This is What They Did

November 11, 1944
Ormoc Bay

[Although not stated in the book for security reasons, Fighting 4 is aboard the USS Bunker Hill at this time.]

Our first strike day was greeted with unanimous enthusiasm and there was general clamoring for the privilege of accompanying the attack groups. Those people who were assigned to such routine tasks as CAP (1) were much disgruntled, but sill hoped for some strike action.

The carrier launched two strikes against shipping in Ormoc Bay, Leyte, Philippines The first strike group of bombers and torpedo planes, accompanied by VF, proceeded on mission just behind groups from other carriers in our disposition, and arrived at the target with no opposition encountered. The enemy shipping, consisting of 4 APs, 5DDs, and one DE (2), was sighted in the strait between Leyte Island and Ponson Island entering Ormoc Bay. The other groups attacked first, and exploded and burned the APs, so Air Group Four was assigned the DDs and DE.

The fighters strafed and dropped bombs, causing fires and damage to ships attacked, and after VB (3) completed runs and the group rendezvoused, all ships were observed to be burning or dead in the water, with the exception of one DD.

When the second strike group arrived, the same condition existed. As enemy fighters were now in evidence, the VF (4) stayed up for cover, and in this position were attacked by seven Oscars (5), with altitude advantage. Graham and Peabody each damaged an Oscar in this encounter, and Peabody was hit in the port wing, but neither side scored a kill.

No other air opposition was encountered by any of our planes, and we were disappointed not to have initiated a large score of Japanese for our record.

November 13, 1944
Manila and Clark Field Area, Philippines

On this busy day the Air Group was assigned targets in the Manila Bay area for strike groups, and the Clark Field area for sweeps. Fighters flying CAP had no luck, but the ones on the attack missions bagged five Tojos (6), with two damaged and one probable. Houston’s division shot down two Lilys (7).

The Captain’s sweep intercepted five Tojos near Clark, of which Harris downed one and Gordon another. The other three planes were engaged and at least one of them was damaged by Avants. During the strafing attacks by this group, they burned five twin-engined aircraft and smoked another, while two single-engined aircraft were burned. Ensign S. R. Tanner failed to rendezvous with the others after the last strafing run by his division, and it is believed he either crashed or was forced to land because of damage from AA fire. (January 25--received word he was safe.)

On Boykin’s sweep, more Tojos were encountered in the same area as above, and, surprising them from above, Hendricks and Peabody each shot down one, while Marn and Blackwell damaged one apiece. Garrigan became separated during this action, and with two F6Fs from VF-20, chased another Tojo for about fifteen minutes, at which time he finally fired a burst that set it in flames.

Accompanying the bombers to the Manila area, our planes strafed and bombed AKs (8) in the harbor, and Gard was credited with a direct hit on one. In the course of one of these flights, Martin pulled off a considerable portion of his tail in a dive, and, consequently, experienced a little difficulty in landing aboard.

The only blot on a successful day’s work was Tanner’s absence, but we had hopes he was still alive.

November 14, 1944
Manila Bay and Clark Field Areas

On this date, our ship launched three sweeps and one strike against the Luzon area, with targets to be chosen on arrival. The strike and one sweep attacked ships in Manila Harbor, and the other sweeps strafed and bombed Clark Field and nearby areas.

The skipper’s first sweep joined a group of VF-20 fighters and proceeded to Clark. They bombed and hit the one remaining intact hangar and two other buildings, and strafed planes in revetments. They were credited with the destruction of the above buildings, but the parked planes which they strafed would not burn and thus could be reported as only damaged.

On his second sweep, Mr. Hammond’s group had more success in the way of the latter targets. Again in company with VF-20 planes, the force arrived over Clark to find it covered with clouds from 6,000 to 3,000 feet but for one small hole, and through this hole the attacking fighters dove. After numerous runs, the group reconnoitered south to Angeles to strife some newly discovered parked planes, and left on Clark Field three Bettys and one Sally (9) burning, and many other single and twin-engined aircraft damaged. At Angeles they burned another Betty, and in another dispersal area destroyed a Liz (10) and two Sallys.

