21. US Landings on Luzon

"Halsey's Third Fleet attacks airfields and shipping."

Torpedo Four had a one-day break from strike assignments on January 8, while the Essex was refueling and receiving replacement aircraft. We brought aboard two new torpedo pilots and two air crewmen for VT-4 and several Marine and fighter replacements.

I wrote home to Walter, "Say Bud, isn't it just about time you turned out one of those typing masterpieces? Golly, all the fellows are wondering what happened to you--Has Ranger bucked you off again?"

January 9, 1945, was D-Day for the US Invasion of Luzon. Task Force 38, Halsey's Third Fleet, supported the invasion with air attacks on Formosa and Luzon. Admiral Kincaid's Seventh Fleet, with some 600 vessels of which 18 were Escort Carriers (CVEs), was more directly involved in close Naval coverage for the troop landings.

"Some sixty-eight thousand Americans began clambering ashore on the vulnerable Lingayen beaches in what became the largest United States land campaign of the Pacific War. More American forces were engaged on Luzon than in either Africa or Italy." (1)

During the invasion, the Japanese flew many kamikaze one-way missions against the landing fleet, sinking one escort carrier, the Ommanney Bay, and damaging several other ships of the Third Fleet.

Einansho--January 9, 1945

The first strike assignment for the Essex Air Group on "D-Day - Luzon" was launched at 0715. There were 15 Avengers and 9 Hellcats scheduled with the charge. (2)

"…to destroy air facilities at enemy fields in west central Formosa. Because of the thick overcast extending from 700 feet to 8000 feet this flight was unable to locate fields in the assigned area and therefore attacked a more southerly location, Tainan (EINANSHO) airfield. This target was covered with three cloud layers; bases at 12,000 feet; 7000 feet and 4000 feet respectively…."

The Torpedo Squadron Four tactical organization consisted of: (2)

Pilot Crew
Davis, P. J., Jr. Gray, R. F.
Vogt, C. N. W. (Scott) Kelly, R. E.
Barnett, G. M. (Buck) Christopher, C
Walker, W. F. (Willie) Zeimer, G. F.
Stephens, Page P. (*) Mocsary, Andy (Marge)
Landre, Vernon A. (**) Statler, Charlie C.
Thomas, Gerald W. (Jerry) (***) Holloman, J. E.
Montague, R. B.
Hopfinger, R. M. Yarman, A. W.
Hamrick, Lee L. (Ham) Trembley, R. A.
Henry, Don A. Shirley, E. A.
Ward, Jr., Felix E. Applegate, Don M.
Hewett, J. E. Shuman, L. P.
Binder, Ed S. Jenkins, W. D.
Deimel, H. J. Ely, C. L., Jr.
Ruth, Robert F. (Bob) McConnell, C. L.

The 13 Avengers that got off the deck rendezvoused without incident and proceeded to the target area with the Hellcats as escort. (2)

"Though the assigned mission was to crater the landing ground at Kagi airfield on Formosa, the only break in the overcast was in the vicinity of Tainan and the flight chose Einansho (Tainan) airfield as the alternate target."
"VT attacked Einansho airfield from northeast to southwest pushing over from 8000 feet just below a solid overcast and conducted a glide-bombing attack through the undercast at 1500 feet. Glides varied from 30 to 45 degrees and average speed acquired in glide was 310 knots indicated. One VT pilot failed to drop and was instructed not to return singly and make a run on the field because of the intensity and accuracy of the antiaircraft fire; his bombs were jettisoned over water."
"Anti-aircraft fire came not only from the air field but from the countryside all along the flight path on approach to and retirement from target and from a DD at Tainan."

Seven of the Hellcats that escorted the Avengers to Einansho swung south over the Formosa East Coast. Outside Takao harbor, they spotted a large concentration of Japanese shipping. (2)

"Attacking through a barrage of heavy and medium AA from the destroyers, the VF strafed both warships as well as the tanker. Results were not fully observed."

A separate strike group of 11 Marine Corsairs was also dispatched to South central Formosa.

No airborne opposition was encountered but the flight strafed 18 - 20 aircraft on the ground at Kaputsua airfield. By this time the Marines had agreed to carry 500-pound bombs on their F4Us. These were dropped through the overcast over Tochein Harbor, resulting in at least one fire. (3) For the first time, all Corsairs returned to the Essex.

