Airwar (Outraged Skies, Wings of Fire) [2]

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Edward Jabbnski author of Flying Fortress Outraged Skies /Wings of

Fire

\ r*

X

An

illustrated history of air

power in the Second World War

Edward Jabbnski From the hard-fought air, land and sea struggle for Guadalcanal that marked the first step on the road back from Pearl Harbor through the three long years of island-hopping that set the stage for the final American victory,

Outraged Skies traces the early develof the air war in the Pacific. It is a fascinating account of the desperate improvisation of men and material through which America struggled to bring the conflict to the Japanese island strongholds. Called "Operation Shoestring" by those who fought it, it was an unorthodox war of hit-and-run

opment

dogfights and, for a time, meager ing raids. Recreated here,

bomb-

with the heroic exploit of General Kenny's fledgling Fifth Air Force and the Naval

and Marine

pilots of

it

is filled

Admiral Halsey's

carriers in the Marianas "Turkey Shoot" and the skies over Saipan, New Guinea,

Rabaul, the Dutch East Indies, and other sections of the South Pacific.

The concluding volume

of

Airwar

chronicles the last days of the Third Reich and the collapse of the Japanese Empire. In the Pacific, the Japanese were forced steadily back from the outer peri-

meter

of their defenses, and Wings of Fire traces the bloody progress of their

Dominating the story are graphaccounts of the futile suicidal Banzai charges and Kamikaze air attacks which retreat.

ic

the retreating forces resorted to with growing fanaticism as, one by one, the

Burma, Saipan, and Okiand finally the Japanese home islands reeled under massive air Philippines,

nawa were

lost,

attacks climaxing with the atomic raids on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Europe, Germany gathered the shattered remnants of her once invincible military might for one final effort against the besieging Allies. "Goering's Big Blow," as the battle was called,

was an heroic but

pointless

(continued on bacic flap)

campaign

AIRWAR OUTRAGED SKIES •••* WINGS OF FIRE •*•

EDWARD

JABLONSKI

DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY,

INC.,

GARDEN

CITY,

NEW YORK

'^

©

1971 by Edward Jablonski Copyright All Rights Reserved. Printed in the United States of America

For

my

friends,

CLAIRE

and

PETER CLAY

once of the hospitable "George U," Luton, Bedfordshire, and of the

now

"Coach and Horses," Rickmansworth,

Hertfordshire, England.

Man, have pity on man. Rain from the outraged sky drowned the innocent earth yet the seed did not die.

Flowering from that rebirth, man, have pity on man as you hold the fire in your hand that can destroy mankind

and

desolate every land.

If the

power and

the glory

is this,

a flame that burns to the bone, what shall be left to grow when you and your fires have gone?

What maimed and

desolate

shall recover life's full

from among

Man, have

few

span

the ashes of time?

pity

on man.

Ursula Vaughan Williams

OUTRAGED SKIES

Contents

Book

I:

Kenney's Kids

Preface

X

OR many months, while

rope

—only

seemed

the Pacific

war raged

the



D-Day

in the air until after

practically a matter of

time. Not, of course, to those

who were

in

Eu-

war

the

in

marking

there, for in

seemed always

in

Planes and

short supply.

was quickly stripped from the

All glamour

Japanese soldier became a legend:

Operations, they lived a hellish existence and fought

ous, nearly invincible,

and frightening conditions.

frightful

Roosevelt

and Churchill

agreed

at

death. This

"Ar-

their

cadia" Conference held in Washington in the latter

days of 1941

aimed

that

the

Grand

at "getting Hitler first."

Strategy would be

While the Japanese

had struck an impressive blow and

in

time permeated

island

paradises of the Pacific; the fighting ability of the

the exotic further reaches of the Pacific Theater of

under

men

literally fell apart.

was

men who

brave

He was

and strangely

frightening, at

ran from

this

mysteri-

indifferent to

and there were

first,

kind of fanatic warrior

in the confusion of batde.

The

fighting

antagonists

men

—were

—and

also,

power and personality

in

was

this

of

true

both

a sense, victims of the

struggles of their

own

leaders.

a large area of the Pacific, the Arcadia agreement

This was especially marked in the Pacific, where

of trying to fight two wars

MacArthur's headquarters seethed with intrigue and

had so stupidly

animosity; to this was added the further complica-

recognized the

futility

simultaneously

(as

Hitler himself

chosen to do); the Japanese were spread the Pacific, but Hitler

At

same

the

was concentrated

all

in

over

Europe.

time, however, the Japanese

would

have to be contained and someone would have to contain them; to a great extent, the Pacific primarily an

American problem



with,

the incomparable aid of Australian

land troops. the Big

Grand

War

To

and

became

stand

why

pole.

Supplies,

they were low

it

men on

difficult

in the air

Army

over the Pacific

was even further entangled because MacArthur's Chief of Staff simply did not they had

all

like airmen.

After

ail,

been kicked out of the Philippines,

the Netherlands East Indies, and other points, so

New

what good were they? They were a bunch of

Zea-

and, uninformed as they were about they found

and the Navy. The war

of course,

those sent to the Pacific, that was

Strategies,

between the

tion of the division of authority

to

under-

the military totem

replacements, parts, small luxuries

hearted kids

who used up

light-

their expensive airplanes

and who flouted every form of military propriety and hard

dress; they were not little

"good

soldiers." It took a

airman named Kenney to revise

tude toward the kid

fliers

in his

this atti-

command and

to

I

PREFACE how

teach the brass, earthbound as they were,

make war

in the

air.

to

In doing this he also taught

Kenney's warring was for a time a kind of improvisation, as he used whatever he could get his to

deal

Kenney had himself an air force and a army of kids. Although a great

As

of

bitter

Guinea,

much

ground

fighting

Kenney's wily employment of

Even

after the tide

was not

Pacific

occurred

over.

air

had turned, the war

The

Battle of

Japan ever

to

in

the

was

little,

sisting

tired or poorly trained

in great

Japanese

used-up planes suffered. They too should

pilots in

not have been in the

air.

It

was

this

that

made

a

inevitable.

it

by the Ma-

initiated

It

over the Pacific, to give some idea of what to fight a

poor man's war

in

it

was

like

an area rich

in handi-

—not

the least

caps, problems, and unpredictability

of which were human.

Considering the vasty distances, the Pacific war was fought on a small scale, until the war in Europe

had no

right to

be

had the Air Force out of Australia

Guinea.

it

did of so

positive turn. It

was a war of hit-and-run

dogfights and, for a time,

meager bombing missions;

took

it

Pacific presented a

as

American airmen, with new planes

numbers, appeared,

men who

at times with aircraft that

New

The

were)

with good reason; they fought with very

in the sky, just as

and

pilots ever

were pushed beyond normal usage.

This third volume in the series entitled Ainvar

Guadalcanal two months after Midway.

it,

fresh

They too were worn out

American

attempts to present the story of the early fighting

called Operation Shoestring by the

fought

their planes

it

forced to operate

was impos-

it

win the war; perhaps, but

on the road back was

step

rines at

own. By the

Midway took

continued for three long, life-consuming years. The first

its

Marianas "Turkey Shoot," however unpredictable,

power.

place in June of 1942, after which sible for

New

in

of the victory could be credited to

terrible conditions.

(to a greater degree than

and

the Japanese,

into

who was

the Japanese airman

under

keep going; when things turned against

well-knit, disciplined

came

time these appeared in numbers in the Pacific

was

the Japanese a thing or two.

hands on

that the aircraft carrier

its

was not

at all a

textbook war.

unique battieground, con-

much

water;

it

was here

Edward Jablonski

OUTRAGED SKIES

BOOK I Kenney's Kids

This was the type of strategy we hated most. The Americans at-

tacked and seized, with constructed air

our troops

fields,

minimum

losses,

a

and then proceeded

relatively

weak

area,

to cut supply lines to

in that area.

GENERAL MATSUIOCHI INO Because of the food shortage, some companies have been eating the flesh of Australian soldiers.

The

taste is said to

be good.

LIEUTENANT SAKAMOTO

BUCCANEER

TX

HE

finity

an

Pacific theater of operations offered

in-

of vista: great stretches of water and curving

horizons, broken only

by jungle-gnarled

islands, cor-

There was more water than land and more sky than either. Clearly it was not a setting for massive land battles, such as Europe was, and distance precluded the uscated

atolls,

strategic

and palm-fringed

bombardment

islets.

of the Japanese homeland.

Instead, until air bases could be established within

range of Japan, a series of contained, savage land batdes must be fought, along with far-flung naval

engagements and

air

The deeper

battles.

strategy

lay in eliminating Japanese air power, in order to

permit Allied naval and ground troops to function.

At Midway

had been revealed, to those recep-

it

tive to revelation, that the

war

in the Pacific

would

MacArthur,

be dominated, even resolved, by aircraft and not

General

Douglas

by the

Blarney,

commander

the

Classic

battleship.

committed

proved

this;

but

Japan could

Pacific war, that the

end was not

brilliantly

if

who

it

no

less

than land

clung to the old concepts

certain

to

no longer win the

Midway had

defeat.

had proved

and with

ter,

at

States

Midway,

also.

it

its

Navy coveted

all

that Pacific

wa-

triumph through carrier aviation

had raised

its

eyes to the heavens

The Navy was most anxious

the Southwest Pacific,

Lieutenant

in

immediately in view was equally certain.

The United

Thomas

Sir

that

in the Pacific

Europe. Those

in

were

General

of Australian ground forces in

and MacArthur's Chief of Staff, General Richard K. Sutherland. Before Kenney could feel he rightfully commanded MacArthur's air force, he found he had to come to a proper understanding with Sutherland, who, though he

books was finished

war

warfare

sea-borne

to avenge Pearl

served MacArthur, liked having his finger

every pie

—including

Kenney's

air forces.

Kenney,

putting his cards on the table in characteristic out-in-

the-open manner, emerged as the only and

mander of

full

the air forces in the Southwest Pacific

remained as such for the

com-

—and

rest of the war.

(u.

S.

ARMY)

H^n

C-46 "Commando" of Air Transport ComHump" between India and China. Not only were the U.S. air forces and the RAF in-

problem

Curtiss

volved in fighting the Japanese in the

mand

of supplies of the entire China-Burma-India was solved by air. (u. s. air force)

flying over "the

Harbor, hoping to assume

full

strategic control of

control of the Pacific

air,

the

theater

was General Douglas MacAr-

enduring the ignominy of being booted

the Pacific. Therein lay sufficient fuel for interservice

thur. After

argument, with enough remaining for international

out of the Philippines, the patrician, vain, and ego-

disagreements as well. The British had their hands

centric

full

in

the China-Burma-India theater,

what with

personal intrigues and a complex supply problem; in

with what

little

thur's

command

share

of

the

of a second-rate war. theater,

called

the

in being

MacAr-

Southwest

have to

Pacific Area, included, running southward, those re-

he could get from the

gions in Japanese hands, the Philippines, Borneo,

China proper Chennault continued

make do

MacArthur found small consolation

given half

United States and the even

less

to

he received from

Celebes,

New Guinea (the northern coast of which was overrun also), and the great subcon-

Chiang Kai-shek. These theaters were preponderandy

in time

land masses and the problem of their internal poli-

tinent of Australia,

which lay in the path of the

invaders and where

MacArthur command.

tics interfered

only indirectly with the Pacific.

All that stood between the U.

S.

Navy and

full

ing definition of his

languished, await-

BUCCANEER The remainder of the Pacific "belonged" to AdW. Nimitz, based at Pearl Harbor. A

miral Chester line

running north and south, eventually along the cut through

159th meridian just east of Australia the

Solomon

Islands, skirting

one of the southern-

most of the group, Guadalcanal (which placed

it

technically under naval jurisdiction), while leaving

the largest island, Bougainville

mand became

at times

com-

definition of

rather hazy,

not heated.

if

MacArthur and Nimitz were absolute monarchs commanding all forces, naval, ground, and air. Where the battle lines merged or overlapped, the question of jurisdiction must be In their respective theaters,

decided

by

was not always

which

co-operation,

forthcoming in the scramble for supplies,

readily

Where MacArthur was motivated by

a histrionic

sense of his position in history, Nimitz

was a cool

professional

Navy man who aimed

for as

much

co-

operation as possible. MacArthur's real naval bete noire

was Admiral Ernest

Operations,

Commander

King, Chief of Naval

J.

Chief,

in

the

self),

men

States



United States Navy. Not only did enmity of such

United

brilliant as was Macwar from the standpoint of the

Navy. King, blunt, decisive,

Arthur^viewed

this

as Churchill (a

earn him the

navy

man

him-

Army, Air Force, and

but of a host of U. S.

Navy men as well. MacArthur suspected

King's Pacific planning was

a personal vendetta out of Washington. in

That Europe

1942 was but an-

other unfortunate sting, for the supplies required

MacArthur's avowed return

to

the Philippines

by a

later

trickle of

Brett

was not regarded by MacArthur

along with MacArthur's Chief of

Staff,

Air Force was concerned, MacArthur was certain

would contribute

to the war. Brett

little

no means eased the

War

all

but running the show and,

by an old classmate of

College, "rubbed people the

was

egotistic, like

his at the

hope of acquiring

egotism had

his

made him almost universally disliked." From Australia MacArthur hoped to lunge

north-

New Guinea, at the great Japanese base Rabaul, in New Britain. From Rabaul, Japanese

ward at

Army

wrong way. He

most people, but an unfortunate

combined with

of arrogance

bit

Sutherland, in fact,

situation.

enjoyed the position of

via

fighters

into

and bombers were positioned

New

at Port

to attack the

Moresby, to

On

tralia.

Guinea

to

Navy had

upon Ausits

Solomons, where great

Guadalcanal made

it

attention

activity

on

obvious that the Japanese were

constructing an air base there.

by bombing AUied bases

New

sweep down

initiate the assault

the other hand, the the

to

major Allied base

From

in the

New

the Solomons,

Hebrides and

Caledonia, the Japanese could eventually cut

the supply lines to Australia as well as the South

From

fields

in

the

Solomons

Japanese could protect Rabaul, with

little

it

and MacAr-

thur were thoroughly estranged, and Sutherland by

Pacific.

a "disloyal" air force, and

Major Gen-

Richard K. Sutherland). As far as the entire

eral

MacArthur pondered the defense of

mass with few troops, a worn-out and he believed

as one of

the loyal ones (primarily because Brett did not get

were drained away. Isolated as he was in Australia, that great land

B-25s

and B-26s.

drawn

was the favored battleground for

which were joined

less)

as described

men, materiel, and power.

little

more than a ragtag of P-40s, P-400s (an early export model of the Bell P-39, Airacobra), P-39s, and a few worn-out B-17s, the even more worn Douglas A-24s (the Air Force version of the Navy's Daunt-

un-

(in the north)

The

der MacArthur's jurisdiction.

by Lieutenant General George H. Brett, was

tion of ships

Brett had

air

and

much

its

also the

concentra-

aircraft.

to

contend with as the commander

to turn the losing defensive

of the Allied Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific

MacArthur assumed command of the Southwest Pacific Area on April 18, 1942. "None of the three

hauteur and ego, caused trouble too. Brett could

the

means and the men

war

into the offensive.

besides Sutherland. His personality, a mingling of



my command naval, air or adequate " he said. He had left more

elements of

was

the Philippines than he tralia,

had

ground troops in

at his disposal in

Aus-

and these were either the remnants of the

fighting

which had gone before or green troops,

ill-

equipped and poorly trained. His small naval de-

tachment had no

carriers.

His

air force,

commanded

warm up

not bring himself to particularly

members

with

to the Australians,

governmental representatives,

its

Labour government and The problem of replacement

of a "radical"

therefore "left wing."

and supply was formidable and the morale of exhausted crews was low. Fatigued tances,

much

Group, with

of its

it

over water

men

flew long dis-

(the 49th Fighter

P-40s, for example, was based at

Darwin

in northern Australia), to

engage

combat

in

with superior Japanese aircraft, or to drop a small load of

bombs without

appreciable results. Planes

should have been junked were patched and

that

flown until they

Some

apart.

fell

did,

and airmen

resented serving in a forgotten theater, forgotten be-

cause of the "Hitler

Deliveries

strategy.

first"

suppUes arrived slowly; and crates when they

of

finally

came, were found to have been pilfered by desperate crews en route. Disgrunded by poor food, miserable

and the methods of the Australian

living conditions,

Air Force and

part in the operations,

its

American

airmen had grown apathetic and believed that

if

conditions prevailed, an Allied victory was hopeless.

The sacking of

Brett would not solve

of the

all

problems, but according to the workings of the mili-

mind he was "responsible" (momentarily and

tary

conveniendy excluding the Japanese) and therefore

must

And

go.

so

it

was

that

on August

4,

1942,

stubby, cocky, pugnacious, and anything but aristo-

Major General George C. Kenney succeeded

cratic

Brett as air

commander

the Southwest Pacific.

in

This tough, outspoken, practical, no-nonsense fighter

found himself a rather lone figure in a nest of prima donnas and debilitated warriors.

Kenney, upon arriving

command, was

thur's

in Brisbane, seat of

tioned Lennon's Hotel and spent

Sutherland

to

American

berating

Mac Arthur's

the

some time

listening

Australians,

various

"air

Down

but also his

in

Mac-

to earth, prag-

won over MacArthur

own men, whom he

called "kids," because,

was what they were.

in the main, that

(u.

Lewis H. Brereton (who had been air

show"

s.

AIR force)

with emphasis upon the consist-

oflicers,

ently unlucky

MacAr-

established in the air-condi-

George Kenney, who ran the Arthur's section of the Pacific. matic, loyal, Kenney not only

commander

Philippines),

the

in

It

was not

until the next

morning

that

Kenney was

ushered in to meet with MacArthur, in lonely splen-

and, of course, the obstinate Brett.

The Air Force

dor,

was

Brett's staff or

downtown Brisbane. After initial formalities, MacArthur began pacing and speaking, repeating the same criticisms of the Air Force which Suther-

especially vile:

senior

".

.

.

none of

commanders was any good,

the pilots didn't

know much about flying, the bombers couldn't hit anything and knew nothing about proper maintenance of their equipment or how to handle their supplies.

He

also thought there

about the kids having

...

In fact,

I

was some question

much stomach

for fighting.

heard just about everyone hauled

on the eighth

floor of a nine-story ofiice building

in

land had spouted the evening before. In thur's

being antagonistic to his headquarters, to the point of disloyalty.

He would

During a pause

not stand for disloyalty."

in the outpouring of words,

over the coals except Douglas MacArthur and Rich-

ney rose to

ard K. Sutherland."

than MacArthur), deciding

Shrewdly the canny ex-World

whose experience with

aircraft

War

maintenance, pro-

duction, and manipulation went back

decades, said ".

.

.

little

at

this

I fighter pilot,

point.

more than two

But he thought,

Sutherland was inclined to overemphasize his

[own] smattering of knowledge of aviation."

Mac Ar-

view, "air personnel had gone beyond just

full

Ken-

height (he was about a head shorter "it

was time

to lay

my

cards on the table."

He began by come out to the quested him and confidence in

run his

air

reminding MacArthur that he had Pacific because

me

show

MacArthur had rehad had enough

that "as long as he to ask for

me

to

be sent out to

for him, I intended to

do

that very

B-17E, one of the few, based near Mareeba, Australia. "A formation of five or six B-17s was regarded ... as ." (u. s. air force) impressive .

.

.

.

.

himself to finding out what was wrong. arrived on July 28 and until

Kenney bluntly told the general that he could run an "air show" better than or as well as anyone available. The emphasis was on the fact that he Kenney would run the air show. As for loyalty, the day that Kenney no longer felt loyal to his chief, "I would come and tell him so and at that time I would be packed up and ready for the orders sendthing."



ing

me back home."

MacArthur's

stormy

changed;

the

studied the small

man

expression

He

before him, appraising him, then walked over, threw

arm

around

"George, all

I

think

Kenney's

we

shoulders,

and

said,

are going to get along together

George Kenney served from that day

as air

until the

commander

then fighting

With

in the

end of the war.

he could pledge loyalty to MacArthur,

whom

If

he

was exceeded only by his de"kids," the young airmen who were a great war with so httle.

genuinely admired, votion to his

found Brett's directorate system,

commander's name, decided to see I

how

.

it

.

.

too complicated for me.

worked

was not smart enough

more,

it

looked to

me

but

first

to figure

as

people in the headquarters.

if

it

I

was

out.

I

afraid

Further-

there were too

many

..."

In the interests of Allied co-operation, Kenney

American throughout the organization. Obviously,

it

did not always work. Despite the crowded oflRce,

Kenney learned Air

Staff,

ords,

also

along with

was based

in

that all

the

bulk of the Allied

personnel and supply rec-

Melbourne about eight hundred

miles distant. But not so distant as MacArthur, only

right."

Pacific

He

4.

"with about a dozen people issuing orders in the

found a rigid attempt to intermix Australian and

fierce glint left his eyes.

an

August

He had

would not assume command

it

characteristic promptitude,

Kenney applied

same building. Brett could commander and was forced always

three floors above in the

never reach the

to deal through Sutherland. This

way

was not Kenney's

of running an air show.

That same evening he borrowed Brett's Flying Fortress, the

famed Swoose, which enjoyed a

better

press than Brett and took off for the forward bases

KENNEY'S KIDS

8 in Australia

in

southern

and

New

in

New

Guinea. At Port Moresby,

Guinea, Kenney found

to

little

comfort him. The organization and procedure were "chaotic."

Bombing

evidence that some of the people in the organization

were playing on the wrong team." Immediately, too, Kenney began sending in his

missions, for example, were as-

signed out of Brett's headquarters in Brisbane. Or-

Royce

ders were then sent to Major General Ralph in

took along a handful for future reference and as

own team on the

of operators.

discussed his views

and

New

Guinea

Townsville to the north; Royce, in turn, notified

with MacArthur, asking for authority to send any-

Ma-

one home he regarded as "deadwood." MacArthur

Bombardment Group (H), based

the 19th

at

reeba, about two hundred miles north of Townsville,

concurred and Kenney

and "the 19th Group sent the number of airplanes

men who were

it

He had

in Australia

air situation

had

commission

in

were refueled, given

to Port

Moresby, where they

their final 'briefing'

on weather

paigns, or

ill

moved

not pulling their weight could go

ever data had been picked up by air reconnaissance.

would move north to take

fighter sat

group

at

Port Moresby [35th Fighter

around waiting for the Japs to come

rarely gave the fighters over five minutes'

service

found

Guinea

"who were

home and

the rest

canned

their turns eating

food and hving in grass huts on the edge of the jungle."

Keimey

over and tried to get off the ground in time to intercept them, which they seldom did, as the warning

New

from Australian heat or

jungle; they deserved relief, but those

conditions along the route to the target and what-

"The Group]

He

quickly.

genuinely tired from earUer cam-

had Walker,

neth N.

preceded

been

by two competent

officers.

to

bombardment

a

area

the

Brigadier Generals Ken-

and

speciaUst,

Nip planes were on the way." Those

Ennis C. Whitehead, a fighter commander. In time

ground seemed to

Walker would head Kenny's bomber command and

operate without leadership, even on bombing mis-

Whitehead, as Kenney's deputy, moved into Port

notice that the

which did get

aircraft

A

sions.

the

off

three aircraft found the

to command the advanced echelon of what become the Fifth Air Force. With him Kenney had brought young Major William Benn, who had served as his aide when Kenney was commander

shipping or the bases at Rabaul.

of the Fourth Air Force in San Francisco. Benn, as

formation of

five

or six B-17s was regarded

number then

as an impressive

in

the Pacific,

al-

though what with problems with weather or engines, it

was

target

good mission

a

—Japanese

if

But the meager accomplishment rarely made the effort

worth

it.

Kenney found,

quently abandoned missions

too, that aircrews fre-

when Japanese

aircraft

Moresby

was

to

were Walker and Whitehead, was erator.

Anxious

happy

to

to serve in a

be given

would

of the 43rd

detonate either the auxiliary fuel tanks or the

bomb

of Kenney's advent

load.

No

one had thought to inform them that

was not necessarily true. If MacArthur demanded

Kenney

insisted that

this

number

to the States.

a

man be

loyal,

B-17s,

he be an "operator." Within

abused

that

of non-operators were sent back

He

found the system of supply

pecially reprehensible, overladen with

with

paper formality.

"An

average

es-

an obsession time

of one

month elapsed from the time the requisition started until it was returned, generally with the notation 'Not available' or 'Improperly told that desperately

combat

aircraft

Kenney found

made me whole

eat

filing

filled

my

out.' "

When

needed replacement parts for

were denied to the

it

difficult

of the 63rd Squadron

was depleted



and a couple of guys

flag

Benn was

to hold

time

at the

"all they it

had

left

up."

As

soon as the 43rd Group became operational with

days after his arrival and inspection of conditions, quite a

was a

command

unit

Bombardment Group, which

intercepted them, fearing that a single bullet

an op-

definitely

combat

fighting units,

to beUeve, "but the kids

words when they showed

me

a

case of returned requisition forms. I

it

would take the work load

19th

Lieutenant 19th

Bomb

off the

much

Group, then commanded by

Colonel Richard

Group had been,

in

N. Carmichael. The

Kenney's words, "kicked

out of the Phihppines and out of Java and kicked

around ever since."

Upon

Kenney had requested an in(when he had asked Brett, the latter told him simply that he did not know). According to the books, Kenney learned in a few days that he had "in the United States part of the show, 245 fighters, 53 hght bombers, 70 his

arrival

ventory of aircraft strength

medium bombers, 62 heavy bombers, 36 and 51 miscellaneous .

.

.

aircraft,

transports,

or a total of 517.

The Austrahan Royal Air Force

listed

22

BUCCANEER

An

Airacobra and a B-17 nestled

Port Moresby,

in reveiments near Guinea. The P-39 was a disad-

New

vantaged contender as far as the Zero was concerned; the "E," with a stinger in the tail was respected by Japanese pilots, (u. s. air force) the Fortress,

The 25th Koku

squadrons, but most of these were equipped with

Britain.

training planes doing anti-submarine patrol off the

sisting of the

coasts of Australia

New

Two

itself.

fighter

40 reconnaissance squadrons had a Guinea had a

total

squadrons in

and four

planes,

of

total

of

30

air-

craft."

Kokutai, and the

fighters,

170 were

awaiting salvage or were being overhauled, none of

bombers were ready

Yokohama

Kokutai, under Rear

Admiral Sadayoshi Yamada, operated from Rabaul chiefly against Port in

But out of the 245 American

Sentai (Air Flotilla) con-

Tainan Kokutai (Air Corps), the 4th

the

Solomons.

Moresby These

equipped with the Zero

as well as

were

fighters;

Guadalcanal

land-based in

units,

addition there

were bomber units (mediums: Nell, Betty) which

and

attacked Port Moresby regularly and which gave

mediums were in shape or had guns and bomb racks to go to war with." Of the 62 heavy bombers only 43 were more or less fit to fly; less

occasional attention to Darwin and other Australian ports. In addition to the land-based planes there

than half of the mixed bag of transports were flyable.

consider.

the light

for operations,

"only 37

As

for the "miscellaneous" aircraft,

none was

fit

A

of time before

"All told tralian

I

would be ready

it

had about

number

facing

more

replacements for tired crews,

aircraft

Kenney

faced a formidable job. this

time the Joint Chiefs of Staff had decided

on a plan of operation giving

priority to the

Navy's

from

not to MacArthur, under Vice-Admiral Robert L.

power

Ghormley, commander of the South Pacific Area. The honor fell, more specifically and traditionally,

from

Darwin

Port

to

Mareeba and Townsville, with Kenney esJapanese had at least five times to

homeland.

The

as

of planes he could muster, besides be-

scattered

ing in a position to replace losses within days their

well

By

50 American and 70 Aus-

to dispute the air with the Jap."

timated that the the

as

move into the Solomons as against MacArthur's to move into New Guinea to seize and occupy the Buna area. The honor, then, of making the first American offensive move in the Pacific fell to the U. S. Navy,

aircraft,

Moresby and back which

1

combat.

for

Until he could obtain better and

for

Dutch squadron, equipped with American B-25s, was training but required a good deal

combat.

were

also the planes of the Japanese carrier divisions to

greatest concentration of Japanese air

Kenney 's

forces

was based

at

Rabaul,

New

proposal

to the 1st

to

Marine Division, which was

to assault the

KENNEY'S KIDS

10 Solomons.

was

be

to

against

Mac Arthur's a

contribution to the offensive

bombing mission

Kenney-mounted

Rabaul. This small

MacArthur, nor did

it

effort

did

not please

comply with the image of

himself as a major contributor to the offensive.

While these decisions were being made, the Japanese themselves began moving ashore at

Buna on

July 21, 1942. Having been thwarted in an invasion

attempt at Port Moresby in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese

A

hoped

to

move

Flying Fortress off the coast of

forty were operational

command

in

New

when Kenney

on

this chief

Guinea. About

arrived to assume

of the air forces in the Southwest Pacific.

Allied

base by crossing over the

Mountains, through the Kokoda

Owen

trail,

Stanley

to take Port

Moresby from the rear. This would not only place Austraha within more convenient striking distance, but would also serve as protection for Rabaul as well as the Solomons in the South Pacific. The assault in the Solomons was scheduled for August 7, 1942, just about a week after Kenney had begun moving and shaking up his command. his first official "show" he had promised MacAr-

For

Zero pilots respected the big bomber, although many had been worn out by constant use. (u. s. Am force)

BUCCANEER

11

thur that twenty B-17s would be ready for the mis-

and he guaranteed

sion

would bomb the though

cal,

target.

hopefully

sixteen

that

to

eighteen

MacArthur appeared commenting

that,

skepti-

if

so,

it

amounted

Whatever the claims, Japanese fighters and bombers of Rabaul had been kept busy during the Solomons landings. Kenney was also certain that the bombstroyed, but another claim

to seven.

would be the "heaviest bomber concentration flown

ing had destroyed perhaps seventy-five parked air-

so far in the Pacific war."

craft,

although the figure appears rather generous.

Some down

to

One

moves upon 19th Bombardment Group

of Kenney's

base of the

was

to order

flying

all

B-17s could be put

On

the day of his

mum

first

suspended

the

visiting at

Mareeba

until the group's

some sort of flying condition. visit Kenney found that a maxiin

by the group might have gotten about

eflfort

four bombers into the

Engines were sadly worn

air.

and many planes were grounded for lack of

tail

wheels. Rather than bother with requisition forms,

of

fighters

planes

fighter

over the invasion beaches.

Japanese

battle

Tainan Kokutai had rushed

the

Guadalcanal to challenge Marine and Navy ace

from Guadalcanal back

Rabaul mission was good

and simply read

for

by

Carmichael's group.

When Kenney hoped

was

in at

gratified

Mareeba a few days

to

hear

that

later,

Carmichael

have twenty B-17s ready for the mission

to

So great a number of

to Rabaul.

The

aircraft

caused some

concern among squadron commanders when Ken-

to

Rabaul.

success, though limited, of the 19th Group's

Kenney's

quickly

he checked

this

four American planes before being seriously wounded himself and his Zero shot up. All but blinded by his wounds, Sakai managed to fly his damaged plane over the nearly six hundred miles

Kenney reached Major General Rush B. Lincoln, in Melbourne eight hundred miles distant, by phone off a list of the supplies required

In

Saburo Sakai accounted for

for the group's morale

reputation

revealed

a

as

an

"operator."

and

He

inventiveness

near-fiendish

in

dealing with the air situation in the Pacific. Soon

(by August 9) he could announce the formation of the Fifth Air Force

and developing

its

and began

injecting spirit into

personality in his

own

it

aggressive

image.

ney impressed them with the importance of holding formation



they had not flown in such large

num-

bers before. Defensive formations were important to the

bombers

to hold off, with their

tions, attacking

On

Japanese

morning of August

the

had sixteen B-17s fueled

after

at

gun concentraKenney, as he explained to MacArthur, visualized

fighters.

1942, Carmichael

his

Port Moresby, where they re-

air

7,

up from Mareeba. While the

flying

primary -mission as the taking out of Japanese

power

"until

Marines were heading in for their objectives in the Solomons Tulagi, Gavutu, Tanambogo, and Gua-

street until

dalcanal

his flight

— —Carmichael

treacherous

now

Owen

led

his

formation over the

Stanleys to Rabaul. There were

we owned

we got

from the United States

ney had discussed with Benn, the

possibilities

knock out

ships.

Proceeding on to

trouble.

bomber

base,

fighters,

Vunakanau,

little

dancing

Rabaul and the

the Fortresses encountered

Zeros

which

swarmed

in

around the bombers. During the attacks one Forpiloted

tress,

craft

by Captain Harl Pease

(whose

air-

was not functioning properly) was shot down it was the only B-17 lost in the attack.

Guinea.

the Nips off of our front lawn."

one having crashed on takeoff

gine

New

His methods were far from conventional. During

and two others having been forced back with en-

thirteen B-17s;

the air over

There was no use talking about playing across the

Earlier

cept.

in

his

of low-altitude

This was not, in the

fact,

bombing a

at the

Eglin Field, Flor-

proving ground. Here the hope of bouncing

bombs

into tanks

from

fighters

was being

tested un-

der the direction of Colonel ^argent Huff. The British

had also

tried minimal-altitude

bombing, but had

burning;

given

Bombs

pirouetted down upon the parked bombers Vunakanau, wreaking havoc and leaving smoking bombers to clutter the runway. Kenney thought

the idea

its

of

altitude

bombing, such as had been attempted

eleven

Japanese

of

the

twenty Japanese fighters were

de-

to

new con-

summer Benn had observed

demonstrations of the idea ida,

KenMajor William

to Australia,

aide.

it

up.

Midway by

It

remained for Kenney and Benn to give

special significance in the Pacific. Highat

the B-17s, proved ineffective. Since the

were dependent upon

"open-water de-

KENNEY'S KIDS

12 fense" (that

shipping suppHes and reinforcements

is,

to their outposts in large

upon

the vastness of the Pacific, the abihty of ships

maneuver, and

to

convoys), thus counting

their

own Navy and

aircraft to

protect them, deaHng with ships at sea presented

As they flew eastward, Kenney and Benn considered the possibilities of swooping down close to the water, much like a Navy torpedo bomber, to eject the bomb from the plane. Dropped a challenge.

the

at

correct speed,

and distance from the

it

struck the side of the vessel.

enemy

the

ship and hurtled

It

would

then, ideally, side

of the

away from

the scene

of the explosion. Shortly after their arrival in Aus-

Kenney

tralia,

"fired"

Benn

and placed

as his aide

him in command of the 63rd Squadron (43rd Bombardment Group) so that he might test the feasibility

realized that in order for his skip-bomber

be effective

it

must be able

deck defenses of Japanese

ships.

must have plenty of firepower

to

overwhelm

the

The skip-bomber

in the nose, a

lem he turned over to a slender, tanned,

prob-

raffish char-

forty,

Major Paul I. Gunn. Because he was over Gunn was nicknamed "Pappy" by the younger

pilots

and was so called even by Kenney, himself

acter,

then about

When

war began

in

1941,

Gunn was an

perienced pilot and operations manager of the Philippine Air Lines. the

As

a captain the second

war Gunn began a legendary career evacuating refugees,

plies,

ex-

new

He

MacArthur had a

If

his

historic mission to fulfill in

day of

more personal

of Corregidor in

May

of

.

two wars against Japan: the one the United States had on

its

Beechcraft.

was not

This was not, of

in itself

new (Kenney,

fact,

had taught the subject

in the

tical

School for a decade).

One

units

he

in

Air Corps Tac-

of the Air Force

Kenney found languishing in Australia when was the 3rd Bombardment Group

arrived

(Light), specialists in ground assault and equipped

with the Douglas

He

hands, and his own.

fought them

both."

Kenney had one other device

in

mind when he

Southwest ten, "in

in 1928,"

"Back

Pacific.

bombs

order to drop

Kenney has

writ-

in a low-altitude at-

tack without having the fragments hit the airplane I

had put parachutes on the bombs; the parachutes

opened as the bombs were released from the

air-

With a supersensitive fuze, which kicked the thing off instantaneously on contact with anyplane.

thing

.

.

.

—even

the leaf of a bush

little

weapon.

frags" were small

.

.

."



the

bomb was a

These so-called "para-

bombs, weighing about twenty-

pounds, which fragmented in more than a thou-

five

sand

pieces

could

that

"go

through

a

two-inch

and he considered "trying them out on some Jap

course, an original conception, for the concept of attack aviation

.

and accomplishing im-

only he had had guns installed

the

fall

Tomas prison camp near Manila. Walter D. Edmonds perceptively observed ". Pappy Gunn governed himself as though there were

airdrome and wondering tear airplanes apart



if

A-24 (Dauntless),

the Douglas

those fragments

as well as Japs, too,

in

the nose

a

forces

air

children were imprisoned at the Santo

ground and thinking how much harm he could do

in

the

of 1942, Gunn's wife and four

didn't get out of the way."

if

When

one.

plank." Kenney's targets were not planks, of course,

used the Philippine Air Lines civilian

Japanese

Gunn had

promise to return to the Philippines,

Beechcrafts for his missions, frequently hugging the

to the

attack

Pappy Gunn.

flying sup-

possible flying feats under the eyes and guns of the

Japanese.

twin-engined

of

planes, and the wild-flying, resourceful

wicked

fifty.

the

assortment

Group's

3rd

arrived to take over the Allied Air Forces in the

of "skip-bombing" with the B-17.

Kenny to

all.

The "fortunes of war" brought together Kenney, Benn and his skip-bombing Flying Fortresses, the

were scrambled out of the Philippines after the

with delayed-

Meanwhile, the bomber would have cleared

ship.

planes at

bomb

and detonate against the

little

the

deeper,

action fuzes literally skipped along the water until

sink a

squadron with

third

North American B-25; the fourth squadron had no

(about mast-high),

altitude ship, the

A-20 (Havoc), and a

It

and "looking around for anything

nailed

down"

that

of his parachute

them shipped

Kenney found

bombs

still

they

was while he was

Washington awaiting transportation

cific

would if

to

that

the

Pa-

was not

several thousand

stored away.

He had

to Australia.

Another wicked weapon was named the "Kenney was a standard M-47 100-pound

Cocktail"; this

bomb burst,

loaded with white phosphorus which, flung

out streamers

of

when

it

burning incendiary

150 feet. Its effect all directions for upon man and machine was deadly. By the end of

material in

A Douglas A-20 "Havoc"

demonstrating a skip-bomb-

ing on a Japanese freighter. Splashes to

mark from

the photo ship

the

1942 Kenney's name was known

him

radio referred to

of ship

bombs bounced (two and two from the Havoc in the

which

the spots at

left

in

as "the Beast"

Tokyo whose and one of the

"gangster leaders of a gang of gangsters from

a

gangster-ridden country."

Kenney held no grand wished "to

own

the air over

photograph)

.

One

of the dangers of skip-bombing was

was being caught in your own bomb explosion. This type of bombing required great skill, (u. s. ak force) collision with

the target; another

Europe and Africa," Kenney wrote artillery in this theater flies.

"In the Pacific theater strategic

New

illusions.

He

Guinea" primarily

nothing more or

less

areas from which

American, could push the Japanese over the

"The Air Force

Owen Stanley Mountains back to Buna and New Guinea. Co-operation with the ground would be artillery

essential to this design.

can

be

reserved

for

.

a

number

of

is-

than aerodromes or aerodrome

is

function

is

to clear the air,

installations,

is

launched."

the spearhead of the Allied at-

tack in the Southwest Pacific,"

of

chief,

.

modern fire-power

forces

battlefields

.

we have

out of

"Tanks and heavy the

his

lands garrisoned by small forces. These islands are

so that MacArthur's ground troops, Australian and later

to

Arnold. "They have no place in jungle warfare. The

Kenney

believed. "Its

wreck the enemy's land

destroy his supply system,

close support to troops advancing

and give

on the ground.

KENNEY'S KIDS

14 "Clearing the air means more than air superiority;

enteen of the twenty-two planes on the strip) and

means air control so supreme that the birds have to wear our Air Force insignia. Wrecking the en-

very quickly discouraging both the

emy's ground installations does not mean

out

it

ing

them

up.

—aerodromes,

just soften-

means taking out everything he has

It

guns, bunkers, troops. Destroying his

and the

antiaircraft crews.

bombs with no

its

To complete

men

with

rifles

The second wave strung

interference

from the ground.

the job, postholing the airstrip

Kenney followed

itself,

Havoc

attack with B-26s and

former,

seven of the latter),

the

supply system means cutting him off the vine so

B-17s

completely and firmly that he not only cannot un-

which bombed from higher up with thousand-pound-

dertake offensive action but, due to his inability to

ers onto the runways.

means

replenish his

wage war, he cannot even

to

In order to carry out his mission, however, Ken-

ney was forced to improvise and get along as best tions

was

Havoc (A-20 light bomber), Pappy Gunn, which instead of

a converted

the handiwork of its

meager four .30-caliber machine guns had an

Not one American plane was

parafrag mission was judged a suc-

first if

the claims for aircraft destroyed

were exaggerated, serious damage had been done at

Buna.

By

he had. One of the innova-

little

the

for even

cess,

maintain a successful defense."

he could with what

and the

lost

of

(five

this

time the Japanese were dangerously near

Port Moresby, pushing the Australian 7th Division

Upon

before them.

Kenney

seeing the situation firsthand,

flew back to Australia, suggesting that the

additional four .50 calibers in the nose. Its limited

Australians be reinforced with

range, too, had been increased with the introduction

32nd

of two 450-gallon fuel tanks in the

bomb bay which

would give the Havoc the additional

fuel to get over

Owen Stanleys. One fanciful bomb rack in-

the 13,000-foot barrier of the

further modification stalled in the old

bomb

chute-fragmentation try out

The

was a

bombs which Kenney wished

on a Japanese first

bay; this carried the para-

Squadron (of the 3rd Bombard-

32nd

the

were stopped before reaching Moresby, Australia

would become a battleground. He had de-

cided to send the 32nd Division to

put his

staff to

Kenney Moresby;

opportunity arrived on September 12,

felt

trained, he realized that unless the Japanese

ill

itself

to

airfield.

1942. Captain Donald P. Hall led nine Havocs of the 89th Attack

was

Americans of the

MacArthur

Division. Although

work arranging

suggested

flying

Mac Arthur's

eyes

murred. After

all,

when

a

the lit

New

Guinea and

for transportation.

troops

Port

to

up, but his staff de-

body of water intervened

between the place where you wished to send troops

and the place where they were

at,

followed that

it

ment Group) in low over the Buna, New Guinea, airstrip. The first element, with Hall in the van, swooped in over the palm trees and saw to their delight a number of new enemy aircraft neatly lined up on the strip. With their forward firing guns churning up the area before them the Havocs swept over (forty per the Buna strip scattering parafrags plane) in their wake. As the light bombs gently

you placed these troops on ships for transport. This

lowered to the ground aroused Japanese guards,

from the Australians Kenney transported the

apparently

assuming

were

paratroopers

dropped, rushed out to

fire

at

being

them. UntU the

first

supersensitive fuze touched something, the hapless

riflemen did not realize

how exposed

they were to

was the normal way

to

do

it.

It

would

in

day or two. To MacArthur's

a

staff

to

Kenney

elected to let

32nd

into

230 infantrymen of September

was

still

fly

the 126th Regiment of the

Moresby. By borrowing transport planes

15,

1942; the rest of the regiment

waiting at the docks. Disappointed,

another

asked to be given

regiment

Kenney

(the

The primary Hall's bombers

Arthur said

strip

scattered the

and pulled away

bombs

to escape the

as well as Japanese antiaircraft falling

about

fifty

fire.

across the air-

bomb The

blasts

parafrags,

yards apart, began doing their

work, wrecking aircraft (claims were made for sev-

first

Port Moresby by the evening

to

Infantry), and over the protests of his staff

and

just

this

seem proper and they wanted the movement proceed "in an orderly way." But MacArthur

didn't

the vicious effect of the descending silken packages. objective was, however, aircraft,

two

also take

weeks, Kenney argued. Planes would get them there

128th

Mac-

all right.

Soon ground troops were arriving in Port Moresby hundred a day. By this time Kenney was using a dozen Australian civil transports and at a rate of six

even had American

civilians

working for him.

Two

B-17s had arrived from the United States with

ci-

BUCCANEER

Factory-fresh lieved the

Lockheed P-38 "Lightning," which

P-40 and P-39

in the Pacific.

No

re-

dogfighter.

it

was heavy and sturdy and carried plenty of fireIts twin engines were an added safety device. (ERIK MILLER/LOCKHEED-CALIFORNIA)

power.

KENNEY'S KIDS

16 vilian

employees of the Boeing Company.

pilots,

Kenney pressed them

ns

and soon the

into service

were ferrying troops out of Australia. The

fi-

last

however,

time,

B-24s join

—and

the

crews

Bombardment Group's were ready. They would then 90th



up with Kenney's then only

active heavy group,

of the 128th Infantry had been transported to Port

the 43rd.

Moresby and the remainder of the 126th Infantry was still at sea; they arrived two days later. MacArthur was elated, Kenney was "crowing," and MacArthur's staff was put out. There were dark sug-

in the Pacific by the end of 1942 was Lockheed P-38 ("Lightning"), a plane which seemed unloved in Europe, but which Kenney favored for the simple reason that it flew. There were

MacArthur's hearing that

other good reasons, of course, once the kinks were

gestions

within

voiced

Kenney was

ironed out of the plane (initially leakage in the inter-

"reckless and irresponsible."

Kenney's job did not conclude with the delivery of the bulk of the 32nd Division to Port Moresby.

He would have Guinea

—were

strafing

airfields

were supplied, that

—Rabaul,

given attention, besides

Lae in New bombing and

Japanese emplacements along the Kokoda there

Further,

trail.

to see that they

Japanese

various

were

calls

for

Also arriving

the

assistance

in

Ghormley and the Solomons campaign. This generally called for B-17s to bomb Rabaul during the day and Catalinas of the Royal Australian Air Force during the night.

the South Pacific from Admiral

was a superb fighter for the was one of its blessings, considering the distances over which it must range. A single-engined craft simply went down

cooling system);

it

Pacific theater. Its twin engines

and

out, but with

one and

its

two engines, the P-38 could lose its base. It was a great, heavy

return to

still

aircraft for a fighter

and although

the Zero in dogfighting,

it

it

could not match

proved to be the scourge

of the Japanese fighter in the Pacific.

was

The Lightning

faster than the Zero, achieving a top speed of

more than four hundred miles an hour; it could outclimb and outdive the Japanese fighter, performed high altitude, and carried (20-mm. cannon and four .50machine guns). In addition, the P-38 came

exceptionally

well

at

plenty of firepower caliber

equipped with features which the Japanese hardly too had the problem of supply and

The Japanese replacement. ing

favored

meant

Like MacArthur's the

"orderly

staff,

think-

their

air,

though not completely ignored, was

:

self-seal-

ing fuel tanks and armor plating to protect the pilot.

Twenty-five Lightnings had arrived in Brisbane

which generally

way,"

large convoys of ships, transports with escorts.

Supply by

considered (because they added weight)

September but remained grounded

in

until the vari-

ous mechanical defects had been cleared up. Newly

the

arrived pilots were forced to wait until the P-38s

it

left

were ready or use the worn-out P-39s and P-40s for

By

the

combat. The bugs were not eliminated from the P-

end of the year Kenney had acquired some B-24s (this was the 90th Bombardment Group), which

38s until December; meanwhile another batch of

Once

not seriously considered by the Japanese. air

over

New

Guinea was owned by Kenney,

the Japanese convoys

open

to aerial attack.

twenty-five arrived but without feeds for the guns

were plagued, however with mechanical problems



(cracked nosewheel collars) and out of action for a

installed.

month.

When new

collars

tured and the group

November 1942,

it

made

were specially manufacits first

missions in mid-

demonstrated a need for further





these too were grounded until the feeds could be Finally,

by October Kenney had sixteen

P-38s of the 49th Fighter Group flown up to Port

Moresby. Further complications with disintegrating wing tanks

Meehan

for the

did not return, nor did one other, and the

other crews had

little

idea of where they had been).

This was a bitter development for Kenney, already

relieved

the

overworked

19th

who had

Bombard-

ment Group, which had begun flying their equally overworked B-17s back to the United States. In

what with

in

—and "borrowing"

(on the second mission to Rabaul the B-24 carrying Group Commander Colonel Arthur training

set

leakages discovered in the cooling system, problems

the operational P-38s by the South Pacific

of

command

Solomons campaign.

Eventually, in to operate.

The

December 1942, first

the P-38s began

Japanese plane brought down

by one was achieved in an unorthodox manner. According to General Kenney "a big good-natured

New

Orleans Cajun

named Faurot" was

flying over

BUCCANEER

17

"When

the kids returned, I asked Faurot

nerve enough to claim 'the

^i?

B

first

if he had Nip brought down

combat in this theater by a P-38.' He grinned and asked if I was going to give him an Air Medal. I had promised one to anyone that got an official in air

victory. I said, 'Hell, no. I want you to shoot them down, not splash water on them.'" Kenney, whose

relationship with his "kids"

awarded Faurot

his

was marked by an

humor

bantering

fectionate,

af-

of the crusty father,

Air Medal, although warning

him that "he'd better keep the whole thing quiet." With a few airplanes to his credit and some new eager kids to fly them, Kenney felt himself reasonable able to take on the "Nip" in his

was echoed, almost

yard. Curiously this

own

words,

Kenney's

Japanese diary found in

a

in

own back in

New

Guinea. Early in December 1942 the diarist noted Japanese fighter

pilots,

who "owned

New

the air" over

Guinea when Kenney arrived to take over the aerial operations for Mac Arthur. These Zero pilots, often victorious over American and Australian pilots in their P-40s and P-39s, would find the arrival of the Lightning in the Pacific a serious challenge to their superiority, (defense dept., u. s. marine corps)

of Kenney's Kids that "they as

if

they

owned

Kenney's

first

in a spectacular

fly

above our position

the skies."

great opportunity to prove himself

manner came

in

March 1943. Buna

on the northeast coast of New Guinea was wrested from the Japanese after a half year of savage ground

fighting





in

January; Guadalcanal, in the

Solomons, had been reluctantly abandoned by the the Japanese air base at Lae.

For days the Ameri-

cans had radioed insulting messages (Japanese and

Americans exchanged such

the flight,

on

day carried, as did the others

The plan was

to

at Lae. Finally after the

exchange of in

this

insults

the

land, sea,

and

air battles leading to the first

major

The Nipponese

tenta-

land defeat by the Japanese.

come

two five-hundred-pound bombs under

plane's wing.

runway

over their radios

but without inciting the Zeros to

in English),

up. Faurot

insults

Japanese, also following a half year of sanguinary

in his

make holes in the by now traditional

Americans had succeeded pilots. His Zero

arousing one of the Japanese

had begun a takeoff run when Faurot noticed him and dived.

He was down

to

two thousand

feet

when

he recalled that he carried a thousand pounds of

bomb, which would deter him immeasurably if he and the Zero tangled. Faurot quickly released the two five-hundred-pounders, pulled back on the control

in

column

to escape the blast,

and pulled around

a turn, ready to pounce on the Zero.

watched, the two bombs

fell

As he

into the water at the

end of the runway, which ran

right to the beach.

The

resultant splash caught the Japanese plane, at

that

moment at runway's end and lifting off The Zero lurched crazily and careened

ground.

the water, a total wreck.

the into

armament: a machine the nose, (erik miller/lockheed-california)

Lightning

in

battle

20-mm. cannon and guns

in

dress

showing

its

three of the four .50-caliber

KENNEY'S KroS

18 cles into the

Solomons and

bloodily. In the

New Guinea

Solomons the focus

New

northernmost island, Bougainville; in it

moved up

the coast, about

Lae-Salamaua area

to the

constricted

shifted to the

Guinea

150 miles from Buna

Huon

the

in

Having abandoned Guadalcanal and Buna

the at

Lae. Late in February 1943 Kenney's intelligence

had learned

unit

that a Japanese convoy, forming

Rabaul, was scheduled

Lae

to arrive in

early in

March. This would coincide with a period of bad weather predicted for the area, which would curtail

Although the information was mea-

air operations.

Kenney sensed a

ger,

in the offing.

He

movement

large-scale troop

Whitehead

alerted General

Moresby and ordered reconnaissance

Port

at

aircraft

to

cover the area of the Bismarck Sea.

Meanwhile about

anese 51st Infantry Division assigned to reinforce

Lae-Salamaua

the

had

garrison

begun

boarding

seven merchant vessels in Rabaul Harbor.

and

in

down;

all

in

B-17s

returned to Port Moresby claiming hits on two trans-

one had

ports, reporting that

split in

two and sank

was the Kyokusei Maru, whose

Eight

survivors,

about

hundred men, were taken aboard two destroyers and rushed to Lae during the night. The eight

destroyers rejoined the convoy early the next morning.

A the

second first

B-17s, twenty in

flight of

to continue the

all,

followed

bombing, claiming two

hits

and several near misses. Crews reported ships dead in the war,

burning or sinking as well as the rescue

operations of the two Japanese destroyers. Further attacks by Zeros holed the B-17s but knock any of the bombers down; one Zero

defensive did not

thousand troops of the Jap-

five

the fighting three were claimed shot

within minutes of the initiation of the attack. This

Gulf.

Japanese proceeded to reinforce their position

at

rendezvous with the P-38s. Zeros closed

was claimed. In the early evening further bombing attacks by the 43rd Group near the northern entrance to the Vitiaz Straits claimed one vessel "left

sinking" and another Zero.

Enemy

fighters,

it

was

destroyers were to serve as escort, along with an air

noted, were less persistent than in the earlier phases

cover of about a hundred fighters (not simultane-

of the batde.

ously, but

on a schedule

in

order to furnish protec-

groups of

tion over a period of days, generally in

twenty

to

Special

thirty).

rounded out the convoy of sixteen of the transports, the

ships;

Kembu Maru,

was a precious cargo of aviation

Nojima

vessel

service

fuel

aboard one

set forth

stormy weather the weather hindered

night

of

February

The

28.

it

about

1

50 miles west of Rabaul. The weather closed

in again, preventing further spotting as well as

tack by eight B-17s of the 43rd

an

Group which

at-

did

not locate the convoy.

The weather continued bad on March 2 and found the convoy and radioed miles north of

it

its

position

Cape Gloucester,

heading south for the Vitiaz

Straits.

New

—about Britain,

As soon

as

possible the 43rd Group's B-17s left Port Moresby,

climbed the

Owen

Stanleys,

thousand-pound bombs from This

first flight

off

and began dropping sixty-five

hundred

of eight Flying Fortresses

feet.

made

attack without fighter protection, having missed

the its

in the

Huon

the

Peninsula

the

morning

and within

medium bombers. On Wednesday, March 3 at "ten o'clock

the big

brawl began about 50 miles southeast of Finschhafen,

right

where we had planned

Australian

written.

Beauforts

of

it,"

the

Kenney has

RAAF

9th

Operational Group carrying torpedoes opened the attack but without success; soon after, Australian Beaufighters,

guns

armed with nose cannons and machine swooped in for a low-level attack.

in the wings,

Above

the Beaufighters

altitude attack

took until midmorning before a 90th Group B-24

fifty

convoy

striking range of the

Kenney's reconnaissance planes

fell,

a B-17 appeared to relieve the Catalina and found the

was not until the afternoon of March 1 that a B-24 crew spotted "fourteen ships with Zero escort" and

Japanese convoy during the night;

and other sup-

under cover of darkness and

sudden tropical night

the

besides troops,

plies.

The convoy

As

B-17s returned to Port Moresby while a Royal Australian Air Force PBY Catalina remained over the

B-17s co-ordinated a high-

and B-25s a medium-level attack with

the Beaufighters.

The

sea churned with the explo-

sion of bombs, the splash of cannon, and machine-

gun ships.

fire

whipping across

Thousands of

feet

the

dodging Japanese

above the carnage Zeros

their battles. The marck Sea had reached a climax.

and P-38s fought

Battle of the Bis-

Following the Beaufighter, B-17, and B-25 tack, twelve B-25Cls,

at-

newly converted into power-

by the hand of Pappy Gunn and led by Major Edward Lamer of the 90th Squadron (3rd ful strafers

BUCCANEER

A

19

upon a Japanese ship in the Bismarck The wake of the evasive circle of the ship may be seen. (u. s. air force) direct hit

Sea.

Bombardment Group), swept down for the

most savage attack of the

to

the water

battle.

Larner was one of Kenney's favorites among his kids.

When Kenney first met Larner the latter was a who had "fire, leadership, and guts." This

lieutenant

had been demonstrated during the Buna campaign at least twice, the first time

on Japanese

artillery

during a strafing run

and machine-gun positions

at

Soputa, just inland from Buna. Larner, leading the

90th Squadron, blazed

low

level.

An

the plane it

at a

of his

tail

nose, flung Larner's plane through

hundreds of yards, battering the

ported by the

make

under the

its

plane as well as various

able to

on the gun positions

for

plane, tipping the treetops

in

antiaircraft burst

pilot,

trees.

As

laconically re-

"following this accident

I

was

only two more strafing passes before

became so unmanageable that I thought where repairs could be

best to retiun to base

made."

As Kenney

observed.

Lamer landed

the

nearly 175 miles an hour because of the to

the wing surfaces which

affected

the

B-25

at

damages lift.

The

Battle

of

underside of the plane was grooved where a palm tree

had grazed

it;

the

wing was dented and gouged

after

the

Bismarck

Sea:

Japanese

and dead Kenney's Fifth Air Force bombers

distress,

burning,

losing

oil,

(u.

destroyer the

in hit s.

in

water

it.

AIR force)

KENNEY'S KroS

20 and one engine was branches.

and

stuffed with foliage

The plane was

bits of

would

in a condition that

Lamer

have normally suggested abandonment, but brought

home

it

The

second

him

brought his B-25

down low



Sil-

when

strafe

to

what

to see

that

crew was

its

to

to shoot

from the planes which followed.

tentions

frightful

distress

B-25s back

As he

studied the scraped-up plane,

sighed audibly and said, "I guess this

and

trees

tears

Kenney stood The sergeant have to quit

I'll

He

to

Port Moresby.

tack, crashed during

its

landing

The 89th Squadron,

also

."

fix it

of fifty-caliber guns.

up. "I've got a chauffeur

who wants

headquarters

The gunner

How

is

of his

first

sight of the battle,"

"when a

BombardHavocs. "I

Edward Chudoba

ship ahead and to the left

blew up, throwing flames a half mile into the

was a destroyer, but

a tanker its

[this

may have been

air. I

had away revealing

the destroyer I

the

Kembu Maru

cargo of men, replacement parts, and avia-

tion fuel]

beyond

it

from stem to stem.

sending up flames and smoke .

.

.

to shoot a pair

about swapping jobs?"

hesitated just an instant before an-

swering. "General I'd better stick.

Larner

my

later recalled,

with

Catching the mood, Kenney replied with the sug-

my

got

in that position slowly pulled

.

convoy

without serious

in their

marked

.

twelve

of the 3rd

'em down and now he thinks he's a

gestion that he could

over at

mn

it

bumper.

the

injury to the crew.

thought

farmer and he's started plowing up the ground with his tail

All

runs into

He's gone nuts.

of mine.

pilot

to

planes returned, although one, shot up in the at-

ment Group, followed the 90th,

at."

with one of Larner's machine gunners.

This

later.

further at-

suffer the

seven other ships were damaged), Larner led his

tail

explained that he had

windows of the bunker

meant

a Japanese

been forced to go so low because he had "to look in the

within min-

and the Arashio sank several hours

(a cruiser and a transport sank, two destroyers and

so low that the aircraft's

Lamer

sand for several yards.

The Nojima sank

Lamer

ground and dragged through the

hit the

utes

Having caused

to captain.

occurred

incident

machine-gun position

bumper had

Kenney gave him a

instead.

ver Star and promoted

already hit Nojima.

so crazy he really needs

You see, Captain me to look after

him."

So

down the

it

was

that

into the

Major Lamer lead

strafers

Bismarck Sea. The twelve B-25s, each with

eight forward-firing .50-caliber

machine guns

nose, plus two in the top turret all

his

melee that had become the Battle of

before them as they

The Japanese scrambled

in

ships

came



ten in

in at five

all

in the

—razed

hundred

feet.

broke convoy formation and

an attempt to get out of the way. The

B-25s swirled and

separated,

selecting

a

target.

Waiting in an 89th Squadron Havoc, Pilot Edward

Chudoba heard

the

B-25

as the radio sputtered,

pilots arguing

"This

is

my

over targets

—go

ship

get

yourself a ship!"

The machine-gun return

fire

fire

as Larner's

blasted the decks clear of

squadron bore down upon

the dodging Japanese ships. release,

At

the correct point of

five-hundred-pound bombs were flung from

the B-25s and skipped along the water.

Of

the thirty-

seven released the 90th Squadron claimed seventeen as direct hits.

The

destroyer Arashio took three of

them, snapped out of control, and smashed into the

One

of "Pappy" Gunn's "commerce destroyers" a B-25 with four .50-caliber machine guns in the nose and two on either side of the fuselage just below the wing. The bombardier's compartment was removed and so was the Mitchell's lower turret. The eight forwardfiring guns concentrated a withering fire in the plane's path. (u. s. Am force)

BUCCANEER "We

now about

were

convoy on

21

port

its

opposite the middle of the

Havocs each wheeled almost left

to

come

in against

Our two Vs

side.

[left]

at right angles to the

We

broadside.

it

down from about 2,000

feet

of six

now

were sliding

an angle that

at

would have us brushing the masts as we went ovei

enemy ships. "The time was

the

.

.

exactly

"Young Charles Mayo wingman, and

right

V

side of our

and two

The

10:03.

ships ahead

left.

were

I

on the

flying

was a ship ahead leader,

flight

followed me. But the two planes on the

V

on the

right

dived and turned to the

I

under Captain Clark, our

our

and

left

Mayo

left side

of

formation were going after the nearest ship left.

swung back and toward

I

the big ship

ahead. In spite of Captain Clark's warning not to pile

up on the same

confusing.

I

were getting a

ship, things

my

looked over

bit

shoulder and there

was Clark behind me. Young Mayo on my said, 'I'm going off and get me a fat one.'

right

tenant

wing,

steep

dive

when

was pulling the bomb

came through

chutes

down

the

Pacific,

down

floated

first

taking

Zeros

Japanese plane with a P-38)

bomber crewmen. All

down

ensuing

P-38

fight,

pilots

These four

to aid the

ten men, the seven

parachutes as well as the fighter

the

the

maninto a

wingmen, LieuHoyt A. Eason and Fred D. Schifilet, all

tenants

the plexiglass

went

it

the

the

the fighting and with his two

left

in

Lieu-

Robert Faurot (he who had

strafed them. Captain

splashed

the

into

of the 35th Fighter Group, dived

could see tracers and big

ship. I

a bullet

and plunged

Moore with it. As the seven

in the

coming from the

the crew to jump. Seven

aged to get out of the plane before

machine guns spurting. switch

many

One flown by

Woodrow W. Moore was severely hit in which burst into flame. Moore ordered

bombs salvoed and

or

Fortresses were the largest and

Zeros attempted to get at them.

helpless

I

The

the B-17s above.

"The ship was rushing broadside at me now. I pulled the trigger on the wheel that started my stuff

and Havocs,

appeared therefore to be the deadliest, so

(just turned twenty-one),

of six ships. There

to the

the skip-bombing Mitchells

to attack:

the Beaufighters below, the B-25s in between,

.

were rapidly growing larger now.

my

"Hey, Joe," Chudoba heard a Fortress pilot yell, "come on down. I've got three Zeros on my tail." "Come on up," Joe said. "I have thirty of them." The thirty or so Zero pilots must have been hard pressed to make any decision as to which planes

pilots,

perished

although Kenney believed that

took "five Japs along with them."

aircraft,

one B-17 and three P-38s,

couldn't see

were the only Allied planes

well hidden. just as I

Bismarck Sea. Although the weather turned sour by the afternoon of March 3, a few more strikes

used to release them on calm days to skip against

were made by B-17s, Lamer's B-25s again and

canopy. Thirty caliber, a

man on

I

let

my

that old

I

found

later. I

The gun crews were

deck.

two 500-pound bombs go now, wreck

"Wham!

I

at Port

got

it

Adam LaZonga plane was

named

ner

and

strip

Moresby.

just as I

passed over the ship. Ol'

sure

could take

plane wasn't flying right.

I

with ack-ack. Captain Clark told

me

I

my

over except for such details as mopping up, sinking

There

had been

later that I

wing

hit

had

six inches

deep."

The the

was one of the troop-carrying transTamei Maru, which sank. All twelve of

target

89th

Moresby.

Squadron's

During

the

battle

for the Zeros

B-17s

any.

Fleet {"MacArthur's tle

Navy")

S.

Navy's Seventh

slipped into the bat-

area after dark that night and sank one of the

crippled ships, and on the morning of the next day,

Thursday,

The

March battle

4,

bombers dispatched another

was as good

as

over and high

jubilation ensued in the Fifth Air Force.

about

to

leave

for

conferences

in

Kenney,

Washington,

Port

wired Whitehead: Congratulations on that stupen-

dous success. Air Power has written some important

returned

to

bombers and

fight-

had begun concentrating on the

in this climactic

if

Five torpedo boats of the U.

Chudoba overheard

Havocs

radio conversations between the ers,

and picking up survivors,

stray.

ports, the

It

co-ordinated attack, for the battle was

ships that remained above water but could not move,

clipped off the top of the ship's radio mast. There

was a dent on the front surface of

final

wing and the

right

thought

it.)

Bostons of the 9th Operational Group.

Ab-

for the great lover of the Li'l

Adam

RAAF was the

(The

shuddered with the blow.

was something wrong with the

lost in the Battle of the

phase of the

battle.

history in the past three days. Tell the that I fuze.

am

so proud of them I

am

whole gang

about

to

blow a

KENNEY'S KIDS

22 Historian Samuel Eliot Morison, with exceptional

Navy man, called the Battle of the Bismarck Sea "the most devastating air attack on ships of the entire war, excepting only that on Pearl grace for a

Harbor." At the cost of thirteen

wounded, and four

aircraft (plus

men

killed, twelve

two which crash-

the

B-17s had broken

of the battle on

March

For the Japanese

it

large-scale supply

eastern

have been determined) and four destroyers for a

had

left

Rabaul.

An

anese troops went half of those six

which

estimated three thousand Jap-

down

thousand troops intended for Lae only about

eight

hundred reached

there.

These were the sur-

vivors of the sinking of the Kyokusei

Maru, which

New

and reinforcement runs

Guinea.

a

men,

to north-

The beleaguered Japanese

troops must subsist from that day on on what

little

could be brought in by barge, submarine, and other small craft.

The

with the transports, about

which had boarded the ships; of the

as shocking

in addition to the loss of

and aircraft (claims were made for twenty), meant something even more cosdy: the end of

(probably eight, although exact figures seem never to

2.

was almost

ships,

landed), Kenney's forces had sunk every transport

total of twelve of the original eighteen ships

it

Midway. But

defeat as

in half in the initial attack

ultimate effect

situation in It

meant

New

that

moving up

upon

the development of the

Guinea was far-reaching indeed.

MacArthur could

seriously consider

the carapace of the turtle-shaped island

and toward the PhiUppines.

"CLEARING THE AIR"

T

Ah: HE

Bismarck Sea had been unique;

Battle of the

the Japanese

would never again place so many men

and ships within the range of land-based

But

the sea

if

was

aircraft.

remained

less a threat, there still

along the line of MacArthur's projected advance in

New

Guinea several Japanese

cluding

and

at

at But,

those

at

Wewak

bases at Lae (in-

(a complex of fields including those

Dagua, and Boram). At the same time there

was also the target its

air

nearby Salamaua and Nadzab)

inviting

at

Rabaul,

New

Britain,

Simpson Harbour and several

with

air bases:

Vunakanau, Keravat, Lakunai, Rapopo, and Tobera.

From Rabaul

interfering with

the Japanese were capable of

MacArthur's plans

in

New Guinea

within fighter range, the time possible over the target

was so little

ney sent out Lieutenant Everette E. to scout out the location for an

within flying distance of

Frazier,

by

air

and by foot

hundreds of square miles of found a

likely spot,

all

of the Japanese in the vicinity of Marilinan,

miles of the Japanese at Lae.



in the

Kenney therefore unleashed the devastating fury Pappy Gunn gadgetry upon Japanese shipping and air power along the route of the proposed Allied advance. He hoped to "clear the air" with everything he had until the Japanese had nothing. With the Buna area secured, it was possible to establish airstrips at nearby Dobodura; thus the fighters, especially,

the

Owen

Stanleys.

next upon the

in

were spared the high haul over

MacArthur had

Huon

his strategic eye

Peninsula, particularly

Lae and

Salamaua. But these targets lay nearly two hundred miles west of Dobodura, which

meant

that although



he

more

Kenney preferred callwas a pretty name"

"it

case "the Nips should take us out,

might throw that

of his

covered until

Guinea

specifically at the village of Tsili-Tsili, within sixty

Ghormley

commander)

in the jungle,

New

but under the very noses

(who had

as

advance airdrome

plex of Japanese airdromes.

ing the location Marilinan

relieved

an

Lae and the Wewak com-

Vice-Admiral William F. Halsey

Pacific.

Frazier,

aviation engineer attached to the Fifth Air Force,

as well as those of

South

that they could give

brief for the fighters

protection to the bombers. Consequently, Ken-

the base

Tsili-Tsili thing

was being

built

back

at

Kenney decoyed

nese to another position, which was

somebody

me." While the Japa-

made

to look

The Japanese bombed the decoy spot and somehow did not find the Marilinan base until it was completed and operating. By mid-August more than three thousand troops were based in the area, including the 2nd Air Task Force, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm A. Moore and later by Colonel David W. Hutchison. The Japanese bombed the forward base for the first time on August 15, 1943, when a dozen Sallys escorted by a dozen Zeros swooped down by surlike

an active

installation.

KENNEY'S KIDS

24

amounted to one Thunderbolt. After these two cosdy attempts,

the

Japanese chose to leave Marilinan

reasonably unmolested.

On up

the next day,

his

August 17, 1943, Kenney opened

campaign upon the

Wewak

airdromes. Re-

connaissance photos revealed more than two hun-

dred aircraft distributed But, Boram, Dagua, and

among the installations at Wewak. It was after mid-

night that B-17s and B-24s from Port

gan dropping bombs on the various

Moresby be-

targets.

Although

Japanese night fighters attempted interception, antiaircraft fire

and searchlights proved

to be the

formidable, resulting in the loss of three heavy

most

bomb-

Early morning photographs accounted for "at

ers.

least 18 unserviceable" aircraft left

on the Japanese

damage to the strips bombs could do. But this

airdromes, in addition to the

which two hundred tons of

was only

the curtain raiser designed to foul the strips

order to interfere with Japanese aerial efforts

in

during the next

At dawn

the

act.

B-25

"Strafers," with

P-38

escort,

slashed across the tops of the palm trees in the

wak

Colonel Donald P. Hall, with the parafrag the

A

C-47 (the civilian Douglas DC-3) of the 6th Troop Carrier Squadron, with P-39 escort, flying over New Guinea, (u.

bomb

who had

first

experimented

during the early days of

Buna campaign, led the 8th and 13th Squadrons Bombardment Group) down upon the strips Boram. It was, as Kenney observed, a "sight to

(3rd at

air force)

s.

We-

area for the climax of "the show." Lieutenant

gladden the heart of a strafer." Japanese bombers,

perhaps sixty or more, lined up on both sides of the

runway with engines warming up prise

in preparation for

and shot down a C-47 carrying men of the

ground echelons of the 35th Fighter Group,

sta-

tioned at Marilinan; another transport crashed into the jungle and

was never found. Escorting P-39s

tangled with the bombers and fighters while the other

C-47s sought refuge

in the treetops

to the comparative safety of Port

P-39s (but only one pilot) were

and flew back Moresby. Four

lost

and claims

were made for eleven Japanese bombers and three fighters in the battle.

Realizing in

their

now

that

American planes were based

back yard, the Japanese followed with a

strafing raid

on the following day. They were met

not only by P-38s but also by the

Thunderbolt, led

flown by

new P-47 Republic

348th Fighter Group

by Colonel Neel Kearby. The Japanese

fighters (of the five

the

bombers

approximate (of

fifteen

sixteen).

lost nine

dispatched) and

American

losses

Japanese Mitsubishi, Type 97, "Sally," heavy bomber which occasionally operated as a fighter. (u.

s.

Am

force)

"CLEARING THE AIR"

A

25

Sally taking off during a Fifth Air Force attack

Japanese base in

New

Guinea. Shortly after

it

on a was

destroyed by another bomber, a B-25 Mitchell. (u.

s.

AIR force)

KENNEY'S KIDS

26

No

takeoff.

doubt the Japanese planned to avenge

the midnight

bombings by the B-17s and B-24s.

Half a hundred

fighters, the escort, also lined

other runways getting ready to take

bomber had begun

its

run down the

off.

strip

up on

The lead when Hall

A

shattering burst from his nose guns caught the

flame,

it

still

on

the runway.

Enveloped

in

crashed to the ground and rendered the

runway inoperable

down among detonating

the smoking, burning wreckage, further

aircraft

drums burst

and ripping up

for any further takeoffs.

sion to the holocaust.

Those

antiaircraft

The

8th

frags. In just minutes, the left

airdrome

8th Squadron believed

of the

burning.

the field like a giant scythe," blasting at the lined-up

claiming that of eighty or so aircraft

bombers and

all

on a Japanese airstrip at Boram, Guinea. Earlier attacks have already decapitated

Parafrags falling

palm

trees

and burned up bombers (lower

left);

at

they had

fifteen of the sixty or so planes they

on the

nose guns and drop-

Boram was

at

that

and 13 th Squadrons, seventeen planes altogether, by Hall, in the words of Kenney, "swept over

New

Fuel

positions

a burning, wreckage-strewn charnel house.

led

fighters with their

planes.

into flame, adding their liquid propul-

missed by the strafers were deracinated by the para-

roared in with his potent Mitchells.

Japanese bomber

ping parafrags in their wake. The bombs wafted

strips totally

Men left

had counted

destroyed and over twenty-five

The 13th Squadron was more it

expansive,

had counted

had been destroyed or severely damaged.

upper right a fuel truck about to service a Zero will be the victim of the floating bombs. (v. s. AK force)

"CLEARING THE AIR" At

the

same

time, twelve

27 B-25s of the 90th Squad-

ron (3rd Bombardment Group) were attending to

Wewak

proper.

The

surprise attack caught a

ber of Japanese fighters on the ground and

num-

left half

of them, about fifteen, destroyed or damaged. Those

Oscars

(the

Nakajima Ki.43)

ground were driven ells,

off

which got

by the gunners

off

in the

the

Mitch-

leaving nothing to be done by the escorting

P-38s, of which there were no less than eighty-five

hovering around waiting for something to do.

Of

the twenty-six

B-25s which had taken

off

from

Dagua (But was not

to

their small

hit

number, created

teen lay in burning junk heaps on the ground the Mitchells returned to Port Moresby.

Precise

damage could

But

that did not

mean

it

no longer

forts of the

s.

air force)

came

to call

"The

Black Day of August 17," there was little of the Japanese Air Force remaining in the Wewak area.

because of bad weather. These three continued on

position, (u.

when

not of course be estimated,

but following what the Japanese

revealed on the following day,

gun

despite

shambles with

guns and more than a hundred parafrags. Gunners shot down one intercepting Oscar, but at least seven-

Moresby that morning, assigned targets at Dagua and But, only three managed to rendezvous,

frag drifts toward their

and,

all)

a burning

Port

Japanese antiaircraft gunners seek shelter from the bombing-strafing Fifth Air Force Mitchells as a para-

at

when

existed, as

was

similar strikes

were made on Wewak. The weather spoiled the efheavy bombers to some extent; of the

KENNEY'S KIDS

28

A

"sight to gladden the heart of

seeding

the

airbase

at

Dagua,

a strafer": Mitchells Guinea; smoke

New

from a burning "Helen" bomber fills the air as three neatly lined-up "Tony" fighters await their turn. (U. S. AIR force)

forty-nine which took off only twenty-six succeeded in

bombing Wewak and Boram. The 3rd Bombard-

ment Group followed with another low-level strafing and parafrag attack. The airdrome appearing to be pretty well taken care of, the 3rd swung out to sea, struck at

some cargo

vessels

anchored

wak, and then blazed supply dumps

at

off

We-

Boram.

The 38th Bombardment Group had been

assigned

Dagua. Major Ralph Cheli of the 405th Squadron led the attack, which was intercepted by about a dozen Japanese

fighters,

miles out of Dagua. the

low-flying

The

Mitchells,

Zekes and Oscars, several fighters furiously attacked

concentrating

Cheli's flight. Within seconds,

on Major

one of the B-25s was

away because of damage and fluttered An Oscar which had attacked this plane swung into Major Cheli's also and sent a burst along the right wing and engine. Flame erupted forced to pull

back to base.

from the Mitchell as Cheli continued leading the

Though the tide was turning, the air war over Boram, Wewak, and Dagua was not one-sided. Here is a Mitchell

down

in the

water off

New

Guinea.

(henry w. imLic/u.

s.

air force)

"CLEARING THE AIR" B-25s toward Dagua,

still

29 two miles away. Rather

CheU remained

than pull up,

in

place at the head

of the squadron leading the attack. His leaving the

formation

at this critical

set the strike;

point might easily have up-

crew

in the

strafing

it

He

it

action

These two days of low-level attacks had succeeded in seriously

New

crippling the Japanese aerial potential

Guinea.

By

month

the end of the

it

was

been destroyed on the ground alone (the revised,

wingman

was too

flight,

to take over

more

precise figure

was 175, which

is

still

impres-

saying that he

burning plane down into made for the water, reached late. The flames had reached

to bring the

turned and

in fact, but

for his

and dropping parafrags. This com-

the formation for the return

the sea.