Boykin’s sweep attacked shipping in the Cavite area, and minor damage was scored on the ships and dock area. Ensign K. W. Watkins apparently was hit by AA, for his plane was seen to crash in flames.

The strike, with Cmdr Klinsmann leading the VF escort, also lashed at shipping in the Bay, and, of the fighters, Klinsmann, Martin, Guyles, and Hendricks made direct hits. Hovey bullseyed an AA position on shore. During this attack, Ensign W. N. Ostlund disappeared. It is believed he was hit by AA and crashed.

[November 18, 1944]

[Air Group 4 (and Fighting 4) was transferred to the USS Essex on November 18, 1944.]

November 25, 1944
Clark Field Area

[The Essex was hit with a Kamikaze on November 25, 1944. Again, security reasons dictated that no mention could be made of this event.]

This was a big day for the squadron, for it was filled with action and results. Evening found us with fifteen aircraft destroyed in the air, six on the ground, and (not incidentally) one absorbed into the ship. This latter occurred in the early afternoon even as planes were being launched.

The carrier launched two sweeps against the Clark Field area on Luzon, in addition to the usual CAP. The morning sweep, led by Boykin, strafed the field, and observed its results as one Tony (11) and one building afire, with other aircraft damaged. As they rendezvoused after the attack, they were set upon by a group of eighteen Tonys, four of which were shot down before retiring. Boykin, Marn, Nicholson, and Carruthers scored the kills.

The afternoon sweep, led by the skipper, caught four Tonys taking off at Del Carmen, and sent them to the Japanese heaven on the bullets of the skipper himself, Keers, Laird, and Hensley. The group then strafed the field and destroyed two more Tonys, one of which Weldon hit with rockets. Weldon also set a building afire with his rockets.

The CAP was not idle this day, either. Blackwell, Burnett, Hovey, and Zdancewicz each splashed a Zeke (12), and Keenholts, in Boykin’s division, drew the first blood from, and was credited with, a Frances (13). Shields and Cahoon, returning from patrol engaged six Tonys, and shot down one apiece, and Van Sluyters and Ginther, on a similar mission, strafed Clark for fun to the tune of one Betty, one Tony, and a third unidentified plane destroyed.

No planes were lost to enemy action, and we congratulated ourselves on a very satisfactory performance.

[November 28, 1944]

[Marine Squadrons VMF-124 and VMF-213 replaced Bombing Four (VB-4) on November 28, 1944.]

December 14, 15, 16, 1944
Central Luzon

While the Army made landings on Mindoro, P. I., both the Army and Navy supplied air coverage throughout the Philippines area, and the section assigned to our ship was the familiar ground just north of Clark Field, encompassing Lingayen, Cabanatuan, Baler, Rosales, Tarlac, and a few other fields. The days were busy ones for us, but not very exciting or productive in the way of airborne targets. And that’s what we were itching to see.

The Captain shot down a Jake (14) for the first kill on Dec 14. Then, the following day, Watson and Tutwieler chased two Zekes for a few minutes, Watson setting the belly tank afire on one, and Tut observing hits on the other. However, they were only credited with probables. That was the sum total of planes caught in the air.

Throughout 24 hours per day, for three days, our planes maintained a patrol over the assigned area, each flight also strafing, bombing and rocketing airfields and whatever shipping that could be found. Of planes caught parked on the ground, eight were destroyed, six probably destroyed, and four damaged.

Snider and Watson each had to make water landings, one for lack of fuel, and the other because of engine failure, but neither was seriously hurt, and both were rescued in short order.

January 3, 1945
Formosa and Okinawa

After a long rest, and with two new squadrons of Marines aboard, we steamed in a westerly direction on the wings of rumors that January was to be a big month. It was.

