Land-based carrier training (in the cockpit) at Melbourne began on April 23rd lasting through to June 8th. After three days of training in SNJ's, one of which included riding with Pawka himself, Guy was flying mostly the F4F Wildcat for the duration. He also flew the F6F Hellcat for two 1 1/2 hour flights in June.
When an incoming pilot makes a satisfactory approach to the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, the pilot gets the signal to cut his engine from the Landing Signal Officer. The waving "paddles" of the Landing Signal Officer are the guides of incoming pilots, and their semaphored signals are final authority in all landings. If the Landing Signal Officer is dissatisfied with the approach, he signals a "wave-off" and the pilot zooms up to go around again.
Two pilots who flew with Guy during this training both recalled that he was the only pilot of the squadron or group who went through the entire land-based carrier training at Melbourne and carrier training at Chicago without a wave-off.
VF-OTU No. 2 - FLIGHT #18 back row: Robert Marshall, Ed Pawka, Mickey Chilton, Guy Kemper
front row: John Hartig, Billy Earle, Robert Martin Pawka was well known as a trainer for WWII Ace, Joe Foss.
Letters to Howard from Guy in Melbourne -
Tuesday night April 19, 1943
Dear Howard - Well, here I am in Melbourne. It's a small town, but it's okey. These F4F's (Wildcats) roaring around here really look good. I have to put in about a week of instruments in the SNJ then I get the Wildcat from then on. All the instructors here are boys who were on the Saratoga, etc. All of them have had combat duty and should and do know their stuff. The B.O.Q. and officer's clubs are swell. Even have swanky bars. We have a big reception room, ball room, pool room, etc. right here in our B.O.Q. Then the officer's club right across the way is all fixed up, too. The food's swell. It's hard to tell just how long I'll be here - six to eight weeks. We couldn't possibly finish all this flying in less than six weeks and our orders won't permit us to be here longer than eight, so there she stands; six to eight weeks.
The trip down was awful. I wasn't even able to get a pulman last night after having my 1st class ticket and all. There we were, Nowadnick and I with first class tickets riding in chair cars night and day. And packed like sardines. I intend to either fly back or swim back - no more trains, I hope.
A fellow in the next room went fishing last evening after he finished flying and caught a beautiful 3 lb. trout. He's gone back again tonight. It's only about a mile to all the fish you ever imagined. I'm going as soon as I get settled.
By the way, did you make the call I told you to. Remember, I left unexpectedly early Saturday morning. Be sure to call. You know how it is - if you want catch plenty of fish - keep the traps baited. (This paragraph is confidential, of course. I may not need this certain number again, but if I do - !! well??). I guess I'd better close. Sitting up all night and the long trip sort of took away my energy so I'd better get to bed. Be good and tell every one hello and that I'll write them all soon. (Which reminds me, I need to write Frances tonite, too. How did you like her? Okey?) Write soon. Your brother Guy
Tuesday night June 1, 1943
Dear Howard - I'm sorry I waited so long to answer your letter, but I've been terribly busy - as Mother has probably told you. I hope you're back in A-1 shape by now. This fishing really gets you down, doesn't it? I want you to take care of yourself and be feeling good while I'm home because we can't have much fun with you under the weather. As you know - I've been flying the F4F (Wildcat) ever since I've been here. Grumman has a new Navy fighter out now called the F6F (Hellcat) and we have a few of them here at this base. Since we're through with our flying here and have to wait until June 10th for orders - we're getting to check out in the tomorrow. It's really a nice ship. It's larger than the F4F and has 2000 hp. instead of 1200 hp. I think we're very fortunate getting to fly them. Most operational and transitional bases have only a few F4F's and no F6F's. We'll be the only ones in operational training that have had the F6F to date. Naturally, I'm looking forward to tomorrow with all anxiousness. As you probably know - I have to go to Chicago for a carrier check-out before my leave. I should be there about a week. Accordingly - my leave should start about June 20th. I plan to drop back through Miss. and see Roy. Don't any of you write him that I'm planning it because I may not get to; then he'd be disappointed. And if it does pan out, I want it to be a complete surprise to him. I must close now and grab some shut-eye. Tomorrow is a busy day!! Take care of yourself and write if you have time. I'll be here until the 10th. Give everyone my love. Your brother Guy
Carrier training consisted of 3 days training; classroom, observation, and carrier landings on aircraft carriers, USS Wolverine or USS Sable on Lake Michigan. Guy's carrier landings consisted of 1 1/2 hours in an F4F-3 on the USS Wolverine on June 15.
A two week leave back home followed this before his departure for California.
F4F-3 Wildcat taking off from a carrier deck
The war produced a massive increase in the demand for carrier-qualified pilots, and, yet, it was not possible to remove a combat carrier from any battle area to use as a training ship. The problem produced an interesting solution.
Two Great Lakes tour boats, the SS Seeandbee and the SS Great Buffalo, were acquired by the Navy, converted into training carriers, and became the USS Wolverine and USS Sable. Neither carrier included hangar decks - the trainee pilots landed and immediately took off again.
These hybrids had two unique features. First, they were the only U.S. Navy carriers to use coal for fuel. Second, their propulsion was provided by side paddle wheels, making them the only paddlewheel carriers in history.
The "father" of the Lake Michigan Carrier Qualification Program, Commander Richard F. Whitehead, had set an ambitious goal of qualifying 30 pilots per ship per day. By the summer of 1944, that rate had doubled. At war's end, more than 15,000 pilots and thousands of deck crew had been trained on the Wolverine and Sable.
Neither ship survives. the Wolverine was broken up in 1947, the Sable in 1948.