Medal of Honor

the

that day.

estimated that more than two hundred aircraft had

pleted, Cheli instructed his

would attempt

off the

as Cheli swept in over

The plane spouted flame Dagua,

was awarded

in

burning Mitchell.

and the explosion ripped a wing

B-25, which crashed into the Pacific. Ralph Cheli

he chose to remain near the ground

(too low to take to parachutes) with himself and his

a fuel tank

Troops of the 503rd Parachute Infantry float down upon Nadzab, New Guinea, in MacArthur's move to eliminate the Japanese stronghold at Lae. (u.

s.

AIR force)

KENNEY'S KroS

30

rp The death of a Zero over Salamaua south of Nadzab and Lae about a week before the (u. s. AIR force)

MacArthur's

latter fell to

forces,

sive).

Claims were made for 126 Japanese aircraft

accounted for

combat against the

in

Mitchells, four B-24s,

and

loss

of five

thirteen fighters in

bat and by accident during the

month

com-

of August.

Marilinan, from which attacks could be mounted,

served also as an emergency

field

and refueling de-

pot for the fighters. Kenney concluded the already paid for

By

late

field

"had

August MacArthur was confident that

the spine of

Gulf.

New

Amphibious

—Lae

Guinea

troops,

both

American, went ashore near the

his

in

Huon

the'

Australian village of

and

Hopoi

up a beachhead about fourteen miles east of Lae on the morning of September 4, 1943. This was preceded by naval and air bombardment of the to set

so,

some Japanese

along with their weapons and supplies.

The next morning the C-47s of the 54th Troop Wing lifted off the strips at Port Moresby

Carrier

men

carrying Australian troops and the

the

airdrome.

escort eventually

Over Marilinan,

trans-

C-47s carrying about seventeen

hundred men, were met by Thirty-Mile

of the U. S.

The unarmed

503rd Paratroop Regiment.

just

their first escorts over

As

the

armada proceeded,

rose

to

a hundred fighters.

southwest of Lae, the C-47s

formed into drop formation and flew to Nadzab, which flanked Lae to the west. What followed was one of the as,

finest,

most precise airdrops of the war,

according to Kenney, MacArthur in his com-

Guinea and Rabaul. Even

jumping up mand B-17 observed "the show and down like a kid." The paratroopers landed

aerial activity interfered slightly

without meeting any resistance, and their C-47s re-

landing area as well as concentrated bombing of

Japanese positions

operation some 7800 troops had been put ashore

ports, seventy-nine

itself."

forces could strike at another Japanese stronghold

up

terceptions. Within four hours of the opening of the

in

New

.

.

.

with the Lae landing, although at heavy cost, for

turned to Port Moresby without the loss of a single

Kenney's P-38s and P-47s swarmed around for

plane.

in-

The Americans soon

joined with the Aus-

'CLEARING THE AIR" tralians

31

and the area belonged to the

immediately construction of an

Nadzab; Lae

at

itself

fell

air

Allies.

Almost

base was begun

on September

16,

1943,

Rabaul had long been a prime target with

its

built

by the Australians before the war),

its

base.

As an important Japanese station like that at Marilinan

was

harbor

facilities,

materiel into

New

and warehouses

men and Guinea and the Solomons, Rabaul

an airdrome constructed on Kiriwina, one of the

was

October 1943 was about 145

Rabaul built

New

Guinea, and about 325 miles from

From

to the north.

the strips

would be possible etc.) before

for the

B-25s to "stage"

the

bombers

too

much

to

returned to at

New

bomb

were able to escort

Rabaul and not concern

with fuel problems, for even

ways land

if

the estimate by early fighters,

antiaircraft guns.

had also

installed quite efficient early

systems.

From Rabaul,

New Guinea

and

to the

124 bombers,

The Japanese Navy warning radar

bombing missions to Solomons were dispatched. too,

In co-operation with the forces of Halsey's South Pacific units,

and

to assist in taking

some

of the pres-

their pilots

sure

the Mitch-

Solomons, Kenney was determined to "take out

Guinea, the fighters could

Kiriwina.

it

(refuel,

heading for Rabaul with weighty

loads. Fighters, primarily P-38s,

ells

on Kiriwina,

by Royal Australian Air Force engineers,

also heavily protected:

and over 350

in the city itself.

base, feeding

Trobriand Islands, which lay almost directly east of

Dobodura,

what

several airdromes (two of which, at Lakunai,

had been

and Kenney became proprietor of yet another major Another way

area,

al-

off

the

Allied

Bougainville

offensive

in

the

Rabaul."

The heavy bombers could

Dobodura as their staging area. By October Kenney was ready to launch an offensive upon Rabaul similar in intensity to those with which he use

had been coast of

afflicting the

New

Japanese along the northern

Guinea.

He had begun in the Pacific

this

task shortly after his arrival

with the August 7, 1942, strike, which

had consisted of

thirteen 19th

Bombardment Group

Flying Fortresses. Rabaul had been under intermittent

Reconnaissance photograph of Vunakanau, one of the major Japanese air bases at Rabaul, New Britain (an island group east of New Guinea) This strip had already been visited by the Fifth Air Force as evidenced by wreckage. (U. s. air force) .

attack

and regular reconnaissance since the

previous January, in

fact.

From

would send a force of bombers

time to time Kenney to hit the shipping

KENNEY'S KroS

32 or airfields in the area; but

was a

it

costly target.

During the Buna campaign Kenney and

Command that

Japanese

Rabaul's shipping would confute

at

plans

On

Guinea.

General Walker, agreed

chief. Brigadier

striking

Bomber

his

send

to

one of these

reinforcements strikes, that of

New

to

January

in

bomb Rabaul

one of the dozen bombers sent to

Harbor. Although Kenney had ordered a dawn tack.

at-

Walker believed a noon attack would achieve

may have been

higher accuracy. While this for claims for

were made



no

less

if

one of them carrying Walker. Apparently B-17, with engine burning,

flak, the

not

lost altitude

battle.

That was the

last

to Port

.

.

to

intensify

So

MacArthur

fighting the war,

it

was

far

just

he was concerned they

as

studied the group for just a

moment,

"Leave Kenney's Kids alone.

to see

open the middle of October 1943, Kenney was

by now red-

General."

want

Air

told the

Just then MacArthur appeared in the doorway. Kenney stopped talking to say, "Good morning,

them grow up

with great dignity, he

left.

style, his bluntness, his

command

don't

I

either." Chuckling, but

MacArthur enjoyed Kenney's

seen of

the Fifth

they did they

if

.

and

Force's attention on Rabaul, a campaign scheduled to

SOS.

the

supply and

came time

it

of

said,

Moresby.

When

men who had been

to

then

Walker's B-17 by those ten crews which returned

that,

too bad that their cavortings disturbed the slumber

by

two Zeros, which followed the plane away

attracted

from the main

many words, Kenney

In so

lost,

hit

was quite sure

faced rear echeloners that since leave was granted

was murderous and

However, two American bombers were

I

would no longer shoot down Nip planes and sink Nip boats."

than ten ships sunk or burning

the antiaircraft fire

attacks by defending Japanese fighters profuse, expert.

ent because

could

true

his kids to get "old, fat,

bald-headed and respectable like some people pres-

5,

1943, Walker disobeyed Kenney's orders and flew

want

dicating that he didn't

times

at

gauche

unconventional handling of

problems.

was

It

as

if

the aus-

MacArthur could unbend through Kenney. Soon he came to call Kenney "Buccaneer," limelighted

tere,

in recognition of the

airman's freewheeling, produc-

nearly 350 aircraft. This too was a tribute to the re-

manner of operating. On the other hand, Kenney was popular also with his men, who admired his informal swashbuckling manner and the fact that he never failed to go out on a limb for them, if

sourcefulness of Kenney, who, by whatever means,

necessary.

no

able finally to plan a sizable attack. There were

dozen or so patched up B-17s now, but several squadrons each of Mitchells, P-38s, and B-24s

had

up

built

his air force.

Washington,

demanded,

he

staff in far-off

"squawked,"

fected supplies,

materiel of

food for his "kids."

If

all

to

use af-

types from planes

Service of Supply, bogged

with red tape, would not issue fresh food to

Kenney arranged

his front-line fliers,

aircraft to

infringed

smuggle

on

in

it

deal of difference to the

for a fleet of

from Australia. While

and regulations,

rules

men who

it

made

this

a great

the shipment of contraband.

He

regularly

had

to defend his

men.

When

Service

Sydney complained of the be-

havior of Kenney's airmen on leave, indicating that it

was time "these

selves,"

brats

grew up and behaved them-

Keimey lashed out

They,

at the complainants, in-

in turn, willingly

went out on a limb

for

Kenney. Taking out Rabaul was one of those limbs.

On

the eve of the opening of the intensive campaign,

Kenney wrote what

I

believe

to Arnold, "This is

We

control of the air over

land but to

and

to set

the beginning of

is

the most decisive action initiated

so far in this theater.

are out not only to gain

New

Britain

make Rabaul untenable up an

air

blockade of

and

for

all

New

Ire-

Jap shipping

the Jap forces

in that area."

Because of the oncoming monsoon predicted by

fought in terms

Kenney even blinked when refrigerators were flown into New Guinea labeled as aircraft engines; if anything, he no doubt initiated of health and morale.

of Supply officers in



MacAr-

and simply took what he could. This

his term,

down

fought with

he fought with Arnold's

thur's staff,

to

He

tive

his

weathermen, Kenney unleashed

October

12, 1943, three

his

bombers on

days ahead of the agreed-

upon date of the official early morning phase of the

top-level

attack

meetings.

The

was led by Lieu-

commanding officer Bombardment Group, at the vanguard

tenant Colonel Clinton U. True, of the 345th of

more than

a

hundred

strafer

Mitchells.

Flying

low over the water to elude radar, the Mitchells crossed the Solomon Sea to Kiriwina

(where the

"CLEARING THE AIR"

33

The Fifth Air Force delivers parafrags to Vunakanau bomber revetments in Kenney's offensive on Rabaul. (u.

s.

AIR force)

structed to protect aircraft from horizontal blasts)

and over the general dispersal having

Surprise

apparently

been

P-38 escort was picked up) and swung around to

Mitchells encountered remarkably

approach Rabaul. As they came

Antiaircraft

in at treetop level,

fire

was neither

bomb

area.

achieved,

little

the

opposition.

persistent nor accurate.

and

the formations split: the forty Mitchells of the 3rd

Fighters, however, attempted interception

Group veered sharply to port, streaking for the airdrome at Rapopo, and the sixty-seven aircraft of the

battle

38th and 345th Groups turned

ney W. Crews, with engine aflame, crashed into the

slightly,

to

pounce

upon Vunakanau. The attacks followed the pattern of those at Wewak and Lae. The 3rd Group, for example, swept in in a succession of shallow Vs,

about a dozen Mitchells across, with the a mile

apart.

Vs about

Spraying the target area with their

ern Zero)

waters of ell

the Mitchell piloted

St.

George Channel.

It

by Lieutenant

Sid-

was the only Mitch-

lost in the attack.

As soon

as the Mitchells

had cleared the

area, a

dozen Australian Beaufighters of No. 30 Squadron

swooped down

eight nose guns, the Mitchells roared over the air-

One

dropping their parafrags into revetments (con-

fire.

fields

in a

over Vunakanau with Zekes (the more mod-

to

work over Rapopo and Tobera. was knocked down by ground

of these aircraft

KENNEY'S KIDS

34

A

Japanese bomber burns after a parafrag has alighted near

noon

Shortly after

the B-24s of the 90th

bardment Group came

in high

Bom-

over Simpson Har-

bour to drop thousand-pound bombs on the shipping in the harbor.

Zekes quickly rose to challenge the

Liberators, and in the ensuing battle, which lasted for

more than

a half hour,

two B-24s were

lost,

with gunners in the bombers claiming ten of the forty

it.

(u.

s.

air force)

later photoreconnaissance.

be known,

in

action and the Mitchells.

fact,

smoke

Exact damages could not

because of the speed of the left in

the target areas by the

But the claims were not as

fact that the big

critical as the

campaign on Rabaul had begun

with a decided success and with a reasonably small loss.

Zekes and Zeros attacking. The Liberators of the

Despite

intermittent

bad weather, which

either

43rd Group followed the 90th Group's planes (which

canceled out strikes or interfered with missions, the

drew

off

Fifth Air Force continued

their

bombs

most of the Japanese

burning ships and

much

fighters)

and strung

down;

Japanese were able to repair damage and replace

antiaircraft

fire.

Es-

the strafer-bombers estimated that

no

than a hundred Japanese planes had been de-

stroyed on the ground with another aged.

fifty

badly dam-

The heavies claimed over a hundred

ships of

various sizes, function, and tonnages sunk or de-

stroyed



rather

Rabaul.

confusion in Simpson Har-

Crewmen

corting P-38s claimed twenty-six Japanese fighters

less

at

Unless Kenney maintained a constant assault the

bour and heavy but inaccurate shot

pounding away

reported

across the harbor.

optimistic

claims,

as

revealed

in

lost aircraft.

Meanwhile,

too,

Japanese strikes were

mounted upon Allied positions in New Guinea, to upset any plans for what appeared to the Japanese to

be a softening-up prelude for an invasion of

Rabaul. This clearly near-suicidal effort was never attempted, however.

It

was the

fate of

be bypassed, isolated, as were so nese strong points on the

way

to

many

Rabaul

to

other Japa-

Tokyo.

"CLEARING THE AIR" The

as targets as

35

Simpson Harbour were as important

ships in

were the

dromes of Rabaul.

on the

aircraft

When

five

major

planes, the ships continued to bring in supplies

troops. flying

It

and

devolved upon the 8th Photo Squadron,

converted P-38s (the F-5), to keep an eye

on the weather as well as the Reconnaissance ships in ber,

air-

weather grounded

the

had

installations at

revealed

a

Rabaul.

concentration

of

Simpson Harbour toward the end of Octo-

making an attack from low

effective than

high-altitude

level

bombing

(always more against ships)

next on the Fifth Air Force agenda.

The weather caused sions to

the scrubbing of several mis-

Simpson Harbour

November came and

the

at

the end of October.

bad weather seemed fated

The attack on Rabaul's Simpson Harbour, November 1943. As shore installations burn in the background.

2,

to

continue; the missions of the

first

were also canceled. But then, P-38s

and second

in the

area reported, after the morning mission of

Rabaul

Novem-

ber 2, 1943, had been scrubbed, that not only was the weather over

son Harbour was

Rabaul promising, but that Simpfilled

with ships: a destroyer, a

and about twenty assorted transports. The mission was on again. tender,

Because of the sudden

shift

in plans,

Fifth Air Force aircraft were dispatched

Guinea and the base

Kenney

at

Kiriwina.

not

many

from

New

According to

there were seventy-five (Air Force histori-

ans say eighty) B-25 strafers and fifty-seven P-38s (historians claim eighty).

sume a

The

actual

numbers

as-

certain importance because of the intensity

a skip-bombing Mitchell sweeps across the harbor as ship burns, (u. s. air force)

KENNEY'S KIDS

36

Rabaul goes up

in

smoke

after the

of the battle which ensued.

November 2

It is likely that

mission to Simpson Harbour, (u.

Kenney's

S.

air force)

Lakunai airdrome and do the same

are closest to the actual figures because the squad-

ney Cocktails

rons participating were not up to

based guns and ignited

Nine B-25 squadrons took part 13th,

8th,

and

(of

the

3rd

Group); and the 498th, 499th, 500th, and 501st the

345 th Bombardment Group. Furnishing

of

fighter

cover for the strafers were six fighter squadrons: the

9th

(49th Fighter Group);

the

39th

(35th

Fighter Group); the 80th (8th Fighter Group); and the 431st,

But unlike the

in the attack: the

Bombardment and 405th (38th Bombardment

90th

Group); the 71st

full strength.

432nd, and 433rd of the 475th Fighter

earlier squadrons, the planes of the

aircraft

fire.

the attack

anti-

Several Mitchells were shot up during

and three were

lost.

The

initial

attack,

however, prepared the way for the remaining

five

squadrons of B-25s, led by Major John P. Henebry,

which had time to

circle

over Rabaul (impossible

normally because of the harbor guns) for an fective run

on the shipping

The P-38s

was air-borne and headed

ef-

in the harbor.

of the 39th and 80th Squad-

bour,

two Japanese destroyers which lay

mouth

of a river opened up on the forty-one Mitch-

ells.

harbor to shoot up the antiaircraft installations there.

ships disturbed, to

Major Benjamin Fridge followed with

Despite

this the strafers,

poured

fire

B-25 squadrons of the 345th Group to strafe the gun emplacements around the harbor, drop Kenney Cock(the phosphorus

the four

bombs), and sweep over

to

in

the

This plus the smoke of the already burning

rons opened the attack by swooping in upon the

tails

the land-

As Henebry dropped down upon Simpson Har-

11 A.M. the force

for Rabaul.

The Ken-

345th ran into tough interception and intense

Group.

By

there.

smoke over Rabaul itself.

laid a screen of

in

some

upon

degree, the plan of attack.

breaking up into small units,

the ships in the harbor.

Some

of the Japanese ships shot directly into the water in

the path of the approaching

American planes,

"CLEARING THE AIR"

37

geysering water into the very cockpits of the B-25s.

At

same

the

Zeros

aggressive

especially

time,

pounced upon Henebry's squadrons. These

fighters

Wilkins' forward-firing eight-gun battery roared to as he "strafed a

life

and then,

group of small harbor

at low-level, attacked

bomb

proved more effective than any encountered by the

His thousand-pound

some time. They were veteran Japanese Imperial Navy pilots of the 1st Koku Sentai (Carrier Division) from old Admiral Nagumo's carriers Shokaku, Zuikaku, and Zuiho. It had

ships, causing the vessel to explode.

Fifth Air Force in quite

been a long time since the Fifth Air Force seen so

many Zeros

Kenney, who called

men had

the air at one time.

in

war"

est-fought engagement of the

for his air force,

numbers, and

fighters" that day. Their

as pilots,

skill

enabled the Japanese to break through

the P-38 escort to get at the Mitchells

bombing

the

harbor. Despite the persistent Zeros and the ground fire,

the Mitchells slashed at the ships, striking

and seventeen In

the

tacked

melee,

B-25s and

six

into

his

engine was

one

P-38

were

Simpson Harbour. Henebry's

plane was so badly shot up that area,

B-25 was

when he

of holes

full

left

the

and one

With extraordinary airmanship,

gone.

until the Mitchell fell into the Pacific just short of

Henebry and

his

crew were rescued shortly

Although

hit

anti-

had seriously damaged

he refused to deviate from

From below mast-head

height he

some nine thousand

which engulfed the ship

Bombs expended he began

in

at-

tons,

flames.

to withdraw his squad-

ron.

"A

heavy cruiser barred the path. Unhesitatingly, guns and attract

to neutralize the cruiser's

their fire,

he went in for a strafing run. His damaged stabilizer

was completely shot

control

all

off."

With

his directional

but gone, Wilkins might easily have flown

into the path of the Mitchells flying alongside him.

He

rolled the plane slightly, with

what

little

aileron

had, to avoid colliding with his wing

still

mates. In doing this he exposed the belly and

wing surfaces to the heavy

damned

cruisers." In

fire

full

erupting from "those

an instant the Mitchell's

left

wing crumpled and the bomber smashed into the sea.

Wilkins and his crew were

Henebry skimmed and yawed away from Rabaul Kiriwina.

a

amid-

squarely

struck

this vessel

a transport of

control he

strafed.

knocked down battle

more

bombs

than forty, of which twenty-four were hit by

course.

his

estimated that the Japanese put up "between 125

and 150

from

his left vertical stabilizer,

scoring

batde "the toughest, hard-

this

aircraft fire

vessels,

an enemy destroyer.

men

lost in the attack:

among

the forty-five

one of the heaviest

fered by the Fifth Air Force. Eight

tolls suf-

bombers and

after.

nine fighters were lost (ahhough four of the pilots

One of Henebry's squadron commanders. Major Raymond H. Wilkins, did not get away from Ra-

of the latter were found and crews of three bombers,

baul.

Leading the 8th Squadron, the

Wilkins flew on the formation's

brought him under

The after

fire

last to attack,

flank,

left

which

from cruisers near the shore.

the

initial

antiaircraft

was a turmoil of smoke,

attack,

tracers,

water spray, and concentrated

craft necessitated a last-second revision of tactics his part," Wilkins' still

Medal

enabled

his

of

fire,

Honor

squadron

shipping targets but forced

concentrated

it

to

air-

on

citation reads,

Simpson Harbour had been bles

when

left

a

smoking sham8th Squadron

the last Mitchell of the

passed through

its

hail

of

fire.

But any accurate

hit

in

The

official

first

communique claimed

fif-

teen Japanese vessels, of various types, sunk and an

additional thirteen

damaged

(after the

war

the Japa-

a

ten-thousand-ton

tanker).

Whatever the

differ-

ences, the attack proved costly to the Japanese also.

almost immediately,

squadron

tionable.

sweeper, and two small ships sunk and damage to

the

Although he could have withdrawn he held his

had been

approach through

wing damaged, and control rendered extremely

and led

It

an expensive "show."

nese admitted to three merchant vessels, a mine-

and increased the danger of Ma-

"His airplane was

fast

Mitch-

to strike at vital

jor Wilkins' left-flank position.

difliicult.

Dobodura.

at

A

in the fighting,

assessment of the damage would have been ques-

fire.

"Smoke from bombs dropped by preceding

"which

and three P-38s, badly damaged

cracked up while landing

area by this time, actually only twelve minutes

machine-gun

right

such as that of Hene'ory, were picked up). ell

to

the

attack."

Besides

the

damage

to

shipping in the harbor

(and tankers were an especially precious commodity at the time), the

town of Rabaul was

also set aflame,

which accounted for the destruction of supplies. In

As

the fighting progressed all

around Rabaul and Simp-

son Harbour, Kenney Cocktails fanned over Lakunai

the air fighting,

claimed

ground left

bombers and

Japanese

eight

an at

planes

burning

the harbor.

in

down;

float planes

So,

By

blow

Rabaul"

to the

baul.

carriers

fur-

and

Had

they,

would have faded

pink in comparison with

to pale

would have flowed"

the blood that

on Rabaul,

Morison. Even

Ra-

"Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa

in

an attempted

in the opinion of

Samuel Eliot

so, the

blood continued to flow until

the end.

Meanwhile, Kenney gave

South Pacific

his attention to

MacAr-

which included the recently formed Thir-

Navy

pi-

Although Rabaul was never invaded, any such

attempt would have been cosdy in it

had

also a

on Rabaul, Kenney relinquished the

teenth Air Force besides the Marine and lots.

the Joint Chiefs did not order an invasion of

the

assault

November, with Halsey's

ther "neutralization of forces,

on

which were

was

waited in 350 miles of tunnels

was one of the good fortunes of war that

caves. It

to the Japanese.

the end of

closing in

it

who

troops,

strafers

the battle

if

been hard on the Fifth Air Force, definite

the

destroyed

sixteen

additional

Lakunai plus ten

claimed sixty-

fighters

shot

gun positions (center and right bottom), scourging the hapless gun crews, (u. s. AIR force)

was not completely taken out

incessant attacks

drawal of

air

upon

units

it

the

extreme,

either.

But the

eventually forced the with-

stationed

there

by February

20, 1944. Left behind were nearly 100,000 ground

low-flying Mitchell, of the 345th Bomb Group, Thirteenth Air Force, catches a Japanese "frigate" (de-

A

stroyer escort) off the coast of China. In

B-25s of

the

group,

finish off the ship

known

as the

which capsizes, (v.

moments

the

"Air Apaches," S.

air force)

KENNEY'S KIDS

40 thur's

New

advance up the coast of

Guinea, em-

ploying the methods used upon Rabaul as he went.

m The

by

attacks

and the heavy bombs, were

protected whenever possible by fighters. fighter pilots

Kenney

strafers, the deliverers of

parafrags,

Cocktails,

Kenney's

were among the most colorful of the

war, and the so-called "Ace of Aces" of

all

Ameri-

can wars was one of Kenney's Kids. Richard Ira

Bong, "a blond, blue-eyed cherub" from Madison, first came to Kenney's attention in San Kenney was then commanding the Fourth Air Force when word came to his office that one

Wisconsin, Francisco.

of his pilots "had been looping the loop around the

center span of the Golden Gate Bridge in a P-38

and waving

fighter plane

to the stenographic help in

the office buildings as he flew along

From nearby Oakland

Market

Street."

a lady complained of hav-

ing her washing blown off the line by a low-flying aircraft.

Though angry and a

embarrassed over

bit

Kenney was Kenney himself had nearly been dismissed from the Air Service in the summer of 1917 the performance of one of his pilots,

Richard Bong, P-38

fighter pilot,

Bong would become

the

New

a total of forty confirmed air-to-air victories. (u.

also delighted.

for flying

under the bridges of

New

into the youthful pilot, a

"boy about

with a round, pink baby face and the

most innocent eyes,"

bluest,

affecting his harshest

of the trouble he

had caused, which would make

it

necessary for Kenney to talk with everyone, from

on down to the lady with the washing. Then Kenney's curiosity got the better of him. "By the way," he said to Bong, "wasn't the air the governor

pretty rough

down

in the street

around the second-

story level?"

The innocence vanished from Bong's eyes. "Yes, sir, it was kind of rough, but it was easy to control the plane."

He

then launched into a speech on the

excellent aileron control of the that he

was

in his

general's office for

an entirely different reason.

Kenney pile

desk

thanks

to

that

this

Threatening the by

up the

had accumulated on

cherubic

now

:

"airplane

incredulous

his

jockey."

Bong with

in-

further rep-

to report to the lady near

Oakland.

And

woman

"if that

out on the

line,

—and when

has any washing to be hung

you do

around being useful

it

Then you hang

for her.

—mowing

a lawn or something

And

any of them on the ground or you

wash them over again." Almost immediately after was on

his

them

the clothes are dry, take

and bring them into the house.

line

way

the

to the Pacific

a request with Arnold for

fifty

off the

don't drop

will

have to

incident,

Kenney

and when he placed P-38

pilots,

he spe-

Bong be among them. Kenney's professional eye, Bong (who was

cifically

In

requested that

then twenty-two) combined those several qualities

which add up

rather dramatically began tearing

of complaints

rimand Bong was ordered

P-38 before realizing

commanding

Kenney added

repeat his performance,

He reminded Bong

voice and sternest expression.

force)

from the Air Force should he ever

stant dismissal

five feet six,

Am

s.

York's East

River.

Kenney laced

Guinea, 1943.

American "ace of aces" with

flexes,

very idea of its

too

to a superb fighter pilot.

Quick

good physical condition, a sense of joy flight,

limitations,

an understanding of

as well as his

re-

in the

aircraft

and

own. Aggressiveness

was an important psychophysiological compo-

"CLEARING THE AIR" Along with

nent.

41

must be a self-confidence bor-

this

dering on an overwhelming sense of invincibility.

The

hesitant, too cerebral fighter pilot did not gen-

Swooping down

erally survive.

for a screaming at-

most often as not upon an unaware enemy

tack,

was no clean sport

occupied with

air speed,



the fighter

was too pre-

angle of attack, getting a

bead on the enemy aircraft to consider the outcome attack

of this

as

less

than

for

fatal

Like so many other American fighter

was

He

more than twenty

first

to

"kills"

enemy.

the

pilots,

not, in the beginning at least, a very

actually completed his

before he

official victories

(another term for aggressive-

work

skill

with

its

his

rear-view mirror,

in a

and not seeing a Zero, he

leveled out at five thousand feet. it

if

Suddenly, there

was again, pulling up behind him, but too

follow him there it



it

Bong

careening dive. Checking

Bong

flipped the

distant

P-38 once

The Zero could not

might plunge into the Pacific

did, or else pull apart in the high-speed dive.

The

uted to his courage

a willingness to

firing

the throttle of one of his engines,

again and dived for the water.

bulk of Bong's forty

ness or self-confidence), his

Chopping

suddenly flipped away

shot.

attended a school for training in aerial gunnery.

can be

behind him and begin

for accurate shooting.

good

credit,

slip

cannon.

Bong

tour of missions, with his

could

combat

for in reality, for all of the scorekeeping,

aviation

around him, came to a sudden shocking realization. On his wing was not a twin-boomed P-38, but a Zero with a large red circle on its side. In seconds it

attrib-

with the P-38, and

as part of a team.

Early in the Pacific war

became obvious that the World War were sui-

it

dogfighting tactics of the First

with

cidal

around

Zero,

the

the

heavier

against Jap fighters

is

which

could

American

dance

circles

"Defense

fighters.

resolved around the superior

speed of our fighters," Bong pointed out, and

between the machines,

that difference

Japanese, that he

much

better pilots

—and had

sharper vision than early Allied propaganda

So were

intimated.

constructed,

less

under cer-

less

ruggedly

weight and speed were important in

As Bong

battle.

never

their aircraft better

because they were

conditions;

tain

was

not individual flying

exploited,

The Japanese were

abilities.

it

and the

his

"An

observed,

indicated airspeed

than 250 miles per hour in combat

is

good

insurance."

life

Even

so, there

were sudden unknowns confronting

even an experienced pilot

— and

it

was these too

which often saved him. One of these incidents occurred to

acedom.

Bong even

He and

his

after

he had already achieved

wingman

intercepted a Jap-

anese bomber formation, escorted by Zeros, over the

Buna area

beautifully set

number

of

up

New

Guinea. The bombers seemed

for a quick, slashing attack.

"Any

of Nips," he

once wrote, "can be safely

attacked from above.

Dive on the group, pick a

plane as your target, and concentrate on

definite

him.

Japanese bombers ("Sally")

." .

the

fighter

pilot's

instinct

American his

bomber. Bong, with

for

searching

the

air

pilot-

While

gun camera of an occupied once Richard

in the

.

As he concentrated on

thus

Bong acquired himself a Zero

for a wingman. (U.

S.

AIR force)

KENNEY'S KIDS

42

Bong opened

the

throttles

and raced over the

He had

water, glancing again into the mirror. the Zero

left

way behind; maybe now he could

He snapped

with the persistent Japanese.

and found himself

into a tight turn

middle of

in the

a nine-plane Japanese formation he had not seen

There was nothing situation.

Bong

relied

the

in

on

books to cover

instinct as

this

he yanked the

great plane's nose into the path of the lead Jap-

anese aircraft.

A

short burst

remaining eight Zeros, for their

Bong ripped

accurate.

fire

was not

the P-38 through the scat-

tering Japanese formation

another Zero.

had shaken

Ramming

and shot and detonated

his engines at full throttle,

A

Bong's

protecting the

bombers during the attacks upon

ping or such bases as Rabaul, Lae,

ship-

Wewak, and

the

rival during

those pilots

who

resented

it),

but

it

was

the

from the Laloki

Intercepting

pilots

It

was

battle

claim-

Bong,

Lynch, and another future ace. Lieutenant Kenneth C. Sparks, claimed two apiece. Although the green

committed any number of

fight

tactical errors

from too great a distance, attempting

firing

with a Zero



their

been exciting and without the battle debut of the in

initiation loss.

[the

so high

is

it

9th

of

life.

mander. Colonel Neel E. Kearby, looked to Ken-

kills

equipped with the Republic P-47 ("Thunderbolt,"

began adding up

would grow

a good-natured,

locker-

or "Jug") and

Kearby was anxious

348th was

to prove

the as yet unpopular aircraft could do.

were

at stake.

of the P-38 (until fitted with belly tanks),

of competitiveness, this obsession with

passed the score of First World

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the

latter

young ace a case of scotch with which

War

ficult to

sent

could, in a

to cele-

brate. This resulted in quite a tempest in a scotch glass, for a flood

of complaints

uged Kenney for permitting self did gift

and

criticism del-

this (in fact,

Bong him-

not drink and was more delighted with a

of Coca-Cola from Generals Arnold and

Mac-

Arthur). The back-home do-gooders could not reconcile themselves to the fact of the "boys' " drinking,

although they readily accepted the fact that they

were out

killing their fellow

man. Wartime provides

what

The P-47

was a hulk of an one-man fighter of

the

49th

the

almost scares you."

except that instead of touchdowns men's lives

ace

had

in reporting

P-38 to Arnold, noted that

squadron

that

Kenney,

to dog-

battle

into

kills,

When Bong

Japa-

a

planes.

ney "like money in the bank." The

American pilots.

P-38 mission

first

all,

did preserve

inevitable that a certain rivalry

among the room kind

was another

Another group, the 348th, had arrived in New Guinea around the end of June 1943. The com-

denied

But not forever.

Once

Air

(and there were

may have

it

in

than fifteen Japanese

Fighter Group]

in pairs

at Eglin

of Catasauqua,

from the

returned

pilots

less

ing generally ended in the death of the eagle.

"credits"

fighting,

nese bomber and fighter formation over Dobodura,

"morale

The system of fighting wingman his share of

Lynch

J.

near Port Moresby.

airstrip

other steps toward the Philippines. Lone-eagle fight-

a

Pacific

his initial tour

Thomas

(December 27, 1942), twelve

fighters

the true function of the fighters was, of course,

early

Pennsylvania. Lynch had led the

no

kills,

the

to the United States only to die in

youngster. Captain

P-38

Despite the preoccupation with keeping score of

of

as "Buzz," with a score of

Force Base.

ing

base.

veteran

embark

to

pilot, the top-

an accidental crash during a takeoff

the

home

known

best

Wagner returned

The Japanese plane paused, emitted smoke, and fluttered away from the battle. By this time Bong was far from the dispersed Japanese planes and heading for

Guinea

Boyd David Wagner,

scoring ace of the time was

he climbed for altitude, loosing another burst at a passing Zero.

New

arrived in

legendary career as a fighter

his

who was

from Bong's gun blew

the Zero out of his way. This apparently the

When Bong upon

eight.

until that instant.

of moral incongruities,

with the most pietistic leading the pack.

deal

the plane

number

the setting for any

aircraft, the largest single-engine

the war.

It

did not have the range

was

dif-

maneuver, had a weak landing gear, and

power

dive, freeze the controls so that

the pilot could not pull out.

could tear the

tail

Or

if

he did, the action

section away. Despite these draw-

backs, the P-47 prof)erly

manned became one

of

the outstanding fighters of the war. its earliest exponents, was anxious show what the plane, his group, and he himself could do. He had barely met Kenney before he asked about "scores," the implication being, Kenney believed, that he "wanted to know who he had to

Kearby, one of

to

beat"

It

was not

until

August that the

348th

"CLEARING THE AIR"

43

By

ploded before their eyes.

September

the end of

Kerby's score had grown to eight, one half of Bong's score at the time.

Multiple victories seemed to be a Kearby specialty, for

on October 11 he gave an amazing dem-

onstration

which won him the Medal of Honor.

During a

fighter

company with

sweep over the

Wewak

area in

Major Raymond K. Gallagher, Captain John T. Moore, and Captain three

others.

William D. Dunham, Kearby sighted a single Japanese plane below them.

Kearby and

down upon down burning

it

caliber guns

of the P-47

plane apart).

Then

up out of

the lone Zero

led his flight

seconds sent

in

(the eight .50tore

literally

the flimsy

as the four Thunderbolts pulled

saw ahead of them a large

their dive they

formation of Japanese fighters and bombers, about forty-five planes in

Kearby plunged

all.

into the formation in an instant,

the three others following.

The heavy P-47 lumbered

through the astonished Japanese spouting

enemy planes

burst

flame

into

three

fire:

within

minutes.

Then, kicking rudder, Kearby turned to see that

two Zeros had got onto the

He Neel E. Kearby, who commanded the 348th Fighter Group, and who proved that the P-47 "Thunderbolt" was a formidable aircraft in the Pacific. (u. s. AIR force)

tail

of one of his

flight.

roared in and with two bursts sent the two

Japanese

down

burning.

he

Instinctively

scanned

him and saw that a Zero had begun a dive upon another P-47. Kearby whipped the guns into the enemy plane, which collapsed, falling like a the air around

bird with a broken spine.

Realizing

Kearby 's seven Fighter Group's Thunderbolts were ready for action.

Then

in

September, during the

air fighting

and the subsequent (September

5,

over Lea

1943) taking of

Nadzab by American paratroopers, Kearby got his chance. With a wingman as company Kearby dived on two Japanese planes, a bomber and a fighter. With his wingman following, Kearby dropped the Thunderbolt upon the enemy planes about four thousand feet below. The two planes were flying along rather close together, the bomber in the lead with the 2^ro following. Kearby squinted in the sight

and shot

wingman held for other

To

a long, exploratory burst as his

off

his fire

Japanese

and twisted

off

neck looking

wingman and Kearby a fighter and the bomber ex-

the surprise of both

wing ripped

his

fighters.

the

were getting low on

they

that

Kearby called

his

men

in

victories,



were

all

safe.

two more had been ac-

counted for by other members of the

flight

other had been seen leaving the battle on

cause

it

had not been seen

fuel,

Besides

and anfire.

Be-

was claimed one, it meant that

to crash this

as a "probable." Discounting this

the Japanese had lost nine planes to the four

Thun-

derbolts in a single action.

But there was an additional

camera had run out of

Kearby's gun

hitch.

film in mid-attack

on the sev-

enth plane and there was no "official" evidence, the three other pilots then being occupied themselves, that

the

seventh

plane

had

Kearby was credited with an in a single battle

been

destroyed.

official

six

(the record to that date

was the

Navy's Lieutenant Edward "Butch" O'Hare,

had shot down

five

action). For his feat,

Japanese bombers

in

So

victories

who

a single

Kearby received the Medal of

KENNEY'S KIDS

44

Honor and less

his score stood at fourteen, only three

Bong was

Shortly after, a

score

then

of

away Kearby's

sent

home

for a rest (with

he was

twenty-one), and while

total

rose to twenty.

At

this

time

rammed back

Turning, he

was now

official

upon

converged

Banks swept

Ace

of Aces.

his

Thunderbolt.

guns

in with

Thomas Lynch, had a score ol sixteen (he too had been sent back home for a rest), so that the rivalry of these three aces now

the Zeros off Kearby's

became

into the jungle;

Bong's other

rival,

intense.

When

all

three were in operation their individual

were watched

scores

daily;

by the beginning of

March 1944 Bong and Kearby were tied (with twenty-two) and Lynch trailed with nineteen. Whether or not

the desire to be top ace blunted

Kearby's customary vigilance, or whether

it

was a

simple matter of running out of luck, would be

difiB-

cult to ascertain.

On March

again

leading

four-plane

Blair,

Captain William Dunham, and Captain Wil-

a

liam Banks), this time over

4,

1944, Kearby was

flight

(Major Samuel

Wewak, New Guinea.

Sighting a fifteen-plane Japanese formation,

ordered an attack, the

first

enemy plane down under the

assault of his guns.

Kearby

which sent one

He had

broken

up

fired a burst of

J.

battle

Lynch, one of Richard Bong's friendly companions, (u. s. air force)

rivals

and with

on

three Zeros

Dunham and

each taking one of

But the

from close

third

directly into the cockpit

nose and

its

no parachute was

directly

fell

Obviously

seen.

Neel Kerby was dead in the plane.

on

Ironically,

two enemy

same day Bong had destroyed

that

At Bong

Lynch — —had teamed

tied.

still

now Bong's

a captain

Lynch

closest rival.



and They had been

a lieutenant colonel

this stage.



was

aircraft; the score

with nineteen victories was

up.

taken out of their regular squadrons and placed

upon

the

staff

Wurtsmith, com-

of General Paul

Command. Lynch was nominally Wurtsmith's operations officer and Bong mander his

of Kenney's Fighter

assistant.

fighters out of

Thus it was hoped combat as much as

to

keep the two

possible and pre-

serve their experience, which could be transferred to the

the

and

cannon

of the P-47. It tipped

Then

firing,

tail.

new

pilots

coming

into the Pacific.

This worked on paper, but

tie.

Thomas

into the battle

knocked another Zero down. Kearby

a long shot,

than Bong's.

two men out of

was They

it

battle.

difficult to

either

keep

went

off

together, or attached themselves to other squadrons

and continued

to

add

to their scores.

They remained,

as they did at the time of Kearby's death.

Bong:

twenty-four. Lynch: nineteen. Just five days after Kearby's last fight, Bong and Lynch took off on one of their two-man hunts. Over Tadji, New Guinea, they surprised another two-man combat team and each took out one.

There being no other Japanese aircraft in the sky, they pointed their P-38s

where they spotted

a

down toward

Japanese

headed for Hollandia.

obviously

they could find, so they swept sel.

ship, It

was

down upon

Raking the deck with .50-caliber

P-38s dived and pulled

away

as

the guns

on the

the water, a

away,

dived

ship's

corvette the

best

the ves-

bullets,

the

and pulled

deck traded

fire

with them.

Suddenly Bong noticed that Lynch had turned away and headed for shore; an engine trailed smoke. Even more suddenly one of the propellers tore

Bong watched

he saw

away,

and

Lynch

struggling out of the cockpit, ready to jump.

as

in

horror,

Before he and his chute were free of the plane, the

P-38 detonated.

If

Lynch had had a chance, the

CLEARING THE AIR"

Despite

the

superiority

45

of American air

power over

New

Guinea, allocking Japanese strongholds was not without hazard. In this series of photographs a Fifth

flame

of

certainly

the

explosion

to his death.

fell

life

canceled

burned and Lynch,

Bong

if

that



the

chute

not already dead,

circled the area for signs of

(something he realized was

futile),

but there

were no indications that Lynch had survived.

He

returned to his base and Kenney, concerned with

Bong's morale, sent him to Australia, ostensibly to ferry a

newly arrived P-38 back to

But Kenney saw

to

it

that the

New

Guinea.

depot commander

would not have one ready for two weeks.

By

Bong had returned, and by the upon adding two more kills to his credit in

early April

twelfth,

Air Force Havoc attacking Kokas, New Guinea, by antiaircraft fire and plunges into the water. (U.

services." at

Bong was returned

S.

is

hit

AIR force)

United States

to the

point to be reunited with his family, his

this

Army public He was to

fiancee.

gunnery. structor

relations officers

upon completion of a new rival

Thomas Buchanan McGuire,

had Jr.

in the Pacific, in the spring of

to

Bong's

own

unit,

Group. Bong's score was then Guire was reassigned

to study

this course.

Meanwhile,

assigned

—and

return to the Pacific as an in-

to the

arisen:

When

Major

he arrived

1943, McGuire was the eight.

49th

Fighter

In time

Mc-

475th Fighter Group to

serve in the 431st Squadron.

A

fine pilot,

McGuire

a batde over HoUandia, he had passed the score of

quickly revealed himself as one of the outstanding

Rickenbacker, making him the American Ace of

air fighters in the

Aces of both world wars. Kenney quickly took him out of combat, partly because there was cern

some con-

from Washington over the recent deaths of

Kearby and Lynch and the

loss of their "invaluable

But

it

seemed

Pacific.

to be his fate that he always re-

eight victories behind Bong. Even when Bong was away from combat, McGuire himself was

mained

also out of things with various jungle illnesses. "I'll

KENNEY'S KIDS

46

New

petered out over left in

them over

Guinea, there was

Bong

the Philippines.

to "defend" himself rather frequently, even

went along

to

how

observe

fight

still

therefore if

had

he only

a squadron he

had

trained in gunnery performed on a routine patrol.

Within hours of arriving at Tacloban, Bong was "forced to defend himself," in the words of Kenney's report

to

and shot down

Arnold,

his

thirty-first

Japanese plane. The following day, while on a reconnaissance mission to find possible fields

the

in

Tacloban

two more Japanese

sites for air-

he accounted for

vicinity,

view of the Allied

aircraft within

airdrome.

Arnold wired Kenney: "Major Bong's excuses

down

matter of shooting

happy skepticism by ficer incorrigible. is

three

this headquarters.

Subject of-

In Judge Advocate's opinion, he

War

under Articles of

liable

in

more Nips noted with

to willful or negligent

damage

122." This referred

enemy equipment

to

or personnel.

Thomas

McGuire, Jr. {here an air cadet), one of Kenney's most aggressive "kids," who risked his life and lost it trying to aid a fellow pilot. (u. s. AIR force) B.





Tacloban was a busy place indeed, for when McGuire arrived there in early October (1943), it was just in time for a tangle with a Japanese fighter formation. The twenty P-38s, warned by radio of the approaching ten Japanese fighters, six

bet," he once told

me

they'll call

Kenney, "when

war

this

is

over,

Eight Behind McGuire."

as he

is

trying to evade you,

and not shoot you

down. Never break your formation into

A man

two-ship elements.

... On

"Go

the

is

less

than

a hability.

keep up your speed.

defensive,

in close,

by himself

and then when you think you are

too close, go in closer."

McGuire was an

excellent

teacher

and

con-

McGuire

that he might eventually

was

Elated upon land-

the kind of place I like,

now?" The slender, little major learned he was now ten behind. With Bong himself in the area, McGuire jokingly kept an eye on him, muttering words about taking off "to protect his interests." The two men were good friends and teamed up to go "Nip hunting." Now and then McGuire "permitted" Bong to accompany his squadron on regular patrols during which each shared tual score

was obvious

down

on your own airdrome! Say, how many has Bong

Bong's combat career, McGuire trailed his victory it

is

shot

of the victims

got

When

but

victory.

"This

said,

One

where you have to shoot 'em down so you can land

scientious in looking after green pilots. All through

tally,

rest off.

McGuire's twenty-third ing,

McGuire became commander of the 431st Squadron and his victory score mounted rapidly. "A fighter pilot must be aggressive," he believed. "The enemy on the defensive gives you the advantage, In time

and drove the

Bong's

in the kills.

official

score reached forty (his ac-

was probably much higher), Kenney de-

cided to take him out of combat.

He had

flown 146

overtake the top ace, for the word went out that

combat missions and had nearly 400 hours of com-

Bong must be taken

bat time.

return to

out of combat. Following Bong's

from the United States he was supposed

instruct,

not fight



except

in

self-defense.

By

December 1944, when Mac Arthur had indeed returned to the Philippines, Bong's score had grown

late

into

the

thirties.

If

the

Japanese

air

forces

had

felt it

He had

was time

luctant,

lived a

charmed

and Kenney Bong was re-

life

to stop tempting fate.

hoping to bring his score to an even

fifty,

but Kenney was unyielding.

Bong would be girl

sent

back home, and

home

to rest, to

to get into

an

entirely

marry the

new con-

"CLEARING THE AIR"

47

cept in aviation, the jet plane. In order not to spoil his stateside reception,

Kenney grounded McGuire,

who had finally broken his "eight behind" jinx. "You look tired to me," Kenney told McGuire. "General,

gained

I

never

pounds

five

only two behind

"That's just



it,"

better

felt

in the last

in

my

McGuire. "You are

Bong

to

be on his way. Kenney promised that he would personally place

On

this last

Bong on

a transport in a day or two.

day Bong, perhaps for the

Bong

in his

first

time,

P-38 and Kenney

Johnson, Bong's old group commander, led some

San Francisco

in the

the

to

Bong

be greeted with "Hello,

P-38s to the attack.

When

the

Lightnings

intercepted

the

Japanese

The plane Johnson turned away

formation, Johnson fired at the leader.

war going?"

the formation uas hcninccd

point.

hy a single 'Hamp' model of the Zero, the so-called clippedwing variant of the maneuverable fighter. Also called a later

off to

Bong

ing area the sirens sounded. Colonel Gerald Richard

back

McGuire laughed and understood Kenney's

.

few days

United States

is

fly

war." Kenney explained that he did not want

..."

to take a

as the top-scoring ace of the

I

Number Two, how's

He promised

although he seemed quite anxious for

in his B-17 proceeded to an airdrome at San Jose, Mindoro. Just as they landed and taxied to a park-

told

until

to arrive in

rest,

again

Kenney

and you won't be rested enough to hear that

I've

for Bong.

learned a fact of war.

tired

and has been greeted

life.

month. Besides, I'm

saying he certainly did not want to spoil anything

burst into flame instantly as

"Hap." tlic name was changed after General Henry "Hap" Arnold learned of this designation.

the

(u.

s.

Am

force)

KENNEY'S KroS

48

enemy

tackle another

to

curred almost directly over the

and Bong watched

As

The

aircraft. field,

action

so that

oc-

Kenney

in fascination.

they watched, the Japanese pilot, unable to

stand

the

jumped from

flames,

"The

plane.

his

on the steel plank surface of the airdrome about a hundred feet from where Dick and I were standing. It was not a pretty sight. I

Jap

pilot hit flat

watched for Bong's reaction. while ago that

he ever found out that he was not

if

shooting clay pigeons,

out of combat. at the

was

would have

I

... He walked over

edge of the

violently

had predicted a long

I

and

field

to

him

take

to

some bushes

for the next five minutes

and

P-38,

other

The courageous Japanese ing

recent

to

whose own

company with another experienced P-38 pilot (a Major Rittmayer of the Thirteenth Air Force) and two new pilots. To familiarize the green pilots, McGuire intended to make a quick sweep over a Japanese field on Negros Island, west of Leyte. The morning promised to be quiet, for as they flew along at

seemed

about two thousand

be no Japanese

to

activity.

air

Unexpectedly the formation was bounced by a (a late variant, the

Zero), which fastened ing

fire

of the

tail,

pour-

McGuire reacted immediately

into the P-38.

—he

of the pilot in distress.

swept

To do

forced to violate several of his

He had

A6M3,

Rittmayer's

itself to

and characteristically

combat.

probably

research,

Shoichi

to turn the

in

to

rescue

the

however, he was

this,

own

precepts for air

heavy P-38

tightly,

and

—and

Sugita

Japan's number two ace; he was

in the position of

therefore McGuire's Japanese counterpart. Sugita's

was

score, however,

eighty, just twice that of Bong's.

Japanese aces, unhke those of the Allies and Ger-

known

class consciousness.

in the air again.

In the morning he took off in

"Hamp"

single-hand-

victory tally placed him, by war's end,

Guire was

single

who

pilot

edly attacked the four-plane formation was, accord-

little

certain

joined

returned to Leyte with the grim news.

more than ever that he was correct in taking Bong out of combat. McGuire, however, returned to the battle as soon as he knew that Bong had received his hero's welcome. Word came in on January 6, 1945; on the seventh Mc-

feet there

Rittmayer

McGuire in death. The Japanese pilot then slipped down among the hills of Los Negros and blended into the jungle and out of sight. The two new pilots

many, were not publicized; they were,

ill."

Kenney was

moments,

in

their

to

enemy. Partly

this

in fact,

own countrymen

was because

as

was simply ex-

it

pected of them to serve the Emperor and

doing they shot

down many enemy

Another reason

for their scanty

as

the

to

in so

if

so be

aircraft,

it.

fame was simply

Only the high

officer class re-

ceived due recognition; the non-commissioned officer

who had come from

or the skilled fighter

the lower

was not mentioned.

classes

Nor were

man-

they looked after as in the fatherly

ner of Kenney, "buccaneer" though he was supposed

Japanese

to be.

pilots

down

state;

were expected to go

Many

died or dropped.

many

until they

flew in an exhausted, run-

flew although seriously

with

ill

malaria, dysentery, and other tropical diseases, or

and

diseases caused by poor diet

One such remarkable

pilot

fatigue.

was Hiroyoshi Nishi-

zawa, who, before he was killed while piloting a transport rather late in the war, shot

than

a

hundred

Allied

Japan's top-scoring fighter

planes. pilot,

down more

although his

was not known during the war except

who

was

Nishizawa

to

name fellow

with two heavy auxiliary fuel tanks attached to his

him "the Devil." Sugita was second; the famed Saburo Sakai was third, with sixty-

wings.

four victories.

he had to do

extremely low altitude

at

this

McGuire apparently in

forgot about the wing tanks

the urgency of the

P-38

bank

in a vertical

Ordinarily, since he

moment, to

was so

as

he tipped the

go to Rittmayer's skilled a pilot,

aid.

he might

have succeeded, but with the extra weight and resistance of the

wing tanks

the tight turn the

moment, ground. gle.

stalled,

A

it

was not

P-38 shuddered

possible.

In

in mid-air for a

and then dropped

straight to the

massive explosion ripped out of the jun-

Meanwhile, the

Hamp

pilot persisted

on the

pilots,

pilots

called

Other outstanding Japanese

were Waturo Nakamichi

fighter

(fifty-five victories),

Naoshi Kanno (fifty-two), Yasuhiki Kuroe

(fifty-

one). Temei Akamatsu was one of the most fascinating airmen, for he

was so

totally

un-Japanese

outlook. Like a throwback to the First

Akamatsu was an and fifty

women and

in

World War,

undisciplined advocate

of wine

possibly song. His total score

was

(he survived the war), which he shared with

Kinsuke Muto and Toshio Ota.

These men fought under conditions of abuse and

"CLEARING THE AIR"

A Japanese Nakajima L2D ("Tabby"), an obvious copy of the Douglas DC-3, such as carried Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa to his death in the latter months of the war. (This Tabby was actually destroyed by

W. Tackett of Los Angeles from the top B-24 piloted by Captain Augustus V. Connery. East Providence, Rhode Island, while on a bombing mission over the Celebes.) Sergeant

turret of a

(U.

S.

AIR force)

KENNEY'S KIDS

50 hardship which their commanders expected them to endure,

in

addition

to

being

overwhelmed by a

steady flow of fresh young pilots which the

And

sent against them. craft than the

enemy

these pilots flew better air-

Japanese did toward the conclusion

But Bong was

new

the girl the

life;

safely out of all that

and happy

in

he had married Marjorie Vattendahl,

from Wisconsin, and he was working

at

new

jet

Lockheed plant

fighter, the

New York which

P-80.

in California, testing a

Bong was

still

the

American Ace

of Aces; McGuire's score had been thirty-eight and these would remain the two highest victory

scores of the war.

Bong had made

it,

he had survived, a rare thing

with top-scoring fighter

pilots.

But he could not

Times dated Tuesday, August

carried

the

7,

1945,

"FIRST JAPAN," there

beginning

headline

ATOMIC BOMB DROPPED ON was another news item. Just the

of the war.

a

elude the irony of endings; on the front page of the

day before, August

6,

1945, Richard

Bong, aged twenty-five, died when the "Shooting Star" jet he

was

heed airport

at

testing crashed

and burned

two events, merging the atomic aircraft,

at

Lock-

Burbank. The concurrence of the

bomb and

the jet

ended forever the kind of war that Richard

— —

Bong and Neel Kearby, and Thomas Lynch, and Thomas McGuire, and, for that matter, George C. Kenney had fought. History assured Bong his special place: he would be the American Ace of Aces forever and there would be no more

Approaching Guadalcanal, summer of 1942;

in

the

foreground the Enterprise and in the distance the Saratoga. Above, a Dauntless, with arrester hook down, is about to make a landing on the Enterprise. (navy dept., national archives)

rivals.

BOOK II Some Sailors—and a Few Marines

THE ISLAND

TAh

HE

High Thinkers, with their penchant same time grandiloquent catch-

military

for simple but at the

words, called issued

tive,

Operation Watchtower. The direc-

it

by the Joint Chiefs and dated July

1942, ordered the South Pacific Force

and occupy the "Santa Cruz adjacent positions" in the

One

Islands,

Solomon

to seize

Tulagi and

Islands chain.

of the "adjacent positions," not even mentioned

the

in

(Vice-Ad-

Ghormley commanding)

miral Robert L.

2,

directive,

was an

named Guadal-

island

The United on

word

States Marines,

this

pestilential

for the operation:

who

took, held, and

coined their

island,

own

but closer to the realities of the situation. Partially,

in

problem lay

what was the

and the 1898.

first

And

planning

in the first

simple fact of inexperience

real offensive

move

in the

war,

American amphibious operation since it

was made with

less

than adequate

and equipment plus mixed emotions

at

Ghormley was not too certain as to what his objectives were: Were we beginning on the road to Tokyo or merely stopping the Japanese before they became too well entrenched in the Solomons? The entire operation had been conceived and set high level.

under way

— —

had

little

on Ghormley

inspired by the burgeoning airfield

Guadalcanal

in

so great a hurry that

time to prepare for whatever

it

was he

amphibious

his

in the Pacific,

and there

intelligence

on the disposition of the

in the area. If

Ghormley harbored doubts, Fletcher, to whom he had

little

Japanese

pessimistic,

began working on the proj-

had not yet arrived

Vice-Admiral Frank

J.

delegated execution of the operation, did not like it

at all

—and

was loath

to

said so. Fletcher as carrier

would be a

commander

expose his three precious carriers (the

Wasp)

in

which he "opposed" and which he

He made

Shoestring.

"Shoestring" was less grand than "Watchtower,"

the

was

He was

accomplish. first

were no maps of the area,

ect: there

forces

to

when he

indeed,

Enterprise, Saratoga, and

canal.

died

was supposed

an undertaking felt

"sure

.

.

.

failure." it

clear, in fact, at a

meeting (not

at-

tended by Ghormley)

before the assault, that he

would not leave the

carriers

exposed

while

the

Marines were being put ashore for more than two days.

It

was estimated

that

it

would take

five

to

complete the job. This would, of course, in turn,

expose the

Marines to

Fletcher's attitude,

attack

by the Japanese.

no doubt, could be attributed

to

the fact of his not seeing any point to the entire

operation, carriers

and more

(the

subtly,

to

the

fact

that

two

Yorktown and Lexington) had gone

down under him; he

did not wish to court further

disasters.

But King, despite the objections of the Joint Chiefs, had initiated Watchtower, as ordered, early in

and

August 1942.

it

would go,

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

54

Bridge conference on the

on

flight

deck. Hatless

Wasp with DaunlJesses spotted Commander D. F. Smith and

steel-helmeted Captain Forrest Sherman, skipper of the

attend while Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes re-

carrier,

from Lieutenant Commander W. N. Beakley (back to camera). Operation Watchtower is under way. (navy dept., national archives) report

ceives

for

Ghormley back

in

Auckland

at

South Pacific

Force headquarters and Fletcher aboard the Sara-



Guadalcanal stank It

the sleepless

early

arrived off

that

first

Marines of the amphibious force

morning of August

7,

Red Beach. The

told

in the

1942, that they had smell of the place was

and the consensus was best expressed by the Marine who was supposed to have said before the

evil

invasion began,

hundred miles south of Guadalcanal, strug-

toga, a

literally.

was the effluvium of green decay

"What do we want with

a place

nobody ever heard of before?" He was not

alone.

gled with the

The

initial

same question. aerial

operations, following the pre-

up of the Guadalcanal-TulagiGavutu area by the B-17s of Kenny's 11th Bombardment Group during the last week in July and invasion

softening

early August,

upon from

were the attacks by carrier planes

the various proposed landing areas. Taking off the Enterprise,

Wasp, and Saratoga before sun-

THE ISLAND still

55

the Wildcats and Dauntlesses assembled in the

rise,

darkened sky about

thirty miles

west of Guadal-

Forty-five

Koku

25th

of the

escort,

bombers

planes,

with

fighter

opened up the

Sentai

Japanese counterattack. Navy F4Fs caught the in-

canal. It

arrived.

was

delicate,

nerve-racking work.

if

the

In

darkness, although navigation lights were permitted, the usual mix-ups occurred. Fighters

and bombers

wave over Florida

itial

Island,

Lieutenant

after

Vincent DePoix of the Enterprise spotted them and led three other Wildcats into the attack.

Within minutes smoking Bettys dropped from the

formed up, or squadrons intermixed as pilots mindful of collision gingerly tried to assemble with their

neat formations and Zeros whipped into the Wild-

own

cats.

What

units.

denly dispersed

unity

had been achieved was sud-

when

a

erupted

explosion

under

planes had

come

about to afford as poor targets as possible for the

bombers. Antiaircraft too came into action. The guns

his

By

the

striking the water.

time the fighters and scout bombers convened again, the invasion beaches

Japanese

—came



the utter surprise of the

to

under heavy

fire

from American

naval big guns.

With

the

coming of

light,

first

as

the Marines

clambered out of transports into landing craft shore,

the

Wildcats

and

un-

all

area.

had accidently dropped

bomb, which blew up on

beaches,

the

two unfortunate

together in the dark. Actually one

of the Dauntless pilots

same time on

the

loading of transports was stopped and ships scurried

flash

rendezvous

the

Scattering pilots were certain that

At

and

sudden bright

swept

Dauntlesses

and the Navy there were uselessly

distracted

fighters

on the shipping

hits

Channel

Sealark

into

the as



bombers, so

bombs dropped body of water

a

between Florida and Guadalcanal which would be-

come the

known

better

as "Iron

minutes of the

early

Bottom Bay." During aerial

first

battle

over

Guadalcanal Navy

pilots deposited the initial metal

into the bay in the

form of Bettys and Zeros.

The

off-

over

no

first

attack

had been expected, thanks

to

an enterprising Australian coast watcher, the ex-

who saw

Mason,

Paul

and

Beach Red (Guadalcanal) and Beach Blue (Tulagi,

planter

about twenty miles northeast of Florida Island).

Zeros flying over Buin on Bougainville, three hun-

With very

little

opposition the carrier planes

bombed

and strafed the two landing areas, blasting buildings, vehicles,

warehouses, gun emplacements, and,

near Tulagi, a number of float planes moored

off-

dred miles to the north of Guadalcanal.

Shortly

9

after

a.m.

the

Division began moving in



Marines of the

1st

the landing at Guadal-

Harbor, from which

But

it

was

managed

patrol,

in the

and most died, before the

litde

islands of Tulagi,

Gavutu, and Tanambogo could be declared secured.

The

major

seemed

to

problem

The Japanese

beach.

Guadalcanal

on

at

first

be the accumulation of supplies on the troops (six hundred, not five

inland,

abandoning much of

laborers,

who had been

their

own

constructing

supplies.

the

time

the

sink,

air

destroyer Mugjord.

twenty-two

bombing. Saratoga Wildcats

all

men

died

but annihilated

harm had been done. The Japanese planes were as persistent as gnats, despite losses. (Of the fifty or so planes sent from Rabaul that day, about thirty were lost. It was in

this

battle

first

over Guadalcanal that Saburo

Sakai was badly wounded and return

to

The

losses

airstrip,

this

advance warn-

the attackers, but the

fled

thousand as Allied intelligence had assumed)

sent to the Solomons.

in without

to strike

While the ship did not

It

radioed to Pearl

it

and despite the Navy planes on combat

ings,

was not quite so in the vicinity of Beach Blue, where fifteen hundred Japanese fought, drill."

HQ

another attack,

later in the afternoon

canal proceeding "with the precision of a peace-

time

Bettys

the message to Brisbane, which relayed

by dive bombers, came

shore.

the

the

Rabaul

to

in

his

somehow managed Some of the

Zero.)

were those Vals which ran out of

way

But a simple

back.

fact

fuel

on

had emerged:

inland and to the west of

Beach Red, also faded

the Japanese could be expected to fight hard for

Brigadier

General Alexander A.

the "place

into

the

jungle.

Vandegrift, stop

commanding

the

At

could

By noon he

realized

"smoothness" and "precision" were gone. twelve-thirty the

first

nobody ever heard of before." The reason lay in an unfinished airstrip on

not

unloading troops in order to clear Guadal-

canal's beaches of the clutter. that

Marines,

bombers from Rabaul

Guadalcanal. it

to

strike

shipping,

away

at

If the

at

the

New Allies

Rabaul.

Japanese had expected to use

Zealand and Australia-bound could employ

it

to

hammer

SOME SAILORS^AND A FEW MARINES

56

D-Day, Guadalcanal, August 7, 1942. Bettys from Rabaul skim the surface of Sealark Channel {Iron Bot-

remained

While Guadalcanal

quiet,

heavy

the

was

fighting progressed across Sealark Channel. It

tom Bay) as

antiaircraft

into the bay.

(defense dept., marine corps)

went down

bursts attempt

in the wall of fire

The

planes the following day as

Japanese soldiers' lethal fighting being, this

the

of

the

acrid

taste

style.

For the time

Marines on Guadalcanal were spared

introduction.

They gathered souvenirs aban-

doned by the Japanese, cursed the heat and the insects,

The losses,

and moved farther inland. aerial

assault,

despite

continued on August

via coast watcher Jack E.

8.

previous

day's

Early warning came

Read on

canal and Florida, the Bettys dropped in

over Florida, and

down to made for

met by

a wall of antiaircraft

the

American

from

The bombers bore down

ships, then flared

one by one,

cartwheeling in a pattern of flame before sinking

Iron

Bottom Bay. At

least

a

directly into the trans-



the

first

in the hold

still

was beyond

went out of control and the

at twilight

Noumea,

salvation.

Elliott

was

American contribution

The

scuttled to the

with these words:

the Wildcats tangled with the Zeros overhead,

the ships in the channel.

into

Elliott

for

hands.

Although the troops had

the ship, the supplies

debris of Iron

"We

Island and torpedo the

the Bettys were

upon

left

all

the

ships.

As

already

made

the

over Savo Island, in the channel between Guadal-

skimmed

Another stricken Betty flew port George F. Elliott.

fire

it

Caledonia, and sunk with

Bottom Bay. The next morning there was much more. ViceAdmiral Gunichi Mikawa, after hastily assembling ships from Rabaul and Kavieng, raced to the Solomons to deal with the enemy. His orders opened

Bougainville,

who counted "Forty bombers heading yours." While the Navy Wildcats sought the expected attackers

water,

New

Jarvis

burned and the

the

ships, but

was caught by Japanese torpedo

Jarvis.

Americans the

shocking,

from the

one released a torpedo, which struck the destroyer

savage and bitter fighting, which, on land, gave the first

put them

to

dozen Bettys

canal."

And

will penetrate

enemy main

south of Savo

force at Guadal-

as he led his force of seven cruisers

and a destroyer toward the island he wired the ships that "In the finest tradition of the Imperial

Navy we

shall

Every man

is

engage the enemy in night

battle.

expected to do his best."

The weather and a

series of

American blunders

THE ISLAND

57

were with Mikawa. Fletcher, fearful

lest his carriers

be struck by Japanese planes or submarines, but using as an excuse that he was low on fuel (this

was not true), withdrew the three Guadalcanal. This also withdrew

carriers

Navy

from

famous

battle

of Savo

Island,

the

morning

light

found four heavy cruisers and a destroyer at the bottom of Iron Bottom Bay. More than a thousand men were dead and seven hundred wounded.

sance planes as well as the bombers and fighters

Mikawa, unaware of his advantage, had slipped away before he did all the damage he might have

which had been countering the Japanese. Although a

done, but he had done enough.

search plane had spotted Mikawa's ships near

By noon Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, who was in command of the ships of the amphibious

dalcanal,

its

reconnais-

Gua-

warning was neither properly under-

stood nor distributed.

cruisers

pedoes

began at the

firing their

9,

1942, Mikawa's

deadly "Long Lance" tor-

unsuspecting Allied ships.

pected the Japanese,

withdrew his transports from the danger zone. With Fletcher gone and Turner gone, that left only force,

Early in the morning of August

who

all

No

one ex-

Americans were

told

sixteen thousand of Vandegrift's Marines, with only half their

would

and believed suffered from poor eyesight and could

air

not see at night, to attack after one-thirty in the

Savo

morning. Following a terrible night battle, the in-

The Ichiki detachment, transported to Guadalcanal by the newly instituted "Tokyo Express," has a rendezvous with death and the U. S. Marines on the Tenaru

to wonder what the Japanese They had been furious in their

supplies,

try

next.

attacks, Island.

had wreaked havoc in the Battle of What would they try now?

The answer came with

the

initial

run of the

River. Their major objective had been the airfield on Guadalcanal, which had fallen into American hands. (defense dept., marine corps)

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

58

"Tokyo Express." The American the

by the Marines.

being readied

airfield

Sub-

marines surfaced during the day to lob shells into it

and destroyers stood offshore

at

night.

Almost

"Washing Machine Charlie" flew down from

nightly

Rabaul

Having

ships having left

Guadalcanal, the Japanese planes took to bombing

heedless

(charging

the

honorable dead.

and

setting

them

small rubber bands.

closer to nineteen thousand), dispatched the Ichiki

dangerously;

in

the

Solomons"

in co-operation with

the Japa-

The it

of

commanded by Colonel was brought from Guam, to which

Ichiki detachment, Ichiki,

had been taken

promised,

after the

home,

sailing

as

the

went instead

it

Midway

fiasco. Instead

detachment to Truk,

18, having been brought there press,

his

regi-

blew out

oil,

his brains.

the

From Rabaul

the bands stretched

Tokyo Express would bring

small, inadequate detachments

in

under cover of night

and the Imperial Navy would venture forth from time to time. But although they coveted Guadal-

nese Imperial Navy.

Kiyanao

in

weapons

The pattern was established: if the Marines operon a shoestring, the Japanese chose to use

Americans on Guadalcanal (the actual number was

and destroy the enemy

After ripping

afire, Ichiki

ated

to "quickly attack

automatic

mental colors to shreds, inundating them with

Japanese, certain there were only three thousand

detachment

men

about eight hundred of his

with bayonets), Ichiki had no other recourse but to join

keep the Marines from sleeping. The

to

lost

slaughter

had

been

and by August

by the Tokyo Ex-

canal



especially

Command,

its

airfield



with eyes elsewhere

unwilling to pursue

its

the

Japanese

High

(New Guinea) was

course in the Solomons ex-

cept fragmentally. In the ensuing hard six months,

Japanese

the

and the Americans would learn a

good deal about each

other.

began going ashore on Guadalcanal. Within

two days the

Ichiki

detachment was ripped to pieces

in a swift series of horrible battles.

reported,

"...

I

As

Vandegrift

have never heard or read of

this

kind of fighting. These people refuse to surrender.

The wounded amine them .

will wait until .

.

men come up

to ex-

The day before

and blow themselves and the other of

fellow to pieces with a

hand grenade."

Tenaru River, which first

elements

what was called the "Cactus Air Force" landed

upon Guadalcanal. nese

Reinforcements for the "Cactus Air Force," Marine Wildcats at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. (defense dept., marine corps)

the Battle of

wiped out the Ichiki detachment, the

cans,

field,

On

August

17, 1942, the Japa-

taken over and completed by the Ameri-

was named Henderson

Field, for the

Marine

THE ISLAND

59

dive bomber commander Major Lofton Henderson, who died at Midway. Cactus was the code name for Guadalcanal.

On August 20

the

Wildcats of Marine Air-

first

Group (MAG) 23 began alighting on the at Lunga Point. These were nineteen new

craft strip

Grumman F4F-4s of Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 223, led by a lean Oklahoman, Captain John L. Smith. Along with the Wildcats came a dozen SBD-3s of Major Richard C. Mangrum's

VMSB-232 (Marine arrival

hard-rubber

was greeted by the

pitched

in

change the

to

wheels (for carrier deck landing)

tail

pneumatic

Bomber Squadron). The

force

air

who

cheering Marines,

to

Scout

of this tiny

tires.

The next day Smith

of Fighting 23

took four

Wildcats out to strafe the remnants of the Ichiki

detachment. While on patrol over Savo Island Smith

men

sighted several Zeros and led his attack.

The Zeros had

two thousand

the

little

else but turn the

planes into the aggressors.

A

the

on the Wildcats, so

feet of altitude

Smith could do

to

in

advantage of perhaps

more rugged

Zero flashed by with-

out hitting Smith's plane; then another

came

in

and

Smith rolled and found the belly of the Zero in his

sights.

His mouth went dry, he

remem-

later

bered, and his heart beat heavily as he Squeezed the button.

For an

instant he

watched the

stitching

USMC, commander of the first squadron of fighters to arrive at Guadalcanal. Smith survived the John L. Smith,

months of hard fighting over the Solomons (for which he rec£ived the Medal of Honor), later became an instructor, (defense dept., marine corps)

of his guns travel along the underside of the Zero,

which burst open and flamed. As Smith watched, the Japanese plane

had

killed his first

Turning

back

to the

fell

enemy the

to

(the

beach of Savo.

first

Smith

battle.

He

unhappily

noticed that one Wildcat was missing. Searching, he led

two remaining planes

the

a formation

to

strangely gyrating and performing aircraft

were like

all

so

Zeros.

Why

of

—but they

they insisted upon performing

many Sunday

afternoon

pilots

at

an

air

show. Smith could not fathom. Perhaps they knew that the Wildcat could not dogfight with the Zero;

same time they wasted the precious fuel for long return flight to Rabaul if they ever got

at the

the



Smith led the two

pilots

back to Henderson, where

saw the fourth Wildcat. Technical Sergeant

John D. Lindley's attack

F4F had

been

hit in

and he made for the landing

Lindley collapsed to the ground.

and eventually returned

was out

Fighting 23 had had

its

first

encounter with the

dreaded Zero, and although they

had not

lost a

to the battle.

for the time being.

lost a plane,

they

man. And Captain Smith had actually

scored against a Zero. The myth of the invincible

Zero was nearing

But the

little

its

bitter end.

Cactus Air Force grew

slightly.

On

August 22 the 67th Fighter Squadron, commanded by Captain Dale Brannon, flew up with P-400s (the

inferior export P-39,

"Klunkers"). eleven

Two

which

five

Army

pilots called

days later an unexpected incre-

SBDs, orphans on the wing,

flew

from the stricken Enterprise. These were the Dauntlesses of "Flight 300" led by Lieutenant Turner

the Zero

Caldwell, which, unable to land on the thrice-hit

where

deck of the Enterprise during the Battle of the

strip,

he crash-landed. Emerging oil-soaked from the cockpit,

his plane

ment,

there.

they

seriously hurt

But

of nineteen).

He was

not

Eastern Solomons, were forced to seek haven at

Henderson

Field.

Immediately

drafted

into

the

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

60

Solomons (August 24-25, 1942). In

engage-

this

ment, primarily a battle of carrier forces, land-based

Marine

aircraft participated in their first

battle in the

Yamamoto had carriers,

major

air

Solomons. assigned a formidable armada of

battleships,

transports of the

dred troops

and cruisers to protect four

Tokyo Express

to

Guadalcanal.

carrying fifteen hun-

The

striking

force,

under Nagumo, somewhat recovered from Midway,

was based upon the heavy

carriers

Shokaku and

Zuikaku; the Ught carrier Ryujo was assigned to a diversionary

group under Rear Admiral Chuichi

it was to draw American attention away from Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka's transports and the big carriers. When word came in from coast watchers and

Hara, whose task

reconnaissance planes of the presence of large Japanese naval forces proceeding toward Guadalcanal, Belt P-39s, which in

its

export version was designated

P-400 {originally intended for Britain but repossessed by the Army after Pearl Harbor). Although disparagingly called "Klunkers" by Air Force pilots, the planes served with distinction in the Cactus Air Force. Here they are mud-mired on Henderson. (u. s. AIR force)

Admiral Ghormley ordered Fletcher's three

carriers

north to cover the sea approaches to Guadalcanal.

Ever since Fletcher had pulled away from Guadalcanal he had patrolled in the seas to the south of the Solomons.

Saratoga, and

By dawn of August 23 the Enterprise, Wasp lay east of Malaita Island (about

150 miles east of Henderson Field). Cactus Air Force, these strays from the Enterprise

would spend the next month on Guadalcanal.

Thus the

battle for

peculiar forms:

Guadalcanal took on

on land,

sea,

at

and

in

its

the

with Henderson Field at the focus of action.

August 22 and 23 the two in

own air,

unfavorable weather

fleets feinted gingerly

(unfavorable, that

is,

for

search planes), neither actually finding the other

although both Japanese and Americans

knew

of

Em-

phasis might shift from one aspect of the fighting to

other

the

bloodily;

when

and then

the it

fighting

might

as the ill-starred Battle of fighting

on land erupted

shift to the

sea (such

Savo Island). The

was generally on a small

scale

aerial

because

both forces operated under their individual handicaps



the Marines

and

their small

units,

lack of

spare parts, minimal fuel supply, and the problem of the weather

and climate.

The Japanese had access to a supply of replacement aircraft (which were brought into Rabaul from the homeland, Tinian, Truk,

These planes and the new

away

and other outposts).

pilots

were then tossed

in piecemeal, wasteful attempts.

Both

aircraft

and men were pressed beyond endurance and both were consumed with abandon.

When sults

both sea and

air battle

combined, the re-

were more decisive than the prodigal thrusts

from Rabaul. Such was the Battle of the Eastern

A Marine Wildcat takes off to meet an oncoming Japanese bomber force. Henderson was either soaked in mud or choked with dust, neither of which was salutary for engines or aircraft.

(DEFENSE DEPT., MARINE CORPS)

THE ISLAND

61

one another's presence. Fletcher, misinformed by his intelligence that the

to the north the

Japanese

fleet still lay far

and thus not expecting action, sent

Wasp, with

its

screen, off to refuel. This left

the Saratoga and Enterprise aircraft plus the tatter-

demalions of the Cactus Air Force to take on

Yama-

moto's forces. to the south,

Yamamoto

ordered Vice-Admiral Nobutake Kondo,

command-

As

Wasp

the

pulled

away

ing the Guadalcanal supporting force, to press

on

with the attack.

Shordy

after

nine

on the morning of

o'clock

August 24 an American Catalina on patrol spotted

200 miles north of

a Japanese carrier, just about

Malaita

—and

about 280 miles from Fletcher's re-

afswiV-wr-

was the Ryujo on its mission of diverting Retcher away from the other two Japanese maining

carriers

carriers. It

and the landing forces approaching Guadal-

The Zero,

the

specifically

"Zeke 52," the mythical

of the early months of the Pacific war, but which the Marines, especially of Smith's "Fighting 23,"

fighter

canal.