On the third of January, the weather was forbidding, but, disregarding it, a pre-dawn strike was launched, with Cmdr Klinsmann as flight leader. Through a solid overcast which extended from 700 feet up to 10,000 feet, with squalls on the deck, the group climbed and broke into the clear, then proceeded to Formosa. Here, too, most of the island was covered with clouds, and finally attacks were carried out against an unidentified field, on which VF dropped bombs, and on Kobi. At the latter target, members of the Commander’s division, Martin, White, and Maikowski, each damaged a parked aircraft.

At dawn, a large sweep of VF was dispatched to Okinawa, some 340 miles distant, and the flight was forced by weather to fly nearly the entire distance on the deck. Mr. Hammond, leader of the group, split it into two parts at the target, and conducted simultaneous attacks on Naha and Yontan airfields. After this and a second attack, five aircraft on Naha were observed burning, and at Yontan, Harris’s divisions left three aircraft burning. Nicholson, Rhodes, Hargis, and McMurray strafed two SDs (15) which were sighted out to sea west of Naha, and left one sinking and the other seriously damaged.

Lt. H. T. Houston was hit and compelled to make a water landing. He was observed in a life raft, and the group strayed over him until gasoline inadequacy forced its return to base. However, rescue facilities which investigated the area could find no trace of him, and it is believed he drifted to shore and was captured.

Anther sweep, led by Keers, was launched at mid-morning with Formosa as intended objective, but after three unsuccessful attempts to break through the overcast and rendezvous, all but Ensign Wright returned to base. Wright joined VF-44 planes and completed an attack mission. At an unidentified field he damaged two parked Tonys and set fire to a hangar.

Further attacks were cancelled due to weather.

January 4, 1945
Formosa and Okinawa

Foul weather prevailed this day, as, in fact, it was to prevail throughout our operations during January, but conditions were not so bad as to preclude launching of strike groups. A strike, led by Cmdr Klinsmann, was dispatched to attack Kagi airfield on Formosa, but cloud cover denied a safe attack on this air facility, and another field was used as target. The VT cratered the selected field. VF escort reconnoitered around the area, but could find no targets.

Hendricks’ sweep came to the same area, and found an opening in the cloud cover through which to attack Tsuina airfield. Due to weather conditions, the group could not safely observe all of its results, but claims three aircraft probably destroyed and some buildings seriously damaged by bomb and rocket hits. No airborne planes were sighted.

As on the previous day, another sweep, led by Lt. Cmdr Hammond, set out for Okinawa, and this time was forced by low overcast to fly all the distance on the deck and to perform treetop level attacks on the airfields and ships encountered. On both Yontan and Naha, no operational aircraft were evident to the fleeting group. However, the planes caught four small merchant vessels in Nago Bay, strafed them, and left two of the four afire.

Foul weather prevented completion of the flight schedule.

January 6, 1945
Northwestern Coast of Luzon

In preparation for the forthcoming invasion of Luzon, planes of the Third Fleet were to clear the island of all enemy aircraft, and to our area in northern Luzon a strike was launched this morning of January 6. However, our assigned target was covered by clouds, and the group, led by Cmdr Klinsmann, proceeded to the northwestern coast, which was in clear weather and was already under attack by planes of another group. A large number of small merchant vessels were found scattered along the coastal area, and VF and VT bombed and strafed them along with the second Air Group. The flight from our ship was credited after the attack with having sunk one, probably sunk three, and seriously damaged eight of the unfortunate craft. Keers and Graham blew up a small ammunition ship.

Lt. Cmdr Hammond’s sweep, which arrived shortly after the departure of the above group, also rollicked along the coast finishing off ships which had thus far escaped. With their rockets, bombs, and 50-calibers, they claimed four vessels destroyed and three seriously damaged. Gordon, Ellis, and Tutwiler scored direct hits with rockets, and Keenholts alone sank one lugger with machine fire.

