"Just came across this site. I am now 84 and remember my days at NAS FT Lauderdale. I joined the navy at age 17 in 1944 as an aircrewman. after AOM school in Norman OK. I went to gunnery school at the Emory Riddle bldg on 27th Ave in Miami. It was there that I met "Whitey" (Howell) Thompson a marine who had just come back from the fleet. He and the rest of the marine group were there for a refresher course. Anyhow we finished gunnery school in August 1945, just as the war had ended. We were in the last course to go through operational training at the base in Ft. Lauderdale.
On the day that Whitey was lost on Flight 19, I had just come back from a morning flight and Whitey was getting on line to wait for his flight. I remember it well: it was a very lousy day, real bumpy, and the reason I was still at the plane when Whitey arrived, is that I had thrown up right behind the pilot where I was standing during the flight. I remember a very angry pilot who ordered me to clean up the mess and make sure there was no smell when he got back. Obviously, I got out of there, so I did not have to go on the next flight with him. So much for my story.
I was probably the last one to talk to him before they left. The next morning after the disappearance of Flight 19, I was on the first search flight out of Fort Lauderdale. I just want to end by saying we were all just kids and though Whitey was the only one of the marine group that I knew, he was really quite a guy. Although he did not talk about the war I heard from others that he was on the USS Franklin when she got hit and he was trapped for 4hrs below deck while she was burning. I can't verify that fact, but that's what I remember."