While

the

ruse

worked



^Fletcher

dispatched

bombers and torpedo planes from the Saratoga and Enterprise the cost was rather excessive for the



inconsiderable Ryujo. After dodging the Enterprise

Avengers and Dauntlesses,

it

was struck by planes

from the Saratoga and sunk. Meanwhile, the

bombers and dozen

fighters

found vulnerable. A beautifully designed, nimble aircraft, the Zero was susceptible to the heavy-gunned American planes. Its pilots were unprotected by armored cockpits and it burned easily. (u. s. AIR force)

fifteen

which the Ryujo had

the gunnery officer



who had

also, like Carl, a

Midway

vet-

given Smith cause for concern

launched earlier had tangled with Smith's Fight-

eran and

on the way to attack Henderson Field. Not one of the Japanese planes reached Guadalcanal. The Wildcats intercepted the Japanese formation and destroyed sixteen enemy aircraft six of

on the ship coming over because he brooded about

ing 23

— Midway—Captain

which were Zeros. One of Smith's few veterans of

VMF-223



a veteran, in fact, of

Marion Carl knocked down two Kates and

a Zero

Other Fighting 23 members, Lieutenants

himself.

his

chances of death

last

seen of him was

in

The first to go, however, had been a named Bailey who had married just the day before he joined VMF-223. His Wildcat was

last

seen afire as

it

The Ryujo and

splashed into the sea. its

aircraft

Fletcher and

carrier.

careening, and burning

The planes were ordered to fly on field at Buka near Bougainville

to the

Japanese

to

the

The Marines of Fighting 23 chipped away further the myth of the Zero in the opening fight of

the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. cost

to

there

whose

still

were the American

special targets

the

two

carrier

Nagumo, became aware

carriers.

captains,

of each other's

presence when their respective search planes came

upon

carriers.

This was Nagumo's desired moment;

he ordered the aircraft launched,

the

first

wave,

consisting of sixty-seven planes led by Lieutenant

north.

at

to,

having been attended

remained the Shokaku and Zuikaku,

driven off by the Wildcats, returned to the Ryujo, listing,

The swarm

lost.

into a

youngster

Almost simultaneously

only to find a crazily

air

of Zeros.

Pond and Kenneth D. Frazier and Gunner Henry B. Hamilton, each shot down two of the attackers. The surviving Kates and Zeros, A.

Zennith

—was

the

when he dived

them, for the squadron

serious losses that day.

But not without suffered

its

Fred Gutt, noted for

sardonic humor, was seriously wounded;

Roy

first

his

Corry,

Commander Mamoru

Seki,

where an American

carrier

second wave, launched

less

which raced for the spot

had been

consisting of forty-eight planes,

was

A

by a American

led astray

navigational error and never found the carriers.

sighted.

than an hour later and

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

62 Seki's Kates, Vals,

and Zeros, however, found the

engage the Wildcats, the Kates descended to near

"bogies" were discovered

water level for torpedo attacks, and the Vals, divid-

As soon

Enterprise.

as

on the radarscopes of the two American

now about

ten miles apart, the air above

with more

carriers,

them

Lieutenant A.

O.

Vorse, leading a section of four

F4Fs from

the

Saratoga, was the

Japanese planes

—two

than

Wildcats.

fifty

first

to sight the

groups of bombers, shepherded above and

below by

four Wildcats at the bombers,

about ten thou-

still

sand feet higher than the American planes. 2^ros

dropped down to

Zero's top altitude.

Vorse

led

Now

to

attack

on the bombers, and

dogfight three Zeros

Me- 109

fell

upon

and what appeared

water

—he

the way.

it all

A

who had

carrier

destroyer swept by to pick

in to

in.

up.

Some had

dropped very low to avoid radar, but four Wildcats, the section of Ensign G.

W. Brooks, had been

dis-

patched by the fighter director of the Enterprise to investigate a curious

echo on the radarscope. Sixty

for the Enterprise.

were diving into "a wall of

But they came on nonetheless, despite the heavy and the Wildcats. Within two min-

antiaircraft fire

The explosion whipped from

into the sea, pilot rattled

by the attack, simply flew into the water. The

and

their

gun

more than

and

its

bombers

aloft,

on deck squinted sky,

With

as well as Japanese all

its

fighters air-borne

the Enterprise waited.

into the

Men

sunny yet cloud-flecked

smeared by the smoke of

men

thirty

from where the

them Uke rag

first

bomb had

falling aircraft.

Crews

manned their 20-milUmeters. away from the Enterprise, flare. The Zeros had climbed to

had

bomb

hit.

burst, five yards

In a searing flash,

spouting black smoke, listed; a quarter of

men

But repair parties went

work inmiediately

to

deck.

Less effective than the

third, flight

dead.

attend-

and began to clear the

ing to dozens of injured,

flight

guns

its

men

were out of action and more than seventy

fell

onto

first

two

however, ripped a ten-foot hole

deck and knocked an elevator out

of operation.

Suddenly,

after

about four minutes of concen-

trated havoc, the last of Seki's bombers, a Val, hug-

ging the water raced for

The

listinj,

its

own

carrier.

burning Enterprise, though in serious

was not

in

danger.

Even while

the

dam-

age-repair crews worked, the great ship continued to make speed and even informed men aboard the North Carolina that

assistance." Within an

struck, the Enterprise to

land

its

aircraft,

hour

"required no

after the last

was able all

the concerned it

wind

except Turner Caldwell's

fuel-depleted Ffight 300, which landed at

Field (to join the Cactus Air Force).

The Saratoga escaped

bomb had

to turn into the

About

Seki fired a signal

dolls

burst,

lay dead.

at their battle stations

twenty-five miles

men men

suddenly vanished from the earth. The great carrier,

trouble,

fled.

—American

into the Pacific.

positions, tossing

Within seconds a second

five

the Enterprise, too, the battle raged, and

burning aircraft fell

the Enterprise, throwing

across the decks. Below, where the

Within minutes four other bombers, victims of the

tail

Enterprise

the

struck the aft ele-

It

the forward section to the deck, blasting

in

out of the

Above

attack

of the war.

vator and cut through three decks before detonating.

came into his sights. Another quick burst and the bomber splashed wing over wing across the water.

survivors turned

bomb

the

members of Brooks's section, fell of them shot down. One Val, its

North

that they

felt

Brooks's

burst

ap-

fire."

damaged area and to contain the fires. Even while this went on a third bomb

first

its

the

escort,

its

followed the Val; the Japanese pilots

bombs, the

three

out of range

seconds other guns, from

and from

itself

destroyed a Val, and as he turned away, a Kate

other

still

—but without Zeros

miles from the carrier Brooks and his section found

eleven bombers, Vals and Kates

was

Carolina, joined in on the Val. Soon other bombers

make

him

tracers. In

of the opening of the

to land

did not have enough fuel to

But the bombers continued coming

—heading

proach with his

its first

be an

to

it

20-millimeter guimer indicated

took

the four Wildcats returned

fuel,

to the Saratoga, except for Vorse, in the

a nervous

nose and dropped toward

its

Even while

utes

ensuing

in the

Val tipped on

al-

burning into the sea. Out of ammuni-

and low on

tion

first

the Enterprise.

attacks.

after five in the afternoon,

the

with the advantage of

screaming

a

climb above the

Japanese bombers. But again the Zeros darted disrupt the run

the

intercept, but the Wildcats, strain-

ing at full throttle, continued

titude,

Around twelve minutes

the

fighters.

With a shout of "Tally Ho!" Vorse pointed the

small groups, prepared for dive

ing into

filled

attack,

Henderson

and although two

THE ISLAND

The

third

63

bomb

striking

elevator out of operation

heavy

Japanese

killing

Navy photographer

Robert Frederick Read. Following the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, the Enterprise was under repair for two months, (navy dept., national archives)

were

found,

too

Harold Larsen of the Saratoga, were sent out to do

the

and

carriers

Enterprise,

putting the

they

escaped serious damage (the Zuikaku received one

something about Kondo's advance force heading for

bomb on

the flight deck). Returning Japanese pilots

Guadalcanal. The handful of planes attacked and

gleefully

reported

sinking

the

Hornet,

Doolittle's

"Shangri-La," and thus avenging the insult to the

Emperor.

It

was, of course, the Enterprise, not the

Hornet, and battle for

it

was not sunk, but would be out of

two months while being repaired

at Pearl

Harbor.

The

strength.

thirty-degree

was over on the

Nagumo As

the

gingerly

first

husbanded

day came to a

list,

Truk with

the loss of the port engine, a

aboard, and casualties.

Kondo continued

a

fire

looking for

Fletcher, but by midnight gave up the search.

But "Tenacious" Tanaka, the the

carrier battle

Fletcher and rier

sent the seaplane carrier Chitose back to

brilliant overseer of

Tokyo Express, continued on

for Guadalcanal

day; both

with his troop-laden transports. While the carriers

their car-

and

close,

five

Avengers and two Dauntlesses, led by Lieutenant

fighting ships

the Solomons, north.

On

the

had been battling

to the east of

Tanaka had been coming

in

from the

morning of August 25, Tanaka's ships

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

64

"You never had

were

it

discovered

VMSB-232 and

so good"

and the

Marine camp on Guadalcanal during the rainy season. (defense dept., marine corps)

Mangrum's Dauntlesses mixed bag of

strays

of

of the

Enterprise, Flight 300, took off to stop the Japanese.

Before they had found the ships, however, Smith

had

to turn

back

his protective Wildcats, at the

of their fuel for the trip out.

The Henderson

end

Field

bombers, meanwhile, continued their search. Suddenly, as

if

they had materialized out of the mist,

there were the ships:

the cruiser Jintsu, Tanaka's

reverberating flash, the ship leaped in

Tanaka was knocked unconscious

the

water.

as plates buckled,

bulkheads were sprung, communications went out,

and

the

forward

ammunition

Tanaka, when he came

to,

lockers

flooded.

realized his flagship

finished as a warship for the time being.

ferred his flag to the destroyer

He

was

trans-

Kagero and ordered

the Jintsu to return to Truk.

Having barely taken up

his

new

post,

Tanaka saw

and the transports.

Ensign Christian Fink of Flight 300 place a thou-

The Marine and Navy bombers struck. Lieutenant Lawrence Baldinus, of VMSB-232, neatly placed a bomb on the deck of the Jintsu, just forward of the

sand-pound bomb into the heavily loaded transport

bridge and between the two forward turrets. In a

transport, glowing with heat, to take off survivors.

flagship,

plus eight destroyers

Kinryu Maru. ers

He

immediately ordered the destroy-

Mutsuki and Yayoi

to run alongside the stricken

THE ISLAND

65

The American bombs,

their

to

circled

sunk)

later

scene

the

Hmping away and

Jintsu

was

bombers, having expended

dive

burning furiously

Henderson. Tanaka then

self better to the

damage

of

felt

problems



the

Maru (which

the Kinryu

— and

returned

he could apply him-

hand. But no sooner

at

had the Dauntlesses become specks

in the

antiaircraft

the

as

was not so

LaVeme

bardment Group based

Saunder's 11 th

A

the fact

in

Bom-

Hebrides, Ta-

bombers had never

American claims

spite

New

in the

naka took some consolation high-flying heavy

Tanaka;

opened up on these

batteries

from Colonel

planes,

distressing to

that

the

hit a ship, de-

bombs tumbled

eyes the Mutsuki erupted in a series of three

and sank. Shortly

flashes

gust 25, 1942,

Shordand

around noon Au-

after,

Tanaka was ordered

Islands,

one

to retire to the

The

groups, south of Bougainville.

Solomon

smaller

the

of

first

major

at-

tempt by the Japanese to reinforce Guadalcanal had failed;

had cost them the Ryu jo, ninety

it

and hundreds of men. American seventeen planes

had not been

If

the

random bombs or

Marine areas with

Tanaka's ships could positions around

shell the field

the Cactus Air Force.

—popular because

fighting operations took their toll

aircraft,

amounted

to

battle

of the

truly decisive, at least the full

ships

—provided

submarines and planes.

When

night

fell

sels slipped into Tulagi; the

supplies while

its

Tokyo Express,

can positions. Thus, piecemeal, each side kept the going but neither was able to swing the

fighting

balance.

But piece by piece the American buildup continat what seemed a piddling pace to those Marines

ued

on Guadalcanal. Clearly the Japanese intended to

MAG-23

joined

teen Wildcats) and

blood-soaked significance, Henderson was

At

its

resolutely

mud.

.

.

."

a

quagmire of black

Maintenance of the few

aircraft

was

formidable because of the dust and mud; then too

was the humidity. The

there

barrels freeze

oil that

prevented gun

from rusting on the ground caused them to

up

forward echelons

the airmen. All shared the miseries of climate and the shortage of fresh food

was

eaten,

(captured Japanese rice

but only after the careful removal of

worms). Malaria and dysentery were

common and



these

(with nine-

VMSB-

planes were flown in to

situation

remained generally

and rubber band. But standing

between the proper reinforcement by the

bombers and fighters of Kenney's and the few B-17s and P- 3 9s of

string Marines, the

Fifth Air Force,

those groups that would one day be unified into the Thirteenth Air Force.

Vice-Admiral John

therefore had as tough a time as

VMF-224

es-

August the

Japanese of the Guadalcanal forces were the shoe-

at fighting altitude.

Ground crews

many

The

reinforce Rabaul.

rod wrote, "was a bowl of black dust which fouled

was

became

Major Leo R. Smith's

ever, almost twice as

as before: shoestring

it

it

the end of

231 (twelve Dauntlesses). At the same time, how-

no pleasure drome. "Henderson Field," Robert Sheror

to bring in

destroyer escort shelled the Ameri-

were Major Robert E. Galer's

not be attributed to conditions at Henderson Field.

by

in

Japanese

the big ships

which arrived to land reinforcements and

rest of

engines

critical.

land-based Marines dug

All awaited the arrival of the

in.

sential to hold the island.

That Marine and Navy morale was high could

living

raced away from Guadalcanal and the smaller ves-

take back Henderson Field, and so

airplane

But

and the prob-

eluded

they

on Guadalcanal.

all its

the visor pro-

lem of reinforcement and supply became

American

when

in their in-

tected the eyes from the blinding sun.

contingent of reinforcements had not been landed

For

familiar,

but invariably topped with

flight clothes all

a blue baseball cap

and

that

to the style of the pilots of

They became

photographs came out of the Solomons, formal

so

flares

and the Marine

it.

Yet there was a dash

and the services of the injured

Enterprise for several weeks. carriers

losses

dropped

either

the

During the day supplies could be brought

from the open bomb bays and before Tanaka's horrified

up

lighted

to the contrary.

pattern of five-hundred-pound

who

Louse,"

south than

high overhead appeared a formation of eight Flying Fortresses. This

was nagging fatigue. There was no rest at night thanks to "Washing Machine Charlie" or "Louie the

so

air

S.

McCain, commander of

when he informed Nimitz be

all

operations in the South Pacific, stated the facts

consolidated,

expanded

that

and

enemy's mortal hurt, the reverse

Guadalcanal and

if

"Guadalcanal can exploited is

true

if

reinforcement required

to

the

we

lose

is

not

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

66 available Guadalcanal cannot be supplied

and can-

not be held." Plenty of action soon blooded the newly arrived

commander Galer himThe 23 joined with the new men on

Fighting 24 and squadron

opened

self

his string of victories with a double.

veterans of Fighting

missions in order to give them the benefit of their experience.

John Smith continued

as his squadron's leading

ace with his closest competitor for that position be-

Marion

ing

battle,

But even the veterans could

Carl.

and on September

Bloody Ridge

the Marines fought at

lose a

1942 (while on land

14,

derson from a heavy attack)

hold Hen-

to

was

Carl's Wildcat

shot into the sea. Carl checked his parachute and

took to the

swam

one of the

Qemens, It

Landing

air himself.

he

in the water,

where he met one Corporal Eroni,

to shore,

local

scouts in the service of Martin

the Australian coast watcher.

took Carl and Eroni

five

days to return to Hen-

derson Field, during which time the colorful and likable pilot

was mourned by

He

a

arrived

his

unshaven

gaunt,

khakis at the headquarters of the 1st

eral

Marine Air Wing (1st

Roy

S.

Geiger.

The

squadron mates.

tall

MAW),

latter

man

dirty

in

commander

of the

Brigadier Gen-

had only recently

ar-

rived in Guadalcanal himself to organize operations.

His headquarters had been established only two

weeks previously

in

wooden shack,

a

Robert E. Galer, commander of Marine Fighting 24 of Guadalcanal, thirteenth-scoring ace of the Marine Corps and Medal of Honor recipient. (defense dept., marine corps)

"the

called

Pagoda" by the men, about two hundred yards from the

Henderson runway

When

Carl



reported

visibly pleased that the

returned.

called "the Bull's-eye."

to

man

mander Leroy C. Simpler commanding), rendered

was

homeless after the torpedoing of the Saratoga by

given up for lost had

Japanese submarine 1-26. While the carrier put into

Geiger the

latter

So was Smith, who happened

to

be in

Pearl Harbor, joining the Enterprise, there also un-

airmen spent nearly ten days

the Pagoda. After relating his adventures with Eroni

dergoing repair,

and the wheezy

twiddling their thumbs at Espiritu Santo in the

back,

Carl



as

wondered about

little

launch that had brought him

had the aces his score as

in

New

Guinea

compared with

Smith's.

"Well," Geiger told him, "Smitty has run his score

up

to fourteen

during the

five

days you were away.

Hebrides. at

its

By September

Henderson

11, 1942, they

in time for the

New

had arrived

heavy battling around

the airfield.

Although Admiral Ghormley had consistently

re-

That puts you only three behind. What can we do

fused

about

from Guadalcanal (except the Enterprise's Flight

it?"

"Goddammit, General," Carl him for five days!"

retorted,

"ground

Thus did the double-edged sword of attrition from one crisis to the other. Three days before Marion Carl went temporarily missing Cactus Air Force received an unexpected reinforcement: of

VF-5

operate

permit carrier-based aircraft to

which had no other place to go), he

patched Simpler's Wildcats to Henderson's

oscillate

twenty-four Wildcats

300,

to

(Lieutenant

Com-

center.

dis-

attrition

—and

Obviously something was brewing

it

was, for the Japanese were determined to seize Hen-

derson Field.

The

operational

toll

at

primitive repair facilities

Henderson because of and fatigued

pilots

was

Chief aerial contenders in the critical phase of the war in the Pacific. Straddling the center near top, is the Douglas C-47 (the DC-3 of civil life), in battle dress, which served in all war and troop transport and was used to transport 7,000 Allied troops across the Owen Stanley Mountains in New Guinea. Continuing counterclockwise: a Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" fighter in the markings of Saburo Sakai, based at Lae, New Guinea, in the summer of fold

theaters as a freighter

1942; Douglas A-20

Havoc which was widely used as a deadly

skip- bomber by

Kenney's

Fifth

Air

Grumman F6F Hellcat, the plane designed specifically to deal with the "Zero;" MitG4M "Betty'.' land-based Navy medium bomber, which ranged over the Pacific; Lockheed by Richard Bong of the 49th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force; Grumman

Force; the

subishi

M8J Lightning as flown TBF

(actually

an Eastern

Aircraft

TBM, manufactured by General

so badly at the Battle of Midway but exceedingly well the standard Navy fighter at the war's opening.

in

Motors) /\i/e/ige^ which fared the later battles; Grumman F4F Wildcat

Joseph A. Pheli

THE ISLAND

67 and

Truk-Palau,

^^7^

Rabaul noted, the

Marines

additional

into

were made to reinforce

efforts

all

When Kawaguchi

Guadalcanal.

at

flown

aircraft

struck on September 12 one battalion, led by Lieu-

tenant Colonel Kusukichi Watanabe, was expected "to dash through to the airfield."

The Marines,

ex-

pecting something, took a different view. Like the Ichiki detachment, Kawaguchi's force,

was chopped

furiously,

men came under

Further, Kawaguchi's

various air

one of the worst being the noonday (Sep-

attacks,

tember 12) Zero

with

which fought

pieces by the Marines.

to

by more than two dozen Bettys

visit

escort,

which mistakenly bombed and

strafed Kawaguchi's rear echelon at

Tasimboko on

the north coast.

Even the Klunkers,

the three remaining airworthy

67th Squadron P-400s, came in low during the

final

phase of the Battle of Bloody Ridge to end

all

Japanese hopes of making the dash to Henderson Field.

The

fighting

was hard and the Marines suffered

59 dead (to the Japanese the clear-cut victory

on

toll

of 708), but despite

land, there

was a

disaster at

sea.

On

September

15, the

day following the Battle of

Bloody Ridge, the Hornet and Wasp, the two Marion E. Carl of Hubbard, Oregon, and a top-scoring ace of Fighting 23. (defense dept., marine corps)

maining carriers

in

transports carrying the 7th Marines

escort six

re-

the Pacific, had been called to to

Guadalcanal. While moving into the waters of the

Sea

Coral

On

high.

one day

in

September, for example, eight

Two

planes crashed during takeoff. gether

again

dragged

off

the plane

to

balized for parts.

One

were put

to-

remaining half dozen were

but the

bone yard

fighter pilot,

it

be canni-

to

was reported,

looked at the growing junk heap and said to another,

"At

this rate

we can whip

ourselves without

any assistance from the Japs."

Bombing

attacks were

stroyers shelled eral

Kiyotaki

Marine

intensified,

positions,

Kawaguchi

arrived,

Japanese de-

and Major Genvia

the

Tokyo

Express, in the evening of the same day the Saratoga had been

hit,

to organize the taking of

Hen-

known

came under submarine Carolina was O'Brien.

Although

making temporary

Meanwhile, with the pickup

in the activity of the

of naval forces at

battleship

it

North

North Carolina remained

two on

repairs, spHt in

sank, a burning mass of junk. That

Hornet against Nagumo's large and Zuikaku, and the light

its

"fish" but three

twenty-one-inch torpedoes ripped into the

Wasp and

left

only the

Shokaku Zuiho and

carriers, the

carriers

Junyo. This was an unhealthy imbalance of naval in the Pacific

The only

and

bolstered

it

did not bode well for the

Army men on

slight brightness

aircraft that, deckless

Tokyo Express, a concentration

The

way to the United States. The Hornet eluded the Japanese

Marines and Navy and

role of the vanquished.

attack.

the

power

the Americans were expected to participate in the

(be-

to Espiritu Santo, the O'Brien,

embraced even the surrender ceremonies

which

Junction"

by a torpedo; so was the destroyer

and returned

afloat after

hit

derson. These plans were most thorough, for they in

"Torpedo

as

tween Espiritu Santo and Guadalcanal), the carriers

was

Guadalcanal.

the additional

Navy

because of the loss of carriers,

up the always

tattered Cactus Air Force.

"What saved Guadalcanal,"

Brigadier General Ross

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

68

The Wasp, torpedoed en route

to

Guadalcanal, before

it

sank on September 15, 1942.

(navy dept., national archives)

commander

E. Rowell,

of the Marine Pacific Air

Wings, commented, "was the loss of so

On

riers."

of

total

October

fifty-eight

1,

many

car-

1942, General Geiger had a

operational

(Wildcats,

aircraft

Dauntlesses, Avengers, and the usual three Klunk-

on Guadalcanal. But

ers)

had about three times

And

Japanese

the

this

at

Rabaul the Japanese

inexplicable,

Hyakutake proposed

the recapture himself. built his force

As

resolute

in

their

to lead

additional insurance

around two tough

he

divisions, veterans

of the fighting in the Philippines, Java, and other

conquered areas. These

units, the

2nd (Sendei) and

38th Divisions, were equipped with heavy

and tanks, neither of which

number.

remained

however

Ichiki nor

had had. At the same time the

artillery

Kawaguchi

aircraft strength at

Moresby, but before that he wished to recapture

bomber base was Buka in the northern Solomons and fighters could be accommodated at Buin on Bougainville. Even the generally unsympathetic Imperial Navy co-operated with the promise of such great

Guadalcanal by October 21. After the disasters of

battleships as the

plans

to

take

Guadalcanal.

commander of Rabaul, had his own

Harukichi Hyakutake, teenth

keep.

the

Army

at

Lieutenant the

General Seven-

timetable to

His major project was the taking of Port

Ichiki

detachment and the Kawaguchi force.

Rabaul was raised

to

180;

a

established at

shima. The

Haruna, Kongo, Hiei, and Kiri-

Tokyo Express was

in fine shape.

THE ISLAND By

69

Hyakutake himself arrived by the express he had around twenty thousand (per-

the time

nightly

haps several thousands more; precise figures were maintained

not

awaiting the

during

word

these

to go.

On

days)

tense

troops

October 9 Hyaku-

this

had a good idea of which

take, the soul of efficiency,

spot was to be selected for the surrender of General

Vandegrift.

On

planes were led in by Major Leonard K.

These were the

of VMF-121, a squadron was Captain Joseph J. Foss.

officer

VMF-223 had

Smith's veteran

Davis.

aircraft

whose executive

depleted with six Eight,

by

and

killed

pilots

among them Smith

time become

this

six

wounded.

himself, survived. Smith,

with a score of 19, was the squadron's ace,

Marion Carl was second with a the

squadron

day

fighting

For

his part

total

was

future

down by

11 Vi

)

,

Division"

had debarked the same.

To

Hen-

derson. There were no Japanese ships offshore. This

was

"Pistol Pete,"

one of the heavy

which had been brought

in

artillery guns on the Tokyo Express

only two nights before.

But

that

was only the prehminary

to the evening's

time to time Pistol Pete would lob

keep everyone on

their toes,

and

nerves' edge, and then in the middle of the night

Louie the Louse flew over and planted three

flares

across Henderson Field, a red one at one end, white in the middle,

who led the first of the Dauntsquadrons (VMSB-232), like Smith, survived

atmosphere

o'clock in the evening shells began falling on

just to

fighter pilots.

troops, the

Regiment),

Nighttime brought even more of the Marines' surprise, just after six

one over,

to the United States to train

Army

Infantry

to be treated to the typical

but in the day-to-

two months.

first

(164th

of Guadalcanal.

From

John L. Smith was awarded the Medal

Marine

"Americal

them

Foss.

diversion.

Richard Mangrum, less

shot

numbers

against odds for nearly

Honor and returned

of

1

and

But the

total of 16.

contribution of Fighting 23 did not lay in (

terception, except for a couple of Zeros, one of

Just before these raids the

same day twenty Wildcats of MAG- 14 (making the total forty-six fighters); the

this

arrived

harm was done when five thousand gallons of aviation fuel went up in smoke. More bombers came over about an hour later and again Henderson was worked over. Because both raids had come without advance warning there was little opportunity for in-

and blue

at the

other end. For the

next hour and a half the Haruna and the

Kongo

although the squadron had suffered eleven killed (seven

whom

of

were

and

pilots)

five

wounded

(four of these being pilots); the rest of the squadron

had to be evacuated by

Mangrum was Flight

300 of

the battling

air for hospitalization.

and

the Enterprise

had been used up

in

crew members were shipped

its last

out to return to their carrier by late

The weight

Only

own power.

able to leave under his

September.

bombing effort out of Henderson devolved upon Major Gordon A. Bell's VMSBof the

141, which began arriving on September 23 and which by October 6 could muster twenty-one pilots,

and upon Leo Smith's depleted other strays which had

Joseph Foss got

his

come first

in

VMSB-231 and from the south.

Zero on October 13,

1942, during an afternoon raid by Japanese ers

and Zeros.

selected to

was

It

open

their final seizure of

which Hyakutake told

bomb-

day which the Japanese

this

his troops

Guadalcanal,

would "truly de-

cided the fate of the entire Pacific."

The just

first

after

of the Japanese bombers,

noon,

and a nearby

holed the

strip,

Fighter

1.

runway

coming over at

Even more

Henderson irreparable

Marines extinguish a burnirii; Hi Idem at Henderson Field after a Japanese bombing raid. (defense dept., marine corps)

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

70

more than nine hundred fourteen-inch shells into the Henderson area, ripping up the steel matting of the runways, damaging planes, and killing men. It was a nightmare, literally, of flame, explosion, and terror. As Tanaka observed he found that "the whole spectacle [made] the Ryogoku fireworks display seem like mere child's play. The night's pitch dark was transformed by fire into the laid

a direct hit bits

mile.

This exhilaration was not echoed ashore. the Marines and soldiers finally crawled

destruction

their

dump which

a ration

deposited

in every direction for a half

was the center of

since the airfield

General Geiger's Pagoda was also

structure,

Marine aviation commander moved

his

end of Henderson went on: savage fighting

ters to the eastern

so

at-

This

which afforded the Japanese a good aim-

ing point, was bulldozed to the ground,

And

hit.

it

and the

headquar-

Field. in the jungle

around Henderson, bombardment by night and day,

excitement ran throughout our ships."

the

And

tention.

brightness of day. Spontaneous cries and shouts of

foxholes,

upon

and pieces of Spam

bleary

When

from

their

eyes

took

as each contender attempted to reinforce their forces

on the island. This made Morison called "a curious

for

what Samuel

tactical situation

Eliot .

.

.

:

was disheartening. To begin with, forty-one men were dead, five of them pilots; one of the latter was

a

Major Gordon

with the Japanese in control at night and the Ameri-

in

Bell,

only recently arrived with his

who had

replacement Dauntlesses. General Geiger, dived

into

shelter

knowing

he

had

thirty-nine

Dauntlesses to dispatch against the Japanese, found

upon emerging

that only four

were

still

flyable. Six-

teen of his forty Wildcats were wrecks and the

remaining ones required repairs.

Fortresses, of eight which

Santo, were destroyed.

full

About

of

Flying

had arrived from Espiritu

The

from Henderson as soon as than

Two

all

away some on less

hours."

It

exchange of sea mastery every twelve

was

like

some mad changing

cans by day. But Hyakutake, with the aid of

moto, hoped to change

The called

all

Yama-

that once and for

all.

night following "the Night," as the Marines it,

the Japanese ships returned, this time in

the form of a couple of cruisers, which laced the

Henderson area with nearly

eight

inch shells to cover the landing of

By dawn

hundred

more

eight-

reinforce-

of the next day, October 15, the

ments.

possible,

Japanese believed that Henderson had been pretty

— and

well taken care of

damage

of the guard,

surviving six got

power. the only

virtual

that

no one regretted was

they were not far from

wrong. In the morning an American search plane

came upon

five

Japanese transports, standing

off

Tassafaronga (about ten miles west of Henderson

Bombed-up Dauntlesses over Guadalcanal head for ships of the Tokyo Express. their targets (defense dept., marine corps)



on

the north coast of Guadalcanal)

rather discon-

A

Consolidated

PBY

"Catalina," a patrol

bomber

that

battle)

into a dive

bomber.

(convair/general dynamics)

Marine Major "Mad lack" Cram converted {for one

certingly

unloading troops

and supplies

in

broad

Geiger found he had this

affront.

with which to contest

little

Only three Dauntlesses were

The

con-

other two cracked up while attempting to

get off the

pocked Henderson runway. But

attacks could accomplish very the Zeros could circle

in

whatever planes could be mustered for

dis-

little,

come down from

especially

ground crew men patched up the

By

and found

they siphoned this fuel

first

Wildcats, Klunkers (P-400s), and even a sin-

to

gle Catalina

Bougainville to

aircraft

ten in the morning, three hours after the

single-plane attacks, a dozen Dauntlesses were ready

when

supplies of fuel hidden in the airfield;

mastery.

single

over the transports. But as the day progressed,

some long-forgotten swamps around the

over during the American dayUght period of sea

and only one actually

dition to get off the ground, did.

into

puting with the Japanese their bold attempt to take

daylight.

fly.

went out

to raze

the transports' ren-

dezvous area. Major Jack Cram, the Catalina, aircraft,

Blue Goose, took

off

General

pilot

Geiger's

of the

personal

with two two-thousand-pound tor-

pedoes slung under the Catalina's wing.

He had

arrived from Espiritu Santo with the torpedoes, but

72

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

found there were no Avengers in condition to deliver them. Although no PBY had ever made a daytorpedo run before. Cram, by dint of vocal

light

power, obtained permission to drop the

who earned

the

mission, took off

fish. Cram, nickname of "Mad Jack" on this in company with a mixed flight of

Dauntlesses and Wildcats. Counting his slow Catahna, the American formation consisted of twenty-

one planes. Over the Japanese transports milled about thirty Zeros.

As Cram bomb

the

Daundesses raced

set

the

run.

aircraft

Catalina on

in

its

for

their

attacks.

own, near-dawdUng

The

big plane soon came under antifrom the ships (one hit sheared off

fire

Cram bore down on one of the transports and released the torpedoes, both of which tore into the side of one of the the plane's navigation hatch).

transports, ripping

open.

it

Mad

Jack Cram, though successful in his unorthodox mission, was now in plenty of trouble. Several Zeros,

upon

realizing

Catalina had been up

what the

pilot of the

peeled out of the fighting

to,

above and began devoting

full attention to the Blue Goose. Having already dived the Catahna beyond

normal safe speed. Cram tested the groaning

its

airframe and wing even more in attempting to evade the Zeros. Although he

managed

keep

to

and himself from being holed with

was punctured

batics, the Catalina itself

his

crew

his crazy aero-

half a hun-

Major Jack R. Cram, aide and General Roy

pilot for

Marine Major

S. Geiger.

dred times on the way to Henderson Field. Coming in

low

to pull in to the field,

one angry Zero on

his

tail.

Cram

high for a landing, so

Fighter

satellite field.

Cram found he

waddled onto the

continued on to the

in

to

1,

for

the

field.

Seeing the Catalina under his Wildcat, its

and shot the Zero out of the

When

wheels

for

Mad

"deliberate

Jack

Cram

the day's

with a court-

ports,

which burned and had

much

destruction

their

to

Cross. trans-

be beached, with

cargoes.

This included

artillery

ammunition,

and,

of

Even B-17s had come up from

course,

dition to mixing with the Zeros,

in ad-

also strafed

transports and the beaches, inflicting a terrible the

New

the

Hebrides to sink one of the ships. Fighters,

the

toll

on

Japanese troops. American losses were three

Dauntlesses and four Wildcats, but those Japanese

had not been destroyed pulled away from Tassafaronga. ships which

Still,

command

him the Navy end the Japanese had lost three to

pilot's

destruction of government

property," and then awarded

By

al-

air.

Geiger saw what remained of his

plane he threatened martial

he

one of the fighter pilots, Roger Habennan, forced with a smoking Wildcat, also

ready lowered for landing, onto the Zero tail

as

strip

Haberman eased

attack,

supplies,

troops.

Lieutenant

out of the fighting

came

had

1.

His luck improved over Fighter

VMF-12rs

still

His airspeed was also too

nearly five thousand troops had been landed

and the night was again rendered hideous by ing

from

cruisers.

On

shell-

October 15 Geiger had only

thirty-four aircraft (nine Wildcats) to stand off

any

Japanese attempt to retake Guadalcanal. The truth

was

that

all

was not

at all well in the

While the word was not released public, the

Solomons.

to the

American

words of Admiral Nimitz were

arresting:

THE ISLAND

1

73

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

74 Henderson

Yamamoto

Field,

Combined

sive plans for the

at

Truk had impres-

He

Fleet.

assembled

four carriers, five battleships, fourteen cruisers, and forty-four destroyers for an all-out effort which,

was planned, would

settle the

question once and for

it

bothersome Solomons

Yamamoto was embold-

all.

ened by the knowledge that with the Wasp sunk

and the Saratoga undergoing

repairs, his only carrier

come from

opposition would

know, however,

from the three bomb

hits

He

the Hornet.

that the Enterprise

did not

had recovered

taken in the Battle of the

Eastern Solomons and was ready for action.

The land

opened

battle

first,

when Hyakutake's

three-pronged attack got off to an unco-ordinated

on October 23. Communications being what

start

they were in Guadalcanal's jungles, the neatiy laid plans went quite readily awry.

American positions

To

soften

up the

for Hyakutake's grand

blow a

large force of Japanese

bombers with

fighter escort

came down from Rabaul and Buin. These were met by two dozen Marine and Navy Wildcats. Qimbing to meet the Japanese, Joseph Foss counted sixteen bombers and perhaps twenty-five Zeros.

As he

led his flight in an attack

upon

five

Zeros, Foss found himself about to be victimized

by twenty, which dived out of the sun. The Wildcats

snapped into a to escape the

the

fast dive

enemy

way Foss caught

tail

to accumulate the speed

As he zoomed

out of

a glimpse of a Wildcat

on the

fighters.

Another Zero was attached to the

of a Zero.

Joseph J. Foss, USMC, who shot down twenty-six Japanese planes over the Solomons {twenty-three of them over Guadalcanal during the period October 9-November 19, 1942) to earn himself the Medal of

Honor and until

New

the accolade of America's ace of aces Richard Bong's score began accumulating over Guinea, (defense dept., marine corps)

Wildcat. Foss reacted immediately and the second

Zero quickly, under air.

Foss,

who

his guns, disintegrated in

"The motor goes The pilot pops out of

described the process: crazy, lopsided whirl. pit like

mid-

witnessed several such explosions, off

in

Rain on the next day discouraged

a

his cock-

a pea that has been pressed from a pod.

jungle

over

the

prematurely

The air is filled with dust and little pieces, as if someone has emptied a huge vacuum cleaner bag in the sky. The wing section, burning where it had

Road. The day

joined the fuselage, takes a long time to

the Japanese planes

down it



like a leaf

attacks the

air again."

air,

sailing,

fall. It

goes

then almost stopping as

sailing again,

and attacking the

Foss was forced to turn sharply to avoid

"the falling junk" as he whirled into another Zero.

named

the

mud, most U.S.

aircraft

were immobilized when

came over

in the

nese land, sea, and air

traffic

picked up; the big

down

four of the day's tally of twenty Zeros

and four bombers.

final

push was on.

American

aircraft

were unable to get

dealt severely with the Japanese.

shot

morning and

gave the Marine positions a severe mauHng. Japa-

smoking engine, the

head-on attack by

Maruyama

Marine history as "Dugout Sunday." Thanks to

in

strips until later in the day,

result of a

ex-

October 25, 1942, went down

after,

Before he was forced out of the fighting with a badly

a Zero, which he also shot out of the sky, Foss had

all activity

cept for the Japanese troops sUthering through the

scored



copiously,

five

bringing his total

up

off the air-

but once they did they

Zeros

in

to sixteen

Once again Foss a single combat (his final score

would be twenty-six). Dugout Sunday, which had

THE ISLAND

75



closed with^a loss of twenty-two aircraft to fighters

After midnight, October 25, 1942 Dugout Sunday on Guadalcanal a Catalina out of Espiritu

and four

Santo found the Japanese

begun so propitiously

Japanese

the

for

airmen,

to antiaircraft guns.

Three hundred miles

to the east of Guadalcanal,

meanwhile, Yamamoto's Guadalcanal support force,

(Nagumo), and

the Third Fleet

(Kondo)

the Second Fleet

the task of intercepting

American attempts

on the

torn to ribbons by Hyakutake's troops

and also

land, ing.

Aware

to rein-

presumably being

the Guadalcanal garrison,

force

was assigned

waited. This powerful force

was laconic: Long,

of the presence of the large Japanese

'b'

course

a time, attempting to collect the big flying boat, low

So did Nagumo,

darkness

rides.

To

New Heb-

rendezvous point north of the this

was

command

64

(built

around

These forces were un-

the batdeship Washington).

der the tactical

TF

added

also

The odds were

Nagumo

from even.

far

4 carriers could count on 212

with his

Kinkaid had

aircraft;

more information. Then turned away.

fuel,

who

reversed

When

course.

Nagumo had

slipped into the

of the Americans and the increase of aerial

and

radio activity, but he had no real idea where their carriers were.

On

October 26

a search plane

C. Kinkaid of the Enterprise.

on

and no enemy ships were found. The same frustration attended Nagumo. He was aware

Thomas

of Rear Admiral

'a'

Please notify

x-ray.

the Enterprise later in the day, fanned out searching

Halsey ordered Task Force 61 (the Enterprise) and 17 (the Hornet), the only carrier forces avail-

sent

Lat.

Dauntlesses, Avengers, and Wildcats, launched from

for Japanese ships,

able, to a

'd'

force

task

The Catalina, after dropping flares upon the Japanese force, shadowed the carriers for

naval forces to the north of the Santa Cruz Islands,

TF

speed

'c'

The message

fleet.

enemy

"Sighted

next of kin."

is-

from escap-

to prevent the survivors



mystery was dispelled when

all

from the Shokaku sighted the Ameri-

can forces bearing northwest. the Enterprise also spotted

A

search mission from

Nagumo's

carriers.

There

battleship to stand

were no longer any military secrets as men began

4 Japanese (as it eventuated, Task Force 64 did not participate in the battle, which left only the South Dakota of TF 61). To round out the

preparing for attacks upon the carriers in what came

171. There

was but

American

1

against

there were

picture:

12 Japanese cruisers versus 6

American, and 24 destroyers against

exuded confidence for the even more

so, for

the Enterprise Still,

time since Midway,

first

he was not aware of the fact that

had returned

Nagumo was

to active duty.

He

uneasy.

awaited word of

Vandegrift's surrender to Hyakutake, but

come. In

fact,

Nagumo

14.

it

did not

because of some confusion (and poor

communications between

three

the

to be called the

Two ton B. Irvine,

Batde of Santa Cruz.

Dauntlesses, one piloted by Lieutenant Stock-

Strong and

came upon

other by

the

Ensign Charles

Shokaku and

the big

the small

Zuiho; the Zuikaku was hidden under cloud some miles away. Strong signaled to Irvine that they would attack

the

moved

in closer,

So

nearest

carrier,

the

Zuiho,

so

Irvine

though behind Strong's Dauntless.

far so good, for they

had moved

into attack posi-

tion without antiaircraft or Zero interference.

broad arrows

Strong rolled over, put his flaps

in dive position,

pointing toward Henderson Field on his field map),

and with an eye on

Hyakutake had been forced

toward the slender yellow deck of the Zuiho. Three

postpone the con-

and wired Hyakutake

hundred yards behind, Irvine followed. The Daunt-

on with the American

defeat, for the ships

lesses

were running low on

from the

island:

Kawaguchi, of the

Bloody Ridge,

certain he

saw some of

A

Then good word came

fuel.

fighting at

Field.

to

aiming scope, plummeted

fretted

certed assault. to get

Nagumo

his

in

his

ill-fated earlier

an excess of hope was

men overrun Henderson

naval liaison officer with the ground troops

sent the message, "Airfield taken."

It

was

a pre-

screamed down out of the sun

reached a point about

fifteen

hundred

the Zuiho, which. Strong noted, carried

on

its

until

no

each

above

feet

aircraft

decks. Evidently a strike had already been

launched by Nagumo. Strong released his five-hun-

dred-pound

bomb and

seconds later Irvine's arched

away from

the

of his Dauntless also.

belly

Both

mature conclusion, as it turned out, but it was enough for anxious Nagumo. He refueled and

struck the Zuiho in the after section of the flight

turned

guns, and ending the Zuiho as an effective carrier

toward

Guadalcanal,

not

knowing

Marines were blunting the land attack.

the

deck, ripping the deck open, toppling antiaircraft

for the rest of the battle.

Although

it

would have

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

76 been possible to launch

Nagumo any

that the

aircraft.

less,

aircraft,

which he had

al-

Captain Sueo Obayashi reported to

ready done,

Zuiho would not be able

The Zuiho, vulnerable and

all

to land

but help-

must leave the scene of combat. dives,

flight to

then sought the safety of near-water

escape the antiaircraft

by Zeros. While

their rear

fire

and the attacks

gunners fought off the

Zeros that came in too close. Strong radioed the location of the Zuiho and the

amount

he estimated he and Irvine had done to Dauntless had taken some tail,

which slowed him up a

planes strained at

question was: it

full

hits bit,

in

shifted

course;

absent from the Zuiho's

if

the

two of

With

their

practically

number no fuel

settled down upon the deck The time was ten twenty-six; the

two Dauntlesses

They had done a good morning's work

—and

the Enterprise, thanks to a sudden local rain squaU,

had momentarily escaped

attack.

At 5:15 A.M. Nagumo had launched the attack

group,

under the

Commander Mamoru

Irvine's

the Zuikaku.

the wing

as the

ing.

damage

For

command

Seki,

of

first

Lieutenant

from the Shokaku and

this strike the

Shokaku had pro-

and

vided twenty- two Vals and twenty-seven Zeros; the

two Navy

Zuikaku put up eighteen Kates. Thus the strike was composed of dive bombers, torpedo bombers,

the Enterprise be? If

flight

the

of the Enterprise.

it.

had come under observation, the ship would have

certainly

after losing

of

speed for the Enterprise. The

Where would

up

to the Dauntless gunners.

Dauntlesses had been air-borne since six that morn-

Strong and Irvine, meanwhile, had pulled out of their

the Zeros gave

Japanese

planes,

deck, had found

it,

and

fighters.

the

American

As

the formation proceeded

carriers

toward

they passed another group

of aircraft going in the opposite direction.

were Dauntlesses from the Hornet on

These

their

way

Finally, after a forty-five-mile chase, close to the

For some reason Lieutenant Commander Hideki Shingo,

waves and then dodging through puffs of cloud,

leading the Shokaku's Zeros high above the bombers.

An Avenger of Air Group 10 prepares to take off from the Enterprise at Santa Cruz. Hand-held signs

under the cowling reads: "Jap CV [carrier] Speed 25 at 8:30" and, directly over wheel, "Proceed without Hor-

hoping to do hurt to the Japanese

the situation could even be worse.

give

aircrews

last-minute

information;

sign

directly

net."

(navy dept., national archives)

carriers.

THE ISLAND

A

77

Kate passes over a

cruiser, its target

a

carrier; Battle of

Santa Cruz.

(navy dept., national archives)

did not see the Hornet formation, or did not recognize the planes as those of the

enemy, so no

tack was ordered. For this oversight Shingo's ship would suffer.

moment

as the

It

was

bomber

at-

home

a ludicrous fraction of a

The good luck

errands.

force

first strike

would

men

of the

last until

it

of the Hornet's

found the Japa-

Not

so,

however, for the

Eight Avengers,

team.

men

three

of the

first

Enterprise

Dauntlesses,

and an

escort of eight Wildcats took off early and headed for the

presumed position of the Japanese

Barely a half hour out from

the

carriers.

Enterprise

the

survivors

Dauntiesses

three

make

to

the

attack

and there

were only four Wildcats to protect them.

But they did not

the carriers

find

bombs and torpedoes

their

Kongo-iy^s"

to be "a

and the Haruna were

into

battleship.

units in

advance force, they were not

nese ships.

When

away.

miles

fifty

reassembled only four Avengers remained with the

brothers under the

pilots,

skin though enemies, passed each other on similar

about

only

the

ily,

While the Kongo

Vice-Admiral Kondo's hit that day.

probably the Chikuma, a cruiser ing force.

and dropped

what was believed

in

This was

Nagumo's

strik-

Though struck and damaged rather heavChikuma continued to function despite

casualties.

Though deprived

the

of the Zero escort, which turned

formation suffered a sudden attack from above by

back

Almost simultaneously two Avengers, one of them flown by Lieutenant Commander John A. Collet, commander of Torpedo 10, spiraled burning

cause of fuel consumed in the fighting). Lieutenant

Zeros.

into

the

ocean four thousand

feet

down. In the

slashing attack by fighters from the already burning

Zuiho, the Enterprise force was cut in Wildcats,

at

half.

The

a disadvantage at low altitude, were

handicapped; three went

down

into the

ocean and

another, smoking, turned back for the Enterprise,

after

had attacked the Enterprise force (be-

it

Commander

Seki led

the Hornet.

As combat

in to attack, Seki

antiaircraft

on

was

its

hit

Vals and Kates toward

air

patrol Wildcats swept

dived toward the Hornet. Heavy

rose to

he had given his

after

Seki

fire

his

hammer him and command for the

several times.

shortly attack,

His plane rolled over

back, flame streaming behind, and continued

toward the Hornet.

Bombs were

flung into the carrier

The

Battle of Santa Cruz, October 26, 1942.

with antiaircraft

filled

fire,

The

air

the sea churning with the

movement



and of heavy ships and plunging aircraft bomb or Japanese plane.

the Enterprise (left) dodging a

(navy dept., national archives)

from the Vals.

came

in

A

stricken

smashed through the the

detonation of

Kates came

in,

its

flame,

spaces

flight

deck,

off the

Two

Seki's,

stack,

and burst with

own bombs. And

low on the water,

into the carrier's sides.

neering

probably

Val,

upon the Hornet, careened

then the

to jab torpedoes

cut into the engi-

fish

and the Hornet,

spouting

steam,

and gouts of black smoke, lurched to the

who

believe wars can be fought

Hornet would, before its

small share.

it

on vengeance, the

sank into the Pacific, have

Led by Lieutenant James E. Vose, bombers located the Shokaku and

the Hornet's dive

broke through the screen of antiaircraft Zeros.

Bombs

Shokaku, Nagumo's in the

across

splashed

the

deck

fire

and

of

the

flagship, splintering great holes

deck and producing violent flames, twisting

starboard. During the torpedo attack another suicidal

hot gun barrels out of action and starting fierce

run was made on the Hornet, portent of things to

blazes below decks. Although the

come, when a Kate, which may have been that

escape the

of Lieutenant Jiichiro Imajuku,

ran in upon the

final fate of the

communications were

its

smashed a gun

to leave the battle.

metal, and exploded near the forward elevator shaft.

The

U.S.S. Hornet, Doolittle's "Shangri-La,"

finished

and

truly could the

claim vengeance for the

Japanese

Tokyo

raid.

at

But

long

was last

for those

Shokaku was to it

was no longer

capable of either taking or launching planes and

Hornet from dead ahead (seemingly under control), gallery, rolled into a ball of flaming

Hornet,

He

out.

Nagumo was forced command

turned over the

Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuda aboard the unharmed Zuikaku and fled northward for Truk. The Shokaku would be out of the war for nine months. to

But the Zuikaku and the Junyo (the

latter

of

THE ISLAND

79

Kondo's advance force) were battle.

Vals and

found

the

still

Kates from

and

Enterprise,

very

both

much

these

though

fire,

the cool

command

dodging under

saved the Enterprise from further damage. Gunners

AA to

batteries, destroyed hit

the

however, suffered a ers.

hit

armed with heavy

Japanese planes attempting

Enterprise

also.

The South Dakota,

from one of the Junyo bomb-

So did the cruiser San Juan. The destroyer

Smith was crashed by a Kate, which aflame.

And

Hornet

to take

as

it

drew

men from

into

the

set the ship

vicinity

of the

the burning carrier, the

Makikumo and Akigumo. The Hornet and Porter were American, which were

lost in

To reduce off

the hazard of

fire,

a

damaged Dauntless

Cruz,

the Battle of Santa

for a great victory in

what they

fleet

make

of the South Pacific." Despite the damages to the Shokaku and Zuiho, it could be said that Yamamoto had won the battle, but there was a subtle perplexity to consider.

was

true,

the sea

No

Japanese ships had gone down,

and the only

carrier

which

was American, but under

sizzled

that sea also

it

under

were

sixty-nine Japanese aircraft totally lost, with an additional

two dozen forced down into the

sea.

Some

of the pilots from the latter were saved, but

the few remaining veterans

(navy dept., national archives)

claims

called "the Battle

bombers and

all

fighters,

of Pearl Harbor, the

is

off the deck of the Enterprise into the waters

Santa

the only ships, both

Cruz. Truly could the Imperial

the aircrews of the sixty-nine

pushed

men

flaming mass," was sunk by the Japanese destroyers

of Captain Osborne B. Hardison

of the South Dakota, a battleship

fifteen

and heavy

three

to the misery of the day, but skillful

marine 1-21. The Porter sank, taking

trapped in the firerooms, and later the Hornet, "a

bombs struck the Enterprise, causing terrible fires and damage and resulting in the death of forty-four men. The Kates too added antiaircraft

destroyer Porter was torpedoed by Japanese sub-

Japanese

the

planes were badly mauled by fighters

in the

carriers

Indian Ocean, and the Coral Sea, were

lost.

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

80

massive Enterprise out of the attack of

and

planes, Vejtasa

more

to investigate

had been an

It

incoming

unidentified, active

five

aircraft.

Vejtasa had

for

flight,

torpedo

were vectored

his four Wildcats

upon

already destroyed two dive-bombing Vals, and

new

reaching the

point, he

saw no

Kates streaking for the Enterprise.

had

to

If

the

Kates

was customary, Hardison would have

up, as

split

than eleven

less

make

the Enterprise dance to elude

all

of

them. With his wingman, Lieutenant Leroy Harris, Vejtasa approached the stepped-up column of three

Vs

The other two men

plus two Kates traihng.

in his

Lieutenant Stanley E. Ruehlow and

flight,

Ensign W. H. Leder, teamed up to attack. While

Ruehlow and Leder were busy with a

pair of Zeros,

Vejtasa and Harris came in below and astern of

As soon

the Kates.

men began two

trailing

as they

were within range both

and each took out one Kate, the

firing

They pushed

the three V-formations.

remaining Kates and

throttle to overtake the nine

just as they did entered a great

cumulus cloud.

Vejtasa no longer saw Harris, but ahead of him,

make out some Kates. He moved member of the formation, and opened with his six .50-caUbers. The Kate exploded and fell away. The next plane lost its rudder dimly, he could

aimed

in,

Lieutenant Stanley W. "Swede" Vejtasa of VF-10, the Enterprise,

climbing into the cockpit of his Wildcat.

(navy dept., national archives)

at the left-hand

and then burst the

third

flame

into

and

too.

fell

It

had exposed

length to the spray of Vejtasa's guns

was frustrating in was also obvious that American "carrier strength in the Pacific was now dangerously low," in the words of King. Even If

the Batde

so, the

at

Japanese had

taking

many

lost their last

major attempt

pilots,

loss

who might have

eagles" for Nippon,

of so trained

was a heavy price

pay for the Hornet and the Porter and seventyTypical of the aerial action which marked the

ferocity of the Santa

Cruz

battle

was

that engaged

W. "Swede" Vejtasa. Leading three other members of VF-10 (the famed Lieutenant Commander James Flatley's "Grim in

by

Lieutenant

Stanley

Reapers" of the Enterprise)

Vejtasa spent more

on October 26, 1942. Captain Hardison all but oscillated his

than nine hours in the Shortly after

Low but

air

and the

its

last

splashed into the sea.

on ammunition, Vejtasa spotted another Kate,

had pulled well away from him and he elected

it

to

leave

it.

As he

to

it

the

antiaircraft

bomber,

which awaited

and

free

of

its

torpedo,

The Wildcat dived upon

scene.

the

fleeing

fire

circled the arena of batthng ships Vejtasa

saw another Kate, obviously with

his

last

the

few rounds Vejtasa

knocked down

The

four U.S. planes.

V

plane of the

it

back Guadalcanal. But the

experienced

more "sea to

of Santa Cruz

lack of a clean-cut victory

faster

Wildcat turned more sharply and Vejtasa opened

up on the Japanese bomber.

its

Alerted,

Kate attempted to turn, but the

four

his seventh enemy plane of the day. VF-10 Wildcats had so disrupted the

Kate attack that three of the survivors jettisoned their torpedoes

drop

theirs,

and

fled.

Two

others did not even

although the one Vejtasa had

the ship's antiaircraft batteries

left

for

may have been

the

Kate that crashed into the Smith.

The

Battle of Santa

for the Japanese.

Cruz ended, a

tactical victory

The Hornet was gone and

Enterprise had been hit and crippled; this

left

the

only

I

THE ISLAND

".

.

.

and the

81

last

plane

.

.

.

splashed into the sea."

The

Battle of Santa Cruz, though

two

carriers in the Pacific, the Enterprise

it

cost the

Ameri-

and the

Saratoga, which was also crippled and undergoing repair.

Wisely,

Kinkaid pulled away to the south

out of reach of Kondo's big ships and Kakuda's

remaining still

aircraft.

The Zuikaku and Junyo were

capable of dispatching bombers which might

have spelled the end of the Enterprise. Nor could

cans the Hornet and crippled the Enterprise, cost the Japanese heavily in aircraft and experienced pilots. (navy dept., national archives)

risk the possibility of a night

engagement

for the simple reason that the Japanese

were better

Kinkaid

at

it

at

the

frustrating

time than the

engagement

all

Americans.

many experienced

won, but they had

lost too

The

which the naval

battle ashore,

designed to cover, had

It

was a

around: the Japanese had

failed.

battle

pilots.

had been

DERAILING THE

TOKYO EXPRESS vJTuADALCANAL remained

American

hands.

operation on Guadalcanal. General Arnold of the

General Hyakutake's beautifully reasoned plan of

Air Force was placed a few degrees above Mac-

attack and his formal, very proper surrender cere-

Arthur, and almost on an equal level was General

mony

Marshall.

never came

off.

in

By October

28, with

more

At

this time, actually, supplies that

might

than three thousand Japanese dead on Guadalcanal

have gone to the Pacific were being sent instead to

and sixty-nine irreplaceable

Europe

off

Santa Cruz,

attempt

to

carried.

The

its

take

that another Japanese

miserable

island took

on a

importance (which

strategic

realized

the

was secondary). The

deep in the sea

pilots

was obvious

it

island

had

beyond

significance

were determined

it

and the Japanese were resolved

back.

It

became

for both sides as

much

to take

a matter

of "face" as military consequence.

But

the

to

was much alive

was

less a

comforts

these basic pursuits

again,

Between

operations.

(like

keeping

it

battles the

—and dry).

became monotonous in But when the fighting

monotony was regarded with

bitching, their

Marines engaged

but

also.

Despite

his attempts to co-ordinate the operations of the

Imperial

fleet

Army And this

with those of the Army, the

had not yet taken back Guadalcanal.

Army

Navy heavily The Army, on the other hand, could not understand that the Navy was unin

by the

men,

ships,

and

able to maintain

cost the Imperial

aircraft.

its

ships indefinitely at sea "con-

suming valuable fuel" while the its

Army

fought out

inconclusive land battles.

As

always, the solution must devolve

upon

the

attempting to take Henderson Field by land. Just

Doug" MacArthur. The

was responsible

con-

in the art of

average line Marine was sure that only MacArthur's

for example,

all

'Canal.

Yamamoto, on Truk, was unhappy all

little

himself

Imperial Navy. Obviously Hyakutake's error lay in

grabbing and holding of equipment, such as the

P-38

North Africa.

nostalgia.

most colorfully profane antipathy be-

ing reserved for "Dugout

marooned on

failure

on "the Canal"

matter of face than skin. Keeping

simple

day-after-day

came

garrisoned

the major preoccupation, of course

scrounging

Even

men

who beUeved

cern to the Marine

militarists eventually

Allies

to keep it

mis-

for the projected invasion of

But the so-called "Big Picture" was of

for the shoestring

obviously — —Henderson must be as

at least

it

appeared so to

Yamamoto

taken from the sea by very

heavy bombardment. This would ground the planes

and keep the men

in their foxholes while reinforce-

ments were brought

in.

With Henderson pulverized,

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS would be no problem

it

ill-equipped, sick,

83

for Hyakutake's starving,

and dying troops (plus reinforce-

ments, of course, not so hungry and better equipped)

end the protracted, embarrassing wretchedness

to

of Guadalcanal.

The

Hyakutake by Captain

plan, as outlined to

Ohmae, Chief of Staff, Southeastern seemed to make sense. While Tanaka's Tokyo

Toshikazu Fleet,

Express brought reinforcements (the 38th Division)

Guadalcanal

to

channel

(the

in eleven transports

New

between

down The and

Georgia

Isabel islands northwest of Guadalcanal),

Slot

Santa a large

and destroyers from

force of battleships, a cruiser,

Admiral Kondo's Second Fleet would subject Henderson Field and environs to a tremendous shelling.

At

same time another force of Kondo's

the

fleet

would lay to the north of Savo Island to furnish distant cover. Close in, Vice-Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, with cruisers and destroyers, would provide close support for the landings of the 38th Division.

During the night of November 12/13, 1942, what

come to be known as the when the Japanese

has

Battle of Guadalcanal

erupted

raiding

Vice-Admiral Hiroaki Abe, on

its

under

force,

way

to

open the

upon Henderson, ran up against a handful American ships under the command of Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan. With his five cruisers shelling

of

and eight destroyers Callaghan took on Abe's two battleships

(the

Hiei and Kirishima),

cruiser

the

Nagara, and fourteen destroyers.

"one of the most furious sea battles ever fought," according to Admiral King, illuminated the dark

At

and rocked the

standstill,

air

two

close quarters the

fought to a near

side.

Four American destroyers and two

were

lost.

lost

cruisers

only two destroyers,

but the battleship Hiei had been

many

hit

times,

which prevented the planned heavy bombardment of

Henderson Field

lieved

of his

(for this failure

re-

the

and nearly

all

hundred American

was

lives

struck.

were

More

lost in the

Marine

canal.

But Abe had run and Henderson had been

Savo

Island.

planes,

in

his

Express run and

way

Daundesses and Avengers

Though

just

miles

ten

in trouble, the

could

five destroyers,

north

into

More Daundesses came

of

Japanese ship,

still

put up anti-

But under the attack of the

two torpedoes went

battleship.

the

side

first

ten

of the

shortly after

and

further harassed the stricken ship.

Meanwhile, as the damaged but operational Enterprise

who

pilots

found the crippled Hiei

aircraft fire.

spared.

back from

back to the Shortland Islands, dawn came to Guadal-

screened by

than seven

to turn

await further word. While he fumed on his

of

nightmarish

Also frustrated was "Tenacious" Tanaka,

was ordered

full

aboard the San Francisco were kiUed when

the bridge of the ship

battle.

Abe was

command). Callaghan paid

price for this frustration, for he his staff

(CV-6) sank the Japanese battleship of the war. the Hiei (with the aid of other Navy and Marine planes from Guadalcanal). (NAVY DEPT., NATIONAL ARCHIVES) first

with savage gunfire.

fleets

with the heaviest loss on the American

The Japanese

a takeoff run from the flight deck of

the Enterprise. Aircraft of this unit

For the next twenty-four deadly, confused minutes

night sky

An Avenger on

plowed

northward

Avengers escorted by

six

for

Guadalcanal,

nine

Wildcats were dispatched

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

84

less destructive

than previously, partly because they

had been harassed during

PT

little

On November

1942, Tanaka,

14,

Henderson Field had

that

bombardment by dis-

flitted

around them.

tractingly

- .^

their

boats from Tulagi, which had

all

but certain

been put out of

really

commission by the night naval bombardments, raced Express down The Slot with the largest number

his

of reinforcements to date (three thousand

men

of a

combined naval landing force and eleven thousand troops of Lieutenant General Tadayoshi Sano's 38th

The eleven

Division). a

transports were screened by

dozen destroyers and a small umbrella of Zeros

from the

light carrier

Hiyo.

At 9:49 A.M. Lieutenant Doan Carmody,

flying a

now

search Dauntless from the Enterprise,

closer

The Slot. The ships were 120 miles from Guadalcanal, making fourteen knots; the Express was due to arrive at found the transports

to Guadalcanal,

in

the island around seven in the evening. After radiothis information to the Enterprise, Carmody, company with another DaunUess (pilot: Lieutenant W. E. Johnson), dived upon the Japanese ship

ing in

Dauntless on morning patrol in the Pacific.

(navy dept., national archives)

formation in The

Both missed with

Slot.

however, because of heavy antiaircraft

As

to the island.

they

came

into Guadalcanal the

Enterprise pilots spotted the Hiei. While the Wild-

discouraged the lurking Zeros the Avengers,

cats

swooped down upon the Japanese batdeship and put three more torpedoes into it. This continued for most of the

led

by Lieutenant Albert

day

as

shuttle

Marine

P. CoflBn,

Navy

and

bomb

a

were destroyed. They too had

failed in this mission, for

doned and scutded by the

ran

between the Hiei and Guadalcanal. In the

fighting eight Zeros



aircraft

first

its

by night the

ship,

aban-

crew, sank into the Pacific

Japanese battleship to be sunk by Amer-

ican forces.

Despite this upset, Yamamoto's plan proceeded.

The

following night

(November 13/14) was

by a thousand eight-inch

shells

torn

lobbed into Hender-

their

bombs,

fire

and the

quick action of seven Zeros of Tanaka's

SBD

Johnson's

swooped down debris.

fell

the

into

sea

air cover.

and two Zeros

spray the splash point and the

to

During the next few hours,

this

depredation

would be heavily avenged. If

ever there was a hell on earth,

it

was carried

on Tanaka's eleven transports that November

14.

With merciless desperation, fed by the knowledge that

more Japanese reinforcements on Guadalcanal fatal, Marine and Navy aircraft assaulted Tokyo Express. All afternoon every flyable plane

could be the

on Guadalcanal, plus others from the Enterprise, fully

loaded with bombs or torpedoes, raced to The

Slot.

Despite the whirring Zeros, of which there

were only a few thanks to the hesitant Kondo 150 miles to the north,

who

sent small

numbers from

damage

time to time from his two carriers, the Dauntlesses

was done, though two Wildcats were completely destroyed and fifteen others pocked by shell fragments.

and Avengers ripped into the Japanese ships. Thousand-pound bombs rained onto the decks of the

These, along with a holed Dauntless, were repaired

transports

son from cruisers sent from Rabaul.

and ready to

fly

1

great

by the next day. None of the eight

P-38s sent down by suffered any

No

Mac Arthur

only the day before

damage, however. The holes

were quickly

filled.

The Japanese

ships

in Fighter

had proved

Even

and torpedoes slashed

the Wildcats,

when

into

their

sides.

they ran out of Zeros,

dived to water level to strafe the crowded decks.

The

first

lesses led

attack,

made by

by Major Joseph

eighteen Marine DauntSailer, Jr.

(VMSB-132)

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS

A

beached,

morning

85

burned-out Japanese troop transport the

"Buzzard Patrol,"

the

after

which

literally

men and November 13-14, 1942.

slaughtered the

ships of the

Tokyo Express

(defense dept., marine corps)

and Major Robert Richard (VMSB-142), plus seven

were

Avengers led by Lieutenant Albert P. Coffin of the

their cockpits.

Enterprises VT-10, scored hits on three transports

sands of bobbing heads

and a

More Enterprise pilots, under LieuCommander James R. Lee, joined in what

cruiser.

tenant

became by midday But true

to

his

Tanaka

tenaciously

VS-10:

when



the water, the helpless

in

to debris

the

final

and wreckage. By

strike

took

from

off

by Glen Estes of the Enterprise's four Dauntlesses (three of which were

Henderson

virtual slaughter.

nickname,

P.M.,

in

But they machine-gunned the thou-

near-drowned clinging

4:45

Some vomited

sickened by the sight.

literally

led

—seven

pressed on, leaving a transport here and there en

Marine) and

route in his bloody wake. Transports lay dead in

ports had been sunk or were sinking or burning or

the

water burning, some

split

open

spilling

men,

dead and injured into the churning water, as destroyers

circled

in

an attempt to rescue men as

fighter cover

both. Estes dropped the last

bomb

Japanese trans-

of the day,

made

a direct hit and returned to Henderson.

The four surviving transports were in bad shape but Tanaka proceeded to Guadalcanal. Some-

also,

American planes. The carnage on the Japanese transports, inhumanly overcrowded to begin with, was ineffably obscene.

time after midnight he arrived, quite depleted, at

For the packed though human cargo of the trans-

the

well

as

fight

the

off

attacking

ports the hours, for those

who had

hours, between

about twelve-thirty and nightfall were one shattering crescendo of terror,

was no place to

enough

as well

as

and death.

fighter pilots,

to see the butchery

the

And

there

There was nothing to do but beach About 3000 troops were

crippled transports.

landed with a mere 260 cases of ammunition and

1500 bags of

rice.

The

rest of their

supplies

perhaps another 3000 of their comrades lay

and

at the

Slot, dead or missing. Of those who had escaped the slaughter of what the Americans

bottom of The

hide.

Some American close

pain,

his destination.

who had come on

in

the transports

encrimsoned waters around them,

came

to call the

"Buzzard Patrol,"

less

were picked up out of the water. Exact

than 2000 figures

may

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

86

Henderson

The

Despite an

to organize a rescue party.

Bauer was never found.

intensive search

closing phase of the Battle of Guadalcanal,

which had opened so disastrously for the Americans but which developed into a Japanese tragedy, was

another nighttime

surface

the

cover

to

airfield

landings

the

Vice-

brawl.

battleship

Admiral Kondo approached Guadalcanal

to

shell

Tanaka's

of

"sorry remnant" (Tanaka's phrase) with the battleship Kirishima (sister ship of the Hiei, lost the day

before), five cruisers, and nine destroyers.

Kondo ran

American naval group (battleDakota and four de-

into an

ships Washington and South

The forward deck of one of the beached Japanese transports after attacks by American planes and ships. (defense dept., national archives)

stroyers), under the capable

Bottom Bay. Though before midnight of

Kondo and the determination of the Buzzard Patrol

tled).

largest attempt

transport

was

lost,

by the for the

four beached ships were worked over the following

day by

The

aircraft, the

destroyer Meade, and artillery.

the

Americans was comparatively

cost six

light:

the latter

to

Dauntlesses and two Wildcats.

was

One

of

of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph

that

opened

lost three

one destroyer and, most importantly,

lost

the Kirishima (so badly

Tokyo Express. Every

the battle which

in

November 14 Lee had

never be determined, but Tanaka's determination

wiped out about half of the

Rear Ad-

of

and the South Dakota was damaged,

destroyers

—had

command

miral Willis Augustus Lee, in the vicinity of Iron

The

damaged

that

was

it

scut-

great battleship sank in waters close to

the Hiei, and with

went Kondo's

it

brilliant career.

He had failed once again to ravage Henderson Field. The common soldier behind Japanese lines by late December was certain "Have not seen one

that he

had been abandoned.

of our planes in ages," one

confided to his diary, "but every day

dance

the sky.

in

.

.

."

It

Bauer (VMF-212), who had gone out to escort the

for

bombers. In company with Joseph Foss, Bauer had

off supplies, reinforcements,

the

and bombing cut

dive-bombing,

strafing,

enemy planes

was a dance of death, and medical

necessities.

were

While great men, irresolute yet unyielding, grap-

attacked by Zeros. Bauer shot one out of the air

pling with ego rather than conscience, sought a face-

strafed

a

transport,

and Foss took

after

which both

off after the other.

pilots

Antiaircraft

fire

from a Japanese destroyer spoiled the chase for Foss,

who

returned to the spot where he had last

seen Bauer. Circling low over the water, Foss found pieces of the fallen Zero.

swimming near an

About two miles away,

oil slick,

Foss spotted Bauer

in

Foss attempted to eject

but found he was unable to because

He

circled again,

him

his it

rubber boat,

was jammed.

lower, and realized that Bauer,

bouncing and gesticulating ing

little

last,

two men called

men

after

to return to base.

in the water,

was order-

Foss also found he could

not radio for assistance, so he throttled back to

died

in

mass, faceless

weeks of acrid argument, Palace on the

at the Imperial

final

day of 1942. They were an admiral, Osami Nagano, Chief of the Naval

Sugiyama,

Staff,

they did leave

Hirohito

and a general, Hajime

Army's Chief of

the

arrived unsmiling and they

the water. Circling,

saving solution,

numbers. At

it

himself.

left

Staff.

They had when

unsmiling, but

was with grim permission from The Japanese would abandon

Guadalcanal. the first week Tokyo Express was scheduled

Sometime during the

This

odious

operation

was a

of February 1943 to

run in reverse.

carefully

guarded

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS even

secret;

87 on

(except of exalted rank)

officers

Guadalcanal had no idea of what was happening.

New

troops were even brought in to conceal the

true plan. All of the activity appeared to the watch-

Americans

ful

Guadalcanal.

moment

appeared

it

Japanese were attempting a major rein-

the

that

beginnings of a real push on

like the

"Until the last

forcement effort," Admiral Nimitz wrote in retro-

"Only

spect.

and bold

keeping their plans disguised

in

skill

them out enabled the

celerity in carrying

Japanese to withdraw the remnants of the Guadalcanal garrison."

By February

8,

1943, after six months of appalling

Guadalcanal was taken over by the Ameri-

fighting.

Like Midway,

cans.

marked a turn

it

was the

it

on land experienced by the victory-

defeat

first

the tide

in

from the defensive to the offensive and

drunk Japanese Army. At the same time, although he fought ferociously and often as not to an existential,

sacrificial

had

death, the Japanese soldier

proved not to be a jungle superman. The myth

was over

for the Japanese soldier just as

was

it

for

the Zero, the super fighter plane.

DeBlanc, one of the "few Marines," with for leading his flight into a large Japanese fighter formation before it could interfere with American Dauntlesses and Avengers. (defense dept., marine corps)

Jefferson

Medal

Although the Japanese were out of Guadalcanal, did not

it

mean

arations

for

New

Point,

Solomons were

the

that

abandoned by them. Late

in

were

airfield

Munda

on

by

noted

Allied

re-

connaissance planes; so was construction on some

New

of the smaller islands of the

Kolombangara and Vella

Munda

Point, however,

Henderson

to

Field,

reach of the Zero. there fields,

Lavella.

the

southern

largest

tip

of which

of the

island.

airfield

it

within

on

flight

easy

than five air-

Kahili,

the

near the

Americans had

paid heavily for Henderson Field, the Japanese had full

on

intentions of exacting a high

and bloody

interest

Tokyo October, when

positions,

On

was assigned

now

the

new

terminals for the

Express. Between the hard

days of

the

Americans might have

been pushed out of Guadalcanal, and the nearly

shipping in Vella Gulf.

area lay less than

fifty

on Kolombangara

arriving at Vella Gulf the

was met by a DeBlanc led his

number

large six

The

target

miles east and slightly north

of the Japanese air base

Upon

Jeffer-

VMF-112,

and Avengers to

to escort Dauntlesses

bomb enemy

as in-

one mission,

son Joseph DeBlanc, a section leader in

Island.

Marine formation

enemy

of

fighters.

Wildcats into the mass of Zeros

thousand

at fourteen

it.

Attempts were made to discourage the building

up of the new Japanese

February,

in

became

January 31, 1943, a young Marine lieutenant,

less

was If

the fighting

An

top of the Solomons

was Bougainville, with no

when

there were times

tense as in the shoestring days.

which placed at the

magical spiriting away of the Japanese

Georgia group,

meant only a 175-mile

And

Honor awarded

November 1942 prep-

an

constructing

Georgia,

entirely

J.

of

feet,

hoping

to

keep them away

from the bombers while they worked over the shipping.

As

the

battle

developed,

it

single Wildcats against several Zeros.

down

to

the

were trying

altitude

to operate

at

broke up into

DeBlanc dived

which the dive bombers

only to find he had swept

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES a large formation

into

the Mitsubishi

of

adaptation of the Zero

and called the "Rufe" by the the Rufes,

DeBIanc quickly

had DeBIanc. The

them down

to

a hospital to recuperate

concentration on

their

Japanese surface ships in the

the

fuel.

He

much

would have

realized he

to return to Guadalcanal, so

bearings and as

Medal

same day

the

he climbed to get his

height as he could.

As he

Navy PB4Ys round

two Zeros closing from behind.

He was

alone, for the other Wildcats were spread across

lesses

own

private battles and the Daunt-

and Avengers were engaged

in

bombing the

the

war momentarily

tiveness.

good

one rocketing across the sky

hit sent

as the other flashed by, turned,

the Wildcat.

under the of

enemy

DeBIanc

felt

strain of his slugs.

As

the

Zero raced

frail

in,

its

guns

Japanese plane with

all

four

The Zero fluttered down to the sea. now, DeBIanc found himself in other peril.

The Wildcat was now in such poor condition that he knew he would never make it back to Guadalcanal. Smoking and with engine heaving badly, the plane started

down

for the water.

with the plane to keep

it

DeBIanc fought

from plowing

ocean as he straightened out practically

pilot

blue,

was deep blue

It

into

the

at treetop

sea and at a dangerously low altitude took to his

landing in the water he found that he in

the

lifejacket,

off

alongside the inquisi-

Japanese

the

and

half beautiful

color with a pale

The

sat

pilot

way

arms, and legs. DeBIanc spent about

back,

"Twin Wasp"

eighteen-cylinder Pratt and Whitney engine. Its

most curious feature was the graceful

down and Once seen,

verted gull wing which jutted

away from

fuselage.

the

was not mistaken

any other:

for

it

in-

then up and this

aircraft

the

Chance

was

Vought F4U-1, the "Corsair." American ground troops called

The Field

which had arrived

on February

originally

Winged Bird" in time. at Henderson 12 flown by VMF-124, had

"the Bent

it

Corsair,

been designed as a carrier

lems developed

during

carrier

Prob-

fighter.

landing

tests,

be-

cause of the plane's long nose, which interfered with It

also

had a tendency

to

bounce

the deck and had other bugs, which

discouraged the

Navy from

carriers for a time.

to the Marines, in

stationing the plane

on

was turned over whose hands, and later also the Meanwhile,

it

Navy's, the Corsair proved to be one of the outstanding fighters of the war.

six hours making his way back to the beach at Kolombangara. Luckily he was not found by the

in fact,

Japanese but, after subsisting for two days on coco-

can fighter of the war.

was found instead by friendly islanders, who turned him over to the local coastwatcher. In about two weeks a Catalina arrived off Kolombangara to

nese plane, besides which

nuts,

in

almost white underside.

the pilot's vision.

had been wounded

fly

back on the fuselage under a bubblelike canopy;

upon touching

Supported by his

driven

saw a strange-looking plane,

half ugly.

held island, DeBIanc steadied the Wildcat out to

Upon

order to

ignored

them with peacetime

Before he was

height over Kolombangara. Clearing the Japanese-

chute.

in

fighters to study

ap-

fighters pilot

a great stretch of nose projected before him, end-

of his guns.

Safe

and

ing in a wide cowling under which roared a massive

twinkling maliciously, DeBIanc turned sharply again

and shattered the

bombers

—no mean

with an escort of

at

maneuvers and the impact

the



shuddering

and came back

Grumman

on Bougainville

hundred miles

proached Bougainville, a lone Zero

DeBIanc would have to fight it out, though a stricken Wildcat was a poor match for a Zero. Timing his rudder kick for the precise moment, DeBIanc jerked the Wildcat into the path of the attacking

Japanese soldier

last living

targets

new fighters. As the American

new

A

DeBIanc and

Army's B-24, Liberator) had

(the

bomb

trip of six

Japanese ships.

Zeros.

sent

incident occurred over Bougainville.

twisting his neck in the traditional fighter pilot fash-

the sky in their

that Lieutenant

only six days after the

taken off to

now

was immediately

and was awarded the

had been evacuated from Guadalcanal, a curious

nursed the Wildcat up to the high clouds, DeBIanc,

ion, spotted

during the same battle

Honor.

of

On

latter

Sergeant Feliton were taken off Kolombangara and

gulf.

In the fighting DeBlanc's Wildcat had been hit

and he was low on

who had parachuted

Feliton, as

which proceeded to harass

Dauntlesses,

the

pick up DeBIanc as well as Staff Sergeant James A.

