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New Book: The Skull and Crossbones Squadron - VF-17 in World War II

New book about legendary fighter squadron includes accounts of three Oregon fighter pilots.

The Skull and Crossbones Squadron - VF-17 in World War II
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(LONDON) - A new book tells of the remarkable air combat achievements of the brave men who flew in the now legendary U.S. Navy squadron - Fighting 17 the Skull and Crossbones Squadron in World War II.

Amongst Fighting 17’s many heroic exploits was shooting down 152 enemy aircraft in aerial combat in only 76 days. No bomber escorted by them was lost to enemy air action, no ship for which they provided cover was hit by enemy bombs or aerial torpedoes, and they never failed to complete an assignment.

Squadron Commander Tom Blackburn and Navy Cross recipient always stressed teamwork and led the squadron to a Navy Unit Commendation and made the “Skull and Crossbones Squadron” one of the most successful squadron’s in the annals of air warfare.

Fighting 17 had thirteen aces with “Ike” Kepford the leading Navy ace at that time and the squadron flew more combat hours and sorties than any other fighter squadron in the Pacific up to that time. They proved the new F4U Corsair fighter “the Bent-Wing Bird” in combat and were first into combat flying off a carrier with the Corsair.

Lee Cook, author of “The Skull and Crossbones Squadron - VF-17 in World War II” (Schiffer), and leading authority on Fighting 17 has, after years of exhaustive and original research, brought to life new information on the exploits of this legendary American squadron. Within the 900 photographs covering the squadron’s history are many of which have not previously appeared in published works.

The aim of the book is to make sure that everyone’s commitment to defend freedom is recognized be it whether they survived or fell before, during or after combat. All these men were heroes and should be recognized in perpetuity.” (Lee Cook).

“I am asked why an Englishman would want to write about an American Navy Squadron fighting over the other side of the world in World War II.” “I saw a vintage Corsair fighter at a show in England and it had a Jolly Roger flag on its nose and I found out this was VF-17 or Fighting 17. I read about them and contacted the Squadron Commander - Tom Blackburn - and from here started my research. When he died shortly after I felt I owed it to him and to the squadron to write a book about their incredible exploits. The photographic history is my second book about the squadron and contains many photographs that have not been published previously.

Published by Schiffer ISBN: 9780764336645

Fighting 17 Pilots from Oregon

Oscar Ivan “Oc” Chenoweth, Jr.

Oscar Ivan Chenoweth, Jr. was born in Salem, Oregon on July 16, 1917. “Oc” went to Oregon State University and on April 5, 1937 he enlisted in the Oregon National Guard in McMinnville, Oregon. He graduated from Oregon State with a Degree in Engineering in

1939. He began his Naval service on October 15, 1940 and became an Aviation Cadet at

N.A.S. Miami on December 23, 1940. On June 15, 1943 he reported to Fighting Squadron Thirty Eight as Executive Officer, Flying F6F-3 Hellcats out of Segi Strip on Munda. He scored one victory, a Zeke shot down five miles northwest of Ballale Island in September 1943. His first combat tour ended three months later. On January 5, 1944, he reported to the legendary “Skull and Crossbones Squadron” Fighting 17 as Operations Officer.

When Fighting 17 returned from the Pacific, Lt. Chenoweth was awarded the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. He reported to N.A.S. Miami and served until October 1945 as a Flight Instructor. He was promoted to Lt. Cdr. in October 1945. “Oc” also served as Flight Deck Officer and Assistant Air Officer on the carrier U.S.S. Midway, as Executive Officer of VF-42, and then Commanding Officer of VA-44. He was in the second graduating class of test pilots from the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Maryland. He left the Navy as a Commander in April 1954.

After his service career Chenoweth worked for his grandfather’s company and then moved to Dallas to work for Chance Vought. He died of a heart attack in May 1968.

Jack Evans Diteman

Jack Diteman was born on November 2, 1921 in Portland, Oregon. He went to the Shattuck Military Academy and then to Montana State University to study animal husbandry. When the war broke he wasn't old enough nor had the education requirements at the time to become a fighter pilot. He really crammed to get the education to meet the requirements and when he did they lowered the age and I believe education requirements. He joined the Navy in 1942 and the legendary “Skull and Crossbones Squadron” Fighting 17 in February 1944.

After flying with Fighting 17 Jack Diteman served with VF-84 and was credited with an aerial victory in May 4, 1945 and five more strafed on the ground. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and six Air Medals for his service with VF-84.

Jack ranched for a few years after the war and with two others started an aluminium extrusion business. In the 1950’s he got interested in skiing and went to Sun Valley, Idaho where he became a ski patrolman and ski instructor. He learnt to sail and in a 50 year old 47 foot sailboat sailed from Norway across the Atlantic.

Back in Sun Valley Jack built a few houses and was a popular cabinet maker. He hiked, skied, rode his mountain bike and did one or more almost every day of his life. In his 80's he finally gave up the bike and downhill skiing but cross country skied and walked 12 miles every day. He died in April 2007.

Wilbert Peter “Beads” Popp

“Beads” Popp was born on November 15, 1921 in Fresno, California. His family moved to Portland, Oregon when he was 2½ weeks old.

In May 1942 he enlisted in the Navy and then became an aviation cadet in July 1942. He received his wings as an Ensign on June 9, 1943. In September 1943 he was assigned to the legendary “Skull and Crossbones Squadron” Fighting 17.

After the war he graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a BA in Business Administration and an Insurance Major and became an Insurance Agent.

Photography, fishing for steelhead and salmon were his great loves along with travelling. He was a resident of Tigard, Oregon for many years. He completed his book called The Survival of a WWII Navy Fighter Pilot shortly before he died on February 25, 2006.

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