On this latter flight, one of our greatest losses occurred when Lt. Cmdr K. G. Hammond was shot down. His engine damaged by the defensive AA, he attempted a water landing to sea. His plane or belly tank exploded, and as the plane disappeared beneath the water, no trace of him could be seen. The other pilots circled for nearly an half hour, but their watching was fruitless.

[Here is the debriefing report on the loss of Lt Cmdr K. G. Hammond, VF-4 skipper, as quoted in Chapter 20 of Torpedo Squadron Four: A Cockpit View of World War II.]

["During the attack intense light and medium AA fire was experienced from batteries along the shore. In the second attack Lt Cdr Hammond's plane was mortally damaged by heavy AA in the engine and empennage. Lt Laird's plane received a 20-mm shell aft of the cockpit which did considerable damage."]
[ "As the flight rendezvoused out to sea from Darrena Point Lt Cdr Hammond reported that his oil pressure was decreasing rapidly and that he was going to try to make the Lingayen Gulf area. As he made his way south the planes in the flight joined up on him. When about 8 miles southwest of Vigan Lt Cdr Hammond turned his plane into the wind for a water landing when his engine froze. The landing was made in a slightly nose down attitude and without dropping the belly tank."]
[ "At the moment of impact there was a flash believed to have been caused by the explosion of the belly tank and the plane skipped or cartwheeled. The plane sank in a matter of a few seconds and the only trace on the surface was an oil slick and part of the belly tank. The aircraft circled the area for 20 minutes but nothing was observed on the surface in the area."]

January 7, 1945
Appari Airfield on Luzon

A strike, led by Cmdr Klinsmann, was launched early this morning to try once again to reach Appari airfield, our assigned target. The group found scattered clouds there and was thus able to conduct several bombing and strafing runs on the field. The runway was cratered and rendered inoperative, and the four planes parked in revetments were heavily strafed. The VF then flew south up the Cagayan river valley at low altitude looking for further targets, but observed none of consequence.

Mr. Boykin’s sweep, which arrived shortly at the same field, also used the runway for a target. Tutwiler noticed an SB (16) anchored in the river nearby, and dropped his bomb on it, scoring a hit.

In the afternoon, strikes and sweeps were sent to Clark Field, and the only definite damage claimed by these groups were two parked aircraft destroyed, and serious damage done to buildings and AA revetments. Keenholts made a direct bomb hit on one large building. Most of the bombs and rockets were fired at camouflaged areas where planes were supposedly hidden, so an exact estimate of damage could not be given.

No enemy airborne planes were encountered in this two-day operation.

January 9, 1945
Central Formosa

On this date we launched strikes against airfields on Formosa, assuring the Luzon invasion that no enemy planes from this quarter would hinder it. But no planes were encountered, weather denying access to primary targets, and the airfields which were attacked containing no parked aircraft. The VF in one group strafed a large convoy outside Takao, but observed no apparent damage as a result of the attack.

Burnett and Zdancewicz, on a search to the north, surprised a Val (17) out by itself, and quickly set it afire.

January 12, 1945
Saigon, French Indo-China

In a surprise move against Japanese shipping, the fleet steamed into the South China Sea and spent its fury in spectacular and extremely successful attacks along the French Indo-China and China coasts, and on facilities and shipping at Hainan, Formosa, and the Pescadores. Searches by fighter teams, some from our own squadron, constituted, we boasted, probably the first Navy fighters to range over this area.

On the twelfth we revealed our presence in the enemies supposedly inner sanctum by launching strikes and sweeps against shipping and airfields in the vicinity of Saigon, French Indo-China. Cmdr Klinsmann led the first strike, which attacked a group of seven vessels off Cap Saint Jacques and sank them all. The Commander scored a rocket hit on a DE and White one on an LSM (18). All VF strafed and the VT torpedoed four of the ships. Hendricks’ sweep, which was nearby, acted as high cover for the group, and strafed following the attack, but made no interceptions of enemy aircraft.

