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Wings of Adventure 

Poor Bloody Observers 

Hell in Helmets 

Crime on a Convoy Carrier 

The Red Book of Airpknes 

The Story of the Tactical Air Command 

Fighters in the Sky 

Bombers in trie Sky 

Combat in the Sky 

The Years of the Sky Kings 


The Years of theWar Birds 

Subs and Submariners 

Squadrons of the Sea 



Arch Whitehouse 


Doubledcty 6 Company, Inc., Garden City, New Yorfe, 1962 

Library of Congress Catdog Card Number 61-7696 
Copyright 1963 by Arch 

AH Rights 

Printed in the United States of America 

bust Edition 

(VA Attack Squadron 75) 
Aboard USS Independence 
Who with Solemn Formality 
and Rare Courtesy 
Elected Me 

Honorary Member of Their Squadron. 
August 15, 1960 



CHAPTER I Born of Necessity 1 5 

CHAPTER II Tempered in Battle 49 

CHAPTER III Taranto vs, Malta 85 

CHAPTER IV The Greatest Carrier Attack 1 14 

CHAPTER V Strikes and Counterstrikes 143 

CHAPTER VI From Coral to Midway 169 

CHAPTER VII The Conquest of Guadalcanal 220 

CHAPTER VIII Breaking the Barrier 256 

CHAPTER IX The Nature of a Battle 282 

CHAPTER X Luck at Leyte 322 

CHAPTER XI The Modern Carrier 3 52 




INDEX 375 


Battle Area Pacific Ocean 115 

Battle of the Coral Sea 171 

Fight for Guadalcanal 22 1 

Battle of the Philippine Sea 283 

Bcrttfe for Leyte Gulf 323 


AIRCRAFT carrier operations, complex in themselves and yet the most 
methodical of all methods of warfare, are, despite their orderliness, 
seldom understood by the landsman. For this reason it is my intent 
to clarify the role of the naval carrier by presenting its history, and 
relating the story of its triumphs and sacrifices in a manner compre- 
hensive to the lay reader. 

As a result this is not a textbook or a treatise on carrier operations. 
It is simply the story of the historic naval-air conflicts as they were 
fought between 1939-45. After reviewing the details of these amazing 
battles I felt compelled to undertake this work, for in my opinion 
aircraft carrier operations afford more drama, more varied heroism, 
and certainly greater personal skill and technical knowledge than any 
other example of modern warfare. 

I am not a naval expert, I have never served aboard an aircraft car* 
rier in wartime, nor have I flown a military plane from a flight deck to 
engage in naval-air combat. I am a professional writer and a shameless 
enthusiast of military history. More important, I nurture deep respect 
for the men who by their actions and valor created this history, and 
who in peacetime add to its pages. I am continually fascinated by their 
efforts, loyalties, and sacrifices. In them I have high hopes for the fu- 
ture and trust that their sons and daughters will find in these pages 
the inspiration to tread in their footsteps or give us more of the same 
heroic breed. 

This was not an easy book to write for it required more than the 
chore of poring through volumes of carrier history. Diligent research 
is important and necessary, but one should go aboard a carrier at sea, 
live with the officers and men, and there study every facet of flight 
operations to understand fully the meaning of past history. One must 


imbibe the spirit of deck flying in order to interpret the problems and 
technical demands these men face and resolve. 

I was most fortunate to be invited aboard a number of present-day 
carriers, and to watch every feature of deck operations by all types of 
aircraft carrying out their daily exercises, I have been catapulted from 
flight decks, flown off unassisted, and experienced numerous arrester- 
gear landings. I have seen much of our modern equipment, armament, 
and electronic devices. As far as service security would permit I was 
introduced to new gunnery systems, the development of missile arma- 
ment, and shown how all these instruments and weapons are inte- 
grated for the common cause. 

At the same time I was permitted to interview all ranks from ad- 
mirals down to seamen. I was fortunate to find many who had served 
aboard carriers during World War II, and from these men I was able 
to confirm or correct the hurried reports or inaccurate statements of 
several wartime correspondents. In particular I am most appreciative 
of the co-operation and information furnished by Commander Cook 
Cleland, who had served with Bombing 16 Squadron aboard U.S.S. 
Lexington during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and who explained 
much of the operational detail to me on the bridge of the U.S.S. For- 
restal while returning from a Sixth Fleet assignment in the Mediter- 
ranean. I also met many others while I was a working-guest aboard 
U.S.S. Saratoga U.S.S. Lake ChampMn, U.S.S. Intrepid, U.S.S. In- 
dependence, and more recently U.S.S. Boxer. 

But a book such as this requires also assiduous research to confirm 
dates, ranks and names, and to make certain that the chronological 
order of action is correctly recorded. The U. S. Navy provided much 
official information and contributed many important photographs, 
but I could not have produced this volume in its present orderliness 
without the generous assistance of Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, 
dean of modern naval historians, who allowed me to use his f ourteen- 
volume History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II as a source 
of reference. I sincerely recommend Admiral Morison's work to all 
who are interested in American naval operations of that period. In a 
later Acknowledgments section I have named others who in any man- 
ner came to my aid, as well as a full bibliography covering this subject. 

I would remind the reader again that this is offered only as a gen- 
eral history of aircraft carriers, written and presented in a form de- 
signed to appeal chiefly to the non-Navy reader or general public. I 
have avoided much technical jargon and have eliminated whenever 


possible much standard nautical nomenclature. Naval purists will im- 
mediately note this landsman's approach and will perhaps view these 
pages critically. But the true Navy man needs no words of mine to 
assure him of his service's place in the public's appreciation. I am sim- 
ply offering this book as my contribution to the history of aircraft car- 
rier operations, and it is my hope that it will be accepted and read 
with this in mind. 

Montvde, New Jersey 
March 31, 1961 




ON THE evening of August 5, 1918, a British destroyer H.M.S. Re- 
doubt left her mooring at Harwich on the east coast of England, tow- 
ing an ungainly contrivance called a lighter. In this case nomenclature 
was being stretched considerably, for in truth it was simply a creaky 
old raft mounted on the gunwales of a bargelike hull. A Sopwith 
Camel biplane, a World War I fighter of disrepute, was perched on 
this precarious platform. A young Anglo-Canadian-American by the 
name of Stuart D. Culley sat in the cockpit hoping that this tangle 
of Goldbergian gadgets would enable him to clamber off the thirty- 
knot deck to attack a German Zeppelin reported to be heading for a 
raid on Britain. 

Surprisingly, this fantastic experiment worked and the naval his- 
torians of that day recorded the first successful shipborne fighter in- 
terception. The enemy Zeppelin was destroyed, but more important, 
the marriage of the airplane and the surface vessel was consummated. 
Unlimited range was contrived for the airplane, and the firepower of 
the surface fleet was greatly increased. The fact that the airplane had 
to land on the water near its mother destroyer was not important. 
The problem of retrieving carrierborne aircraft was to be quickly 

This incident has long been dismissed and forgotten. At the time 
only a few sage minds realized that the airplane had become a long- 
range naval weapon, that the dreadnought was no longer Mistress of 
the Seas, and that an amazing vessel to be known as an aircraft carrier 
would evolve from this historic experiment. 

Hydrogen-filled dirigibles of the German Navy, although vulnera- 
ble to antiaircraft or machine-gun fire, had for nearly four years been 


a grim threat to British cities and the civilian population with their 
persistent bombing attacks. They were also able to carry out long- 
range reconnaissance missions, a factor that long annoyed the Royal 
Navy, and according to some experts provided the intelligence that 
enabled the German Navy to escape from the trap that Admiral Da- 
vid Beatty had set up in the latter hours of the Battle of Jutland. 

In 1918 antiaircraft fire was rudimentary, and, all factors being 
equal, the lighter-than-air dirigible could generally outwit the fighter 
planes by dumping bombs or jettisoning unimportant gear and sup- 
plies, thus enabling it by its inherent buoyancy to climb fast and evade 

A few Zeppelins had been destroyed by aircraft, but in most cases 
the contact had been made more through good luck than the capabili- 
ties of the plane or pilot. Another problem lay in the limited range 
of contemporary aircraft, as-well as their inability to match the airship 
in gaining altitude. To counter these enemy advantages, Commander 
Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt of the British Harwich Force submitted the idea 
of improvising some form of launching platform from which the 
fighter aircraft could be flown at sea at the most favorable time. 

Commander Charles Rumney Samson, a memorable and rather 
flamboyant character of Britain's Royal Naval Air Service, was the 
first to be approached with this idea. Samson was reckless, bold, 
breezy, and most energetic. Early in the war the Germans had put a 
price of $50,000 on his head dead or alive since he had single- 
handed almost hounded them out of Belgium while in command of a 
small force of armored cars. He had been one of the first four British 
naval officers to volunteer for pilot training before the outbreak of 

Having learned that naval flying boats had been hauled about the 
North Sea on lighters in order to extend their range of action, Samson 
decided that a small, light, high-powered aircraft could be launched 
from one of these platforms. The Sopwith Camel was chosen because 
it was powered with a 150 hp. Bentley rotary engine, a power plant of 
high efficiency in those days. The aircraft could climb to 15,000 feet 
in approximately twenty minutes while carrying two fixed machine 
guns or four light fragmentation bombs. It was presumed to have an 
endurance range of two and one-half hours, but there were many vari- 
ables to be considered under such circumstances. 

As was to be expected, Commander Samson decided to carry out 
the first off-theJighter experiments himself. In his first attempt he re- 


moved the wheels from the Camel and substituted a set of skids that 
were designed to slide along a pair of shallow troughs built into the 
deck of the lighter. In the first trial, the aircraft got off the deck suc- 
cessfully, but the Camel was too delicate of control for this ham-fisted 
exhibitionist, and she quickly spun into the sea. The aircraft was 
wrecked, but, as usual, the flamboyant one bobbed to the surface little 
the worse for wear. A short consultation with his staff convinced him 
that armored cars were more in his line and that someone who had had 
some deck-flying experience might handle the situation more success- 
fully. A young Canadian, now a member of the newly created Royal 
Air Force, was selected. 

Sub-Flight Lieutenant Stuart D. Culley (to give him his former 
service rank) was born in Nebraska in 1895, the son of a Canadian 
mother and an English father. In 1916 he enlisted in Canada and was 
accepted by the Royal Naval Air Service, but on completing his flight 
training in England, he was transferred from the light cruiser Cas- 
sandra to a shore base at Great Yarmouth. Up to that time his deck 
flying had been aboard early variations of primitive carrier decks built 
over the hulls of converted cruisers or liners. In these operations light 
Sopwith Pups (a forerunner of the Camel) were launched success- 
fully but no deck landings had been carried out. The planes either 
landed on the surface of the sea to be picked up, or were able to return 
to some nearby land base. In a few instances, the landing gear was 
jettisoned to make these water landings less hazardous. Culley had 
had some experience in taking off from a seagoing platform, but flying 
a more powerful and very tricky aircraft off a platform only fifty-eight 
feet long and sixteen feet wide, was something else. 

Culley went into the adventure with an open mind, but he wanted 
no part of the skid-and-trough idea Samson had contrived; instead, he 
retained the conventional wheeled undercarriage. A destroyer was to 
tow the lighter at thirty knots and at the appropriate moment one of 
the lighter's crew would start the engine by swinging the propeller. 
To offset any chance of his being blown overboard or sucked into the 
propeller, the mechanic was attached to the lighter deck by a safety 
belt and a cord that allowed him just sufficient reach to carry out the 
task. As soon as the Bentley was started, the mechanic pulled himself 
back by the safety line, unshackled the cordage and darted away to 
the shelter of the lighter's deck. The airplane itself was launched 
through a conventional bomb-release gear operated from the pilot's 
cockpit. Steel cables were attached to the ends of the wheel's axle 


and ran over simple claw pieces that allowed the plane to move for- 
ward freely at any time, but until Culley pulled the release toggle 
there could be no upward or backward movement. Strangely enough, 
this impractical arrangement worked perfectly. 

On August i, 1918, Culley made his first trial off Great Yarmouth. 
The towing destroyer was Redoubt and the lighter was worked up to 
about thirty-six knots before Culley released the Camel and found 
himself airborne with scarcely any ran over the deck. Once in the air 
he turned away and eventually landed safely at a shore base. 

It was agreed next that some modification in the plane's armament 
might be necessary, and the two Vickers .303 guns mounted to fire 
through the propeller were discarded and a pair of lighter Lewis guns 
were placed on suitable brackets that were bolted to the upper side of 
the top wing. In this arrangement they could not be lowered to change 
the drams of ammunition, and since each dram contained only 97 
rounds, Culley went into action with a total of only 194 bullets. At 
this point Commander Samson issued a memorandum in which he 
outlined his views on the proper tactics to adopt in attacking an enemy 
airship. It was a very dogmatic order, typical of the rugged battler, but, 
unfortunately, it in no way fitted the conditions Lieutenant Culley was 
to encounter. 

Five days later Commander Tyrwhitt, who was aboard the light 
cruiser Curacoa, took the whole Harwich force of four light cruisers 
and thirteen destroyers out to sea to carry out an offensive sweep in 
the southeastern sector of the North Sea. Redoubt again hauled the 
lighter and Camel fighter. Other destroyers towed lighters on which 
reconnaissance flying boats had been embarked, and cruisers of the 
force were burdened with C.M.B.S (coastal motor boats) that were 
to attack German minesweepers operating off the Dutch coast. 

At dawn on August 11 the C.MJB.s were put overboard some 
twenty-five miles northwest of Vlieland and an attempt was made to 
launch the flying boats, but there was not sufficient wind to get them 
into the air. They had to be reloaded aboard their lighters and finally 
returned to the harbor waterborne. As a result six C.M.B.S that had 
hoped to be escorted by the flying boats, made their attacks off 
Terschelling but were intercepted by German seaplanes. In the action 
that followed three of the C.M.B.S were sunk and the remainder 
limped back to safety areas along the Dutch coast. 

While this air-surface action was going on Samson, Culley, and the 
lighter crew left the destroyer's deck and prepared to launch the 


Camel. It was reasoned that the Germans would investigate the ac- 
tivity of Tyrwhitt's force and at 8 A.M. the Admiralty had monitored 
a signal which indicated that a Zeppelin was cruising over the Heligo- 
land Bight. Thus alerted, every man in the force searched the sky but 
Culley was the first to spot a great silver cigar cruising at about ten 
thousand feet. It was L.J3, commanded by Kapitanleutnant Proell of 
the German Navy. It had flown out of Nordholz in northwest Germany 
early that morning to investigate this impudent intrusion by the Tyr- 
whitt flotilla. 

Lieutenant Culley jumped into the cockpit of the Camel, and Re- 
doubt worked up speed. A new factor of naval warfare was about to 
be introduced. A handsome young man was keeping a rendezvous 
with destiny. When the speed of the lighter had reached thirty 
knots, Culley checked his engine and gave Samson the conventional 
"thumbs-up" signal. At 8:41 the Camel leaped into the air. Members 
of the lighter crew declared that the plane had run less than five feet 
before being airborne. Culley climbed straight over the stacks of Re- 
doubt, saw the whole flotilla spread out before him and realized that 
he was the leading actor in this historic drama. Probably no airman 
had ever played to such a breathless audience, but when he looked 
up again, the Zeppelin was nowhere in sight. 

"Oh no! Please . . ." Culley pleaded to his gods. 

But within a few seconds the silver airship reappeared and from 
that instant Culley, flying like an automaton, never took his eyes off 
the glinting gas bag. At five thousand feet she appeared to have 
changed very little a disturbing thing and the young flier gradually 
realized that the enemy was climbing fast. He remembered that Zeppe- 
lins of this "50" category were noted for their ability to gain height 
rapidly, but he stuck to his task, keeping a discreet distance from the 
airship. At fifteen thousand feet the controls of the Sopwith began 
to mush-out and become sluggish. The Bentley gave one disturbing 
cough, but soon picked up the rhythm. Culley struggled up to eight- 
een thousand feet at which time he was positive that the Zeppelin 
had altered course and was heading out to sea. 

"I hoped she would try to scurry back to Germany/' Culley said 
later. "I knew I would never head her off if she steered farther out to 

He continued to watch the airship, his hopes gradually dying until 
suddenly the light changed and he saw that the silver raider was head- 
ing directly toward him. He figured, as near as he could, that she was 


a few hundred feet above his present level and approaching at a rela- 
tive speed of one hundred fifty knots. He considered Samson's admo- 
nition to attack only from above. 

"You must dive on her/' his chief had ordered. "You must avoid 
any position behind or below the tail. Dive on her from above and 
then race past, just along her beam, to avoid any flames. If you fail 
in this method, dive on her from behind the port quarter. You will 
perhaps come under heavy fire so don't fire all your ammunition in 
the first attack. They are not likely to use the gun mounted on the 
top of the main frame, and you'll be able to get in closer by going 
in from above/' 

From Culley's position and judging the speed at which the Zeppelin 
approached, it was obvious that an attack from above and behind was 
out of the question; he had no choice but to attack head-on and from 
below. In a matter of seconds the great bulk of the Zeppelin loomed 
ahead, Culley could see the forward control car and the outboard 
engine gondolas, their propellers flailing like broadswords. For a short 
while he was spellbound by the gigantic spectacle, but as his eyes 
searched for some crew activity, his hand instinctively drew back on 
the stick, the nose of the tiny biplane came up and almost stalled. 

Culley said later: "I can hardly remember doing all that, and I only 
came to when I realized I was attacking that great thing. One gun 
operated beautifully and fired its complete drum without slip-up, the 
other jammed after pooping off about half a dozen rounds. By then 
I sensed I was about to stall out so I leveled off and raced along under 
the massive belly of the craft and saw something either fall or jump 
from a slit in the framework and disappear below." 

(This object was the only survivor from L.53, and his parachute 
descent from about nineteen thousand feet must have been a record 
for those days. The man was spotted later and picked up by a Ger- 
man destroyer.) 

The instant Culley's guns stopped firing, and as the Camel faltered 
in her stall, she nosed down some two thousand feet before he could 
ease her out. During this time he lost sight of his target, but when he 
leveled off again and stared up he saw to his consternation that L.JJ 
was cruising along as though nothing had happened. He turned to 
make an adjustment to his throttle to regain the lost altitude when a 
glint above caught his eye. At three widely separated points gushes of 
yellow flame cascaded from the gas bag and within a minute practi- 
cally all of the airship, except the tail section, was enveloped. The giant 


conflagration burned itself out in a few seconds, leaving a blackened 
skeleton floundering in the sky. A flag fluttered pathetically from a 
rudder post as L.J3 started her final dive. Culley saw the airship writhe 
and break her back and finally hit the water. The clock on his instru- 
ment panel showed it was 9:41 A.M. Exactly one hour before he had 
become airborne from the bobbing lighter. 

He had scored his "kill" but a new problem arose. Valor and training 
had been devoted to the destruction of an enemy raider; now it was 
time to consider the possibility of a safe return. He knew there would 
be a number of German seaplanes in this area and they had firepower, 
whereas one of his guns was empty, the other jammed. It was here 
that discretion replaced the spirit of valor. He opened the throttle 
wide, went into a fairly steep dive and headed for the area parallel to 
the Netherlands coast. 

In a hurried arrangement, made just before he had bounced off the 
lighter, it was agreed that one of Tyrwhitt's ships would rendezvous 
with him in the vicinity of the Texel lightship, but whether this plan 
could be carried out was mainly a matter of luck. So considering every- 
thing, Culley studied a small-scale map he had brought with him and 
tried to locate some outstanding landmark, hoping to find the Texel 
light. While thus engaged, his engine cut out and he knew that he had 
used up the fuel in the main tank when struggling to get to the level 
of the Zeppelin. He switched over to a small reserve tank in an upper 
wing panel and throttled back, holding just enough power to remain 

He probed his way through a light coverlet of offshore mist and 
thought he spotted a couple of Dutch fishing vessels, but once he 
had eased down into the clear he was overjoyed to see they were Brit- 
ish destroyers, and another look told him the whole Harwich Force 
was in the vicinity. 

Now he could pick and choose, but he selected the Redoubt which 
had towed his lighter, for he noted that they had stopped and were 
transferring the lighter's crew and lowering a whale boat. While these 
rescue arrangements were being made for him, Culley circled the rest 
of the force. During this triumphal circuit Commodore Tyrwhitt, who 
was thrilled by the result of this air action which he had originally 
conceived, turned to his Officer of the Watch and said, "Do we have 
anyone aboard who knows the hymn book well?" 

The O.O.W. smiled and replied, "I used to be a choirboy, sir." 


"Remember the hymn that begins with the words, 'O happy band 
of pilgrims'?" 

"Of course, sir." 

When the hymn book was found the commodore sent a general 
signal to his fleet, reading, "Attention is cdled to the last verse of 
Hymn 224." 

The verse in question was as follows: 

O happy band of pilgrims, 
Look upward to the skies, 
Where such a light affliction 
Shall win so great a prize. 

Since the day was Sunday, the ships' companies of the Harwich 
Force bellowed the hymn with unusual enthusiasm, and Sub-Lieu- 
tenant Culley was many months living down the "light affliction." 

In the meantime he had put down the Camel so skillfully on the 
water, it was soon hoisted out with little damage and returned aboard 
the lighter. Some time later it was patched up and put on exhibition 
in the Imperial War Museum where it remains to this day. 

Culley was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, although 
many men who were closely involved felt that he should have been 
honored with Great Britain's highest military decoration, the Victoria 

The whole undertaking was an excellent illustration of efficient co- 
operation between the Royal Navy and the infant Air Force, but one 
wonders now how many men in either service realized at the time 
the full significance of that first successful air interception by a ship- 
borne fighter aircraft. 

The development of the aircraft carrier is a dramatic example of the 
old proverb "Necessity is the mother of invention." The military po- 
tential of the airplane, particularly in naval warfare, was realized by a 
few farsighted tacticians shortly after the Wright brothers gave the 
world its first heavier-than-air machine. The Dayton, Ohio, inventors 
also contributed a primitive catapult, the forerunner of the launching 
device used on today's carriers. 

The airplane was at first employed only as a scouting weapon by 
both naval and military experts. Fleet commanders, in particular, liked 
the extension of visibility for their surface ships. No one considered 
the airplane a weapon of offense, and the idea of bombing large cities 


or military establishments was, at the time, thought to be inhumane. 
The First World War had been under way for many months before 
the airplane became an aerial destroyer with machine guns mounted 
at available ports. 

The flying boat and float plane were first used for naval-air opera- 
tions because they could take off from or land on the water; that is 
they could under favorable conditions, but as their employment was 
extended special vessels had to be devised to accommodate and serv- 
ice them. 

But there always were a number of handling problems connected 
with these frail machines that detracted from their tactical value. 
They took up too much valuable space aboard their tenders, they 
were difficult to handle aboard ship, to launch over the side, or to 
retrieve after a patrol flight had been completed, and because of their 
size and weight and lack of maneuverability were limited to simple 
scouting missions. They were no match for land-based aircraft, even 
though offensive armament was rudimentary and primitive. Their 
hulls and floats which gave them their primary ability to work with 
naval forces were their major hindrance. 

What Navy men wanted was a light, long-range aircraft that could 
defend itself, scout out the enemy, take off from and land back on the 
mother ship; the last two qualities would save a tremendous amount 
of valuable time and, more important, allow the vessel concerned to 
keep station with its own flotilla or fleet. There would be no necessity 
to slow down to put the aircraft into the water, or to pick it up again. 
With the increased speed of surface operations, this was of prime con- 
sideration. If an aircraft could be launched from a vessel of war while 
she was under way and brought back again under the same circum- 
stances, the art of naval warfare could be vitally improved. 

The Wright brothers used a dropped-weight catapult to launch their 
first successful biplanes. This device produced one form of initial pro- 
pulsion. The problem of a short-strip landing was partly solved by 
another American, Eugene Ely, a noted pilot of the Glenn Curtiss 
school who made the first known carrier-deck landing and take-off on 
January 19, 1911, aboard an early Curtiss "June-bug" biplane. Recon- 
structed versions of this historic plane have been seen at aviation 
shows over the past few years. It had a thirty horsepower engine, a 
six-foot propeller, and a tricycle landing gear. Ely, who wore a number 
of inflated bicycle inner tubes for safety, "took off from the Presidio 
in San Francisco and flew out to the U.S.S, Pennsylvania, a cruiser of 


that day, and landed on a short platform that was mounted over the 
stern of the deck. 

The Curtiss pilot put down the biplane at about forty miles per 
hour and used a variation of today's hook-and-cable arrester equip- 
ment; a series of ropes with sandbags at each end were laid across two 
wooden rails that ran lengthwise along the landing platform. Sus- 
pended a few inches high, the ropes caught and held a trailing hook, 
and afforded the means of snubbing the forward speed, slowing down 
the plane, and limiting it to the short platform. 

Later that day Ely's biplane was turned around, the ropes and sand- 
bags removed, and he took off and flew back to the Presidio field. The 
landing-cable idea became the basis of today's very elaborate plane- 
snubbing system used by all naval carriers. But the U. S. Navy did not 
pursue the venture and the aircraft carrier, as such, was first developed 
by the British, 

With the outbreak of war in 1914 the heavier-than-air machines had 
a hundred new situations to thwart. The early Royal Naval Air Serv- 
ice which was responsible for home defense and co-operation with the 
fleet performed these tasks as best it could with land-based wheeled 
planes, float planes, and flying boats. 

British naval aviation can be traced back to 1908 when a new post 
of Naval Air Assistant was established at the Admiralty, but it was not 
until 1912 that heavier-than-air aircraft were seriously considered for 
naval operations. The general attitude toward any proposed carrier op- 
erations is best illustrated by a statement that appeared in a London 
aviation journal that same year. It read: 

It is reported without any corroboration that Mr. [Lieutenant] Samson 
has the intention of alighting on the deck of one of the battleships at 
Sheerness. It is sincerely hoped that he will not make the attempt, for 
he is not only one of the most magnificent flyers in the country, but he 
is an exceedingly valuable officer and a man of considerable mental abil- 
ity, and should not, therefore, be permitted to risk his life on what is, 
when all is said and done, simply a dangerous trick which though it may 
perhaps seem convincing to a few old-fashioned officers who do not yet 
realize even the present possibilities of the aeroplane, is actually of no 
practical value whatever. 

The Lieutenant Samson is the R.N.A.S. officer mentioned in the 
beginning of this chapter. 
But the young bloods of the Royal Navy had other views and sev- 


eral stuck doggedly to their opinions and, disregarding a series of mis- 
haps and tragedies involving their lighter-than-air craft dirigibles and 
blimps pushed their "impractical" plans with even more determina- 

There were several reasons for this. On November 18, 1911, Com- 
mander Oliver Schwann, who later changed his name to Swann, made 
Britain's first successful take-off from the water while flying a thirty- 
five horsepower Avro biplane. The first such U. S. float-plane flight 
was made by Glenn H. Curtiss aboard a Curtiss hydro-airplane at San 
Diego on January 26, 1911, and Henri Fabre, a Frenchman was the 
first airman to take off from the water (1910) but he was unable to 
land on its surface. Fabre flew a canard machine in which the main 
planes were fitted to the rear of the body frame and had the engine 
mounted in what would be considered the center section. The pilot 
straddled the upper main body member, and sat facing the tangle 
of control surfaces. The floats were made of thin veneer and were 
formed into a hollow construction that was curved fore and aft like 
wings. They not only provided the lift from the water but also assisted 
in supporting the aircraft in the air. Fabre could take off from the 
water with these frail floats, but he had to land on a sandy beach or 
a meadow. 

The question arises: Was this the first amphibian plane? 

The famed Lieutenant Charles R. Samson of Great Britain flew a 
Short 8.27 from an improvised deck built on the forecastle of H.M.S. 
Africa while she was at anchor at Chatham, and made a safe descent 
alongside, using flotation bags lashed to the wheels. But it was not 
until 1912 that the first real seaplane and the first flying boat made 
their appearance. The first British flight from a ship under way was 
made by a Lieutenant Gregory on May 9, 1912, aboard another Short 
8.27 biplane from the deck of H.M.S. Hibernia as she was steaming 
at ten knots in Weymouth Bay. 

The friendly spirit of competition between the U. S. and British 
Navies did much to advance the progress of naval aviation. While the 
U. S. appears to have neglected her early success in deck take-offs and 
landings, some attention was given to the prospects of catapult-assist 
take-offs. Some experiments were made in 1912, but it was not until 
1916 that an actual catapult, suitable for active service conditions, was 
fitted to U.S.S. North Carolina. 

British naval aviation began to get into its stride by 1912 when a 
Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps was formed and naval prob- 


lems considered seriously. By the end of that year the Royal Navy 
had sixteen aircraft in service, thirteen of which were landplanes; only 
three were so-called hydro-airplanes. That year, too, saw Lieutenant 
Samson drop a naval bomb from a Short biplane. Radio signals were 
also transmitted from a Short seaplane and by the summer of 1913 
four shore stations, Calshot, Cromarty, Felixstowe, and Great Yar- 
mouth were established. In July of that year aircraft for the first time 
took part in the annual naval maneuvers. 

A notable feature of this period was the operation of two seaplanes 
from a wheeled launching platform mounted forward aboard H.M.S. 
Hermes. One of these aircraft, a Short biplane, was known later as 
the Short Folder since it incorporated a set of wings that could be 
folded back parallel with the fuselage. The Short firm, the oldest es- 
tablished designers and producers of airplanes in the United King- 
dom, was founded by two brothers, Eustace and Oswald Short in 
1898. Their output began with spherical balloons, and in 1908 when 
their elder brother Horace joined the firm they began to manufacture 
airplanes near Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey. 

The following year a Short plane won the Daily Mail prize of 
1000 for a flight over a closed circuit by an all-British airplane. The 
Short brothers also became the British agents of the Wright brothers. 
In 1910, with a new factory at Eastchurch, they produced a series of 
biplanes powered with two engines, certainly the first multiengined 
airplanes ever built. 

Short aircraft of varying types played an important part in the de- 
velopment of the Royal Naval Air Service. Its first pilots were trained 
on Shorts, and the early folding-wing seaplane became the forerunner 
of many carrier-based aircraft that were produced by other major pow- 
ers. A Short seaplane was the first to carry a torpedo into the air and 
early in World War I Flight Commander C. H. K. Edmonds, while 
flying a Short seaplane, succeeded in torpedoing a Turkish transport 
in the Sea of Marmara. In the latter months of that war the Shorts pro- 
duced their famed N2B bomber seaplane, the Skirl, originally de- 
signed as a torpedo carrier and later selected to take part in the 1919 
transatlantic races. 

All these experiments were interesting and afforded novel exhibi- 
tions for the Royal Navy, but the expansion of the German Navy al- 
ready was being sensed and by July 1914 the Royal Naval Air Service 
had become an independent force with 52 seaplanes, 39 landplanes, 


7 airships of varying value, 128 officers, and 700 ratings, or enlisted 

As the threat of war spread ominous clouds over Great Britain dur- 
ing those memorable holidays of 1914, the Grand Fleet was gathered 
at Spithead for the annual royal review that, on this occasion, was to 
cover five days, from July 18-22. On the twentieth an impressive flight 
of naval aircraft flew in a V over the fleet and gathered crowds, giving 
the first public exhibition of formation flying. Then followed seven- 
teen seaplanes, accompanied by four naval airships that cruised majes- 
tically above the review area. 

This was the greatest display of fighting aircraft yet seen in Britain 
and it must have been most impressive since the precision of that 
early formation flying reflected the enthusiasm and skill of the adven- 
turous men who flew those prehistoric machines. How all this had 
been welded into such a disciplined and cohesive force is not clearly 

Because of the spirit and the interest shown, the planes in this dis- 
play were dispatched on a tour of Great Britain, but by the evening 
of July 27 suddenly were ordered back to their home stations. On the 
twenty-ninth the Cabinet advised the Admiralty that since the Royal 
Flying Corps, as the military wing was now called, would accompany 
the Army when it was engaged abroad, the Royal Naval Air Service 
would take over the responsibility for the air defense of Great Britain, 
and that these duties must take precedence over the purely naval re- 
quirements of patrol and scouting. 

Much of this had been foreseen and during the early weeks of 1914 
the R.NA.S. had been practicing fighting tactics over Chatham, an 
exercise in which two aircraft "attacked" the dockyards while six oth- 
ers played the role of "defenders." 

On August i orders reached Eastchurch that all R.N.A.S. machines 
were to be kept tuned up, day and night, for instant action. The day 
for which these gallant men had been training had finally arrived; from 
now on the flights and maneuvers were to be carried out in deadly 

When war broke out on August 4, it was soon evident that special 
ships were urgently needed to act as seaplane carriers and in Septem- 
ber an old merchantman was hurriedly converted and named Ark 
Royal, commemorating another Ark Royd which served with honor 
under Sir Francis Drake against the Spanish Armada in 1588. This 
twentieth-century Ark Royal could carry ten seaplanes that were 


launched from wheeled trolleys, as they were aboard the Hermes. This 
early carrier arrangement was so successful that three cross-Channel 
steamers Empress, Engandine, and Riviera were converted to ac- 
commodate four seaplanes each. Later an Isle of Man packet, the 
Ben-My-Chree, was added to this early carrier force the Hermes was 
sunk by an enemy submarine off Calais on October 31, 1914. 

These improvised vessels and their aircraft performed heroically dur- 
ing the early weeks of the war. On Christmas Day 1914 light naval 
forces out of Harwich, accompanied by Engandine and Riviera, 
steamed into Heligoland Bight to give the seaplanes a chance to bomb 
the airship sheds at Cuxhaven. The sheds were not located but the 
bombs caused some damage and confusion. However, this was chiefly 
a period of active development for the new sea-air arm; most of their 
duties consisted in routine fleet scouting operations. Although the 
"birds" were often in poor plumage and their engines were not too 
reliable, they hacked away and more than earned their keep. The Ark 
Royd, later named Pegpsus, took seven float planes out to the Medi- 
terranean to provide gunnery spotting, photographic reconnaissance, 
and infantry support for the early stages of the Gallipoli campaign, 
but since she had only ancient merchantman speed, she was vulner- 
able to attacks by enemy submarines that were beginning to appear 
in that area, and had to be replaced by the speedier Ben-My-Chree. 

It was during this campaign that Flight Commander Edmonds 
made his historic torpedo attack. Flying at a height of fifteen feet, 
at a range of three hundred yards he attacked an enemy supply ship 
and immediately sank it. Samson, now a commander, also delivered a 
five-hundred-pound bomb with rare success and then tried to set fire 
to a Turkish position by dropping a twenty-gallon drum of gasoline 
that was fitted with an explosive charge. This effort was not successful 
since the liquid was too widely dispersed on impact to set up the 
necessary blaze. 

Until 1915 all vessels that had been converted for flying purposes 
were designed solely as parent ships to seaplanes, but something new 
was about to hatch. That year another Isle of Man packet, Vindex, 
was provided with a sixty-four-foot-long deck forward to accommodate 
"fighters" as well as seaplanes. A successful flight was made from Vin- 
dex, with a Bristol Scout on November 3, 1915. Again, this was a float 
plane, equipped with a set of wheels that were dropped as the plane 
left the deck; there was no effort to land back on, the seaplane simply 


returned, landed a short distance ahead of the moving ship and was 
"hooked" by a derrick gear and "fished" aboard. 

With this deck success, similar vessels such as Manxman, Nairana, 
and Pegasus were soon added to the naval air fleet. In each case the 
seaplane hangar was aft, the fighter hangar was forward, and the ves- 
sel was provided with a sliding roof, allowing the planes to be lifted 
direct to the deck; the beginning of the elevator principle used in to- 
day's modern carriers. 

These minor successes inspired new ideas and Captain Murray- 
Sueter, Director of the Naval Air Department, suggested that a large 
liner, fast enough to keep station with the fleet, might be equipped to 
carry from eight to twelve seaplanes, and to this end the old twenty- 
two-knot Cunarder Campania of twenty thousand tons, built in 1893 
for the North Atlantic service, was purchased and turned over to 
Messrs. Cammell, Laird & Co. for conversion to a fleet aircraft carrier. 
A flying deck of one hundred twenty feet in length was built over 
the forecastle for single-seater fighters, and derricks, booms and other 
equipment for "hoisting out" and re-embarking the two-seater Short 
seaplanes, were installed. An armament of eight 4.7-inch guns and 
suitable storage for large quantities of gasoline were provided. Cam- 
pania was commissioned by Captain Oliver Swann, the same Navy man 
who had made the first British take-off from water four years before. 

In Campania's early trials and exercises with the fleet, the arrange- 
ments for hoisting out and re-embarking the seaplanes in an open sea 
worked well, but in heavy seas the light-powered seaplanes were not 
able to get off the water. One pilot who did take off successfully 
could not make radio communication with the surface fleet and the 
general idea was considered to be a failure. But R.N.SA pilots would 
not be discouraged. They planned to fly a light seaplane from the deck 
of Campania and on August 6, 1915, Flight Lieutenant W. L. Welsh 
took off aboard a Sopwith-Schneider seaplane after a run of 113 feet, 
using a wheeled trolley, when the vessel was steaming seventeen knots 
into the wind. 

This was satisfactory from the point of view of the single-seater pi- 
lot, but by now naval aircraft were often two-seaters that carried 
a pilot, a radio-operator gunner and considerable communications 
equipment. This required a longer platform to get such an aircraft 
airborne and to accomplish it the foremost funnel of the exJiner was 
removed and replaced by two narrow funnels, abreast, one on either 
side of die ship, allowing the landing platform to be extended ninety 


feet farther aft between these two stacks. The foremast and navigating 
bridge were also removed giving a hint of future carrier design and 
the bridge was replaced by a light narrow gangway arched across the 
flying deck at a sufficient height to allow the seaplanes to pass 

Campania was steered from beneath the flight, or flying deck, un- 
der a small hatch which was raised when flying was not in progress 
a series of periscopic mirrors gave the helmsman a view ahead. Availa- 
ble records do not disclose how much normal vision was possible dur- 
ing flight-deck operations. 

Below decks there was hangar accommodation for eight reconnais- 
sance seaplanes and four Sopwith "Baby" seaplanes. At the stern of 
the vessel was a well about ten feet deep, sheltered by canvas screens 
eight feet high that held an inflated kite balloon that was often raised 
on a winch cable and used for immediate area observation, just as kite 
balloons were being employed on the Western Front. 

Once all these alterations were completed, Campania rejoined the 
Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow on April 12, 1916. Exercises were restarted 
and the flying personnel gained much reconnaissance experience in 
the basket of the kite balloon, and in deck take-offs. In this period five 
R.N.A.S. pilots successfully flew the "Baby" seaplanes off while Cam- 
pania was steaming at twenty knots. Apparently, everything was going 

At this point a majestic foul-up occurred that deprived Campania 
of a glorious place in naval history. 

On the morning of May 30, 1916, this seaplane carrier steamed out 
of the harbor to enable her aircraft to cany out a series of gun-spotting 
flights in co-operation with four surface vessels that had been ordered 
to engage in routine firing exercises. The kite balloon of the new 
Calquot type one fitted with inflated stabilizer vanes was much 
more efficient than the old drachen copied from a German observation 
balloon; it was more stable, could be flown in higher winds, and on 
this occasion was sent up to twelve hundred feet with four observer 
officers in the basket. The shoot was carried out, the balloon was 
hauled down, and Campania returned to her anchorage at Scapa Flow 
which was some five miles from the main fleet. 

At 5:15 P.M. she dropped anchor and at 5:35 received a preparatory 
signal radioed to all ships of the Grand Fleet. About 7:00 she re- 
ceived a further order to raise steam for full speed, and by 9:30 Cam- 
pania was ready to proceed to sea-and glory, but unfortunately, Cap- 


tain Swann did not receive the executive order sent out at 10:54, and 
it was not for some hours that he was aware that the fleet had sailed. 
Once he learned the reason for the general departure, he weighed 
anchor and passed the outer boom defenses about an hour after the 
last ship of the fleet had left as a result we have the universal dis- 
agreement as to who actually won the Battle of Jutland. 

Companies absence from the action was not detected until around 
midnight, and the commander-in-chief did not know until 2 A.M. that 
she had left Scapa Flow. Owing to the presence of enemy submarines 
and the fact that no destroyer escort could be provided, Admiral John 
Jellicoe ordered Campania at 4:37 to return to harbor, which she 
safely reached at 9:15 A.M. The British commander thus went into the 
Battle of Jutland without any aerial reconnaissance. 

The Germans were assisted to some extent by ten L-type Zeppelins, 
although their actual role has generally been considered negligible. It 
is recognized that the failures Admiral Jellicoe suffered were due 
chiefly to his lack of knowledge as to the whereabouts of vital portions 
of the German High Seas Fleet at critical points in the battle. 

How much assistance the aircraft aboard Campania would have 
given is a matter of conjecture, but had the operation of flying sea- 
planes from the flight deck, and the radio communication and the 
ships of the fleet equaled the efficiency attained some months later, 
there is no doubt that the pilots could have given the admiral valuable 

Admiral Jellicoe's decision to send Campania back was probably in- 
fluenced by the fact that immediate calculations showed that the sea- 
plane carrier could not overtake the fleet. However, due to heroic 
efforts of her engine-room staff she was closing the gap at the rate of 
three knots, and it has since been agreed that, subject to no mishaps, 
she would have caught up with the main force several hours before 
the opening of the main engagement. Even her old kite balloon would 
have been a godsend. All the officers and men aboard Campania were 
keen to show what could be accomplished by her aircraft, and all were 
confident of success. Being denied a part in the great Battle of Jutland 
must have been a bitter disappointment. 

It is interesting to note that on June 3, 1916, two days after 
the great naval battle, a two-seater reconnaissance seaplane, using a 
wheeled trolley, was successfully flown off Campania's deck for the 
first time. This accomplishment opened up new possibilities and radio 
communication improved immensely. But this seaplane-carrier was a 


luckless ship. On August 19, 1916, when the German Fleet made a 
short sortie and showed some indication of doing battle, she had en- 
gine trouble and could not put to sea to take any part in the brief 
action. In contrast, a Zeppelin spotted the British Fleet in time for 
Admiral Reinhard Scheer to reconsider his rash move and hurry back 
to Kiel. 

In February 1917 the Grand Fleet Aircraft Committee recom- 
mended that Sopwith Pup airplaneslight, single-seater landplanes 
should replace the Baby seaplanes aboard Campania. These were use- 
ful little biplane fighters, powered by 80 hp. Le Rhone rotary engines 
with a top speed of 106 mph. They carried one fixed Vickers machine 
gun that fired under the control of a hydraulic interrupter gear through 
the propeller. This plane was an ideal mount with no vices and, at 
the time, most suitable for prospective aircraft-carrier work. 

A few of these machines were delivered for development, and for 
these experiments, the device that had been used for supporting the 
tail of the seaplane at the commencement of the take-off to keep it 
at normal flying position, was replaced by a grooved tail-guide trestle. 
This arrangement was used subsequently by aircraft flying off light 
cruiser platforms and off turret platforms of battleships and battle 
cruisers. A large amount of experimental work was carried out aboard 
Campania that furnished valuable data when flight decks were fitted 
to other ships, such as Vindex and Furious. 

By January 1918 Campania, which had contributed much to the 
development of the aircraft carrier, was released from the strength of 
the Grand Fleet and made a training ship for naval air operations. 
There was some talk of further experimentation with a more elaborate 
flight deck, but this was postponed until additional experience had 
been gained with H.M.S. Argus, another converted type that had 
started out as the uncompleted Italian merchantman Conte Rosso, 
being built in a Clyde shipyard. Argus was fitted with a 55o-foot flight 
deck about sixty-eight feet wide, her funnels were trunked horizontally 
aft, and her bridge and navigation space were made compact and low- 
ered so that Argus offered a true flush deck. 

In 1932 Japan had four carriers with this trunked-funnel arrange- 
ment, Ryu/o, Ka&i, Afazgz, and Hosho, and by 1937 Hosyo and 
Ryuzyo, also trunked-funnel ships, had been added. 

Argus was never employed in war operations, but immediately after 
the war was used for extensive flying trials, during which time more 


than five hundred take-offs and landings were made with only forty 
major crashes. 

The remainder of Campanicfs career was spent in this training pro- 
gram and eventually she was lost in the Firth of Forth when one night 
during a gale she dragged her anchors and drifted across the bows of 
H.M.S. Royal Oak and went down. 

The Royal Navy continued its interest in carrier work and, along 
with Argus, converted a battle cruiser into an aircraft carrier. This was 
known as H.M.S. Furious and came as close to the design of the mod- 
ern concept of an aircraft carrier as one would expect to find in those 
early days. She had a 228-foot-long flight deck that was mounted over 
the stem half of the hull; she also had a variation of the offset bridge, 
and her speed of thirty knots enabled planes to be flown off, but the 
problem of flying back on was unsolved until August 3, 1917. On that 
day Squadron Commander E. H. Dunning made the first true deck 
landing with a Sopwith Pup. It was accomplished by skidding to a 
stop, rather than relying on any built-in arrester gear, but in trying to 
repeat the performance two days later a wheel tire burst, the Pup 
rolled over the side, and Dunning was lost. 

After this accident, further study was made of an elementary ar- 
rester gear, and a rope-net buffer was erected to protect the bridge. 
Furious was also the first carrier that was equipped with elevators to 
lower her aircraft to the hangars below. Over the postwar years she 
contributed much to the science of carrier work and was reconstructed 
five times for various reasons before she was scrapped in May 1945. 
Her sister ships Courageous and Glorious also went through many de- 
sign changes until they evolved as island-type flush-deck carriers. 

Other conversions during the last two years of the war were Vin- 
dictive and Eagle, the latter had been laid down originally as a battle- 
ship for Chile and was to be known as Almirante Cochrane. She was 
the first true "island carrier" since her two funnels, bridge, and masts 
were shifted over to the extreme starboard side, and until her end in 
August 1942 when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-73 
while escorting a convoy in the Mediterranean, she was one of the 
best-loved carriers in the Royal Navy. About the same time a contract 
was placed with Armstrong-Whitworth for the first British carrier to 
be built from the keel up. This vessel was called H.M.S. Hermes, but 
neither she nor Eagle was ready for launching before the end of the 
war; much of their construction was delayed until Argus had been 


given many practical trials. Both new carriers were then fitted with 
the now accepted bridge-island mounted on the starboard side. 

The above relates to the varied efforts made by airmen of the Royal 
Navy to bring the American-invented airplane and the American idea 
of shipboard landing operations to practical use in actual warfare. It 
is true that World War I saw no real aircraft carrier operations as we 
know the science today, but the endeavors that were attempted did 
clarify many of the problems. The idea of a flush deck, unimpeded by 
a bridge or funnels, was conceived. Variations of the arrester gear were 
developed, and the Battle of Jutland pointed up the necessity of air- 
craft reconnaissance and aircraft-to-surface-ship radio communication. 
It became obvious that the airplane would have^ to be designed espe- 
cially for deck operations and the limited stowage space available. 
Equally important, air crews would have to be trained in naval opera- 
tions as well as the art of flying a heavier-than-air craft. Much of this 
came about as the result of the dogged determination of "a few" and 
eventually Great Britian had a special Fleet Air Arm; after which the 
United States gave its naval aviation a second look. 

Probably the greatest impetus to the development of carrier aviation 
in the U. S. Navy was Brigadier General William Mitchell's flamboy- 
ant bombing exhibition that proved for all time that the airplane 
carrying the proper armament could sink a naval battleship. This was 
carried out July 21, 1921, when a small formation of American bomb- 
ers led by Mitchell sank the Ostfriesland, a former German battleship, 
in a test off the coast of Virginia and before a very critical audience 
of naval experts. Few wanted to believe what they had seen, but there 
were one or two who muttered: "Well, maybe Congress will give us 
a few dollars to develop an aircraft carrier. We sure need one after 
that exhibition." 

Many new concepts of naval action were shown in the Battle of 
Jutland. Although few men would admit it at the time, the day of the 
dreadnought or battleship was over. Design had not kept pace with 
gunnery or modern explosive, the submarine, or at least the threat of 
the submarine, upset old-line planning and strategy, weapons out- 
ranged reconnaissance, and the admirals were blind beyond the limited 
scope of their scouting destroyers and battle cruisers. Although Cam- 
pania and the Zeppelins were denied a vital role in this battle, it was 
soon evident that either side might have scored the greatest victory in 


modern naval history, could it have been known what was going on 
in the important areas of the conflict. 

A most intricate vessel was in the offing, a new man-of-war that 
carried weapons of a range never known before naval aircraft a 
floating airfield that some quarter of a century later would win great 
naval battles without either fleet commander seeing the other's forces. 

American contribution to the science of carrier warfare makes a 
splendid chapter in naval history. Eugene Ely had shown that an air- 
plane could land on and take off from a modern naval vessel. In 1916 
another aircraft was catapulted from U.S.S. North Carolina, making 
that vessel technically an aircraft carrier, but nothing in particular was 
attempted during the war years of 1917-18. After the war, and with 
the honor of first flying the Atlantic going to a U. S. Navy N.C.4 team 
in 1919, it was obvious that more attention would have to be given 
to the naval side of flying. Although funds were limited and six sea- 
plane stations were closed, the collier Jupiter was put under conversion 
for carrier work, renamed U.S.S. LangLey, and commissioned in 
March 1922. 

This historic vessel might be considered the first successful aircraft 
carrier since she was properly equipped with an arrester gear that per- 
mitted aircraft to land aboard her, even under most severe weather 
conditions. She performed ably, and great strides were made in carrier 
operations. The catapult, first operated successfully aboard North 
Carolina, was now standard equipment on battleships and heavy cruis- 
ers that launched a specialized type of float plane. But when Langley 
began fleet operations the catapult proved to be somewhat inadequate. 
Only a few aircraft could be carried aboard battleships. They could be 
launched under almost all conditions, but had to be retrieved from the 
water on their return. On many occasions they were damaged severely 
if the landing was made in rough water, and since the mother ship 
had to slow down to make the pick-up, she became an excellent target 
for torpedo attack. 

The aircraft flown from Langley were up-to-date land types of 
higher performance, and when it became evident that a torpedo- 
carrying plane was to be the prime weapon of the aircraft carrier, the 
landing-deck vessel came into its own. No catapult system that could 
be erected on a battleship could accommodate an aircraft capable of 
carrying the naval-air torpedo. It was largely through the desire to take 
the dive bomber and torpedo carrier to sea with the fleet that the 


United States and British Navies brought the aircraft carrier to such 
a peak of performance. 

Catapults, capable of launching aircraft of various types, had been 
mounted aboard most of the battleships of the United States Navy by 
the time Langley started operating with the fleet, but they compared 
in no way with the flexibility of action experienced aboard this early 
carrier. The float planes could not be landed aboard their mother 
ships after a patrol or reconnaissance, but had to be hoisted aboard 
and returned to the catapult mount by an elaborate derrick system. 

Langley soon proved that any major power would have to pursue a 
strong policy in that particular field of naval operations, and between 
1927 and 1940 eleven such vessels were built and commissioned, but 
only seven were in actual service when the Pearl Harbor attack brought 
the United States into the Second World War. Saratoga and Lexing- 
ton, practically sister ships, were launched a few months apart in 1925 
but were not completed until the early winter of 1927. For those days, 
they were massive vessels, each weighing 33,000 tons and accommo- 
dating ninety aircraft. Their original cost was about $45,000,000 each. 
They had been authorized for construction as battle cruisers of 35,300 
tons in 1916 and were to have seven funnels and boilers dispersed on 
two deck levels, but after World War I, as a result of experiences 
gained, these plans were largely revised. 

As aircraft carriers, their tonnage was reduced by 8500 tons, mainly 
through the sacrifice of eight sixteen-inch guns in four twin turrets, and 
their mounts and armor. Other than this, most original features were 
retained. A flight deck was set up and the island superstructure added. 
Aircraft were handled on the 88o-foot-long platform and a landing net 
was stretched behind a T-shaped elevator in the aft section. Another 
such elevator was abeam of the island, and a powerful catapult was 
set into the forward quarter of the deck. Recovery of aircraft was much 
as it is today; the incoming plane flew up to the lip of the deck and 
was arrested through its hook and a series of arrester-gear cables. Any 
planes that failed, through a malfunction of the gear or breakage of 
the hook, were caught in the landing net, thus protecting other aircraft 
parked in the middle or forward sections of the deck. 

U.S.S. Rdnger, a i9,9oo-ton carrier was launched in February 1936 
and completed in the summer of 1937, and carried eighty aircraft. 
Enterprise was launched April 4, 1936, Yorktown was completed April 
4, 1929, and Wasp in January 1940. Hornet, which carried General 


Jimmy Doolittle's 8-25 aircraft for the first attack on Tokyo, was 
launched September 25, 1939. 

Once the Second World War was under way, the carrier program 
gained amazing impetus; during the hostilities seventeen fast Essex 
class, and nine light Independence class flat-tops reported for duty. 
One hundred fourteen escort carriers followed in the wake of the pio- 
neer Long Island, including thirty-eight that were turned over to the 
British Navy. The history of many of these gallant vessels will be pre- 
sented in later chapters. Four of the seven original CVs (large attack) 
carriers were lost in early actions, one light (CVL) and six escort 
(CVE) carriers went down in thrilling engagements. Twelve of the 
larger carriers and several escort ships received heavy damage. Many 
that were struck by bombs, torpedoes and kamikaze attacks went on 
fighting, a few limped back to the United States for major overhaul, 
but eventually returned to take their share of the battle. 

The naval personnel concerned deserve unlimited praise for at times 
they were called on to fight with outmoded or at best, transitional 
weapons. The men who served aboard our early carriers needed un- 
bounded courage, dedication, and adaptability since they were operat- 
ing from a complex, ungainly, and vulnerable base. The handicaps 
under which most carrier airmen fought can best be realized from their 
operational airplane losses. It has been pointed out many times that 
more Navy planes were lost through mechanical failures, take-off and 
landing accidents, and other operational losses than in actual combat. 

France also took an interest in the aircraft carrier, her first effort 
being the Bfarne that had been originally laid down in 1914 as a bat- 
tleship of the Normandie class. During the First World War construc- 
tion was suspended and she was not launched until April 1920. Re- 
designed as a fleet carrier, work was started at La Seyne in August 
1923 and completed in May 1927. She had a displacement of 22,146 
tons and a full load of 25,000 tons, and on her trials she put on 21.5 
knots with 40,000 hp. The Bfarne was planned to accommodate more 
than forty aircraft but less than one fourth of these could be handled 
on the deck at one time. She had a spotty career in World War II and 
so far as is known was never used in active operations. 

Thtjoffre and Painlev6 were laid down some time in 1938-39 but 
neither vessel was completed before the Germans occupied France and 
took over the Penhoet yard where these ships were being built. How 
far the hulls had progressed is not known. 


The German Navy laid down two aircraft carriers. The first, named 
Graf Zeppelin, was launched and was in process of fitting out when the 
war started in 1939. She was rushed out of her dockyard and moved 
to Gdynia, Poland, where she was captured later by the Russians. The 
second vessel, never named, did not progress far beyond the keel-laying 
stage, and is believed to have been destroyed in dockyard raids by the 
R.A.F. Both vessels were to have been i9,ooo-tonners, carrying only 
twenty-five aircraft. 

Japan furnished something of a surprise in World War II when she 
produced seven first-class fleet earners by 1940. These were Soryu, 
Hiryu, Shokaku, Ryuzyo, Kogd, Afazgi, and Hosho. To some extent this 
lineup was a grim embarrassment to Allied Intelligence, for as late as 
December 1941 the impression was that the Japanese Navy had only 
four carriers there was no information concerning their Zero fighter. 
Only Sir Winston Churchill seems to have had any basic knowledge of 
Japanese strength in carriers and of the capability of their fighter air- 
craft. At the same time American aviation experts were proclaiming 
that the Brewster Buffalo fighter plane was the most powerful aircraft 
of that class in the Orient. As things turned out, the Buffalo was cold 
meat for the Zero fighters. 

In the early 19205 naval rivalry was an accepted status of Japanese- 
American relations. At the Washington Conference in 1921 Japan had 
held determinedly for a fleet ratio of seven to ten, as opposed to the 
United States view of "non-menace and non-aggression," in which we 
based our stand on the principle that the relative strengths of the two 
navies should be such that each could defend itself successfully 
against the other, but neither would attack or menace the other. 

At the time naval experts agreed that in modern fleet warfare an 
invading force would have to be 50 per cent stronger than that de- 
fending. Under the seven-to-ten ratio demanded by Japan, the U, S. 
Navy would have had only a 43 per cent margin of superiority, not 
quite enough to wage an aggressive campaign. The conference, how- 
ever, adopted a three-to-five ratio applicable to capital ships, meaning 
battleships, completely ignoring aircraft carriers which at the time were 
considered a nautical novelty. 

How quickly the lesson of the Battle of Jutland was forgotten. 

This three-to-five ratio gave the American fleet a 67 per cent margin 
of superiority in the battleship category that from the standpoint of 
the Japanese admirals made it a menace to Japan. They turned their 


attention to developing superior vessels for defense operations, and 
what better vessel for that purpose than the aircraft carrier? The 
42,oooton battle cruiser Akagi was immediately converted to a flush- 
deck carrier. 

By 1930 the London Conference extended the limitation of naval 
armaments to categories other than capital ships. Again, Japan insisted 
on a seven-to-ten ratio in global tonnage of non-capital ships, and 
again her request was turned down. 

Blocked at every turn, Japan refused to renew the naval limitation 
treaties on their expiration in the latter part of 1936. Earlier that same 
year we had enacted the Vinson naval expansion program to meet the 
changing conditions in Europe and Asia. Actually, the U. S. Navy was 
not up to treaty levels, but Japan was. Thus prior to the threat of the 
Vinson program, Japan had some sense of security, but if this program 
was completed the U. S. Navy would have the 67 per cent margin of 
superiority so dreaded by Japanese strategists. 

As soon as the naval limitation treaties lapsed, Japan inaugurated 
her new Marusan program which placed greater stress on building spe- 
cial, superior type ships and armament to offset numerical inferiority. 
These included Yamato and Musashi, then the world's largest and 
most heavily armed battleships. Only a few farsighted Japanese offi- 
cials saw the fallacy of this and pushed for naval air power, pointing 
out that the new naval armament policy was wrong, that it had not 
kept pace with the radical change in methods of warfare, that the idea 
of outbuilding the potential enemy in battleships was not realistic 
in the future aircraft would be the decisive factor and air warfare 
would be total warfare that would require the complete mobilization 
of all national resources and activities. 

As events turned out Japan decisively defeated her Anglo-American 
enemies for more than six months, but when her national resources 
were depleted and her national production broke down, she had noth- 
ing left with which to fight. Before the Pacific war was over the United 
States had built, not dozens of aircraft carriers, but more than one 
hundred carriers of the attack and escort class. 

Aircraft carrier development in Japan took on some interesting as- 
pects. From the beginning, with the building of Kaga, Hosho, and 
Akagi, they ignored all traditional design. Since the vessels were to pro- 
vide a seagoing flight deck for naval aircraft, they were just that. 
Masts, bridge, and funnels were eliminated; the flight deck was all- 
important. Navigation was carried out from a bridge set below the for- 


ward lip of the deck, the funnels, as stated before, were trunked over 
*the side and aft, and what mast structure was needed was built to be 
raised or lowered between deck operations. These vessels looked more 
like oversize barges, but they were most practical. Even in 1932 these 
carriers were capable of twenty-five knots, carried ten 8-inch guns, four 
4-7-inchers and twelve 4.y-inch antiaircraft weapons. 

The Amagi which was laid down at the Yokosuka dockyard and 
launched late in 1923 was so badly damaged by the earthquake and 
fire in September of that year she had to be abandoned before she was 
fitted out for fleet operations. The hull of Kaga, originally a battle- 
ship, was appropriated to replace her, and in this vessel we first note 
a curved trunking of the bank of funnels, designed to carry smoke and 
thermal eddies well clear of the flight deck. From the traditional point 
of view, it was not impressive, but it was very practical. Aboard Hosyo 
the smoke was dispersed through three circular funnels that could be 
tilted over the side or held erect along the starboard side, another in- 
teresting twist in carrier design. 

The growth and initial success of the Japanese carrier force must 
be credited to Commander Minoru Genda, a brilliant young staff of- 
ficer who was aide to Rear Admiral Takijiro Onishi, then Chief of 
Staff of the Eleventh Air Fleet. Commander Genda had begun his 
naval career as a fighter pilot and his success in that duty had won for 
him and his units the nickname, Genda Circus. The young com- 
mander, however, was more than a skilled flier, he was also an air 
tactician of no small stature. As operations officer of an Air Group that 
operated in the Shanghai area in 1937 he had introduced several new 
methods for mass, long-range missions by fighter aircraft. Later, after 
graduating with honors from the Naval War College, he served for two 
years in London as Japan's assistant Naval Attach^ for Air, where he 
gained experience, poise, and broadened his service viewpoint. 

Commander Genda contributed much in the realm of air tactics 
where mass employment 0f fighters gained control of the air in co- 
operation with their bombers, and these tactics were introduced in the 
concerted use of several carrier task groups in a single tactical theater. 
These new methods were applied so effectively in the opening phase 
of the Pacific war, they were known in American aviation parlance as 

Genda made an exhaustive study of the proposed attack on Pearl 
Harbor to determine if it could be carried out successfully, and came 
to the conclusion that it could be attempted if at least six of the Fleet's 


large carriers were assigned to the operation, that special care be taken 
to select only the most competent commanders and skilled flying 
personnel, and, above all, complete secrecy maintained to ensure the 
advantage of surprise. 

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was then convinced that a carrierbome 
air assault on Pearl Harbor was sound and his Combined Fleet pushed 
ahead with their plans. 

The Japanese Naval General Staff did not agree, saying that the 
proposed operations in the southern waters designed to gain control 
of fuel oil centers were more important than a raid on Pearl Harbor, 
and insisted that the main carrier strength should be allotted to the 
force designated to the Dutch East Indies area. Most Japanese strate- 
gists had long held that any attack on Pearl Harbor was a gamble, with 
success depending entirely on taking the United States forces by sur- 
prise. If no such situation stood, the attack would fail with disastrous 
consequences. They argued that to take valuable carriers so close to 
an American base was too risky, for even a large carrier could be 
quickly and effectively disabled by a few bomb strikes. 

However, younger enthusiasts on the staff continued to stump for 
a complete air attack on the Hawaiian base, and pointed out that the 
U. S. Pacific Fleet was the bulwark of Allied strength in the entire 
Pacific area and its destruction should be the main objective of Japa- 
nese strategy. If the bulk of it could be destroyed, the conquest and 
exploitation of the rich oil fields would be an easy task. 

Although he had shown reluctance to go to war with the United 
States, Admiral Yamamoto stated firmly that if he were to be respon- 
sible for Japanese naval action, the Pearl Harbor plan as he had drawn 
it up would have to stand. He even agreed to take command personally 
of the Carrier Striking Force, and with this statement won his point 
just thirty-five days before the Pearl Harbor attack was delivered. 

On that decision in the opening phase of the Pacific war, the old 
concepts of the dreadnought era came to an end; the carrier had taken 
over the role of the battleship and the new watchword was "Attack!" 

While the United States and Japan played their deadly game of 
naval chess, Great Britain, having laid the foundation for the develop- 
ment of carriers and carrier operations, plodded away, hampered by 
the limitations of national economy and the widening spread of 
pacifism. It was no longer fashionable to turn up at formal dinners in 
dress uniforms wearing the decorations of previous service. Those who 


talked of war or national defense were "rattling the rifle bolt," and 
every move or gesture made to improve any of the three services, was 
howled down by the antiinilitant crowd that had taken the upper hand 
in Parliament, 

Naval building was restricted, due to the tenor of the times and the 
Washington Treaty, so no new British carrier was laid down until 
1935! This was another Ark Royal of 22,000 tons, sent down the slip- 
way on April 13, 1937. She had a flight deck eight hundred feet long 
and ninety-four feet wide, into which were fitted three elevators, and 
eventually a complement of contemporary aircraft such as Fairey Fly- 
catchers, Fairey III-Fs, and Blackburn Darts, the latter a bulky but 
valuable torpedo carrier. The Flycatcher was a biplane fighter, the 
III-F a reconnaissance plane. 

In the meantime Courageous and Glorious, sister battle cruisers of 
Furious, previously mentioned, had been converted and were available 
with seven-hundred-foot flight decks and an up-to-date island. It was 
upon these three vessels that the steel cable arrester gear was first 
evolved and brought to a high degree of success. In 1919 Courageous, 
with a battalion of infantry aboard, was ordered from Malta to Jaffa at 
full speed to assist the Palestine police. Its complement of Flycatchers, 
Darts, and III-Fs, thirty-six aircraft in all, was flown off to the civilian 
airfield in Gaza from where they did a great deal of flying for about 
six weeks, but fired not one shot nor dropped one bomb. 

As the years moved on and the Hitler situation worsened, a respect- 
able building program was drawn up. Four new ships, Illustrious, Vic- 
torious, Formidable, and Indomitable were laid down in 1937, and 
two more, Implacable and Indefatigable, the following year. Britain's 
new Fleet Air Arm was now completely under control of the Admi- 
ralty. Not yet fully developed or equipped for its many tasks, it en- 
tered upon a war that was to more than justify its existence as an 
integral part of the Royal Navy. 

In order to better appreciate some of the action details to be related, 
it may be well for the lay reader to understand how the aircraft carriers 
of World War II operated. 

The chief objective of these vessels was to carry aircraft to sea and 
furnish operational areas, shelters, and servicing. During naval opera- 
tions it was important that they cany as many planes as possible, and 
handle them as efficiently as they would be on a land base. Although 
most aircraft usually were accommodated on the flight decks, many 


were taken below on elevators to sheltered hangar decks where main- 
tenance could be performed under more comfortable conditions. 
There, too, were specialist shops and tool-room facilities, and con- 
trolled lighting. 

Carrier operations developed and improved with the appreciation of 
the various problems encountered, in turn demanding changes in car- 
rier design. Originally, the carrier simply dispatched or took aboard 
early float planes or flying boats, but naval development demanded 
more agile, speedier, and more adaptable aircraft. The wheeled- 
undercarriage, or land-type plane fulfilled this requirement and 
brought about the flight deck and arrester gear. 

In early missions it was the practice to clear the deck after each 
plane had landed by lowering it to the hangar deck below. In some 
instances this took time and there was always the danger that a plane 
short of fuel or under some other emergency would attempt to land 
while the elevator was below the level of the flight deck. This could 
be disastrous. Early American practice evolved the system of parking 
each plane, as it landed, well forward, presuming each incoming air- 
craft had been properly snubbed to a halt by the arrester gear. Aboard 
the early Saratoga and Lexington a safety curtain of heavy webbing 
or metal mesh was erected in case the landing plane snapped the snub- 
bing cable. This procedure left the deck elevators free to lower air- 
craft to the hangars without interrupting the landing-on process. 

In the British and French Navies the incoming pilot had a clear 
uninterrupted deck ahead of him, and if he was dissatisfied with his 
final glide, he could take off again without danger to any other aircraft. 
In this case he landed normally while the carrier was steaming into the 
wind, and came to a halt by the use of his wheel brakes. When carrier 
planes could be landed at sixty knots on a carrier that was providing 
a thirty-knot "headwind" this was simple, but as the landing speed of 
aircraft mounted with the increase in their weight, this type of deck 
landing had to give way to the arrester gear, and some time before the 
Second World War all modern navy carriers were operated in that 

The next problem was the disposition of the bridge and smoke fun- 
nels. In some early designs the bridge section was lowered to the level 
of the flight deck, but this brought on many complications that could 
not be tolerated under war conditions. Smoke stacks also gave the de- 
signers trouble and although they were trunked over the side, or aft 
to the stern where the gases were discharged by fans, none was com- 


pletely satisfactory, so the island feature was designed in which all 
bridge accommodation and smoke funnels were built into this com- 
pact structure. The unit was streamlined to eliminate dangerous 
eddies or turbulent air. 

To carry out routine operations, the carrier was steered into the 
wind and the planes were sent off one at a time to rendezvous in some 
prearranged area aloft. Special deck crews, wearing colored jerseys or 
shirts to designate their particular roles, took care of the varied duties 
necessary to cany out these intricate operations. Some men were arma- 
ment specialists, others did nothing but attend to fuel and lubrication 
problems. There were instrument specialists, and others who took 
charge of the actual flight deck during take-offs and landings. All these 
duties had to be performed with speed, precision, and care, for every- 
thing aboard the carrier and the aircraft had to be in smooth working 
order if the operations were to be carried out safely. 

The landings were particularly complicated and only highly skilled 
pilots were selected for carrier work. Practically anyone could take off 
from a carrier deck, but getting back on required skill, precision, and, 
above all, strict service discipline to carry out the required orders of 
the flight-deck officer who was in full control of every carrier landing. 
This individual had to be a very experienced pilot, one who knew 
every condition the incoming airman might encounter. He had to 
make split-second decisions, or a deck landing might turn into a 

Once the incoming pilot had moved into his position aft of the 
speeding carrier, he assumed he was simply making a routine landing, 
and when he was within a certain distance of the lip of the carrier deck, 
his main job was to obey the signals being given by the flight-deck 
officer who stood in a clear position with colored bats or paddles in his 
hands, with which he advised the pilot of his position relative to the 
flight deck and "brought the aircraft in." All the various levels at which 
the paddles were held meant something definite to the incoming 
pilot; he would be warned if he was approaching the deck too high, 
too low, or too fast. If it was obvious that the approach threatened a 
dangerous situation, a possible deck crash, the flight-deck officer waved 
the pilot off with a definite paddle signal that could not be misunder- 
stood. With that warning the pilot opened his throttle, banked away, 
and went around for another try. 

In war few landings were waved off, as there was not too much 


time to be wasted, and pilots usually made it the first time. Time was 
of the essence since in these operations the carrier in steaming into the 
wind would naturally have to leave her station in the main fleet forma- 
tion. This put her in a vulnerable position to be attacked by enemy 
submarines whose skippers, knowing the routine of steaming into the 
wind, could take up an attack position and simply wait for the carrier 
to move there and be torpedoed. 

This is one of the chief weaknesses of the aircraft carrier the neces- 
sity to steam into the wind in order to recover her aircraft, and al- 
though strong destroyer-escort defense can be supplied, they have little 
to work on since the enemy submarine is probably lying at rest, await- 
ing the arrival of the carrier and there is no cavitation or other sound 
for the destroyer sonar equipment to detect. 

These were the conditions aboard aircraft carriers up to the close 
of World War II. More improvements have been devised and added, 
new equipment developed and jet-powered aircraft of unusual speeds 
and weights accommodated. These developments will be taken up in 
detail in succeeding chapters. 

To the layman the stormy weather encountered by the early expo- 
nents of naval aviation must be bewildering. With our hindsight we 
can see that carrier aviation simply had to come, and why anyone 
would put blocks in its path, is difficult to understand. Hindsight also 
tells us that it was something more than just developing a ship that 
could accommodate landplanes that would furnish air cover and in- 
crease the range of naval strike operations. 

If we go into this history we will discover that it was the torpedo, 
the same weapon that provided the punch for the submarine, that laid 
the first keel for the aircraft carrier. The float plane that could be cata- 
pulted, and the flying boat that could be launched and recovered by 
a derrick, could carry out routine reconnaissance and in a small way 
fight other aircraft with machine guns, but these aircraft could not de- 
stroy enemy surface ships. Only the ubiquitous torpedo could strike 
that killing blow. 

But what airplane of the early days could carry a icoo-pound torpedo 
and still fit the deck and hangar limitations of the proposed carrier? 
The aircraft bomb was out of the question since it had to be just as 
heavy, and perhaps heavier, to pierce an armored deck. The plane 
that would carry a heavy bomb to any height for such attacks could 


not land on or take off from the deck of a carrier the arrester gear 
had not been perfected. Up until several years after the end of World 
War I carriers, at least the British version which were years ahead of 
anything known, could accommodate light single- or two-seater fight- 
ers that were sent into the air to shoot down other fighters-ror 
Zeppelins but other than a few 25-pound Cooper bombs for fragmen- 
tation delivery, high-level bombing and torpedo attacks were out of 
the question. 

What had to be done was to build more powerful aircraft, possibly 
with twin engines and folding wings to fit aboard the carrier hangars. 
But there was no money for such experimentation and development. 
All the former belligerents had cut down on military spending and 
what funds were available were being doled out to each service while 
the proponents of each grumbled at the manner in which these funds 
were being allocated. 

The aviation people argued that all surface fleets were obsolete, or 
would be if funds could be made available for a few heavy bombers. 
In the United States, General Billy Mitchell was advocating a stra- 
tegic bomber force, just as Major General Hugh Trenchard had in 
Great Britain. All kinds of fantastic statements were made by all 
parties. The U. S. Army, which presumed to control its Air Force, was 
somewhere in the middle clamoring for tanks and armored vehicles. 
The U. S. Navy, because of the success of the N.C-4 in making the 
first flight across the Atlantic, was convinced that bigger and better 
flying boats were the answer to its aviation requirements. If the ad- 
mirals wanted immediate reconnaissance, a few float planes on cruiser 
and battleship catapults would do the job. 

This sort of thing was going on on both sides of the Atlantic. Both 
Britain and America were "Big Navy" conscious, and these naval tra- 
ditions were long-lived with deep roots. The bomb versus battleship 
controversy raged almost from the close of World War I and was to 
mar happy interservice relations for many years. 

As we know now, General Billy Mitchell proved a point in 1921 
when after months of wrangling he forced Washington officialdom to 
stage a test of the airplane versus the battleship. Anchoring an old 
Jutland veteran, the ex-German dreadnought Ostfrieslctnd off the Vir- 
ginia Capes, he did succeed in drilling it with several bombs dropped 
from Army bombers. It wasn't much of a test, but it was impressive 
at the time, and when the ancient target went down, a few old Navy 


officers on hand to witness the display wept. Several more alert naval 
minds smiled and said, "Well, that ought to do it. They'll have to 
develop the aircraft carrier now/' 

The exhibit rocked the military world. In Britain, General Tren- 
chard, long the stormy petrel of London's Whitehall, was still stump- 
ing for a truly independent air arm, one that was free and clear of the 
Navy. He had noted that the Royal Navy, giving an inch here and 
there, had demanded a Fleet Air Arm a truly naval aviation service 
to be controlled by the Navy. The new Royal Air Force was to have 
nothing to do with this; it was to be a service trained in the practices 
and problems of naval operations. The old guard was actually provid- 
ing air cover for its beloved battleships. This was the same naval serv- 
ice that in World War II did not build one Fleet (large) aircraft 
carrier. It relied on what had been built after World War I, or were 
on the stocks when war broke out. At the same time it built three 
battleships Anson, Howe, and Vanguard none of which took an 
active part in the hostilities. 

In order to settle the bomb-versus-battieship dispute in Britain, an- 
other trial was arranged and staged in 1923 in the hope that it would 
have the same effect as had General Mitchell's in America. 

Among the number of naval crocks being relegated to the re- 
serve was the battleship Agamemnon, a i6,5oo-tonner that had been 
launched in 1906. She had performed yeoman service at the Darda- 
nelles in 1915, and although outmoded, was considered suitable for 
such a test. Agamemnon was equipped with a radio control steering 
set, and she went to sea under these conditions minus a crew. Although 
a large number of interested observers were taken along, the test itself 
was kept a deep secret for years. 

Two aircraft that belonged to the R.A.F. were selected to make the 
attacks, using practice bombs to be dropped from eight thousand feet. 
(Mitchell's display was flown at seventeen hundred feet.) One of these 
aircraft had to drop out with mechanical trouble, and the antibomber 
exponents were conceded a 50 per cent victory. The second plane 
made its scheduled attack with the bomber-navigator "steering" the 
aircraft to the target with pieces of string tied to the pilot's ankles. In 
spite of this hurried improvisation, the results were most impressive. 
Of eight bombs aimed at the moving target, two scored direct hits, 
and the remainder fell as near misses that would have caused consider- 
able underwater shock-wave damage, just as a depth charge springs 
rivets in the hull of a submarine. 


It is ironic to think that Generals Mitchell and Trenchard, who had 
fought so hard to keep strategic bombing for their land-based air f orces, 
should have unwittingly provided the very evidence that was to result 
in great naval carrier forces for both of their countries. 



THE GRIM test of the aircraft carrier began with the outbreak of the 
Second World War. Over the years, prior to Hitler's attack on Poland, 
the carrier had become the picture ship of the navy. She was large, 
majestic, sleek, and clean and was always the favorite when the fleet 
was in and visitors were welcomed aboard. She had space, elbow room, 
vast wardrooms, ample companionways, and best of all, a great variety 
of modern fighting aircraft. Few of the visitors were told that any naval 
force venturing within range of shore-based aircraft was doomed un- 
less it had a fighter escort in the sky. Even the best of carrierborne air- 
craft are at a disadvantage; should their carrier be sunk or their deck 
made untenable, their floating airfield is gone. 

World War II proved that the aircraft carrier was vulnerable; her 
long flight deck and large above-water hull provided an excellent target 
for air, surface, or submarine attack. Shortly after hostilities began the 
British Navy had severe losses in its carrier forces. On September 3, 
1939, there were eight carriers at sea, and there was a strong belief 
that whatever the strength of the British Army or the RA.F., the 
Royal Navy could immediately more than hold its own against the 
German pocket-battleship force, or any U-boat threat Admiral Karl 
Doenitz might contrive. 

. Ark Royd and Courageous were with the Home Fleet, Glorious 
was in the Mediterranean, and Eagk on the China Station. The old 
Furious was still being used in carrier-deck training in the Firth of 
Forth, and later on assumed the ferrying of aircraft, and Atlantic con- 
voy duty. The Hermes was first used in surface operations against 
enemy submarines in the home waters, and later for trade protection 
and raider tracing in the South Atlantic. Albatross, an Australian-built 


seaplane carrier, and Argus were in home waters, but Argus was trans- 
ferred later to the Mediterranean for training duties, and Albatross 
to West Africa on trade-protection duty. 

Courageous was Great Britain's first carrier loss when she was sunk 
by an enemy submarine during the first month of the war. This came 
about indirectly through the loss of the liner Aihenia that was sent to 
the bottom off the western coast of Ireland by a German U-boat. The 
civilized world was shocked at the heavy casualties that included hun- 
dreds of women and children who were being sent to safety in Canada. 
Following that sinking, British merchant shipping losses began to rise, 
and it was obvious that the Home Fleet would have to furnish im- 
mediate defense against this unexpected force of U-boats. Carriers 
were called in on the presumption that their aircraft could quickly 
spot and depth-charge the undersea raiders a plan easier to conceive 
than to carry out. The Ark Royd and Courageous were ordered to 
stiffen the Royal Navy's defenses. 

Screened by four destroyers, Courageous was on a search during the 
night of September 17 when two of the screen ships were sent off to 
track down a U-boat that was reported to be attacking a merchant- 
man. As Courageous turned into the wind at dusk to bring in her 
aircraft that had been making an aerial search, she happened to move 
into the torpedo-area of submarine U-29, commanded by Lieutenant 
Commander Schuhart. Whether this unfortunate contact was a hun- 
dred-to-one shot as Sir Winston Churchill explained later, is conjec- 
tural. At any rate, the U-boat's torpedoes were most deadly; of a crew 
of 1260, more than five hundred were lost, including Courageous'* 
skipper, Captain Makeig-Jones. It was also learned that Ark Royal was 
attacked some three days later by U-39, but the three torpedoes fired 
had magnetic-pistol failures, and exploded prematurely, and the high 
columns of water reaching up above the decks of the carrier warned 
the destroyer screen. Smart responsive action resulted in the destruc- 
tion of the raider and capture of her crew. 

The carrier GZorious was sunk by enemy gunfire during the British 
withdrawal from Norway in June 1940. In this operation 24,000 men, 
with their equipment and stores, were successfully embarked on three 
troop convoys without hindrance by the enemy. The carriers Ark 
Royal and Glorious, together with a force of two heavy cruisers and 
sixteen destroyers, might have escaped enemy interference, but mean- 
while the cruiser Devonshire was embarking the King of Norway and 
his staff from Tromso, and other commitments came up, including a 


false report that a number of enemy ships were heading for Iceland. 
As a result, the covering force that had been set up to bring in the 
troopships from Norway was for a time widely dispersed. It was at 
this point that the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, 
the heavy cruiser Hipper, and four destroyers stumbled on some 
trawler escorts and a tanker belonging to the British force. These ves- 
sels were sunk and Hipper and the destroyers returned to Trondheim, 
but the battleships continued to search and at four o'clock on the 
afternoon of June 7 noted the smoke plume of Glorious and her es- 
corting destroyers Acasta and Ardent The carrier had been detached 
earlier that morning to proceed home independently, since she was 
presumed to be short of fuel. She was now some two hundred miles 
ahead of the main convoy. 

On sighting the enemy, Glorious attempted to engage with her four- 
inch guns at 27,000 yards why, no one has ever explained. When it 
became apparent that she could not compete with the German battle- 
ships with such weapons, she decided to launch her torpedo bombers. 
But as luck would have it, a shell struck her forward hangar, started 
a fire that destroyed all her Hurricane fighters, and prevented her arma- 
ment force from hauling up torpedoes from below for the bombers to 
carry if they could get off. During the next thirty minutes Glorious 
received heavy-caliber blows from which she never recovered. Escape 
was out of the question, and by 5:20 she was listing dangerously. The 
order was given to abandon ship, and the British carrier sank twenty 
minutes later. 

In the meantime the two destroyers had behaved heroically. In an 
effort to cover Glorious both had laid down a heavy smoke screen 
and both had fired their torpedoes at the enemy, but the firepower of 
the German battleships soon overwhelmed them. Ardent was the first 
to go down, and later Acasta, fighting against great odds, actually put 
one torpedo into Scharnhorst before she too rolled over. Scharn- 
horst was damaged by the torpedo and withdrew from the action and 
limped back to Trondheim. 

