Winfield K. "Win" Zerphey was born in October 1924 in the small town of Floren outside of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. He grew up with one younger brother and three sisters. He attended and graduated from grade school and high school in Mount Joy. Being an outstanding athlete, he received a scholarship to play baseball in college. When the war started, he noticed sailors seemed to attract girls. With that in mind, he decided to join the Navy in September [Annotator's Note: September 1942]. His parents signed off on his application. A gold star displayed in the window of the family home indicated he was in the service. Zerphey had four weeks of boot camp in Newport, Rhode Island. He enjoyed the traditional boot camp procedures. His aptitude evaluation showed him eligible for radio school training in Noroton Heights, outside of Stanford, Connecticut. Completing that in four months, he opted for aviation radioman training which he attended in Memphis, Tennessee. Afterward, he attended aviation gunnery school at Banana River, Florida. He trained as a waist gunner and top turret gunner. He then became part of a crew and continued his training in a B-24 [Annotator's Note: Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber]. He also flew in PBY Catalina flying boats. Zerphey's training was adequate for the tasks he had to perform. He was radioman, radar operator, and gunner. He never actually fired his guns on any mission because his main focus was using the radar in search of submarines. Of the crew Zerphey flew with, all save one returned safely after the war to the United States. That individual was lost when he flew home with a different crew and the plane was lost. Zerphey was deployed to England on a seaplane tender. It was a ten day unescorted voyage. During the trip, Zerphey spent some of his time helping in the ship's radio shack. The ship's arrival was on Easter [Annotator's Note: 1943].
Winfield Zerphey was based on the southern coast of England at Dunkeswell. The airmen lived in Quonset huts. They had flights every third day following their briefing. They would usually fly over the English Channel or the Bay of Biscay. Sometimes they flew over the Atlantic Ocean or the North Sea. Most missions were boring as they seldom sighted the enemy. The crew flew a PB4Y which was the Navy version of the B-24 [Annotator's Note: Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber]. The airplane was hard to fly but very sturdy. It was similar to the B-17 Flying Fortress [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber]. The PB4Y was modified to remove the belly turret and replace it with a radar dome. Zerphey was positioned in the plane aft of the two pilots and crew chief. He manned his radio and radar equipment with two waist gunners and a tail gunner further aft of him. The navigator and nose gunner were in the front of the bomber. That comprised the ten man crew. The flights were ten or 12 hours in duration. They seemed lengthy and mainly boring. The ship was attacked by German aircraft a few times but managed to elude them. The crew flew their aircraft solo with no escort. Weather conditions could result in diversion to a different landing base. The PB4Y pilot was a former fighter pilot in the RAF and was a terrific person to work with. He handled the plane well when it had to be diverted to land on a Spitfire landing strip that was much shorter than the normal bomber requirement. The German Fw-190 [Annotator's Note: German Focke Wulf Fw-190 fighter aircraft] fighters attacked the bomber several times. There was only minimal damage and no injuries. After a lengthy mission, the crew usually spent the next day resting and recovering. The airplane crews were well fed before, during, and after their missions. The Americans were well received by the local population. Zerphey had a lot of fun at Dunkeswell. He was there for about nine months. Some of his squadron did not return from missions. The planes flew at about 1,000 feet in search of German u-boats [Annotator's Note: submarines].
Winfield Zerphey and the crew of his Consolidated PB4Y [Annotator's Note: the PB4Y was the US Navy variant of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber] sank a German u-boat [Annotator's Note: submarine]. Three squadrons worked jointly after a sighting of an enemy boat had been reported. Zerphey was the radio and radar man on his plane. Sounding buoys were dropped at intervals into the sea to listen in for submarine noises. Zerphey noticed the sound of a u-boat motor and received confirmation from the crew. The PB4Y circled around and dropped a bomb on the enemy vessel. After the explosion, debris came up to the surface. The boat had been destroyed. There were no apparent survivors. That was Zerphey's only sighting of a German u-boat. Both sides had radar so it was difficult to catch the submarines on the surface. When the sinking occurred, it was confirmed through photographs as well as acknowledgement by other aircraft. Following landing, the crew was debriefed on the mission. Other crews managed to destroy additional German submarines. Crews were rotated in and out of the squadron [Annotator's Note: Bombing Squadron 105 (VB-105)].
Winfield Zerphey and the airplane's crew were granted liberty after flying several missions. He and a few other men would go to London, Liverpool or elsewhere for distraction. He attended dinner in a private club because of his pilot's former status as an RAF [Annotator's Note: British Royal Air Force] fighter pilot. The city of London showed signs of the Battle of Britain that had preceded Zerphey's entry into the country. He personally experienced a buzz bomb [Annotator's Note: German V-1 rocket bomb] exploding near him. He flew over the massive invasion fleet on the morning of D-Day [Annotator's Note: 6 June 1944]. His airplane's crew had been briefed that the invasion was starting. Their task was to fly the English Channel to assure that no enemy submarines or other vessels encroached on the Allied naval activities. Zerphey did not witness the actual troop landings. Flights continued on the same basis after D-Day. Most missions focused in the Bay of Biscay near Brest where a large German submarine base was located. German antiaircraft batteries kept the Navy bombers at a distance from the base. There were few encounters with German aircraft. It was a rather boring set of missions that he flew. There was a benefit to the situation. Those uneventful missions did enable Zerphey to return safely to the United States. England was covered with bomber bases during the war. The runway that Zerphey and his crewmates used is now overgrown. The English people responded well to the Americans. The pub life was enjoyable for Zerphey. Zerphey kept up to date on the war's progress. His squadron [Annotator's Note: Bombing Squadron 105 (VB-105)] continued to fly the same type missions. Zerphey returned to Norfolk in January 1945. The crew had completed the requisite number of missions which allowed them to return home. En route back, two of the plane's four engines developed problems. The pilot successfully landed his ship in Brazil after all the loose items were jettisoned out of the plane over the Atlantic. The pilot was very good. He was a former Spitfire pilot named Eddie Edwards. Upon reaching Norfolk, the crew was split up and Zerphey was sent to a squadron at Floyd Bennett Field in New York City. After spending a short time there, he was transferred south to fly missions over the Caribbean. At both stateside locations, he searched for u-boats that were still hostile offshore of the United States. He saw no German boats during that time. The war ended while he was flying the Caribbean. He was elated. He remained in the service until 16 January 1946 even though he had sufficient points to separate. The typing skills he learned as a radioman were much needed following the end of the war.
Winfield Zerphey was reunited with his family in Pennsylvania following his separation from the Navy. He had a brief time at home before his discharge [Annotator's Note: he was discharged on 16 January 1946]. After letting himself relax for a brief period, he got down to work. He restarted his college education and graduated in 1949. The G.I. Bill aided him in achieving his business administration and accounting degree. He also got married at the time. He became a production analyst and retired after 35 years at RCA. Zerphey and his wife have two daughters and a son. Zerphey, like many other veterans, never shared their World War 2 experiences with his children. Tom Brokaw's stories of the Greatest Generation opened a lot of eyes as to what was accomplished by Zerphey and his peers. As a young man of 17 years of age, he had no fear. Those are the men wanted in combat. They are less hesitant than the older married men.
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