Allies). Slashing into

sent three of

thus breaking up

burning,

(probably

planes

float

A6M2-N, an

regarded

it

It

Some Japanese

was it

faster

than any Japa-

could climb

(about three thousand feet a minute) greater

range

capability

pilots,

most formidable Ameri-

as the

than

any

much

faster

and had a

single-engined

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS

Newly arrived Corsairs for combat. The plane

89

Guadalcanal being prepared foreground is having its

at

guns bore-sighted with a homemade device.

in the

fighter operating in the Pacific at the time.

And

it

(c. L.

Kahili

smith/defense dept., marine corps)

was bounced by perhaps

it

Zeros

fifty

Two

(al-

was rugged, which suited the hardened Marines per-

most

fectly.

went down, as did two P-40s, two Corsairs, and,

But

it

would take time

to learn

Corsair's capabilities fully.

how

to use the

This was demonstrated

on the day following the incident with the curious Zero

pilot

a

what became known Day Massacre." Navy

in

Valentine's

bombing mission

as

"the

on

to Kahili airfield, Bougainville,

were escorted by P-40s (low cover), P-38s (high cover), and Corsairs of

VMF-124,

staggered in be-

tween. This became the standard pattern for missions at this time, with the

thousand them.

On

feet this

bombers

at

around twenty

and the P-38s and Corsairs above day,

however, the system did not

function too well, for as the formation approached

and waiting).

Liberators

worse, the entire top cover of four P-38s. Japanese losses

came

one as

to three or four Zeros,

result of

a collision with a Corsair.

This

Saint

Liberators,

certainly alerted

generally

action,

Corsair nearly failed in

used to reveal

its

first test

how

the

of real combat,

actually a better exemplification of the not yet

is

(or ever,

for

that

Zero by

this

matter)

dampened

zeal

of the

And, too, the "Zeke," as time was coming to be called, was

Japanese fighter

pilot.

the still

a formidable plane in a melee. But in the Corsair the

a

Zeke had met

little

time, a

little

to establish this.

its

nemesis;

it

would only take

experience, and a few Marines

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

90

within a month, the Battle of the Bismarck Sea,

Imperial headquarters burned with a hard, britde

flame of revenge.

mand

of

Yamamoto

vengeance

this

full

com-

called

l-go

himself took

operation,

Sakusen ("Operation A"), a newly devised plan directly

generated by the turn of fortune in the

Pacific.

I-go Sakusen was to wipe out, once and

for

the

all,

total

Solomons and

the

Planning

Yamamoto

American

New

Sakusen

I-go

air

power

from

early

April

1943,

Guinea. for

established his headquarters at Rabaul,

major target of Kenney's forces

in

New Guinea

the major goal of Halsey's forces, climbing

and

up the

bloody Solomons ladder. Loath to expose his few remaining carriers to American nonetheless stripped respective ships.

all

aircraft,

carrier

Those from the

Yamamoto

planes from their 1st

Carrier Division

Zuikaku and Zuiho) went to Rabaul under

(the

command

of Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa (who November 16, 1942, had replaced Nagumo as commander of the Third Fleet). The aircraft of the 2nd Carrier Division (the Junyo and Hiyo) were

since Allied fighter pilot's view

of a

"Zeke," on the (u.

s.

tail.

AIR force)

flown to the base at Ballale, just south of Bougain-

The

ville.

Kavieng

But the problem of the inexperienced

becoming even more serious first-line

veterans

had been

Guadalcanal and whose

Koku

was

Sentai

northern

Ireland under

Rear Admiral Toshinosuka Ichimaru (although the main body was stationed at Rabaul under com-

at

Midway and

mand

were poorly

Admiral Kanae Kozaka) would

of

Ozawa). The 26th Koku Sentai (Rear strike from Kahili.

trained for lack of experienced pilots to teach them.

In

The American situation was differently handled, for when it was possible (and if they survived) veteran

for his strikes, Zekes, Nells, Bettys, Kates,

pilots

fighter pilots. This is

what hap-

Yamamoto amassed

all,

few Vals.

were taken out of combat and given assign-

ments training young

The April

He was 1943,

when

came coast

craft heading for Guadalcanal.

attempted to return to combat duty he was emphati-

no

"Not

until

you have trained a hundred

and fifty John Smiths." When he did return, almost two years later. Smith flew a Corsair.

The Marines and

then-

Corsairs

owned

the

air

"to play in the back yard of the Nip" in

Guinea; in

New

was an ignominious situation to stomach Tokyo. With the loss of Guadalcanal and then. it

watchers

at

The

noon on

and radar

enemy

There were,

in the

air-

in fact,

than 67 Vals escorted by 110 Zekes.

less

warning went out to ships

The

harbor and to the

Henderson, "Condition very Red."

was met by all possible flyable fighters, Army, Navy, and Marine: P-38s, P-39s, Corsairs, and Wildcats. In the heavy fighting which followed, some of the Vals broke through the American fighter defenses and sank several ships in Tulagi Harbor and off Guadalcanal (the tanker Kanawha, the destroyer Aaron Ward, and the Australian corvette Moa). First Lieutenant James E. Swett, of Marine VMF221, on his first combat mission, ran into some of attack

seventy-six.

over the Solomons and Kenney's Kids had begun

shortly after

operators reported massive formations of

men

and a

decidedly out for blood.

large assault

first

7,

about 350 warplanes

pened wdth John Smith, Marion Carl, and Joseph Foss after they had left Guadalcanal. When Smith cally told,

from

to operate

New

tip of

pilots

lost

new

was whose

pilot

for the Japanese,

21st

at the

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS

91

And

went on until he shot down two more Vals, making his total for the battle seven he had so

it



become an ace on the

in

by the

in his first

combat. But as he closed

last of his victims Swett's

Wildcat was

As

of the Val's rear gunner.

fire

his

hit

canopy

shattered, blood covered his face, but Swett con-

tinued firing until his guns no longer responded: he

had exhausted

ammunition. But before he did,

his

he saw that the gunner

in the rear cockpit of the

Val had slumped over and smoke had begun to wisp out of the Val. Swett's own problems were too many for him to worry about making certain that his eighth victim

crashed into the waters of Iron Bottom Bay (his score

official

stood

was injured by the with

engine

his

then

at

temperature

lubricating

the

in

James E. Swell. USMC. who broke up a Japanese dive bomber atlack (for which he received the Medal of Honor) and became an ace on his first combat mission, (defense dept., marine corps)

and the propeller

Too low now

down near

Wildcats toward Tulagi, Swett spotted a large forma-

smacked

between

fifteen

for Tulagi

But even before he could begin shoot-

into the Vals.

ing



for the

shouting division

and twenty Japanese planes headed

Harbor; shouting "Tally Ho!" Swett dived

in

time in combat

first

his

—he

Someone

earphones.

heard more in

else

his

had spotted Zekes diving from above. Al-

finally

As he brought

the Wild-

the water he suffered further con-

into the water again.

Swett, though held

was thrown forward, smashing nose against the gun sight. It took some time, by

straps,

after this stunning impact, for the pilot to place all

He knew

things into focus.

swiftly sinking Wildcat.

he must get out of the

But he could

a muddled, pain-racked head, he

As

clearly.

the

not, for with

was not thinking

plane sank Swett found

that

chute harness had caught on a small handle

Swett concentrated on the immediate menace and,

cockpit.

Medal of Honor

his dive personally

citation

was

to read, "during

exploded three hostile planes

in

mid-air with accurate and deadly fire."

Separated from the

rest of his division,

Swett was

fused,

to take to his chute, Swett prepared

ready in a steep dive aimed at the dive bombers,

as his

Wild-

and Whitney

into

in his seat

his

hit his

and

Swett

from "friendly" AA. Then the Wildcat Iron Bottom Bay, bounced and

sideration

splashed

red,

froze.

to ditch off Florida Island.

the Japanese attackers. Leading a division of four

There were

had

Pratt

growled and thumped, grew hot, and

cat

tion of Vals within minutes of arriving.

The

system.

himself

of the canopy,

realized that the Japanese gunner cat's

He

seven).

flying bits

As

the Wildcat swirled

down

to the

his

in the

bottom, Swett

continued to struggle until the strap loosened from the handle,

which

raft stored

in

at the

same time

the plane.

ejected the

Suffocating,

life

Swett finally

forced to do the best he could, what with the heavy

surfaced with the help of a hastily inflated

concentration of "friendly" antiaircraft

West," although encumbered by parachute, flying

around him



and onward toward the

six

inoperative, so he

had but

additional Vals,

ships.

One

fire

bursting

which bore

of his guns, too,

five

was

50s with which to

contend with the enemy formations. Racing

in

be-

clothes,

and the uninflated

life raft.

him and he inflated hurting and bleeding, into it. freed

the

More

raft

"Mae

struggling

and crawled,

In a short time he

was

picked up by a small boat, whose passengers carried

hind the Vals, Swett soon learned that the five guns

rifles

worked well on the Vals, and the fourth plane swept away burning and trailing bits and pieces.

strated a deadly aversion to rescue, often attempt-

ing to

as a precaution. Japanese pilots

kill

their

would-be Samaritans.

had demon-

Yamamoio's revenge operation

I-go

Sakusen

was a

simultaneous series of fruitless (but not always completely) strikes upon Guadalcanal and New Guinea. On April 12, 1943, more than a hundred Japanese aircraft struck

the

Fifth

Air Force base at Port Moresby,

"Are you an American?" someone shouted from the boat to Swett in his dinghy.

damn OK," the

Guinea, setting an

right I

"It's

voice was heard to say, according

am," he answered.

Vals

and twenty-seven Zekes; Japanese

one of those loud-mouthed

big blow of I-go Saliusen had

proved rather expensive, for claims were put

day

for a

The

actual

hundred planes by

number was

pilots

and

AA

postwar

admit to the loss of twelve Vals but only

to seven aircraft but only

in that

gunners.

closer to thirty-nine (twelve

one

pilot.

Major Walden

Williams of the 70th Fighter Squadron.

Yamamoto's other first

aflame with heavy

of fuel and lubricants.

nine Zekes). American losses for the day amounted

Marines."

Yamamoto's

dump

oil

Yamamoto's "Operation A" was his final contribution to Japan's war effort before he was shot down. He died believing the operation had been successful, which, in fact, it had not been. (u. s. air force) loss

figures

"You're

to legend; "he's another

New

big raids were aimed at

New

Guinea, and he believed that by April 14, according to the claims of his pilots. filled

its

function.

Four

Operation days

later

A

had

ful-

if

Yamamoto

crashed in a burning Betty after being intercepted

i.

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS

93 photo plane escaped. Three Corsairs were

lost in the

one of them flown by Walsh's squadron

fighting,

commander. Major William

Gise.

Meanwhile, American troops began taking and occupying other islands in the Solomons, each step bringing them

closer

Bougainville,

to

gateway to

Rabaul. The Russell Islands were occupied

in

Feb-

came Munda (New Georgia), which opened on June 21. Soon it was

ruary; next in line the battle for

possible for the Marines to operate from a forward

Munda

base on step

up the

for the strike

on Vella Lavella, next

ladder. In doing this, Halsey elected to

bypass Kolombangara (garrisoned by ten thousand

Japanese

which would place American

troops),

planes within ninety miles of Kahili on Bougainville.

The Vella Lavella landings took place on Au15; although the action on the beaches was reasonably normal, Japanese aerial activity was furious. Bombers and fighters came down from Kahili, Ballale, and Buin (in spite of American bombings gust

Kenneth Walsh, USMC, first to achieve acedom (DEFENSE DEPT., MARINE CORPS)

in

a

Corsair.

aimed

grounding the Japanese planes during the

at

landings)

by P-38s over Kahili. Yamamoto's successor, AdMineichi Koga, although not as brilliant a

miral

man, continued

ophy

—perhaps

man's philos-

to practice the great

with

less

intensity

—and

did

he

all

could to bloody the rungs of the Solomons ladder.

By

the close of April

Guadalcanal, and by

more Corsairs had come

May

He was

ace was brought to the fore.

Kenneth Walsh of VMF-124, born

who began the

in

his

military career

Marines.

into

13, 1943, the first Corsair

During one

in

Lieutenant

Brooklyn and

as

a flying private

of

the

preliminary

phases of Yamamoto's Operation A, on April 1943, Walsh shot

down

his first three Zekes.

day of Yamamoto's big blow, Walsh, shot

down

On

like Swett,

1,

the

was

but was pulled out of the water unhurt

and was soon back 13 in mixed

flying a

company

new

Corsair.

of Marine and

Army

On May fighters,

to harass

the

ships

and troops on the

beachhead. That day Kenneth Walsh was leading a division of five Corsairs of this

time had risen to ten

VMF-124;

enemy

his score

by

aircraft.

Fresh from a recreation tour in Sydney, Australia, Walsh was unexpectedly surprised by five Zekes at ten thousand feet. The fight became generally confused and Walsh soon found himself alone chasing a Zeke away from the battle. The powerful Corsair

caught up with the Japanese fighter after a

five-mile

chase

and with one quick

blast

knocked the plane down. Turning back

Walsh for

the

beachhead, Walsh inadvertently flew into a forma-

on their way to bomb the beach. Coming from under the Vals, Walsh quickly lessened their number by two. But he was now in a tough spot: Vals, with their rear gunners, below him tion of nine Vals,

and Zekes above. His Corsair became the center of

Walsh encountered twenty-five Zekes escorting a

destructive

Japanese photo plane. Admiral Koga was bringing

20-mm.

more and more planes

into

ing knocked out his hydraulic system, shreds of his

most anxious to know

about the aviation

all

on Guadalcanal. There were, by

Rabaul and he was facilities

in fact, four airfields

During the

battle

with the Japanese formation,

Walsh shot down three Zekes; he was ace.

The Japanese

lost sixteen fighters,

officially

an

although the

Diving Zekes put two large

more pepper-

horizontal stabilizer flew off into the slipstream, and, still

unknown

With

this time.

attention.

holes through his right wing,

pulled

to Walsh, the right tire

his superior

away from

was holed.

speed capability, Walsh rapidly

the shooting gallery. Other pilots

took over the fighting (in addition to the three Japanese planes shot

down by Walsh,

fourteen others

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

94

Munda of fell

in the day's fighting)

tered

Corsair home.

He

as

Walsh guided

brought

it

in

to

Point

airfield,

bombing and

Georgia. Trees show effects



American and Japanese. (DEFENSE DEPT., MARINE CORPS)

his tat-

Munda from the Russells. To his dismay his enpower and he could not keep up with the formation. Signaling to his wingman, Lieutenant W.

Field (which was just one day old) and as anxious

taken

Marines observed, landed the Corsair with hardly a

gine lost

bump, even compensating for the flat right tire. When Walsh stood in the cockpit he was cheered by the troops for bringing in so badly mauled an aircraft. The plane, in fact, was junked.

off

P. Spencer, that

he would have to drop out, Walsh,

instead of attempting to return to the Russells or

Fighter 2, guided his Corsair toward

Walsh returned to Guadalcanal and took part in a bombing mission to Kahili. The plan was to take off from Fighter 2, fly to the Russell Islands air base, take on plenty of fuel for the expected battle over Kahili, and join up with the Liberators. Then the two dozen bombers with two

with

squadrons of Corsairs as well as the usual low-

Neefus

permitted

cover P-39s and P-40s would press on to Bougain-

fueled,

and

Fifteen days later

ville.

New

artillery fire

All went well for Walsh until after he had

its

advance base

at

New

Munda. Pushing

Georgia his

Cor-

Walsh brought the wheezing Cordown onto the strip at Munda. There he was

sair into a dive, sair

met by Captain James Neefus, commanding VMF221, to whom he explained his problem and asked for

another plane. Without recourse to red tape,

Walsh

armed

jumped out of

to

Corsair

his plane

a

ready,

stand-by.

Walsh

requisition

on

and into the other; within

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS

Corsairs on

Munda



tlie

Afarine

fif^lilcrs

95

arrived »ithin

a week after the airstrip was taken from the Japanese.

(CHESTER

L.

SMITH/DEFENSE DEPT., MARINE CORPS)

was able

to

knock down only two before the others was pecking away at

realized that a lone Corsair

down

minutes he raced

the

runway and

after the

Walsh pushed the bombers and

up

at the

as high as

feet before

it

throttle in order to rejoin the

same time he pulled the Corsair

—^about

could go

thirty

he spotted aircraft ahead.

had caught up, he gunned

their formation.

The

large Kahili-bound formation.

his engine

thousand

Happy

that he

and found he

battle

formation,

who

difficult

tain

shouting

number

the large

as Zekes

became a confused melee

turned on Walsh,

to sight

dived through the Liberator

warnings on his radio. With

of planes

in

the

air

it

became

on any one of them and be cer-

he was an enemy. The sky became crisscrossed

from

with tracers and, from time to time, a burning Lib-

forty to fifty Zekes.

sive.

of

Soon after, he also saw the Libsome distance beyond the large formation enemy fighters, under attack by Zekes and anti-

erator falling, for the Zekes were especially aggres-

erators,

turned away for the

had caught up, instead, with

aircraft.

fighters air.

A

upon

great air battle developed over Kahili as

from

Walsh,

a formation of

Kahili, Ballale,

still

and Buin took

to the

undetected by the Japanese intent

the bombers, pulled in behind the Zekes.

He

The bombing run completed,

ing this

more Zekes, but he had had possible for the day.

tim

the

bombers

back to Henderson. Durphase of the battle Walsh destroyed two flight

down

to observe

As he

just

about

all

the luck

followed his fourth vic-

its fiery

splash, Walsh, in turn,

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

96 was

by four Zekes. They boxed him

trailed

(and the fact that

with the advantage of aUitude

Walsh had

about expended his ammunition),

just

they began working

chine-gun

him over with cannon and ma-

fire.

Smoke streamed from under dropped,

pressure

fuel

and

in,

the Corsair's cowling,

engine

the

The

churned.

only other sound was that of Japanese lead pound-

away

ing

Walsh was about

the tough Corsair.

at

ready to resign to fate when a P-40 and a few Cor-

came

sairs

in to take the

though spared the

final

Zekes

But,

off his back.

knew he could

blow, Walsh

it to any base. He must ditch off Vella With consummate grace Walsh bounced

make

not

Lavella.

gull-winged craft into

the

the

Pacific

a

mile

off

Barakoma Point, where American Seabees, working on a new airstrip, observed the smoking plane. The great plane splashed in, leaving a foamy wake, bumped up, and splashed again, then stopped and began to settle. Walsh had hardly been shaken and quickly

the Corsair

left

and dropped into the

out to pick him up and by the

came next day Walsh was

When

he was ordered back

water. Within half an hour

returned to Guadalcanal.

a Seabee boat

Medal of Honor recipient, had destroyed twenty enemy aircraft (his twenty-first was scored during second tour of duty in 1945).

With Vella Lavella in American hands and Kolombangara all but ignored (the Japanese evacuated the island in September-October), the next prize to

was

be Bougainville. This was the largest and northern-

most island of the Solomons



with Rabaul but 210

miles away. With the experience of Guadalcanal be-

hind them

it

was decided by

ners that to take rison of about

near

Buka

the South Pacific plan-

of Bougainville, with

all

40,000 Japanese

airfield,

and the southern

that Halsey elected to send the

which

tip,

wet

on the

—and

the

So

Marines

in

it

near

vember

1,

Guadalcanal,

Island.

mud



If

anything, the climate

glutinous

—were

worse.

And

the Japanese soldier fought to the death.

On November

1,

the 2nd Raider Regiment Cape Torokina on Empress Augusta Bay, Avengers and Dauntlesses swooped in low to strafe and bomb the beachhead. Navy and

Marine Division

1943, while troops of the 3rd

and

splashed ashore at

Marine planes patrolled over the area tion of the reaction

anese

air bases.

anticipa-

in

from the several nearby

This came minutes before the

Jap)first

barge ground upon the beach. About thirty Zekes

and bombers converged upon Torokina lenged by the P-40s of the Force's No.

New

to be chal-

Zealand Royal Air

18 Squadron, the P-38s of the U. S.

Air Force's 18th Fighter Group, as well as Navy

and Marine Wildcats and Corsairs. In the

first skir-

VMF-

mish Captain James E. Swett, returned to

221

after his dip in the sea, shot

sending

besides

a

Tony

(the

the

New

In this

down two Vals

Kawasaki

Hien), one of the newer Japanese

away from

could be constructed.

was a tropical vicious land fighting was as brutal

like

and the

pesthole,

as that

near Kahili,

costly.

and then establish a perimeter

airfields

Bougainville,

gar-

Empress Augusta Bay, beat

the island's center, at

out a beachhead, inside

its

in the northern tip,

would be exceptionally violent and

was

Marine Avengers, the Marines head Solomon Islands, No1943. (DEFENSE DEPT., MARINE CORPS)

the cover of

United States in November 1943 Walsh, a

to the

his

Under

for the beaches of Bougainville,

fighters,

the beachhead and off the

tail

Ki.

61

smoking

of one of

Zealand P-40s. initial

encounter with the Japanese op-

position to the Bougainville landings, seven of their aircraft

were

lost,

with no losses by the Allies.

In the early afternoon, during the patrol of

215



five

VMF-

Corsairs led by Lieutenant Colonel Her-

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS

97

Bougainville-based Avenger takes off the island's airon a bombing mission. Avengers were used by

strip

bert

H. Williamson



a large formation of Japanese

Marines as torpedo and regular bombers. (DOUGLAS white/defense DEPT., MARINE CORPS)

Torokina.

for

Alternately

waving

and

paddling,

bombers and fighters came in to strike the ships and troops now cluttering up the shore line of the

Hanson

beaches at Torokina. Williamson led his Corsairs

Come Home

down upon

from course, picked up the redoubtable Marine,

tle

the

a confused bat-

Marine

VMF-215 was

pilots of the war, Lieutenant

Hanson had been born

and had been a Marine

Robert M.

in India in

flyer since

1920

February 1943.

In the battle of the afternoon of the Bougainville landings,

Hanson singlehandedly attacked

reaching

flames

under

Torokina.

Hanson's

Three

others

(two

guns

Kates

six

bombs

with such ferocity that several jettisoned their

before

Upon

one of the most color-

Hanson, son of Methodist missionaries from Massachusetts.

with the Cole Porter song "You'd

fell

in

Be So Nice

To." The American ship veered

and continued on

developed.

Flying with ful

enemy bombers and

out for the Sigourney cheering himself

set

to Vella Lavella.

returning to

VMF-215 Hanson

continued

with his nonchalant spree of destruction. period

of

enemy

aircraft,

of

to

slightly

seventeen

days

he shot

In

one

down twenty

which earned him the nickname

"Butcher Bob."

Four of these

were

victories

achieved on January 30, 1944, during an Avenger strike

on Rabaul. Hanson flew with the escort and

now down

during the battle over the great Japanese base, within easy reach of the base at Torokina, shot

were

four of the twenty-one Japanese planes destroyed

knocked down by other men of VMF-215). But

during the mission. This brought his total of Jap-

a rear gunner in one of the Kates shot

others

down Han-

Setting his Corsair

down on

broke out his dinghy and sat

in

it

later,

on February

3,

the

day before

Hanson

Hanson's twenty-fourth birthday and a week before

awaiting further

he was scheduled to return to the United States,

the water,

developments. For nearly six hours Hanson waited until

anese planes destroyed up to twenty-five.

Three days

son.

he saw the destroyer Sigourney, on

its

way

back to Vella Lavella to pick up more passengers

Hanson volunteered for a strafing mission in area, upon Cape Saint George, New

Rabaul land.

On

this point,

across the channel from

the Ire-

New

98

H

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS

99

A /.»)

I

Tending

his

flock:

Boyington briefs his Black Sheep over Rabaiil; Boyington was

a fighter sweep

before

(VMF-214). This occurred

couple of

after a

fairly

When

Bougainville's airstrips were sufficiently se-

Major General Ralph

mander of

J.

Mitchell,

The

baui.

Marine com-

the aerial operations in the Solomons,

instituted the first harassing fighter first

of these

—December

1943

17,

New

than seventy-six planes (twenty-three



in

less

Zealand

P-40s of Nos. 14 and 16 Squadrons, twenty-two of

new Grumman F6F

"Hellcat,"

and thirty-one

Corsairs). With this formidable array of air power, the Japanese

were not anxious to take

off despite

Boyington's profane invitations to "come up

and

"Come on down, swer. And the only

New the

his return

ances)

it

was not worth the

effort,

Boyington argued that such a

aircraft

(all

with different perform-

and so unwieldy a number simply did not

work.

Boyington believed

in smaller,

better-matched formations fighter

more

—which he

flexible,

and

got for future

sweeps upon Rabaul, as well as for escort

missions with bombers. This was found to be more efficient,

and Boyington's Black Sheep scored heav-

against

ily

the

Between the

Zekes.

December 17 and

the

first

of the

strike

first

New

of

Year, fighter

sweeps over Rabaul claimed nearly 150 Japanese planes shot out of the air (after the war the Jap-

anese admitted to 64).

fight."

level,

Americans two. But

mixed bag of

sweeps over Ra-

which Boyington participated consisted of no

the

the

and upon

uneventful tours by Boyington in the Solomons.

cure.

Missing in Action after one of these sweeps and remained a prisoner of war for the duration. (MARINE corps) listed as

sucker," was the Japanese anfighting occurred

at

the

P-40

which cost three of these, including that of Zealand Wing

New

Commander Freeman; however,

Zealanders got

five

Japanese planes and

Rabaul by early 1944 was

new

airstrips

short-range trip

to

in serious trouble.

As

were completed on Bougainville, even

medium bombers could make

Rabaul.

Before

long,

Force Mitchells based on

too.

Stirling

the

round

Thirteenth Air Island

(in

the

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

100 Treasury group south of Bougainville) were reachIt was by no means out, Kenney rather prematurely claimed in ;arly November 1942, but it was becoming more md more untenable for both shipping and aircraft. Hoping to hold off the inevitable (which the Japanese believed meant an American invasion of Rabaul), Koga sent the air groups of the 2nd Koku Sentai (Carrier Division), under Rear Admiral Takaji Jojima, to bolster up the 26th Koku Sentai

ing the beleaguered base. as General

(in this instance. Air Flotilla

Navy

craft arrived at

from Truk

Rabaul up

land-based

is,

to bring the total of planes

American

dispirited. It

over almost at

gun

seemed

that

to

no

avail

American planes came

not only to

will,

was

it

power grew. Japanese Rabaul, were worn, tired, air

long stationed at

pilots,

the

that

300 mark. But

to the

as the massive

and



planes). Late in January 1944 about 130 air-

bomb

but to strafe

positions.

Just such a mission

fell

to the Bougainville-based

Navy squadron, VF-17, which had

on Jan-

arrived

uary 24, the day before the planes of the 2nd

Koku

On

Sentai landed at Rabaul. several

after

was scheduled

upon gun

February 19,

days of grueling operations,

morning

for an early

positions around Rabaul.

VF-17

strafing attack

Of

ha

C. Kepford, Corsair pilot VF-17, based at Bougainville.

Navy Squadron

of

(NAVY DEPT., NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

the twenty

Corsairs assigned to the job, sixteen were to con-

upon

centrate

arrived Zekes

the

AA

and the newly

installations

and Tonys

at

Lakunai

airfield.

The

four other Corsairs were assigned top cover, which

was

by Lieutenant Merle Davenport.

led

The twenty Corsairs sunlit

sky.

rose into a beautifully clear,

feet, the

planes pushed onward toward

Britain.

outline of the island

from the

glittering sea,

New

emerged sharply

Lieutenant Ira C. Kepford

wrong with Ensign Donald

noticed that something appeared to be the

Corsair

of

his

wingman,

McQueen. It flew erratically and spouted puffs of smoke from the cowling. Closing in he saw that McQueen was having engine trouble a common



malady,

thanks

abounded

on

to

the

fine

Bougainville.

coral

he could not participate

in

which

dust

McQueen must

back, and so must Kepford, for without a the

raid

turn

wingman

on Rabaul.

But Lieutenant Commander Roger Hedrick, com-

mander

of

VF-17, ordered McQueen back

and granted Kepford permission

to

of

possibility

little

tacked on his

flight

back

McQueen's being

at-

to Bougainville.

Scanning the sky and convinced that

it

was

clear,

Kepford pulled up alongside Davenport's plane and,

Climbing to about seventeen thousand

Navy As the

seemed

to base

continue with

the formation until they arrived over Rabaul. There

dipping the Corsair's gull wings, blew

Davenport and for the flight

his

back

ford deliberately

a

kiss

wingman and made a wide

Kep-

to base. Reluctant to leave,

made

a ranging turn as

the Japanese positions below.

it

he studied

Suddenly he saw a

black object in the sky approaching him. closer he recognized

to

turn

As

The Rufe

came

it

(a Rufe)

as a float plane pilot,

unaware

of the presence of the lone Corsair, soon

was sent

and swept

down

in for the kill.

into the water.

Having followed the Japanese plane tain

sume

to

make

had crashed, Kepford again climbed

it

his

tance,

spotted

flight

cer-

to re-

back to Bougainville. In the

dis-

high above and closer to Rabaul, Kepford



more dots as he counted them he realized more than fifty, waiting to pounce

they were Zekes,

on Davenport and the Corsairs sand

feet.

at

seventeen thou-

Kepford radioed the information

to

Dav-

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS

101

enport, hoping that he had not yet been seen the

Japanese

planes.

He hugged

hoped, but not for long. Four

waves

the

by and

two Zekes

but boxed in by three

He rammed

base.

enemy

fighters far

in full throttle

from home

and activated the

and two of the new Tojos, dived out of the big

water injection and began to outstrip the Zeke and even the faster Tojos. The Corsair ran out of energy

formation to take care of the lone stray.

over the western shore of

When

they

came within range

fighters,

the

opened up on the Corsair. Thinking

enemy

fighters

Kepford

fast,

suddenly "popped his flaps," which caused the Corsair to

slow

down

ran him.

As

it

most of

its

tail

couraged,

left

Nakajima

Ki.

the remaining

abruptly, and the lead

pulled

up

to turn,

Zeke over-

Kepford shot away

and the Zeke

surfaces

The two Tojos 44 Shoki) came in from the the battle.

Zeke closed

ently the Japanese pilots

in

from the

pilot,

dis-

(the fast

was

far

still

the

back on the

enemy

—and

he from home. In desperation he eased

and injected water again. Once

throttle

again

the

ahead.

Though

Corsair

responded and the plane shot

the three planes continued to pursue

him, they were not putting any holes

The chase continued

at

close

to

in

him.

four hundred

miles an hour, very near the surface of the sea.

Kepford saw that his fuel was getting low and his emergency spurts had been consumed; the engine complained after the injection. He must move

were trying to force Kep-

been equipped with an emergency water-injec-

when applied, charged the engine great surge of power for a limited time. Kepford reasoned, was an emergency: all

quickly.

The Zeke was

tion system which,

ford suddenly kicked

with a

whipped quickly

This,



and

ford to head north instead of south. His Corsair had just

Ireland

Appar-

right

left.

New

planes had driven Kepford to the north

to

still

left

the

close behind him.

Kep-

rudder and the Corsair left

as

Kepford's blood

drained in the turn. His vision faded under the pres-

The battle-scarred Corsair of Ira Kepford; "Skull and Crossbones" was squadron

insignia.

(navy dept., national archives)

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

102

A

Corsair comes in for a landing on the Bougainville constructed of linked steel matting over sand.

strip,

A

C-47

ready for takeoff. In the distance, below

is

Corsair, a barrage balloon floats limply. (p.

sure of the turn, but he

managed

to

keep from black-

The Zeke had followed with in the

same time

the

saw the guns

wing of the enemy plane. But

Zeke had attempted

sharply, inside the Corsair's turn. in the turn, the Zeke's

wing

tip

As

at the

more

turn

to

a wing dipped

brushed the water.

There was a small splash, and then a series of big ones as the Japanese fighter cartwheeled across the surface of the water until

sank into the

wings ripped

its

off

and

of the Tojos, but they

had been

lost in the

emergency use of the water-injection system, Kepford, though shaken, managed to return to Bougain-

He emerged from

streaming

down

his shot-up Corsair

bathed

shaking with shock and with tears his

Imperial Navy.

Allied

face.

A

shot of brandy

and

By March

6,

water-injection

emergency

system

Navy). The

was

widely

was pulled

in the Pacific.

now

Within days

1944, the Green Islands, north of

were occupied U. troops.

S.

115 miles east of Rabaul,

Marines and

New

Zealand

MacArthur's forces had already taken Cape

New

Britain

itself.

When Emirau

Is-

land, ninety miles north of the chief Japanese air

base

at

Kavieng

of 1944, of

it

in

New

Ireland,

was taken

in April

botded up Rabaul completely. Invasion

Rabaul was unnecessary. Those Japanese troops

stranded there were not going to do anything, nor

were they going anywhere. Isolated, the Japanese remained there until the war ended, har-

assed continually by

fifth-ranking ace in the U. S.

Sentai

returned to Truk,

milk run.

Navy

was the

it

bombers flew over the once hazardous area

troops

(with a total of seventeen victories he

but abandoned by the

all

without escort. Rabaul, the formidable, became a

nearly twenty-four hours of sleep restored the future ace

did Kepford's, saved

life.

The 2nd Koku

main Japanese base

the

it

day following Kepford's

the

out and what remained of

Gloucester on

Despite the great consumption of fuel during the

in perspiration,

February 20,

Bougainville and only

sea.

turn and no longer continued the chase.

ville.

airman's

encounter, Rabaul was

it

Anxiously Kepford looked back to see what be-

came

On

terrifying persistence

as Kepford's vision returned he

sparkhng

adopted and undoubtedly, as

many an American

ing out completely.

and

scheer/defense dept., marine corps)

bombardment and the demorwasted away ineffectu-

alizing realization that they ally

on another worthless

island.

DERAILING THE TOKYO EXPRESS

The ring closing in around Rabaul; Thirteenth Air Force Mitchells have just bombed a supply dump at

Rabaul checkmate: as surface ships carry troops to occupy Green Island, B-25s head for Rabaul to occupy

103

Rataval. Simpson tance. (U.

S.

Harbour and Rabaul

lie

in the dis-

AIR force)

Japanese air power during the beachhead landings. The taking of Green Island neutralized Rabaul. No invasion

was necessary,

(u.

s.

air force)

TURKEY SHOOT

JLar lay

to the north of the steaming, fevered

another

Though

still

chain

island

Solomons

questionable

of

worth.

in the Pacific, the string of islands called

the Aleutians

was

in

another world.

The

contrast be-

tween the Solomons and the Aleutians could hardly have been more extreme if, indeed, they had been

on

different planets.

Many who

served in each fre-

The Japanese had invaded

the Aleutians, setting

troops ashore at two of the westernmost islands, Attu

and Kiska,

could be nicely disregarded.

But

to those

who were

there

it

Admiral King stated the problem the Secretary of the

was impossible. in his report to

Navy: "Since the Aleutian

Is-

lands constitute an aerial highway between the North

American continent and the Far East, value

quently wished they were.

provided the terrain and the weather

true, of course,

is

obvious.

On

their strategic

the other hand, that chain of

islands provides as rugged a theater for warfare as

any

in the world.

Not only are

the islands

moun-

a subsidiary action of the ill-fated

as

Batde of Midway. They had aerial battle in

lost the great naval-

exchange for two

wind-swept rocks. They also

tiny, inhospitable,

an almost

lost

intact

Zero on one of the Aleutians close to the American base at Dutch Harbor. The sequel to hap, in the form of the

summer

fighter in the

of Attu

and therefore

made

On

it

to

mis-

"Hellcat"

of 1943, rendered the taking

and Kiska extremely

The proximity

this single

Grumman F6F costly.

of these two islands to Alaska,

the

North American mainland,

imperative that the Japanese be driven

the other hand, the Japanese

off.

saw the Aleutians

"pointing like a dagger at the heart of Japan," so

—on

a

map

that the

islands

armchair

strategist, at least

significance.

hardest,

it

the

hands of an

—took on

great strategic

in

Depending on which

side

pushed the

appeared that the islands formed step-

ping-stones into the back yard of the other. This

was

A snowbound

Alaska-based Airacobra; with the Japa-

nese in the Aleutians, the North Pacific became one of the

most uncomfortable theaters of war and especially s. air force)

inimical to aerial operations. (U.

TURKEY SHOOT

105

Nor were

they an attractive spot for ships.

As

wryly put by Major General Simon B. Buckner, Jr., in charge of the Alaska Defense Command (which in turn,

Navy

actually

in the

came under

the

command

of the

person of Rear Admiral Robert A. Theo-

bold), "the naval officer had an instinctive dread of Alaskan waters, feeling that they were a jumpingoff place

between Scylla and Charybdis and inhabby a ferocious monster that was forever breathing fogs and coughing up 'williwaws' that would

ited

blow

the unfortunate mariner into uncharted rocks

and forever destroy

chances of becoming an

his

admiral."

A P-40

based on LJmnak Island (Aleutians); "Flying markings are a tribute to the father of the Major John Chennault. (u. s. air force)

Tiger" pilot,

All operations in the Aleutians were circumscribed and dictated by nature, not man. Consequently as-

signment to the theater was more

being rele-

like

gated to a frigid purgatory than to war. But operatainous and rocky, but the weather in the western part of the islands

is

continually bad.

The

fogs are

almost continuous, and thick. Violent winds (known locally as 'williwaws') with

make any kind

accompanying heavy seas

of operation in that vicinity difficult

and uncertain." though understated. However, to the

the Eleventh Air Force and the Navy's Patrol the Aleutians were

Mud,



reconnaissance

no

men of Wing 4

"aerial highway."

cold, fog the conditions under which men and machines operated in the Aleutians. These Eleventh

whenever

possible, as the

Navy

and the Air Force

missions

bombed

the Japanese holdings at Attu and Kiska. "During April and May," an Air Force historian noted, "the weather for air operations is bad, during the rest of the year

This was, as was characteristic of the cool King, true

tions did take place,

fiew

it

is

worse." Distance was an-

other factor, for to reach Kiska, for example, the

heavy bombers had to make a

trip of

twelve hun-

Bomb

load

Weather

fore-

dred miles from their base at Umnak.

would have

to

be sacrificed

Air Force Liberators have

just

ing mission in the soup. (u.

s.

to fuel.

returned from a bombair force)

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

106 casts

were meaningless, for

was fogged

over.

in

pri-

Americans, for

air

these frustrations with the

operations for them were equally

The problem of supply was acute. In time, the Americans had hacked out bases on Adak and Amchitka islands, which were much closer to the Japanese-held islands than Umnak or Dutch Harbor. By March of 1943, although still a forgotten diflBcult.

theater, the

Japanese found that attempting to sup-

ply their garrisons in the Aleutians

Naval ships and planes,

and

fighters (the

Army

Pacific into a

to transform the northern

major theater of operations and there-

fore complicating the priorities for the other theaters,

marily of waste and frustration.

The Japanese shared

Although not wishing

an instant a target

The Aleutians war was one

was hazardous.

Air Force bombers

P-38s of the 54th Fighter Squadron

notably North Africa and the warmer reaches of the Pacific, the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed that the

nese should be knocked out of Attu.

more

time Kiska, which was

At

the

Japa-

same

heavily occupied, could

be bypassed and cut off from the Japanese bases in

the

Kurile Islands.

Admiral Kinkaid,

This idea, put forward by

command

in

of the North Pacific

Force, seemed feasible and was put into operation.

The two Japanese

garrisons were

bombed

as fre-

quently as weather permitted, by the Eleventh Air

Force B-24s as well as by P-38 and P-40

May

fighter

and the P-40s of the 18th Fighter Squadron) made

bombers. Finally,

supply runs by Japanese surface ships nearly hope-

Division went in to take Attu from the Japanese.

less.

Even

so, they

Mission's end: after

This

remained.

bombing Japanese

Aleutians, this B-24 found

its

positions in the

own home

base socked

is

in

1943, the 7th Infantry

a simple statement, but taking Attu was no

fog and had smooth tundra,

in with

to find

in a

(u.

s.

a soft landing spot nearby

Am

force)

TURKEY SHOOT

107

common

plus good

Even

sue.

as

sense, eventually decided the

is-

American plans were under way

to

invade Kiska, the Japanese under cover of a pe-

heavy fog evacuated

of

riod

from that unfriendly finally

island.

troops

of their

all

When

the landings were

made, the American and Canadian infantryeerie welcome: no Japanese; only

men found an

three yellow dogs.

When troops command hut

entered what had been the Japanese at

Kiska

scrawled on the wall: kill

found

they

"We

shall

come

message

a

again and

out separately Yanki jokers." But they did not

come

again and the "Yanki jokers" were

The Central

and

fog.

Midway, more than a year.

Pacific, after the Battle of

lay in a deceptive tranquillity for

While the

with

left

the world's worst weather, tundra, muskeg,

fighting raged to the south

later in the north),

the forces

and west (and

and materials were

slowly accumulated for the Central Pacific

toward Japan. What resources

—men and

sweep

materiel

could be spared from the European theater, where

by the summer of 1943 the Allies had invaded The new Yorktown in the Pacific. The great carrier's keel was laid six days before Pearl Harbor and it was launched on January 21, 1943. Commissioned in April, the Yorktown (named for the ship that went down at Midway) began operations in the Pacific by August. The earliest combat experience was gained by strikes upon Japanese-held islands such as Marcus, Wake, the Gilberts, Kwajalein.

went into the planning

Italy,

for the Central Pacific offen-

sive.

Thus a

command

great

fleet,

was organized under

the Fifth,

Raymond A. Spruance

of Vice-Admiral

to spearhead the assault. The steel point of this head was no less than eleven carriers, including the new Yorktown and Lexington, both heavy carriers, re-

(NAVY DEPT., NATIONAL ARCHIVES) placing the

Also recently commis-

older carriers.

sioned were the Essex and the Bunker Hill. to these

simple task.

From May

1 1

through the

contending with the cold

sides

(the

thirtieth,

division

be-

had

been trained with typical military wisdom in California)

and the weather, the men of the 7th Di-

vision fought an

The

ing banzai

vivors

outnumbered but ferocious enemy.

came

fighting

attack,

to a horrible close with a shriek-

and when

that

failed,

the sur-

committed suicide by putting hand grenades

to their heads.

From Attu in

the

Five light carriers,

all

recently launched, were the

Independence, Princeton, Belleau Wood, Monterey,

and Cowpens. These were not

employed

in the

carriers (the

and designed

was possible at

the

to

bomb

Japanese bases

northern extremity of the

all.

For also

to be

operation ahead were eight escort

CVEs),

smaller than the light carriers

to participate in close support of

phibious landings. In

all,

am-

the Fifth Fleet had about

nine hundred planes under

its

into the Gilberts, Marshails,

home islands. Also it was possible to pound The loss of Attu and the bombing of Kiska,

Japanese Kiska.

it

Kuriles,

Added

were the veteran Saratoga and Enterprise.

control for

its

assault

and Marianas.

Preliminary strikes were made upon Tarawa and Makin (in the Gilberts) by carrier planes beginning on November 13, 1943; diversionary attacks were also made upon Wake and Marcus islands to the

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

108

That

north. as to

succeeded in confusing the Japanese

this

where the next American assault would come

was obvious. Admiral Koga sent Ozawa's Third Air Fleet (Koku Kantai) and Kurita's Second Air Fleet to the Marshalls, expecting the first

When

fall there.

that did not

heavy blow to

come, he had nothing

do (besides wonder) but return the planes

else to

The B-24s

of the Seventh Air Force

Hawaii

in

—began



enth Air Force opened up

its

Liberators of

431st Squadron (which was based

bombed Tarawa

13, 1943, nine

south of the Gil-

Other units of the

Atoll.

Seventh were based upon several other islands: Na-

nomea and Nukufetau

(also in the Ellices)

and Can-

ton in the Phoenix Islands. Besides two B-24 squad-

rons

Canton,

at

were

there

two

also

miscalculated the degree of

bombardment

tion,

when on November

its

The Navy,

large-scale amphibious opera-

Japanese fortifications could withstand. The prize

chapter in the Central

in the Ellice Islands,

first

its

bombThe Sev-

Pacific offensive

on Funafuti

did not penetrate the coconut log,

it

concrete, and coral sand emplacements.

originally

flying long-distance

ing missions to the Gilberts and Marshalls.

berts)

bombings),

experiencing

to Rabaul.

based

Makin was lightly held, but Tarawa was not. The Air Force and carrier plane bombings had not softened up the Japanese positions. And although the pre-invasion naval bombardment was hoped to finish the job (it was more massive than aerial time.

fighter

Tarawa was

of

the airfield

Rear Admiral

on Betio

Island.

4836 picked command, and

Keiji Shibasaki with

troops of Imperial Marines under his the

these

knowledge that

fifteen

months of burrowing and

building had gone into the island's defenses, boasted that "a million

Americans could never take the

is-

land in a thousand years."

He

was, of course, wrong, for a considerably lesser

number secured cost

the island in about three days.

The

was high: nearly 1000 Marines died (of a

total

squadrons, one of P-40s and the other of P-39s.

of 3301

These were stationed alongside the A-24s of the

crack troops were wiped out (4690 killed out of a

Bomber Squadron. Another

531st Fighter

squadron was stationed

at

base, east of the Gilberts

fighter

Baker Island, a forward and north of the

Ellices.

still

bombproof

This was to function as a staging area for fighters

poured into

and a port

rest.

in a

storm for crippled bombers.

The Seventh Air Force, persed over, in

own

its

can be seen, was

as

phrase,

dis-

"one damned

is-

land after another."

This might very well have tions of

summed up

Admiral Mineichi Koga as he

cide, during the spring of 1943,

scale allied assault

would

fall.

emo-

the

tried to de-

where the next

full-

His head must have

swirled under the widespread attacks; only strikes to begin with, but an indication of offing.

what was

His predecessor, Yamamoto, had been

alive, in

shelters air

one of

Aerial operations during the Gilberts battle were

among the various groups of Task Force 50, commanded by Rear Admiral Charles A. Pownall. (Land-based

aircraft

57, but these too

were assigned

came

Task Force

Navy con-

Task Group 50.1 (built around the Yorktown, Lexington, and Cowpens) operated in the area betrol.)

tween the Marshalls and the Gilberts to interfere

in the

with any attempt by the Japanese to reinforce the

right.

Gilberts during the operations there. Carrier planes

would

on Mili and

Task Group 50.2

be reaching for the big base at Truk.

when

to

ultimately under

airfields

All doubts were cleared up

buried,

impregnable

shared

were engaged principally

it

his nearly

and hand grenades did the

would uncoil

massive spring. Soon

of Shibasaki's

by Marine bulldozers. Gasoline,

vents,

Given time, the great American productive potential like a

all

The admiral himself was

force of 4836).

possibly

and nearly

casualties)

troops of the

in

attacks

upon Japanese

Jaluit in the Marshalls.

(the Enterprise, Belleau

Wood,

and Monterey) was assigned to the Northern As-

coming

sault Force,

which took Makin. Task Group 50.3

Makin in the Gilberts on November 20, 1943. The next day Marines of the 2nd Division stormed the beaches of Tarawa. By November 24 the Army commander could claim small literary immortality by announcing "Makin taken"; but the Marines on Tarawa were destined to fight one of their most savage battles over the same period of

(the Essex,

Bunker

American ashore

at

27th

Infantry

Division

began

Hill,

and Independence) sup-

ported the Betio landings. Another group, 50.4 (the

Saratoga and Princeton), after attending to the field

air-

on Nauru Island, west of the Gilberts, operated

southwest of Tarawa as a relief group. At first Japanese air reaction was light. The Solomons campaign had taken a heavy toll of the carrierlater to the

Carrier strike on

Wake

Island as the Fifth Fleet ranged

through the Central Pacific freely, confuting the Japanese. Wake, which had fallen on Christmas Eve 1941,

Isolated, its original strategic

importance dwindled.

the Dauntless pilot prepares to

smoke may be seen

make

his

bomb

As run,

from what had been Camp on Wake itself. (navy dept., national archives) rising

a symbol of American defeat in the Pacific, was struck repeatedly by carrier planes although not invaded.

Two

A

about to turn on its bomb run for Wotje. Other islands in the group: Kwajalein and Eniwetok.

Seventh Air Force Liberator begins the softening up

for

the

projected Marshalls

campaign.

The B-24

is

(center, across lagoon)

(u.

s.

AIR force)

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

no

Deck landing accident aboard the Enterprise en route to the Marshalls, November 1943. The Hellcat has veered off the flight deck and caught fire. Catapult

based

aircraft;

Guinea

area.

Japanese

air

November

so

Search planes and torpedo planes immediately

launched from the Enterprise found no trace of

That night the

twenty-fifth.

A

early

the

in

morning of the

submarine had slipped into the ship

concentration and put a torpedo into the escort car-

The

Liscombe Bay, some twenty miles first

inkling of this

the other ships

when

Makin.

they heard an explosion and

ond explosion which appeared the

off

was noted by the men aboard

then "a few seconds after the

and

first

explosion, a sec-

come from

to

two hundred

feet or

"snooper"

flare

planes

blossomed over

the ships as radar-directed guns scanned skyward. It

was near daylight on

for the radarscopes,

a prelude, as

it

the ships, but the sky, except

was screened

had been

at

in night.

This was

Guadalcanal: snoopers

illuminated the target area with flares and the ers followed.

fell

on the decks of a destroyer

The

entire ship

seemed

glowed with flame

five

to

thousand

explode and

like a furnace." In

minutes the Liscombe Bay, the lost,

no

But no bombs came

sank, taking

644 of

its

first

of

it.

twenty type to

crew, including Rear

Admiral H. M. Mullinnix and Captain with

its

I.

D. Wilt-

real attack

that

first

bombnight,

had been planned.

Something was

the air [burning bits of metal and other

in

almost at the same instant the interior of the ship

sie,

Japanese

A

carrier.

North Carolina discouraged the bombers, or because

yards away].

be

as

sought the American ships.

little

overhead with the

Liscombe Bay burst upward, hurling fragments clearly discernible planes

.

sound of engines

hummed

perhaps because the radar-controlled guns of the

debris

.

air

inside

more

.

submarine 1-175 which had sunk the

25.

demonstrated

rier,

wing to assist the pilot. (navy dept., national archives)

New

the

in

airfield

That the Japanese were planning counterattacks

was

Lieutenant Walter Chewning, with one foot on

the belly tank, climbs onto the

was secured before materialized on the night of

had the battling

The Betio attacks

officer,

afoot, obviously, for the next

day

snoopers poked around the edges of radar screens as

soon as the sun dipped. Aboard the Enterprise

counterplans were being discussed to deal with the clearly

impending night attack.

Newly arrived aboard the Enterprise to command its Air Group 6 fighters was Lieutenant Commander Edward H. O'Hare, Medal of Honor recipient. Butch O'Hare had singlehandedly saved the Lexing-

111 ton off BougainviUe in February 1942 by breaking up an attack by nine Japanese bombers.

At

time O'Hare flew the

F4F

Wildcat; his

aboard the Enterprise was the

F6F

new

that

aircraft

Hellcat,

the

plane specifically designed to fight the Zero. It was the plane which the lost Zero of the Aleutians had inspired. The Hellcat was tougher, faster, and a better high-altitude fighter than the Zeke. The lighter Japanese plane continued to be more maneuverable, but it paid for it by flaming aU too readily, by lack

of armor protection for the pilot, and by a comparatively flimsy construction which under the six 50s of the Hellcat all but disintegrated.

Edward -Butch" OHare. Medal

of

Honor

winner,

who

had singlehandedly saved the Lexington by destroying or driving off nine Japanese bombers.

(NAVY DEPT., NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

An F6F

•Hellcat." the aircraft specifically designed to vanquish the Zero, taking off from the deck of a carrier. This is one of the hundreds of fine Navy photographs

The Hellcat had been in action since August 31, when VF-5 of the Yorktown flew it in a car-

1943,

rier strike

land;

VF-9

on Japanese

installations

on Marcus

Is-

of the Essex was also equipped with the

taken by, or under the supervision of, photographer Steichen (a Navy captain during the war).

Edward

(navy DEPT., NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

112

The toughness of the Hellcat is revealed in this photograph of one which has returned to its carrier after combat. Flames inside the fuselage have shriveled the

Poised on the

flight

Soon after, the pilot was rescued by shipmates and, though burned, survived the incident, (navy dept., national archives)

skin; fire pours out of the flaps.

deck, this Avenger gets the flag for takeoff, (u.

s.

navy)

TURKEY SHOOT

A

113

rocket-armed Avenger springs into the

were used

and

in the Atlantic against

in the Pacific against

Rockets

air.

German submarines

Japanese shipping. (u.

enemy s.

navy)

aircraft.

Avenger Phillips

in

the

O'Hare and Skon could not dark,

let

alone

find the

an enemy plane.

meanwhile had the bogie on

his

own

screen

and with Rand guiding him came upon a Betty Hellcat and participated in this strike. But

it

was

heading for the ships.

Three miles away O'Hare and Skon were

during the Gilbert campaign that the Hellcat saw first

its

to

real action.

The planners

of

the

Enterprise,

however,

mind for the coming night. radar-eqi'ipped Avenger could lead a Hellcat something

else in

the proximity

could do the

of a Japanese

rest.

That evening

had If

a

into

bomber, the Hellcat at

see a sudden flare in the sky.

ness.

Other Bettys

in the

at

one another. If

that

was where the action was, O'Hare and to the scene. Phillips mean-

Skon turned and raced

Kernan. At the same time the large radar set

flicked

the

Combat Information Center would

the friendlies

til

in

track both

and the bogies.

The bogies came and went but little happened unPhillips was directed from the Enterprise toward

Japanese formation, sur-

prised by the unexpected attack, began firing wildly

dusk O'Hare took

with his wingman. Ensign

startled

burning

fell

into the water, forming a burning lake in the black-

Warren Skon, in their Hellcats. They were followed by an Avenger piloted by Lieutenant Commander John Phillips, Enterprise bomber leader. In the Avenger were also radar operator Lieutenant Hazen Rand and gunner A. B.

off

It

while had been vectored onto another Betty.

As he

approached he heard O'Hare request that he turn on the navigation lights of the Avenger so that he

and

Skon

could

on the

find

lights,

alerted the Betty.

him.

Reluctantly

Phillips

which, as he had expected,

But soon that bomber too went Moments later, Kernan fired

burning into the sea. at

a dark form passing near the Avenger's

Under orders from

the Enterprise

all

tail.

three

Ameri-

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

114 can planes turned on

them

able

nearby

their navigation lights to en-

to assemble. If there

were enemy

aircraft

would of course place the Avenger and

this

moved

Hellcats in jeopardy.

The two

closer to the Avenger.

Soon the two Hellcats over-

Skon

the

To

better cover the

swooped under

left.

and took a position

tail,

Avenger. O'Hare

in

throttled back,

took the Avenger, to their larger plane,

fighters

slid

off the left

wing of the

back toward the right wing.

Suddenly Kernan's ball turret came to

firing,

life,

according to his report, between the two Hellcats at

a darkened plane approaching from the stem.

The

up the night and then again

.50-calibers lighted

was darkness. O'Hare's

there lights

still

Hellcat, with navigation

and down. Skon,

on, veered to the left

certain that

O'Hare was

attacking, followed, but the

to the Allied

approach

Combined Chiefs of Staff for a dual The Combined Chiefs con-

in the Pacific.

curred and issued their directive stating that the "ad-

New

vance along the

Guinea-Netherlands East In-

dies-Philippine axis will proceed concurrently with

operations for the capture of the

Mandated

A

be established in

bombing

strategic

Guam,

force

Tinian, and Saipan for strategic

Japan proper." For the Boeing

this final

The

early

by other

aircraft.

he

Butch O'Hare was gone. Although

may have been

hit

by a Japanese plane,

was

it

more than likely that Kernan had hit him by mistake. It was a tragedy for Kernan (though not absolute, for there will always

be the chance that a

men

Japanese gunner shot O'Hare down) and the

combined operations, "characterized,"

As soon

as

the

death of one more airman increased the figure by a single

digit.

But

did not diminish the tragedy.

it

Tragedy multiplied becomes

history,

eliminating

thus biography; and great numbers simply

symbols which

stir

the blood but only

become

afflict

heart individually. Whatever the cost, Tarawa, kin,

and

Abemama



the Gilberts

—belonged

Americans. The lessons learned there price

the

Ma-

to the

at so great a

would not be wasted.

Gilberts the initial softening

With D-Day

moved

in

set for

the

(in the

to strike at

Majuro, Roi,

its

Navy

attacks, the Seventh

B-24s and B-25s to harass guns

off balance.

took their

toll,

but

were weak because so many planes

had previously been destroyed on the ground. Snoopers seemed even more timid than Then around dusk of January 29

in the

Gilberts.

the sudden ap-

pearance of nine planes low on the water

electrified

The planes were quickly identified as twin-ruddered Nells and became the focus of destroyer antiaircraft guns. Combat air patrol Hellcats dropped down to attack the intruders also. A trail of smoke came from one of the bombers the

fleet.

it

splashed into the water. Loudspeakers on

American

been

firing!

ships

Cease

about firing!"

then

began booming,

The planes

that

had

identified as Nells were, in fact, Mitchells of

step in the Central as well as South

defined at the so-called Sextant

ference in Cairo on

December

3,

Con-

1943 (attended

by Churchill, Roosevelt, and Chiang Kai-shek). Admiral King opposed the idea of relinquishing the

war

in the

Kwajalein Atoll), Taroa and

antiaircraft

fighter defenses

"Cease

Pacific

new bases

of the targets began.

Japanese and to keep them

Japanese

before

The next was

up

January 31, 1944, the carriers

two days before

and Kwajalein

the

Pacific

was

Seventh Air Force could begin

launching bombing missions from

Air Force sent over

The

in the Gilberts

not lost in the planning of the Marshalls invasions.

Wotje. In concert with the

of Japanese.

in the

in the execution of those

The experience gained

But then tragedy and error are the very ingredients of war. Six hundred men had died, too, in the Liscombe Bay; a thousand Marines lay dead on Tarawa

number

proved

words of Admiral King, "by excellent planning and

of the Enterprise.

alongside four times that

It

one of the most successfully handled of the

to be

plans."

the next day

(Guam, Saipan,

step between the Marianas

and Tinian) was the Marshalls campaign.

by almost perfect timing

made

bombing of

phase a new bomber,

B-29 Superfortress, was being delivered

the night. All Skon's attempts to call his leader were as were the searches

Islands.

to combat-training units in the United States.

veer became a dive and the Hellcat disappeared into

fruitless,

will

to

MacArthur, submitting

his

own plan

Flaming Kate stopped by the gunners of the Yorktown off

December 3, 1943. (NAVY DEPT., NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

Kwajalein, Marshall Islands,

•iii^^:.-Ji'



kik Eniwetok, Marshall Islands, under carrier plane attack. U.

S.

Marines take

shelter in a shell hole as others

up machine guns (upper center); a burned out twin-engined Japanese bomber lies at bottom left. (u. s. navy)

set

TURKEY SHOOT

117

Navy

Corsairs of the Intrepid ready for a strike on Truk. Originally not regarded as suitable for carriers, the Corsair proved otherwise. These F4U-2s are

When come

the taking of

off so

smoothly,

it

Majuro and Kwajalein had was decided that one more

of the Marshalls, Eniwetok Atoll, might be taken

even for

earlier

May

10,

The

ruary 20 Eniwetok

lay about

to

325 miles west

pattern of softening up,

bom-

fell

to

American

forces and the

Marshall Islands belonged to the United States. Sev-



Jaluit, Mill,

in

Maloelap, and Wotje (as

the Gilberts)

They harbored Japanese

—were

not invaded at

troops, held air bases,

but with the other positions in American hands these atolls air

home

base outside the

islands,

was rendered almost Rear Admiral Marc

A. Mitscher's Fast Carrier Force.

atoll

bardment, and assault was repeated, and by Feb-

was Nauru

Truk, the vaunted

D-Day on Eniwetok was moved up

the Marianas.

all.

assault,

neutral by the carrier planes of

and north of Kwajalein and about 1000 miles from

them

During the Eniwetok

"Gibraltar of the Pacific," Japan's most formidable

than had been originally planned. Set

February 17. This

eral of

equipped with "radomes" near starboard wingtip for night operatioris. The Japanese hated this plane and called it "Whistling Death." (navy dept., nationai, archives)

were isolated from everything but American

and surface

attacks.

On

the

morning

of February 17, after a surprisingly uneventful trip

from Majuro

in the Marshalls,

a fighter sweep of

seventy-two Hellcats pounced upon the

Truk. Fighting in the

more than

the Japanese lost

more on

air cost

the ground.

four

Navy

fifty in

air

base at

planes, but

the air and even

Avengers followed the

fighters,

on the base, leaving behind less than a hundred operational planes with which the Japanese might contend the Eniwetok landings. planting incendiaries

Dive bombers destroyed the ships so that by February

—and,

kind of Gibraltar

in

the

harbor,

18 Truk was no longer any in fact,

was no longer even

TURKEY SHOOT

119 or drove them

Lr»>g»i..iSftfi*5>Fi'^i-'r:.;.-ri.

off,

and the armada, undamaged

though zigzagging, continued westward to the morning's

launch point. As at Truk, Hellcats swept in

over the Japanese bases, strafing and burning. Aerial

by

opposition

Japanese

many

fighters,

burned on the ground, was sporadic,

already

tentative,

and

lacking in characteristic Japanese fatal determination.

At

the

same time small

pan, Tinian, and

Guam

Japan's inner defense

and around

ships in

Sai-

were strafed and bombed. line,

which ran through the

Marianas, had been pierced. There was consternation

in

Tokyo and Admiral Koga,

with the Imperial General nese

naval

base was

Staff.

moved

after

home

the fleet to evacuate Truk, hurried

The

ordering to confer

principal Japa-

farther

westward

to

Palau, practically on the doorstep of the PhiUppines.

The Free riders: several Navy pilots came to grief near Truk during a carrier strike {April 30, 1944) due to Japanese antiaircraft or mechanical failures. This Kingfisher was sent to retrieve the dunked pilots and picked



up so many six from the Enterprise and one from that pilot John A. Burns could not take the Langley off. (navy dept., national archives)

down

was no more

it

impressive, or potent, than any other bypassed island

ward

Palau.

to

with

a

since the fall of

carrier

Guam

(the largest and southernmost of the Marianas)

double: to cover the Eniwetok landings and to begin reconnaissance photography of Saipan, Tinian,

Guam

for the proposed seizure of these

islands for future bases.

For the

early Gilberts assaults,

the Japanese

fight

back vigorously. As the

time since the

first

carriers

attempted to

approached the

Marianas the evening of February 21 was marked

by heavy

fighting.

Three attempts by bombers to stop the American ships

were made by an estimated forty Japanese

ships. Intense antiaircraft fire either shot

them down

moments of a Japanese "J ill' (Nakajima B6N) torpedo bomber during an attempt at American ships

Last

off Truk.

(navy dept., national arciuves)

in

through the

This

line,

Koga

stated,

must be

Mac-

New

Guinea, as well as in the seas through which

moved toward Japan. And

the Mari-

anas, just to the northeast in the Philippine Sea,

were also within reach.

jective of

to

know

aircraft carriers

became the main obHe was fated never order, for on March 31,

Koga's plan. Order 73.

of the failure of this

in

December 1941 had American planes passed over these islands. The purpose of the carrier raid was

Rota, and

islands,

Arthur's forces hopping up the northern coast of

American closed

home

held to the death. Palau lay across the path of

in the Pacific.

The Marshalls campaign strike in the Marianas. Not

past the

Bonins, southerly through the Marianas, and west-

Halsey's ships

Truk. As "a formidable bastion"

drawn from the Kuriles

defensive line was

the north,

The fighting in the Central Pacific intensifies; the American carriers have moved in close to Saipan, Mariana Islands, for a strike before the coming invasion, (navy dept., national archtves)

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

120

Koga was

1944,

storm while flying from

lost in a

Saipan to Davao in the Philippines.

was

compared

When

to

Our

situation

is

aggressive character,"

1st,

Harbor attack). Stationed aboard these

the Pearl

were the

carriers

601st Kokutai (Air

pilots of the

Corps). Rear Admiral Takaji Jojima

Commander

in

Com-

Chief,

vital to

our national security. gravity.

There

of deciding this struggle in our

the

2nd Carrier Division: the

The Americans must be stopped, once and

for

light

commanded

carriers Hiyo,

3rd Carrier Division (Rear Admiral Sueo Obayashi)

was assigned

to the

main body, which consisted

and cruisers which were to deal

also of battleships

fleet.

Obayashi commanded the

Chiyoda, Chitose, and Zuiho (653rd

light carriers

Kokutai). With so vast an accumulation of

in the Marianas.

The

Junyo, and Ryuho, carrying the 652nd Kokutai.

with the American

favor."

all,

consisted of

kaku, and Zuikaku (the two surviving veterans of

words of Samuel

one of unprecedented

way

command,

Japan's entry into war and

like

Koga.

he became

only one

his

the three heavy carriers Taiho (the flagship), Sho-

much more

approaching areas

is

under

Ya-

who

bined Fleet, Toyoda rather bluntly said, "The war is

his aerial forces into three carrier di-

The

visions.

a realist besides, and, in the

Eliot Morison, "a

had divided

suc-

ceeded by Admiral Soemu Toyoda,

mamoto had opposed

He was

power

air

plus the assistance which might be expected

Kakuda's land-based planes, Japanese naval

from

officers

anticipated a great aerial slaughter of the Americans.

This was planned to be finished by the battleships

Takeo

of Vice-Admiral

As an

Navy made

Imperial

the

all-out effort to stop the

Army and Prime

preparations

for

enemy. Minister of the

Minister General Hideki Tojo

criti-

cized the Navy's efforts as "hysterical" and refused to permit the use of

Toyoda could do

Army

aircraft in the

Marianas.

nothing, then, but alert and de-

He would co-ordinate his carcommand of Vice-Admiral Jisaburo

ploy his naval forces. rier force,

under

Ozawa, with the land-based

forces of Vice-Admiral

world's most

modern

Even

trained warriors

Only the veterans awaited the coming

The

reservations.

little

as

was

bled since

command was

the

attack

the largest fleet assem-

on Pearl Harbor:

three ships, including nine carriers,

new heavy

carrier Taiho.

seventy-

among them

Never before

in

the

Japanese

naval history had such a heavy concentration of battle

planes been assembled.

—Zekes,

450 planes

There were nearly

Kates, Vals, and the newer

Na-

battle with

excepting a handful of experienced

tragically inadequate, ranging

two months

to a

began

maximum

of

the

for

never taken part in a carrier

der Ozawa's

ill-

training of the pilots aboard the

of experience

awaited developments at Tawitawi, in the

exhilarating ex-

were inclined to a touch of "victory

The Palau anchorage having been rendered unwholesome by the marauding American carriers, Sulu Sea, just west of the southern Philippines. Un-

An

to leave Tawitawi.

about a thousand.

Ozawa

in-

fever."

leaders,

a total of

which

these young, untried, inexperienced, and

nine carriers,



battleships.

word

impatiently for the

nian and his planes were deployed through the Mari-

Iwo Jima, and Truk

force,

citement gripped the young pilots as they waited

Kakuji Kakuda. Kakuda's headquarters were on Ti-

anas, the Carolines,

Kurita's

cluded the great Yamato and Musashi, two of the

at

top,

battle.

Raymond A.

from as

But lack

Ozawa had

He was

to op-

who had Midway. Direcdy opposing Ozawa

pose Rear Admiral

proved himself

at

six.

Spruance,

was Vice-Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's formidable Task Force

58. Mitscher not only

ter-trained

men,

shrewdness

—on

American-made

better his side,

aircraft,

had quality his



own

bet-

battie

he also had overwhelming,

quantity, as

Yamamoto had

fore-

seen.

Early in June 1944 Task Force 58 began

its

ap-

proach upon the southern Marianas. Only cliches

kajima Tenzen ("Jill") torpedo bomber and the not

could do

new Yokosuka Suisei ("Judy") dive bomber. The latter two planes were designed to re-

"the greatest

place the aged Kate and Val.

ships churned through the Pacific. There were seven

quite

so

To meet

the rampaging

American

forces,

Ozawa

as the

it

justice:

"massive array of sea-air power,"

armada ever assembled," for as "far and beyond great, warlike eye could see"





heavy carriers (the Hornet, Yorktown, Bunker

Hill,

\

58

Task Force sembled

.

.

".

." in

.

the

into the Marianas,

.

the

armada ever

greatest

summer

of 1944 poised to

as-

move

(navy dept., national archives)

put to sea. His carriers transported about double

number of aircraft Ozawa had on his carriers 890 planes, the bulk being Hellcats, plus Avengers, Dauntlesses, and the new Curtiss SB2-C the

over

Wasp, Enterprise, Lexington, and Essex), eight light (the Bataan, Belleau Wood, Monterey,

carriers

"Helldiver." Pilots, incidentally, disdained the pub-

Cabot, San Jacinto, Princeton, Cowpens, and Lang-

lic

ley),

seven

thirteen

new

battleships,

cruisers,

light

and

eight

heavy cruisers,

sixty-nine

Richmond K. Turner's amphibious which would invade Saipan, then Guam, and

Vice-Admiral

relations

name

of the plane and preferred calling

simply the "2C."

According to plans, the amphibious

destroyers.

This does not include those ships directly assigned to

forces,

it

forces.

rine

and Army, would go ashore on Saipan

June

15.

Maon

Three days before, Mitscher's carrier planes

were to sweep over the Marianas

airfields,

bringing

force

up the curtain on the operation. However, on the

were several old battleships which had been dam-

tenth Japanese air patrols spotted the approaching

then Tinian.

aged

Among

at Pearl

the

ships

of

Turner's

Harbor, besides eight of the smaller

escort carriers.

But before the landings could be made Mitscher's

away Japanese aerial potential in and around Saipan. Leaving Majuro anchorage on June 6, 1944 (the same date but planes must begin clearing

because of the International Date Line the day before the

Normandy

landings in Europe), Mitscher

carriers;

Toyoda, long suspecting,

mander

in Chief,

his

own

plan: he

Combined hoped

at last

Fleet,

to lure the

knew.

Com-

had formulated

American

fleet

into the waters off the western Carolines (southwest

of

Guam). There, roughly

in

the vicinity

of

the

Palau Islands and other Japanese bases (Yap and

Woleai), with his vast aerial force he would annihilate the

American

carriers.

Toyoda expected

the

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

122

teenth the battleships started pounding the landing

On

beaches.

day, also, the Japanese

this

fleet

left

Tawitawi and proceeded northward. Obviously the

Americans intended

Marianas (which

to invade the

had been the prediction of Commander Chikataka Intelligence Staff)

and not

believed).

Immedi-

was Operation Kon (a plan

to retake

Nakajima of the Naval Palau (as the

Staff, in general,

ately canceled

importandy

the

New

northwest coast of to

Biak,

of

island

strategic

the

off

Guinea, which had fallen

MacArthur's forces), and Toyoda ordered Ozawa proceed

to

at

speed for Saipan

full

—about

two

thousand miles away. At the same time Kakuda's land-based

planes

Americans

By Island

and

flight

deck of the Lexington before Saipan. (navy dept., national archives)

this

were ordered to hold

Ozawa's forces

until

time about

five

off

the

arrived.

hundred planes had been

destroyed and with the remaining handful there was

air.

from the

resistance forthcoming, at least not

little

On

June 15 Marines and

Army

infantrymen

(2nd and 4th Marine Divisions; 27th Infantry Di-

Mar-

landings at Palau and tended to regard any

They had been Navy manuals and talks. The

vision) struck the beaches of Saipan.

ianas operations as diversions masking MacArthur's

properly cautioned by

New Guinea

troops were warned to beware of sea

moves.

But Mitscher's main task was for

and cover the landings

be

difficult,

however

to prepare the

in the

Marianas;

western Carolines. In

fact,

it

him

alluring, to entice

way

would

into the

as soon as he realized

that Japanese reconnaissance planes

had found Task

Force 58, Mitscher put on speed and steamed ahead for the Marianas. By the afternoon of June 11, though

still

about two hundred miles east of the

Marianas, Mitscher launched his



first

fighter

the Hellcats being guided to the targets

better-equipped

(in

terms

of

navigational

sweep

dawn

attack for the next day. Also,

tack on the carriers that very evening.

at-

About two

hundred Hellcats swarmed down upon Saipan, Tiand Guam, destroying planes on the ground the

air.

read

officer life

About 150 Japanese planes were

dysentery,

filariasis,

snakes, and giant lizards.

sects,

"Eat nothing growing on the island," he continued

A

ofllicer

"Why

waters and don't approach

questions?"

hand was

The

its

The End.

don't

raised.

nodded.

we

let

them keep the island?"

Unlike Japanese Naval Intelligence,

American Marine had never heard of

the

Americans, Field.

At

the

Japanese

had constructed Aslito

possible strong air re-

was

free of Japa-

The next day American and other

was being

set up. It

air bases, primarily, that the

destruction of airfields

installations continued,

and on the

thir-

that

is,

was because of these

Americans did not want

the Japanese to keep the island,

nese attack.

— —another

the northern end of the island

airstrip

all

night off Saipan

On

Saipan, northernmost of the islands coveted by the

the Marianas, crippling first

young

the B-29.

opposite to the end on which Aslito lay

The

yaws,

saber grass, in-

erased from Kakuda's ground-based air forces in

taliation.

a bear

according to regulations, the

off,

ashore: leprosy, typhus,

typhoid, dengue fever,

"Any

undoubtedly, they were preparing for a snooper

in

An

joys of

the inhabitants."

TF

man hke

and giant clams that shut on a trap."

reading; "don't drink

58's presence, they were apparently preparing for

and

nes, razor-sharp coral, polluted waters, poison fish

instru-

Although the Japanese had been aware of

nian,

ringing

anemo-

by the

ments) Avengers.

the customary

life

the island: "sharks, barracuda, sea snakes,

and

for

which the

invading troops were expected to risk the nearly countless hazards of

fife in

and around Saipan.

TURKEY SHOOT

123

The invasion of Saipan, with carrier plane cover, beJune 15, 1944. A Japanese ship burns near the shore, (navy dept., national archives) gins;

Besides these natural perils there were Lieutenant

General Yoshitsugo Saito's Also on Saipan as Fleet,

command

in

thousand troops.

thirty

Commander of

all

Chief,

in

Japanese

Pacific

Marine and

naval units in the area, was Vice-Admiral Chuichi

Nagumo, the

Americans were aiming

Saito,

ships

Nagumo Command:

the reluctant hero of Pearl Harbor.

agreed with others in the Japanese High for Palau.

grumbling because the Navy had

and troop ships

to

Meanwhile lost

supply

American submarines, did

the best he could to prepare "to destroy the

enemy

at the water's edge."

The day before

the landings

began Nagumo, hav-

ing witnessed the aerial strikes of the previous four

During the Saipan invasion carrier sweeps over

days, hedgingly proffered a prediction and a defini-

to

tion.

"The Marianas

our homeland. will

It

is

are the

first

certain

line of defense of

that

the

Americans

land in the Marianas group either this

the next."

They landed, of

month or

course, the next day.

the south held

On

his mission

down Japanese

Ensign A. P. Morner, Ironwood, Michi-

gan, encountered six Zekes, shot

down

wounded himself and

damaged

sulted in rier,

(u.

this s.

Guam

aerial intervention.

his Hellcat

three, but

crash landing on Morner's

navy)

—which home

was re-

car-

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

124

Stowaways: Fighter

Air

Force

Thunderbolts

of

Group {73rd Squadron) aboard

318th

the

the

carrier

Manila Bay. Japanese Vals from Saipan contributed the splashes to port. (u. s. Am force)

"Where are our planes?" lamented tank man Tokuzo Matsuya in a characteristic query. "Are they letting us die without making any effort to save us? If it were for the security of the Empire we would not hesitate to lay

down our

Uves, but wouldn't

be a great loss to the Land of the Gods for us to die

on

would be easy

this island? It

but for the sake of the future

I

for

feel

me

it

all

to die,

obUgated to

stay alive."

Marine Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith,

command

found that "Saito met us in

in

of the ground troops for the invasion, at the

beaches at Saipan

approved Japanese fashion, and our hopes of

quickly expanding our beachhead were

dampened.

.

.

.

somewhat

Thunderbolt of 73rd Squadron leaves deck of Manila

Bay for

(renamed

Aslito Field

Isley

The long twenty-five-day continu-

Field),

Saipan.

Am

force)

(u.

s.

ous attack against strongly entrenched and fiercely resisting troops

on Saipan proved the most

battle in the Pacific

and

up

to that time." Intense

artillery fire, plus suicidal,

made By June

tacks by the Japanese,

and, for many, short. Field

fell

to the

bitter

mortar

screaming night life

18,

at-

cort carriers

Manila Bay and Natoma Bay, landed

at Aslito to join the this

time the

field

Navy

planes already there.

was renamed

Commander Robert H.

ashore dreadful

of

however, AsUto

Lexington's torpedo planes.

Army's 27th Division.

On

June 22

Saipan landings

Isley's

Thunderbolts of the 19th and 73rd Squadrons of

aircraft fire over Aslito

the 318th Fighter Group, catapulted

the field

from the

es-

itself.

From

By

Isley Field, in

honor

commander

of the

Isley,

Two

days before the

Avenger was and crashed

Isley Field

hit

by

in flames

anti-

onto

the Seventh Air

TURKEY SHOOT

125

showing the ravages of American parked among the Navy and Air Force planes. (u. s. navy)

Aslito Field, Saipan,

carrier plane attacks. Intact aircraft

wrecks are U.

S.

another weapon, at

fective

Force Thunderbolts engaged blasting

away

at

Marine and

Army

troops.

tions,

of

still

beleagered

gaged

the fighting

Once

opera-

in

front

established in the

(later in

napalm, diesel

popularly called the "fire first

oil,

of the frightfully ef-

and gasoline mixtures

napalm and gasoline), which when dropped

wing and belly tanks from about

fifty

feet

upon

Japanese strong points (particularly caves) created

when not enbombed and strafed on Saipan and Tinian. By July,

on Saipan, word was flashed from the submarine

on Saipan ended, the Thunderbolts

Flying Fish that a large Japanese carrier force had

airfield,

in sporadic

Japanese positions

when

in close-support

Japanese positions

first

bomb." These were the

the

P-47s,

air battles,

of the 318th Fighter

Group were armed with

yet

a havoc of flame.

