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Torpedo Squadron Four - A Cockpit View of World War II - Revised, Updated Edition, 2011

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Torpedo
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Air Group 4 - Casablanca to Tokyo

Dedicated to those who
served in VT-4, VB-4, VF-4,
VMF-124 and VMF-213

Remembering "The Candyman"

By Ted Forsberg

William H. (Candyman) CantyMy earliest childhood memory is of a photo on a dresser in my parents' room. The photo is of a very handsome young man in a brilliant white naval uniform with a pair of gold aviator wings on his chest. He seemed to always be smiling down at me. I was about 4 years old and had no idea that the man in the photo was my Uncle William or that he was lost in the Pacific in World War II.

As I grew up I came to understand that the young man in the photo was an important and painful memory for my family, yet it would be over 40 years later before I would truly know who "The Candyman" was. My family was never exactly sure how William was lost in the Pacific, except that he was posted as missing by the Navy in September 1944. I am deeply touched today to honor his memory.

William H. Canty was born in the Deep South and grew up as an orphan along with his older Sister, Dorothy Canty. "Willie", as he was known as a kid, lived in the tiny town of Pascagoula, Mississippi on the Gulf coast. "Willie" is remembered by those who knew him as a fine young man who inspired everyone around him, made everyone laugh, and always had a big smile on his face.

William Canty graduated from High School in Pascagoula, and went on to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he became an LSU "Tiger". As a student William took aviation courses and eventually joined the Civil Air Patrol at LSU. As World War II raged on, William was offered an enlistment in the Navy and left LSU for flight training at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. William graduated from Pensacola NAS as a Naval Aviator on March 23, 1943.

After graduation William was detached for training in Miami, Florida and then to Glenview, Illinois. He was then assigned to the Atlantic Fleet for convoy duty in the North Atlantic. Upon returning from convoy duty he was assigned to the famous Torpedo Squadron 8 which had reformed after the battle of Midway. After a stint with Torpedo 8 he was ordered in 1944 to join the veteran squadron Torpedo 4 at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Torpedo 4, while aboard the USS Ranger, had recently returned from a strike on German shipping along the Norwegian coast between Sandnessjøen and Bodø.

William trained with VT-4 in Rhode Island and received orders to move with the squadron to Hawaii for action in the Pacific Theater. William visited his Sister, a WAVE, (my Mom) and her new husband, Lt (jg) Ray Forsberg (my Dad) at Jacksonville NAS prior to shipping out to Hawaii.

Somehow William managed to send a beautiful dog to my Mom while he was heading off to Hawaii. No one knows how he managed to send the dog cross-country all the way to Jacksonville NAS. Mom named the dog "Candy" which was uniquely appropriate as William was immediately nicknamed "The Candyman" by the pilots and crew in Torpedo 4. "Candy" dog was really special in our family.

When Torpedo 4 arrived in Hawaii, the squadron was assigned to a base in Hilo on the Big Island. As a Naval air base, Hilo served as a point from which many training missions were flown by VT-4. My veteran friends in VT-4 recently have told me that it was not always tough duty, as they occasionally had time to play a little golf and go into Honolulu on liberty.

On September 21, 1944 "Candyman", his Skipper, and most of VT-4 squadron were on a night training flight off Hilo when a midair collision took place in a storm, and 3 planes were lost with 9 pilots and crewmen. "Candyman" and his crew were lost that night.

On October 9, 1998 my family gathered at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge for a dedication of a new War Memorial for all the LSU students lost in World War II and other wars. It seems appropriate that a TBF Avenger pilot, former President George Bush, dedicated the memorial and paid tribute to the LSU war dead that day. We honored the memory of "Candyman" as a "missing man" fighter jet plane formation flew overhead and an enormous American flag waved over the newly dedicated memorial wall.

After the memorial my family agreed to try to find out what had happened and how "Candyman" was lost in the Pacific, if any records were still available. After a difficult search I was fortunate to get in contact with Hill Goodspeed, the Naval Historian at Pensacola NAS Museum. Hill informed me of Jerry Thomas and his book Torpedo Squadron Four: A Cockpit View of World War II and read me the chapter about the night of September 21, 1944 over the telephone. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Hill and retired Rear Admiral Herb Bridge, who also helped me in this search.

In the next year or two after the LSU Memorial, my family and I all traveled to Hawaii at different times and visited the "Punchbowl", which is the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. It is a truly special place and all 28,778 names of the Pacific War missing in action are there engraved in the Courts of the Missing columns. "Candyman" is listed there along with the other men from VT-4. Each of us said a little prayer for the memory of these heroes during our visit and found great comfort in this most peaceful place. The sun always seems to shine on the Punchbowl.

In September of 2000 my family and I attended the VT-4 Squadron Reunion in Stillwater, MN. For me it seemed like being together with old friends and family during the very special reunion. It was a real highlight and honor to finally meet all the guys that had known "Candyman" and flown with him in 1944. We owe a lot to all the squadron members who shared their memories with us and I will always remember the time we had together. I am proud to wear the red VT-4 "Sweep the Seas" squadron emblem that my friends in VT-4 gave me and it brings me good luck.