The British loss was 1474 officers and men of the Royal Navy and 
forty-one of the Royal Air Force. In this disaster the carrier was not 
handled as she should have been under the circumstances. She should 
have known of the approach of the German warships in time to have 
had a force of torpedo bombers in the air for the attack, long before 
the battleships were able to use their long-range weapons. At that time 
of day and year in those latitudes, there would have been many hours 


of daylight, and why no aircraft were available or at "alert" to meet 
this situation is a mystery. 

Months later, it was admitted that there had been no logical reason 
for Glorious to have left the main body. She had enough fuel to steam 
at the speed of the convoy, and all of them should have kept together. 

These two carrier losses were replaced by Illustrious and Formida- 
ble, and another, Victorious, was commissioned in May 1941, but in 
November of that year Ark Royd was torpedoed and lost. 

Possibly no aircraft carrier in any navy won such a record of achieve- 
ment and affection as did Britain's H.M.S. Ark Royd through her 
activities in the first two years of World War II. It was the Ark's r& 
doubtable career that first f ocussed the attention of non-seafaring peo- 
ple on the potentialities of these floating airfields. Although carriers 
had been built and made the subject of many heated debates, and 
some had been exhibited in peacetime naval maneuvers, it was Ark 
Royd that first displayed what could be done in actual warfare by 
these new and novel vessels. 

The wartime carrier was the third ship in British naval annals to 
carry that honorable name. The first was built at Deptford for Sir 
Walter Raleigh who christened her the Ark, but, as was the custom in 
Tudor times, she also bore the name of her owner and became Ark 
Rdeigfi. With the menace of the Spanish invasion, ships were needed 
to defend Albion and before she was actually launched, she was taken 
over by the Crown for 5000, and renamed Ark Royd. She was a 
large vessel, nearly fifteen hundred tons, or about the size of a modern 
destroyer, and was commissioned as the flagship of Lord Howard of 
Effingham, the Lord High Admiral of England. She played a leading 
part in the destruction of the Spanish Armada. In later years she was 
rebuilt and renamed Anne Royd, in honor of James Ts queen, and 
served periodically as a flagship until she was wrecked and lost in 

No other Ark Royd was built until 1914 when the Admiralty chose 
the name for the first large seaplane carrier, a converted merchant 
vessel that served well in the Gallipoli campaign. In 1935 when it was 
decided to build a third Ark Royd, the seaplane carrier was renamed 
Pegasus, a hardy vessel that was still in service for experimental work 
during the Second World War. 

The keel of the third Ark was laid at Cammell Laird shipyards in 
Birkenhead, England. She was the second British ship to be planned 


and built as a carrier, and she embodied all the improvements sug- 
gested by experience. She was launched April 13, 1927, after more 
than two million pounds had been spent on her construction. She 
had nine decks, her flight deck was eight hundred feet long, and 
she accommodated sixty aircraft, or five Fleet Air Arm squadrons, 
composed of Blackburn Skuas and Fairey Swordfish. The first were 
two-seater fighter dive bombers with a speed of two hundred miles per 
hour, but these were replaced later with Fairey Fulmars that had eight 
fixed guns and an aerial gunner aft. The Swordfish, which Ark Royal 
carried throughout her career, was a torpedo-spotter-reconnaissance bi- 
plane with a fixed undercarriage and open cockpits. In attack it 
mounted an eighteen-inch torpedo, or a fifteen-hundred-pound bomb 
load, and had a crew of three, pilot, observer, and air gunner. 

The starboard island of Ark Royal carried the navigating bridge^ 
the mast, and funnel. The captain's sea cabin was directly below the 
bridge, with the chart room, air intelligence office, and wireless control 
office nearby. The ship's armament consisted of sixteen four-point-five 
guns, four multiple pom-poms, and eight multiple machine guns. Her 
speed was 30.75 knots, and her fuel endurance exceeded that of any 
previous carrier. 

But the aircraft carrier was still the Cinderella of the Navy; her true 
capabilities were not fully appreciated, for many men in the service 
still thought that naval aircraft should be restricted to scouting and 
reconnaissance. Because of her size and the number of her crew, Ark 
Royal did not immediately form any set character perhaps no carrier 
does for many months. 

The first aircraft to fly aboard were a squadron of Swordfish that 
took off from Southampton, once Ark Royal had completed her trials. 
She then moved out on her maiden voyage for the Mediterranean and 
steamed into Valetta, Malta, where she caused considerable interest; 
nothing that large had been seen there before, and the luxury of her 
quarters made a new mark in the usual Spartan accommodations 
found on British vessels of the time. She engaged in day and night fly- 
ing training, exchanged torpedo and bombing attacks with H.M.S. 
Glorious, an earlier type carrier, and returned to home waters late that 

During the uneasy summer of 1939 Ark Royd remained in the area 
around Great Britain, and, other than putting on a ceremonial fly-past 
for the King and Queen as they left for their historic North American 
visit, the officers and crew continued preparing for the war they knew 


to be inevitable. On August 31, 1939, the famous carrier put to sea 
with the Home Fleet to patrol between the Shetiands and Norway. A 
day later one of the Arfe's Swordfish that had been sent out on a re- 
connaissance in vile weather, had to make a forced landing on a Nor- 
wegian fiord and subsequently sank, but the crew paddled to shore 
in a rubber dinghy. Since war seemed imminent they faced the pros- 
pect of being interned in Norway. As luck would have it, though, 
they landed near a Norwegian aircraft base; the officers were sympa- 
thetic and helped them get to Bergen by seaplane from where they 
boarded a ship for England just a few hours before the declaration of 

Shortly after eleven o'clock on the morning of September 3, Vice- 
Admiral L. V. Wells, who was flying his flag from Ark Royal, received 
a pink signal slip marked "Urgent Priority/' on which were written 
two seemingly innocuous words, "Total Germany/' the same Admi- 
ralty cipher message sent to every ship of the Royal Navy that morn- 
ing. A short time later a boatswain's mate went to the transmitter of 
the ship's address system and claimed everyone's attention with "D'ye 
hear there?" the British variation of "Now hear this!" 

Then Captain A. J. Power took over: "This is the captain speak- 
ing. I have just received the signal, 'Commence hostilities against 

There was no particular outburst of enthusiasm or dismay from the 
ship's company the news had been expected momentarily. They went 
about their duties and over the next few days the Fleet cruised east 
of the Orkneys, risking only the hazards of a heavy fog. At dawn each 
morning Ark Royal launched a reconnaissance formation hoping to 
find the enemy steaming out into the North Sea, but not until the 
Fcmad Head incident, did this proud carrier have much to jot in its 

There have been many variations of this episode. One British report 
states that when the merchantman's appeal for aid was sent out, Ark 
Royd was some two hundred miles to the northeast, but she turned 
at once for the scene of the attack and flew off three Skuas, moving 
into the wind to make the launching. Before she could resume her 
course, Leading Signalman J. E. Hall saw a torpedo running straight 
toward the ship, and his prompt and accurate report is said to have 
made it possible for the Officer of the Watch to put the helm over just 
in time. 

The accompanying destroyers then took up the hunt as Ark Royd 


steamed out of danger. The first pattern of depth charges jumped the 
U-boat's engines off their bearers, and the second blew her from below 
in a badly damaged condition. When the raider broke surface, it was 
identified as U-39- The British destroyers opened fire, and then ceased 
as the German seamen scrambled on deck. The whole submarine's 
company, including the captain forty-three in all abandoned ship 
and were taken aboard the destroyer Faulknor. The U-boat sank a 
few minutes after surfacing. 

Meanwhile the three Skuas had sighted Fanad Head which had 
stopped. Her passengers and crew had taken to lifeboats. A U-boat, 
later identified as U-3O, was on the surface nearby, shelling from what 
appeared to be a widening patch of oil. The Skuas went down and re- 
leased their bombs over this patch just as the submarine crash-dived, 
leaving a couple of her gun crew floundering in the oily water. Two of 
the Skuas literally blasted themselves into the sea. In their enthusiasm 
and anxiety to get as close to the target as possible, they dived so low 
their own bombs blew off the tails of their aircraft. They flopped into 
the water and the crews took to their rafts. 

Twenty minutes later the submarine reappeared and the remaining 
Skua tried to sink her by firing 1150 rounds from its fixed front gun 
in a single burst. The U-boat submerged and this Skua returned to 
Ark Royal. Some time later U-30 surfaced again, picked up the Skua 
crews from their rafts and headed for Germany. Then six Swordfish 
spotted the submarine as she was trying to put another torpedo into 
Fanad Head. Not knowing their Skua comrades were aboard, they 
promptly attacked and believed that they had sunk her, but U-3O, after 
putting off one of her wounded men in Iceland, finally returned to 
Germany. She carried the first Royal Navy airmen to be made prison- 
ers of war. 

Three days later Courageous was torpedoed while carrying out her 
antisubmarine duties. The Admiralty then decided that carriers were 
too vulnerable to be used independently on such hazardous duty and 
Ark Royal was recalled to port with orders to operate with the Home 

On September 26, she experienced the famous "sinking" claimed by 
Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Germany's Propaganda Minister, which made 
an innocent Luftwaffe pilot the laughingstock of airmen all over the 

Ark Royd, escorted by the battleships Nelson and Rodney, and 
all of them hemmed in by a close screen of destroyers, was bringing a 


damaged submarine back to port. Two of the Ark's reconnaissance 
aircraft were on patrol above this flotilla and just before noon sighted 
three German Domier Do.iS flying boats that were shadowing the 
British force. They flashed a warning and nine Blackburn Skuas, fueled 
and armed, were put on alert. After being given their instructions, 
the pilots and gunners climbed in, and the fighter force was launched, 
flashing into the sky like skimmed playing cards. 

The section formed over the carrier and then flew off for the attack. 
Every man was keyed up, for here was the promise of their first naval 
air combat. The reconnaissance planes kept track of the Dorniers fly- 
ing low over the water, their dark blue and green camouflage making 
them difficult to spot, but finally the Skua pilots found them outlined 
against a patch of light that glared through a hole in the clouds. The 
British naval fighters attacked, braving the heavier armament of the 
flying boats, and two were driven off, damaged, but not downed; their 
superior speed enabled them to escape. The third was shot down by 
Lieuteifent B. E. McEwen and his air gunner, Acting Petty Officer 
AirmanTJ. M. Seymour. This was the first enemy aircraft destroyed 
by any air service in the war. The destroyer Somali picked up the 
crew of four and sank the wreckage of the flying boat. 

The attacking Skuas returned safely, the Commander-in-Chief, 
Home Fleet, signaled his congratulation and there was mild jubilation, 
but the major event of the day was still to come. 

The two Dorniers that had escaped reported the position of the 
British force to German Naval Headquarters and at two-twenty that 
afternoon, shortly after the last Skua had been recovered, a Heinkel 
111 bomber, piloted by Leutnant Adolf Francke, approached under 
cover of a cloud at the six-thousand-foot level. Before any defensive 
action could be taken, a one-thousand-pound bomb was released about 
fifteen hundred feet above Ark Royal's deck, but everyone topside 
seemed fascinated by the size and coloration of the missile, rather than 
aware of its potency. One wide-eyed midshipman swore it looked like 
Jerry had dropped an Austin sports car, another argued that it looked 
more like a London bus. At any rate, it was spotted just in time to 
alter course and the bomb fell into the sea, throwing up a great geyser 
of water thirty yards from the port bow. 

It was this tremendous upsurge of water that possibly caused the 
claim made later. It cascaded high above the flight deck and torrented 
across the fore end. The Ark lifted her bow, shook her whiskers, rolled 


slightly to starboard, righted herself, and turned back on her course. 
The only damage was broken crockery. 

After his bomb attack Leutnant Francke turned back and sprayed 
the flight deck with machine-gun bullets, but by then the British had 
broached their antiaircraft guns and the German was sent off with a 
generous fusillade of Vickers and Kynochs in his wake. 

When he returned to his base, Leutnant Francke stated he had 
found and dive-bombed an aircraft carrier in the North Sea. He said 
he believed he had scored a direct hit, but was not certain, and made 
no claim to have sunk the vessel. The German Ministry of Propaganda 
made it for him. The Berlin newspapers and news magazines pro- 
claimed the sinking of Ark Royd in enormous headlines, extra editions 
rolled off the presses with red ink making up for what the size of type 
failed to indicate. Imaginative artists drew graphic pictures of the Art's 
final moments, and Field Marshal Goering sent the bewildered 
Francke a message of congratulation, decorated him with the Iron 
Cross and promoted him to the rank of oberleutnant. Dr. Goeb- 
bels' Propaganda Ministry went all out, quickly publishing a children's 
illustrated booklet entitled How I Sank the Ark Royal It was sup- 
posedly written by the unfortunate Heinkel pilot. 

Was ever a man in such a distressing position? Promotion, probably 
deserved, and a decoration for a deed he had not claimed. Francke's 
brother officers took two views of the situation. Some sympathized 
with him, and hoped they never got into the same pickle, others 
charged him with deceit and said he was wearing a ribbon he had not 
earned. In some quarters the unfortunate pilot was the butt of cruel 
jokes and within a short time he was considering suicide. He talked 
the matter over with William Bayles, an American newspaperman then 
covering Berlin. Bayles pointedly suggested that if Francke denounced 
the Ministry of Propaganda and stated that he had not claimed to have 
sunk the Ark Royal, suicide would be unnecessary. 

But the matter refused to die down. The German broadcasting sta- 
tions continued to ask: "Where is the Ark Royal? 9 ' At first the British 
ignored the claim that the carrier had been sunk. Later a formal denial 
was made and the United States Naval attach^ attended divine serv- 
ice aboard the Ark and wrote an official report of his visit. But no one 
in Germany, except perhaps Leutnant Francke, believed that the Brit- 
ish carrier was still afloat. The officers of Ark Royal sent Francke an 
invitation to become an honorary member of their mess, and addressed 
the note Vo A. Hitler, Esq., Berchtesgaden." Months later when 


the famous carrier appeared in Rio de Janeiro, the German colony there 
refused to believe their eyes and swore she must be another ship of 
the same name. 

In the words of Zechariah, she continued to pass through the sea 
of affliction. Her fighters shot down or damaged more than one hun- 
dred enemy aircraft, her bombers delivered havoc to the airfields of 
Sardinia, she inflicted great harm on the Italian Fleet, and set the stage 
for the destruction of the Bismarck. 

On October 2, 1939, Ark Royd joined the battleship Renown and 
a screen of destroyers, to be known as Force K. They steamed south 
from home waters and headed for Freetown, Sierra Leone, off the 
west coast of Africa. The mission was trade protection and ocean 
search in the South Atlantic where a surface raider, at first believed to 
be the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer was on a rampage. 

Force K reached Freetown on October 12 where it refueled, dis- 
missed the destroyer screen and swept on toward St. Helena off the 
west coast of British South Africa. From that time on Ark RoyaVs 
Swordfish were in the air almost constantly, but it was not until early 
in November that they had any success when one of the Swordfish 
crews spotted the German steamer Uhenfels, which, when intercepted, 
was found to be carrying about a million dollars in opium, besides a 
general cargo of nuts, hides, copra, and oils. Force K took her into 
Freetown and confiscated her cargo. It was next reported that S.S. 
Africa Shell had been sunk in the Indian Ocean by a German raider, 
and Force K tried to cut her off, but foul weather from November 27 
to December 2 prevented any reconnaissance flying, so the force went 
into Capetown early in December. 

This promised period of rest was interrupted within twenty-four 
hours when it was learned that S.S. Doric Star had been intercepted 
and attacked south of St. Helena, indicating the mysterious raider was 
still somewhere in the Atlantic and understood to be steering west. 
Ark Royal and the rest of Force K left port and headed for a position 
in the central South Atlantic, from where they could use Freetown, 
the Falklands, or Rio de Janeiro for refueling, should it be necessary. 

By December 13 the raider was finally identified as Admiral Graf 
Spee when she was engaged by the British light cruisers Ajax, Exeter, 
and Achilles off the Rio de la Plata. Ark Royal and Renown reached 
their refueling point on December 17 and by six o'clock that evening 
the carrier raced away, hoping to be in on the action against the Graf 


Spec. The Swordfish crews were most anxious to show what they 
could do with their torpedoes, but before any of the men or ships of 
Force K could get into action, the German skipper of the Graf Spee 
had scuttled his vessel outside Montevideo harbor. An unsuccessful 
attempt was made to locate her supply ship, the infamous ALtmark, 
so Force K had to set a new course and head for Freetown. 

They pulled into that port on December 27 and enjoyed a delayed, 
but rather happy Christmas. The usual games were played and a cap- 
tain of the Royal Marines played the role of Santa Glaus, well whisk- 
ered and padded, and, to the joy of the beholders, topped by a small 
derby hat. Presents were distributed and plum puddings served to all 
hands. Ark Royal had steamed 75,000 miles and her aircraft had flown 
nearly 5,000,000. Between November 18 and December 27 she had 
spent only thirty-six hours in harbor, but had had steam on her main 
engines all the time. The famed carrier had truly shaken down, and 
her company had become a great team. 

By February 15, the carrier was back in Britain to refit, and the 
ship's company enjoyed its first leave since the outbreak of war six 
months before. On March 22 she sailed for the Mediterranean with 
three new squadrons of Swordfish to engage in night flying over the 
desert. She was accompanied by H.M.S. Glorious and for a week the 
aircraft crews were engaged in intensive training ashore, but on April 
9 the Germans invaded Norway and both carriers were ordered to Gi- 
braltar, and then sent on to Scapa Flow. By April 23 they left for 
duty off the Norwegian coast. At that time Captain C. S. Holland 
took command of Ark Royal and assumed the duty of providing air 
cover for the naval ships and convoys heading for the action, and to 
attack the German-occupied airfields in Norway. 

This was dangerous work for it is not a carrier's duty to operate in 
an area covered by the enemy's shore-based aircraft. The Swordfish 
and Skuas were limited in performance, speed, and range, and since 
the RAP. had no air bases in Norway, the distances were too great 
to send any but long-range fighters from the United Kingdom. The 
few of these available could not spend more than an hour in the com- 
bat area after they had flown there. 

From the beginning of this ill-fated campaign both Ark Royd and 
Glorious worked under many hazardous conditions. They had to op- 
erate within range of hostile aircraft from the coast, and between 
them had only four squadrons of fighters to send up against the ktest 
enemy types that were faster, more powerful, and better armed. These 


intensive operations were possible for only four or five days at a time, 
after that, having done their best to harass the enemy, the carriers 
would have to sneak back to sea, well out of range of the Luftwaffe 
land-based aircraft. 

Between April 24-28 Ark Royal furnished valuable fighter protec- 
tion over the Namsos and Andalsnes sectors where British troops had 
gone ashore to attack Trondheim. The Skuas flew to the limit of their 
endurance and fought many one-sided combats, often against odds of 
six or seven to one. Although outnumbered and outdistanced, they 
shot down twenty German aircraft and damaged many more. On April 
27 five Skuas came upon two Junkers 88s that were dive-bombing a 
British convoy, and in a few minutes both Junkers had to break off 
as their engines were on fire. The Skuas then went after a number of 
Heinkel ins and sent down a brace of these in flames. As a breather, 
they took on and drove off two Dornier Do.iys, and then engaged fif- 
teen more Heinkels that were in a ragged formation. One was badly 
damaged, but the enemy formation tightened up and sought more 
favorable areas. Now out of ammunition, the Skuas started a series 
of dummy attacks, hoping to relieve the convoy below. Under this 
aggression the attackers jettisoned their bombs and broke off. 

Only two Skuas were shot down during these actions, but eight were 
lost because they had stretched their fuel too far, and, as they put it, 
were not able to rejoin their ship. 

While the Skuas were running up their scores, the old "Stringbag" 
Swordfish were attacking German shipping and float planes in 
Trondheim harbor. They also bombed the nearby Vaernes airfield, 
destroyed all the hangars, and leveled many buildings. This raid was 
carried out from six thousand feet and the opposition flak was so heavy 
the pilots swore they "could smell it." 

Day after day, with little respite, Skua and Swordfish pilots, "per- 
manently escorted by Heinkels and Junkers," roared up and down the 
picturesque fiords looking for targets. When matters were too uncom- 
fortable the British planes evaded their adversaries by flying danger- 
ously close to mountain sides, or at zero level above the water, until 
they found another way out to sea. Many of the Arfe's air crews were 
forced down on frozen lakes, in snowdrifts, or in the sea. The fortu- 
nate ones were rescued by nearby ships, others fashioned skis or snow- 
shoes and trudged over many miles of unknown mountain trails until 
they could be guided through the enemy lines by friendly Norwegians. 

Although a carrier's aircraft may have certain mobility, they have 


no secure base. On many occasions upon returning to the ship, their 
crews, tired, cold, and hungry, were followed by enemy planes and 
bombed. During this campaign Ark Royal was an easy target for the 
Luftwaffe, and on one occasion was under attack for about twelve 
hours ten near misses were scored, but no actual hits. On May i, after 
another heavy bombing attack in which the Skuas destroyed one 
enemy bomber, the Ark returned to Scapa Flow. By then the British 
forces had withdrawn from the areas north and south of Trondheim, 
and the Germans had established contact with the garrison holding 
the port. On May 4 the Ark returned to the battle to give air protection 
to the British troops attacking the iron-ore port of Narvik, until the 
RA.F. fighters could be brought in to the one available shore base. 

Ark Royal had to cruise up and down about one hundred miles from 
the enemy coast. There was no darkness, and flying began at midnight 
and continued until 11 P.M. the next day. Inclement weather ham- 
pered the fighters, and at times the sea swell was so great, depk opera- 
tions were impossible. There were numerous requests for air support, 
but the distances were such that it was not possible to maintain pa- 
trols over all areas at once, unless the carrier operated close inshore 
and in that way gave the German bombers a tempting target. 

The Skua fighters were engaged all the time, but now they discov- 
ered a new and more aggressive type of pilot opposition. The new 
Mark V Heinkels had better evasive performance and could avoid bat- 
tle unless surprised. Constant cloud cover favored this evasion and 
there were fewer successful engagements in this area than there had 
been over Trondheim. In one successful foray, five Heinkels encoun- 
tered a Skua patrol over the British Fleet anchorage that resulted in 
a wild melee; one Heinkel was set on fire, and the patrol leader, Lieu- 
tenant W. P. Lucy with his observer Lieutenant M. C. E, Hanson, 
dived on two more Heinkels that had gone to wave-top level. Lieu- 
tenant Lucy went in close to attack, fired a burst that caused a 
Heinkel's port engine to smoke dangerously, but at that moment the 
attacking Skua exploded at fifty feet above the water and crashed. 
Lucy's body was found but his observer never came to the surface. 
However, this attack made the other enemy planes jettison their bombs 
and turn back for their base. 

The last section of this patrol came on four Junkers 88s, and two 
Skuas followed one of them as it went down in a straight dive; the 
engines of the Junkers were shot to pieces and the aircraft crashed 


into the sea but near enough to the coast so the five German crew 
members could swim to shore. 

On May 9 six Swordfish attacked a railroad east of Narvik when the 
wind was so strong it took more than two hours to reach the target. 
On their arrival they were taken over by a Skua patrol, so they broke 
up into two subflights and made independent strikes on their targets. 
One bombed the Nordalshben viaduct near the Swedish border and 
scored two direct hits, one on the center of the tracks and the other 
in the entrance to a tunnel. The second flight actually overturned a 
train in the Hundallen station and inflicted heavy damage on the sid- 
ings. Two Swordfish were hit by antiaircraft fire but were able to scram- 
ble back to the carrier. One of the supporting Skuas had to force-land 
near Rombaks Fiord, a small inlet near Narvik, but the crew hiked 
across country, made their way through the German lines, and reached 
the coast where they were taken aboard a British destroyer. 

During this phase of operations Ark Royal's Skuas destroyed or 
damaged six enemy aircraft and possibly nine more, with a loss of 
nine Skuas, including one crash on deck, and five Swordfish. On 
May 24 Ark Royal sent off a striking force of fifteen Skuas, each armed 
with a 5oo-pound bomb, to attack the battle cruiser Schamhorst in 
Trondheim harbor. 

This attack meant a flight of 160 miles to get to the harbor which 
was tucked away about fifty miles from the coast. The Skuas had to 
fly through sub-Arctic daylight and a sky that offered no cloud cover, 
which meant the enemy had a flock of fighters on hand and had 
alerted every antiaircraft battery. 

On approaching Trondheim at 11,000 feet the Skua pilots sighted 
ScharnhoTst, with two cruisers and four destroyers, lying at anchor off 
the town. They were met with intense antiaircraft fire from the ships 
and shore batteries and were forced into violent evasive action that 
hindered their plans for a concerted attack. Messerschmitt 1095 and 
nos joined in the defense. Two attack formations, led by Lieutenant 
Commander J. Casson and Captain R. T. Partridge, were made on 
the battle cruiser, one direct hit was scored and several near misses 
registered. Unfortunately, it was learned later that the bomb which 
struck Scharnhorst abaft the funnel had not exploded and the general 
damage was negligible. Eight Skuas failed to return and all crews 
were reported missing; it was the heaviest loss the famous carrier had 
suffered, or was to suffer in a single operation. That same day the 


Norway evacuation was completed, and Ark Royd returned to Scapa 

In midsummer of 1940 Ark Royal and her company were saddled 
with a melancholy duty. France had capitulated and Italy had joined 
the Hitler forces. Under these circumstances, the disposition of the 
French Fleet gave the British government considerable anxiety. 
Strasbourg and Dunkerque, two new battle cruisers, along with 
two battleships, several light cruisers, destroyers, and submarines 
lay in Moroccan ports. Admiral Marcel-Bruno Gensoul, the French 
Commander-in-Chief, was first approached in a most diplomatic man- 
ner with requests that steps be taken to prevent these valuable vessels 
from falling into the hands of the Germans or Italians. Several plans 
were suggested but Admiral Jean Darlan refused to accept any of 
them and stated repeatedly that "under no conditions would his fleet 
be turned over to Britain's enemies." 

The tone of his statements was most unsatisfactory, and the British 
had no choice but to "make certain" that this fleet would in no way 
hamper their chances to defeat Hitler or Mussolini. Captain C. S. 
Holland of Ark Royal was a member of the British naval mission 
that was selected to warn Admiral Darlan what the consequences 
would be. This was an uncomfortable duty, for, up to the start of 
the war, Captain Holland had been the Naval Attach^ at the British 
Embassy in Paris, and subsequently Liaison Officer to Admiral Darlan. 

Neither Admiral Darlan nor his second-in-command, Admiral Gen- 
soul, would receive the British emissary, and Captain Holland was 
compelled to transmit the British proposals that the French Fleet 
should agree either to continue operations with the British Navy, or 
sail under British control to a British port, the crews to be repatriated 
on arrival, and the ships restored at the end of the war. A further 
alternative was that Admiral Darlan should have the vessels demili- 
tarized at a port in the French West Indies. If these offers were de- 
clined, Captain Holland explained, the British Government would, 
with profound regret, require Admiral Darlan to sink his ships within 
six hours, otherwise the Flag Officer, Force H, had orders to use 
"whatever force might be necessary" to prevent the French ships from 
falling into the hands of the Germans or Italians. 

After much consideration all offers were refused. Captain Holland 
returned to the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir James Somerville, and at 
5:53 on the afternoon of July 3, Force H opened fire on the French 


vessels. Arfe Royal's Swordfish did the spotting for a bombardment 
that lasted ten minutes. Five other Swordfish, with an escort of Skuas, 
dropped mines in the entrance to Mers-el-Kebir harbor in Algeria. 
The battleship Bretagne and two destroyers were sunk immediately, 
Dunkerque was severely damaged, and ran ashore, the battleship 
Provence was beached. 

Shortly before the main bombardment began, Strasbourg, with a 
screen of six destroyers, broke out of the harbor at dusk, eluded 
Force H and headed at full speed to the eastward. Six Swordfish from 
Ark Royal went in pursuit, their bombs straddled Strasbourg but no 
direct hits were scored. In an attempt to return to the carrier's deck, 
two of the aircraft crash-landed in the sea out of fuel, but a British 
destroyer rescued their crews. 

A second formation of Swordfish, armed with torpedoes, was flown 
off at eight o'clock. They caught up with Strasbourg, which was steam- 
ing at twenty-eight knots, three miles off the African coast. She put up 
a formidable pattern of antiaircraft fire, but the torpedo planes swung 
out wide and went down to whitecap level. Gradually they set them- 
selves for a low-level attack from the shelter of the shore where the 
sunset would put an afterglow behind the silhouette of the French 
battleship. Twenty minutes after sunset they went in for their attack. 

This was the first time a carrier's aircraft had attacked a capital ship 
at sea with torpedoes, and the pilots, either unaware that they could 
penetrate the destroyer screen, or because of the fire put up by the 
small defense vessels, released their torpedoes from outside the screen. 
One hit was scored but did not prevent Strasbourg from escaping 
and eventually getting into Toulon, as did seven cruisers that had 
been berthed at Algiers. 

The next day a reconnaissance over Oran harbor indicated that al- 
though Dunkerque was grounded she was not permanently out of ac- 
tion, so, as an alternative to bombardment, two squadrons of Sword- 
fish were sent in to finish her with torpedoes. These planes took off 
in the dark about 5:15 A.M. and arrived off the harbor at sunrise. As 
the first rays of the morning sun gilded the French battleship, the 
attacking Swordfish went into a shallow dive from seven thousand 
feet, hopped over the breakwater in line-astern, and raced down 
the heaven-sent flare path. Four of the six torpedoes bored into 

As these aircraft re-formed over the harbor, the second squadron 
went in in three waves. The first pair enjoyed complete surprise and 


was unopposed, but the second and third took a heavy battering from 
antiaircraft fire, but by rare good fortune all torpedo planes returned 
safely. The battle cruiser was completely immobilized for a consider- 
able period. 

This action ended the operations against the French Fleet, and Ark 
Royd along with the rest of Force H returned to Gibraltar. As regret- 
ful as all Britishers felt at the time, this elimination of the French 
Navy was an important factor in the outcome of the war. Almost at 
a single stroke of violent action, Great Britain had produced a pro- 
found impression in every country. Although she had been counted 
down and out, and on the brink of surrender to an amazing array of 
enemy power, she had struck ruthlessly and secured an undisputed 
command of the sea. It was plain to the whole world that the British 
would stop at nothing to overcome Hitler and the Reich. 

Three days after the operations off Oran, the pilots and air gunners 
of Ark Royal fought their first of many engagements with the Italian 
Regia Aeronautica. The object of these combats, according to Flag 
Officer, Force H, was "to test the quality of the ice cream." 

While covering convoy movements in the western Mediterranean 
a section of Skuas, led by Lieutenant Richard M. Smeeton (now Rear 
Admiral Smeeton), sighted what turned out to be a Cant-5o6 float 
plane. After a concerted attack, following a thirty-minute chase, the 
Italian aircraft was forced down to the sea. Later that afternoon forty 
Savoia SM.jg bombers attacked Force H in three waves, dropping 
one hundred bombs. Skuas from Ark Royal shot down one and dam- 
aged two others, the remainder jettisoned their bombs and turned tail. 
They claimed to have put one direct hit on Ark Royal, and to have 
set H.M.S. Hood on fire, but there was no truth in these statements. 
When the Italians put up a formation of planes to shadow Force H, 
the Skuas destroyed three of them in quick time. 

The Arfe's Swordfish made their first attack against Italian soil on 
August 2 when their target was Cagliari on the southern coast of Sar- 
dinia. Armed as bombers, the planes flew off at 2:30 A.M. and during 
the take-off one of the aircraft hit the island structure with its star- 
board wing and went overboard. The others got off successfully and 
found themselves aloft in a fine night, but buffeted by a strong head- 
wind that cut their speed to sixty knots. In the darkness they failed 
to make a good contact with the enemy coastline, having mistaken 
Cape Spartivento at the western end of the bay for Cape Carbonara, 


and after this foul-up they flew back along the coast in the early dawn. 
It was evident from this experience that any projected attack in this 
area would have to be made in broad daylight. 

In the meantime a force of planes fitted out as minelayers and led 
by Lieutenant R. N. Everett had also lost its way, but as the bombing 
force approached Cagliari they spotted their minelayers being op- 
posed by Italian coastal batteries, one of which was popping six-inch 
shells in front of the minelayers to create great splashes that would 
swamp the diving planes. Everett's force ignored this, laid the mines 
from a height of fifty feet and turned away. The dive bombers, led 
by Lieutenant Commander G. B. Hodgkinson, attacked the hangars 
and buildings of Elmas airfield, and the rear planes of this formation 
bombed a number of Italian seaplanes lying at moorings in the har- 
bor. This main assault was completed in less than sixty seconds. 

The noisy British intrusion finally aroused a number of Italian fight- 
ers and a small formation was sent aloft, but only one pilot fired his 
guns at one of the tail-end Stringbags which received no damage. 
This opposition caused the Italian antiaircraft gunners to withhold 
their fire while their own planes were in the area, and the British 
pilots welcomed this surcease since the barrage had been fairly heavy. 

The raid was particularly successful; four large hangars were 
wrecked, several important buildings set on fire, and two large aircraft 
and two float planes destroyed. Only one Swordfish was lost when 
its engine was practically shot away and the pilot put his plane down 
on the enemy runway during the height of the engagement. The crew, 
of course, was taken prisoner, but the remainder of this air-striking 
force returned to Ark Royal independently. The Swordfish had 150 
miles to cover and the last plane did not land until after 7 A.M. which 
meant they had been in the air for over four and a half hours; three 
of the old Stringbags touched down with less than five gallons of fuel 
in their tanks. 

By now Ark Royal was the darling of the British Fleet, her renown 
had spread all over the world, dozens of pamphlets recording her fan- 
tastic career were on sale everywhere. She was the subject of a very 
popular picture postcard sent throughout the British Empire, and in 
America she was as warmly adopted as though U.S.S. instead of 
H.M.S. was before her name. She was an especial pet in Gibraltar, 
then considered her home base, and every time she came back to the 
shelter of The Rock, the famed Black Watch Regiment, then in the 


garrison, sent out their regimental bagpipers in small boats to pipe her 

It should be remembered that she was the first true aircraft carrier 
to go into action against an enemy, and the record and new tradition 
she was creating won the affection of every airman, seaman, or sol- 
dier. By late summer of 1940 she had become a heartwarming legend 
throughout the free world. 

Early in September Ark Royal's Swordfish, led by Lieutenant Com- 
mander Mervyn Johnstone, made two more attacks on Cagliari. In the 
first, listed as Operation Smash, the striking force first pinpointed the 
target with parachute flares, and the Italian antiaircraft gunners added 
columns of "flaming-onion" missiles which soon made the area as 
giddy as a summer amusement park. The Stringbags swished and 
chugged through this garish illumination and scored direct hits on 
the barracks, and the aircraft that had been carefully dispersed for 
safety; one wing of the military headquarters was completely de- 
stroyed, and the repairs that had been made to the damage inflicted 
previously were soon eradicated. Most of the field was a shambles by 
the time the Britishers had left. 

Operation Grab, arranged for the next day, encountered unfavor- 
able weather. The night was dark and hazy and as the strike force 
approached Cagliari, the surrounding valleys were blanked out with 
mist and low clouds. Over the next forty-five minutes the observers 
dropped a number of flares to identify their targets, but had no suc- 
cess. Four of the aircraft, needled by Italian searchlights, went down 
and peppered them with machine-gun fire until one was doused. Two 
planes dropped their bombs on what they believed was a flare path, 
but never learned what they had hit. The rest of the force had to 
jettison their bombs at sea. On their return to the carrier deck, the 
most important news was that the Arfe's cat had had kittens, and the 
first two were promptly named "Smash and Grab, the Cagliari Twins." 

On November 9 another raid was made on Cagliari. This one was 
an important factor in covering the passage of a large naval force 
south of Sardinia. Again hangars and a factory were hit, despite the 
fact that antiaircraft defenses had been strengthened and now con- 
sisted of more than one hundred guns. 

Previous to this foray Ark Royd had taken on a squadron of new 
Fairey Fulmar fighters. The Fulmar was an eight-gun, two-seater 
fighter, powered with a 1135 hp. Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. It was 
a good, tough piece of equipment, and the fighters began this raid 


by shooting down three planes the Italians had sent up to shadow 
Force H. 

On the morning of November 27 the British naval force was es- 
corting an eastbound convoy that carried tanks and military stores. 
Southwest of Sardinia the force picked up H.M.S. Ramillies which 
was to take the convoy on to Alexandria, but before the escorts had 
parted company, a Swordfish on reconnaissance sighted an Italian 
fleet south of Sardinia that was composed of two battleships, six cruis- 
ers, and sixteen destroyers. 

Sensing long-awaited action, another Swordfish was sent out to re- 
lieve the first shadower, and the pilot of the second Stringbag, pro- 
tected by a friendly cloud, flew at two thousand feet a distance of 
between two and three miles from the enemy from where he could 
report every movement. Force H then turned into line with battle 
ensigns flying and all guard rails down, but the enemy warships were 
well beyond the range of Renown's big guns and it was necessary 
to slow them down. Ark Royd took care of that by flying off eleven 
Swordfish armed with torpedoes. This winged force was led by Lieu- 
tenant Commander Johnstone and by the time it was in the air the 
Mediterranean area offered a brittle, cloudless sky, bright sunshine 
and a sea as smooth as costume silk there wasn't an inch of cover 
from Gibraltar to Alexandria. 

After flying for some twenty minutes they sighted the enemy cruis- 
ers proudly steaming in two columns. Twenty-five miles to eastward, 
the two battleships, screened by seven destroyers, could be plainly 
seen. By 11:30 the cruisers were being engaged by the advance battle 
units of Force H, and at 12:40 the Swordfish dived out of the sun to 
attack the battleships. As Johnstone's force went down, the enemy 
cruisers to the westward opened fire in short bursts, chiefly to warn 
the battleships of their danger. 

Commander Johnstone selected the leading battleship, Vittorio 
Veneto, a new and powerful vessel of the Littorio class, but his pilots 
had to press through a heavy antiaircraft barrage. They released their 
torpedoes well inside the destroyer screen, from a range of seven hun- 
dred yards. Commander Johnstone found himself too close to Vft- 
torio Veneto, so he turned to port and fired at another, one of the 
Cavour class. From that point on a heroic air-naval battle ensued; a 
great column of brown smoke and water towered up above Vittorio 
Veneto and she was seen to have been hit abaft her after funnel, there 
was another explosion astern, and a third ahead of the second ship. 


As the air-striking force turned away, the air gunners sprayed the 
bridges of the battleships and destroyers. 

In the meantime the Italian cruisers retired toward the Sardinian 
coast instead of moving in to aid the harassed battleships. Renown 
put on every ounce of steam to bring the battleships to action, but 
the attack by the Swordfish had not impaired their speed materially, 
and the British battleship was not able to get within effective range. 
By one o'clock further chase was out of the question and Force H 
was compelled to return to its convoy duty. 

The Swordfish, however, did not give up. Early that afternoon Lieu- 
tenant Commander J. A. Stewart-Moore led nine aircraft in pursuit. 
They soon caught up with three of the cruisers and then sighted the 
battleships south of Cape Carbonara. The Sardinian airfield at 
Monserrato was only forty miles away and the Italians already had 
fighters in the air, so an immediate attack was called for under these 
conditions the cruisers offered a more promising target. 

Commander Stewart-Moore took the Stringbags down in line- 
astern, but just when they were committed to their torpedo release, 
the cruisers turned smartly to starboard. There was one great explo- 
sion under the rear cruiser and a column of water gushed up as high as 
her bridge, and she started producing heavy smoke from her foremost 
funnel. Two of the Swordfish attacked the leading cruiser and reduced 
her speed. 

From this point on the Italians put up a heavy barrage, but it had 
come too late; the Swordfish air gunners wiped them down, and the 
enemy antiaircraft gunners forsook their weapons, or fired wildly in 
every direction. For a time their shells were more dangerous to their 
own cruisers than to the airborne raiders. Two Swordfish were hit, but 
all of them flew back to Ark Royd in beautiful formation. 

Later that day seven Skuas, led by Lieutenant Richard M. Smeeton, 
were dispatched to bomb the damaged cruiser. They failed to find 
her, but did sight three others of the Condiottere class that were 
steering north in line-ahead. This time a thin layer of cloud helped 
the Skuas to make a surprise attack; the cruisers took no avoiding ac- 
tion and did not open fire until the assault was over. But with all this 
in their favor, the Skuas claimed only near misses. They did shoot 
down an R.O.43 float plane and received no casualties themselves. 

Back at the Force H formation, squadrons of Savoia '795, torpedo 
bombers, repeatedly attacked the various vessels of the force. The 
massive Ark Royal was always a tempting target, and since her usual 


station was at least three miles away from the main force to give her 
elbow room to swing into the wind, she attracted plenty of hostile 
attention. The enemy bombers came over in wave after wave for more 
than an hour. The flight deck was almost continually awash from the 
cascades of near misses, and at one time the big carrier disappeared 
completely from the sight of Force H when a solid wall of water went 
up from more than thirty bombs that were dropped around her, some 
no more than twenty yards from her hull sides. Admiral Somerville 
who was watching from the bridge of Renown believed that Ark Royal 
had gone down, but then, to his amazement, the fore end of her 
flight deck came plowing out and she emerged undamaged, with every 
gun blazing. 

In the summation of this second time that enemy warships had 
been attacked by carrier-based aircraft with no great naval victory, it 
was learned that much of the fault was caused by the failure of many 
torpedoes, or that their warheads were not sufficient to inflict serious 
damage to the safety bulges of the capital ships. The targets had been 
stalked and hit. The fighters had flown off and provided good cover 
for the rest of the force. The convoy had gone through safely. Ark 
Royal still continued her great conquest. 

That evening, November 27, Force H was ordered to return to 
Gibraltar from where routine covering movements were carried out. 
Air reconnaissance and search patrols were the order of the day. Anti- 
submarine and fighter sweeps were routine operations, and the new 
Fulmars harassed any shadowing craft that the enemy dared put into 
the sky. But more important, intense training was continued for every 
man Jack of the service; even Admiral Somerville flew regular patrols 
in order to stiffen the anticipated torpedo attacks. 

After weeks of routine operations, Ark Royd's Swordfish were 
given a new type of target, the dam at Lake Tirso in Sardinia. On this 
day, February 2, 1941, a strong, gusty gale was blowing and the flight 
deck was flipping up and down like a berserk lift, but in spite of 
launching difficulties, a force of eight planes took off at 6 A.M. without 
mishap. On reaching the coast of Sardinia the weather worsened, 
hailstones were mixed with a driving rain and ice formed on the wings 
as the planes flew through a cloud level at five thousand, feet. There 
was nothing to do but turn back, out to sea, and wait for daylight, 
and hope for a change in the weather. 

While flying around under these conditions, one Swordfish lost its 
way and had to return to the carrier, the rest went back to the target 


individually and found the ground defense very alert. Six of the seven 
planes met heavy antiaircraft fire as they reached the dam, and two 
were forced to jettison their torpedoes when ice on their wings made 
flying difficult. Another was shot down and the crew taken prisoner; 
only four made a torpedo-run on the target. 

The most successful drop was made by Sub-Lieutenant R. S. 
Charlier who had flown in at about fifty feet all the way from the 
coast and therefore received no ack-ack fire until he was actually mak- 
ing his run. He went out at the same level. But the last pilot to fly 
over the target leaped the obstruction with sixty feet to spare, and 
could observe no serious damage on the face of the dam. And so it 
went. Here and there a degree of success, but all too often few rewards 
for such gallant efforts. 

A week later Ark RoyaTs Swordfish took part in a more rewarding 
operation when Force H was engaged in the bombardment of Genoa. 
At five o'clock on the morning of February 9 the carrier was detached 
from the main force, and, screened by three destroyers, she sent off 
an air-striking force of fourteen pknes to attack the Azienda oil re- 
finery, one of the larger plants in Italy. Four more Swordfish followed 
with mines intended for blocking the harbor of La Spezia. 

Diving from nine thousand feet, eleven of the bomber force worked 
over the factory, opened up the main buildings with 25o-pound 
bombs, and followed this with a drenching of incendiary missiles. A 
large explosion resulted but it was difficult to form any true estimate 
of the actual damage. The Italians were taken by complete surprise 
and no antiaircraft gun was fired until the raid had been on for about 
six minutes. They did have a balloon barrage up, and one of the 
Swordfish entangled in a cable and crashed, killing the crew. They 
were buried later with full military honors. 

Two aircraft of this force bombed the airfield and railroad junction 
at Pisa, and there were some jocular reports that one bomb had 
straightened the famous Leaning Tower, but the purists among the 
pilots denied this, and threatened to go back and photograph the tour- 
ist landmark, and put an end to the discussion. 

Meanwhile the mine-laying sub-flight approached the shore at Leg- 
horn where Byron and Trelawny had once made a funeral pyre for 
Shelley and there dropped their mines, 

As they returned to the carrier the activity at Genoa was in full 
blast, and it must have been a relief to see the Ark safe below them 
in the light of the dawn. The Italians had made no preparations to 


guard against an invasion of the gulf, and Force H descended upon 
Genoa as unsuspectedly as the Swordfish upon the Azienda refinery. 
During this bombardment three Swordfish, with an escort of Fulmars, 
acted as stand-by spotters for Force H. The gunnery was carried out 
by indirect fire, and Lieutenant V. N. Graves earned high praise for 
the precision with which he performed this duty. The reports he sent 
back contributed materially to the success of the operation, although 
observation was made difficult by two changes of targets to widely 
separated areas, and by clouds of smoke from the explosions and the 
burning oil tanks. 

Convoy work in the eastern Atlantic, as well as in the Mediter- 
ranean, occupied the crew and aircraft of Ark Royal throughout the 
early part of 1941. During one assignment a Fulmar pilot sighted the 
battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, but at extreme visibility. At 
that precise moment the aircraft's radio failed to function and by the 
time the Fulmar pilot had returned to the carrier it was too late to 
send out a striking force. The next day bad weather made flying im- 

Deprived of this rare opportunity, the Arfe's Swordfish continued to 
search and eventually intercepted three of the raiders' supply ships. 
One of these was actually a captured British tanker, San Gzsimz'ro, 
which had a detachment from Gneisenau in command. Then fol- 
lowed a plot no Hollywood hack writer would dare inject in any war 
scenario. In order to attract the attention of "friendly" aircraft, the 
ship's baker, a Britisher, had contrived to write "S.O.S." in flour on the 
afterpart of the deck. Another of the crew waved a swastika flag out of 
a porthole as a Swordfish approached. Rather than have her recap- 
tured, the Germans scuttled the tanker; the British crew was rescued 
and the Germans were taken prisoner by the men of the Renown. 

Convoy escort, particularly in the Mediterranean, was a very sticky 
business, for the covering force had to be strong enough to defend 
the convoy against opposition by the Italian Fleet and the certainty 
of heavy air attack, especially so when the convoy was to the south 
of Sardinia and near the Sicilian coast. Steaming out of the Gibraltar 
passage usually lasted several days and by the second day Italian recon- 
naissance planes generally made their appearance. The Fulmars were 
expected to shoot them down in short order to prevent these spotters 
from getting back. The third day always was the most critical, 
for some shadowers had returned, or had gotten their information 


through, and high-level bombing, synchronized with torpedo attacks, 
would begin a few hours later and often last throughout the day. 

Ark Royd would remain close to the main force during such activ- 
ity, but there were times when she had to work independently in 
order to operate her aircraft. When the day was calm and high speed 
was necessary to launch her planes, she often had to take great risks 
to carry out any important flying. During the critical hours she had 
to keep as many fighters over the convoy as possible, and direct them 
to the incoming enemy formations. On one passage sixteen Fulmars 
were kept in the air for more than four hours after the first enemy 
bombers had been sighted. Some of the pilots had to make four sorties 
in one day, and it was a problem to get aircraft off, have the deck 
ready for returnees, refuel, or rearm other aircraft, get pilots and ob- 
servers fed and rested so the complex operation could be continued 
hour after hour. When the big guns were used in antiaircraft defense 
it was impossible in those days to launch or recover aircraft. In 
many instances flying into the wind had to be dispensed with in order 
to engage the enemy aircraft on the most favorable bearing. There 
were times when it was possible to make a quick turn into the wind 
to take on a plane during an emergency, but more often the returnee 
had to put down on the sea and hope to be picked up by a screening 

Italian high-speed torpedo planes worked resolutely to halt Ark 
Royd and the surface vessels of Force H. They tried coming in in 
large formations, roaring along only a few feet off the surface of the 
sea, but they were batted down like moths by the accurate gunfire 
of the British turrets; what the big guns did not get, the Fulmars did. 
On one occasion eighteen of thirty-six Italian torpedo planes that were 
making a mass attack, were shot down by the fighters or the anti- 
aircraft guns of Force H. 

Captain L. E. H. Maund who took over Ark Royd from Captain 
Holland on April 19, said: "Our aircraft certainly took the spirit of 
our carrier with them into the sky. In one combat, two of them tackled 
a full squadron of enemy bombers. They literally hurled themselves 
upon the enemy, almost colliding with them until they were both 
shot down, but not before they had destroyed two bombers, damaged 
a third that was later finished off by their comrades, broke up the 
formation and caused the survivors to jettison their bombs, thus giv- 
ing security to the convoy ." 

Each convoy escort furnished its own pattern of excitement, but 


one day's engagements are typical of many. On this occasion Ark 
Royd had started with twelve Fulmars, but combat soon reduced the 
number serviceable to seven, then to five. However, by rapid re- 
equipment and repair the carrier maintained a permanent patrol 
throughout the day. There were times when only two aircraft were 
over the Fleet, but whenever a raid appeared imminent every fighter 
that could be made fit for action was sent into the sky. 

The main onslaught on this day came shortly after seven in the 
evening. The sky was perfect for action, but a great cloud, rising from 
sea level to nine thousand feet, was closing in from the north, and 
hostile aircraft from Sicily were sighted approaching over its top to 
attack the convoy. The enemy force was made up of twenty-eight 
Junkers 8ys and six Messerschmitt nos in three separate formations. 
By that time the Ark had only seven Fulmars fit to send off, but they 
roared up into the sky, and as they lurched over the upper edge of the 
cloud they suddenly found themselves at close quarters with the en- 
emy raiders. Although greatly outnumbered, they went straight for the 
center of the formations; one bomber immediately went down out of 
control, and several others, obviously damaged, screwed out of their 
formations. Even the Messerschmitts were mauled, and one went 
limping off with a smoke scarf dragging from its tail. This Fulmar 
dash broke up all cohesion of the attack, the opposition filtered away, 
and the Junkers jettisoned their bombs ten miles from the ships of 
Force H. 

That day ended with two torpedo-bomber attacks on Renown and 
Ark Royal; the tin fish of the first attack went through the water be- 
tween both ships without causing any damage, the second assault, 
made up of four torpedo carriers was engaged in time by a section 
of Fulmars that dispersed three of them and then ganged up on the 
leader who was sent down in flames. 

Leading Airman R. N. Orme who was acting as a Fulmar observer 
was only nineteen years of age and had never been in combat against 
the enemy before, but although their plane was badly shot up and at 
times out of control, he kept his pilot well supplied with vital informa- 
tion so that they were able to evade the continued passes of Italian 
C.R.42 fighters.- Then, having exhausted every alternative method of 
warding off stern attacks, he finally tossed wads of paper into the 
slipstream of their aircraft, which apparently gave the impression of 
some new and more terrible form of ammunition the attackers twice 
ceased fire and broke away. 


Then there was Petty Officer Airman L. G. J. Howard, another ob- 
server gunner who was seriously wounded during an engagement with 
a covey of C.R-42S, but continued to serve his gun and relay important 
information to his pilot, until the enemy had been shaken off. When 
the pilot reported Howard's wound and asked permission to bring 
him back to the carrier, the young gunner insisted that he was quite 
able to carry on and begged his pilot to continue the combat. 

On May 24 the flag officer of Force H received information that 
the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen 
were at sea. Ark Royal, Renown, and the cruiser Sheffield steamed 
northwestward at high speed. It was at this time that the famous 
Bismarck-Hood engagement took place. The Hood hit the Bismarck 
several times, but then received a German shell in her magazine and 
because of a fault in her construction, blew completely apart. With 
that Bismarck broke off and tried to escape, but the British cruisers 
Suffolk and Norfolk continued to shadow her. 

Other units of the home fleet began to gather and at 10 P.M. on 
the twenty-fourth, the aircraft carrier Victorious sent off nine Sword- 
fish, led by Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde, who later won 
the Victoria Cross posthumously for his gallantry in the ill-fated en- 
gagement against the German pocket battleships Schamhorst and 
Gneisenau when they were making a dash through the English 

This air-striking force attacked Bismarck with torpedoes at 11:30 
and reported one hit on the starboard side amidships. Her speed was 
reduced somewhat but she was able to slip away from the two British 
cruisers that had been shadowing her for more than thirty hours. This 
caused dismay for some time, but at 10:30 A.M., May 26, a Catalina 
PBY flying boat of Coastal Command made contact, and reported 
that Bismarck was heading for the Bay of Biscay, but then the Catalina 
was hit by an antiaircraft shell from the pocket battleship and driven 
off. Once again the British Navy lost touch with their quarry. 

Meanwhile Force H was steaming through foul weather but did 
keep a few aircraft in the air for antisubmarine spotting. By 7 A.M. 
of the twenty-sixth Admiral Somerville had hoped to be in a position 
from where he could fly off a reconnaissance patrol to intercept Bis- 
marck, if she was really heading for Brest, but the weather grew stead- 
ily worse and Force H was delayed nearly two hours in reaching the 
patrol area. By 8:30 A.M. eight Swordfish were readied for take-off 


although the wind was high and the huge green seas were breaking 
over the fore end of the flight deck that normally was sixty-two feet 
above the sea. The whole deck was drenched and dangerous, several 
aircraft slid from one side to the other while being "spotted" for take- 
off, and a number of mechanics were badly injured as they tried to 
hang on to the machines. 

The leader finally took off with his wheels churning through salt 
water and the pilots who followed him flailed through a drenching 
spume and spray. As the carrier pitched in the heavy swell some of 
the planes had to make the run uphill and others went roaring down 
a tilted chute. No one expected any orthem to get off, but one by 
one they charged through the storm and deck hazards and eventually 
reappeared as they fanned out on their allotted search courses. 

At 10:40 A.M. Ark Royal received a signal that the Catalina had 
found the Bismarck, but the Swordfish patrol continued on as ordered 
since the position indicated was within the area being searched. At 
1 1 124, a short time after the Catalina had been driven off, a Swordfish, 
piloted by Sub-Lieutenant J. V. Hartley with Sub-Lieutenant P. R. 
Elias as observer, reported the Bismarck in a position approximately 
750 miles due west of Brest. 

Seven minutes later another Swordfish, north of the shadower, also 
made contact and from that moment on Bismarck was never out of 
sight her doom was sealed. There was a critical moment when both 
shadowers were running out of fuel with barely enough left to return 
them to Ark Royd. To make certain contact would be maintained, 
two Swordfish, fitted with extra fuel tanks to give them ninety min- 
utes of additional flying time, were flown off. Within an hour they 
had gained touch, and the others returned just in time with only a 
whiff of gasoline in their tanks. This shadowing patrol was carried on 
all night, in spite of rain and great curtains of mist. For a while one 
of the Swordfish pilots lost contact and after circling in search came 
upon what he believed to be a British vessel, and signaled, "Where 
is the bloody Bismarck?" 

The enemy provided the answer with a salvo of antiaircraft guns, 
and thus gave away her position. Once the first contact had been 
made, King George V and Rodney set out after the German, but the 
enemy battleship had too great a lead and unless her speed could be 
reduced in some manner, it was obvious that she would escape, as 
had Prinz Eugen. The only hope now was a torpedo attack from the 
aircraft of Ark Royd. 


Plans were set up for such an attack, but first the reconnaissance 
patrol had to be brought in and stowed away, which also was a hair- 
raising operation. Since these ten planes had been away in various 
areas, they returned at varying intervals. The winds were still high, 
the sea was in a great turmoil, and the deck was now rising and falling 
a distance of fifty-six feet. Drizzle and low clouds made visibility very 
difficult, although the carrier was making only eight knots since she 
was steaming into a forty-knot wind. Some of the patrol planes had 
to be waved off three and four times, and when they finally did hit 
the deck, it took unbelievable measures by the crew to prevent their 
being blown overboard. 

Nevertheless, as soon as the shadowing group was hangared safely, 
an air-striking force of fifteen Swordfish was brought up and spotted 
for takeoff. Force H was well to the north of Bismarck and steaming 
a parallel course to her, but whenever the Ark was turned into the 
wind to fly off her aircraft, she inevitably lost station on the enemy, 
and on resuming her easterly course had to employ her full power of 
thirty knots. For a time the wind was so strong the flight deck officer 
had to order the planes below, after they were fueled and armed. 
They were not able to risk a take-off until 2:50 P.M. One Swordfish 
had to return because of an engine defect. 

At this point a new hazard arose. Unknown to the air-striking force, 
Sheffield had been detached from Force H to make contact with Bfe- 
marck. As the torpedo bombers approached their objective through 
scud and storm they suddenly sighted a cruiser below that they mis- 
took for the Bismarck, and all dived for the attack. The staff of Shef- 
field sensed the mistake, went into high-speed avoiding action, and, 
fortunately, none of the torpedoes hit her. One Swordfish pilot who 
recognized the British cruiser as soon as he released his torpedo, sig- 
naled later, "Sorry we wasted a kipper on you, sir." 

All this points up the weather conditions. The Swordfish had to 
return to Ark Royal, refuel, and load up with new torpedoes. By then 
landing conditions were even worse and the deck control officer had 
to lash himself secure before he could risk standing up to wave in 
the returning planes. Three aircraft crashed on the flight deck when 
an unruly stern smashed their undercarriages, and this wreckage had 
to be speedily cleared away before the others could be taken on, but 
luckily there were no casualties among the crew. 

By seven o'clock a second air-striking force, led by Lieutenant Com* 
mander T. P. Coode with Lieutenant E. S. Carver as his observer, 


was prepared. Lieutenant Commander J. A. Stewart-Moore was 
second-in-command. Their task was most important and every man 
in the formation must have realized it. If Bismarck was to be stopped, 
only they could do it now. The prestige of their service had received 
a severe jolt the sinking of Britain's greatest battleship, Hood. Dun- 
kirk had been a shock, and the hapless history of Norway had cut into 
hopes for a victory over Hitler's might, but the loss of Hood and the 
realization that Bismarck was still at large, left an undeniable dread 
for the future. 

Ark Royal clawed around into the almost hurricane wind, and the 
fifteen Swordfish, spotted wing tip to wing tip, were only held aboard 
by superhuman efforts. The scream of engine exhausts and harsh 
voices coming from power megaphones were added to the howling of 
the storm. Knouts of spray lashed off the fuselages as the flight deck 
rose and fell with the violence of the storm. The air officer huddled 
on the bridge and flipped fast signals to the flight deck officer the 
instant he felt a plane might risk a take-off; rain-drenched men hud- 
dled under the wings, ready to yank the chocks from the wheels when 
the little green flag fluttered; drill and discipline were at their absolute 
best. Although daring the gale, the animosity of the deck, and the 
possibility of engine failure, every Swordfish got off safely. 

By this time Sheffield had again made contact with Bismarck, so 
Commander Coode's air-striking force first established touch with 
the British cruiser. Visibility was still restricted by low clouds and 
unending rain, and the Swordfish pilots did not see Bismarck until 
they were on top of her, shortly before nine o'clock, and after they 
had been searching for nearly two hours. Now the temperature 
dropped and some pilots reported that ice was forming on their wings, 
but Commander Coode circled his target for twenty minutes, maneu- 
vering for a position from which to make the attack. Every time a 
Swordfish could be identified through the tatters in the cloud, the 
batteries of antiaircraft guns aboard Bismarck snarled at it. 

But before an assault formation could be set up, the air-striking 
force became dispersed in a thick bank of cloud and Commander 
Coode had to order his pilots to attack as best they could, singly, in 
twos, threes, or fives. Once the torpedo bombers came out of their 
cover for the run-in, Bismarck's antiaircraft fire was more intensive and 
accurate, and several planes were forced to turn away before they 
reached torpedo range. However, all eventually went in, and, accord- 
ing to their commander-in-chief, "their attacks were pressed home with 


a gallantry and determination that cannot be praised too highly/' 

Sub-Lieutenant A. W. Duncan Beale who lost touch with his sub 
flight, returned to Sheffield to obtain a new bearing on the enemy. He 
then flew back by himself, carried out a resolute attack from ahead of 
Bismarck in the face of heavy fire and scored a hit amidships on the 
port side with his torpedo. 

Five aircraft of Commander Coode's force were hit one came back 
with 176 holes in the wings, and pilot and gunner both wounded 
but all the planes returned, the last one landing in the gathering dusk 
at eleven o'clock. They had no idea what they had accomplished for 
observation was so difficult, no airman would claim an actual hit, but 
as they climbed down from their machines and the observers made 
their individual reports, it was clear that the results were more suc- 
cessful than supposed. It was established later that Bismarck had been 
hit on the port side and then on the starboard quarter. A possible hit 
on the port quarter was reported finally, and a signal received shortly 
after 11 P.M. explained that the enemy ship had made two circles at 
slow speed and was then seen staggering off to NNW out of control. 
It was obvious that one of the hits scored by Ark Royal Swordfish 
had put Bismarck's steering gear out of order so that she could not 
hold her course with the wind and sea astern. 

"This was a result," wrote the commander-in-chief, "which the Ark 
Royal and her aircraft crews had well earned and which ensured my 
being able to bring the Bismarck to action the next morning." 

During the night a flotilla of five destroyers attacked Bismarck and 
scored three hits with torpedoes. She was stopped for a time, but fi- 
nally got under way again, limping along at eight knots. She was still 
capable of heavy and accurate gunfire, however. 

Although the fate of Bismarck was inevitable, the Swordfish crews 
continued to fly. At 4:30 A.M., May 27, a lone reconnaissance aircraft 
was sent off Ark Royd. The early morning was pitch black, the wind 
had gusts up to forty-eight knots, and there was still violent move- 
ment on the flight deck, so the carrier reduced her speed to six knots. 
The Swordfish rose almost vertically alongside the island bridge, and 
vanished immediately into the darkness. It bored through the rain and 
the crew searched through an inky black area on the northern horizon, 
but failed to find Bismarck. The pilot returned, refueled and went off 
again, and again failed to discover a trace of the enemy raider, but on 
the third attempt was successful. 

When dawn had wiped off the sky, the wind shifted to the north- 


west and more air activity was planned. Twelve Swordfish that had 
been readied before daylight were flown off, and their course was aided 
by the fact that the destroyer Maori was still in visual contact with 
Bismarck. By 8:45 King George V and Rodney had closed in on the 
enemy. The air-striking force reached the scene of action just as the 
guns of the British battleships were opening fire. The high splashes 
from the shells made it impossible for the torpedo bombers to dive on 
their target, so they closed in at a reasonable altitude and watched 
one of the last battles of the big ships. An air gunner reported later: 
"By the time we got there the Bismarck was so battered you couldn't 
distinguish her shape. She looked like a dark mass of junk floating on 
the water." 

By nine o'clock Bismarck was all but out of control, although her 
guns were still in action. An hour later she was completely silenced, a 
total wreck, on fire fore and aft, and wallowing helplessly. The air-strik- 
ing force was about to finish her when the Dorsetshire, which had 
been ordered to torpedo her at close range, reported that Bismarck 
was sinking. She went down gallantly with her battle ensign still flying. 

When the Swordfish returned to their ship and were about to land 
on, a Heinkel 111 approached under cover of a low cloud. Ark Royal 
was in an almost defenseless position for she had turned into the wind, 
and under the circumstances, her course could not be altered, nor 
could she use her 4.5 guns. So Renown and Sheffield moved in and 
opened fire on the Heinkel which dropped two large and five smaller 
bombs from about four thousand feet and then turned away into a 
cloud with smoke pouring from her starboard engine. The bombs fell 
into the sea four hundred yards from the carrier and all the Swordfish 
landed safely. 

Ark Royal and her air crews returned to Gibraltar on May 29, and 
on her arrival the garrison hired every boat they could find to go out 
and cheer her to her berth. The Black Watch pipers skirled as never 
before, and the small craft clustered below the carrier as thick as float- 
ing wrack, with soldiers, sailors, and airmen standing up shouting and 
waving to welcome Ark Royal home. 

There was small respite after the victory. Ark Royal was soon re- 
turned to her operations with Force H in the Mediterranean to carry 
out air reconnaissance and to cover convoys. Her Swordfish made a 
night bombing attack on the Alghero airfield on the west coast of 
Sardinia and scored direct hits on hangars and buildings. In a later 


raid they started intensive fires in the cork woods near Tempio Pausa- 
nia in the north. The Fulmar fighters destroyed a number of Italian 
shadow planes and one large Junkers-52 transport airplane. Their last 
victim was a Cant-5o6 that was sighted when three Fulmars were on 
patrol over the force. Within ninety seconds after being warned the 
Fulmar pilots gave the "tally-ho" response and in short time the Ital- 
ian torpedo bomber was "splashed" as she tried to make the African 

War is no respecter of heroism or tradition, however, and the day 
arrived when Ark Royd operated her aircraft for the last time. On the 
afternoon of November 13 she was steering toward Gibraltar in com- 
pany with Mdaya, Argus, Hermione, and seven destroyers. The 
weather was fair and at 3:25, when the force was thirty miles from 
Gibraltar and in sight of The Rock, twelve aircraft were flown off for 
a training exercise; fourteen more were waiting to land on. 

At 3:41 when the last of the returning Swordfish was being recov- 
ered, there was a loud explosion under the bridge of Ark Royal on 
the starboard side. This plunged the interior of the ship into darkness, 
and she whipped so violently that five aircraft waiting to be sent down 
to the hangars, were thrown into the air three times. All hands were 
piped to action stations. 

The torpedo that caused the explosion was fired by the German 
submarine U-8i, commanded by a Leutnant Guggenberger. No one 
aboard the carrier had seen her periscope or the torpedo track. The 
blast of the torpedo, coupled with the eighteen-knot speed of the car- 
rier, caused severe damage below, but only one member of the ship's 
company, Able Seaman E. Mitchel who was asleep in his quarters, 
was killed. 

The carrier took on a list of ten degrees immediately after the ex- 
plosion and within three minutes was over to twelve degrees. Captain 
Maund's first thought was to stop the ship, and he gave orders to re- 
verse the engines, but all the telegraphs to the engine room were 
jammed, and it was impossible to communicate by telephone with any 
other part of the ship. The loud-speaker system was out of commis- 
sion and the bridge was completely isolated. 

It was essential that the ship should be stopped, so the captain left 
the bridge and hastened to the engine-control room where he gave 
the necessary orders to bring the carrier to rest. He learned that the 
starboard engines were out of action, but that there was no damage to 
the port or center engine rooms. He then gave orders to flood the port 


compartments, and to pump fuel from the starboard to the port tanks 
in the hope of counteracting the steadily increasing list. He stationed 
a chain of seamen to establish communications between the engine 
room and the flight deck while preparations were made for emergency 
telephones to be rigged to replace the human chain. 

Because of the steep list it was not possible to fly any aircraft off the 
deck. The twelve that were in the air at the time of the explosion were 
sent on to Gibraltar. Meanwhile^ the destroyers circled around, drop- 
ping depth charges to trap the German submarine, or at least hobble 
her chances of firing a second torpedo salvo. 

By four o'clock Ark Royal had heeled over to an angle of eighteen 
degrees and the list was increasing. There was no way of knowing how 
long she would float, and fearing she might capsize, Captain Maund 
decided to disembark every man possible, retaining only those who 
might be of use in keeping her afloat. The destroyer Legion was called, 
and by skillful handling Commander R. S. Jessel brought her along- 
side the port quarter, taking care to keep her stern clear of the 
Ark's port propeller, which was now visible near the surface of the 
water. He had also to avoid the carrier's radio masts that projected 
horizontally from her sides with no power available to raise them. 

In a short time 1540 officers and men were transferred to the Legion 
the paymaster-commander appeared on deck carrying two suitcases 
containing the ship's money, some 10,000 in each. Few men had time 
to save personal property and many of them had to leave stacks of 
Christmas presents they had bought in Gibraltar to take home on 
their next leave. One petty officer managed to snatch up twenty pairs 
of silk stockings he was taking home for his wife, and these were dis- 
tributed about his person in strange looking wads. A number of ca- 
naries were aboard and these were released in the hope they could fly 
well enough to make land. Cats and dogs were taken tenderly over to 
the Legion, all of them barking or meowing their enthusiasm for, or 
objections to, the disturbance. Some of the larger dogs had to be put 
aboard emergency rafts and left to float about until one of the de- 
stroyers could take them aboard. 

The destroyer cast off at 4:48 and, although she had more than ten 
times her normal complement on board, she continued to hunt the 
submarine and carry out her depth-charge attack for more than six 

Back aboard the stricken carrier everything was being done to save 
the ship. Portable pumps were mounted, auxiliary lighting furnished, 


and the extent of the damage ascertained. The center boiler room had 
flooded quickly and water had even reached the starboard engine 
room, but the most serious damage was the complete loss of feed 
water. Due to this, all power failed, and the situation worsened stead- 
ily. The destroyer Laforey was therefore signaled to come alongside 
to provide water and enough electric power for the pumps and some 
of the lights. 

Steam was gradually raised again, the dynamos and steering engine 
were brought into action once more, and Laforey was cast off. At 7:30 
a chartered tug arrived and soon had the Ark moving ahead at about 
two knots although there was a full knot current running against her. 
The counterflooding had reduced the list considerably and for a time 
there seemed to be some hope of getting steam on the port shaft; 
everyone was confident that in a short time Ark Royal would be steam- 
ing into Gibraltar harbor, and these hopes were raised still higher by 
the appearance of the Admiralty tug St. Day which was made fast 
on the port side to aid in the towing. 

When expectations were at their highest, a fire broke out in the port 
boiler room at 2:14 on the morning of November 14, and destroyed 
any chance of raising steam for another two hours. Salvage work came 
to a standstill, the dynamos stopped, the lights below decks went out 
again, and the steering engine became useless. The list was now twenty 
degrees and it was almost impossible to stand on the decks. Laforey 
boldly moved alongside once more and electric power was made avail- 
able for the pumps and some of the lighting. Optimism rose again 
for a few minutes, but the pumps seemed to have little effect, the list 
increased ominously. Laforey and St. Day were ordered away and told 
to continue the tow, and together they increased the speed to five 
knots, but Gibraltar was still twenty-five miles away. 

By four o'clock the ship had heeled to twenty-seven degrees. The 
crew aboard had done all that seamanship, resource, and human en- 
deavor could, but it was plain they were fighting a losing battle. For 
the past forty minutes the port boiler room had resembled an inferno, 
the casings were red hot and the stokehold choked with fumes. Senior 
Engineer Lieutenant Commander A. G. Oliver had worked coura- 
geously but was finally overcome by fumes and heat. Two of his stoke- 
hold men fainted and had to be given artificial respiration. Four times 
the stokers fought and extinguished fires and continued to provide 
steam until further efforts were useless. They were all ordered top- 
side. Other engineers had stayed with the dynamo in the port and 


center engine rooms where they had worked hour after hour without 
ventilation, and in a mist of superheated steam. 

When it became certain that there was no hope of saving the car- 
rier,, every available rope was taken forward and secured inboard, 
abreast of St. Day, so that the 250 men still on board could leave 
quickly and cross over the tug to Lctforey. 

The Ark was heeling more rapidly and the men could move along 
the decks only by crawling. The few men topside were ordered to get 
to the tug, and those below were ordered up. Captain Maund was the 
last to leave, and his men gave him three hearty cheers as he slid 
down a rope to the tug. By that time, 4:30 A.M., the list was thirty- 
five degrees, and the lower hangar deck on the starboard side was 
under water. 

As Laforey was about to cast off, the Flag Officer, Force H, arrived 
alongside in a motor launch to aid Ark Royd, but no human effort 
could save her now. At 6:13 A.M. she turned over, remained bottom 
upward for a few minutes and then, fourteen hours after she had been 
torpedoed, disappeared from sight. 

The loss of the famous carrier was announced in London at one 
o'clock that afternoon, news that must have embarrassed the German 
Ministry of Propaganda. It had claimed to have destroyed Ark Royd 
more than two years before. But Dr. Goebbels did not proclaim the 
U-boat's success until twenty-four hours later, and it is significant that 
the German announcement quoted the British Admiralty report in 

Gibraltar was silent that November morning, the welcoming pipers 
waited in vain, for Ark Royd was on the bottom some twenty-five 
miles away, but to this day airmen say they can mark her grave when 
the waters of the Mediterranean are still. 



THE PREVIOUS chapter has shown how a small force of British carriers 
operated in the opening months of the Second World War when the 
program was loose and varied since there were no precedents to follow. 
It was all new, both to the ships' companies and to the flying men, who 
were burdened with a very complex aerial warfare, and flight-deck op- 
erations had to be contrived as various situations arose. 

The aircraft carriers available were assigned to convoy escort, anti- 
submarine patrols, attacks against enemy surface raiders, and actually 
ordered to provide support for amphibious operations. As was to be 
expected, mistakes and gross errors were made. The carriers were sac- 
rificed on tasks that they were not equipped to attempt, and since Hit- 
ler's Germany had no complete naval force, in the strict sense of the 
phrase, there was small opportunity for the Royal Navy to leam how 
the carrier would or could operate in massed naval action. 

Germany had a fair destroyer force anda number of socalled pocket 
battleships battle cruisers to be exact but no complete naval force 
which could be sent against an opposition force of equal power. 
What naval might she possessed was used in unproductive attempts at 
high seas piracy, hit-and-run raids, in a continual threat to entrap small 
forces, or was huddled away in sheltered bays while repairs or refit 
operations were made. Only in isolated and historical instances were 
the pocket battleships sent out to earn their keep. 

However, when the ill-fated Norwegian campaign had run its 
course, the British Fleet was withdrawn from these hazardous waters, 
and once the British Expeditionary Force had been evacuated from 
Dunkirk, there were no European military operations to support; the 
remnants of the British Army either stood guard against threatened 


invasion at home or, as each division was re-formed and brought up to 
strength, it was rushed out to the Mediterranean. 

Mussolini had bided his time and when it looked as though Ger- 
many was bound to win, he threw in his lot with Hitler. This created 
a new phase of war for the British Navy, for it had long been known 
that II Duce had a fleet that, on paper or in the pages of Jane's Fight- 
ing Ships, might provide considerable opposition to the forces still 
available to the Admiralty. 

In fact, the Mediterranean Fleet faced a period of naval operations 
against a far superior enemy, and, coupled with this, one of its chief 
bases, Malta, was within easy bombing range of land-based aircraft 
in Italy, The British Fleet was superior in one respect only; it possessed 
an aircraft carrier, H.M.S. Eagle, that was soon joined by H.M.S. IZ- 
lustriaus, the first of Great Britain's new fleet carriers. Mussolini had 
no aircraft carriers. 

Although Force H had been formed and based at Gibraltar, it was 
now obvious that the main Mediterranean Fleet would have to con- 
centrate in the eastern Mediterranean and use Alexandria as its base. 
Broadly speaking, Britain held both ends of the Inland Sea, and Italy 
was in control of the central portion. It was apparent that something 
would have to be done if the British were to stay in these waters, 
and her land forces were to command vital points in North Africa. 

Two British convoys, carrying stores for the fleet, made an effort 
early in July 1940 to steam from Malta to Alexandria. The Mediter- 
ranean Fleet, under Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, sailed 
out from Alexandria to pick up this merchant convoy. At the same time 
the Italian Fleet was ordered to escort a supply convoy that was des- 
tined for their forces in Libya. 

The Italian Fleet of two battleships, sixteen cruisers, and thirty de- 
stroyers was first intercepted by the British submarine Phoenix that 
had been operating some distance southeast of Taranto, a seaport in 
Apulia, Italy, and only second in importance to La Spezia as a naval 
arsenal. The submarine warned the British surface force, and a long- 
range United States Martin reconnaissance aircraft flew out of Malta 
and shadowed the Italians until Admiral Cunningham made contact 
on July 19. 

It is interesting to note that H.M.S. Eagle, an antique carrier built in 
the early 19205, had recently joined Cunningham's force, and, although 
she had but seventeen Swordfish aboard that were manned by inex- 
perienced pilots, she performed commendably. About noon of July 9 


one of Eagle's "Stringbags" sighted the enemy fleet, and a striking 
force, armed with torpedoes, was launched a short time later. How 
ironical that an almost obsolete carrier bearing a squadron of untried 
airmen should be the first to engage in what could have been the 
first real naval action of World War II! 

Eagle's torpedo bombers went after the Italians boldly, but missed 
the enemy's main fleet that had changed course to the southward, so 
they engaged a convoy cruiser with comparatively small success some 
of this misfortune was later charged to faulty torpedo detonators, a 
factor that was plaguing all naval services using this weapon. 

Admiral Cunningham's first surface-fleet contact ^was made during 
the same afternoon but his guns were at extreme range and nothing 
decisive was registered. A second striking force was launched from 
Eagle and this time one good hit was scored on a cruiser in the face 
of stiff antiaircraft fire. The attack was good, but the antitorpedo 
bulges (false sections of hull that detonate the weapon before it 
pierces the main hull) performed their function and the cruiser's speed 
was not slowed sufficiently for the British forces to engage. As a result 
the whole Italian Fleet was able to withdraw at good speed while their 
destroyers put down a covering smoke screen. Eventually they found 
the shelter of their harbor, and the protection of their land-based 

The main prize was lost, although a Swordfish from the deck of 
Eagle caught up with an Italian destroyer and sank her off the enemy 
coast. Success was denied for various reasons. The enemy fleet could 
put on terrific bursts of speed, a factor that made it difficult for Navy 
airmen to bring the target into their sights, and the pilots and observers 
were inexperienced, the products of a very rapid expansion of Britain's 
new Fleet Air Arm. However, from this point on, an intensive program 
of practice operations in both day and night flying was ordered, the 
torpedoes were checked and checked again; nothing was left undone to 
prevent another such unfortunate display. 

The R.A.F., in new long-range Martin reconnaissance machines, 
surged out of Malta on the hour to photograph every move being 
made at Taranto and Augusta, another Italian naval base in Sicily. 
The Swordfish were equipped with long-range tanks, and the first of 
these planes arrived aboard H.M.S. Illustrious, one of the newer car- 
riers. By the middle of October 1940 the pilots were ready, the planes 
were all spotted, and a new excellence in night-flying operations, by 
both air crews and deck parties, was reached. 


Plans were under way to stage an attack on the Taranto forces to 
celebrate Trafalgar Day, October 21, but a few days previously a fire 
broke out on the hangar deck of Illustrious that damaged a number of 
aircraft. Weather conditions and the lunar system held off the plans 
until the night of November 11, Armistice Day, when the moon was 
three-quarters full. The most recent reconnaissance photographs dis- 
closed that five battleships were at anchor, as well as several cruisers 
and destroyers. Just before the force sailed, an R.A.F. evening patrol 
reported that a sixth battleship had been docked at Taranto. 

At this point it was learned that Edgfe could not take part; her fuel- 
ing system was unsatisfactory as a consequence of repeated near misses 
by Italian aircraft, so five of her Swordfish and a number of her aircraft 
crews were transferred to Illustrious, and the combined fleet sailed 
from Alexandria on November 6 for the Armistice Night celebration. 

Shortly after nightfall on November 11, Admiral Cunningham sent 
Illustrious, and a screen of four cruisers and four destroyers, to a fly- 
off position 180 miles from the Taranto area. At 8:30 a striking force of 
twelve Swordfish, led by Lieutenant Commander K. Williamson, 
roared down the slim deck of the carrier and zoomed into the Mediter- 
ranean night. They formed up about eight miles ahead of their car- 
rier and by nine o'clock were well on their way to the Italian port. A 
second air-striking force, cut to nine Swordfish, was spotted to take off 
at shortly after 9:00 P.M. Three others that might have gone had had 
the misfortune to land in the sea on returning from practice flights. 
Only eight of the second force became airborne, since one was dam- 
aged in a deck collision while taxiing to its position and had to be 
rushed to the hangar for repairs. 

The pilot, Lieutenant E. W. Clifford, who was outraged at his bad 
luck, followed his plane below and made every effort to have the dam- 
age repaired quickly. At the same time his observer, Lieutenant G. R. 
M. Going, darted up to the bridge to plead with Captain Denis Boyd 
for permission to go if their aircraft could be repaired in time. 

"The bashing about isn't too bad, sir," he explained. 

"If it's bashed about at all, you shouldn't be taking it to Taranto," 
the skipper argued. "I admire your spirit, but. . ." 

"It's nothing serious, sir. Just a bit of wing tip. We could hack off the 
battered part." 

"Get off my bridge. I'm busy. If you want to go in that condition, 
you have my sympathy, but you can go. I don't suppose it is any worse 
than what you'll come back with/' said Captain Boyd grinning. 


At 9:55 the repaired Swordfish was hauled up to the flight deck 
again, and Clifford and Going took off alone. Captain Boyd gave them 
a stiff salute as they hoiked off Illustrious and headed for Taranto, 
now only 150 miles away. 

At 10:00 the first striking force was approaching the Italian base. It 
should be explained that of the twelve aircraft involved, six carried 
torpedoes, four were armed with bombs and two were loaded with 
flares and light bombs. Commander Williamson's observer, Lieuten- 
ant N. J. Scarlett, "keeping the book," suddenly realized that the 
promised good weather was deteriorating. As they neared the port they 
ran into a thick cloud. 

