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


Squadron 4:
A Cockpit
View of
World War II

(First Edition)

Squadron 4:
The Red



Air Group 4 - Casablanca to Tokyo

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

Life and Death Aboard the USS Essex
by Richard W. Streb

Book Review by Gerald W. Thomas, VT-4

Life and Death Aboard the USS EssexDr Richard Streb, a former professor at Columbia University, has written a unique and penetrating account of life and death aboard the USS Essex during World War II. In addition to relating his experiences as a radar operator on the Essex, Streb has conducted extensive interviews with shipmates, and carefully researched the background of persons and events.

Of special interest to those of us who served on the Essex is Streb´s research on the Kamikaze attack on November 25, 1944. This provides a good addition to the chapter entitled "Essex Takes a Kamikaze" in my Torpedo Squadron Four: A Cockpit View of World War II.

Kamikaze Dives at Essex

Yoshinori Yamaguchi´s plane dives toward the USS Essex.

There were 17 men who lost their lives in the attack--one was the Japanese pilot and 16 were Essex crewmen. Streb has made a sincere effort to track down the families and the background of all of these individuals--a formidable task.

The Kamikaze pilot´s name was Yoshinori Yamaguchi from the Yoshino Special Attack Corps stationed at Malabacat Field in the Philippines. He was flying a "Judy," number 17. Streb states, "The plane was not carrying a bomb. Is it possible that Yamaguchi was not scheduled to crash dive on that flight or on that day? Was it an excess of zeal or patriotism that set his crash course? Did he see all the planes loaded with ammunition and bombs ready for takeoff and realize that it was the perfect target?"

Kamikaze - Yoshinori Yamaguchi

Yoshinori Yamaguchi´s plane seconds before its impact on Essex. Note tail number 17.

Kamikaze Strikes USS Essex

Yamaguchi´s plane strikes the Essex.

USS Essex Flight Deck Damage

Damage to the flight deck of the Essex after Yamaguchi´s attack.

USS Essex - Burial at Sea

Burial at sea after Yamaguchi´s attack.

Sixteen men on the ship were killed and 44 were seriously wounded. Streb states, "What makes the Essex tragedy different was the fact that eight of the men were Black and eight were White." Streb was able to trace 13 of the 16 who lost their lives. His account of these men is a fascinating and valuable addition to WWII history.

One chapter deals with the military history of navy policy towards Blacks from 1893 through World War II. Blacks had different pay scales and were restricted to messman/stewards mate work.

"The biographies of the men killed, White and Black, comes close to representing a cross section of America in 1941. Eight were from rural areas, four from small towns and four from urban areas."

Life and Death Aboard the USS Essex is published by Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222.

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