Toyohara Airfield--January 9, 1945

The second major strike of the day for the Essex air group was launched at 1241 hours. This strike force consisted of 12 F6Fs and 12 TBMs, but only 9 TBMs made the target. The weather was still bad and the assigned target, Kagi airfield, Formosa, was covered with clouds. (2)

"The group turned north, seeking better weather and a feasible target. When in the vicinity of Toyohara A/F the weather opened up and presented excellent opportunities for attack…."

The Torpedo Squadron Four tactical organization consisted of: (2)

Pilot Crew
Davis, P. J., Jr. Schmolke, N. J.
Makibbin, G. D. (Mak) Campbell, R.
Montague, R. B.
Cannady, W. H., Jr. Gerke, J. C.
Stephens, Page P. Mocsary, Andy (Marge)
Trexler, B. R. (Trex) (****) Barr, C. W.
Bell, G. M. Pittman, R. R.
Souza, Will S. (*****) Sims, T. R.
Gray, L. C. Green, H. R.
Newell, E. A. (Ted) (******) Venderville, D. E.
Hopkins, W. J., Jr. Coller, Stan W.
Thomas, Gerald W. (Jerry) Holloman, J. E.
Cole, L. A. (Cozy) Shiverdecker, N. L.

Our Skipper, P. J. Davis, led the nine Avengers that were able to rendezvous after the launch. Due to the overcast we were forced to join up at a low level, and then climb as a formation through the soup. We had to reach about 17,000 feet, on oxygen, to clear the Formosa mountains and the thick cloud layer. Kagi airfield was ruled out by the Air Group Commander. (2)

"Through a break in the undercast, Toyohara was spotted and VT attacked the airfield from southeast to northwest pushing over from 10,000 feet. VT employed glides varying from 35 to 45 degrees and acquired an average speed of 290 knots in glide."
"…the cratering was as effective as could be expected. One of the 500-pound GP bombs dropped by Ensign Bell struck a single-engine aircraft parked on the landing area and demolished it. Stray bombs fired unidentified buildings in the hangar-barracks area immediately west of the landing area."
"VT rendezvoused just west of Toyohara Satellite airstrip and proceeded toward base. Over the mountains VT became separated in the clouds and returned to base in scattered groups but without incident. From the eastern side of Formosa to the task force, the clouds were solid from 8000 feet down to 500 feet, with general rain squalls throughout the area."

I was not alone in expressing relief when the Carrier came into view. We were darned glad to get back to the Carrier without any losses, although three Torpedo Four Avengers had been hit with antiaircraft fire. We were fortunate that our Avengers seldom caught fire, could absorb AA damage, and still fly back to base.

Cozy Cole was flying one of the TBMs that got hit. Ack Ack knocked the glass out of the canopy cover. His crewman, Shiverdecker stated: (4)

"Mr. Cole ordered me to jump. I saw all those trees and canyons down below, so I delayed the bail out. Thank God, Mr. Cole didn't leave the plane. Our radio went out, so some fighters picked us up and escorted us back to the carrier. We ran out of gas taxiing to the elevator."

The weather on Formosa had certainly not been cooperative. But then, while it restricted the effectiveness of our attacks, it also limited the ability of the Japanese airmen to support the Luzon landings. We had only one report of encounters with enemy airborne aircraft by VF-4 on January 9. (5)

"Burnett and Zdancewicz, on a search to the north, surprised a Val by itself, and quickly set it afire. Hecklers tried to convince them it was a Jap cadet on his first flight."

Photo: Painting by Doug Cahoon - VF-4 Pilot Missing in Action.

Photo: SB2C "Helldivers."

(1) Sulzberger, C. L. 1966. The American Heritage Picture History of World War II. Crown Publishers.
(2) Combat Reports, VF-4 and VT-4. U.S. Navy Operational Archives, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.
(3) War Diary, VMF 124 and VMF 213. U.S. Navy Operational Archives, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.
(4) Taped Interview with Noel Shiverdecker, VT-4 Crewman.
(5) VF-4, The Red Rippers. A History of Fighting Four assembled by members of the Squadron in 1945. U.S. Navy.
(*) Downed: no hydraulic pressure.
(**) Downed: gasoline leak.
(***) Loaded with four 500-pound GP bombs.
(****) Downed: empennage chewed up in spot.
(*****) Downed: engine cutting out on right magneto.
(******) Returned to base.

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Torpedo Squadron Four: A Cockpit View of World War II
Copyright © 1990-2000 by Gerald W. Thomas