"We'd better split up for a minute, eh sir?" he was heard to suggest 
"We can't keep touch in this muck." 

Williamson nodded his assent and the Stringbags spread out for 
safety. They continued on in this manner and just before eleven 
o'clock spotted the first glares produced by the flare-dropping planes. 

"Bloody good!" Lieutenant Scarlett said and beamed as he spotted 
the line of eight flares planted accurately along the eastern side of the 

The second flare-dropper put a couple of bombs into an oil storage 
depot, and then, to make sure everything would go up as planned, 
dropped several incendiaries into the debris. This produced such a 
glare that no one knew for some time whether the storage tanks had 
been hit, or whether the uproar was caused by the flares, but the oil 
tanks gave excellent illumination for the complete program. 

Williamson and Scarlett took the torpedo bombers into the main 
attack, and so ferocious was the leader's first charge, that he may have 
overdone it since his machine never returned. The remaining pilots 
started their approach dives, selected their targets and picked out the 
battleships as they lay at anchor. The prize, the battleship Cavour, 
was hit so severely she had to be beached. Duilio, another Cavour- 
class model that had been reconstructed recently at tremendous ex- 
pense, was hit. She was seen the next day with her bow well under 
water. The battleship Italia, a Littorio-class vessel that was laid down 
in 1938, was damaged extensively. The 10,000 ton cruiser Trento took 
a direct hit by a bomb. Two destroyers, identified later as Libeccio 
and Pessango, were only slightly damaged by bombs, but two auxiliary 
vessels were definitely sunk, a seaplane base was badly mauled with 
one hangar destroyed, and the oil storage depot was a complete write- 


Most of the attacking Swordfish had to risk the entangling cables 
of a tight balloon barrage, both going in and returning. The antiair- 
craft fire was particularly heavy, for not only were the shore batteries 
turned on, but the warships, in self-defense, broke out every available 
weapon. However, eleven of the twelve planes returned and made 
safe landings aboard Illustrious. 

Meanwhile the second striking force, now reduced to seven planes 
since one had had to return with engine trouble, went in for their 
attack. This formation was led by Lieutenant Commander J. W. Hale 
who carried Lieutenant G. A. Carine as his observer. Again the flare- 
droppers were sent ahead to illuminate the target. This attack was a 
replica of the first. The flare planes set the scene, bombed what was 
available, and the torpedo men went in and picked out the most 
valuable targets and apparently finished any leftover business. Only 
one of these Swordfish failed to return. 

But the night was not yet over. Delayed as they were, Clifford and 
Going turned up to play their part. Lieutenant Clifford cut in deep 
and came in over the land east of the harbor. There was still consider- 
able illumination but much smoke and murk, so he swung to port 
and dived on a line of destroyers moored together in the Mar Piccolo. 
They donated one stick of bombs to the destroyer force and dropped 
another on two cruisers they found anchored off the dockyard. Satis- 
fied that some damage had been done, Clifford then turned to star- 
board, crossed the land and sped out to sea to seek his carrier. They 
touched down on the flight deck only half an hour after the others. 
Illustrious then turned east and rejoined her main force early in the 
morning of November 12. 

Captain Boyd said some time afterward: "Although the proper func- 
tion of the Fleet Air Arm may perhaps be the operation of aircraft 
against an enemy in the open sea, it has been demonstrated before, 
and repeated in no uncertain fashion by this success, that the ability to 
strike unexpectedly is conferred by the Fleet Air Arm. It is often felt 
that this arm, which has had a long struggle with adverse opinions and 
its unspectacular aircraft, is underestimated in its power. It is hoped 
that this victory will be considered a suitable reward to those whose 
work and faith in the Fleet Air Arm has made it possible/' 

Sir Winston Churchill said: "By this single stroke the balance of 
naval power in the Mediterranean was decisively altered. The air 
photographs showed that three battleships, one of them a new Littorio, 
had been torpedoed, and in addition one cruiser was reported hit and 


much damage inflicted on the dockyard. Half the Italian Fleet was 
disabled for at least six months, and the Fleet Air Arm could rejoice 
at having seized by their gallant exploit one of the rare opportunities 
presented to them." 

Sir Winston also pointed out an ironic touch in that the Italian Air 
Force, at the express wish of Mussolini, had taken part in an air attack 
on Great Britain on that same day. An Italian bomber force, escorted 
by about sixty fighters, attempted to bomb Allied convoys in the Med- 
way, the estuary of the Thames and Medway Rivers on the east coast. 
They were intercepted by British fighters, and eight Italian bombers 
and five fighters were shot down. It was their first and last such in- 
tervention, and, as Mr. Churchill commented wryly, "They might 
have found better employment defending their fleet at Taranto." 

As the woeful year of 1940 came to an end, somewhat relieved by 
the action at Taranto, new carriers and aircraft arrived to reinforce Ad- 
miral Cunningham's fleet. H.M.S. Indomitable, another of the Illus- 
trious class, 23,ooo-tonners with 75o-foot flight decks, turned up with 
ten new torpedo-carrying aircraft, the Fairey Albacores also biplanes 
that had been designed as the successor to the heroic Swordfish. When 
the Fairey Albacore carried a crew of three men it could be used on 
long-range reconnaissance. As a torpedo plane, the Albacore, like the 
Swordfish, carried two men. It was powered with a 1065 hp. Bristol 
Taurus engine, whereas the Stringbag had only a 650 hp. Pegasus en- 
gine. In addition to the improved torpedo bombers, Indomitable also 
brought thirteen new Fulmar fighters. 

But matters were still dismal for most British forces. By March 1941 
the German invasion of Greece was having continued success, and 
General Sir Archibald Wavell's army in North Africa was cut drasti- 
cally to supply a large force to oppose Hitler's shock troops. These 
troop transports were entrusted to the Royal Navy, and the follow-up 
supplies also required strong naval escort since there were many Italian 
submarines in that area. German and Italian land-based aircraft were 
continually in action or available, and there was the constant danger 
that what was left of the Italian Fleet might stage a rapid thrust from 
bases on the western shore of the Adriatic in attempts to intercept 
and sink these supply convoys going to the aid of Greece. The Italian 
Navy was sadly in need of a victory, and a successful attack on a help- 
less convoy might provide such a boost. 

As a matter of fact, on the evening of March 27, 1941, there was 


such a report, one that suggested that the Italian Fleet had made a 
move with that idea in mind. A British aircraft flying from Malta 
sighted a group of Italian cruisers steaming eastward, obviously mak- 
ing a dash for one of the convoys. A British cruiser force, under Vice- 
Admiral Sir Henry Pridham-Wippell, was already in a position south 
of Crete to furnish cover for this convoy. Admiral Cunningham sailed 
from Alexandria with his battleships and H.M.S. Formidable, another 
IHustrious-class carrier. As things turned out, this was a fortunate 
move, for by the morning of the twenty-eighth the reports and rumors 
eventually proved that the Italian cruisers, supported now by Italy's 
most modern battleship, Vittorio Veneto, were uncomfortably close 
to Admiral Pridham-Wippeirs cruiser force. 

Formidable assumed the job of air-search and launched four Alba- 
cores and one Swordfish early in the morning of the twenty-eighth. 
They were hardly off the deck before anxious radio reports began to 
craclde through, indicating the enemy had been sighted. These first 
messages were hurried and garbled. It was difficult to learn just how 
many vessels of the Italian force were out of their shelters, but as the 
observers settled down, the messages were more concise and it was 
clear that there were three separate groups ahead, one composed of 
Vittorio Veneto and her screen, the other two made up mainly of 

Aboard the commander-in-chief s flagship where all reports were an- 
alyzed, the situation appeared to be serious. Pridham-Wippeirs cruis- 
ers were in a position where they might be caught between the gunfire 
of the two enemy forces, the battleship to the northward, and four 
cruisers to the westward. Once more, Admiral Cunningham realized 
that there was only one move to make, and it would have to be made 
by the aircraft off Formidable; Vittorio Veneto would have to be 
nudged out of the play, slowed up, or at least given a few hornets at 
which to swat. 

Lieutenant Commander W. H. J. Saunt led a spearhead striking 
force of six Albacores, escorted by a brace of Fulmars. After thirty 
minutes of search Pridham-Wippeirs force was first spotted and then 
the Italian battleship nearby, so Commander Saunt moved into po- 
sition off her starboard bow and just as the torpedo planes were ready 
to peel off for the attack, two Junkers 88s, two-engined aircraft out- 
fitted as day-and-night figjiters, roared into the scene. The Fulmars 
took up the challenge and for a few minutes there was a wild melee 
above the Italian battleship. The German aircraft were no match for 


the highly maneuverable Fulmars, even though the Junkers outgunned 
them and had two flexible gun turrets one of the German machines 
was shot down into the sea, the other driven off, leaving the air clear 
for Commander Saunt and his torpedo planes. 

This time the peel-off was beautiful. The planes were down to al- 
most sea level when the battleship and her four-destroyer screen sent 
up an intense antiaircraft curtain. The Vittorio Veneto also fired her 
fifteen-inch guns into the sea at minimum range to set up columns of 
splash barrage. An aircraft that plowed into one of these would disinte- 
grate as though it had collided with a stone lighthouse, but Com- 
mander Saunt's Albacores evaded the shell splashes and closed in to 
release their torpedoes from about eight hundred yards. 

The sleek Italian battleship went into a wide turn to starboard and 
took violent evasive action; she wriggled, jinked, and moved like a 
barracuda but one of the British torpedoes caught her and she started 
to lose speed. The Albacores had fulfilled their mission; Vittorio Ve- 
neto broke off the engagement and turned for home; Admiral Prid- 
ham-WippelTs cruiser force was slipped from a deadly trap; and every 
Albacore and Fulmar returned safely to Formidable. 

At the same time^ not to be outdone, three Swordfish from the 
Maleme airstrip in Crete, also took a hand in the battle. They failed to 
encounter the battleship, so vented their spleen on a group of three 
cruisers, one of which was Bolzano, a modified Trento type of ten 
thousand tons. The Stringbag pilots did their best, even claiming one 
hit, but postwar investigation disclosed that the cruiser had not re- 
ceived a scratch. 

This initial action set the stage for what was known as the Battle 
of Matapan. The battleship Vittorio Veneto presumably was limping 
northwest toward her home base; the two Italian cruiser squadrons 
were steering similar courses, but fully thirty miles ahead of the bat- 
tleship on either bow. The four cruisers of Pridham-Wippell's force 
were moving to join Admiral Cunningham's battle fleet that was now 
some sixty miles astern of Vittorio Veneto, but sixty miles is a great 
distance between vessels that are capable of twenty to thirty knots, 
and there was small chance of catching up. Although the Italian battle- 
ship had been hit, her damage-control force had worked manfully, and 
she was capable of a speed that assured her escape, unless the Alba- 
cores from Formidable could make another attempt to halt or slow 
her down. 

With this in mind, a second striking force of three Albacores, two 


Swordfish, and two Fulmars was set out on the flight deck, and 
launched shortly after two o'clock in the afternoon. They were led by 
Lieutenant Commander J. Dalyell-Stead and at 2:24 found the battle- 
ship south of Cape Matapan. The British flight commander worked 
his way into the sun and then took his Albacore torpedo planes down 
to sea level for the attack. Once again, Vittorio Veneto writhed and 
wriggled and almost escaped, but one torpedo from Commander Daly- 
ell-Stead's formation found its mark. Once the Albacores were clear, 
the Swordfish moved in for the kilL By now the battleship had steadied 
on her homeward course and the two Swordfish could take their time. 
They drew a true bead and scored two hits. 

Vittorio Veneto was now reduced to thirteen knots and her captain 
ordered the two cruiser squadrons to fall back and protect her, which 
they did, steaming close attendance as she continued her homeward 

All of Formidable'* aircraft, with the exception of that flown by 
Commander Dalyell-Stead, returned to the carrier. Once again, the 
leader of the attacking force apparently took the brunt of the antiair- 
craft barrage. 

Thirteen knots, however, still gave some assurance that Vittorio 
Veneto would escape, and Admiral Cunningham ordered a third air 
attack. Two of the shore-based Swordfish from Crete were still shad- 
owing the Italian force, so Formidable launched every aircraft avail- 
able; six Albacores and two Swordfish were armed with torpedoes 
and again Lieutenant Commander Saunt led them off into the blue- 
gray dusk of a Mediterranean twilight. 

Just as the sun was setting, Commander Saunt's force went in and 
was hammered by a tremendous ack-ack barrage from every ship in 
the flotilla. This flaming retaliation could be seen by the men aboard 
Vice-Admiral Pridham-WippeH's cruisers, twelve miles away; as the 
sky was crisscrossed with streams of varicolored tracer, and the ob- 
longs, triangles, and squares were continually blocked in with the 
flame of shellfire, as in some fantastic game. 

The barrage was so intense the torpedo force was unable to attack 
in squadron formation and had to split up and go in with individual 
thrusts, which added to the hazard somewhat, for in such independent 
approaches there was always the danger of collision. 

But with all this courage and skill, the Vittorio Veneto was not hit 
during this third strike. The last Stringbag to go in put a torpedo 
smack into the side of the io,ooo-ton cruiser Pola so cleanly and ac- 


curately she was brought to an immediate halt. The Italian admiral 
ordered two other io,oooton cruisers, Zara and Fiume, to stand by, 
but these three unfortunates were caught later that night by Admiral 
Cunningham's force, and sent to the bottom. Nevertheless, Vittorio 
Veneto escaped and by daylight the next morning was in the sanctuary 
of her harbor and under the cover of Italian shore-based aircraft. 

Successful or not, the Battle of Matapan shows another step in the 
development of carrier operations, fleet-air tactical moves, and the 
proper collaboration of air and surface forces. Many of the same moves, 
with more fortunate results, will have been noted in the hunt for the 
German battleship Bismarck. In the Matapan action the added flexi- 
bility that the naval aircraft of that day gave to the surface fleet can 
be more clearly seen. In this particular engagement in which the op- 
posing forces found themselves, there could have been no action with- 
out the intervention of the carrier aircraft; the Italians were already 
too far ahead of Cunningham's battle fleet for any surface action, 
and had it not been for the damage inflicted by Formidable* $ torpedo 
planes, they could have retained that distance with little difficulty. 

Again, the striking power of aircraft had been demonstrated and 
justified. In the first attack the Vittorio Veneto was hit, and her speed 
reduced somewhat. The second attack accomplished all a commander- 
in-chief could hope for, and when the Italian battleship was cut down 
to thirteen knots, the air arm had achieved a high objective. For a 
time it seemed that the battleship was doomed. Paradoxically, it was 
perhaps unfortunate that the third strike had hit and stopped a cruiser, 
since in the summary sinking of her and her standby cruisers, Admiral 
Cunningham was delayed. This gave Vittorio Veneto an added lead, 
but the destruction of three powerful cruisers was in itself a naval 
triumph that had been made possible by the single torpedo hit from 
a Swordfish. Without that, the three cruisers would have escaped, as 
did the remainder of the fleet. 

Matapan gives us a rare example of tactical handling of an air arm 
by a commander-in-chief . Admiral Cunningham was served most faith- 
fully. The reconnaissance pilots set up the picture on which the ad- 
miral could base his tactical plans; in the beginning there were in- 
correct, hurriedly sent, and vague reports, but in this violent school 
of experience these inadequately trained airmen learned quickly, and 
full credit is due them. 

A comparison picture that was set up during the main action may 
be interesting to note. While Formidable was flying off her second 


strike force, an attack was made by two Italian Savoia-Marchetti-yg tor- 
pedo bombers. Formidable was a perfect sitting-shot for there was no 
opportunity to take evasive action when launching heavy laden air- 
craft. The Savoia-Marchettis came in low on a good approach course, 
but Formidable^ antiaircraft, and the close-range weapons on board 
her destroyer screen "encouraged" the Italians to drop their torpedoes 
at a range of two thousand yards. Under these circumstances, Formida- 
ble had little trouble in avoiding the tin fish and getting her aircraft 
off safely. To make certain of a hit, the attacking aircraft must ignore 
the opposition, hammer through the barrage, and only drop its tor- 
pedo when it is too kte for the target to take evasive action. 

But, as is so often the case, these victories had to be paid for in 
kind. It was not all beer and skittles in the Mediterranean, as can be 
gleaned from the history of Illustrious which had been commissioned 
in the early summer of 1940. This carrier had been the first to mount 
a search radar system to track enemy aircraft, and to have a fighter- 
direction officer aboard to direct the defense planes to the opposition 
targets. This co-operation was so successful that in one month fighter 
pilots aboard Illustrious intercepted and destroyed seventy-five enemy 

The Italians, in particular, nurtured an especial hate for Illustrious, 
not only for her fighter successes, but for her part in the epic of 
Taranto, and they used every device they could to wreak vengeance 
on her, some measure of which came early in January 1941. During 
an escort run while herding a convoy of sixty merchantmen laden with 
war materials for Greece, this British carrier had a very narrow escape 
in the waters near Malta. The whole force, convoy and escort ships, 
was attacked on January 10 by more than one hundred German and 
Italian bombers of all categories. The pressure of this raid was main- 
tained for seven hours, with special efforts to finish Illustrious; the 
carrier was hit seven times by heavy bombs resulting in gruesome 
scenes of carnage. Eighty-three crew members were killed and sixty 
wounded seriously. Her steering gear was knocked out at one time,, 
but her skipper, Captain D. W. Boyd, kept her afloat, and all available 
planes were launched. 

Illustrious was exceptionally poor in her own defense, since she 
had only ten Fulmar two-seater fighters. This eight-gun aircraft had 
a maximum speed of 225 mph. in level flight, but in the necessary 
climb to get at the German and Italian bombers, its performance was 


Above, I. The first successful landing aboard a naval vessel was accomplished 
by Eugene B. Ely, a civilian pilot flying a Curtiss pusher biplane on January 
18, 1011. The USS Pennsylvania, a heavy cruiser, was fitted with a wooden 
platform built over the stern. A series of ropes and sandbags were stretched 
across the narrow space and acted as an arrester gear. Later, Ely had the 
ropes removed, the airplane turned around and he flew off and landed on the 
Presidio in San Francisco from where he had originally started. 

Below, II. The actual Ely landing, showing the limitations of the flight deck, 
the arrester gear ropes held above the deck by lengths of 2 x 4 beams. The 
daring pilot touched down at a speed of 40 mph and had no benefit of head- 
wind, since the Pennsylvania was at anchor at the time. 



ove, III. Britain's first attempt at carrier warfare. On August 11, 1918, a Sopwith 
mel, launched from a barge towed by a destroyer, successfully took to the air and 
3rcepted the German Zeppelin L. 53. Sub-Lieutenant Stuart D. Culley of the Royal 
val Air Service destroyed the enemy raider and then had to land on the water near 
urface ship to be picked up by derrick. 

ow, IV. Culley's improvised flight deck was simply a small wooden platform about 
long and 15' wide, mounted on a navy lighter. It was towed at 30 knots by the 
troyer Redoubt and the little fighter plane took off in less than 5' of runway. Here 
hown the actual take-off while the lighter was under tow. 



V One of the earliest camera, Britain's HMS Furious. This vessel was laid 
down as a cruiser in 1915 but early in 1917 was modified for carrier operations after 
the earlier Argus had been put through many trials and experiments for deck operations. 
When completed for this work Furious carried two fighter flights, two reconnaissance 
flights ^and two torpedo flights or about thirty-six aircraft. She underwent many con- 
versions over the postwar years. 

Below, VI. America's first aircraft carrier, USS Langley. This vessel was laid down in 
1911 as a fleet collier and served as such until 1920 when she was redesigned for 
carrier operations. Her flight deck measured 534 x 64 feet and she accommodated 
about fifty aircraft of varying types. Besides her flight deck she also had two cranes for 
picking up seaplanes. 



Above, VII. The last of the Ark Royal. After more than two years of continual action 
against the enemy, the legendary British carrier finally met her end when a torpedo 
holed her a short distance from Gibraltar. Heroic efforts were made to save her, but 
damage to her pumps and engine room denied her salvage operations that might have 
kept her afloat long enough to get her to a navy drydock. She went down November 
14, 1941, the third British carrier to be lost in the early years of the war. 

Below, VIII. A critical need during the Battle of the Atlantic was filled by a number of 
auxiliary carriers built on British merchant hulls. Here is the HMS Ancylus, a typical 
"Woolworth" vessel of that era. They provided air cover for convoys and other groups 
in the 500-mile gap outside the range of shore-based aircraft. 


: *&L 


Above, IX. By 1942 the torpedo plane was leaving its mark on naval operations. It 
probably brought about the end of the battleship, for it was a fleet of Japanese torpedo- 
carriers that sank the British capital ships, Prince of Wales and Repulse, December 
10, 1941, off Singapore. From that date on the aircraft carrier became the Queen of the 

Below, X. The tragic phase of carrier warfare. On September 15, 1942, while engaged 
in covering the movement of supplies and reinforcements into Guadalcanal, USS Wasp 
which had also played an important role with the British in the defense of Malta was 
torpedoed. Here she is shown going down in a welter of flame and smoke. 



Above, XI. During the Battle of Santa Cruz, one of the classics of the Pacific war, both 
sides put on a gallant show. Here is seen action in which a Japanese bomb splashed 
astern of the USS Enterprise. There are two other planes in the smoke-storm of anti- 
aircraft fire put up to protect the carrier. The battleship USS South Dakota is also 
seen being covered by an unnamed destroyer. 

Left, XII. Naval warfare encounters 
more than enemy aircraft and long 
range gunfire. On December 18, 1944, 
a typhoon struck an American task 
force in the Philippine Sea. Every ship 
of the force took a severe beating and 
several were lost. Here is seen the anx- 
ious work aboard USS Anzio, an escort 
carrier as seamen try to salvage' 
wrecked planes, give first aid and pre- 
pare for outbreaks of fire. 



Above, XIII. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, a Japanese cruiser intercepted and shelled 
the USS Gambler Bay, an escort carrier. Every effort was made to elude the enemy 
gunners but eventually the range was cut to a minimum and she had all steering controls 
and power knocked out. The order to abandon ship was given and about 750 members of 
the crew of 854 managed to go over the side only to fight for their lives among a school 
of sharks. 

Below, XIV. When Davey Jones takes a hand. Here we see USS Langley fighting for her 
Me in a Pacific storm. This picture was taken from the deck of the USS Essex, an attack 
carrier of that period. 



Above, XV. Action with the kamikaze suicide planes. Here is a British carrier engaged 
in operations off the Sakishima Islands, a few hundred miles off the Japanese mainland. 
All told seven such suicide planes struck British carriers during the Okinawa action, 
but none was sunk because they all had armored flight decks. None was out of action 
for more than two hours. None was withdrawn from action at any time. This whole 
rness was cleaned up within two hours and planes were soon operating again. 

Right, XVI. The battle for the recap- 
ture of the Philippine Islands brought 
victory, glory and tragedy to the Amer- 
ican forces. The gallant USS Princeton, 
a light carrier, took a direct hit from a 
Japanese dive-bomber on October 24, 
1944. The bomb itself did little dam- 
age but a small fire started, made its 
way to a stack of torpedoes which ex- 
ploded in the heat and started other 
more serious fires. Eventually she had 
to be abandoned and sunk. 



reduced to well below 200 mph. The enemy planes could outstrip and 
outmaneuver the British fighter machines. Had the carrier launched 
Spitfires or Hurricanes, her story might have been different. As it was, 
Illustrious was fortunate to get into Malta, for the cruisers Southamp- 
ton and Gloucester were also given a rare going-over; Gloucester was 
damaged slightly by a bomb that failed to explode, and Southampton 
received a bomb square in her engine room that started a serious fire. 
The crew fought the blaze heroically, but eventually it was out of con- 
trol and the cruiser had to be abandoned. The convoy got through 
safely, but at an exorbitant cost to the fleet 

Once in Malta harbor, Illustrious underwent another series of heavy 
attacks, but the land-based Malta pilots shot down nineteen enemy 
planes. During that night, with the aid of a smoke screen, Illustrious 
sneaked out and made her way to Alexandria where she was found 
to be so badly in need of special repairs, it was decided to sail her 
to the United States for an overhaul. Her aircraft were turned over 
to General Sir Archibald Wavell where they played a leading part in 
the victories against the Italian Army in the Western Desert. 

Fortunately, Formidable was now commissioned, and she steamed 
into the Mediterranean to replace the battered Illustrious, and was 
available for the Battle of Matapan. 

Early in the war the British captured a number of German vessels, 
many of which were renamed, refurbished, and put to good use. One 
in particular furnishes a colorful page in the records of World War II. 
She was HJVLS. Audacity, which had started the war as the German 
diesel motorship Hanover, a vessel of 5600 tons with a speed of four- 
teen knots. She was intercepted and captured by H.M.S. Dunedin, 
and when the U-boat menace assumed critical proportions, she was 
converted into an escort carrier with a flight deck of 420 feet in length 
and 60 feet in beam, but with no island or hangar deck. The six Mart- 
lets she had on board had to be parked aft so that the foremost one 
had only 300 feet of runway for take-off. One critic of her type called 
her a Woolworth carrier, but this vessel was so satisfactory that it was 
said, by Sir Winston Churchill, to have become the model on which 
large numbers of these light escort carriers were later built. 

At about this time the British were spreading their air and naval 
forces dangerously thin in providing coverage for important supplies 
being sent to Russia. Improved conditions in the North Atlantic, 
brought about by fighter-catapult merchantmen, longer-range antisub- 


marine aircraft, more efficient depth charges, and the early develop- 
ment of the hedgehog system whereby depth charges could be fired 
well ahead of the attacking ships instead of being rolled over the 
stern, all conspired to drive the German raiders to less offensive areas. 
As a result the Bay of Biscay was shy of air coverage for the convoys 
sailing to Liverpool from Capetown and the west coast of Africa ports. 
Gibraltar could give only a limited escort for these convoys, and once 
they were out of range of shore-based aircraft, their only air protection 
was the occasional escort carrier, such as Audacity. 

The Focke-Wulf bombers based at Bordeaux, and suspected of re- 
fueling at bases in Franco's Spain, were a great menace to the convoys. 
With such aid their reach into the Atlantic made tl\em doubly dan- 
gerous for they not only could spot and bomb British shipping, but 
they could provide their U-boats with the information to "home" on 
these hapless targets. 

During an outward-bound convoy between Britain and Malta that 
began on September 19, 1941, the Martlet pilots from Audacity found 
a U-boat fully surfaced, and ignoring the submarine's deck gun, 
machine-gunned it until the German skipper decided to submerge. 
The following night a pack of U-boats sank several small vessels in 
the convoy and the survivors had to be taken aboard a rescue ship, 
Walmar Castle. The next morning this vessel was bombed by a Focke- 
Wulf and set afire. 

Two Martlets from Audacity, flown by Sub-Lieutenants N. H. Pat- 
terson and G. R. P. Fletcher, set upon the German raider, and after 
each pilot had put in thirty-five-round bursts, the Focke-Wulf lost its 
tail and plunged into the sea. This was the first F-W destroyed by an 
American-built, carrierborne airplane. 

The remainder of this voyage was uneventful, but on the return 
passage with another large convoy the Martlets had to land on the 
short deck when the rise and fall of the stern was as much as sixty- 
five feet and the ship was rolling sixteen degrees; one plane skidded 
over the side and sank but the pilot was rescued. 

During Audacity's second escort voyage in November the squadron 
leader, Lieutenant Commander J. M. Wintour, damaged a prowling 
Focke-Wulf, but was himself shot do_wn and killed when a cannon 
shell passed through his cockpit. Sub-Lieutenant D. A. Hutchison then 
took over the attack on the Focke-Wulf that by then was in flames, and 
made certain it went into the sea completely out of control. 

That same afternoon there was another alarm but there was only 


one serviceable plane aboard, another had a badly bent propeller, but 
Sub-Lieutenant E. M. Brown volunteered to fly the cripple, so the 
two Martlets were sent aloft. As they climbed for height they became 
separated in the clouds, but Sub-Lieutenant Brown intercepted two 
approaching Focke-Wulfs, and made four passes at one of them be- 
fore it escaped into the clouds below. He then followed it down and 
finished it off in a sudden head-on attack the German plane spun 
into the sea from ten thousand feet, tossing away its port wing just 
before it hit the water. The convoy reached Gibraltar without loss. 

On the first night of the return passage, the homeward-bound con- 
voy was again shadowed by two Focke-Wulfs, and a lurking U-boat 
sank a straggling tanker. Over the next five days the Martlet pilots 
sighted no less than seventeen enemy submarines and directed de- 
stroyers to attack them, and as a result, three were definitely destroyed, 
one of them being rammed by H.M.S. Storfe. 

One morning when the whole Martlet force was in the air, it inter- 
cepted three Focke-Wulfs. Sub-Lieutenant Brown destroyed one, the 
other two were damaged and driven off. In the afternoon Lieutenant 
J. W. Sleigh and Sub-Lieutenant H. E. Williams accounted for an- 
other. During this combat Lieutenant Sleigh collided with a Focke- 
Wulf and returned with a piece of its wing dangling from his Martlet's 

That day the Grumman planes put in a total of thirty hours flying 
time. The last two coming in had to land in the dark with Audacity 
rolling at fourteen degrees. Neither pilot had made a night landing 
before, and it would have been better if they had gone to a shore 
base, for one hour later a torpedo from U-751 under command of 
Lieutenant Commander Big^lk, struck the light carrier on the port 
beam below the mess decks. She went under at the stern until the 
aft gun platform was awash, but Commander D. M. Mackendrick re- 
fused to abandon her, hoping to get her in tow. 

Twenty minutes later a second torpedo hit her on the port bow 
and within five minutes three more drilled in. The bow structure 
collapsed and Audacity reared her stem almost vertically into the air, 
the aircraft aboard broke adrift and wrecked the lifeboats and dinghies 
that had not already been destroyed. The U-boat was now plainly 
visible about two hundred yards away on the port beam and, as the 
carrier began to settle, her gunners engaged the enemy with their 
Oerlikon weapons. It was a resolute stand but it did not save Audac- 
ity. British corvettes picked up the survivors, but the losses were heavy 


and included Commander Mackendrick and two of the Martlet pilots. 
Although Audacity went down, she had ran up a memorable score; 
her planes had destroyed five Focke-Wulfs and damaged three more, 
and she had contributed to the sinking of three submarines and the 
scuttling of a fourth. But perhaps more important she had proved 
that fighter aircraft could operate effectively from the decks of these 
small carriers. 

The importance of Malta was clearly defined in 1941. A hundred 
great battles were fought in its defense. Disaster had overtaken Greece 
and Yugoslavia. Crete had proved more of a liability than an asset, 
and what remained of the British Army, Navy, and Air Force had had 
to retire to North Africa. The control of the Mediterranean had as- 
sumed vital importance. There were two ways in which heavy materiel, 
tanks, guns, and ammunition could reach Egypt, the chief base for 
all proposed North African operations. The battle-churned Mediter- 
ranean was one, and the route via Cape of Good Hope and the Red 
Sea the other. This latter route was threatened to some extent by 
German and Italian submarine fleets, but in the Mediterranean the 
U-boat danger was supplemented by a more powerful menace Goe- 
ring's Luftwaffe. By 1941 the Italian surface fleet was no menace at 
all, simply a caricature of a naval force, but under the protection of 
first-class German aircraft, Italian merchant ships were able to take 
supplies to the combined German and Italian forces that were operat- 
ing in North Africa. On the strength of this, Malta stood like a jewel 
in the mechanism of the over-all British defense. 

In this connection an interesting story concerning a contribution 
made by the U. S. Navy comes to light. 

By the spring of 1942, a few months after America had been cata- 
pulted into the war by the attack on Pearl Harbor, the situation in 
the Mediterranean had reached a critical height. Hitler and Mussolini 
appeared determined to take and hold the island, or at least continue 
their air attacks to prevent Britain from rebuilding Malta's offensive 
and defensive capacity. Convoy after convoy of supplies was harried, 
attacked, and the bulk of the merchantmen sent to the bottom. On 
one occasion, of the 26,000 tons of supplies carried in four ships, only 
5000 tons were actually landed, and the island fortress received no 
more for nearly three months. 

But the Royal Air Force stationed there hung on somehow with 
only a handful of serviceable fighters. Pilots and ground crews were 


strained to the limit of their endurance, merely to stay alive. While 
the air crews went aloft in sortie after sortie, and the mechanics, on 
the brink of exhaustion, worked to service and refuel for the next at- 
tack, the soldiers toiled like men possessed to repair the bomb-torn 

At this point Prime Minister Winston Churchill appealed to Presi- 
dent Franklin D. Roosevelt, pointing out that the enemy had six hun- 
dred fighters and bombers in Sicily, whereas the best that Malta could 
muster to hold off this force was between twenty and thirty serviceable 
fighters. The island was being fitfully supplied with Spitfires in small 
groups of six planes at a time, all flown off the carrier deck of H.M.S. 
Eagle from a point six hundred miles west of Malta. Eagle, it will be 
remembered, was a 1918 product, a converted battle cruiser that dis- 
placed 22,600 tons and had a flight deck of 650 feet She generally 
carried twenty-one aircraft for her own requirements, which no doubt 
accounted for the fact that she could take only six more, since the 
Spits were not folding-wing aircraft. 

On April i, 1942, the Prime Minister explained that Eagle was laid 
up for at least a month by defects in her steering gear. The old Argus 
was available but was too small, too slow, and unable to provide space 
for "passenger" aircraft and still put up fighter cover for the escorting 
force. Victorious was also available, but her elevators were not large 
enough to accommodate aircraft that could not fold their wings. Malta 
faced a whole month without any Spitfire reinforcements. 

President Roosevelt was asked whether he would allow the U. S. 
Navy Wasp to do one of these trips. Ever in the know concerning 
naval matters, the Prime Minister pointed out that with her broad 
lifts, capacity, and length, Wasp could take fifty or more Spitfires, and 
unless it was necessary for her to refuel, Wasp could proceed through 
the Straits at night without calling at Gibraltar until she was on the 
return journey. The aircraft could be embarked in the Clyde. 

As Churchill wrote later, the response was generous. Wasp was sent, 
and Malta lived to fight on. 

In his incomparable History of the United States Naval Operations 
in World War II, Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison presents a heart- 
warming picture of this generous co-operation. He explains that 
Wasp, then under command of Captain John W. Reeves, Jr., was op- 
erating in the North Sea at the time, and after Admiral Royal E. Inger- 
soll, C-in-C Atlantic Fleet, and Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval 
Operations, approved the assignment, Wasp off-loaded many of her 


own planes at Scapa Flow, steamed around Scotland through tl 
Pentland Firth, called at Greenock, and moved right up the Cly< 
to Glasgow. Crowds of enthusiastic Scots cheered her all the way i 
the stream and the shipwrights at the John Brown & Co. yard tosse 
their tools into the air and bellowed their greeting. Wasp moved c 
to the King George V dock, took on forty-seven Spitfires she wi 
capable of carrying seventy-five aircraft at the time together wil 
their pilots and crewmen, made a turnabout in the artificial basin, an 
sailed on April 14, escorted by Force W of the British Home Fle< 
that was headed by the battle cruiser Renown. 

The passage into the Mediterranean was uneventful. Force W he! 
off any U-boats that may have been in the area, and maneuvered s 
as to be out of sight of Cape Spartel on the Moroccan coast at moons< 
of April 18. Europa Point off the southern tip of Spain was passe 
at 2 A.M. the next day in order to evade the searching eyes of Spanis 
or Axis spotters, and the force steamed for the chosen launching pos 
tion some fifty miles north of Algiers. 

After putting on twenty-eight knots into a fairish southwest win< 
Wasp began launching the Spits with speed and precision at 4 A.M 
April 20. A new system of launching was used to get all the plan< 
off as quickly as possible. First eleven of her own fighter planes fle 
off for combat air patrol, then the British-manned Spitfires followe< 
All fifty-eight planes were airborne by 5:01, indicating that they wei 
practically sent off at the rate of one a minute. In order to accomplis 
this, the U. S. Wildcats were readied topside while the Spits warme 
up on the hangar deck below, and after the Grumman F4Fs wei 
waved off, each British plane was sent up on the elevator in eigl 
seconds with its engine running, and on finding the take-off flag flu 
tering, took off the instant the elevator platform reached the level c 
the flight deck. 

The full force of forty-seven Spitfires landed safely on Malta, bi 
unfortunately their launching and arrival was known by the enem 
who moved in and destroyed several of the British planes on th 
ground before they could be refueled and serviced. However, th 
others were prepared and put into the air in time to shoot down aboi 
forty Axis bombers that had made the attack. 

By the end of April this Wasp-given force had lost twenty-three moi 
Spitfires, and plans were made to send out more. On May 7 a gres 
cheer went up from the embattled island when it was learned th; 


Wasp had made a second trip and delivered forty-seven more Spit- 

This time Wasp, escorted by the destroyers U.S.S. Lang and 
Sterett, and H.M.S. Echo and Intrepid, dared the Straits for the third 
time on the night of May 7. Off Europa Point she was joined by 
the British carrier Eagleonce more available and carrying seventeen 
planesand the rest of Force W. On the eighth this Malta relief force 
made a change of course to the northeast, moved toward Formentera 
Light in the Balearic Islands and launched aircraft early in the morn- 
ing of the ninth. Wasp then waved off forty-seven fighters in fifty- 
three minutes. During this activity one Spitfire accidently dropped its 
belly tank and had to return. The pilot landed in the darkness with 
rare skill, since he had no arrester gear hook, and requested permission 
to fit a new tank, take off and proceed independently. 

Someone said, "You've had all the luck you can expect for one day, 
chum. The others are too far ahead; you'd just be a nuisance up there 
alone. Besides, we're doing twenty-one knots and heading back for 
The Rock/' 

Wasp received a typical Churchillian message when she got back to 
Gibraltar. Most grateful for the assist, the British Prime Minister 

Congratulations! Your splendid effort disproves the old apiarian theory 
that wasps never sting twice. Good luck, and many thanks! 


The gallant American carrier returned to Scapa Flow and picked 
up the rest of her own planes and on May 18 sailed for Hampton 
Roads, Virginia. From there she was ordered to the Pacific where she 
soon met her end. It was unfortunate, but she had played a fine role 
with her British comrades. Almost all the Spitfires from Wasp and 
Eagle arrived safely on Malta's war-battered airstrip. With these ma- 
chines and a few more from another delivery made about a week 
later, the R.A.F. was able to hold its own, and later to wrest control 
of the air from the Luftwaffe. The Axis airmen made numerous and 
most desperate attempts to knock little Malta out of the war; their 
siege and blockade lasted through May, June, and July of 1942, sev- 
eral important convoys were forced to turn back, and a battle of sup- 
plies followed the battle for the air. By all logical consideration the 
island should have fallen, and it might have had it not been for the 
timely assistance afforded by U.S.S. Wasp and H.M.S. Eagle who by 


their comradely co-operation not only staved off this defeat, but, 
more important, cemented the warm friendship of the two great 

It would be a mistake to assume that the reinforcement of Malta 
with Spitfires would win the battle for the Mediterranean. Far from 
it. These varied heroics and combined operations simply assured the 
Allies that Malta would stand firm, would hold, and eventually pro- 
vide the focal point for a counterattack, and deprive the Axis of the 
very strength they had attempted to deny us. 

The lifeline of the Mediterranean was provided by the Allied con- 
voys that carried vital supplies and refreshed troops to the various 
theaters of operations, first in North Africa, and when more success- 
ful efforts rewarded our arms, to Sicily and Italy, from where the first 
thrusts were made against the German-Italian fortress. 

A description of Operation Pedestal, the code name given to one 
particular convoy that was to gather for passage during the summer of 
1942, will give some idea of the effort required to keep the lifeline 
intact. This operation was an excellent example of such planning in 
that it involved three subsidiary operations, all complementing the 
main task. It required complete aircraft carrier co-operation before the 
convoy entered the Mediterranean, a reinforcement of the Malta air de- 
fense by the delivery of Spitfires carried aboard Furious, and the return 
from Malta of a small convoy of empty ships. 

The main convoy was assembled and ordered to steam down the 
Clyde during the night of August 2. It consisted of fourteen mer- 
chant ships, including a commercial tanker. These vessels, with their 
immediate escort of destroyers, passed through the Strait of Gibraltar 
on the night of August 9, and by daylight next day were beyond sight 
of the Spanish coast. Nevertheless, in spite of all precautions taken, the 
convoy was spotted and enemy forces ahead were alerted. 

Meanwhile the heavy ships that were to cover them had also gath- 
ered. On July 31 Rear Admiral Arthur L. St.G. Lyster had sailed 
from Scapa Flow, flying his flag aboard H.M.S. Victorious, a carrier 
of the Illustrious class. The older carrier Argus was also part of the 
company. At Gibraltar the force was joined by Eagle and Indomita- 
ble, but Argus was left at The Rock, once the convoy and its covering 
force moved into the danger area. By now the carrier force had been 
joined by two battleships, Nelson and Rodney, six cruisers, thirty-two 


destroyers, and four corvettes, which gives some indication of the 
importance of this Malta supply line. 

On this occasion much trust was to be placed in the fighter squad- 
rons aboard the carriers. Embarked on board the three flight decks 
were seventy Sea Hurricanes, Fulmars, and Martlets. Aboard Furious 
were Spitfires destined for Malta and not considered part of the air 
defense of the fleet 

There was little enemy opposition during the first day's sailing, but 
antisubmarine patrols had to be flown continually. The trouble began 
on the second day out of Gibraltar when an Italian Savoia-Marchetti 
reconnaissance plane was spotted early in the morning. Fighters from 
Indomitable drove it off, but the observer had seen enough to put 
enemy opposition into action. Hour after hour more shadowing 
planes were spotted. Tension rose and while all eyes were in the air, 
a great explosion erupted below Eagle; a torpedo from submarine 
U-73, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Rosenbauin, had 
scored a direct hit. The carrier had taken a station toward the tail end 
of the convoy, and the German commander, although well pkced to 
attack any of the merchantmen, allowed them all to pass, risking the 
chance that any sudden zigzag by the convoy might well rob him of 
his shot at the carrier. Correctly, he considered Edgte of greater im- 
portance than any of the merchantmen. 

Within ten minutes, the carrier rolled over and sank, taking many 
of her aircraft with her; those that were in the air landed later on 
Victorious or Indomitable. Fortunately, practically the entire comple- 
ment of the carrier was saved, a total of 67 officers and 862 men were 
taken off. 

Later that afternoon Victorious was attacked by a submarine and 
one torpedo passed dangerously close to her bow, but intensive air 
patrols and other antisubmarine measures kept most of the U-boats 
safely submerged. Although six of them were sighted before daylight 
failed, none was able to approach close enough to make an attack. 

That evening the convoy had moved close enough to Malta and 
the Spitfires were flown off Furious. Once that duty had been dis- 
charged, the old carrier was detached and sent back to Gibraltar. 
When the Spits were well on their way, the first of a series of large- 
scale high-level air attacks was made by thirty or more Junkers. A 
squadron of flight-deck Hurricanes from Indomitable and a squadron 
of Fulmars from Victorious were launched to meet this opposition. 
Some of the enemy bombers got through and were met by heavy 


antiaircraft fire at least two were shot down. So accurate was this 
gunnery defense, the Junkers were hard put to make accurate bomb- 
ing runs, and no merchant ships were hit, although two near misses 
gave the Victorious an anxious time. 

On August 12 the convoy was moving in very dangerous waters and 
the defense called for an all-out effort, not only from the pilots of the 
fighters involved, but also from the deck crews responsible for the 
various programs of maintenance. For example, it was estimated that 
the flight-deck crews aboard Victorious in the routine work of setting 
wheel chocks, folding wings that in those days had to be done by 
manual effort releasing arrester gear hooks, spotting aircraft and 
sending them down the elevators, actually ran more than twenty miles 
up and down the flight deck. In the repair spaces below the mechanics 
worked continually in the glare of electric lights and an atmosphere of 
gas, oil, and battery fumes. All this was done at the height of a Medi- 
terranean summer since there was none of the comfort of present-day 
air conditioning. Without this toil and devotion that went on hour 
after hour without a break, the fighters could not have flown those 
unbelievable hours. 

The enemy airfields in Sicily and Sardinia were in fighter range, 
and the attacking bombers had strong fighter cover that made the 
convoy defense much more difficult. Also, the very effective motor 
torpedo boats of the Italian Navy were in the area, and if they could 
get within torpedo shot caused immense damage. The air cover from 
the carriers was expected to hold off, or overcome all this, and, there- 
fore, interception extended from sea level to extreme bomber altitude. 
It is to the credit of the carrier airmen that postwar computation dis- 
closed that on August 12 more than forty enemy aircraft were de- 
stroyed with the loss of only eight Fleet Air Ann fighters in only one 
instance did an enemy formation break through when a group of 
twenty dive bombers selected Indomitable for its target. No direct hits 
were scored but one near miss buckled her forward elevator and she 
could not carry out launching or recovery operations. Her planes that 
were in the air had to land on Victorious. 

Throughout that day the enemy sent out flight after flight of high- 
and low-level bombers, Cant three-engined torpedo planes, and Reg- 
giane fighters. Hour after hour, the sky throbbed with the varied roar 
of aircraft engines as the Martlets, Fulmars, and Hurricanes tore into 
enemy formations, harried their attackers, and screamed into tight 
turns to take on other hostile aircraft. 


But with all these heroic measures the grim fighting and the eva- 
sive tactics the convoy did not come through unscathed. Eagle had 
been sunk, and Indomitable was out of commission. Of the fourteen 
merchantmen that had passed through the Strait of Gibraltar, only 
five reached Malta with their cargoes. The price paid was high, on 
both sides, but the need was critical and the supplies that were carried 
by those five merchantmen were sufficient to keep Malta fighting for 
a few more days. 

The history of Operation Pedestal is an illuminating example of 
what can happen when command of the air in any theater of opera- 
tions is in dispute. In this case, no matter how gallantly the carrier- 
borne, and later shore-based aircraft from Malta fought to drive off 
the enemy, enough opposition got through to cause exorbitant losses, 
not only to the supplies carried, but to the valuable escort vessels as 

Lieutenant Commander P. K. Kemp, R.N., points out in his stir- 
ring book, Fleet Air Arm, that without the carrier fighters, no ships 
could have gotten through, and he adds that the small percentage that 
did succeed is probably in close relation to the degree in which the 
fighters managed to win a temporary command of the air, a command 
that was never more than spasmodic. 

Later in the conflict, as more and more power at sea was brought 
to bear on the Axis forces, and as shore fighter stations were provided 
along the north coast of Africa, a permanent command of the air 
above the Mediterranean routes was enjoyed. The Malta convoys 
could steam through unscathed. 

But Operation Pedestal also proved that the aircraft carrier, operat- 
ing under such conditions and in such limited areas, is a very ques- 
tionable item of naval equipment. We must consider that today the 
U. S. Sixth Fleet, with its major carrier force, is still attempting to do 
just that operate in an area that can be harassed by shore-based air- 
craft, and in an inland sea that has a very limited field of action. 

Great Britain's carrier force encountered similar problems in con- 
voying supplies to Russia. In this instance the Germans had military 
bases in northern Norway from where they could deploy aircraft, sub- 
marines, and surface ships. Again, it was a matter of winning com- 
mand of the air before the convoys could pass through safely. In the 
northern waters the situation was intensified by the determined ef- 


forts of the U-boats that were a far greater menace than the Italian 
submarines encountered in the Mediterranean. 

Another point, sometimes overlooked, is the fact that although a 
fleet carrier was generally included in the escort force of heavy ships, 
an additional escort carrier accompanied the convoys in the latter 
months of the Russian supply run. The heavy escort force could not 
remain with the convoy once it had passed the Bear Island-Tromso 
line, since such a force would be running an unjustifiable risk. Also, 
the heavy force had to operate a long way south of the convoy route 
so as to be within air-striking range of any German capital ships that 
dared to leave their Norwegian bases. 

A typical Russian convoy, listed as P.Q.iS, sailed from Loch Ewe, 
Scotland, on September 2, 1942, and arrived off Iceland five days later. 
The following day it was joined by its ocean escort for the run to 
Murmansk. This force included the escort carrier Avenger, another 
of the Audacity class, that carried twelve Sea Hurricanes and three 

Cloudy weather afforded some cover during the first few hours when 
the convoy was well to the westward, and enemy aircraft were evaded 
for some time, but this cloud condition was a back-handed assist, for 
it prevented the fighter pilots aboard Avenger from getting in any 
take-off and interception practice. This turned out to be tragic in the 
final disaster. When the first enemy attack developed on September 
12, the Sea Hurricanes mistakenly concentrated on the aerial shad- 
owers and allowed some forty to fifty Heinkel 11 is torpedo bombers 
to slip through. These very efficient aircraft each carried two tor- 
pedoes, and before they were spotted and driven off, eight merchant 
ships had been sent to the bottom. Only one Heinkel was destroyed. 

The next day Lady Luck transferred her largess, for the commanding 
officer of Avenger devised a new plan. Only two Hurricanes were kept 
in the air for the routine patrol, and were recalled at short intervals to 
refuel, so that when the opposition turned up the Hurries in the air 
would still have enough fuel to engage and carry on the pattern of 
combat. The main force of fighters was kept aboard the carrier and 
sent off only when the big-scale attacks materialized; the two in the 
air were considered sufficient to deal with the shadowers and to harass 
any small attacking forces. 

On this day, the thirteenth, two very heavy attacks were experi- 
enced, one composed of twenty-two and the second of twenty-five 
Heinkels. Added to this were two high-level bombing attacks, but in 


each case the Hurries broke into the enemy formations as they ap- 
peared, scattered them, and discouraged any preplanned attack. Only 
one merchantman was sunk. 

The next day more than seventy enemy bombers made a long- 
drawn-out attack on the convoy, but no surface vessel was sunk. The 
manner in which the Hurricane pilots fought will be realized by the 
fact that more than forty German aircraft were shot down over Sep- 
tember 13-14. More went down to antiaircraft guns of the escort. Only 
four British fighters were downed, and the pilots of three of these 
were rescued. 

Many naval authorities consider that it was this convoy that proved 
the turning point in the anxious North Russian operations. The con- 
voy that preceded it, P.Q.iy, had been cut to pieces with dreadful 
losses. The adoption of an escort carrier in the close screen, had, after 
that first unfortunate day of P.Q.iS's trip, proved to be the resound- 
ing answer to the attacks by German torpedo planes. The fighters car- 
ried by Avenger had been sufficient to attain a reasonably decisive 
state of command of the air above the immediate convoy route. 

The submarine wolf packs that had made the initial contact on Sep- 
tember 10 and had shadowed the convoy from then on, could score 
only very minor successes. They sank three ships, but lost three of 
their own force. The three Swordfish aboard Avenger flew determined 
antisubmarine patrols and kept the U-boats deeply submerged during 
the daylight hours. On a few occasions the enemy submarines were 
attacked with depth charges, and in one instance a Swordfish led 
H.M.S. Ondcnv, an escorting destroyer, direct to a U-boat that proved 
to be U-88. It was sunk then and there. 

An interesting assignment assumed by a number of British convoy 
carriers took place during April 1944, and although this is reaching 
into the future, it may be well to present the incident here to show 
the many phases of the North Russian operations. 

The German battleship Tirpitz had been damaged by a number of 
British midget submarines and was lying in Kaafjord on the northern 
tip of Norway while repairs were made. At the same time, a convoy 
to Murmansk was being run and in the convoy screen was the famous 
battleship Royal Sovereign that was being lent to Russia to replace 
one of the damaged Italian battleships that fell to her share after the 
Italian Fleet surrendered. 

Since it was believed that Tirpitz was again operational and likely 
to appear at any time as a threat to Roy<d Sovereign it was decided to 


keep the German battle cruiser fully occupied in repairing further dam- 

Kaaf jord was too far for British land-based bombers to consider, and 
it was apparent that only the Fleet Air Arm could hope to make such 
an attack. Since these aircraft carried comparatively small bombs, there 
was no thought of actually sinking her. If she could be immobilized 
for a time, that was as much as could be expected. 

As the time for the convoy form-up drew near, six escort carriers, 
Victorious, Searcher, Fencer, Pursuer, Furious, and Emperor, under 
command of Admiral Sir Michael Denny, gathered for the strike. In 
all they carried forty-two Barracuda torpedo bombers and eighty fight- 
ers. They reached their fly-off position before dawn on April 3 and the 
planes were in the air before any light appeared. Once at altitude and 
near their target, it was obvious that Tirpitz had been well tucked 
away. Kaafjord was a difficult area to attack from the air. The anchor- 
age lay in the protection of the steep sides of the fiord, a situation that 
made it impossible for a torpedo-carrying aircraft to fly in low enough 
for a proper attack. But by the same token, the surrounding mountains 
shielded the incoming planes and filtered out the sound of any ap- 
proaching enemy. To some extent, there was hope for a complete sur- 
prise attack. 

Darkness spread across the Norwegian ranges, but the sky was be- 
ginning to lighten. The prediction had been for calm weather and a 
promise of a fine, sunny day later on. 

Inside Kaafjord the Tirpitz was preparing to run a steaming trial in 
nearby Altenf jord, and the gate in the antisubmarine net defenses had 
been opened to allow her to sail through. There was some under- 
standable pleasure and excitement aboard for this was the first time 
Tirpitz was to move under her own power since she was damaged by 
the British midgets, and it probably seemed that the long, shameful 
period of immobility was over. 

Everything was quiet across Kaafjord, the sun began to gleam 
through slits in the early morning sky, the water was flicked into tiny 
ripples by a delicate spring breeze, and the prospects of war action 
must have seemed a long way off that lovely April morning. 

Suddenly, the tranquillity was shattered as an aircraft appeared over 
the top of the surrounding high hills and came down in a screaming 
dive not just one, thoughothers followed in at top speed from all 
directions and all were converging on the convalescent battleship. The 
concerted roar of airplane engines was broken into streaks of ear- 


splitting sound by the explosions of bombs, the crash of antiaircraft 
guns and the detonation of shells. 

Tirpitz was not to carry out her steaming trial that day. Her guns 
were manned too late. All that happened to her occurred before any- 
one on board could realize what had taken place. One minute she 
was safe and secure at anchor, a few minutes later she was battered 
by a fleet of impudent Barracudas. Another minute they were gone, 
and the noise had died away. A second striking force of twenty-one 
aircraft came in to mop up, but found the fiord full of smoke and so 
had to drop its bombs blind. That attack was also over within a min- 
ute, and Kaafjord returned to its accustomed peacefulness. 

Apart from the damage caused by several near misses, the proud 
Tirpitz had received fifteen direct hits. Although unable to pierce her 
armored lower deck, the 500 and looo-pounders had destroyed the 
upper works and vulnerable areas, a big fire was started amidships, 
great bulkheads were shattered, steam pipes severed or fractured, and 
a large area of the upper deck ripped open. More than three hundred 
of the ship's complement had been killed and twice as many wounded. 

Tirpitz was a doomed warrior from that day on, and the success of 
this raid encouraged the planning of others. On July 17 the Fleet Air 
Arm was in Norwegian waters once more with the carriers Formi- 
dable, Indefatigable, and Furious. These flat-tops launched forty-five 
Barracudas that were escorted by fifty fighters, but after her beating 
of April 3 it was found that Tirpitz was taking no more chances; a 
series of lookouts had been established, and a radar station erected 
on a nearby mountain and when the Barracudas turned up Kaafjord 
was full of artificial smoke that sheltered Tirpitz. The bombers aimed 
at the area from which antiaircraft fire was gushing, but admittedly 
made no hits. The battleship suffered only superficial damage from 
splinters and near misses. 

The British were not to be denied and struck again one month 
later. The same three carriers were involved, but this time they brought 
along Nabob and Trumpeter, two escort carriers. In order to defeat 
the smoke screen, it was decided that the attack should be made con- 
tinuously on the assumption that the smoke pots would be exhausted 
eventually, and the antiaircraft crews too weary to carry out their load- 
ing and firing sequences. 

The series of strikes began on August 22,, and, to the surprise of 
the Barracuda crews, they ran into an antiaircraft barrage when they 
were more than twelve miles from the fiord. It turned out that the 


Tirpitz was firing her main batteries and that the gunnery was being 
controlled from an observation post set on top of a mountain. By the 
twenty-fourth, the attackers were making a wide sweep on the way 
in, and then nosing down for the attack from the south. This day they 
struck the famed battle cruiser again this time with a looo-pound 
bomb that bounced off the bridge, penetrated the upper deck and 
came to rest on the lower armored deck directly behind the main 
switchboard, but the bomb failed to explode and quick action by two 
petty officers who dismantled it, prevented an explosion that would 
have put Tirpitz out of commission for months. 

Still, the carrier airmen begged to go again. On August 25 they went 
out once more, but were frustrated by the heavy smoke screen and 
after they returned, all the carriers were ordered out of the area. That 
morning Nabob had been hit by a torpedo, indicating that U-boats 
were in the area. 

From this point on, escort carriers worked with the Russian con- 
voys throughout the rest of the campaign, and losses continued to 
diminish. The initial success of Avenger in the close escort pattern had 
provided an important factor in convoy defense. German aircraft were 
held off, and Hitler's heavy ships were no longer a threat, particularly 
after Scharnhorst had been sunk by a British force off the Norwegian 
coast, and now that Tirpitz was immobilized, for after that looo-pound 
bomb hit, Admiral Doenitz had issued an order that in future Tirpitz 
would be used merely as a floating battery for the defense of north 
Norway, since it was no longer possible to keep her in a seagoing con- 
dition. It is interesting to note that although the British stated that 
they had used only 500- and iooo-pound bombs, Admiral Doenitz 
claimed that Tirpitz had been struck by a six-ton bomb. 

The U-boats were still a menace, but the combination of air cover 
and fast work by the destroyers, kept them well in hand, and in the 
final capitulation it was agreed that the Fleet Air Arm contribution 
to the escort proved to be the key to final success. The aircraft car- 
rier combined the role of fighter and antisubmarine patrol. Their 
American-built Martlets furnished the fighter defense while Swordfish 
and Grumman Avengers, TBF-is, combined with the surface escort 
were more than enough to keep the U-boats at bay. 

As in the Mediterranean convoy problems, it was again demon- 
strated that command of the sea was not enough, that it had to be 
combined with command of the air above before the supplies could 


be moved with security. In each case the over-all result showed that 
naval aviation as an adjunct to the flexibility and striking force of sea 
power, had a remarkable influence even on the less spectacular duties 
of the naval war. 



THE JAPANESE attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, was more 
than a military setback for the United States; it also afforded several 
dramatic surprises. That a small island nation, presumably holding the 
short end of a 5-5-3 naval ratio set up by the Washington Conference 
of 1921, could deliver such a devastating blow, left most of the world 
gasping. That this attack had been made by carrierborne aircraft was 
even more surprising. The public at large had not considered Japan 
to be a power with particular leanings toward carriers, or the science of 
carrier-deck operations. On the contrary, in the 19305 self-appointed 
military experts had pointed out that most Japanese capital ships were 
so badly built they were continually being remodeled, and her aircraft 
carriers were "shapeless contrivances" in that the smokestacks were 
trunked over the sides, and in no way resembled American carriers. 
This "junkyard fleet" might be effective against river gunboats, but 
no one in Japan would consider risking them against a first-class naval 

But the growth of the Japanese Navy between 1936 and 1941 was 
phenomenal, once Japan had rejected the original Naval Limitation 
Treaty that ran out in 1937. The United States and Great Britain en- 
couraged this unprecedented activity by selling for scrap every out- 
dated vessel that could be sailed into Japanese shipyards. In 1922 
Japan had 547,000 tons of naval bottoms, compared to 1,400,000 tons 
for Great Britain, and 1,100,000 tons sailing under the Stars and 
Stripes. Nineteen years later Japan had almost doubled her naval ton- 
nage, Great Britain had added but 37,000 tons, and the United States 
had built up an extra 218,000 tons. By 1941 the Japanese Navy was 
more powerful than the combined Allied Fleets in the Pacific. In ad- 


dition, tremendous sums of money had been spent on its peacetime 
upkeep, so that when sufficient excuse had been compiled, it was in 
a high state of war readiness. 

There was no particular naval tradition in Japan's background. In 
her victorious war with Russia thirty-six years before, most of her 
vessels had been designed and built in Great Britain, but Japan 
learned a lot from World War I and soon began developing her own 
naval shipyards, and encouraging the growth of private construction. 
These government and private yards turned out many excellent ex- 
amples of the trade, but made no attempt to mass-produce or provide 
backlogs of strategic materials to replace eventual wartime losses. 
Their earlier battleships generally were faster than their opposite 
numbers in the United States Pacific Fleet, and Yamato and Musashi, 
laid down in 1937 and completed early in 1942, were the largest and 
most heavily armored battleships in the world. Each had a displace- 
ment of 63,700 tons, or a full load of about 75,000 tons, an over-all 
length of 855 feet and an i8.i-inch main battery. 

World War I had given Japan a full taste of military might and 
although she played no vital role in the conflict, she was able to put 
men of all ranks into important technical areas where they learned 
and copied all that Britain and the United States had spent millions 
to perfect. Looking back, we now remember that many Japanese air- 
men were trained by the Americans and British for what, no one at 
the time troubled to ask. The Royal Navy's early experiments with 
carrier-deck operations intrigued Japanese naval authorities and, once 
the Armistice brought a halt to hostilities, they returned home and 
quietly continued this interest in ship-based air power. 

The treaty obligations prohibited Japan from building new carriers, 
but early in the 19205 Raga and Akagi, originally kid down as battle 
cruisers, were converted into aircraft carriers. They passed through 
several experimental stages that gave Japanese naval constructors 
plenty of experience and their airmen a deck or two from which to 
develop naval air operations. By 1936 Japan was busy building new 
carriers from the keel up, and at the outbreak of war she had ten, as 
against eight in the United States Navy, only three of which were in 
the Pacific. 

Whatever the design or efficiency of the Japanese flat-tops, their car- 
rierborne fighters the Zekes were the naval counterpart of the Zeros 
proved a distinct surprise, and their Kate torpedo bombers more 
than paid their keep. 


However, in the development of torpedoes, the Japanese perhaps 
provided their greatest surprise. Great Britain, Germany, and the 
United States had had most disappointing experiences with torpedoes, 
particularly in the design of various types of detonators, but as a result 
of intense research between 1928-33 the Japanese first produced 
an oxygen-enriched fuel, and eventually a completely oxygen-fueled 
weapon. Their Type 95M2 24-inch torpedo had a speed of nearly 50 
knots and a range of 5760 yards. It carried a i2io-pound explosive 
charge. U. S. experts claimed later, after long study, that the Japanese 
Type 93Mi torpedo could move at 49 knots and had a range of 
22,000 yards. The best destroyer and submarine torpedoes that the 
U. S. Navy had at the same period were 2i-inch weapons capable of 
46 knots over 4500 yards. Japanese torpedoes could also be released 
at altitudes up to 1000 feet from planes speeding at 250 knots or better 
and not break on impact It has also been pointed out that the Japa- 
nese Navy was most prodigal in firing practice torpedoes and could 
improve them constantly, whereas the United States Navy had to 
enforce strict economy when testing warheads and detonators, with 
the result that the main faults of our torpedoes were not uncovered 
until the Pacific war had been under way for many months. 

Physical standards in the Japanese Navy were unusually high, the 
training was thorough and realistic. From all accounts, their chief 
naval school at Eta Jima on Hiroshima Bay was quite equal to An- 
napolis, and the Japanese Navy, being smaller than their Army, was 
able to keep the social standards of its officer corps relatively high. 

Once the planned expansion was under way after 1930, it was neces- 
sary to enforce national conscription to gather in the necessary man- 
power, but comparative tables of 1932 show that Japan had on board 
six battleships and four battle cruisers, only one thousand fewer men 
than the United States Navy had aboard fifteen battleships. For in- 
stance, her heavy cruisers carried an average of 692 men each, as 
against 517 for the same type in the U. S. Navy. Each Navy had 72 
destroyers in full commission, but the Japanese destroyers carried 
9547 men, compared with 7773 on U. S. destroyers. 

Practically all Japanese Navy training was performed in remote 
waters where it would not be observed, and in inclement areas where 
the men would be hardened by exposure to the elements not in semi- 
tropical seas where fine weather prevailed. Japanese fleet organization 
was changed frequently and every possibility tested out, but certain 
general principles were adhered to. Everything, except the limited 


naval forces in China waters, was included in the Combined Fleet. 
This was divided into a Battle Force and a Scouting Force stationed 
in home waters, a Blockade and Transport Force always alert for over- 
seas operations, a Submarine Force, a Carrier Fleet, and two more 
smaller fleets assigned to specific areas. Defense of the Mandates was 
charged to the Fourth Fleet, based at Truk, and by mid-1939 a North- 
ern, or Fifth, Fleet was organized to provide defense for the Kuriles. 
The Combined Fleet also acted as the first line of defense or offense 
behind which the smaller fleets could operate with some security. 

As of December 7, 1941, the Japanese carrier fleet was composed of 
five carrier divisions and had six fleet, or heavy, carriers, Kaga, Akagi, 
Soryu, Hiryu, Zuikaku, and Shokaku available. The light, or escort, 
carriers were Ryu/o, Hosfto, Zuzho, and Taiyo. Three destroyer divi- 
sions of sixteen new vessels furnished the carrier screen. In other 
words, the Japanese Navy had everything and was a worthy antagonist, 
but it was badly handled by its higher command, and had no firm in- 
dustrial base from which to draw its reserve requirements. 

Since 1922 the bulk of the United States Navy had been in Pacific 
waters on the presumption that the next war would be with Japan, 
and with the knowledge that Nippon was the only maritime power 
ever likely to challenge the United States. Any reference to the bulk 
of the U. S. Navy of this period should be qualified, for by April i, 
1931, there was not too much Navy to crow about. President Herbert 
Hoover's administration had brought an economy wave and a ruthless 
scrapping of materiel and ships. 

There were 15 battleships, but only three aircraft carriers, Langley, 
Saratoga, and Lexington. We had 18 cruisers, 78 destroyers, 55 sub- 
marines, and 115 auxiliary vessels of various categories. Most training 
was carried out in the Caribbean or off San Diego, and what foreign 
service was experienced usually meant "seeing the world," or providing 
good career background for officers, foreign travel, and exotic adven- 
tures for naval families ashore as Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison has 
succinctly put it. 

By 1932 a revision of thinking took place and, during his first ad- 
ministration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed that the Navy 
be built up to treaty strength and by 1935 it was, but no arrangements 
were made to increase personnel. As a result all ships were being 
operated at about 81 per cent of their required strength. Appropria- 
tions were made on May 17, 1938, for several new battleships and 


carriers, but by 1939 only the carriers Yorktown and Enterprise had 
joined the fleet. Wasp was under construction and Hornet's keel was 
actually laid. The battleships Washington and North Carolina were 
well under way and four other battleships had been started. However, 
treaty strength, as authorized in 1934, would not be attained until 
1944. Navy personnel, up to 100,000 in early 1937, was increased by 
only 10,000 over the next two years. More important at the time was 
the lack of naval bases in strategic areas, but this lack proved to be 
a godsend since the United States Navy had to learn to become self- 
sufficient. Today, with high-speed tanker and supply systems, it no 
longer relies on fixed bases abroad to remain active, but at the time 
the failure to develop what bases we had meant a rapid withdrawal 
of American sea power from the western Pacific when Pearl Harbor 
blew up. In particular, the failure to develop Guam properly turned 
out to be bitter and tragic; had the inherent strategic capabilities of 
this largest of the Marianas been strengthened, the whole pattern of 
the war might have been changed. It had long been known that the 
Philippines were indefensible against a long-sustained enemy attack, 
but tiie United States forces hoped to hold Manila Bay and its ap- 
proaches while the Fleet fought its way there by, or through, the 
Japanese-mandated islands, an operation that would take several 
months. It was obvious that a strong air and submarine base in Guam 
that would neutralize Saipan would be of tremendous assistance in 
this defensive phase of the war. Holding Guam might have prevented 
the Japanese southward thrust through the Philippine Sea. 

Centuries from now historians poring through the preliminaries to 
the attack on Pearl Harbor will probably disbelieve every word they 
read. One or two may presume that they have come across something 
by Gilbert and Sullivan; few will associate the ridiculous capers of 
both sides as the preliminaries to one of the greatest naval attacks in 

For instance, Lieutenant Commander Suguru Suzuki, possibly the 
youngest officer of that rank in the Japanese Navy, took a holiday trip 
to Honolulu toward the end of October 1941 on board the Japanese 
liner Taiyo Maru. But Taiyo Maru, although she was loaded with pas- 
sengers, did not take the normal route to Hawaii, instead she sailed 
north, steamed between Midway and the Aleutians and then cut south 
to Hawaii. Taiyo Maru had taken exactly the same course the Japanese 
Fleet was to follow in its crafty approach to Pearl Harbor some weeks 


hence, but none of the passengers aboard questioned this strange way 
of approaching the holiday islands of the Pacific. 

Lieutenant Commander Suguru Suzuki did not join the festive 
parties aboard; he huddled against the subarctic drafts off the Kuriles 
and made reports in notebooks. He checked winds, barometric pres- 
sures, the roll of the liner under various conditions, and noted that in 
taking this inhospitable route Taiyo Maru did not sight a single 

Once in Honolulu Commander Suzuki ignored the pretty girls, the 
beach parties, and the glamour of night life. He made more notes and 
one day went out to the John Rogers Airport with pad and camera 
and hired a plane to fly him over the many installations at Pearl Har- 
bor. His money was good, he was very polite, and no one questioned 
his intentions. After this very interesting afternoon Commander 
Suzuki invited himself over to Hickam Field where he resumed an 
almost-forgotten art course and made some professional sketches of 
the hangars, runways, and other features of the base. No one ques- 
tioned his being there; in fact, it has been said, he was invited to do 
a rendering of the new arrangements set up in the fuel dump areas. 

It might seem that in a military operation that was to startle the 
world, these activities of young Lieutenant Commander Suzuki could 
not be too important, but on his return to Japan, November 19, he 
was whisked aboard the admiral's barge and taken to the battleship 
Hiei, anchored off Yokohama. He opened his many notebooks, read 
off his report, showed his photographs and sketches. On the strength 
of all this, the ships of the Japanese Fleet slipped out into the night, 
one by one. Admiral Jinichi Kusaka was satisfied that all would go well. 

But there was another bit of history that encouraged the admiral 
to proceed with this hazardous adventure. The night before, he had 
received a letter from his housekeeper, explaining that in a dream she 
had seen a Japanese submarine fleet score a surprise victory at Pearl 
Harbor. How this old lady knew that any such venture was being con- 
sidered, has never been defined. 

While the thirty-two-ship fleet was heading for the balmy waters off 
Honolulu, the personnel was completely outfitted with arctic clothing 
whether this was part of the "cover" scheme, or because the assault 
fleet was to rendezvous off the bleak Kuriles, is not known. They later 
switched to tropical kit. 

The Japanese attack was so well shielded and staged that Americans 
still consider it a "sneak attack/' although the possibility had been con- 


sidered for more than ten years. At sunrise on the morning of De- 
cember 7 when the sky above Oahu was sizzling with enemy planes, 
a luxury liner, fluttering with holiday flags, its passengers anxious for 
the vacation beaches of Waikiki, steamed into the action area be- 
lieving the U. S. Navy was staging a full-scale aerial spectacular for its 
benefit. Roy Vitousek, a young Honolulu lawyer and amateur aviator, 
was aloft for an early morning flight. The Japs took a gun-test shot at 
Mr. Vitousek and punctured some of his wing fabric. He was so in- 
censed over this unfriendly act, he decided to go home and lodge a 
formal complaint. Another amateur airman, Robert Tyce, was stand- 
ing on a small field near Honolulu and about to spin the prop on his 
aircraft when a Jap fighter pilot machine-gunned him. Non-flying peo- 
ple on the island turned over in bed and wished the Army or Navy 
would not select Sunday morning to play their silly war games. 

At 7:02 a U. S. Army private twenty-year-old Joseph L. Lockard of 
Williamsport, Pennsylvania almost became a hero. He was on duty 
before a new aircraft detecting instrument radar when he thought 
he had identified a large formation of aircraft somewhere to the north. 
His superior officer decided that the young operator was mistaken and 
needed more instruction with the instrument, and no action was taken. 
Fifty minutes later the first wave of Japanese raiders made their land- 
fall over Diamond Head, and America was rudely projected into 
World War II. The little yellow man of the Rising Sun, who had so 
often been written off as a military airman, did a thoroughly proficient 
job. When he left, Pearl Harbor was a shambles, Single-engined bomb- 
ers wiped out Wheeler Field, Hickam Field, Schofield Barracks, Bel- 
lows Field, Kaneohe Naval Air Station, and much of the U. S. Pacific 
Fleet had gone to the bottom. 

Arizona, California, and West Virginia were sunk, Oklahoma cap- 
sized after the attack, and Nevada was seriously damaged. Maryland, 
Pennsylvania, and Tennessee were badly damaged. The light cruisers 
Helena and Raleigh were heavily damaged and Honolulu received 
some damage. The destroyers Cassin and Dowries were badly burned, 
and Shaw heavily damaged. The repair ship Vestal was damaged, the 
minelayer Oglaga was sunk, the<seaplane tender Curtiss damaged, and 
the auxiliary ship Utah, sometimes used as a target tender, was sunk. 

The Hawaiian Operation was under the command of Vice-Admiral 
Tadaichi Nagumo who finally had thirty-two vessels under his flag. 
They steamed out of Tankan Bay in the island of Etorofu, Kuriles, and 


the last to weigh anchor was the great carrier Shokaku she was almost 
late because of turbine trouble. 

On the way out they ran into heavy weather, pounding seas, steady 
gales, and at times the worst of fogs. The formation was maintained 
fairly well during the day, but at night the tankers lost touch and had 
to be herded back the next morning by the flanking destroyers. On 
November 28 they tried refueling at sea, but the waves were so rough 
it was impossible; the ships rolled, plunged, and bucked, and the great 
black snakes whiplashed across the decks and cut down men or swept 
small groups overboard. The discharged oil spread over the gangways, 
decks, ladders, and companionways, and made footing most uncertain. 

This nightmare continued for days and nights while reports from 
Japanese agents in Honolulu made matters worse. At first it was un- 
derstood that one aircraft carrier, the Enterprise, was anchored in 
Pearl Harbor along with a beautiful display of battleships, Class-A 
cruisers and destroyers. Later, it was reported that Enterprise and all 
heavy cruisers had left the harbor. 

As a result, there were several hours of indecision, or perhaps con- 
cern. Why had the carrier and cruisers left? There was some talk of 
calling of! the raid, but Admiral Nagumo had face to save and felt 
there was no turning back. Nevertheless, all who were in the know 
concerning the details of the operation spent a restless evening on De- 
cember 6 when this intelligence was received. The men on the night 
watch continued their weary vigil and lightened their task by listening 
to Hawaiian music being broadcast from station KGMB less than four 
hundred miles away. 

The fly-off point, about two hundred miles due north of Oahu, was 
reached about 6 A .M. that Sunday morning, for despite the long cruise 
and continued bad weather, a neat job of navigation had been ac- 
complished. The heavy cruisers had pushed on ahead and had cata- 
pulted four float-fitted Zeros to reconnoiter the attack area. When they 
reported back that the U. S. Fleet was indeed nestling there with all 
the prize battleships at anchor, Admiral Nagumo knew his hour had 
arrived. His carriers began launching their Kates, Nakajima-gzs, that 
carried aerial torpedoes or high-level bombs. The Judy, Aichi-ggs, 
equipped as dive-bombers, were followed by the Zeke, Zero-3 Navy 

To simplify the naval aviation nomenclature that will be used in 
this book, it might be well to give a list of Japanese aircraft and the 
topical nicknames that were applied by the U. S. Naval forces. 


Betty Mitsubishi Zero-i, two-seater high-level or torpedo bomber. 

Frances Nakajima PiY, two-seater land-based all-purpose bomber. 

Hamp Mitsubishi Zero, two-seater Navy fighter. 

Irving Nakajima JiN, two-seater night fighter. 

Jake Navy, single-seater float plane. 

Jill Nakajima B6N, single-seater torpedo bomber. 

Judy Aichi D4Y, single-seater dive bomber. 

Kate-Nakajima-97, single-seater torpedo bomber. 

Val Aichi-99, single-seater dive bomber. 

Zeke Mitsubishi Zero-3, single-seater Navy fighter. 

Lieutenant Akira Sakamoto led twenty-five Val dive bombers to 
Wheeler Field to immobilize the American fighter force there. Twenty- 
six more Vals, under Lieutenant Commander Kakuichi Takahashi, 
swarmed over Hickam Field, that he understood to be the main heavy- 
bomber base of the U. S. Army Air Force, but a portion of this force 
was diverted to Ford Island that was reputed to be a haven for Navy 
fighters when they were not aboard ship. Whatever they expected, 
they did a workmanlike job on their targets few American fighters got 
into the air. When the dive bombers that were assigned to the battle- 
ship force in the harbor went to work, they took their time, lined up 
their targets and put on an unhurried display. In this particular task 
forty-nine Kates that were armed with torpedoes, and forty others of 
the same category flying as dive bombers, were led by Lieutenant 
Commander Shigeharu Murata. As they raked the battleships, their ac- 
companying Zekes intercepted and destroyed the few American fight- 
ers that had scrambled into the air: The highly maneuverable Zeroes 
made mincemeat of the U. S. single-seaters, and it was obvious that 
the famed Brewster Buffalo had no right in the same sky with the 
Mitsubishi fighter. 

Chief Flight Petty Officer Juzo Mori of the carrier Soryu flew one 
of the torpedo bombers against the U. S. Fleet in Pearl Harbor any 
American battleship at anchor along the wharf of the Oahu Naval 
Arsenal was his particular assignment. He related: "We dropped down 
for our attack at high speed and went in at very low altitude. When 
I was almost in position to release my torpedo, I realized that the navy 
vessel at which I was aiming was not a battleship at all, but a cruiser. 
I was flying directly behind Lieutenant Nagai who continued his tor- 
pedo run on the cruiser, regardless of our original plan to attack only 
enemy battleships. 

"However, I did not expect to survive this engagement, since we had 


been given to understand we would encounter heavy resistance, and 
I felt that if this was to be my last flight I wanted it to be against an 
American battleship. 

"To be frank, all the planes from Soryu did meet with an intense 
antiaircraft fire, since the guns had been aroused by earlier attacks 
from planes off Akagi and Kaga. My aircraft shook and vibrated with 
the impact of machine-gun bullets, and despite my intention of switch- 
ing from my path toward the cruiser to attack one of the battleships 
near Ford Island, I was forced to fly directly into this curtain of op- 
position. Because of this and the area topography, I steered directly 
over the battleships and then went into a banked left turn. I knew 
my approach had to be precise and determined since we had been 
warned that the harbor depth was not more than thirty-four feet. Thus, 
the slightest deviation in speed or height would send the free torpedo 
plunging into the sea bottom, or porpoising above the water, and all 
my risks would have been in vain. 

"By this time I was flying like an automaton. My training was pay- 
ing off and I was hardly conscious of any physical effort. I sat staring 
at the altimeter. Three thousand feet! . . . Twenty-five hundred feet! 
. . . Two thousand feet! . . . Suddenly the battleship stood out stark 
and clear directly in front of my nose. It towered there like a mon- 
strous great structure. 

" 'Prepare for release/ 1 muttered to myself. 'Stand by!' 

" 'Release torpedo!' 

"I had so concentrated on this torpedo attack, I was in no way con- 
scious of the enemy antiaircraft fire or the distracting roar of my en- 
gine. I had eyes or mind for nothing but the release of my torpedo. 
But apparently I had done everything correct and the instant I real- 
ized the great missile had gone, I pulled up hard, my plane lurched 
and faltered as more antiaircraft fire pounded the wings and fuselage, 
my head snapped back with the shock and I felt I had been poleaxed. 

"At the same time I somehow knew I would score. I sensed I would 
make a perfect hit. I had to put my torpedo into a battleship. The 
plane was still flying. Oh, that torpedo simply had to hit its target 
I was positive I had released it at the correct instant. 

"After launching the torpedo, I flew smack over the battleship and 
then swinging into a wide turn I crossed over the southern tip of Ford 
Island and then took a southerly course to conceal the position of our 
carrier. This we had been told to do before taking off, I raced away 
at top speed. I was so frightened my uniform was drenched with per- 


spiration. The Americans were still firing heavy-caliber antiaircraft 
shells at me and I was thankful to get well away from the area and 
turn north for our carrier's position. 

"For a minute or two I honestly believed I was free, in the clear 
and would be attacked no more. Then suddenly there was an enemy 
plane dead in front of me. I thought this would be my finish, for I had 
no fixed gun aboard this particular aircraft, only a puny 7.7 machine 
gun mounted aft that was limited to a rearward arc of fire. If I was to 
go down now, I was determined to take this enemy airman with me. 
I swung the Nakajima over hard with intent to ram, but the American 
pilot was so startled by my maneuver, he went into a steep dive and 

"I asked myself, Is this really war?' " 

The level-bomber group was also specifically assigned to strike at 
the battleships. They were armed with one 8oo-kilogram armor-pierc- 
ing bomb each. In this case the level bombers as they were known in 
the Japanese service, were guided to the target area by a special sight- 
ing or pathfinder bomber, and their level in this instance was 3000 
meters or about 10,000 feet. As they closed in American antiaircraft fire 
opened up and the sky was clotted with grayish puffs. Land batteries 
joined the defense work of the guns aboard the doomed ships. From 
all accounts the accuracy was commendable, but the ammunition left 
much to be desired. 

