Clyde Cassius “Cash” Barber – Pensacola, Florida
Navy PBY Crew Member
Clyde Cassius “Cash” Barber was born in Drennen, Colorado on 6 May 1924. He was one of seven children in a farm family, and the fifth boy. While he was in high school his family moved to Pueblo, Colorado to live with his mother’s father.
He convinced his parents to give their consent so he could enlist in the Navy after his 17th birthday. He was sworn into the Navy 24 May 1941, and traveled by train from Denver to San Diego, California for recruit training at Naval Training Station (NTC) San Diego.
After completing “boot camp” he was sent to Alameda Naval Air Station for 14 weeks of aviation machinist training. After graduating in mid-November 1941, his entire class of 30 received orders to Patrol Squadrons (PBY’s) at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The class reported to the cargo ship USS Proyon, and on 6 December 1941 departed Mare Island, California for Pearl Harbor
The Proyon was at sea when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After the attack it returned to Mare Island to load medical supplies and ammunition. It departed again 10 December and the class formed gun crews to man the 35mm deck guns during the voyage. Four sailors were assigned to each deck gun’s crew, and each crew rotated through all the different gun crew positions. They practiced firing the guns every day while en route.
As the Proyon sailed into the channel at Pearl Harbor Cash saw the damage from the Japanese attack. He will never forget the images of a battleship on its side on the port side of the harbor and the dry docks on the starboard side surrounded by damaged ships. As the Proyon passed Battleship Row he saw that virtually all ships were sunk or damaged. At Ford Island all the PBY’s parked on the airstrip were damaged or destroyed.
Cash reported to VP-11 and was assigned work and security duties. At one point he stood guard, armed with a rifle, in a foxhole near the beach. In January the squadron began receiving replacement PBY’s and he was assigned to a flight crew. His first patrol on 27 February 1942 was a 12-hour flight. During March he flew five more patrols, averaging 13 hours per flight. He was training as a 3rd mechanic and manned one of the 50-caliber machine guns.
The realities of war hit Cash on Easter Sunday 1942. His close friend Bill Allen was on a patrol flight returning to land at NAS Kanoehe. The field was socked in with fog and during its approach the airplane hit Makapuu Point, killing the entire crew.
In July the squadron was moved further into the South Pacific where it assisted in the Guadalcanal operations. VP-11 later flew in support of the Solomon Islands campaign until it was relieved 31 December 1942. All squadron personnel returned by ship to California where they received 30 days leave before reporting to San Diego for reassignment.
When Cash returned to San Diego he was assigned to a new PBY squadron that VP-11 was forming for another deployment. They began intensive training and, at age 18, he was assigned as plane captain for a crew commanded by Lt. (jg) H.A. Williams. The squadron completed training and the PBY’s departed for Hawaii on 29 April 1943, where they arrived after a 20 hour flight.
After several days of rest and airplane maintenance at NAS Kaneohe, the squadron flew to Canton Island, where it conducted several weeks of patrol missions. In May 1943 they were reassigned to a small seaplane base on Crawley Bay in Perth, Western Australia, where they flew patrol missions into the Indian Ocean until September 1943.
In early September 1943 the squadron was moved to Port Moresby, New Guinea, where it conducted bombing and strafing raids against Japanese forces on Vito Island. On 14 December 1943 the squadron flew a special mission into central New Guinea to evacuate 219 Australian commandos. The PBY’s struggled to overfly the Owen Stanley mountain range before landing on a narrow strip of the Sepik River. VP-11’s operations in New Guinea continued until February 1944, when it was relieved and returned to Perth, Australia.
After returning to Perth, VP-11 continued patrols in the Indian Ocean. Near the end of one patrol Cash had a close call when they blew the starboard engine’s number one cylinder. They feathered the propeller and, after throwing out equipment that wasn’t required for flight, flew for more than six hours on one engine to a safe landing at an advance base in Geraldton, Australia. Cash and his second mechanic salvaged a cylinder from another failed engine and had the PBY back in the air in less than 24 hours.
In July 1944 they were deployed back to northern New Guinea to a base on Woendi, near Biak Island, which enabled them to fly missions into the Philippines, often hunting Japanese submarines. As American forces made progress in the Pacific bases were established in Morati and Leyte. Following the battle of Leyte Gulf the squadron was relieved by a PBM squadron that had faster and heavier bomber aircraft. VP-11 flew its PBY’s back to Kaneohe Bay. All squadron personnel then boarded an aircraft tender for the voyage back to the United States, arriving at NAS Alameda, California on 15 December 1944.
After a 30 day leave Cash reported to NAS Oakland where he joined to a squadron that had R5D’s, which was the Navy version of the Army Air Corps’ C-54. He was soon assigned to an overhaul facility where he was part of a rigging crew that removed and replaced flight controls on R5D’s. He took leave in late August to visit his family and was at his parents’ home in Lost Hills, California when the Japanese surrender was announced.
Cash remained in the Navy after World War II. His squadron, VR-8, was one of two Navy squadrons that participated in Operation Vittles, the Berlin Airlift. Between March and September 1949, VR-8 led all squadrons in aircraft utilization and tonnage delivered to the residents of Berlin. In November 1956, he participated in VR-7’s Around the World Flight supporting the Suez Canal crisis. During 20 years of enlisted flying he logged more than 7500 of crewmember flight hours.
In May 1961, Cash received his commission as a Lieutenant Junior Grade, Limited Duty Officer. He went on to serve ten years in maintenance billets at Naval Air Facility, Naha, Okinawa; Commander Air Transport Wing Pacific, NAS Moffatt Field, California; VP-42, Saigon (1967) and Cam Ranh Bay (1968), Vietnam; and Commander Fleet Air Wing Whidbey, NAS Whidbey Island, Washington.
LCDR Barber was “piped over the side” 30 June 1971 after more than 30 years active Naval Service, including 20 years as an enlisted man. During his career he earned 18 campaign and service medals and ribbons, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, and Presidential Unit Citation. He wears Combat Aircrew wings with three gold stars.
LCDR Barber celebrated his 95th birthday earlier this year. For more than 71 of those years he has been married to the former Eileen Allen of Bakersfield, California who does her best to keep him on the proper course. In June 2014 he and Eileen relocated to Gulf Breeze, Florida where they share the “Captains’ Quarters” cottage with their daughter, retired Navy Captain Carolyn Deal, and her husband, retired Navy Captain Robert Deal.