Golden Gate Wing Guest Speaker Archive

Presentation Date: August 25, 2005

CAPT Duncan A. Duke Campbell USN (RET)

Speaker Photo

Combat Pilot & Commander
* Stationed in Honolulu Flying PBY "Catalina" in Fall 1939--War Clouds
* Transferred To Manila, Midway, Guam, etc. VP-101, Patrol Wing Ten
* Stationed @ Cavite, Philippines (near Manila Bay) On "War Alert" & Airborne On Patrol When Japanese Attacked 8 December 1941
* Witnessed the First Wave Of Attacking Japanese Aircraft
* Intense Combat Flying In Pacific Throughout First 4 Months Of WWII, During the Pivotal Period Winston Churchill Described As the "Hinge Of Fate"
* Transferred To Norfolk, VA for Test Flying Martin PBM Flying Boats Combat Pilot & Commander
* Born In Grand Rapids, MN; Graduated From College In 1936, Chemistry
* Outstanding Athlete; Preliminary Flight Training (1st In Class) In 1937
* Completed Flight Training @ NAS-Pensacola With Wings of Gold, 1938
* Stationed in Honolulu Flying PBY "Catalina" in Fall 1939--War Clouds
* Transferred To Manila, Midway, Guam, etc. VP-101, Patrol Wing Ten
* Stationed @ Cavite, Philippines (near Manila Bay) On "War Alert" & Airborne On Patrol When Japanese Attacked 8 December 1941
* Witnessed the First Wave Of Attacking Japanese Aircraft--Lost All Belongings
* Intense Combat Flying In Pacific Throughout First 4 Months Of WWII, During the Pivotal Period Winston Churchill Described As the "Hinge Of Fate"
* Transferred To Norfolk, VA for Test Flying Martin PBM Flying Boats
* Numerous Other Assignments Over 30 Year Navy Career, Including Squadron C.O. of VPB-10 In England In 1944, PB4Ys (B-24s); Culminating As Base Commander of NAS-Alameda 1965-67 During Height Of VietNam
* Mentioned Prominently In Book In The Hands Of Fate by Dwight R. Messimer; The Story of Patrol Wing Ten--8 December 1941 Through 11 May 1942: The Retreat & Evacuation of the Philippines
* After Navy Retirement, Spent Next 20 Years As Broker- Specialist in International Bonds
* Still Active As a Volunteer and Private Investor On-Line

Flying Cats of Patrol Wing Ten

CAPT  Duncan A. "Duke" Campbell, USN (RET)

Combat Pilot & Commander With Over 7800 Flight Hours

 In the early days of the War in the Pacific, there were but a few, small Allied victories. As Japan's Navy forged south and east, British, Dutch, Australian and American forces were swept aside. Allied victories were due largely to diligent intelligence gathering and extreme acts of heroism. The Golden Gate Wing's August speaker helped to supply both of these elements, back during the 'Dark Days' of the war.

Duke Campbell was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and says that as he was growing up, he was so interested in aviation, he took a correspondence course on the topic, paid for by his profits working a paper route.

Duke's parents wanted him to become a doctor, and he graduated from St. John's University, pre-med, majoring in Chemistry in 1936. He was an outstanding athlete before attending college, and he says that helped him win a scholarship, one bringing him no money, only a preference for jobs.

" I ran the candy store, and I think I made a couple thousand milkshakes for people."

Campbell had a variety of jobs in those days, including a post as a county supervisor for the National Youth Administration. With a promotion after three months to district supervisor, he was working in his wife's home town of St. Cloud. He met Trudy through his boss on a blind date, as the boss' wife was Trudy's best friend.

Duke says he couldn't think about marriage because he didn't have enough money, and he was soon off to Pensacola for preliminary flight training in 1937. Campbell was at the top of his class when he was presented his Wings of Gold in 1938.

Sent to San Diego, he arrived there just as the Navy accepted the first deliveries of PBY Catalina flying boats.

"Instead of giving us a commission when we graduated from Pensacola, we had to serve four years, supposedly, as an Aviation Cadet. We were neither fish or fowl. We were shared to a chief petty officer, we weren't warrant officers, we had a pinstripe... and in the fleet, they didn't know what to call us."