The main force of level bombers was escorted by Lieutenant Com- 
mander Shigeru Itaya from the carrier AkagL Itaya took the first of the 
antiaircraft hate as he led the way in and his plane suddenly bounced 
as though struck by some invisible club. He looked around to see what 
had happened but then his radioman explained that the fuselage had 
been holed and one rudder cable was damaged. Itaya ordered his 
pilot to test it gently and on feeling a reasonable amount of control, 
was evidently satisfied to carry on. Accurate control in this case was 
necessary since they were expected to hold to a steady course as they 
approached the target. 

Within a minute or so they were approaching the "release" point 
and Itaya concentrated on the formation's sighting plane to check the 
instant its first bomb was dropped. At that point a muffin of cloud 
floated between the lead bomber and the target. By the time this had 
cleared Itaya realized they had overshot and the lead plane was bank- 
ing slightly and turning toward Honolulu. He had missed the release 


point and realized the whole formation would have to circle and make 
another attempt. 

While the level bombers orbited for another approach, a number of 
others made their runs, but some had to make as many as three ap- 
proaches before the target was in the clear. Itaya's force was about to 
begin its second run when the crews caught a terrific explosion below 
along the U. S. battleship row. A tremendous column of blood-red 
smoke and flame rose about three thousand feet! Itaya believed it was 
a direct hit on a ship's magazine, but later they learned that this hit 
had been scored direct on Arizona and her boilers and forward 
magazine had exploded with the impact of several other direct hits by 
heavy bombs. As a result Arizona became a total loss and the shock 
waves of this series of hits were felt aboard every plane of Itaya's 
force which was several miles from the point of impact 

They began the run-in once more but this time were met by con- 
centrated antiaircraft fire. However, the lead bombardier had a clear 
field and the others made the most of his example. All bombs were 
released with resolute precision. Itaya, who was commanding the 
force, could move about and he at one time lay flat on the catwalk 
floor and slid open a peephole panel to observe the fall of their 
bombs. He was able to follow four missiles down as they screamed 
toward the harbor. The target was two battleships which were moored 
side by side off Ford Island. The bombs straightened out, became 
smaller and smaller and finally disappeared. The Japanese leader 
clenched his fists and held his breath until he saw two tiny puffs of 
smoke. He stiffened and screamed as he realized that two hits had 
been made. 

His armor-piercing bombs did not provide too much to record at 
first. These were fitted with delayed fuses and Itaya knew they might 
be well clear of the bombing area before they actually exploded. How- 
ever, he was positive they had racked up two clean hits since there 
were no concentric waves which ripple out if the bomb falls in the 

Actually, Commander Itaya's bombardiers did register two hits- 
smack on the battleship Maryland but they must have been faulty, 
since they did not inflict the damage expected. She was quickly re- 
paired and made ready for service about three months later. 

At 8:45 A.M., Lieutenant Commander Shigekazu Shimazaki in 
charge of a second wave of 170 planes, ordered his force to attack. 
This wave had taken off the deck of Zuihaka at 7:15, about one hour 


and fifteen minutes after the first. They were now over the target. 
Commander Itaya apparently stayed in the area to observe the man- 
ner of attack and the results. 

Shimazaki's second wave was composed of 54 level bombers all 
armed with two 25o-kilogram and six 6o-kilogram bombs. Their tar- 
gets were the American air bases. A dive-bomber group, led by Lieu- 
tenant Commander Takashige Egusa off Soryu, was made up of 80 
Type-go Vals, armed with 25o-kilogram bombs. Its original assignment 
had been to attack American carriers, had there been any in the harbor. 
Now Egusa's force had been ordered to select targets from among 
the vessels which appeared unharmed or only slightly damaged. His 
was something of a mop-up detail. Fighter cover was supplied by 36 
Zeros, under Lieutenant Sasburo Shindo off the carrier Akagi. 

As soon as the attack order was given, the fighters turned their at- 
tention to the general strafing of Pearl Harbor and the airfields. The 
dive bombers slipped in over the east coast mountains and nosed 
down, following their leader whose plane was identified by a bright 
red tail assembly. As they went in, the billowing smoke from previous 
attacks swelled across the harbor and to some extent hampered their 
precision runs, but the Kates, fitted out as dive bombers, persisted in 
getting through and completed their mission. 

The majority of Lieutenant Commander Shimazaki's level bomb- 
ers that had followed the dive bombers in, concentrated on Hickam 
Field, but the remainder attacked Ford Island installations and the 
Kaneohe Air Base. These planes flew at about 6000 feet in order to 
work below the gathering clouds, but in spite of this hazard none of 
these aircraft was lost, although more than half of them returned 
showing the effect of antiaircraft shrapnel. 

By i :oo P.M. all surviving aircraft of both attack waves had returned 
to the carriers. Of a total of 353 planes, only 9 fighters, 15 dive bomb- 
ers, and 5 torpedo planes, including their crews of 55 officers and men, 
failed to return. 

As against these almost negligible losses, the greater part of the 
U. S. Pacific Fleet had been destroyed or immobilized for many 
months. What air strength had been based on Oahu was decisively 
smashed, and Japan most certainly had control of the air for many 

But, according to some authorities, the Japanese were far from satis- 
fied and in this first flush of victory they were for continuing the attack 
in the same area until there was nothing left to pulverize. In particular, 


most of the air crews were disappointed that they had not encountered 
a single U. S. aircraft carrier, but even worse they had no idea where 
they were. Most of them guessed that two and perhaps four were 
somewhere south of Oahu with a cruiser force, carrying out some 
routine exercise. 

The consensus was that another strike at Pearl Harbor might draw 
them in, and that, if instead of returning by the same route it had 
come, the Japanese task force were to skirt the south of the Hawaiian 
Islands and head toward the Marshalls, there might be a reasonable 
chance of tracking down the American carriers. But there was one ob- 
stacle to this plan. The Japanese tanker force was already heading for 
a prearranged rendezvous on the northern withdrawal route and there 
was no chance that they might catch up with the task force in time 
to furnish the required fuel. As a result, the last hope of engaging any 
American carriers had to be abandoned. 

With the exception of a hurriedly organized force of the carriers 
Soryu and Hiryu, supported by the cruisers Tone and Chikuma, and 
two destroyers that were detached to support the invasion of Wake 
Island, the main task force swung off for the Inland Sea and their 
Hashirajima anchorage. 

As Admiral Nagumo explained later, the initial attack on Pearl Har- 
bor had been far more successful than had been expected, and any 
further attack could not have augmented the damage to any great ex- 
tent. At the same time, in spite of the surprise attack, U. S. anti- 
aircraft fire had been more effective than anticipated, and to have sent 
out the planes again without a complete examination of all damage, 
would have increased aircraft losses out of all proportion to the ex- 
tended damage. 

Radio intercepts, on being interpreted, disclosed that about fifty 
large-type aircraft were still operational on the islands, and since they 
had no idea where the U. S. carriersand submarines were located, 
it was wiser to retire. To remain within attack range of knd-based air- 
craft was a hazard Admiral Nagumo felt he should not risk. 

Once the over-all threat of Pearl Harbor had dissipated, some arm- 
chair strategists in the United States found many faults in Admiral 
Nagumo's decisions. They wanted to know why Japan did not imme- 
diately seize Hawaii and use it as a base from which to carry their 
attack to the American mainland. They ignored the fact that the pri- 
mary objective of Japan's initial war strategy was to secure oil 
resources. In itself, Pearl Harbor was of no strategic importance; the 


destruction of the U. S. Pacific Fleet was their chief aim, and that they 
accomplished. Their military resources were most limited, and oil was 
the immediate goal. 

Emperor Hirohito obviously had no ambitions to attack the con- 
tinental United States; he had all he could do in aiming to take over 
the more important Pacific islands and oil-producing areas of Southeast 
Asia. What might have happened if Admiral Nagumo's task force had 
found and destroyed four, or even two, U. S. Navy carriers, is inter- 
esting to contemplate, but as it was, the fact that only Lexington and 
Enterprise were based there and were not in the harbor at the time, 
left one hollow of disappointment in the Japanese victory celebrations. 

It is possible that our good fortune in having Lexington and Enter- 
prise away from Pearl Harbor during this harrowing experience, saved 
America's future in the Pacific. As long as some sort of a carrier task 
force could be put to sea, Japan's position in the Pacific, despite her 
victory at Pearl Harbor, was precarious. And with this in mind, the 
more air-minded in the Japanese Navy labored on a new tactical doc- 
trine for a sea engagement against this threatening carrier force, in 
which they intended to amalgamate all air groups aboard the six avail- 
able carriers into one powerful attack group; a winged force that would 
strike this potential enemy en masse in overwhelming strength. The 
operations officer on Admiral Nagumo's staff, the famous Commander 
Minoru Genda, gave exhaustive thought and planning to this all-out 
effort to destroy all U. S. Navy carriers, the continuance of which 
eventually led to the invasion operations against Midway Island. 

This scheme met with wholehearted approval, for it was the only 
logical way in which to exploit the success at Pearl Harbor. The Japa- 
nese staff was so enthusiastic about the idea that it was suggested 
that the whole task force put into Truk to support the Wake invasion. 
Instead, however, the main force returned to Japan where it was sensed 
that the Japanese leaders were overly elated by the destruction of so 
many U. S. battleships. It will be seen that although a few realized the 
potentiality of the carrier, the old guard still considered the battleship 
to be the Queen of the Seas, and any suggestion of a plan to trap the 
flat-tops was considered only in the light of a harebrained adventure. 

From the American point of view, Pearl Harbor, the first great car- 
rier attack, was a revelation. Its planning, precision of action, and the 
determination with which it was carried out, stunned the whole Allied 
world. Although there were ninety-four ships of the U. S. Navy in 


Pearl Harbor at the time, the enemy raiders picked out exactly what 
they wanted. According to the official Navy statement issued by the 
Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, the attack was carried out in five 

C 1 ) 7 : 55-8:25 A.M. Torpedo and dive-bomber attacks on battleships 
as well as strafing attacks on air bases. 

(2) 8:25-8:40 A.M. A lull period. 

(3) 8:40-9:15 A.M High-level bombing attacks on Pearl Harbor. 

(4) 9:15-9:45 A.M. Dive-bombing attacks on Pearl Harbor. 

(5) 9:45 A.M. All planes withdrew. 

Within five minutes of the first torpedo attacks with special shoal- 
water torpedoes released between forty and one hundred feet above 
the water, the battlewagons were raked fore and aft by dive bombers. 
Because the big vessels did not mount antiaircraft guns that could fire 
over the bow or stem, these enemy aircraft got off scot-free. Their 
machine-gunning killed or wounded dozens of men who were trapped 
topside on the sinking ships. Within half an hour after the first tor- 
pedo was dropped, Arizona was a burning wreck, Oklahoma had cap- 
sized, West Virginia had sunk, California was going down, and every 
other battleship, except Pennsylvania which was in drydock, had been 
badly damaged. 

West Virginia, which was eighteen years old, took seven torpedoes 
in her side, four of which pierced the armor belt amidships when she 
was listing heavily. To add to her travail, two bombs struck home, one 
starting a serious fire. Fortunately, smart damage control measures 
were taken, and the men who had been alerted as a Fire and Rescue 
Party to aid when an explosion was first noted on a Ford Island hangar, 
were uninjured. Proper counterflooding corrected a 28-degree list and 
allowed her to sink bodily until the turn of the port bilge hit bottom 
and prevented her from capsizing. 

The Tennessee was moored inboard from West Virginia and was 
protected from the torpedo attack, but she received two big bombs 
early in the raid, the first of which landed on her center gun turret 
and killed Captain Mervyn S. Bennion of West Virginia. The second 
hit Number Three turret, pierce&the five-inch armor and exploded in- 
side, thus keeping down the detonation. These bombs were actually 
converted sixteen-inch armor-piercing shells that weighed between fif- 
teen hundred and two thousand pounds. 

Arizona, moored astern of Tennessee, suffered the worst beating 


with the largest number of casualties, and became a total loss. She 
was moored inside Vested, a small repair ship, and more than one hun- 
dred feet of Arizoncfs bow protruded. As it was, Vestd took two direct 
bomb hits that created serious flooding, but she got under way and was 
beached on Aiea Shoal. 

There was barely time to sound General Quarters and set up com- 
plete watertight conditions when Arizona, was hit by several torpedoes 
and bombs, one torpedo missed Vestd and struck below Arizorufs 
Number One turret, then a heavy bomb landed beside her second tur- 
ret, penetrated the forecastle and exploded in one of the magazines be- 
fore that chamber could be flooded. The resulting explosion wrecked 
the whole forward part of the battleship and flames soared five hun- 
dred feet into the air. Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd and Captain Frank- 
lin van Valkenburgh were killed when a second bomb went straight 
down a smokestack and blew the engine room to bits. A third hit the 
boat deck and the tripod mast. So quickly did Arizona explode and go 
down, more than one thousand men were either burned to a crisp, or 
trapped below and drowned. Before the raid was over the famous bat- 
tiewagon had lost almost fourth-fifths of her complement. 

The gallant work and quick thinking of Lieutenant Commander 
Francis J. Thomas, who was senior officer aboard, saved Nevada. This 
battleship was moored astern of Arfeoiw, but had no ship tied along- 
side her, and, although she had taken one severe torpedo hit, Com- 
mander Thomas decided to move her out of this target area. Chief 
Boatswain E. J. Hill jumped to the mooring quay, cast off all lines, 
while under heavy machine-gun fire, and swam back to Nevada just as 
she was moving away. In the meantime the five-inch battery, under 
command of Ensign Thomas H. Taylor, shot down one torpedo 
bomber, seriously damaged another, and accounted for a third that 
splashed into the water off Nevadffs port quarter. 

In spite of the torpedo hole, some forty-five feet in length and thirty 
feet high that flooded several compartments, Commander Thomas 
maintained fine discipline and moved his command into a safer area, 
but while directing the anchoring detail Boatswain Hill was killed 
when he was blown overboard by a bomb. 

A flight of Val dive bombers that was heading for Pennsylvania must 

have noticed Nevada under way and concentrated on this battlewagon 

instead. This time, things looked very serious for bombs were raising 

\crazy curtain of water all around her, but two tugs moved in to 


assist and hauled her clear of the main channel to a hard bottom at 
Waipio Beach opposite the southern end of Ford Island. In addition 
to the torpedo, Nevada received five direct bomb hits before the action 
was over three officers and forty-seven men were killed or missing, 
five officers and 104 men were wounded. Nevertheless, she was floated 
on February 12, 1942, and after temporary repairs she proceeded to 
Puget Sound. She finally rejoined the Fleet before December 1943. 

Oklahoma never had a chance. She was moored outboard to Mary- 
land, and before General Quarters could be sounded, or any counter- 
flooding measures taken, she was pierced by three torpedoes. Her skip- 
per, Captain H. D. Bode, was ashore, and the Executive Officer, 
Commander Jesse L. Kenworthy, realized the situation was hopeless, 
and after a short consultation with Lieutenant Commander William 
H. Hobby, decided to abandon ship; the men were ordered to go over 
the starboard side as Oklahoma rolled to her doom. Two more torpedo 
hits went in above the armor belt, and the men were strafed by ma- 
chine-gun fire as they crawled over the battered hull. High-level bomb- 
ers drilled in more destruction, and Oklahoma did not stop rolling 
until her big tripod mast touched bottom. When she came to a halt 
she had tilted to 150 degrees with the starboard side of her bottom 
and a portion of her keel above water. She lost 20 officers and 395 
men, killed or missing, of the 1272 complement aboard, and two offi- 
cers and 30 men were wounded. 

Aboard Maryland, which was protected from torpedoes by Okla- 
homa, Seaman L. V. Short had gotten up bright and early to address 
Christmas cards he planned to send home from Hawaii. The furor 
outside interrupted this holiday task, so Seaman Short went topside 
to man a machine gun, and knocked down one torpedo plane before 
it could get its "fish" away. Maryland was lucky; she took only one 
fragmentation bomb that ripped up the forecastle awning, and a six- 
teen-inch armor-piercing missile that entered the forecastle below the 
waterline and exploded in the hold. Only two officers and as many 
men were killed, and Maryland rejoined the Fleet the following 

The flagship of Vice-Admiral William S. Pye, California, was at the 
southernmost berth in a particularly open area, and further burdened 
by being the flagship, for according to testimony later issued by the 
Bureau of Ships in its War Damage Report, California, while taut and 
smart in general appearance, was hardly up to standard in readiness 
and material condition. The "spit and polish" put on for the admiral 


may have lessened the time usually given to more important material 
inspections. According to Samuel Eliot Morison in his superb history 
of this mortifying attack, six manhole covers to the double bottoms 
were off, and the securing nuts of twelve others were slacked away. 
Apparently, a routine inspection was to be made, but unfortunately, 
the Japanese airmen fouled up the program. 

In other words, the admiral's flagship was not ready for war and 
"her watertight integrity was bad" with the result that her doom was 
sealed from the minute enemy opposition appeared over the horizon. 
Many of her top oflEcers were ashore and those left in command appar- 
ently did not act quickly, for there was some delay in sounding Gen- 
eral Quarters and setting up counterflooding measures. 

At 8:05 A.M. two deep-running torpedoes hit California below the 
armor belt, one aft below Number Three turret, the other forward of 
the bridge. These were more than enough since the battleship, in the 
Navy phrase, was "unbuttoned" and unready for any such emergency. 
She began to list to port and although Ensign Edgar M. Fain made a 
brave attempt at counterflooding, a ruptured oil tank and incoming 
salt water deprived her of clean oil for the fuel system, and all light 
and power were cut off. By 8:10 Calif ornicfs antiaircraft batteries were 
firing, the ammunition being hauled up by hand, but at 8:25 a bomb 
exploded below and detonated a large supply of antiaircraft ammuni- 
tion that spread fire, blast, and wreckage. More than fifty men were 

Meanwhile the damage control party restored power and water pres- 
sure so that the worst fires could be fought and by 9:10 California 
had four boilers available and was ready to move away. But before 
Captain J. W. Bunkley, who had made his way back to his ship, could 
give orders to unmoor, burning oil from the battleship to windward 
floated ddwn and engulfed the stem. Orders had to be given to aban- 
don ship, and the minesweepers Vireo and Bobolink moved in to give 
aid and to fight the fire, but California could not be saved because of 
her bulkhead condition. What pumping was done only "pumped 
Pearl Harbor through the ship." She did not touch bottom until late 
Wednesday night, or more than seventy-four hours after the initial 
attack. She was refloated March 24, 1942, and she then proceeded to 
the navy yard at Bremerton, Washington, under her own power, and 
rejoined the Fleet in time for the Marianas operation in February 

To winnow through the rest of the damage, ship by ship, airfield 


by airfield, would be only repetitious; it is sufficient to state that from 
the Japanese point of view, they had scored an enormous victory, and 
set up the triumphs they enjoyed at Wake, the Philippines, and 
through the Dutch East Indies. Indeed, they almost put foot on the 
continent of Australia. Coming at a time when the war in Europe was 
still in the balance, the attack on Pearl Harbor was not only a military 
triumph, but had formidable influence on morale throughout the 
British Empire. At first, very little was told of the vastness of the at- 
tack or of the huge loss suffered, but as the full import of the news 
gradually seeped out, it was obvious that the Axis powers had been 
joined by another apparently aggressive member. The British had 
suffered the evacuation of Dunkirk, a painful episode at Oran, a real 
threat of invasion, the torment of the bombing of Great Britain, and 
the first Battle of the Atlantic, a dreadful carnage that had lasted for 
seventeen months. There was still no promise that Britain would live. 
Yet somehow, with this new and more terrible blow, came an un- 
spoken belief that the battered Empire would come through. In spite 
of the crushing blow suffered by the U. S. Navy, Prime Minister 
Churchill said, "No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim 
that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy." 
Victory would come. Terrible forfeits would have to be made in the 
East, and the end was a long way off. Many disasters, immeasurable 
cost and grim trials lay ahead, but in Britain there was no doubt as to 
the outcome. 

In the years that followed, calm consideration of the attack at Pearl 
Harbor afforded some irrefutable conclusions and some chauvinistic 
outbursts. Admittedly, the Japanese began their war with a resounding 
victory; with a single blow they knocked out a U. S. Navy battle force 
and mopped up the available air-striking potential. Whether this raid 
might have been better planned, depends on the reader's point of 
view. Should they have concentrated on more permanent installations 
at Hawaii, such as repair shops and dry docks? Should they have se- 
lected the power plant and the tremendous fuel oil reserves in giant 
tanks, that, according to Admiral Thomas C. Hart, would have set back 
our advance across the Pacific much longer than did the damage to 
the Fleet? This is a point to be argued for years, but it must be remem- 
bered that whatever the Japanese did intend, they did kill 2403 
servicemen and civilians, and seriously wounded 1178. The United 
States Navy lost about three times as many men in this "surprise" 


attack as the service had lost in two previous conflicts, the Spanish- 
American War and World War I. 

Whether Pearl Harbor was a "treacherous and unwarranted attack" 
is a matter to be left to expert minds on naval warfare, but it is known 
that such an attack had been suggested and written about by military 
commentators for many years previous. That Pearl Harbor was an en- 
ticing target, no one will deny, and since undeclared wars were and 
probably still will bethe norm, it is somewhat bewildering to en- 
counter the continuing charges that this was a day of infamy, that Pearl 
Harbor was a sneak attack, and that it was in defiance of all rules of 
humane warfare. So-called humane warfare went out between 1914- 
18 when the Germans first used dum-dum bullets, saw-toothed bay- 
onets, poison gas, flame-throwers, staged air raids against defenseless 
cities, and sank unarmed merchantmen. 

The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor was a well-timed operation, one 
made all the easier by the failure of U. S. military officials to take 
acceptable precautions or to heed the obvious warnings. It should be 
pointed out, also, that a carrierbome air attack is the most difficult of 
all such operations to detect, simply because even a large fleet of ships 
takes up a very small spot, particularly in the Pacific Ocean. The au- 
thor has flown from San Francisco to New Zealand and Australia and 
back, and in some ninety hours of flying did not see one vessel of any 
kind. In the Jimmy Doolittie raid on Tokyo that followed the Hawai- 
ian attack, not one of the planes that roared off the Hornet was noted 
or reported until in sight of the target. And so it was, over the rest of 
the Pacific campaign. A properly planned carrier strike would catch the 
enemy flat-footed, time after time. Why, then, has the Pearl Harbor 
strike been presented as a treacherous act by a treacherous foe? The 
Japanese could hardly have been considered friends of the United 
States. We had been at virtual warfare for several years, and it was 
obvious that Nippon would strike the minute the opportunity arose. 
She felt that we were overly committed through blood ties and Lease- 
Lend to the British in their conflict with Hitler and Mussolini, and it 
was now or never. 

Whether the attack was a strategic necessity, as the Japanese have 
claimed, or whether it was strategic imbecility, as many American mili- 
tary experts have claimed, will long be contested; that the enemy 
should have concentrated on permanent installations and oil reserves, 
has more supporters, and hindsight informs us that from the political 
point of view the attack on Pearl Harbor was disastrous. 


Few Allied military authorities believed that the Japanese were ca- 
pable of more than one offensive operation at a time, but the smoke 
had not completely drifted away from Ford Island when they struck 
at the Philippines and Malaya at the same time. Once these points 
of military importance had fallen, they planned to move on Java, and 
in the meantime Vice-Admiral S. Inouye's Fourth Fleet would be ex- 
pected to take Guam and Wake. The Philippines were required for 
political expediency and as a source of all-important copper. The size 
of the islands and the limited forces defending them, made amphibi- 
ous operations relatively simple and tactical surprise easy. 

Only one aircraft carrier was available, since most of them were en- 
gaged in the Pearl Harbor operation, but what air defenses were found 
in the Philippines were quickly accounted for by medium Navy bomb- 
ers and long-range Zero fighters. In most cases, American aircraft were 
destroyed on the ground after they had maintained long, wearisome 
patrols awaiting the enenr/s coming. What U. S. Navy cruisers were 
available to meet the onslaught, retired to the south without challeng- 
ing the Japanese covering forces, and thus the invasion of the Philip- 
pines was added to the success at Pearl Harbor and other victories along 
the Malay Peninsula. 

At 3:00 A.M. on the morning of December 8, Admiral Thomas C. 
Hart, Commander-in-Chief, Asiatic Fleet, responsible for naval op- 
erations in this area, was awakened at his Manila headquarters and 
advised by Lieutenant Colonel William T. Clement of the U. S. 
Marine Corps that his radio operator had intercepted a message that 
he knew was authentic since he recognized the technique of the 
sender. It read: AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR. THIS is NO DRILL. This was 
the first news to reach Admiral Hart, and he immediately drafted an 
emergency dispatch to his Fleet: JAPAN STARTED HOSTILITIES. GOVERN 
YOURSELVES ACCORDINGLY. By 4:00 A.M. Lieutenant General Richard 
K. Sutherland, General Douglas MacArthur's Chief of Staff, was ad- 
vised; General MacArthur also had not yet heard the news. 

The Japanese carrier Ryu/o, then lying east of Davao on the island 
of Mindanao, launched thirteen dive bombers at dawn. Escorted by 
nine Zeke fighters they attacked the U. S. seaplane tender William B. 
Preston, anchored in Davao Gulf. Two of her three planes were sunk 
at their moorings a third was out on patrol an American pilot was 
killed and one of the enemy dive bombers was forced down. The sea- 
plane tender escaped without damage and steamed for a safer anchor- 
age from where she could resume her flight operations. 


Shortly after daybreak, fourteen heavy bombers of the Japanese 
Army Air Force took off in bad weather from Formosa, arrived over 
Baguio about 9:30 A.M. and bombed military installations. Eighteen 
twin-engined light bombers struck Tuguegarao airfield in the north- 
ern part of Luzon. At 10:14 Admiral Hart received official orders to 
execute the war plan against Japan. 

Although Japanese aircraft had already struck at Baguio, no word of 
the action had reached Clark Field or the city of Manila. At 12:45 
P.M., when all aircraft at Clark were down for refueling and the pilots 
at lunch, a force of Japanese fighters, with medium- and high-level 
bombers, turned up, and within a few minutes twelve Flying Fortresses 
and thirty P-4O Warhawks were destroyed, and five more B-iys dam- 
aged. The raiders lost but seven planes. 

On December 10 the U. S. Army Air Force received a forty-five 
minute warning that a number of enemy planes were approaching 
from the north. Twenty P-4os and fifteen P-35S went up to intercept, 
but these ancient birds were soon knocked out of the play by fifty to 
sixty Zero fighters that were escorting eighty bombers. North of Ma- 
nila these forces broke up and some of them worked over Nielson and 
Nichols Fields and Camp Murphy, while fifty-four planes flew back 
and forth over Cavite in leisurely artistic curves, dropping their bombs 
at will Practically every missile fell inside the U. S. Navy Yard. Direct 
hits were scored on the power plant, torpedo repair shop, dispensary, 
supply offices, warehouses, commissary, barracks, officers' quarters, and 
on several vessels anchored along the waterfront. From this point on 
amphibious landings, and the eventual capture of Manila, were just a 
matter of course. 

At Guam matters were much the same, and most effort was de- 
voted to getting American women and children off the island. Enemy 
aircraft from the island of Saipan carried out most of the softening-up 
process and supported the amphibious landing. The Japanese then 
completed the airfield on Orote Peninsula, a project America had felt 
too poor to undertake. This airstrip had an important role in the Battle 
of the Philippine Sea. 

Borneo, Hong Kong, and the Malay Peninsula landings were car- 
ried out with the same precision. 

But a few faint rays of good fortune glinted through the smoke and 
debris of the Hawaiian operation. As mentioned, all shore facilities 
were still operative and most available submarines were undamaged, 


but more important, Admiral Husband E. Kimmers fast carrier forces 
escaped since they were out on routine missions. The carrier Lexington, 
under Captain Frederick C. Sherman, the heavy cruisers Chicago, As- 
toria, and Portland, and five destroyers were 420 miles southeast of 
Midway Island to which they were heading to deliver a U. S. Marine 
Corps scout bomber squadron. The planes were to be launched from 
Lexington about noon. 

Instead, on learning of the air raid on Pearl Harbor, Rear Admiral 
J. H. Newton who was temporarily in command, ordered this task 
force back toward Oahu, and Admiral Kimmel directed it to rendez- 
vous with Admiral William F. Halse/s force that was about one hun- 
dred twenty miles west of Kauai, the northern island of the Hawaiian 
group. Admiral Halsey had a carrier striking force built around the En- 
terprise which had left Pearl Harbor on November 28 to deliver Ma- 
rine Fighter Squadron 221 to Wake Island, and was now on it* way 
back to Honolulu. Besides the Enterprise, under command of Captain 
George E. Murray, Task Force 8, as it was known then, consisted of 
three heavy cruisers and nine destroyers. 

Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance flew his flag aboard North- 
ampton but was in charge of this carrier force and on the morning of 
December 7 launched a number of planes from Enterprise and had 
them flown to Ford Island they arrived just in time to be wiped out 
by the Japanese attack. Admiral Halsey's force was then about two 
hundred miles west of Oahu, and although he regretted not being able 
to engage the enemy, he was lucky, for Enterprise most certainly would 
have been sunk. 

A third carrier, Saratoga, commanded by Captain Archibald H. 
Douglas, was off the coast of California, and along with the battle- 
ship Colorado, then at Bremerton for overhaul, was ordered to report 
immediately to Pearl Harbor as a nucleus of a third fast carrier striking 

Thus, if we concentrate on what was left of the U. S. Fleet, instead 
of what had been lost, the situation appears less serious than it seemed 
at the time. Naval strategists were so accustomed to evaluate naval 
power in terms of available battleships, they often ignored the striking 
power of the carrier force. What weakness might be listed, was in the 
lack of aircraft to carry out a search for the Japanese Fleet. At Hawaii 
we had only three PBY Catalinas, a dozen Marine SBDs and seven 
utility aircraft of various types. The Army Air Force could muster only 
four Flying Fortresses, eleven B-i8s, and about seventy-five short- 


range fighter and reconnaissance planes to search for and pursue the 
enemy fleet. 

In order to reinforce our Pacific Fleet, Admiral Ernest J. King, Com- 
mander of the Atlantic Fleet, was ordered to deliver the carrier York- 
town, with a full complement of aircraft and air crews, the battleships 
New Mexico, Idaho, and Mississippi, and a destroyer squadron to the 
Pacific. Three squadrons of land-based bombers were also to be flown 

Actual war was very new, and, as was to be expected, there was 
some confusion, misjudgment, and service foul-ups in the first frantic 
efforts to head off the enemy fleet. Alarms, excursions, and weird 
theories were general rather than isolated instances. The immediate 
decision was that Nagumo's force was steaming to the south since the 
attacking planes seemed to have flown away in that direction. Then 
someone remembered that two Japanese carriers had been seen at 
Kwajalein most certainly these were the backbone of the enemy's 
striking force. 

The U. S. Aimy Opana radar station on the northern tip of Oahu, 
which had been secured at 8:00 A.M. on December 7, began tracking 
again by 9:00 and from its evaluation of the blips on its screens, the 
attacking planes were heading north, but since no one was certain of 
this interpretation, Navy headquarters was not informed. Admiral 
Kimmel made a "logical guess/* that there was some indication of a 
Japanese fleet northwest of Oahu, and he ordered the Enterprise task 
force to "intercept and attack." 

Even the famous "Bull" Halsey was unequal to attacking an enemy 
whose composition and position were unknown, so nothing came of 

A new furor started when two Japanese carriers were sighted off 
Barbers Point, only eight miles from the mouth of Pearl Harbor. The 
cruiser Minneapolis intercepted this report and since she was smack 
on the position, her commanding officer, Captain Frank J. Lowry, tried 
to reassure the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, by sending a mes- 
sage: NO CARRIERS IN SIGHT. His radioman added to the confusion by 
sending: TWO CARRIERS IN SIGHT. A flight of patrol planes roared out, 
hoping for glory, but found only Minneapolis, and fortunately recog- 
nized her in time and did not attack. 

A Japanese carrier risked a radio transmission and someone took a 
direction-finder bearing on the message. Such an instrument records 
reciprocal bearings simultaneously that is to say, the direction-finder 


operator must decide which is correct. In this case the enemy carrier 
was actually heading 358 degrees, but the interpreter decided that the 
opposite^ or 178 degrees, was more logical, and accordingly the enemy 
was presumed to be due south. While this perplexity was being un- 
raveled an airman from aboard Enterprise identified as an enemy 
flotilla a number of light cruisers and destroyers from Rear Admiral 
Milo F. Draemel's force that had steamed out of Pearl Harbor. 

By now, Admiral Kimmel who had made one correct guess, was 
completely befuddled, and decided that in all probability the Japa- 
nese had attacked from the south and were retiring to Jaluit in the 
Marshalls. More intense searching was carried out in areas to the west 
and south of Oahu. Torpedo and dive bombers off Enterprise were 
said to have started an attack on Admiral Draemel's light force, but 
the mistake was recognized in time. Another air-striking force from 
Lexington searched the southern area hoping to intercept the enemy 
who was presumed to be heading for Jaluit. 

There were no "successful intercept" reports for the Commander- 
in-Chief, only the word of the first air attacks on Wake and Guam, 
and the shelling of Midway by a flotilla of Japanese destroyers. Thus 
ended that dreadful December 7. 

Again, I am indebted to Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison for perti- 
nent incidents that so clearly illustrate the story of a service scram- 
bling from its hands and knees to fight back. On December 8, Rear 
Admiral Wilson Brown aboard Indianapolis joined the Lexington task 
force, TF 12, and took over from Rear Admiral John H. Newton. He 
was advised that direction-finder bearings had indicated unidentified 
vessels in the vicinity of Johnston Island, almost due west of Hawaii. 
Float planes catapulted off cruisers could find nothing. The pilot of a 
patrol plane flown off Johnston Island, reported an "encounter* with 
an enemy carrier whose flight deck was "camouflaged to look like a 
heavy cruiser," and a destroyer "with the rising sun painted on her 
bows." Before too much damage was done, the camouflaged carrier 
was found to be U.S.S. Portland, and the destroyer was U.S.S. Porter 
whose bows had been chipped down in spots to the red lead base. 

The unhappy Admiral Kimmel recalled the Lexington task force to 
Pearl Harbor about noon of this day, and en route Rear Admiral Brown 
was advised that Johnston Island was under attack, so he ordered his 
cruisers to move in at twenty-five knots, and was preparing to launch 
aircraft off Lexington when this report was corrected, and the course 
for Oahu was resumed that night 


Not until kte that day, December 8, were the authorities at Pearl 
Harbor convinced that the Japanese attack had come from the north. 
True, Minneapolis had searched for twenty-four hours in northern wa- 
ters, but she had been nowhere near the actual course of the enemy. 

Dozens of depth charges were dropped on sportive porpoises, and 
anxious lookouts spotted periscopes in every lace-fringed wave, but 
just before dawn on December 10, Lieutenant Edward L. Anderson, 
flying a Douglas Dauntless SBD, spotted the 2Ooo-ton, I-yo, enemy 
submarine. He made an accurate dive-bombing attack that caused con- 
siderable damage the boat was not able to submerge. Later that day 
Lieutenant Clarence E. Dickinson, in another Dauntless off Enter- 
prise, found the submarine surfaced with many of the crew and much 
debris in the water nearby. He attacked with vigor and I-yo went to the 

Later that day Enterprise had a narrow escape when a lookout 
spotted a torpedo track and the helmsman put the wheel over in time 
to avoid being hit. At that instant another lookout sighted a submarine 
just ahead as planes were being recovered. The destroyer screen roared 
in and attacked with depth charges, but whether the target suffered 
damage and had eventually to surface was not clear. However, a short 
time later Sdt Lake City engaged a submarine with gunfire. The next 
day, December 11, this submarine-torpedo routine was repeated, but 
so far as was known no scores were recorded. On December 15 this 
task force entered Pearl Harbor to refuel. 

Neither U. S. carrier could engage Admiral Nagumo's, Hawaiian 
Operation force on its way back to Kure on the Inland Sea of Japan, 
and hard-headed realists agree that it was just as well; for Halse/s 
and Brown's combined force would have had small chance against the 
six carriers and the battleships of the enemy. Nagumo could have put 
at least 350 planes off his decks, against a total of 130 carried by Lex- 
ington and Enterprise. Both were saved to fight another day under 
more equal conditions. 

Such a day was not long in coming. 



AMERICA'S course of action, following the Day of Infamy, had to be 
planned with consideration for many possibilities. Little was known 
of the enemy force that had delivered this staggering blow, but within 
hours Guam had fallen, Wake Island was under heavy attack, some 
of the Gilbert Islands had been occupied, and the possibility of an 
enemy landing on Oahu could not be discounted. There was little air 
power left, but it was hoped that by December 15 the Aimy would 
have 114 bombers and fighters available. Some forty to fifty Navy 
planes had been made operational, and the eighteen Marine scout 
bombers, originally intended for Midway, had been flown back to Ha- 
waii; but it was realized that, to maintain any defense^ replenishment 
and buildup of supplies of all kinds would demand much fleet con- 
voy-escort work. 

The U. S. Navy decided to. employ three search-strike carrier groups, 
of which two would be always at sea, while the third refueled at PearL 
Battleships and destroyers were to be organized into escort groups for 
trans-Pacific convoys the former were to be based in San Francisco 
for wharf convenience and would be relieved at a specified mid-ocean 
rendezvous by destroyer-escort forces working out of Pearl Harbor. 
U. S. submarines sailed for offensive patrols in Japanese waters and 
were ordered to keep a close watch around Wake and Midway. At the 
same time, it was also needful to continue an intense patrol-search 
with Army bombers and Navy patrol aircraft. 

A Marine force that was hurried to Pago Pago, Samoa, an impor- 
tant but lightly garrisoned U. S. Naval station, was loaded aboard four 
transports and one fleet cargo vessel, accompanied by an ammunition 
ship and a fleet oiler. This reinforcement sailed from San Diego, Janu- 


ary 6, 1942, and was convoyed from the U. S. coast by a new fast carrier 
force formed around Yorfetowz, and commanded by Rear Admiral 
Frank J. Fletcher. When they were a short distance off Samoa, the 
transports were taken over by Admiral Halsey's Enterprise force, and 
they steamed safely into Pago Pago by January 23. On that same day a 
Japanese amphibious thrust, covered by Admiral Nagumo's carrier- 
striking fleet, was made against Rabaul, New Britain, and was so 
successful that the meager Australian garrison there was quickly over- 
whelmed. From Rabaul, the Japanese extended their power along the 
coasts of New Britain and New Ireland and gained complete air and 
naval control of the Bismarck Archipelago. Rabaul effectively checked 
any Allied advance in that quarter for more than two years. 

Once Samoa was properly garrisoned, however, it was hoped that 
carrier raids on Wake and the Marshalls would be next on the Ameri- 
can agenda, but misfortune dogged these efforts at first, for Japanese 
submarines that had performed miserably at Pearl Harbor, were revi- 
talized by that victory and gave considerable trouble for a time. 

Vice-Admiral Wilson Brown's Lexington group was given the task 
of attacking Wake, but when it was 135 miles west of Pearl Harbor 
his fleet oiler Neches was torpedoed and sunk. Since this force could 
not proceed without refueling and no other tanker was available, Ad- 
miral Brown's Wake strike had to be cancelled. 

When Rear Admiral Fletcher was given the Yorfetown group, Task 
Force 14, of which Saratoga was the carrier, was commanded by Vice- 
Admiral Herbert F. Leary. On January 11, a torpedo fired by a Japa- 
nese submarine struck Saratoga when she was about five hundred 
miles southwest of Oahu. In all probability the torpedo was a deep- 
running weapon for it was not sighted by any lookout. Six crewmen 
were killed and three of the firerooms were flooded, but the carrier 
reached her wharf at Oahu under her own power, and after temporary 
patching went on to Bremerton, Washington, for permanent repairs 
and some modification. Her air group was distributed among the 
other carriers, or sent to training centers. Task Force 14 was then dis- 
banded and Admiral Leary was given command of an Australian-New 
Zealand force under organization in Wellington, New Zealand. 

This particular Saratoga was the fifth U. S. Navy ship of that name; 
the first was a post-Revolutionary War sloop of eighteen guns, the 
second a corvette built in 1814, another sloop, Saratoga, was built in 
1842, and in 1891 a standard cruiser named Saratoga came down the 
ways but had many name changes until she passed out of service in 


1938 as the U.S.S. Rochester. The carrier Saratoga was originally laid 
down as a battle cruiser, as was her sister ship Lexington, but appeared 
as a 4o,oooton carrier in 1925. After a long and honorable service in 
the Pacific war she was disposed of in the atomic bomb test at Bikini 
Atoll on July 14, 1946. She is not to be confused with today's U.S.S. 
Saratoga CVA-6o, a heavy attack carrier. 

A new assault was planned against the enemy-held Marshalls, and 
by January 25 Admiral Halsey's Enterprise group was ordered to de- 
liver a carrier-plane strike against Wotje and Maloelap, two enemy 
seaplane bases. At the same time Admiral Fletcher was ordered to 
take his Yorktown group to harry Makin, Mille, and Jaluit. 

A reconnaissance of the archipelago was made by the crew of the 
submarine Dolphin. On January 27 they reported that the entire 
group of islands was only lightly defended and that the greatest con- 
centration of shipping and aircraft was to be found at Kwajalein Atoll. 
This news encouraged Admiral Halsey to take in Kwajalein also. The 
new plans broke Task Force 8 into three groups with varied assign- 
ments. Enterprise, screened by three destroyers, was to launch plane 
strikes against Maloelap, Wotje, and Kwajalein, the heavy cruisers 
Northampton and Sdt Lake City were to bombard Wotje, while 
Chester, accompanied by two destroyers, was assigned to Maloelap. 
Task Force 17, still under Admiral Fletcher aboard Yorfefoivn, es- 
corted by the cruisers LoufcviZ/e and St. Louis and screened by four 
destroyers, was to take care of the southern islands of the archipelago. 

The U. S. Navy was in a position to strike back at last. 

The full force sailed out of Samoa together and moved en masse 
until 6:30 P.M. on the evening of January 31 when it broke up for 
individual attacks. Enterprise put on thirty knots during the night and 
Admiral Halsey planned to launch his aircraft about 4:45 A - M - on 
February i. Wotje was 36 miles away, Maloelap about 106, and 
Kwajalein, the most important objective, was some 155 miles over the 
horizon. Everything worked well, except at the last minute, the navi- 
gators discovered that they had no recent maps of the attack area; 
what were available were leftovers from the Wilkes Exploring Expedi- 
tion of 1840, and were useless in air searches for enemy bases. 

The first group of nine torpedo bombers and thirty-seven dive bomb- 
ers took off at 6:58, and the latter headed for the Roi air base at the 
northern end of the atoll the torpedo bombers were slated for the 
shipping believed to be off Kwajalein Island, about forty-four miles 
across the main lagoon. Because of the primitive charts, the attack 


against the air base was not a great success, for it was not found until 
7:05 A.M., and while the bombers were cruising about in search of 
the target, the enemy had time to fuel up, arm the guns, and get 
into the air to intercept The antiaircraft batteries below almost had a 
turkey shoot. 

Lieutenant Commander Hallsted L. Hopping, the squadron com- 
mander, had released one bomb when he was shot down by ground 
fire. Three more of his planes fluttered down under the guns of Zero 
fighters. At Kwajalein Island, ten SBDs, backing up the torpedo bomb- 
ers, had better luck; the transport Bordeaux Mam, and a Japanese sub- 
chaser were sunk, another subchaser, a river gunboat, and the net 
tender Kashimar Maru were badly damaged, a minelayer, Nagata 
Mdru, the 9240-ton transport Tokiwa, the light cruiser Katori, the 
Kanto Maru an ammunition ship of 8600 tons, and a submarine tender 
were damaged, eighteen Japanese planes were shot down or badly 
damaged, and some ninety men, including the area commander, Rear 
Admiral Yashiro, were killed. 

Five Grumman Wildcats found the Taroa airfield at Maloelap, and 
after raking over the hangars, hung around long enough to entice a 
few Jap fighters into the air, and two Zeros were shot down in flames. 
The Grummans then returned to their deck safely. Other fighters con- 
centrated on Wotje while cruisers and destroyers bombarded the 
shore. One report had it that Northampton and Salt Lake City had 
put full salvos into some enemy warships that were making a retreat 
from the lagoon, but nothing of importance was sunk, and only light 
damage was inflicted on shore installations. In the meantime the SBDs 
had returned from Roi, and at 9:35 were sent back. This time their 
luck was better as they found and wiped off some new hangars and 
other ground installations. 

The U.S.S. Chester, flagship of a bombardment group assigned to 
Taroa Island, was not so fortunate. On their arrival, eight twin- 
engined Jap bombers ignored the bombardment, took off, and gave 
Chester a warm reception. The cruiser dodged and turned, but one 
light bomb penetrated her main deck, killed eight men and wounded 
eleven others. 

Admiral Halsey gave the operation all he had. He maneuvered about 
in a very limited area for more than nine hours, and why Enterprise 
was not attacked by submarines or high-level bombers is a mystery. 
About 1:00 P.M. he decided to move out. It was none too soon, for 
at 1:40 a Japanese twin-engined bomber tried a kamikaze and almost 


crashed on the flight deck of the Enterprise, but fortunately a young 
aviation mechanic, Bruno P. Gaida, sensed what was happening, 
jumped into the rear cockpit of a parked plane and opened fire with 
a flexible machine gun. At the same time an alert helmsman put on 
a "hard right" and the would-be suicide pilot was foiled; the aircraft 
touched only the port edge of the flight deck and rolled harmlessly 
overboard. At the height of this excitement two more Jap bombers 
tried to get at Enterprise, but they were shot down with a withering 
antiaircraft fire. 

But what was going on at the southern Marshalls? Down there the 
Yorktown, with St. Louis and Louisville, was concentrating on Jaluit. 
Eleven torpedo bombers and seventeen dive bombers, under Com- 
mander Curtis S. Smiley, were launched, but the flying men got only 
good combat practice for the weather turned vile, thunderstorms 
shielded the target and only two unimportant vessels off Jabor Town 
were hit but not sunk. Very little shore damage was inflicted, but six 
of Yorfef owi's planes failed to return. Nine SBDs attacked Makin Is- 
land in the Gilberts shortly before sunrise, but the only target they 
found there was a minelayer that may have been hit, but refused to 
go to the bottom. A strike against Mflle was no more fruitful. While 
these air strikes were being made, a f our-engined bomber attacked the 
destroyer screen with no results, so it turned toward the Yorfefown, 
not realizing perhaps, that Admiral Fletcher had a combat air patrol 
aloft the f our-engined job was shot down. 

With the report of the weather at Jaluit, and considering the cost of 
the mission, Admiral Fletcher realized that a second strike against that 
portion of the atoll, would mean a night recovery. Since his airmen 
were not proficient in night flying, he decided to withdraw that after- 
noon. It wasn't a particularly successful operation but it at least 
showed that America was fighting back, and Admiral Halsey's courage 
in striking into the core of the Japanese Mandates was a great boost 
to the low morale at home. 

Lexington, which was to be honored as "Queen of the Flat-Tops," 
experienced her first real wartime action in a strike against Rabaul 
late in February. Vice-Admiral Wilson Brown, in command of a splin- 
ter task force of which the Lex was the carrier, was given this assign- 
ment as soon as it was realized that the Japanese intended to make 
Rabaul a major base of operations. Australian reconnaissance patrols 
showed daily arrivals of new transports and supply ships, indicating 


the enemy was planning a new move to the south. To make this at- 
tack, Admiral Brown would have to steam round the southern end 
of the Solomon Islands, sail straight up the passageway between the 
enemy stronghold at Truk in the Carolines and this new Japanese 
base at Rabaul. The idea was to reach a position along the northern 
coast of New Ireland, a slender necklace of land swung across the 
northern approaches to Rabaul. Success in this would mean that he 
might be able to launch his air-striking force against Jap shipping in 
the roadstead, with some chance of using the cover of his natural 

Early in the morning of February 20 Lexington had reached a 
point 400 miles off her goal. Her long-range scouts were combing all 
around the area for enemy patrols, for it was necessary to sail another 
200 miles in order to assure a safe launching distance for the dive 
bombers and torpedo carriers. If they had luck, eight more hours of 
twenty-five-knot steaming should bring them to a jump-off area by 
early afternoon. 

Trouble was promised when a scouting plane reported that a Japa- 
nese spotter had been shadowing this fleet. Captain Frederick C. Sher- 
man sent up two pairs of fighter aircraft to eliminate the snooper. 
To do this effectively, he had selected Lieutenant Commander John 
S. Thach to lead this flight. Thach took Ensign Edward R. Sellstrom 
as his wing man. The second pair of fighter pilots were Lieutenant 
Onia B. Stanley and Ensign Leon W. Haynes. 

But the prospects for interception were not too good. The area was 
clotted with cumulus clouds, heavy tropical rain squalls, and some 
nimbus cloud pattern was developing. Thach's duo had to climb 
through this murk but once they all broke through, the pairs split up 
and both began a systematic combing of the area. Thach was the for- 
tunate one for he was the first to spot a big four-engined Kawanishi 
flying boat as it passed through a slit in the clouds. It might have 
been hard to miss since she was a copy of a French transport originally 
designed for passenger and mail service between Dakar and Brazil. She 
was even bigger than any of the Pan American Airways trans-Pacific 
Clippers of those days. 

Thach tipped off his wing man and together they both went down 
and trapped the big flying boat well in the clear at the 5ooo-foot level. 
The Japanese pilot apparently saw them too, for he soon darted into 
a nearby cloud bank. Thach had a good idea where the enemy was 
and he set up a systematic survey of the cloud edges. It was good 


planning for they were also using the thin fringe vapor as a screen for 

In a few minutes the big Kawanishi appeared in the rain directly 
below at about 1 500 feet 

This time Thach gave the Jap pilot plenty of time to get well clear 
of any other possible cover and when he had moved beyond his point 
of no return, Jimmy began his pass. He was still at long range but 
the Kawanishi gunners began firing and their tracer was zipping and 
sparkling all around Thach. At the distance it was obvious the enemy 
was firing a 20 mm. cannon which could cause plenty of damage. 
However, the two Americans continued to bore in and then Thach 
made his firing run and almost immediately he realized he had hit a 
fuel tank, for gasoline was spuming astern. Both fighter pilots turned, 
came back and started a second run from the opposite side, but by 
then the big plane seemed to be firing guns of many calibers from 
five or six ports. 

On the second pass Thach's slugs started a real fire and the 
Kawanishi was in dire trouble. Great white sheets of flame spread out 
behind and as if to wriggle clear the flying boat began to spin down 
for the sea. One dedicated gunner in a rear turret continued to fire 
at his tormentors, for he was game to the last. His bullets came whip- 
ping across the smoke-stained sky and he only surrendered when the 
big flying boat finally piled up in the sea. 

Thach figured he'd had a day and was ready to return when another 
scout reported there was a second enemy plane higher up. Thach and 
Sdlstrom went back hoping for another kill when a message from 
fighter control aboard Lexington told them the second had been dealt 
with. One of Lexington's scouts had taken care of him and there was 
a rather funny story connected with the fight. 

The scout plane which may have been a mile or so an hour faster 
than the Kawanishi flying boat, put on a memorable show. At level 
flight the carrier pilot could gain slightly, but when he tried to climb 
up to the enemy's level he would lose distance. There was nothing 
to do but to creep up and try to get well under him and still maintain 
comparative speed. Once this position was gained the Jap crew 
opened a bomb door and began firing down with light machine guns. 
The scout's rear gunner, taking up this challenge, opened fire with 
twin guns, aiming straight up and in a second or two, evidently scored 
on a fuel tank. The Jap flying boat began to bum beautifully, 
On returning to their carrier, the fighters refreshed themselves, and 


their planes were serviced for the afternoon's operations. Knowing 
that, although two shadowers had been shot down, one of them must 
have advised its base of the approach of the American task force, Ad- 
miral Brown persisted with his plan and kept steaming toward his 
objective. Captain Sherman aboard Lexington was not too happy with 
his situation, but he planned for any eventuality; his fighter and scout 
squadrons were disposed where they could offer the most help to give 
maximum strength if any formations appeared. The fighters orbited 
within twenty miles of the carrier, but the scouts went out much 

It was on this day that Lieutenant Edward H. O'Hare, who became 
known nationally as "Butch" O'Hare, shot down five Japanese air- 
craft and damaged another. When the first enemy planes were 
sighted, all the fighters were either in the air or spotted on the deck 
for launching. Commander Thach had six of his pilots at the ten- 
thousand-foot level, and another flight of six was about to go in to 
refuel. They were recalled quickly, and all re-f ornied to meet nine twin- 
engined bombers that were approaching in three V formations. 
They were land-based planes, Mitsubishi OB-gys, capable of better 
than three hundred miles per hour. Commander Thach declared that 
they were almost identical with the U. S. Army's Martin B-26s. They 
had guns in the upper turrets, as well as fixed nose guns, and ao-mm. 
air cannon. 

In a running fight from a position about twelve miles away from 
Lexington, Thach's force shot down six of them, and the enemy 
eventually moved into range of the carrier's antiaircraft guns, but the 
Navy fighters stayed with the remaining three OB-gys. Two that were 
damaged by Thach's men were finished off by the ship's gunners, and 
the remaining one, also crippled, turned away and started to return to 
its base. 

Then a second enemy formation came into sight and six Grummans 
on the deck were launched to take care of them. This flight, led by 
Lieutenant O'Hare, was to replace the one that had been going to 
land when the first enemy formation appeared. O'Hare and Thach 
had to collect their forces that were scattered all over the sky, to put 
on a defense against this second nine-plane attack. The instant the 
enemy was spotted O'Hare and his wing man went into action, but 
on testing his weapons, O'Hare's companion discovered they would 
not fire, and realizing that he might be more of a liability than an 


asset, he turned away and flew back to have his guns, or interrupter 
gear, adjusted. 

Thus O'Hare went into this action minus his wing man but there 
was no time to call in another. The Japs were moving up fast and 
someone had to stop them. In his first pass he took on the two trailers 
in the last V. He was really "on" for he had to pull up sharply to 
avoid a cloud of debris. He had aimed at the starboard engine in each 
plane and had kept his guns going until the Jap engines leaped right 
off their bearers. 

With that Butch crossed over to the other side of the formation, 
and this time he aimed at the port engine of the nearest plane and 
was gratified to see that power plant jump out. The enemy skidded 
violently, rolled over and began to fall away, so O'Hare left him to his 
fate and went back and started firing at the trailer of the middle V. 
But he continued to aim at engines. 

To his amazement, the same thing happened again. He can be ex- 
cused if he decided that all one had to do to score was to put a fistful 
of .jo-caliber slugs into an engine, and something magic took place. 
The engine of this fourth plane fell straight through the wing and 
then she began to burn. 

By this time, the Japs, still maintaining some formation, were right 
on top of their release point. In spite of O'Hare's success the fun was 
over and the chips were down. These bombers had to be stopped some- 
how. Butch counted five of them maneuvering for position so he fired 
at the nearest until he fell away, completely out of the play. He had 
little ammunition left, so he snap-shot at the remainder until his guns 
stopped firing. When, by instinct, he checked his clock he was amazed 
to find that all this had happened in actually four minutes. Four min- 
utes, five Japs a reasonably fair deal! 

TTiach and his team had not been as close as O'Hare, but now they 
were in a position to take over. They could see Butch making his per- 
fect attack runs, and realized that his shooting must be deadly, for at 
one time there were three blazing 06-978 tumbling down the sky, 
dragging plumes of saffron flame. Thach knew O'Hare was a compe- 
tent workman but how he had lived through the curtain of fire the Jap 
gunners had put up was a miracle. Every time he moved in, the 
top turret guns would open up from every plane. They could see the 
enemy tracer sparkling all around him. He was flying like a moth dar- 
ing a hundred candle flames. 

Just as O'Hare knocked off his fifth victim, Thach's brood moved 


within range and took over. They shot two more to wreckage, and the 
last two staggered away, losing height fast. These were all O'Hara had 
left for them. 

Back aboard Lexington another drama was being enacted. While 
O'Hare, Thach & Company were beating up the opposition, a lone 
Japanese flier was attempting a Die-for-the-Emperor act. The pilot of 
the leading plane of the first formation had been hit early and had lost 
an engine; and he decided to go out in a blaze of glory. Instead of 
limping back to his base, he turned around and tried to attack Lexing- 
ton. It took considerable courage and some skill to maintain control 
of his damaged aircraft. 

He was first noticed coming in with his starboard engine wide open 
and screaming, aimed like a javelin for the carrier's stern. He had to 
pass over the destroyer screen guns and then risk the cruiser line. He 
was losing altitude fast and was a give-away target for the gunners; 
everything from five-inch rifles to mere .3<>caliber machine-gun fire was 
poured at him, but to everyone's amazement he continued to come 
on, staggering, stumbling, apparently held up by his own boot straps. 
When he was down to the three-hundred-foot level he was actually 
bulling his way through a curtain of i.i-inch and 2O-mm. fire from 
Lexington, doggedly boring on until at last the hail of steel was too 
much. The pilot was evidently hit severely; his reflexes snapped him 
back hard, the nose of the suicide plane jerked up, and the craft began 
to lose flying speed. By the time it was within two hundred yards of 
Lexington's deck lip, it stalled out completely, the nose dropped, and 
it fell off into a steep dive straight into the sea. There was a column 
of green-white water, a greasy pillar of smoke, and a little debris to 
mark where it went in. 

This general encounter with Japanese Army pilots taught U. S. Navy 
men much about their adversaries. The Japs had worked with skill and 
determination, and although both formations had been worked over 
before they could get into position to do their bombing, they had 
courageously continued their run-in, and did not release their bombs 
until they were falling in flames. Not one attempted to leave his burn- 
ing plane by parachute. Whether they had these safety silks, is not 
known, but there is no question as to their bravery or loyalty. 

It had been a good day for the airmen of Lexington. In addition to 
the two snooper flying boats destroyed that morning, sixteen of eight- 
een bombers had been shot down in the afternoon two of these 
were credited to the antiaircraft gunners on the carrier. It might be 


added that at the height of the "fun/' Commander Arthur J. White, 
senior surgeon, and his assistants performed an appendectomy in the 
operating room. It was a success, but it did prevent the operating 
staff from viewing the more exciting activities aloft. 

It was still an uphill battle. With the few wisps of success came 
continued reverses, minor and serious. When Java fell before the power 
of the Japanese Fleet in the Netherlands East Indies waters, Marshal 
Archibald Wavell, in charge of the British land forces, still believed 
that if sufficient Allied aircraft could be brought in, we might be able 
to hold the line, but after the enemy captured the island of Timor, 
fighter aircraft could be brought into the Java area only by sea. 

Valuable carriers could not be risked, but it was agreed generally 
that the United States aircraft tender Langfey, a thirty-three-year-old 
ex-collier, might conceivably do the job. Although she had been con- 
verted to a carrier back in 1922, Langley had for years been relegated 
to the many and colorless tasks of an auxiliary. This hazardous un- 
dertaking was a brave chance to get into the war^s spotlight. 

On February 22, loaded with thirty-two P-4O fighters and thirty-three 
Army Air Force pilots, Langley, along with Sea Witch, a freighter car- 
rying twenty-seven more P-4os in her hold, sailed out of Fremantie, 
Australia, and joined a convoy headed for Bombay. They were escorted 
by the light cruiser U.S.S. Phoenix that had been detached from Ad- 
miral Lear/s Anzac Force. It had been arranged that the three Ameri- 
can ships would leave the Bombay convoy at a point near the Cocos 
Island, several hundred miles southwest of Sunda Strait, from where 
they were to make their way toward Tjilatjap on the southern coast of 

However, Admiral C. E. L. Helfrich, Chief of the Netherlands 
Naval Forces, who was burdened with a semimilitary, semipolitical po- 
sition, ordered Langley and Sea Witch to be detached en route in an 
area much closer to Tjilatjap, and to proceed on alone that is, with- 
out Phoenix. Vice-Admiral William A. Glassford, Jr., in command of 
Task Force 5 of the U. S. Asiatic Fleet was not consulted until very 
late in the operation, and the confusion and tragedy that resulted 
added little to inter-Allied amity or co-operation. 

Tjilatjap was the only remaining port in the Javanese area where 
either ship could off-load their planes without possible enemy inter- 
ference. There were no actual airstrips, and what spaces there were 


had to be cleared and leveled to furnish areas from which the planes 
could be staged to move northward across Java. 

The planes aboard Sea Witch were still in their crates and not im- 
mediately available, but those aboard Langley if they could be gotten 
away might make a great difference in the Java situation. As origi- 
nally planned, both vessels were to be routed so as to make port early 
in the morning after a night run, the only safe way possible at the time. 
Time was of the essence, however, and Admiral Helfrich, assuming 
all responsibility, ordered Langley to make for Tjilatjap at top speed. 
Since up to then no Japanese had been sighted south of Java, Admiral 
Glassford added his approval, believing there was a chance that the 
airplane tender's movement by daylight might not be detected. 

Commander Robert P. McConnell of Langley was advised that 
two U. S. destroyers, Edsatt and Whipple would come out from Tjila- 
tjap and escort him over the last anxious stretch of his run. He started 
his trip on February 23, hoping to arrive by the afternoon of February 
27. His log reported nothing eventful until the afternoon of February 
26 when two Dutch PBY Catalinas flew out to explain that a i3oo-ton 
Netherlands minesweeper, Wttlem van der Zaan, was about an hour's 
sailing to the west, and heading to escort LangLey into port. 

Still believing two U. S. destroyers would pick him up, Commander 
McConnell ignored the Netherlander and steamed on, leaving the 
minesweeper in his fading wake; the U. S. commander was having 
trouble enough with the thin Borneo oil, for which his burners had 
not been adapted, and the best he could do was about ten knots. He 
continued on until after dark when a radio message from Admiral 
Glassford explained that the Willem van der Zaan was indeed his es- 
cort, along with the Dutch Catalinas, and to behave accordingly. With 
that, Commander McConnell reversed his course and sought the 
minesweeper. Instead, he found Edsatt and Whipple, the two destroy- 
ers, being escorted by the flying boats. It was now 7:20 A.M., February 
27, and more time was sacrificed while the destroyers worked over an 
enemy submarine contact, but this action brought no reward, so all 
three vessels headed for Tjilatjap. 

The day was clear, fair and breezy, although there were some scat- 
tered high clouds that might furnish cover for snooping aircraft. At 
9 A.M. a lookout spotted an unidentified plane and Commander Mc- 
Connell sent a message to Admiral Glassford asking for some air cover. 

"Where would I get it?" the admiral replied. 

By 11:40 more unidentified aircraft were spotted and Commander 


McConnell felt uneasy. The fact of the matter was that Admiral N. 
Kondo's battleship and carrier fleet from the Japanese Southern Strik- 
ing Force was already operating south of the Malay Barrier to hinder 
Allied reinforcements* When Ixmgfey left the convoy, Japanese flat- 
tops were obviously close behind, but it was not carrier-based aircraft 
that attacked Lmgley; instead, it was shore-based aircraft from the 
Eleventh Air Fleet that had been carrying out patrols from Kendari, 
Celebes, and Bandjermasin, Borneo, probing out into the Java Sea and 
Indian Ocean to keep tab on Allied movements. It was one of these 
snoopers that first sighted the aircraft tender and radioed for reinforce- 

Lookouts aboard Langtey next spotted nine twin-engined bombers 
approaching at about fifteen thousand feet. Her guns opened fire im- 
mediately and Commander McConnell swung his ship in frantic twists 
and turns. The first salvo of Japanese bombs chugged into the water 
about one hundred feet to port. Langtey swung hard again and a sec- 
ond salvo missed, but a third put five large bombs dead into her, and 
two near misses buckled hull plates. 

The damage was severe and a number of planes on the stubby flight 
deck were set on fire in a short time every plane topside was a total 
loss. The bridge steering gear, and all navigation instruments were 
destroyed, and as she began to list to port six Jap fighter planes came 
down to pepper the decks, but were driven off immediately by Lang- 
fe/s antiaircraft gunners. 

Commander McConnell did his best to control the fire by reducing 
the windage, but there was a twenty-five-knot breeze. He jettisoned 
every burning plane and had his engineers cany out counterflooding 
measures with the hope of beaching his ship on the Java coast; it was 
not possible to negotiate tie narrow mouth of Tjilatjap harbor. Every 
effort was made to save the tender, but the inrashing water flooded 
both main engines and she wallowed to a halt. Her pumps could not 
cope with the flooding, and her damage control equipment was quite 
primitive. At 1:32 that afternoon, Commander McConnell decided 
to abandon ship while there was still an escort to pick up the sur- 
vivors. Army aviation personnel and all but sixteen of the crew were 
rescued by Wkipple and Edsdl. The destroyers then scuttled the an- 
cient tender with torpedoes and gunfire. 

In contrast, the luckier Sea Witch made Tjilatjap, delivered her 
crated aircraft, picked up forty refugee soldiers and sneaked back to 
Australia unharmed. 


As soon as Admiral Brown realized that his little fleet had lost all 
possibility of surprise in the proposed raid against Rabaul, he ordered 
a change of course and took his command in a southeasterly direction. 
Just north of New Caledonia a rendezvous was made with tankers, 
some mail was picked up, and by the end of February the Lexington 
force teamed up with Admiral Fletcher's Yorfetown. By early March 
the enemy had pushed on from Rabaul to build a sizable airfield at 
Gasmata on the south coast of New Britain Island. They also estab- 
lished themselves on the mainland of New Guinea at Lae and Sala- 
maua. These two roadsteads were the most important entry points to 
the area of New Guinea. Here, as in Malaya, Java, Sumatra, and Bor- 
neo, control of the coasts and ports meant control of the country since 
there was no internal communication system. 

At Lae and Salamaua the Japs came in possession of two good air- 
fields that had been used by the New Guinea Airways. They based 
a number of their bombers and fighters on these strips, and with these 
flew out to sea; their early patrols linked up with overseas flights back 
to Rabaul and then on to Truk. It was only a matter of time when this 
air linkage would allow the safe occupation by Japanese troops, and 
harbors for a strong naval fleet, that could result in another serious 
push south. The people of Australia were particularly concerned about 
this situation, and requested that something be done about it. 

Supreme in their belief that nothing could stop them, the Japanese 
filled the harbors of Lae and Salamaua with warships, tankers, supply 
ships, and troop transports taking Australia was just a matter of time. 

But by March 10, U. S. Navy airmen from Lexington and Yorfetown, 
in their first carrier raid, suddenly appeared out of the jungle skies of 
central New Guinea, flying dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and fight- 
ers, and smashed this enemy force in less than twenty minutes. 

If they had lost the element of surprise at Rabaul, Admiral Brown's 
aviators made up for it over New Guinea. In planning the raid, they 
discovered that if they followed the coast from Port Moresby to Lae 
and Salamaua they would have to fly about 1500 miles, but if they set 
a course due north from Port Moresby over the mountains they could 
reach their targets in one hundred miles of flying. The gimmick was 
that the mountains were about 14,000 feet and although there might 
be some lower passes, they had no reliable charts to figure out a pos- 
sible route; any forced landing in that jungle area meant dealing with 
tribes who ate one another on ceremonial occasions. 

After winnowing through all available information on New Guinea, 


Lieutenant Commander Weldon L. Hamilton, commander of the dive 
bombers off Lexington, and Commander William B. Ault learned that 
there was one pass through these high mountains where they might 
sneak through at 7500 feet. The gap was on a direct line between 
Salamaua and a deep-water stretch of the Gulf of Papua, less than 
fifty miles from shore. There was said to be a footpath through the 
pass, and explorers who had used it explained that the valley was usu- 
ally cloud-free between 7:00 and 11:00 A.M. Admiral Brown set course 
and speed on the data from assorted sources, so as to launch his air- 
craft at 8:00 A.M. on March 10. Commander Ault went ahead of the 
bombers and torpedo pknes to find the pass and was ordered to fly 
figure eights above it and guide the other planes through. This pre- 
caution paid off and all went well until the main force was within 
twenty-five miles of Salamaua Harbor. 

The engine roar of such an aerial cavalcade soon aroused the Japs 
and by the time the fighters and torpedo planes were starting their 
dive attacks, several of the enemy warships had slipped their cables 
and were trying to make a run for it The torpedo planes attacked the 
largest transports or enemy cruisers, while the fighters circled the har- 
bor, daring the Zero fighters to come up and mix. 

It was here that Lieutenant Noel A. M. Gayler picked up a Gold 
Star to add to the Navy Cross he was awarded at Bougainville in the 
Solomons. He tells his story as follows: 

"We really surprised them, and there was only one Jappo airplane in 
the air when we arrived. This was a seaplane fighter mounting a rear 
gun, and to be frank, he put up quite a fight while it lasted. 

"He went after our torpedo planes which were down low poking 
around for targets, and he knew what he was doing. He went in and 
out like a shuttle, his rear guns harassing everyone. He was really good, 
but he couldn't stand prosperity and eventually pulled his boner. It 
was just too bad, but he would leave the torpedo planes and come up 
to challenge four of us fighters. Too bad." 

Lieutenant Gayler simply depressed the nose of his plane and 
pressed the button. 

This was all the opposition the Japanese put into the air and the 
antiaircraft fire from a few ships and a shore battery of heavy guns 
was not serious. The dive bombers, under Commander Hamilton, 
more than paid their keep this day. "I selected a very fine cruiser," 
Commander Hamilton reported when he returned, "which from 


eight thousand feet looked like a sleek speed boat as it made for the 
open sea. A rather pretty sight, really. 

"But either I was too engrossed in the panorama or I was too en- 
thusiastic for I hadn't allowed for the wind at lower levels. I was drifted 
in my approach and my bomb missed a near miss alongside the 
cruiser. But a pilot in my wake spotted my mistake, corrected for it 
and his bomb smacked the after deck, plunged on through and ac- 
tually blew away the cruiser's stem. She sank within a few minutes. 

"But our fighter pilots were amazing. Funny thing; when they found 
there were no enemy planes in the air, they made dummy runs with 
the torpedo planes and dive bombers to spread the antiaircraft fire. 
When that game was over, they amused themselves trying to drop 
small fragmentation bombs among the crews of the antiaircraft bat- 
teries on board the ships or ashore," 

How the modern historian can be bewildered by reports and data 
wntten at the time, will be found in the various appraisals of the re- 
sults of this two-pronged raid. One estimate^ said to have been written 
aboard Lexington at the time, declares that only one U. S. airplane 
was lost. This one went down at Salamaua and "apparently made a 
safe landing on the water," indicating the pilot was taken prisoner. 
Another, written a short time later, explains that in the first burst of 
erratic antiaircraft fire, Ensign Joseph Phillip Johnson, pilot, and his 
gunner J. B. Jewell, RMs/c, were killed. Another report says that a 
plane of Scouting Two was shot down and the pilot lost. There is no 
mention of the seaman gunner. 

In compiling the score, the staff of this combined carrier operation 
stated that five large transports, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, 
and one destroyer were actually sunk, a minelayer, and two destroyers 
were left burning. A seaplane carrier and a gunboat were said to be 
seriously damaged by bombs, and the fighters that attacked Lae 
claimed a seaplane fighter; matching the one downed by Lieutenant 
Gayler at Salamaua. 

In contrast, Army Flying Fortresses that flew out of Townsville, 
Queensland, Australia, the next day to attack Lae and Salamaua, re- 
ported that everything was still afloat, but a check made after the war 
concluded that the carrier aircraft had actually sunk a large mine- 
sweeper, a foooton transport, and the 65oo-ton converted light cruiser, 
Kongo Mam, that was sent to the bottom by fliers off Yorktown. 
The task force returned to Pearl Harbor on March 26, after fifty- 
four days at sea, an unprecedented cruise for the U. S. Navy in 1942. 


Our fortunes in the Far East continued to be dim and dishearten- 
ing all through this disastrous spring, but the British Royal Navy 
was also taking its bumps. The vital naval bases at Colombo and Trin- 
comalee in Ceylon were an immediate threat to the progress the Jap- 
anese were making all through Burma, the Malay Peninsula, and Su- 
matra; forces for a counterattack on these newly won positions would 
probably be assembled at one or the other. Tokyo officials apparently 
decided that Ceylon should be given the Pearl Harbor treatment 

As a result, what Royal Navy vessels could be spared from the Eu- 
ropean campaign joined what was known as the British Eastern Fleet, 
then under command of Admiral Sir James Somerville. This force was 
quite powerful, since it included the battleships Resolution, RamQKes, 
Warspite, Revenge, and Royal Sovereign, and three aircraft carriers, 
Formidable, Hermes, and Indomitable. In addition Admiral Somer- 
ville had eight cruisers, fifteen destroyers, and five submarines, three of 
which were Dutch. 

British intelligence learned that the Japanese would make a carrier 
strike against Ceylon on or about April i. This enemy force, practically 
the same that had hit Pearl Harbor, was composed of the carriers 
Zuikaku, Shokdku, Akagi, Hiryu, and Soryu. These were supported by 
the battleships Hiei, Haruna, Kongo, and Kirishima. The heavy cruis- 
ers Tone and Chikama, the light cruiser Abukuma, and eight de- 
stroyers completed Vice-Admiral Nagumo's force that had been refuel- 
ing at Kendari in the Celebes. He moved out, heading for Ceylon on 
March 26. 

Admiral Somerville guessed correctly that Admiral Nagumo would 
make his approach from the southeast, and although Somerville sent 
out adequate search forces well in time, his surface vessels stayed out 
only two days and two nights and picked up nothing. On the evening 
of April 2 they turned back and headed for Addu Atoll in the Maldive 
Islands, southwest of Ceylon, mainly to replenish their fresh water; 
they had run low, as the condensers aboard British battleships of the 
day were not equal to extended periods of high-speed steaming. As a 
matter of fact, the whole Eastern Fleet was either fueling or watering 
at Addu on the afternoon of April 4 when a British Catalina search 
plane^ piloted by Squadron Leader Leonard J, Birchall of Number 
'413 Squadron, spotted a Japanese carrier force that was heading for 
Ceylon. Admiral Somerville dispersed what ships had been oiled, and 
left the rest to refuel as best they could from the few tankers available. 
Squadron Leader Birchall never returned from his patrol and was 


probably shot down by carrier-based fighters. Another Catalina made 
further night reports placing the enemy one hundred miles closer. 
Both these planes proved to be of utmost value to the British defense 
and possibly prevented serious damage to the shore installations. 

Once he knew the score, Admiral Somerville disposed his force ac- 
cordingly, and Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey Arbuthnot in command 
ashore at Colombo, ordered all shipping to be moved out of that city's 
harbor, but by the time the first wave of Japanese planes struck there 
were still about thirty vessels of various categories berthed there for 
as many reasons. This first wave consisted of at least seventy carrier- 
based fighters and bombers and, in contrast to Pearl Harbor, this time 
they concentrated on naval workshops and important harbor installa- 
tions. But thirty-six Hurricanes and six Navy Fulmars attacked and 
destroyed sixteen of the enemy. Fifteen Hurricanes and four Fulmars 
were lost. Antiaircraft guns at the base accounted for five Japanese 

Out at sea on this Easter Sunday, April 5, Japanese carrier bombers 
sank the cruisers Dorsetshire and Cornwall. Fifteen merchant ships 
were also sent to the bottom by torpedo or dive bombers from the 
Japanese carriers. There were 1100 survivors, but 425 officers and men 
were lost 

The next day a second attack staged against Ceylon was first spotted 
by RAF. Catalinas when sixty bombers went for the harbor at Trin- 
comalee and the nearby airfield at China Bay. Much damage was in- 
flicted but again seventeen Hurricanes and six Navy Fulmars that had 
more time to prepare for this attack, destroyed fifteen carrier planes 
and seriously damaged seventeen more; only eight Hurricanes and 
three Fulmars were lost. The base antiaircraft guns accounted for nine 
enemy aircraft. This valiant R.A.F. effort proved most costly to the 
Japanese, as will be seen. 

At the time this strike was being made, the Japanese carrier force 
made strong attacks against the British vessels at sea. Admiral Somer- 
ville had played as cagey a game as he could, moving out of range by 
day and moving in at night, hoping to beat down the enemy with his 
superior gunfire, but on April 8, after much maneuvering, his force 
had to return to Addu for fuel and water* In the meantime a second 
carrier force under Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa that consisted of 
Ryu/o and five heavy cruisers and a number of screening destroyers 
had been creating havoc in the Bay of Bengal. It was difficult to figure 
where the next strike would be made. 


Admiral Arbuthnot made certain that the harbor at Colombo would 
be cleared, and it was well it was, for, on April 8, Admiral Nagumo 
struck again with ninety-one bombers and thirty-eight fighters that con- 
centrated on harbor installations; only one merchantman was sunk. 
Nine British Blenheim bombers roared out hoping to nail a carrier, 
but arrived just too late; Aka& was recovering the last of her aircraft, 
and maneuvered to avoid the bombing. Antiaircraft fire downed five 
Blenheims and the other four were damaged and were lucky to get 
back. Four Zero fighters were shot down by Blenheim gunners. 

That afternoon, search planes from the Japanese Fleet picked up the 
British carrier Hermes and -her escort destroyer Vampire that had 
steamed out of Trincomalee earlier and was making the return run. 
When these two vessels were off Batticaloa on the east coast of Ceylon 
they were attacked by a carrier group. The old British carrier had no 
planes aboard, she was hit by at least forty bombs and went down in 
twenty minutes. Vampire was next and went to the bottom under a 
terrific storm of dive-bombing. A nearby hospital ship rescued many 
of both crews, but more than three hundred officers and men were lost 

Admiral Nagumo was at the peak of his career, for in four months 
he had operated in waters covering an arc one-third of the way around 
the world. He had put on successful strikes against Pearl Harbor, 
Rabaul, Amboina near the Moluccas, Darwin, Australia, and off Java, 
Colombo, and Trincomalee. His aviators had sunk five battleships, 
one aircraft carrier, two cruisers and seven destroyers. They had se- 
verely damaged several more capital ships and sent to the bottom 
thousands of tons of fleet auxiliaries and merchantmen. Hundreds of 
Allied aircraft and valuable shore establishments had been destroyed 
and not one ship of his striking force had been sunk or even dam- 

Yet, subsequent events were to prove that Admiral Nagumo would 
have been wiser to have stayed away from Ceylon, for the destruction 
of a good number of Japanese carrier planes by the R .A.F. and Royal 
Navy Fleet Air Arm paid unbelievable dividends to the Allies. Only 
two of Nagumo's carriers were able to participate in the Coral Sea 
battle fought one month later, the other three had to return to Japan 
and load new planes and train new pilots to replace the losses. 

Japanese testimony, given after the war, indicated that the caliber 
of these replacements was inferior to that of the prewar airmen. This 
was noted particularly in the Battle of Midway. Had Yamamoto re- 
considered the Indian Ocean raids, or had the British airmen bowed to 


the enemy's will, the Japanese Carrier Group might have had better 
luck in the Coral Sea and Midway engagements. 

Despite the success at Lae and Salamaua and other Japanese-held 
islands, the people of the United States were cast to the depths of 
despondency on receiving the news of the fall of Bataan. Nine days 
later, April 18, 1942, their spirits were greatly revived by the report 
that an American bomber formation, flying from some mysterious base 
known as Shangri-La, had laid a trail of fire and destruction across the 
main island of Honshu from Tokyo to Kobe. 

Sixteen North American B-25 medium bombers, led by Lieutenant 
Colonel, later General, James H. Doolittle, had dropped the first in- 
stallment of retaliation on the enemy mainland. No event in the war, 
prior to the Battle of Midway, gave America so much satisfaction as 
the news that the Japanese people had experienced the real impact of 
modern war. 

Judged by European bombing standards, the actual damage was not 
great, but the raid must have had a grim psychological effect on the 
Japanese public despite strict censorship imposed by the home govern- 
ment. At the same time, because of its dramatic impact, the story was 
considerably overwritten, and by the time an official War Department 
communiqu^ was made public more than a year later, Jimmy Doo- 
little's raid, as it was generally known, had become more legend than 

Again, the varying claims made concerning the origination of this 
raid on Japan are confusing. According to some sources it was Jimmy 
Doolittle who conceived the plan; others give credit to Admiral Ernest 
J, King. Captain Donald B. Duncan, Admiral King's air operations 
officer, is said to have been put on the problem and he in turn put it 
up to General of the Army Air Force Henry H. Arnold. Lieutenant 
Colonel Doolittle was selected to pick the aircraft and air crews, and 
Captain Duncan arranged details of ship movement and the organiza- 
tion of a task force as the Navy's contribution. 

The recently completed carrier U.S.S. Hornet, under command of 
Marc A, Mitscher, then a captain, was selected for the Shangri-La role. 
Early in February of 1942 Hornet had an abbreviated shakedown in 
the Caribbean, and instead of returning to base for a routine period 
of leave, she sailed to San Francisco Bay where a number of 8-25 
(Army) bombers from the Alameda Air Station were lashed down on 
her decks. 


This was the beginning of the retaliation for Pearl Harbor. Some- 
thing spectacular was needed to revive home spirits; also a name every- 
one could recognize. So far readers of newspapers and radio listeners 
had encountered places they had never heard of before Kwajalein, 
Bataan, Corregidor, and Salamaua. If we could actually bomb Tokyo 
. . . But how could the capital city of Japan be reached? To put our 
available carriers within carrier-bomber range meant taking an enor- 
mous risk from enemy land-based aircraft; there were dozens of picket 
boats patrolling some five hundred miles off Tokyo Bay . . . How 
could they be bypassed? The problem was the lack of range of Navy 
carrier bombers. 

But the Army's 6-255 had the range and could cany a respectable 
load. There was a possibility they could be launched from carriers 
but not recovered. They had to be flown off, sent to Tokyo, Kobe, 
Osaka, and Nagoya, and after drenching these cities with high explo- 
sive, or better yet, incendiaries, continue on and land on friendly fields 
in China. 

