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Highlighting the World Wars I & II Memorabilia Collection of Dave Sleeper

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Packer, Elven E.


Rank: Aviation Radioman 1st Class
Serial Number: 4112363
Military Branch: VP-54, Black Cats, Henderson Field
Origin: Missouri
Date of Death: 1943-5-15
Manila American Cemetery
Featured: No

ARM1C Elven Packer was on board a VP-54 "Black Cat" PBY on a routine night patrol that failed to return from its mission on May 15, 1943. Packer enlisted in January, 1940 after graduating from Webb City high school in 1939. He was declared dead in 1946, as noted in a Joplin, MO newspaper article dated Feb. 12, 1946. The article also notes that Packer was WIA on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor! When he was in Pearl Harbor, he was in VP-23 of Patrol Wing 2 on Ford Island, according to Kurt Stauffer who sold the group. 

Information on the web indicates that 710 Navy personnel were WIA on Dec. 7,1941 which makes this man amongst an elite group of individuals.

A brief history for VP-23 at the end of 1941 is as follows: 

"8 Nov 1941: VP-23 flew its older model PBY-2 aircraft to San Diego, Calif., where new PBY-5 aircraft were picked up at the factory. Two weeks of familiarization training was given to the aircrews before re-turning to Hawaii.23 Nov 1941: Upon return to Ford Island, Oahu, the crews of VP-23 began two weeks of intensive battle maneuvers to thoroughly familiarize them with the capabilities of the new PBY-5 aircraft.7 Dec 1941: Two detachments of aircraft had been sent to Johnston Island and Palmyra Island the day before, and on the 7th began to practice circular patrol pattern searches. On that same morning, Japanese carrier forces attacked Pearl Harbor, destroying eight of the squadron’s aircraft in their hangars on Ford Island."

Packer's PBY that was lost on May 15, 1943 was Bu. No. 04403; a very early loss for the squadron. VP-54 was commissioned Nov. 15, 1942, and decommissioned Dec. 6, 1943, before becoming VPB 54.

This group consists of Packer's officially engraved posthumous Type 3 Purple Heart with short titled presentation case. The Purple Heart is edge numered 591712. This is a very high number, that appears on the lower left edge of the heart. A copy of the above mentioned newspaper article is included.

The Black Cats were operating out of Henderson field as night bombers, scouts and dumbos. There is a lot of information about these squadrons on the web. They were painted flat black, hence the name. They generally operated with no running lights, so were virtually invisible at night, which enabled them to accomplish some amazing raids. One well illustrated and informative website for info is www.daveswarbirds.com. Read how they used to throw empty beer bottles out of the planes during bombing runs.