The afternoon strike, led by Mr. Boykin, attacked shipping, oil storage, and railroads along the Saigon River. Taylor hit an AK with his bomb and Byrd blew up a locomotive with 50-calibers. The VF then strafed and rocketed at Tan Son Nhut airfield where they destroyed four and damaged two parked aircraft. At Bien Hoa they demolished one building and damaged others.

Harris’ sweep, which took off with the strike group, had an entertaining hour at Tan Son Nhut and Thu Dau Mot airfields where they left 17 burning and 16 damaged, and 2 burning and 3 damaged, respectively. Harris claimed 4 destroyed, 2 damaged; Evans 1 destroyed and 1 damaged; Morken 1 destroyed and 1 damaged; Tutwiler 3 destroyed and 2 damaged; Gilbert 3 destroyed and 3 damaged; and Harris 2 destroyed and 5 damaged. Tutwiler and Morken also started a hangar smoking, and the group counted two planes burning at the conclusion of their attacks which nobody had claimed. The whole affair was conducted in the face of intense AA fire, and four of the planes were damaged as a result of it. The smoke which hung thick over the targets, and the exhaustion of ammunition, forced the proud group to return to base.

While on a search, Brown and Nicolini caught and shot down a Jake.

All in all, a very successful day.

January 15, 1945
Formosa, Pescadores, and China Coast

From a more northern point in the South China Sea the fleet launched attacks this day, and our group had assigned as targets Formosa and the China coast north of Hong Kong. VF sweeps to these two spots were hindered by weather and could find no enemy aircraft, so Mr. Boykins’ group at Swatow bombed hangars and railroad bridges, and Harris’ flight strafed a sugar refinery—the only target available at cloud-covered Formosa. Fires were started by these attacks.

A strike, led by Cmdr Klinsmann, headed for Formosa, but, hampered by weather there, turned to the Pescadores for targets. Following the attack on the shipping found in an anchorage in these islands, the group claimed one ship probably sunk, three seriously damaged, and buildings at the Naval base damaged. Cmdr Klinsmann registered two rocket hits on an AK.

His plane trailing smoke and losing oil after the attack, the Commander set out for base immediately. Upon arrival, he made a successful water landing and was approached by the rescue vessel. But even as he was being drawn aboard, his grip on the line failed and he drifted away in the water, never to be recovered. His loss was deeply felt by the entire ship.

[Chapter 24 of Torpedo Squadron Four: A Cockpit View of World War II quotes the following from the debriefing report on the loss of G. O. Klinsmann, Air Group 4 Commander:]

["…His wingman, at his request, went over the forced landing check off procedure and got a 'thumbs up' on each item. Both DDs were informed of the unpending [sic] water landing and were standing by to effect the rescue. The Commander made a perfect water landing, was observed to abandon and clear his plane before it sank. Lt (jg) Martin, the group commander's wingman, had experienced engine trouble on the return flight and as the two DDs had the Commander in sight, and the view of the Commander's apparent good condition and position for a quick rescue by either of the DDs the wingman departed for base upon receiving a wave of one hand from him indicating that the Commander was able to take care of himself from then on."]
[ "One of the DDs reported having Commander Klinsmann in sight, successfully throwing him a life line with a life buoy ring attached, and as he was pulled alongside and about to be hoisted aboard he lost his grasp on the ring (the DD having just enough stern way on for steerage), floated clear of the bow and sank before the DD could position itself again. The DD reported that neither Commander Klinsmann's life jacket nor life raft were inflated."]

January 16, 1945

Hainan was our chief objective on the 16th. The first sweep covering it encountered 11 enemy planes and shot down 6 of them. Our 8 fighters, under low overcast, found one Zeke, and as they jumped on him, 10 other Japanese attacked out of the clouds. In the general melee following, Laird and Hensley each destroyed two, and Boykin, Avants, Sears, and Peters each got one. One of the two planes nearby was losing oil pressure, so the whole group broke off the attack and protected the stricken plane until it had made a water landing and the pilot was picked up by rescue facilities.

