Minneapolis was my first reunion and the first time I met any of Torpedo 4, except Leo, since I left the Navy. Leo stopped in Minneapolis in 1954 or 1955 and we had dinner together. The next time we met was early this year when he called from the airport. I guess he was just between flights, so we didn't have time to get together.
Leo told us about you book and reunion, so we felt pretty lucky to get in on them. I've often wondered just where I was in the Pacific and your book filled me in. Of course, I know we were at Luzon and hit Manila and French Indo-China, and I sure remember Japan, but the dates and the order of the strikes I didn't know. Your book brought it back into focus.
Reading the roster and trying to put faces to the names I remember is quite a chore.
It was really interesting to meet so many of the pilots. When I was in the squadron, I really only knew Wally Hardin's pilot, Hamrick. He used to come to our ready room and play poker with us. He supposedly was pretty lucky playing with you guys and he brought a lot of money for us. I might have sent a lot of your money home. (Maybe I should take this opportunity to thank the pilots of VT-4.) Of course, I knew Gray, but he usually kept his distance. As it turns out, you pilots are really nice people. Especially Cozy Cole, for being such a gracious and well-organized host. I told them that if it was me doing the thing, I'd get the schedule set up and beer in the tub and, after that, everyone would be on their own while I joined the party. He made us feel really welcome in Kansas City.
You said you would like input from squadron members. I think I might have something to add to the Cavite strike.
When Gray dropped his bombs, he would always pull out quite steeply. To take advantage of this, I was always in the tunnel on the run so I could use the tunnel gun when he pulled out. The angle at which he used to climb away from the target afforded excellent shooting with very little deflection. When we hit a ship, I would aim for the opening in the anti-aircraft gun emplacements, hoping for ricochet if I didn't get any direct hits. At other targets, I looked for almost anything that moved.
On the Cavite run, I was in the tunnel as usual. Looking out, I could see the wakes of 4 torpedoes, 2 on each side, angling in toward the target. Presuming ours hit also, that would be 5. Then, as we passed over the drydock, I looked back and saw the torpedoes hit it. The drydock came up in the middle and looked as if it had broken in two. I had the feeling the center had come completely out of the water, then we were climbing and I was shooting and I saw no more of it. I don't know how this corresponds with other reports, but that is how I saw it.
I remember a couple of other incidents. One was when I pulled the tunnel gun to clean it after a strike. I found 2 bullet holes, one on either side of the gun, in the bottom of the plane. They were in a position where I should have heard them go by my ears since the only time we were in a position to get hit was when I was on the gun.
The other time probably had some interest for Gray, too. We were landing and took a deck wave-off and went back upstairs for the deck to be cleared. While we waited for clearance, Gray switched to the emptiest tank to save the fullest tank for landing. When we finally got clearance, he went over his check-off list again. When he got to fuel, he thought, "I've already checked that." You guessed it: we were right in the groove when the engine quit! I looked out both sides and saw nothing but boiling water. Then the engine caught again and we continued in and made a good landing. Gray told me later that he just switched tanks without having time to turn on the booster pump.
Since those 2 incidents, I feel I'm living on borrowed time. It took the luck of the Irish to get me this far!