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Torpedo Squadron Four - A Cockpit View of World War II - Revised, Updated Edition, 2011

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Air Group 4 - Casablanca to Tokyo

Dedicated to those who
served in VT-4, VB-4, VF-4,
VMF-124 and VMF-213

GQ Jitters - Daily Journal of a VT-4 Crewman

Charlie C. Statler, ACMM, VT-4

Given below are entries from Charlie C. Statler's journal of VT-4's tour of duty in the Pacific. Charlie records the basic events with no elaboration, providing a dramatic summary of squadron and ship activities between November 11, 1944 and March 3, 1945. The title is suggested by a note in Charlie's journal by Chuck Warrington, referring to the many soundings of General Quarters that he records. The GQ entries illustrate the concern, unease, and excitement as bogies appeared over the fleet. Charlie Statler survived the war, kept in contact with his Torpedo 4 buddies, and passed away last year. -- Gerald W. Thomas

Aboard the USS Bunker Hill

1944
Nov 11
-- Hit convoy in Ormoc Bay. We sank 2 DDs, 2 Aks, 1 AO (1). Several others damaged.

Japanese Ships Sunk - Ormoc Bay

Japanese ships burning following strike by VT-4 Avengers of USS Essex. Ormoc Bay, Luzon, Philippines. November 11, 1945.

Nov 13 -- Manila Bay. Hit enemy shipping. Sank several. At least 40 or more ships were sunk by our whole Task Force. Heavy AA.

Japanese Ships Sunk - Manilla Harbor

Japanese transport ships sunk by planes of USS Essex. Manilla Harbor, Philippines. November 13, 1945.

Nov 14 -- Sank 2 DDs or CLs (2), 3 freighters, and damaged several others. Heavy AA.

Aboard the USS Essex

Nov 22 -- Came aboard the USS Essex..

USS Essex - 1945

USS Essex, January, 1945.

Nov 25 -- Santa Cruz and San Fernando. We sank 1 DD or DE (3), damaged others. All 7 ships in this convoy were sunk by our Task Group. Our ship was hit by a Japanese suicide plane. Did not halt operations. (For full details on this Kamikaze attack, which killed 16 Essex crewmen, see Suicide Tactics: The Kamikaze During WWII.)

Luzon Strike - USS Essex

USS Essex planes being prepared for launching for stike on Luzon. Note Air Group 4 insignia on tail of plane. November 25, 1944.

Luzon Strike - USS Essex

VT-4 Avenger drops a torpedo on a Japanese transport in San Fernando Harbor, Luzon, Philippines. November 25, 1944.

Dec 16 -- Lingayen Air Strip. New planes—TBM3s.

Note: No records appear in Statler's journal of the famous "Halsey Typhoon" of Dec 17-19, 1944. (See Typhoon: The Other Enemy.

Nor does Statler mention the replacing of Air Group 4īs Bombing Squadron VB-4 with two Marine Squadrons. (See War Diary of Two Marine Squadrons -- VMF-124 and VMF-213 Aboard the USS Essex.)

Lt(jg) Rober F. Ruth, VT-4

Lt(jg) Robert F. Ruth, VT-4, makes 17,000th landing on USS Essex. December 21, 1944.

1945
Jan 3
-- Formosa. First strike at 0530. Bad weather. Not very good results. Second strike at 0700. Bad weather still. Not very good results. Attacked by 3 Nick fighters (4). Shot one down with Ack Ack.

VT-4 Avenger over Formosa

VT-4 Avenger over the mountains of Formosa, January 3, 1945.

Jan 4 -- Strike on Formosa again. 0530 strike cancelled. 1700: Ten TBMs took off. Still bad weather. Not very good results. At 1200 several Japanese planes all around us. No direct attack.

Jan 5 -- Retired from target area to refuel. Beautiful weather. Made preparation for tomorrow's operation.

USS Essex Refueling - 1945

USS Essex being refueled by USS Tallulah.

Jan 6 -- Strike Luzon Northern end. Bad weather again. Cold and rainy. First strike took off at 1045. Hit shipping. Set 10 ships afire.

Jan 7 -- 14 planes took off at approx 0700. Bombed Appari airfield. Second strike launched at 1300. Bombed Clark Field area. Set several big fires.

Appari Airfield Luzon Under Attack - VT-4

Appari Airfield, Luzon, Philippines, under attack by Avengers of VT-4. January 7, 1945.

Jan 8 -- Retired. Spend the day refueling. Four new men joined us today. 2 new pilots.

Jan 9 -- D-Day for Luzon. Lingayen Gulf. Again bad weather. First strike at 0700. 13 planes. We hit an airfield on Formosa. AA heaviest I have seen so far. 2 planes damaged. All returned safe. Heading for French Indo-China tonight. Big raids coming up.

Jan 10 -- Moved into China Sea. No strikes. Fighter searches. Weather still bad.

Jan 11 -- Approximately 240 miles from Lingayen Gulf. Met tankers to refuel. First good weather for several days.