The strike group, which approached the island with Harris as VF leader, could find no suitable targets, and finally attacked a small Naval base where they left numerous fires and unobserved damage.

In the afternoon, a fast fighter sweep was launched against Hong Kong, under direction of Taylor. The flight approached from high altitude, encountering intense heavy AA from a large area around the target. The armament was aimed at ships in the harbor and at the Naval Yard, but the group retired hastily from AA range and back to base without observing results.

Lt (jg) R. G. Nicholson, on a CAP, developed a gasoline leak and was forced to ditch his plane. His wingman hovered over the landing spot, but could find no trace of him afterward.

January 20, 1945
Luzon Straits

While Tokyo Radio boasted that the American fleet was “bottled up” in the South China Sea, we surreptitiously gathered up our skirts and tiptoed through the Luzon Straits. A group of planes which were probably headed for Luzon from Formosa unfortunately crossed our path, and the Marines and one division of CAP which we had in the air politely interrupted them. Byrd and Brown each shot down one Nell (19). The Marines got eight.

January 21, 1945
Sakashima Gunto, Okinawa, Amami, and Formosa

Several sweeps to islands in the Sakashima Gunto were dispatched throughout the day, and their results were satisfying. Nine ships in the vicinity of Miyako Jima were seriously damaged, as well as buildings, AA revetments, and one Zeke on an airfield in the islands. Gilbert and Hargis exploded a Jill (20) on Ishigaki, and Gordon scored rocket hits on an SC (21) which then exploded. Blackwell suffered a heavy AA hit which tore off part of his wing and necessitated a crash landing on board. It was a spectacular crash from which he emerged with superficial injuries.

Hendricks’ group went to Okinawa, where they strafed a number of parked aircraft, claiming at least six damaged, and set fire to two buildings. Johns led a sweep to Formosa, where they investigated numerous fields with no results.

Two strikes were sent to Takao Harbor, Formosa. Mr. Boykins’ strike let their hits go largely unobserved due to efforts to avoid AA, but Brown saw one bomb hit which was either his or Gard’s. South of the harbor, Byrd’s division found a SD which they strafed and left burning briskly before returning to base.

Taylors’ group in the afternoon observed a bit more damage. Rhodes and McMurray registered rocket hits on ships and Guyles sent his rockets into a building area. Graham saw his bomb a very near miss on a ship.

At Miyako Jima, Lt (jg) R. W. Ginther was caught in the explosion of his own bomb as he attacked a ship, and was killed.

January 22, 1945
Okinawa Gunto

Johns’ predawn sweep to Okinawa could find no targets in good repair at the assigned airfield, so the pilots attacked two ships nearby. They left them burning, and Mr. Boykins’ sweep in the afternoon reported them still burning at that time. The latter group could find no aircraft either, and attacked buildings and warehouses in the vicinity of Naha and Yonabaru.

A strike against Kikai Jima was launched in the morning, of which Smith was the VF leader. Runs on the airfield there resulted in bomb hits on the runways and one AA emplacement, and then the group turned to shipping targets. Smith caused one vessel to stop dead in the water, as did Garrigan and Hinrichs to another, Avants to a third, and Rhodes, Peters, and McMurray to still another. Rhodes scored rocket hits on his target.

Hendricks’ strike in the afternoon strafed with no observed effect their assigned targets, and then investigated along the coast of Amami O Gunto. They beached two small vessels and sank two others in concentrated strafing runs.

February 16, 1945

The attacks of this day were part of the first carrier plane strikes against Tokyo and surrounding airfields. The Japanese seemed unable to muster appreciable opposition, though it was here that our squadron met airborne enemy planes in large numbers for the second time. During the various flights throughout the day, we shot down fifteen enemy planes, probably destroyed three, and damaged two. Pilots who got a plane this day were as follows: Nicolini, Sikors, Laird, Avants, Martin, Taylor, Gordon, Graham, Guyles, Radford, Rhodes, Schulden, and Fewell.

