Each of our veterans has his or her own unique story to tell about their experiences in the U.S. armed forces. We are pleased to share a few of them with you.
(Glenview, IL) Ed Bojan got his wish when he was young – to join Navy Aviation – and it changed his entire life. In 1951, Ed was attending Washburn Technical High School in Chicago. His brother joined up to fight in Korea, and 2 weeks later Ed went to a Navy recruiter on Rush St. Even though he hadn’t graduated, he could sign up for the Navy as a “High School Airman Recruit” (HSAR), with a deferred induction, because he had studied aircraft in high school. He got his trade school certificate, but before he was sworn into the Navy, he received his draft notice. When he reported to the Army Induction Center downtown, and told them he had signed up for the Navy, they replied, “I don’t see a uniform, so you belong to us.” He was given a pre-induction physical by the Army.
But he then immediately went back to his Navy recruiter and told them about the impending Army induction. Three days later, the US Navy swore him in for 4 years, and he was on his way. He did have his certificate from Washburn, so he could qualify for further aviation training after boot camp. After recruit training at Great Lakes, Ed went to Jacksonville, FL for his Aviation Machinist’s Mate training, then on to Memphis for his advanced training. He graduated in the top 10% of his class, and thus got a choice of open billet. He wanted to be overseas, but couldn’t find any billet openings in Korea, so he took his chief’s advice and chose Trinidad BWI.
He shipped out from Norfolk, VA on the supply freighter USS Malabar. “We stopped at every rock in the ocean from Norfolk to Trinidad. I slept in a 3-inch gun tub every night, even when it rained, for 21 nights.” Once on the base, he was assigned to the flight crew of a Navy PBM – a long-range patrol bomber flying boat.
Ed’s squadron of twelve PBM-5 Mariner aircraft was assigned long patrol missions, often 10-15 hours in duration. Their mission was to seek out submarines, as well as to provide search and rescue as needed. In addition to providing maintenance for the aircraft, his squadron also provided flight crew for the patrols. Ed worked himself up to Flight Engineer, with responsibility for engine and fuel control, and liked it so much he filled in for others. He flew as crew on every one of the twelve ‘boats’ (as they were called) in his squadron.
He remembers “We had twin-50’s in the nose and the tail, and single waist 50’s. We could carry torpedoes between the nacelle and the hull, and we had two bomb-bays underneath. At the nacelle, we carried depth charges. We had a 2-burner electric stove for the long flights. If you took all the bombs off and put in bomb-bay tanks, we could fly over 20 hours easily. The engines were the best engines I ever operated with, the PW 2800’s.”
Ed says, “I really liked those airplanes. I really felt it was like my home.” During his time with his squadron, Ed flew over 218 missions. However, not all the missions were smooth. He remembers losing an engine, and jettisoning everything including fuel to lose weight, and doing an open sea landing. With help from Search and Rescue, he and his crew tried to fix the engine, and could take off the next morning and limp home.
“We lost a lot of guys in my squadron, and I miss them.” In March 1953, his squadron was in Puerto Rico for an Operational Readiness Inspection, and the 10 Boat took off. “We were listening on the radio, and could hear flight control calling out for ‘10 Boat’, but no answer. We took off, but were soon called back as 10 Boat was considered ‘Missing’.” After refueling, Ed’s crew helped the fleet search over 36,000 square miles. “We never found them, and it was all eleven guys. I had flown with 10 of the 11.” The remembrance of that day and of the missing crew members still haunts and upsets Ed.
With only a year left, Ed was transferred to NAS Pax River in Maryland, the Navy’s center for flight systems test and evaluation. One of his assignments was to help test the “Truculent Turtle”, a P2V Neptune patrol aircraft fitted with jet pods. He didn’t like NAS Pax River as much, because it was “too regulation. With an admiral in command, everything had to be perfect.”
While at Pax River, Ed learned to fly. It was a private flight club with one plane, and a grass strip runway that had trees at one end and high power lines at the other, near the NAS. (He’s amazed the Navy allowed them to fly out of there!) Navy Chief Litchfield was his instructor, and the Chief quickly taught Ed how to avoid those hazards. He soloed in 1954, but never did his cross-country flight, and didn’t get his private license. After he got back home, he had to work to support his family and didn’t have the money to continue flying.
After 4 years in the Navy, as an AD-5, Ed decided he really wanted “to see what’s happening out there.” He avoided the pressure and temptation of re-enlistment, which would have meant 2 more years. After he came home in September 1955, he tried to join the airlines as a flight engineer. Despite his 1,450 hours on flight panels, his knowledge, and passing the tests, he failed the height requirements in place at the time, because he was too short.
Although 1,366 PBM Mariners were built, there’s only one PBM Mariner surviving in the whole world. It’s in the Pima Air and Space Museum near Tucson. Ed’s now a director of the Mariner/Marlin Association, a group for veterans of the PBM and P5M flying boats, and they paid for the restoration of the ‘boat’ in Pima.
Ed worked 33 years at Lindbergh Products, designing model airplanes, cars and boats as their chief design engineer. And he’s still working today, with 23 years at Du-Bro Products in Wauconda as a designer and consultant. He likes to hang out with a Marine and an Army Vet, and is very active in the Marlin/Mariner Association, Navy League Glenview, the American Legion and other Vet groups. He’s very proud of his time in the Navy, and loves to share his many interesting experiences. His cars even have “Naval Aviation” stickers on the windows.
Welcome Home, Ed Bojan! We share your pride in your service with Naval Aviation and to your country, and hope you thoroughly enjoy your day with Honor Flight. Most importantly, thank you for your service!!!