As is now known, the Army supplied the planes, bombs, and air 
crews; the Navy the required flying know-how, the carrier and its de- 
fensive screen, and the courage to take these ships into an area that 
might become their graveyard. 

The air crews were volunteers who had no idea what they had vol- 
unteered for until a few days before they flew off the deck of the 
Hornet. A few may have guessed, but if so, no one has ever claimed 
to have known. TTie training, carried out mainly at Eglin Field in 
Florida, consisted of taking off from a very limited area, a type of 
navigation few Air Force men had studied, and the use of a soralled 
twenty-cent bbmbsight to eliminate the risk of having iheir famous 
Norden bombsight captured by the enemy. They had also to know 
how to navigate over a wide ocean area. Later on they were shown 
maps and photographs of the terrain where they would eventually seek 
sanctuary. This training was considerably different from that designed 
for American bomber forces that were to work with the RAF. out of 

Hornet and her strange complement sailed from San Francisco on 
April 2, 1942, escorted by the cruisers Vincennes and Nashv31e t and 
four destroyers. The fleet oiler Cimarron accompanied them to do 
the necessary refueling. Navy men instructed the Army air crews in 
more than navigation and carrier-deck technique; there were routine 
Navy customs and shipboard behavior to be absorbed. Lieutenant 


Stephen Jurika, former Assistant Naval Attach^ at Tokyo, had dozens 
of photographs and maps of the target areas which he carefully inter- 
preted for the bombardiers. There were talks on naval equipment, 
and the identification of naval vessels, while Navy mechanics helped 
to prepare the B-2$s for their great adventure. The crewmen of the 
Hornet had dismantled many of their Wildcats and Devastators and 
packed them away in every available space to make room for the Army 
planes; some of the Navy aircraft were hung from overhead girders. 
Except for her own antiaircraft batteries, the brand new carrier was 
defenseless in this condition until she made her rendezvous with Task 
Force 16 on the morning of April 13. 

Vice-Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., aboard the carrier Enterprise, 
was in command of Task Force 16. Besides Hornet, he had the cruisers 
Northampton, Sdt Lake City, Vincennes, and Nashville, under the 
command of Rear Admiral Raymond A, Spruance. Two destroyer di- 
visions, under Captain Richard L. Connolly, provided the screen, and 
Sabine and Chnarron were the force's oilers. 

The planning for flights into and landing on Chinese airfields was 
rudimentary. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek had been advised that a 
number of U. S. Army bombers would fly over "to help China," and 
would require suitable fields on which to land, but the Generalissimo 
took his own time about designating any strips until April 14, and 
Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle had to assume that the airbase in 
Chuchow in Chekiang Province, about fifty miles inland from Wen- 
chow, was to be his final destination. What he did not know was 
that due to a period of very bad weather, the field could not be pre- 
pared in time for the Mitchell bombers. The Chuchow field was 1093 
nautical miles distant from Tokyo and to get there the 8-255, carrying 
four 5oo-pound bombs and a maximum load of 1141 gallons of gaso- 
line, would have to kunch about five hundred miles off the Japanese 

Plans for a launching from such a point on April 18 were made 
by Admiral Halsey this would provide time brackets for a night at- 
tack. Thirteen planes were to clobber the Tokyo area while three were 
to attack Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe. Doolittle was to precede the rest 
of his force by about three hours and drop a load of incendiaries on 
Tokyo to provide pathfinder fires for the rest to work on. Unfortu- 
nately, early in the morning of April 18 when Task Force 16 was still 
700 miles feom land, a radar screen warned that two vessels of some 
kind were ahead. Admiral Halsey altered course while Enterprise sent 


off two reconnaissance planes that at 5 A.M. reported still another ves- 
sel about forty miles ahead. There was some evidence that this picket 
boat had radioed a warning, and a quick decision had to be made. If 
a definite warning had been sent, Admiral Halsey, who by now had left 
his destroyers and oilers behind, faced the risk of having his force 
attacked by land-based bombers; Nashville had moved in fast and sunk 
this third picket ship, but there was no assurance that it had not 
warned the Japanese Fleet or Air Force. 

Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle realized that all surprise had been 
lost; and, although they were still 650 miles from Tokyo and it was 
doubtful that they would have enough gasoline to reach China, he 
knew that Hornet would have to retire. There was no question they 
had to take the risk and Doolittle was the first to race down the car- 
rier deck. Hornet was exactly 623 miles from the nearest land and 
688 miles from Tokyo, but all sixteen 8-25 crews accepted the gauge 
and took off safely. 

As a small recompense for this ill luck, Tokyo had been alerted for 
a practice air raid in which Japanese aircraft had made a series of mock 
attacks on the city probably to the annoyance of the population. This 
city-wide exercise was completed just before noon, and commerce and 
business was returning to normal when suddenly a number of new 
bombers appeared, and the guns began to fire again, this time with 
venom and heat. The people of Tokyo thought this was a second 
section of the practice performance and until Doolittie's raid was over, 
few of them realized that an actual attack had been made. If the 
picket boat had warned Japanese authorities, nothing much had been 
done about it, for the 8-255 encountered little trouble over their tar- 
gets. No alert was sounded until they had been in the enemy area for 
nearly twenty minutes. By 12:25 P - M - *& thirteen 6-255 that were as- 
signed to beat up the city were selecting their targets with little an- 
noyance from enemy fighters or antiaircraft guns. The fighters made 
little attempt to harass the raiders and kept away from the tail-turret 
guns which were in plain view but actually dummies. The real tur- 
rets, mountings, and guns had been displaced by extra gasoline tanks. 

The three Mitchells assigned to Nagoya, Kobe, and Osaka delivered 
only incendiary bombs. The Nagoya plane apparently did a workman- 
like job Kobe was well drenched but the 8-25 sent to Osaka ap- 
pears to have attacked Nagoya instead. Not one of the attacking 
planes was lost over Japan; one had fuel trouble and headed for 
"friendly'* territory in Vladivostok where the Russians impounded the 


plane and interned the crew. Those that did get through to Chuchow 
missed it completely, for the Chinese^ in the belief that they were 
Japs, sounded their raid alarm and doused all field lights. Four of 
the bombers made crash landings, while crews of eleven others bailed 
out in the black night, thumping down slippery cliffs or plopping into 
bogs and lakes. One crewman was killed when his chute failed to open, 
four were drowned. Those who lived were taken in by friendly vil- 
lagers and passed on to Chungking. 

One 8-25 came down off the China coast near Ningpo (Ning- 
hsien), and the pilot and two crewmen who successfully reached shore 
were captured by the Japanese. Another crew of eight men that bailed 
out near Nanchang was picked up and tried by a military court and 
sentenced to death. Lieutenant Dean E. Hallmark, Lieutenant Wil- 
liam G. Farrow, and Sergeant Harold A. Spatz were executed; the rest 
had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. One of this group 
died in prison before the end of the war brought release. Seventy-one 
of the eighty pilots and crewmen, including Lieutenant Colonel Doo- 
littie, survived this raid on Tokyo. 

Although the bombing in itself hardly balanced the effort, for no 
vital targets were actually destroyed, the raid had some practical re- 
sults. For one thing, at least four Japanese Army fighter-plane groups 
that must have been urgently needed elsewhere, were pinned down 
for the defense of Tokyo and other Japanese centers. More important, 
the higher command was astonished that such a raid could be made 
by land planes, and as a result decided that President Roosevelt's 
Shangri-La must be the island of Midway. They, therefore, extended 
their potential, and expedited plans for what was to become the Bat- 
tle of Midway. That alone, since it was America's greatest naval vic- 
tory, was well worth this gallant Army-Navy effort. 

Admiral Halsey, who was in on the thrust from the beginning, de- 
clared, "In my opinion their flight was one of the most courageous 
deeds in military history." 

In May 1942 the British carrier Ittustrious, now back with the fleet, 
and IndomSafete played a memorable part in the sea and air defeat 
of the Vichy French forces at Diego-Siiarez on the northern tip of 
the island of Madagascar, about three hundred miles off the coast of 
Portuguese East Africa. Although this island is separated from Ceylon 
by the breadth of the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Churchill felt 


there was a possibility of Vichy French treachery and the Japanese 
using Diego-Suarez as an air, submarine^ or cruiser base. For some 
time the British had considered establishing themselves there with an 
expedition out of Egypt or South Africa. As early as December 1941, 
shortly after Japan had entered the war, General de Gaulle had urged 
a Free French operation against Madagascar. When all variables had 
been considered it was obvious that Diego-Suarez would have to be 
taken and as a result Operation Ironclad was drawn up and carried 

The British expedition had assembled at Durban, South Africa, by 
April 22 and included the battleship RctmiRies, the carriers Ittustriaus 
and Indomitable, two cruisers and eleven destroyers to guard the 
minesweepers, corvettes, and fifteen assault ships and transports that 
carried the invasion troops. This was Britain's first large-scale amphibi- 
ous assault since the ill-fated Dardanelles crusade more than a quarter 
of a century before. While the slower vessels of the convoy bad gone 
on ahead, the main body did not leave Durban until April 28. By 
May 4 the whole expedition was within staking distance. 

This was not by any means a simple operation. The approach from 
the east was strongly guarded, but to the west were hospitable bays, 
capable of accommodating large ships. The defenses here were unim- 
portant but the transports had to be guided in the dark through dan- 
gerous, shallow channels. On May 5 the first troops landed at 4:30 
A.M. and quickly wiped out the only battery capable of firing seaward. 
Half an hour later, aircraft from the carriers attacked airfields and ship- 
ping in Diego-Suarez Bay. By that afternoon one whole British brigade 
and its equipment had been put ashore and the commando raiders 
had reached the eastern end of the Andraka peninsula. At 11 AJM:., 
May 7, the area had been taken with the loss of less than four hun- 
dred Army casualties* 

The carrier airmen attacked with bombs, torpedoes, and air-can- 
non fire, and put three Vichy-French waiships out of action. They 
were the submarine Beveziers, an armed merchant cruiser, the Bou- 
gaimrine, and the (TEntrecasteauoc, an armed naval sloop. But this vic- 
tory had to be paid for when on May 29 an unknown aircraft ap- 
peared over the harbor and then flew away. Hie following evening 
the battleship Ramillies and a tanker were struck by torpedoes. No 
one knew from where they had come^ but Prime Minister Churchill 
was of the opinion that they had been fired by a Vichy-French sub- 


marine or a Japanese submarine, and on the strength of this he de- 
cided that all Vichy control in the area should be eliminated. This 
island of great strategic importance was taken over and the safety of 
Allied communications in the Near and Far East assured. 



FLUSHED with the saki of victory, the Japanese were to enjoy this un- 
expected pleasure for only a few months before the painful throb of 
retribution set in. No sooner had they scaled the heights of their ad- 
vance than they were shoved back by two naval defeats that were to 
mark the turn of the samurai tide. 

In early May 1942 the Imperial Navy started the first stage of a 
three-pronged operation that was intended to extend the perimeter of 
victory to envelop northern and eastern Australia. They had occupied 
the eastern Solomons and begun the construction of a major airfield 
on Guadalcanal. A strong naval force sailed to support a troop convoy 
that was headed for Port Moresby on the southern shore of eastern 
New Guinea. An American force of almost equal strength was in the 
Coral Sea to challenge them, and on May 4 there ensued the first naval 
action to be fought entirely in the air in which the opposing fleets 
never came within sight or gunshot range of each other. 

This beginning of the American offensive in the Pacific became 
known as the Battle of the Coral Sea and had considerable influence 
in the planning and outcome of the Battle of Midway that followed. 
Jimmy Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, and President Roosevelt's jocular 
reference to Shangri-La as its origination, precipitated the Midway en- 
gagement That the aircraft involved had actually flown off a U. S. 
Navy carrier did not enter the minds of the enemy. When the officers 
of the Imperial General Staff pored over their charts, they at first 
agreed that the strike might have come from the Aleutians, but since 
they had no knowledge of an air base in that tundra territory, it was 
simpler to assume that Midway Island, about 2250 miles east of Tokyo, 
was the only other possibility. After viewing the damage inflicted on 


Tokyo, and the all-important loss of face, some Japanese Naval authori- 
ties pointed out the logic of seizing Midway Island, and Admiral 
Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief, decided to pinch off this 
threat to the homeland. 

In the meantime Vice-Admiial Shigeyoshi Inouye's Fourth Fleet 
had begun a long-planned invasion of Allied holdings in the Coral 
Sea. Admiral Inouye was aboard the light cruiser Kashima anchored 
at Rabaul, and had under his command the carriers Zuikaku and 
Shohaku, the heavy cruisers Myoko and Haguro, a whole force of in- 
vasion auxiliaries, and 134 land-based aircraft that were commanded 
by Rear Admiral Sadoyoshi Yamada who had air groups at Tmk in 
the Carolines, Rabaul, New Britain, Shortland, Tulagi, Tainan, and 
Genzan in the Solomons. With this combined force Admiral Inouye 
planned to invade Tulagi, and eventually capture Port Moresby, but 
the unexpected appearance of the American task force that had raided 
Lae and Salamaua on New Guinea, interrupted this plan until the 
Japanese Fourth Fleet could be reinforced. 

However, an unopposed successful landing was made May 3 on 
Tulagi, since Admiral Fletcher's Task Force 17 was more than five 
hundred miles away. In this operation the Japanese had struck un- 
expectedly, for U. S. Naval intelligence had been unable to cope with 
the varied enemy movements in this area. Once again, we encounter 
variances of opinion, conflicting reports, charges, and countercharges. 
The best to be made of available information indicates that Admiral 
Fletcher's fleet that had been joined by another commanded by Rear 
Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch aboard Lexington, was conducting leisurely 
refueling operations some distance off Espiritu Santo in the New 
Hebrides when the Japanese started their move. Because of scant in- 
telligence, and lack of fleet tankers to speed up the refueling, Fletcher 
had to move off fast on May 4, leaving the Lexington force to join 
him as soon as possible. 

Admiral Fletcher expected only to intercept anything offensive in 
the Solomons-New Guinea area. Admiral Inouye, with his big carriers 
screened north of Bougainville well out of air-search range, initiated 
the Tulagi landing, and planned to enter the Coral Sea from eastward 
on the same day. 

Admiral Fletcher continued on his northerly course and, learning 
of the Japanese move^ decided to steam straight into the center of the 
Coral Sea from where he hoped to trace the enemy naval force by air 


search from Yorktown. Admiral Fitch was ordered to follow as soon 
as he was available. 

When the Japanese indicated that their move was intended as a 
full-out invasion, Admiral Fletcher, then five hundred miles from 
Tulagi, decided to go on farther, and sent his oiler Neosho, escorted 
by the destroyer Russell, back to meet Admiral Fitch's force that by 
then would be about one hundred miles away. Fitch was ordered to 
meet the 'Yorktown force at a point three hundred miles south of 
Guadalcanal by daybreak of May 5. What happened from this point 
on is difficult to decide, and to belay the subject would be wearisome. 
In the end, Admiral Fletcher's force moved in to stage air strikes 
against Tulagi, while Admiral Fitch suddenly turned off on a south- 
easterly course, increasing the distance between the two carrier forces. 

Meanwhile Admiral Fletcher had nudged Yorktown into some con- 
veniently fSul weather, while the air space over Tulagi was reported 
to be clear and fine. At 6:30 A.M., May 4, twelve Devastators and 
twenty-eight Dauntless dive bombers were launched. Six Wildcat fight- 
ers also went aloft to fly combat cover for the carrier, and antisub- 
marine sweeps were made by float planes off the cruisers presuma- 
bly Minneapolis and New Orleans. 

This camerborne air attack on Tulagi reads well in the early reports, 
but calm post-action consideration shows that the air-crew claims were 
overemphasized. It was all very new to American airmen and a mine- 
layer often looked like a light cruiser, and an ordinary transport was 
generally identified as a seaplane tender. Landing barges were blown 
up to gunboats, and near misses usually went down an enemy funnel. 

In the final analysis the scout bombers delivered thirteen 1000- 
pound bombs and damaged the destroyer Kikuzuki so seriously, she 
had to be beached, and two small minesweepers were sunk. Five min- 
utes after the SBDs pulled out, a torpedo-plane flight, under Lieu- 
tenant Commander Joseph Taylor, delivered eleven "fish" but suc- 
ceeded in sinking only the minesweeper Tama Mam. At 8:30 shipboard 
bombers dropped fifteen more iocx>pounders but inflicted only minor 
damage on a couple of vessels. All these planes returned safely, and 
were sent streaming off the decks again for a second attack before 
the pilots had time to break into the Navy's round-the-clock coffee 

Twenty-seven SBDs with looo-pounders, and eleven torpedo bomb- 
ers wore launched in the second strike and this time they damaged 
a patrol craft and destroyed two seaplanes. Hie torpedo bombers all 


delivered their contributions but one plane failed to return, presum- 
ably a victim of heavy antiaircraft fire. 

The fighter pilots over the earner were warned of three large sea- 
planes that were anchored off Makambo Island in Tulagi Harbor, so 
they peeled off and went after them. They performed a neat .50- 
caliber stitching on the Japanese hulls, and then spotted the destroyer 
Yuztzfei trying to get away. They made four beat-up runs over her, 
killed her captain on his bridge^ and many crew members. Two of 
the four Wildcat pilots involved in this wild foray became lost, and 
unable to find their carrier, crash-landed on the south coast of Guadal- 
canal, but both airmen were rescued that night in a smart operation 
by the destroyer Hammann. 

A third attack was launched against Tulagi at 2 P.M. when twenty- 
one SBDs dropped half-ton bombs, but sank only four landing barges. 
So enthused were the air crews with their performance, however, that 
it was believed that most of the Japanese fleet in that area had been 
destroyed, and some consideration was given the idea of sending 
Astoria and Chester, two heavy cruisers, into Savo Island to mop-up 
what was left. But this idea was abandoned and it was well it was, for 
both would probably have met Admiral Inouye's carrier planes and 
never returned to tell what had happened. 

The Yor&owi group played in luck also. The Japanese carrier force 
was too far away to respond to the Tulagi base commander's appeal 
for aid, since it was refueling north of Bougainville and although 
Vice-Admiral Takeo Takagi put on a turn of speed southeastward, he 
could not make the interception. By then Admiral Fletcher could have 
expected no help from Admiral Fitch's Lexington group, for they were 
miles away. 

After recovering all his aircraft and stowing them away, Admiral 
Fletcher turned south and sailed to meet Admiral Fitch at their sched- 
uled rendezvous, and Inouye launched most of his planes for a bomb- 
ing attack against Port Moresby. 

With what seemed like a very successful attack effort Task Force 
17 felt proud of itself, and probably looked forward to some well- 
earned liberty in Australia. May 5 was spent refueling from Neosho 
and at seven-thirty that evening Admiral Fletcher decided to head 
northwest, assuming that some of the enemy vessels would be moving 
out of Rabaul. At the same time a Japanese Port Moresby invasion 
group, and its support, were steaming on a southerly course for the 
Jomard Passage which cuts through the Louisiade Archipelago. Ad- 


miral Takagi's striking force was churning along the outer fringes of 
the Solomons, and by May 6 this carrier group was well inside the 

Coral Sea. 

It was a tense, anxious day, for everyone sensed that something 
historic was in the air. Admiral Fletcher resumed his original assign- 
ment of harassing ships, shipping, and aircraft at favorable opportuni- 
ties. He then decided that if the enemy put out anything worth a 
full task force's attention, he would delegate the command of air 
operations to Admiral Fitch, who was an experienced carrier com- 
mander, but unfortunately, this honor was not forwarded to Fitch 
until a few minutes before the critical action of May 8 had started. 

Over the next few hours a plethora of "hot" information came out 
of Pearl Harbor and bases in Australia, all to the effect that innumer- 
able enemy ships were converging on waters south of the Solomons. 
All this intelligence came in large doses, but no accurate interpreta- 
tion was included and little sense could be made of it Air search was 
inadequate, the disposition of the various enemy forces was unknown, 
and as a result Yarktown and Lexington plodded on on their north- 
westerly course, unaware that the Takagi carrier force was moving on 
Fletcher's line of advance. Both groups were actually but seventy 
miles away from each other, both refueling, not realizing the other 
was in the vicinity. Had Admirals Fletcher or Takagi made a successful 
air search either might have caught the other as a sitting duck. 

As it was, a Japanese search pkne out of Rabaul did spot Fletcher's 
force at n A.M. on May 6, but Admiral Takagi was not advised. As 
has been pointed out, the Battle of the Coral Sea should have been 
fought on May 6, and might have been had Admirals Fletcher and 
Takagi known the other was near. Ironically, it was on this day that 
General Jonathan M. Wainwright had to surrender his forces in the 
Philippines, but happier days were to begin with the morrow. For one 
thing, at nine o'clock on the morning of May 7 Admiral Inouye post- 
poned the advance of his Port Moresby invasion group, because by 
then he "suspected the presence" of the Allied task force. 

At 5:55 P.M., May 6 the oiler Neosho, known affectionately as The 
Fat Lady, and the destroyer Sims were detached from Admiral Fletch- 
er's task force and told to rendezvous at Point "Rye" to the south. 
They reached this position at 8:10 the next morning and observed 
what they believed to be two planes from one of their own carriers 


they were actually from the Japanese Fifth Carrier Division of 
Admiral Takagi's striking force. 

About an hour later a single plane hove into sight and dropped a 
bomb near the U. S. destroyer, and both vessels took evasive tactics, 
and managed to wriggle through a storm of bombs that were then 
delivered by fifteen high-level bombers. At 10:38 ten more made a 
dive-bombing attack on Sims, whose helmsman swung her hard right 
and once more she came out unscathed. By noon thirty-six dive bomb- 
ers were overhead and Sims curled around to get on Neosho's port 
quarter. These planes, having been advised that a carrier and a cruiser 
were available for the taking, concentrated on the oiler in the pre- 
sumption that she was the flat-top. They went in from astern in three 
bristling waves, and the gunners aboard Sims did their utmost to bat 
them down. One of the destroyer's 2omm. guns jammed almost im- 
mediately, and her main battery downed only one dive bomber, but 
while she was putting up this brave effort three 5oopound bombs 
went in dead-on; two exploded in her engine room, and the third 
nipped off her fantail. Sims buckled amidships and went down stern 

The remaining hands started to abandon ship, but just as her single 
stack was going under, a terrific explosion lifted her out of the water 
and smaller explosions, presumably from her depth charges, added to 
the tragedy. Only fifteen crewmen were brought away safely, princi- 
pally through the heroic efforts of Chief Signalman R. J. Dicken who 
retrieved a damaged whaleboat and kept it afloat while he picked up 
any sailors who were still alive. 

The ill-fated Fat Lady was the next victim when twenty of the origi- 
nal thirty-six dive bombers worked her over seven direct hits and as 
many near misses sealed her doom. One suicide dive-bomber pilot 
bashed his aircraft dead into the Number 4 gun station and the carnage 
that followed can be vividly imagined. Gasoline from the dive- 
bomber's tanks tonented along the deck and as it ignited, draped a 
shroud of flame over everything. Captain J. S. Phillips, Neosho's skip- 
per, ordered all hands to stand by and insisted that no one abandon 
ship untD the order was given. A few, of course, had little choice. 
Most of them had seen Sims blow up and sink, so there was some 
understandable panic* A few rafts and whaleboats were launched, but 
most of these terrified evacuees were ordered back aboard. In the 
midst of this confusion the ship's navigator took a hurried "fix," 


plotted incorrectly, and sent out a faulty position with the result that 
the search for the survivors was delayed. 

Miraculously, Fat Lady did not sink immediately, and it must be 
presumed that she had several empty fuel tanks that had probably 
been sealed off to furnish buoyancy. The oiler drifted westerly for 
four days while every effort was made to keep her afloat. The wounded 
were cared for as well as conditions would permit, and the dead were 
commended to the deep. PBY planes went out and searched, but it 
was not until May 9 that the destroyer Henley was dispatched to pick 
up rafts and boats, and to take off the rest of Neosho's crew. Owing 
to the mistake in navigation, the oiler was not located until May 11 
when the remaining 123 men aboard were taken off and the Fat Lady 
was scuttled. The search was continued for tie survivors aboard floats 
and boats, and the last of them, sixty-eight men on four rafts lashed 
together, were picked up as late as May 17. After this unfortunate 
experience the Navy undertook to redesign and improve all life rafts, 
and gave seamen more specific directions for raft navigation. 

As part of Admiral Fletcher 7 s task force^ a support group, known as 
TG 17.3, composed of two Australian cruisers, and the U.S.S. Chicago, 
and a two-ship destroyer screen, was in command of Rear Admiral 
John G, Grace of the British Navy. On May 7 Admiral Fletcher, who 
was then heading north toward the island of Rossel in the Louisiade 
Archipelago, ordered Admiral Grace to take his cruiser force off to- 
ward the southern end of Jomard Passage. Some intelligence had in- 
dicated that the Japanese Port Moresby invasion group might be 
caught in that area. He intimated later that he also wanted to make 
sure that, in case of an air battle with enemy carriers, the Japanese 
invasion would be nipped off no matter how the carrier-versus-camer 
battle went. 

Admirals Fletcher and Grace got on well and this TF 17 associa- 
tion proved once more that ships of the two nations could be welded 
into an excellent tactical unit, and that co-operation could be enjoyed 
notwithstanding "unexpected developments" that in this case proved 
almost tragic. 

Forming his force into a diamond-shaped, antiaircraft formation, 
Admiral Grace put on twenty-five knots and steamed for action. A 
short time later a lookout aboard Chicago spotted a twin-float mono- 
plane that was snooping about just beyond gunnery range. A few niin- 
utes later, U, S. Anny reconnaissance planes out of Australia hove 


into sight, flew away, and returned two hours later. From all accounts, 
they decided on their first appearance that Grace's force was enemy. 
On the second flight over, they took another look and apparently 
were positive. 

At 1:58 when Admiral Grace had reached a point south and west 
of Jomard Passage, his force was attacked by eleven single-engined 
land-based bombers. TG 17.3 put up a remarkable display of anti- 
aircraft fire and the visitors were driven off. A short time later radar 
aboard the Australian cruisers, Hobart and Australia, picked up twelve 
Japanese Sally Navy-bombers when they were still seventy-five miles 
away. Admiral Grace ordered violent evasive measures and had every 
vessel in his command ready to open fire when the enemy planes 
came in low. Eight torpedoes were dropped, not one found a target, 
and five torpedo bombers were shot down. To overcome this ill luck, 
nineteen more Sallys attacked from high level with conventional 
bombs. Again Grace's fleet dodged and darted to evade every missile, 
when suddenly the destroyer Farragtit was attacked by three U. S. 
Army bombers. Fortunately, their aim was as inadequate as their ship 
identification, but a photographer aboard one of the B-iys unwittingly 
provided the evidence which proved that a formation of U. S. bomb- 
ers from Townsville, Australia, had made the attack. 

Admiral Grace was understandably nettled and made a formal com- 
plaint to Admiral Leary, Commander-in-Chief of the Anzac Force. 
Admiral Leary replied that he hoped to set up plans in which the 
Army would improve its recognition of naval vessels. The AAF com- 
mander concerned declined the offer, and to this day insists that his 
bombers had not attacked Admiral Grace's ships. 

Admiral Grace's effort will be the more appreciated when it is ex- 
plained that he brought his whole force through an attack of the same 
type and strength that had sunk the Prince of Wales and Repulse 
a few months before. His support group went through without a .single 
hit. The Japanese, of course, were positive that they had racked up 
another great victory and claimed that they .had sunk an Augusta- 
class cruiser and a C0Z#orniz-class battleship, and put torpedoes into 
another battleship resembling H.M.S. Warspite. 

Once Admiral Fletcher had reorganized his forces he sent Admiral 
Grace off to the northwest. He next launched a search mission, and 
shortly after, a plane from Yorktown reported two carriers and four 
heavy cruisers at a position 175 miles to the northwestward, well the 


other side of the Louisiades. After considerable excitement and the 
launching of an air-attack force, the two carriers and four heavy cruis- 
ers were reassessed to two heavy cruisers and two destroyers. Even- 
tually they turned out to be part of Admiral Kuninori Marumo's com- 
mand, a support group of the Moresby invasion force. Thus, while 
the two main carrier fleets were closing in on each other, Admiral 
Fletcher's all-out air strike had been mistakenly sent out against two 
prehistoric cruisers that were being screened by some modified gun- 

There can be little argument as to which side Providence was lean- 
ing at this particular period. Fortunately, Admiral Inouye had turned 
his attention to Admiral Grace's group, and was ordering his Port 
Moresby invasion group to turn back at Jomard Passage. 

The air group off Lexington, under Commander W. B. Ault, was 
some distance ahead of the planes from Yorktown and passed over 
Tagula Island around 11 A.M. Lieutenant Commander W. L. Hamil- 
ton who was flying one of the scout planes was the first to spot a single 
carrier Sfoofco some heavy cruisers, and several destroyers. The Japa- 
nese commander, Rear Admiral Goto, of the covering group went 
into evasive tactics just as Commander Ault, with two wing planes, 
began the attack. Ninety-three planes finally worked over this lone 

It was a very clear day and visibility was very good. They had spotted 
this enemy force when it was about forty miles away. The vessels 
looked just like white hairs on the blue sea. At the time, Hamilton 
estimated that they were about twenty miles away but time soon cor- 
rected him and eventually he was able to distinguish the carrier by 
the reflection of the sun off its light-colored flight deck. 

Hamilton's force came out of the sun almost. exactly down wind 
and they immediately commenced the attack. Commander Bob Dix- 
on's scout bombers had struck and cleared. Dixon had brought them 
around in order to turn to the left and they were just starting a second 
turn when Hamilton's formation went in. They were trying to co- 
ordinate their strike with that of the torpedo bombers. 

The U. S. Navy planes had started from 16,500 feet and nosed 
down steep into the final dive from about 12,000 feet. The enemy 
carrier was exactly down wind as Hamilton nosed down on this ap- 
parently simple target. His first bomb, a looopounder, to go home, 
smacked into the middle of Shako's flight deck, just abaft amidships. 
By the time he could look back, the entire after section of the flight 


deck was ablaze and a great column of smoke was gathering which 
he hoped would rise and mark the carrier's finish. 

As Commander Hamilton watched the rest of his squadron run in, 
he noticed some were missing this comparatively simple target. He 
quickly realized that the wind had fooled them for most of their bombs 
were falling well down wind. He went on his radio and began giving 
corrections and useful advice. 

Commander Dixon who was leading his scouts which had been con- 
verted into dive bombers carrying one 5oopounder and two 100- 
pound bombs also began a concerted attack from the i2,ooo-foot level. 

There were some enemy Zekes in the air but they did not reach the 
converted scouts in time, or until they were well into their attack dives. 
A few Zekes followed them down but they were too speedy and raced 
past their targets which were using their air brakes. Dixon's pilots were 
thus able to maintain a speed of 250 mph. One or two Japs tried lower- 
ing their flaps and some even dropped their landing gear for braking 
effect, but it was not enougji. A few tried zooming chandelles to fire 
at the planes following, and as a result, all through the dive-bombing 
attack they had a terrific free-for-alL The Zekes stayed with the opposi- 
tion aH the way down to the water. 

The dive bombers all went for the carrier and the unfortunate 
Shoho was caught cold. There were a few planes on her deck and one 
was being brought up on an elevator. TTie attacking ships released 
their bombs at about one thousand feet off the water. The result was 
a memorable sight. 

The screen craft around the carrier were throwing up a wicked cur- 
tain of shells and the attackers and the diving Zekes all had to bore 
through this barrage, but in all probability none of them realized 
this particular danger. Dixon's attack was perfect and his mates saw 
his joo-pounder hit amidships, wrecking the flight deck. Ensign P. F. 
Neely, flying behind Dixon, put a joo-pounder in the water, a near 
miss on the carrier's port side that blew two burning planes clean off 
the deck into the water. Ensign Smith dropped his donation smack 
on an antiaircraft battery, and this explosion tossed three more planes 
overboard. Ensign John A. Leppla, who had been annoyed all the way 
down by Zeke fighters, left them to his rear gunner, John Liska, who 
sat firing over his own rudder, driving off anything that irritated him 
two in particular took .3o-caliber bullets in their tanks and burst into 
flames and fell into the sea. Ensign Leppla, on seeing a Zeke harassing 
another Navy dive bomber, eased out of his dive slightly, brought the 


Jap fighter into his sights and shot it down with a short burst In spite 
of this distraction and the fact that the carrier had started another turn, 
Leppla did get in a telling near miss that must have buckled many 
hull plates. Irked by this comparative failure, Ensign Leppla zoomed 
away, climbed to four thousand feet and dive-bombed one of the Jap- 
anese cruiser-escorts with his two loo-pounders, one of which drilled 
her stern, a very vital spot on any cruiser her screws or rudder could 
be disabled. 

Ensign O. J. Shultz put his bomb smack on the carrier and was 
attacked immediately by four Zeke fighters. His rear gunner earned his 
day's pay by shooting down one in flames, and driving off the rest. 

It was following this heavy attack on Shoho that Commander Rob- 
ert Dixon of Lexington made his famous quip: "Scratch one flat-top! 
Dixon to carrier. Scratch one flat-top!'* It was the first attack by Ameri- 
can carrier aircraft on an enemy carrier. All but three of the attacking 
planes were back aboard by 1 138 P.M. 

No vessel could have survived such a concentrated attack. After the 
first two direct hits, she burst into flames and stalled dead in the water. 
More bombs and torpedoes were delivered, and after the abandon-ship 
order at 1 1 : 31 A.M., she sank within five minutes. 

Both Yorktown and Lexington were ready to launch again by 2:50, 
but Admiral Fletcher decided that the sunken carrier's escort force was 
not worth the risk. Also he had not as yet learned where Admiral 
Takagi's big carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku, were, although from the 
monitoring of enemy radio messages, he was positive Takagi knew 
where he was. Thereafter began to deteriorate, and to start a new 
search for the enemy carriers did not seem reasonable, since if they 
were found, it was too late in the day to hope for a daylight recovery. 

Leaving further search to shore^based aircraft of greater range, Ad- 
miral Fletcher continued to steam west during the night of May 7-8, 
hoping to intercept the Port Moresby invasion group on his side of 
the Jomard Passage. He could not know, of course, that Admiral 
Inouye had recalled them. But Admiral Takagi was not as timid as 
Admiral Inouye, and by 4:30 P.M. he had launched twelve bombers and 
fifteen torpedo planes from Shokaku and Zuikaku with orders to search 
for Admiral Fletcher's force and to make an attack at sundown, if it 
was located. They had bad luck, owing to malevolent weather and 
found nothing, but were intercepted instead by fighters from the two 
American carriers. When that fracas was over nine Japanese bombers 
had been shot down, with a loss of two Navy Wildcats. 


Then a pathetic situation resulted from this intercept. The Japs that 
escaped this intrusion were completely bewildered and laid a course 
for home directly over the American carriers that they had been search- 
ing for. Just after sunset three were off Yorktown's beam appealing 
for help in Morse with Aldis lamps. Yorktcwn signalmen blinked back, 
not certain who was making the appeal. When the Japs moved to enter 
the U. S. Navy landing circle they were treated most inhospitably and 
one was shot down. Then Admiral Kara of the Japanese Carrier Di- 
vision 5 had to turn on his searchlights so that his planes could find 
their way back, and in the ensuing night recovery, eleven more planes 
went into the sea. Seven more were not recovered until 9 P.M. 

All this alerted the U. S. forces to the fact that the enemy force was 
only thirty miles away. Radar aboard Lexington indicated a landing 
circle that close, and Admiral Fitch tried to advise Admiral Fletcher 
aboard Ycrktawn, but once more a communications foul-up kept the 
advice from the commander until eleven o'clock that night. At first Ad- 
miral Fletcher put little stock in the report; saying that Yorifcown's 
radar disclosed no such intelligence, and Conceded that if the radar 
were correct, the Japanese carriers would be miles away by midnight. 
Admiral Fletcher had considered detaching a cruiser-destroyer force 
for a night attack on Admiral Takagi, but because of meteorological 
conditions thought better of it. 

At 10 pjk. that night the enemy carriers were actually ninety-five 
miles to the eastward, and Admiral Fletcher decided to keep his force 
concentrated and prepare for a daylight battle the next morning. By 
that time both forces were 170 miles apart. The Japanese had the 
better of the deal, for they had moved under a front of low clouds 
and a long bdt of inclement weather. Yorktown and Lexington, with 
their consorts, were in full view beneath a clear sunny sky. 

On or about 9 A.M, of May 8 both forces launched their attack 
squadrons. Earlier, scouts from both sides had located their enemy and 
the Battle of the Coral Sea was joined. There were eighty-two planes 
from American decks and about seventy that flaunted the insigne of 
Japan. Only a few hours of life were left for many of these air crews 
to enjoy, for a great victory was to be won which side would triumph 
no one knew, and history is still not certain. 

The attacking planes passed each other without making contact, 
aad both groups were over their targets by 1 1 A.M. Yorktowi launched 
forty-one planes-twenty-four bombers, nine torpedo bombers, and 


eight fighters. Lexington put out twenty-two bombers, twelve torpedo 
bombers, and nine fighters. 

All Yorktovm aircraft were in position by 10: 57, and the pilots could 
see Zuikaku and Shokaku, each escorted by two heavy cruisers and 
several destroyers, steaming southwesterly about eight miles apart. 
They saw Shokaku turn into the wind to launch an air combat patrol, 
but Zuikaku and her consorts darted to the cover of a rain squall. 
Yorfetown's Torpedo Squadron 5, led by Lieutenant Commander Joe 
Taylor, went for the flat-top in the open; the first American attack of 
the war against a large Japanese carrier. 

Whether the torpedo boys had a touch of stage fright, or plain buck 
fever, is by now uncertain, but the attack left much to be desired. The 
torpedoes either went astray or failed to explode, and only two bomb 
hits were registered, although the Yorktovm pilots claimed six bomb 
and three torpedo hits. The two bomb hits ignited gasoline well for- 
ward on Shokaku and the flight deck was so damaged that although 
she could recover aircraft, none could be kunched. One of the bombs 
pierced the deck and exploded in an aircraft-engine repair shop. 

The Lexington formations ran into hard luck. Taking off ten min- 
utes after the Yorktovm force was airborne, they first lost their Wildcat 
escort in a cloudy level, and their torpedo squadron went to an area 
incorrectly designated, so they put on a box-search until they found 
the enemy. In the meantime their dive bombers flew into a thick over- 
cast, never did locate the Japanese force, and had to return when their 
fuel was low. The rest of Lexington's air-striking force, by now com- 
posed only of eleven torpedo bombers, four dive bombers, and six 
Wildcats, caught up with the enemy at 1 1 140. The torpedo attack was 
made through a small hole in the cloud layer, and the approach had 
to be made in a spiraling glide. Once the torpedo boys were out of 
the way, the dive bombers went hurtling through the same small openr 
ing. During all this the Zekes turned on the Wildcats and shot down 
three of them, and this diversion allowed the bombers to make their 
attacks unmolested. 

But unmolested or not, the attack added little to what small measure 
of success the Yorktovm fliers had had. The torpedoes were released 
at too long a range, and moved so slowly, the Japanese helmsman had 
no difficulty in avoiding them. The dive bombers managed just one 
hit on Shokaku, which by then was reported to be burning furiously 
and sinking fast. This was something of an exaggeration, for the Jap- 
anese carrier, although she had lost 148 men killed or wounded, was 


not yet holed below the waterline. All fires were doused finally, many 
of her aircraft ordered to land on Zuikaku, and by one o'clock she was 
steaming for Japan. It was touch and go all the way, and once she 
nearly capsized, but she got there and lived to fight another day. 

The scene now shifts to the other side of the conflict where a strange 
situation greeted the returning American aircraft in all probability 
some of the air crews must have wondered whether they had been 
flying in circles and had returned to the Japanese fleet. They found 
both Yorfetowi and Lexington had been hit. The seventy-odd planes 
from Shokaku and Zuikaku had been giving the American carriers 
much the same treatment that their own were suffering from the U. S. 
Navy fliers. In this weird transverse conflict, luck brought a broader 
measure of success to the Japanese, chiefly because their planes were 
sent direct to the targets, and their strike groups were better balanced 
in composition. 

Admiral Fitch, who had charge of the tactical program, realized that 
once his aircraft had been launched and sent on their way, retaliation 
would come swift and sharp. Correctly, everyone guessed that the 
enemy attack would open about 11 A.M., and once the main strike 
planes were launched, a Wildcat patrol was put up to protect the car- 
riers. Lexington's radar picked up the Japs at 10:55, but the protective 
fighters were not well directed, and one patrol had just landed and a 
second was in the air with very little fuel. They had to stay close to 
their flight decks instead of ranging out to stop the enemy bombers 
before they could form up for their attacks. 

The two carriers that had been steaming northwest, changed course, 
went to twenty-five and then thirty knots and launched relief Wild- 
cats as fast as they could be refueled. Five were actually available to 
stop an enemy many times that number; two stayed low hoping to 
harass the torpedo bombers, but the Zekes did some harrying of 
their own. Four more F4Fs were vectored out to an anticipated inter- 
ception point, found no enemy aircraft and returned to their carrier 
with not much to show for their effort. A few Dauntless dive bombers 
attempted to take on the role of fighters, but were much too slow for 
the task and four of them were shot down, although they were said 
to have disposed of as many enemy torpedo bombers. What defense 
was put up, came from antiaircraft batteries on U. S. Navy ships. 

The full force of the attack broke at 11:18 when the enemy ap- 
proached from the northeast, down wind, and down sun, and made 
the most of the perfect visibility. Torpedo bombers aimed for both 


port and starboard bows of Lexington, launching their missiles from 
well over a half mile away. Captain Frederick C. Sherman tried to 
maneuver so as to steam parallel with the "tin fish" but Lexington 
was not designed for such delicate executions, taking between fifteen 
hundred and two thousand yards to make a tactical turn. There were 
just too many torpedoes* They came in from every angle, porpoising 
and diving. The first smacked home at 11 :2o and lie whole ship stag- 
gered with the impact, the next bored into the port bow and sent up 
a gusher of flame on which was poised a great block of greenish-white 
sea water. As the men on deck stood immobile watching this fantastic 
display, a lookout forward screamed: "Dive bombersr 

Out of the sun, sparkling and screeching, the first dive bomber be- 
gan to flatten out. Every eye followed its long black missile for an 
instant, and then there was a terrific smash and explosion on the port 
forward gun-gallery as three five-inch weapons were ripped from their 
mounts and tossed aside like jackstraws. The Marine gun teams were 
never seen again. Aghast and stunned, the deck watchers saw a second 
formation of torpedo planes screaming toward them, dropping iheir 
evil weapons at two hundred feet altitude. When they were one thou- 
sand yards away machine-gun fire was sent against them, but the tor- 
pedo bombers replied in kind, and the men who were spotted here 
and there were knocked down and twisted into heaps by these hissing 
hornets. As the wounded staggered or crawled away almost unnoticed 
by their shipmates, great columns of water climbed into the sky all 
around Lexington from the blasts of near misses. 

Another torpedo struck home on the port side amidships, and more 
were carving foamy wakes and pointing glinting fingers of disaster. 
Two were seen coming dead on, skipping and diving wildly, but every- 
one braced for the shock. This time no explosion resulted as the two 
"tin fish" went streaking into nowhere, and the knowledgeable ones 
knew that the torpedoes had gone out of control and dived clean under 
the carrier. For those men who could give it time, this seemed a lucky 
break. Then a light bomb pinged off the smoke-plumed funnel, rico- 
cheted with a spatter of sparks and dropped to a catwalk, killing and 
wounding several sailors. Noise, confusion, smoke, flame, and incredi- 
ble brackets of silence rendered the survivors stiff with fear. No one 
moved until another Japanese plane dropped a bomb that plunged 
through the space between the funnel and the control island. In its 
course it bent a metal tube through which ran a cable that operated 
the ship's bull horn; the cable was tightened, and a bellow and moan, 


like the cry of a stricken whale, continued as Japanese fighters swished 
back and forth, wiping off everything with their machine guns. 

Captain Sherman kept Lexington wriggling and squirming, still at- 
tempting to evade some of the onslaught. Five planes were burning 
on the water, and a gigantic waterspout rose into the sky near York- 
town. Everyone aboard Lexington believed that she too had been hit, 
but it was a near miss. Japanese aircraft were diving or deck-strafing. 
Now and then a lone Wildcat was seen to be following, but usually 
pursuer and pursued disappeared in a column of smoke and no one 
knew what happened. Dive bombers came down from all angles, seven 
more torpedo planes roared in from the port side, but the gunnery 
from the ships' batteries was so hot that most of the "fish" were re- 
leased at ridiculous angles and distances. 

A lookout yelled that a Navy airman was floating on a life raft out 
in the pattern of torpedo streaks. When he was finally spotted he was 
seen to be kneeling in his raft, waving his arms like a cheerleader. 
Captain Sherman ordered a destroyer to pick him up, and in a few 
minutes he was hauled aboard on a line like a hooked salmon there 
was no time for formality. 

At this point the executive officer, Commander M. T. Seligman was 
handed a message by a ramrod-backed Marine it may be apocryphal, 
but worth relating. Commander Seligman is said to have taken his 
eyes off the swarms of attackers and scanned the message. He crum- 
pled the paper impatiently and growled: "A fine time to annoy me 
with a thing like this!" 

"What's the trouble, Commander?" 

"It seems we have a case of measles in the sick bay!" 

By 11:32 the last of the dive bombers had made its pass. It was a 
near miss, but close enough. The attack was over and Lexington was 
still afloat, steering normally, and the engines were turning over. There 
was a slight list to port, and some oil was being lost astern, and reports 
of serious fires continued to come from below. More than 103 passes 
had been made at the carrier in sixteen minutes, and the antiaircraft 
gunners had downed at least nineteen enemy planes. 

Yorktown also did not escape unscathed. The first three of eight 
torpedoes sent at her were delivered at 11:18. Her skipper put on extra 
knots and maneuvers to avoid. Fortunately she had a smaller turning 
circle than Lexington and in this case the Japanese did not attack her 
port and starboard bows. No hits were scored, but at 11:24 a pack of 
dive bombers came in and attacked for more than three minutes, but 


only one bomb, an 8oo-pounder, caught her flight deck some fifteen 
feet inboard of the island, went on through all the way to the fourth 
deck where it exploded, killing or wounding sixty-six men. Fires were 
started, but damage control was excellent. It has since been explained 
that the skillful handling by Captain Elliott Buckmaster enabled Yorfe- 
town to escape with damage that did not interrupt her flight opera- 

The battle itself closed down at 1 1 145, and up to this point the U, S. 
Navy held the edge; they had sunk the light carrier Shoho, damaged 
Shokaku so that she was out of action for months, and sent one de- 
stroyer and several minelayers to the bottom. We lost one destroyer, 
an oiler, and had two large carriers damaged; the net result was not 
known until later. 

With her list, three boiler rooms partially flooded, her aircraft ele- 
vators inoperative, and three fires still burning, Lexington struggled 
to some semblance of serviceability. The crew soon put the flight deck 
back in operation, planes were recovered, and she was brought to an 
even keel by the shifting of oil ballast. Throughout TF 17 everyone 
believed "Lady Lex" would survive, make a hospitable port, and sail 
to fight again. The damage control officer, Lieutenant Commander 
Howard R. Healy, reported: "We have the torpedo damage shored up 
temporarily, the fires are out, and she's back on even keel," and added 
facetiously, "but I suggest, sir, that if you must take more torpedoes, 
please take them on the starboard side." 

The first "tin fish" had caught the torpedo bulges up toward the 
port bow. These bulges are false hulls built along the sides of the 
ship below the waterline. They form a protective blister and sometimes 
are filled with water, and in some instances are stiffened with light 
noninflammable packing. They provide a light wall that is intended 
to baffle the full effect of torpedoes or mines, and without such de- 
fense, a torpedo could blast a hole fifteen feet in diameter in the main 

Lexington also had about six hundred compartments that could be 
closed off with watertight doors and hatches, and when the main hull 
was pierced, compartments in that area could be shut off and the sur- 
rounding bulkheads shored up, so that in effect, the bulkheads and 
doors became the ship's side until more permanent repairs could be 
made. How well all these damage-control measures were carried out 
wiU be noted when it is explained that most of her aircraft were even- 
tually recovered, and there was no decrease in her cruising speed; she 


was holding her station and doing twenty-five knots with the rest of 
the fleet. Within an hour after the final torpedo had struck, Chief En- 
gineer, Commander Heine Junkers, had all sixteen boilers available. 
The ship was well squared away, and the fleet was steaming north- 
ward, hoping to close for another attack that afternoon. 

The first hint of trouble came at 12:45 P.M. when a dull, rambling 
explosion was heard. Those on the bridge, or working on the deck 
scarcely heard the low thud. To the men working several decks below, 
it sounded like a "sleeper" bomb, one that had hit, penetrated a 
few decks, and then had detonated with delayed action. A fire-fighting 
group, wearing oxygen masks and carrying portable extinguishers, 
moved in, but owing to fumes and heavy smoke could not tell what 
had caused the explosion. Twenty minutes later a second mystery deto- 
nation resounded through the carrier, and more fire and smoke en- 
sued. It was realized now that both explosions had occurred near dam- 
age-control's Central Station, Commander Healy's office. The second 
blast killed this gallant officer and a number of his men who were 
working in that area. 

Lexington suffered more casualties over the next five hours than 
she had in all the action against the Japanese sky raiders. Gasoline 
vapors, released by one of the torpedo hits, were being ignited by a 
motor generator that had been left running, and these eruptions con- 
tinued on a hellish schedule. The damage-control crews fought on with 
dogged determination and unbelievable courage; men were blown to 
bits, some were seared to a crisp, others were smashed against steel 
bulkheads. No one knew it then but Lexington was doomed. They 
fought on and on against the unpredictable odds. Crews choked and 
vomited, but crawled forward to fight the damnable fires, never know- 
ing when the flames would reach and detonate main ammunition 
stores. The crews were not all seasoned seamen; some six hundred of 
them were on their first cruise, and most of them had not seen the sea 
until they had shipped out on "Lady Lex." 

Each new, and heavier, blast tore metal watertight doors from their 
hinges, massive sted hatches were twisted like cracker box tops, and 
what shoring had been done in the torpedoed areas was ripped away. 
A few lights remained on here and there, but the corridors and com- 
panionways were so dense with smoke that electric illumination was 
of no use. Men could not see to fight the damage or haul out their 
wounded comrades. It was an inferno set in a blackened crypt, When 
certain airtight compartments were punched open, air swirled out and 


added to the combustion of the fires, and there were no other doors 
or bulkheads to block off this damage. 

The flames licked up, ate away the conduits carrying the main power 
lines, and all machinery stopped. Where hose and water were availa- 
ble, there were no pumps. If by good fortune one area was isolated, 
another explosion erupted and undid all the work, or created greater 
problems. When it was realized how these explosions were being set 
off, damage-control officers discovered that the fuel storage tanks in a 
critical section could not be flooded. More explosions thundered along 
the Stygian corridors, further damaging storage-tank bulkheads, and 
allowing more seepage of gasoline and fuel oil. This mixture was evap- 
orating in the heated air, and below-deck compartments were giant 
carburetors, producing a fiendish explosive vapor. 

One explosion blew off the door of the ship's hospital, fractured 
Dr. White's ankle and severely injured his shoulder, but the doctor 
ignored his own hurts and for the next three hours carefully attended 
the more severely wounded. When dense smoke billowed into the sick 
bay the patients were moved amidships to the captain's quarters, and 
when the fires began to spread two hours later, they were moved out 
to the flight deck and finally taken aboard stand-by destroyers. 

By 1:50 P.M. fires had eaten away the power-steering cables and 
gear, and it was necessary to resort to an emergency wheel that was 
located in a blind area of the ship. In order to keep contact with this 
auxiliary post, a human chain was formed that stretched 450 feet 
from the bridge to the emergency steering station four decks below, 
and steering orders were passed by word of mouth. This was con- 
tinued until Lexington was finally yawing dangerously, and the whole 
task force had to disperse until either safety control was obtained, or 
the carrier was abandoned. 

At 4:30 that afternoon, with practically all communications severed, 
and the engine rooms unbearable, it was decided that they were fight- 
ing a losing battle. All hands prepared to abandon ship, rafts were cast 
loose, lines lowered to trail in the water, and a final search made 
throughout the ship for the wounded who could not help themselves. 
Blood plasma was administered, injections given to relieve pain, tan- 
nic acid dressings bound on, and wounds dressed. Finally 150 men in 
basket stretchers were lowered into whaleboats, and the order to aban- 
don ship was given. Captain Sherman, holding Wags, his ten-year-old 
cocker spaniel, was the last to leave the ship. Personal valuables were 
stowed in shirts and one group of seamen took time to haul up several 


gallon cartons of ice cream from the galley. They thoughtfully brought 
handfuls of wooden spoons that added a picnic air to the occasion. 
The sea was calm and warm, and no one who went overboard during 
the abandon ship routine was lost. 

At 8 P.M. "Lady Lex" was pierced by torpedoes from the destroyer 
U.S.S. Phelps, and with one final explosion she went down, bows 
up, and slid into 2400 fathoms with the bodies of 216 men and what 
was left of 36 aircraft 19 aircraft had been flown off and landed on 
Yor&own. Thankfully, 2735 officers and men were rescued. 

As a gesture of caution Admiral Inouye decided to call off the in- 
vasion of Port Moresby, although what force might have stopped him 
by now, is uncertain except that the land-based Army Air Force had 
been well alerted and might have mopped up the Japanese transports 
now that Shoho had been sunk, and no air cover could be furnished 
for the invasion group. 

The news of the Coral Sea battle was greatly exaggerated back 
home. Some newspapers said that between seventeen and twenty-two 
Japanese vessels had been sunk, but no mention of the loss of Lexing- 
ton was released. In Tokyo the Japanese reported the sinking of bat- 
tleships that had not as yet been launched, all of Admiral Crace's force 
was said to be wallowing on the bottom of the Pacific, and both 
Lexington and Yorktown completely destroyed. Since American au- 
thorities neither denied nor confirmed these wild claims, the Japanese 
Navy had no idea what had happened, but were amazed to learn years 
afterward that, although damaged severely by one large bomb, York- 
town was repaired so rapidly, she was available for the Battle of Mid- 
way a short time later, whereas neither Shokaku nor Zuikaku were able 
to take part. The former was badly damaged and Japanese shipyards 
could not compete with the time allowance; as for Zuikdku, she lost so 
many airmen and aircraft she was not ready for action again until she 
was sent out for the diversionary raid against the Aleutians June 12. 

This first canier-against-camer battle was historic since all losses 
were inflicted by air attack no ship on either side sighted a surface 
vessel but whether the Battle of the Coral Sea opened a new chapter 
in naval warfare was not clear. Many mistakes were made by both 
sides, communications were haphazard and at times tragic. Port 
Moresby had been saved, which meant that the whole Australian con- 
tinent was safe; the Louisiades was the limit to which ships of the 
Japanese Empire would reach. But more important, the factors that 
were to make up both sides in the Battle of Midway were determined, 


and in the end success there possibly was the most important victory 
in the whole Pacific campaign. 

If the designers of earner aircraft did not learn something from the 
tragic loss of Lexington, that conflict was a defeat for us. Also, we must 
have been convinced that the enemy Zeke fighter was superior to the 
Wildcat in speed, maneuverability, and rate of climb. Immediate plans 
for new tactics against these Meat Ball gadflies had to be considered. 
The TBD was most vulnerable in that it did not have leakproof tanks 
(self-sealing), and was much too slow for routine torpedo bombing. 
We should have learned a lot in the Coral Sea. 

Geographically, the Midway Islands make up a circular atoll in the 
mid-Pacific Ocean, about six miles in diameter. They were little known 
until 1903 when a small force of U. S. Marines took them over, chiefly 
to guard a trans-Pacific cable station built there. The two main islands, 
Sand and Eastern, were first claimed by the United States in 1859, 
and ten years later $50,000 was appropriated to dredge a channel into 
the lagoon, an operation that was discontinued after seven months of 
effort and expense. 

From early 1900 it was noticed that Japanese poachers were swann- 
ing over these islands capturing tern, black gannet, and goonie birds 
for their feathers. Fearing that these invaders might become interna- 
tional squatters, President Theodore Roosevelt put the islands under 
the jurisdiction of the U. S. Navy, and the poachers were ordered off. 
Robert Louis Stevenson, one of the first to publicize the Pacific is- 
lands, is said to have based his tale, "The Wrecker," on the experience 
of the crew of a British bark, Wandering Minstrel, that sank in the 
Midway lagoon during a storm. Her Captain Walker, his wife, and 
members of his crew subsisted on fish and birds' eggs until they were 

Pan American Airways established an air service to the Philippines 
in 1936, using Midway, Wake, and Guam as refueling stations. An inn 
was built at Midway for overnight accommodation, and by 1940 the 
base was considered to be an important military outpost, particularly 
when the civilian population rose to 437. Midway's strategic impor- 
tance first became evident in 1935 when the U. S, Navy held fleet ma- 
neuvers around the sandy atoll in which the Marines made practice 
landings, and aircraft flew simulated attacks against the dunes. By 
1939 the Hepburn Board Report described Midway as second in im- 
portance to Pearl Harbor, and suggested that facilities for two patrol 


gallon cartons of ice cream from the galley. TTiey thoughtfully brought 
handfuls of wooden spoons that added a picnic air to the occasion. 
The sea was calm and warm, and no one who went overboard during 
the abandon ship routine was lost. 

At 8 P.M. "Lady Lex" was pierced by torpedoes from the destroyer 
U.S.S. Phelps, and with one final explosion she went down, bows 
up, and slid into 2400 fathoms with the bodies of 216 men and what 
was left of 36 aircraft 19 aircraft had been flown off and landed on 
Yorfefcnvn. Thankfully, 2735 officers and men were rescued. 

As a gesture of caution Admiral Inouye decided to call off the in- 
vasion of Port Moresby, although what force might have stopped him 
by now, is uncertain except that the land-based Army Air Force had 
been well alerted and might have mopped up the Japanese transports 
now that Shoho had been sunk, and no air cover could be furnished 
for the invasion group. 

The news of the Coral Sea battle was greatly exaggerated back 
home. Some newspapers said that between seventeen and twenty-two 
Japanese vessels had been sunk, but no mention of the loss of Lexing- 
ton was released. In Tokyo the Japanese reported the sinking of bat- 
tleships that had not as yet been launched, all of Admiral Grace's force 
was said to be wallowing on the bottom of the Pacific, and both 
Lexington and Yorktown completely destroyed. Since American au- 
thorities neither denied nor confirmed these wild claims, the Japanese 
Navy had no idea what had happened, but were amazed to learn years 
afterward that, although damaged severely by one large bomb, Yorfe- 
town was repaired so rapidly, she was available for the Battle of Mid- 
way a short time later, whereas neither Shokaku nor Zuikaku were able 
to take part. The former was badly damaged and Japanese shipyards 
could not compete with the time allowance; as for Zuikaku, she lost so 
many airmen and aircraft she was not ready for action again until she 
was sent out for the diversionary raid against the Aleutians June 12. 

This first carrier-against-carrier battle was historic since all losses 
were inflicted by air attack no ship on either side sighted a surface 
vessel but whether the Battle of the Coral Sea opened a new chapter 
in naval warfare was not clear. Many mistakes were made by both 
sides, communications were haphazard and at times tragic. Port 
Moresby had been saved, which meant that the whole Australian con- 
tinent was safe; the Louisiades was the limit to which ships of the 
Japanese Empire would reach. But more important, the factors that 
were to make up both sides in the Battle of Midway were determined, 


and in the end success there possibly was the most important victory 
in the whole Pacific campaign. 

If the designers of carrier aircraft did not learn something from the 
tragic loss of Lexington, that conflict was a defeat for us. Also, we must 
have been convinced that the enemy Zeke fighter was superior to the 
Wildcat in speed, maneuverability, and rate of climb. Immediate plans 
for new tactics against these Meat Ball gadflies had to be considered. 
The TBD was most vulnerable in that it did not have leakproof tanks 
(self-sealing), and was much too slow for routine toipedo bombing. 
We should have learned a lot in the Coral Sea, 

Geographically, the Midway Islands make up a circular atoll in the 
mid-Pacific Ocean, about six miles in diameter. They were little known 
until 1903 when a small force of U. S. Marines took them over, chiefly 
to guard a trans-Pacific cable station built there. The two main islands, 
Sand and Eastern, were first claimed by the United States in 1859, 
and ten years later $50,000 was appropriated to dredge a channel into 
the lagoon, an operation that was discontinued after seven months of 
effort and expense. 

From early 1900 it was noticed that Japanese poachers were swarm- 
ing over these islands capturing tern, black gannet, and goonie birds 
for their feathers. Fearing that these invaders might become interna- 
tional squatters, President Theodore Roosevelt put the islands under 
the jurisdiction of the U. S. Navy, and the poachers were ordered off. 
Robert Louis Stevenson, one of the first to publicize the Pacific is- 
lands, is said to have based his tale, The Wrecker," on the experience 
of the crew of a British bark, Wandering Minstrel, that sank in the 
Midway lagoon during a storm. Her Captain Walker, his wife, and 
members of his crew subsisted on fish and birds' eggs until they were 

Pan American Airways established an air service to the Philippines 
in 1936, using Midway, Wake, and Guam as refueling stations. An inn 
was built at Midway for overnight accommodation, and by 1940 the 
base was considered to be an important military outpost, particularly 
when the civilian population rose to 437. Midway's strategic impor- 
tance first became evident in 1935 when the U. S. Navy held fleet ma- 
neuvers around the sandy atoll in which the Marines made practice 
landings, and aircraft flew simulated attacks against the dunes. By 
1939 tk e Hepburn Board Report described Midway as second in im- 
portance to Pearl Harbor, and suggested that facilities for two patrol 


squadrons be constructed, and some channel piers built. Late in 1940 
a Navy dock was added, and gradually a respectable defense force was 
formed that included consideration of an airstrip on Eastern Island 
to supplement the seaplane facilities, originally planned. 

When the war began the Sand Island seaplane ramps accommo- 
dated twelve PBY flying boats, belonging to VP-21 Squadron. Two 
Dutch PBY flying boats that had taken off that fateful morning 
for the East Indies were recalled and commandeered. There were no 
actual fighting aircraft on hand, but three days before the Pearl Harbor 
attack, U.S.S. Wright, a seaplane tender, had delivered forty enlisted 
men from Marine Air Group 21, who were to receive and service eight- 
een Curtiss Helldivers that were to be flown off Lexington on Decem- 
ber 7. As related before, Lexington did not deliver the aircraft, since 
she was ordered to turn back, and the dive bombers were handed over 
to the Pearl Harbor defense forces for the time being. On December 
17 these single-engined planes, guided by a twin-engined PBY, flew 
from Hawaii to Midway, after a record-breaking flight of nine hours 
and forty-five minutes, the longest mass overwater flight of its kind 
on record up to that time. 

On the night of December 7 two Japanese destroyers Sazanami and 
Usio lobbed a few shells into Sand Island that killed two Marines and 
two sailors. The roof of the seaplane hangar was burned, one plane 
was completely destroyed, as were most of the hangar's stores. The 
island's two defense batteries returned the fire and claimed some hits, 
that were never substantiated, although Captain J. H. Hamilton who 
was flying a PA A. Philippine Clipper out of Wake Island had reached 
a point southwest of Midway, and reported noting two naval vessels 
bearing southwest, and that one of them was burning intensely. 

By Christmas Day Saratoga delivered fourteen Brewster Buffaloes, 
belonging to Marine Fighter-22i Squadron. These almost obsolete air- 
craft were to reinforce the ancient PBY patrol planes. This haphazard 
build-up continued during the spring of 1942, and although Midway 
was obviously the key point in the over-all war plans in the Pacific, 
very little was, or could be, done about it. 

However, as the picture became clearer and the importance of Mid- 
way fully revealed, the necessary defensive plans were extended. At 
the same time U. S. Intelligence had broken a valuable Japanese code 
and learned of Admiral Yamamoto's intent to take either Hawaii 
or Midway, By early April twenty-two Marine pilots, seven Wildcat 
aircraft, and nineteen Helldivers were delivered by U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. 


By the end of May the airfield, spread over one end of Eastern Island, 
was cluttered with four 6-265 and seventeen B-iys, belonging to the 
Army Air Force, six Navy torpedo carriers, and about sixty planes of 
varying categories belonging to the U. S. Marines. 

Fuel consumption for continued training and routine patrols was 
gobbling up 65,000 gallons of aviation fuel per day, and on May 22 
this situation became critical when a sailor yanked the wrong switch 
during a demolition drill and burned up 400,000 gallons of gasoline. 
From that time on all aircraft were refueled from fifty-five-gallon 
drums, which was similar to servicing a Cadillac with an eyedropper. 

Even after the setback in the Coral Sea engagement, the Japanese 
Combined Fleet Headquarters continued its interest in the occupation 
of Midway. Although two of their large carriers had been eliminated 
from their Carrier Division 5, they believed the U. S. Navy had also 
lost two carriers, and so the available strength appeared to be well in 
Japan's favor. Admiral Nagumo still had Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and 
Kiryu to provide his air striking force, and even the Naval General Staff 
at home, which had opposed the Midway attack, was now confident 
of a successful outcome. They knew that Enterprise and Hornet were 
back at Pearl Harbor; they had no idea where Wasp might be, but 
agreed she might join any defense of Midway. Ranger was believed to 
be in the Atlantic, and Saratoga was known to be still at San Diego 
undergoing repairs from torpedo damage. As matters stood on May 
28, Japan had the better of the deal when Task Force 16, now under 
Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, sortied out of Pearl Harbor. 

On that same day Admiral Yamamoto sent off what might be con- 
sidered a diversionary force that headed for an unimpeded invasion 
of the Aleutians. This was after a week of intensive fleet maneuvers 
and tabletop lectures aboard his flagship Yamato. The Japanese plan 
consisted of three general operations. Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuta, 
with the Second Carrier Striking Force took over the Aleutians assign- 
ment; his flagship was Ryujo. About May 26 (Tokyo time) he moved 
out of Ominato harbor on northern Honshu, steamed through the 
Tsugaru Strait and set an easterly course across the northern Pacific. 
A friendly fog came up and gave him full cover from any U. S. sub- 
marines that might have been lurking east of Hokkaido, and, as we 
know, the Kakuta force met no opposition and made the landing un- 

On the morning of May 27 (Tokyo time) the Admiral Nagumo 
force departed from Hashirajima anchorage, threaded its way through 


Bungo Strait about noon and by nightfall was well out in the Pacific. 
Meanwhile other forces were moving out according to plan. Vice- 
Admiral Hosogaya's northern main body, and the Attu and Kiska in- 
vasion forces sailed out of Ominato. To the south the Midway landing 
forces, escorted by Rear Admiral R. Tanaka's light cruiser flagship 
Jintsu, twelve destroyers, the seaplane carrier Chitose, tenders and 
other units ranged out of Saipan that same evening. A trick that was 
designed to deceive U. S. submarines on patrol, took the convoy 
first in a westerly direction, and then it skirted around to the south of 
Tinian before heading east. Rear Admiral Kurita's support group of 
heavy cruisers steamed out of Guam almost simultaneously and moved 
on a parallel course, about forty miles to the south of the invasion 

The last to move out were the main body of the Midway Invasion 
Force, under Vice-Admiral Kondo, and the Main Force under the di- 
rect command of Admiral Yamamoto. Five months had passed since 
the battleship group had last left home waters as it had remained 
in the Inland Sea, carrying out rigprous training for what was hoped 
would be a major role in a decisive battle against the American Fleet. 
Every officer and man aboard the big ships was confident their fire- 
power would send every enemy to the bottom, and now that they had 
Yanurfo, the largest battleship afloat, making her maiden sortie, their 
confidence was to some extent justified. 

As this main force moved to head out of Bungo Strait, patrolling 
destroyers reported sighting two enemy submarines. This information, 
added to earlier radio intelligence that indicated there might be a 
total of six enemy submarines in this area, intensified antisubmarine 
operations and search, and as a result all ships of the Kondo and 
Yamamoto forces slipped through this danger area without mishap. 

On reaching the open sea, Admiral Yamamoto's force went into two 
parallel columns of batdewagons, while the light carrier Hosho took a 
position between the two columns where she could launch or recover 
her antisubmarine planes in shelter and protection. The whole battle- 
ship group was screened by twenty destroyers, and the light cruiser 
Sendd completed a circular defense force, moving southeast at eight- 
een knots. 

By May 29, their time, all the Japanese forces were forging ahead 
without a hitch. Only Admiral Kakuta, heading for his Aleutian en- 
gagement, was plagued with continued ba<i fog. On May 30 rain and 
strong winds over the central Pacific made navigation difficult for the 


Yamamoto and Kondo forces, and the formation speed was cut to 
fourteen knots. To add to this a message was picked up from a U. S. 
submarine somewhere directly ahead of the Japanese Transport Group. 
Although the message was in code, it was meant for Midway, and 
Admiral Yamamoto presumed rightfully that the invasion transports 
had been spotted. His staff should have been concerned, but instead 
it took the attitude that if United States forces had guessed the pur- 
pose of the transport group, they would send out a fleet to oppose 
the invasion, and the primary objective of drawing in these enemy 
forces for a decisive battle would be achieved. 

From this point on many of Yamamoto's well-laid plans went awry. 
Two submarines that were ordered to refuel two flying boats off 
French Frigate Shoals about five hundred miles northwest of Oahu, 
found, instead, two U. S. Navy seaplane tenders at the rendezvous, 
and the contact had to be called off. The Japanese flying boats were 
to have made an important reconnaissance over Hawaii, and when this 
plan had to be discarded, it was impossible to know just what U. S, 
Navy forces were still in, or had left Pearl Harbor. Now Admiral 
Yamamoto was relying on information from cordons of submarines 
that skulked between Hawaii and Midway, and this information would 
have to be available by June 2 to be of any value. The weather was 
still disturbing by June i and the Yamamoto force was unable to find 
its tanker train to refuel. Aircraft were sent up from Hosfto, but they 
could not round up the oilers, and radio messages had to be sent 
out before this important contact could be made. 

With this breaking of radio silence, there came further evidence 
that the U. S. forces were cognizant of Yamamoto's intentions. Radio 
messages between Hawaii and Midway were stepped up in number 
and urgency. A Japanese flying boat encountered an American flying 
boat about five hundred miles north-northwest of Wotje that indi- 
cated that Midway had extended its patrol range to seven hundred 
miles. News of contacts with U. S. submarines continued to seep in 
which, when analyzed, indicated that an enemy submarine patrol line 
was out some six hundred miles southwest of Midway. 

Thousands of airmen and sailors had a rendezvous with death. 

The carrier Hornet left Pearl Harbor May 28, and her air group that 
had been stationed ashore while she was in port, flew out and went 
aboard shortly after the carrier was clear of tie harbor. Within min- 


utes of tying down the planes, her skipper, Captain Marc A. Mitscher, 
went on the bull horn to explain the situation. 

"This is the captain. We are going to intercept a Jap attack on 

The idea of an assault on Midway had been brewing in the minds 
of the airmen for some time and few of them were particularly dis- 
turbed; only the skipper of Torpedo Eight Squadron felt any con- 
cern, for six of his new Grumman Avengers were based on Midway, 
and he wished he had a full deck to deal from. Most of the airmen 
aboard Hornet had been in special training for months, but none had 
actually fired a shot in wrath. As the carrier steamed on for a rendez- 
vous with Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher's Task Force 17, routine 
training was continued. 

On June i Captain Mitscher scrawled a message for Commander 
Henderson to read out: "The enemy are approaching for an attempt 
to seize Midway. This attack will probably be accompanied by a feint 
at western Alaska. We are going to prevent them from taking Mid- 
way, if possible. Be ready and keep on the alert. Let's get a few more 

By 2 PJWL the next day Hornets force joined Yorktown northeast 
of Midway, and Admiral Fletcher assumed tactical command of the 
entire American defensive force, but Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, back 
at Pearl Harbor, still maintained command of the strategic planning. 
Admiral Halsey was indisposed, and Rear Admiral Raymond Spru- 
ance was given command of Task Force 16, of which Hornet was a 

As has been noted, the Pacific Fleet could not put one battleship 
into the Midway action. Vice-Admiral William S. Pye's battleship 
force, which had been carrying out important duties over routes be- 
tween West Coast ports and Hawaii, was anchored in San Francisco 
Bay where the battleship sailors on liberty were treated unpleasantly 
by San Franciscans. Admiral Pye wished to get into more dramatic ac- 
tion, but Admiral Nimitz refused, explaining that he could furnish 
the slower battleships no air cover, and that the Midway planning 
promised small opportunity for battleships to tangle with the enemy. 

Admiral Nimitz had, therefore, to face a Japanese force that was 
composed of battleships, carriers, heavy cruisers, and a full comple- 
ment of support vessels, with a much smaller collection. He also had 
had to decide whether to confine his efforts to the Midway situation, 
leaving the Aleutians to fend for themselves, or to make some token 


effort to protect those far-flung islands. The "token" effort had been 
decided on early in May when a North Pacific Force, composed of the 
heavy cruisers Indianapolis and Louisville, the light cruisers Honolulu, 
St. Louis, and Nashville, and ten destroyers, was put under command 
of Rear Admiral Robert A. Theobald. 

Admiral Nimitz did have one strategic advantage over Admiral 
Yamamoto a shorter distance from his base to the scene of the ac- 
tion. Midway accommodated more aircraft than any carrier, and Mid- 
way could not be sunk. Nimitz also had the benefit of the search 
radar, established on Midway, and by now Enterprise, Hornet, and 
Yorktown, as well as a few cruisers, were so equipped. 

After careful consideration of available information, Admiral 
Nimitz believed that the Japanese would make a full-scale attack on 
Midway with the idea of an immediate occupation, that Yamamoto's 
battleships and carrier aircraft would aim to destroy as much of the 
U. S. surface force as possible, and enemy submarines would attempt 
to intercept and destroy any American vessels that were two hundred 
miles west of Oahu. 

In opposition, Spruance and Fletcher were to inflict maximum dam- 
age on the enemy by using strong attrition tactics. In landlubber lan- 
guage this meant that planes from U. S. carriers were to torpedo, 
bomb, or dive-bomb anything that flew the Japanese Imperial Navy 

Admiral Nimitz explained further in his Letter of Instruction: "In 
carrying out the task assigned, you will be governed by the principle 
of calculated risk, which you shall interpret to mean the avoidance 
of exposure of your force to attack by superior enemy forces without 
good prospect of inflicting, as a result of such exposure, greater dam- 
age on the enemy." 

Admiral Fletcher, who was senior to Admiral Spruance, became 
Officer in Tactical Command the minute their rendezvous was com- 
pleted. Fletcher had no aviation staff, whereas Spruance had inher- 
ited Halsey's, and it was fortunate that Spruance made the most of 
what was practically an independent command during the important 
actions of June 4-6. Neither Navy man had any control over the avia- 
tion forces on Midway, over the submarines in the area, or over the 
North Pacific force off the Aleutians. The over-all commander was 
Admiral Nimitz at his Pearl Harbor headquarters. 

By June i the Japanese transport convoy had reached a point about 


one thousand miles west of Midway and was steaming on a northeast 
course at about 240 miles a day, and would thus enter the seven- 
hundred-mile patrol radius of American patrol planes out of Midway 
by June 3 two days before the date set for the preinvasion strike on 
the island by Admiral Nagumo's Number i Carrier Division. It ap- 
peared that the transport force was moving too fast for safety a point 
to be remembered. 

The inclement weather continued and occasional rain fell where 
Yamamoto's main body was making a delayed refueling; in fact the 
weather turned worse and the refueling had to be discontinued. It 
was also learned at this time that submarines of Squadron 5 that 
were supposed to be part of the cordon line set up northwest of 
Hawaii, had failed to take their assigned positions overhaul delays 
had postponed their departure from home bases. This left Admiral 
Yamamoto wondering what was going on in the cordon area; only his 
I-i68 that was scouting in the Midway area got a few scant messages 
through, and this submarine could offer little that Yamamoto did not 
know. The skipper of I-i68 did report that many construction cranes 
appeared to be in operation on Midway, indicating that the installa- 
tions were being expanded. 

On June 2 Admiral Nagumo's carrier force was cruising about six 
hundred miles ahead of the main force where it entered a very misty 
area, clouds hung low, light rain began to fall, and it seemed that 
they would eventually run into a foggy condition. Visibility was so 
scant there was some danger of ships in the formation colliding, and 
at the same time Nagumo was very much in the dark about U. S. 
fleet movements; in fact the carrier force commander knew less of 
what was going on than did Admiral Yamamoto. He had a suspicion 
that the Americans were already alert, but without actual confirmation 
either way, his position was most unenviable. Admiral Yamamoto, 
holding to the order of radio silence, hoped that the element of sur- 
prise had not been lost, and thus put his trust in wishful thinking. 

Actually, they were sailing into a trap, blind, but hopeful. 

By dawn of June 3 the Japanese carrier force was creeping through 
a heavy blanket of fog and the ships steaming at six-hundred-yard in- 
tervals turned on powerful searchlights, but these artificial aids scarcely 
penetrated the pall. Navigating, and carrying out zigzag courses with 
only infrequent glimpses of neighboring ships, must have been nerve- 
racking and hazardous, yet these measures had to be maintained since 
the waters were patrolled by American submarines. 


The fog did afford some measure of cover from aerial observation, 
but whatever advantage so gained was more than cancelled by the 
navigation and collision problems. They knew, too, that fog interfered 
in no way with U. S. Navy radar equipment. 

Admiral Nagumo was a very unhappy man. With bad weather de- 
manding a change of course by 10:30, he realized that he had been 
given two missions that were essentially incompatible. He was first to 
soften the Midway defenses by June 5 in preparation for the landing 
operations, a mission that limited his general movement, and at the 
same time he was expected to contact and destroy the U. S. Naval 
forces, an assignment that demanded complete freedom of movement. 

Sitting out there in the fog wondering whether to use a low- 
frequency radio to advise ships when to change course, Admiral 
Nagumo had also to decide which assignment came first the Midway 
beat-up, or the attack on American surface ships. His Captain Oishi 
made the following suggestion: "The Combined Fleet operation order 
gives first priority to the destruction of enemy forces. Co-operation 
with the landing operation is secondary, but the same order specifically 
calls for our air attack on Midway Island on June 5. This means that 
the air attack must be carried out exactly as scheduled, provided that 
no enemy task forces are located by the time we are ready to launch. 
If we do not neutralize the Midway-based air forces as planned, our 
landing operations two days later will be strongly opposed, and the 
entire invasion schedule will be upset." 

Admiral Nagumo smiled at the simplicity of the advice. "That is 
all very well/' he agreed, "but where is the enemy fleet?" 

Captain Oishi presumed that the American forces were in Pearl 
Harbor, and if so they would have more than one thousand miles to 
sail, once they learned of the Japanese strike at Midway. On that 
premise Captain Oishi suggested that the scheduled raid on Midway 
should be carried out. 

Still no radio intercepts were made to give them any idea where 
the U. S. Fleet was, or what were its intentions. And the Japanese 
force continued on, half-believing that the American Fleet would be 
lured out of Pearl Harbor with the news of the raid against Midway; 
they had no idea that a heavy force was awaiting them in the waters 
around the key island. Later on when Admiral Nagumo learned that 
the main fleet had had some such suspicion, he asked why the same 
radio intelligence had not been forwarded to him. The answer was 
that since he was closer to the enemy, he would naturally have picked 


up the same information. Also, it was too risky to break their order 
of radio silence. 

Rain fell steadily until June 4 (Tokyo time) and the sky was still 
sullen and forbidding. At 8 AJM. that morning Admiral Yamamoto sent 
his guard force off from the main body to proceed northeast to 
cover the Aleutian operations. A short time later he received a mes- 
sage from the admiral in command of the transport convoy that his 
ships had been spotted by an American search plane, some six hun- 
dred miles west of Midway. Even Admiral Yamamoto realized now 
that only a dullard commander would miss the threat against Mid- 
way, and it was obvious that some action would result shortly. 

That afternoon nine B-iy bombers attacked the transport convoy, 
but no hits were scored. Early the next morning more American planes 
roared over and made a low-level attack; one of them put a torpedo 
into Akebono Maru, a tanker in the rear of the column. The explosion 
killed eleven men and wounded thirteen others, but the tanker ignored 
the rent in her hull, continued on, and maintained her place in the 
formation. This transport formation was supposed to move in well 
ahead of the carrier force, but Admiral Yamamoto was planning ac- 
cording to the phase of the moon, and this plan was adhered to. 

Rear Admiral Kakuta's Second Carrier Striking Force which was 
leading the northern thrust, reached its launching position for the 
strike at Dutch Harbor. The mercury stood well down the thermome- 
ter tube. The pilots were using maps that were made from charts thirty 
years old, and no one had any idea what the shoreline portions of their 
target island would look like. The planes took off at 2:38 A.M. June 3 
from Ryu/o and the light carrier Junyo when the visibility had reached 
about three thousand yards. 

This attack, which was intended as a diversionary thrust, was a risky 
venture. Weather made formation flying impossible, so eleven bomb- 
ers, twelve dive bombers, and a dozen fighters headed for Dutch Har- 
bor. Fortunately for them, they found a hole in the clouds and no 
American defense planes to hamper them. They attacked a radio sta- 
tion, oil tanks, and one flying boat that was moored in the water. 
While these planes were over Dutch Harbor, an American flying boat, 
with a small escort of scouts, flew over Admiral Kakuta's force and 
dropped several bombs, but scored no hits. 