"They had a lot of Jgs. and Lts. that had finished their tour in the fleet... and this was kinda' new for them also. From the commanding officer on down they wanted to fly that airplane. Out of the Cadets, as co-pilots, they didn't get to land or take-off. We used to kid each other, 'I got to hold the wheel twice as he lit a cigarette, today.'

Hawaii was the next station for the new Aviation Cadet. In Honolulu, Campbell had a Flight Commander by the name of Jesse Brooks. By Duke's recollection, Brooks was a ladies' man with a busy schedule.

"He'd come out and the planes would be parked out on the ramp, the tractor would tow us down the ramp into the water, and before we got in the water, he was back in the bunk. We had that plane to ourselves, to do training and navigation.

"After we were pulled back up on the ramp, we'd wake him and he'd say , 'Well, you're free to go, now.'

Duke says that Brooks' free rein allowed the Aviation Cadets to gain invaluable hands-on training with the Catalina.

"Some of the guys who had a couple of years in the Fleet, they were still having to hold the wheel of the PBY while their flight commanders had a cigarette.

For recreation while on Oahu, Duke went body surfing off the "Blowhole". The undertow there once took him 100 yards off the beach. Even though he was a good swimmer, he was surprised how far the tide pulled him out, and he really didn't appreciate being bounced off the sandy bottom as the churning surf dragged him out.

In the fall of 1939, Campbell says the Squadron got two day's warning to prepare their flying boats for deployment in the Philippines. Midway, Wake and Guam were island stopping points on their way.

The last leg of the flight, from the Marianas Islands to Luzon, the Philippines proved to be a challenge that could have been disastrous. The PBY wing was scattered in formation at about 10,000 feet as it approached a big thunderstorm. A call came from the lead flying boat that there were 'blue skies ahead'.

"About that time we hit the damned thunderstorm... We just went in all directions. We were on the gauges. The updrafts shot us up to 18,000 feet.

"I was in Number Three (P-3 ), right echelon with the skipper... You couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Number Ten (P-10 ), now that's pretty far back in the formation of twelve planes...

"I saw Number Ten cut in front of us, close enough to read his 'Number Ten.' I thought that was scary, because he didn't belong up there where we were."

Patrol Wing Ten broke out of the thunderstorm about twenty miles from Manila Bay, with all Catalinas accounted for, and landed safely.

Patrol Wing Ten was deployed ahead of permanent Navy flying boat facilities at Cavite, about a half mile from the commercial Pan American flying boat ramp. Part of the maintenance on the PBYs consisted of scraping barnacles off the hulls, one aircraft every couple of days. Meanwhile, the crews were boarded on the USS Langley, a collier (coal tender) which had been converted to the first USN aircraft carrier, which was now tied to Cavite's docks as a seaplane tender.

"Leroy Deede and I were roommates, and we had a room right over the boilers. The temperature outside was close to ninety all the time, but over that boiler it was 120. So at night, each of us would take our mattress, walk up the ladder to the flight deck and put our mattresses out to sleep there. But at two o'clock, or within five minutes of two o'clock every morning, it would start to rain. So we'd go back down..."

Campbell says there was a handful of flying boat tenders scattered among the thousands of Philippine islands, each tender offering a haven with fuel and a place to sleep for the patrol crews. In some of the spots, especially the more remote locations as Duke recalls, there was time to skin dive, go spear fishing and collect pearls.

Duke says there a "fairly senior lieutenant in the squadron' nicknamed 'Snuffy' McDowell, who was an unforgettable character.

"He was just born maybe 100 years too late. He practiced quick draw with pearl handled .45 cal. pistols. When we were in San Diego, he went out in the desert, practiced his quick draw and shot himself in the foot.

"When his wife Marge went home, and he was a bachelor for the first time in years, he just went ape. And, he was a drinker."

Campbell says when McDowell's wife went back to her family, and Snuffy was on his own with his squadron mates, he provided a lot of entertainment. Snuffy's drinking contributed to the intensity of the amusement.

One highlight from Snuffy's 'performances' happened when Patrol Wing Ten traded stations with VP-102 at far-flung Olangapo during the six month rainy season. The switch actually meant living in the family quarters at the station, instead of the sweatbox over the Langley's boilers.