Jan 12 -- Saigon. Sent strike against French Indo-China at 0800. They sank one AO, one DD, 4 freighters. Damaged several more. Second strike took off at 1300. They sank one light AK, one AKT (5), one AO, and damaged others. 25 ships sunk, 13 severely damaged. One plane still missing, Lt.(jg) Henry and ARM3c Shirley. Returned tonight to refuel. (See Saigon Takes Its Toll: A Follow Up for more information on the loss of Henry and Shirley.)

USS Essex strike on Saigon

 Shore installations along the Saigon River, French IndoChina, burn following strike by USS Essex planes - January 12, 1945.

USS Essex strike on Saigon

VT-4 Avengers return to USS Essex from strike on Saigon - January 12, 1945.

Jan 13 -- Bad weather. Small typhoon. Tried to refuel but had little success. No flying.

Jan 14 -- Sea still pretty rough. Try to refuel again. Strikes tomorrow weather permitting.

Jan 15 -- Strikes against Formosa, Hong Kong, and China Coast. First strike at 0900

Cdr George Otto Klinsmann

Cdr George Otto Klinsmann

for Formosa. Due to bad weather bombing results were very poor. Hits were unobserved. Afternoon strikes cancelled. GQ was over at 1700. Four enemy planes (3 Bettys and one Zeke (6)) were approaching at about 9 miles. The Zeke was splashed. The others turned back. GQ was over at 1930. Moving toward Hainan tonight. Heavy AA again over Formosa. Cmdr Klinsmann went down near group. Was not picked up. (See Chapter 24, Air Group Commander Lost: Pescadores, of Torpedo Squadron Four: A Cockpit View of World War II for more information on the loss of Cmdr George O. Klinsmann.)

Jan 16 -- We took off at approx 0830 on first strike this morning against Yulin on Hainan Island. On way back to Group, 3 of our TBMs were forced to land in the water due to gas shortage. The crews have all been picked up by our DDs. Lt (jg) Thomas, Lt (jg) Binder, Ens Walker, Gress, Biddle, Zeimer, and Montague. Strike was negative due to bad weather. Still cold, rainy, and cloudy. (See Chapter 25, In The Drink, of Torpedo Squadron Four: A Cockpit View of World War II.)

Jan 17 -- Retired last night about 240 miles West of Lingayen Gulf. Spent all night trying to refuel but had little success due to bad weather. The sea is very rough. All our men who were picked up by DDs yesterday were brought back aboard today. They were all feeling swell? New plane replacements were brought aboard today. Heard we were going home in 6 weeks. Don't believe it!

Jan 18 -- We went through a typhoon last night. Weather still very bad. Tried to refuel. No success. We should get back in the Pacific in a few days. Sure will be glad to see the sun again.

Plane Handlers Secure F6F - USS Essex

Plane handlers securing F6F Hellcat on USS Essex during storm. Note Air Group 4 insignia on tail.

Jan 19 -- Beautiful weather. Finished refueling. Heading up to Northern Luzon.

Jan 20 -- We started through the Channel this morning. Japanese snoopers were reported several times during the morning and early afternoon. About 1715 the ship went GQ. There were approx 15 Japanese that tried to attack us. We shout down 11 of them without suffering any damage ourselves. They were Nicks, Nells, Lilys, Bettys, and Helens (7). All twin engine planes. They got close several times but the ship's gunfire chased them back. Sure did have us worried for a while. GQ was over at 2030. At 0200 Condition One (8) was sounded. There were two snoopers at 30 miles. They faded shortly. Back in the Pacific again.

Jan 21 -- Strikes on Formosa. Our first strike took off at 0700. 12 planes. They hit 5 ships. Extent of damage unknown. At 1200 the ship went GQ. Two planes closed on our formation. One bomb and one Banzi Boy (9) hit the Ticonderoga. Both of these planes were shot down. About an hour later two more planes tried to get in. One was shot down and the other crashed on the flight deck of the Ticonderoga. Several men were killed and injured on the Ti. The Ti was pretty badly damaged, but should be in operation tomorrow. The Langley was hit with a dud. Not very much damage. One of our DDs was attacked but do not know about its damage. This was a major enemy attack. Several planes were shot down by our fighters before they could reach us. The afternoon strike took off at 1330. We hit shipping near Takao on Formosa. Damage unknown. Very heavy AA (white, purple, yellow, blue and black), worst yet. Two of our planes were damaged. GQ was over at 1630. Condition One was sounded at 1800. One bogey reported at 30 miles. He did not come in. Condition Three (10) again at 2000. Ti retired.

Jan 22 -- Amami Gunto. First strike took off at 0700. Hit airstrip, strafed area. Ens Bissell and ARM3c Moore crashed near island. Hit by enemy AA. Condition One1400-1530. Two bogies reported. Did not come in. All planes returned safely from afternoon flight.

Jan 23 -- Beautiful weather. Refueled.

Jan 24 -- Nice out. On our way into port (Ulithi) for a few days.

Robert E. McMurray, VF-4 - USS Essex

Robert E. (Mac) McMurray, VF-4, makes the 19,000th landing on the USS Essex. January 26, 1945.

