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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!
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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.
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!
We 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”. This 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
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.
Commander 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 rescue 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 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.
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
ON "OCEANS AWAY" MUSIC VIDEO SHOOT:
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.
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.
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.
A Request And More Images From Our Music Video Storyboard
Need your help! Anyone have photos or old movies of WW2 women vets or people of color? We're looking for images we can include in the music video we're creating from Elton John's recent song "Oceans Away." We're all aware that it was more than white guys who provided service and helped maintain our liberty (not that there's anything wrong with white guys, mind you). If you have anything to share with us, please contact at firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks!
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We're Producing a Professional Music Video - Can You Help Us?
Hey Folks! We’re producing a professional quality music video from one of Elton John’s recent songs “Oceans Away” -- we could use your help! If you have any photos or old home movies of WW2 soldiers (friends or family) that we might be able to include in this video, please contact us at email@example.com .
So far we have written a script for the song, created an animated storyboard, scouted locations, signed up a dozen WW2 vets to work as talent, and engaged the services of an ultralight pilot and his “trike” rig so we can capture some aerial photography over the ocean.
Once the music video is complete, we plan to share this piece with Elton John and Bernie Taupin: Elton John’s incredible songwriter.
Bernie wrote this moving song for his father and those his father served with in memory of “the last of those people who fought in the Second World War who are disappearing and dying that they not be forgotten.” Elton John’s performance is devastating.
This song parallels the theme of our Foundation: “History that is not remembered is history that never happened.” Our hopes are that once Elton and Bernie have viewed our tribute to this touching and significant song, they’ll allow us to share it with others and reach even more people with this message.
If you’d like to help with this project, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love your participation.
The photos in this article are from the animated storyboard we've created from our script. The cartoon images will be replaced by actors and real WW2 veterans.
For those of you interested the process of creating a video, we’ll send you a link to the “Oceans Away” animated storyboard we’ve created – log on to our Facebook page, “Like” us an send your e-mail address.
Our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pbycat
YouTube Channel Now Online!
We've uploaded all our videos to YouTube, please visit and subscribe!
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: email@example.com. 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.”
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.
Visit 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.