Military Based History

TBM Avenger (Bu. No. 85828) was received by the Navy on 17 March 1945.  From March 1945 until September 1945 it served with Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 234 (VMTB-234).  This was one of the squadrons aboard CVE carriers at the end of the war.  VMTB-234 served on the USS Vella Gulf during the Okinawa campaign.


After the war it served with VMTB-622 during October 1945 and then with VMTB-623 during November 1945.  These two squadrons were also part of the CVE program but never did become fully operational as the Marine Corps got out of the torpedo bombing business at the end of the war.  All of the CVE squadrons were based at MCAS Santa Barbara, California.


It then appears to have been shipped to MCAS Ewa, Hawaii where it served in Service Squadron 44 during December 1945. 


During January and February of 1946, the aircraft was at NAS Barbars Point, Hawaii, and later was shipped to San Diego in March.


From April to December 1946 the aircraft was undergoing reconditioning and was placed in a pool of ready aircraft at NAS San Diego.


In January 1947 it was transferred to the pool at NAS Norfolk, Virginia where it remained until April.


From May 1947 to August 1948 the aircraft was assigned to the Naval Air Reserve Training Unit at NAS Norfolk.


At this point there is a break in all aircraft records as the Navy switched reporting programs and the records of the intervening years have been lost.


In May 1950 it was at the Overhaul and Repair shops at Norfolk.  Most likely just for normal rework.


From July 1950 to 1 March 1952 it once again was in the Naval Air Reserve Training Unit at NAS Norfolk.


It then was sent to the west coast and appears on the records of the Overhaul and Repair Facility at NAS San Diego from 11 April 1952 until 24 October 1952.


Once again it served with the Naval Air Reserve.  This time from 30 October 1952 until 1 June 1954 it was in the Reserve Training Program at NAS Spokane, Washington.


On 27 September 1954 it was reported as being in storage at NAS Litchfield Park, Arizona where it remained until 31 May 1956 when it was stricken from the Navy records and was disposed of at some subsequent date.


All records of the aircraft itself were disposed of at the time it was stricken at Litchfield Park. There is no way that we can provide any flight data other than the total flight time of 1333 hours that is shown on it's last history card 

Letter by Major John M. Elliott USMC

USS Vella Gulf

USS Vella Gulf (CVE-111) (ex-Totem Bay) was a Commencement Bay-class escort carrier of the United States Navy.

She was laid down as Totem Bay on 7 February 1944 at Tacoma, Washington, by the Todd-Pacific Shipyards, Inc. She was renamed Vella Gulf on 26 April 1944 and launched on 19 October 1944, sponsored by Mrs. Donald F. Smith. On 9 April 1945, she was commissioned with Capt. Robert W. Morse in command.

Following initial local operations in Puget Sound, Vella Gulf sailed for San Diego and arrived there on 4 May to pick up the initial increment of her assigned Marine air group. After embarking them at the naval air station, the escort aircraft carrier conducted shakedown off the southern California coast and embarked the remainder of her group during this period. At the completion of a post-shakedown availability, she departed the west coast on 17 June, bound for Hawaii. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 25 June and conducted 11 days of intensive training operations.

Vella Gulf departed Pearl Harbor on 9 July, stopped at Eniwetok in the Marshalls on the 16th to refuel, and proceeded on to Guam, where she arrived four days later. On the 23rd, she sailed for the Marianas to conduct air strikes against Rota and Pagan Islands. The next day, she launched 24 sorties against Pagan Island with her FG-1D Corsairs, Hellcat photographic aircraft, and TBM-3E Avenger bombers. Three days later, the escort carrier launched 21 sorties against Rota, with a dozen Corsairs, eight Avengers and one Hellcat taking part. Light anti-aircraft fire from Japanese guns peppered the skies but failed to reach the American planes. Two planes returned from the mission having conducted their attacks from such a low altitude that shrapnel from their own bomb explosions slightly damaged their tail surfaces.

The day after the Rota strike, the ship flew off her planes to Saipan and then returned to Apra Harbor, Guam, on 2 August, for a three-day breather before heading for Okinawa on the 5th. She arrived at Buckner Bay four days later. Her one night spent in the anchorage there was a memorable one since, during the evening, word arrived that surrender negotiations with the Japanese were in progress and prompted many ships and shore-based units to set off pyrotechnics.

Vella Gulf arrived back at Guam on 15 August in time to receive the welcome news that Japan had capitulated. Vella Gulf participated in the initial occupation operations of the Japanese home islands. She provided food and fuel to other Fleet units off the coast and, in late August, alternated with USS Gilbert Islands (CVE-107) in furnishing air cover for a replenishment group. The escort carrier then sailed for Tokyo Bay and arrived there on 10 September.

