Group Photo Of The VF-81 Freelancers
Lt(jg) Dale Norquist identified for me Lt Gage in the photo. I scanned
this from page 152 of Prep Charlie.
The picture was taken in Hawaii probably 1944
Also after we put this group on the internet, I have had various people
write telling me they had a relative in VF-81 etc.
One such person was Linda Lester of Grand Junction, Colorado.
Here is her story;
I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your web site on Lt. Gage of
Air Group 81. My father in law, William S. Lester (Bill) of
Longmont, Colorado was part of that Air Group-------The Freelancers.
I printed some of the things out and this 87 year old man came alive.
We heard stories we'd never heard before. He is sharp and interested-------------thanks
so much for giving us this opportunity to learn more.
I did ask my father in law if he had pictures of Gage. He said
most of them didn't carry personal cameras--------and he didn't.
He said that's why the Prep Charlie was so important to all of them------they
actually had documentation to go back and look at. I was amazed
to learn that they didn't keep their log books, they were kept by a clerk
in the offices. He said the books varied in information according
to who was doing the record keeping.
He pointed out where he is in the Hawaii picture (the one shown above).
You may have names already. He is on the left hand side with the
man next to him's arm around him. That man is Perkins who was on
the memorial list. He said he was great friends with Mattock
and Bert English and Bull Stahl. He was going to go back and
pick them out. He wasn't in the picture taken at Atlantic City.
He said he was still at Wildwood, NJ and hadn't joined the squadron yet
as several hadn't. He said, "Yep, that's my gang!"
He has said so many "humble phrases" that just jolt me a bit when you think
of what "his gang" accomplished.
He did tell me a story about Gage I thought you might enjoy.
Keep in mind that Bill is 87, yet, sharp of mind. I always
remind myself a bit of time has elapsed since this happened and yet, it's
like yesterday to him. He said Gage was a "Swell Fellow", liked by
everyone including himself. He said Gage was a BIG man and
had a BIG voice. He first got to know Gage when they were in
The squadron was doing night carrier landings from the Maui base to
a jeep carrier out in the Pacific. Bill was
the Engineering Officer for the squadron and the Skipper had asked him
to set the landing lights correctly-------this evidently needs to be done
on a regular basis. He told me that without those red, green
and amber lights being set just right, the LSO couldn't give you the proper
altitude directions for landings on the carrier. He said more
than one plane was lost or overshot the carrier because improper adjustment
of the lights. He said those LSO fellows were terrific but
could only work with what they could see. Bill and his crew
were part way done with the adjustments on the lights when Gage came up
to him and said he was to take that plane out that they were starting to
work on. Many pilots had a preference for a certain plane,
whether it was comfortable for them or a newer plane or just for good luck.
Bill told him they hadn't finished the landing lights------but Gage was
insistent that he needed to fly that plane! He took it out
and when he went to land on the jeep carrier----------because the lights
weren't set correctly he had to ditch the mission. because the LSO couldn't
land him. Guess they made several attempts with no luck.
He had to return to Maui and get another plane. Bill
was still working on the last of the lights when Gage came up to him a
while later with a big smile and said, "And what were you saying about
those lights, Bill?" He evidently had a sense of humor!
Thought you'd enjoy the story. Linda Lester, Grand Junction,
Lt Gage VF-81 Group