Lamar “Bud” Binion was born in Stone Mountain, GA on Nov. 20, 1917.
He graduated from Georgia School of Technology (now Georgia Institute of Technology) in Atlanta, GA on June 5, 1939 as a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering.
In addition to his college degree, and after having served as a Battalion Commander in the Army ROTC Regiment at Georgia Tech, Bud received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army Infantry. However, sometime during his senior year, he submitted an application to the United States Naval Reserve Flight Selection Board for admission as an aviation cadet at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, FL.
Resigning his Army commission in July, 1939, he successfully completed a two-week aviation cadet candidate elimination class at NAS Miami, FL., and was accepted to officer candidate school, entering class 130-C at NAS Pensacola on September 30.
Many years later, Bud said that he changed his mind about going into the Army, deciding instead to become a Navy pilot, after seeing a movie called “Wings of the Navy”, starring George Brent and Olivia de Havilland. The movie, released in early 1939, follows an aviation cadet, played by John Payne, as he goes through flight training at Pensacola and pilots a PBY Catalina amphibious aircraft. Watching the movie, it’s easy to understand how the heroic, romanticized 1930s Hollywood story might have influenced a young man, not yet twenty-two years old, to turn down the sure bet of an instant commission in the Army in favor of taking a chance on the Navy program, and possibly washing out.
Nevertheless, Bud completed flight training, was appointed a Naval Aviator and was commissioned as an Ensign, United States Naval Reserve, graduating from NAS Pensacola, FL on June 10, 1940.
After graduation, and prior to the United States’ entry into World War 2, Bud was stationed for 8 months at NAS Key West, FL flying neutrality patrols with Patrol Squadron 53 (VP-53), and guarding against the German submarine activity that was beginning to pose a threat to shipping along the U.S. east coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. For this, he received the pre-war American Defense Medal.
In early March, 1941, Ensign Binion traveled from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to East Hartford, CT to learn about the Pratt & Whitney engines that had been installed on the newer model Consolidated Aircraft PBY-5 Catalinas that would be replacing the older aircraft in VP-53. From Connecticut, he went to San Diego, CA to help pick up the new planes for his squadron and fly them to the east coast.
After spending April becoming familiar with the new equipment, Bud went with VP-53 In May from NAS Norfolk, VA to NAS Quonset Point, RI, for training in anti-submarine warfare tactics. During this time, VP-53 was re-designated VP-73 and, by the end of 1941, found itself at war with German submarines in the North Atlantic.
From January through October, 1942, Bud was stationed with VP-73 at Keflavik, Iceland flying PBY Catalinas. He flew over 50 missions providing convoy escorts and anti-submarine patrols over the North Atlantic shipping lanes and the Denmark Straits between Greenland and Iceland, for which he was awarded the Navy Air Medal.
As the Battle of the Atlantic wound down in the fall of 1942, Bud, now a Lieutenant (j.g.), relocated with VP-73 to Port Lyautey, known today as Kenitra, in Morocco. He was in Morocco for 9 months. While there, his squadron flew PBY anti-submarine patrols and convoy escorts over the Canary Islands and Gibraltar, and provided logistical support for Allied forces that were fighting the Axis powers in North Africa. For his service in Morocco, Bud received the European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal.
In September, 1943, after his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant, Bud returned from Morocco to the U.S. In October, and stationed again at NAS Quonset Point, RI, he served for 16 months as Executive Officer of Headquarters Squadron 91. He married Pearl DesGranges of Providence, RI in November, and they welcomed their first child there in the fall of 1944.
In February, 1945, and now a Lieutenant Commander, Bud was sent to South America to join Patrol Bombing Squadron 45 (VPB-45) at Ipitanga, Brazil, flying PBY convoy escorts and anti-submarine patrols over the central Atlantic. In April he was tasked with establishing, in Rio de Janeiro, the first Brazilian Air Training Unit which trained members of the Brazilian Air Force to fly and maintain the PBY Catalinas that the U.S. had transferred to them.
He was appointed Commanding Officer of VPB-45 on May 7. On June 2, Germany having surrendered, Bud flew with his squadron back to the U.S. to NAS Norfolk, VA, and was detached from VPB-45 on June 9, 1945.
After spending the summer with his wife and child at NAS Banana River, FL, and with the war in the Pacific having ended in August, Bud turned in his flight gear at the Naval Separation Center at NAS Jacksonville, FL and returned with his young family to Atlanta, arriving there on October 1. Bud was released from duty on December 27, 1945, and received the Victory Medal, after almost six years on active duty.
Following the war, Bud worked as a Flight Engineering Inspector with the Civil Aeronautics Administration (now the FAA) for several years before being hired in 1953 by the Lockheed Corporation (now Lockheed Martin) in Marietta, GA as a Flight Test Engineer.
At Lockheed, he was closely involved with flight test engineering on the first production models of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, the C-141 Starlifter, and the C-5A Galaxy military transport aircraft, eventually rising to the position of Chief Flight Test Engineer during the development of the C-130, which has turned out to be the longest continuously produced military aircraft in history, at over 64 years and counting.
As a side note, it seems an interesting coincidence that the Hercules designation as model C-130 is surprisingly similar to the designation of Bud’s 1939 aviation cadet training class at Pensacola: Class 130-C.
Bud remained active in the reserves during the post-war years, earning the Naval Reserve Medal, with over 25 years of service. In October, 1953, he was appointed Commanding Officer of Patrol Bomber Squadron 672, headquartered at Naval Air Station Atlanta, Georgia (now DeKalb-Peachtree Airport). In the 1960s, he led his squadron on a goodwill mission to Kenitra, Morocco, where he had been stationed in 1942, adding an appropriate coda to his long career with the U.S. Naval Reserve.
Lamar “Bud” Binion retired from the Naval Reserve on September 1, 1965, having attained the rank of Captain, USNR.
Text of the Citation for the US Navy Air Medal:
“For meritorious achievement in aerial flight as Pilot of a Bomber Plane engaged in anti-submarine patrols and coverage flights in the North Atlantic Area during the winter of 1941 – 1942. Operating from newly established bases despite icing, low visibility, blizzards and high winds, Lieutenant Commander (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade) Binion participated in numerous missions to counteract enemy submarine activity and contributed materially to the safe passage and protection of our valuable convoys. His skill and devotion to duty were at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
We honor you, Lamar Binion.