Meanwhile, even as American troops went ashore

been sighted

in

San Bernardino

Strait,

headed for

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

126

carriers

—Ozawa's

major

Marianas

targets

^he

of

(excepting,

airfields



could launch

combat, could land on the

his planes, which, after

course,

Aslito).

Japanese search planes, meanwhile, sought out the

American

made prepupon Spruance's

the Japanese carriers

fleet as

arations to hurl total destruction carriers.

June 19 dawned clear over the American

The

carriers.

night before, the pilots had been disappointed

because Spruance would not authorize Mitscher, in tactical

command

of the carriers, to speed westward

Spruance had in mind

the Japanese.

to intercept

Task Force 58 was to were too

that the primary mission of

cover the Saipan invasion. far west, there

y

coming

ships sea.

If the carriers

was always a possibility of Japanese pound the Americans from the

in to

Aboard

the Lexington, his flagship,

Mitscher

was reported to have stalked into his sea cabin to blow off steam in private. On the Enterprise Captain Matthias B. Gardner, complying, said nothing

Marc Andrew

Mitscher,

USN, an

Navy

early

air

Solomons campaign

pioneer, canny air leader during

and commander of carrier force in the Central Pacific for the Marianas assault. (navy dept., national archives)

but

is

down

reported to have "hurled

stomped on

it."

(Spruance was

his hat

and

later criticized for

holding his carriers near Saipan and not taking the offensive

on June

18. Critics,

however, ex post facto

as usual, possessed certain vital information at the

which

time the Japanese were not bestowing upon

Spruance.)

The next

the Marianas.

day, June

16,

Seahorse,

another submarine, sighted more ships off Surigao Strait.

Spruance knew then that the Combined Fleet

was coming out

He

in full force.

immediately can-

celed the proposed June 18 landing on

Volcano Islands

nins, south of the

air strikes

Japanese homeland).

American submarines, which were portant

role

in

(al-

upon Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima in the Bo-

though not the June 16 in the

Guam

the

tracked the Japanese

an im-

to play

battle,"

waiting for the

moment

fleet,

their fish.

Spruance posi-

tioned his carriers by June 18 about 160 miles west of Tinian.

Field

fell

On





same day Ozawa's forces had this

the day that Aslito

arrived at a position

about 500 miles west of Saipan. The opposing

by June 19 were about four hundred miles

Ozawa,

fleets

apart.

had the advantage. His planes, lack of armor plating and the lack of

therefore,

thanks to the

An early morning strike Guam was mounted to keep that

on the nineteenth.

on Orote Field on

base neutralized in the event that the impending battle materiaUzed.

About

on the aheady beaten-up antUke

seemed

activity

Wildcats pounced

thirty

a rather surprising

field;

progress

in

as

Japanese

planes were pushed out of revetments and put into

impending "decisive

when they might launch

Mitscher's eager pilots, however, would not lack for action

the heavy self-sealing fuel tanks, enjoyed a greater

the air with frantic resolution. the morning's decimation,

The Wildcats began

shattering the Japanese

planes, barely air-borne, out of- the bright

morning

sky.

In about an hour and a half of fighting, the Ameri-

can combat

air patrol

shot

kuda's land-based planes,

morning escaped previous sion aboard the carriers

down

thirty-five of

Ka-

which had up to that attacks.

mounted

Meanwhile, tenas Mitscher

won-

dered about the location of the Japanese carriers.

Ozawa had begun launching and bombers

his planes at

dawn,

seventy-

search

planes

range than the American carrier fighters. Even be-

three),

which fanned out into a squally sky to look

came within range

for the

American

fore his carriers

of the

American

fleet.

(a

total

of

The imperfect weather over

TURKEY SHOOT

127

VFN-76 on the Lexington near Saipan; radomes converted these planes into night fighters that

Hellcats of

dealt

with Japanese night

"snoopers," reconnaissance

planes and bombers.

(navy dept., national archives)

Ameri-

the Japanese ships, stretching nearly to the

water at the Taiho. Warrant OfiScer Sakio Komatsu,

can dispositions, was a disadvantage to the inex-

whose plane was

perienced Japanese pilots. Animated with patriotism

line in the

and

little

cious

began taking

murky

Ozawa's

slaughter.

to

Lieutenant

by

they were led like strangely pugna-

else,

sheep

first

raid,

led

Commander Masayuki Yamagami, daybreak and vanished into

at

off

eastern sky.

Then Ozawa

afford to, for his ships were

still

waited.

He

could

beyond the range

to

make

a thorough job of the

Americans, so even as the planes of the

were taking Division,

off the

the

Judys,

also.

of

the

and twenty-seven

latter,

1st

Jills

Japan's great

new

served the air swarming with

was a sand

gigantic vessel of tons.

raid

Launched

Carrier

Division

Forty-eight Zekes, fifty-four

Zuikaku, Shokaku, and Taiho. the

first

van carriers of the 3rd Carrier

planes

began launching

from the

took

off

From

the bridge of

an American submarine

mand

of

turn the

three

space below decks with fumes.

A

filling

the rest, for within six hours the Taiho

by a splintering explosion.

A

the hangar

single spark did

was ripped

mass of flames from

stem to stern, the Taiho turned over and sank.

Admiral Ozawa

in

the

meantime had moved to He was an

another ship, the heavy cruiser Haguro.

unhappy man,

for

even

doom

while

the

Taiho reeked

was

sixty-four thou-

victim

months

submarine Cavalla. The Shokaku sank even before

before

(April 4, 1944), the Taiho was considered unsink-

with impending



yet another carrier

deck of the flagship a

torpedo track was discovered knifing through the

at-

time the Skokakii, which became the

this

of Lieutenant

Commander H.

J.

Kossler's

the Taiho.

Before these misfortunes, the last plane left the

(under com-

the area

in

W. Blanchard), and despite attempts to Taiho, it was struck. The blow jammed an J.

tacked

planes.

able.

As

from the torpedo tubes of the Albacore,

ejected

Ozawa obThe Taiho

carrier,

more than just

into the torpedo, detonating

But that was not the only "fish" which had been

elevator and fuel piping ruptured,

of Mitscher's carrier planes.

He was determined

by diving

the flagship it.

wave, saw the churning

in the last

water and died believing he had saved

however,

launched about four hundred planes waves.

The

first

of these

Ozawa had

in four attack

was detected by American

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

128

radar

when they were almost 150

Guam. When

the

first

miles away, at

blips of aircraft apparently ap-

A Japanese plane shot aflame by antiaircraft fire from American ships attempts to crash into flight deck of escort carrier Sangamon, Marianas. (navy dept., national archives)

proaching from the open sea appeared on the radar screens,

it

was Mitscher himself who took the microTBS (Talk Between Ships) and ini-

phone of the tiated

what would come

to

be called the "Marianas

Turkey Shoot." "Hey, Rube!" echoed through the

fleet,

alerting

A

twin-engined Japanese bomber goes down near the Kitkun Bay near Saipan on the eve of the Marianas "Turkey Shoot." (navy dept., national archives)

J

SOME SAILORS—AND A FEW MARINES

130

pare their guns. Great rings of destroyers and cruispointing

guns

ers,

There were plenty of Japanese to go around, ap-

scramble and antiaircraft gunners to pre-

pilots to

had

skyward,

formed

been

One young

parently.

Ensign Bradford Hagie,

pilot,

found action even during a simple ferry

flight.

He

four large groups spread over

had been forced to land on another carrier the

hundreds of square miles to the west of the Mari-

previous day with engine trouble. Anxious to return

around the carriers

in

Lexington, about three thousand yards away,

to the

anas.

The old American

circus battle cry activated the

and the Wildcats that had been over

carriers,

Guam

turned about and raced out to sea. They would intercept the

oncoming Japanese, but

Guam

continued

under bombers and torpedo bombers. At

to suffer

he took off the next morning during what turned out to

333°, 45

miles

away." Hellcats from the Essex,

Cowpens, Bunker

Hill,

and Princeton vectored

in



upon the oncoming planes the scouts and scout bombers of the Japanese 3rd Carrier Division. In the first skirmish, well to the west of the American carriers,

about twenty-five Japanese planes (of sev-

The

enty-three) were splashed into the sea.

survi-

wave. Hearing the radio

first

he remained air-borne for a while and on his way to the Lexington shot

When

10:07 A.M. the ticker tape on the Lexington read: "Unidentified planes have been picked up bearing

be the attack by the

chatter about the approaching unidentified aircraft,

down

the second,

three planes.

larger

wave approached an-

other young pilot sat gloomily in his Hellcat off to

one

side of the battle, circling out of the

screen smeared with

oil

and

pulling at full power, he

with

(planes

his engine incapable of

and

five

orbited over the carriers.

perience as a

in the

broke through the battle

and destroyers that stood

miles

vanguard of the carrier formations). One of

bombers scored a

the

(the

line

fifteen

direct

hit

upon

carriers.

Of

the original seventy-three only twenty-

four survived for the time being.

on

Guam

The

and others returned

first

large

attack

Some

to their

wave, the

crash-landed

wingman

to

be the

and

fighters,

formation

Jills.

first

coming

The

air

batdes.

—about

a hundred planes

actually broke

And

before the

fell

plane

through were destroyed by savage

voice

antiaircraft fire or the

the six of these

combat

air patrol

planes

cir-

Commander Ernest M. Snowden, of the Lexingrecalls how "We could see vapor trails of

ton,

planes coming in with tiny black specks at the head.

was

just like the skywriting

had

Vraicu

American in

sight

a

the

for

into twisting individual

forgotten

carriers.



about

had ventured too close

Vraicu dived into the for-

Within

Judy.

was heard over the

air

engine

his

first

seconds his

five

radio, "Scratch one Judy!"

Over the next few minutes Vraicu's guns

we

all

used to see

the single battle pilot

it

seemed

sliced

To

the youthful

were simply too many

some came

dangerously close to the American ships.

may he saw one and he kicked

easier for our boys to find the incoming Japs."

to six.

planes to be taken care of, and that

for

The sky was a white overcast and some reason the planes were making vapor trails a much lower altitude than usual. That made it

amounted that there

before the war.

at

race

to

through one Judy after another, until his score for

cling the carriers.

It

way. They proved

mation of Japanese bombers, opening up on the

which

were reached.

He

his radio.

armadas met, converged,

trouble; the Japanese planes to the

his

Other Hellcats began also.

and then sprang apart

mations

on

of perhaps fifty planes, Zekes, Judys,

Division, were intercepted about an hour after the

carriers

ex-

sharply squinting his eyes until he saw

three forms in the sky

carriers.

for-

much

"Vector 265." Vraicu turned the Hellcat in that direction,

129

had begun. The Japanese planes ran head

be kept

ington calling out vectors of approach.

own

on into a mass of Hellcats, which shattered the

gained

flyable)

of Butch O'Hare's, listened

to the sounds of battle to the west

bombers, and torpedo bombers of the 1st Carrier

battle

to

heard the voice of the fighter director of the Lex-

the South

Dakota, but not one Japanese plane reached the

who had

Disappointed, Vraicu,

still

The decks had

on by another formation of Hellcats sixteen more Japanese planes fell into the sea. Those stiU flying



other "orphans"

problems but

assorted

clear for takeoffs for the fighters.

(about thirty)

be-

He was

Lieutenant Alexander Vraicu, and with his wind-

vors continued on resolutely, only to be met head

battleships

way

cause his engine was giving him trouble.

off the

To

in

his dis-

lone Judy heading for a battleship,

his Hellcat

bomber. But

around hoping to head

antiaircraft bursts

came up and moments

the Judy flew through the puffs for a few

World War: iDeginning in the Aircraft involved in the final, devastating, airfigtiting of the Second 190A in the nnarkings of JG 300, a right panel top (and proceeding downward) are a Focl.

at

the

tactics.

same time he was a

TARGET GERMANY

88 a stunt

had never seen before. The building they

I

were attacking shuddered with the impact of

bombs

We

wave pulled up from its bomb run. 2000 feet and approaching at what was

as each

were

about

at

Brown

10 o'clock to them.

leader] pulled

down

[the

squadron

and

in a diving turn to the left

the rest of us followed. five

their

What happened

minutes will always be a

little

canopy and

The ship whose P-51; he was shooting at motion.

I

my

mind."

tracer I

found out

his target. I never

who

that eager beaver

was.

"There were plenty of other ships

in the next

confused in

broke around to the

left all in one had seen was a the same Stuka as I and had been clumsy enough to get between him and I

in the

neighbor-

hood and I chose the nearest one. He began to smoke almost immediately. It looked as though I ahnost had one in the bag

come over my canopy happened

I

Stuka and

decided to ignore

whoever

if

he could look for I

when

it

just

had found

this

I

it.

began to

what had

was behind me wanted one

own

his

took another squirt

tracer

again. After



was

the sky

at the

them.

full of

plane ahead of

me

and

then noticed something about the tracer arching over

my

head. Instead of the usual two lines of tracer

that

or

we

aiming purposes, there were four

fired for

more coming from behind me.

looked over

I

my

The model we

shoulder into the airscoop of a Stuka.

were attacking carried two twenty-millimeter cannons, one under each wing, and this one was no exception. These were blazing away, accompanied

by machine guns in the wing roots, down the leading edges of the pants on the non-retractable landing gear and,

think, in the nose.

I

[Besides being

used as a dive-bomber the Stuka was also used for

The Ju-87 Stuka, which enjoyed a temporary resurgence as a battle plane in Russia, but then once again was fated for slaughter by the newer Russian and the American Mustang, (u. s. air force)

fighters

and

strafing

strafing necessitates considerable

ment.] I got the hell out of there

reason

didn't get

I

that the pilot

had

it

on

little

fast.

arma-

The only

the spot was, I suppose,

experience with aerial gun-

nery, being in a ship and at a job that called for

ground gunnery exclusively.

"Somewhere about here

The Mustangs bounced

Shipman

the Stukas,

esti-

mated, about three or four waves behind the lead

bombers hurtling three abreast upon the Russian

The Ameri-

(probably a small factory).

building

right

on three of them.

front cockpit

showed

it).

his belly

for they immediately

sure

Even with

their

the diminished weight, the Stuka

bombs.

was a

if

was on

it

and we were

no

ill

to see

guns on the

on the effects.

target. In spite of the hits I

fuselage, the ship I

fired again.

what happened,

I

ahead of

Before

saw

I

was

me showed

had a chance

tracer going

by

my

coming out from under

my

sight.

Now

I'm not

a continuation of this pass or

on

another one to the right that one of them tried to

ram me.

my

started

and he went out of

making abrupt turns. Shipman had dived into the formation and found himself on the tail of a Stuka. "My first burst went wild but a little correction put

got into a pass to the

started to fire at ninety

(I'm sure of this because the films

Flames

poor contender, lacking speed although capable of

getting

I

degrees and got the lead ship in the engine and the

can planes had by then been seen by the Germans,

began jettisoning

I

"I

was

after the

Stuka can wasting

all

make

second ship of a group of three

turning as tight as possible.

a mighty tight turn

ammunition

because

I

and

I

didn't

was

The

really

have

the

down as close as I could and then began to break away. The third Stuka was in a vertical bank to the left. As I pulled up I looked proper lead.

I

closed

DER GROSSE SCHLAG over

see the pilot

89

down

him. Looking

at

canopy

into the

and the rear gunner, both looking up

me. Then the German wrenched his ship into a

at

bank

that could only crash his

my

pulled back on

The Stuka

fore.

my

under

stick as 1

up

rolled

The

plane.

last

at

ship into mine.

my

plane. Fascinated

what

that's

I

pecting to see

was

as

had

was

it

as

it,

my

was

In a second the danger

it.

disappeared

me

went through

my

past, for .

.

him and then noticed

and wobbling badly.

way

in,

down on him from so

I

was giving

was getting something

my

hit

and thought

up and down

my

when concussive thump stopped

I

to myself, I'm hit.

my

engine

decided that the damage couldn't

I

be too serious.

The Stuka was

still

went back to work on

began seeping into

my

forgot about the Stuka

cockpit.

I

it.

in

front

of

The smoke

was on

and everything

else.

fire!

thing

I

thought of was getting clear before the tanks

I

pulled up, for at

had not been 2000 hills in I

feet

the neighborhood

wanted out, but paused

times during this fight

me

It

may sound

silly

I

planes, but the sight of a dozen

destroyed aircraft in so small a space was one he

had never seen before.)

Shipman then heard the voice of Tarrant on the all Mustangs to return to their base. "With my ship in the shape it was in, I decided that

radio ordering

he had a point.

"Turning back to the course we had been flying, began checking ahead for the squadron. I saw several P-51s ahead and headed for them. As I apI

proached a

flight

the 51s ahead of

of Russian-flown P-39s

me and

came over

started into a dive after

them. They were making a pass from the rear and

When I was sure that my wings like hell. The

brought them close to me.

this

they could see

me

I

wiggled

lead 39 wiggled acknowledgment and the Russians

swung

our right and, presently, out of

off to

I

"Then

I

began checking on

my

battle

damage.

my

holes in

wings, and the cracks around the

munition box cover on

my

right

There was a hole

concluded (wrongly) that a stray slug had

my

first

I

stampede not know-

set off

and then drop

out,

ing the

canopy and then

roll

but that minor point kept

burned

itself out.

I

wouldn't have to bail out

in this

cover and from the

some rounds in the ammunition boxes, caussmoke that had given me such a scare." Although the length of the mission, the impromptu

strafing of

German

were forced

to

and the Stuka slaughter

troops,

had consumed much

fuel,

none of the Mustangs

make emergency

landings because

of a lack of fuel. However, like Shipman's,

crashed in flames against a

my

smoking Stuka

I

ploded not

yards away.

fifty

was

hill.

Simultaneously the

had passed up crashed and exclear,

am-

wing were smoke

smoke was subsiding. "When I realized this I banked over to take a look at the Stuka I had been after. As I watched, it

that

My

hydraulic pressure was at zero, there were several

signs

feet.

after all for the

seeing

sight.

was closing the gap between me and the ships ahead when another 51 came up from the left. By odd coincidence it was my wingman. I was surprised and relieved to see him. We closed up with the other ships and headed for home.

stained.

in the plane while the fire

realized suddenly that

German

resented

went up to 800 or so

pulling the canopy, or pull the over.

The Stukas

virtually

above the ground and the

in

ing whether to roll over

Great black

it.

rose up from the crashes.

been slaughtered. (Shipman, however, as he gazed down had no idea that all crashes rep-

I

The only

went.

all

smoke

"I

controls responded and

sounded okay, so

I

shot. I

his fuselage

shock wave than a sound.

"However,

his

from

came

I

gunner a beautiful

ship with a

firing

far

above, not realizing that in doing

fine hits

of a

me and

was on

that he

off for the big timber.

his rear

more

started

I

which he was. Another was not

one and taking

this

.

he was smoking

that

assumed

I

wing

but not to the point

where a passing Stuka had no appeal. after

arched

right wing, ex-

remained as big and beautiful as ever. "This episode raided

left

its

it

a poor word, but

is

stared at

I

Stukas which he had just seen crash, there were

perhaps ten others strewn through

me and

dissolve as that Stuka

it

was, to Shipman, an amazing sight. Besides the two

curls of

wing, black with a white cross on

toward

I

which the batde had occurred

valley over

had a few times be-

saw of

I

The

could

I

I

checked

my

tail

and,

took a look around. The

Stukas had disappeared and so had the squadron."

some

planes were shot up.

"With

I

my

would have

to rock

it

ting the gear handle in the

hit

that that

down. This involves put-

down

gravity pull the gear into place. the gear

I knew way and

hydraulic pressure at zero

gear would not lower in the usual

bottom, he rocks

position

When his

and

letting

the pilot feels

ship wildly to

TARGET GERMANY

90 throw the weight of the oleo

down

struts into a fully

position. This causes the spring loading locking pins

snap into place, locking the gear in the down

to

position.

did not call in for an emergency land-

I

my wingman

vantage point, there wasn't

my wingman

"I told

when

wheels from his

much more

to be done.

my

keep an eye on

to

We

put them down.

I

my

checking on

went

wheels

into our landing

and went through the procedure described

peel-off

my

above to lower

gear.

I

called

my wingman

and

He was flying behind could see my wheels, and

As

tached.

was, a

it

had been

the drop tank

if

fire

few inches from the rubber

a

"My gun camera revealed the

films

of

strafing

were

enemy

the

They

vehicles

and,

along with the films of the others in the squadron,

dozens of enemy planes.

me

to giving

were safely back

My

my films came close week or so after we

One

of

heart failure a at

our base in Italy [San Severo].

camera showed a Stuka

and below me, where he

Toward the end scene shifted downwards

poured on the

red flare arched up in front of me.

I

my

down

as

rocked the ship

I

next try

I

got another red

all

my

next pass,

I

me

assuring

bland answer that

"The

On my

My

gas was getting

got a flare again on

to them.

if

They

my

back

were. I then asked, 'Why The tower came back with the

my

down.

flaps weren't

flaps are hydraulically operated

as well as

means no

got on the radio and told the tower that

flaps. I

goddam

dam

flaps

wouldn't come

"On my

is

my

down because my god-

hydraulic system was shot out.

correctly, this

(If

been out of

recall

I

and

off to

of that particular film, the disclosing another Stuka

under

sight

my

nose,

and probably

with his rear guns working away like fury, while idea

was

I

how

on

firing

the one ahead of

we ran

I

it.

close he was, nor even that he

there, until

the

all

had no

had been

off the films."

Five days later the 31st Fighter

Group

partici-

pated in a more conventional action: escorting Fif-

Air Force Liberators to targets at Buda-

teenth pest.

The

it

strategic forces

was learned

that

after the war).

day was led by a

minimal Idiot."

were concentrating on

(the most important, most effective of

targets

the wheels and zero hydrauhc pressure

it

which appeared huge on the screen. That one had

wheels

called

that they

the red flares?'

all

I

called the tower asking

down and locked

looked

wheels were

over the sky.

flare.

dangerously low and so when

if

the sides.

close range

at fairly

with one or two others further ahead of

coal and went around wondering

tire.

clear.

fairly

asked him what he thought.

he called back that they looked down and locked. But as I glided down toward the landing strip a

at-

must have been gayly burn-

ing for thirty seconds or so in the wheel well, not

more than

ing because others were calling in emergencies and

with

whole ship

fired the

man

Shipman's squadron

the others called, with

"Wild WiUie S

affection,

oil all,

,

the Village

But he developed radio trouble and before

he peeled

off for a return to

San Severo, turned the

squadron over to Shipman. Flying blightly as a

a watered-down version.)

next pass I landed without any greater

Shipman was reasonably happy with

flight leader,



was

mishap than several good bounces. This business about the flaps is an example of how far the asinine

his lot

regulations of the swivel-chair air force back in the

to Cairo.

States could go.

the responsibility of the entire squadron, despite the

my Form 1 the crew chief, my plane, climbed up on the wing root, next to my cockpit, with an excited expression on his face. He wanted me to take a look at the battle damage my ship had received. I com-

fact that the

"As

sat filling out

I

who had been

inspecting

plied

and was not long

cited

him

hit in

my

caliber right line

what had ex-

and he expected

self

Now,

to be his final mission for a while to take

some time

off for a visit

"the Village Idiot" had handed

him

deputy squadron commander was him-

on the mission,

flying

at

the

head of "Blue

Section."

This arrangement did not seem right to Shipman,

who

discussed

not eager

to

it

with Blue Section leader (himself

lead

the

entire

squadron).

Finally,

for a

however, Shipman took over Blue Section and the

ammunition box had actually come from

deputy squadron commander assumed responsibility

so.

The smoke

a burning gas line in bullet of

in finding out

this

my

what would be

that I

had mistaken

right wing.

An

incendiary

the equivalent of our .30

wing drop tank set

on

installation. fire



reluctantly. Their

two Mustangs

up

with the heavy bombers. "There was usually a cer-

the

tain

certainly have

tact

The gas

and would

squadron

shifted across the sky as the formations joined

my

had neatly clipped the gas lead from

had been

for the

in

amount of confusion during the time when conwas made, by radio, between the bombers and

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

Mustangs of the 31st Fighter Group {Fifteenth Air Force) carrying wing tanks which will be dropped in an ,

an attack,

instant, peeling off for

(u.

s.

air force)

But the Messerschmitt raced away from the battle area as the great armada continued on its way. The batde gave Shipman "some useful information. This

the fighters," the

number

Shipman noted. "This was because of

of planes involved and the necessity for

one small part of these to be distinguished from the others

and located

in

"Contact was invariably

some

difficulty.

On

the vastness of the sky.

made but

this particular,

fortunate, mission things surprisingly

rarely without

and for

went

me

un-

like clock-

work. While we were making contact with the wing of

bombers we were responsible

bombers ing

calling in

enemy

them from above

for,

we heard

aircraft that

other

were attack-

at six o'clock."

was

that P-38s, the pilots of

which were considered

trigger-happy by our pilots, were in the neighbor-

hood. This always meant that we had to be on our

guard against the enemy forces as well as our own."

Shipman positioned his section above the Liberawhere the P-51s weaved back and forth to

tors,

keep as close as possible to the slower bombers. Just as he had led his planes

the course,

on the outward leg of Shipman looked back at the bombers

and saw two or three Me- 109s and an FW-190 "diving in a long diagonal slant through the

bomb-

ers."

Ordered to deal with the enemy

man

(as did the other pilots in his section) had to

Shipman saw a P-38 some distance away on the tail of an Me- 109. The German plane trailed a long plume of white, glycol from the

prepare for combat. This was not as simple a pro-

engine's cooling system, apparently hit by the P-38.

cedure as the layman believes.

Minutes

later

fighters,

Ship-

TARGET GERMANY

92

ing on the gun switches, the gun sight, checking the

enemy troop concentrations in proximity to Allied troops. This was not how the strategic planners would have wished it. As early as March 1944 General Spaatz in his paper "Plan for the Completion of the Combined Bomber Offensive" outlined the particular American point of view and

gasoline situation, checking the maneuverability of

suggested that

in events

meant

[auxiliary fuel] tanks,

make

"The sudden turn

my

drop

ing turn to the

keep an eye on the enemy planes

left,

and make the usual hasty preparations .

.

.

for a fight:

on the oxygen mask, turn-

tightening the straps

and pushing the three components of the

the flaps

— —

quadrant

throttle

throttle controls is

must

that I

a sharp div-

prop

the

mixture,

pitch,

into full forward position.

when

also the necessity,

and

There

... of planes mov-

leading a section

a hasty check on the disposition of the

ing

enemy

airfields

portation, as

or

oil targets

be struck instead of trans-

was being then put

forth as supreme.

Advocating transportation targets were Harris (who continued to view the get),

oil

industry as a panacea tar-

Tedder (who was Eisenhower's

air

operations

ing into battle."

Shipman's luck began to his

when he

fail

drop tanks; one tank did not

jettisoned

Already

fall.

in a

sharp turn, which even under perfect trim conditions

would have brought the Mustang

Shipman fought the

down through regain

I

German

ship

the air

on

was

shuddered and mushed its

plane

successful but I

fell

had

The enemy

planes."

wing.

left

my

control before

full

In this

of the unjettisoned tank fin-

"My

job.

into a stall,

keep the plane from going out

The drag

of control.

ished

to

I

fought to

into a spin.

lost sight of the

had swept

fighters

through the formation and disappeared into thick clouds below.

What

followed contributed to Shipman's total dis-

enchantment with the P-38 and pilots.

One

"trigger-happy"

Me- 109, dropped down on

mistaking the P-51 for an

him and shot Shipman out of in

its

of the twin-boomed fighters, apparently

the sky. His plane

was

such condition that he could do nothing but bail

out, cursing the

P-38

all

the

way down

to

enemy

Ernest Shipman, ace with seven victories

territory.

to his credit,

became an enforced guest

Reich for the

of the Third

rest of the war.

m The Normandy in placing all

invasion preparations had resulted

air

England under the

forces,

direct

tactical

and

command

strategic,

in

of General Ei-

senhower. The strategic bombardment program was thus temporarily set aside as heavy

employed

in

more or

less direct

bombers were

support of ground

troops.

Even

Ernest after the Allies

were firmly established in

France heavy bombers were used

—bomb-

tactically

Shipman,

victories

to

his

overzealous P-38

31st

Fighter

credit

before

pilot,

Group, being

ace

with

six

downed by an

(ernest shipman)

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

93

Eighth Air Force Liberator bombing at Saint-Malo,

Brittany

German positions Normandy

(southwest of the

supervisor for the invasion), and Brereton, the

mander of

By

late

after Ustening to the



railroads,

his confidence in

bridges

Spaatz (with

—but

whom

in favor of

reaffirmed

he had had

such fine relations in the African invasion) by leaving the

way open

for a resumption of the strategic

program with a concentration on sible after this

Normandy

fell

oil

making

choice Eisenhower noted that he was certain

"there

is

no other way

in

which

this

tremendous

air

force can help us during the preparatory period, to get ashore

and stay

there."

Though Spaatz was oil

certain the Luftwaffe targets

into attritlonal air battles

be concerned

much

—and

—he doubted

with

rail

would

thus be forced that

centers.

it

would

These were

remarkably (and relatively) easy to restore what with

the

highly

slave labor.

German employment

efficient

Then

too, in

of

France there was the cer-

tainty of civilian casualties.

However, once Eisenhower had made

as soon as pos-

to the Allies. In

bombers were employed in tactiD-Day. (u. s. air force)

as heavy

vigorously defend

arguments pro and con, himself voted transportation

,

cal missions shortly after

com-

the Ninth Air Force.

March Eisenhower,

beachheads)

Spaatz, while doubting it

was

justified.

The

its

fact

his decision,

ultimate effect, believed that

German

units

were

denied access to the invasion area meant that enemy troops on the beaches would be forced to fight with-

out reinforcements for hours and even days because

TARGET GERMANY

94 delicate yet, as

and

worked

it

but

tion:

One

it

turned out, powerful arrangement

—not without

of the concerns of the British, concurrently,

had come about

in

WAAF,

young

May

beautiful

photo, spotted a curious

tinizing a reconnaissance

Usedom

when a

of 1943

Constance Babington-Smith, scru-

on a launching

pilotless aircraft

of

slight international fric-

worked.

it

in the Baltic Sea.

site

on the island

The place was Peene-

miinde, Germany's experimental station for rocketry.

aerial

Later similar

sites

were picked up on other

photographs in France north of the Seine.

Coupled with

weapons

Hitler's

that

ominous references

war, the discovery of these

launching

sites

to secret

would decide the outcome of the sites

was

chilling.

The

apparentiy pointed in the general

direction of England. Understandably, to the British the destruction of these sites took

precedence

over synthetic petroleum plants. Flight first

of

OflBcer Babington-Smith

the

had spotted the

German Versuchsmuster weapons



long-range missile. This was the V-1 (originally designating an experimental type), a flying

bomb. By

had a weapon which indeed (had he realized it) might have decided the war. It was no longer "experithe time the V-2, a rocket, appeared Hitler

Interdiction:

preparation

isolating

for

Normandy

the

D-Day.

This railroad

battlefields

bridge,

in

which

crossed the Seine just south of Rouen, was taken out by British Second Tactical Air Force and U. S. Ninth

Air Force medium bombers. By June 12 bridges that

linked Brittany

with

seven

rail

Normandy on

the

all

Seine were knocked out; so were thirteen road bridges. (u.

the area

had been cut

off.

s.

AIR force)

Bridges were down,

rail-

roads were disrupted, and roads were a perilous shambles.

The command structure which accomplished this was anything but simple. Both the RAF and the U.

Air Force were loath to be

S.

fellow fore,

ally.

Careful balances of

commanded by a command, there-

had to be devised which could accomplish the

job without injuring national pride.

lishman was commander, ican

would be

it

his deputy;

was

Where an Engan Amer-

likely that

and vice versa.

It

was a

A

Douglas A-20 "Havoc" on a hunt over France;

a former

German

earlier missions,

airfield is

(u.

s.

scarred with the

AIR force)

bombs

of

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

95

These

Typhoons. Defence

forces, along with the so-called Air

Great

of

and

Mustangs,

Mosquitos,

Spitfires,

(formerly

Britain

came under

of Air

direction

the

Command), Commander in

Fighter

Chief of Allied Expeditionary Air Force, Air Chief

Marshal tinued

Leigh-Mallory. Harris con-

Sir Traflord L.

to

Bomber Command and Spaatz

control

controlled the

American

Stragetic Air Forces.

men when he

Harris undoubtedly spoke for both

pointed out that the "only eflBcient support which

Bomber Command can Germany

in

give to Overlord

on

tensification of attacks

and when opportunity

as

attempt to substitute for

is

the in-

suitable industrial centers

this

offers.

we

If

process attacks on gun

emplacements, beach defenses, communications, or

dumps

we

in occupied territory,

shall

irremediable error of diverting our best

commit the weapon from

the military function for which

it

has been equipped

and trained

it

cannot effectively

carry out.

to

which

tasks

Though

might give a specious ap-

this

pearance of supporting the army, in be the greatest disservice

would lead

reality

we could do

it

would

to them.

It

directly to disaster."

After Eisenhower's decision such theory could be violated in practice

Until the heavy 401st Bomb Group bombing the weapon development center at Peenemiinde. It was here that fuel for the V-1 bombs was produced. The campaign against V-weapon sites and centers was code-named "Crossbow." (u. S. AIR force)

A

Fortress of

German

the

rocket



the need arose

if

that

drawn away from

strategic

is,



—and

primary function,

their

it

it

air

forces in preparing the Overlord assault areas

for the invasion.

centers

The attack began on French rail to bridges (which proved most

and switched

by D-Day every bridge

across the Seine below Paris had been destroyed.

but

("vengeance

Vergeltungswaffe

a

weapon"). The V-ls and V-2s^ however, were not launched

until after

D-Day, when they did blindly

cause death and destruction of

beyond contributing

miUtary import

little

to the joy of Hitler.

It

was an

example of science corrupted by the license of war.

The more conventional

weapons were used

air

assure the success of Overlord. the preparatory missions

Force, by world,

D-Day

fell

Much

to the

to

of the load of

U.

S.

Ninth Air

the largest tactical air force in the

composed of medium bomber

units

(Douglas

A-20s, Douglas A-26s, and Martin B-26s), fighters (predominantly P-47s, plus P-38s and a single P-51 group), and troop carriers (Douglas C-47s).

Ninth operated

in

The

conjunction with the British Sec-

ond Tactical Air Force with

its

assorted aircraft:

de-

volved upon Leigh-Mallory to employ his tactical

attractive as targets), so that

mental,"

did.

forces could be

for the railroads, suffice

man

to say that the

it

troops which reached

walked

there.

Airfields

Normandy

within

mandy were rendered

As

only Ger-

after

D-Day

130 miles of Nor-

unusable.

Radar

stations,

ranging from Ostend (Belgium) to the Channel

Is-

At the same time tons of bombs were dropped upon the burgeoning V-weapons sites. For every attack upon the actual assault area, two others were made elsewhere, so that the Germans would have no idea of where the invasion would come. By a curious quirk, only Hitler of all the German military "minds" had guessed that the attack would open at Normandy. By the time he lands,

were knocked

had offered

this

observation his stock as a great

military philosopher sional military

out.

men

had in

fallen

among

Germany. His

the profes-

errors, in fact.

TARGET GERMANY

96

Dance of

death:

Coastal

a German

tacking

Command

Beaufighters at-

minesweeper in the North Sea.

(IMPERUL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON)

Resistance leaders were imprisoned at Amiens and

seemed a worthy project

it

February

had given the High

Command

so bad a

name among

18,

1944,

in

to

release

near-scrubbing

them.

Pickard led his planes in the attack. Although the

was

—more

250

the professionals (rather than for his crimes against

raid

humanity) that a number of them had attempted to

escaped through the bomb-breached waUs

assassinate him. In this too they failed.

ard's

As

Harris had indicated, bombing the coastal de-

fenses ers

was not

and the

formed

effective,

fighter

although the

medium bomb-

bombers (the Thunderbolts) per-

this function

with great dispatch and, fre-

he

successful

Broadley, were fortunately.

killed.

But

was accomplished by

British

Second Tactical Air Force participated

unusual low-level

period in Mosquitos. led nineteen

missions

in

the

Group Captain

preinvasion

P. C. Pickard

Mosquitos of Nos. 487, 464, and 21

Squadrons on a jailbreak.

A

large

number

of French



Pick-

prisoner,

a

Monseiur

Vivant, an important leader in the Resistance move-

necessity operated at a vulnerable altitude.

The

prisoners

So were 102 prisoners, im-

main

the

ment, went

in

than

Mosquito was shot down by two FW-190s and and his navigator. Flight Lieutenant J. A.

was thick and deadly and the medium bombers and fighter-bombers of quently, at great cost. Flak

On

weather,

free.

Another Mosquito mission of unique ron led by Wing target

was a

leries, in

file

Commander R. N.

single building, the

distinction

No. 613 SquadBateson.

The

Kleizkamp Art Gal-

The Hague. The Gestapo had taken over

the building

a

six aircraft of

and used

it

for storage of records

on the Dutch. Bateson led

his

and

Mosquitos to

DER GROSSE SCHLAG the town, circled feet

above the

97

and then

it,

street,

a height of fifty

at

flew toward the art gallery.

The German guard standing in front of looked up and saw six aircraft racing him; he threw

down

gun and

his

attempting

directly for

weather.

Raymond V. Morin, land

to

at

"Captain Childress

later

Friston

own and

another two went through windows on either side of

quarter of a mile

The bombs that spilled over detonated in a German barracks, burning it to the ground. Although Dutch officials were killed by the bombs

target,

Gushing,

that struck the art gallery, the official files of the

moderate extremely accurate

and

Gestapo were blown to the winds, burned, otherwise destroyed.

The

Dutch keepers

surviving

feet.

zero

ceiling

aircraft with his

continued on, sometimes at deck level in

and

his

visibility.

bombed

As

the

He managed

The

to find the

bombardier. First Lieut. Wilson it

formation of four turned

off

J.

6000

with great accuracy from

target,

down the Charles W. Schoshot

flak

fourth airplane, piloted by Capt. ber.

crashed while

in

rallied three

two bombs skipped through the gallery doorway; the door.

One, piloted by

crash-landed at Gravesend.

First Lieutenant

the building

Seconds

ran.

One

airplane exploded in mid-air and

no para-

of the files returned to work, replacing the destroyed

chutes were observed. Included in Capt. Schober's

cards with fake information, thus thoroughly dis-

crew was Capt. John D. Root, group weather

"The remaining

rupting the Gestapo's eflScient system. All Mosqui-

Such missions, while not

by any

strategic

defini-

were typical of the imaginative daring of the

RAF

This

crews.

same daring and imagination,

coupled with that of the Ninth Air Force's crews,

opened great holes

mandy and

in the

the kind of mission that is

German

fell

defenses at Nor-

Germany. Typical of the medium bombers

across France into to

one gleaned from the history of the 387th

bardment Group (M). The language

is

Bom-

typical in

its

7

it

was learned

home-

land and landed Childress

base at 2230 hours. Captain

at the

was congratulated on

and

tenacity

his

commander of the 98 th Combat Wing, and by the group commander, Lieut. Col. Thomas H. Seymour. "The effectiveness of the bombing was attested to

perseverance by Col. Millard Lewis,

by a congratulatory telegram from the ground forces which stated that the important

fuel

dump, the im-

mediate supply for an entire Panzer division, was destroyed."

laconic recital of the salient facts.

"On June

officer.

ward, braved terrible weather conditions over Eng-

tos returned safely to England.

tion,

three aircraft, proceeding

that the 17th

German

Once

was

the beachhead

moving

secure, there remained

Panzer Division was moving north to the invasion

the problem of

beachhead. The report called for a mission to deny

was concluded, could be implemented by concen-

route to the Germans. Because of bad weather

trated air power, employing not only the fighter-

this

the formation attempting to

Rennes was not

at

results

bomb

the rail junction

successful, but

it

did get good

on a railroad west of Vire and on a choke The next morning a

point of vehicles near Saint-L6. highly successful mission

road junction

at

was flown against the

The

Pontabault.

made by Lieutenant Rudolf Captain Robert E. Will's

best strike

was

bombardier in

Tell,

flight,

rail-

whose bombs

bombers and mediums of the Ninth, but

Where

8,

1944;

D

plus 2]

the

Germans had managed

to

stiffen

was

to slash a hole through the

heavy concentration of cial

code name for

aerial

this

German

lines with a

Weather, the usual menace, helped to get Cobra

poor

start.

On

July 24, 1944, the Ninth Air

Force's fighter-bombers took

off,

but three of

because of the bad weather. Leigh-Mallory,

off at

Grimbosq, south of Caen. At the take-

1958 hours, the

ceiling

formation assembled without ing

up through the

was 900

feet.

The

but on gobecame widely

difficulty;

solid overcast

it

dispersed. Eleven of the planes returned to the base.

in

its

groups returned to base upon being recalled

by the Group. Capt. RoUin D. Childress was to in the Foret

offi-

operation was "Cobra."

six

dump

their

bombardment. The

proved to be one of the most remarkable ever flown lead eighteen aircraft [Marauders] to a fuel

also the

positions in the face of the advancing Allies the plan

off to a

"The afternoon mission [June

it

Fortresses and Liberators of the Eighth Air Force.

hit the

target perfectly.

inland. This "breakout,"

who was

France and saw the impossibility of effective

bombing, postponed the attacks, and

later in

the

day canceled them.

word came down to the more than fifteen hundred heavy bombers were already on the bombing runs; Unfortunately,

when

Eighth Air Force

it's

this

TARGET GERMANY

98 only a few of the planes in the last formations re-

word

away from the target was so bad over the target that the lead formations did not attempt to drop on the ceived

in time to turn

area. Visibility

primary targets: German positions directly in front

Some bombers

of the Allied troops.

made

runs

several

before

did drop, but

identifying

the

correct

drop zone. About three hundred bombers succeeded dropping on what was hoped to have been the

in

proper

targets.

But these hopes were not

fulfilled.

Accident and error unleashed an envenomed Cobra which did not discriminate between friend and foe.

On

his

bomb

it

one

bomb

release

run a lead bombardier found

stiff

dropped some of

and

his

in attempting to loosen

bomb

in the formation, fifteen in

all,

leased from their lead ship, also.

AlUed

The bombs

fell

The other ships bombs redropped their bombs load.

seeing the

two thousand yards inside

positions, killing sixteen troops of the

Ameri-

A

direct flak hit has sheared off this

Marauder's en-

This occurred over Toulon Harbor, in southern France, where another invasion was under way. The gine.

B-26 was one of the Twelfth Air Force mediums borrowed for the second invasion of the Continent. (U. S. AIR force)

can

30th Infantry Division

sixty. field

A in

single

B-24

France,

at

and wounding about

flew over a Ninth Air Force

Chippelle,

at

something struck the B-24's nose

which instance

turret.

The bom-

bardier recoiled from the sudden impact and inad-

vertendy struck a toggle switch. Seconds later two

Ninth Air Force medium bombers ready to take off

on a mission blew up with their crews and full loads after being struck by the toggled bombs.

bomb

Other planes were damaged

A

Marauder,

hit

by

flak,

is

enveloped by flame as

it

France. Despite Allied aerial supremacy flak, as always, took its toll. (u. s. AIR force)

falls into

also.

At another point a Thunderbolt swept down, turned, and ran in on an ammunition dump, which blew up with pleasing violence. Except that the pilot had made a wrong turn and had attacked an Allied dump. To complete the day's toll, three heavy

I

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

99

bombers were knocked down by

presumably

flak,

Despite the day's misadventures, the second ap-

Cobra followed the next day, when

of

plication

weather conditions promised better

There were other forces

at

previous day's activities revealed to

possibilities

of

work also. The the Germans the

point at which the Allied breakout was most likely to occur. Consequently, while the U. S.

Army

sol-

bombing zone, so did those of the Wehrmacht. In some areas this meant retaking ground once held by the Allies because of the evacuations away from the bomb lines. Those Germans who suffered the saturation bombings, how-

moved out

diers

were

ever,

than expected. Allied troops did not "pour

less

through the great gaps" in the enemy

German.

success.

was

of the

no condition

in

ground for some time

hold or take any

to

Although casualties

after.

way was broken U. S. Army, followed

the

later

Army

of Patton's Third

in

lines,

although

infantry of the First

for the

by the rampaging tanks August.

While the Cobra carpet bombings had been fective

on a

ef-

limited scale, they only served to under-

score Harris's view on the "irremediable error of diverting our best for

which

which

it

in close support of troops was, in

a military perversion, although at the time

an expedient one. Nor was because stitute

the military function

cannot effectively carry out." The use of

it

heavy bombers effect,

weapon from

had been equipped and trained to tasks

abandoned merely

it

did not function to perfection.

it

for

artillery,

As

a sub-

capable of delivering greater

were not excessive, for the Germans had dug in

firepower in a given time, the heavy bombers were

upon communications and especially upon morale was "shattering," to employ the word most often used by the Germans.

ward.

intelligently, the effect

The very aircraft

of literally thousands of

sight

enemy

(1507 Flying Fortresses and Liberators, 380

Marauders and Invaders, and 559 Thunderbolts) was

and the cry again was heard, "Where

dispiriting,

To

If

the

commander

Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein,

it

was a step back-

ground-support role of the high-altitude

heavy bomber proved to be

less

the co-ordination between ground

than successful, troops

and the

fighter-bombers, particularly the Thunderbolt, excellent.

was

Thunderbolts frequently teamed up with

Allied tanks, with which they

the Luftwaffe?"

is

incomparable, although in theory

two-way radios

as

communicated with

had the "Rover Joes"

in Italy.

of the Panzer Lehr division, the batdefield looked the

like

dead and pocked Mondlandschajt (moon with a good

landscape). His unit was heavily

hit,

number of

wounded, crazed,

his troops "either dead,

The command post

or dazed."

ment had been and that was

in the center

carpet

more of backs or upended

on

their

craters. Bayerlein's divisional flak

but useless because of the great

all

bomb

entirely gone; thirty or

tanks lay toppled

bomb

902nd Regi-

of his of the

aircraft; half the

his in

guns were

number

of

enemy

guns were knocked out in the open-

ing minutes of the attack.

But, as on the day before, "gross errors" took their

toll.

In general, the

curate than

ever

the

resulted

first

in

bombing was more

ac-

Cobra, but human error as

bombs

quently within American

falling lines.

short

and conse-

The 30th

Infantry

bombers released some of 120 and injuring 380. Among

suffered again as heavy their

the

bombs,

killing

dead was Lieutenant General Lesley

J.

McNair.

In short, the effort did not equal the effect. if it

were possible

Even

to accept Allied casualties as

of the "fortunes of war," the actual

one

accomplishment

Liberators assembling over England for a mission to

bomb

in front of Allied troops in France.

(CECIL COHEN)

TARGET GERMANY

100

bombers

for

upon

the continuation of the attack

Germany behind

the Rhine.

ticularly at oil targets

He hoped

to strike par-

and the Luftwaffe. Berlin too

became an important target city by the end of June. With the coming of winter Spaatz could take up the Battle of Berlin again.

Robert Chapin, lead navigator of the 384th Bom-

bardment Group, upon

not regard

did

reflection

Berlin as tough a target as the cities related to the targets

(Briix,

Blechhammer, Merseburg, Ruh-

land, and,

among

others,

oil

Ploesti).

But

he

Berlin,

knew, "was tougher psychologically." The "most frustrating missions,"

V-weapons

however, were those to the

the sUghtest mist would obscure

sites, for

These

the heavily camouflaged installations.

sites,

were not very vulnerable to bombing and never

too,

did get knocked out of operation until ground troops

overran them. But not before Hider's indiscriminate

"vengeance weapons" (flying bombs and V-2 rocktook 8938 civilian

ets)

lives

and

nearly 25,000

left

seriously injured in their blind wake.

From

the

first

bomb, the "doodle bug," which fell on England on June 12, 1944, until the final V-2, which fell on March 27, 1945, a corner of England with flying

Liberators in a "carpet"

bombing mission over Tours,

France, during the "Cobra" operation to force a break in the

German

lines for Allied troops.

indicate drop point

bombs when

close to friendly

were often



the lead

Smoke markers

London

center

at its

was even more of a

the entire formation releases the

bomber drops. Such bombings so

troops were not truly effective and

and friend

fatal to foe

Britain.

The V-weapons, though pointless,

alike.

(u.

AIR force)

s.

terroristic,

"civilization"

traps,

could spot enemy gun positions, antitank

and German tanks, warn

attack the enemy.

bombed German installations,

their

own

The fighter-bombers an

terdiction campaign,

the

announce the approach of a

emergent

Germans com-

off their lines of

at

Saint-L6

the

Allies

swept across Normandy; another invasion, in southern France, was also successfully launched and the

German blitzkrieg machine was squeezed even as it was rammed back toward the Rhine. As winter approached the operation

with

possibilities for fighter-bomber co-

ground

troops

sat

pilot

usual busy with his navigational computations, and

the isolation of the

breakthrough

B- 17 one day, Chapin heard the

and

munications: bridges, railroads, and highways. After

really

As he

and

intermittently

by cutting

that

forces,

Luftwaffe, and played an important part in the in-

in the battlefield

in the nose of a

recalls

jet fighter.

strafed

troop concentrations and artillery

engaged

militarily

toward the Space Age.

"shook up the troops" was the pilots

were

however much they supposedly advanced

The weapon which Chapin Jug

"Hell's

Corner" than Kent had been during the Battle of

diminished

—and

Spaatz could again consider the release of his heavy

jet fighter.

Chapin, as

bombardier Richard Crown, likewise preoccupied

own work,

with his ers

rarely actually

saw enemy

fight-

even in the height of combat. The dawn of the

Jet Age, however,

was too important

two men peered out of the

to miss.

The

plexiglass nose.

"Where?" Chapin asked. The pilot called out the "clock" position direcdy out in front of their plane (as lead team Chapin and Crown flew in the lead aircraft along with the command pilot, at this time Colonel Theodore Ross Milton). tant,

At

a point that appeared to be miles dis-

Chapin saw a

panded

tiny

dot which suddenly ex-

"zoomed bomber formation.

into a strange-looking aircraft that

out of nowhere" and through the

DER GROSSE SCHLAG Although

101

did no damage, the very appearance

it

and incredible speed of the plane had a disquieting effect

upon

men

the

in the

bombers. Not even the

Mustang could overtake the Messerschmitt 262. Several factors, luckily for the Allies, the

employment of

full

the

Me-262, an

inhibited aircraft

which could very readily have had a decisive

upon

the air

effect

war over Germany. When he saw the

Messerschmitt demonstrated for the

first

time. Hitler,

gorged with the virulence of vengeance, glanced at the

and snapped,

fighter

"Can

that

thing

carry

Neither Goring nor Messerschmitt wished to say

nay to their Great Captain, so they answered with

The qualification lay Me-262 was designed as a

a qualified that

the

the

would seriously impair

to

yes.

moment:

to stop the Allied

destroying the

German

the fact

fighter-inter-

Germany at heavy bombardment

meet the greatest need

from obliterating German

in

cities

in

and, worse, from

synthetic oil industry.

The

Thunderbolt of 365th Fighter Group seeks out enemy

American tanks. In communication with tank commanders by two-way radio, pilot of P-47 would spot targets such as German tanks and antipositions for

its

jet

all

load, but that

a fighter-bomber.

the advantages of the fact that

aircraft

"Blitz

bomb

performance; so would

operating at a low level as short,

would be

Hitler's

sacrificed.

Bomber" would not be

superior

it

In

was a

so-called to

Allied

fighters.

Hitler's

meddling from the moment of the Messer-

schmitt's inception, therefore, canceled

the

sentence.

the function for interfered with

word

He

"fighter" be

conceded that

which

it

D-Day

did

would permit the

Hitler relent to the degree that he

same

out as any

it

kind of potent weapon. Not until after

Me-262 and

bombs?"

ceptor,

jet

plane could carry a light

it

mentioned in the just

was conceived

might serve

—but not

if it

bomber production. Bomber produc-

was in itself an interference, for to meet Hitler's demands the fighter would have to be converted into a bomber it would need bomb clips installed, it would require a bombsight, all of which took time. Adolf Galland, then general of the fighters, was tion



tank gun positions, or warn of tank traps. American artillery frequently dealt with these targets in co-operation with tactical pilots or

American

tanks. (u.

s.

AIR force)

I A

pursues a V-1 flying bomb ("doodle bug" to over the English countryside. The Spitovertaking the P-47, and the P-51 were capable of

Spitfire

the English) fire,

bomb, and either shot it down or tipped it out of by flipping it with the wing of the pursuing plane. (V. s. air force)

the its

trajectory

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

103 so outspokenly opposed to the perversion of the

Me-

262

Dis-

that he argued himself out of his post.

missed,

GaUand was given

the opportunity to form

a jet fighter unit, Jagdverband 44 (ironically, he ended the war as he began it, as a squadron commander). This, the second jet fighter unit (the earlier

one was Jagdgeschwader gone into combat cessor had

in

7,

Gruppen

October of 1944),

come too

late.

units took a high toll of

of which had like its prede-

Even so, the two Me-262 American bombers while

they operated.

Like any new

aircraft, the

Me-262 had

its

share

of bugs, and with Hitler assuming the role of aircraft expert,

it

had even more than

its

fair share.

Accidents occurred during testing and training; de-

The V'l,

known

the first of Hitler's "vengeance weapons," as "doodle bugs" to the English. Pilotless, these

were brought down by

balloon

barrage,

antiaircraft

and fighters capable of speeds in excess of four hundred miles an hour. These included the Spitfire XIV, the Thunderbolt, the Mustang, and the first of fire,

the war's operational jets: the Gloster "Meteor." (u.

s.

service.

One

so-called

of

its

leader.

of the

first

operational

Major Walter Nowotny, a fighter ace more than two hundred "kills" to was Nowotny's jets that first "shook

with a score of his credit.

AIR force)

was hurried into jet units was the "Kommando Nowotny," named in honor

spite this the first operational unit

It

up the troops" of the Eighth Air Force. Prior to that, most of the jet type of fighters encountered were the odd but quite ineffectual Me- 163 (Komet).

Antiaircraft fire tracks a doodle night.

bug over London

at

Many were knocked down in this way. (imperial war museum, LONDON)

Nowotny died

as result of an engine failure after

TARGET GERMANY

104

down

he had taken off to knock aircraft.

As he came

258th enemy

his

land he reported his

left

engine had gone out. Thus crippled, he became

jet

an easy

pi

in to

target

pounced on

for

his

a

tail.

swarm

When

of

Mustangs which

he came within sight

of his own home base at Achmer, either Nowotny's Me-262 was hit by the American fighters on his tail or he crashed into the ground. The former is more for

likely, ".

.

.

via radio

attacked again

Nowotny's voice was heard:

...

hit

.

.

."

His fighter then

disintegrated in a sudden flash of flame.

As

for Galland, he

attacking

was shot out

of the sky while

a formation of Marauders of the

17th

Bombardment Group over Neuburg on the Danube. Neuburg was a major aviation center, complete with airfield and plant. According to Galland's own account, he was shot down by a Mustang, whose pilot had surprised him while he was attacking the Marauders. According to Air Force fighter

pilot

of

files,

no claim by a

an Me-262 was made that day

(April 26, 1945), although two claims were

made

by Marauder gunners of the 34th Bombardment Squadron. Since the ately,

jet

did not go

down immedi-

perhaps the Mustang pilot did not think he

had succeeded

in his attack.

But he had. Galland himself was injured and

A

V-2 missile on

ils

blind way to England.

his

instrument panel was a shambles. His engine pods

(NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

One

of Hitler's secret "vengeance weapons" (a V-1)

begins to fallinto Piccadilly, London, (u.

s.

Am

force)

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

105 were tattered and running ragged. Afraid that if he were to bail out he would be shot up in his chute, Galland returned to

his

base

Riem. Despite

at

his

poorly operating engines, Galland brought the plane

Unable

in for a landing.

to control the fuel feed,

he could only cut off the engines completely once

he was over the

field

and ready

twin plumes of black smoke, landing strip



to land.

Trailing

he approached the

only to find that the

was under

field

attack by Thunderbolts. Because his radio had also

been destroyed Galland had not received the warn-

With

ings of this.

the engines flared out Galland

could do nothing else but land.

The Messerschmitt wobbled down

to earth

and

then Galland found he had other problems.

His

nosewheel had been shot

150 miles an hour

and

flat,

a speed of

at

was extremely noisy

his landing

and rough. The Thunderbolts ignored the crippled favor of smashing up the

in

jet

When

field.

he

jumped from the plane and into the nearest bomb crater, where he cringed under the bombardment. Finally a mechanic ran to an armored tractor, which he drove through the rubble could, Galland

A

the target: Smithfield Market, London. 100 people died, 123 were seriously inand Hitler was not one day closer to victory. (national archives)

V-2

More jured,

hits

than

and the

HobbUng onto

shellbursts to Galland.

the

vehicle, Galland said nothing, but in heartfelt grati-

tude slapped the courageous mechanic on the shoul-

Galland ended up in the hospital

der.

was found he had two

where

it

knee.

That mission was

Despite the

continued to

jets,

To



his

most

listening.

Normandy;

his

Bomber

The

all

the internal argument,

oil

training

strikes

for

bombardment was having

new Luftwaffe

the fuel shortage, training flights tioned.

Many young

pilots

knees and his

bombed.

had begun seriously

program

His Atlantic

vengeance weapons

neither blitzed nor

Further: the Allied strategic for

—and

general had not kept

brilliant

failed to bring Churchill to his

Blitz

Lead navigator Robert Chapin, lead bombardier Richard Crown, and Group Commander Theodore R. Milton of the 384th Bomb Group. Chapin recalls that of all of Hitler's surprises, the introduction of the Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter "shook up the troops" most. (384th bomb group)

was possible

it

must have seemed those pagan gods

it

the Allies out of

had

was over

he prayed were not

Wall and

bombers

the initial shock

to deal with them.

Hitler,

whom

to

of the war.

last

the great formations of

bomb Germany. Once

of their presence

necessary

his

Munich,

at

shell splinters in his

to

its

effort, effect.

curtail the

pilots.

Due

were carefully

to

ra-

were sent to certain de-

TARGET GERMANY

106 COWFIDENTIAL

SEPT. 16, 1944

^"^^'' J^tCTORT

T*R6ETJ^g,q^

Warm IbuR Guns FbR Jerry's FInal Brainstorm You'll

likely

be mMting th«te toon ond our tip

(-ME.

bottor tight 'om firtt/

you'd

it

262, JET

,

rlWlof

»lt«rTi«t«ly.

kcocnl*lji«, aielitlnci flrlnc.

r

I

1

dv ntM«^

•!«

ttotr MBrea* «tt of row algbtlBff

r«par4«d,

*pkU1 drteM

163 r«qnlT«f

Ma BV

iTMdT

irf

Bopplr.

BliM*

ud oM

H



ud

1

•truetor** la

rtilet

D«t«r*lMd txablBt •>] bnt If Ui«7 !•* Vbmn, 1

ra«t!

COWFIOEWTIAL

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

107

and of spreading pessimism when General ." This was the old officers go to the front.

iron will, StaflP

.

.

refrain, for in the twilight of the

Third Reich the former corporal harked back to the good old days of the First

him

for

World War, when the military was much simpler than

at least,

situation, it

was

in

1944.

he conceded, "we will

"If necessary,"

the Rhine.

.

.

which secures the next

fifty

fight

on

we get a peace German nation for the

We'll fight until

.

life

of the

or hundred years and which, above

all,

does not besmirch our honor a second time, as hap-

pened

By The Messerschmitt Me-262 of Jagdstaffel 77. ler

Had

Hit-

not interfered with the production and design of

months of the war might have proved gloomier and bloodier than they were. This was this aircraft

not,

the

however, the

last

first

operational

jet;

the British Glos-

Meteor was used against doodle bugs as early as the Me-262 s of KG 51 went into action a month later, (u. s. air force) ter

July 1944



was

in 1918.

.

.

."

September, when Rundstedt believed the war

over, the Allied advance lost

its

impetus.

The

rapid advance across France had stretched the supply lines. Patton's Third

Army,

for example,

came

to a halt for five days because of a lack of fuel.

All fuel, to

all

ammunition,

all

essential

suppUes had

be brought in by truck from the Normandy

beaches or the port of Cherbourg to the front Unes



distances ranging from four to five hundred miles.

Also, along the fried

German West Wall

Line by the Alhes) were

(called the Sieg-

fortifications

which

ran from the Netherlands southward to Switzerland. Despite his defeatism, Rundstedt held the West Wall

A

hidden Me-262 plant at Obertraubling, Germany. Final assembly was completed here before the jets were delivered to jet units, (u. s. Am force)

firmly.

TARGET GERMANY

108 Hitler

the operation

called

ultimately

code name changed biweekly in the

(for

the

interest of su-

Wacht am Rhein. Whether this was AUied occupation of Germany World War or a flicker of rare sar-

persecrecy) Die

a

bitter allusion to

after the First

donic humor

it would be impossible to ascertain. But Hitier's plan when he told his military leaders was regarded as a form of madness. Late in November the Allies had taken Antwerp, which served as an important port. Hitler's grand plan had come to

life

one day when he heard the word "Ardennes"

mentioned. "Stop!" he shouted and raised his hand for silence. "I have

made

the offensive."

a

momentous

He

nouns and brought Lancasters bombing through the overcast by day; the target

a vengeance weapon base in France.

is

(imperial

war museum, LONDON)

decision. I

am

taking

then dropped the personal prohis

hand down upon a map. afire and his racked

"Here," he said with eyes

body

electric for the first time in years,

"out of the

Ardennes. Across the Meuse and on to Antwerp!" This was a stunning decision, and Hitier's military advisers

saw

littie

chance of success.

It

was a

plan that might have worked in 1940, when Britain It

had been Eisenhower's plan to invade Gennany

along a broad front through the West Wall, but the

problem of supply intervened.

critical

commanders urged Eisenhower his

own head

gomery

Two

of his

them Germany: Mont-

to give one of

for the plunge into

was certain he could penetrate Ruhr (provided he was given priority on

in the north

into the

and

suppUes

reserve

troops

intended

other

for

and Patton promised with equal certainty

units),

that he could reach the Rhine.

Eisenhower rejected

both ideas and continued to favor his "broad front" concept.

He

did,

however, approve of an attempt, sug-

gested by Montgomery, to drop troops by air into the Netherlands to assist the British

Second

Army

across river obstacles. Although the drop, the largest air-borne operation of the

war and code-named

"Market," was executed successfully, its

it fell

short of

intended objective because of imexpected,

stiff

Montgomery had hoped

that

German

resistance.

its ground phase, "Garden," would open up a corridor through the Netherlands which would lead directly into the heart of Germany. To

"Market," plus

Eisenhower "Market-Garden" had furnished "ample evidence

come."

that much bitter campaigning was to And when it came, the whim of Hider's

vaunted "iron

will,"

it

was with dismaying

surprise.

The curse is off Ploesti, although the flak is as thick as ever. Fifteenth Air Force B-24s deal a hard blow to Without oil neither the Hitler's major oil source.

Wehrmacht nor

the Luftwaffe could operate effectively. (u. s. AIR force)

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

109

and France were on the run and German troops invincible

—and

there

was

a Luftwaffe. (Rund-

still

comment was typical of the general outlook: we reached the Meuse we should have got down

stedt's

"If

on our knees and thanked God

By

reach Antwerp.")



let

alone try to

wedge between Ei-

driving a

senhower's armies (thus, Hider predicted, trapping

on the sea as

the British

prove not

Dunkirk) Kitler would

at

Germany was

despite Allied victories,

that,

would

and

finished

not

capitulate

—"Never!

Never!"

To make all

impression. Hitler scraped together

this

main blow

possible troops, with the

falling to

panzer armies, Josef Dietrich's Sixth SS Panzer

and Hasso von Manteuffel's

Fifth.

All

armor was thrown into the gamble, about dred tanks. Goring promised no

less

two

Army

possible

eight hun-

than three thou-

sand fighters for the Luftwaffe's part of "the Watch

on the Rhine"

—code-named

Der Grouse Schlag

Winter 1944—45: weather such as the

92nd Bomb Group

this on the base of England and over the Con-

in

tinent furnished Hitler with the setting for a surprise

blow

in the

Ardennes, (u.

s.

air force)

("the Great Blow").

After

waiting

promised

grounding Allied

Ardennes

his

for

a

weather prediction

days

several

poor

of

aircraft. Hitler

counteroffensive

flying

which

weather,

had been husbanded

16,

came as a shock to the Allies, confident German capability for another offensive thing of the past. The Fifth Panzer Army

smashed through the American

lines,

tion in the various Allied capitals

that the

American defenses

sector were thinly held,

deepest

known

as consterna-

evidenced a fear

and a second Dunkirk. The Germans

of success

knew

thrust

and

was made;

it

in the

was there

Ardennes that the

became popularly Bulge." It was a stun-

this

as "the Battle of the

ning surprise, and during the period from the sixteenth

through the twenty-sixth of December the

Americans suffered

on the Rhine

terrible

losses;

but the Watch

failed and, in fact, never

the Meuse.

When

craft ripped

up the panzers and cut

even reached

the weather cleared. Allied airoff

supply Hnes.

December

men and

that

tanks

it

had

failed.

But having

sacrificed

(the totals of casualties exceeded

120,000 troops and about 600 tanks), there

still

remained the Luftwaffe and Der Grosse Schlag.

The Great Blow would answer once and

for all

Strategic Air

When

Hitler heard of Goring's promise, he smiled

sardonically and told Manteuffel, "Goring has re-

ported that he has three thousand planes available for the operation.

You know

count one thousand, and that

Goring's reports. Disstill

leaves a thousand

for you

and a thousand for Sepp Dietrich." The

number

that

participated

actually

—which Luftwaffe 900 Hermann—was

Schlag

pilots

closer to

790

to 1100; after the

in

Der Grosse Of)eration

called

(numbers vary from

war Goring claimed 2300).

Planes and pilots were even drawn from

JG

104,

a training unit.

Like the Ardennes offensive

ing of

of

These

to the land battle in the Ardeimes.

stubbornly to insist that his generals continue with

was obvious by the end

fighters.

what Galland had assumed

Forces' heavy bombers; instead Hitier diverted them

mann was

it

for

would be a true great blow, upon the

The German thrust literally ran out of gas. Though the gamble was lost, Hitler continued the attack even though

the Luftwaffe?"

on December

the

was a

is

Goring had promised three thousand

1944. This that

"Where

that haunting question,

suddenly unleashed

itself.

Operation Her-

prepared with the utmost secrecy and un-

leashed with devastating surprise. In the early morn-

New

Year's

Day 1945 hundreds

of

Me- 109s

and FW-190s warmed up on various German airfields behind the lines. Both experienced and inexperienced pilots were to take part in the surprise attack

upon Allied

gium and a teen.

airfields

in

the Netherlands

and Bel-

single base in France, a total of seven-

Because the formations were a mixed bag, the

I

TARGET GERMANY

110

returning to their base found

about

German

fifty

of the attackers

fighters.

imder attack by

it

Within minutes eighteen

had been shot out of the

air at the

cost of a single Spitfire.

The American base

at

Asche,

near Chievres,

Belgium, was jumped at around ten o'clock in the morning.

A

dozen Mustangs,

led

by Lieutenant

Colonel John C. Meyer, deputy commander of the

487th Squadron (352nd Fighter Group, Eighth AF),

were preparing to take

off

on a morning

patrol.

Early morning fog had kept the planes grounded,

but by eight

it

had begun

to

bum

off,

clearing

The twelve Mustangs, frozen airstrip, awaited word

slowly from east to west.

motors wanning on the

from Meyer

to take

off.

All were unaware of the

approaching Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs hug"Bulge" weather on the Continent, which grounded the Allied planes while Hitler's panzers smashed through the

American

(u.

lines,

s.

air force)

ging the floor of the valleys of the mountainous Eifel district, leading to Asche.

behind the fore

veil of fog.

It

They swooped

in

was approaching ten be-

Meyer could gun his engine and begin the As he thundered down the runway he was

takeoff. fighters

were guided toward

At

88s.

a point near the

by Junkers

their targets

target

the

areas,

inex-

surprised to see antiaircraft puffs bursting at the far

end of the

perienced pilots would have to rely upon special

asking

maps

screen.

at the

to find their targets; the

Rhine.

level to avoid

Ju-88s turned back

The approach was made enemy radar; strict radio

at very

low

silence

was

if

its

field.

He

called the control tower,

radar had picked up "bogies" on

its

observed.

and fuel had been hoarded for For the second time within two weeks the AUies were dealt a shock by the Germans. The most successful attack was made upon Pilots,

this

aircraft,

great blow.

the British Second Tactical Air Force base at Eind-

German fighters swept in low moment Mitchell bombers were off. Hawker Typhoons of No. 438

hoven. About forty over the lining

up

field at the

to take

and No. 439 Squadrons, Royal Canadian Air Force, were also caught on the ground; those attempted to take

off

feet off the ground,

pilots

who

were shot down only a few

encumbered

as they

were by

bomb

loads and unretracted landing gears.

pilots

abandoned

their

Some

planes and ran for cover.

Soon Eindhoven was strewn with burning wrecks.

A

single Spitfire took off in the

and

fire,

shot

down one

crashed into the ground

Other

Spitfires, of the

maelstrom of smoke

of the attackers, and then itself.

No. 131 Wing (Nos. 302,

308, and 317, Polish squadrons), returning from a fighter sweep,

however, were air-borne and upon

weather C-47s of the 9th Troop over to drop supplies to Americans encircled in Bastogne, Belgium, (u. s. Am force)

During a break

Carrier

in the

Command come

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

111 suing half hour, most of

it

over the base, Whisher

knocked down another FW-190 and two Messerschmitts.

"There were plenty of Jerries

to shoot at,"

left

Whisher commented. Meyer meanwhile managed to gain a true.

and found

altitude

little

What

be only too

this to

with trying to ascertain the identity of

— —

the aircraft

now Thunderbolts too had joined Me- 109s from the MusFW-190s from the Thunderbolts, plus

for

sorting out the

the battie

tangs and the

neck to clear

twisting his

indeed. There

his

his

Meyer was busy

tail,

another hitch: the antiair-

still

at

him

as well as the

P-51 was taking

hits.

A

were

craft gunners

enemy, and

was

up

firing

large

chunk

flew off his wing.

Meyer got onto the FW-190. American ground gunners

In spite of this distraction, of another

tail

shooting at him) proved to be less effective

(still

than the American airman: pieces of the cowling

away from

fighter,

the propeller pilot pointed

Blow," the Luftwaffe's

wasteful gasp during the

last

Battle of the Bulge, (u.

Great

"the

in

wheels up, skidded into a

on

air force)

s.

the

tossed over onto

and broke up picked up speed

Meyer's Mustang,

As

ever thickening bursts. the

an

Meyer saw,

strip

FW-190 coming

his

the as

if

to

the

strafe

Mustang's wheels

had

to land.

out of nowhere,

field

Meyer knew

German

turned aside

field,

low-

still

pilot, briefed

and

fired

on a

C-47 (Dakota) on the edge of the runway. Shaken

Meyer hauled up

but apparently reprieved, dercarriage, quickly battle,

and

hit

by

went through

fired at the

upon destroying

FW,

German

all

his

un-

the "drill" for

fighter,

still

intent

on the ground. The slammed to the ground

the transport

six .50-calibers,

pilot,

Meyer, began

William

firing

seconds after he had

hundred

feet

at

A

still

fuel

base informed him that the

call to

under attack;

would be

it

pointiess

Meyer then found what appeared to be an airfield and just as he was about to put down, three Me- 109s bounced upon the to attempt to land

Mustang's

tail.

aerial ballet; in a his

there.

four aircraft darted and maneuvered in an

The

good

Meyer

got one of the Messerschmitts

spot, there

was only

a short burst

guns, and he realized he was

of the battle. Suddenly, as

combat, a swarm of planes

T.

Whisher,

following

for

now

so often

it

filled

the

from

really

was air

out

in air

around

landmarks and checking for "bandits," Meyer

way back

another Focke-Wulf thirty

worked

his

He was two

o'clock

was

left

the ground.

above the earth, an unUkely height

for a dogfight,

was

Low on

ammunition, he realized he

him: Mustangs. Drifting through the sky, looking

beside the Dakota.

Another

fire.

he had flown away from the base. practically out of

way. With wheels

duck. But the

sitting

and

and the

field

ered, his engine striving for altitude,

he was a

back, over and over, flared,

its

in a great flash of

and

raced toward the eastern end of the

left

with

struck

Turning back to the congested sky, Meyer found

"Negative." Petie,

The plane

field.

bounced, thumped again, and then

belly,

its

FW,

down. As Meyer watched, the

the nose

John C. Meyer, who was caught up

German

slowed up and windmilled, and the

flew

and within a hundred yards of the

German

aircraft

smashed

into the ground,

The "Butcher Bird" winged

over,

and burned. In the en-

to Asche,

which by eleven

clear.

Nearly half of the enemy attackers, twenty-three in all,



had

fallen to the

guns of the 352nd Group

with no losses to the group

had been

lost,

but no

pilots.

itself.

A

few planes

Except for a few

TARGET GERMANY

112

immolation (and perhaps sensing the just

had

it),

people.

"If

war

the

is

to

be

he believed,

lost,"

"the nation also will perish. This fate

There

is

no need

is

inevitable.

to consider the basis

even of a

most primitive existence any longer. trary," that,

sacrificed

German Air Force to his own peculiar gods, as he had the Wehrmacht and the German

he told Speer,

and

proved

to destroy

itself

"it is it

On

the con-

better to destroy even

ourselves.

The nation has

weak, and the future belongs solely

to the stronger eastern nation. Besides, those

remain

after the

batde are of

good have fallen." He had seen to

little

that personally.

who

value; for the

He

established

himself in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, by early

1945 a

city of rubble,

which he declared he would

"defend to the last" despite the that the

fact, as

he believed,

German people were "unworthy

genius." While his armies desperately

of

my

fought the

Russians in the east and the British and Americans in the west,

r

Hider awaited the

inevitable.

But when

A

Luftwaffe pilot leaves his stricken plane over the Bulge after being shot up by James Dalglish, 354th Fighter Group, Ninth Air Force, flying a Thunderbolt. (u. S. AIR force)

(many

holes in Petie

of which could be credited

to friendly antiaircraft fire),

(but

it

Meyer was untouched

— —

had been

in

his last fight

which he scored

for before he took

his twenty-fourth aerial victory

to the air again he was injured in an automobile

and then

accident, hospitalized for three months,

returned to the United States).

When

Hermaim ended

Operation

arose again,

"Where

Blow had been,

as

all

had wished

quarters, a surprising one. Allies

had

U.S.); the

lost

156

Germans

But

aircraft lost

it

air

leaders

in Hitler's head-

(120

last.

British

The

and 36

over 200; only sixty Luft-

Over

fifty

irre-

were thrown away in Der

Grosse Schlag; even the reserves were

Many

The Great

was the

waffe pilots were taken prisoner. placeable

question

the

the Luftwaffe?"

is

sacrificed.

of the losses could be attributed to inexperi-

enced German pilots their targets or

who

inadvertently collided over

were readily shot down by Allied

pilots or antiaircraft.

The Luftwaffe?

Hitler,

approaching his Wagnerian

Jug of

pilots of the

German

354th Fighter Group discuss a strafing

supply columns and communications targets.

Omer W. Culberson (Minneapolis), OrD. Rawlings (Depue, Illinois), Glenn T. Eagleston (Alhambra, California), James B. Dalglish {Rome, New York), and Lloyd J. Overfield {Leavenworth, Kansas.) (u. s. Am force)

Left to right: rin

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

113

And what

they did: when the weather cleared over Belgium Ninth Air Force fighter-bombers tore Hitler's Ardennes offensive to bits. Here is what remained of

a German convoy after the P-47s caught way in Belgium, (u. s. air force)

he went, he wished the whole world to go with him.

tions,

"He had

a special picture of the world," observed

General Heinz Guderian, "and every fact had to be

fitted into that

fancied picture.

so the world must be, but, in fact,

How

of another world."

and

its

cities

true:

As he it

much

believed,

was a picture of

Germany

bore the aspect of Mondlandschajt.

and expenditure of a continually diminishing fuel. The Ardennes battle had in fact

upset the Allied ground battle timetable and inter-

Heavy bombers to some re-

fered with the strategic aerial plan.

diverted

to

ground co-operation led

covery of the

German

synthetic oil

end

little

to the

war

in

optimism

seemed

Europe.

no one

in the Allied

of that failure:

its

counteroffensive had failed,

camp was aware

losses in

of the extent

men, machines, muni-

If,

as revealed by

hope

A realist,

Der Grosse

for

in

for an early

Spaatz visualized

on

into

Schlag, the

could muster counteroffensives in the future,

be a very hard summer.

camp

in the Allied

little

the possibility of the war's continuing

mad

industry,

example.

There was

Hitler's

on a high-

supply of

early 1945. There

Although

it

autumn.

Germans it

would

TARGET GERMANY

114 ously centers

Bomber Command attacked important rail and the Ruhr waterways, and contributed

to the vexing Battle of the Atlantic

by placing "Tall-

boys" (a twelve-thousand-pound, extremely destruc-

bomb devised by B. N. "Dam Buster" bombs) into

Wallis, inventor of the

tive

the battleship Tirpitz,

which turned over and blew up. Harris deployed his heavies mainly in the Ruhr; the Mosquitos harassed Berlin as did the Eighth

Flak was

Air Force's Fortresses and Liberators.

more

of a

forces of

As

little

in Berlin, British

was employed the east. This

skies, night

and

opposition.

the ground forces closed in

bunker

and great

the Luftwaffe,

bombers crossed German

day, with

his

menace than

in assisting the

was mainly

upon

and American

Hitler in air

power

Russian advance from

in the

form of heavy bom-

bardments of major transportation centers: Chemnitz, Leipzig,

Cottbus, Berlin, and Dresden. In con-

junction with a

new Russian

offensive,

which opened

week of January, various strikes by British and American bombers were made. In some quarters it was believed that such co-ordination of the second

plans should prove disheartening to the Germans.

