Established at NAS Norfolk,VA in April 1942
flying the Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, VGF-27 became one of the most
traveled Navy squadrons of the war. Following Operation Torch
against French Morocco in November 1942, the squadron remained
aboard the USS Suwannee CVE-27 as part of CVEG-27 through most of
the next eight months. Upon redesigination as VF-27 in March 1943,
the squadron operated their Wildcats ashore at Guadalcanal until
July, except for a brief period at sea, again aboard the USS
Suwannee, in June. Among the 12 victories credited during April
through July, were the first for future standouts Cecil Harris, and
After reforming with the Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat in the U.S. in early
1944, and intense training in Hawaii during March, and April 1944,
VF-27 embarked aboard the USS Princeton CVL-23. This would prove to
be one of the most spectacular Light Carrier cruises of the war.
Under Lcdr. Ernest Wood, the "Cat Mouthed" Hellcats flew warm-up
missions against Saipan, and Tinian, on June 11th and 12th of 1944.
Within a week the squadron participated in the "Great Marianas
Turkey Shoot", on June 19th. The Hellcats of VF-27 claimed 30 kills
against Japanese aircraft attempting to strike Task Force 58.
Squadron commander Lt. Cdr Wood was lost on this day however, his
replacement was LCdr. Fred Bardshar. Future aces Bill Lamb, Dick
Stambook, and Gordon Stanley splashed four enemy aircraft apiece
during the operation.
LCdr. Bardshar led VF-27 on a fighter sweep over Manila on 21st Sept,
with VF-27 claiming 38 victories over IJN, and IJAAF aircraft. The
days bag included 4.5 kills for Lt. John Rodgers, and 4 kills for
Lt. Jim "Red" Shirley.
After strikes against Formosa in mid October, the Princeton was back
in the Leyte Gulf as part of Task Force 38.3 on 24 October. Near
Pollilo Island in the eastern part of the gulf VF-27 wrecked havoc
on the Japanese, destroying 36 enemy fighters that day. Four pilots
emerged as "Aces in a Day" in this engagement. They were Lt's Carl
Brown, and Jim Shirley, plus Lt. (jg) Gene Townsend, and Ensign Tom
Conroy. However upon return to the fleet, "Sweet P", the USS
Princeton was found afire and sinking.
At 9:38 that morning a lone "Judy" dive bomber appeared suddenly out
of thick clouds and dropped a single bomb on the Princeton's flight
deck. The bomb exploded amidst fueld and armed Grumman TBF Avengers
on the hanger deck. The ship was rocked by multiple explosions,
seven hours later gutted by fire the Princeton was scuttled by
American torpedoes. VF-27's 5 month war cruise was over. Of the 136
victories credited during the deployment, a staggering 104 occured
on three days. A record unbeaten by any other CVL fighter squadron
during the war.
LCdr. Bardshar reformed the squadron in time to return to the
Western Pacific abaord the carrier USS Independence. One more
victory was scored before the war ended. VF-27 officially disbanded
26th November 1945.
"THE CATS MOUTH"
Pilots Carl Brown, Richard Stambrook, and Robert Burnell, designed
the cat-mouth markings during VF-27's training at Kahului NAS Maui,
Hawaii, in March and April 1944. Each of the squadrons pilots helped
with the painting, but Burnell, the artist of the squadron, did most
of the work.
All 24 of VF-27s F6F Hellcats were so marked when the squadron
embarked aboard the light carrier USS Princeton on May 29, 1944.
Nine VF-27 Hellcats were airborne when the Princeton was hit, all
nine landed safely on other carriers in the Task Force. Other
commanders were not amused by the funny markings on VF-27's Hellcats.
The "Cats Mouth" markings were promptly painted out as per USN
regulations. So ended a legend in U.S. Naval Aviation.