On Cmdr Upham’s flight, as the rest of the group made runs on Tatayama airfield, Van Sluyters and Darrow shot up three barges and set fire to a coastal steamer just off the nearby coast. The flight counted four planes burning after the attack on the field, and estimated five others damaged. The pilots had caught a Betty on the way in, and Nicolini scored that kill.

Laird and Avants, in company with some photo planes, sighted two Sallys, which they attacked and set in flames.

Hendricks’ sweep strafed airfields and ships in the target area, and set fire to one small ship.

Harris’ sweep exploded one and fired another small ship as they flew along the coast south of Tokyo in the threatening weather. Three other ships were seriously damaged by Harris’, Byrd’s and Longley’s divisions.

While on a CAP near Tokyo Bay, Martin and B. R. Kelly ran onto a Zeke and a Sally flying together, shot down one and damaged the other. Martin was given credit for the Zeke.

R. S. Kelley and Sikors jumped a Jake during a search flight and shot it down. Sikors took the credit.

Gordon’s sweep was an eventful flight, as they encountered many enemy planes. Gordon and Guyles each shot at planes from which the pilots bailed out. Graham dove on a Frank (22) and caused it to crash. Radford and Steele, separated from the rest of the group, had two skirmishes, and retreated at high speed after Radford shot down one Zeke and Steele got a probable. Taylor, Schulden, and Rhodes fell behind due to engine trouble in Rhodes plane, and were attacked by about ten planes. In the ensuing scrap, Taylor downed three, and Schulden and Rhodes one each, but the latter’s plane was smoking. As the three retired, Taylor and Schulden were kept busy by the harassing Zekes, and Rhodes disappeared. Nothing is known of his whereabouts.

Hendricks led a photo hop over the target area, and attacked Matawari airfield. Two planes on the ground were destroyed, and two damaged. Fewell shot one down in the air, and Dailey got a probable.

Except for Rhodes’ absence, it had been a successful day, and surely the score we had accumulated somewhat avenged that loss.

February 17, 1945

The Japanese failed to bother us as we lingered in the vicinity of their capital. On the second day there we renewed our attacks in the face of foul weather. A strike, led by the skipper, was launched to hit the Nakajima Tama aircraft engine plant. The flight flew by snow-capped Fujiyama to rain destruction on the target. Enemy fighters attacked as we neared the area. Hendricks smoked one of the first four Tojos making runs, scoring a probable. Peabody smoked two others, and observed one of them crash. As the group began its attack, Laird shot down a Tony on the tail of a Torpecker, being relieved of an Oscar on his own tail by his wingman, Avants.

Peters knocked down an Oscar near Tachikawa. Laird pursued a Tojo along the deck after the attack, smoking it, but saved his ammunition as the Japanese pilot made a mistake and spun in. Hendricks, Burnett, and Puryear scored direct bomb hits on the target.

Weather prevented more action over the target that day, so the fleet retired from the Tokyo area. However, on CAP, R. S. Kelley shot down a Jill. On still another patrol, Garrigan and his division found two SDs which they strafed soundly, destroying one and seriously damaging the other.

February 19, 1945
Iwo Jima

The landing operations of the Marines on Iwo Jima were supported by planes from our squadron and from the Marine squadrons. The flight was led by Col Millington and Mr. Boykin. In brief advance to the landing craft, the fighters strafed and bombed the target beaches, ceasing only when our own troops were endangered by the attacks.

This day, also, was an historic occasion, and we were proud to have taken part in the operation.

February 21, 1945
Haha Jima and Chichi Jima

On this day sweeps were dispatched to Haha Jima and Chichi Jima in search of aircraft, but only two such were encountered. The flights spent their ammunition and energy chiefly in the strafing and rocketing of airfield facilities and small ships. As Dailey was photographing the work, he sighted a Tojo and attacked it. His bullets hit the plane, but it retreated toward shore AA positions, so he ceased his efforts to take it out. Peabody knocked down a Jill, which was sighted off shore.