Chief of Air Staff Sir Charles Portal,

whUe

voting

for oil targets as top priority, believed also that the

Winter 1944. Flying Fortresses heading for Germany

bomb

to

railroad

targets

that

did not yield to

the

heavy bomber. Easily repaired by slave labor gangs,

loom very

these targets did not

large in the opinion of

s.

on Berlin and attacks on Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz,

or any other cities where a severe bUtz will not

only cause confusion in the evacuation from the east

General Spaatz of the Strategic Air Forces. (u.

Allies "should use available effort in one big attack

AIR force)

but will also hamper the movement of troops from the west."

The Germans, on

the other hand, were in worse

condition than the Allies realized. Despite the use of the strategic the

bombers

Lancasters,

quitos

continued

devastating effect.

ample, was not Bulge, and to the

time.

and

to

tied

European land

Liberators,

appear over

The

Spaatz,

oil

battle,

and Mos-

Germany with

Fifteenth Air Force, for ex-

down

to

the

Battle

heavy bombers contributed

bombing of the

To

as

its

in the

Fortresses,

oil

and

of

its

the

share

centers during that critical

jets

were the major anxieties

soon as possible he hoped to aim his strategic

forces at these targets.

mand began namely the

Even

Harris's

Bomber Com-

attacking the despised panacea targets, oil plants.

Command was

By November 1944 Bomber

carrying heavy loads of explosives

to various oil targets both night

and day. Simultane-

A

twelve-thousand-pound "Tallboy" devised by Barnes Dam Buster bombs and which proved

Wallis of the

terribly destructive to

German

cities,

(u.

S.

AIR FORCE)

DER GROSSE SCHLAG What emerged from operate with an ally operative ally

—was



115

The success

hopeful attempt to co-

this

a touchy and not always co-

example of the

a classic

terrify-

foreboding

might

materialize

ing impact of total air war. This

was the devastation

pilots, aircraft,

RAF

Bomber Command

50

Dresden by

of the city of

of the jet fighters that day

development,

jets

On

fuel.

intercepted

indication

Luftwaffe

the

if

and

an

of February 13, 1945,

ing yards, jet assembly plants

attack

the

ated

and continuing into the next

Bomber Command

And

day

the

200 American churn up what was already a an

after

bombers returned

following day.

the

it

initi-

and 311 Eighth

night raid

a

in

Air Force B-17s completed

heavies

to

additional

catastrophe.

The horror and

on the ground was

terror

in-

was extensive, and the loss of The beautiful little city, its pop-

credible, destruction

was

life

frightful.

by an

ulation swollen

of refugees from the

influx

upon revenge, predominantly wooden

east fleeing before the Russians bent

and rape, and

pillage,

its

buildings, ideal for incendiaries,

but vanished in

all

Although

a howling whirlwind of incineration.

unlikely that the true toll will ever be

number of people probably

killed at

which

is

known, the

Dresden was

bomb-

about 135,000 (as compared with the atomic ing of Hiroshima,

it

71,379). Harris had

killed

been correct, they had reaped the whirlwind.

By was

1945 the great European

April of

virtually over.

mained

those the

Berlin, Stalin

The most important with

associated

rather

targets re-

industry.

(although

on was of

significantly

German

April Fools' Day, that the

oil

Russians

of the

objective

assured Eisenhower,

the

capital

no military importance), continued to take a

mendous pounding from

the

Eighth Air Force mounted

on Berlin

— 1250

On March

air.

largest

its

tre-

18 the

dayhght raid

Fortresses and Liberators escorted

by 14 groups of Mustangs. Bombing through the overcast

by

instrument

damage

to transportation

the city.

But on

in

numbers

cepted

the

this

for the

(H2X),

they

day the German first

did

great

and industrial targets time

heavy bombers



in

jets

came out

three dozen

spite

of

in

the

inter-

poor

weather and claimed 15 "kills" (two probable) of the day's total

5 fighters.

and

loss

of

24 bombers and

Only two Me-262s were shot down

the encounter. telling,

American

at

in

German least

flak, too, was particularly 600 bombers were damaged,

on the

raid

objectives were airfields, marshal-

around the capital

Oranienburg, Rechlin-Larz, Brandenburg-Briest,

at

Burg, and Parchim.

Mustangs of the Eighth Air Force attacked the "blow jobs" and shot down twenty in the vicinity of Oranienburg and other

targets near Berlin.

ten jets were claimed

by bomber gunners,

Combat Wing

ularly those of the 13th

Bomb Groups)

and 390th

Another partic-

(95th, 100th,

A

over Berlin.

loss of

was the most severe of the war, which could be added hundreds destroyed on

at least thirty jets

to

the

ground.

widespread finished.

The Eighth

bombers

ten

lost

but the

fighting,

jets

in

the

were as good as

That the slower P-51s had been able to with the Me-262s was un-

deal so devastatingly

doubtedly because of the inexperience of most of

German pilots. What occurred over and

the

no longer be called

Germany could Deep underground,

within

"battles."

bunker Hitler

in his ill-ventilated, artificially lighted

war

air

muster

could

(1232)

a large

Berlin area.

day. Eight hundred

was a what

April 10 no less than

and the Eighth Air Force beginning on the night

The

of

marshaled forces he no longer had for battles that

He

could not be fought.

believed,

almost to the



some miracle if not a miracle weapon would save him from the Russians slashing at the gates of Berlin. For a brief time his "miracle" was

end, that

Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici, forces

somehow managed

check temporarily

in the

who

with minimal

to hold the Russians in

face of military

madness

and hopelessness. By mid-April the Russians opened their

final

drive into the heart of Berlin.

was

the

bunker under the

Within

Germany Reich Chancellery. The

days the lone remaining outpost in

all

of

glorious battle had degenerated into street fighting like that

there

out of which the Third Reich had sprung;

were no more

strategic

driven, depleted scarecrows. to those

On

who had

April

16,

lit

targets,

only fear-

Chaos had indeed come

the torch of war.

1945,

General Carl Spaatz

dis-

patched a message to Major General James Doo(Eighth Air Force) and Lieutenant General Nathan Twining (Fifteenth Air Force): "The adlittle

16 so badly that they were forced to crash-land

vances of our ground forces have brought to a

behind the Russian lines beyond Berlin.

close

the strategic

air

war waged by the United

TARGET GERMANY

116

^'•'*!^^--

•U:.

.V% :;-s»i.-..

The 384ih over Dresden {after the terrible February 13-14, 1945, attacks that burned the city). The target

States Strategic Air Forces

Bomber Command. "From now onward our .

.

and the Royal Air Force

.

Strategic Air Forces

must

operate with our Tactical Air Forces in close cooperation with our Armies. "All units of the U.

commended

War and

Air

diminished

phase of

S.

Strategic Air Forces are

for their part in winning the Strategic

are enjoined

effort

to continue with

and precision the

final

un-

tactical

air action to secure the ultimate objective

complete defeat of Germany."

Four days is,

fifty-sixth,

of his bunker.

later

Hitler

celebrated his

Hitler

to receive the tributes of his

that

emerged around noon few remaining

(among them Goebbels, Martin Bormann,

Von

the rail yards, over which escaping

expected to

faithful

Speer,

Ribbentrop, Himmler, Jodl, and Keitel), plus

travel,

(u.

s.

Germans were

air force)

some SS troops and a contingent of Hitler Youth (children would have been a more appropriate designation). Hitler had aged, and those who had not seen him for a while were shocked at his appearance. He was bent, he dragged one foot, his hands trembled, and

his color

Goring arrived

in

spects; his plans hall,

later

was

ghastly.

the day to pay his re-

He

were made.

had the Luftwaffe pack

evacuated Karin-

his

treasure into a

great convoy of trucks, and after dynamiting Karinhall,

last,

birthday in the grim, unreal setting

When

is

paid his

visit to

Luftwaffe chief of

Goring, as usual, had fury.

Hider and

staff

fled to the south.

Koller bitterly noted that

left

him

to deal with Hider's

Goring's plan also included bargaining with

the Allies, assuming that he better than Hitler; after

of fun to the Allies?

all,

would be able

to

do

wasn't Goring a figure

They hated

Hitler but they

DER GROSSE SCHLAG laughed at the Fat One. ices as

117

When

he offered

peacemaker, the Fiihrer (who had suffered

a physical collapse) revived long enough to accuse

arrest.

He

of Goebbels

to

have Goring executed.

and appointed

his offices,

was the

presented

to

this

Luftflotte

empty command, Hitler

Greim with a potassium cyanide

had already begun

Hitler

Robert

faithful

von Greim, formerly chief of

addition

to discuss

his

6.

also

capsule.

own

im-

pending end and Greim begged to be permitted to

remain

Hanna

in Berlin to die

Reitsch,

With

the

with his Fiihrer. So did

famed prewar woman

and a dedicated Nazi

fighters, in

Hitler

Arado

trainer

had ordered them

waffe support for the decimated army of General Walther Wenck, attempting to break through the Russian armies encircling Berlin. It was, of course,

and Bormann,

place as Oberbejehlshaber der LujtwaQe (of

Ritter

as a passenger, flew a small

out of the bunker so that Greim could order Luft-

a non-existent Luftwaffe)

In

Greim

off the streets of Berlin.

and ordered

Goring was stripped of in his

28 Hanna Reitsch, with

the night of April

refused, however, under the urging

the Reichsmarschall of "high treason" his

On

his serv-

Luftwaffe

glider pilot

test pilot.

burning on

the

air-ground co-operation,

ground.

made

Allied

a shambles

another pointless gesture, and the

aged to get

little

Arado man-

rubble-strewn street and into

off the

the air despite the Russian small arms and anti-aircraft

fire.

Flying over the ruins of Berlin, aflame

seemed from end

to

end,

Hanna

it

Reitsch headed

north. She survived the war, but

face the future he Hitler, betrayed

on

saw

Greim could not Germany. Nor could

for

all sides,

who committed

suicide

bunker and then was burned along with bride of a few hours, Eva Braun.

in his

of

any

German

convoy

that

his

to

move.

(u. s.

army)

attempted

TARGET GERMAhfY

118

him

cerebral hemorrhage) to inform

of the "plight

of the civil population in Occupied Holland," which the

Prime Minister believed to be "desperate." Per-

haps three million people faced starvation in an area

still

held by the

isolated but

"We large

still

German

Twenty-fifth

Churchill

believe,"

numbers are dying

Roosevelt,

told

daily,

must deteriorate rapidly now

we may soon be

communications

that

virtually

still

Europe.

To

this

dikes,

To

Eisenhower held

that the

If

forestall further

his

German Army

virtually helpless insofar as

of Germany.

Crusade

Germans which flooded the Dutch

countryside with sea water.

knowing

dire

stop the Allied advance the

had opened the desolation,

I

refused to consider a major of-

fensive into the coimtry," he wrote in his in

cut

in presence of a tragedy."

General Eisenhower too was aware of possibility. "I

"that

and the situation

between Germany and Holland are fear

Army,

holding out in "Fortress Holland."

it

he pressed

forces in

in

such

check,

Holland was

mattered in the Battle his

advantage Eisen-

weapon: pick-a-back bomber. The lower was loaded with explosives, and the upper FW-190, with pilot, was supposed to fly the Ju-88 to its selected target, release it, and guide it the rest of the way by radio, (u. s. AW FORCE)

Last-ditch

plane, the Ju-88,

Greim, captured by the victorious

upon swallowing

the

capsule

thoughtfully given him, "I

but

I

the

am head

said

Allies,

Fiihrer

had so

of the LuftwafiEe

have no Luftwaffe."

There was no Luftwaffe, remaining strategic

targets.

just as there

Even the

were no

fighters

were

forbidden to strafe because of the general shambles

and the

possibility of hitting released prisoners or

Allied troops.

However, among the

final "targets"

Air Force's B-17s were

of the Eighth

and a golf

a racetrack

These unusual objectives were to be

course.

from an

altitude of

about four hundred

mission was not carried out with any

behind

it

lay a great national crisis.

On

feet.

levity,

hit

The for

April 10

Churchill had communicated with Roosevelt (only

two days before the American President died of a

Caught in the guns of Mustang pilot Bernard H. Howes, this pick-a-back is abandoned by the pilot (just below the tail of the Ju-88). (u. s. Am force)

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

119

Goring at journey's end; dismissed by Hitler, pursued by the Gestapo, but undismayed. Goring hoped to negotiate a peace with Eisenhower, (u. s. army)

y

#

#

Hanna

Germany's leading woman aviator, She flew Greim into and out of Berlin while the Russians encircled it and Allied bombers bombed it into rubble, (u. s. air force) Reitsch,

and

glider pilot,

hower

jet test pilot.

realized that

and

destruction

"Not only would great additional have

suffering

resulted

but

the

enemy's opening of dikes would further have flooded the country

and destroyed much of

its

fertihty for

years to come."

The

early flooding contributed to the starvation

then afflicting the Dutch. But there was even more.

A general

railway strike in September of

by the government a

Robert von Greim,

last

chief of

the

Luftwaffe.

(h. j.

nowarra)

German

in

exile

retaliation. All

Holland were cut

off for

1

944

called

from London inspired

food supplies to western

two months, thus hinder-

ing the stock-piling of food supplies. Further,

all

TARGET GERMANY

120 centers)

and a

golf

course at Rotterdam. Eisen-

hower accepted the proposals although he honestly

HoUand

believed that the "continued occupation of

was senseless" and warned Blaskowitz and SeyssInquart that he would "tolerate no interference with the relief guilty of

program and that any breach of

if

the

faith I

Germans were

would

later refuse

them as prisoners of war." The mercy mission, as the Air Force called was prepared with great enthusiasm by the men to treat

RAF's Bomber Command

the bombers.

of

its

most

it,

in

flew one

gratifying daylight missions (Operation

Manna) on AprU

1945,

29,

and Mosquitos of Nos.

when

the Lancasters

and 8 Groups

1, 3,

initiated

more than 250 aircraft participatNo. 8 Group was comprised of nineteen mosdy

the operation with ing.

Mosquito, with the rest Lancaster Robert Ritter von have no LuftwafTe. Greim, Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe, Berlin, April 1945. (u. s. AIR force) ".

.

but

.

I

.

.

."

— —squadrons

of the

legendary Pathfinder Force, which had so skiUfuUy

marked the targets in the wasted Ruhr. For Manna it marked the several drop zones assigned to Bomber

Command:

the Valkenburg airfield at Leiden, the

racetrack and

Ypenburg

airfield at

The Hague,

the

means of Dutch transport were seized by the Germans to doubly ensure the edict. By November the first deaths by starvation occurred; by the spring the estimate was that a thousand Dutch died every

Waalhaven

day.

patched three wings, the 13th, 45th, and 93rd, of

To

alleviate the situation the

AUies proposed a

and Kralingsche-Plas

airfield

in Rotter-

dam and Gouda.

On May

1,

after three

days of canceUations be-

cause of the weather, the Eighth Air Force dis-

the

3rd Air Division.

Its

Hying

Fortresses

were

plan to the Reichskommissar in the Netherlands,

loaded with nearly eight tons of food. At the pre-

The AUies would halt Lf the Germans

other duties functioned as the photographer in his

Dr. Artur von Seyss-Inquart.

westward advance into Holland

their

mission briefing Sergeant CecU Cohen,

Bomb

who among

Group, recaUed that he was told to

ceased their ruin of the Dutch earth and permitted

34th

wholesale drops of food and other suppUes to the

take along a

Dutch by

no circumstances show the camera from a window." Cohen decided that he would take shots through the open bomb bay before

air.

Attempts were made, meanwhile, to

provide reUef by limited means but to no great effect,

and the Luftwaffe's

flak

continued to be as

and

deadly as ever.

To work of

staff.

into

out a solution Eisenhower sent his chief

Brigadier

General Walter Bedell Smith,

Holland to discuss

it

with Seyss-Inquart. Al-

though Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz refused to surrender his troops,

could

fly

areas of

was agreed

it

large formations of

HoUand

tion could

bombers over

low

certain

and drop the be de-gunned, no ammuni-

at very

suppUes. Aircraft were to

that the AUies

level

be carried, and no photographs could

reflex

camera and "to get every-

after the drop.

Although the day's mission had

not been scrubbed as the previous three,

an ideal day for

flying,

especiaUy at low

it

points were the racetrack at

The

the Nazi's major rocket-launching

was not

level.

As recalled by First Lieutenant Jerome Kagel, "The weather was bad rain and gusty winds threw our ships about like model airplanes in a wind



tunnel."

CecU Cohen prepared in the mission.

cut

some

He

his

placed

of the haze.

camera

filters

for

part

But the plane apparently

—"one

approached the Dutch coast in the world for flak."

his

over the lens to

had strayed from the designated corridor

be taken.

The two drop Hague (one of

smaU

thing you can, but under

As

they

as they

of the meanest

came

in lower,

it

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

111

dren danced around when they saw our planes.

I

even spotted a few enemy soldiers intermingled with the civilians.

"The people seemed as our supplies rained

to

get

all

out of bounds

down. They ran toward the

tumbling boxes of rations apparently heedless of the danger of being hit by bundles which terrific

impetus.

I

wouldn't be surprised

fell

if

with

in their

eagerness and their anguish for food some of them

were hurt by the boxes or from being that

exciting,

with "I

jostled

in

tremendous throng. The whole thing made an

me

heart-wrenching picture that will remain for a long time.

was soon absorbed saw

below, as

I

mobbing

the



actually

streets,

in

the amazing spectacle

saw

gazing

—thousands

of people

skyward and waving

frantically at us. Boulevards, street corners, every-

where, civilians clustered, looking up at these former dealers of destruction that were

now

playing the

lead roles as angels of mercy."

Cohen, meanwhile, was recording the mercy mission (military installations were of

To

Cecil

Cohen

the

in

(34th bomb group)

was possible

Cohen

for

there

real interest).

German gun German troops

to pick out

were

moving around beneath

no

angle he stood on several boxes

of a Flying Fortress en

waist

route to Holland.

emplacements;

get another

even

their Fortress with

seeming

unconcern. But not a wary flak unit, which began firing at the straying plane.

the big Fortress

on one wing

The pilot all but stood Cohen and the other



aircrew in the plane's waist were piled in a heap against the side

—and returned

path. Inside Holland they

to the correct flight

came down very low and

was bumpy. On his stomach in the bomb Cohen for the first time in his Air Force career became airsick. The strange position, the rough air had done it and the result was the spoilthe air

bay,



age of the

filter

on Cohen's camera.

It

possible to clean, so he merely threw

and took several photographs with a

"When we came

would be imit

overboard

filterless lens.

over the racetrack," Kagel saw

"a surging crowd of excited people, hundreds of them, of every age. They

seemed

to be everywhere

filled

—on

the track, hugging the guard

the grandstands

and

the paddock, along

rail.

Women

and

chil-

Passing over a windmill, the crew of a Flying Fortress is greeted by arm-waving Dutch, (u. s. air force)

TARGET GERMANY

122

down upon a drop 390th Group Fortress opens air force)

Operation Manna: supplies rain its

Holland as

in

site

bomb

that he

bay. (v.

B-17 If

s.

had stacked

a couple of of his

this

in the

nose of the plane. With

crewmen grasping

about half

his legs,

body projected from the upper nose of the snapped pictures blowing in the wind.

as he

any German saw him, there were no

official

No

A

other words required, (u.

double line of poplar trees would show where

man

stopped

umbrella.

"Nobody spoke

For ten

days

missions continued, missions the crews found gratifying than their missions to



BerUn

these

more

or Dresden.

Wannop, RAF, summed up the emotions of all men when he described one of the final missions. "We crossed the Dutch coast at two thousand feet and began to come down to five hundred. Below lay the once fertile land now covered by many feet of sea water. Houses that Flight Lieutenant R. E.

had been the proud possessions of a happy, carefree people ing,

now

stood forlorn surrounded by the whirl-

surging flood,

some with only a roof

visible.

"My

vision

"Perhaps

The

a cross-roads and shook his

at

The roads were crowded with hundreds

with flak holes in their wings, but no serious inmission.

One

"Children ran out of school waving excitedly. old

of people waving.

marred the

air force)

once there had been a busy highway.

complaints registered. Aircraft did return to England

cident

S.

last

it

.

.

.

in the aircraft.

.

.

.

was a little misty. was the rain on the perspex. .

Manna

.

.

mission was flown on

.

.

."

May

8,

1945; the Third Reich on that day lay in ruins and Hitler's

wretched heirs surrendered to the

Signing for Germany,

Allies.

Generaloberst Alfred Jodl,

German Chief of Staff, said, "With this signature, the German people and Armed Forces are for better or

worse

Hider's

—deUvered



into the victor's hands."

war was over; the most powerful

forces the world

had ever known could turn

air

to the

shriveled Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

DER GROSSE SCHLAG

123

BOOK II The Divine Wind The

purity of youth will usher in the Divine Wind.

VICE-ADMIRAL TAKIJIRO OHNISHI

BURNING

"TYGER! TYGER!

BRIGHT"

T

Xhi -HE Boeing B-29 legend

the

goes

Tokyo, but

("Superfortress")

—designed

did to a devastating degree.

it

ception, the idea of General

from November 1939

Harbor

the Pearl spired by

of

as

Edmund during a

test flight

in-

crashed,

killing

Its

Henry Arnold, dates

—more than two

years before

attack. This conception

was

in-

Nazi blitzkrieg in Europe and the

the

German

high probability of a sibility

to



bomb

was not

specifically

Nazi

a

foothold

Americas" from which

aerial

victory and the pos-

"somewhere

in

the

attacks could easily

be mounted against the United States.

The B-29 was designed tances,

and

at

to carry heavier

and

of

loads than the B-17 and war put the project on an

emergency basis and orders were placed

for

the

drawing board, even before the

air-

B-29

off the

craft

had been

tested.

Consequently, the develop-

ment of the B-29, called "the

three-billion-dollar

was fraught with hazard and potential

gamble," tragedy.

dis-

greater speeds

at

bomb

The advent

the B-24.

to fly over longer

higher altitudes,

An

innovational concept

pressurized crew stations, turrets, to



a

new

engine,

and remote-control gun



name a few the B-29 also carried a full One of the most critical was a tendengines to catch fiire. The second test

load of bugs.

ency for

model, flown by the chief

test pilot

on the

project.

T. Allen, caught

on February

18, 1943,

Field, Seattle,

and

and ten experienced B-29

Allen

aboard.

specialists

fire

from Boeing In

addition,

the

which

plane,

Allen was attempting to land even while a sheet of flame trailed from his right wing,

Frye Packing Plant,

Despite such tragedies

went into combat

rammed

killing several



in-flight

into the

workers

inside.

B-29

for even after the

engine

fires

plagued

it

The B-29 emerged as the most formidable air weapon of the war. Although originally intended for use against Germany, by the summer of 1943 Air Force planning prothe gamble proved worthwhile.

ceeded along a course aimed

November,

General

Oliver

at

P.

Japan. Early in Echols,

Assistant

Chief of Air Staff for Materiel, Maintenance, and Distribution, could state with historical truth that "the

out

and

bomber

planned

as

a

to attack Japan,

keypoints."

more

authority than

B-29 airplane was thought high-altitude,

her

The employment

cities

long-range

and industrial

of the aircraft

made

the general's slight exaggeration a portentous historical truth.

With practically

B-29 there

still

all

of the bugs ironed out of the

remained the problem of

its

de-

ployment and command. The Pacific remained a

THE DIVINE WIND

128 pail of

wonns, with

command

boundaries, supply distribution, and per-

Once

sonality clashes.

bases established

more

efficiently

attack Japan

to

than was possible from Indian and this

would "violate" the

weU

the Marianas were taken and

was possible

it

Chinese bases. But

as

arguments over definition of

its

air

would mean

The

as the air over Nimitz's territory.

tion devised

B-29s

that the

over MacArthur's territory

by the Joint Chiefs of

solu-

was the

Staff

establishment of the Twentieth Air Force, under direct control

its

and with General Arnold as executive

agent for the Joint Chiefs. This solved the problem of the

B-29

logistics

units but, in effect,

compounded those

of

and administration, which devolved upon

the theater commanders.

(Navy

relations

vs.

Air

The

strained interservice

were

Force)

stretched

nearly to the limit by the advent of the B-29 in the

The Boeing B-29

"Superfortress," an aircraft designed

for a very special mission, (u.

s.

air force)

Pacific.

Since

it

became reasonably evident by

dent" conference in Washington

The advent of

the B-29 initiated an internal tug of Chennault and especially Chiang Kai-shek hoped to have them for the Fourteenth Air Force. Here Chennault conducts members of the Chinese Aero-

war.





the "Tri-

(May 12-27, 1943)

nautical Affairs

Commission around a

Force base. At

this

Fourteenth Air

time not only did Chennault com-

mand

the Fourteenth, he was also chief of Chiang Kai-shek of the Chinese Air Force. (u.

s.

Am

staff

to

force)

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT' that

Germany was checked and

that,

129

given time

IS'SP'^PP

and some luck, the Allies might open a second front in

May

Europe by

1944,

it

was decided

that the

B-29 would not be employed in Europe. To assuage the feelings of Chiang Kai-shek, who believed he was being given short

by the

shrift

were earmarked for China.

On

B-29s

Allies, the

their part, the Allied

planners did not believe that the war in the East

be decided

could

in

China,

preferring

move

to

toward Japan from the east and south. But with

Chiang Kai-shek's seemingly unlimited manpower, it

seem

did

Chinese

them

feasible

—provided

to fight the

The thought did not

sit

to

furnish

to

the

could

get

supplies

GeneraUssimo

the

Japanese and not each other.

of pouring U.S. divisions into China

well with the U. S. Chiefs of Staff; nor

did another suggestion that Chennault's Fourteenth

Building a B-29 air

Rocks are brought Air Force be equipped with B-29s, plus additional fighter

points, the

bomber

latter idea,

however, had

most important of which was that a

offensive out of Chinese bases, or at least

so the Air Force hoped, might "tremendously stimulate Chinese

morale and unify the Chinese people

under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek."

At

the

same time Kenney

get the

first

B-29

unit.

...

If

am

you want

used eflBciently and effectively where

An American

I

it

carts,

(u.

s.

rice-burning

is

in the shortest time, the

southwest Pacific

the place and the Fifth Air Force can

do

The generally deteriorating military situathe China-Burma area, however, favored the

the job." tion in

CBI (China-Burma-India)

as the recipient of the

B-29s.

Arnold's solution was to establish the Twentieth

Air Force directly under the control of the Joint

B-29

Chiefs of Staff; this very effectively denied the B-29

do the

construction engineer called this a "ten-

five-hundred-coolie-powered,

area

to

still

the

will

most good

first

in the southwest Pacific

wrote Arnold that he assumed "that

ton,

horse-drawn

with manpower. from the nearby hills air force)

groups to escort them, for the bombing of the

Japanese homeland. The its

in

base in China

to field site

roller."

Stones,

mud, and gravel were ground also. (u. s. MR force)

by manpower

into

the strip

THE DIVINE WIND

130

He

to the various warring factions.

bomber out

kept the super-

of the hands of Stilwell, MacArthur,

and Nimitz, none of

whom

were particularly im-

was

pressed with the strategic potential of what

VLR (very long-range) airemployment by VHB (very heavy bomber)

then being called the craft for

w.^fflp"

groups.

These groups (the 40th, 444th, 462nd, 468th) had been in existence since November 1943 and were assigned to the Twentieth Air Force

in

June

Bombardment Wing (VH) of 20th Bomber Command. The first B-29 landed

of 1944 as the 58th the at

Kharagpur, about seventy miles west of Calcutta,

on April

India,

1944. Before

2,

this

was

possible

A

B-29

on a handmade

resting

strip in

two

(U.

China. AIR force)

S.

months of very hard labor had been put in by the 853rd Engineer Aviation Battalion and the 382nd Engineer Construction BattaUon (which had been

Ledo Road project). The numbered six thousand U.S. troops and twenty-seven thousand Indians. The preparation of the Indian bases was an epic in itself, for the B-29 required longer runways, which, in addition, had to be thicker than normal to withborrowed from

Stilwell's

labor force eventually

the

same

time, since the

capricious engines continued to plague crews

and the heat of India contributed to the problem of overheating. Merely starting an engine could cause

a cylinder to blow and the aircraft to catch

Crews looked their

at the crossing of the

in

unproved "superbomber" with skepticism. That

B-29s would be based

ing supplies instead of

own

in India, out of the reach of the Japanese, staging

their

areas in the neighborhood of Chengtu, China, were

trucking outfit."

Again conditions were

also constructed.

fire.

Himalayas

they should be put to such inglorious work as haul-

stand the weight of the great plane.

At

The

at

once con-

temporary and primitive, with American engineers

most of the work

Two

days

had been

bomb

loads was expressed in

description of themselves as "a

after

the

initiated, a

goddamed

India-to-China supply run

B-29 was attacked

for the

first

10 the Chengtu bases were also ready for the

The encounter occurred on April 26, 1944, late in the afternoon, when a B-29 (piloted by Major Charles H. Hansen) carrying a

B-29. These bases were within range of the Japanese

cargo of fuel had reached the Indo-Burmese fron-

homeland.

tier. The B-29 was cruising at sixteen thousand feet when Major Hansen saw, two thousand feet below

directing Chinese laborers, doing literally

May

by hand, numbering into the thousands. By

But there remained, as always, the problem of Before a mission could be mounted from

logistics.

Chengtu, supplies

—had

everything area,

to

across the

quired six B-29

make

possible



fuel,

ammunition, bombs, parts:

be moved from the Calcutta

Hump, flights

to China.

over the

Roughly

Hump

it

re-

and back to

one B-29 bombing mission upon

Japan.

and about

itself

the world's most efficient aircraft.

Even on

the flight

five

aircraft.

miles distant to the starboard, a for-

mation of twelve Nakajima Ki. 43 "Oscars" (the Ki.

was an abbreviation for Hikoki, meaning

"air-

craft").

Alerting his crew to battle stations,

Hansen ob-

served the Oscars as six of them began spiraling up

toward

was a formidable undertaking. The Himalayas were the highest, most treacherous mountains in the world and the B-29 was not yet This in

time by enemy

their lone

plane and the remaining six con-

tinued on in formation toward the

Hump. The

six

Oscars that approached the B-29 then broke up into

two formations of three on each side of the They remained out of range, obviously

big bomber.

from the United States to India several of the planes were left behind with engine problems along the

studying the B-29, a plane none had probably ever

way and two were completely destroyed

as the nervous gunners

at Karachi.

seen before. This went on for nearly fifteen minutes

on

the

bomber tracked the

'

?)!

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT"

131

Oscars. Suddenly the lead Oscar whipped out of

formation and twisted in toward the B-29 almost directly

with

from the starboard

fire

as the

side.

The wings winked

Oscar closed and a burst of

across the B-29's midsection.

A

cut

fire

scream on the

inter-

com meant that someone had been hit (Sergeant Walter W. Gilonske, a waist gunner, was wounded in this attack).

upon

now

crippled

rets

were out, the 20-mm.

the

twin

.50s

jammed.

tail

The



cannon

One

of the Oscars

came

tle

guns and

was two months (less two days) before the shakedown mission was scheduled for the 58th

sion. It first

Bombardment Wing. Brigadier General Kenneth B. Wolfe, commanding 20th Bomber Command,

failed,

and

dividually

were quickly

within a hundred yards of tail

bomb-

flying,

the essentials to their primary mis-

hoped to compensate for the training deficiencies by bombing the target at night, each plane going in in-

in

cleared, however.

Sergeant Harold Lanhan's

formation

high-altitude



gunnery

tur-

the top

latter

efficiency in ing,

gun

The remaining Oscars followed

the bomber,

"truck drivers," which did not contribute to their

left

the bat-

smoking. The remaining Oscars continued

at-

than

in

Arnold,

formation.

in

upon a "daylight precision" attack because "the entire bomber program is predicated upon the B-29's employment this

as a visual precision

weapon."

Wolfe

insisted

shakedown operation, his some training time into the already program (B-29s flew in bomber formation

crammed

minutes and then left the battle. The American bomber had taken eight hits and, once Sergeant Gilonske was attended to, continued on to Chengtu unchaUenged by other enemy aircraft. Meanwhile, the B-29 crews operated primarily as

strained

over the

and

rescheduled

tacking, but without conviction, for about twentyfive

rather

Washington, rejected

Hump

even while on trucking missions),

and believed the wing ready for a strike upon the Makasan railway shops in Bangkok, Siam (Thai-

would not yet be a

land). This

strike against the

Japanese homeland, but might very well interfere with Japanese operations in northern Burma.

The mission was

set for

June

1944

5,



the

first

B-29 mission of the war. One hundred of the big bombers were in readiness in the Kharagpur base area; the takeoff

was to begin

5:45 a.m., before

at

the heat of the morning could overheat the engines

and

to afford as

long

flight

importantiy,

One

much

daylight as possible for the

a thousand miles

from

plane of the 462nd Group developed me-

chanical problems and simply never

The 40th Group takeoff craft

—and, most —Bangkok.

of about a thousand miles to

at

also left

left

the ground.

one plane behind. During

Chakulia Major John B. Keller's

air-

began behaving peculiarly about halfway down

the runway:

runway and

the nose of the plane lifted off the for thousands of feet the

tained this curious attitude



its

B-29 main-

nosewheel in the

air

bumping against the ground. Then it left the ground and appeared to be taking off normally. The left wing suddenly dropped and Keland the

ler

tail

brought

skid

it

up with a quick turn

of the control

column. But the wing dropped again and the plane, seemingly out of control, plowed into the ground, exploded, and

Kenneth B. Wolfe, first commander of 20th Bomber Command which was specially set up to keep the B-29s under control of the Air Force. (U. S. AIR force)



left

Bombs exploded and immediately

a

flaming

trail

across the earth.

inside the fuselage, tearing killing all inside the

the copilot. Lieutenant B. A. Eisner,

it

to bits

plane except

who

could be

THE DIVINE WIND

132 heard whispering something about an engine failure before he died.

The remaining

by Colonel

ninety-eight B-29s, led

Leonard F. Harman (commanding

of the

officer

40th Group), proceeded with the mission.

If

the

had been complicated by ground mist, formation was rendered all but impossible by cloud and haze. Confused, apprehensive, the pilots joined takeoff

up with the wrong elements, and

as weather thick-

ened, even the rudimentary formations disintegrated.

seemed

It

position

what

better to risk

was expected

little

Usion in mid-air.

As was

planes developed

some mechanical

and began turning back the target

Japanese op-

singly than to chance a col-

also expected,



one by one

trouble or other

a total of fourteen before

was reached. Of the remaining

eighty-

four aircraft, seventy-seven actually dropped their

bombs

in the target area

(and of

these, forty-eight

were forced to depend upon radar because of the overcast; the radar teams were not well trained,

New weapon

of war with teething troubles; the B-29 with engines warming up. Ground crew under wing is

ready with

fire

extinguishers, (u.

s.

air force)

it

might be noted). After about six hours of touchy flying, with no

improvement riving over

in the weather, the planes

Bangkok

at

10:52 a.m.

began

ar-

—and continued

After ten to twelve hours in the

coming

to earth

air,

the B-29s began

wherever possible in friendly

Some landed

home

to arrive in a long stream (instead of the intended

ritory.

diamond formations)

were scattered,

after

emergency landings,

antiaircraft

British bases.

Two

of the big

for over an hoiu". Japanese began bursting around the big bombers, and what might be called the Battle of Bangkok be-

No

gan.

guns

flaming

—nor

gerly to

to

bomber went down before

any of the nine

make a few

these

fighters that rose gin-

passes (a dozen in all) without

when

—with

abandoned over Yu-Chi (about

Dumdum

But neither was the scattered, rather haphazard bombing very effective. The mission was regarded as an "operational success" for a first mission.

though the B-29 was a

fallen into the target area, some directly upon assembly and boiler shops, although it was admitted that the damage could not be expected to

bring about a noticeable "decrease in the flow of troops and mihtary supplies into Burma."

No

aircraft

was

though the return than the long

lost

trip to

bomb

through enemy action,

runs over the target had been.

With the monsoon season

fast

approaching,

weather, as a result rough and threatening, took toll;

as did the

still

al-

Bengal was more perilous

the its

emerging bugs. Fuel ran low

because of faulty systems, engines froze up, propellers

were feathered, and

pilots fought to

keep on

course in the high winds, black clouds, and rain.

dozen lost

Bay

of

sixty miles

from Kunming), and a fourth crash-landed British base at

Bombs had

in a

bombers were

two engines malfunctioning

effect.



ter-

base area but others

the pilots were forced to ditch in the

Bengal; another

—was

in the

at the

without injury to crew, total

al-

wreck.

Thus the shakedown mission to Bangkok had cost B-29s (counting the one which exploded on takeoff) and fifteen lives. There were those who

five

question the "operational success" of that mission. StiU, a mission had taken place, seventy-three B-29s had made the round trip, bombs had fallen upon enemy installations, and crews had proved them-

selves

and

craft.

It

so, with

some

reservations,

had the

air-

had been demonstrated that heavy loads

could be carried over great distances and that was

what the B-29 had been designed

The question

to do.

come next was answered with sudden unexpectedness. Even before all the strays

of

what was

to

had been reassembled from the

initial

mission Wolfe received urgent word from Arnold.

A

B-29 attack upon the Japanese homeland (which

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT"

133

bomb bay

dred miles. Wolfe had had

fuel tanks,

necessary for so long a mission, for eighty-six B-29s.

This was a

better than Arnold's

little

minimum

of

With a good deal of hard work in blistering heat, no less than ninety-two "Dreamboats" seventy.

(one of the code words for the B-29) began moving

China on June

into

13.

Of

the ninety-two, seventy-

nine arrived in China; of the thirteen that had not, for various mechanical reasons,

crew was

one B-29 and

its

lost.

Four bombers already

at

Chengtu were added to

the arrivals, so that eighty-three stood ready for the

More mathematics ensued what

mission.

with me-

chanical failures and by the afternoon of June 15 a of sixty-eight B-29s would be air-borne for

total

Japan. The force was led by Brigadier General La-

Warming up;

the giant waiting for the

on a mission, (u.

word

G. Saunders, commanding

Wing,

in a plane

by

air force)

s.

Veme to take off

58th

officer of the

from the 468th Group and piloted

Group Commander Colonel Howard Engler. B-29s followed their aircraft. The Lady

Fifteen

Hamilton, but the sixteenth faltered, smashed back to earth,

had not been bombed since the Doolittle raid of 1942 except for small

strikes in

1943 by the Elev-

enth Air Force, based in the Aleutians,

mushiro

on Para-

must be carried out

and burned

—without

a

single injury

to

any of the crew. Takeoff had been in the afternoon,

set for shortly after four o'clock

which would bring the B-29s over

plained would help to divert the Japanese from their

Yawata before midnight. It would be no daylight Soon after the mission was airborne more of the not yet debugged bombers were

China offensive then threatening Chennault's

forced back by mechanical failures. Four canceled

in the Kurile Islands)



by mid-June

east

forward

fields

a

"maximum

which Arnold ex-

effort"

and also would

tie

in with

an "impor-

Wolfe hoped for a force of if

B-29s for June

fifty

the mission could be

Even such not very impressive strain upon the stockpile of supplies in China. Arnold was not pleased and called for an effort of no less than seventy bombers postponed

five days.

numbers would put a

for to

June 15;

if

accomplish

the

this,

Hump

flights

Hump

must be increased

then that too must be done. Wolfe

proceeded as ordered, pressuring

and cutting down on

his

fuel

crews over the

for

the fighters.

But he knew that as The Day came, no matter how impressive

would

the

set in

number,

and the

the

inevitable

maximum

effort

arithmetic

would be

less

than that.

The

flight

"Betty" to 20th

from the Chinese bases around Chengtu

and steelworks

primary target





the Imperial iron-

Yawata was about sixteen hunmaking the round trip thirty-two hunat

flight.

The

first

of forty-seven

B-29s

Bomber Command headquarters at first time since 1942 bombs

11:38 P.M. For the rained

down upon

radio operator

Japan. "Betty, Betty" tapped the

—an echo

of the Tora, Tora ("Tiger,

Tiger") of the Pearl Harbor attack.

The sky was lashed with searchlights and a few came up, as did the antiaircraft fire, but as at Bangok, no damage resulted from enemy action. A half-dozen planes jettisoned their bombs because of mechanical problems, two bombed the secondary target (Laoyao Harbor), and five others bombed fighters

various targets of opportunity.

Despite the lack of enemy opposition, there were losses

to the selected

dred miles,

out early in the

which dropped bombs on Yawata flashed the signal

tant operation" in the western Pacific.

15 and an additional five

precision attack.

nonetheless.

Besides

the

crashed and burned during takeoff, lost

aircraft

during the mission and another

total loss of

naissance

seven B-29s

flight.

One

—on

of the

which

five others

were

—making

the

a postmission recon-

bombers

that

was

lost

THE DIVINE WIND

134

Help from a very small friend: the jeep guides the B-29 to its hardstand. Note copilot leaning out of his cockpit window, (u. s. air force)

inside the plane jimiped out

(two of the crew were

injured) and ran for the ditch to join Zinder and the others.

was destroyed by Japanese aircraft. Captain Robert Root's plane had developed engine trouble, so he set

it

down

at

the

Chinese

Neihsiang,

nine fighters.

As he

settled into

strafing job,

lines.

the airfield he radioed for

American

fighter protec-

and the crew worked on the B-29.

No American

fighters

arrived, but within a

few

minutes after the plane had landed two Japanese fighters

swept down ftom across a low mountain

range. Harry Zinder,

Time correspondent, watched

the approach of the fighters, shouted to the inside the plane, fifty

and took refuge

men

in a ditch about

fighters roared across,"

"pulled up and then turned

Zinder reported

started a

little

fire

down on our

fire

was

During the

the left side.

bullets kicked

alongside the ditch. the

on

ship.

lull,

We

they

when

fifteen this

The

they

job.

renewing our prayers. seen us because

open, see their

We



six

bombers and

and did a and then the bombers went to work

and finished the

it.

time

fighters peeled off first

We We

were felt

in the ditch again,

sure they must have

we could see their bomb bay doors bombs fall on the ship and around

decided to spend the rest of the morning in

the ditch."

The B-29 was nothing but a wreck, and while Americans

lay

in

the

ditch,

covered

with

come over

They

ready long-destroyed bomber. Their vengeance

hugged the

up dust and

They made many

fully blazing

it

later,

spattered bullets across the fuselage and wings, then

ground closer as

settled into

the tree

branches and grass, Japanese planes continued to

yards from the bomber.

"The

"There were

at

base

near the Chinese-Japanese

tion while he

They had barely

heard the sound of engines again.

passes.

grass

When

left."

Root and the others who had been

filled,

intermittently to

bomb and

the Japanese finally stopped

long, unreasoning attack

strafe the alful-

coming. Their

was an indication of the

upon the homeland had The men who had been aboard the B-29 were flown out of Neihsiang in a B-25 dis-

fury the renewed attack

engendered.

patched from the nearby base at Hsinching.

•TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT" Although headlines

in

the

United

States

135 pro-

of which was

Most

less than a major in rank.

men claimed by

of

claimed the news of the Yawata attack and such

the

phrases as "glowing mass of ruins" and "reduced to

ron leaders most of them, had not even been on the

huge rubbish heap" were used with poetic abandon,

mission. Japanese radio also claimed the destruction

the Japanese, important squad-

Alan D. Clark, who flew the

of B-24s that, like the high brass, had not partici-

mission as an observer, contained the sentence "The

pated in the mission. The general outcry revealed

the report by Colonel

results of the mission

were poor."

bombs actually some bombs fell

a few that

fell

He

noted that only

into the target area

and

as far as twenty miles away.

This he attributed to inefficient "blind bombing" radar) because radar operators were yet in-

(i.e.,

experienced and untrained. scattered

Where

the

bombs had

through industrial and business

districts,

that,

even

if

the official

mission was "poor,"

was time

Even more important

to the future

and

It

again. its

portents

Marianas campaign opened with the assault

the

were "hospitals and schools."

12,

member

Emperor

was the "important operation" with which the Yawata mission was co-ordinated. On the same day

upon Saipan. With

of one B-29 and the capture of a crew, no

American evaluation of the

had incensed the Japanese.

to apologize to the

the Japanese declared that the buildings destroyed

Japanese propaganda also claimed the destruction

it

that island secured,

1944, Brigadier General

brought the Isley

Field.

Haywood

on October S.

Hansell

B-29, Joltin' Josie, into Saipan's

first

Brilliant,

young (forty-one), Hansell

had recommended the taking of the Marianas as a base for the giant bombers. Josie set

down on Saipan

On

the day that Joltin'

the strategic air

war took

an ominous turn for Japan.

While the Twentieth Air Force underwent ing pains,

some

its

grow-

of which proved tragically fatal,

the two major Pacific forces were converging on the road back to the Philippines.

MacArthur's southwest Pacific forces leapfrogged

New Guinea and onto Morotai Island Halmahera group south of the Philippines)

out of the

(in

as

Ocean areas forces struck in the Palaus, taking Peleliu and Angaur islands, east of the Philippines. With American forces in the Palaus

Nimitz's Pacific

(in

the western Carolines),

such strong Japanese

bases in the central and eastern Carolines as Truk

were neutralized; so were once and for

all

the

bases in the Bismarck Archipelago, Kavieng and

From bases on Angaur the 494th Bombardment Group of the Seventh Air Force was Rabaul.

bombing range of Japanese airfields in the among them Clark Field, which had not been much in the news since the gloomy Decem-

within

Philippines,

ber days of 1941.

The 494th, nicknamed

"Kelly's

Cobras" for the group commander Colonel Laurence

Bomber Command

B-29, an aircraft of the 468th Group, returns from bombing Anshan, Manchuria. The city was an important steel-producing center; later it would house a school for training kamikaze pilots, (u. s. AIR force)

20th

Bomb

B. Kelly and equipped with B-24s, arrived in the

Palaus in October (1944) after a remarkable mass flight

from Hawaii. Within twenty-four hours the

group was

off to

bomb Yap and

Koror, the

latter

THE DIVINE WIND

136 of the

Phihppines



at

Leyte

—was

months. The Joint Chiefs of

Staff,

advanced two then

meeting

with their British counterparts in Quebec, approved

Only MacArthur remained, and he was incommunicado on the Morotai invasion. However, Sutherland, certhe idea, as did also Roosevelt and Churchill.

tain of his chiefs views,

agreed to the advanced

Jime, had joined the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces

Japanese ships burning

a Palau island harbor; a

under his command) within bombing range of Japa-

Yorktown Hellcat noses into the picture at left. (navy dept., national archives)

A Navy Vought OS2U "Kingfisher" dips over Angaur Island in the Palau group of the Carolines as invasion forces head for the beaches. The central Pacific forces were on the move closer to Japan.

(navy dept., national archives)

a neighboring island of the Palaus, and returned without a loss. The group would soon be employed

MacArthur's promised return

in the preparation for

to

The Morotai operation placed

the Philippines.

units of Kenney's

Far East Air Forces (which

in

nese targets in Java, the Celebes, and Borneo, as well as the Phihppines. Setting the Thirteenth Air Force

in

up bases on Morotai,

(under the

command

of

Major General St. Clair Streett), with its B-24s, began bombing Balikpapan, Borneo's Ploesti. Like the Seventh, the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces soon turned to softening up Leyte in the Philippines. Meanwhile Halsey's carriers had also been striking at the Phihppines during the Palau and Morotai operations. Halsey described Japanese aerial resist-

ance as "amazing and fantastic" in impotence.

He

its

apparent

heard also from a Navy pilot shot

down over Leyte and

later rescued

that guerrillas

he had met told him that there were no Japanese on Leyte. Halsey immediately recommended a startling

bypass

change the

in the Pacific timetable.

Palaus

completely,

he

Why

suggested

not to

Nimitz, and strike at the middle of the Philippines instead

of

Mindanao

(the

southernmost island)?

Nimitz, to a great extent, agreed. Although Peleliu

and Angaur were taken (the former at great cost), Yap was canceled and the invasion

the invasion of

in: a Liberator examining destruction to bridges over a river in Burma, (u. s. air force)

Closing

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT"

137

WATER BUFFALO (FEM^k.LE)

Reconnaissance photograph of a railroad in north Borneo, Netherlands East Indies. Patient study of the

photo reveals the careful attention to detail by Air Force intelligence men. (u. S. AIR force)

date and to Leyte over

most of the home islands),

that Leyte

Sho-3

Mindanao (despite the fact was out of the range of Allied fighter

cover). Sutherland, however, could not quite agree

with Halsey's view that the Japanese air force in

was "a hoUow

the Philippines

operating on

shell

was

to

activate

if

it

would

Kyushu,

initiate

Sho-2;

Shikoku,

and

Honshu were the obvious objectives; Sho-A was the plan should Hokkaido be the enemy's target. Whichever plan was to be the final one,

all

were basically

a shoestring."

There was some truth

was not quite the way

in it

view,

this

was.

really

but

that

True,

the

Marianas "Turkey Shoot" had taken an irreplaceable

toll

men,

in

aircraft,

the Imperial Fleet tainly not in

and ships from which

would never recover

the less than six

—and

cer-

months which had

passed. But, as usual, the Japanese

had formulated

a desperate plan, which they, with even more opti-

mism than is

Halsey, called the Sho Operation; sho

the Japanese

word

for "victory."

the Maiianas debacle, Operation

Conceived

after

Sho was expected

to bring about the "decisive battle" for

which the

Japanese Navy had yearned since Midway. Sho was actually four plans in one, depending

the enemy's next major invasion as

was expected,

would be placed

it

came

upon where

would come.

in the Phihppines,

in operation; if the

If,

Sho-l

blow came

in

Formosa, Nansei Shoto, or Kyushu (the southern-

A

Corsair lands on Pelcliu Island airstrip in the Caro-

lines just

two weeks after the island's invasion. (navy dept., national archives)

THE DIVINE WIND

138 the same:

possible forces would be rushed into

all

action to defeat the enemy, and wherever that was, it

was It

any of the expected points,

at

it

waters;

escaped to southern waters, then

if it

would be cut

from ammunition and guns from

off

the homeland. "There

to be a "theater of decisive action."

might have come

home

but the most likely was in the Philippines (although for a time the Chiefs of Staff considered bypassing

Arthur would want to

gone, despite the

to the Philippines. Also, the AlUes' ostensible ally,

the

"at

philosophy in the face of reahty was turning suicidal.

The

the Soviet Union, let a httle hint sUp through

in saving the

resignation,

expense of the loss of the Philippines." The Japanese

the Phihppines and striking

Formosa instead). Mackeep his word about returning

was no sense

Toyoda admitted with

fleet,"

was

old, almost arrogant confidence in victory

name

of the operation; but the

stubborn determination remaiaed.

That something was

its

the

in

wind became

clear

foreign office in

Moscow, which informed the Japanese Ambassador that the China-based Fourteenth

about the second week of October. Kenney's forces

and Twentieth Air Forces had been ordered to plan

some

missions which would isolate the Phihppines.

airfields

would then be Sho-l; the Philippines would

It

be the scene of the all-out decisive

had not informed Tokyo

where

just

battle. it

Moscow

would come

which of the several islands that comprised the



PhUippines

By

late

but the plan called for the last-ditch

be fought on the main island of Luzon.

battle to

September reinforcements, ground and

air,

More ominously, on October 6 General Tomoyuki Yamashita, who had

were sent

to the Phihppines.

continued to harass the Japanese as before, with attention ia mid-September given to Philippine

by Liberators. Then Halsey unleashed the carriers, whose

Third Fleet, particularly Mitscher's

planes began raking over Marcus Island

(east of

Iwo Jima) and then, almost at Japan's doorstep, Okinawa in the Ryukyus. The next day, October 11, 1944, Mitscher's Task Force 38 Hellcats swept down upon an undeveloped air facihty at Aparri on Luzon in the northern Philippines. The attacks were surprising and destructive, but on the twelfth,

Navy

when

the

achieved notoriety (not necessarily deserved) as the

jittery

Japanese activated both Sho-l and

"Tiger of Malaya" and the conqueror of impregna-

Reinforcements from the Second Air Fleet of Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa's carrier forces rushed

ble

Singapore,

arrived

Fourteenth Army. Shigenori Kuroda,

occupation

of

"Tiger" would

the

of

He replaced Lieutenant General who had, during the two-year grown soft The some stiffening into Phihppines. The ground

Philippines,

the

—and



did

^put

the neglected defenses of the fighting

command

take

to

would not prove

be

to

"hollow

a

shell

As Yamashita dug tion

its

in,

Imperial

the

Navy

for-

Sho-l plans, although the date of activa-

remained unknown. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Combined Fleet, would in Chief,

Commander gamble the

entire fleet in the operation.

Like

all

all

but stripped

—replacements

the

-2.

Ozawa

of his

the Marianas

for

Vice-Admiral Shigeru Fukudome, once Ya-

losses.

mamoto's chief of

staff,

commanding

the

Sixth

Base Air Force, observed the early clash of the

American and Japanese planes from post in Formosa.

operating on a shoestring."

mulated

Formosa. This

to

planes and pilots

turned to Formosa,

aircraft

flame

with

moment and death

fall

As he watched,

his

command

the sky blossomed

and smoke; explosives flashed then

a

trail

of

for

smoke marked

a

the

of a plane.

"Well done! Well done!" Fukudome declared, certain

that

the falhng aircraft were American; but

Army and

they were not, as he later learned to his "sudden

expected httle assistance from that quarter; the out-

disappointment." Most of the burning aircraft were

Navy men, he come

distrusted the Japanese

of the battle, he believed,

his fleet.

The

would depend upon

idea was to destroy the "barbarians"

Japanese, which cleared the

bombers and tions

Philippines.

pilots

Toyoda's plan was as complex as

—and

he knew that

if

therein lay

its

the Philippines

lanes to the south

would be

fuel to the Imperial Fleet

if

cut. it

it

was grandly But

ultimate flaw. fell,

the shipping

This would deny

was

to operate in

way

for

American dive

Formosa's ground

and parked planes by

before they could estabhsh themselves back in the

impressive

strafing of

claimed 193 planes shot

stroyed on the ground the

first

days of the Formosa attacks.

installa-

Navy down and 123 de-

fighters.

On

U.

S.

day of the three the second day,

the thirteenth, Japanese planes did break through the

all

but overwhelming numbers of Hellcats to

place torpedoes into two cruisers, the Canberra and

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT"

139

towed out of

the Houston, both of which had to be

Besides these damages Task Force 38 had lost

men

seventy-nine planes and sixty-four well

as

number

a

as

the air

in

seamen aboard

of

those ships which had suffered attack. But the cost

Japanese was great:

to the

and

hundred

six

between

The

aircraft.

hundred

five

was the near

result

ippines:

have returned." Within two days more

I

than 130,000 American troops and 200,000 tons of supplies

had been placed ashore

Thomas

but over.

The

Philippines.

With perverse

the Japanese

High Com-

believe the

exaggerated

to

who had

claims of the few pilots the attack

on the American

fleet,

returned from

turned the great

Somehow

defeat into an overwhelming victory. hits

on American

cruisers multiplied into sinking

Task Force

38.

Tokyo announced, had "ceased striking force."

There was

to be

would leave the Inland Sea of Japan and

stroyers,

He would

head for the Philippines.

Americans

riers to the

American

an organized

beaches of

IvCyte.

While the American carrier planes

from

diverted forces

the

landing

Two

Force 38 (which the

from the south,

starting out

(at Singapore),

and

Taiwan (Formosa)

Fleet") at

For Reckless Yankee Doodle

Do you know

about the naval battle done by the Fleet at the sea near Taiwan and Philippine? Japanese powerful air force had sunk their 19 aeroplane carriers, 4 battleships, 10 several cruisers and destroyers along with sending 1,261 ship aero-

American

58th

planes into the sea.

When

.

.

he [Halsey]

is

now

retiring

lowing the salvage of

all

This message was

made

days before, with

toward the enemy

initial

landings

dered Sho-1 under way. This, he was the

big

American invasion

the heavy aerial assaults

19.

made upon Toyoda or-

finally certain,

—which

explained

upon Formosa and other

With the activation of Sho-l, the Combined Fleet began pines.

its

complex movements toward the

While

it

was

still

Philip-

en route, MacArthur three

came

of the forces

after a refueling stop at

Brunei

(two of them being the superships

Musashi and Yamato), ten heavy cruisers,

and

up

cruisers,

fifteen destroyers. Kurita's

the South

two

light

mission was

China Sea, veer southeastward

around the island of Mindoro, and thread

his

way

through the Sibuyan Sea, traversing across the northsouth axis of the Philippines and through the San

Bernardino

Strait into the Philippine Sea, all of this

the north.

Once

in the Philippine Sea,

lead his forces (what was

prepared to lose of

Samar

raise

at

least

left

away

of them: and he

half)

to

Kurita would

was

around the island

to a position off Leyte,

where he would

havoc with the American landing operations.

Another

force,

mura, which had

possible staging areas into the PhiUppines.

thus

other

from Lingga Anchorage

hopefully with the American carriers lured

public on October

islands in the entrance to Leyte Gulf,

was

fol-

the Third Fleet ships re-

Radio Tokyo."

cently reported sunk by

Two

five battleships

to slip

Halsey wired Nimitz "the comforting assurance that

were three

Bay (Borneo) split up for a co-ordinated attack upon Leyte. The largest of these forces, under ViceAdmiral Takeo Kurita, consisted of no less than

.

he heard the claims emanating from Japan,

beaches,

would converge upon the unprotected Ameri-

cans and destroy them.

"58th

The objective was away from the

carrier forces

ered with leaflets heralding the destruction of Task leaflet writer called the

expose his car-

the Philippine Sea, east

in

to lure the

Americans on recently taken Peleliu were show-

called the

plus three cruisers and ten de-

of the northern coast of Luzon.

streets in a three-day celebration in Japan.

Vice-Admiral

and two converted

large, three light,

battleship-carriers)

dancing in the

all

of the then operational

about

The Third

literally

(one

all

Fleet,

aircraft carriers, battleships, and, in fact, just

of Halsey's

the

main body, consisting of carriers

this:

commanding what was

Jisaburo Ozawa,

alacrity

Fleet

amphibious operations, which were

Toyoda's plan, roughly, was

Sho plan was

aerial aspect of the

mand, only too eager

all

the

"hollow shell."

truly a

two

in

(Vice-Admiral

Combined

the

still

pressed toward the Philippines determined to interfere with the

remained

aircraft

And

C. Kinkaid).

decimation of Ozawa's carrier strength, although a land-based

Leyte by "Mac-

at

Arthur's navy," the Seventh Fleet

number

of

yards of water,

fifty

stepped ashore, and announced: "People of the Phil-

the battle area.

battles,

days later splashed through

under Vice-Admiral Shoji Nishisplit

with Kurita's at Brunei

and which consisted of two cruiser,

battleships,

and four destroyers, was to bear east

north of Borneo.

It

Bay

one heavy just

would then negotiate the Sulu

THE DIVINE WIND

140 pass north of the island of Mindanao,

Sea,

come through

and

the Surigao Strait (south of Leyte),

where, in conjunction with Kurita's forces, the Nishi-

mura

force would

tions

and ships

But

this

pound

American

the Leyte

posi-

all.

Another

force,

Admiral Kiyohide Shima (two heavy

under Viceope

cruisers,

hght cruiser, and seven destroyers), which had sor-

from the Inland Sea and refueled

tied

Since

in the Inland

Bako

at

Formosa), was

(in the Pescadores off the coast of

Ozawa

held no illusions, the only hope for

any substantial

the

survivors

of Halsey's

land-

would come from Vice-

—moved

carrier

attacks

dome could muster about 300-350

The

planes.

First Air Fleet, already in the Philippines, demoral-

and depleted, was placed under the command

Navy man worth

sumed command

icent

it

from Formosan bases into the PhiUppines; Fuku-

ized

armadas of magnifships cutting through the seas on a split-

come from

cover must

air

Admiral Shigeru Fukudome's Second Air Fleet

to combine with Nishimura's force for the attack upon Leyte, which came from the south. It was a grand plan, dear to the heart of any his salt: great

Sea because there were

for them.

based planes. Most of

to bits.

was not

mained behind

no planes

of Vice-Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, one of the original

Harbor

architects of the Pearl

17,

1944



When

attack.

he as-

of the First Air Fleet on October

the day that Sho-\

went

into

motion

second timetable converging upon the hated foe for

Ohnishi had few aircraft with which to provide

a battle to the death. There were, however, a number

cover for Kurita's advance toward the American

of factors that, in fact, stripped the grand plan of

landing beaches.

hundred

grandeur.

its

The

With

split-second timing, for one.

ships con-

verging from both north and south, communications

became

and communications between the

critical

were not good.

different forces

And

those which

might have been good could be (and in some

knocked out by American

stances were)

Another flaw was that Toyoda had, Sho-l into motion too

to

late

attackers.

in

interfere

fact,

the time the Kurita

set

with the

landings on Leyte, which began on October

By

in-

20.

and the Nishimura-Shima

forces were due off Leyte (October 25)

the

most

vulnerable phase of the amphibious landings would

be over. Not that the Japanese armada could not have done serious damage to the American positions,

when

but the main chance had already evaporated

There was one other, more serious imperfection

Grand Thinking,

had refused those at

Midway and

Ozawa's

as

if

to learn anything

Fleet, virtually all of

practically

no

the

High

from such

the Marianas. it,

Command battles as

The Combined

was venturing forth with

his four carriers

carrier carried

were

just

were 108 (a

what they were single

American

80 or more). The Marianas

and the more recent Formosa depleted the

and inexperienced

in-

number of

strikes,

aircraft

for example, the

and

fleet

losses,

had seriously pilots.

Two

Junyo and Ryuho,

re-

pilots.

and



at

most a

eager,

young,

about sixty

aircraft

Ohnishi also had a scheme

— words Rear Admiral Toshiyuki "conceived and prepared — Ohnishi hoped would put few in the

of

that,

these

young men and

their

He

effective use.

Yokoi

for in despair"

in futihty

obsolescent planes

earnest

to

very

called his conception kamikaze.

Also based in the Philippines was the Fourth Air Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Kyoji

Tominaga, which had few

illusions

Army still,

aircraft spread

throughout the

But the Imperial Navy planners had

Philippines.

of

from that quarter. Japanese

aid

were not noted for

pilots

Tominaga had about 150

intrepidity;

their

aircraft of all types,

which could be hurled against the invaders. ever,

mere numbers

—Fukudome's

hundred bered

—were not

that

and the

the

350,

How-

Ohnishi's

150, and Ozawa's carrier planes

amounting to 108: a

total,

roughly, of about seven

so impressive

pilots

generally

when

it is

remem-

were very young

aircraft old.

Two American elaborate Sho-l

air cover.

carriers

tended to be, a ruse. The total aircraft borne by

carriers,

operational

100, Tominaga's

Sho-l began.

in the

He had



air

cover the

actual

Fleet with

its

light cruisers,

fleets

poised to challenge Toyoda's

plan.

Assigned to carry out and

landings

was Kinkaid's Seventh

six battleships, four thirty destroyers,

escorts, thirty-nine

PT

heavy and four

a dozen destroyer

boats, as well as

numerous

landing craft, transports, and troop ships (more than

seven hundred ships). Kinkaid's forces included also eighteen "baby flattops,"

the

CVE

(small escort

I

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT" which carried about

carriers),

five

141

hundred assorted

aircraft.

Fleet

(Halsey), with six battieships,

heavy and nine

destroyers,

punch fleet

the

destruction

was

also

light

and

cruisers,

fifty-eight

a formidable force.

Its

of

on the

special emphasis

The Third six

was

Japanese

the

(with

fleet

and that

carriers)

"strategic

support" of the Leyte landings was of secondary importance.

main

Since Halsey was his

own

boss in the operation,

lay in Mitscher's Fast Carrier Force, eight

the confusion, plus a near success by the Japanese,

(heavy) carriers and eight escort carriers with

brought about the most trying moments of the Leyte Gulf battles and a naval controversy which has never been resolved.

over a thousand divers,

aircraft

aboard



^Hellcats,

Hell-

and Avengers.

Troops of Lieutenant General Walter Krueger's Army had been ashore for three days before

Sixth the

first

fired.

guns

As

Battle for Leyte Gulf were

the

in

Kurita led his massive armada through

the Palawan Passage (west of the Philippines), he

was picked up on the radar of the submarine Darter (Commander David McClintock), which had sur-

Dace (Commander Bladen D. Clagtwo sub commanders to discuss megaphone. As soon as contact had been

faced near the

gett) to enable the

plans via

made

two

the

submarines

U.S.

When

submerged

and

headed for Kurita's

ships.

McCUntock opened

the attack with torpedoes, which

he was within range

pierced the side of the Atago, a cruiser that also

happened

to

be Kurita's flagship.

It

sank in

less

than twenty minutes, taking more than three hun-

dred

men

with

it;

ship

the indomitable Kurita transferred



Kishinami

and later to the Yamato. The Darter had opened the

to the destroyer

Navy

task group steams for the Philippines. (u.

s.

navy)

battle

Atago the submarine

in fine style; besides sinking the

Closing in: a

battle-

had also crippled the Takao. The Dace too drew blood by sinking the heavy cruiser Maya, which

was forced

to limp

back to Brunei Bay accompanied

by two destroyers. The five ships

initial

from Kurita's

action thus subtracted

force. This skirmish did not

bode well for Sho-l.

The command arrangement, although not

as

com-

plex as that of the Japanese, was a bit intricate.

Kinkaid

was

under

Halsey was not. of Nimitz. to

MacArthur's

He was

directly

command, but

under the

command

Both Kinkaid and MacArthur seemed

understand that the function of Halsey's forces

was

to

cover the beachhead

at

Leyte.

Kinkaid's

Halsey, alerted by tact report,

Commander

pare for action.

It

consisted of three carrier groups

all

veterans of several weeks of action and in need

of

rest.

S.

McCain, had been ordered

A

fourth group, under Vice-Admiral John

Task Force 38 of three

could not be expected to deal with an all-out surface

riers.

attack by the Japanese

steaming

Halsey, a crusty in-

dependent thinker, understood the need for protect-

When word came along

necessary for



McCain

there were

ing the landing areas, but as

an airman, he also

pines

eye for the Japanese

maining three groups.

carriers.

His understanding was that his primarjT task

UUthi,

the

in

large

still

and two escort car-

in that Kurita's ships

Palawan,

had a bloodthirsty gleam

in his

to

Carolines, for rest and reprovisioning. This deprived

ships were excellent for amphibious operations but

fleet.

McClintock's con-

ordered the Fast Carrier Force to pre-

Halsey did not

to hasten

were

feel

it

back to the Philip-

plenty of aircraft in the re-

Halsey positioned them east of the Philippines

THE DIVINE WIND

142 available aircraft

were dispatched to

group. There were about sixty planes accompanied by

strike at the

bomber and torpedo

more than a hundred 2^ros

and Zekes. Radar picked them up, coming

in three

nearly equal waves of about sixty mixed

aircraft

each.

Most

(from the Lexington,

of Sherman's planes

Essex, Princeton, and Langley, the latter two escort carriers)

had already been launched

On

to the west for Kurita's ships.

for the search

deck were the

bombers and torpedo planes, plus some escort Hellcats,

awaiting contact so that the strike could be

launched immediately.

A

few

fighters circled

on combat

the ships of Sherman's group

over

air patrol:

a dozen Hellcats, plus four others assigned to sub-

marine patrol with four bombers.

Heavy

seas: Hellcats with

the flight deck in the Pacific.

running from central Luzon (Rear Admiral Fred-

Task Group 38.3), north of the Samar (Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan's

erick C. Sherman's

TG

38.2),

and

off

the

large raids of

more than a hundred

aircraft

were discovered approaching from the west before

(navy dept., national archives)

island of

Two

wings folded and lashed to

Sherman could launch his strike. A third group of enemy planes were quickly spotted at a distance of sixty miles. Both the Princeton and the Langley scrambled seven

twelve

(these

McCampbell),

the

fighters;

Essex contributed

Commander David

were

led

by

and

the

Lexington

launched

its

southern point of Samar

TG

(Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison's

38.4). Just

south of this lay the Leyte Gulf area, which was

guarded also by the Seventh Fleet. Since a large Japanese ship concentration had been sighted to the west, Halsey's search planes,

laimched in the

morning of October 24, did not venture to the north-northeast of Luzon, where they might have sighted Ozawa's carriers approaching

Kurita's

ships,

since

their

from the north.

harassment by

the

Darter and Dace, had pushed onward and easterly,

rounded the island of Mindoro (where they were



sighted by a submarine), and continued for the

San Bernardino

Sea. It

was about

Strait

pilot

Lieutenant

Max

of the Intrepid. Halsey ordered his forces

to prepare

force;

obviously

the Sibuyan

at this point that Kurita's ships

were sighted by Helldiver

Adams

—through

for

strikes

upon the oncoming enemy

he also ordered McCain's Task Group 38.1

to refuel

and

to return to Philippine waters instead

of proceeding to the Carolines.

quired after

They might be

re-

Before the American planes found the Japanese ships,

Japanese land-based aircraft had spotted Sher-

man's task group and nearly

A

all

of Fukudome's

SOC-4

is catapulted from a cruiser on a The slow biplane was considered a sitting duck and replaced by the Kingfisher. But it served also as fire-direction craft for naval gunfire on

Curtiss

search

all.

mission.

—with proper

invasion beaches

escort by fighters. (u.

s.

navy)

I

143

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT" ing, the

two others headed

for the

oncoming enemy

aircraft.

McCampbell

After several minutes of climbing

He saw

looked around for a sign of enemy planes.

a large formation to identify.

—about

—too

sixty aircraft

The formation was

posed that he was

"Are there any

all

distant

so beautifully

but certain

it

friendlies in this area?"

Combat Information Center on

com-

was American. he radioed

the Essex.

"Negative, negative."

"In that case,

I

have the enemy

About two thousand

in

sight"

above him and Rushing

feet

were twenty bombers, Vals and Bettys. Three thousand feet higher flew perhaps forty Oscars, and Tonys.

Upon

A total

radioing the Essex again

—he was informed

Navy

wings folded for storage. (NAVY DEPT., NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

Hellcat having

that

to

available.

get

above the

bombThe Japanese bombers dived away through the

fighters, the five other Hellcats ers.

Zekes,

—"Please send help"

none was

As he and Rushing climbed

its

fighters,

of sixty against his seven.

dived on the

—which

clouds and lost contact with their escort

soon became busy with

The

remaining Hellcats.

eleven

was canceled

on Kurita Sherman

strike

for the time being as far as

was concerned. Defense, not

offense,

was the

its

own

problems. Before,

however, the Japanese fighters became aware of the presence of McCampbell and Rushing, several of

issue.

McCampbell, commander of Fighting 15 aboard

accompany the

the Essex, had been scheduled to strike

on Kurita. His other

aircraft,

cats,

had already taken

off

the Manila area. His Hellcat

on Number one

to

twenty-nine Hell-

strafe

catapult, but he

As

acute, as

it

in

for takeoff

had orders not

participate in defensive scrambles.

became more

airfields

was ready

to

the situation

became obvious

that the

Japanese strike was a massive one, McCampbell in taking off

felt justified

when Admiral Sherman

himself ordered "all available fighter pilots to

man

their planes immediately."

Despite the fact that the fueling of his Hellcat

had not been completed and because of the general hubbub, such as the bellowing through bull horns: "If the Air to

go,

Group Commander's plane

send

McCampbell

it

below!"

—because

is

not ready

of this urgency,

signaled for his launch with only a

full belly

tank but with each of his two main tanks

half

This was something to consider

head

full.

tight against his headrest,

he

felt

as,

with

his Hellcat

air. The six other Hellcats followed. McCampbell was joined by his wingman, Lieutenant Roy W. Rushing. With the five other Hellcats trail-

hurled into the

David McCampbell, Hellcat pilot, U.S.S. Essex. (NAVY DEFT., NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

THE DIVINE WIND

144

number

guns of the Hellcats. The

thousand feet to keep an eye on the circling Japa-

two Americans began picking away at the large enemy gaggle by coming up behind a straggler and blasting him out of the sky, and then finding an-

nese aircraft and to try to decide what to do next.

other.

under McCampbell's

bombers responded and joined the two Hellcats above the circle.

was a Zeke. Under the impact of the heavy slugging, the Zeke began breaking up and

the Japanese fighters strung along, apparently hop-

their

The

to the

fell

first

Japanese to

then, after flaring air.

call

to

fall

from a wing

root, disintegrated in

Certain of this victory,

off a Uttle pencil

mark on

their attackers

enemy

fighters

Lufbery Circle, nose to

mutual support.

was then

hook onto

a Zeke's

tail

by one of the Japanese

McCampbell

led

:

one.

became

and formed into a defensive

circle, the so-called It

ticked

his instrument panel

After his second flamer, the

aware of

McCampbell

all

tail

for

but impossible to

without being fired upon

fighters in the circle.

Rushing

up

to

twenty-three

Then

the Essex did

although

which had gone

six .50-calibers

the

Another

reinforcement,

not result in any

one of the

five

Hellcats

after the

to their surprise, the circle

opened up and

The problem The Japawide, straggling Vs

ing to return to their bases in Luzon.

of fuel supply had begun to take effect.

nese planes then formed into for the journey

home. The three Hellcats dived on

the disorganized Japanese fighters. Within seconds

McCampbell had added a third tick on his instrument panel. For some reason the Japanese did not attempt to fight back as the American Hellcats decimated the formation.

The American planes

dived,

fired;

a

Japanese

'mr^semf^^'^t^

The Princeton

after being struck by a

Battle of Leyte

bomb

during the

Gulf. The elevator has fallen below

decks; explosions of gassed-up aircraft in the hangar

deck caused serious damage and casualties. The carrier was finally sunk by American guns. (navy DEPT., national ARCHrVES)

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT' plane

fell

145

burning into the sea or the jungle below

and

as the victorious Hellcat climbed for altitude

another dive. After an hour and thirty-five minutes

combat

of



after

dangerously low

which

was

his short fuel supply

—McCampbell

the instrument panel. Rushing,

had nine

who had

ammunition, had accounted for

depleted his

The

six.

on

ticks

other five

Sprague's baby flattops. Those Japanese planes which

succeeded

fighting

in

came under heavy in

through the Hellcat screen

from the hundreds of ships

fire

and around the

gulf.

Although some

were

hits

scored upon the shipping, no serious damage was

ended Tominaga

done, and

when

was minus

at least half of his total air force.

the day's fighting

most of them

Kurita, meanwhile, gingerly though courageously

bombers. The seven Essex Hellcats, without losses,

negotiating the Sibuyan Sea, had requested air cover

Hellcats

had destroyed nine

had shot down craft.

at

aircraft,

twenty-four Japanese

least

air-

Other, and larger, forces had fared as effec-

planes from the Princeton

tively:

claimed thirty-

and four

four, Lexington Hellcats splashed thirteen,

Hellcats from aircraft

the

Langley claimed

The

destroyed.

big

five

Japanese

was

all

army;

I

Army

planes

but finished as far as the Leyte

out of

if

from

nowhere, ran the gauntlet of antiaircraft

fire

various ships, and planted a 550-pound

bomb on

the Princeton's flight deck before being shot down.

Although not ordinarily a death blow, the bomb

that resulted led to a series of explosions

One

of the

explosions tore off the Princetons stem, great chunks of which ripped over the decks of the cruiser Bir-

rrungham, which stood alongside assisting in the fighting.

The stunning

blast of metal

Thomas

in the

and

words of

fire

(more than had died on Despite

this

(which was

single

later

the batde took

a

upon

literally like

half seriously.

the

Princeton

ordered sunk by Halsey

new

turn)

a wary eye on the sky.

hundred miles to the south Nishiits

seven warships entering the sky problems also.

its

Task Group 38.4) planes. Although the airwere forced to break off their attack pre-

maturely because of dwindling

had been done

some damage

fuel,

to the batUeship

Fuso and

two

alerted to

forces, Kurita's in the

and Nishimura's

in

the Sulu

Sea,

both obviously

American planes had

when

and the subsequent

air

the ships of Shima,

upon

attack

left

him, he saw no

cover for his ships, nor did he see

which were to join

the landing beaches.

ceeded unperturbed; he had a rendezvous. His son, Teiji,

had died

meager

Not

him.

that

—he took

bent

in

the

Philippines

and,

Nishimura was resigned

forces,

the

Army

his planes to attack the

Seventh

Leyte Gulf. About 150 Japanese

planes took off in the early morning attack

and ran into the

aircraft

from Rear Admiral C. A.

F.

his

Japanese seaman was suicide-

sance plane, which showed him to be more cautious than some of the others thrusting toward Leyte.

of the eastern shore of Leyte Gulf at

General Tominaga also hoped to contribute to

with

to joining

precautions with his lone reconnais-

had not fared too well

that day.

his for the

Nishimura pro-

But he proceeded, promising

Fleet's shipping in

now

Sibuyan Sea

Leyte Gulf. As Nishimura pressed on

for

tragedy of the Birmingham, the Japanese air forces

Sho-\ and ordered

the de-

stroyer Shigure. Further: the Americans were

Japanese

the bomb-struck Princeton)

strike

guns

trans-

The dead numbered 229

and 420 were wounded, more than

ships

his

antiaircraft

under attack from Enterprise and Franklin (of Davi-

captain,

water and made the decks unsafe and slippery for rescuers and medical men.

numbers of

fire

B. Inglis, into "a veritable charnel house of

dead, dying, and wounded." Blood ran

were any

there

Although

not."

Spotted early in the morning, Nishimura's ships came

headed its

or

eastern Sulu Sea, was having

after the

formed the Birmingham,

know whether

—Kurita kept

three

mura's force, with

craft

fire

the air

Some

decks; the planes were armed with torpedoes and

during the salvage and rescue attempts.

for

even the big guns on some ships could be raised to

son's

the

there

bristled with great

Avengers in the hangar below

ignited the fuel in six

not

[did]

fire into

However, one lone Judy appeared as

As

a fruitless search for the American carriers.

was

Gulf batde was concerned.