The opening Japanese attack left much to be desired, although some 
photographs were taken that showed modem warehouses, barracks, 


wharves, good roads, and fuel-storage tanks. A second mission was 
sent out, but this time the weather closed in thick, and all planes 
had to return without dropping a bomb or firing a gun. Admiral 
Kakuta's force then continued to move in until it was about one hun- 
dred miles off the Aleutian shore. Two Japanese flying boats were sent 
on a reconnaissance mission, but were intercepted and shot down by 
American fighters. Two others, sent on a similar assignment, had not 
much better luck. They managed to return but the planes broke up 
when they landed near their mother ships. 

These operations proved only that the United States had air bases 
in the Unalaska area, but where, Kakuta never found out. Little dam- 
age was inflicted on Dutch Harbor, and the foray was entirely ineffec- 
tive in achieving its diversionary objective, since Pearl Harbor was 
aware that the main Japanese attack was to be directed at Midway. 

Admiral Yamamoto's forces to the south were enduring many kinds 
of false alarms. Enemy (U. S.) planes were reported everywhere, but 
seldom confirmed. Lights in the night skies believed to be navigation 
lights of prowling aircraft generally turned out to be bright stars. As 
the zero hour approached, aircraft engines were run up, last-minute 
checks were made, and the carrier decks were hives of industry. By 
3 A.M. June 4 (Tokyo time) aircraft were being readied for take-off 
from Akagi. Thirty-six torpedo aircraft, thirty-six dive bombers, and 
thirty-six fighters were picked up by the Midway radar when this force 
was forty-three miles northwest of the target point. When the island 
alarm sounded, a Marine fighter squadron took off and met the raid- 
ers about thirty miles out. Practically every Marine plane was shot 
down. The Zekes had a holiday and soon were over Midway, scream- 
ing through a wicked curtain of antiaircraft fire. The first bomb load 
was released from fourteen thousand feet. The Val dive bombers went 
in next, and together they wiped out the Marine command post and 
mess hall. They then went after the power station on Eastern Island, 
destroyed oil tanks on Sand Island, blew up the seaplane hangar, 
burned the hospital and storehouses and damaged the gasoline sys- 
tem. Luckily no real damage was inflicted on the runways and only 
a few service men were killed on the ground. This attack was over 
by 6:50 A.M. It was disclosed later that Marine Corps airmen had de- 
stroyed at least one third of the enemy attack group, before the Ma- 
rines were shunted out of the play. Again the outdated Buffaloes and 
war-weary Wildcats were no match for first-class Zeke fighters. 

An American PBY plane out of Midway had in the meantime, 


despite the bad weather, spotted the Japanese force. The pilot took no 
chances and radioed in English: "Many enemy planes heading for Mid- 
way ." A few minutes later he added: "Two carriers, and battleships 
bearing 320 distant 180 (miles from Midway) on course 135 speed 


This was the first real indication as to where the Japanese force was. 
The information was not exact, and the position was some forty miles 
off, but it was enough for Admirals Spruance and Fletcher. Admiral 
Spruance made a quick and valuable decision, ordering Enterprise and 
Hornet to proceed southwesterly and attack enemy carriers when defi- 
nitely located, and promised to send Yorktovm along as soon as she 
could recover the planes of a search mission she had in the air. It 
was Admiral Fletcher who made the decision about Yorktown, and 
in that resolve he ignited a train of events that was to result in the 
loss of four Japanese carriers. 

A short time later, 7 A.M. to be exact, while Army 8-175 were trying 
to punish enemy carriers from twenty thousand feet, but with no luck, 
fighter pilots from Hornet were put on alert and scout bombers were 
launched. One of these was Torpedo Eight, in which Ensign George 
H. Gay, Jr., was a member. He was to experience an amazing adven- 
ture in this battle. 

About this time also a Japanese cruiser, Tons, had sent off a float 
search plane that was to reach a point some three hundred miles away. 
At 7:28 it reported a formation of ten ships, apparently enemy, that 
were headed southeast toward Midway. In its warning message it ex- 
plained that this force was only two hundred forty miles from Midway, 
and doing twenty knots. When the news was relayed to Admiral 
Nagumo, his world toppled around him, for he had no idea that an 
enemy force could be that close so soon; that enemy surface ships 
were in the vicinity waiting to ambush him. 

His staff intelligence officer soon figured out that the American 
forces were only two hundred miles away from Nagumo's carriers and 
that they were within striking distance of Japanese planes, but if the 
American commander had any carriers, Nagumo's fleet was within his 
reach! The Tone's search plane had not waited around long enough 
to learn whether there were any carriers in this unexpected force. At 
7:58 A.M., apparently risking another peek, it reported that the enemy 
ships had changed course, but again failed to mention whether it 
included any carriers, and it was not until Nagumo's staff officers 
sent a radio signal demanding to know the composition of the enemy 


force that finally at 8:09 A.M. the Tone's search plane's operator re- 
plied with: "Enemy ships are five cruisers and five destroyers." 

That news pleased everyone until 8:20 when the Tone plane came 
through with: "Enemy force accompanied by what appears to be an 
aircraft carrier bringing up the rear." 

The optimists aboard Akagi put their hopes in the phrase "appears 
to be." The identification was not certain. If the enemy had a car- 
rier, why hadn't Nagumo's force been attacked by carrier-type aircraft? 
Then at 8:30 the search plane reported that two additional ships, ap- 
parently cruisers, had joined the enemy force. It was still on a course 
of 1 50 and making twenty knots. 

Admiral Nagumo was in a new quandary. Most of his bomber planes 
aboard Kaga and Akagi had been armed with high-level bombs, weap- 
ons suitable for his attack against Midway, but if there were an enemy 
fleet somewhere ahead, torpedoes would be the order of the day. But 
he was still uncertain and vacillated. The only Japanese planes that 
were armed for an attack against enemy surface ships were thirty-six 
dive bombers aboard Hiryu and Soryu. To Nagumo's dilemma was 
added the problems involved in a dive-bomber attack against the mys- 
terious enemy force they would have to go without fighter escort 
since all his Zekes were in the air in a defense patrol against the re- 
peated attacks by U. S. shore-based bombers. By the time his Midway- 
attack aircraft were returning, many in desperate straits, Admiral 
Nagumo had to make a quick decision. 

The deck space was needed for the incoming planes, but some of 
his staff were suggesting an immediate attack against the force that 
Tone's spotter plane had reported. The Japanese admiral cautiously 
decided to clear his decks by putting his bombers below, and then 
bringing in the Midway-strike force. This decision was made around 
8:30 A.M. He also removed the 8oo-kilogram bombs and replaced them 
with conventional torpedoes. Once his Midway force was safely 
aboard he decided that he would head northward to contact "and 
destroy" the enemy task force, and he advised Admiral Yamamoto of 
his decision, explaining that the enemy force was composed of one 
carrier, five cruisers, and five destroyers. 

Admiral Nimitz's fleet actually consisted of three carriers, eight 
cruisers, fifteen destroyers, and at least twelve submarines, to which 
was added the land-based air arm of the Army at Midway. 

The Japanese Midway-strike planes were recovered by 9:18 A.M., 
as well as the second wave of fighters that were up on combat air 


patrol. The new northward course was set, mainly to evade the 
Midway-based air attacks, and with the hope of gaining an advan- 
tageous position over Spruance's fleet. 

Admiral Spruance adopted the "commensurate risk" factor of his 
orders, and decided to launch his planes around 7 A.M., hoping to 
find the enemy carriers' refueling planes on deck in preparation for 
their second strike against Midway. He knew that his torpedo planes 
had a combat radius of only 175 miles, but this was a risk that had 
to be taken. At 7:02 aircraft began roaring off Enterprise and Hornet; 
every plane that could fly and carry a war load was put into the air. 
All told the force was made up of twenty Wildcat fighters, twenty-nine 
Devastator torpedo bombers, and sixty-seven Dauntless dive bombers, 
fairly well divided between the two carriers. A force of thirty-six Wild- 
cats was held back as combat air patrol to cover the two flat-tops 
while the attack planes were away. 

Admiral Fletcher, sailing the same course with Yorktawn and Task 
Force 17, delayed his launching until after 8 A.M., presuming there 
might be other, unreported, Japanese carriers to contend with. Since 
nothing further had been added to any of the PBY reports, or from 
the Army Air Force bombers by 8:38, he launched half of his Daunt- 
less planes and all of his torpedo carriers with suitable fighter escort. 
This force was in the air by 9:06, and another deckload was spotted 
for immediate take-off, if needed. 

The enemy was located about 9:50, after it was realized that 
Yamamoto's force had changed course; instead of being on a heading 
for Midway, it was found at a point northwest. The four enemy carriers 
were boxed in by a screen that was composed of two battleships, three 
cruisers, and eleven destroyers. As the flagship, Akagi rode in a flank 
position to starboard, and Kaga steamed some distance astern. The 
Japanese carriers were in the condition Spruance had hoped all 
bomber aircraft were aboard with rearming and refueling going on in 
great excitement. 

Admiral Nagumo then ordered a new change of course, a go-degree 
switch in direction to east-northeast. This evaded the dive bombers 
from Hornet that somehow missed the enemy, continued on their orig- 
inal bearing, and found nothing to attack. They had to land at Mid- 
way to refuel. Two piled up in the lagoon, and all the Wildcats of the 
fighter cover had to ditch owing to lack of fuel. 

Hornet's torpedo squadron, under Lieutenant Commander John C. 


Waldron, went on to some degree of glory and tragedy. Commander 
Waldron knew that his squadron had little chance to survive, but each 
man was determined to press on against all obstacles. 

On discovering that the enemy was not where he was supposed to 
be, Commander Waldron turned northward while his fighter cover 
apparently headed in another direction. At 9:25 he spotted two smoke 
columns, and there found his targets. The Japanese air patrol pounced 
within minutes, and Torpedo Eight Squadron was immediately in 
trouble, and before they were within eight miles of the carrier force 
they were harried by antiaircraft fire. Commander Waldron pressed 
on, but plane after plane was shot down until there was only a small 
formation left. These continued on bravely and dropped their tor- 
pedoes, but they were batted down before they had any idea whether 
or not they had scored. Twenty-five-year-old Ensign George H. Gay, 
Jr., of Houston, Texas, alone survived of all the pilots and crewmen 
in the fifteen planes. He managed to launch his torpedo against a 
carrier, and pulled out about ten feet above the enemy deck. An ex- 
plosive bullet took out his rudder controls, and his aircraft piled into 
the sea. His air gunner was dead, and Ensign Gay realized, after pan- 
caking his ship on the waves, that he too had been hit in his upper 
left arm and left l^g. The landing was rough and Gay's radioman could 
not climb out of the tangle of wreckage. 

By 11:00 Gay was floating about with a black cushion and a bag 
containing his rubber life raft. He could have inflated the dinghy, but 
he had heard that Japanese fliers usually fired on men floating on the 
surface, and since he was well inside the Japanese Fleet area, he used 
the cushion as long as possible. He spent some time attending to his 
wounds, and then realized he was an eyewitness to what became 
known as the Battle of Midway. 

As he floated about amid the naval carnage, he saw two enemy car- 
riers hit squarely by American bombs. He saw tremendous fires and 
billows of smoke that burst through great holes in the decks. A pat- 
tern of wild flame churned upward to hold aloft great cushions of 
black smoke. He heard internal explosions roar from the carriers at mo- 
mentary intervals, and as the attack continued one carrier showed fire 
from bow to stern. 

A minute figure floating about amid the flotsam of battle, Ensign 
Gay was almost run down several times by destroyers that were speed- 
ing to the stricken carriers. A heavy cruiser steamed by less than five 
hundred yards from him, and Gay could see the crew along her rail 


as they endured the gradual destruction of Admiral Yamamoto's force. 

When the action waned in the afternoon the young ensign watched 
the Japanese make frantic efforts to control the damage. An enemy 
cruiser tried to stand by a crippled carrier, but could not move in close 
enough, so finally the cruiser stood off, opened up with her big guns 
and tried to scuttle the ill-fated flat-top. Some time later a destroyer 
came alongside the still floating hulk to take off survivors, as a covey 
of Japanese aircraft circled overhead, searching for a deck on which to 
land. Darkness finally ended the spectacle. 

Ensign Gay then attempted to inflate his rubber raft, but he had 
first to repair a number of bullet holes in the envelope before he 
dared risk triggering the carbon dioxide bottle. When it was inflated, 
he clambered in and began a long night vigil. By sun-up the next day 
a Navy patrol plane spotted his yellow raft, swept down out of the sky 
and picked up the lone survivor of Torpedo Eight Squadron. 

The torpedo squadron off Enterprise, commanded by Lieutenant 
Commander Eugene E. Lindsey, had no fighter protection either. His 
Wildcat escort inadvertently escorted Waldron's Torpedo Eight for a 
while. Commander Lindsey changed course well in time, and decided 
not to wait for the dive bombers. The Japanese helmsmen's clever 
maneuvering forced the TBDs to circle widely in order to make a 
beam attack on Kaga, which gave the Zeke fighters plenty of time- 
ten Devastators, including Lieutenant Commander Lindsey's, were 
shot down. The few who lived to launch their torpedoes did not score 
a hit. 

When the last of Enterprise's torpedo bombers had cleared around 
10 A.M., Yorfetown's TBDs, commanded by Lieutenant Commander 
Lance E. Massey, took off, covered by Lieutenant Commander John 
S. Thach's six Wildcats. These fighters were soon shoved out of the 
play by a big formation of Zekes, and Commander Massey, emulating 
Waldron and Lindsey, went in courageously, hoping to get Soryu, but 
instead barged into another slaughter. Seven Devastators, including 
Massey's, went down in flames. Five managed to release their tor- 
pedoes before they were shot down, but no hits were recorded. 

In the final summation, forty-one planes were sent out by American 
carriers, but only six returned and not one torpedo bored into a Japa- 
nese ship. What can be gleaned from this unhappy exhibition was the 
fact that the wild maneuvering of the enemy carriers prevented any of 
their aircraft from being launched, and although the TBDs were sitting 
ducks for the Zeke air cover, they did clear the air for the dive bombers 


that appeared a few minutes later. This enabled the Dauntless planes 
to move in unhindered and drop their bombs on enemy flat-tops while 
deckloads of planes were being refueled. 

There was little time to enjoy the glory of their victory over the 
American torpedo bombers, for the men of the Rising Sun were soon 
to see their last effulgence of sunshine. Dive bombers from all three 
American carriers, after expending some valuable fuel in searching for 
the Yamamoto force, were eventually guided into the right area. 

In all probability it was Lieutenant Commander Clarence W. Mc- 
Cluskey of Enterprise who took his formation in first, guided by a 
radio-telephone appeal from Commander Miles R. Browning of Ad- 
miral Spruance's staff. McCluskey found all four enemy carriers still 
maneuvering within a circle eight miles in diameter. He had thirty- 
seven Dauntless dive bombers under his command, including his own, 
and he ordered Lieutenant Commander Wilmer E. Gallaher with 
VS-6 to follow him in attacking Kagfi. Lieutenant Richard H. Best with 
nineteen SBDs following with looo-pounders, instead of 5oo-pound- 
ers used by McCluskey and Gallaher, went in later and cleaned up 
what was left. 

By a twist of fate a second element of three planes also attacked 
Kaga, giving that flat-top more than its share of TNT, and since the 
Japanese air cover patrols had dived low to get the torpedo planes, 
the dive bombers, roaring down a yo-degree chute, were not molested 
by the defending Zekes. 

Akagi was refueling forty aircraft that were spotted about her deck 
when the barrage started. Thus, she had no sooner stopped evasive 
tactics to duck the torpedoes than three dive-bomb hits smacked 
home. Captain Aoki in a statement made later, complained, "It was 
impossible to evade torpedoes and dive bombers at the same time. 
The bombs were dropped from about fifteen hundred feet, and the 
first only missed our bridge by thirty feet. The second took out the 
amidships elevator, which was enough to finish us, the third ripped 
through the flight deck on the port side, aft." 

This third bomb exploded in the middle of a group of airplanes 
that were being rearmed, or having the bombs that were intended for 
Midway changed to torpedoes to be used against the American task 
force. The bomb that hit near the elevator exploded in the hangar. It 
set off several Japanese torpedoes that started a terrific fire that was 
soon out of control. Admiral Nagumo, safe and sound on the upper 


works of the bridge, decided matters were not too bad, but refused 
to go below to take a look. The ship's skipper, Captain Aoki, begged 
him either to abandon ship, or go below and look for himself. Na- 
gumo lost his temper, although his staff officers tried to convince him 
that, as commander-in-chief, it was his duty at least to transfer to an- 
other ship where he could direct the operations since Akagfs commu- 
nications were out and they could not take any command under these 

Eventually Admiral Nagumo was practically dragged bodily down 
the wreckage-strewn companionways and ladders and finally finished 
the journey by a line that was hung from a lower portion of the island 
structure. Nagumo and his staff carried out the ritual of removing the 
Emperor's picture from Afczgi, and were taken off by a destroyer and 
transferred to Nagara, a light cruiser, from where the admiral flew his 
flag during the remainder of the battle. During the transfer Nagumo 
was well aware that both Soryu and Kczga were in distress fires were 
raging aboard both carriers but he decided to carry on with the, as 
yet, undamaged Hz'ryu. 

In the meantime Captain Aoki requested permission to have his 
ship sunk by gunfire, but both Nagumo and Yamamoto vacillated and 
Aoki returned to his stricken carrier alone. He reached a portion of 
the deck that was still clear of flames, crawled forward, and lashed 
himself to an anchor to await the end. However, when new orders 
seeped through, and it became apparent that the Japanese Fleet was 
in for a terrible beating, Yamamoto decided that a torpedo should 
send Akagi to the bottom. Before any were fired Commander Y, Miura, 
the carrier's navigator, climbed aboard the burning ship and begged 
Captain Aoki to be less dramatic, and persuaded him that to live and 
fight another day was more realistic. Aoki then followed Miura down 
a line and was taken off by a destroyer. 

Kaga, which had been hit in the same attack, did not last as long 
as Nagumo's flagship. Exactly at 10:24 nin e dive bombers came down 
out of the blue, each delivering a single missile. The first three were 
near misses that sent up towering columns of water. Four of the next 
six were inspired shots that pierced the forward, middle, and aft sec- 
tions of the flight deck. One that hit between the bow and the bridge 
caught a small gasoline truck and spread flaming fuel over a wide area, 
and engulfed all the ladders and entrances to the bridge. Captain 
Jisaku Okada and almost all of the bridge staff were wiped out in this 


sudden flash-blast, leaving Commander Takahisa Amagai, the air offi- 
cer, in command. 

Amid all this horror fires seemed to erupt from every opening in 
the vessel, and what men were left to make up a damage-control party 
fought these flames and explosions for what seemed hours, but their 
heroic efforts were for naught. Commander Amagai tried to maintain 
command from the starboard boat deck, but it was obvious that he 
hoped soon to be relieved. Within three hours Kaga began an ominous 
list and then came to a dead halt. Amagai was so disturbed with his 
unwanted command and hopeless problem that he imagined he saw 
a submarine. In his early reports he stated that he had spotted a peri- 
scope and had actually seen the wake of two torpedoes. Others stated 
that two torpedoes missed Kaga, and a third struck but failed to 

Later, however, Amagai declared that he had been swimming in the 
water when he first saw the submarine's periscope and the torpedo 
wakes. It was stated that when the third struck and failed to explode, it 
broke in half, the warhead went to the bottom, but the main chamber 
remained afloat and several Japanese sailors climbed on it and used it 
for a temporary raft. None of the destroyers standing by Kaga saw a 
periscope or tracks of torpedoes. What had finished the carrier was 
the continuing explosions from her interior gasoline tanks. Amagai and 
his remaining crew abandoned ship about 4:40 P.M., and all survivors 
were taken aboard the destroyers Hagikaze and Maikaze. 

The third Japanese carrier to go down, Soryu, took only three 
bombs, but the devastation was most memorable. Deck parties were 
busy preparing planes for takeoff and had little time to watch what 
was happening to Kagt nearby. A couple of explosions off their port 
bow, followed by columns of smoke, was the first warning. Thirteen 
American dive bombers attacked with beautiful precision. The first 
bomb hit tore into the flight deck near the forward elevator and com- 
pletely wrote off the area. Fire and smoke erupted from below and a 
sea wall of gasoline torrented through the hangars, storage spaces, 
armament rooms, and workshops. Five minutes after the attack started 
Soryu was a hell of fire as explosions erupted all over the ship. Within 
ten minutes the main engines came to a halt, the steering gear went 
out, and all fire-fighting w^ter mains were devoured. When survivors 
from below decks were driven to the flight deck, a great explosion 
somewhere within hurled dozens of seamen into the water. The order 
to "abandon ship" was given at 10:45 A.M., and all discipline was ig- 


nored as hundreds of men leaped overboard and had to be rescued 
by destroyer crews. Only a few maintained true naval tradition and 
took to boats or rafts, as they had been trained. 

In the middle of all this hopeless furor it was learned that Captain 
Yanagimoto, skipper of Soryu, had decided to remain aboard the 
bridge, but such was his popularity that his men formed a "rescue" 
party, headed by Chief Petty Officer Abe, a wrestling champion. When 
Abe climbed to Soryu s bridge he found Captain Yanagimoto stand- 
ing, sword in hand, staring straight ahead in the classic position of 
his kind. When Chief Abe interceded and asked the captain to come 
down to a waiting destroyer, Yanagimoto maintained his silence. Abe 
then decided to pick him up bodily and haul him down, but after 
considering his captain's determined countenance, he turned away 
with tears in his eyes as Captain Yanagimoto began to sing Japan's 
national anthem. He went down with Soryu when the carrier rolled 
over and carried 718 officers and men to their end. 

When Afczgz was sunk, the fleet command fell temporarily into the 
hands of Rear Admiral Hiroaki Abe who, aboard the heavy cruiser 
Tone, commanded the Japanese Cruiser Division 8. The air opera- 
tions were taken over by Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi aboard 
Hiryu, the only undamaged carrier left, and it was this naval officer 
who in spite of the odds and the ill fortunes of the battle, decided 
to launch an attack against the American carriers. His available force 
consisted of eighteen dive bombers and six escorting Zekes, which 
took off at 10:40. This bold launching was made while Afergz, Kaga, 
and Soryu were in their death throes. 

While the American airmen who had lived through the assaults on 
the Japanese ships were making their reports, word was received that 
Yorfetown would probably be attacked. Commander R. M. Lindsey's 
SBDs in orbit awaiting their turn to land, were immediately ordered 
out of the area, and, wisely, they made for the deck of Enterprise; 
only two were lost by ditching when they ran out of fuel. 

When the critical phase of the Battle of Midway had drawn to its 
close around noontime, three enemy carriers had been put out of ac- 
tion, the American surface force was still intact, but its air arm had 
received heavy casualties. Enterprise lost fourteen dive bombers, ten 
torpedo bombers and one fighter; Hornet lost all of her torpedo bomb- 
ers and about a dozen Wildcats; Yorftfown was missing all but one of 
her twelve toipedo bombers, two dive bombers, and three fighters. 


So far the scales had tilted in our favor, but the battle was not yet 

Yorktown put up a combat air patrol of twelve Wildcats, and be- 
gan refueling a formation that had just been recovered. All fuel lines 
were cleared and filled with CO2- Her skipper then put on better than 
thirty knots and maneuvered all over the ocean. Eight Japanese dive 
bombers got through, although the Wildcats cut the rest to ribbons. 
Two more Vals were knocked down by guns aboard the cruisers As- 
toria and Portland, which left six that went in for the final attack. 

Three direct hits were scored, two of them most serious, for as one 
dive bomber disintegrated under the wicked antiaircraft fire, it vomited 
a bomb that fell smack on Yorktown's flight deck, killed many men, 
and started fires below. A great pall of black smoke spread over the 
ship, but quick action with the sprinkler system and water curtains 
soon had tie conflagrations under control. The next bomb arced in 
from the port side and found the smokestack, started more fires, rup- 
tured the uptakes from three boilers, snuffed out five fires of the six 
boilers, and cut the speed to six knots. By 12:20 Yorktown was wallow- 
ing at a standstill. A third bomb exploded on the fourth deck and 
started a fire in a stowage compartment adjacent to the forward gaso- 
line tanks and magazines, but the latter were promptly flooded, and 
CO2 prevented the fuel from igniting. 

Conditions on the bridge forced Admiral Fletcher to move his flag 
from Yorktown to the cruiser Astoria. All these measures were com- 
pleted by 1:15 P.M., and the cruiser Portland was ordered to take the 
carrier in tow. This proved to be not ^necessary, however, as Yorfe- 
town's damage-control parties worked like supermen and had four 
boilers back in operation by 1:40, and, to everyone's amazement, 
Yorktown began to put on eighteen to twenty knots, and planned to 
recover and refuel her fighters. 

In the meantime Rear Admiral Yamaguchi had learned from a lone 
Japanese reconnaissance pilot that the American force had three car- 
riers, Yorktown, Enterprise, and Hornet. Startling news, but it must 
have been known by then that no one carrier could have launched so 
many planes as had attacked Nagumo's force. The big shock was to 
leam that Yorktown, believed to have been severely damaged in the 
Coral Sea battle, was out here. 

With a frantic cast of his dice, Admiral Yamaguchi decided to risk 
a second attack against the American fleet. This time he prepared to 
launch ten torpedo planes, and six fighters, under command of Lieu- 


tenant Joichi Tomonaga, a reputable wing leader. When all aircraft 
were ready for launching it was learned that the left wing fuel tank 
on Lieutenant Tomonaga's plane had been damaged during the strike 
against Midway and had not been repaired, or replaced. When it was 
pointed out, the young lieutenant just smiled and said, "Ignore it. 
Just fill up the other." 

"You mean, sir, you want the plane spotted for take-off just the 

Although he knew that he would have insufficient fuel for a safe 
return to his earner, Lieutenant Tomonaga refused to exchange seats 
with any other pilot, though several made the offer. The sixteen air- 
craft took off at 12:45 P.M., and at 2:30 the Japanese attack force 
spotted Yorktown, screened by several escorts. The carrier had time 
just to launch eight Wildcats, each with but twenty-eight gallons of 
gasoline in their tanks. There was no more time; they had to join the 
four planes that were airborne in the hope of staving off this second 
attack. Although other cruisers and destroyers had been detached to 
cover the wounded Yorfetown, this was not enough. The enemy tor- 
pedo bombers came in at seven thousand feet from the west, and be- 
cause of recognition difficulties, no antiaircraft fire was put up until 
the Wildcats were actually tangling with the Zeke fighters. 

Yorktown's helmsman put her over hard left as the cruisers curled 
about in an attempt to keep station. The torpedo planes broke up and 
came in from four varying angles at about masthead height The cruis- 
ers tried blasting their big guns at the sea to send up towering columns 
of water. The shells erupted on impact and built up massive walls of 
sea, but four of the enemy planes evaded them and continued on in. 
At exactly 2:42 Yorktown dodged two torpedoes, but two others 
caught her cold. Both went into the port side where they ruptured 
gasoline and oil tanks and jammed the rudder controls. With power 
sharply cut Yorktown took on a list of seventeen degrees, and over the 
next twenty minutes went over to more than twenty-six degrees. 

Counterflooding was out of the question and the damage control 
officer advised Captain Elliott Buckmaster that, with what power they 
had, maintaining watertight integrity a Navy mouthful meaning 
plugging the leaks-was impossible. At 3 P.M. Captain Buckmaster 
gave orders to abandon ship and four destroyers moved in to take off 
the crew, or pick up men from rafts. The sea was smooth, the water 
fairly warm, and the situation none too hazardous. It is believed that 
no member of the crew was drowned. 


As was to be expected, the heroic Lieutenant Tomonaga never re- 
turned, and one of the Japanese pilots who survived the attack said 
later: "I remember seeing his plane with the bright yellow tail daring 
the heaviest of the antiaircraft fire. It was the worst I had ever seen. 
I saw him actually launch his torpedo, and then, before he had any 
idea where it was heading, his plane disintegrated under the enemy 
fire. His assault on the Yorfctown, carried out as it was, was equally 
as heroic as a kamikaze attack/ 7 

The pilots who returned to Hiryu after this second strike believed 
that they had attacked two different carriers, and for some time were 
positive that they had damaged two American flat-tops. What must 
have happened was that Yorktown was put back into action so fast 
after the first attack, that enemy pilots believed they were attacking a 
second carrier of the same type. 

Admiral Fletcher had sent out a scouting force to make certain of 
the enemy's disposition. He was almost certain that Admiral Nagumo 
had but one carrier left, but he wished to be sure. By 2:45 Lieutenant 
Wallace C. Short had returned with a very complete report that he 
had seen Hiryu, two battleships, three cruisers, and four destroyers 
steaming north about one hundred miles northwest of Yorktowrfs last 
position. At 3 130 Admiral Spruance ordered Enterprise to seek out the 
enemy and attack again. Twenty-four SBDs, ten of them from the 
abandoned Yorktovm, were sent out, minus any fighter escort since all 
Wildcats available were required for combat air patrol. This formation 
was led by Lieutenant Commander Wilmer E. Gallaher who soon 
found and lashed at the lone Japanese carrier, Hiryu. 

When Hiryu's few planes and pilots returned at 4:30, Admiral 
Yamaguchi, although he had very little with which to fight back, was 
determined to make a twilight attack that he hoped would be more 
successful. A meal was served to all hands and a special dish of sweet 
rice balls was prepared to mark the occasion. A small combat air patrol 
was maintained above, and as fast as men finished their meager meal, 
they were rushed to the hangars or flight deck to prepare aircraft for 
this last effort. A fast reconnaissance plane was readied, and was to be 
sent off about 5 P.M. when suddenly an American dive-bomber force 
appeared overhead. The young Lieutenant Commander Gallaher had 
sneaked in from the southwest with the sun at his back, and the Japs, 
who had no radar, were caught flat-footed. 

Thirteen of the twenty-four planes selected the Japanese carrier, and 
the ship's antiaircraft guns went into action. Hiryu's skipper, Captain 


Kaku, put her over hard to the right, a lumbering action that enabled 
her to dodge the first three bombs. More planes came down, and four 
direct hits were scored in quick order causing fires and wracking ex- 
plosions. Columns of black smoke coiled up as the carrier began to 
lose speed. All four bombs struck near the bridge, and the concussion 
smashed everything nearby, heavy bridge windows went out, men 
were decapitated by flying glass, the forward elevator was ripped up 
and left standing like a drunken billboard. Fire, borne on torrents of 
gasoline, washed down the deck, lapped at the fueled and armed air- 
craft, and licked them up like fragile toys. More burning fuel billowed 
in other directions, blocking off companionways, ladders, and exits. It 
poured down scuttles, made for the hangar decks and engine rooms. 
Men who had bravely stayed at their posts to aid in damage control, 
were never heard from again; they were either scorched to a crisp or 
suffocated by smoke and heat. 

With the elimination of this last Japanese carrier, American airmen, 
Navy and Army, could concentrate on the screening ships. A few B-iy 
bombers out of Midway joined the action at this point, but other than 
contributing a few light bombs to the burning Hiryu, their strafing 
was not too successful. The battleship Hamna was attacked by four 
high-level bombers and two dive bombers, but escaped unscathed. 
Tone was attacked by three dive bombers, but also escaped. Chikuma 
dodged and darted to evade nine dive bombers in three separate 

By 9:23 P.M. Hiryu was a wallowing wreck, with a fifteen-degree list. 
A handful of men were still trying to maintain steerageway and control 
the fires. A few pumps were repaired and a brave effort made to save 
her. Destroyers moved alongside to assist and supply the crews with 
food and refreshment. Finally, when all access to the engine rooms 
was cut off, it was realized that there was no hope of saving her. Ad- 
miral Yamaguchi ordered Hfryu's crew to abandon ship. The eight 
hundred men remaining were ordered to the deck and the admiral ad- 
dressed them as follows: "As your commanding officer, and com- 
mander of this carrier division, I am fully and solely responsible for 
the loss of Hiryu and Soryu. I intend to remain aboard to the end. I 
command all of you to leave the ship and continue your loyal service 
to your Majesty and Emperor/' 

Admiral Yamaguchi's staff begged to remain with him, but he or- 
dered them off, then lashed himself to the bridge structure, as did 
Captain Kaku who had also decided to go down with the ship. At 


5:40 the next morning torpedoes from screen destroyers, Kazagumo 
and Yugumo bored into her, but Hiryu remained afloat until 8:20 
A.M. By that time a number of seamen who had escaped the entrap- 
ment in the engine rooms, mainly through the explosions of the coup 
de grace torpedoes, made their way to the deck, looked around and saw 
that they had been abandoned. They put off over the side in a raft, 
and were later picked up by an American destroyer. 

Now in full retreat to the northwest, Admiral Nagumo aboard his 
flagship Nagara knew the full proportions of his defeat. The Navy 
General Staff in Tokyo was shocked to learn that the toll was four of 
their finest fleet carriers, while American surface strength had suffered 
little. Their intelligence was very faulty; they had no idea how many 
carriers Admiral Spruance still had available, and so there was no 
argument. It would be well to call off the Midway operation. 

There were some officials in Tokyo who feared that Admiral Ya- 
mamoto, in a desperate bid to wipe out the disgrace of Admiral 
Nagumo's defeat, might take another gamble and sacrifice the rest of 
the force. But no one made a decisive move to prevent this; after all, 
the Japanese Navy stitt had more warships of every category than had 
the United States Navy in the Pacific. 

At sea, while moving for a safer position, Japanese air officers 
thought they could still put a small strike force into the air from the 
decks of the light carriers Hosho, still with Admiral Yamamoto's 
group, and Zuifco, attached to Admiral Kondo's Midway attack force. 
Supplemented by float planes off the battleships and cruisers, it was 
believed that enough damage could be inflicted on the American car- 
riers to reduce their offensive power and perhaps enable the Japanese 
battleships to destroy Spruance's force, and capture Midway. Ex- 
perts in gunnery were positive that the big weapons of the Midway 
attack force could keep the land-based air squadrons pinned down 
long enough to turn the tide. Other officials were convinced that the 
Yamamoto group could race through all American opposition by 
making the most use of its antiaircraft guns. A combination of aU 
these plans was submitted, but Rear Admiral Ugaki, Yamamoto's 
chief of staff, turned it down as stupidity, a face-saving plan of suicidal 
recklessness and folly. Without mincing words he concluded: "Some 
of the enemy's carriers are still intact. The airfield at Midway can still 
launch planes, and our battleships, for all their fire power, would be 


destroyed by enemy air and submarine attacks, long before we couL 
get close enough to use our big guns." 

There was no question but that they would have to accept the con 
ditions as a defeat. A few of the Samurai class wailed: "But how cai 
we apologize to His Majesty?" 

Admiral Yamamoto, another realist, ended that discussion with 
"Leave that to me. After all, I am the only one who will have to apolo 
gize to His Majesty." He was more concerned with the problem o: 
rounding up the scattered Japanese forces, and effecting their retire 
ment from battle under the ever-present threat of enemy attack. 

It will be remembered that the commander of the Combined Fleet 
had ordered Admiral Kondo to carry out a night bombardment of 
Midway some time prior to the destruction of the Japanese carriers. 
Kondo's force included a support body, made up of four heavy cruis- 
ers, Kumano, Suzuya, Mikuma, and Mag/ami, and two destroyers of 
Destroyer Division 8. Their recall resulted in a pathetic foul-up, im- 
portant from a tactical point of view, but of little credit to the oppos- 
ing forces. 

Rear Admiral Takeo Kurita, in command of this high-speed attack 
operation, began his run-in on June 4 when he was some four hun- 
dred miles west of Midway. By the time he had reached a point ninety 
miles from his objective, the Combined Fleet staff realized that all 
hope of a night bombardment attack was off, and Kurita was ordered 
to return as quickly as possible. On the way back Kumano which was 
leading the division, sighted a U. S. submarine, and emergency turns 
were ordered that caused a collision in which Mogami, the last ship 
in the line, failed to move fast enough, and slammed into Mikuma's 
port quarter. Mogami lost her bow section forward of the front turret 
and had to come to a halt. Mikuma was damaged only slightly and 
continued on. 

Admiral Kurita was notified of the accident and he turned back to 
stand by Mogami, now able to limp on at about twelve knots, but 
they all knew that they were in a hazardous situation and could be 
pounced on at any minute. 

Admiral Spruance meanwhile was not certain of the actual situa- 
tion; he knew that three and perhaps four Japanese carriers had been 
hit. Only Ensign Gay, floating about under an aircraft pillow, had any 
idea what losses the Japanese had incurred. The fighters that were 
flown off Hiryu had attacked a number of Army 6-175 off Midway, 
and the commander of the B-iys, Major G. A. Blakey thought that 


these Zekes might have come from a fifth carrier. When this informa- 
tion came through, Admiral Spruance naturally wondered how far the 
enemy might go, working on the calculated risk theory, and conse- 
quently he withdrew Enterprise and Hornet eastward, since he did 
not wish to have a night engagement against the heavy guns of Ya- 
mamoto's fleet, and also desired to keep close enough to Midway to 
have what land-based air support might be there. He did not reverse 
his course until midnight. These five hours of steaming eastward 
ruined all chances of ever catching up with Yamamoto's tattered 
forces. So far as the Navy was concerned, this was the close of the 
Battle of Midway. 

The Army Air Force and a Navy submarine, Tambor, tried to finish 
Admiral Kurita's damaged cruisers. Lieutenant Commander }. W. 
Murphy, whose pig boat had caused the collision, kept in touch with 
the situation and by 4:12 the next morning, June 5, warned Midway. 
A Catalina went out and confirmed Commander Murphy's report, so 
Captain Cyril T. Simard ordered a number of Flying Fortresses 
to make an attack on the crippled cruisers that were being convoyed 
by two destroyers, but they were unable to find their targets, so Cap- 
tain Simard then sent off six Marine SBDs and six Vindicators, all 
that were left that were capable of flying such a mission. They at- 
tacked at 8:05 A.M., but the two Japanese cruisers put up such a tenific 
antiaircraft fire, none of the Marine planes was able to hold a clean 
run. No hits were scored, but the dive bomber being flown by Captain 
Richard E. Fleming was hit just as he was over his bomb-dropping 
point. Whether the Marine pilot flew it out as his last effort, or 
whether the plane continued on its own is not known, but plane, 
bomb, and pilot hit smack on top of Mikumtfs eight-inch gun turret. 

Early in the morning of June 6, when Yamamoto had collected most 
of his deployed forces, and retired well beyond the range of Admiral 
Spruance's carrier aircraft, Enterprise launched a reconnaissance flight 
that sighted the two crippled cruisers attempting to escape to the 
westward. By 8 A.M. Hornet launched twenty-six SBDs and eight 
Wildcats, and at 10:45 Enterprise sent off thirty-one SBDs, three 
TBDs and fourteen F4Fs. 

This combined attack caught Mogami and Mikama cold. They had 
been deserted, and had no air cover of any kind. In the first of several 
attacks Mogpmi received two severe bomb hits, one of which dug 
deep into her Number 5 turret and killed every man inside. Two more 
hits started huge fires, a third sealed up an engine room, but, bearing 


a charmed life, Mogami staggered blindly on, finally reached Truk 
where she underwent temporary repairs, and a year later rejoined the 

Mikuma was smothered with bombs, and after two such drench- 
ings, her captain ordered her to be abandoned. The destroyer Arashio 
stood by to give fire-fighting aid, but could only rescue hundreds of 
men from the water. During a final attack by pilots off Hornet a single 
bomb hit the deck of Arashio, killing most of the seamen who had 
been rescued from Mikuma. 

The Battle of Midway was over, a great victory had been scored, 
but as is usually the case, there were bitter recriminations when the 
second-guessers and historians went over the records. To some the 
abandonment of Yorfetown was unjustified. It will be remembered 
that on the advice of his damagecontrol officers, Captain Buckmaster 
had ordered her abandoned at 3 P.M. on June 4 when she was listing 
at twenty-five degrees, but by some mysterious force she had righted 
herself and was still afloat twenty-four hours later. Pilots who flew 
over her on June 5 stated that she appeared to be intact; certainly 
she was not burning, but instead was behaving as though she could 
be saved. 

The destroyer Hughes had been ordered to stand by the hulk and 
sink her with torpedoes if there seemed any chance that the enemy 
might capture her. Hughes maintained her watch all that night and 
at dawn a lookout reported that machine-gun fire was coming from 
the abandoned carrier. A boarding party went over and returned with 
two seamen who had been left for dead. One had a fractured skull 
and other injuries, the other a serious abdominal wound. The latter 
man, who died shortly after being transferred to Hughes, had managed 
to crawl to the battered flight deck and fire some machine guns to 
attract attention. The boarding party also discovered three coding 
machines left intact, and great numbers of secret documents strewn 
all over the ship. 

It is generally agreed that had a fleet tug been available, Yorktovm 
could have been towed to a friendly berth; some critics argued that 
she might have been taken in tow by a cruiser, as was done with other 
damaged carriers later in the war. But again, this may be a case of 
keen hindsight. Actually, Admiral Nimitz did order the fleet tug 
Navajo, then off the French Frigate Shoals, the minesweeper Vireo, 
patrolling off Pearl Harbor, and the destroyer Gmn to join Spraance's 


forces. Vireo arrived first about noon of June 5 and put a towline 
aboard, but was unable to make much headway. Later that afternoon 
Gmn turned up, but by then Yorktown was listing badly, and was 
slightly down by the head. A small salvage party went aboard to jet- 
tison the anchors and all loose gear, but little else could be done when 
darkness fell. 

The next day Captain Buckmaster took over a larger salvage party 
of twenty-nine officers and men who had volunteered for the work. 
This party worked like Trojans, dousing fires, and correcting the list 
so that by midafteraoon considerable progress had been made. Four 
destroyers circled the damaged carrier, maintaining a taut screen, but 
the Japanese submarine I-i68 that had shelled Midway early on June 
4, had moved away and headed for the reported position of Yorktown. 
Thus, by the afternoon of June 6 Lieutenant Commander Yahachi 
Tanabe had brought his sub up to, and penetrated, the destroyer 
screen undetected. At the same time the U. S. destroyer Hammann 
was secured to the carrier's side to provide power, food, and water for 
the salvage crew. 

At 1:30 Commander Tanabe fired four torpedoes, the first missed, 
the next went under Hammann's keel and exploded against Yorfefown, 
the fourth hit the destroyer amidships, breaking her in two. There was 
considerable loss of life, and in the general excitement, the submarine 

Nine, out of thirteen officers, and seventy-two of 228 seamen were 
killed outright, and several more died later of their wounds. Most of 
these were probably killed by pre-set depth charges aboard Hammann 
that went off when there were many men floating in the water. Vireo 
cut her towline, and the salvage party was transferred to the destroyer 
Benham. Captain Buckmaster intended to continue operations early 
the next morning, but during the night the carrier's list continued, and 
by daylight it was evident that there was no hope of saving her. At 
6 A.M. every bluejacket in the area stood to attention as Yorfetowi 
rolled over and sank in a two-thousand fathom depth. 

The Battle of Midway was the first great defeat inflicted on the 
Japanese Navy in the Pacific war. It was a staggering blow to the Rising 
Sun planners, and it made them cancel their ambitions for the con- 
quest of Fiji, New Caledonia, and New Zealand. For the first time they 
were on the defensive. 



THE HISTORY of aircraft-carrier warfare is a continuing story of triumph 
and tragedy. The gratification and feeling of relief after the victory at 
Midway lasted for two months when on August 8, 1942, the American 
public was introduced to a geographical jawbreaker-Guadalcanal. 
Few persons could pronounce it correctly, fewer still had the slightest 
idea where it was, and most Americans were to wish they had never 
heard of this mysterious island in the Solomons group. 

Guadalcanal is only ninety miles long and twenty-five miles wide, 
with no natural resources but mud and coconuts, and inhabited 
chiefly by malarial mosquitoes and fuzzy-topped tribesmen. Yet this 
inhospitable island was fought for by the Army, Navy, and Air Forces 
of the United States and Japan for nearly six months. Six major naval 
engagements took place within the scope of twelve weeks, and the 
waters north of Guadalcanal that lapped at the Savo and Florida Is- 
lands became the graveyard of so many ships that American seamen 
named it Ironbottom Sound. 

Guadalcanal, which by some vague processes of European coloni- 
zation had become a British protectorate, was populated by about ten 
thousand natives, twenty Australian infantrymen, and a squadron of 
Royal Australian Air Force PBY Catalinas. The Japanese took it over 
with httle trouble in May, but a loyal force of Australian "coastwatch- 
ers" hid away and established a small network of radio stations that 
played an important role in the conflict that raged through the 
Solomons and Bismarcks over the next two years. 

Actually, neither Japan nor America took much notice of Guadal- 
canal until Admiral King decided that Tulagi on Florida Island to the 
north might be important in the lifeline that looped between North 


America and Australia; it might provide a jumping-off point for a 
drive up the Solomons to Rabaul. General MacArthur also supported 
this idea since Rabaul stood in the way of his promised return to the 
Philippines. Efate Island in the New Hebrides became the first step- 
pingstone in this plan when the forces of Major General Alexander 
M. Patch, Jr., moved in and enabled field engineers to develop an air- 
field there. U. S. reconnaissance planes that flew out of Efate discov- 
ered that the Japanese were working on an airfield near Lunga Point 
on Guadalcanal, a base that became the renowned Henderson Field. 

This enemy threat accelerated American movement in this area and 
triggered Operation Watchtower, a plan to seize and occupy the New 
Britain-New Ireland-New Guinea area, including the main enemy base 
at Rabaul; all this to be carried out by August i, 1942. 

The forces involved were chiefly the ist Marine Division and a 
South Pacific amphibious force under Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly 
Turner. Over Admiral Turner in the chain of command was Vice- 
Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, aboard the carrier Saratoga, while Rear 
Admiral Leigh Noyes had immediate command of the Air Support 
Force which was composed of Saratoga, Wasp, and Enterprise, the 
battleship North Carolina, five heavy cruisers, sixteen destroyers, and 
three oilers. The amphibious force was escorted by eight cruisers- 
three of them Australian and a destroyer screen under Rear Admiral 
Victor A. C. Crutchley of the Royal Navy. All this organization took 
time and the August i target date was forgotten when Admiral Turn- 
er's force was delayed and did not round Cape Esperance, Guadal- 
canal, until August 7. 

The enemy was taken by surprise and the first landings were fairly 
successful. Eleven thousand Marines from fifteen landing craft went 
ashore on a beach four miles east of Lunga Point, and by the following 
afternoon were in possession of the airstrip, then under construction, 
and an important Japanese military base at Kakum on the west side 
of Lunga Point 

It should be noted that all this success took place on the west side 
of Lunga Point, but a smaller force that went ashore on the beach on 
Tulagi Island to the north ran into bitter opposition. It is true that 
small seaplane bases on the islands of Gavutu and Tanambogo off 
Florida Island were captured, but we lost several transports, and the 
destroyer Jarvis when Japanese torpedo planes, flying out of Rabaul, 
roared in. Fighters from three American carriers eventually beat off 
these attacks and to all intents and purposes Tulagi and Guadalcanal 


were in our hands. At that time few men would have predicted that 
more than twenty-six weeks of stiff fighting would be necessary to se- 
cure what had been taken in the same number of hours. 

The Japanese were not slow in preparing retaliation, and reports 
of important ship movements began flashing out of all corners of the 
Western Pacific. On August 8 a Lockheed Hudson of the Royal 
Australian Air Force located a force of Japanese cruisers moving south- 
west at high speed. A second Hudson reported a strong force of three 
cruisers, three destroyers, and two seaplane tenders north of the strait 
between Bougainville and Choiseul. 

Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, Commander of the Japanese Eighth 
Fleet at Rabaul, next sent out a series of float-plane reconnaissance 
sorties, and from these gained an excellent picture of the situation off 
Tulagi. He was told that the enemy had one battleship, six cruisers, 
nineteen destroyers, and eighteen transports in the area, and with that 
knowledge the Japanese vice-admiral put on twenty-four knots, and by 
4 P.M. of August 8 was in the New Georgia Sound south of Choiseul. 
The American landing areas in Guadalcanal were only 125 miles 
away. Admiral Mikawa's battle plan was first to make a torpedo at- 
tack on the United States ships at the Guadalcanal beachhead, and 
then cross Ironbottom Sound where he planned to shell and torpedo 
his enemy, before retiring to shelter north of Savo Island. 

Although Admiral Turner had no clear picture of the enemy's move- 
ments, he knew that he was limited by his task and the narrow waters 
between Florida Island and Guadalcanal. He had a general idea of the 
enemy's strength, but no idea of his battle plans. This was a different 
picture than that at Midway. Would the Japs attack by air, submarine, 
or the big guns of their surface ships? Even the ever-reliable "coast- 
watchers" were hampered by the fact that Admiral Mikawa had the 
shroud of night to cover him. A third Australian Hudson sighted the 
enemy at 10:26 P.M. on August 8, but the pilot's report did not reach 
Admiral Turner for more than eight hours, since the Hudson radioman 
sent his message in code and the news had to be decoded either in 
Canberra, Australia, or Pearl Harbor. Both Admirals Turner and 
Crutchley, who had already been worked over by torpedo planes out 
of Rabaul, presumed that they would be attacked by air in daylight 
the following day. Neither supposed that Admiral Mikawa might 
make a surface strike that night. Foul weather curtailed any air search 
by planes from the American seaplane tenders. 


Where were the aircraft from the IL S. carriers? 

Long before at the group conference held on July 26, Admiral 
Fletcher had warned that he would not remain within supporting dis- 
tance for more than two days. Admiral Turner had pointed out that 
he could not possibly unload all his transports in less than four days, 
and most certainly would need air cover all that time. But Admiral 
Fletcher, who had seen the loss of Lexington and Yorfetown, refused 
to take such a risk. At 6 P.M. August 8, he radioed Vice-Admiral Rob- 
ert L. Ghormley, Commander of the South Pacific Force, at Noumea, 
New Caledonia, that his fighter-plane strength had been reduced from 
ninety-nine to seventy-eight, and in view of the large number of enemy 
torpedo planes and bombers in the area, recommended the immediate 
withdrawal of his carriers. At the time Admiral Fletcher's carriers were 
one hundred twenty miles from Savo Island actually off the north- 
western cape of San Cristobal Island. Instead of waiting for a reply to 
his recommendation, Admiral Fletcher moved off southeastward. 

What happened has little to do with the history of aircraft-carrier 
warfare. It is sufficient to state that in the Battle of Savo Island, "the 
first large surface action since Santiago to be fought by a predomi- 
nately United States force," the Americans were all but annihilated, 
while the Japanese escaped virtually unscathed. An investigation kter 
concluded that inadequate condition of readiness on all ships to meet 
a night attack, and particularly the complete surprise achieved by the 
enemy, were the major causes of this defeat. This was no skirmish, 
for it took the lives of 1023 American officers and men, and severely 
wounded 709 others. Whether the premature withdrawal of Admiral 
Fletcher's carrier force had an important effect on the engagement 
can be argued from here to eternity. The more pertinent factor is 
that the enemy was prevented from reaching the all-important trans- 
ports, which in the end may have resulted in the eventual securing 
of Guadalcanal. 

The American landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi stirred up a furor 
of planning and action. The Battle of Savo Island had returned the ini- 
tiative to the Japanese Fleet, and although the U. S. Marines still clung 
to their beachheads, the surrounding waters, to all intents and pur- 
poses, were in control of the Japanese. Their commanders of air, land, 
and sea forces met at Rabaul to devise a plan to dislodge the U. S. 
Marines by the end of August. One phase of this scheme was to land a 
force of Japanese on the island, but the Leathernecks soon booted 


them off. It was then obvious that a bigger, and better-supported, land- 
ing operation would have to be organized. It was known as Operation 
"KA" and was to be supported by the Japanese Eleventh Fleet, naval 
bombardment by their Eighth Fleet, and planes off two large carriers 
were to dispose of any U. S. Navy surface interference. 

Operation "KA" was mobilized by August 21 and Admiral Yama- 
moto, riding off Truk, had three carriers, three battleships, five cruisers, 
eight destroyers, and a seaplane tender with which to operate. At 
Rabaul, Admiral Nishizo Tsukahara had four cruisers, five destroyers, 
and more than one hundred planes of the Eleventh Air Fleet. 

This time Admiral Fletcher's carrier force of Saratoga, Wasp, and 
Enterprise was assigned the task of protecting the sea lanes into the 
Solomons, but it was to stay out of the radius of Japanese search 
planes. With supporting cruisers and destroyers, Hornet sailed from 
Pearl Harbor on August 17 for the Coral Sea. On the night of August 
21 a Japanese destroyer, Kawakaze, foxed the U. S. destroyer Blue in 
Ironbottom Sound and blew off her stern with a torpedo. Blue was 
towed safely into Tulagi, but had to be scuttled there as she was badly 

Two days later the Japanese Combined Force was advancing from 
Truk* It included a diversionary force, headed by the small carrier 
Ryu/o, that was intended as bait to pull important American forces out 
of the main play. At the same time planes from Admiral Yamamoto's 
big carriers would direct their efforts against American carriers and 
Henderson Field. It is interesting to note that a U. S. patrol plane 
spotted these transports at 10 A.M. on the morning of August 23, and 
with the report of this finding, the action began. 

The Saratoga air group sent out thirty-one SBDs and six TBFs by 
2:45. Ninety minutes later Marines on Guadalcanal launched a twenty- 
three-plane strike at the reported transports. Neither group was suc- 
cessful in finding the transport force and by twilight all these planes 
dropped down at Henderson Field for refueling and refreshment. 
Later a night-strike of five PBYs went out to find the enemy invasion 
force but were no more successful* Actually, Rear Admiral Raizo 
Tanaka had reversed his course to the northwest when he had caught 
the patrol plane's radioed warning. More smart switching about by 
the Japanese befuddled everyone for another twenty-four hours. 

The old problem of refueling came up and Admiral Fletcher sent 
Wasp and her group southward for a fueling rendezvous, since it was 
thought erroneously that the destroyers were running dangerously 


short. This proved most unfortunate as Admiral Yamamoto had or- 
dered a nonstop steaming to the Solomons and had refueled at sea. 
The American force was deprived of one of its three carriers with a 
crucial battle just around the corner. The night of August 23-24 was 
overcast and rainy and the Saratogas planes and air crews were still at 
Henderson Field, but with a brighter morning all flew back to Sara- 
toga, landing on at 1 1 A .M. of August 24. 

While this plane recovery operation was being carried out, Lieuten- 
ant David C. Richardson, who was leading an element of four Wild- 
cats, went after a Japanese snooper some twenty miles from the car- 
rier and shot down this airplane, a four-engined Kawanishi flying 
boat, the first of this type to fall before Navy guns. At 9:05 the Ryujo 
bait group was spotted by a Wildcat as the enemy force steamed south 
some 280 miles northwest of Admiral Fletcher's group. At 11:28 an- 
other plane reported the bait force about 245 miles away. Evading 
another patrol, the Japanese sent off fifteen fighters and six bombers 
from Ryu/o to fly over Guadalcanal. These aircraft were joined by a 
number of twin-engined bombers from Rabaul, but only minor dam- 
age was inflicted on Henderson Field. The pilots of Marine Fighter 
Squadron 223 went up and knocked down twenty-one of the raiders. 
This forced Admiral Fletcher's hand, and he launched thirty SBDs 
and eight torpedo planes by 1:45 P.M. Commander Harry D. Felt led 
this formation and went searching for Ryujo. All told, Admiral 
Fletcher had fifty-one bombers and fifteen torpedo planes in the air on 
various missions, and had only fourteen bombers and twelve torpedo 
planes available aboard Saratogfl and Enterprise. While everyone was 
concentrating on the Ryu/o-bait force, search planes off Enterprise re- 
ported more enemy contacts that indicated there could be other 
threats; one 198 miles distant, another 225 miles away, and all three 
at different positions. This was exactly as Admiral Yamamoto had 
planned it. As may be imagined, Admiral Fletcher was very puzzled. 
In addition radio communications between U. S. Navy ships and 
aircraft for some obscure reason suddenly went sour. Admiral Fletcher 
tried to switch Commander Felt from attacking Ryujo to the more 
important Shokaku and Zuikaku that had been reported to be 198 
miles away. (The distance was actually nearer 230 miles.) 

The winds changed, aircraft requiring refueling had to be accom- 
modated, and what plans had been made, had to be reconsidered ow- 
ing to problems of possible night landings. It was fully realized, too, 
that the enemy might attack the U. S. carriers at any time since two 


more enemy snoopers had been shot down by 12:50 P.M. An extra 
combat patrol was put up, and all told, Admiral Fletcher had fifty-four 
Wildcats with which to meet any enemy strike. 

At 3:15 two patrol planes off Enterprise found Shokaku and roared 
down, scoring a light-bomb hit and a near miss that inflicted minor 
damage and a few casualties. In the meantime five Avengers off En- 
terprise released torpedoes at Ryujo but failed to score a hit of any 
kind. Two others that went after the cruiser Tone, were jumped by 
Zekes, and one was downed before either could make an attack. Com- 
mander Felt from Saratoga was unaware that he had been switched 
to the Shokaku group, and he found Ryujo with little trouble. His 
SBDs were under the command of Lieutenant Commander Dewitt 
W. Shumway, an experienced leader who had been at Midway. Just 
as Ryujo turned into the wind to launch planes, his SBDs went down 
and made bull's-eye hits on her with at least thirty iooo-pound bombs. 
Not content with this, six Avenger torpedo planes, under Lieutenant 
Bruce L. Harwood, sat it out until the dive bombers had confused ev- 
eryone aboard the light carrier, and then went in on both bows of the 
stricken vessel. 

Commander Felt then took his planes up to some broken cloud 
cover and watched the drama play itself out. Ryujo below was steam- 
ing in uneven circles, belching black smoke from her gaping wounds, 
and listing twenty degrees to starboard. Finally her engines ground 
themselves to junk, and Ryujo came to a halt. The abandon ship order 
was given, and Tone moved in to take off survivors. By 8 P.M. that 
night the "bait" carrier, which had fulfilled her mission, rolled over, 
showed her badly holed hull and sank. Only one American aircraft 
had been lost, but Admiral Yamamoto must have been thankful that 
Ryu/o had played her part well, for his main force was now free to go 
against Admiral Fletcher. 

Just before it was shot to rubble by a Wildcat, a Japanese float 
plane off the cruiser Chikuma managed to key off the position of 
Fletcher's carriers. Admiral Nagumo, still chagrined by the battle at 
Midway, knew that he'd never have a better opportunity to repay the 
beating. He knew also that most of the American carriers 1 planes were 
away, sending poor Ryujo to her grave. So at 3:07 P.M. when Com- 
mander Felt's group was enjoying its turkey shoot, the first of two 
Japanese air strikes went searching for the big game their bait had 


About four o'clock the first "bogies" were spotted on U. S. radar 
screens, indicating that enemy planes were only some eighty-eight 
miles away. More Wildcats went aloft to make a total of fifty-three 
fighters that were flying a combat-air patrol. The bombers and torpedo 
planes still aboard Saratoga were launched and sent to join a like group 
that had been flown off Enterprise. They all headed out to attack the 
approaching enemy, and the fighter directors aboard the "Big E" sat 
back to do some serious work, but just when everything seemed com- 
plete, the "bogies" disappeared from the screens. At the same time 
so many planes in the limited space, all carrying out routine contacts, 
jammed the one narrow radio frequency and added to the confusion. 

The radar "bogies" did not reappear until 4:19, and by 4:25 a 
fighter-plane element substantiated what the radar had been trying to 
explain, but the fighter pilots gave it with more detail. Admiral 
Fletcher was positive now that there were thirty-six bombers at twelve 
thousand feet, being escorted by many other aircraft above and below. 
It was at this point that radio discipline went to the four winds, and 
the fighter directors were seriously hampered in determining exactly 
where the opposition force was located. And to top all that, the Japa- 
nese commander broke up his force into three sections when he was 
less than twenty-five miles away. With that the radar picture became 
totally confused. There was nothing to do but to allow the fighter 
groups to take over and work out the various problems on their own. 

During all this one Navy NCO pilot, Warrant Machinist Donald E. 
Runyon, who was leading a Wildcat fighter section, had a field day. 
He worked his way into the sun from about eighteen thousand feet, 
and went down on the enemy dive bombers. He picked out one Val, 
gave it a short but accurate burst. It exploded in mid-air. Moving back 
into the solar glare, Runyon heeled over and went down on a second. 
A burst of incendiary bullets quickly torched that one. In trying a 
third time, Runyon failed to see an avenging Jap Zeke that came down 
on him. The Zeke missed him and had to pass on ahead, placing him- 
self smack in Runyon's sights. Another squeeze of the trigger gear and 
the Zeke burst into flames. 

Convinced that this was his day, Runyon zoomed, turned, and came 
dead under another Val. By tilting his nose gently the U. S. Navy man 
fired and started another aerial conflagration. As he curled away to 
clear this debris, another Zeke nosed in to interfere. This time Runyon 
was able only to bespatter him and chase him out of the play. 

During all this aerial aggression two of Runyon's section mates dam- 


aged four more Japanese bombers and nudged two more out of their 
attack glides. 

While returning with a squadron of ten SBDs from the Ryu/o sink- 
ing, Lieutenant Commander L. J. Kim came upon four enemy dive 
bombers that were roaring along at about five hundred feet. Com- 
mander Kirn took his mob down, firing their nose guns, but more im- 
portant, giving the rear gunners a fine series of targets. Three of the 
enemy ships piled into the sea, the fourth fluttered away dragging a 
smoke plume. 

All this plane-to-plane action took place well outside the carrier 
force area. Enterprise was steaming at twenty-seven knots, holding a 
course into the wind, but within the carrier's screen all lookouts were 
having trouble finding the enemy. They were dead overhead, and at 
4:41 the first attacks began. There was no uncertainty now as to where 
die Japanese bombers were. Enterprise wriggled and jinked about as 
enemy bombs chugged into the water on all sides. 

The first to hit the "Big E" caught a corner of the after flight-deck 
elevator and crashed on through the hangar deck into the compart- 
ment below. This was a delayed-action baby, and when she decided 
to let go started a number of fires, twisted decks and hull plating, 
and killed thirty-five officers and men. A fire main, ripped by the blast, 
automatically doused one of the worst fires, but large fragments tore 
holes in the hull, sea water spouted through, and Enterprise took on a 
slight list. 

Thirty seconds later a second bomb smacked in, penetrated an am- 
munition locker and the cumulative effect of the explosions wrecked 
a brace of five-inch guns and killed the entire gun crew of thirty-eight 
men. The area was a flaming cauldron of death. At 4:45 a third bomb 
pierced the flight deck aft of the island structure, but fortunately either 
the detonator was defective or the explosive content faulty, for it 
caused only minor damage. With this the attack seemed to be over. 

The damage-control officer, Lieutenant Commander Herschel A. 
Smith, led his teams in the valiant effort to save the carrier, which, in 
spite of her wounds, was stifr putting on thirty knots. Every man 
aboard who had any knowledge of fire-fighting, electrical work, car- 
pentry, or the myriad intricacies of her pumping systems was put to 
work. They fought burning ammunition, riveted metal plates over her 
gaping wounds, or jettisoned wreckage and damaged material. Within 
an hour after the last bomb had pierced her deck Enterprise was doing 
twenty-four knots and had turned into the wind to recover her air- 


craft. By 5:50 the first incoming plane hooked into an arrester-gear 
cable, and in no time twenty-five more followed in safely. At that 
minute all damage, loss, and casualties were forgotten temporarily. 

But unfortunately it would appear that aircraft carriers are prone to 
delayed-action problems. When all seemed well Enterprise suddenly 
started to misbehave. It was disclosed later that water and fire-fighting 
chemicals had gushed through a broken vent above the steering- 
engine room, grounded a motor and jammed the rudder over hard at 
twenty degrees right. 

The men working in this compartment were knocked out by the 
accompanying fumes and were unable to switch over to a stand-by 
plant. Enterprise ran wild and narrowly missed a collision with the 
destroyer Bdch. With the rudder jammed in this manner the carrier 
could not be towed until Chief Machinist's Mate William A. Smith, 
after being knocked out twice by fumes, made his way into the com- 
partmentabout thirty-eight minutes later and cut in the stand-by 

Had Admiral Nagumo's second aerial attack been timed during this 
critical half hour, Enterprise might not have escaped. As it was, an 
enemy force of eighteen dive bombers, nine torpedo planes, and three 
fighters, the same force that had tangled with Commander Kim's for- 
mation, took a wrong turn out of that skirmish and missed the 
floundering carrier. Such are the fortunes of war. 

Although both sides decided to break off the action, neither con- 
sidered the battle over, and during the night of August 24-25 several 
of Admiral Tanaka's destroyers bombarded American positions off 
Lunga Point, while float planes distributed annoying anti-personnel 
bombs. Making the most of a gaudy moon, eight Marine dive bombers 
took off from Henderson Field to pound the Japanese destroyers. No 
hits were scored, but the effort relieved the tension. 

On a later foray, Lieutenant Colonel Richard C. Mangrum's SBDs 
unexpectedly encountered Admiral Tanaka's light cruiser Jintsu 
which was leading the Japanese Trans^^rt Group. Second Lieutenant 
L. Baldinus scored a direct hit on Tanaka's flagship, a shot that bored 
a great hole between her two forward guns. Sixty-one men were killed 
and several b$d fires were started, A hit was also scored on Kinryu 
Maru which was loaded with troops. The transport had to be aban- 
doned and the soldiers transferred to the destroyer Mutsuki, while 
Admiral Tanaka hauled his flag over to the destroyer Kagero. This was 


a fortunate move, for MutsuK was sunk a short time later by a pattern 
of bombs dropped by a formation of Flying Fortresses out of Espiritu 

This smash, grab, and run business went on day after day. The fight- 
ing on both sides was very bitter, as all who went througji the Guadal- 
canal campaign will attest. On August 31 Saratoga collected another 
wound stripe. With Wasp and Hornet she had been patrolling the sea 
routes into Guadalcanal, and that evening after a day of stalking a per- 
sistent enemy submarine, the monotony of routine patrol activities was 
suddenly enlivened. 

The submarine, 1-26, had bided its time, made no attempt to pierce 
the destroyer screen, but had moved ahead and was sitting quietly at 
a position off Saratogas bow. Knowing the risk of moving inside, the 
Japanese commander fired a spread of six torpedoes at the massive 
carrier. Captain Dewitt C. Ramsey caught a warning signal from the 
destroyer MacDonaugfi, swung away hard, and called for top speed, 
but there just wasn't time to evade the full spread, and two torpedoes 
thumped into Saratogas starboard side, abreast of the island. Twelve 
men, including Admiral Fletcher, were wounded, but none seriously. 
Only one fireroom was flooded, but her new electric propulsion units 
were shorted and it was some hours before the damage-control crew 
could give Captain Ramsey anywhere near thirteen knots. Later Min- 
neapolis put a tow rope aboard, and, aided by a friendly southeast 
wind, Captain Ramsey launched all his planes and sent them to Hen- 
derson Field where they flew for some time with the Marine aviators 
there. Saratoga crept away and eventually made a Navy base at 
Tongatabu, a small island southeast of Fiji. She was not available for 
action for more than three months. 

The invasion and counterinvasion of Guadalcanal was a dog-eat- 
dog affair. The Americans would win during the daylight hours, but 
at night the Japanese took over. Night after night, more troops were 
sneaked in, regardless of the sacrifice. There were bitter feelings 
throughout most American commands, since none attempted to ap- 
preciate the position or viewpoint of the other. The Navy did its best 
with what it had. The Marines fought with their traditional valor. 
The Army Air Force, learning as it went along, did what it could with 
what it had. Prejudiced journalists, beating the drum for their particu- 
lar service, added little to public understanding or inter-service co- 

By the middle of September the situation on Guadalcanal was criti- 


cal, despite the gallant efforts to hang on, and particularly to retain 
Henderson Field. On September 14 six transports, bearing the yth Ma- 
rine Regiment and its equipment, sailed from Espiritu Santo. There 
were plenty of enemy bases en route, but Guadalcanal had to be re- 
inforced and Admiral Ghormley ordered Hornet and Wasp to furnish 
the escort. In order to do this properly the full task force had to steam 
out of sight of the transports to keep the knowledge of the reinforce- 
ment ships from the enemy until they were ready to land. 

Admiral Kelly Turner's task force itself was snooped by noon of 
September 15 and he realized that the enemy had carriers north of 
Santa Cruz Islands, and land-based bombers on Rabaul and Bougain- 
ville. The snooper would unquestionably also alert the small fleet of 
Japanese submarines that were operating in all Solomon Islands wa- 
ters. Turner wisely decided to retire and await a more favorable 
opportunity, but ordered the convoy to continue on its course. Con- 
tact was maintained by routine air patrols, and with a smidgin of luck 
the transports would have little trouble getting in and disembarking 
their troops. 

The carriers, steaming on a westerly course, were about one hundred 
miles away. It was a beautiful day and as they swung now and then 
into southeasterly headings for take-offs and recoveries, there was little 
excitement, except the shooting down of a Japanese Kawanishi flying 
boat that had been first detected by radar while she was on a recon- 
naissance mission. There was no reason to believe she had spotted the 
U. S. task force, but all routine alert operations were carried out. 

Wasp was handling the combat-air and antisubmarine patrols, and 
at 2:20 P.M. she eased down to launch and recover aircraft. A number 
of SBDs and Wildcats took off, and others returning from routine pa- 
trols were recovered. All this was observed by the Japanese submarine 
skipper of I-IQ, one of those that had been sent into the area to inter- 
cept the Marine transports. Up to then I-ig had evaded all destroyer 
search, and as Captain Forrest P. Sherman signaled for a turn back to 
her base course, lookouts spotted a number of torpedoes porpoising on 
the starboard side; they were coming on hot, straight and normal. Four 
torpedoes were fired and in spite of the quick rudder response, two 
warheads smacked Wasp hard. 

Ensign John J. Mitchell, one of the survivors, endured a remarkable 
experience. He was in charge of a gun station at the time and had just 
been relieved by a seaman, a member of his gun crew. He remembers 
seeing the man squinting out to sea and then plucking at Mitchell's 


arm in the best Nelsonian tradition and asking, "Hey, Mr. Mitchell, 
w'as *at funny looking thing out there?" 

Mitchell recognized it immediately and sounded an alarm and man- 
aged to squeak, "That's torpedo wake." His alarm was heard and 
Wasp began to turn and Mitchell started to move for the bridge. His 
plan was expedited, as they say in the services, for the next thing the 
ensign knew he was hoisted bodily, hurled through the air and depos- 
ited on an open section of the bridge. 

"I held the world's record for an involuntary high jump thirty feet 
high and sixty feet away," he explained later from a hospital cot. "They 
tell me I landed right at the feet of my superior officers on the bridge 
in a posture unbecoming even to an ensign. I was flat on my back!" 

Mitchell was thought to be dead, but "the body" was removed from 
the bridge and strapped to a stretcher. Lieutenant Courtney Shands 
hauled the stretcher down a companionway, and across the flight deck 
under the storm of ammunition going up from the gun boxes of the 
burning aircraft. The stretcher was lashed to an aircraft raft and the 
package was launched. The top-heavy raft immediately rolled over 
with Mitchell strapped in the stretcher. Others came to the rescue, 
and in spite of the sea being infested with sharks, the raft and its load 
were righted and Mitchell eventually wound up safely in the hospital 
with only a broken leg. 

The explosions from the two torpedoes, both on the starboard side, 
were terrific not only against the armored walls of the hull men, 
planes, tractors, and heavy equipment were hurled in all directions. 
Fully loaded planes that were on the flight and hangar decks were 
lifted bodily and dropped bgck with a smash that rammed their under- 
carriage legs up into the wings or cockpits. An engine-room switch- 
board was ripped out and flung across banks of generators. Fires broke 
out, and the resulting flames were carried to aircraft, fuel tanks, oil 
supplies. Huge tongues of fire licked -at everything. In her initial con- 
vulsion Wasp broke all forward water mains, and when the ship todk 
on a heavy starboard list, her decks canted wildly, and loose objects 
tore about like berserk juggernauts. 

Providentially, most communications stayed secure and Captain 
Sherman could contact his damage control and the after-steering or- 
ganization. He had the engines cut to ten knots, and put Wasp over 
full left to get the wind on her starboard bow. He then went into 
reverse to keep the fire away from her undamaged sections. 

Quick damage control brought down the list to four degrees, and 


electricians worked furiously to get the generators and switchboards in 
running order. All this had to be carried out to maintain Wasp's head- 
way, otherwise smoke would have suffocated every man aboard. 

While this work and heroism was going on, another Japanese sub- 
marine, 1-15, that had been patrolling with 1-19, fired a torpedo at 
Hornet. It missed the carrier, passed under the destroyer Muster, con- 
tinued on and struck the battleship North Carolina forward on the 
port side about twenty feet below the waterline. Five men were killed 
as it ripped through and opened a gash thirty-two feet long and eight- 
een feet high. This resulted in flooding through four bulkheads, but 
after reasonable precautions were taken, this battlewagon maintained 
twenty-five knots, struggled back from a five-degree list, and main- 
tained her station. 

Matters were not so routine with Wasp. She was being gobbled by 
fierce fires and at 3 P .M. a tremendous explosion shook her from bow 
to stem, pumping clouds of deadly gas and smoke into all command 
areas. Admiral Noyes was blown from his post to the signal bridge. 
Most of the admiral's clothing was burned off, and he suffered bad 
body burns as well. Just as the bridge staff moved off to take stations 
at Battle Station II, well aft, another severe explosion billowed up from 
the hangar deck, hurled the Number 2 elevator high into the air and 
dropped it with a crash that left the platform crazily askew. 

In spite of the terrible beating Wasp had taken there were still many 
men left alive on her forecastle. A number of officers and men who 
had been below never had a chance; they probably were blown to bits. 
Others who had lived through the initial battering were wiped off 
with heat, smoke, and lethal fumes. As the carrier wallowed uncer- 
tainly, asphyxiating gas rolled forward and forced many seamen to 
jump into the sea where sharks and burning gasoline left little in the 
way of an alternative. A few braver or more desperate men dove 
overboard, hissed through the flaming waters and swam under the 
sheet of fire until they could come out in clear water. Those who 
stayed aboard formed small groups and tried vainly to extinguish the 
flames, but there was no power and no water in the fire lines. 

Every trick in the trade was tried to control the fires, but the raging 
volcano that was now the hangar deck, roared up the open elevators 
and ate everything before it. There was no choice but to abandon, 
and the order was given at 3:20 P.M. The wounded who could be 
moved were floated away on rafts or mattresses, and carpenters quickly 
hammered together any contrivance that would keep an injured man 


afloat. Destroyers moved in and picked up what men they could, as 
they still tried to trace the submarine that had fired the torpedoes. At 
9 P.M. that night three torpedoes from the destroyer Lansdowne sent 
the valiant Wasp to the bottom. Of the 2247 men on board 192 had 
been killed and 366 wounded. All but one of her twenty-five planes 
were flown off and landed aboard Hornet. 

The continued struggle and strife for Guadalcanal, particularly for 
control of Henderson Field, reached something of an impasse by Oc- 
tober 26. The Japanese bombardment force had received a wicked lash- 
ing from airmen at Henderson Field, and enemy ground forces had 
been repulsed at three major points, Matanikau, Hanneken's Ridge, 
and that entrancing piece of real estate known as Coffin Corner. The 
Japanese had suffered thousands of casualties, and the world knew by 
now that the U. S. Army and Marines could dish out as well as take 
the punishments of war. 

Then, as the thud and crash of land action slowed down, the navies 
of both sides took up the cudgels and staged what is known as the 
Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. It was here that we lost another carrier; 
Hornet went to the block. 

In spite of the setbacks his auxiliaries and invasion forces had sus- 
tained, Admiral Yamamoto still had four carriers, five battleships, 
fourteen cruisers, and forty-four destroyers with which to fight. Ad- 
miral Halsey's Enterprise and Hornet, heading up Task Forces 16 and 
17, had only the battleship South Dakota, and nine cruisers, screened 
by about a dozen destroyers. The South Dakota, a brand new battle- 
wagon, was commanded by Captain Thomas L. Catch, who had built 
up a reputation of being the finest leader in the U. S, Navy. Captain 
Catch, a weird mixture of religious piety and shipboard slovenliness, 
wielded a strange power over his men. He was forever reading the 
Scriptures, spreading the confidence that comes with religion. He al- 
lowed his crew to wear anything, or nothing, and had only contempt 
for the theory of a taut spick-and-span ship. "I want men who can 
shoot and fight, not holystone heroes/' he would say, "We can clean up 
the ship and put on our best duds just before we go into port on 
liberty." As a result he was practically worshiped by his staff and men. 

On October 24 Admiral Halsey ordered the two task forces, and a 
battle-cruiser group known as TF 64, under Rear Admiral Willis A. 
Lee, Jr., to rendezvous at a point about 273 miles northeast of Espiritu 
Santo, with orders to make a sweep north of the Santa Cruz Islands, 


and then to almost reverse that course to the southwest with the idea 
of intercepting any enemy vessels that were heading for Guadalcanal. 

At the same time Admiral Yamamoto laid it on the line to Admiral 
Kondo, and added that Henderson Field was to be in Japanese hands 
by the evening of that date, October 24. At least, that is what he told 
his Army opposite-numbers, explaining that unless the American war- 
planes there were neutralized, his fleet would not be able to stay any 
longer in those waters. The Japanese Army, unfortunately, was not 
able to oblige, and, although many boastful statements were made 
over the Nippon radio, Henderson Field remained in the hands of the 
U. S. Marines. 

This left Admiral Kondo bewildered. On the one hand he was told 
he had nothing to fear, but reading between the lines he felt that U. S. 
warplanes were still on the Guadalcanal airstrip. In this state of in- 
decision he moved his four-carrier force up and down in an area three 
hundred miles north of Guadalcanal. On shore Japanese liaison officers 
explained that the taking of the airfield had been delayed temporarily 
because of the difficulty of the terrain, but everyone had high hopes 
that the base would be in Japanese hands by midday of October 25. 
All this intelligence was interesting, but Admiral Kondo still had no 
idea where Admiral Halsey's two carriers were. 

While Kondo gnawed his cuticle, the American force was steaming 
on their run around Santa Cruz Archipelago, which is north of the 
New Hebrides and to the east of the southern Solomons, with full 
knowledge of the Japanese force, since a PBY had sighted two enemy 
carriers at noon of October 25, about 360 miles from the U. S. Fleet. 
At this point Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, commander of Task 
Force 16, decided on a combined search and strike; his search aircraft 
left Enterprise at 1 130 P.M., and the striking force left at 2:20. Nothing 
much came of this for the snooping PBY had alarmed Kondo who 
ordered a reversed course to the north. Admiral Kinkaid's planes, 
which returned after dark, met bad luck; one crashed on the flight 
deck, and six others were lost when they landed in the water, indi- 
cating that American carrier pilots were still not especially adept at 
night-flying operations. 

All through October 25 Catalinas and Flying Forts made contact 
with Kondo and even went after his battleships. No hits were estab- 
lished, although early that morning two Catalinas, carrying torpedoes 
and bombs, came close to seriously damaging the carrier Zuikaku and 
the destroyer Isokaze. 


Putting together what meager information he had Admiral Yama- 
moto ordered the Army to storm the airfield that night, explaining 
that he fully expected a critical engagement with the American Fleet in 
waters northeast of the Solomons. Both sides had spent every available 
minute in seeking out the other, and shortly after midnight one of the 
Catalina snoopers had picked up the scent, and later another PBY 
confirmed that Kondo's force was less than two hundred miles away. 
This information was delayed in reaching Admiral Fitch's headquar- 
ters, but when it did arrive and was fully confirmed by 5:30 the morn- 
ing of October 26, Admiral Halsey gave the order: "Attack Repeat 
. Attack!" 

The morning promised a fair day. A light eight-knot breeze gently 
stirred the waters, and above cumulus was spotted about the sky. 
Perfect conditions for dive-bomber pilots. 

A light formation was sent off from Enterprise to search definite 
sectors. In this group were Lieutenant Stockton B. Strong and Ensign 
Charles B. Irvine who were aboard SBDs that carried bombs. They 
found nothing in their assigned area, but overheard a report of busi- 
ness elsewhere and turned off and found Nagumo's carriers. They 
sneaked in undetected, went down with no opposition of any kind 
and planted two bombs on the carrier Zuifto's stern. This was a most 
fortunate attack, for one of the bombs opened a hole fifty feet wide 
in the Sight deck, canceling flight operations, and at the same time 
blasting away all aft antiaircraft batteries. The Japanese combat air 
patrol dove on the SBDs as they pulled out of their attack dives, but 
the rear gunners in the SBDs shot down two of the Zekes. 

The Japanese fleet staff also learned of the whereabouts of Admiral 
Kinkaid's ships for one of their float planes sighted Hornet at 6:30 
that morning. Nagumo had more than sixty planes spotted for take-off 
aboard his three carriers, Shokaku, Zuikaku, and Zuiho. Fortunately, 
the planes on the latter had been flown off before Lieutenant Strong 
and Ensign Irvine plugged her deck. This attack formation was sent 
off at 6:58 A.M,, and another element of forty-four aircraft was readied 
to follow. 

At the other end of the board, American planes were more than 
twenty minutes behind their enemies in getting aircraft off, but at 
7:30 Lieutenant Commander William }. Widhelm led fifteen dive 
bomber SBDs, six Avenger torpedo planes, and eight Wildcats off 
Hornet. Thirty minutes later Enterprise launched nineteen aircraft 
under Lieutenant Commander Richard K. Gains. At 8:05 Com- 


mander Walter F. Rodee led twenty-five planes of varying types off 
Hornet's deck, which brought the full force of American strike planes 
to seventy-three. The two opposing forces passed each other, each 
eying the other and probably wondering which would have a flight 
deck to return to. 

