PBY Catalina International Association
Rescue Missions
Title: Rescue of Walter Koby
Date: 1945-Jun-14 Squadron: VPB-71 Location: 60 miles off Luzon, Philippines
Rescue: Note:
Pick-up of Walter Koby
By William F. "Tommy" Thomason (et al)

Lieutenant Curtis L. Layton, USNR, while on a patrol mission, sighted a survivor in a raft at Latitude 18-15 North, Longitude 122-58 East. The position is sixty miles east of the northern tip of Luzon. The sighting was made at 1145; Lieutenant Layton circled the spot and notified base of the sighting. An Army PBY and a B-17 carrying a life boat arrived on the scene later in the day, but when the Army planes seemed unable to agree on a plan of action, Lieutenant Layton landed at 1650, with a wind of twenty knots and eight foot swells, and picked up Lieutenant Walter J. Koby (0-769858), pilot of a P-38 of the Ninth Fighter Squadron of the Forty-Ninth Fighter Group. Lieutenant Koby, who had been in the raft for five days, was suffering somewhat from exposure, but was uninjured. He was taken to Clark Field.

Excerpts from records of Ninth Fighter Squadron of the Forty-Ninth Fighter Group:
From William K. Pascallis
Re: Lt. Koby, Walter
Combat time with the 9th Sqdn 49th Group.

On April 20, 1945 Lt. Koby shot down one Japan ess (sic) type plane his one and only victory 20 miles north of Hong Kong.

On April 27 Lt. Koby bailed out over the Santiago area behind Japanese lines. Spent 10 days in the hands of friendly Filipinos before returning to Linguyan (Lingayen) Air Field.

On June 9, 1945 Lt. Easterbrook & Lt. Koby took off from Tacloban Air Field, Leyte ferrying two new P-38's back to Linguyan (Lingayen) Air Base. Very heavy weather forced Lt. Easterbrook to splash down in a rice patty (sic). He wave he was OK. Lt. Koby turn back towards Leyte. When his fuel ran low, Lt. Koby bailed out, again. His report was filed after being rescued by a Navy PBY June 14, 1945.

Lt. Koby report he was down in the Sibuyan Sea south of Luzon Island. When one look at a map of the Phillippines and check the two reports as to just where & when, it's hard to believe Lt. Koby having been blown off course by hundreds of miles. (See my map of the Philippine Islands.)

I check the honor roll for the 49th Fighter Group, did not find Lt. Koby name listed nor did I find any address for Lt. Koby.

William K. Pascallis
[address omitted for privacy]

From Lt.(jg) James Pettyjohn PP1C Crew #5, VPB-71
"Unexpected rescue of Lt. Walter Koby"

On June 14, 1945 crew #5 of VPB-71 was waiting rotation back to the States. At the time we were stationed on Samar Island in the Philippines and early that morning someone announced that we were standby for a PV-2 that couldn't make a patrol flight. This standby responsibility was a surprise. Nevertheless, we were soon in the air with little or no briefing except to fly up the east coast of Luzon and to a point beyond and then back to Samar. The first part of the flight up the east coast was uneventful except for uncharted islands. The flight continued on up the coast when it occurred to the navigator, at the moment, that land would soon disappear and serious navigation begin. In viewing the overall flight distance it was calculated that ETA back to base would be about 2230. In anticipation of what the Plane Commander (Layton) would decide, an altered course was plotted which would have the flight arrive back to base (Samar) at the scheduled time of 1630. The altered course was presented to Layton and without hesitation he agreed to it, no questions asked. Since time to turn on the new cross leg was at hand, a hurry up land fix was made and the unexpected turn was made that would lead to an unexpected discovery in the Philippine Sea. Some time later pilot switching was again made with Pettyjohn and White (both junior pilots) ending up in the cockpit.

Some time later at 1200 (noon) Pettyjohn was in the port seat and for some reason leaned over to the window and looked straight down, something that many would hardly ever do. To his surprise directly under the aircraft and about to disappear was a small yellow object which turned our to be Lt. Koby in a one-man raft. The raft had not been seen up to this point and the altitude and sea state made detection unlikely. What to do next was solved by Radioman Barnett. He finally contacted a command that instructed Crew #5 to remain on station and that help was on the way. (Note: at that time Dumbo units of the Army Air Corps were responsible for rescuing downed aviators.) Help did arrive at 1600 - a B-17 with an underslung boat. Crew #5 immediately left the area with crewmen expressing disappointment. Soon after leaving a PBY-5A (Dumbo) inbound was met. Later on a call was heard from the Dumbo requesting Crew #5 to return and pick up the unknown person. (Reason given - they had too much gas aboard.) A quick return was made and soon a landing was attempted. The rough sea tossed our PBY back into the air like a rubber ball on the first landing attempt. A second attempt at landing was made successfully. Lt. Koby was quickly pulled aboard by the crew and a quick takeoff was made which in retrospect was prudent since Crew #5 was not aware until after the war that Jap subs had been operating in the area off the east coast of Luzon. After the rescue Crew #5 headed for Clark Air Field to gas up and drop off Lt. Koby.

Soon after takeoff Pettyjohn was sent from the cockpit to check on Koby who was lying on a bunk all flustered with crewmen gathered around. Pettyjohn asked him what he was doing out there and he replied, "When you guys first landed and bounced a hundred feet in the air, I started to put my pistol to my head and blow my brains out". Needless to say, a different response was expected.

It was at this point that the person rescued was identified as Lt. Walter Koby from Pennsylvania flying for the Army and that he had bailed out due to rough weather and low fuel hoping to hit land. He and another pilot had been flying two P-38's from Tacloban to Lingayen. He had been adrift for five days and was rescued 250 nautical miles out to sea from Samar Base. Lt. Koby was left at Clark Air Base.

Crew #5 left the Samar Base not long after headed for the States via the Solomon Islands and points in between. Crew #5 had been successful in Black Cat operations but Layton summed up the accomplishments most appropriately by stating that the rescue of Lt. Koby overshadowed all others.

Crew #5, VPB-71:
PPC, Layton
PP1C, Pettyjohn
PP2C, White
Plane Capt., Lipske
2nd Mech, Seipel
1st Radio, Barnette
2nd Radio, DeShayes
1st Ordnance, Hacker
2nd Ordnance, Goldbeck.

James F. Pettyjohn.

WFT comment: just goes to prove that "what is to be will be".

From Lt. Curtis Layton, PPC Crew #5, VPB-71
What an interesting e-mail!! I got out my old logbook and looked up the event and found this - the original piece of paper written on by Barnette & this is what was written, "Koby, Walter J. 2nd Lt. 0769858 49th Fighter Group 9th Fighter Squadron. Went down the 9th (June) N.E. of Leyte. Injuries - small cuts and scratches and a bump on head". The following is from my logbook entry - "Samar patrol - sighted survivor at end of leg - circled 6 hours - Army wouldn't land to pick up - I landed & took survivor to Clark - Received commendation from Admiral. Returned to Samar with no radar or radio. Weather bad, raining & overcast, made blind landing with aid of 2 searchlights".

Note: 49th Fighter Group flew P-40's, P-47's and P-38's. Richard Bong was in this group.


Goldbeck, Dan
Layton, Curtis L.
Lipske, John A.
Pettyjohn, James