Fuku-

for

what had been

in

Tominaga's planes, "No request was made of the

Japanese raid

thoroughly dispersed and Fukudome's Luzon-based air strength

from Fukudome. None was forthcoming, dome's planes had been expended

to

"storm the center

0400 on

the

25th" with a premonition of disastrous outcome.

When

the

American planes were forced

off their attack,

to

break

Nishimura was granted a few hours'

reprieve.

Kurita's

main

force,

—tem-

however, was not so

THE DIVINE WIND

146





was a formidable array of

aircraft

fire

ships plying eastward in the Sibuyan Sea. Kurita,

aircraft

machine guns and even each cruiser had a

porarily

his

in

fortunate.

flagship

formations;

It

Yamato, led the

the

second

of the two

first

was formed

around

the

Kongo. Each of these formations consisted of more than a dozen ships, ranging from giant battleship to destroyer

(but, of course,

no

the units in Kurita's formation

carriers).

was the

One

of

battleship

ships

on earth



the other being the

Yamato.

signs

of

enemy

aircraft

approaching from the



these were twenty-five bombers Avengers and Helldivers escorted by nineteen Hellcats from east:



and Cabot, two of Bogan's escort carstanding off San Bernardino Strait. Led by

the Intrepid riers

Air Group

Commander WiUiam

E. EUis, the

Amer-

ican planes flew westward in near-perfect weather.

There was no opposition to

their flight



a surprising

absence of Japanese aircraft was especially puzzling



until they

approached the Japanese

fleet.

carried

150

anti-

The planes swept

in to the attack

concentrated

barrage ejected

dropped

bombs.

direct

their

hit

and despite the

and

torpedoes

their

A Hellcat which had taken a AA flared and blew up. Two

by the

Avengers went down, but they made ditchings in the

Wildcat goes into action aboard an escort

water and the crews paddled to safety in their dinghys.

Early in the morning the Yamatd's radar picked

up

Yamato alone

hundred of them mounted and pointing skyward.

A

Musashi, which was one of the two largest battle-

the

There

they were were met by an intense barrage of anti-

Although the heavy vation

antiaircraft fire

made

had placed two

"fish" into the side of a

class battleship"

and one

ers

too

obser-

returning pilots were certain they

difficult,

claimed

hits

into a

with

heavy

their

"Yamato-

cruiser.

Bomb-

thousand-pound

bombs. This opening round of the batde was scarcely over

when another

Intrepid strike

appeared over

Kurita's ships. This force, with near-miraculous de-

termination,

was with one exception

closer to the first

American

San Bernardino strike

Strait

thirty

than

miles

when

the

had come. The exception was

carriei

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT" Myoko, which because

the cruiser

pedo

hit

of a serious tor-

could not keep pace with the other ships

and was ordered to Singapore.

had been ship

hit

to return, as best

The "Yamato-cXass

it

could alone,

battleship" which

was the Musashi, but the huge

seemed scarcely touched as

it

of Leyte Gulf. (u.

hornet's nest.

his

fleet.

tacks,

but

this

into

a

to

be no end to the

determined to de-

staff,

"We had

Rear Admiral

expected

air

at-

day's were almost enough to dis-

Avengers, Helldivers, and Hellcats from six carriers, the Intrepid,

and

were

like

Cabot, Lexington, Essex, Enter-

Franklin,

First Diversion

converged on

the

Japanese

Attack Force. The great battleships

magnets as bombs and torpedoes rained

down upon

were either

his

to

lost or

aid.

If the attacks

the Japanese,

Supposedly some land-

off to help

him, but these

down by

the Hellcats or

shot

heavy Japanese antiaircraft

fire.

were "almost enough to discourage"

they were most encouraging to the

normal reaction

to the point of exaggeration.

this,

but

it

would lead

A

to nearly

As these battles developed and hammered at Kurita's ships, Halsey pondered an obsessively haunting question: Where were the Japanese carriers? Now that he knew where Kurita and Nishimura's ships were, he knew fatal

consequences.

Mitscher's pilots

the Japanese

courage us."

prise,

go

to

based aircraft did take

American airmen,

fighters

His chief of

Tomiji Koyanagi, said,

its

mained

navy)

There seemed

American bombers and stroy

s.

battle-

continued on

way into the Sibuyan Sea. By now Kurita realized he had prowed

ttby flattop"

147

the dodging ships. Kurita's call for help

had planned a big operation.

unlikely that the carriers

It

was

would be omitted from

such an undertaking. This was troubling, especially

when

it

was noted

that

part in the early attacks

planes had taken upon Sherman's northern

carrier

carrier force.

Ozawa

had, in

fact,

launched

his

hundred-odd

from Philippine-based planes went unheeded, and

planes in the hope of luring the Third Fleet to the

heeded, no planes re-

north. Because his pilots were anything but expert

by the afternoon, even

if

THE DIVINE WIND

148

SB2C

Curtiss

"Helldiver,"

bomber during an escort

carrier.

in carrier landings pilots

who

to land

the

standard

Navy

dive

two years of the war, circles The baby flattop and the Helldiver

the last

he had given permission to the

survived the attack on the Americans

on Japanese bases on Luzon. Most of these

were introduced in the Gilbert Islands campaign in 1943. (navy dept., national archives)

returning that

American pUots had of Kurita's

made

group; a total of twenty-nine returned to Ozawa's

thrust for Leyte.

which were now

unknown

A

who

to Halsey,

but empty. This was

fretted over

upon

empty

appear that he had decided to give up the

ships



two

light

cruisers,

had suffered well over 250 American

eastward again.

Americans a mere eighteen

had

aircraft,

cost

but

it

For an hour and a half he led

his

four surviving battieships, six heavy cruisers,

imposing array

fell

attacks. Five hours of desperate fighting

the

shells.

it

the Sibuyan Sea, after

merciful night

Kurita's force

all

also,

Kurita had ordered the ships to turn around, which

planes were lost in the aerial fighting over Sherman's

carriers,

was

fleet

appeared to be a smoking shambles;

it

late

and eleven destroyers:

—westward.

At He would make

nightfall

the

still

an

he turned

San Bernardino

Strait at all costs.

However, the

entire timetable

was upset; he would

superbatdeship Musashi.

never be able to rendezvous with Nishimura's and

had been destroyed and the un-

Shima's forces coming from the south for the assault

sinkable had sunk to the bottom of the Sibuyan

upon Leyte. Nishimura had escaped the full fury of the carrier plane attacks and true to his mission continued on toward Leyte. By the morning of October 25 he

had cost the Japanese

The Sea

indestructible

—about

their

half of the ship's twenty-two-thousand-

man crew went prepared his

with

final

it.

Captain Toshihira Inoguchi

report,

conveyed his apologies Other

would emerge from the Mindanao Sea through the

ships, the

Yamato (sister to the Musashi) and the Nagato among them, had also suffered hits but were

Surigao Strait for the early morning rendezvous with

able to go on.

Nishimura had no

to the

One

Emperor, and went down with

of

the last glimpses

that

his ship.

the

last

of the

Kurita (which meeting was by this time academic). real idea

in full charge of his

own

where Shima, who was

small armada, was; nor

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT' know

did he

149

He

of Ozawa's carrier disposition.

did

torpedo from PT-137.

gave him pause to see

It

know, however, where the American ships were

the burning hulks of those ships that

and that they were numerous. This report, radioed by a scout plane dispatched by Nishimura, was the

him, but he continued onward.

which Kurita received dur-

single bit of intelligence

Nishimura's fate was not sealed by aircraft,

was one of

it

the several

(

al-

at times simultane-

ous) actions of the sea-air battles over Leyte Gulf

none of which, incidentally, actually took place

in

During the night of the twenty-fourth Nishimura,

Into

boats in

seven Japanese

the

them through the ing

ships,

Around

night.

Nishimura ran into

the

but they tracked three in the

great

forces

mornthe

of

Seventh Fleet, which had been prepared by Rear

Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf. six old battleships, five

mud

dead

ships stopped

the battle line were

Nishimura ran the gauntlet

and

of guns to the right

On

of them resurrected from the

of Pearl Harbor.

As

to the left of him.

his

he merely

in the water, burning,

pressed on toward Leyte. "Their strategy and in-

U.

a

telligence,"

Navy

S.

commented,

ofiBcer

"seemed to be inversely proportional to age."

One by one

from the

4:19 a.m. Nishimura,

Yamashiro, joined

flagship

their cour-

the ships were blasted

water, and at around

tactics

Then he came upon the retreating Shigure and blistering Mogami. The radar screen picked up many enemy ships awaiting him. Within a few minutes daylight would be upon him. Shima, who took orders only from Toyoda in Tokyo, and who operated independently of Nishimura, Kurita, and

son in death. His

his

dream: "capping the T." With his battle horizontal line of the

could train

full

He

batteries

"T." Thus only Nishimura's forfire

at

making the

which rained massive

By

only

two

the time the

of

the

afloat, the Shigure,

fire

was pursued and harassed, bombarded by ship and bombed from the air. With the coming of day the carrier planes from Sprague's baby flattops chivvied the fleeing Japanese. Just for as he fled the scene he

9 a.m. Avengers swept in with torpedoes

before

the Japanese

Yamashiro capsized and sank

original

seven

ships

remained

which miraculously escaped

seri-

ous damage, and the Mogami, which, burning, scuttered

away from the

About

this

terrible scene.

aged to make seventeen knots through the night, although to one observer city

block on

Avengers

fire.

the

off

time Shima, with his seven ships (none

and entered the

not well,

for

strait.

All

it

appeared

like

an entire

The agony was ended by the southern tip of Panaon Island.

Only the Shigure of Nishimura's

entire force returned

to a friendly port.

Shima

it

lost

only one ship in this phase of the

the crippled

battle:

Abukuma. On

was found by B-24s of the

the twenty-sixth

Fifth

and Thirteenth

Owi. Shima and

his suriving

though bloodied ships

faded into the Pacific.

"Someone had blundered," Tennyson had century before.

a

Nishimura had

marched "Into the jaws of Death"

in

written literally

a neat but

Neither he nor Shima had co-

file.

ordinated their movements. Shima had managed to

plow

into the

making himself cident)

in

to Leyte

Mogami and had felt

Surigao

(except in

not succeeded in

this

one ironic

in-

The southern approach Sho-l was concerned was

Strait.

Gulf as far as

an utter debacle.

Another blunder was yet

to follow.

Late in the

Panaon

afternoon of October 24 and during the time that

apparently was

Nishimura was being destroyed on the following day

heavier than a cruiser), rounded the point of Island

burning Mogami, which had man-

to finish off the

the battle line,

down upon

his

the al-

decision to run did not end the battle for Shima,

suicidal single ships.

turn, collided with

line repre-

"T" Oldendorf

broadsides upon the approaching

were able to

in

ready crippled Nishimura survivor, the Mogami. The

nearly

ward

some confusion:

did not do this without

Air Forces operating out of Noemfoor, Biak, and

Japanese ships, coming in a straight line up the vertical line of the

discretion in a desperate situa-

decided to get out.

flagship,

in his

had provided Oldendorf with a sea warrior's

senting the

tion,

steamed "Into the jaws of Death,

mouth of Hell," was harassed by PT the Mindanao Sea. The little boats did not

the

stop

ships released torpedoes at radar blips but hit nothing.

Ozawa, with unique

the gulf.

as he quite literally

had preceded couple of his

the

ing the entire Battle of Leyte Gulf.

though

A

he had barely begun to steam for

Leyte when one of his cruisers was struck by a

Halsey

set

off

in

pursuit of Ozawa's carriers.

As

soon as a search plane had located the Japanese

THE DIVINE WIND

150 carriers,

Halsey had no doubts about what he would

do: get the carriers and destroy the Japanese

He

felt justified in

turning

away from

fleet.

Kurita's force

(seemingly in retreat in the Sibuyan Sea), believing that the

enemy was

in

and that even

dition"

if

weakened conKurita did turn about and a "fatally

emerge from the San Bernardino

he could

Strait

be thoroughly dealt with by the Seventh Fleet's baby flattops.

The

reports of excited pilots had, of course,

exaggerated the damage to Kurita's

still

powerful

With the discovery of Ozawa's off in pursuit to the north. In

carriers,

doing

this

of his ships from the vicinity of

Strait.

Upon

Halsey

set

he removed

San Bernardino

leaving he informed Kinkaid of the

Seventh Fleet that he was off on the chase taking "three

There was an adhad also promised to form what he called "Task Force 34" "if the enemy sorto Philippine waters.

ditional element: Halsey

presumably through the San Bernardino

ties,"

into the Philippine Sea.

groups

to

dawn." This was

attack

enemy

carrier

literally true, for the

force

at

fourth group

(which Kinkaid imagined was guarding San Bernardino), McCain's Task

Thomas C.

Kinkaid,

Group

who

38.1,

believed

was

that

still

on

some

its

of

Halsey's ships guarded San Bernardino Strait and the vulnerable baby flattops.

(navy dept., national ARCraVES)

At

least this

is

TF

northward taking

all

— —with

made

bait,

battleships, cruisers,

he

speed

full

of his ships, carriers

command),

Mitscher's

(under

and de-

the entire Third Fleet, excepting McCain's

stroyers

Ozawa

Instead he

34.

Strait

what Kinkaid

assumed. But when Halsey took Ozawa's did not form

group

fleet.

all

way back

in

him. Halsey fully expected to meet

a

full-scale

engagement and, of course,

had no inkUng that the

six

Japanese carriers were

capable of putting up a mere twenty-nine

aircraft.

Besides the carriers, Ozawa's so-called "main force" (generally called the Northern Force by historians)

was screened by three

destroyers. It

position

was

little

American

cruisers

else but a lure,

and ten

com-

but

its

To

the con-

was impressive.

So was Kurita's an impressive

force.



William Frederick Halsey (whom no one except newspaper writers addressed as "Bull"); Japanese carriers were his special obsession at Leyte. (navy dept., national archives)



"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT" sternation

of

all,

151

Seventh Fleet Antisubmarine

a

Bay

search plane from the escort carrier Kadashan reported sighting a large Japanese

from San Bernardino

and

Strait

coast of the island of Samar.

fleet

off

emerging

the northern

was 6:47 a.m.,

It

October 25, 1944. Just ten minutes before, a radio-

man on

Fanshaw Bay (another escort carrier) talk that was assumed to be a jamming attempt. But then, just a few minutes the

had intercepted Japanese

later,

the

antiaircraft bursts

appeared in the northwest;

American search plane had come under

fire

from

There was no doubt about

upon rounding Samar

Nothing stood between

away.

miles

a tremendous force

it,

of Japanese ships were intent

twenty

Kurita and the landing beaches at Leyte but the three escort carrier the

in

Leyte Gulf.

It

was Kinkaid's

of the proximity of the Japanese force approaching

Leyte and, according to

Kinkaid was

tant.

that the

CVEs

plots, only three

quandary.

in a serious

hours dis-

He knew

were incapable of standing

off the

heavy ships of Kurita; he had the Leyte Gulf beachhead, transports to consider

—and,

because of the

mopping up

night battle in Surigao Strait and the in the strait in progress,

He

and ammunition. form a

to

he had ships short of fuel

neverthless ordered Oldendorf

striking force

of three old batdeships,

four American and an Australian cruiser, and two

Kurita's ships.

just

Wasatch

inkling

first

thin-skinned

aboard one of the informed that the

groups of the Seventh Fleet,

CVEs. A new man new carrier escorts was initials

reporting generally

stood for "Combustible,

squadrons of destroyers and make for the batde area. All possible aircraft

were converged

Samar.

off

Kinkaid then learned that Halsey had not

any forces behind to guard San Bernardino

The

air

left

Strait.

was charged with messages requesting help. upon the carriers and screen-

Kurita's ships closed ing ships of Taffy 3.

A

ensued in which

battle

vicious,

if

uneven, surface

American destroyers

the

Expendable." Carrying a few planes

Johnston and Heel and the destroyer escort Samuel

(from eighteen to thirty-six), the "jeep carriers" or

B. Roberts were torn to pieces by the heavy Jap-

"wind wagons" were not intended for intense sur-

anese guns and sank into the Philippine Sea. Great

Vulnerable,

face battles; they were designed for the close sup-

port of amphibious operations, providing for

com-

bat air patrol and for antisubmarine patrols.

The CVEs were accompanied by

destroyers and

volleys of gunfire bracketed the



merciless

CVE

Gambler Bay

from Kurita's heavy

fire

which the Chlkuma was most

cruisers,

of

Even as the Chlkuma con-

persistent.

Gambler Bay capsized and sank the

from short

destroyer escorts, but neither were these any match

tinued to pour shells into the

for Kurita's force, the largest Japanese force since

range.

Midway. The big guns (18.1 caUber) of the Yamato opened up on the northern group ("Taffy 3" under

force bore

Rear Admiral Clifton A.

escort

matter of time before the entire group would be

as the first shellbursts started splash-

wiped out and the Japanese ships would then de-

Even

cjirriers.

CVEs

ing around them, the

Sprague)

F.

launched their fighters

and bombers. The great Japanese

upon the "wind wagons." The



of

fleet

bore

the Japanese not only

American

ships, but

situation

hopeless

down

appeared

outnumbered the

had the advantage of greater

little

With the Japanese cruisers down upon Taffy

in the van, Kurita's 3.

scend upon the middle group

manded by Rear Admiral Fehx small guns of It

baby

the Taffy ships

all

was some

carrier

It

seemed only a

2,"

("Taffy B.

com-

Stump). The

would

just not do.

time, too, before air attacks

flattops could contribute to the battle,

from the because

speed (thirty knots against the CVE's seventeen)

of the confusion caused by the sudden appearance of

and greater firepower.

Kurita.

"The enemy was closing with disconcerting rapidity and the volume and accuracy of fire was increasing," CUfton Sprague later remembered. "At

launched to provide ground support on Leyte. This

did not appear that any of our ships

Taffy 3 put up forty-four Avengers and sixty-five

this

point

it

could survive another

minutes of the heavy-

five

caliber fire being received.

.

Sprague, immediately sizing his plight, broadcast

.

."

up

meant ing

The bulk that

most

battleships.

an appeal for help

in the clear.

This was picked up by Kinkaid aboard his flagship

aircraft

Despite

were not armed heavy

for

Japanese

bombgunfire

Wildcats and Hellcats. Not that every plane was

prepared for the desperation of

of the aircraft had already been

battle,

however.

Many Avengers were

mere hundred-pound bombs, which could not penetrate heavy decks; the Gambler Bay's nine Avengers, for example, were more formidable

•armed

with

"Taffy 3" under attack by Kurita's force, which had escort

come through the San Bernardino Strait. The carrier Gambier Bay is bracketed by Japanese

shell-

in the air: two of them were armed bombs with wrong fuse settings, two no bombs at all, and two which carried

on paper than with depth carried

torpedoes took off with practically no fuel at

Within minutes after leaving the deck of the bier

Bay

these

two Avengers were forced

all.

Gam-

to ditch in

fire

the Battle of Leyte Gulf (which some of Halsey called "The Battle of Bull's Run"),

during

critics

October 25, 1944. (navy dept., national archives)

bombed and strafed, landed again to take on more ammunition. Landings were made under imoflf,

possible

conditions,

These mishaps did not occur because of any lack

The

stricken

Men

the planes as well as

cruiser, the

with remark-

upon Taffy

—handling them—worked

rearming and reloading

able dispatch, often under heavy

fire.

Aircrews took

sister ship

if

Japanese

second 3.

By

ships,

was

avenged

bombs

found

a

in line of the ships bearing

the time

the

by

Kitkun Bay. Led by

L. Fowler, six Avengers loaded

five-hundred-pound

with

Bay

Gambier

Commander Richard

of efficiency but because of the general desperation. of deck crews

strong cross winds

not to be facing into the

wind.

torpedo bombers of

the water.

despite

CVEs happened

the fleeing

large

down

Fowler had found the

weather

being

intermittently

"TYGER! TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT" and

squally

rainy, plus their having run into

Japanese antiaircraft

and had no

fire,

he had

lost

153 heavy

two Avengers

other victim to the credit of the carrier planes: the

fighter cover.

Waiting for a good moment, when the sun suddenly broke through the cloudy skies, Fowler led

Avengers

his four

upon

in

a diving attack out of the sun

the cruiser (the Chokai,

the sinking of the antiaircraft

fire

seconds

within

were hurtled

which had assisted

Gambler Bay).

at the

Inexplicably,

in

no

with the Avengers, and

interfered

eleven

five-hundred-pound

bombs

Chokai. Five struck amidships

around the stack, one

armed with torpedoes. These planes added to the confusion of the Japanese ships and added anlatter

Chikuma. Air attacks stopped another cruiser, the Suzuya, but, as Kinkaid well fatal

once again "Someone blundered." For no reason that

turned about, and retired to the north. powerful,

splashed into the water, and three others smashed

Japanese

into the port,

the stern as

bow. The Chokai took a sudden turn to

careened for some hundreds of yards as

it

Americans could understand,

the beleaguered

the advance ships in Kurita's force stopped firing,

two others

hit

knew, could not stop Kurita's

rush upon Taffy 3's hard-pressed forces. But

faster fleet

—and

actually

had broken

off

more the

The more

victorious

action

on the

threshold of victory.

There were, for Kurita, several good reasons to

One

shook with three tremendous explosions. Steam and

call off the chase.

smoke shot hundreds of feet into the air, taking the aggressive Chokai out of the battle. (The cruiser, unsalvageable, was later sunk by Japanese

his dispersed forces for the

destroyers.

had been increasing; they had stopped three of

black

Almost simultaneously Wildcats and Avengers from Taffy

2,

whose

carrier escorts lay about thirty

miles south of those of Taffy 3,

These were actually two

came upon

strikes with

the scene.

an aggregate

of twenty-eight fighters

and thirty-one Avengers, the

A \a\y

off

\i'itihul

takes

the

airstrip

at

Taclohan,

Leyte. This was a subsiiiule "carrier deck" after the

other was, tacks;

it

cruisers

was, he wished to assemble

run in on Leyte. An-

he lived in fear of heavy

seemed that the attacks by

at-

his

(his only serious losses in the entire en-

gagement). Sprague's Taffy 3 had

—and would over— two

carrier

Further

food

o

Ivoc.

the

over Japan since the Doo-

bomb-

into the sea about twenty

gunners claimed seven of the defenders destroyed,

damaged. The Japanese

of one of

pilot

the

Pacific,

fuel,

but the crew was saved by the

quite extensive, precautionary Air-Sea

tem

that

had been arranged

in

raid

of

1942.

factory, near Tokyo,

This

is

the

November

1,

Rescue sys-

advance.

Japan from the Marianas did not

little

The

ditched

Bombing

entail the risk of

Musashino

aircraft

1944. (U.

S.

AIR force)

THE DIVINE WIND

166

amount

of

injuring

damage

(besides killing fifty-seven and

seventy-five).

High

velocity, plus obscuring cloud, acteristic of practically

accuracy extremely

winds

of

near-gale

which would be char-

every mission to Japan,

made

difficult.

it was the high wind that swept bomber formations, generally above thirty-thousand-foot level at which the B-29 was

anything,

If

through the

the

designed to operate, that might have been called "divine" by the Japanese. For nearly six months it would hamper the operations of the giant bombers, more certainly than the kamikazes.

The mission then was not cant, but

it

militarily very signifi-

was the opening blow of

the Battle of

Tokyo. Once again American bombers had dared to

appear over the Emperor's palace, despite the

vows of B-29s lining up for the

bombing mission

first

(u.

s.

to

the Imperial

High

Command and

in

the

Tokyo.

AIR force)

¥ Takeoff for Tokyo; the

crossing the

but

it

Hump

first

(as

mission,

November

24, 1944. (u.

had the China missions),

did encompass a great deal of over-water

flying.

Two

losses

too bad a

too bad

—and

toll.

only one in combat

Nor, in

—although

fact,

strike

—was

number

fell

had the bombing been

photos picked up a mere

into the factory

air force)

face of antiaircraft and fighter attack.

and did a small

And

it

would

not be years before the silver giants would appear again.

not

sixteen hits in the target area. Actually three times that

s.

The renewal

of the attack on

have opened very impressively, but

it

Tokyo may not was the merest

intimation of the devastation, the terror, and the hor-

come within the next few months. The missions during those months were

ror to

generally

executed according to the standard doctrine of day-

J

WHISTLING DEATH

167

The major adversaries of the B-29 over Japan in the months of the war: the Kawasaki Ki. 61 Hien ("Tony"), left, and the Mitsubishi J2M Raiden ("Jack"), interceptor fighters. The Tony was generally used by the Army and the Jack by the Navy. The

final

Jack replaced the Zeke, once (u.

s.

after,

light

high-altitude

precision

proved

effective,

if

bombings which had

not decisive, in Europe. Hansell,

one of the proponents of that doctrine, adhered to Arnold's growing interest in the pos-

in spite of

it

of area incendiary attacks. Hansell's term

sibilities

head of 21st Bomber

as

Command was

charac-

its

several bugs

had been

ironed out, as the Navy's chief fighter.

and space museum, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION)

AIR force; national air

LeMay would

continue to send out the B-29s

with inconclusive results as before: no targets were

wiped

out.

As was customary,

as soon as he arrived

got a tough training program under way. vious that the crews had tion flying,

among

much

to learn

It

LeMay was ob-

about forma-

other essential operational tech-

by what he himself termed a "deplorable"

terized

bombing record

was a high perand losses

for accuracy; there

centage of aborts; there were ditchings

because

of

these

maintenance.

ditchings

These

were

—because vaUd



of

inferior

problems

which

Hansell sought to overcome, but there was Uttle he could do about the weather, whose

180-mile-an-

hour winds blew even the big B-29 across the skies of Japan, canceUng out almost

ail

the validity of

Hansell's adherence to high-altitude precision

bom-

bardment.

The advent

of

LeMay, who took

sion, did not

change

all

over, ironically,

most

the day after Hansell's final and

effective mis-

that immediately.

That

last

mission, against the Kawasaki Aircraft Industries at

Akashi on the Inland Sea about twelve miles from

Kobe,

just

about blew the factory out of operation.

Sixty-two of the seventy-seven B-29s dropped their

bombs on

target

and succeeded

in

cutting aircraft

engine and airframe production by 90 per cent. all

the B-29s returned safely.

war was

it

Not

And The Musashino

until

after

the

learned that Hansell had planned and

executed so successful a mission. For some weeks

began striking craft engines a

B-29s produced nearly three thousand air-

aircraft plant, which, before the it,

month for Japanese warplanes. (U.

S.

AIR force)

THE DIVINE WIND

168

comments

niques. Since he often confined his

monosyllables, or

popularity

of

how

to

managed a sentence now and then

LeMay

in rebuke,

make

soon did not qualify for any kind

But

poll. it

to

were learning

crews

his

and back and how

to the target

to

too.

they had built

list

and had to scan

fleet

centers,

pages

five

Commander;

recreation centers. Marine re-

dockage

facilities

land surface craft, and every

damn

for

tacked and taken and held because

thing in the

we needed them

Arnold and started shaking and moving. In time the facilities were improved. However, when Brigadier General Thomas S. Powsent the

commander at

list

to

of the 314th Wing, arrived (also in

Guam

with the

first

B-29s of

airstrip

men

down through

slept

on

his wing,

him was a

the "only thing they'd built for

He and

the jungle.

coral

his

that, the first night they arrived.

morning they had

however,

only followed that they must

it

air-

Next

to tackle the jungle with pocket-

was the only manaway the brush and

it

was obvious

But

some time even LeMay might have He sent the B-29s out some sixteen

for

doubted

that.

times after he had taken over from Hansell and

was something

the results were hardly improved. It to

about

bombing fast. it

LeMay,

think about and

He

those

altitude

jet

in

way,

his

He

occurred.

bandied about for so

many months,

of area

high explosives.

with)

And

He

thought about clouds.

he thought, especially, what

the

island.

way up on

That was Living." After a round of

socializing with the

reciprocate.

the very highest peak of

He

Navy,

invited the

LeMay

felt

obligated to

"Neptune" types

to dine

might cost in

it

lives. It

was in

after

a mission to

Tokyo (February

25,

which General Power's 314th Wing (with

mission, that a

noted that Nimitz had "built himself a

bomb-

ing at night with incendiaries instead of (or coupled

only twenty-two planes at that date)

LeMay

how

thought about the subject,

ner in which they could clear

splendid house,

at

and how engines burned out so

thought about bombing accuracy and

rarely

He

did.

encountered

streams

1945),

space to set up their tents."

Qearly,

war was

that the Pacific

knives: no other equipment. This

make

its

had

If ships

tradition.

primarily an air war.

thought

for air bases to strike against Japan."

January)

was

it

sisted in thinking in terms of ships at sea.

inter-is-

world except subscribing to the original purpose in the occupation of those islands. The islands were at-

ers,

always had,

it

Not that the web-footed types deliberately scuttled LeMay, he simply loomed less in their thinking. For all the success of the carriers, the Navy per-

all

built tennis courts for the Island

LeMay

own;

LeMay took the He managed somehow to get hold of

after

before he found the Air Force mentioned. "They

habilitation

The Navy, committed

understandably looked after

to the sea-air war,

contain special goodies for the theater commander.

a construction priority

had

vs.

eventually vs. the Japanese).

"owned" the

Navy, which

S.

Marianas, was a special problem.

Navy on

Nimitz

refrigerator facilities

hit that target.

The U.

command arrangement in the Pacific: MacArthur and now vs. LeMay (and

because of the

new

ton had ordered a

idea

came

to

made its first LeMay. Washing-

"maximum effort" and, LeMay was able to

314th's Superfortresses,

with the dispatch

231 of the big bombers. Each of these planes carried a single five-hundred-pound general-purpose

E46

the rest of the load consisting of

bomb,

incendiaries.

on flight rations out of cans. A far cry from Nimitz's "soup, fish course, then the roast and

172 Boeings dropped more than 450 tons of bombs

vegetables and salad, and a perfectly swell dessert,

on Tokyo depending on radar. The

in his tent

and demitasses, and brandy and cigars. LeMay's table was not quite so grand.

.

.

."

"I'll

like real

told stories,

men

throughout

were

right

it

all.

give

Didn't complain,

good company. They

ate the

canned goods because they were pretty hungry, and

had been working hard.

what was being

I

built that

don't

week.

remember

Maybe

results

were no

better than before because of the scattered effect.

the web-footed guests credit, and report they stood

up

Weather, as usual, interfered with the mission, but

exactly

a roller-

skating rink."

This near-tragic, not quite comic situation existed

But a reconnaissance photo taken

after

showed an ominous black patch

one comer of

Tokyo. ated

A

Where

this

buildings

had been

was not known

the fire

until

bombs had been

destroyed after

LeMay



al-

the war).

concentrated, results

had been impressive. It had not been an unqualified success, but provided

raid

the

square mile of the city had been obliter-

(27,970

though

in

it

had

with concrete evidence to back

WHISTLING DEATH

169

B-29s after a bombing mission to Japan; the Japanese coastline

up a

When

decision.

men who were

was announced

his plan

The B-29s, designed

a shock.

low

level

(Ploesti!)

to seven thousand feet. at night



the

at

feet,

between

would come

five

thousand

The mission would be made

B-29 was designed

for daytime opera-

tion; the previous nighttime missions

even with radar

had not accomplished much. They would not

LeMay's combat boxes, but lision in the dark.

bombs.

And

singly



fly in

to avoid

col-

up

thirty

at

from Japanese pen

air force)

thousand you

antiaircraft

fire.

felt

quite secure

What would hap-

thousand feet? Again, the Japanese had

at five

no radar

s.

to

compare with

German

that used with

flak guns, so that should not entail too great a risk.

The Japanese would have lights to find the

to

depend upon search-

B-29s, and that was hardly ideal

especially for a fast-flying aircraft.

The

fire

—would

bombs

—M47

(napalm) and M69s

set difficult-to-contain fires

which

(oil)

in turn

would destroy the supposedly very combustible Jap-

gunners, guns, and

tary and industrial targets were concentrated in a

point.

final

If

bomb

about Japanese night

anese

cities.

A

large proportion of Japanese mili-

load

few major metropolitan areas (unlike Germany),

made some sense, but what fighters? As far as was known,

and these targets were surrounded by the flimsy

remained

more

behind,

could be carried. That

Japanese night fighters were

but non-existent

all

and, according to Intelligence, Japanese rar'ar inferior to

Way

(u.

left.

They would carry only incendiary no guns and no ammunition.

finally,

Consider the

ammunition

was

bomb from an

to

average altitude of thirty thousand in at

to the

to fly the mission, the revelation

at

is

any other radar then

in use.

Of

was

course,

dwellings of the workers. Also, hidden

among

the

dwellings were small "shadow" factories devoted to turning out war materials.

done

Work

of this nature

also in private homes. Defining the

was

boundary

carrying no guns meant that the B-29s would not

between purely industrial and residential Japanese

shoot at one another.

targets

The

low-level aspect

was not too

attractive either.

That

was was

all

but impossible.

LeMay's

decision:

a

medium-level,

THE DIVINE WIND

170

maximum

nighttime

and without guns. After months of

maybe

conclusive strikes,

the solution. Perhaps;

be the goat.

It

and



sibility,

if

bombs

with incendiary

effort

frustrating, in-

kind of tactic was

this

LeMay would have

not,

to

was, ultimately, his idea, his respon-

for



he knew

all

And

his funeral.

if

would be the funeral flight of a lot of young airmen. If it went right, it also meant the funeral of a great number of

it

went wrong,

Japanese It



if

he was wrong,

it

women, and

soldiers, civilians,

was not an easy decision

to

children.

make.

LeMay

leading the mission,

revealed, in

what must

have seemed an unusually long utterance for him,

meaning

the real

the

way

works

of his decision. "If this raid

think

I

it

will,"

he said, "we can shorten

was very good. The path-

visibility

finders

had no trouble finding the target area, a sec-

tion of

Tokyo about

three

by four

miles, a densely

populated, congested part of the city crowded with

home

and shadow

industries

were

ings

bamboo

predominantly

was simple

It

factories.

of

wood,

The

dwell-

and

plaster,

construction. to find the target because of the

Sumida River, which ran through

it,

and the

city's

Tokyo Bay. The pathfinders napalm bombs (M47s), timed to

location to the north of

drop

finders

"X" the

their

hundred

at intervals of a

had completed

their

lay in the heart of

When

feet.

the path-

work, a rough, blazing

Tokyo. The

fires ignited

M47s would preoccupy Tokyo's courageous

not very efficient then followed



fire fighters.

M69

by but

The remaining B-29s

for about three hours

heavy loads of

war."

this

altitude,

released

March 10, 1945, as he Bombs Away from Power,

In the early morning of waited for the report of

low



flinging their

"X."

clusters at the burning

March 9, 1945, two groups of Power's 314th Wing the 29th and the 19th ^be-

These were timed

bomb-laden B-29s off the eighty-five-hundred-foot strip of North Field,

which would place a density of about twenty-five

At 5:35

gan





lifting their seventy-ton,

A

Guam. flare

total of fifty-four

arched through the

sion to the

P.M.,

Tokyo was

men

took

air,

off after the

signaling that the mis-

on. If tradition

of the 19th

green

meant anything,

Group took off with resolution. bombed out of Qark

Their predecessors had been Field in the Philippines the

first

day of the war;

they had been pushed out of Java by the forces of the East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere; they

had

partic-

ipated in the Battle of the Coral Sea and as Ken-

bombed Rabaul. That was come to the Empire before war had consumed their battered

ney's war-weary kids had

as close as they had

the

wrack of

B-17s and longer

flight

aircraft

to

took

were over eight thousand of

The

tons per square mile.

M69

was

that

it

fiendish

was devised

which would burst

at

two thousand

off first

because of their

Tokyo. The B-29s of O'Donnell's

these,

aspect of the

as a cluster of

bombs and

feet altitude

spread the smaller blazing parts around the area into

which

it

fell.

The bombers came

in

from

altitudes varying

from

forty-nine hundred feet to ninety-two hundred feet

and began dropping iously waiting at

their

Guam,

bombs. To LeMay, anx-

the

word came

"Bomb-

in:

ing the target visually. Large fires observed. Flak

moderate. Fighter opposition

That much of

his plan

nil."

had worked. Antiaircraft

had been confused by the change in number of aircraft. As

the large

dispirited them.

The Guam

intervals; there

to fall into the area at fifty-foot

antiaircraft gunfire lessened, the

tactic as well as

the

fire

ing overrun by flame. Searchlights, too,

when

spread,

gun positions be-

poked up

the fire caught the search-

73rd Wing followed from Isley Field (Saipan), and those of Brigadier General John H. Davies' 313th

into the sky, but lights

were not needed: the sky was bright with

Wing (North

flame.

A

Field, Tinian) left

soon

after. It

took

about two and three-quarter hours for the entire force,

334 Superfortresses carrying close to two thoufire bombs, to take off. There were

sand tons of

a few aborts, but a

total of

325

aircraft

reached

the target.

Shortly after midnight the pathfinders

(it

was now March 10)

had arrived over Tokyo. Although

turbulence and heavy cloud had been encountered

on the

flight,

over Tokyo and particularly at the

number of Japanese

and about forty closed light

beam

fighters did

come up

in for attacks while a search-

held one of the bombers. But no serious

damage was

attributed to Japanese fighters. Forty-

two B-29s sustained damage from the antiaircraft fire and it was this which may have accounted for the fourteen

B-29s that

own

fire

in

fell

on the mission. Nine of

many may have fallen into Tokyo, others may have crashed

the crews were lost;

their

into

the sea; however, five of the crews were saved

by

WHISTLING DEATH

171 ing construction and, nature's tragic contribution, a

wind.

fairly strong

Tokyo did not suffer a firestorm in the manner of Hamburg or Dresden; not the whirling, sucking inferno of those German cities, but a massive plunging fire

—comparable

ing

before

all

degrees (F.)

prairie

fire

—sweep-

more than 1800

heat rose to

heat could fling about a 74,500-

If this

pound (empty)

moving

to a

The

it.

aircraft as

if

were a leaf

it

in the

wind, only the imagination can conceive of what it

did to the Japanese trapped in the immolation.

No

on earth— not Warsaw, or Rotterdam or

city

London, or Hamburg, or BerUn, not even Dresden Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

(or to come:

much

so great a disaster, so despair and loss of

city

area" but

that

various

the

been put under control by eight o'clock ing.

The little

fire,

had burned

in fact,

more

destruction for

thus far verified include fifteen

smoldering after LeMay's 10, 1945. (u. S. air force)

still

first fire

bombing,

Some may even have gone down,

Air-Sea Rescue. of

victims

the

which they

tremendous

flew.

baclc, fell

least

over

turbulence

Returning crews reported being

upward

tossed thousands of feet

bomb. At

heat

as they

came

in to

one B-29 was flipped over onto

out of control from an updraft of heated

its

air,

thousands of feet before the combined efforts of

pilot

and copilot brought

it

back under control, and

Within the fire

fire in

minutes of the

Bombs Away,

first

Tokyo was completely out

department found

it

of hand.

The

impossible to cope with

the wide-ranging, rapidly spreading holocaust. Firefighting

equipment,

get zone,

went up

like

the

in flames.

buildings

in

the

burst into flame from the heat or flying debris,

engines simply melted

tar-

Hoses shriveled up and

away (nearly

a

fire

hundred were

Tokyo was

sion

was

oil bombs was unquenchable, when combined with the Japanese build-

damaged." throughout

and commercial sections of

reminiscent of the holocaust of

called

LeMay was

mad Nero and

Rome, quickly

the mis-

by Radio Tokyo a "slaughter bomb-

There are no other kinds of bombings,

ing."

LeMay

realist

might have pointed out.

Nearly sixteen square miles of the main section

Tokyo had been wiped

and along with

out,

it

twenty-two industrial targets which had been marked for pin-point destruction

One

fourth of

destroyed; those

made

all

those

by the Twentieth Air Force.

Tokyo had been

the buildings in

few which remained standing

of concrete and brick

—were nothing but

burnt-out shells which had served as ovens for those hapless thousands fright

Home

napalm and

others

.

painted as a contemporary

heavy

particularly

there

spread

fifty

caused by the Emperor Nero."

fruitless at-

ture of the



out

The final truth: "War results planes shot down

soon

truths

.

tempts to contain the vicious conflagration. The mix-

burned), and 125 firemen died in the

frightful

closed the residential

of

thirty

the

morn-

Tokyo and the official broadcasts became more shrill and more honest: ". the sea of flames which en-

headed back for the Marianas on strained, slighdy bent wings.

were fourteen] and

[there

But

itself

had

fires

in the

to do.

it

statement was the nearest to the

Tokyo March

130 Super-

that about

had "carried out indiscriminate bombings

fortresses

was

suffered

life.

Radio Tokyo announced of the



much human

agony, so

who

sought shelter

in

them. Sheer

had led to panic, which contributed to the toll

in

lives.

An

Affairs Ministry

official

summed

of

had occurred: "People were unable were found

later piled

upon the

the

Japanese

up, succinctly, what to escape.

They

bridges, roads,

and

WHISTLING DEATH many

We were

injured.

conditions.

173

thousand dead and twice that

in the canals, eighty

on actual

instructed to report

Most of us were unable

to

do

this

bombings of LeMay's B-29s seem

Despite the fact that militarily Japan was practi-

be-

cally finished

tion."

growing casualty

The dead had succumbed first of all to the heat some seemed to burst into flame as if by spontaneous combustion, some suffocated; others who sought refuge in the waters of the river drowned in the panic of the mobs rushing for the water. Those

upon

to save themselves in the smaller canals

were broiled

were

Shelters

alive.

little

pin

little

pricks in casualties.

cause of the horrifying conditions beyond imagina-

who hoped

like

and to continue the war only meant lists,

the Japanese

war lords

insisted

however hopeless the war had become. They would not sacrifice "face" even at the fighting on,

cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.

To have

con-

tinued on in the face of certain defeat was no longer

much an

as

was

it

aspect of Japanese military thinking as

and psychology.

of Japanese culture

more than

death traps where the victims either burned, suffo-

were

cated, or

torn limb from limb by one

literally

another.

83,793 dead and 40,918

Official figures listed

jured.

It

likely

is

—and

higher will

More than

never be known.

were rendered homeless

And

tions in Japan.

in full fury to

at Pearl

its

true figure

Home

bombing, plac-

war had

Japan; the small flame ignited into a pillar of

fire.

fire

fluke.

Tokyo bombing, and

When

the results of the

those which

followed upon

Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe, were analyzed, the Joint Target Group in Washington voiced for the

change

a target

list

its full

approval

bombing techniques and compiled

in

designating thirty-three urban areas of

Japan where

would

he died or,

another conception in the back of his

—sup-

mind; he believed that with proper support plies,

crews, and B-29s



air

power alone could force

a Japanese surrender. In both, he was

tactics

its

still

intact

2,500,000-man army

awaiting the American invasion in the (the Imperial

and strategy,

Japan was finished as a warmaking

right.

power, despite

Navy

too could

still

home

muster

islands

1.5 million

men). The slaughter which might have ensued had the

invasions,

Operations

Olympic and Coronet,

planned, respectively, for the

fall

war nor

certain values,

of 1945 and early

spring of 1946, occurred would have

made

the

fire

charged screaming

captured Allied soldiers asked that

and comparative

Why

palled. to

killed,

families be notified of their imprisonment

their

safety



the

were

Japanese

ap-

did these soldiers wish their families

know about The Japanese

their disgrace?

did not surrender (especially in the

the war), because it was shameful and he could no longer, because of his shame,

months of

early

regard himself as Japanese.

ers

incendiary attacks.

LeMay had

each other but they

in a suicidal, pointless evasion of sur-

When

render.

The assumption was that these attacks would pave the way for the projected Allied invasion of the home islands of Japan.

suffer

he was not

if

enemy

at his

the

industries

killed

the orthodox conventions of

most from

its

They

render was alien to the Japanese; he fought until

real

LeMay's plan had worked and subsequent had not been a

soldier.

did not understand one another; they shared neither

no questioning

bombings, to a greater or lesser extent, proved that it

wide cultural gap separated the American and

emotions, and ways of thinking. The concept of sur-

there could be

Harbor had burgeoned

A

Japanese

Defense organiza-

upon morale. The

the terrible effect

come

was much

a million people

in the single

on

ing a serious burden

in-

toll

equally likely that

is

it

death

the

that

He

also believed that

American enemy tortured and



killed his prison-

a powerful rumor was that at Guadalcanal

all

prisoners were disposed of by driving tanks over

them. This explains prisoner

why

so few Japanese were taken

(another was that they frequently

made

themselves walking booby traps and killed themselves

and

their captors)

and why they treated

oners so badly. Once "face" was

was not

fit

for

human

treatment.

The Japanese were inculcated from number of basic beliefs: that things were superior to material things, training against their

pris-

the prisoner

lost,

birth with a

of the spirit

match our

"to

numbers and our

flesh against

That Japan did not have

the

ma-

their

steel."

terial

resources of the United States meant nothing;

Japanese

spirit

and

discipline

would win

in the end.

THE DIVINE WIND

174 Their training manuals invariably opened with the formula: "Read

and the war

this

Another important concept was that of "place."

At

the top

was the Emperor

(just

as

Japan was

at the top of the hierarchy of nations),

above

all

At

material things.

lowly soldier, whose pleasure die for the

the

who was

bottom was the

—whose duty—was

to

And war directives were isCommand in the name of the

Emperor.

sued by the High

Emperor whether he knew it or not. As the spiritual Emperor was above all that was mundane; if he was not a political nincompoop

leader of Japan, the

and a moral

idiot

His position was

he might

just as well

have been.

detached from the

rarefied,

—although he symbolized Japan

Japan

on the ground and gazed

As

binoculars.

won."

is

of

life

minds

in the

men

his

made out

plane returned he

He

looked last

a report and proceeded to

At Headquarters he made his report Officer. As soon as he had finished

Headquarters. his

sky through his

the

but he was quite steady. After the

rather pale,

to the

into

returned, he counted.

Commanding

however,

report,

he

dropped

suddenly

the

to

ground. The officers on the spot rushed to give assistance but alas! he was dead. On examining his body

was found

was already cold, and he had a which had proved fatal. It is impossible for the body of a newly-dead person to be cold. Nevertheless the body of the dead Captain was as cold as ice. The Captain must have been dead long before, and it was his spirit that made the report. Such a miraculous fact must have been achieved by the strict sense of responsibility that the dead Captain it

bullet

that

wound

it

in his chest,

possessed.

of his people, like the flag or an icon.

The Japanese

Dutiful Japanese believed what they were told.

Radio Tokyo when

it

— —assured

nounce certain defeats of the Philippines

was well because

to an-

the loss of Saipan, the fall the Japanese

that

all right.

B-29s began appearing over the home

the

islands in greater profusion an official of the Avia-

Radio

tion Manufacturers' Association spoke over

Tokyo

"Enemy

finally

have come

over our very heads. However, we

who

are engaged

in the aircraft production industry

and who had

saying,

ways expected

this to

planes

al-

happen have made complete

preparations to cope with

Therefore, there

this.

self

generally

for granted that he

properly on the battlefield.

bat for the

If

spiritual immortality.

medals and newspaper announcements

common

anonymous;

he died

in

com-

needed

to hail

It

was

that

belief in

this

the Japanese soldier different

from

enemy. To the Japanese adding

which made

his

occidental

futility

to futility

was, within the patterns of his culture, not unnatural. Futility

was, after

all,

a Western concept.

Those values which made up the Japanese national character and the Japanese warrior produced the war's

most bizarre weapon, the kamikaze. The

meaning

word,

divine

"the

wind,"

evoked

the

miraculous delivery of the Japanese from a Mongol in

the

thirteenth

the

when Kublai

century,

was dispersed and some of

its

autumn

the

1944 only

of

a divine miracle could

spare the Japanese another invasion. Initially the Special

were

units basis:

called,

Attack Corps, as the suicide

were established on a limited

participate

to

Philippines.

deeds of a true warrior?

fleet

ships capsized by a sudden typhoon. Obviously by

fortunate

Who

itself.

to believe this

There was a power much beliefs,

invasion

would conduct him-

Emperor he was sublimely

and had gained

life

did.

power, plus a number of other

Khan's invasion

The Japanese war hero was was taken

stronger than

was expected

listener

—and probably

is

nothing to worry about."

it

story

all

had been predicted by the

this

and therefore was perfectly

military leaders

When

was permitted

finally

in

the Sho-1

defense of the

Time was running out on Japan and

Ruth Benedict in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword reproduced one of the broadcasts of Radio

only unorthodox methods might save the Empire.

Tokyo, of which the moral

based aircraft of the Navy and Army. Ground troops

still

anonymous, but he

is

obvious.

is

an

any

attention.

is

officer; individual ac-

complishments of mere enlisted attracted

The hero

men

hardly

The broadcast

told

ever this

The only

must wait

until

weapon remaining was

the

the most experienced pilots the

air

battles

were over, the Japanese planes

returned to their base in

or four. to

return.

A

small

American

formations of three

Captain was in one of the first planes After alighting from his plane, he stood

before

been wiped out

bombing

rarely stopped

ships because of antiaircraft

tective fighters

The

—had

they

—and

Marianas; the Navy's ships were depleted

or crippled. Ordinary After the

enemy attacked

the land-

could participate; most of the carrier force

in

story:

offensive

fire

which interfered with the

bomb

invaders, and especially their carriers,

the

and prorun.

must be

WHISTLING DEATH

175

stopped by deliberate crashing of a bombed-up

And

onto a ship.

craft

the aircraft

would continue on

by having

its

The

idea

remain

pilot

way

the only

fatal trajectory

was

the plane.

in

A

was not new.

its

air-

of assuring that

fatally stricken pilot or

Manila

his post in

Mabalacat Field (a part of

to

Clark Field), where he placed

his idea

Com-

before

mander Asaichi Tamai, executive officer of 201st Air Group (Sentai). American forces had ready landed on Suluan Island

the al-

the entrance to

at

plane had crashed into ships, gun positions, or other

Leyte Gulf; the Sho-\ operation would be put into

planes before. But this resulted only after

force.

And some

other

all

however

means had

failed.

heroic they

appeared to be, were not deliberate.

The concept

of a

crashes,

one-way mission had been

intro-

The mission

of the First Air Fleet

barely one hundred aircraft for Kurita's this,

advance into Leyte Gulf.

— "we must

be stopped

marines, which hardly had a chance, but the chance,

keep them neutralized for

slim,

was

There was none of

present.

kamikaze. The sacrifice of one's

in the

Emperor was not

new

therefore a

had

it

went on, according to one of Rikihei Inoguchi.

was regarded even by some Japanese com-

manders as a farfetched

One

tactic.

of the earliest suggestions for implementing

this idea

was submitted shordy

after the

Marianas

Turkey Shoot by Captain Eiichiro Jyo, commander

who

of the light carrier Chiyoda,

read the hand-

on the wall and himself wrote: "No longer

writing

we hope enemy aircraft can

methods.

sink

to

through

carriers

urge

I

numerically

the

ordinary

immediate

the

superior attack

organization

of

special attack units to carry out crash-dive tactics,

and

command

ask to be placed in

I

Coincidentally, Jyo died

of them."

on the same day

is

way

of assuring that our meager

opinion," Ohnishi said,

maximum

degree. That composed of Zero

to organize suicide attack units

fighters

armed with two-hundred-and-fifty-kilogram

[about

five

pounds]

liundred

bombs,

When,

some

the 201st Air Group, Inoguchi described the reac-

emotion and

tion: "In a frenzy of

joy, the

of complete

accord." These volunteers were then

command

placed under the

had

Ohnishi

Kogekitai

(Divine

his

of Lieutenant Yukio Kamikaze Tokubetsu

first

Wind

Attack Squad),

Special

planes during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Jyo went

four sections,

down

poetic

first

its

with his ship.

Meanwhile, Vice-Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, serving

various

in

high-level

capacities,

after

including

the position of Chief of General Affairs, Bureau of the Aviation Department, in the Ministry of Munitions

and as chief of

tion

during

the

staff of

early



Navy land-based

victorious



battles

in

avia-

the

Philippines and Malaya, arrived back in the Philip-

pines to assume

The condition tattered

command

of the air

and worn,

its

of the First Air Fleet.

fleet,

men

depleted,

dispirited,

its

planes

must have

assured Ohnishi that the desperate plan he brought with him was the right one.

Before

he

had

fully

taken

named Shimpu (another nese

his

command

Ohnishi personally traveled the fifty-odd miles from

character

name

for

all

kamikaze),

poetically

for Japan),

The

unit,

interpretation of the Japa-

was divided

into

named: Shikishima (a

Yamato (an

ancient

of Japan), Asahi (morning sun), and

name

Yamazakura

(mountain cherry blossoms). It

upon

was not planned suicide missions.

kamikaze planes,

to send the

Some

pilots

if

full

contingent

would escort the

them from enemy

to protect

terference and also,

possible,

to

in-

return and re-

port on the success or failure of the mission.

When

kamikaze idea was initiated and the secret became known among the young airmen of the First

the

Air Fleet,

it

was

seized

salvation for Japan.

men over

arms of

every pilot in the assembly went up in a gesture

twenty-four pilots and twenty-six Zeros.

kamikaze Zero sank

."

.

discussion, the idea

American ship. The Chiyoda, one of the units of Ozawa's decoysfor-Halsey force, was sunk by American carrier first

.

was placed twenty-three non-commissioned pilots of

after

before the

each

with

plane to crash-dive into an enemy carrier.

Seki.

that the

only one

Captain

my

"there

is

his officers.

"In

strength will be effective to a

this

accomplish

one week."

least

at

devote a period of training to nothing else but sacri-



To

enemy's carriers and

hit the

generally occurred in the heat of combat. But to

fice

its

Ohnishi, his face impassive but obviously strained,

this

for the

life

idea, but

—with

to provide cover

Ohnishi explained, the American carriers must

duced as early as Pearl Harbor with the midget sub-

however

—was

literally

upon

as the

one means of

Emotions ran high and strong

sobbed when they were either

ac-

cepted or denied membership in the unique unit.

The two dozen men

in Seki's

Shimpu squadron were

\

THE DIVINE WIND

176

would be an honor not

envied, for theirs

would be privileged

to share.

That, at

pilots

all

was

least,

the original intent: the

kamikaze unit would help

turn

Sho-l

the

the

in

tide

to

and Japan

operation

According Seki's

men

when Ohnishi addressed

to Inoguchi,

for the

was charged

time, the scene

first

are already gods," he told them, "without

But one thing you want

earthly desires.

that your crash-dive

wiU not be able watch your

to

.

.

." It

to

know

you

tell

But

shall

I

end and report your deeds

You may would be

the results.

is

we

not in vain. Regrettably,

efforts to the

to the Throne. point.

to

is

all

rest assured

on

this

the fulfillment of their lives,

be remembered to the Emperor. Their gratitude

could barely be contained.

While Seki prepared

his

few

one of the

their first sortie,

men and

planes for

Yamato, was

units, the

detached and flown four hundred miles to the south to

Cebu, an island almost directly to the west of

Commander Tadashi Nakajima,

Leyte. Here

flight

operations officer of the 201st Air Group, organized yet another kamikaze unit. Volunteers leaped at the

opportunity and Nakajima soon had an additional

twenty pilots for the special attacks being planned for the

American

fleet.

The only two

pilots

who

did

not volunteer had been hospitalized. Nakajima had led a flight of eight Zeros; besides his

own

aircraft

and the four kamikaze planes, there had been

es-

One of the pilots of the escorts (none of whom knew of the kamikaze plan), Lieutenant Yoshiyasu Kuno, when he learned of the plan, apcort planes.

peared before Nakajima state.

He

but accused the

all

him the opportunity of attacks, as

an excited but subdued

in

if

it

commander

of denying

participating in the special

were a kind of discrimination.

mission."

attack

piloted

was equipped

pound bomb. Kuno

As

The Zero Nakajima had

to

left in

carry

the

five-hundred-

ing

of

attack

from a container, a sound of those

two

The Japanese

had been indoctrinated since they were young that had insulted the Empire, in military demands

in



was pre-

into their Zeros to the

Ogimi no

old song which closed with the words

he ni koso shinamejNodo niwa the

Emperor

I

will

Before he took

("Thus

shinaji

for

n6t die peacefully at home").

Com-

the haggard Seki gave

off,

mander Tamai an envelope containing a cutting of his hair. This was to be sent home to Seki's family, a recent wife and a widowed mother, as a memorial in traditional samurai manner. The four suicide planes took off accompanied by escort Zeros

then the

— and

They had not been able to find American fleet. With tears in his eyes, Seki returned.

all

apologized for the failure of the mission.

The failure of the Cebu kamikazes was even more embarrassing. As three special attack planes and two escorts warmed up on the airstrip, American carrier planes swarmed down and shot them up, puncturing tanks, riddling the Zeros



all

of which

exploded and burned. This mission had not even gotten off the ground. After the carrier planes

Nakajima prepared another three Zeros would be

sion which

led

events.

The Zero

pilots,

—who

out of the great

hoping to find the source of

took

their earlier ignominy,

left

left,

for a mis-

by Lieutenant Kuno

had so feared he would be

off late in the afternoon.

Poor weather intervened and two returned. They

had not found the American

come back

—nor

ships.

Kuno

did not

was any American ship struck

Weather and poor reconnaissance continued to to the frustrations of the kamikaze pilots. Seki,

add for

example, ventured out four times, four days

running, only to return each time after a fruitless

Shikishima unit

its

espe-

The

fifth

time, leading his

kamikaze Zeroes with four

(five

on October 25, he came upon the belea-

escorts)

commercial dealings,

Shiki-

the

takeoff

remaining behind singing an

pilots

guered escort carriers

the United States

lead

of Ohnishi, by the mission

gift

They then climbed

kamikaze squadrons waited impatiently for an op-

in their attitude.

to

The

ceded by ceremony during which water was drunk

portunity to strike at the hated enemy. This was an

important factor too

was

diarrhea,

in the first attack.

search for the enemy.

a state of elation.

the Battle of Leyte Gulf developed, the

sortie at-

first

by a Japanese plane that day.

Nakajima assured him. "One of the Zeros we brought here from Mabalacat is reserved for your special

October 21 was the

until

tempted. Lieutenant Seki, suffering from a debilitat-

pilots.

with emotion.

"You

moves. Not

shima unit

would win the war.

hated naval treaties and in diplomatic

cially in the

off

Samar. All

five

laden Zeros plunged upon the American insofar as

it

is

have been the

possible to first

upon an American

know,

Seki's

kamikaze plane



carrier

the

bomb-

fleet,

Zero

and

may

to score a hit

Saint

La.

Also

WHISTLING DEATH

177

were three other of the baby

hit

flattops,

but the

and Ohnishi dispatched a message

special concern,

Saint Lo, struck by another kamikaze, ruptured and

to the surviving pilots.

sank.

When the climactic day of the Battle of Leyte

Thus on

Gulf, the Special Attack Corps had achieved

At

victory.

the

same time

it

also reported

its first

first

its

exaggerated account of that victory, and that would lead to the fatal decision of expanding the kamikaze.

"Was

of the

told

did

tainly

suggest

special

His Majesty

attack.

necessary to go to this extreme?

it

magnificent

a

that

His

His

job."

Majesty

Majesty's

cer-

words

concerned.

greatly

is

said,

They

We

must redouble our efforts to relieve His Majesty of this concern. I have pledged our every effort toward that end.

A

witness, veteran pilot Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, one

of Japan's leading aces, returned to describe Seki's

(Nishizawa, incidentally, was killed a few

efforts.

days later

The news

in

a transport after a flight to Cebu.)

of the victory

was quickly broadcast

Radio Tokyo: "The Shikishima Special Attack Corps

tack on an

enemy

carriers

craft

Suluan Island

at

A

at ten forty-five.

thrill

Two

definitely sunk.

which sank

great

Kamikaze

task force containing four air-

another carrier, setting cruiser,

unit of the

a successful surprise at-

a point thirty miles northeast of

which was

carrier,

made

via

it

aflame.

planes hit one

A third plane hit A fourth hit a

But Ohnishi had been perturbed by the Emperor's words,

interpreting

them

he was determined that Japan must

man.

ran through the corps and Ohnishi

He must

at the

enemy.

And

nothing so sustained his point

of view as the dismal final

outcome of the Sho-\

operation.

This was a major point in his argument with Vice-

Admiral

Fukudome,

Shigeru

effort in the Slio-

1

whose

Formosa

operation with

attacks. Since Ohnishi's smaller

Nishimura's, Shima's, and Kurita's ships had been

wrought more harm

but devoured by the American carrier forces and

had accomplished

little



yet single

carriers at that (the Japanese

fleet,

men

in a frail

had actually sunk ships of the American

aircraft

cerned the difference between a

had not yet

fleet carrier

dis-

and an

escort carrier).

The had

following day the Cebu-based

its

chance.

An

early

Yamato

morning mission

unit

(two

kamikazes with a single Zero escort) simply vanished off the face of the earth.

But the second,

air-

failed;

fight to the last

extend the "life" of the kamikaze

could take some pride in the efficacy of his plan.

all

criticism.

idea and expand the force with which to strike back

Fleet had flown in from

instantly."

form of

a

as

Yet he had succeeded where the others had

Fukudome's officer

large

Air

a small

conventional air

kamikaze units had

to the American fleet than had bomber formations, the junior

won

(Ohnishi)

its

Second

make

to

the

argument and

in the small

hours of the morning of October 26, 1944, Fuku-

dome

The two air fleets were Combined Land-based Air Force, under Fukudome's command and with Ohnishi as his reluctantly capitulated.

united as the

chief of

staff.

Certain units were to be set up for

kamikaze operations, for Fukudome wished the greater proportions of his

forces for orthodox attacks.

still

to

keep

operational air

But the

spirit

spread

borne shortly after noon and consisting of three

and within hours several new kamikaze squadrons

kamikazes with two escorts, struck to the east of

had been formed

—enough

to

establish

a

second

of the escort Zeros returned (the other having been

Kamikaze Tokubetsu Kogekitai. The union of the two air fleets increased the supply of aircraft for the

destroyed by a wall of Hellcats) to claim another

special attacks

Surigao, where Nishimura had fared so badly.

carrier definitely

One

sunk and another seriously dam-

Here again exaggeration entered. On October 26 only the escort carrier Suwanee (of Taffy 1) aged.

was

hit,

and damaged, by a kamikaze plane;

it

did

not sink, nor were any other ships damaged.

When

the

word

of

the

kamikaze

"triumphs"

reached the Emperor he commented in a curious

manner. The ambivalence of the Emperor's reaction,

however, was ignored in the excitement of his

the Zero,



until they

among

were expended. Besides,

the other early

kamikaze planes

were the single-engined, two-place "Judy"

D4Y,

Suisei)

(Aichi

and the "Frances" (Yokosuka PlY,

Ginga), a twin-engined bomber. The larger craft

meant not only

larger

bomb

loads, but also a

crew

of two rather than the single suicide pilot.

The kamikaze corps survived With the Imperial Navy cut

the failure of Sho-l.

in half, the Philippine

battle devolved into a vicious land battle. Ohnishi's

THE DIVINE WIND

178 mission was changed accordingly and his kamikaze

were

units

assigned

bringing in

would help the

that

sorties

American transports reinforcements and supplies. But the very

Japanese troops by striking

at

nature of his operation quickly depleted Ohnishi's

November he

limited supply of aircraft. In

Tokyo

to present

his

mand, demanding

number was

About

Corps.

were not

half

and these were

granted,

finally

scraped up from several training centers. craft

Com-

hundred

that he be given three

planes for his Special Attack that

flew to

case before the High

If the air-

top condition, neither were the

in

not fully trained young pilots. These youths were

Formosa

sent to

how

for special training in

to ex-

perience a spectacular death.

The

special indoctrination took only a

week: two

days on takeoff procedures, two days on formation

and the

flying,

final three

days on

how

approach

to

and attack a target. As quickly as this period was over the young pilots were rushed to the Philippines,

where to

it

was obvious

move up

that the

to their destruction-bent

litde

the

if

first

kamikaze planes began operations. (navy dept., national archives)

Americans planned

only subconsciously.

kamikaze

One

ill

trained

leaders.

The

aration for the proposed return to Luzon, Halsey's

of the critics of

came under powerful kamikaze attacks. On November 25 planes from the carrier Ticonderoga

as

Rear Admiral Toshiyuki Yokoi,

tactics,

with Japanese reinforcement operations and in prep-

liabilities,

poorly trained pilots were regarded

even

Japanese suicide plane aimed at the Essex near in the Philippines, November 25, 1944, when the

the islands to Luzon. That the kamikaze

volunteers were exceedingly young and

meant

A

Luzon

carriers

sank the heavy cruiser

Kumano and smashed two

Fifth Air Fleet during the

coastal convoys, but a

swarm

knew

came out

revealed this attitude

when he observed of his own Okinawa campaign: "I

two of the eight units were practically untrained and so were not fit for anything but suithat

cide duty."

added.)

(Italics

Obviously Yokoi did



escort in riers.

two waves

The

—and

slashed into Halsey's car-

which had been

Intrepid,

not venerate the kamikaze volunteers as Ohnishi

earned the nickname "Evil

did.

cock, and the Essex were

At

the

same time Japanese ground reinforcements

of kamikaze planes

thirteen suicide planes with a nine-plane

The

ages and casualties.

all hit,

hit so often

with severe dam-

by

Intrepid, crashed into

were being slipped into the Philippines and the

two planes, suffered a hundred dead. Once again,

promise of an impending, even larger-scaled Gua-

the cost of

loomed forbiddingly. The threat of anTokyo Express, prolonging the fighting and

men and

dalcanal

Corps "proved"

other

what he

intensifying the casualty

toll,

sidered by the Americans. strips

provide Kenney with

was ominously con-

Nor

did the Leyte air-

facilities

from which he

could operate very effectively. Tacloban, the principal airfield,

Army

was

little

more than

a

bog which defied

engineers; the heavy-bomber strip at

was not operational

until

Tanauan

mid-December. Air cover,

therefore, for the hard-fighting

ground troops was

provided mainly by the Navy.

During the

air

strikes

upon Luzon

at

machines, the Special Attack Ohnishi's satisfaction, but

itself to

failed or preferred not to see

was

that

did

it

not stop the Americans.

When American

landings began

1944) on Mindoro Island



(December

forty Japanese planes

Philippines.

And

to these

thirteen suicide Zeros,

Formosa. The

were

final

15,

a military steppingstone

between unlovely Leyte and pivotal Luzon still

—about

operational in the

had been added the

which had been flown

in

last

from

phase of the Philippine kami-

Luzon landings

in

Lingayen Gulf. During these landings the U.

S.

kaze attacks was aimed to interfere

it

Cabot, the Han-

I," the

at

the

A

kamikaze

Crew

strikes the Intrepid,

fights the fire

Luzon, November 25. (navy dept., national archives)

on the Intrepid

by a kamikaze. Sixty

men

after being crashed

died in the crash and

fire;

was nicknamed the "Evil I." (navy dept., national archives) was

the Intrepid

Navy was

hit

so often by kamikazes that

it

to realize for the first time the full im-

plications of the kamikazes. This

was brought home

with force during the prelanding

bombardment and

minesweeping operations on January force under

Admiral

J.

ships, six cruisers, nineteen destroyers, a

cort carriers which, in turn,

destroyers

with

escorts,

in

on January

cort carrier

3

large

dozen

es-

were screened by twenty

minesweepers,

and gunboats) was headed flew

A

6.

Oldendorf (six battle-

B.

for

Luzon.

and smashed

Ommaney Bay

transports,

A

into

portent the

(which sank the

esfol-

lowing day with a hundred dead). Curiously no

Japanese claim was made for

this sinking



the pilot

THE DIVINE WIND

180

A

burning "Frances, "a Nakajima land-based bomber,

Taking Mindoro was essential

to

the

planned cam-

dispatched from Luzon, passes over the deck of escort carrier Ommaney Bay during landings on Mindoro

paign for Luzon to begin early in 1945. The Ommaney Bay survived the air attacks at Mindoro, but was sunk

about three hundred miles northwest of Leyte.

by a kamikaze in Lingayen Gulf on January 4, 1945. (navy dept., national archives)

island,

who sank The

the carrier

day

next

Mabalacat,

may

several

Luzon,

not have been a kamikaze.

spread

flame,

and

casualties,

foreboding through the American ships.

were sunk but two escort

from

originating

attacks

No

ships

Manila Bay and

carriers,

central actor out there in space, ful

and however pain-

might be the consequences to ourselves, no one

of us questioned the outcome of the ing to

its

war now rush-

conclusion."

The morning

of the sixth brought a surprise to

Savo, an Australian ship, H.M.A.S. Australia, and

were struck. The future appeared

six other ships

chilling

—who

the Americans

to

did

shoot

down

some of the attackers. Still their determination carried some through the heavy antiaircraft fire and the fighter screen.

Vice-Admiral C. R. Brown expressed some of the emotions of the

men aboard

the

targets

of

the

whom the very conception was in"We watched each plunging kamikaze

kamikazes, to conceivable.

with the detached horror of one witnessing a terrible spectacle rather than as the intended victim.

got self for the

moment

as

we groped

We

for-

hopelessly for

man up there. And domwas a strange admixture of respect and

the thoughts of that other inating



pity

it all

respect for any person

sacrifice to the things

who

he stands

offers the

for,

supreme

and pity for the

which was epitomized by the For whatever the gesture meant to

utter frustration

sui-

Anxious

cidal act.

that

planes, (u.

carrier s.

crewmen scan

navy)

the horizon for kamikaze

WHISTLING DEATH

181

Commander Nakajima. He had hausted sleep certain that the

an ex-

fallen into

Air

last of the First

kamikazes had been expended the day be-

Fleet's

But through the night ground crews had worked

fore.

had patched together

until they

five

Zeros, ready to

and armed with the suicide bombs (three with

fly

the

bomb and two

five-hundred-pound

full

lighter

bombs). Thirty

serious crisis in

remained, so

pilots

command,

for

all

with

was a

it

fought for the

privilege of flying the barely airworthy Zeros.

Naka-

mander Davis, too

About

and three

with

consultation

the

Selected to lead the attack was a Lieutenant

Flaming

Nakano had begged

tack of tuberculosis. the chance to

make

to

be given

a mission before a return of the

deprived him of the honor of serving. "Re-

illness

struck

The

who

He

in sick bay.

damage

severe

jima. "Fearing that something

Naka-

had gone wrong,

I

ran

what troubled him. smiles as he called, 'Thank

to the side of his plane to learn

His face was wreathed in you,

his

More

than thirty others

died with him.

The

day's

was high:

toll

the

minesweeper Long

had been sunk, and besides the ships already mentioned, seven others plus the Australia (for the sec-

ond time) were

damaged. And,

also

if

the ships did

not sink, the injuries of the survivors were often

G. R.

Aboard

transport Harris Lieutenant

the

observed in his diary

Cassels-Smith

(the

"Two more burials at sea that makes four who have died so are several more who may die. They :



this

evening

far

and there

are so badly burned or mangled that they are really better off dead."

But for

all their

appalling ferocity the kamikazes

"

As

had not stopped the Luzon landings, which began

in

the

on January

Commander. Thank you very much!'

each of the remaining four planes poised

cruiser,

a

well have been

died the next day because of

to his lungs.

date does not matter)

Nakano

may

only then took his place in line for treat-

not tax his strength." the planes were preparing to take off,

battleship,

nonetheless assisted in putting out

frightful.

As

a

cruiser

by manhandling a firehose with

membering his plea," Nakajima wrote, "I kept him in mind for some short-range mission that would

raised himself in his cockpit and shouted to

on

drenched Rear Admiral Theodore E.

fuel

flames

the

Nakano,

only recently released from the hospital after an at-

Zeros

transports.

Chandler,

ment

made by Nakajima in commander of the group.

was

in

escort-observer claimed that the five

the Louisville, which received a Zero in the bridge.

to go. Don't be so selfish!"

choice

An

patched-up

men and

final

to survive, died

Nakano's Zeros swept

time

that

Lingayen.

jima silenced the squabbling with "Everyone wants

The

burned

terribly

later in the day.

moment, the pilot waved and engine's roar Nakajima heard "his

9,

The

1945.

day Ohnishi

following

takeoff position for a

and

through

Formosa, where he would reorganize

his

Attack Corps for

Meanwhile,

the

shrieked farewell:

'Thank you for choosing me!'"

A

sudden fury descended upon the American

fleet

standing off Lingayen bombarding the invasion

beaches.

began

It

at

noon when a flaming Zero

his staff flew out of the Philippines to Tainan,

its final

round of

glory.

however, those Japanese Air Force

men

no transportation could be found were as

ground troops

the

in

hills

(not one of Nakano's, which appeared later in the

Fukudome

fled

days

Tominaga, of the Army's

tleship

New

Mexico,

killing the

commanding

Captain R. W. Fleming, Churchill's liaison

officer.

officer to

later.

to

whom

for

left to

of the

day) enveloped the navigating bridge of the bat-

Special

serve

Philippines.

Singapore by flying boat some ill-fated

air

an infantryman.

forces, took to the hills as

Attacks from Formosa could

still

be mounted and

One such

MacArthur, Lieutenant General Herbert Lumsden,

were, but such missions were sporadic.

Time correspondent, William Chickering, and twenty-six other men; in addition eighty-seven were wounded. The destroyer Walkde nearby downed

mission on January

dozen

two approaching Zeros but a

Paul M. Lipscomb, themselves on an armed re-

a

curtain of

fire

mander George until his

men

third

broke through the

and rammed into the bridge. ComF.

fighters

as

11



a

escorts

mission.

bomber with a

—encountered

P-51s of Captain William A.

connaissance

Betty

Shomo and

the

two

Lieutenant

The Americans'

objectives

Davis became a human torch

were the Aparri and Laoag airdromes, which by that

and as gently as possible

date presumably housed only wrecked Japanese air-

as quickly

smothered the flames. Meanwhile a fourth Zero had been destroyed by the Walkde's gun crews.

Com-

craft

The

and a few airmen destined for the Betty, which they sighted

when

it

infantry.

was about

THE DIVINE WIND

182

Mustangs of the 35th Fighter Group {Fifth Air Force) prepare for takeoff from Luzon airstrip to bomb and

strafe pockets of Japanese resistance in the northern

above them, may have actually been an

Shomo's Mustang beneath the Betty; he raised the

evacuation plane carrying valuable aircrews out of

nose of the P-51, got the wing root of the Japanese

2500

feet

the PhiUppines to Formosa.

Thus the

single twin-

Neither Shomo,

who commanded

the

bomber

in his sight,

s.

and

air force)

82nd Tac-

The Betty dropped down into the jungle of

fired.

out of the formation, nosed

engined bomber and the rather large escort.

tical

section of the island, (u.

Luzon, and crashed. Orange flame and thick black

Reconnaissance Squadron, nor Lipscomb had

ever been in combat before. With the odds at thirteen to two, the green recently

Kenney boys

in their only

Mustangs climbed to the

arrived

\

attack.

Whatever the mission of the Japanese, they appeared to be more inexperienced than their attackers,

for as

two Mustangs approached no

the

at-

tempt was made to challenge them. The formation flew blithely

on

its

way. Kenney later suggested that

the Japanese pilots mistook the

the

Tony and thought

new Mustang

for

had

ar-

that reinforcements

rived and did not expect an attack.

Shomo

scored

first:

element and picked

he came

in

off the leading

under the third Zeke, which det-

onated in mid-air. Sweeping away from the debris

and flame, Shomo ripped past the second

ele-

ment and shattered one of the fighters in that. The Japanese realized then that they were under attack and formed into battle stations; even as they fluttered

around to do

this,

Shomo

and subtracted one more from plane, his third victim, blew

up

careened around

their also.

number. This This brought

Ennis C.

Whitehead,

commander of the Fifth Air who became a fighter

Force, with IVilliam A. Shomo,

ace in his

first air battle,

(u.

s.

air force)

J

WHISTLING DEATH smoke shot out of

183

the thick, lush greenness of the

One

with: as

the

Shomo, but instead was dealt he pulled up from watching the fall of the

to challenge

Shomo found

an oncoming Zeke. the

came down with

of the escort Zekes

bomber Betty,

over the

pressed his gun button and his path

and downward

to

This had brought him up

Shomo

dived upon the

lead fighter and with a short burst sent

it

down.

Another Zeke slipped by diving and Shomo raced

When

and

it

field.

The and

viously

of

Luzon),

the

He would

come back first

traditional

roar over the

the

seven,

finally

some hot-shot

his very

"victory

roll"

field, twist

and

again and repeat the maneu-

couple of

when

on the

rolls

were greeted with

number reached

the

five,

then

Obwas making sport This was a decided

cheering stopped.

stick-jockey

they were within three hundred feet

of the honored

breach of etiquette and must be reprimanded of-

simply continued

its

the

Zeke

in

his

guns

dive into the treetops.

ing the battle. With these three added to the seven

destroyed, the brief battle had eliminated

ficially.

The

victory

brass

jumped

Luzon from

hundred-pound bomb

air.

Marine Dauntless

in

foreground

is

into jeeps

and drove out to

Lipscomb had already landed and stood near his Mustang awaiting Shomo's landing. The loaded jeep pulled up alongside the lanky Texan. He being the nearest target,

seeking a Japanese position on which to drop the five-

roll.

the strips.

ten aircraft from the already diminished Japanese

the

south

(directly

—who had become an ace on —made

cheers, but then six,

away.

Shomo caught

While Shomo was thus engaged, Lipscomb too had been busy. He accounted for three Zekes dur-

Shomo had

mission

turn, then ver.

to get

Shomo

He

above the remaining Zekes.

it.

elated

managed

they returned to the Fifth Air Force base

Mindoro Island first

join the blazing Betty.

of the jungle,

When

himself looking into the nose of

Zeke flipped out of

after

Air Force. The surviving three Zekes found refuge in a cloud bank and

jungle.

a

colonel

it

is

began reaming him for

carrying.

