Above the Clouds

The Continuing Story of Three Coins
"Avengers, Wildcats, & Crickets"

A story of the men who fought in the skies over the Pacific IN WWII

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Avengers, Wildcats, and Crickets” – is a rare personal glimpse of the War in the Pacific seen through the eyes and journals of five young American men who served on the USS White Plains in 1943-1944. Their secret writings from eight decades ago tell a fresh and unfiltered dramatic story of heroic patriotism, loyalty, humor, tragedy, loss, and triumph. Three of these men were only teenagers when their country called on them to go to war on small Pacific Islands halfway around the world. To understand the heart of an American warrior, one must gain access to their inner psyche; to understand what makes them tick. Perhaps they are motivated by a belief in the ideals of freedom, or maybe it’s much more straightforward.

When asked why he received seven Air Medals, a Distinguished Flying Cross and a personal citation from Admiral Chester Nimitz, Andy Winnegar, a TBM Avenger radio operator and gunner, paused before replying, “I just liked shooting back!” The thrill of battle kept men like Winnegar coming back for more. “I would have hated missing a mission with a lot of action.”

In addition, the journals of TBM Avenger gunners Maurice Hie and Bill Lemon, the Memoirs of War of FM2-Wildcat fighter pilot Russell Woods, the video interviews with TBM Avenger radioman Steven Walley,  and the typed journal of USS White Plains’ CIC Radarman Donald Crounse provide a broad, and personal view of the war in the Pacific fought from the flight deck of the USS White Plains and in the planes of Composite Squadron Four (VC-4) and Marine Observer Squadron VMO-4.

War does not create heroes; it simply creates situations where those with the grit and a spark of gallantry can remain in the fight, running towards the danger to become leaders of men and the defenders of freedom. Now, almost 80 years later, we can thank the men of VC-4 and VMO-4 and the USS White Plains for having the grit and the spark that helped win the war and preserve our nation. Andy Winnegar had been flying with Pat Owens and Maurice Hie since September 1943, when they were in training for the Pacific War of WWII. Owens and Winnegar flew 66 combat missions in their TBM Avenger off the flight deck of the USS White Plains in the VC-4 squadron composed of Avenger torpedo bombers and Wildcat fighters.

Flying low and slow observation flights over the enemy resulted in TBM Avengers and Stinson Crickets riddled with bullet holes, mounting casualties, a chest full of medals, and stories that are as vivid and heroic today, almost 80 years since these young warriors took to the skies over Pacific in 1944.

 

 

Wooden House in the Forest
Above the Clouds

The Pacific War 1943-44

The USS White Plains left San Diego on April 24, 1942, headed for the war in the Pacific. Onboard the VC-4 Squadron of FM-2 Wildcat fighters and TBM Avenger torpedo bombers prepared to take to the skies to face a relentless Japanese enemy.

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Gum Saan Journeys Publishing
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Douglas M. Smith
Lt. Col. USAF

"Avengers, Wildcats, and Crickets is a thrill and truly connects the reader with authentic experiences. Russell Low is a gifted writer and chronicler. I felt as if I was in the plane as he creatively described the different missions. His verbiage is certainly magical. As a Lt. Colonel in the Airforce, I could relate to the very real smells, sounds, and G-Forces even though some of my experience has been in a simulator."   

"The book draws you into scenes that capture your full imagination. True Heroism and Americanism are displayed throughout the book. I honestly believe that with all that is going on around, the world there has never been a better time for such books as Low's masterpieces, The All-American Crew and Avengers, Wildcats, and Crickets."

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Ted Gong 
1882 Foundation

Russell Low's The All American Crew is remarkable from many perspectives, not the least of which is because he is a talented storyteller who has woven engaging family tales into a greater American story.The book focuses on 10 men from different lives and backgrounds who went to war and bonded into a tight crew training and flying bombing and reconnaissance missions during WWII. They had dubbed themselves the "All American Crew."And, the symbolism of an America that is uniquely able to forge strength from diversity is not lost to the author. But what adds to the remarkable story is its connection to The Three Coins.The American Crew then continues the story of arriving in America, struggling and preserving to become the generation that fights and dies for being in America and, most touching, the families and girlfriends in the final chapters still loving, surviving, and remembering

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Phil Scearce - Author
Finish Forty and Home

The Untold Story of B24's in the Pacific

"Avengers, Wildcats, and Crickets" is a treasure, in every sense of the word. A young Avenger crewman aboard a World War II aircraft carrier keeps handwritten journals and first-hand accounts of combat hidden in a fighter plane starter cartridge box for eighty years. Through research, creativity, and good fortune, Author Russ Low establishes a connection with this veteran, now 97 years old, and the box is opened. Here you have the stories- unvarnished, timeless, and true.

VIDEOS for Avengers, Wildcats, and Crickets

Battle off Samar October 1944

USS White Plaines & VC4