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PATROL SQUADRON SIX VP-6
“The World Famous Blue Sharks” (1943-1993) PATRON SIX“
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Joe Harrington and the Bomb Bay (1957) by Larry Mickelsen
The New Joe Harrington and the Bomb Bay (1957)
by Larry Mickelsen
I remember always wanting to go to Midway Island when I first got into VP-6. When I finally got my big chance, I was flying as 2nd Ordnanceman with Joe Harrington. I think it was with Crew 4. Anyway, we were on our merry way to Midway and God knows how far out, when those of us in the after station smelled fuel. Searching the aircraft for the smell, we eventually looked into the bomb bay and found about six or seven inches of avgas pooled on the bomb bay doors. The pilots had switched to the bomb bay fuel tank, and it had a serious leak.
The pilots and plane captain immediately secured power to the radar and everything else that was non-essential (we left the radio up). I was just a 2nd ordnanceman at the time and I did know that we didn't need a spark to light up our day. The pilot then opened the bomb bay doors and closed them to get rid of the avgas. But when the doors were closed, the bomb bay just filled up with fuel once again. The pilot then pulled the salvo lever with the intention of jettisoning the bomb bay fuel tank to get rid of the problem. But then we had a 2nd problem, the fuel tank did not separate from the aircraft because one of the bomb racks didn't release. The pilot tried a second time to jettison the tank, but with the same results.
So he closed the doors and Joe Harrington and I went down into the radar well, where Joe put on his parachute and walked out on to the bomb bay doors. Joe could not get to the bad bomb rack with his chute on so he took it off, laid it on the doors so it would be handy, and then crawled over the tank and replaced the bad release unit that was on the rack with a good one. Then he climbed back into the radar well. The pilot gave it another try and we watched the tank fall away from the aircraft. Without the fuel to make it all the way to Midway, we turned around and returned home to Barbers Point, Hawaii.
Joe, as far as I know, never got a pat on the back for that one, but he should have.