February 25, 1945

Again challenging the Japanese to defend their homeland and capital, we attacked the Tokyo area on 25 February. As the strike group neared the target on Koizumi, enemy fighters started making passes at the formation, and Taylor shot down two planes as they shot by, Smith another, and Lepp still another. Lepp was hit from behind, but as the Japanese sped by with excess speed, he nosed over and gave the rat a bit of American lead.

After the attack, Dailey scrapped with two Tojos at two separate times, and was given probables for his work. McReynolds got a probable, and sears damaged one. Marn, Peabody, Gardner, Hancock, Wright, Sears, Riker, Hendricks, Peters, Burnett, Zdancewicz, Darrow, Tutwiler, and Ellis all scored bomb hits on the target.

Foul weather prevented effective flights throughout the remainder of the day, but Harris’ sweep along the coastline destroyed three trawlers and damaged six. Norman’s division on CAP also caught two small vessels, which they strafed and severely damaged.

Under cover of the foul weather, we retired from the area, leaving no doubt in the minds of the Japanese as to the great destructive power of the United States Fleet.

March 1, 1945

The first strike of this day was sent to Naha airfield on the island of Okinawa, and our squadron claimed, after a series of runs on the field, two aircraft destroyed and at least six others damaged, as well as extensive damage to facilities. The second strike found the target covered with clouds, and made attacks on both Naha and Machinato airfields with unobserved results. Both these flights were led by Cmdr Upham.

Mr. Boykin’s sweep searched for other targets on the island, and found many. Locating a new type Japanese DD, the group attacked and set it afire. Boykin, Peabody, and Van Sluyters scored rocket hits on it. The pilots found still other smaller ships and attacked them, destroying two and damaging three. An incident as Bell noted it in one of his reports: An occupant of one trawler could be seen making repeated attempts to abandon ship via a rope ladder on the starboard gunwale. He finally jumped overboard.

Puryear made a water landing, and was picked up.

Lt (jg) D. R. Cahoon disappeared during the attacks on Naha airfield, and no trace of him was discovered after diligent search. [See The Lost Pilot/Artist.]

Fighting Squadron Four
  Destroyed Probably
Planes in the air 60 9 13
Planes on the ground 61 10 88
Total 121 19 101
Air Group Score
  Destroyed Probably
Planes in the air 83 13 21
Planes on the ground 137 65 160
Total 220 78 181
Total Shipping 40,300 90,550 361,530

(1) CAP - Combat Air Patrol.
(2) AP (Transport Ship), DD (Destroyer), DE (Destroyer Escort).
(3) VB - Bombing Squadron Four (VB-4).
(4) VF - Fighting Squadron Four (VF-4).
(5) Oscar (Nakajima KI43 Army Fighter).
(6) Tojo (Nakajima KI44 Army Fighter).
(7) Lily (Kawasaki KI48 Army Bomber).
(8) AK - Cargo Ship.
(9) Betty (Mitsubishi G4M Navy Bomber), Sally (Mitsubishi KI21 Army Bomber).
(10) Liz (Nakajima G5N Navy Bomber).
(11) Tony (Kawasaki KI61 Army Fighter).
(12) Zeke (Mitsubishi A6M Navy Fighter).
(13) Frances (Yobosuka P1Y Navy Bomber).
(14) Jake (Aichi E13A Navy Seaplane).
(15) SD - Supply Depot.
(16) SB - ??.
(17) Val (Aichi D3A1 Navy Dive Bomber).
(18) LSM - Landing Ship, Medium.
(19) Nell (Mitsubishi G3M Navy Bomber).
(20) Jill (Nakajima B6N Navy Attack Bomber).
(21) SC - ??.
(22) Frank (Nakajima KI84 Army Fighter).

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Fighting Squadron Four: The Red Rippers