This is not to say that they waved as they went by. A formation 
of Zekes went down on the smaller Enterprise element, making clever 
attacks out of the sun. Three Wildcats were shot down into the sea, 
while a fourth was badly damaged. With these fighters out of the way, 
the Zekes went for the torpedo planes and repeated their score but lost 
two planes and pilots in the venture. The four remaining Wildcats 
staged a heroic stand and drove off the enemy after shooting down at 
least one more. It will be noted that the Enterprise formation was cut 
almost in half when it was still one hundred miles from the target. 
However, the fracas did serve as an early-warning message to both 
Hornet and Enterprise. 

Admirals Kondo and Kinkaid must have been enduring the same 
pre-action pains. Each knew the other was fencing for him, and that 
their naval fortunes lay in the hands of Lady Luck. Kinkaid had one 
strike against him in that the fighter-director aboard Enterprise was 
new to his job, since the man who had served so well in the Midway 
conflict had joined Admiral Halsey's staff at Noumea, New Caledonia. 

The Japanese attacking force went into action first, of course, and 
at 8:57 the U. S. combat-air patrol spotted the enemy Vals Aichi 
99-is coming in from seventeen thousand feet. Because of our failure 
to interpret the radar screen blips, since there were so many aircraft in 
the air at the time, the dive bombers were not completely identified 
until they were well within ten miles of the carriers. This was too close 
to allow for deliberate action and by the time Wildcat air patrols could 
sort out the various formations, small parties of Vals were swooping 
down on Hornet. Some were destroyed before they could release their 
bombs, but the enemy kept working in this manner, making the most 
of the bewildering radar situation, and eventually darting in from 
every angle. 

At 9 A.M. Enterprise slipped into a local rain squall, but Hornet 
was well out in the clear, and the enemy planes concentrated on her. 
The sky above was a tangle of action. Wildcats were trying to head 
off small parties of Vals. Zekes were slipping in and out, picking off 
fighter pilots who were engrossed in their defense duties. Other small 
wads of bombers or fighters curled in and out, looking for a dive 


position or a target to knock down. The surface ships spattered the 
sky with antiaircraft shells with some success but not enough. 

A bomb came out of nowhere and clipped the starboard side of 
Hornet's flight deck. Following this, a Japanese squadron leader who 
had been badly hit and his plane damaged, managed a kamikaze, 
struck the smokestack, glanced off, and ripped through the flight deck, 
after which two of his bombs exploded and strewed destruction in all 
directions. In the middle of this confusion torpedo-carrying Kates 
Nakajima 97-25 came in astern, flying very low, and put two tin fish 
deep into Hornet's battered hull. These exploded in the engineering 
spaces and brought the carrier to a halt. Smoke and steam combined 
to cause hell in all directions. The kamikaze shot had taken out most 
communications, and as Hornet wallowed drunkenly three more 1500- 
pound bombs caught the flight deck. One of these bored all the way 
through to the fourth deck before letting go, and another plowed 
through four deck levels to the forward messing area before its delayed 
action fuse touched it off. Words are not necessary to heighten the 

But all this was not enough. While afire, adrift, listing, and com- 
pletely helpless, another suicide pilot in a damaged Kate piled into 
Hornet on the port forward-gun gallery and blew up near the elevator 
shaft. Twenty-seven enemy aircraft had attacked Hornet, and although 
about twenty-five had been shot down or badly damaged, they had 
done their work. 

The fire menace was serious, but not such as to deter a good combat- 
control officer. There was no power for pumps, and bucket brigades 
had to be formed, and crews with carbon-dioxide extinguishers and 
Foamite went to work. The destroyers Kussett and Morris moved 
alongside and supplied some measure of hose and pump power and by 
ten o'clock the fires seemed to be losing ground. The black gang de- 
cided that three of Hornet's boilers might produce steam, and gave it a 
try. The cruiser Northampton put a tow aboard and started to haul her 
away. At that instant a single Val roared out of the sky and whanged 
another bomb that missed Hornet but broke up the towing and pump- 
ing operations. 

While the heroic action was going on around Hornet a Japanese 
submarine started popping off torpedoes; one hit the destroyer Porter 
which was on a mercy mission picking up air crews. She had to be 
abandoned and sunk, but her survivors were put aboard the destroyer 


The lone Val that had attacked Hornet was one of an element that 
had taken off from Zuikaku and Shokaku at 8:22 and either had not 
seen Enterprise, or had ignored her. Later, however, a force dared the 
heavy antiaircraft fire put up by San Juan and South Dakota, which 
were protecting the "Big E", but eventually one bomb caught Enter- 
prise's flight deck close to the bow, bored fifty feet through the fore- 
castle and out the ship's side before exploding. A parked aircraft was 
fanned over the side, taking with it a sailor, S. D. Presley, who had 
been standing in the rear cockpit flailing away with a machine gun 
at anything that roared past. Available records do not disclose whether 
this gallant man was rescued. 

During all this excitement an unbelievable incident occurred. A 
second bomb crashed near the forward elevator. This one mysteriously 
broke in two parts, one half exploded at deck level, while the other 
bored its way through to the third deck causing a second explosion 
that killed or wounded many men and ignited several small fires. Still 
a third bomb, a near miss, was close enough to buckle numerous 
plates along the starboard side, and is believed to have damaged a 
turbine bearing. 

While Enterprise's repair gangs went to work and corpsmen were 
caring for seventy-five wounded men, Lieutenant S. W. Vejtasa, who 
was leading a formation of Wildcats, stood by waiting for any enemy 
torpedo planes to turn up. He had already shot down three during 
the attack on Hornet, and, as he expected, eleven sea-green Kates 
roared up from the south. Lieutenant Vejtasa knew his job and skill- 
fully led his pack into the raiders. Before their ammunition had been 
expended they had shot down six Kates. 

Even this was not enough, for more than a dozen others waited their 
turn out on the periphery of the engagement, and when they moved 
in Enterprise became their main attraction. The antiaircraft gunners, 
using high speed 4o-mm. Bofors, mounted four to a bracket, took five 
of these out of the play, but nine others squirmed through the defenses 
and dropped five torpedoes to starboard and four to port. Warned of 
the starboard attack,. Captain Osbome B. Hardison brought Enter- 
prise hard right. Another quick turn dodged a fourth torpedo that 
missed by less than one hundred feet. 

One Kate pilot, evidently enraged by the elusive tactics of the car- 
rier, and the torrent of antiaircraft fire, made a suicide attack, bashing 
himself, his plane, and his torpedo smack into the forecastle of the 
destroyer Smith. A horrible fixe resulted, but Lieutenant Commander 


Hunter Wood, with the aid of Chief Quartermaster F. Riduka, ran 
Smith up under the quarter of South Dakota where the battleship's 
crew provided fire-foam that helped to quench the blaze. 

While this was going on, although she had twenty-eight dead and 
twenty-three wounded scattered about her decks, Smith 's antiaircraft 
gunners, true to their trust, continued to fire on any plane seen head- 
ing for the wounded Enterprise. 

The "Big E" fought fires, mechanical damage, and enemy aircraft, 
but Lady Luck finally relented and moved heavy cloud cover into the 
area. It could have sheltered enemy raiders, but at the same time the 
carrier could use it for her own salvation. 

It was a tense situation, no matter how it was viewed, for by now 
planes from both carriers were reaching the end of their range, and 
pilots were begging for permission to come in and refuel and rearm. 
The deck crews aboard Enterprise were working at top speed to clear 
an area large enough to land a plane on. It was at this point that some 
alert lookout spotted a submarine's periscope. Another, handling the 
radar aboard South Dakota, picked up a suspicious gathering of air- 
craft, and with the routine warning, every antiaircraft gun in the force 
opened up carefully selecting six fuel-hungry SBDs that were wait- 
ing to land aboard Enterprise. The U. S. dive bombers "got the hell 
out of there, fast," and moved off until some of the confusion below 
had subsided. 

At 11:21 a formation of twenty-nine planes off the Japanese carrier 
Junyo came pouring down out of the cloud cover above. Since the 
clouds were low there was little visual space to permit much selection, 
and the enemy pilots had to take what they encountered. This also 
allowed the American gunners a chance to pick them off as they floun- 
dered about looking for a target, and in less than two minutes eight 
of the raiders were shot down. One of these did manage a near miss 
against Enterprise that buckled a few more hull plates. 

But as usual, the law of compensation took over, and at 11:27 strag- 
glers from this strike formed up, broke out into the open, and at- 
tacked South Dakota and San Juan. One 25o-pounder smacked into 
the battleship's Number i gun turret, doing little harm, but a shell 
splinter from the casing struck Captain Thomas L. Gatch in the neck. 
When Captain Gatch went down, someone switched the steering con- 
trol to the executive officer's station aft, upon which the telephone 
system fouled up and for a minute or so South Dakota ran wild and 
almost steamed into poor old Enterprise. Her crew was alert, how- 


ever, and quick action hauled "Big E" out of the way. The bomb that 
hit tie battleship killed one man and wounded fifty others. 

The antiaircraft cruiser San Juan was hit by an armor-piercing bomb 
that bored all the way through and out the ship's bottom before the 
igniter went off. The explosion under water jammed the rudder hard 
right, and with that San Juan began to run in crazy maneuvers, pulling 
tight spirals, heeling over hard and just missing other ships as every 
gun aboard continued to spit at the enemy. Hanging on the whistle, 
and with the "breakdown" flag streaming, Captain James E. Maher 
finally managed to get San Juan under control. The cruiser Porter also 
fouled her steering gear and went into dizzy turns for a few seconds 
but her trouble was soon corrected and she did no damage. 

With the last of the enemy planes either being driven off or 
"splashed," Enterprise finally turned into the wind to recover aircraft, 
although, because of the congestion, a dozen SBDs had to be flown 
to a strip outside Espiritu Santo. At 2 P.M she managed to launch a 
new combat air patrol and pull out of the battle area. 

About 11:30 Hornet showed signs of recovery and Northampton 
finally took up the slack on her towline. The carrier was actually under 
way for. a time and then the inch-and-three-quarter steel towing cable 
parted. A two-inch cable was then attached and this held well enough 
to provide about three knots by 1:30 P.M. Admiral Murray transferred 
over to Pensacola and Captain Charles P. Mason ordered all wounded, 
who were collected on the fantail, and nonessential men to be trans- 
ferred to the destroyers Russell and Hughes. 

At 3:15 six torpedo planes came in unmolested, simply because 
there were no fighters available to provide cover, and Northampton 
had to slip the tow since she was a sitting-duck target while hauling 
Hornet's hulk. Another antiaircraft cruiser Juneau, should have been 
available, but she had misunderstood a signal and had roared off to 
support Admiral Kinkaid's group; her sixteen five-inch guns could 
have provided the defense. Hornet was now an easy target but only one 
torpedo hit her. Commander E. P. Creehan, her engineer officer, was 
on the third deck, port side, above the aviation storeroom and related 
later what happened: 

"I saw a sickly green flash that momentarily lighted the scullery de- 
partment and seemed to run both forward toward Repair Station 5, 
and aft into the scullery department for about fifty feet. This was pre- 
ceded by a thud so deceptive as to almost make one believe that the 
torpedo had struck on the other side. Immediately following the flash, 


a hissing sound of escaping air was heard, followed by a dull rumbling 
noise. The deck on the port side seemed to crack wide open and a 
geyser of fuel oil, which quickly reached a depth of two feet, swept all 
personnel at Repair 5 off their feet and flung them headlong down the 
sloping decks of the compartment to the starboard side. Floundering 
around in the oil, all somehow gained their feet and a hand-chain was 
formed to the two-way ladder and escape scuttle leading from the third 
deck to the second deck. All managed to escape in some amazing 
fashion through this scuttle, and presented a sorry appearance upon 
reaching the hangar deck/' 

Hornet was in a bad shape by now, her engine room was flooding, 
her starboard list had gone to fourteen degrees, and although her gun- 
ners still available fought bravely, Captain Mason decided to have his 
crew stand by to abandon ship. 

At 3:40 more Japanese dive bombers appeared overhead but scored 
no direct hits. The antiaircraft gunners had no luck either. Ten min- 
utes later six Kates, flying a ceremonial V formation came in and 
Hornet received another hit on the starboard corner of the flight deck. 
The dreary business of abandoning ship was then begun. 

Admiral Nagumo's fliers made their last run at the hulk at 5:02 that 
afternoon, when six fighters and four dive bombers flew over and made 
one hit that started a new fire on the empty hangar deck. The de- 
stroyers then raced back again and took off the rest of the survivors. 
By that time 111 men had been killed and 108 wounded, and there 
was no alternative but to scuttle the remains and clear out. The de- 
stroyer Mitstin fired eight torpedoes in unhindered succession but only 
three hits were scored and Hornet refused to go down. This mournful 
business was continued until 1:35 in the afternoon of the next day. 
Every U. S. ship that could fire a gun was brought in and more than 
430 rounds were put into her before she went down. 

There, of course, is another side to the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. 
While the enemy were getting in the first licks against Hornet, fifty- 
two planes of her air group, led by Lieutenant Commander William 
J. Widhelm were approaching the Japanese force. He had fifteen dive 
bombers and four fighters in the front element which sighted enemy 
cruisers and some destroyers at 9:15 that morning. A few minutes later 
they passed to the east of Admiral Rondo's Advance Force, of which 
the carrier Junyo was a part. Enemy combat-air patrols tried to head 
off Widhelm, but he got through although two of his Wildcats were 


shot down. At 9:30 he came upon Shokaku and Zuiho, the latter still 
smoking from the hits made by Lieutenant Strong and Ensign Irvine. 

Another heavy air-combat patrol closed in and Widhelm's SBD was 
hit. He tried to continue on, but the damage was heavy and Widhelm 
had to ditch. He and his gunner took to their raft, floated about, and 
calmly took notes. His command was assumed by Lieutenant James 
E, Vose who had only eleven planes left to carry out the job. They 
all pulled a tight bead on Shokaku, and roared down through the cur- 
tains of flak, with Zekes snapping at their tails. It was risky, and almost 
hopeless, but the gamble paid off. Several looo-pound bombs caught 
the carrier's flight deck and ripped it to shreds, the hangars below 
went up in flames, and everything within was scorched to a crisp. Fires 
spread everywhere and gunnery control was obliterated Shokaku was 
out of action for nine months. Had Lieutenant Vose had a few torpedo 
planes, Shokaku might have been sent to the bottom. The Avengers, 
unfortunately, had become separated from the dive-bomber force, 
since they had missed Widhelm's message concerning the position of 
Nagumo's carriers, and as a result the torpedo bombers made an in- 
effectual strike at one of Admiral Abe's cruisers. 

The second wave of aircraft to leave Hornet that eventful morning 
also missed the main carriers, and after a fruitless search, Lieutenant 
John J. Lynch took his SBDs against the cruiser Chikuma. Two bomb 
hits were scored, but although she was knocked out of the fight, the 
cruiser crawled home. At the same time a strike force off Enterprise 
had a hard time at the hands of enemy fighters, and was broken up 
into two small elements. Three dive bombers went after the battleship 
Kirishima, with no luck, and four torpedo bombers hurriedly launched 
their "fish" at a heavy cruiser, but all missed. 

This was the total of American effort when the last of the American 
planes pulled out by 9:27 A.M. At the same time the Japanese knew 
that they had set Hornet afire, and learned that there was still another 
American carrier available. We have seen how close they came to de- 
stroying two of Admiral Kinkaid's flat-tops. Measured in combat ton- 
nage, the Japanese had won a tactical victory, but, according to 
Admiral Nimitz, other losses had forced them back to their Truk hide- 
out. Kinkaid's force moved southward during the night of October 
26-27 and en route South Dakota and Mohan collided while making 
evasive tactics against an enemy submarine contact. The damages were 
such that for a time it was believed that South Dakota would have to 
return to the United States for repairs. Enterprise was patched up and 


remained with the force and took part in the Battle of Guadalcanal 
sometimes called the Battle of the Solomons that was fought over 
November 12-15. 

The Battle of Santa Cruz, the fourth carrier battle in six months, 
disclosed that something of a pattern had been established. Very little 
that was new had been added, but at the same time there was con- 
siderable criticism of the fighter-direction efficiency. American fighter- 
plane technique had improved greatly, as had the gunnery provided 
by the new 4O-mm. antiaircraft weapons. So far, the Japanese had 
shown superior efficiency in torpedo attack and long-range search, but 
most important, the Battle of Santa Cruz gained some valuable time 
for Admiral Nimitz days in which to check mistakes, reinforce, and 

The indecisive results at Santa Cruz left the Guadalcanal situation 
more frustrating than before. Admiral Halsey at Noum6a faced the 
prospect of stepping up the movement of supplies and reinforcements 
in order to hold the island, while Admiral Yamamoto at Truk was 
equally determined to push the Americans out of their foothold in the 
Solomons. Halsey's job was to move in troops and supplies over air- 
ways and sea lanes while Yamamoto relied on a somewhat similar 
schedule of interdependent troop and ship movements. It will be seen 
that such operations, if they were to succeed for either side, could only 
result in one crucial and decisive naval engagement that would bring 
a definite decision. 

In the days following the carrier battle, both sides nibbled and 
thrust. The Japanese continued to sneak in additional troops at vari- 
ous beaches and U. S. Navy vessels shelled their positions. More Japs 
crawled into Koli Point east of the American lines, and U. S. Marines 
had to attack and attack until this enemy force was annihilated. Be- 
tween November 2-10 some sixty-five destroyer loads of Japanese 
troops were off-loaded in western Guadalcanal, another addition to 
the build-up that threatened the American position. 

Bitter skirmishes occurred hour after hour in Ironbottom Sound. 
Majaba, a Navy cargo ship, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, 
the destroyer Lansdowne went in search of the sub and wound up 
shelling Japanese shore positions east of Metapone River, PT boats 
out of Tulagi raced up and down and the Japanese destroyer Mochi- 
wki was torpedoed but not sunk, the minesweeper Southard found 


and sank submarine 1-172 off Cape Recherch, San Cristobal Island, 
south of Guadalcanal. 

When a large force of reinforcements stood off waiting to move into 
Guadalcanal, U. S. intelligence reports indicated that Truk, Rabaul, 
and the Shortlands were glutted with enemy shipping a warning that 
a new heavy thrust might be expected at any moment. Admiral Halsey 
realized that if he hoped to get the reinforcements in and prevent Ad- 
miral Yamamoto from doing the same, he would have to put what was 
left of Task Force 16 into action at the first opportunity. Since "Big E" 
was under repair at Noumea, the battleships and four destroyers had 
to be detached for the job. 

At Truk, Admiral Kondo had two light carriers, four battleships, 
eleven cruisers, and more than thirty submarines to cover his high- 
speed transports that were poised for a quick dash in with men and 
supplies by November 14. He planned to bombard Henderson Field 
the night before, and it was obvious that Admiral Kondo realized that 
his task would not be easy. 

As the U. S. reinforcements headed out of San Cristobal they were 
spotted by an aircraft that had been launched from an I-class sub- 
marine. It was clear that this snooper's report would result in trouble, 
so everything was rushed into the waters off Lunga Point north of 
Henderson Field, and the Marines quickly off-loaded. This activity was 
interrupted by a dive-bomber force from the carrier Hfyo, but an alert 
coastwatcher and radar gave ample warning and the enemy Vals were 
given a hot reception. This continued all through November 11-12; 
bombs were dropped on Henderson Field, and search parties went 
looking for Admiral Kondo's fleet, but not until early afternoon of No- 
vember 12 was the information sent by a coastwatcher that Japanese 
bombers and fighters were on their way. 

Admiral Richmond K. Turner who was in charge of this bob-tailed 
organization, now known as Task Force 67 the transport group of 
this South Pacific Force quickly halted the unloading, pulled his 
transports out of the limited waters, and set up parallel lines of ships 
that were to be guarded by the antiaircraft weapons of the various war- 
ships. They all headed toward Savo Island, and as a result the enemy 
planes were badly beaten up, and only one U. S. destroyer re- 
ceived any serious damage. The cruiser San Francisco had a suicide 
plane land on its after-control station, wounding fifty men. All this was 
followed by a tense calm. 

Early the next morning intelligence indicated that a strong Japanese 


force was steaming in some 335 miles to the northwest, and another 
was spotted two hundred miles to north-northwest. By midafternoon 
two carriers and two destroyers were seen only 265 miles away, and 
since none of these forces was escorting transports, it was clear that 
the enemy was heading for Guadalcanal with intent either to blast 
Henderson off the map, or to engage any U. S. Navy fleet available. 
Admiral Kinkaid's carrier-battleship force was too far away to offer any 
hope of assistance. 

Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan, in command of the Support Group 
that had included San Francisco, had only four cruisers and a respect- 
able force of destroyers to use in getting the cargo ships away. From 
this point on what began as a surface action, soon went into the most 
savage sea engagement since the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Through 
November 12-13 both sides lost heavily, but although it cost him his 
life Admiral Callaghan succeeded in holding Admiral Abe's raiding 
group and saved Henderson Field. 

On the morning of November 13 Admiral Kinkaid's Task Force 16, 
with the partially repaired Enterprise, was racing up from Noumea. 
On the way fitters and welders continued the refit work but when the 
"Big E" was 340 miles from Guadalcanal the forward elevator still re- 
fused to function. However, Enterprise launched a ten-plane search 
and an attack group was prepared, in case some of the Japanese war 
vessels should be within range. Admiral Kinkaid then donated a few 
of his carrier aircraft to the Henderson Field force since Enterprise 
could not handle too many in an efficient manner. 

A small element of these transferred planes came upon the Japanese 
Hiei, the battleship that had been damaged the day before. She was 
north of Savo Island and accompanied by several destroyers. Lieuten- 
ant John F. Sutherland, with a number of Avengers, made runs on 
both bows, scored two torpedo hits and escaped unscathed. One of 
these hits disabled the rudder and Hiei began to run in wild circles, 
but even this did not send her down, so Lieutenant Sutherland led 
his element to Henderson Field, there rearmed, and, accompanied by 
eight Marine SBDs and two additional fighters, returned to finish the 

This time the Avengers launched five torpedoes from a ninety- 
degree angle when Hiei was almost stationary. Two bounced off with- 
out exploding, a third ran out of control, but the last two hit clean 


and exploded. The battlewagon still refused to go down although by 
now she was a dead hulk in the water and utterly useless. 

Next, fourteen B-iys flew up from Espiritu Santo, and dropped 
fifty-six bombs only one hit Hiei. She was abandoned eventually, and 
her crew removed as she was sinking stem first about five miles off 
Savo Island. 

Enterprise was kept out of the heat of the Guadalcanal fight as 
much as possible; the slugging was left to the battleships and avail- 
able land-based aircraft. However, on November 14 when she was two 
hundred miles south-southwest of Guadalcanal two of her search 
planes reported sighting ten unidentified planes about 140 miles to 
the northward that were heading toward the carrier. Captain Hardi- 
son launched an attack group for a look-see and to nail some rewarding 
target, if possible. They were scarcely off the deck when a new report 
came through: "Two battleships, two heavy cruisers, one possible con- 
verted carrier, and four destroyers/' Their position was ominous, but 
later the group, under Admiral Gunichi Mikawa's command, proved 
to be retiring to the southward in a somewhat disorganized state. 

Lieutenant Commander James R. Lee, who was leading the Enter- 
prise flight sent out to intercept this enemy formation, made a contact 
by 9:50 A.M. and thoroughly searched to find a carrier, but had to be 
content with a number of cruisers. His dive bombers scored two direct 
hits on Kinugasct and a near miss ruptured hull plates, opening a large 
gasoline tank and starting a bad fire. A short time later this cruiser listed 
sharply and went to the bottom. Other heavy cruisers, Chokai and 
Maya, the light cruiser Isuztz, and a destroyer Michishio were heavily 
damaged, but reached the safety of Shortland Island. 

In the meantime Admiral Tanaka's reinforcement ships, which were 
well escorted, were steaming down what was known as The Slot, the 
waters leading down between Choiseul-Santa Isabel and the New 
Georgia Group, making a bedine for the Henderson Field area. This 
formation was spotted at 7 A.M. and identified thirty minutes later, but 
it was not until 8:30 that they were found for business purposes by 
two SBDs off Enterprise. They picked out a large troop transport and 
made a near miss and a probable hit. In turn they were set upon by a 
unit of Zekes that had taken off from the carrier Hyo, and one SBD 
was shot down but the other escaped and returned safely to Enter- 

Aircraft based on Guadalcanal were fully alerted to the transporl 
force and went out in mixed groups for the rest of the day and harassed 


the Japanese troopships. This set up many aerial skirmishes that had 
various results. At 1:10 P.M. eight dive bombers off Enterprise, es- 
corted by twelve Wildcats, went in search of the enemy transport 
group, then about sixty miles northwest of Savo Island. They found it 
by 3:30 just as Admiral Tanaka was attempting to re-form his force 
after earlier attacks. There were few enemy fighters in the sky so the 
SBDs took their time and made precision runs from fifteen thousand 
feet. Some good hits were registered and the fighters, following them 
down in escort formation, made the most of their chances and wiped 
off the enemy decks with machine-gun fire. They then headed off and 
landed safely at Henderson Field. 

Despite all these varied attacks and subsequent damage, Admiral 
Tanaka decided on a bold move. He moved in eleven destroyers for 
a close formation and placed what transports he had left about six- 
inside the destroyer screen, and doggedly continued down The Slot. 
A good-sized element of Zekes was mustered, and the original plan 
was continued. 

Admiral Tanaka had a point. He must have known that his enemy 
could not continue to fly and fight all day long, no matter what slaugh- 
ter they had wrought. There is a limit to any man's stamina and skill. 
Thus, when Lieutenant Commander James A. Thomas of Enter- 
prise's Bomber Ten outfit took off again from Henderson Field, there 
was no available fighter escort. Seven SBDs went out and three were 
knocked down quickly by Zekes, two others were damaged, and the 
two that remained to pierce the destroyer ack-ack curtain were con- 
siderably hindered, to say the least. Little was accomplished, but be- 
fore nightfall two Marine flights were flagged off Henderson Field, and 
before the day was over Admiral Tanaka had to admit to the loss by 
American air attack of seven transports, with their supplies and most 
of the troops they carried. 

He now had four transports and eleven destroyers with which to 
continue his race toward Guadalcanal. With only eighteen fighter air- 
craft on board, Enterprise moved to the cover of a weather front south 
of Guadalcanal, and the next day was ordered back to the comparative 
safety of Espiritu Santo. The battle foj Guadalcanal was left to the 
surface Navy, land-based aircraft at Henderson Field, and the Marine 
ground sloggers. No American carrier took any part in the historic 
naval conflict fought during the night of November 14-15 that joust 
of the giants that resulted in the complete consolidation of the island 


and an assurance that American ground forces were at last on the of- 

The world will long remember the savage land fighting that con- 
tinued over the next nine or ten weeks. The name Guadalcanal made 
us all cringe and shiver, regardless of the nibbles of success that our 
ground forces experienced, and it was not until late January 1943 that 
it became obvious that the Japanese would have to evacuate what 
small portion of the island they still retained. Our best minds believed 
that the enemy would start moving out by April i, but reconnaissance 
reports indicated an ever-increasing number of Japanese transports 
gathering at Rabaul, and Buin in southern Bougainville. At the same 
time carriers, battleships, and their required screens, were noted in 
various movements near Ontong Java, north of Guadalcanal. To some 
authorities this indicated a move out, but the staff at Pearl Harbor and 
Noumea believed that the Japanese were planning another rein- 

Plans were made, therefore, to relieve and reinforce the Marines on 
the island, the ingoing transports to be escorted by five separate task 
forces in the hope that Admiral Yamamoto would accept the chal- 
lenge. Three groups of this force never got into the resulting action, 
but Enterprise, now completely repaired and under command of Rear 
Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, did take part. "Big E" somehow managed 
to get into every scuffle. 

On the afternoon of January 29 Task Force 18, now under Rear 
Admiral Robert C. Giffin aboard Wichita, started to rendezvous with 
the transport group at a point fifteen miles off Cape Hunter on the 
southwest coast of Guadalcanal. After that Admiral Giffin planned to 
make contact with a four-destroyer force, and then while the trans- 
ports were off-loading at Lunga Point, Task Force 18 would turn up 
Ironbottom Sound and make for The Slot. 

Admiral Giffin had two light, or escort, carriers, Suwannee and 
Chewngo, each carrying a small element of Wildcats and torpedo or 
dive bombers. These vessels were converted oilers, comparable to the 
earlier British Audacity-class ships. It should be explained that Ad- 
miral Giffin who had had some experience in the Mediterranean and 
had considerable respect for submarines was not fully appreciative of 
the value of carrier aircraft as they were being employed in the Pacific. 
And therefore when it was apparent that he would have to put on 
about twenty-four knots to make his rendezvous, he dropped off Su- 


vfannee and Chenango and two screen destroyers, considering them 
nothing but "his ball-and-chain." That afternoon he was warned of 
submarines in his area, so he put on more speed to join the destroyer 
group, presuming that what air cover he needed would be supplied 
by planes that were based on Henderson Field. 

At the same time, well aware of Admiral Giffin's movements 
through their submarines, the Japanese alerted attack aircraft on 
Munda Field, Baku, New Georgia, and possibly at Rabaul. Thirty- 
one twin-engined Betty bombers took off late that afternoon when 
Task Force 18 was fifty miles north of Rennell Island and steam- 
ing northwesterly. By sunset Admiral Giffin's radars were showing 
"bogies" some sixty miles to the westward. Unfortunately, Giffin did 
not order a change of course, nor did he alert his ships for an air 
attack; in fact most ships of the fleet had secured from dusk General 
Quarters and were totally unprepared for any such emergency. 

Moving out of the area of the twilight glow, the Japanese air com- 
mander moved around to the south and split his bomber force into 
two parties. They came in low and fast and the lead Betty pumped a 
torpedo at the destroyer Wdler, another was aimed at Wichita, a 
heavy cruiser, and a third torpedo bomber roared between Chicago 
and Wichita and launched a torpedo at Louisville, but this cruiser 
wriggled clear. Over the next few minutes the Japanese torpedo planes 
threaded in and out like great bobbins weaving a war tapestry. The 
antiaircraft gunners, alerted at last, mounted every weapon available, 
adding silver, gold, saffron, sable, and gray to the pattern. One Betty, 
broken in flight, splashed in a blossom of flame and green-white sea 
water. Miraculously, no damage was done to any vessel, and Admiral 
Giffin continued on, doggedly pursuing the same course and by 7:30 
P.M. had given up zigzagging. His idea was to make his rendezvous on 
time, and to hell with the air torpedoes. 

The Japanese, however, had had a taste of the kind of action that 
appealed to them; here was a large juicy task force with no air cover. 
As the twilight eased into the folds of night they came back and 
brought their illumination with them. Blinding white flares blossomed 
on the water, yellowish flares, dangling from small parachutes, hung 
over the task force, strange red and green lights appeared in the sky 
that enticed antiaircraft gunners to waste belts and chargers of ammu- 
nition since there were no enemy aircraft between the lights. Actually, 
they were other parachute flares that scout planes dropped to mark 


the general position, course, and formation pattern of the American 
force. Here was something new! 

At 7:31 an element of torpedo bombers made their formal call. The 
leader released a tin fish that only missed the heavy cruiser Chicago 
by inches. Louisville stopped one, but, gratefully, it failed to explode. 
At this point U. S. Navy antiaircraft gunners tried out the new Mark- 
32 proximity fuse shell. This did not require the usual mechanical 
timing; if it passed close enough to the target, a small electronic device 
was activated by impulses rebounding off the target's surface, detonat- 
ing the shell. As small and complicated as it was, this device appeared 
to work most efficiently as several Bettys were shot down. 

The Japanese ignored their losses and came back. One tight ele- 
ment made a concerted run against the cruiser column and ran into 
wicked antiaircraft fire. Another was shot down, a second caught fire 
and its pilot probably made a kamikaze run for the torpedo bomber 
bounced off Chicago's port bow, spewing flaming gasoline all over the 
vessel. This provided brilliant illumination and two Bettys came in 
for a one-two punch. At 7:45 P.M. one torpedo smacked in, pierced 
Chicago's starboard side and ruptured two important compartments 
that flooded immediately. The aftermost fireroom began to fill up, 
three of the four shafts ground to a halt, control of the rudder from the 
bridge was hacked away, and in a few minutes a second torpedo bored 
another hole that flooded Number 3 fireroom, taking out the fourth 
drive shaft and then there were none. 

Captain Ralph O. Davis realized that his chances of saving the 
cruiser were minimal, but he roused his damage-control forces to their 
utmost. All around her antiaircraft gunners were blazing away and 
taking a grim toll, but with the eruption of each five-inch gun everyone 
aboard was blinded temporarily by the intense glare. No one thought 
to put on a screen of protective smoke, and the wild air-sea battle con- 
tinued until the radarscopes looked like disturbed wasps' nests. Not 
until after 8 P.M. when U. S. gunners were ordered to fire only on 
definite targets, and the force had turned some 120 degrees and slowed 
to douse the glare of phosphorescent wake, did the enemy aircraft give 
up and return to their bases. 

Two of the fires aboard Chicago were soon doused, and the damage- 
control parties went to work shoring bulkheads, counterflooding, and 
getting water out of living compartments by bucket brigades. The 
emergency generators were undamaged so that the workers at least 
had light and power, but the cruiser still had an eleven-degree list 


and was hanging low by the stern. It was apparent that the only way to 
save her was to tow her out of the shore-based plane range. A tow line 
was passed from Louisville and, working in total darkness, she was 
moving once again. It was then discovered that her rudder was jammed 
left, but fast work remedied that matter so that by early on January 30 
Chicago began to limp toward Espiritu Santo at a weary four knots 
an hour. 

When Admiral Halsey learned of this operation he ordered the dis- 
carded escort earners Chenango and Suwannee to move up and pro- 
vide air cover. A Catalina flying boat went out to maintain a security 
patrol and Admiral Sherman was sent with his Enterprise group to 
furnish additional combat-air patrol. 

Still the enemy refused to give up this victim, and after breakfast 
that morning an Enterprise patrol spotted an enemy reconnaissance 
plane snooping around twenty miles away. At this Louisville was re- 
lieved of her towing job, and the hawser was taken over by Navajo, 
a Navy tug. Things went so well that by 3 P.M. Admiral Halsey ordered 
all undamaged cruisers to proceed independently to Efate, a base 
south of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. With that, Admiral Gif- 
fin, still aboard Wichita, signaled his farewell and good wishes to 
Captain Davis and left the crippled cruiser in tow with six destroyers to 
provide a screen. The Enterprise group was still more than forty miles 
away to the southeast. The escort carriers were moving into the area 
too, but so far had not been advised that Admiral Giffin had taken his 
heavy cruisers out of the picture, so they sailed on, hoping to be avail- 
able to put up a ten-plane combat-air patrol late that afternoon. 

At 3:45 P.M. Enterprise picked up a twelve-plane enemy formation 
that indicated they were sixty-seven miles from the carrier, but pos- 
sibly only twenty-five to thirty from the disabled Chicago. The car- 
rier's fighter director vectored a six-plane patrol from Admiral Giffin's 
forcepresumably from the escort carriers and these Wildcats inter- 
cepted a flight of torpedo-carrying Bettys. This induced them to turn 
back and take on the helpless Chicago instead. In making this move 
they became entangled with the ten Wildcats that had been launched 
by Enterprise. In the ensuing dog fight three Betty bombers were 
knocked down, but the remaining nine raced away at three hundred 
mph., leaving the Navy fighters standing. Lieutenant Commander 
James H. Flatley, who was leading another fighter element, tried vainly 
to intercept, but the bombers were all racing at the wallowing Chicago 
before the Wildcats could interfere. 


Ntfva/o made a game effort to haul Chicago's bow into line with 
the spread of torpedoes; every antiaircraft gun in the group opened 
fire, and once more the dazzling picture of action was plastered against 
the Pacific sky. Torpedoes drew their geometric design, guns splashed 
their venom against the blue, airplanes smashed into the green seas, 
and fast-moving destroyers darted about like giant water bugs. Four 
more torpedoes pierced Chicago's hull. 

The destroyer La Vallette enjoyed a few minutes of glory hammer- 
ing at the incoming torpedo planes until a torpedo bored its way 
into her engine room and killed Lieutenant Eli Roth, the damage- 
control and engineer officer, and twenty-one of his men. Others man- 
aged to plug the leaks, shore the bulkheads, and M. W. Tollberg, 
Watertender Second Class, crawled up the forward fireroom ladder, 
groping blindly until he finally closed the oil-control valve to his fire- 
room. The superheated steam had partially blinded him and seared 
the flesh from his hands. He collapsed and died of his injuries. Because 
of a dozen other such heroic actions aboard La Vdlette Commander 
Harry Henderson had his destroyer under way again within two min- 
utes and moving at slow speed on the after engine. 

Chicago went down within twenty minutes and Captain Davis had 
to work swiftly to clear all survivors. The evacuation was well carried 
out with 1049 members of the crew taken aboard Sands, Wdler, Ed- 
wards, and Navajo. 

This battle of Rennell Island marked the beginning of Japanese 
night air operations and the technique of parachute flares and float 
lights, and it Was not until the Pacific Fleet turned its attention to and 
developed the trick of carrier-based night-fighter proficiency that the 
new menace was properly countered. 

The Guadalcanal campaign was costly in men and materiel on 
both sides. Both Japan and the United States lost twenty-four naval 
vessels, with a tonnage of 126,240 for the American forces, and 134,- 
839 for the enemy. Japan lost two battleships, but no carriers. We 
lost two carriers and six heavy cruisers. The Yamamoto force sacrificed 
eleven destroyers and six submarines, while Halsey lost fourteen de- 
stroyers and two light cruisers. No U. S. submarines were lost. These 
figures do not include transport vessels. 

Both sides learned many tactical lessons. 



THE GREAT aircraft-carrier battles fought in the Pacific by the Ameri- 
can and Japanese Navies, those historic long-range conflicts that raged 
over the Coral Sea, Midway, the Eastern Solomons, and Santa Cruz, 
were never again staged on such a stupendous pattern. With the close 
of the Guadalcanal savagery, the duels between the opposing flat-tops 
came to an end, and with the exception of the Battle of the Philippine 
Sea fought in midsummer of 1944, which saw something of a recapitu- 
lation of what had gone before, the carrier no longer basked in the 
naval spotlight 

One of the chief reasons for this was that both sides had fought to 
a standstill, and it was necessary to rebuild depleted carrier strength 
and train new air groups. Another factor came up when the first Allied 
offensives, roaring up through the South and Southwest Pacific, could 
be supported by land-based planes, and what contribution the carriers 
made was in furnishing aircraft for strikes against enemy island strong- 
holds. The carrier had reverted to the role of a mobile air base. 

By the summer of 1943 carriers of the new Essex-class 27,000 tons 
and a number of escort types of the then Independence-class 
11,000 tons were beginning to join the Pacific Fleet. With the addi- 
tion of this varied equipment came a new phase in naval warfare, some- 
times known as the hit-and-stay offensive. That fall Essex, the new 
Yorkt own, and Lexington, together with the new light carriers Bellectu 
Wood, Independence, and Cowpens, were sent into action against 
Wake and Marcus Islands. In November Saratoga, Princeton, Essex, 
Bunker Hill, and Independence took part in a vicious onslaught against 
Rabaul, and here, for the first time since Hornet's strike against Tokyo, 
United States carriers emerged from an all-out attack without damage. 

There were reasons for this. The F4F Wildcat had been replaced 


by the speedy F6F Hellcat. The sleek gull-winged Corsair, F4U, took 
on Japanese aircraft that had not been improved since they first ap- 
peared over Pearl Harbor. Then too, American planes were better 
armed with new .5ocaliber guns, and carried larger ammunition 
boxes. New antiaircraft weapons bristled from the deck turrets of all 
carriers. Our five-inch guns had improved controls, and the Swedish 
Bofors 4o-mm. weapons, complete with very efficient tracking sights, 
added greatly to this phase of ship defense. Radar was improving by 
leaps and bounds, and the blued screens were furnishing important 
data for the Combat Information Centers. As a result friend was 
quickly distinguished from foe, and the fighters provided with reward- 
ing targets with rare proficiency. 

All conditions were not yet perfect. Carrier bombers could deliver 
only one bomb of any size, but with improved techniques and bomb- 
sights it was possible to increase the size of the bomb and gain greater 
impact rewards. The new Allied rocket launchers were also ready for 
U. S. Navy aircraft, and with these, fighters were in many instances 
converted into fighter bombers. Torpedoes still gave considerable 
trouble in that they were risky items when delivered from high-speed 
aircraft, and to approach enemy warships at slow speed invited disas- 
ter. By the simple expedient of a drag ring that was fitted to the nose 
of the torpedo, its falling speed was lowered considerably, improving 
its chances of starting its water run against the target and getting 

Carrier support of amphibious operations went through many stages 
of trial and error, but by the time the Okinawa campaign was under 
way, the carriers had developed new and valued programs of support 
and furnished the land forces with various kinds of strikes. In some 
instances they reported to the ground co-ordinators for target assign- 
ments, just as though they were working from land bases. As the action 
moved inexorably toward the enemy home islands, damage control 
improved and fire-fighting methods were so effective that after 1943 
only one fast carrier, Princeton, was lost, although Franklin and 
Bunker HiU were seriously damaged. Intricate compartmentation, the 
fog nozzle, fire-fighting practice, and the employment of screening ves- 
sels as fire boats saved many damaged flat-tops, and brought them 
safely to hospitable repair depots. 

After the first Allied victory in Europe, the success of Operation 
Torch in French North Africa, and the American successes at Mid- 


way and Guadalcanal, there came a revision of strategic planning, 
and although the fundamental Allied concept was based on beating 
the European Axis first, it was obvious that the Pacific situation could 
not remain dormant. 

Everyone who did not have to pick up a rifle and fight for it, was 
screaming for a second front in Europe. There were some Americans, 
still smarting under the Pearl Harbor defeat, who wanted no part of 
the European war and were intent only on defeating Imperial Japan. 

But once it became evident that American naval power was win- 
ning the war in the Pacific, it was clear that this campaign would have 
to be continued Contrary to expectations, the British Chiefs of Staff 
were in full support of America's intention to keep that campaign in 
high gear. 

The chief problem was to redistribute all available forces so that a 
second front could be opened in Europe, so that the Mediterranean 
could be held secure, so that the Battle of the North Atlantic could 
be continued, and so that an Allied invasion of the European main- 
land could be prepared once the big break came. 

The historians have recorded this from varying points of view, de- 
pending on their service allegiances and just what theater of war they 
were covering. Every commander whether he was in North Africa, 
Sicily, Italy, or any of the islands of the Pacific, believed that he was 
fighting the crucial battle of the war. American citizens along the West 
Coast ignored the European war; wounded service men who had "only 
fought in Europe" were looked on as malingerers, correspondents who 
had not as yet covered a Pacific battle were simply cub reporters with 
little or no experience; what had happened between September 1939, 
and December 7, 1941, was quickly erased and relegated to a series of 
skirmishes, reminiscent of the African veldt of the Boer War. Every- 
thing depended on the point of view. 

A few rational-minded men ignored the headline screamers and, fol- 
lowing the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, wound up with 
a strategic bargain. The British were to continue their all-important 
Mediterranean operations through 1943. It was generally agreed that 
any invasion of Western Europe would have to be delayed until the 
middle of 1944, a decision that would release men and equipment for 
a real Pacific offensive. This program was to resume Operation Watch- 
tower, a continued thrust up from Guadalcanal through New Guinea 
until Rabaul was taken and the Bismarcks Barrier breached. New ad- 
vances were to be made toward Trufc and Guam. The Aleutians were 


to be made as secure as possible. In addition an advance was planned 
to move along the New Guinea-Mindanao axis as far as Timor; and to 
aid China, Burma was to be recaptured by a very elaborate campaign 
of amphibious assaults and combined land operations. 

Throughout the greater part of 1943 aircraft carriers were not im- 
portantly engaged in the heavy fighting that marked America's switch 
from the defensive to the offensive phase of battle. The reason has 
been explained earlier in this chapter, but by early November of that 
year it was more than apparent that Rabaul, by now a very important 
Japanese base, would have to be eliminated if the Bismarcks Barrier 
was ever to be broken. 

American successes at and around Empress Augusta Bay off west- 
ern Bougainville that resulted in military landings on that island, 
stirred considerable panic in the Japanese forces, and Admiral Minei- 
chi Koga, then Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, decided to 
reinforce Admiral Tomoshige Samejima's naval forces at Rabaul. 
Seven heavy cruisers of their Second Fleet, and a light cruiser and 
four destroyers were rushed to this critical area. It was agreed that this 
force not only strengthened the Rabaul base, but became a real threat 
to the American amphibious forces already ashore around Empress 
Augusta Bay. Admiral Halsey ordered Admiral Sherman's Task Force 
38, one built around the carriers Saratoga and Princeton, to stand by 
for any eventuality. Providing air strikes against enemy bases as strong 
as Rabaul was hardly within the combat compass of large carriers, but 
all these risks had to be assumed. 

On the night of November 4 an order was received aboard Saratoga 
demanding immediate attacks on enemy effects in Simpson Harbor 
at Rabaul. Duplicate copies of this order were forwarded to General 
Nathan F. Twining, commander of air forces in the Solomons, and 
to General Douglas MacArthur. From this it is presumed that any 
attack on Rabaul was to be something of a co-operative effort. We are, 
by now, well acquainted with Saratoga, but Princeton was a new light 
carrier under Captain George Hendeison. Their screen was composed 
of the antiaircraft light cruisers San Diego and San Juan, and nine 
destroyers. All these vessels were to be at a rendezvous point 230 miles 
southeast of Rabaul at 9 AJVC. November 5. To get there from near 
Rennell Island, south of Guadalcanal, some twenty-seven-knot steam- 
ing had to be put on, but with the luck of "good" weather that pre- 
vented their being spotted by the enemy, Admiral Sherman had his 
force where it should have been in plenty of time. 


Saratoga sent seventy-one aircraft of varied categories into the air, 
and Princeton launched nineteen Hellcats and seven Avengers. What 
combat air patrols were to be canned out would be provided by the 
land-based forces of the Air Solomons Command. 

Two hours after launching, this ninety-seven aircraft strike roared 
into Rabaul where it was understood that the enemy had at least 150 
aircraft to afford a defense. From all accounts they had fully that many 
and the U. S. Navy raiders were greeted warmly. The main idea, of 
course, was to beat up the concentration of enemy heavy cruisers and 
other naval shipping in Simpson Harbor. These orders read well on 
paper, but none of the pilots had any reliable maps or charts of this 
area, and on their arrival much valuable time was spent in whipping 
back and forth searching for the mooring bases, or in determining 
which were cruisers and which were military transports. 

All this gave the Rabaul forces time to put many fighter aircraft into 
the air, but Commander Henry H. Caldwell, leader of Saratoga's Air 
Group 12, kept his force intact and did not break it up for individual 
assignments until it was roaring along St. George's Channel, ignoring 
the curtain of flak and darting thrusts of some seventy enemy fighter 
planes. As the dive bombers deployed for their approaches with the 
idea of attacking immediately after the SBDs, both formations had to 
hurl themselves through heavy enemy flak and machine-gun fire that 
came from every ship in the harbor. By now, too, practically every ves- 
sel had up-anchored and was trying to make a run for the open sea> 
with the result that important heavy cruisers were dispersed among 
rust-bucket transports and oilers. The torpedo-bomber pilots had to 
skid, jink, bank, and wriggle through a forest of masts to get at the 
cruiser targets, which not only made it almost impossible to put a sight 
on the ships of the Japanese Navy, but redoubled all the antiaircraft 
hazards. Yet, when it was all over only five fighters and five bombers 
were missing. It should be added, however, that results were not too 
satisfactory and not one Japanese ship was actually sunk, but the over- 
all damage sustained put Admiral Kurita's Second Fleet out of action 
for some time. 

One bomb went straight down the stack of the heavy cruiser Maya 
while she was tied up fueling, went on through, exploded in the engine 
room and put Maya out of action for five months. Takao received two 
hits that opened a great gash at her waterline. The famed Mogami, 
damaged at Midway, was battered badly by bombs. Ag<mo and 
Noshiro were hit, the latter by a dud torpedo, while Atago, Wakat- 


suki, and Fujinami were damaged by near misses or duds and were 
able to limp out of Rabaul Harbor. All of these vessels, except Maya, 
were lucky to retire, and the Japanese never again sent heavy cruisers 
into these waters. 

The minute his planes were recovered Admiral Sherman took his 
force out of the area. A few searching Kates found TF 38 early that 
afternoon, and later Admiral Kusaka sent out more bombers to finish 
this carrier force. Something went wrong somewhere, for the Japanese 
pilots attacked instead LCI-yo, a gunboat; and a PT boat that was 
escorting an LCT back to a repair base in the Treasuries in the Solo- 
mons. The Japs attacked this small force in the twilight and for a few 
minutes the little gunboat had a picnic. Then one of the Kates col- 
lided with the PT boat's antenna and crashed, but her torpedo ran 
free, passed through the bow and wound up in the crew's head with- 
out exploding. LCI-yo took a beating, but fortunately her shallow 
draft allowed all torpedoes that were fired at her to run beneath her 
keel. However, one started porpoising and at the critical instant plowed 
into the engine room without exploding, but the impact killed one 
man. Lieutenant H. W. Frey ordered "abandon ship," but after a rea- 
sonable interval had passed without an explosion, a damage-control 
party went aboard and LCI-yo was towed back safely to Torokina 
beachhead in Empress Augusta Bay. 

The Japanese radio then invented the First Air Battle of Bougain- 
ville and claimed to have sunk one large carrier, set ablaze a medium 
carrier, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and sunk a destroyer. It 
was their biggest propaganda lie of the Pacific war. 

Admiral Halsey had gambled high with his canieis and had been 
lucky, but Rabaul was still a formidable base, its communications with 
Truk were still intact, and although the withdrawal of Admiral Ku- 
rita's heavy cruiser force enabled us to continue with the important 
Bougainville operation, the Gilbert Islands action was just around the 
comer, and Admiral Nimitz still had no heavy cruiser force to spare to 
protect U. S. shipping en route to the Bougainville beachheads. 

Hindsight tells us that it was unfortunate that Rabaul could not 
have been attacked again within a couple of days. Another strike 
against the enemy base was scheduled for November 11 with a force 
commanded by Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery. This was built 
around Essex, Bunker Hill, and Independence. The Saratoga and 
Princeton group were to get into this action also, but because of the 


weather conditions their air groups encountered, no important dam- 
age was inflicted. 

Admiral Montgomery's force organized at Espiritu Santo and 
moved up to a position 160 miles southeast of Rabaul after an all- 
night, high-speed approach. More than an hour was absorbed in ren- 
dezvousing the aircraft, which gave the enemy time to put up his 
combat-air formations. Bad weather neutralized strikes that had been 
planned by Lieutenant General George C. Kenney's land-based 
bombers over three previous days, and consequently about sixty-eight 
Zekes were awaiting the raiders as they flashed by Cape St. George. 

What started out as a definite strike against enemy shipping turned 
into a pointless dog fight, and it was impossible for the U. S. Navy 
fliers to present any reliable details of the attack. Later the Japanese 
admitted that the light cruiser Agano received one torpedo hit, the 
destroyer Naganami was seriously damaged by a torpedo and had to 
be towed back into the harbor, and the destroyer Suzunami was dive- 
bombed while she was loading torpedoes and her hull was badly split. 
She went down near the entrance to Rabaul Harbor. The light 
cruiser Yubari and tie destroyers Urakaze and Umikaze were slightly 

In response to this assault, Admiral Kusaka sent out more than one 
hundred fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo bombers to attack Ad- 
miral Montgomery's fleet, and early that afternoon they started to bore 
in from all sides. U. S. interceptors put on a good show, but ran out of 
ammunition eventually, and the defense had to be taken up by the 
ship batteries. From 1:54 P.M. until 2:30 P.M. the sky above Mont- 
gomery's force was wild with aircraft, falling bombs, exploding shell- 
fire, and general wreckage. 

Bunker Hill took the worst of the enemy bombardment. Eleven 
U. S. Navy aircraft were lost, but only ten sailors were wounded 
aboard any of the surface ships. As usual the enemy made extravagant 
claims of having sunk a cruiser, damaged two carriers, and three other 
vessels. But the enemy didn't completely believe this himself, for that 
night Admiral Kusaka at Rabaul sent out more strikes, hoping to drive 
the American carriers back to Espiritu Santo and thus give him some 
temporary peace. 

These strikes against Rabaul, although affording no lengthy list of 
sinkings, did have certain far-reaching effects. They dissolved Japanese 
carrier strength at a time when Tarawa was in the ofEng. They drew 
enemy air pressure from Bougainville, and forced Admiral Koga to 


withdraw the remnants of his carrier aircraft from Rabaul airfields the 
next day. These were replaced by inferior equipment and inexperi- 
enced pilots drawn from the Marshalls. Further accounting discloses 
that in the Rabaul attacks the Japanese lost more than half of their 
fighters, 89 per cent of their dive bombers, and 90 per cent of their 
torpedo bombers in less than fourteen days. And to top that the great 
gamble of risking American carriers against land-based aircraft had 
paid off, and considerable valuable experience had been gained. 

To continue a chronological review of the Pacific war action to en- 
able the reader to retain a grasp of the actual course of events, it 
should be explained that during the last few months of 1943 when 
Allied forces were flailing at islands and airfields in the Bismarcks and 
Bougainville, American naval planners organized two impressive am- 
phibious operations. One provided footing for invasion power in the 
Gilbert Islands, the second found us well lodged in the Marshalls. 

The Gilberts and Marshalls, along with the lesser Carolines and 
Marianas, make up the area known as Micronesia, and are strategi- 
cally scattered across the main sea lanes linking the United States and 
the Philippines, China, and Japan. Thus, Kwajalein in the Marshalls, 
Truk in the Carolines, and Saipan in the Marianas each became a cen- 
ter of a defensive system that could be of tremendous value to Japan. 
In this ocean network air and naval forces could be organized and 
deployed, planes and ships could be serviced and air and surface raids 
launched in all directions. No Allied search planes could reach these 
depots from any existing bases, for Marshall Island, the nearest, lay 
1100 miles from Guadalcanal, 1130 from Canton Island, and 1230 
from Johnston Island. 

At the time there were conflicting views as to the value of attempt- 
ing to take these bases, island by island, but it was clear that the farther 
west the United States projected its sea power, the more dangerous it 
became to leave these Micronesian bases in enemy hands. Eniwetok, 
a little more than one thousand miles from Saipan, would be worth a 
dozen Wake Islands. The naval bases of Truk and Palau in the Caro- 
lines held a great threat over General MacArthur's possible advance 
after the Bismarcks Barrier was breached. Saipan and Guam, while 
held by the Japanese, stood as a screen before the Philippines, but if 
they could be captured, American 6-295 might be brought up to 
threaten the main islands of Japan. There was very little choice. The 
Gilberts and Marshalls had to be taken. 


There is no space here for a complete history of this broad opera- 
tion, but by midsummer of 1943 Admiral Nimitz presented the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff with a tentative plan for the simultaneous occupation 
of Kwajalein, Wotje, and Maloelap in the Marshalls, but after some 
high-level consideration this plan was enlarged and divided into six 
phases of advance; the Gilbert Islands and Makin, the Marshall Is- 
lands, Wake and Kusaie, Ponape, the central Carolines, including 
Truk, Palau and Yap, and finally the Marianas. On paper this mass 
advance was most impressive, but many believed that the plan as a 
whole was too risky since it would take valuable ships well beyond the 
range of Allied land-based air power. 

In the Solomons the United States Navy had never ventured more 
than three hundred miles from a friendly airfield, and when escorting 
amphibious forces usually operated within one hundred fifty miles of 
such support. It was pointed out that Tarawa was more than seven 
hundred miles from the nearest Allied air base Funafuti. To do what 
Admiral Nimitz had planned meant leapfrogging, using the new Es- 
sex-class carriers as the Pogo sticks. 

There were extended fleet maneuvers, target practice, and much 
shore bombardment throughout the summer of 1943. All types of anti- 
aircraft drills were held hourly, for by now more than half of the ships 
in the Fifth Fleet were new and very few of the sailors had seen action. 
Navy expansion had been so great since Pearl Harbor that even vet- 
eran vessels were officered by more than 75 per cent reservists, and 
manned by almost 50 per cent of sailors who had never been to sea. 

The new carriers coming out with only partly trained air squadrons 
provided more problems. Escort carriers, most valuable in the North 
Atlantic and the Mediterranean, had not found their true place in the 
peculiar actions in the Pacific. With no more opportunities to engage 
enemy carrier fleets, the large fast carriers, nevertheless, offered all the 
old difficulties of screening and protection. Excepting Enterprise and 
Saratoga, the large flat-tops that had fought at Coral Sea and Midway 
were either in repair yards or resting on the bottom. The newcomers 
with their attendant battleships, cruisers, and destroyers needed much 
team training, and their flying men were shy of good combat practice. 
In the Gilberts and Marshalls operations they were given work in a 
series of raids that were devised mainly for training and combat expe- 
rience, rather than for any hope of actual military benefit. 

For instance, Marcus Island, which is 1560 miles from Midway and 
less than one thousand miles from Tokyo, was attacked on September 


i by a task group that flew off Yorktown, Essex, and Independence. 
Dauntless dive bombers and Avenger toipedo bombers made six 
strikes that day with negligible results. Over September 18-19 another 
carrier task force, composed of Lexington, Princeton, and Belleau 
Wood, made strikes against Tarawa and Makin. Four aircraft were 
lost, but nine Japanese planes were destroyed and a large number of 
the military forces killed. More important was a set of low oblique 
photographs of the lagoon, taken by photographers off Lexington, 
that became of great value in later planning of the assault on Tarawa. 

Wake Island was given a going-over on October 5-6 when aircraft 
off the decks of Essex, Yorktown, Lexington, Covtpens, Independ- 
ence, and Belleau Wood made 738 combat sorties against stiff opposi- 
tion. Twelve planes were shot down in combat and fourteen more were 
lost "operationally/' meaning in take-offs, recovery, or somewhere be- 
tween the carrier decks and the targets. While the U. S. planes were 
beating up the enemy area, destroyers and cruisers moved in and 
shelled any available target. At least twenty-two Japanese planes were 

With the opening of Operation Galvanic in November 1943, the 
planned attack against the Gilbert Islands, some 200 ships, carrying or 
escorting 27,600 assault and 7600 garrison troops, 6000 vehicles, and 
117,000 tons of cargo, had to be readied and moved to their destina- 
tion. Included in this was the fast carrier forces of the Pacific Fleet 
TF 50 commanded by Rear Admiral Charles A. Pownall. This was 
the greatest carrier force hitherto assembled anywhere. It was made 
up of four new Essex-class, five light carriers, the Enterprise and Sara- 
toga, and a screen composed of six new battleships, three heavy cruis- 
ers, three antiaircraft cruisers and twenty-one destroyers. 

All this was divided into: i) A Carrier Interceptor Group Lexing- 
ton, Cowpens, and Yorfetown. 2) The Northern Carrier Group En- 
terprise, Belleau Wood, and Monterey. 3) The Southern Carrier 
Group Bunker HUl, and Independence. 4) The Relief Carrier Group 
Saratoga, and Princeton. 

The island of Makin was taken by November 23 with not too great 
a toll of men, but the Navy had the bad luck to experience a turret 
explosion aboard Mississippi that killed forty-three men and wounded 

Tarawa Atoll was next, one of the worst experiences of the whole 
Pacific campaign, being, to all intents and purposes, an impregnable 
fortress. Batteries from the surface vessels did their best to break down 


the opposition, and bombers from Essex, Bunker Hill, and Independ- 
ence joined in the assault against Betio, the fortified island that con- 
tained the all-important airfield. Despite all the men and equipment 
that were hurled into this action, Tarawa was not secured until late 
in November, and by that time 980 Marines and twenty-nine sailors 
had been killed, with 2101 wounded. 

The Gilberts operation was quickly followed by a fast carrier strike 
against Kwajalein, center of Japanese air power in the Marshalls. An 
incidental pass was also made at Wotje. All this took place over De- 
cember 4-8, and again Rear Admiral Pownall was in command of 
Task Force 50. 

An ocean rendezvous was made by the carrier force and fleet oilers 
out of Pearl Harbor. After moving east and north in order to make a 
wide sweep around the Marshalls, the force divided into two groups 
and changed course for a direct run toward Kwajalein. This line of 
approach was unexpected, for the Japanese had anticipated that any 
such attack would come from a sector south and east of the target. 

At 6 A.M. on the morning of December 4 TF 50 had reached a 
position thirty-six miles east-southeast of Rongerik Atoll. The flat-tops 
swung into the trade wind as a rosy dawn greeted the sailormen. Caw- 
pens launched the air-combat patrol for one group, and Betteau Wood 
contributed fighters to cover the other. At 6:30 Lexington and York- 
town began sending off aircraft for the first strike. By 7:15 all planes 
were away, hurtling through the cloud-land formations in perfect 
Vs, and the flat-tops turned easterly toward the planned rendezvous. 

The enemy had concentrated his main force of fighter planes at 
Maloelap in the belief that that would be Admiral Pownall's initial 
objective, but eventually about fifty Zekes turned up and, supported 
by a terrific antiaircraft-gun barrage, gave the U. S. Navy fliers a rough 
time. Again, there was no worth-while information of details of the 
Kwajalein base and few accurate charts from which to work. Several 
fluffs were made, and aircraft lost in attacks that had no possible 
future. As an example, twelve Hellcats went down to beat up the Roi 
airfield, but having no real idea of what they were attacking, and com- 
pletely fooled by Japanese camouflage, ran into serious trouble. In 
spite of their determination they destroyed only three bombers and 
sixteen fighter planes, leaving between thirty and forty unnoticed in 
their revetments. 

The light cruiser Isuzu and several freighters lay at anchor in the 
lagoon, and forty-one SBDs and thirty-six Avengers from Essex and 


Lexington went to work, but the mass attack was only slightly success- 
ful. The bomber boys had had no experience against moving ships and 
wasted their missiles, once the Japanese ships slipped their anchors. 
Of the thirty-six torpedoes released by the Avengers, only five found 
a mark. When it was all over Asakaze M&u, a 65oo-ton freighter carry- 
ing ammunition, went up with a roar, and the light cruiser had her 
rudder blown away, but managed to get out of the lagoon, appar- 
ently in serious condition. 

While these planes were wasting a great deal of effort over Roi, 
others from Yorfefown and Enterprise went searching for business at 
the other end of the island. They found the principal naval base and 
an airfield under construction. After a concentrated attack against 
some thirty ships of many types, Avengers, armed with regular bombs, 
sank three freighters and claimed to have hit the light cruiser Nagara. 
Another group of planes attacked a seaplane base on Ebeye Island 
and sank or destroyed eighteen float planes that were anchored there. 

In the effort expended over this forty-five-minute strike only four 
surface vessels were sunk and fifty-five aircraft destroyed for a loss of 
five American planes. A great deal of valuable naval craft and bomber 
aircraft had escaped scot-free. But in all this we begin to see the 
limitations of the aircraft carrier when it is used for such sea versus 
land attacks. Carrier fliers require first-class intelligence, inspired han- 
dling from combat control, and full assurance that the carrier deck 
will be where it is supposed to be when the strike is over. 

In any dispassionate analysis of the value of the aircraft carrier, the 
limitations of the vessel must be considered, particularly in relation 
to aircraft from either land bases or opposition carriers. Proponents 
of carrier warfare have argued that the vessel can steam six hundred 
miles a day and with that range have almost certain immunity from 
enemy aircraft. But it must be remembered that this giant vessel, sail- 
ing six hundred miles a day, is attempting to evade an aircraft that 
presumably can fly six hundred miles an hour. Concealment under 
those conditions may be very difficult, and once found, we have seen 
how simple it is for well-trained naval airmen to put the flat-tops out 
of action. 

Improvements in long-range radar have increased the carrier's woes, 
and as land-based air power continues to extend its range, vulnerability 
becomes more apparent. Enlarging the size of the carrier to handle 
more planes, to provide greater speed, or a more flexible program of 
operations in no way relieves the carrier of the air-bomber problem. 


The modem 8o,ooo-tonner is simply a larger target, one which the 
attackers can dispense with precision bombsights. 

We have seen how up to now British aircraft carriers enjoyed some 
small measure of triumph and filled in valued roles against the U-boat 
menace. They never had carrier combat against an enemy carrier force, 
although ancient torpedo bombers off Ark Royd did set up the Bis- 
marck for disposal by guns of the battleships. Whenever they tried 
to compete with land-based aviation, they were in trouble. 

We have also seen that in conflict between opposing carrier forces, 
luck plays an important part in every engagement. Whether the bombs 
or torpedoes of one force damage and sink an opposing carrier de- 
pends much on where the damage is inflicted, and what eventual 
destruction follows. One bomb or torpedo may just pierce a hull or 
flight deck, and, all being equal, the carrier will be able to continue 
on course, launch or recover aircraft, and make repairs as she goes 
along. However, because of the complex construction of the flat-top 
a hundred other hazards may arise that will seal her doom. Although 
providing a glorious pageant of naval action, we have seen, so far, 
that carriers suffered a dreadful toll. They have been lost to enemy 
submarines, the bombing hail of enemy-carrier aircraft, or sunk by 
land-based aircraft. 

Once the great carrier-versus-carrier battles were concluded in the 
Pacific, U. S. carriers found themselves assigned to what was listed 
as "fast carrier strikes" against enemy land-based strongholds. It was 
then discovered that the effective striking range of the carrier is not 
defined by the attacker, but instead is fixed by the performance ca- 
pacity of the defender. As Major Alexander P. de Seversky, the noted 
aviation analyst, has pointed out, if the enemy aerial force can reach 
out for three thousand miles, the carrier aircraft need a range of three 
thousand miles plus the inland distance to the target to be attacked. 
All goes well as long as the sky is in friendly hands, but if the enemy 
has any percentage of air control, the carrier is in a hazardous situa- 
tion. The major's figures are, of course, based on present-day ranges 
and operational considerations. 

The problems in the series of fast carrier strikes that were planned 
in the Pacific, can be re-emphasized by further reference to Major de 
Seversky's doctrines. He points out that in the early stages of World 
War II Allied bomber offenses both in the European and Pacific thea- 
ters were in great need of fighter escort, and there were periods when 
the entire strategic bombing offensive against Germany was in danger 


of collapse. From self-appointed militaiy experts came the inquiry as 
to why a few carriers were not moved in close to the German coast 
from where they might provide fighter cover for the Aimy Air Corps' 
fleets of bombers. By that time wiser heads had realized that naval 
carriers that were moved anywhere near major land-based aircraft 
would not stay afloat long enough to launch a full squadron of fighters. 
At any rate the Allied navies never took this risk. It would have 
been sacrificial to have sent carriers into the North Sea to furnish 
fighter cover for our Forts or Liberators. And no attempt was ever 
made to afford carrier-fighter cover for the 6-295 that roared into Japa- 
nese home areas late in the Pacific campaign. It was obvious too that 
carriers could risk such operations only when full command of the 
air involved was enjoyed but by that time the bombers would be able 
to carry out their raids, unescorted and unmolested. 

All this must be considered when we trace further the operations 
of U. S. Navy carriers through the next stages of fhe Pacific war. The 
preceding strike against Kwajalein was to have been followed by a 
second that was to have been launched by noon that same day, De- 
cember 4, but Admiral Pownall decided to call off everything but a 
snap strike at Wotje, and retire. In all probability he was discouraged 
by the meager results obtained. He also realized that his pilots had 
not fully recovered from the heavy going they experienced in the Gil- 
berts. Probably, too, he wished to put as much distance as possible 
between his ships and the Japanese land bases, for he had no adequate 
defense agaiust an enemy night attack. 

Whether or not his decision was questioned and there is reason 
to believe it was Admiral Pownall was a realist, for he now knew 
that "fast carrier strikes" provide an equation of risk against possible 
result, and once the enemy land-based force is enticed into the air the 
defender will be in the more advantageous position, and even the loss 
of a destroyer would be too great a price to pay for the destruction 
of the few pknes that were presumed to be left at Kwajalein. After 
all, this was the center of a real defensive system, and Admiral Pownall 
knew that the longer his flat-tops stayed around, the greater would 
be the risk. 

Between 10 and 11 AAI. the carriers were busy recovering aircraft, 
but by noon Yorktovm launched thirty planes for a raid against 
Wotje, a strike that accomplished little but did result in a few fairly 
valuable nhoto^raDhic reconnaissance orints. A few minutes after these 


planes had left, the enemy sent a short attack against Lexington; three 
Kate torpedo bombers from Maloelap came streaking out of a purple 
sky, nosed down and roared on across a sapphire sea. Lookouts smartly 
spotted them, and the Lexington's guns opened fast all three Kates 
were splashed with a gush of orange flame, very close to the American 

While policing up her deck after launching the Wotje strike, York- 
town was attacked by four Kates that had come in very low while the 
air-combat patrol high above was frisking about, enjoying the beauti- 
ful afternoon. Gunners aboard the cruiser San Francisco, and the de- 
stroyers Taylor and LaVallette, crashed two of these before they could 
release their torpedoes. A third sheered off, apparently in fright, with- 
out releasing his torpedo, and the fourth rode boldly down the center 
of the formation until American gunners shot him to pieces. 

It was then, after the aircraft of the Wotje mission were recovered, 
that Admiral Pownall signaled: "Mission completed. Retire northeast- 
ward course 35, speed 25 knots." It was hoped that they would soon 
steam beyond enemy bomber range, but that came under the head of 
wishful thinking. None of the carriers in this force could boast of a 
night combat-air patrol; that is to say, they had no carrier fighters 
trained in night operations. Fortunately, the antiaircraft gunners had 
had considerable experience the month before and put up a fairly 
effective defense. 

The Japanese night attacks followed a definite pattern, as explained 
before. Just before sunset one or two snooper planes began trailing 
the surface formation and when darkness fell they dropped a series 
of marker float lights to set up a guide track leading into the carrier 
force. The oncoming bombers and dive bombers first picked up these 
lights as their rendezvous point. Once the attackers were in position, 
the snoopers went on ahead, sailing high over the surface formation 
and dropping bright parachute flares that clearly illuminated the tar- 
get. With their flare path laid down, the bombers simply went roaring 
at the carriers and their screen vessels that were clearly outlined be- 
neath the parachute glare. 

Kates and Bettys charged in from every available point and con- 
tinued this attack for nearly forty-five minutes. This was a very eco- 
nomical manner of offense for the attackers required no fighter cover, 
and considering everything, could bore in from any angte, height, or 
manner. The original idea, tried out in the Solomons campaign, 
reached its greatest pitch on this night, December 4-5, 1943. 


Another factor in their favor was the way all this crisscrossing fouled 
the U. S. Navy radar screens. It was impossible to tell the flare-laying 
snoopers from the bombers or torpedo pknes, and even when a plane 
pilot had released his explosive load he stayed in the area, circling 
and crisscrossing through the maze of attack and generally raising 
merry hell with the men who were attempting to sort some semblance 
of order out of this electronic chaos. 

A later compilation figured that from thirty to fifty aircraft were 
involved. About fourteen definite strikes were made by bombers and 
torpedo carriers before the giddy evening was over. Little damage was 
done over the first thirty minutes, but by 10:55 more enemy aircraft 
came in from port and starboard and caused Admiral Pownall to ap- 
peal to his support ships: "Anyone with a good setup, let 'em have 
it!" By then the sky was beautifully clear and the moon, glaring like 
a brand new silver dollar, brought out anything the parachute flares 
missed. Every ship in the formation stood out as clearly as by day, 
although the gunners were still trying to eliminate the air raiders by 
firing on radar contact. 

At 11:23 P.M. a snooper released three more parachute flares from 
about five thousand feet off the formation's port bow. A plane, 
screeching down-moon, roared at Yorktown with everything full out. 
Gunfire from the carrier and the destroyer LdVdlette headed it off 
just when things looked their worst, but a few minutes later another 
came out of the glare and scored a torpedo hit on Lexington's stern. 
The explosion took out the compartment that contained Lexingtons 
steering plant. The rudder was jammed over tight, nine men were 
killed and thirty-five wounded. For a minute or two the big carrier 
went wild and threatened the whole formation, but finally Captain 
F. B. Stump, using the radio-telephone, explained that he could make 
speed but could not steer. His men worked hard to install five sub- 
mersible pumps, and someone had set up an emergency hydraulic 
unit in the steering compartment before leaving port, but the man 
who knew how to operate it had been wounded. He did his best to 
explain by telephone from the sick bay how to put it to work. By that 
time the emergency pumps were clogged with rags and other waste 
that had been left around by careless sailors. Another twenty minutes 
of wild effort, mostly by Chief Electrician's Mate L. R. Baker and 
Quartermaster D. E. Woods, brought the rudder amidships. Under 
these conditions Lexington could make headway, steering on her en- 
gines, although one main shaft had been broken by the torpedo. By 


midnight she was making twenty-one knots. All this had taken place 
while the Japanese airmen continued their attacks, and were driven off 
as fast as they came within antiaircraft-gun range. By 1:24 the next 
morning the raiders had cleared off, the moon had set, and all hands re- 
laxed for a peaceful Sabbath. By December 9 the task force steamed 
into Pearl Harbor and Lexington was quickly repaired. 

Through the weeks and months of early 1944 the aircraft carrier 
had to assume the role of a mobile air base and furnish aviation sup- 
port for the island-hopping campaign that was to follow. Kwajalein 
and Eniwetok were taken, and the grand sweep of the Central Pacific 
was under way. The bulk of the task was accomplished by the am- 
phibious forces, but unquestionably the carriers had a dangerous but 
decisive part. This combined striking force, commanded by Rear Ad- 
miral Richmond Kelly Turner who was considered to be America's 
foremost amphibious expert, mounted every type of available naval 
weapon and included several top-secret items. 

The surface force consisted of some of the U. S. Navy's newest 
battleships, mounting sixteen-inch guns that were used to lay down 
f oimidable barrages before the troops stormed up the beaches. The air- 
craft carriers contributed hundreds of planes. In the area of Kwajalein, 
an atoll about seventy miles long and eighteen miles wide, there was a 
lagoon that could accommodate the largest fleet, and once this area 
was captured the problem of seizing the rest of the Marshalls group 
was made easier, Truk, Japan's Pearl Harbor, was 950 miles to the west, 
Wake was 600 miles to the north, and with the capture of Kwajalein 
the great question was whether the full Japanese Fleet would come 
out of its sheltered harbors and fight. The U. S. Navy was to be as 
frustrated in this as was the Royal Navy when it hoped the German 
pocket battleships would risk a chips-down engagement. The Japanese 
Navy never accepted the challenge. 

Victory came hard, but success followed success, and the assault on 
Truk in the Carolines presented problems that had never been faced 
before in any land-sea operation. Truk is not a single island, but a 
scattering of a score of volcanic eruptions that form islands of various 
size and elevation and are surrounded by a snag-toothed coral reef 
about thirty miles in diameter. Every island and sand bank contrib- 
uted to its fortress possibilities. But this vital step in the destruction 
of Japanese naval power had to be taken. 

Following the successes at Kwajalein and Eniwetok, the assault was 


carried out with such speed that the Japanese at first assumed it was 
"merely a reconnaissance in force." Later they admitted the fora 
was "exceedingly powerful." They had no idea whether the American 
forces planned a landing on Truk but acknowledged that "the situa- 
tion had increased with unprecedented gravity." 

It was no walk-over for the ground forces, however, and the casual- 
ties were heavy. Fortunately, by now, Japan began to feel the shrinkage 
in her merchant fleet and had difficulty in keeping columns of sup- 
plies moving into Truk. Great convoys of these ships were trapped, 
sunk, or dispersed. During the attacks of February 16 and 17 carrier 
aircraft destroyed 201 enemy aircraft, 127 of which were shot down 
in air combat. As a result there was scarcely any enemy air opposition 
on the second day of this assault. The Japanese also lost two light 
cruisers, three destroyers, one ammunition ship, one seaplane tender, 
two oilers, two gunboats, and eight important cargo ships. A cruiser 
or a large destroyer two oilers and four cargo ships were badly 
damaged and just managed to limp away to safety. Shore facilities on 
the principal islands, including runways and installations on an air- 
field, were bombed and shot up. 

American losses in this period were seventeen aircraft, and some 
moderate damage to one surface ship. 

The great American noose was being drawn tight, cutting inter-Axis 
communications. Blockade runners attempting to get into the Far East 
ports were trapped, attacked, and destroyed. Four German blockade 
runners trying to slip out of the same ports were intercepted and sunk. 
They carried sixteen thousand tons of rubber, ten thousand tons of 
tin, and quantities of edible oils, gum, resin, quinine, and wolfram 
(a tungstate of iron and magnesium) that were intended to replenish 
Hitler's diminishing supplies. 

With the fall of Truk came increasing evidence of the Japanese 
reluctance to fight. They were desperate, exhaustion was setting in, 
and by April 1944, when afforded an excellent opportunity to use 
what ships and weapons were still available, it became obvious that 
the Imperial Japanese Navy was in no shape to fight on any but its 
own terms. 

A British task force of carriers and warships, commanded by Ad- 
miral Sir James Somerville, staged a surprise attack against the Japa- 
nese on Sumatra and taunted them into an area over which they had 
kept a constant air reconnaissance. If ever there was a chance to repeat 
their earlier success in this general region, this was it. However, they 


made little effort to put their available fleet against the Royal Navy 
force, and bombeis and fighter bombers took off from British carriers 
to pound the airfield and docks at Sabang at the northern end of 
Sumatra. Sabang had a fine harbor which was of great value to the 
Japanese in any large-scale operations in the Indian Ocean, and a large 
number of fuel dumps were located there. 

This attack on Sabang, apart from testing the measure of Japan's 
willingness to fight, had, in addition, struck a severe blow at their 
communications with Burma. Admiral Somerville's fleet was never 
any closer than one hundred miles to Sumatra when this important 
raid was made, but its new Barracuda aircraft made many direct hits 
with heavy missiles on the dockyards, power stations, wharves, bar- 
racks, hangars, workshops, and the radio station at Sabang. Large 
bombs fell on two merchant ships, two destroyers and an escort vessel 
were set afire, twenty-two planes were destroyed on the ground, and a 
iooo-pound bomb fell smack on a large oil tank. 

The airfields at Lho Nga were also attacked and several aircraft 
destroyed on the ground. Three Japanese torpedo bombers that were 
sent off to harass the Allied Fleet were all shot down by British carrier 
fighters. This attack, coming four days after Admiral Mountbatten 
had moved his headquarters from India to Ceylon to be more closely 
linked with the Naval Command, was particularly timely and effective. 

All the aircraft, but one, returned safely, and the British naval force 
suffered no damage of any kind. Even with the chain of victories the 
Americans had been scoring in the Central Pacific, it was somewhat 
puzzling, but on studied reflection it became clear that the Japanese 
would never fight again in the Indian Ocean. Within the shelter of 
the Andamans, the Nicobars and their protecting islands in the Neth- 
erlands Indies, their ships had been able to operate with land-based 
air cover. In that way they could avoid any Allied fleets that by now 
had overwhelming superiority in aircraft carriers. It was a principle 
that the Japanese had carefully observed in all their Pacific engage- 

In the meantime another vigorous offensive was launched by Ameri- 
can and Australian forces, backed by the powerful naval arm, against 
Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea. Landings were made at Humboldt 
Bay, Tanahmerah Bay, and at Aitape. Beachheads were secured, and 
strong forces of shock troops captured a fighter-bomber airfield at 
Tadja near Aitape. Thousands of Japanese troops were bottled up 
between a rampart of mountains that ran down the center of northern 


New Guinea, and a sea completely dominated by Allied naval forces. 
More than 80,000 additional Japanese were suffering a like fate in the 
Bismarck Archipelago and the Solomon Islands to the east. The com- 
munication of all these trapped forces had been severed, but by some 
military miracle most of them escaped in spite of heavy attacks made 
by carrier aircraft on their fleets of landing barges. 

The Allied landings were comparatively easy and suffered no great 
toll of life, which allowed immediate landing of engineers, technical 
units, and large equipment for rebuilding bridges, roads, defenses, and 

By now even the most conservative men in all forces were ready to 
think that the war in the Pacific would be over much sooner than had 
been anticipated eighteen months before; all that was needed to cap 
this opinion was for the Japanese to "come out and fight" This did 
not imply that the war against the Japanese had overnight become a 
push-over. The enemy still had considerable naval and air power. He 
had strong bases among the islands of the inner barrier. Much would 
depend on how he used what he had. Obviously, he had no intention 
of chancing an all-out major sea battle with his American opposition. 

Japan could not win this war, for she could not compete indus- 
trially with America's Arsenal of Democracy. In twenty-eight months 
of war United States forces had hacked great portions of her sea 
and air power to wreckage, and the United States naval force was rec- 
ognized as the greatest sea-air power in the world. America had proved 
that she could outbuild Japan in ships, aircraft, and weapons of war. 
Only the Japanese war lords in Tokyo refused to recognize the in- 

The victory grind continued on and on. In mid-May General Mac- 
Arthur reported that a coordinated air strike against Surabaya, that 
involved forces from the Southeast Asia area and the Central Pacific 
area, had been completed. This involved British, American, Australian, 
French, and Dutch units of various services. Operating in conjunction 
with supporting naval forces, the Japanese naval base there was first at- 
tacked after dawn by fleets off American and British aircraft carriers. 

The pattern was repeated; shipping, naval installations, an oil re- 
finery, and several airfields were heavily damaged by direct hits. Ten 
vessels in the harbor, totaling 35,000 tons and including a small tanker 
and a small naval warship, received direct hits. Two floating dry docks 
were damaged, and at Wonokrono an oil refinery was destroyed com- 
pletely, and its power house demolished by a direct hit Storage tanks 


and another refinery were set ablaze and a column of smoke from the 
carnage rose to a height of five thousand feet Also important naval 
installations were badly damaged by direct hits. 