When traveling orders came that McDowell was due to be rotated back to the States, the squadron decided this would be a good opportunity for a practical joke involving Snuffy's orders. The gag made it appear as if Snuffy's orders had been canceled.

Work hours during the monsoon season followed the rain - - crews walked from their quarters to the hangars to work from 7am to 1pm, when the rain came pouring down. On the morning McDowell heard about the phony 'change' in his orders, he took off back to his quarters. A crew member went back to check on him.

"He found Snuffy lying on his bed, stripped to his shorts, drinking beer. He'd drink a case of beer a day, sometimes. Across the room was a big box that cigarette cartons came in, and he'd throw empty cans like he was shooting baskets... shooting at them in the air with his pistol. There were several bullet holes in the ceiling."

Duke says those circumstances weren't right for fessing up to Snuffy about the prank.

"You could see we weren't going to tell him we were guilty. We were worried we might get shot."

The crew finally defused the situation by having a friend of Snuffy's in the local Army unit tell McDowell about the gag.

About two weeks prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Campbell says he remembers a very 'telling' incident. Patrol Wing Ten had been making patrols near Hainan Island on the coast of China, near the Indochina (now Vietnam) border.

Duke says Patrol Wing Ten PBYs revealed a distinct Japanese naval presence.

"They had a carrier, a couple of cruisers and quite a number of destroyers. They were harboring a lot of transports there in the bay. Fighters would come up and drive us off.

"We had orders we were not to fire unless fired upon. So when they made motions that we were to get the hell out of there, we obeyed. But, we had the information."

For the next few days, Patrol Wing Ten would fly a number of missions delivering secret information regarding Japanese strengths and positions to Allied commanders in the Southwest Pacific.

One of those secret missions involved two PBYs, the lead aircraft crewed by Gordon Ebbe and Harvey Burden, and P-3, flown by Campbell and Ensign Edgar Hazelton. It was a night flight from Palawan, the southwestern most island in the Philippine chain, to a river mouth off Borneo's west coast.

The flight was to discover, in a near tragedy, that maps didn't accurately reflect the Borneo coastline. Campbell recalls that in the dark of night, P-3 had been separated for awhile from Burden's PBY. By the light of exhaust flames, Campbell's crew managed to find the other Catalina, and had barely re-taken position on Burden's left wing as the Borneo coast came into view.

"Just about daylight we ran into a rainstorm... which took us down to about 100 feet off the water, so we could see where we were going. We ran into some hills... all of a sudden there were trees right ahead of us.

"So he (Burden) makes this wild left turn to keep from running into the trees, and I was on the inside of the turn... I was getting stalling speed, so I had to pass over the other side of him and still stay close to him to stay in formation and not lose him. And I went under him, instead of over the top as we normally would do.

"He was pulling a trailing wire for the radio, and as I came across, the wire got tangled in my aileron."

The right aileron of P-3 was jammed by about six feet of steel radio wire. Already a 'heavy plane' to fly, a PBY with a jammed aileron, was nearly unmanageable.

Yet Campbell was able to stay with the other PBY, until it landed in the rock-strewn river and delivered the documents. Duke circled overhead, then began easing his PBY in to land. He realized he couldn't fly back home with the jammed flying surface.

Duke says only when he was settling the flying boat in, nose high, did he remember at the last second to lower the wingtip floats. In less than a half hour, the jam had been cleared and the two PBYs were back in the air and navigating home through the rain.

On December 6th, Vice Admiral Sir Tom Phillips, Commander-in-Chief, British Eastern Fleet, came up to Manila from Singapore, to ask for aircraft and ship support for two Royal navy battleships, Prince of Wales and Repulse . When the Admiral learned that a large Japanese fleet had been spotted off Malaya he looked in vain for his flying boat crew.

Campbell had been out on patrol and was ordered to return immediately to refuel so he could fly the Admiral back. At three o'clock in the morning he started the 1200 mile round trip to Singapore, stopping only to refuel and eat.

Returning at three o'clock the next morning, Campbell says he and his crew were told to refuel and anchor the flying boat out in the bay. The skipper then called them all together.

