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Andrew Kenneth Waterman, born in Lewis County, Kentucky, on 20 December 1913, enlisted in the United States Navy on 21 November 1932 at Buffalo, New York.

Contents

Navy career

After instruction at the Naval Training Station, Newport, Rhode Island, he served successive tours of sea duty in USS Nitro (AE-2), USS New Mexico (BB-40), and USS Relief (AH-2) before he underwent aviation training at the Fleet Air Base, Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone. After he attained the rate of aviation machinist's mate 3d class in December 1935 and extended his enlistment in November 1936, Waterman served with Utility Squadron 1 into mid-1939.

Transferred to Patrol Squadron (VP) 21 in August 1939, Waterman joined that unit in time to make the transpacific flight from Hawaii to the Philippines of VP-21's PBY-4's to reinforce the Asiatic Fleet's patrols out of Cavite and Olongapo. For his role in that movement, Waterman received a commendation from Commander, Patrol Wing (PatWing) 2, Rear Admiral Arthur L. Bristol, Jr., on 2 October 1939. The admiral praised Waterman's "through planning, attention to detail, and exceptional ability" that indicated a "high degree of efficiency" instrumental in the success of that important mission.

Transferred to VP-1 in September 1940 -- three months before the establishment of PatWing 10 on 16 December 1940 -- Waterman remained with the Asiatic Fleet's air arm for the rest of his life. PatWing 10 flew reconnaissance and patrol missions from Cavite's Sangley Point seaplane base or from tender-supported Olongapo up to the outbreak of war with Japan on 8 December 1941. After that day—with the Asiatic Fleet on the defensive against the relentless pressure applied by the invading Japanese—PatWing 10's lumbering PBY's conducted their reconnoitering and patrol missions in the face of increasingly heavy antiaircraft fire and fighter opposition.

Bombing Japanese Shipping

On occasion, the PBY's were pressed into service as bombers; and it was on such a mission that Waterman was killed. Before midnight on 26 December 1941, a six-plane attack group of PBY's from VP-101 (the redesignated VP-1) departed their advance base at Ambon, Netherlands East Indies, and set course for the Philippines. The Catalina flying boats were slated to hit Japanese shipping reportedly in the harbor at the island of Jolo, in the Sulu Archipelago. Waterman -- who had by that time advanced to the rate of aviation machinist's mate 1st class—was flying as waist gunner and first mechanic in the PBY-4 flown by Ens. Elwyn L. Christman, USNR.

Soon after the PBY's arrived over Jolo Harbor, antiaircraft fire from shore emplacements greeted them with gunfire assessed by Ens. Christman as "very accurate." Gunfire from the enemy ships below proved less troublesome, but soon the guns stopped firing when attacking Japanese fighter aircraft hove into view. Waterman and Aviation Machinist's Mate 2d Class Joseph Bangust, the waist gunners, stood by their machine guns and downed the first attacker.

While in a 60-degree dive aimed at a cruiser below, Christman released his bombs at 5,000 feet before heading the lumbering PBY westward to clear the area. One fighter, however, pursued doggedly.

Shot Down by a Japanese Zero

In the ensuing running fight, the PBY fared badly. On one pass, the fighter's cannon shells tore into the plane's gasoline tank; and the volatile fuel spilled from the ruptured area. On another pass, the fighter's fire ignited the gasoline and set the Catalina ablaze. Christman headed for the water to land and abandon ship; two men, Radiomen 2 Class Landers and Bangust, bailed out at 300 feet while Christman and his second and third pilots rode the plane down. Waterman, after manning his single .30-caliber machine gun with great dexterity, had been mortally wounded, probably in the fighter's last pass.

The burning PBY made a landing, and the remaining living crewman abandoned the aircraft and struck out for shore. There was no time to extricate Waterman's body from the blazing Catalina.

Awarded the Navy Cross

Waterman was awarded a posthumous Navy Cross for "extraordinary heroism and courage" as plane captain of Christman's PBY. His citation noted his "loyal and conscientious devotion to duty" during the engagement in which he lost his life in the service of his country.

Namesake

The USS Waterman (DE-740) was named in his honor. The ship was laid down on 24 February 1943 at San Pedro, California, by the Western Steel and Pipe Co.; launched on 20 June 1943; sponsored by Mrs. June M. Waterman, the widow of Aviation Machinist's Mate 1st Class Waterman; and commissioned on 30 November 1943.

See also

References

This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
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