Robert Scarff oral history interview



Robert Scarff oral history interview


Born-digital video recording of an oral history with Robert W. Scarff and interviewer Jim Stott, recorded as part of The Museum of Flight Oral History Program, June 27, 2017.


World War II veteran Robert W. Scarff is interviewed about his life and military service with the United States Navy. He discusses his flight training and experiences flying the Martin PBM Mariner. Topics discussed include his wartime service in Brazil, his test flight assignment at Naval Air Station Patuxent River (Maryland), and his post-war service in Japan shortly after the end of World War II. He also touches briefly on the life and career of his father, Wayland Labatt Scarff, who was an early employee of the Boeing Company in the mid-1910s.

Table Of Contents

Introduction and personal background -- Father’s Boeing career -- Joining the U.S. Navy and flight training -- Service in Brazil -- Engine failures -- Thoughts on the Martin PBM Mariner -- Test flying the PBM-5 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River -- Transfer to the Pacific and post-war assignment in Japan -- Return to the United States and post-military life





1 recording (1 hr., 14 min., 6 sec.) : digital



Bibliographic Citation

The Museum of Flight Oral History Collection/The Museum of Flight




Biographical Text

Robert Wayland Scarff was a World War II veteran who served with the United States Navy as a Martin PBM Mariner pilot. He was born on May 23, 1917 in Seattle, Washington to Wayland and Della (née Simpson) Scarff. He had two younger brothers, Cal and John. Scarff’s father, a steamfitter and mechanic, worked for the fledgling Boeing Company from approximately 1915 to 1917 and was closely acquainted with Boeing test pilot Edward “Eddie” Hubbard.

Scarff attended Auburn High School (Auburn, Washington) and matriculated at the University of Washington. He graduated in 1939. Afterwards, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and entered the Navy flight program. He completed flight training at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (Washington) and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi (Texas), where he learned to fly the Consolidated PBY Catalina. He then checked out on the Navy’s new patrol bomber, the Martin PBM Mariner, at Naval Air Station Banana River (Florida).

Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, Scarff was deployed to South America as part of a PBM squadron. He was stationed primarily in Brazil and flew nighttime patrol and convoy escort missions to protect against possible submarine attacks. On returning to the United States, he was assigned to Naval Air Station Patuxent River (Maryland) to test fly the PBM-5. He then transferred to the Pacific Fleet and, from September to December 1945, served as a PBM-5 pilot at Yokosuka Air Station (Japan). His missions included flying officers and scientists over Hiroshima and Nagasaki to document the effects of the atomic bombings.

Scarff returned to the United States in December 1945 and was honorably discharged. In his civilian life, he helped operate the family Ford dealership in Auburn, Washington. He and his wife, Florence, had four children. Scarff passed away on April 28, 2018.

Biographical information derived from interview and additional information provided by interviewee.