Feb 10 -- Underway again with awful large force. Heading for big things.

Feb 11 -- CAP and ASP (11). 8-plane group.

Feb 12 -- CAP and ASP. 5-plane group.

Feb 13 -- Refuel today. CAP only.

Feb 14 -- Continue refueling. Rainy and colder. Heading for Tokyo.

Feb 15 -- Weather very bad. Cold and rainy. Two Bettys and a Japanese DD destroyed near our force.

Feb 16 -- Fighter strikes against airfields near Tokyo. Several planes destroyed in morning operations. 13 TBMs took off at 1400. We hit an airfield near Tokyo. I saw airborne enemy planes today for the first time. 3 Zekes over the target. Awful cold. Temperature on the ground 23 degrees. "Dusty" Rhodes went down today. 245 planes shot down and 160 destroyed on ground by whole Task Force. Our losses 32 planes.

VT-4 Avenger Takes Off for Tokyo Strike

VT-4 Avenger being launched from USS Essex for strike against Tokyo, Japan. February 16, 1945.

Feb 17 -- 13 TBMs took off at 0900 and bombed Nakijami Tama Engine Works. Had 15 hits. Badly damaged plant. Our fighters show down 8 enemy fighters and 3 probables. Very bad flying weather. Cold and rainy. We retired at 1400 today due to bad weather.

Feb 18 -- Refueled DDs. Still cold and rainy.

Feb 19 -- "D-Day—Iwo Jima." We sent out fighter sweeps to strafe beaches ahead of landings. No other strikes. Weather nice, still cold. Tonight at 1920 the ship went GQ. 9 enemy planes were approaching at 14 to 20 miles. Two were shot down. Others retired. GQ over at 2050.

Iwo Jima Landing - Dog Day

Landing craft streaming toward Iwo Jima beach. February 19, 1945.

Feb 20 -- Nice this morning. Refuel ship. Take on ammo.

Feb 21 -- Cold and cloudy again. Fighters made sweeps against Iwo Jima. Our planes flew anti-sub patrol. Very cold tonight. GQ sounded at 1920. We were attacked by 3 or more enemy planes. None came in closer than 6 miles. GQ was over at 2050. Saratoga was hit by 5 Banzi Boys.

Lt Paul J. Davis, VT-4

Lt. Paul J. (PJ) Davis, Jr., Commander VT-4, makes the 20,000th landing on the USS Essex. February 21, 1945.

Feb 22 -- Cool and cloudy, very heavy rain. 11 VT (12) were launched at 1230 to hit Iwo Jima. Failed to hit target due to very bad visibility. All planes returned at 1500.

Feb 23 -- Approx 800 miles from Tokyo. Very windy. Spent day refueling. Heading toward Tokyo again tonight.

Feb 24 -- A little cool. Awful windy. We are about 570 miles from Tokyo. Strikes tomorrow.

Feb 25 -- Fighter sweep took off at 0630. 15 VT took off at 0830. Target Nakijimi Engine Works in Tokyo. Encountered 3 or 4 enemy planes. Our fighters shot down 2 of them. We destroyed the plant. Our fighters destroyed 33 enemy fighters. We lost one F4U. Weather very bad. Low overcast.

Feb 26 -- We retired last night due to very bad weather. Heading Southwest.

Feb 27 -- Refueling. Replaced planes.

Feb 28 -- Refueled DDs. Heading toward Okinawa.

Mar 1 -- Weather nice. Strikes against Okinawa. 15 VT and 32 VF (13) hit Naha in morning. 15 VT and 32 VF took off at 1315 to hit Naha. One plane blew up over target. Lt (jg) Vogt and AMM2c Kelly missing. All other VTs returned safely. (Douglas R. Cahoon, VF-4, was also lost on this strike. See The Lost Pilot/Artist.)

Mar 2 -- Heading toward port (Ulithi). Target practice.

Mar 3 -- Refuel. Target practice.

USS Essex Battle Record

Unidentified crewman updates the USS Essex battle record, posted on the bulkhead of the shipīs island. March 16, 1945.

End of Statler's Journal

Footnotes

(1) DD (Destroyer), AK (Cargo Ship), and AO (Oiler).
(2) CL (Light Cruiser).
(3) DE (Destroyer Escort)
(4) Nick (Kawasaki KI45 Army Fighter)
(5) AKT (Cargo Transport)
(6) Betty (Mitsubishi G4M Navy Bomber), Zeke (Mitsubishi A6M Navy Fighter)
(7) Nell (Mitsubishi G3M Navy Bomber), Lily (Kawasaki KI48 Army Bomber), Betty (Mitsubishi G4M Navy Bomber), and Helen (Nakajima KI49 Army Bomber)
(8) Conditon One (Battle Stations)
(9) Kamikaze
(10) Condition Three (Secure Battle Stations)
(11) CAP (Combat Air Patrol), ASP (Anti-Sub Patrol)
(12) TBMs
(13) F6Fs


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