RETURN TO MCAS CHERRY POINT
On March 22, 1944 with their training completed, VMB-613 had returned to MCAS Cherry Point, resettled into their area and continued training hops. Just as it looked that VMB-613 would shortly be deploying to the Pacific, orders were issued instructing the squadron to detach 13 aircrews to MAG-61 for future transfer overseas as replacements for Marine Bombing Squadrons that were already actively engaged in combat operations. With this order, it became readily apparent to all that VMB-613 would not be deploying anytime soon. As a result, morale dropped, and rumors and speculation became the prime topics of conversation. Despite this setback, Major Nevils used this as an opportunity to continue training. The remaining personnel were given additional ground school, while all flight personnel were required to pass combat swimming qualifications and attend the parachute jumping course at New River, North Carolina. Training flights continued with the emphasis being to evaluate each of the squadron’s remaining co-pilots in order for them to assume duties as pilots when new crews were formed. Personnel joining the squadron during this period included Captain Corwin R. Mocine, USMCR, of Redwood City, California, who was assigned to duties as the intelligence officer.
By June of 1944, MAG-61 had departed for the Pacific, and Marine Air Group 62 (MAG-62) had been formed with VMB-613 and VMB-614 as components. During the month the squadron received its new pilots from Marine Operational Training Group 81 and training of these new pilots had begun. The new pilots worked mainly on familiarization and instruments, and after they were flight-checked by the commanding officer, they were assigned crews. About this time, it was learned that the squadron was to be equipped with the PBJ-1H. This would further delay the squadron’s departure for the Pacific since this aircraft with its heavy forward-firing armament would change the entire mission of the squadron from that of medium-altitude horizon bombing, to one of anti-shipping and close air support. In light of the new aircraft they were to be assigned, officers and men were sent to various locations throughout the country to learn about this aircraft and its equipment. These locations included: Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio; NAS Banana River, Florida; Anacostia Field, Washington, DC, and; the aircraft modification center at Elizabeth City, North Carolina. To become better acquainted with the problems in providing close air support, air crews made three-day trips to Officer’s Training School at Quantico, Virginia to work with ground Marines in simulated bombing and strafing attacks. In one of these bombing attacks, a target house was destroyed by a direct hit from a bomb dropped by First Lieutenant Paul H. Feakins at 1,000 feet. Much experience was gained by this training, as well as an appreciation for the Marines in the infantry. To further expand on this training, five officers were sent to work with the Marine Scout-Sniper School for a week at New River, North Carolina. Again, the experience proved to be well worth the discomfort of life in the field.
Lost during this period were two SBD-5s that had been assigned to the squadron for instrument training and observation flights. Both of these aircraft were lost as a result of engine failure -- the first being severely damaged while landing in a muddy field, its pilot escaping shaken with only minor injuries. The second SBD was lost when its engine failed at an altitude of 1,000 forcing the pilot to bail out at approximately 800 feet. Although the pilot sustained relatively minor injuries, his passenger sitting in the rear of the aircraft, Second Lieutenant Jimmy Roberts, was unable to escape the aircraft and was killed in the ensuing crash.
On June 30, Major Nevils was assigned as commanding officer by Group Special Order 142-1944. During July, Second Lieutenant Louis A.E. Larini, USMCR, of Worchester, Massachusetts was assigned to the squadron as the engineering officer. As the month drew to a close, VMB-613 received 14 new PBJ-1Hs and one PBJ-1J. Six of these aircraft were immediately flown to the Consolidated-Vultee Modification Center at Elizabeth City, North Carolina for radar installation and naval modifications.