"They brought out the War Plan that showed our assigned areas to search," says Campbell. "We were on our way before daylight. "

"I was called to Cavite to take Admiral Glassford, his staff and all his files down to the Houston. Glassford had just come from China, where he'd been on the Shantung River.

"I had picked up the starter harness, which had been in the shop for repairs. The starter harness consisted of a cable with about six connections on it. While we were waiting for the Admiral to show up, we thought we'd put that on. At about that time the Jap bombers came over. "

Sirens went off, and Duke could see a large formation of Japanese bombers and fighters heading in from the north.

"I said, "Never mind putting in the cable. Pull it out and we'll crank it by hand.' "

But in hand-cranking the engine, the crewman gave the crank what Campbell called, 'a hell of a turn', snapping the crank off in the engine. That left no choice but to use the harness. The crew jerked the cowling off the engine, and while holding the six connectors in place, Campbell and co-pilot Armbruster, started the engines. Pulling the harness away, the crew then refastened the cowling while the PBY started taxiing to take off.

Suddenly, Campbell says, "Somebody was screaming 'Wait, wait, wait!' One of the guys that was helping the starters was still out there on top of the airplane."

With the crewman onboard, P-3 began plying the waters of the bay. Due to the airplane's loaded weight, it was a long takeoff run, and the Catalina was halfway across Manila Bay before he got it on the step.

"In fact, I was still using full power when we cleared Correigidor, twenty miles away, at 200 feet."

Behind P-3, smoke rose in the sky, signifying the destruction of USAAC planes at Nichols and Clark Fields. Duke says he was lucky the PBY hadn't been spotted by Japanese Zeros escorting the bombers. Before long he received a message not to return to Manila, especially given the itchy trigger fingers of anti-aircraft gunners on Luzon.

In the immediate following days, Campbell says he flew a number of patrols. On one patrol the crew spotted a Japanese 'Mavis' four engine flying boat. The two aircraft passed each other with neither taking action. Duke reported it, but not knowing the enemy aircraft's capabilities, didn't engage in combat.

For the time being, P-3 was based at Polloc Harbor. Campbell was without any of his personal effects, and he would permanently lose a couple of his most prized possessions - - a football and a gold hockey stick, both from his college days - - as the Langley was sunk February 27, 1942 while steaming to deliver fighter planes to Java.

On December 10th, when P-3 was returning to its temporary base at Polloc Harbor, the crew saw the flying boat tender Preston packing up to leave. Other PBYs had already left before Campbell could taxi out to take off. But only one engine would start.

"We figured out what the problem was. It needed a carburetor. So, I tried for forty minutes to make a single engine takeoff, but it wouldn't work. I'd start into the wind and go around in a circle with the good engine, and finally get her out into the wind when I had as much speed as I could get...

"I radioed the headquarters in Cavite. They sent down a single engine seaplane, the J2F Duck. He brought a carburetor down."

Changing out the carburetor went fine until, Campbell says, the 2nd Mechanic's Mate came down with a disturbed look on his face.

When Duke asked him what was wrong, he found out a bolt had been dropped down inside the engine. They worked for an hour to find the missing part, put it in place, buttoned up the cowling and were again on their way.

Campbell says soon thereafter, Patrol Wing Ten paid a heavy toll when its PBYs were sent to Ambon, east of Borneo and Celebes. Four PBYs were shot down by the Japanese, with only two crewmen surviving. Duke was able to pick up his good friend Leroy Deede and his crew when their flying boat was shot down.

Later in the war, Duke was transferred to Norfolk, Virginia to test fly Martin PBM flying boats. His favorite wartime duty, though, was his 1944 assignment as Squadron CO of VPB-10 in England. The unit flew 'navalised' B-24s, designated PB4Ys. Incidentally, his younger brother was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot also based in England. They each landed their four-engine bombers at the other’s base to "visit"!

Duke Campbell's 30 navy career concluded with service as the Commander of NAS-Alameda in 1965-67, during height of the Vietnam War. After retiring from the Navy, he spent two decades in the financial industry, specializing in international bonds.

Campbell is mentioned prominently in author Dwight Messimer's book "In The Hands Of Fate; The Story of Patrol Wing Ten--8 December 1941 Through 11 May 1942".