Departing Japanese waters on 21 September, Vella Gulf embarked 650 men at Okinawa for passage back to the west coast of the United States. After a brief stop at Pearl Harbor, she arrived at San Francisco, Calif., on 14 October. She subsequently operated in the Puget Sound area as training ship for escort carrier personnel until late March 1946, when she sailed for the coast of southern California and arrived at San Diego on 27 March. However, her stay there was brief, for she soon got underway again, touched at Port Angeles, and pushed on to Tacoma, Wash., where she began inactivation on the last day of the month. Moved to Seattle on 7 April, the ship was placed in inactive status, out of commission, on 9 August 1946.

Placed in reserve at Tacoma, the vessel remained there into the 1960's. Reclassified as a helicopter carrier (CVHE-111) on 12 June 1955, Vella Gulf was later transferred to the Military Sea Transportation Service; and she was again reclassified — this time to T-AKV-11. However, she never returned to active service. Struck from the Navy list on 1 June 1960, she was reinstated on 1 November of the same year. Struck for the second time on 1 December 1970, the erstwhile escort carrier was sold to the American Ship Dismantlers, Inc., of Portland, Oregon, on 22 October 1971 and scrapped.

Vella Gulf received one battle star for her World War II service.

[edit] Known Sailors of the USS Vella Gulf (CVE-111)

  • Roy T. Anderson (Gunner) - Stillwater, Oklahoma - [Born: 10/26/1922; Deceased: 04/11/07]
  • Stephen W. Lewkowicz "Lewke" (Catapult) - Manchester, Connecticut - Deceased: 10 July 1980
  • Irving C. Kerner "Clark" Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Mt.Clemens, Mi. B: 9/24/1920 D: 1/20/1988
  • Russell J. Baxter Ens. Mate, Born 1918, resides in Nixa, MO as of July 2008

[edit] References

  1. ^ Silverstone, Paul H. (1965). US Warships of World War 2. USA: Naval Institute Press, 444. ISBN 0-87021-773-9. 

This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships



Post War History

1957:  Sold to Plains Aero Service for $1,768.00 of Amerio, TX

1963:  Sold to Air Tankers of New Castles, WY

1972:  Sold to Fire Tanker of Casper, WY

1974:  Exported to Canada

1989:  Removed from Canadian Registration and purchased from

             Norfork Aerial spraying by Carbondale Co.

2005:  Sold to Fargo Air Museum of Fargo, ND

2008:  Sold to TBM Avenger, Inc. of Eureka, IL

Information from Chris Adam from Canadian Forest Service-Atlantic Forestry Centre

Bureau #: 85828

See the for more details. Warbirdregistry

Early History

1945 Construction #: 5632. USN.

One US owner.

Air Tankers Inc, Newcastle, WY

#B15 N7002C 1966-1972

Aerial Spray Program

1971 - Flew in NB in 1971, pilot Otis.

1972-1974 - Did not fly in NB.

Norfolk Aerial Spraying, Fredericton, NB

#B15 C-GOBJ 1974-1984

Aerial Spray Program

1974 - Flew in NB in 1974, pilot Falkowsky.

Crashed 4 June 1974. Pilot made successful wheels up landing in a swampy area south of Chatham (Northumberland Co.) during a forest spray run. No injuries occurred. Cause: failed exhaust valve. The aircraft was salvaged. [] Barrie MacLeod

Crashed on Block 205 June 4/74. [Annotation on an FPL pilot-team list]




1975 - Did not fly in NB.

1976 - Flew in NB in 1976, pilot Vermeulen.

1977 - Flew in NB in 1977, pilot Vermeulen.

1978 - Flew in NB in 1978, pilot Harrison.

1979 - Flew in NB in 1979, pilot Harrison.

1980 - Flew in NB in 1980, pilots Dunn and Harrison.

1981 - Flew in NB in 1981, pilot LeBlanc.

1982 - Flew in NB in 1982, pilot Leblanc.

1983 - Flew in NB in 1983, pilot Leblanc.

1984 - Did not fly in NB for FPL.

1985 - Did not fly in NB for FPL. Barrie MacLeod tallied GOBJ in Fredericton on 23 August 1985.

1989 - Aircraft Removed from the Register: 1989-06-12, exported To: USA 1989-06-12 [Canadian Civil Aircraft Register]






Post-spray History

2 owners in USA, registered as N81865.

Additional History of the Vella Gulf