To see the thank you gifts you can receive for donating: CLICK HERE

To visit our Gift Shop to see other PBY related items: CLICK HERE

We dedicate the following moving music video, "The Closing of The Year" to all our service women and men and wish them a joyous holiday and a kick-butt New Year! This heartfelt song is from the movie Toys sung by Wendy and Lisa.





Guardian Angel - The Story

In late November, 2012, we received an e-mail from Bravery Cellars (www.braverycellars.com) that our “Guardian Angel” story was being featured on a 2010 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to honor the PBY Catalina crew of 51-P-6 for a very dangerous open sea rescue. This was quite gratifying to the Foundation.

It is also gratifying to the Foundation to share Bravery Cellars’ mission of serving our veterans. They state on each bottle of wine “We are committed to donating 100% of after tax profits to worthy programs which benefit veterans and their families.” Their mission connects with our mission to serve homeless veterans.

Bravery Cellars also has a partnering program called “Recognition Label Wines”. They state the following: “Our Recognition label was created to assist organizations in creating one or more wines which can be used to assist in fundraising efforts, support special events and/or to recognize individuals or groups.” The Foundation is looking at four labels over the coming months to cover red and white wines. The labels will recognize the two pilots, the VP51 crew, and the recused B-17 crew. Other labels will be generated over time to recognize others PBY Catalina history whether military or civilian. After profit taxes from the sale of these wines will be sent to the Foundation to help our various programs. This is another way of remembering history!

Guardian Angel - The Story Honoring:

Ensign Frank M. Fisler, Naval Aviation Pilot First Class Leonard H. Wagoner, and Flight Crew Six of VP51, December 30, 1941

The Story:

While on patrol out of Hawaii looking for an expected Japanese invasion fleet, a lone PBY-5 at maximum range spotted two life rafts containing the crew of a downed B-17 from Hickam Field. Although facing 20 knot winds, 40 foot seas, low fuel and approaching darkness, the crew of the PBY elected to attempt a rescue. After completing an extremely difficult landing, the PBY crew battled heavy seas and leaks from 54 popped rivets for two hours while trying to navigate with only occasional glimpses of the life rafts in the heavy seas. Once the nine grateful airmen were finally aboard the PBY, the crew was faced with a takeoff even more difficult and dangerous than the landing. After several unsuccessful tries "Snuffy" Wagoner finally coaxed the PBY into the air. The nine airmen, having survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, a ditching at sea and four days in small life rafts were now safe thanks to the heroism of Flight Crew Six of VP51.

Tasting Notes:

This one made us smile! Knights Valley is one of the finest cabernet growing regions in California, and this is an elegant example with aromas of currant, spice, mocha and just the right amount of soft oak tannins. This wine has superb balance and a wonderful silky feel in the mouth. We blended in just a hint of Cabernet Franc to add a delightful herbal note to the finish. Pair this with a rare Ahi steak, flavorful cheeses like Asiago or Manchego, or foods with rich tomato sauces. We're excited about this outstanding wine from an outstanding area at a great price.


Guardian Angel - The Story
PBY Catalina Foundation - Ron Schilling

PBY Catalina Foundation

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PBY Catalina FoundationVisit our Memorial Wall:

Members of The Wall are those people who have graciously donated funds towards our projects. The generous support they give is greatly appreciated and will forever be remembered here upon our website and in the future on a plaque in our museum. Those who donated, or those names in which donations were made shall be remembered.

Again, thank you for your support.