My memory of "Candyman's" photo back home in his dress white uniform will always stay with me. His story and those of the other VT-4 men lost and missing in action during World War II in the Pacific will never be forgotten.

Photo: Ens M. S. Stocker, Lt Cdr H. H. Hutcheson, and Lt (jg) W. H. Canty.

Addendum to "Remembering"

In memory of a true friend and fellow pilot, I am adding a few comments to Ted Forsberg`s excellent tribute to his uncle Lt(jg) William H. Canty.

When the USS Ranger returned to the States on December 3, 1943, Air Group 4, still assigned to the Ranger, was reorganized and enlarged. New pilots and crew members were added. Bill (Candyman) Canty and Scott Vogt were transferred to us from Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8)--recently reformed after the disastrous loss of all planes during the Battle of Midway. Even though Candyman and Scott had trained only briefly with Torpedo Eight, that association with the now famous Squadron carried an aura of glamour.

Bill Canty and I soon became very close friends. I don't know who first tacked on the label "Candyman" but it seemed natural. He was a redhead with a pleasant smile and a great sense of humor.

Shortly after the Ranger returned to the East Coast, four of my closest friends (Bob Ruth, Will Souza, Buck Barnett, and Felix Ward) took advantage of this Stateside duty to get married. I then teamed up with two other single pilots, Mak Makibbin and Canty. Together we shared duty assignments and liberty breaks.

canty2

Torpedo Four pilots on liberty.
Gerald W. Thomas, G. D. (Mak) Makibbin, and William H. (Candyman) Canty. The Beachcomber, Providence, RI.
March, 1944.

On December 20, Torpedo Squadron 4 officially changed command. Lt Cdr D. W. (Woot) Taylor was assigned to another Air Group and our Executive Officer, Lt. Homer H. (Hutch) Hutcheson was promoted to Skipper of VT-4. (Woot Taylor was killed later in an F6F operational accident.) Under Hutcheson, training was intensified and we soon qualified for night carrier operations.

Photo: Cdr D. W. Taylor reads "Change of Command." 

Air Group 4 was detached from the Ranger on April 16, 1944 to move to Fort Devens, Massachusetts as a 90-plane outfit. Finally, on June 29, we turned in our planes to Base Command at Quonset Point, Rhode Island and boarded a train for the West Coast. While we were waiting the next assignment, we enjoyed liberty in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. On July 13th, Air Group 4 personnel were loaded aboard the USS Barnes for transport to Hawaii. We arrived at Pearl Harbor on July 21, 1944.

Headquarters for Squadron operations for the next several weeks was the airbase at Hilo, Hawaii. Here the Squadron carried on intensive operational training with a new note of seriousness, for now the real test was just around the corner. All personnel worked hard and played hard to take advantage of their much-needed break from carrier duty.

Photo: Robert Ruth, Lou Gardemal and William Canty in Hilo. 
Photo: William Canty, Will Souza, Vernon Landre, and H. J. Deimel in Hilo. 
Photo: Gerald Barnett in Hilo. 
Photo: C. N. W. Vogt in Hilo. 

On September 21, 1944, tragedy struck Torpedo Four. Three of our planes collided in a severe rain squall during night operations and the Squadron lost our Skipper and nine other airmen. The details of this accident are contained in my book. This was the saddest day in the history of our Squadron. Our losses were Lt Cdr Homer Hamby Hutcheson, Lt(jg) William H. Canty, Ens Merrill Silver Stocker, ACRM Henry N. Karsemeyer, AOM2c Edward James Dooner, AOM2c Thomas Charles Bradley, AOM3c William Laverne Finkenbinder, AOM3c Harry Lester Johnston, and ARM3c Raymond N Glew. As stated at the memorial service, "They gave their lives for God and Country."

Photo: Memorial Service, September 24, 1944. 

In January 1999, I received a nostalgic letter from Dorothy Canty Forsberg, William Canty`s sister seeking more information on her brother`s death. She and her son Ted, who wrote the above article, had just learned about the Torpedo Four book and our version of the events that led to the untimely death of Candyman. I take the liberty here to quote from Dorothy's letter:

    "William and I were very close. We grew up orphans raised by our grandmother in a small town on the Gulf Coast, Pascagoula, Mississippi. We clung together our whole lives, sharing everything--each other's best friends. William had red hair. He laughed all of the time, and everybody loved him. William was strong, and even as a boy he was fearless."

    "I was a WAVE stationed at the time of William's death at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. I had spent my life remembering my brother. All of my long life and I am almost eighty. I have agonized remembering my sweet brother and wondering what had happened to him. I suppose I really did not want to know. Yet I had a need to know. I now have a tremendous feeling of relief. I guess they call it closure. World War II pushed us as close to hell as we will ever be, but the victory was worth the effort."

Dorothy ends her letter with thanks to those of us who served in World War II. But we all know that the true heroes are those who made the supreme sacrifice, whether in combat, operations, or training. We join Dorothy Canty Forsberg and her son Ted in a salute to our friend, William (Candyman) Canty, a pilot who served his Country with distinction in Torpedo Squadron Four during WWII.

--Gerald W. (Jerry) Thomas


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