(defense dept., marine corps)

THE DIVINE WIND

184 Shomo's abuse of the symbol of in a lazy drawl, explained that

exercising

legitimately

Lipscomb

"Sir,"

then added, It

was a

proved

be

(but gun cameras

Twentieth Air Force B-29s because of a radar warn-

"Well,

you make any victory

Lipscomb

sir,"

replied,

the

of

brass

this airplane

Kenney was

and

I

rolls?"

taking

his

time

ain't sure I

know how."

of course delighted with the perform-

ance of his kids. Although they had had no previous

combat experience, obviously

on

ing station

their training

had been

threat

But there was an even more im-

mind

portant function in

for

the roughly five-by-

three-miles

pork-chop-shaped

dot

which

halfway

between

the

Tokyo:

lay

in

the

Pacific,

Marianas

American hands Iwo could serve

in

emergency landing gational

LeMay's

to

the island and the Japanese fighters

stationed there.

with each southern-inflected syllable, "I just checked

out on

Iwo Jima was a

homeland,

"Lieutenant," he asked, "if you got three planes, didn't

Iwo Jima.

Less than eight hundred miles from the Japanese

suddenly realized another anomaly.

why

saw action

He

Then one

true).

first

during the invasion of what appeared to be the insignificant island of

privilege.

got three."

I

bit difficult to believe

to

it

indeed

"he got seven Japs."

said,

"And

honored

the

Lipscomb,

victory.

Shomo was

four to eight aircraft each. This unit

aids

field for distressed

could be set up,

and as an

B-29s, navi-

fighters

could be

based there to provide escort for the Marianas-

based Superfortresses, and

it

could be used as an

greatly superior to that of the hapless Japanese pilots

Air-Sea Rescue base. Of especial interest were the

come upon that day. Jokingly he inquired, "Why'd you let the others get away?" "To tell the truth, General," Shomo answered, "we ran out of bullets." Lipscomb, apparently having used up his syllables for the day, merely nodded. Kenney promoted both men on the spot and saw to it that Shomo received the Medal of Honor and Lipscomb the Distinguished Service Cross. With

three Japanese airfields,

they had

two of which were actually

operational.

The battle for Iwo Jima in February of 1945 was primarily a land battle, one of the costliest in the history of the U. S. Marines in terms of land taken divided by lives

lost.

Iwo, however, was but a portent of things to

come. The

island's

commander, Lieutenant General

Kenney inquired about the prewar occupations of the two men. "Lipscomb was a Texas cowboy," Kenney learned, "Shomo believe was a licensed embalmer. Poor Nips." it or not characteristic curiosity





IV

On Formosa

Ohnishi, a

establish an air force

on

man now

determined to

on a death wish,

set to

work

the reorganization of his First Air Fleet kami-

kazes for the predicted invasion of Okinawa.

The reorganization was completed by the first week in February and the new Special Attack Corps activated even earlier on January 18 was named the Niitaka Unit (after the mountain on Formosa). Even this carried its special full-circle irony, alluding as it did to the Pearl Harbor attack message, "Qimb Mount Niitaka." Within the month yet another Special Attack Unit was formed: the 601st Air Group of the Third Air Fleet (based in Japan in the Kanto Plain area around Tokyo). This unit





consisted of thirty-two aircraft, a conglomeration of

Zekes and Judys planes





fighters,

bombers, and torpedo

organized into five elements ranging from

on Iwo Jima: Marines dug around an gun with Mount Suribachi in the background. When the flag (in a famous staged ceremony) was put atop Suribachi the island would become a B-29 base from which to strike Japan. All this was done, but at great cost. (u. s. marine corps)

The

first

flag

antiaircraft

J

WHISTLING DEATH

185 Tadamichi Kuribayashi, had developed the natural

defense

under

digging

the

caves until he transformed

into

had read, "into a

as his orders

it,

by

system

volcanic ash and

island's

fortress." Despite

bombardment by the Seventh Air Force's B-24s and the 313th Bombardment Wing's B-29s, plus a heavy naval bombardment followed the heavy aerial

by carrier plane the

Nor

the

come out

did they

invaders head on,

instead,

were

attacks, the Japanese troops

generally unhurt.

meet

to

once they might have;

as

Japanese waited

in

their

and

caves

dugouts to render the taking of Iwo Jima a foot-bynightmare.

foot

weeks,

Instead

securing

the

(and even

that time

of

of the planned-for two Iwo Jima required twice

recalcitrant of Kuribayashi's

sand American island,

lives

Army

Marines and

after that.

soldiers continued to flush out

—and — kill

men). Nearly

the

more

five

thou-

were exchanged for that small

and the wounded numbered well over twenty

thousand. Japanese dead reached an estimated total

Iwo Jima as an American air base. More than a hundred Mustangs and a couple of B-29s parked on what had once been a Japanese airstrip. (u. s. AIR force)

of twenty-one thousand; about two hundred were

taken prisoner. The savage fighting, deadly, reso-

and for the Japanese, to the death, was a

lute,

devastating foreshadowing of what lay in the future.

As

the casualties

mounted the question was asked Iwo Jima worth the price?"

in stateside papers, "Is

—an

insignificant

value.

strategic

reached

its full

little

volcanic dot of no apparent

But even before the

fighting

had

fury and the landing strips were fully

readied by the Seabees and Air Force aviation engineers, the

first

B-29 landed on Iwo on March

Raymond Malo, whose

Lieutenant

make

veloped fuel problems, had to

4.

plane had dea choice be-

tween ditching and violating orders: they were, not

Iwo Jima, which was not

to land at

yet ready for

them. It

was a

for Iwo.

relatively simple choice:

He

first

Malo

set

course

quizzed the crew, warning them

Iwo without radar (that too had malwould be its own little problem; in the war was still going on there, the run-

that finding

functioned) addition,

ways were probably too short

for the

Tinian strip was eighty-five hundred strip four

thousand feet), and there might be other

problems.

The crew voted

Navigator

My Girl gets the go-sign for a B-29 escort mission, two-based Mustangs rendezvoused with Marianasbased B-29s for bombing missions, (u. s. air force)

B-29 (the the Iwo

feet,

Bernard

for

Iwo Jima.

Bennison,

despite

the

poor

weather and with no radar, found the island, and

Malo, with copilot Edward Mochler, brought the big, sixty-ton aircraft

onto the short runway with a

THE DIVINE WIND

186 squeal

of brakes,

stench

the

of burning

and the information from the tower

was under Japanese mortar

rubber,

that the strip

The landing was

fire.

extremely delicate, for Malo and Mochler, in deference

the

to

miles

consummated

its

most

southernmost of the

the

home islands of Japan. And it was at Okinawa

and narrow runway, had to

short

south of Kyushu,

that

the

divine

Following the abandonment of the Philippines the

bring the plane in at near-stall air speed. With the

surviving naval air fleets were regrouped or

crew

bined with untried units into four air

at crash positions the pilots throttled

the great plane

but dropped the few

all

until

feet

final

First (at

Formosa), the Third

(in the

fleets

com-



the

Kanto Plain

runway. They were on land, but would they

to the

stay

back

wind

lethal frenzy.

As

there?

seemed

they careened

to contract with

With Mochler applying down, Malo attempted

down

the

strip

it

each fraction of a moment. brakes, with full flaps

full

keep the racing monster

to

under control. Finally he kicked

rudder, a

full left

telephone pole snapped as one wing flicked against

and the plane came to a The Japanese immediately

it,

on the hours

strip,

halt.

increased mortar

hoping to destroy the

prize.

two thousand gaUons of

later, after

fire

But four had

fuel

been poured into the B-29 by hand, Malo managed to take off

hundred

from the

man crew

strip

using up only twenty-five

runway. His plane and

feet of

eleven-

its

returned safely to Tinian (and no

official

reprimand, for he had already proved the value

Iwo Jima). Malo's B-29 was the

of taking

first

of

twenty-four hundred Superfortresses that would land in distress

twenty-five

upon Iwo Jima's two thousand men,

strips.

a fraction

which might have been

lost

to ditch, landed safely

on the ugly

importance to the questionable.



to

final

if

at

least

of

they had been forced litde island. Its

surrender of Japan

would be impossible

It

Thus about

—and

is

un-

pointless

attempt to compare the lives lost in taking

the island wdth those saved after

it

was taken. Per-

Iwo as a hazardous haven: a damaged B-29, unable to make it all the way back to Saipan, made an emergency landing on Iwo. With brakes locked, the bomber turned into a line-up of Mustangs and crushed four before coming to a stop and bursting into flame. Only two members of the crew were injured seriously enough to require hospitalization,

(u.

S.

AIR force)

haps the best tribute was that of an anonymous

B-29

pilot

island, I

who said, "Whenever I land on this God and the men who fought for it." Air Force commanders, among them

thank

Certain

area), the Fifth (on Kyushu), and the Tenth, which

Spaatz and LeMay, believed that Japan could be

was

bombed into submission by the B-29s, but the Army commanders did not share that belief. The next

basic training and stationed

step then

was

to take another island close to Japan,

one large enough

to serve as a staging area for the

proposed invasion of the home

(Taiwan) had been bypassed pine invasion; besides, garrisoned. Pacific

Ryukyu

It

it

was heavily

was decided

schedule, therefore, Islands,

islands.

Formosa

in favor of the Philip-

that next

fortified

and

on the central

should be one of the

Okinawa, which lay about 350

still,

around the beginning of 1945, undergoing

on

the

main

island of

Honshu. Like the Tenth, the Fifth Air Fleet had not completed

its

Command saw air

fleets

(of

training, so that the Imperial

High

nothing in the future for these two

about

a

thousand

planes)

except

The more advanced Fifth would be expended upon enemy task forces and the unskilled special attacks.

Tenth on transports and

The Army

air forces

lesser craft.

too were expected to partici-

pate in the special attacks, although never with quite

i

J

WHISTLING DEATH

187

From in

January

Sunday

had

the time Ohnishi

fled the Philippines

until the invasion of

(April

1,

1945),

the

Okinawa on Easter kamikaze concept

spread and the organization solidified belief that suicide attacks

of stopping the enemy.



but non-existent



as did the

would be the only means

The Imperial Navy was all Yamato

only the great battleship

remained of the superbattleships; the Haruna, the last

remaining battleship of the Kongo

under

repair.

in the air

The

decisive battle

class,

was

must take place

above and around Okinawa.

The opening

action

Okinawa campaign

of the

was carried out by carrier planes of Mitscher's Task Force 58, which during the period March 18-21 lashed out

Kyushu and shipping

at airfields at

targets in the Inland Sea at

Kure and Kobe. During

these strikes, particularly those

and

The invasion of Okinawa by bombs of a Japanese dive bomber. (navy dept., national archives) begins

the Franklin

is

hit

upon Kure Harbor,

Japanese antiaircraft proved most effective and teen U.

S.

Navy

planes were

lost.

thir-

Also the carrier

Franklin became the victim of a lone single-engined

Japanese plane, which placed two bombs upon the the dedication as the Navy. In fact, only the special

the

attack pilots were

Army

called

kamikaze

Navy pilots;

used the term Tokko Tai, an abbreviation

deck.

The

resulting fires, as well as the initial ex-

plosions, took a heavy

toll in lives:

of the official Tokubetsu Kogekitai (Special Attack

damaged, was towed out of the

Unit).

cruiser Pittsburgh.

The Franklin, burning and listing, and out of the Okinawa, (navy dept., national archives)

battle for

more than 700

(and 265 wounded). The Franklin, although badly

Heavy

air

battle

by the heavy

cover protected the

u

THE DIVINE WIND from further Japanese attack and

stricken carrier

the

Franklin

eventually

arrived

twelve-

a

(after

thousand-mile voyage and only one stop between) in

New York On the final

day of the preliminary

number

21, a large the

for repairs.

and an equally large force of

radar screens

(about 150) was scrambled to intercept.

Hellcats

Two

March upon

strikes,

of bogies were detected

dozen Hellcats from the Hornet, Bennington,

Wood were

Wasp, and Belleau

the

first

to

meet the

Japanese force of Betty bombers with Zeke escort.

The

elements of Bettys and Zekes were dis-

first

posed of

a brief,

in

ferocious

which two of the Hellcats were

during

encounter, lost.

The Navy pilots were especially surprised at how some of the Bettys appeared to be

vulnerable

Some

slower and less maneuverable than normally.

even appeared to have a curious additional wing

Unknown

beneath the main wing. pilots,

they had broken up the

its

more than a ton of explosives (navy dept., national ARCHrvES)

craft carried

nose,

first

attempt at an

a small

twenty feet long with a sixteen-foot wing

span, with rocket boosters in the explosives in the nose.

with one exception:

Ohka was

It

a

was

and a ton of a flying

who guided

bomb The

it.

under the fuselage of a Betty

carried

transfer

tail

literally

pilot

to the general target area,

would

wooden in

to the Hellcat

Ohka bombing of the U.S. fleet. The Ohka ("cherry blossom") bomb was glider,

Japanese-manned flying torpedo, the Ohka ("cherry blossom") bomb, which was carried to its objectives by a bomber and released near the target. The small

where the kamikaze

pilot

from the mother ship (through the

bomb bay) into the tiny cockpit of the flying bomb. About twenty or thirty miles from the target, the Ohka was released and alternately gliding and rocketing would attain a speed of more than five

hundred miles an hour by the time child of

design.

was

lost

it

was within

The Ohka, brain one Ensign Mitsuo Ohta, was a hard-luck American

striking distance of

An

ships.

A

pre-kamikaze flight ceremony. Before taking off, the went through a formal ceremony of a religious nature. It was a solemn rite, much like a funeral, which,

pilots

shipment of

early

when

fifty,

for

example,

the battleship-turned-carrier carrying

in effect,

it

was. (u.

s.

air force)

them, the Shinano, was sent to the bottom by a

submarine early Likewise,

the

in

November.

initial

Ohka

consisted of eighteen Bettys

Ohka) and

mission,

which had

only three escaped destruction under the guns of

(sixteen carrying the

the Hellcats. These three, one of

them carrying the

thirty fighters (of the fifty-five originally

leader of the mission. Lieutenant

Commander Goro

The Japanese formation got American warships before it clashed with the Hellcats. Most of the Bettys managed to jettison their encumbering Ohkas (the suicide pilots, of course, remained in the

too was heavily decimated, and the

bombers), but of the eighteen that had taken

itself its

assigned), fared poorly.

Nonaka, slipped

no closer than

were never heard from again. The

fifty

or sixty miles to the

off

the "cherry blossoms"

When

Even

into a cloud bank.

was an abject

so,

fighter

first

they

escort

mission of

failure.

the Ohka appeared in the Okinawa area name was quickly changed from the poetic

i

WHISTLING DEATH

189

cherry blossom by the U.S. sailors to a more blunt,

Baka

precise

("stupid").

considering

designation,

of the Baka: of the fifty

were used

exploded on

was not an inappropriate

It

performance

ultimate

the

hundred manufactured

eight

and three actually

in suicide missions

While the concept was baka,

target.

indeed, the devotion and courage of the

Ohka

pilots

You nice work if you can get it. Okinawa listen and enjoy it while you can, because when you're dead you're a long time Home' boys

.

.

dead.

from the States

records

have a

"Let's

heat.

it

.



Dorsey,

Miller,

The boys

are going to catch hell

well

as

Army and Marine

S.

swarmed

troops

on the East China Sea

side of

Okinawa on Easter Sunday morning, 1945,

ap-

it

peared that the Japanese, unaccountably, had com-

pUed on

this

occasion with the treaty wrested from

Commodore Matthew

the Okinawans by

C. Perry in

1854 (a quarter of a century before the Japanese aimexed the Ryukyus). "Hereafter," the treaty read, "whenever citizens

come

of the United States

name

[the original

of the Ryukyus], they shall be treated with

great courtesy

sand strong

And

and friendship."

United States

to the citizens of the

"L"

Lew Chew

to

—who

so

fifty

thou-

splashed ashore on "L-Day"

was so feeble "Love Day."

for Landing. Resistance

Marines referred

seemed

it

—about

to

it

as

They had not expected

they

this as

that the

moved ashore

would be the prelude

and

vicious.

When

an eager young Marine lieutenant attempted to exthe

plicate

Okinawa into the Grand men, "From Okinawa we can

taking

of

Strategy, he told his

bomb mosa

the .

anywhere

Japs

—Japan,

China,

For-

."

.

Not

"Yeah," was the characteristic comment by the

It

was food

for thought

the ships stood

promised them It is

broadcast for

"This

all

is

you men

many

gram.

.

.

Hour, boys.

in the Pacific, partic-

ularly those standing off the shores of

because

as

Tokyo Rose had

the Zero

Okinawa

of you will never hear another pro-

.

honeymoon ended. Okinawa was visualized by

Command

Japanese High

the

as a kind of massive sponge

The

cal Stalingrad, perhaps.

Love Day

But then the

Robert Leckie observed.

historian

.

Okinawa," Marine

at

which would

aircraft, a tropi-

commander, ca-

island

pable, quiet Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, his

Thirty-second

Army

and caves of the southern

through the

hills,

third of the long

eighteen

miles)

island.

The bulk of Ushijima's

roughly hundred thousand troops (about a

whom

were

Okinawans)

reluctant

were

of

fifth

concen-

trated in the southern third of the island; another,

smaller, concentration

Motobu

was dug

Peninsula,

Shima (on which

the

off

on

in to the north,

which lay the

le

tiny

beloved war correspondent

L

plus

17).

The plan was killing the

can

fleet

to

hold out as long as possible,

American invader, and

to

keep the Ameri-

within striking distance of the kamikazes.

Okinawa would be

the

great proving ground

for

men would

en-

Ohnishi's Divine Wind. Ushijima's

gage the ground troops while the kamikaze pilots

.

"Here's a good number," she purred,

".

days.

Honeymoon Week

Ernie Pyle was to be killed by a sniper on

"and vice versa."

and worry. Besides,

the beaches

off ill.

some

yet and not for

turned into

the

typical tough, realistic sergeant,

Only skirmishes marred the

(about sixty miles), narrow (ranging from two to

to the Last Battle

to be deadly

all.

ance had simply not materialized.

deployed

would have

at

and they

all

By the second day Major General Pedro del Valle, commanding the 1st Marine Division, called a press conference and said, "1 don't know where the Japs are, and I can't offer you any good reason why they let us come ashore so easily. We're pushing on across the island as fast as we can move the men and equipment." The anticipated "most fanatical" resist-

cliffs,

it

at

calm.

deep. Okinawa, even those most ignorant of strategy

and

Iwo

canal, or

roughly eight miles wide and three to four miles

realized,

the

to

Tarawa, Guadal-

in "standing up," not as at

absorb American blood, ships, and

taking two airfields and spread over a beachhead

used

get

."

"Love Day" had not been hot U.

hit

James.

jukebox music for the boys

little

hot.

and they might .

went

When

.

."

.

.

soon,

across the beaches

.

Later she would broadcast some of the latest

and make

were exceptional.

.

.

off

"

'Going

and suicide boats on the surface



eliminated the

THE DIVINE WIND

190 American

fleet. This accomplished, there would be no invasion or else the Americans would be so badly torn up that their invasion attempt of Japan (finally set for November 1, 1945) would be weakened. Once again a kind of grim optimism emboldened the Japanese. Major General Isamu



Cho, Ushijima's chief of

had traveled

staff,

to the

on Pearl Harbor the

war

prove to be the Waterloo of

will

to follow."

But whose Waterloo? Ugaki had falsified the Midway war games, making it appear

results of the

that

Japan must be the victor

outcome was

the actual

had been

like Ohnishi,

in

that battle

—and

own Waterloo. Ugaki,

its

on events from the glorious

in

homeland from Okinawa to present Ushijima's plan for the defense of Okinawa to the High Command

inception and was destined to play his role to the

and returned not only with approval of the

bined strength of about 1815

static

His three

bitter end.

could muster a com-

air fleets

aircraft, of

The

which 540

Army

defense plan but also with a high regard for the

were

promise of the reorganized and augmented Special

Air Force was ordered to co-operate with Ugaki's

Attack Corps. Cho, hard-bitten, driving, and not

naval

very popular as Ushijima's

tough right arm, re-

turned to Okinawa in an expectant the

commanders

state,

of the Thirty-second

informing

Army

of the

promise: "The brave ruddy-faced warriors with the white silken scarves tied about their heads, at peace in their favorite planes, attack.

The

it

brightness

was the glow of the was the

glare

of

meaningless, and prodigal death. of

the

sun;

setting

sudden, violent,

The major

thrust

kamikaze operations came from bases

in

southern Kyushu. The Formosa-based Special Attack Corps contributed

little

to the

Okinawa cam-

paign and Ohnishi himself was transferred to Japan to serve as vice-chief of the

His forceful,

planes

annihilating

in

Okinawa.

around

mained

Besides

Naval General

outspoken devotion to

Staff.

an absolute

Japanese-American Armageddon only added to

Combined

Only one

Fleet.

Yamato, was operational There was,

invasion.

his

command

under the captain

of

the

When

Aruga.

on April

had blueprinted Yamamoto's his

had proved extravagantly successful

own

—was

doubts,

forced to

Hawaii

chief

Operation,

of staff at

Vice-Admiral

(who had escaped death when in the attack

command

pitiable

the

of Vice-Admiral Seiichi

time

of

the

Matome Ugaki

his chief

was

killed

by the P-38s over Ballale) was given

of the Fifth Air Fleet, which, in turn,

Ito;

Yamato was Kosaku

this force sortied

from the Inland Sea

name had been changed

to

"Special Surface Attack Force."

The

10-ship

fleet,

without

was intended

air cover,

to challenge

Admiral Spruance's Fifth

Fleet,

which

consisted of

some 1500

Among

these,

which

ships.

included transports of the amphibious forces, minesweepers, salvage ships,

destroyers.

ships,

carriers.

18

there

vessels,

battieships,

and

Task Force 58, the Fast Carrier

Force under Mitscher,

100

and repair

carriers,

itself

was made up of over

10 of them heavy carriers and 6 escort

Co-operating with the Americans was Task

Force 57, 22 British ships under the

await the end in an office in Tokyo.

Yamamoto's

superb

Okinawa

the light cruiser Yahagi

too,

1945, the

6,

200

—who

at the time of the

formidable

vasive asperity, a sense of frustration and humilia-

Ohnishi

re-

numerous

the

battleship,

and

in

there

and a handful (eight) of destroyers. This

were more than 40

Hawaii Operation, which, despite

enemy

aircraft

also a fraction of the once proudly

already tarnished popularity in Tokyo. So, with per-

tion,

the

the

Sixth

remnant was called the Second Fleet and placed

skies are brightening."

In reality the

dash out spiritedly to the

set aside for special attacks.

command

of

Vice-Admiral H. B. Rawlings. Aboard the British

were 244

carriers

aircraft,

whUe

the

American

riers

could put up 919 planes,

ers,

and torpedo planes. To augment the

air forces, the

fighters, dive

Okinawa invasion plan

car-

bombcarrier

called for the

was placed under operational control of the Third and Tenth Air Fleets. Direction of the kamikaze at-

establishment of a Tactical Air Force on the island

Okinawa campaign devolved upon Ugaki. When he had assumed his new post before the

Marine

units

fighter,

medium and heavy bomber

Pearl Harbor attack Ugaki had said in an impas-

forces

sioned speech to flag officers at naval headquarters

Major General Francis

tacks during the

in

Tokyo

that the "success of our surprise attack

itself

The

as

soon as possible. This would consist of as

well

as

U.

S.

Army

Air Force

groups; these

would be under the command of a Marine, P.

Mulcahy.

invasion of Okinawa, code-named "Opera-

WHISTLING DEATH

191 aiding the troops akeady ashore, where Ushijima's

men would wipe them In every it

out.

was

the Kikusui plan

aspect

was not even a gamble.

It

suicidal;

began with the early

morning attack launched from Kanoya and Formosa, both kamikaze and conventional attackers taking part. in

Although the exact numbers that participated

this

first,

largest

Kikusui attack cannot be de-

termined with any accuracy, at least planes attacked the American

fleet

198 suicide

on April 6 (the

attack, continued into the next day,

believed to

is

have consisted of about 355 kamikaze planes alone, with

perhaps

an

equal

number

of

conventional

planes participating).

The

air filled

with unreasoning death as hundreds

of kamikazes swept in

American

ships.

upon

the concentration

of

This concentration was capable of

ripping the very air to shreds with

its

antiaircraft

guns, numbering literally in the thousands. Despera-

Navy 40-mm. guns

tion Iceberg,"

plex

enterprise

kamikaze planes. (navy dept., national archives)

firing at

was the "most audacious and comyet undertaken by the American

amphibious forces," according to British observers.

And, indeed,

was.

it

It

was

of the war; the spirit of

also the bloodiest battle

"Love Day" had not per-

sisted.

The Japanese name for the hellish reaction to Okinawa invasion was beautiful, Kikusui ("float-

the ing

chrysanthemum," obviously inspired by the ban-

ner of a fourteenth-century warrior patriot, Masashige Kusunoki, in

the

Battle

who

led his

men

of Minatogawa).

to certain death

The

first

Kikusui

was scheduled to take place on April 6 and 7 and would be a mass, combined Navy and Army suicide plane attack in which the Second Fleet the

attack



"Special

Surface

Attack

Force"

spearheaded

by



Yamato would participate. It was hoped that the Yamato and the nine other ships in the fleet would lure the American carrier planes away from Okinawa while the kamikaze planes. Navy and Army, dealt with the American fleet. Thus off the

balance, the Americans might not be capable

of

A Judy

falls to the

guns of the Wasp near Okinawa. (navy dept., national archives)

THE DIVINE WIND

192 tion inspired the

men aboard

the ships to feats of

remarkable endurance and firepower. Din and shouts and curses,

ter,

clat-

sound of a thousand

the

rapid-firing guns, the cry of straining engines as a

Zeke attempted black puffs:

all

break through the myriad of

to

these

merged

When word had come on the

torpedo planes and bombers

ship's radars,

were struck below decks, their

fuel

tanks

into a jungle of sound.

of large groups of bogies

their

emptied.

bombs removed and were

Hellcats

readied and the fighters of Task Force

quickly

58 were

launched to meet the enemy. Combat Air Patrol

met the first attackers midway between Kyushu and Okinawa and began shooting them out of the sky. But they came on like a swarm of

planes

hornets, singly and in large groups of thirty or more.

The Japanese planes ranged from the most recent Zeke or Tony to ancient fabric-covered biplanes; few

any experienced

if

for the

pilots

guided these planes,

Task Force 58 airmen were amazed

at the

mark they made. By sheer weight of numbers, however, some of the suicide planes broke through the CAP, only to be met by the guns of the radar easy



picket ships destroyers which had been set out around the major ship concentration at Okinawa. Antiaircraft fire stopped 39 of the kamikazes, which splashed and cartwheeled into the Pacific;

and Task Force 58 destroyed 233 before they could do any damage. But 22 kamikaze planes

A

falls short of an escort by a Marine Corsair and

twin-engined suicide plane

carrier after being attacked

Navy gun

finished off by a

crew.

(navy dept., national archives)

escort carrier planes accounted for another 55

the fighters of

dashed through the curtain of

among

the ships.

As

fire

would develop through the

it

remaining nine major Kikusui attacks (from April 6 through June 22), the radar pickets suffered the worst of the attacks.

The

picket

ships

were not

only bombed, but also took the brunt of the "floating chrysanthemums."

No.

1

On

Bush)

(destroyer

April 6 Radar Stations

and No.

2

(destroyer

Calhoun) were both sunk under the fury of the

mass

attacks.

By

the next day,

when

the attacks

diminished, twenty-two other ships had taken kami-

kaze

hits.

Another destroyer, the Emmons, was sunk;

466 men were dead and 568 fire.

Kikusui No.

hurt the American

Thirty-second

1,

horribly

though heavily

fleet.

Reports, in

Army on Okinawa

wounded by

sacrificial,

fact,

had

from the

claimed that thirty

American ships were seen sinking and an additional twenty or more burning. Because of the smokeblackened

skies,

Japanese

were unable to check the Army's extravagant report.

and spread havoc

recoimaissance

planes

But Kikusui No.

drama

1

had one more

act to go: the

of the Second Fleet. Before setting out

Ad-

miral Ito sent a message to the crews of the ten ships in his force in which he said that the "fate

homeland

of the

rests

on

this operation.

Our

ships

have been organized as a surface special attack corps.

.

special

end.

.

.

Every unit participating

whether or not

tion,

attack,

is

it

in this opera-

has been assigned for a

expected to fight to the bitter

Thereby the enemy

will

be annihilated and

the eternal foundations of our motherland will be

secured."

The Yamato, which had Okinawa only, was to shell with

its

giant 18.1

enough to get to American positions guns (which outranged any gun fuel

the

American or British fleets), while closer in the hght cruiser Yahagi and the eight destroyers in

the

would do the same. The Yamato was the

last sur-

vivor of the once great battleship array of the Japa-

WHISTLING DEATH nese

was

(the

fleet

and

repair

Japanese battleship;

fact the last surviving

in

Yamato was

the

193

Haruna was then under

American

the last of the giants).

had contended with the big battleship on

planes

Midway,

three other occasions:

Leyte Gulf, but the

and

the Marianas,

mammoth had

escaped despite

6 the American sub-

evening of April

the

Hackleback

marines

and

Threadfin

reported

the

emergence of the Surface Special Attack Force from

Bungo

the Inland Sea through the literally

no

provided

it

air

cover,

range.

for

the

Strait.

There was

few planes which

were land-based and were forced to

leave as soon as they

had reached

their

maximum

The one-way navy continued on through

the

If

lucky, he could approach

from the west and open up with that hurled a projectile of

Word having reached Spruance and Mitscher the approaching Japanese force, Mitscher ately sent three of his task

At dawn of April 7 company.

eight

seemed

An

forty Hellcats fanned

out to

Yamato and

Essex plane sighted the ships passing

Van Diemen twenty-three to

of

immedi-

groups north to intercept.

the north and west searching for the

through

more than

Okinawa

guns

his big

—guns

a ton over a

distance exceeding twenty miles. In the hold there

were a thousand of these

thousand feet) with

(three eight

missiles.

ideal:

a low cloud ceiling

from five to hampered by rain squalls. As Ito from his bridge on the Yamato, the visibility

miles,

watched

American planes gathered in the distance, first a then many. About half past twelve the first attack came. Although antiaircraft fire was intense it was not accurate and the Helldivers and Avengers few,

swooped down upon the Japanese

ships.

Within ten

minutes two bombs had struck the Yamato and an

night.

at

their range.

The weather was not

hits.

In

elude the carrier planes by taking a course beyond

be

Strait

the

in

just

south of Kyushu

morning.

The

force

heading into the East China

away from Okinawa.

Ito,

Sea

however, was hoping to

'

additional rent opened

up

placed a torpedo in

path.

its

its

falls short of

an escort carrier

off

as

an Avenger too had

been hurt and for the next two hours scores of Avengers, Hellcats, and Helldivers slashed and ripped at the hapless ships. to go,

its

The Yahagi was

the

first

deck a shambles and a slaughterhouse

under the blows of a dozen bombs and seven torpedoes.

The destroyers too

suffered

heavily,

al-

though they were not the major objectives: but the carrier planes

sent four



the Isokaze,

-^

^

A kamikaze

side

The Yahagi

Okinawa, (navy dept., national archives)

Hamakaze,

THE DIVINE WIND

194 Kasumi, and Asashimo

was

battle

was

It

bottom before the

to the

was the

that

however.

prize,

attack the big ship took a

first

neither did

the Japanese Imperial Fleet

battleship, the

Yamato

the

After the



over.

list

to

(the last

Haruna, originally announced sunk

by Captain Colin Kelly's B-17 attack early war, was sunk by carrier planes in

its

Kure Harbor on July 28, 1945). The death

port but continued on course at a good speed and

at

remained very active with

on the Yamato alone was 2488; the cost

antiaircraft

fire.

Desper-

Captain Aruga ordered the ship on a zigzag

ately,

aim of the

course, hoping to throw off the

attackers.

But there were too many of them. Intrepid planes

swarmed around

bombs and

the ship with

adding further to the battlewagon's

torpedoes,

Yorktown Avengers appeared on

six

Because of the

list

Then

distress.

scene.

the

to port, the starboard side

had

from the water, exposing the thinner under-

lifted

Yamato. The Avengers

plating of the "invincible"

around to the starboard; torpedoes were

circled

for a depth of

from ten

Grummans dropped down

set

—and

twenty feet

to

run

the

for

on

in the

own dock

Navy ers,

attackers

toll

the

was four Helldivers, three Aveng-

and three Hellcats (four

crews were

to

lost).

During the

pilots

and eight

battle the carrier

air-

Han-

cock was crashed by kamikaze planes twice with a toll

of about seventy

Kikusui No.

1

seamen

killed.

had, like Sho-l, succeeded in

predicted Japanese losses, but ing.

Japan's military future

now

it

its

had decided noth-

lay in the systematic,

inconclusive pursuit of death.

This pursuit continued for the following several

the

months,

the

tween the Kikusui mass

literally until the

August surrender. In beraids, small

groups or in-

Yamato. The upper decks, as with the Yahagi, had

dividual attacks also took place, so that from April

been reduced to twisted wreckage, and the once

through August

it

was impossible

for the

men

in the

formidable gun batteries were either silent or desulso that the Avengers

tory,

six fish pierced the

A it

if

series of explosions

were a

perfect runs;

On

him

that

A

thousand

the bridge a typical argument ensued.

to the remains of the bridge.

officer to

He was

afraid

he once got into the water he would

if

I

trapped and had no chance

Captain Aruga had ordered his executive tie

all

shook the gigantic ship as

child's toy in a bathtub.

men below decks were to get out.

made

exposed underbelly.

stinctively save himself.

As

the

in-

waves washed around

him and the deck assumed an acute slant, Aruga spoke to Admiral Ito, commander of the no longer Second

existing

"You

Fleet.

are indispensable,"

Aruga

said.

"Please leave

the ship."

But for

Ito chose to remain; there

him

which

in

aircraft

history of the

The rolled

More

had written the proud

in

chapter in the

battleship.

across the deck

of the

ammunition room.

explosions followed and the ship,

863

feet

turned over and churned to the bottom

of the East China Sea, its

final

ship tipped and below decks the big shells

in length,

as

would be no world

which Japan was vanquished and

exploding and detonating

compartments burst under

air

pressure and

exploding ammunition. At two twenty-three in the afternoon of April 7, battleship

no longer

1945,

existed.

the

world's greatest

And,

for that matter.

The Bunker

Hill shortly after being hit

during the sixth Kikusui,

May

by a kamikaze

II, 1945.

(navy DEPT., national ARCHrVES)

WHISTLING DEATH

195

Bunker Hill, with the fire nearly under control but with aircraft destroyed and men

Flight deck of the

ships in the assaults

Okinawa area

to relax.

The

ten Kikusui

opened with the climax, during the April

6-7 raid,

when

six

American

ships were sunk

and

seventeen damaged (ten seriously enough to be out of the war for the duration). attacks,

with American

sources, were: 2.

losses

The

other Kikusui

from U.

S.

Navy

dead and guns not manned. (navy dept., national archives)

THE DIVINE WIND

196

mania grew more and more incurable as the situation grew worse. However, if the purpose of going out to battle

to

destruction as part of the price),

its

kill,

own

accepting your

then the kamiicazes were a great success.

when

charnel house each plane created

was

The

fiery

struck

it

"The deck near my

mount was covered

[gun]

with blood, guts, brains, tongues, scalps, hearts, arms

from the Jap

etc.

James

Fahey

J.

Leyte Gulf area).

"They off the

the

(in

to put the

The deck ran red with

deck.

spattered

scalp,

The

animal.

blood.

One

over the place.

all

had a Jap

War Diary aboard

Pacific

hose on to wash the blood

the Montpelier

had

wrote Seaman First Class

pilots,"

in his

hair

The Japs were of

the

fellows

looked like you skinned an

it

was black, but very short and the I do

not think he was very old.

was it it.

into

on

.

It

first

up,

.

time

stationed

the water

into

about a hundred yards from the ship. As the gunners watched

spellbound,

Japanese pilot was

the

hurled by the impact of the crash over the ship's

deck and into the water on the other of

side.

wrecked Val smashed into the

the

rammed

engine

into

Parts the

ship;

No. 53 Mount, putting

it

out

Even when the engine was mount would operate only on difficult

of action for a while.

removed manual its

the

control.

Val's propeller whirled across the water and

The the

way

into the after deckhouse,

door of the

house; his foot was

boot near the deck-

pilot's

in

still

it jammed The clean-up

where

passageway.

after

crew there found the

it.

There was no time for speculation, for another

ever saw a person's

Val appeared bearing down from the port bow,

.

Throughout the Kikusui ships,

I

hundred

The Val blew

hit.

coming on, and splashed

still

cut

was very big and long,

at five

from the Aaron Ward's

yards, a five-inch projectile

pie

."

what a mess.

had already assumed

It

kamikaze approach dive before,

mark

tin

pilots tooth

part of his tonsils were attached to

This was the

.

.

brains,

like

picked up a

I

The

it.

very deep.

it

looked

path toward the ship.

the

color of the skin was yellow, real Japanese.

plate with a tongue

vectored on the lone plane,

fire

have missed. The Val smoked but continued on

No. 53 Mount made a direct

but unspeakable.

all

massive cone of

maim, and destroy (once

to

is

would have been impossible, what with the

tant. It

attacks, the radar picket

around Okinawa

in

all

directions

ranging in distances from eighteen to ninety-five

but that one splashed twelve hundred yards out, with no in

damage

from the

Suddenly a Zeke came

to the ship.

by radar but spotted

port, undetected

If

by the gun captain of No. 42 Mount. Nothing seemed

these ships were eliminated, the Japanese believed,

capable of stopping the Zeke, which magnified in

miles

it

bore the brunt of the devastation.

out,

would be possible

important

larger

One

tims.

ships

became

pickets then

to

more Okinawa. The

size

closer

hundred yards the Zeke had begun

to

the most frequentiy struck vic-

enterprising seaman, after days of attack,

put a sign out on his ship:

THAT WAY TO THE

But the only sure method of disrupting a suiwho had slipped past the combat air

cide attacker patrol

When too

was

to shoot

in close

him out of the

enough

air

before he

to read the sardonic message.

a heavy raid developed there were simply

many

Kikusui

targets

to

shoot

May

3)

the

(on

its

bomb

fell

Zeke continued on

rang with General Quarters

at.

During the

destroyer at six

fifth

Aaron Ward

twenty-two in the

line,

was within a smoke and

to

wrap

to

—but

struck

under No. 44 Gun. The flaming wreckage

its

ship's superstructure.

The bomb water

it

from underneath the belly

the port side of the ship

around the

CARRIERS.

came

When

with alarming speed.

get through to the

struck

exploding in

jammed and

the

after

fifty feet

began

the ship

from ruptured

Aaron Ward below the of the hull upon engine room. The rudder

the

ripping open

circling to port as fuel

lines fed the flames topside.

The deck

was a shambles and a caldron. AU men but two around No. 44 Gun were dead, burned to cinders, blown overboard, or just simply "missmg," never to

The

wounded,

burned

and

with

evening. In seven minutes a tiny speck materialized

appear

out of the sunset. Another minute, during which

broken limbs, writhed out of the way of the

there had been a general intake of breath aboard

fighters.

and the speck became a Val. The guns of the Aaron Ward boomed and roared when the Japanese plane was still seven thousand yards dis-

much

the ship,

some

again.

The horror

in

its

of the

sensless

kamikaze attack lay

persistence

as

in

the

fire

as

grue-

details of the aftermath.

Was

it

the perverse

human

instinct for harassing

WHISTLING DEATH

197

Aaron

cripples? Despite the obvious fact that the

Ward was this did

burning, and running in circles,

listing,

not divert other kamikazes from hitting the

ship again and again. too, so badly

that

more

hour or

an

sprinted in on

was stricken

Little

eventually sank (as did two

Luce and Morrison).

other destroyers, the

For

The nearby

it

—some

Radar Picket 10

aircraft

The

operating gun mounts on the

still

Aaron Ward spat out fire and succeeded in knocking down ten kamikazes before they reached the ship. Marine Corsairs from Okinawa strips some seventy miles away bore in to stop the ravaging planes. Even as they swept in to destroy the Zekes,

A aron Ward; there were the wounded men whose burned flesh dripped from

of the

to care for,

them as they moved, and the dead There were raging

possible.

to identify,

if

below decks and

fires

word came round that the ship's sinking was imNo word to abandon ship came, however.

minent.

But another Val came

splashed and

others contributed to the misery aboard the mangled destroyers.

men

the

the

Japanese

the

This ludicrous situation was not appreciated by

in,

the pilot strafing a path

before him toward the bridge

crew stood

stream

a

until

ground

its

momentum

of

itself.

No. 42 Gun's onslaught

in the face of the

fire

chopped

off

But

wing.

a

bomb

carried the plane forward as the

short of the ship; the plane struck in a fiery

fell

mass onto the main deck and the bomb burst in the water adjacent to the ship. A hammer blow

Vals, and Bettys, the Corsairs suffered the hazards

shook the Aaron

Ward, a hole ripped into the

of "friendly fire," for the gunners on the beleaguered

forward fireroom,

and the flood which followed

overwrought, weary, and in pain, hated

ships,

was no time

things that flew; and there

between friend and

inate

The was

splashed in that flaming twilight

fifth aircraft

which burst into flame

into the water.

The geyser

of the

impact had barely settled before two more Vals appeared; these had Marine Corsairs on their

and

near-surface

the

in

dive.

in a precipitous

All guns trained on the lone attacker,

appeared

to

ride

through the serried its

and crashed into the

came on

water. But the other Val

on the

in

air, its

tails

one of the Vals

battle

burning fragments

erupted

tracers.

It

nose growing ever larger, hits

but coming on nonetheless. Suddenly

it

nose snapped up,

and the Val

a wing dropped, its

signal

in

a

shower of debris,

wheeled across the starboard

The

din

that

wrenched out most

crunched the top of the

antennas,

forward stack, and,

jinked, the

high wing ripping through

the lines of the signal halyards,

of the

followed in

last

operating engine.

The Aaron Ward

rail into

smoldering dead in the

lay

and flame

fuel,

to

the

agony. Seconds

another unseen attacker smashed into the main

Aaron Ward their become a fiery bedlam and charnel house; flames lit up the sky, thick smoke choked them, and the decks grew slick with blood. It seemed that they had taken all

To

deck.

the

men aboard

the

world, confined to the single ship, had

anyone could be expected to endure.

But

that

slammed



was not to be a Zeke slashed in and No. 43 Gun, the crew of which

into

vanished in a ball of flame. Others in the area of

impact were seared by the in

fire,

others disappeared

the explosion over the side.

There was barely

time to attend to the dead and dying before the tenth attacker appeared.

"Here comes another one!" someone shouted. "God, we

can't

take

another

one,"

the

cart-

executive officer, Karl Neuport, muttered.

wake was

and darkness, the Japanese plane came

the sea.

Val's

the

bomb,

its

later

who

capered

wings widening, reeling and yawing from

cleared the bridge,

drowned the

water as out of nowhere an unseen kamikaze added

foe.

a twin-engined Betty,

and went spinning

all

to discrim-

Low

on the water,

difficult to see in

the

ship's

smoke them

at

something out of a nightmare. The Val's slashing

first

plunge across the deck had opened up steam lines

remaining guns chopped away at the plane, which

siren,

which now hooted

a crescendo of

pandemonium. One

to the ship's whistle

and shrieked sailor,

in

and

from the starboard and then from

aft.

The

whipped down on the Aaron Ward and shattered against

the

base

of

the

after

stack.

The bomb

a survivor of the sunken Little (not under-

detonated as the stack, fragments of the plane, a

Aaron Ward nor noting

searchlight tower, and guns lifted into the heavens

standing the plight of the

the fires aboard), pondered in his sanity of a ship that, in mid-battle,

own

misery the

would do nothing

but go around in circles whistling and hooting.

and showered death and dreadful pain onto the decks.

Horror had accumulated upon horror, but

it

was

THE DIVINE WIND

198

The Aaron Ward

after enduring a series oj

the final attack of the day.

Ward resembled aft,"

kamikaze

"The once trim Aaron from the bridge

a floating junk pile

Commander Arnold

wrote Lieutenant

Lott.

(navy DtFT., national archives)

attacks,

Okinawa). tained over

A

steady combat

Okinawa

these during the

was smashed and battered beyond recognition. Fires

opened Kikusui No.

raged on deck, in the

division

in

and

chief's quarters,

both clipping rooms, and in the after engine

room. The main deck was only inches above water, both firerooms flooded, after engine room flooded, after diesel engine

room, machine shop, shaft

crew's bunkrooms,

flooded.

all

wardroom, mess

littered the

alleys,

Dead and wounded

hall,

sick bay, fantail

at

of Marines

air

May

based on

fighters

patrol

times.

all

morning of

"Stacks, guns, searchlight tower, boats, everything

oflScer's

Army

or the Marine and

craft

was main-

During one of 1945 (which

10,

(Corsair)

a four-plane

6),

took

from

off

base

their

at

Led by Captain Kenneth L. Reusser, the four planes were flown by members of VMF-312; Reusser's wingman was a Navy and Kadena, Okinawa.

Marine

veteran,

Lieutenant

twenty-eight-year-old

Robert L. Klingman of Binger, Oklahoma.

The

Corsairs had climbed to about ten thousand

and passageways." But the Aaron Ward remained

feet to patrol over le Jima, just west of northern

afloat.

Okinawa, when

As to

rescue ships puUed alongside,

realize

a£9icted

it

an altitude

fifteen

thousand

feet

above them they detected the contrails of a twin-

that the

ordeal was over; but for the

engined Japanese plane. Throttling up their engines

was not

over.

timately Hsted as dead forty-nine were ribly.

at

a rehef

None

of

the testing of the

Forty-five

was

men were

ul-

(some were never found);

wounded, some the

it

survivors

fatally,

many

hor-

would ever forget

Aaron Ward during Kikusui No.

5.

the

four

intruder.

saki

Ki.

mission.

Corsairs

As

set

off

pursuit

in

of

the

they climbed, so did the Nick

lone

(Kawa-

45), apparently out on a photographic

At

thirty-two

thousand feet one of the

Corsairs had gone as high as

it

could go



the engine

Not all Japanese operations during the Kikusui mass attacks were suicidal. Conventional bombing

simply refused to

missions were attempted

same reason. Reusser and Klingman persisted, firing some of their ammunition to hghten the load. Fi-

sults,

as the

(generally with poor re-

bombers were stonned by

carrier air-

lift

it

higher.

higher and another Corsair

left

Four thousand

feet

the chase for the

WHISTLING DEATH

199 ler started

hacking away at the taU assembly,

bit-

ing pieces out of the rudder and nearly into the rear cockpit, in which the Japanese gunner furiously

pounded away flew it

on

—and

at his

own

frozen guns.

so did Klingman's Corsair.

around again and

The Nick

He

brought

time sheared away the

this

rudder completely and chewed away a piece of the right stabilizer. Still flying,

der,

turned, and

came

Klingman jammed rud-

in for

the third time.

His

buzz saw propeller went to work again on the Nick.

The

fluttered

stabilizer

and the Nick bucked fallen to fifteen

away

into

into a spin.

By

the

slipstream

the time

it

had

thousand feet the wings had snapped

from the fuselage, and the Nick plunged

into the

water below.

But Klingman had overstayed he could return to Kadena

— —

ammunition-less protection

his patrol.

Before

with Reusser providing his fuel

supply ran out.

Even so, he succeeded in bringing the Corsair into VMF-312's strip on Okinawa with a dead stick. Klingman jumped from the plane to inspect the damage and found that a generous portion of propeller tip

was missing; wing, engine, and fuselage

KUngman and the Corsair with which he chopped off the tail of a Japanese reconnaissance plane, (william beall/u. s. marine corps) Robert R.

nally, at thirty-eight

Nick's level.

opened up shot

thousand

The Marine

first

and with

up the Nick's

Nick continued on

they reached the

his

in.

Reusser

remaining ammunition

wing and engine. But the

left its

feet,

Corsairs closed

way, with the rear gunner

menacing the Corsairs but not

firing.

Klingman soon learned why

as he moved in to up where Reusser had been forced to leave off. Hoping to make certain his .50-calibers could finish

take

off the

Nick he throtded

to within fifty feet of the

Japanese plane. But when he pressed the gun switch he found that frozen.

upon

at

Incensed,

the high

his

guns had

ever

The Corsair was equipped with

sive thirteen-foot propeller

Pratt and

to

moved

closer

the Nick, determined to get the plane one

or the other.

his

altitude

Klingman

way

a mas-

and a rugged, powerful

Whitney eighteen-cylinder engine; since

guns had gone dead, Klingman was determined

employ some of

He

his plane's other assets.

charged the fleeing Nick and with his propel-

The Enterprise

loses

its

No.

1 elevator,

blown hundreds

of feet into the air after a suicide Zeke crashed into the carrier,

(navy dept., national archives)

THE DIVINE WIND

200

Carrier-based Corsairs leaving the Essex for a strike

upon Formosa. While

the fighting continued

on Oki-

nawa, carrier strikes upon Formosa as well as the

Japanese homeland were made to throw Japanese fighters off balance, (navy dept., national archives)

WHISTLING DEATH

201

were pocked and pieces of the Nick were found

the aircraft's characteristic sound, the result of the

lodged in the Corsair's capacious cowling.

rush of air through the vents on its bent wings, it was feared by the Japanese and called "Whistiing

Klingman's

No.

adventure

6; in the lull

harried

the

CAP

May

on

Kikusui

during

which followed sporadic kamikazes

During the

invaders.

14, the Enterprise,

early

One

lone, determined

150 miles

off the

Zeke broke through

the Hellcats and the heavy 20-mm., 40-mm., and five-inch

As

fire.

Zeke came

the

peared that he might overshoot,

moment

the pilot

—whose

Zeke onto

flipped the

its

in

close

ap-

it

but at the

name was Tomi

last

Zai

back and plunged inverted

through the forward elevator. The flame shot out of

It

was the

the air

feet into

and No.

final

men and

rest of the war.

injured sixty-eight, but he

nal but:

it

from

battle for

There was, however, the other,

the

eter-

Americans. Great numbers committed suicide in a frenzy of slaughter by throat gashing, holding hand

The

waned except

for rare, small flutters

up to

moment

of peace. Okinawa, eighty-two days "Love Day," was declared secure by Marine Major General Roy S. Geiger, an airman who had the

after

led

the fighting

ing

resisting

still

second

Army

in isolated areas, or flush-

remnants of the Japanese Thirty-

out of the

hills

and caves (often with

napalm bombs lobbed into cave entrances), the fighting on Okinawa was ended. The technique of these

mopping-up operations had been developed

Army Major

and rockets ing runs

men,

General James L. Bradley

of the 96th Infantry Division) as "su-

perior throughout,"

upon Japanese

positions directed by radio

operations was the Corsair, which earned the

name

from Marines of "Sweetheart of Okinawa." The

name was

in

cave

a

within

men were

hundred

a

dis-

of

feet

Japanese

who

Okinawa

on

died

about 12,000

killed; of these

least

80 per cent

about 4000 were Navy of these deaths

(there

was an equal number of wounded) could be

The toll was Okinawa only meant

tributed to the kamikazes.

not determinative.

Japan

fight for

be

in the

home

at-

high, but

the

that

would have

islands

to

horrific.

that the

failed in their defined mission; they in killing,

maiming, and destroying equipment. The

Japanese people were not aware of

though

the

with

stakes

kamikazes

succeeded only

general

issue

of

this failure, al-

sharpened

bamboo

which to meet the expected invader

should have inspired at least a glimmer of mis-

That and the

on

effects

LeMay's B-29

of

fire

city after city.

Following the Kikusui No.

(April

16),

Radio Tokyo informed the Japanese people

that:

3

raid

brought a scourge of napalm

to the dug-in Japanese. Likewise, straf-

from the ground cleared the way for the advance of American ground troops. Especially effective in such

Japanese

morning of June

the

taken prisoner). American losses too were high:

raids

by

On

style.

(about 10,000 were actually rounded up alive and

support operations between ground and

(commander

proper

110,000

the

giving.

called

in

advancing Marines. Their deaths added but 2 to

over more than eighty days of hard fighting. Closeair

cliffs.

commanders, Ushijima and Cho,

But those who knew realized

on Guadalcanal.

Except for skirmishes

island's top

men. At

did not alter the outcome.

After Kikusui No. 10, in late June, the kamikaze attacks

in the

banzai charges

flight

Zai had accomplished one of the few ef-

thirteen

many dying

in senseless

22, ceremoniously dressed, the two

kamikaze attacks of the war. His crash had

killed

of the

upon Marine and Army positions with no other ammunition but dirt to throw into the faces of the

emboweled

also eliminated the Enterprise

it

Most

five

deck of the Enterprise.

Tomi

days of the battle

in

Navy

for the U. S.

of the war.

battle

elevator

ripped skyward four hundred feet above the

fective

costliest

went out I

American arms;

Japanese fought to the death,

decks before detonating. The explosion shot flames

hundreds of

had been one of the bloodiest campaigns

the history of

grenades to heads, or leaping from

and the bomb continued through

deck

the

Death."

morning

Kyushu, was alerted to individual or small

island of attacks.

occurred

not so affectionate. Because of

393 American warships have been sunk or damaged by the divine wind attackers since March 23. This includes

21

carriers,

19

battleships,

16

battleships

or

large cruisers, 26 large-type warships, 55 cruisers,

and

53 destroyers. 217 ships, including 85 of cruiser

size

or larger, have definitely been sunk. 60 per cent of the Allied fleet in the

or damaged.

Okinawa area have

either been

sunk

THE DIVINE WIND

202

The

truth

was

that at that time, 14, not 217, ships

had been sunk. Throughout the campaign a

total of

Okinawa

entire

17 American ships (including

one baby flattop) were actually sunk; observers of the

kamikaze

flights

(those that returned) claimed

44. Claims were put forth for 99 ships actually

damaged;

198 American ships were damaged.

(It

might be noted that no British carrier was seriously

damaged during

Okinawa campaign, because

the

the armored flight decks.)

damage

the

To

sink those

of

17 and

198 ships kamikazes were dispatched

1809 times; of these 879 returned and 930 planes were expended. Nearly an equal number of were

suicide planes craft.

During the Okinawa

—and

anese aircraft

But Okinawa had within tion

Marines on Okinawa. As the fighting drew closer to Japan itself, it became more vicious than ever and required killing without mercy. This team flame thrower and B.A.R. rifleman stalks through the mist





to clear caves of fanatical Japanese.

(defense dept., marine corps)

on

Okinawa.

A

of dug-in Japanese. (davh)

all

types.

the tactics of

claims were

Okinawa

ships, although offi-

made for 81; 288 had been dammade for 195. These "triumphs"

aged, claims were

had been gained

at the cost of

1228

aircraft, a frac-

which carried two men.)

was during the Okinawa Kikusui missions

that

rocket-equipped

Corsair provides close support for Marines clearing the hills

8000 Jap-

of

the

had actually sunk 34 American

It

Death"

lost

had not worked. (All kamikaze operations be-

tion of

"Whistling

fallen

350 miles of

fighting nearly

—were and enemy was camped Japan— despera-

pilots

ginning with Leyte Gulf and ending at

cial

Army

sortied, besides conventional air-

Marine

duncan/marine corps)

on Okinawa under a Japanese night American antiaircraft fire laces the sky. (defense dept., marine corps)

airfield

attack; heavy

I

WHISTLING DEATH

203 American airmen of

the Twentieth Air Force in-

cinerated Japanese in the bers than the

falling

homeland

in vaster

num-

chrysanthemums could ever

May

achieve.

For a time, from mid- April

LeMay's

fire-spreading B-29s were diverted for the

to

11,

most part from airfields

their primary mission to attacks upon on Kyushu and Shikoku. The objective of

these diversions

was

to cripple the

kamikaze

effort

The remains of what had once been a Japanese airon Okinawa. Bulldozed away, they made room for U. S. Marine and Navy aircraft. (defense dept., u. s. marine corps) field

an

disenchantment

obvious

with

kamikaze

the

emerged. Rear Admiral Toshiyuki Yokoi, chief of staff of Fifth

Air Fleet during the Okinawa cam".

paign, noted that

.

.

toward the

last,

the

had good reason for doubting the

pilots

doomed

validity of

The diffiwhen men in

the cause in which they were told to die. culties

became

especially

apparent

aviation training were peremptorily ordered to the front

and to death.

"When attitude

it

came time

for their takeoff, the pilots'

ranged from the despair of sheep headed

for slaughter to

open expressions of contempt for Signal to close

their superior officers.

There were frequent and ob-

bomb bay

doors.

for a mission to Japan on

A

Guam.

B-29 being readied (u. s. air force)

vious cases of pilots returning from sorties claiming

any enemy ships, and one commanding officer's quarters

that they could not locate pilot

even strafed

when he took

And off?

to

his

off."

what purpose were they ordered to take

Like Nicolai Rostov in

War and

Peace, the

youthful Japanese pilots, sacrifices to the blindness

and vanity of

their elders, asked,

those severed arms and legs,

When no

why

"For what, then, those dead

men?"

reasonable answer was forthcoming, the

shrieking horror of the divine wind

became a whis-

per.

Even

young Japanese kamikaze pilots inyoung American seamen around Okinawa,

as the

cinerated

Long off in

rumble on massed attacks upon Japan,

lines of Superforts

the (u.

runway S.

to take

AIR force)

204

THE DIVINE WIND

WHISTLING DEATH

205

square miles out of the heart of the craft fire that night

perfortresses

Antiair-

city.

was intense and twenty-six Su-

and a hundred returned to the seriousness. But

fell

Marianas with damages of varied

when

they had returned one half of

Even portions

existed.

Emperor's

the

of

when

palace burned that night

Tokyo no longer sacred

the fires ran wild.

protect

how

you from our

Watch and

inevitable attack.

see

powerless they are to protect you.

We

give

military

the

to stop

nation.

clique

we know

plans because

notification

this

there

of our

nothing they can do

is

our overwhelming power and our iron determiwant you to see how powerless the military

We

to protect you. Systematic destruction of city after

is

you blindly follow your whose blunders have placed you on the very brink of oblivion. It is your responsibility to overthrow the military government now and save what is left of your beautifol country. city will continue as long as

military leaders,

Emperor took

The

this as

a sign to his people that

even he was not immune to attack and had no special

dispensation from the gods.

The Emperor wrongly assumed

the palace

that

had been deliberately bombed. But that was not the

the

had long been

for orders

intent,

in force to spare

Emperor. As Arnold had written to LeMay,

"the

Emperor

and may

of Japan

later

raged

palace

is

not at present a

become an

asset."

The

hours

fourteen

for

the

in

fire

was

it

the palace staff died in the

firemen who, because they

fire,

including twelve

had no orders

until

The Japanese took

we knocked

LeMay

towns,"

three

their only precaution

the warned cities with

later

the warning as typical

fire

was

to

instead of

engines,

massive concentrations of antiaircraft guns, as Le-

May

feared.

lined

up about a hundred

As

they "burned

do

to

first

wartime propaganda; fill

before

out of the

learned.

liability

Twenty-eight members of

brought under control.

"There wasn't any mass exodus hell

The

for the

up with everything

three

first

along the

streets,

else."

Aomori, and

Tsu,

cities,

which were

engines,

fire

feet apart

Ichi-

otherwise, remained at their post in the path of the

nomiya (actuaUy

flames and burned.

28), were, respectively, 57 per cent, 64 per cent,

incendiary missions were supplemented by

The

precision attacks, which included

bombings of

oil

These became the specialty of the 315th

targets.

Wing, commanded by Brigadier General Frank A.

and 75 per cent destroyed.

Toyama

bombing over Europe.

LeMay

smaller cities

after

the

middle of June. Between fifty

of these second-

ary industrial-population centers were

bombed

with

frequently devastating results. Several missions oc-

curred

were

practically

guns or

At

which

simultaneously,

fighter defenses,

Japanese cities

antiaircraft

time

LeMay

advance of B-29 the statement

took yet another chance: he

raids.

leaflets

On

was simple and

EVACUATE AT ONCE!"

August

1

the city of

all

but totally

was

it

The problem confronting lose

of

it

it.

his

how

to

the

Emperor by

as gracefully as possible, but

Standing between him and

military

leaders,

this

win the war, not even how

chiefly

his

General Korechika Anami, and

how

to

to get out

this solution

were

Minister of War,

Army

Chief of Staff

General Yoshijiro Umezu; the Imperial Navy's chief advocates of a fight to the finish were Admiral

Toyoda and Ohnishi. Nor was

the newly appointed

Premier, Admiral Kantaro Suzuki

(the cabinet of

Kuniaki Kioso had fallen a week after the invasion

fighter protection.

this

it

without

defenseless,

began dropping warning

face

confused

but most of the secondary

On

127,860) was

nothing but a dark patch of earth.

time was not

turned his incendiary attacks upon the

June 17 and August 14 some

(population:

eliminated out of existence; 99.5 per cent of

Armstrong, a veteran of early Eighth Air Force strategic

were struck on July

a total of six

it

upon

target cities in

the face of the leaflet direct:

warned.

of

Okinawa), of much

help, although he

was

se-

means of an honorable peace. Old,

lected to find a

nearly deaf, Suzuki rose

up

in

a meeting of the

"CIVILIANS!

Japanese Diet and cried out for a desperate

On

ditch fight. If he were to die in the service of his

the reverse

read:

Emperor, Suzuki said that he expected "the hundred million people of this glorious

These leaflets are being dropped to notify you that your city has been listed for destruction by our powerful air force. The bombing will occur within 72 hours. This advance notice will give your military authorities ample time to take necessary defensive measures to

last-

ward over

my

into a shield to perial land

Soon

Empire

to swell for-

body and form themselves protect the Emperor and this Im-

prostrate

from the invader!"

there

was an announcement of the formation

206

WHISTLING DEATH

207

The massive traffic

aerial concentration

on Saipan creates a

problem. James B. Lazar acts as

traffic

director

Truck belongs to 805th Aviation Engineer Battalion, (u. s. AIR force) while Thunderbolts take

A

off.

conventional daylight B-29 mission, rather than a fire bombing, struck at Tokuyama naval station

night

by no

than 400 B-29s. (u.

less

of the Japanese cabinet. less severe

Emperor, nor

But as released

leaders, the

the people

air force)

was even considered to the Japanese

to the

Potsdam Declaration was edited so would not see the more

tions. Suzuki's

Of

way

of

press by the military that

attractive sec-

blunder and the obtuse stupidity of

the miUtary faction sealed the fate of cities,

as

than they expected: there was no direct

threat to the life.

It

s.

two Japanese

Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

the

1767 men who made up the oddly

tured 509th Composite Group, only one,

struc-

comwas aware of what the mission of the group was to be. Consisting of a single combat squadron, the 393rd Bommander. Colonel Paul W. Tibbets,

Jr.,

its

While the special B-29 squadron trained, the other Marianas-based B-29s continued bombing Japan with

Mustang

escort.

The

escorts frequently, as in the last

days of the war in Germany, then went deck to strafe, (u. S. AIR FORCE)

down on

the

THE DIVINE WIND

208 bardment Squadron (VH), the 509th was a

own

sufficient unit with its

section,

own

its

engineering and ordnance

and even

transports,

Company.

tary Police

own

its

Mili-

Fifteen modified B-29s were

509th and

set aside for the

self-

men; aircrews

its

as well

as ground crews were given special training for a

One of the maneuvers learned was a steep diving turn of 158 degrees

very special mission.

by the

pilots

that enabled the plane to travel a distance of eight

(presumably from the point

miles

bomb)

son formation

bomber altitude

released

it

previously so critical

flying,

its

For some strange rea-

in forty-three seconds.

in

all

was not part of the program. Highbombing and long over-water flights, on the training,

other hand, were extremely important.

After

months of

several

intensive

Boy," the

"Little

training

the

bomb

carried to Hiroshima in

B-29 Enola Gay on August

single

(u.

509th Composite Group began moving into North July the

May

end of

Field, Tinian, at the

1945.

By

AIR force)

s.

early

complete group had settled into North

Field as part of, yet separate from, the 313th

On

bardment Wing. began

the

1945.

6,

flying

combat missions,

first

its

preparation for

its

Bom-

July 20 the 393rd Squadron as

part of

ultimate mission.

509th had been selected to drop a new

upon

bomb based

the principal of atomic fission (and originally

suggested to President Roosevelt by Dr. Albert Ein-

August 1939). Under the direction of Dr.

stein in

bomb was

no one on the base knew what that mission was except Tibbets and a few scientists. The standoffish demeanor of the men of the 509th, their seem-

J.

detonated

on

ing preferential treatment, their

July 16, 1945, during the Potsdam Conference.

On

Still

formations other

of

men on

oddly shaped

three

which,

aircraft

the

called a

were strange too: the

and there were no guns

excepting the twin .50s in the

While the other units

up Japanese

"pumpkin");

cities,

in the

its

aircraft indus-

appeared that the

it

509th was, in the folk idiom of the time, "goofing

Men

in the other units

began composing

satir-

about the mysterious 509th:

Where

they're going

we'll never

nobody knows;

know where

it

A is

from one who is

sure of the score.

winning the war.

second stanza repeated the taunting "The 509th

winning the war."

It

was

and

efficient

than the

first).

Ultimate decision lay

with President Truman.

When

appeared that Suzuki had rejected the

it

surrender ultimatum, using the word mokusatsu in his press release treat

(the

word implied

that he

would

when Truman

the ultimatum with "silent contempt,"

ordered the

bomb

to

be used.

He was

at the time trip

from

Boy," was

120

Potsdam.

The

true, of course, for the

bomb,

first

inches in is

including

the atomic

they've been.

Unless you want to get in Dutch;

But take

materials,

bomb. If the Japanese accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration the bomb would not be used (meanwhile a in

aboard ship in mid-Atlantic on the return

Don't ask about results or such

The 509th

Potsdam Declaration, July 26, the

Indianapolis delivered

he actually meant a simple "no comment"),

Into the air the secret rose,

But

the day of the

second and third were on the way, more powerful

tails.

Marianas were burn-

destroying

or mining the harbors,

bomb bay

in the turrets

bomb" was

"atomic

uranium-235, for use

their planes

off."

so-called

bomb which was

different

ical verses

first

actually per-

1943, and the

beginning in the spring of

cruiser

was

tries,

although

fected

Tinian did not know, dropped a single

and

ing

odd missions (small

R. Oppenheimer, such a

length

called

"Little

and 28 inches

weighed nine thousand pounds.

was equal

in Its

diameter and explosive yield

to about twenty thousand tons of con-

ventional high explosives. Its assembly, in a well-

guarded North Field

bomb

hut,

where temperature

WHISTLING DEATH

209

and humidity were carefully controlled, was completed the eral

Carl

of August.

first

A.

On

that

assumed

Spaatz

same date Gen-

command

of

the

Army Strategic Air Forces, Pacific, on Guam. LeMay became his chief of staff, while LieuUnited States

tenant General

Nathan

F.

Twining took over the

favorable, Hiroshima might have been spared and

one of the other

bombed.

cities

from

Hiroshima,

which,

Yamamoto

ironically,

had directed the Hawaii Operation, was the home

Army as well as several war induswas an important transport base, site of a

of the Second tries;

it

Twentieth Air Force; the Eighth Air Force, under

shipbuilding yard, electrical works, and a railroad

Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle, had begun

yard. Hiroshima had suffered very

moving into the Pacific by the middle of July; it would be based on Okinawa. In effect, these preparations were directed toward the mounting Olym-

age because

pic, the invasion of

Spaatz, like

bomb dam-

their

precautions.

Even

so,

it

is

unlikely that,

in

view of the type of bombardment they suffered,

Japan.

LeMay,

little

had been reserved as a target for the 509th Group. The populace had grown lax in it

believed that Japan could be

beaten into surrender without an invasion. This be-

came a critical point in the light of the fighting on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Once the President gave the word, Spaatz could use the atomic

bombs; the

it

would have made any difference had the Hiroshi-

mans sought shelter. They had grown accustomed

to seeing small for-

mations of B-29s passing over harmlessly on reconnaissance

flights.

The

three aircraft which

passed

could be dropped after

over Hiroshima on that fateful day were the Enola

when weather

Gay, carrying the single "Little Boy" and piloted by

bombing feasible. That day came on August 6, 1945. The city of Hiroshima was selected as the primary target. Other cities mentioned in the orders to Spaatz were Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki. Weather aircraft which had preceded the striking force (one bomb-laden

Colonel Tibbets; Great Artiste (pilot: Major Charles

word came

that the

August 3 on the

made

bomb

first

possible day

visual

plane plus two observation aircraft) radioed nearperfect weather over Hiroshima.

Had

it

not been

The Enola Gay, named for the mother of pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets, Jr., first aircraft to transport an atomic

W. Sweeney); and

aircraft

number 44-27291, flown

by Captain George W. Marquardt. The

latter

two

planes carried scientific and military observers, cameras,

and various measuring instruments.

At 8:15 A.M. (Hiroshima time) from an altitude of 31,600 feet, in perfect weather, the Enola Gay released the "Little Boy." Curious Japanese on their

weapon, IVith

to deliver the "flame that burns to the bone."

this delivery

war from the air took on a new, s. air force)

deadlier, meaning, (u.

THE DIVINE WIND

210

The Atomic Age

is

massive birth pains

born with a blast of power and eighty thousand dead.

—and

(u.

s.

AIR force)

human

way

to

work or

in their

of the lone object as residential, just

gardens watched the descent fell

it

into a heavily built-up

commercial, military, and industrial area

south of Second

Army

later told

Red

Marcel Junod of the International glaring

"a

Cross,

whitish

pinkish

in

the sky

everything in

its

and the gardens

in the center of

town were scorched by a wave of searing

Many were

the

heat.

killed instantly, others lay writhing

the ground screaming in

on

agony from the intolerable

pain of their burns. Everything standing upright in the

way

other

spun round the

air.

— —was

of the blast

buildings

in a

walls,

houses, factories and

annihilated

petrified in

Even Trees went up in

an

flames, the

rice plants lost their greenness, the grass

ground

the

A

like

burned on

dry straw."

was swept by powerful, unnatural "By evening the fire began to die down and then went out. There was nothing left to burn. Hiroviolent fire

shima had ceased to

As soon

and the

debris

tossed aside as

though they had neither weight nor solidity. Trains were flung off the rails as though they were toys. Horses, dogs and cattle suffered the same fate as

as

exist."

bombardier Major Thomas

W.

Fere-

bee had toggled "Little Boy," Tibbets gripped the

column,

control

turned

the

around, and pushed the nose fifty

seconds,

when

Enola

down

Gay

sharply

to gain speed.

the plane and the two ob-

servation B-29s were about fifteen miles from Hiro-

shima, a great flash illuminated the interiors of the planes and powerful shocks convulsed the Super-

After

fortresses.

upon the

gazing with

the disaster they

men

in

the

wonder and horror

had brought

three planes

to

Hiroshima,

returned to Tinian,

twelve hours and thirteen minutes after they had

taken

off.

The war

whirlwind and was carried up into

Trams were picked up and

was

tion did not escape.

In

path.

"Within a few seconds the thousands of people in the streets

living thing

the vegeta-

ap-

light

accompanied by an unnatural tremor which was followed almost immediately by a wave of suffocating heat and wind which swept peared

Every

winds.

headquarters.

"Suddenly," an eyewitness Japanese newspaper-

man

beings.

attitude of indescribable suffering.

at

of the twenty-first century had arrived

Hiroshima. Eighty per cent of

totally

destroyed.

According

its

to

buildings were official

figures

71,379 people were dead or missing, with an equal number injured. The death toll figure may be too

WHISTLING DEATH

211 the

war according

to

terms of the Potsdam

the

Declaration.

Consequently, while conventional bombing missions continued, another

bomb,

one using plu-

this

tonium, was assembled at Tinian. Sixty inches in

diameter and 128 inches long, the bulbous

was

Man." Three days

called "Fat

after

bomb

the de-

Man" was cranked into B-29 named Bockscar and

struction of Hiroshima, "Fat

the

bomb bay

of the

with Major Sweeney as pilot set out for Kokura.

(Sweeney's

own

plane, Great Artiste

was flown by

whom

he had

Bock accompanied the along with another aircraft, Major James

mission,

Captain Frederick

C.

Bock, with

switched planes.)

I.

Hop-

kins, pilot, as observers.

Unlike the Hiroshima mission, the second atomic

bombing mission did not proceed smoothly. Weather closed in and Sweeney lost contact in the heavy clouds with Hopkins' plane. Three

made upon Kokura without any get.

target,

Company

tells

A

its

drainpipe on the

own

story

of

Chugoku Power profane

the (u.

s.

runs were

This consumed fuel and appeared to be getting

nowhere. Bockscar was then Hiroshima, 1945.

bomb

sighting of the tar-

set for the

secondary

Nagasaki, with the decision that one run

would be made and the bomb dropped by radar

if

wind.

AIR force)

necessary.

Cloud covered Nagaski

also,

but at 10:58 a.m.

(Nagasaki time) bombardier Captain Kermit K. Bea-

han sighted the moderate



the

about 80,000 ties

number (still less

Tokyo

of the

fire

of dead

struction

reached

raids

and the Dresden attacks).

bomb.

Truman announced

had been caused by

that the de-

history's first atomic

bomb, the Japanese High Command had no idea

of

nature of the force that had been unleashed

the

Hiroshima.

at

cloud rent and in a flash

than the number of casual-

All this, however, by one single Until President

may have

city in a

Truman

again appealed to the Jap-

anese to surrender or "expect a rain of ruin from the

air,

the like of which has never been seen

on

this earth."

But no word, not even a mokusatsu, came from

Tokyo. Nor did any mention of an atomic appear

in

the

ceded that some type of new "parachute

had caused extensive devastation that

no

it

"should not be

light

bomb

Japanese press. The military con-

made

light

bomb"

Hiroshima and of." But there was at

shed on the situation by the High

mand, despite the Emperor's obvious

Com-

desires to

end

General Carl A. Spaatz (second from right) and staff Gay from Hiroshima.

await the return of the Enola

(U.

S.

AIR FORCE)

THE DIVINE WIND

212

Imperial Conference was called in which, at the

Emperor

last,

intervened, announcing to the stunned

assemblage that his decision was for an end to the war.

Word

of the decision

was relayed

to the Allies

through Switzerland and was accepted. This accept-

When the War

ance was not gracefully taken in Tolcyo.

Imperial Conference met again on August 14, Minister Anami,

Navy Chief

Army

of Staff

that "one last battle" to

Chief of Staff Umezu, and the

be fought

home

in the

preserve the national honor. But the

was firm and had decided rescript

Emperor

Toyoda begged

to record

which would be broadcast

islands

Emperor

an Imperial

to his people the

following day, August 15, 1945.

There would be peace. Operation Olympic could Nor would

be canceled; there would be no invasion. a third atomic

bomb, then being

on the next selected The bomb

target:

readied, be dropped

Tokyo.

on Nagasaki, "Fat Man." which

that fell

subtracted forty thousand people from the population of Japan, (u.

air force)

s.

On

—"a

light brighter

than a thousand suns"



thirty

"the 14th

Day

of the 8th

month

of the 20th

year of Showa" an unprecedented event occurred:

or forty thousand souls simply vanished from the face of the earth.

After



"it

taking

was

telephone

as

if

pole"

the the

shock waves from the blast B-29 were being beaten by a

—Sweeney

realized

that

the

fuel

expenditure had been high (plus the fact that six

hundred gallons were wasted

in

bomb bay

a

tank

because of malfunction). Instead of turning back for Tinian, he headed south for Okinawa, followed

by Bock. After refueling, the B-29s were flown back to Tinian; all three

Even

after

had returned

the second

die-hard fanatics

demanded

tinued to the very bitter end.

army

in the

home

safely.

atomic blast the Tokyo that the

They

islands, there

and 500

pilots in

had a large

were perhaps 10,000

aircraft of assorted types (including

trainers)

war be con-

still

wood and

kamikaze

training.

fabric

There

practically no Imperial Navy left, but there were hundreds of midget submarines, 120 kaiten (manned suicide torpedoes), about 2000 shiny

was

(motorboats loaded with explosives), and, of course,

bamboo

poles.

There were broadcast threats to the "peace tors" and "defeatists" over Radio Tokyo.

agita-

a fearful populace armed with their

Immediately following the Nagasaki bombing an

While the world waited for word from Tokyo and the bomb was being prepared to be dropped on that city, a vigil was kept. A Wildcat takes off on

third atomic



dawn patrol Japan may have been beaten but its samurai and kamikazes were unwilling to accept that. a

(u.

s.

navy)

WHISTLING DEATH for the

many

time in history the people of Japan heard

first

voice

the

213

of

Emperor. At the sound of

their

of the simple folk prostrated themselves before

sometimes

their radios, listening to the high-pitched,

choked voice with foreheads pressed

"To our good and

He

it

spoke

an

in

tc the

floor.

loyal subjects," Hirohito began.

royal

archaic,

was

that

dialect

"After pondering deeply the general trends of the

world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our

We

have decided to

ment of the present

situation

an

to

stilted,

and the auditors had

nervous,

delivery

by resorting

The language was

extraordinary measure." the

a settle-

effect

diffi-

culty in grasping the point of the words.

had

hito voiced a warning.

tried to seize the recording

broadcast

its

"Beware most



so Hiro-

strictly of

may engender

outbursts of emotion which

any

needless

complications, or any fraternal contention and strife

which may create confusion, lead ye astray and cause ye to lose the confidence of the world."

The Emperor

strange to most of his listeners.

Empire today.

the previous night

of the rescript and prevent

closed

the

rather than a royal order. jects,"

A wake

rescript

"We

with

ask you,

he said, "to be the incarnation of

plea

a

Our subOur will."

wave of national mourning followed

in

the

of the speech, but so did rebelliousness, with

cries of continuing the fight until the entire nation

Japanese was dead.

was destroyed and every

last

But only

would have dared ignore

a small minority

"We, the Emperor, have ordered the Imperial Government to notify the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China, and the Soviet<