Land-based bombers followed up the attack made by the carrier 
planes, and nineteen enemy aircraft that were grounded at Malang, 
Tanjong, and Perak airfields were battered to bits. Two fighter planes, 
sent up to intercept, were quickly shot down. Because of the com- 
pleteness of the surprise attack, the Allied forces lost but three air- 
craft, and the surface fleet received no casualties or damage. 

Continuing the attack that night, the land-based heavy bombers 
went back to the same target; this time selecting railroad marshaling 
yards and rolling stock. Again no real opposition was met and all 
planes returned safely although their raids had involved flights of 
2500 miles. 

From this time on, events of this kind happened with monotonous 
regularity. Light naval forces and naval aircraft sank a number of 
Japanese barges at New Ireland, small craft were badly damaged in an 
air attack at Bougainville, land-based medium bombers attacked three 
looo-ton ships in the Tanimbar Islands one was set on fire, the second 
was run aground on a reef, and the third heavily damaged. At 
Manokwari, Netherlands New Guinea, one krge and two smaller 
vessels were destroyed by aircraft attacking Japanese shipping there. 
Fighter bombers sank three small barges and other light craft at Duke 
of York Island, New Britain, and an air patrol damaged two large 
barges in the Buka, Solomons, area. 

In the meantime Wake Island had been taken over completely by 
Allied troops. On May 18 United States bombers intercepted a Japa- 
nese patrol vessel east of Paramushiro in the Kuriles, and runways, 
power stations, and piers in the Marshall Islands were badly hit in 
raids staged by various U. S. aircraft over May 18-19, 1944. 

Then came the great assault on Saipan in the Marianas where the 
enemy found himself fighting for his life in what might be termed 
his own front yard. Pre-assault operations began as early as June 3 with 
a bombing strike on Palau in the Carolines by land-based planes out 
of the Southwest Pacific bases. After several forms of interdiction mis- 
sions by Army flying men against Japanese airfields at Peleliu, Woleai, 
and Yap, Admiral Mitscher's four fast carrier groups took over. The 
following U. S. earners played an important role in what was to hap- 
pen: Essex, Ixmgfey, Cowpens, Hornet, Yorktown, Betteau Wood, 
Bataan, Bunker Hill, Wasp, Monterey, Cabot, Enterprise, Lexington, 


Princeton, and San Jacinto. (The above Wasp was a replacement for 
the one lost in 1942.) 

On June 11 when this four-group formation had reached a point 
two hundred miles east of Guam, 208 fighters and eight torpedo 
bombers were launched and sent against Saipan and Tinian. The idea 
here was to lessen the danger of enemy air attack over the following 
night, and to eliminate as much shipping as possible. From all ac- 
counts, this effort paid off since at least thirty-six Japanese aircraft 
were disposed of. 

That evening Rear Admiral Joseph J. Clark, commanding TG 58.1 
(Hornet, Bataan, Betteau Wood, and Yorfefown) continued to head 
for Guam while the other three carrier groups moved toward Saipan 
and Tinian. Early the next morning the Japanese made one of their 
flare- and float-light attacks against the northern group but no damage 
was inflicted and one of the attacking aircraft was shot down in flames. 
As compensation Rear Admiral William K. HanilTs group (Essex, 
Langfey, and Cowpens) encountered a convoy of twelve Japanese sup- 
ply ships that had just left Saipan for Yokohama. They were escorted 
by a torpedo boat, nine patrol craft, and subchasers. Just before they 
were intercepted they were joined by sixteen fishing vessels that had 
been bound for Truk to provide fish for the Japanese garrison there^ 
but when it was dear that they would never get through, they at- 
tempted to join this convoy and return to Japan. 

Aircraft from Admiral HarrilTs carriers never had it so easy. One of 
the worst debacles of its kind took place on June 12, and when it 
was all over the convoy was devastated, the torpedo boat Otori, three 
subchasers, and ten freighters were sunk. This same air group also 
carried out air strikes on Saipan and Pagan in which another naval 
auxiliary that was undergoing repairs was sunk, and another large 
freighter had to be beached. At the same time air attacks by planes of 
the other three groups reduced enemy air power on and near the main 
islands to practically zero. 

Meanwhile Admiral Clark's group was carrying out heavy bomb- 
ing strikes against Orote airfield on Guam. A search plane from 
Hornet spotted a six-ship convoy some 134 miles west of Guam. The 
report on it was delayed, but since the convoy hung around in the 
area, hoping to get into Apra Harbor, it eventually came to the atten- 
tion of a formation of Hellcats and received a savage beating. Never- 
theless this convoy did land some reinforcements on the island. 

By June 13 United States carrier aircraft were streaking back and 


forth over every island, seeking targets to bomb or shoot at. Captain 
William I. Martin, pilot of an Avenger off Enterprise, had a remark- 
able experience at this time. He had been sent off to bomb aircraft 
installations near the Charan Kanoa air strip on Saipan and immedi- 
ately after he had punched his bomb release at a 35oofoot level, a 
shell from an antiaircraft battery scored a direct hit on his plane when 
it was over the lagoon. This shell fouled the controls and the aircraft 
went wild and tossed out Martin and his two crew members from a 
height of about three thousand feet. Both crewmen were killed by 
the immediate shock, and Martin found himself hurtling through the 
air, unable to get his parachute to function. He had been through 
something like this before when he flew off Hornet during the Battle 
of Santa Cruz. 

There is a popular notion that airmen who are caught in such diffi- 
culties suddenly remember forgotten prayers, unfamiliar Psalms, or 
lengthy passages from the Scriptures. True or not, Martin remembered 
the first few lines of the Twenty-third Psalm: 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not -want. 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; 
He leadeth me beside the still waters. . . 

Still waters! Psalm or no, Martin suddenly recalled reading a report 
of a pilot at Guadalcanal who had found himself in this same un- 
enviable situation, but had miraculously survived by wriggling into a 
perpendicular position and then straightening his body like a dart, 
just before he hit the water. 

"There wasn't much time to argue about the possibility of getting 
away with this legendary feat, but I got one break. Just before I hit 
the water, iny parachute partially opened, and must have checked my 
speed. At any rate, I chugged into shallow water, as stiff as an arrow, 
and the next thing I knew I was sitting on the sandy bottom with 
nothing worse than a bruised hip. I saw my plane splash in and begin 
to burn fiercely. Pieces of the broken-up structure were still fluttering 
down from the sky/' 

Captain Martin had escaped one form of death, but some Japanese 
soldiers ashore took pot shots at him with their rifles, so he ducked 
back under the water, towing his seat-pack which contained his un- 
opened life raft He eventually reached the reef and the rifle fire died 

"I don't remember how I got to that reef/' he explained, "but next 


I sensed that two boats were putting off to take me in, I suppose. I 
slithered back into the sea and lay on the slope of the reef with my 
nose just out of the water/* 

While resting there he figured out just where he was, and took 
time to make a few pertinent observations. When some 2omm. fire 
began splashing nearby he decided to make a run for it. 

"I clambered across the reef and dived into the breakers off its sea- 
ward edge. This broiling surf made a good cover-screen, and to play 
it safe, I now inflated my life raft. Fortunately, at this point another 
American air strike was coming in, and when the bombs began to 
fall, the jokers who had been picking on me had something more 
important to occupy their minds. I rigged the parachute and seat pack 
as a sea anchor, filled the raft with water to cut down the yellow glare 
and visibility, and started drifting seaward, I knew by then that if I 
wasn't soon picked up, I'd wind up in the Philippines. I'd beat Mac- 
Arthur to it Fortunately, I had some food and water in my raft pack, 
and I decided to sit it out" 

From that point on matters proceeded according to rote. A Hell- 
cat and an Avenger spotted him after he had caught their attention 
with a mirror and a package of marker dye. When they came down 
low to identify, the Japanese on shore began firing again, but the 
pilots stayed around long enough to drop an emergency kit. Captain 
Martin then dispensed with the sea anchor, rerigged his parachute as 
a sail and began to move at a speed of about three knots toward the 
fire support area. Around noontime two float planes from Indianapolis 
landed nearby and one of them flew him back to the flagship. 

Admiral Spruance was most interested in this airman and had a 
long talk with him- He was impressed with Captain Martin's obser- 
vations of the reef, and considered them important enough to send 
out by dispatch. Martin thoughtfully had remembered the depth of 
the water in the lagoon, the details of the coral heads, the absence of 
underwater obstacles, the length of the reef, and the height of the surf. 

To cap this story, Captain Martin was returned to his carrier by the 
destroyer MacDonougfi, and on the way this vessel had one bombard- 
ment assignment. The rescued airman was able to direct her fire, and 
had the satisfaction of seeing MacDonaugh. knock out the antiaircraft 
battery that had shot him down. 

That was the happy side of this June 13, but as usual the law of 
compensation demanded its toll, A number of Avengers in Lexing- 
ton's air group had been equipped with rocket launchers. This form 


of missile had been used in Royal Air Force antisubmarine squadrons 
for months, but the weapon was new out here in the Pacific, and there 
were few airmen who knew how to use them under all attack condi- 

This particular formation of Avengers, which was led by Lieutenant 
Commander Robert A. Isely, went out to make runs on Aslito airfield, 
Saipan. These attacks were to be made from shallow glides, and the 
rockets were to be launched at ranges between one thousand and two 
thousand yards. Commander Isely's lead plane and two more follow- 
ing closely behind were hit by intense antiaircraft fire as they were 
making their approach glides. Two of these Avengers burst into flames 
and crashed, the third was severely damaged but managed to get back 
to its carrier. 

Commander Isely's loss was irreplaceable, for he was one of the 
most skilled pilots in the U. S. Navy, and for a time there was some 
concern about using these rocket missiles, particularly in long-range 
approaches or against intense and accurate antiaircraft fire. 

Two carrier groups of the force had to move out to refuel, and as 
a result the fast carrier strikes had to be cut down. However, by June 
15 the enemy had been given such a beating he no longer could put 
up much of a defense over Saipan. That night, while Rear Admiral 
John W. Reeves, Jr., and Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery's task 
groups were recovering aircraft some forty miles west of Saipan, enemy 
planes were detected coming out of Guam. A combat-air patrol sent 
up from San Jadnto shot down seven of these bogies and broke up a 
first attack. After sunset, another developed, and two night fighters off 
a carrier intercepted and drove off the Japanese fighter cover. About 
twelve torpedo bombers broke into the clear and concentrated on Lex- 
ington and Enterprise, and for a time matters were hair-raising, but 
eventually all the torpedoes were evaded, and the fighters had a turkey 
shoot, knocking down eleven of the twelve torpedo planes. 

The surface fleet had supported the carriers for about four days, and 
in turn the carriers had made raids that had pounded this key Japanese 
base, and when all aerial opposition had been driven off, the long-range 
guns of the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers moved in to add to the 
carnage. On the fifth day the transports made their rendezvous outside 
the coral reefs that guarded the island, and landing craft began wild 
dashes toward the beaches, American infantry and Marines swarmed 
ashore at Agingan Point, and the Japanese who had survived the bom- 


bardment, made a brave stand with murderous enfilading fire and mor- 
tar shells. 

This action at Saipan, involving the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions 
and the U. S. Army's 2yth Infantry Division, provided the bitterest 
fighting since Tarawa. The Navy's air attack, and bombardment by 
long-range guns had pounded the island with wicked intensity, but the 
topography was too mountainous for the initial attack to have much 
effect* It must be admitted that the defenders, who were abandoned by 
their own naval and air forces, fought with savage tenacity. They no 
doubt knew they faced hopeless odds, but they made the most of the 
ground cover in the central uplands, and surrendered the southwestern 
end of the island to the invaders who captured untold amounts of 
military supplies and stores. The defenders, however, hung on and 
fought to the end. It was almost a month before the island could be 
considered to be cleared of the enemy. A bloody conquest, but it 
brought Tokyo within fifteen hundred miles, easy range for the new 
B-29 Superfortress bombers. More important, Saipan was a base that 
could be readily supplied by sea and unlike those in China where 
every gallon of gasoline and every pound of explosive had to be flown 
in by air. 

While all this action at Saipan was taking place, General Douglas 
MacArthur had moved an amphibious force ashore on the lightly de- 
fended Noemfoor Island off northwestern New Guinea. Once a 
beachhead had been established, he next sent in a force of jungle- 
trained paratroopers to outflank the Japanese defenders. In five days, 
Noemfoor Island, with its three airfields, put General MacArthur ex- 
actly eight hundred miles from Mindanao in the Philippines. His 
promised return was only a matter of time. 



BY EARLY autumn of 1943 the Japanese Imperial Headquarters staff 
realized that if a decision was to be reached in their favor before their 
manpower and war supplies were exhausted, the full strength of the 
Emperor's fleet would have to be hurled against the United States 
Pacific Fleet "whenever and wherever it appeared," in order to de- 
stroy it with one blow. 

This decision resulted in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, a carrier 
conflict, the like of which had never been experienced before. At the 
time, during the high emotion of triumph, a certain school of journal- 
ists facetiously presented this action as the Marianas Turkey Shoot, a 
catch phrase that was based originally on American claims that 476 
Japanese aircraft were destroyed in this two-day battle, whereas U. S. 
forces sacrificed but 130. How reliable these bold figures are is diffi- 
cult to assess, for at this writing, a complete War College analysis has 
not been completed. 

Whatever the toll, the Battle of the Philippine Sea still might be 
regarded as the greatest carrier action of all time, had it been fought 
to a successful conclusion. 

In this chapter we shall learn of the successes and failures, the de- 
cisions, ill and good, the roll of the dice, and the second-guessing that 
follows every savage or friendly conflict. While applauding the suc- 
cesses of our fighter aircraft, critics of the action have complained that 
although the enemy carrier fleet did move within range, it was not 
sunk. Other critics, who took part, have stated that the results of the 
battle were disappointing since important units of the Japanese Fleet 
that had come out into the open for the first time in more than a year 
and actually made several air attacks on our superior force, were able 
to escape without our coining to grips with them. 

i v; 

Q Id ! &) 








It is true that our troops, fighting to secure Saipan, had to be well 
screened and protected against the enemy surface force, but it was con- 
sidered unfortunate that our entire strength was deployed for this pur- 
pose, and therefore not permitted an opportunity to take the offensive 
until too late to prevent the enemy's retirement. It will be remem- 
bered that the strategic island of Saipan had been invaded by U. S. 
amphibious forces on June 15, a few days before the Philippine Sea 
battle was drawn. 

One of the chief factors in this conflict was the reorganization of the 
Japanese Fleet, effected in March 1944, in which carriers had replaced 
their battleships as the dominant weapons of the force. Their First 
Mobile Fleet, under the command of Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, 
who previously had commanded all carriers and their destroyer 
screens, was a force in which the battleships were now under the car- 
rier admiral's tactical command. This was not a naval innovation; the 
same reorganization had been established in the U. S. Navy about 
eighteen months before. 

So now carriers were to take the naval war to the Americans, and 
while Japan's determination to engage the U. S. Fleet was proclaimed 
loudly, and unquestioned success promised, Admiral Ozawa's new 
command was seriously handicapped by the lack of immediate sup- 
plies of efficient fuel oil. American submarines had played havoc with 
the enemy's tanker fleet, and the great supply of fuel captured early 
in the war, and the acquisition of the oil fields of Tarakan and Balik- 
papan, Indonesia, had been somewhat canceled out. Japanese officials 
had to plan with short-range action in mind, and any proposed offen- 
sive would have to be fought as near the standby area of the Mobile 
Fleet as possible. 

This fuel-oil situation had many angles and features at the time, one 
of them being that Borneo oil, although pure enough to be piped into 
fuel bunkers without routine processing, still contained highly volatile 
elements that in some cases created dangerous fire hazards aboard 
ship, or possessed impurities that fouled the boilers. All these con- 
siderations limited the proposed operations of the Japanese to a short- 
radius arc out of Yap and Woleai in the western Carolines. 

The Japanese plan, listed as Operation A-Go, hoped to entice the 
U. S. Pacific Fleet into waters south of the Woleai-Yap-Palau line 
where Admiral Ozawa would be able to fight well within his fuel-oil 
range. At the same time the insular air bases to the west and south 
would provide considerable aid, and it was hoped that these land- 


based aircraft would sink many American ships. If, on the other hand, 
the U. S. Pacific Fleet commander decided to switch his forces into 
the Marianas area to work over Saipan the battle to be fought 
would be relegated to the Japanese ground forces, under General Ya- 
heita Saito, who would be expected to drive off General MacArthur's 
amphibious troops still clinging to a hazardous beachhead. 

With all this in the planning stage, Admiral Ozawa's Mobile Fleet, 
with nine aircraft carriers set up into three divisions, moved to the 
naval anchorage at Tawitawi, off eastern Borneo in the Celebes Sea. 
It occupied a central portion of the main convoy route from the Ka- 
dassar Strait to Manila, Formosa, and Japan. Since it lay only 180 
miles from Tarakan, any fleet there could obtain quick deliveries of 
Borneo's unprocessed petroleum. The only drawback was that Tawi- 
tawi had no airfield on which to train new carrier air groups, and also 
offered good-hunting waters for prowling submarines. 

Once more Intelligence luck came our way, and the U. S. Seventh 
Fleet was advised of Admiral Ozawa's plans when a copy of the pre- 
liminary outline of Operation A-Go was captured at Hollandia. From 
this, and the reports from several smart submarine reconnaissance mis- 
sions, Vice-Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid was warned that a powerful 
striking force was gathering at Tawitawi, and the admiral sized up 
the opposition with masterful clarity. 

The Japanese order "Prepare for Operation A-Go" was issued by 
May 20, and all land bases, comprising what was known as their First 
Air Fleet, were alerted, and additional aircraft were deployed to Sai- 
pan, Tinian, Guam, Truk, Yap, Palau, and several other less important 
islands. All these land bases were alerted in the hope that the U. S. 
Pacific Fleet would oblige and decide to fight Admiral Ozawa in his 
own backyard. Instead, Admiral Nimitz decided to strike in the Mar- 
ianas, an area in which the Japanese had only 172 land-based planes. 
Ozawa had hoped that his First Air Fleet would attack and destroy 
at least one third of the enemy's task force carrier units. 

Admiral Ozawa should not have moved in blind. Reconnaissance 
forays by several snoopers had spotted portions of the American fleet 
and he should have suspected Nimitz's intentions. All this informa- 
tion, combined with the U. S. diversionary raids on Marcus and Wake 
Islands, failed however to warn him that an attack on the Marianas 
was being planned. General MacArthur was already landing forces on 
Biak Island, New Guinea, an operation that led to the hope that the 


U. S. Fleet would steam straight into the area of the Japanese land- 
based air power. 

All Ozawa's hopes were gradually dissipated by the continual at- 
tacks by U. S. submarines in the Tawitawi anchorage. U.S.S. Puff er 
sank two tankers. During June 6-7 U.S.S. Harder sent the destroyers 
Minazuki and Hayanami to the bottom. Then on the night of June 
8 the Japanese destroyer Tanikaze thought she had a victim when her 
sonar picked up a trace of Harder. Moving in fast to depth-charge the 
U. S. sub, the skipper of Tanikaze was amazed to see Commander 
S. D. Dealy beat him to the punch with a salvo of torpedoes; the 
Japanese destroyer buckled in the middle and never saw Yokohama 

Admiral Ozawa now began to wonder just what was going on; Tawi- 
tawi was far from a safe anchorage, and none of his well-laid plans was 
paying off. In an attempt to relieve Biak by troop-carrying destroyers, 
he suffered another setback when General George C. Kenney's airmen 
demolished the destroyer Hantsame. 

Calling on more aid to regain the all-important air strips at Biak, 
Admiral Soemu Toyoda, now in command of the combined fleet, 
hoped to lure the American force into this area by reinforcing this re- 
lieving group with two battleships, a light cruiser, and half a dozen de- 
stroyers. However, before this new group could be formed, American 
carriers made a new strike at Saipan (June 11) which gave Toyoda the 
impression that his enemy was moving into the Marianas, and to coun- 
ter this, a new force was ordered to steam northeast at once to support 
Admiral Ozawa in the Philippine Sea. 

This gives some idea how all vessels gradually moved on to this 
historic rendezvous. The Tawitawi force left on June 13 but was 
spotted by the submarine Redfin, which quickly reported the move. 
Three days later Admiral Toyoda sent an important message from his 
flagship to all flag and commanding officers. 

On the morning of June 1 5, a strong enemy force began landing op- 
erations in the Saipan-Tinian area. The Combined Fleet will attack the 
enemy in the Marianas area and annihilate the invasion force. Activate 
A-Go Operation for decisive battle. 

From that point on about twenty-five Japanese submarines fanned 
out for advance scouting and patrol duty, but as it turned out they were 
of no value whatsoever. They afforded no important information, and 


they sank no American ship although they did claim a W0s-class 
carrier and an Iowa-class battleship off Rota and Saipan respectively. 
But there was no truth in these reports. Seventeen of the twenty-five 
submersibles were sunk by American destroyers, destroyer escorts, or 

To accelerate this account, it should be explained that the Japanese 
Mobile Fleet, which moved out from Tawitawi on June 13, steamed 
northeast toward the Philippines, cut through the Visayan Sea north 
of Leyte and moved into the San Bernardino Strait between Samar and 
Luzon Islands where it was first sighted by our submarine Flying Fish 
on June 15. Redfin had reported the start of the movement, but at 
first it was difficult to ascertain just what Ozawa's objective was. From 
this point the Japanese main body turned east for its rendezvous with 
the smaller Batjan force, commanded by Vice-Admiral M. Ugaki, and 
a supply force that had been awaiting the call at Davao Gulf in Min- 
danao. A second supply force moved on a course parallel with that 
.of Ozawa's, and refueling was carried out in the eastern end of the 
Philippine Sea on June 16-17, an operation that was quietly watched 
by lookouts aboard U. S. submarine Cavatta. 

All these reports were sifted through to U.S.S. Lexington, Vice-Ad- 
miral Marc Mitscher's flagship, and gradually the stage was set for 
what proved to be a grim debacle. The forces involved were made up 
as follows: 

Light Battle- Heavy Light De- 

Cairiers Carriers ships Cruisers Cruisers stroyers 
Japanese 5 4 5 n 2 28 

American 7 8 7 8 13 69 

The disparity was even greater in aircraft. The U. S. Fleet had 475 
fighters to put up against 222 for the enemy. We had more than twice 
as many dive bombers and torpedo bombers, and in a general sum- 
mary we had twice as many aircraft available as did Ozawa. In addi- 
tion shore-based aircraft available mounted to another 879; the 
Marines had 352, the Army 269, and the Navy 258 at shore establish- 

Admiral Ozawa placed great reliance on his land-based assistance, 
for he had two major airfields and several small strips available in the 
Marianas, to say nothing of the aircraft based at Saipan and Guam. 
If portions of the American Fleet stayed close enough to these is- 
lands, Japanese carrier planes could strike, and then fly on to Guam to 


Above, XVII. What carrier-based planes can do. This is a mop-up scene put on by 
aircraft from USS Intrepid during the air strike against Roi Xarnur in 1944. On many 
occasions in the Pacific, carriers played an important role in the amphibious operations. 

Beloic, XVIII. Hands across the flight deck. The British carrier Victorious joined a task 
force of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and took part in numerous offensive sweeps in the Coral 
Sea, Southwest and Midwest Pacific areas. At one time both sides exchanged squadrons 
of planes and pilots and no difficulty was found in carrying out operations and invalu- 
able tactical experience was gained by both groups. Below a group of American pilots 
off Saratoga sen-ing aboard Victorious, pose with the carrier's crest and the British 
White Ensign. 


Right, XIX. A sequence of events. This 
Fleet Air Arm Avenger was returning 
from a strike against the Sakishima 
Islands in support of the American in- 
vasion. The pilot had to make a one- 
wheel landing and this dramatic series 
of pictures shows how well he man- 
aged. The aircraft was only slightly 


Below, XX. America's most beloved 
aircraft carrier, the famous "Big E," 
USS Enterprise which served through- 
out World War II. She fought through 
practically every major engagement 
and was only just recently decommis- 
sioned and hauled away to the 


Above, XXI. The U.S. Navy's first helicopter assault carrier, the USS Tfefto Bay which 
was placed in commission in 1956. This vessel was designed to exploit the P^ 
helicopters to be used by the U.S. Marine Corps in amphibious operations. She can 
carry 20 (HR2s) 22-passenger, or 40 (HRS) 10-passenger hencopters . Tfcrt* Bay has 
a complement of 700 officers and men and accommodations for 1000 Mannes. 

Below XXII. The modern aircraft carrier. This view of USS Banger, todays attack 
^rcleariv shows the deck layout of angled deck and the five ^S " 
le black box off to the right, is the housing for the "magic mirror. The angled flight 
deck allows more rapid recoveries, safer operations and more efficient handling of air- 
craft on the deck during flight operations. 



Above, XXIII. The "magic mirror" as it is mounted aboard USS Independence. The lights 
around the framework take the place of the paddles of the deck landing officer. The mirror 
is optical glass and costs $11,000. Using this device, the incoming pilot approaches at 
such an angle he keeps a bright red light centered in the mirror. The mirror frame can be 
adjusted for any type plane, to compensate for the height of the pilot in the cockpit, and 
for the pitch and roll of the flight deck. 

Below, XXIV. In times of trouble. In the event an aircraft is unable to make a normal 
landing, due to loss of its hook or damage to the deck arrester gear, provision is made to 
immediately erect a heavy nylon net known as the "barrier." Here is shown an F9F-5 
Panther, being caught in this lifeguard device, each of which costs about $10,000. These 
nets can be used only once. 


Right, XXV. The -arrester gear, all five 
cables. i* controlled from this post sev- 
eral decks be!t;w the fiizht deck. Here 
a skilled operator adjusts the tension of 
the cables t,r each individual aircraft. 
Light, fast fighters do not require as 
much arrester power as a heavy 
bomber. Here, too ? are shown the mas- 
sive cylinders cr "engines" that absorb 
the tremendous shock of snubbing the 
incoming aircraft. 


Below, XXVI. Gently does it. This Douglas AD6 (Skyraider) one of the few propeller- 
driven planes still in senice, has picked up a cable" and is being snubbed to a halt. 
The mirror landing device can be seen to the right. The deckhand running carries a 
special hook used to release the plane's hook from the cable. 



Above, XXVII. Catapult take-offs require first class equipment, timing and trustworthy 
teamwork on the part of the deck crew. Here a plane director is shown guiding an A3D 
Skywamor into position for a launching. This work must be carried out in rapid sequence 
andno mistakes will be tolerated. All is noise, confusion and the lash of wind and ]et engine 
exhaust, but teamwork usually prevails. 

Eight, XXVIII. Rigging for take- 
off. The heaviest aircraft in car- 
rier sendee, the Skywarrior has 
been moved up to the catapult 
shuttle and a 190-pound steel- 
cable bridle is hooked in. A re- 
straining cable is also linked to 
the tail section and a metal lug 
machined down to break at the 
required "pull" is inserted in the 
rig. The rope loop seen hitched 
to the bridle, rides along to keep 
the heavy cable from being 
tossed overboard once the plane 
has been launched. 


Left. XXIX, When the aircraft has been 

ringed for catapultin2 ? ari operator, sev- 
eral decks bfc!n\v. \vhf; seldom sees the 
aircraft, r.oies that a:! phases of the 
catapult sequence have* been carried 
out. The uuth/T is shown standing be- 
fore the console from which the air- 
craft are launched. 


Below, XXX. The heart of all aii operations, concerning the handling of aircraft over the 
carrier, on the flight deck or in the hangars below is the office of Primary Flight Control. 
This is Pri-Fly activity aboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, seen in a special office at the 
aft section of the bridge superstructure. 



Above, XXXI. Carrier activity does not always involve fighting or bombing. Important 
reconnaissance must be maintained at all times and special planes and equipment are 
continually being designed for the many phases of this work. Here we see the Grumman 
S2F specially equipped for weather reconnaissance and antisubmarine warfare. 

Below, XXXII. An artist's conception of the U.S, Navy's first nuclear-powered aircraft 
carrier, the USS Enterprise. She is being built at the Newport News shipyard and at this 
writing her nuclear reactor was being installed. This vessel is considered an experimental 
type, and whether any more nuclear carriers will be built depends much on the future 
pattern of the political picture. 



refuel and rearm. Under these conditions their attack value would be 
increased greatly, and if several hundred land-based planes could give 
additional co-operation, American aircraft superiority might be can- 
celed out. 

Ozawa's program called for his land-based planes to dispose of at 
least one third of Mitscher's carrier force, and most of Vice-Admiral 
Turner's amphibious force before any fleet action took place. As it 
turned out, Japanese aviators were poorly trained, their equipment did 
not measure up, and postwar investigation discloses that the Japanese 
admiral had been cruelly deceived in his understanding of the number 
of land-based aircraft that actually were available. 

When the large Nipponese forces were spotted moving through the 
San Bernardino Strait, Admiral Spruance knew that the Japanese were 
risking an engagement in the Marianas. By June 19, U. S. submarines 
Cavdla and Albacore sank two enemy carriers, Shokaku and Taiho 
these were 3O,ooo-tonners that Ozawa could ill afford to lose. Early 
that morning Japanese aircraft from the seven other carriers of the Mo- 
bile Fleet, were spotted approaching Guam, and in a fight that fol- 
lowed thirty-five planes were destroyed in ninety minutes. 

An interesting feature of the above submarine action was that War- 
rant Officer Sakio Komatsu, who was taking off with a f onnation head- 
ing for Admiral Mitscher's force, spotted a torpedo track streaking for 
the carrier Taiho. This was the one fired by Albacore. Komatsu made 
a gallant attempt to crash-dive on the torpedo, but succeeded only in 
killing himself; he failed to stop the torpedo and his carrier was lost. 

By June 17 American carriers had made important strikes against 
enemy airfields on Iwo and Chichi Jima, where their bombing and 
strafing was most profitable. About ten Zekes were shot down in the air 
and seven more blasted to wreckage on the ground at Iwo Jima. At 
Chichi Jima no airborne planes were met, but twenty-one seaplanes 
were destroyed, a hangar burned, and three small freighters set afire. 
In these two strikes we lost three aircraft and their pilots. 

On June 19 more enemy planes began to appear on every horizon, 
and many turned up west of Guam. It was at this point that the appel- 
lation Turkey Shoot was first conceived. The day before Task Groups 
58.1 and 584 which included Hornet, Yorfetown, Belleau Wood, Ba- 
taan, Essex, Lcmgley, and Cowpens had moved north, and under the 
cover of almost gale-force weather hit Chichi Jima again when the 
Japanese could hardly expect an attack and had their aircraft carefully 
staked out for a cleanup. Fifty-four carrier aircraft claimed to have 


destroyed sixty-three planes on the ground, a claim later denied by 
Japanese authorities. Today, even the most conservative agree that at 
least thirty enemy aircraft were disposed of. 

Aircraft recovery, after this very satisfactory mission, was most diffi- 
cult; the seas were heavy and rain came in blinding squalls so that 
landing on the pitching wet decks was especially hazardous. But only 
one battle-damaged plane had a serious crash landing. 

Prior to all this activity Admiral Spruance had been puzzled by the 
reports from Redfin and Flying Fish that the Japanese force consisted 
of about fifteen naval ships when he was positive that at least forty 
would make up the opposition. When U.S.S. Seahorse sighted the Bat- 
jan force moving up from the Biak operation late on June 15, the full 
picture began to focus in, and Spruance maneuvered his fleet so that 
he could have the battleships and their antiaircraft batteries available 
to protect the carriers. 

Admiral Ozawa issued several important messages, all couched in 
terms of attacking and destroying the enemy, but he appears to have 
had no worthy information as to the disposition of the U. S. carrier 
fleet, and in truth, he was fighting this very important battle practically 
blind. What strikes he set up, had to be canceled, and postwar second 
guessing has it that some of these, had they been carried out, might 
have been rewarding. But there were so many factors to consider that 
any decision that Ozawa made, could have been questioned. 

By the night of June 18-19 the Japanese admiral planned to keep 
his main body about four hundred miles, and his van about three hun- 
dred miles, away from the American carrier force or beyond its pre- 
sumed striking range. He trusted that his aircraft outranged the heavier 
U. S. Navy planes, and he hoped that his land-based aircraft would 
carry out their assignments. Furthermore, he believed that the friendly 
bases on Guam and Rota would be available for refueling and rearm- 
ing those that had taken off for the initial strikes. All these sanguine 
hopes convinced Ozawa that June 19 would be a day of great triumph 
for the Japanese Navy. 

On the morning of June 18 all four American carrier groups had so 
converged that they were within sight of each other. The three 
strongest were lined up some twelve miles apart on a north-south line, 
perpendicular to the general wind direction. In this formation one task 
group could carry out flight operations without interfering with the 
others. Vice-Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr.'s battleship line was formed up 
in advance, leeward on the enemy side and about fifteen miles west of 


the flagship Lexington. The weakest carrier group was to afford air 
cover for the battleship line. In this arrangement the fleet moved west- 
ward during the daylight and retired eastward at night, so as to re- 
duce the possibility of the enemy passing them in the darkness. 

Toward midnight news was received that the enemy's fleet might 
be about three hundred miles WSW of the American fleet's position. 
Admiral Spruance did not double back immediately, but continued 
to increase his distance from the enemy, and by daylight he was in 
no position to attack. The optimum launching distance was between 
150 and 200 miles. The maximum distance, if the bombers were to 
return, was 300 miles. At this point Admiral Mitscher suggested that 
they turn immediately, a move that would put the carriers in an ideal 
position for launching an air strike at daybreak. 

After some lengthy consultation with his staff, Admiral Spruance 
rejected the suggestion. He had been through some of this before, 
and he had respect for the manner in which Japanese carriers had been 
handled. He had no intention of risking an "end run" maneuver in 
which the enemy feinted at the center and then sent other detach- 
ments around the flanks. This trick had been tried in the Coral Sea 
engagement, and again at Guadalcanal, and it was a smart naval 
movement that had been attempted at Midway. 

War plays tragic tricks. What proves out three times in a row, turns 
up to be the booby move on the next try. On this occasion Admiral 
Spruance appears to have been wrong. Admiral Ozawa was playing it 
straight and had but one intention; to meet the U. S. Fleet head-on, 
and then start throwing everything he had. Spruance could not know, 
of course, that the Japanese admiral was much in the dark about where 
the U. S. fleet was, and was in no position to devise any tricky ma- 

During all this pro and con, the submarine Finback reported seeing 
searchlights well northwest of the enemy's presumed positions. Com- 
ing at 1:15 A.M., this news had everyone puzzled, for why would a 
naval force turn on searchlights at this point. 

The strategists figured it could be a smart stratagem. Admiral Spru- 
ance decided to take no chances, and continued eastward. He also had 
a bad break, for he was not advised that a U. S. Martin Mariner re- 
connaissance plane had made a very definite radar contact on some 
forty warships that were aligned in two groups at a position only 
seventy-five miles northeast of the presumed position of the enemy 
fleet. It was learned later that this fix was absolutely correct, but the 


report was not transmitted promptly, or Spruance might have 
doubled back on his westward course. 

Actually, at 2 A.M. the two fleets were about three hundred miles 
apart, and had Spruance returned to his westward course, and had 
Ozawa continued on, the American carrier aircraft would have been 
within easy striking distance by dawn, but the Martin Mariner report 
did not reach Spruance's bridge until nearly eight hours had passed. 

Since the Battle of the Philippine Sea several explanations have 
been offered, and all reflect the minor foul-ups that beset the com- 
plicated system of modem communications. A trailing antenna was not 
reeled out for long-distance transmission; the Mariner commander re- 
ceived no formal acknowledgment of his report so he hurried back to 
his base and filed his message from there. A nearby Navy tender may 
have picked up the message, but if so, someone failed to pass it on to 
Spruance. In all probability, however, atmospheric conditions in the 
area west of Saipan were such that most radio transmission was faulty. 
In the final analysis we must presume that it was another communi- 
cations failure for which no one could be blamed. 

In the end the error contributed little to the outcome of the action; 
it simply gave postwar strategists some sparse tinder or fuel with which 
to heat their opinions, views, or criticisms. The fact remains that Ad- 
miral Spruance continued his easterly course, a Japanese reconnais- 
sance aircraft out of Guam found the U. S. Fleet, dropped a flare, 
and returned to its base. Enterprise launched fifteen radar-equipped 
Avenger torpedo bombers to make another search, and other routine 
reconnaissance forays were carried out, but for some unaccountable 
reason the Japanese Fleet was not located. 

By 5:20 A.M. another snooper turned up, took a look, and escaped. 
At 6 A.M. another enemy aircraft was sighted and shot down only 
thirty-seven miles SSW of the U. S. carrier fleet. By that time it must 
have been obvious to any cabin boy that Admiral Ozawa was moving 

Daylight gilded the sky at 4:30 that historic morning as the sun, 
climbing over the horizon, transformed the service gray of superstruc- 
tures to ceremonial gold, and the trade winds moved a few cloud muf- 
fins about. Ceiling and visibility were unlimited. Atmospheric condi- 
tions were such that all aircraft dragged vapor trails, a spectacle that 
was to help American pilots to intercept attacking planes with little 
trouble. In other words, it was a perfect setting for a dog fight, but 


even now not one man of the 98,618 Americans in Task Force 58 had 
any idea where the enemy lay, or when he would strike; they just 
sensed that something unusual was in the air, and probably wondered 
why so mighty a fleet was steaming east when the enemy, obviously, 
would be approaching from the west. 

One hour later when our fleet was about 155 miles W by S of 
Tinian, all routine duties were resumed. Dawn-search, combat-air, 
and antisubmarine patrols were sent up. Then at 6:19 A.M. the fleet 
changed course to WSW, a direction that could not be maintained 
for long, since the carriers had to head into the southeast wind to 
launch planes, and as a result, by 10:23 it was only a few miles farther 
west than it had been at daybreak. This is a point to remember when 
amateur naval strategists attempt to assay the value of the aircraft car- 
rier. No matter where the fleet wishes to go, or how fast, the carriers 
must always turn into the prevailing wind to launch or recover air- 

At this point Admiral Spruance suggested to Admiral Mitscher that 
Guam and Rota might be ripe for a few neutralization strikes, a de- 
cision that was to have an important bearing on the outcome. Ad- 
miral Mitscher, who by now found himself in the position of having 
to fight a defensive battle close to the lee side of several enemy land 
bases, and on the windward side of enemy carriers, was not taken with 
the idea of a strike against Guam, and argued that he did not have 
suitable bombs for that type of ground-installation attack. He did 
agree to keep Guam under fighter-plane surveillance. Truth be known, 
there were only fifty aircraft of all types at Guam, and although this 
was a mere pittance, fifty planes handled intelligently could have been 
a real threat to surface ships. 

As a matter of fact the first enemy strike was made at 5:30 A.M. by a 
bomb-carrying Zero that flew out of Guam, but was shot down by 
antiaircraft fire from U.S.S. Yarnall as it was attempting to attack two 
picket destroyers. This flare-up of little importance, ushered in an hour 
of comparative calm until a combat-air patrol off Belleau Wood was 
ordered to intercept a bogey over Guam, then some one hundred miles 
away. On arrival these Hellcats were attacked by a number of planes 
that took off from Orote airfield. Holding their own, and reporting the 
engagement, they maintained contact with the enemy until help was 
sent from Belleau Wood, and from off the decks of Cabot, Yorktown, 
and Hornet. While not actually deserting the area, the enemy aircraft 
avoided action as much as possible. A few were trapped and shot 


down, but many eventually returned to their field and taxied into con- 
cealed dispersal bays. They may have been ordered to do so in order 
to save them for more important engagements. 

Shortly after 8 A.M. a group of enemy aircraft was spotted about 
eighty miles to the southwest, heading toward Guam. They were prob- 
ably reinforcements from Yap or Truk. Each U. S. task group was 
ordered to launch twelve Hellcats for interception. The original Hell- 
cat group had been ordered back at 8:24, but the new formations were 
soon involved in heavy air fighting in the Guam area and finally ac- 
counted for thirty-five Zeros and bombers. Then, as the victorious 
Hellcats turned to start back, more Japanese planes were to be seen 
taking off, presumably to carry out Admiral Ozawa's orders, but most 
of them flew into the claws of the Hellcats and were severely mauled. 

During all this fringe action Admiral Ozawa had come to some defi- 
nite decisions, and probably realized that both fleets were now only 
250 miles apart. Mitscher's force was maneuvering back and forth one 
hundred miles west of Rota. Guam lay about the same distance to 
the southeast of the carrier fleet; Saipan and Tinian were about 140 
miles northeast. Ozawa's first, second, and third carrier divisions were 
deploying back and forth on a northwest-southeast pattern, and only 
his aircraft crews ever saw Spruance's task force. In this we have a 
clear example of carrier warfare. This was not just a battle between 
surface fleets that were using long-range aircraft as their weapons. Both 
sides had the problem of carrying out, or preventing, a very important 
amphibious operation. The battle for Saipan has since been con- 
sidered the decisive battle of the Pacific war. Its loss ended all hope 
for a Japanese victory. The Battle of the Philippine Sea was not just 
a turkey shoot, or an over-all attack against the enemy's carrier force; 
it was the blow that sealed the victory at Saipan. 

The actual battle opened exactly at 10 A.M. At that minute Admiral 
Mitscher is said to have sent out the "Hey Rube!" message the old 
circus cry to his Hellcats over Guam. Formations of enemy aircraft 
had been picked up on radar when they were 150 miles west of 
Spruance's forces. At 10:20 the whole task force turned into the wind, 
a full gaggle of fighters was launched, and the Battle of the Philippine 
Sea was on. 

Referring again to the Japanese records, it is known now that their 
search planes were first sent out at 4:45; one flight was made up of 
Navy float planes that picked up traces of two of our task groups. Of 


the first fourteen search planes sent out, only seven returned, the others 
tangled with Mitscher's dawn-search group and the carnage began. A 
second group was trapped by elements of fighter interceptors, and 
was badly cut up. A third, composed of thirteen planes, carried out 
an important reconnaissance mission and lost but three aircraft. 

Following this, Admiral Ozawa launched his first raid force, com- 
posed of sixteen Zeke fighters, forty-five other Zekes that were rigged 
to carry bombs, and eight torpedo-carrying Nakajimas. This launching 
was made around 8:30, and was picked up by the U. S. battleship 
force radar at ten o'clock when they were, as stated above, 150 miles 
away. At 10:10 Mitscher issued an order that every available fighter 
plane be alerted, and nine minutes later he sent them away. 

From that time the whole United States fleet began a series of sur- 
face maneuvers that were totally unlike those used when battleships 
were the important capital ships. Instead of steaming for strategic bat- 
tle areas from where the big guns could be trained on opposite num- 
bers, attempting to complete the traditional "crossing of the T," mov- 
ing to gain the most favorable light, or to cut off the enemy from his 
home shelters, Admiral Mitscher ordered every vessel in his com- 
mand to "stay on course into the wind." This, of course, allowed con- 
tinued flight operations that were more important than attempting to 
bring the enemy within battlewagon gunfire. The "guns" were the air- 
craft, the "shells" the bombs or torpedoes they carried, and the "range" 
was limited only to the fuel tankage of the aircraft. 

It might not be admitted universally, but the battle was now in 
the hands of the fighter directors whose job it was to deploy fighter 
aircraft to meet successive attacks. In this case most of the responsi- 
bility rested on the shoulders of Lieutenant Joseph R. Eggert, aboard 
Lexington. Lieutenant Eggert had to see that enough Hellcats were 
vectored out to intercept each enemy raid, and that an adequate re- 
serve was kept in hand to use in later raids. All this was done by voice- 
radio contact with other group fighter directors, Lieutenants C. D. 
Ridgway, R. F. Myers, E. F. Kendall, }. H. Trousdale, and Lieutenant 
Commander F. L. Winston. Each task-group fighter director main- 
tained general control over his own group but often allotted intercept- 
ing planes to the fighter directors of individual ships, who in turn con- 
trolled these planes until their missions had been accomplished. 

Considerable difficulty was encountered in handling the high-fre- 
quency radio gear since all this took place at the time when the Fifth 
Fleet was in the process of making many important changeovers in 


communications equipment. Nevertheless, although the channels that 
were available were overcrowded, Lieutenant Eggert and his confreres 
met every situation. Throughout the battle interceptions were made 
and directed intelligently, sufficient aircraft were made available to 
meet each attack as it developed, and in practically all cases were prop- 
erly stacked to provide the initial altitude advantage so necessary to 
head off any high flying formation. Co-ordination between the fighter 
directors in this engagement was as nearly perfect as battle conditions 
allowed, and in many cases the vital interceptions were made like 

Once the battle seemed imminent, Admiral Mitscher signaled all 
ships to expect repeated attacks, and by 10:36 the first enemy raid 
force, composed of more than sixty aircraft, was only sixty miles away. 
While Mitscher's message was flashing out, Hellcat fighters, stacked 
between 17,000 and 23,000 feet, sighted the Red Ball craft and a joy- 
ous tallyho rang out. The first punch was delivered by eleven Hellcats 
from the deck of Essex, led by Lieutenant Commander C. W. Brewer. 

The enemy pack consisted of more than twenty Zekes flying in a 
tight formation at eighteen thousand feet; sixteen more were riding 
cover above and behind. Commander Brewer selected the leader of 
the main formation and opened fire from three hundred yards. His 
sight was true, and the Japanese plane exploded immediately. Brewer, 
unable to change course, had to slam through the debris and a curtain 
of flaming fuel. He pulled up hard and fired at another and saw large 
chunks of metal fly off before this enemy burst into flames and dove 
into the sea. Turning fast, Commander Brewer then went for another 
Zeke, and his short burst took out the enemy's wing-roots, so she folded 
everything and went down. 

Making a quick survey, Brewer saw a Zeke heading for him, but 
by maneuvering fast he turned the tables and came out on the Jap's 
tail. Three short bursts forced the Zeke to half-roll violently so that he 
continued on his back. Brewer stayed with this acrobat, pouring burst 
after burst into the wings, fuselage, and cockpit until at last the enemy 
fighter burst into flames, wrenched itself into a tight spiral and hit 
the drink. 

This particular Zeke pilot had an unfortunate wing man who was 
taken care of by Brewer's wing man, Ensign R. E. Fowler. Fowler then 
accounted for two other Zekes and a Mitsubishi Navy fighter. 

Lieutenant (jg) G. R. Carr, who led the second division of four 


Hellcats, chipped in to help Brewer sheep-dog the enemy formation on 
the first overhead runs. Carr contributed generously to the day by 
taking on the first bomber he saw and blowing it to bits. He, too, had 
to bore through a curtain of fragments, but when he emerged he came 
out with his nose smack on a second bomber. He fired, because this 
aircraft was in his way, and that too burst into flames and screwed into 
an uncontrolled spiral. 

Then, deciding to get his breath and pull his formation together, 
Lieutenant Carr was attacked by a Mitsubishi that became decidedly 
aggressive and the American lieutenant had to nose down to a 450-knot 
dive and wriggle out with an aileron roll before he could shake off the 
Mitsubishi. Once in the clear, he roared back for the action level and 
soon found himself all alone with a Japanese bomber that was moving 
in for an attack. Outmaneuvering the heavier craft, Can put a pre- 
cision burst into the engine cowling and wing root, which ignited a 
hot fire and an eventual explosion. He yanked out of that tangle and 
spotted two more bombers that were flying a parallel course some two 
thousand feet above. Carr worked into a stern position, gave one a 
short burst, and saw something bulky leave the plane, which he con- 
sidered might be the pilot, but he was too busy to make a detailed 
examination. He skidded over to get on the tail of the second, pooped 
off a long splashy burst, and that bomber went down in flames. He 
followed it down to get in a final burst but saw it explode before he 
could draw a good sight. With little ammunition left and no more 
aircraft to shoot at, Lieutenant Carr then returned to the Essex. 

Another fighter element off Bunker Hill, led by Lieutenant Com- 
mander R. W. Hoel, answered the initial tallyho in time to peel off 
and get into what seemed to be Brewer's private war. Two Zekes and 
a bomber were knocked down by Hoel, but while polishing off the 
latter, a Zeke slithered into his tail area and fired several bursts before 
Hoel's wing man chased him off. There was enough damage to justify 
a return to the carrier, and on the way Hoel found himself in a new 
difficulty; his stick suddenly jammed in a forward position and the 
Hellcat went into an uncontrolled power spin, and he had to bail out. 
Luckily, he was soon picked up by one of our destroyers. 

It is gratifying to relate that Commander Hoel's was the only air- 
craft lost during this interception. Observers aboard the picket de- 
stroyers saw nothing of the action, since it was carried out at such a 
high altitude. One seaman scratched his head, and pondered: "What- 


ever was going on up there, I have no idea, but Jap planes were falling 
like overripe apples." 

Another interesting observation was made by Brewer and Carr who 
related that the enemy seemed to work under no sound defense tac- 
tics. When the American planes moved in, the bombers generally scat- 
tered instead of maintaining a tight formation to make the most of 
their gun power. The fighters made no attempt to provide a protective 
cover but instead staged a dizzy set of frantic aerobatics, obviously 
obeying some law of self-preservation. And as a result some forty-two 
of the sixty-nine planes that made up Ozawa's first attack failed to 
return to their decks. 

It should be explained that Brewer's fighter squadron did not claim 
all these interceptions, and rightful credit was given to fighters off 
Cowpens, Bunker Hill, Princeton, Lexington, and Enterprise. Some 
of these fighters were directed to a 23,ooo-foot level, and kept flying 
westward, in the hope that another Japanese formation would be fol- 
lowing in. Unfortunately, Ozawa's second attack force did not take 
off until 8: 56A.M. 

Not all the planes of the first assault were successfully driven off. 
About forty of the full complement of raiders avoided contact with 
the F6Fs, and headed for the main targets. What few managed to 
make a direct strike had to be satisfied with an attack on the picket- 
line destroyers, such as Yarndl and Stockham which were well west 
of the battleship line. Their antiaircraft gunners stood firm, however, 
and the raiders were driven off. 

Three or four bombers broke through and reached Admiral Lee's 
battlewagons which by now were making twenty-two knots, and mov- 
ing in a circular formation. One bomber scored a direct hit on South 
Dakota, a brave effort, considering everything. The hit killed twenty- 
seven men and wounded twenty-three, but no serious mechanical 
damage was suffered, and the veteran battleship maintained her sta- 
tion. Minneapolis took the effect of a near miss, but none of the air 
raiders reached any of the carriers. By 10:57 tf 16 fi rst major attack had 
been completely broken up. 

The situation must have been most disheartening, but at 8:50 Ad- 
miral Ozawa decided to counter with a very large raid on the U. S. 
carrier fleet. This pack was made up of forty-eight Zeke fighters, fifty- 
three Aichi D4Y dive bombers, and twenty-seven Nakijima torpedo 
bombers. Of this assigned covey 119 planes actually got off the deck 


without the usual aborts or engine trouble. Once they had headed 
east a new foul-up beset them. When they were making their rendez- 
vous and forming into their proper elements a large number of them 
inadvertently flew over Admiral Kurita's van force where they at- 
tracted the attention of overly excited antiaircraft gunners; two planes 
were disposed of and eight more seriously damaged before the error 
was noted. The damaged aircraft had to turn back and seek sanctuary 
aboard their own carriers. 

The remaining Japanese planes huddled together in one mass group 
and were picked up quickly by U. S. radar when they were 120 miles 
away, which gave the Hellcats off Lexington time to get into the air 
and prepare a reception. Commander David S. McCampbell, who led 
a dozen fighters off the carrier Essex, went into the second half of 
this action at about 11:39. The commander first took on a dive 
bomber, sitting out on the coffin corner of a tight element, and with 
just a short spurt his target burst into fire and then exploded. The 
pattern of debris forced Commander McCampbell to zoom over the 
main formation and fly into the area where every gunner in the group 
could potshot at him, but he reached the other side safely with his 
wing man, Ensign R. E. Foltz, still hanging on. The commander then 
found time and opportunity to destroy two more dive bombers, while 
Foltz paid his way by getting two others. 

More Hellcats followed McCampbell's example, and when this 
fight was over thirty-two Zeke fighters, twenty-three torpedo bombers, 
and forty-two dive bombers failed to return to Ozawa's carrier force. 
About seventy of these casualties occurred in the initial interception 
the sky was streaked with planes falling in flames, or screaming down 
minus their wings. The remainder, seriously damaged, were lost as they 
tried to return to their flight decks. 

About twenty Japanese planes did break through the American de- 
fense, and reached a position where they could attack. The Stockham, 
a destroyer, was under fire for nearly twenty minutes but was not dam- 
aged seriously. The carrier Yorfetown, with thirty-six of her fighters in 
the air, flagged off sixteen more as a secondary intercept. Heavy ack- 
ack fire from Alabama held the raiders in check, however, and two 
torpedo bombers that were heading for South Dakota were also di- 
verted by Alabama's gunfire. Two others with designs on Indiana were 
broken up, but a torpedo bomber smacked its missile against this 
battleship's waterline. Luckily the torpedo did not explode. Two near- 
miss bombs splashed Alabama, and Iowa had to wriggle quickly to 


evade another torpedo-bomber attack. All this action took place be- 
tween 1 1 : 50 and a few minutes past midday. 

Half a dozen dive bombers that eluded the interception and the 
battle fleet's ack-ack fire, found Admiral Montgomery's carrier task 
group shortly before noon. Four of them headed straight for Wasp. 
No direct hits were scored, but one bomb burst overhead prematurely, 
killing one man and wounding twelve others. Wasp's flight deck was 
covered with chunks of phosphorus that ignited when stepped on and 
this created some confusion while first-aid measures were going on. 

Bunker Hill was attacked by two dive bombers that only scored a 
near miss, but fragments from these bombs killed three crew members 
and wounded seventy-three, one of the plane elevators was dam- 
aged, and the hangar-deck fuel system was ruptured. This started 
several fires but smart damage control soon quenched them. The two 
attacking dive bombers were shot down by the screen-defense gun- 
ners, and two others suffered the same fate. 

Admiral Reeves' task group, which was sailing a short distance to 
the north, was attacked by a small formation of torpedo bombers. 
One torpedo exploded in the propeller wake of Enterprise, but did 
no damage. Two other torpedo bombers in a shallow-glide attack 
against Princeton were broken up by antiaircraft fire before the pilots 
could release their projectiles. Two minutes later a third torpedo 
bomber attacked Princeton, but antiaircraft fire from the flagship Lex- 
ington flamed the attacker, and Princeton had to make a quick change 
of course to avoid being hit by the falling aircraft. 

During all this a Japanese air co-ordinator a plane that carried an 
airborne combat director played an amusing, if involuntary role. 
Early in the battle Admiral Mitscher's flag communicators tracked 
down the enemy co-ordinator's circuit, and Lieutenant (jg) Charles 
A. Sims stood by to translate the Japanese orders into English. In 
other words Lieutenant Sims was warning all American interceptors 
just what the Japs would do next. Later on when someone suggested 
sending out a patrol to shoot down the enemy co-ordinator, Admiral 
Mitscher grinned and said, "No indeed! He kept Task Force 58 well 
informed throughout the action. Let Little Joe go home safely. Who 
knows, we may be able to use him again." 

Meanwhile the islands of Guam and Rota had to be watched while 
our carrier fighters were engrossed in the big interception of Ozawa's 
raiders. Throughout the action a few Hellcats from Lexington main- 


tained a constant patrol to make certain that no land-based strike 
could be organized or launched. Then, about 10:30, Hornet sent off 
an element of Helldivers, Avengers, and Hellcats to beat up Orote air- 
field on Guam. They were in no way harassed by the enemy, and the 
bombing pattern was very good and most effective. Later Lieutenant 
Commander Ralph Weymouth of Lexington took a flight of Helldiv- 
ers over and tried dropping armor-piercing looo-pound bombs on 
grounded aircraft. These missiles made very deep holes in the sur- 
rounding area but were not very destructive to aircraft or runways. 

By 11 A.M. all available planes, including bombers, were sent out 
to perforate the island airfields, and in this instance they did such a 
masterful job that most of the enemy carrier planes that sought hos- 
pitality later that day, went base over apex into the still smoking shell 
holes. About 2:30 a large formation of Ozawa's fourth attack was 
chased into Guam, and all but nineteen of them were shot down as 
they sought an airstrip. As can be imagined, such run-and-chase ac- 
tions provided mixed victories and defeats. 

Four Hellcats, led by Lieutenant Commander C. W. Brewer who 
had been so successful earlier in the day, went down after a Japanese 
torpedo bomber, and almost immediately Brewer's element was set 
upon by fifteen Army Zero fighters. Commander Brewer, Lieutenant 
(jg) J. L. Bruce, and Brewer's present wing man, Ensign Thomas 
Tarr, were shot down and killed, but in reprisal the Japanese fighter 
formation was hacked to wreckage. 

This side show at Guam ran up some serious losses. Six Hellcats 
and one bomber were lost along with all their airmen; four of these 
seven were hit by enemy antiaircraft that was especially intense and 

In comparison, the main interception fights involved about three 
hundred American planes, and of these only twenty-three were shot 
down, and six more written off during take-offs or landings. The net 
casualties, after rescues, were reported to be twenty pilots and seven 
air crewmen killed, along with four officers and twenty-seven enlisted 
men in the three vessels that were hit or near missed. These are offi- 
cial figures, but they are difficult to accept when we have been told 
that three crew members were killed and seventy-three others were 
wounded aboard Bunker Hitt from fragments of an enemy's near miss. 
These are the problems that beset the historian when consulting many 
available sources. 

The third Japanese raid consisted of forty-s^en aircraft; fighters, 


fighter bombers, and torpedo bombers. These were launched from the 
carriers Hiyo, Ryuho, Junyo, and Zuikaku. They failed to find any 
American ships at the expected areas, so they headed for Rota and 
on the way were diverted when Admiral Montgomery's carrier group 
was finally sighted. Six of these aircraft evaded the combat-air patrol 
and appeared above our carriers when they were recovering planes. 
The leaders started their attack glide from six thousand feet, but an 
alert lookout aboard Mobile spotted them and opened fire. This 
alerted Wasp which turned sharply as the bombs began to fall. Three 
more dive bombers came out of the clouds and made for Wasp and 
Bunker Hill, but the attack was fainthearted and no damage was in- 
flicted. In this foray eighteen planes off Zuikaku became embroiled 
with a formation of Hellcats, and nine were soon shot down. 

Another formation that had gone to Guam was trapped to some 
extent. They dropped their bombs, and were forced into a fight with 
a number of Hellcats off Cowpens. This element was led by Com- 
mander Gaylord B. Brown who, when he saw the size of the Japanese 
formation, gave a loud tallyho, and was soon joined by Commander 
McCampbell from Essex, and eight fighters off Hornet that were led 
by Lieutenant William K. Blair. These twenty-seven Hellcats shot 
down thirty of the forty-nine-plane Japanese formation that was at- 
tempting to land on Orote airfield; of the nineteen that did land safely, 
most of them were so badly damaged they had to be discarded. 

It was obvious that with Such figures Admiral Ozawa had lost his 
battle. More than half of his original complement of aircraft had been 
wiped out, and with this Admiral Mitscher allowed several of his 
carriers to secure from General Quarters and relax to a condition of 
readiness "One-Easy ." A search mission was sent out but it failed to 
find the enemy fleet. It did encounter Japanese search planes and some 
of the fighters on this assignment failed to return. 

And so ended the greatest carrier battle of the Pacific campaign. 
The forces that participated were between three and four times larger 
than those at Midway, and the air victory was so complete, the Japa- 
nese were never able to gather such a force again. June 19 afforded 
eight hours of continuous action in the air, maintained, directed, and 
supported by fighter directors, information centers, deck crews, and 
the accuracy of the battle-line antiaircraft gunners. Without all this, 
the skill, initiative, and courage of the aviators would have been 

The U. S. submarines Albacore, Stingray, Finback, and Bang per- 


formed important tactical tasks. ALbacore, commanded by Com- 
mander J. W. Blanchard, sighted and sank the Japanese 33,ooo-ton 
carrier Taiho, and Cavalla torpedoed the carrier Shokaku in a classic 
submarine-carrier fight, just as the flat-top was recovering her aircraft. 

Up to this point everything had worked right; the Japanese air at- 
tacks had been beaten off with neatness and despatch, everything had 
turned out according to plan everything, that is, except the comple- 
tion of the action. With most of his aircraft safely back aboard, Ad- 
miral Mitscher might have completed the task and wiped out the 
First Mobile Fleet completely. The American skippers knew what 
had happened to the Japanese air fleet, aad could they have found the 
enemy in time, might have had a sitting-duck shoot. At this time Ad- 
miral Ozawa was completely in the dark, for he had little idea what 
his aircraft losses were, since he was under the impression that most 
of them had landed safely at Guam or Rota. What few pilots did re- 
turn assured him that at least six, and perhaps eleven, American car- 
riers had been sunk. 

At the opposite end of the field neither Admirals Mitscher nor 
Spniance had any idea where the Japanese fleet lay, or where it was 
heading. Apparently only the submarines had any information, and 
they had gone deep after sinking the two Japanese carriers. One or 
two reconnaissance planes went out and returned with conflicting data 
concerning the disposition of the enemy fleet. 

After milling around trying to decide whether to refuel his force 
where he was, or to move farther west, Admiral Ozawa chose to 
play it safe and rendezvous with his tanker fleet. But no one aboard 
an American ship knew of this move, and since the Japanese admiral 
maintained rigid radio silence, it was impossible to obtain a "fix" on 
him. Admiral Spniance decided to attack on June 20 "if we know 
the enemy's position with accuracy." That was the kicker. As at Coral 
Sea and Midway, we were shy of accurate information, and we must 
assume from all available records that our search planes hardly held 
up their end. 

Only two night searches were carried out and these brought in noth- 
ing. Admiral Mitscher apparently felt that his flying men had had 
enough for one day, to say nothing of the weary deck crews who had 
been on their feet for hours on end. Actually, no real effort was made 
to seek out the retreating Japanese Mobile Force, and had Mitscher 
sent out an aggressive search force, there might have been another 


story. As it was, late the next afternoon when Ozawa's force was still 
trying to obtain some order out of many attempts to refuel from the 
tankers, he was in a very hazardous position and any real search might 
have trapped him. He also learned late that afternoon the full extent 
of his air defeat the loss of 330 planes leaving him about one hun- 
dred fit for operational duty. Still, he continued to hope that the 
land-based equipment on Iwo, Yap, Truk, and a few from Guam would 
be available, and optimistically planned another strike against his foes. 
In the meantime his cruiser Atago had intercepted a U. S. Navy mes- 
sage that indicated that at last Admiral Mitscher had been advised 
by an Avenger pilot from Enterprise of the relative position of the 
enemy fleet. This message was so garbled in transmission that it was 
almost useless to Ozawa. We do know now that actual contact was 
made with the Japanese fleet at 3:40 P.M., June 20, by Lieutenant 
R. S. Nelson, the first U. S. carrier pilot to sight an enemy combat 
ship. Garbled or not, the information received was sufficient to cause 
the Japanese admiral to call off his fueling attempts, change course 
from west to northwest, and move off at twenty-four knots. 

By now Mitscher had been advised that the enemy force had been 
broken up into three groups, and was moving slowly, indicating that 
refueling was under way. Whether the positions given were exact or 
not is difficult to know, but Admiral Mitscher was under the impres- 
sion that the nearest enemy group was at least 275 miles from his 
carrier decks. Planes would be launched at their maximum range, but 
it was now getting on toward four o'clock, making it necessary to 
recover them after dark. As pointed out, not too many carrier pilots 
had had night training, and those that had were faced with such a 
long flight out and back, they were likely to become exhausted and 
incapable of the flying skill required to return safely. Moreover, at 
least four hours would be required to recover all planes, at which 
time the carrier force would have to steam upwind, or on an easterly 
course. This would take them well away from the presumed enemy 
position at high speed. Any such strike would have to be a one-shot 
task. A lot of men and planes could be lost, and few aircraft would 
be operational for a next-day dawn attack. 

When the word came through Admiral Mitscher was perched on a 
high stool in one corner of the flag bridge of Lexington. All around 
him were his carriers, their decks cluttered with aircraft and pilots 
awaiting his signal to go out and finish the job. Mitscher knew that 
darkness would fall in four hours but tomorrow would be too late. 


A few steps away in flag plot where a torrent of radio insistence chat- 
tered, Captain Arleigh A. Burke was pounding his fists and chewing 
on a cold pipe. The navigator tried an old joke on Commander Gus 
Widhelm, but it fell flat. The deputy chief, Captain Truman Hedding, 
gave some pretense of scanning through a dog-eared war novel. The 
radio gave out with a message from another search plane: "I see 
'em . . ." 

Widhelm slipped through to the flag bridge and grinned at the 
admiral. "They see 'em, sir. We've got 'em." 

Mitscher twirled, and slid down from his stool. "I want to see the 
whole message." 

Before the transcript could be snagged off the file, another report 
came through. The monitor clerks began clacking their typewriters 
again. Far to the west a search pilot, flying at the extreme range of 
his sector, had noticed strange dots and ripples flickering in the sun's 
blinding path. He pointed them out to one of his crewmen, and the 
radioman reached for his key and tapped: "Enemy force sighted. 
Position . . ." 

The navigator wrote the position on a slip of paper and passed it 
to Widhelm. Gus whistled and handed it to Admiral Mitscher who 
pondered, looked up, and asked, "Can we make it?" 

There was a period of strained silence. None of the staff officers 
wanted to take the responsibility or give an opinion. They had all 
flown against enemy defense guns, and made long flights back when 
they were totally exhausted, but none had tried it at night over such 
a stretch of black water. 

Widhelm finally said, "We can make it, but it's going to be tight, 

Mitscher looked out at his carriers, squinted for a second or two, 
and then spoke firmly: "Launch 7 em!" 

A white flag with a red diamond in the center went jerking up the 
yardarm aboard Lexington, and the launching officer began to twirl a 
small checkered flag. The pilots of Fighting 16 who had been staring 
at their maps, and looking at the teletype sheet dancing across a blued 
frame, couldn't believe a word of it. "You mean we've got to fly out 

There was no horseplay, no racing up the ladders, none of the pre- 
flight tense gaiety. The pilots took plenty of time to buckle their flight 
gear, adjust shoulder holsters, back packs, and life jackets, and zip 
up coveralls. They shook their canteens, wiped off goggles, and 


slapped their pockets to make certain they had jackknives, cigarettes, 
lighters, handkerchiefs, and good-luck pieces. There was no wild jos- 
tling at the bulkheads and hatches. No one joked. This mission was 
one for the book. 

Sy Seybert made certain he had his good-luck silver dollar. Alex 
Vraciu, who was to lead the third division, was the Navy's ranking 
ace. He had eighteen miniature Rising Suns stenciled on his fuselage. 
The paint on six of them was still tacky since he had earned them 
only the day before in the Turkey Shoot. He wasn't anxious to go on 
this one not thai far out. Mike Banazak, a turret gunner, didn't want 
to go either. He had lost his good-luck pocket piece, a little plastic 
Scotty, and he was still turning out his pockets when the big plane 
began to roll. Kent Cushman carried his wallet in his breast pocket, 
and along with his ID card he had an English sixpence, the little 
silver coin his bride had worn in her shoe when they were married. 
Clint Swanson made certain he had his good-luck ring, an ornament 
that had been carved for him by a favorite uncle. Clint always set 
his ring straight before a take-off or landing. His radioman, Ren6 
LeBlanc, brushed his hand tenderly over the Sacred Heart of Jesus 
pin on his coverall lapel. A home-town girl had given it to him just 
before she became a nun. Grady Stanfill had one of his wife's lacy 
handkerchiefs stitched into the back of his helmet. Norman Sterne, 
who had moved into Bob Isely's spot, held to his grim superstition 
and climbed into his cockpit from the starboard side. He had a dread 
of the port side entrance. 

"Here we go again/ 7 said gunner Dick Bentley to his pilot Donald 
Kirkpatrick, leader of the second division. 

"Here we go again," Kirkpatrick repeated as he always did to make 
sure they came back. Bentley was the youngest man on the mission. 
He had reached nineteen just one month before. Eugene Conklin was 
the youngest pilot, and had celebrated his twentieth birthday the De- 
cember before. Harry Harrison led the section in Kirkpatrick's SBD 
division, and his regular Number 2, Pinky Adams, should have fol- 
lowed him off, but Adams' plane was spotted last on the deck, so 
Cookie Cleland, flying a much overage aircraft, took off in his place. 

Sixteen years later, almost to the day, I sat with Commander Cookie 
Cleland on the bridge of U.S.S. Forrestd on the way back from a 
Sixth Fleet tour in the Mediterranean. Cookie was now Chief Intelli- 
gence Officer aboard, and he gave me much -of the data and detail 
that follows: 


At 4:21 P.M. Task Force 58 turned into the wind and within ten 
minutes eighty-five fighters, seventy-seven dive bombers, and fifty-four 
torpedo bombers on Hornet, Yorfetown, Bunker Hill, Wasp, Lexing- 
ton, and Enterprise were flagged away. All the Hellcats and Helldiv- 
ers carried extra fuel in belly tanks. By 6:40 enemy snoopers sighted 
these American formations. 

Possibly for the first time Admiral Mitscher did not watch the take- 
off; he was too busy with his staff in flag plot for he now had to decide 
whether he would launch a second strike. After some long soul-search- 
ing consideration, he stared down at a chart and said, "No! Hold that 
second strike." 

The first enemy ships spotted were six of Ozawa's tankers, escorted 
by six destroyers that were left well astern when the First Mobile Force 
went to twenty-four knots. The seven carriers were well out in front 
of the main group, and the battleships and heavy cruisers were dis- 
posed so they could deliver a heavy curtain of antiaircraft fire. Few 
fighter aircraft got off to intercept, and at most only seventy-five planes 
were launched during the following action. 

While the American dive bombers and torpedo bombers moved into 
position, the Japanese surface ships went into a series of tight circles 
and S turns, all the while festooning the sky with varicolored anti- 
aircraft fire. Two oilers were quickly put out of commission. Two car- 
riers of Admiral T. Joshima's division were attacked savagely, but 
probably escaped. 

During this action Lieutenant (jg) George B. Brown, who had 
sworn to get a carrier or go down himself, led a five-ship pack of 
Avengers that were armed with torpedoes. He selected the carrier 
Hzyo, slipped into a cloud from which to start his approach, and then 
coming out with the sun behind him nosed down into a 5<>degree 
dive and headed for his target. 

The antiaircraft fire was wicked, part of his port wing was shot 
away, and fire burst out, enveloping the center portion of the fuselage 
in flames. The radioman had to bail out, and advised the gunner to 
go with him. Lieutenant Brown then continued on alone, and on the 
way in the fire burned itself out. He completed his attack run and 
registered a direct hit. His wing man, Lieutenant (jg) Benjamin C. 
Tate, held to his course, but missed. A third torpedo from the plane 
of Lieutenant (jg) Warren R. Omark scored, triggering a loud ex- 

Tate re-formed on Brown near a cloud and saw that his leader's 


plane was badly damaged, and it seemed that Brown was hurt since 
he was flying erratically. Tate could not help him, of course, and 
Brown's plane finally disappeared. 

After floating about amid all this naval strife, the gunner and radio- 
man from Brown's plane were picked up the next day when the U. S. 
carriers moved into the action area. Like the famous Ensign Gay, they 
saw the final torment of a Japanese carrier. Two enemy battleships 
attempted to give aid to Hiyo, but she burned herself out, and went 
to the bottom. 

Some of the other Avengers were not so lucky. They carried only 
bombs, not torpedoes, and could not make clean bomb runs because 
of the intense antiaircraft fire. The attack did not allow much more 
than this, for bombs were of little use in such an action. Small fires 
were started, but their damage was inconsiderable. The carrier 
Chiyoda was hit and set afire. This seriously damaged her flight deck, 
but she did not sink. The battleship Haruna was hit in such a manner 
that water flooded her magazines. 

Five Avengers off Enterprise, carrying only bombs, were led by 
Lieutenant Van V. Eason and made an in-line approach. They received 
a savage beating from ack-ack guns so that the line wriggled and 
twisted like a blacksnake. Fighter planes went ahead trying to beat 
down the gunners aboard Nagato and Mogami, and with this assist 
Eason took his Avengers down. When they pulled out, Eason was 
positive that they had scored at least eight hits and caused one heavy 
explosion aboard the carrier Ryuho. However, postwar records dis- 
close that the Japanese carrier's damage was superficial, and did not 
necessitate noteworthy repairs. 

As Lieutenant Eason's Avengers came out of their dives, four Zekes 
slammed in, but broke off when two Hellcats joined in the fray that 
turned into a miniature dogfight with the battleships sending up five- 
inch shells to add to the din. 

Commander J. D. Arnold, who was leading an Avenger group, was 
concerned about the failure of Navy flying men to pick out the big 
carriers. He ignored the escorts and went after the Zuikaku which 
had no Zekes to defend her, but she had what was more important 
a lot of luck. All but four of Commander Arnold's Avenger pack 
had been armed with 5oo-pound bombs, instead of torpedoes, and 
the enemy carrier seemed to have no difficulty in evading the two 
"tin fish" that were sent at her. 

Dive bombers from Enterprise joined in this attack, and consider- 


able damage was inflicted with several actual bomb hits and five near 
misses. One explosion caused a serious fire on the hangar deck and 
Zuikaku was unmanageable for a short time, but all fires were finally 
doused, and the big carrier returned to Kure under her own steam. 
She was patched up in time to join in the October 25 battle off Cape 
Engano on northeast Luzon where she was sunk. 

Avengers from Monterey, Bunker Hill, and Cabot ignored the oiler 
force and roared on to tackle the main fleet. Again, the 5oo-pound 
bombs, although delivered with rare courage, only started a small fire 
aboard Chiyoda and damaged her flight deck. Haruna took a direct 
hit, but suffered little damage, and the cruiser Maya had a few fires 
to quench. No vital damage was scored against any of these vessels, 
but only twenty of the 216 American aircraft employed in the attack 
were lost. They had sunk one carrier and destroyed two-thirds of Ad- 
miral Ozawa's remaining aircraft, and had there been more confidence 
in the air torpedo the result might have been far more memorable. 

As the U. S. Navy planes broke off, the enemy airmen made no 
attempt to pursue, but brave old Admiral Ozawa still cherished a small 
hope. He ordered his entire van, including the heavy cruisers Myoko 
and Hdguro, plus a destroyer squadron to turn back and make one 
last try to intercept Mitscher's force. This effort was fruitless, how- 
ever, since he had no idea where Task Force 58 steamed, and the 
search had to be abandoned after two hours. By then he had but 
thirty-five aircraft operational out of the 473 with which he had started 
his attack. 

Now began the problem of getting the American planes back to 
their decks. In that latitude darkness fell at 7:45, and that night was 
very dark since the weather had moved south during the action. Con- 
sidering everything, the battle-battered U. S. Navy aircraft were a long, 
long way from home. There were other considerations, too. During 
the air-strike attack Mitscher's fleet had closed somewhat with the 
enemy, but once the recovery operations went into effect, the U. S. 
carriers had to turn eastward again to pick up the headwinds. As a 
result, there were instances when the two fleets were almost three 
hundred miles apart. Knowing all this, and hoping to get back before 
nightfall or bad weather set in, many pilots flew at high speed and 
ran out of gas earlier than they might have. Others were just unlucky. 
Lieutenant (jg) Milton F. Browne of Wasp had to ditch halfway 
home because his tank had been punctured, but fortunately, he and 


his gunner were rescued two days later by a Martin Mariner flying 
boat that had flown well beyond its reconnaissance-search area. 

Admiral Mitscher wisely spread his three task groups wide to af- 
ford maneuvering room for the night recovery. He also suggested to 
Admiral Spruance that Admiral Lee's battle line be released to steam 
ahead in the hope of engaging Ozawa's fleet by the break of day. Ad- 
miral Spruance elected to play it conservatively and held to the theory 
that his Task Force 58 should be kept tactically concentrated during 
the night, making the best practical speed toward the enemy and thus 
keep them well within air-striking distance. He also believed that the 
battle line had no chance of overtaking the Japanese, and he wished 
to keep his battleships within signal contact in order to dispose of 
any damaged ships the fliers might encounter the next day. 

Tired, and no longer able to make accurate decisions, weary-eyed 
pilots began to seek a way back. Knowing these conditions, Admiral 
Mitscher ordered all radio silence suspended, and instead of dousing 
all lights decided to throw all caution to the winds and illuminate his 
fleet like a combined Coney Island and New Orleans Mardi Gras. Each 
ship turned on a searchlight and aimed its beam straight up into the 
sky. Truck lights blazed, star shells and parachute flares hissed and 
glared, and glow lights were flicked on to outline the decks. All this, 
against a tar-black night, threatening weather, and intermittent flashes 
of lightning, added the touch of a nineteenth-century theatrical melo- 
drama to the whole extravaganza. 

All fine and well with the carriers and their screens, but the aircraft 
were three hundred miles away from this welcome. Under normal 
conditions some of the TBMs and SBDs could make the long haul 
home, but most of them had been in combat, on and off, for ten 
months, and they were battle-worn, their engines old and fuel-hungry 
some of them should have been on the "unserviceable" heap weeks 

Now all aircraft, dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and fighters, were 
bucking a fourteen-knot headwind, and every pilot knew that when 
he did reach the task force there would be an indeterminate period 
of circling still under full power to overcome the drag of lowered 
flaps and landing gear before they could go into the glide-in path. 
The multiseat bombers faced the toughest problems, and their lead 
pilots took them down to one thousand feet where the atmosphere 
was "richer," and throttled back to "automatic-lean" for the greatest 
economy of gasoline, but with every mile the pilots could only hope 


and figure: "We got three hundred miles to go. We're maybe making 
120 miles ground speed, meaning we'll take at least two and one-half 
hours. If we're lucky we can find our particular carrier in half an hour, 
more likely forty-five minutes. Next we buck into the pattern like 
everybody else and take our turn going aboard. Brother, it's gonna 
be close!" 

After thirty minutes plaintive, panicky, or defiant voices were car- 
ried into the ether. Some pilots could not find their groups or their 
squadron leaders. Others realized that their fuel was dwindling as if 
the tanks had holes three inches in diameter bored in them. 

"Hey, listen Pete! I only got ten minutes of gas left. I'll be on 
vapor in a minute or two. What'll I do?" 

"This is Fifteen Bazooka. Where am I? Will someone tell me where 
I am? I'm really lost/' 

Tin not staying up here, gurgling along like this. I'm putting my 
hulk down while I got power. So long, Pete. Try to pick me up in 
the morning, eh?" 

The flight leaders wished they could help, but there were so many 
kids all asking the same questions. There was nothing to do but turn 
the volume down and not listen. But even so the wails continued to 
bleat through. 

"I can't make it, you guys. I'm going in. Have them look for me." 

"I'm not picking up the beacon. Will somebody please tell me 
where is home? I'm really lost. Come on, fellers!" 

It was true. Some of the pilots were helpless. By now their instru- 
ments had failed, or had been shot away. Some of the pleas came 
from kid pilots who had not been through anything like this. Night 
flying inland behind Pensacola or Corpus Christi was simple. You had 
towns, bright lights, and the gleam of railroads to work on. You at 
least had a faint horizon to give you a lead. 

Then there were the exuberant types who had been so enthusiastic 
about tackling the Japanese Fleet they had ignored all warnings con- 
cerning fuel conservation, and when they came out of the uproar, had 
no idea where they were going, or where the fleet would have been. 

One squadron commander listened as five pilots talked over their 
situation as matter-of-factly as a group planning a set of team plays 
prior to a basketball game. First, they decided whether to keep going 
until they had gulped the last ounce of fuel, or whether they should 
all ditch together. They took a vote on it and it came out four-to-one 
for ditching. It was as simple as that. "Okay, here we go!" 


Another pilot who was listening complained: "You guys must be 
nuts. I got sixty . . . sixty-five gallons!" 

"So what? Where do you expect to go with sixty-five gallons?" 

"You got sixty-five . . . that's the law of compensation. I got five. 
I'm going down." 

"I'll be with you, pal. I got seventeen, but you know me ... come 
easy, go easy." 

"That's very kind of you. A real pal. I'm very much obliged. You 

There were two wide splashes on the sea below. Then three more 
... and the rest of the planes of TF 58 flew on in the sable night. 
When the fleet was still more than ninety minutes away, someone 
yelled, "I can see lights. They got lights up for us, boys." 

"Take it easy. That's just lightning." 

Someone else chipped in, "Lightning, my eye. They're trigger 
happy. They're shooting at the boys already back. That's what they'll 
do to us. We get it nine ways to the dozen." 

"Yeh! Don't shoot! We're real friendly." 

Then silence reigned over the next fifteen minutes. No one talked. 
No one rehashed the attack. No one requested confirmation on a tor- 
pedo hit or a bomb that had started a fire on something. By now 
no one had anything to say. They were talked out, exhausted, or 
afraid to show their growing concern or fear. Only the gunners and 
radiomen clacked on, asking the same questions over and over. 

"You think we got enough gas to get in?" 

"Sure, but it'll be ticklish." 

"You think we'll make it?" 

"We always do. I think we're in the money." 

"I sure wish I knew how much gas we really have." 

"Then you'd be completely nuts." 

"You think we're doing pretty good?" 

"I think we should be in good shape. Who knows?" 

"That means none of us is going to get home, eh?" 

"Why don't you shut up?" 

"We ain't lost, are we?" 

"We ain't lost. It's just that we got so many planes left, there won't 
be room to get into the landing circle when we do get back. That's 
what worries me. Can you imagine what it'll be like when we all get 
back there?" 

"Our Father who art in heaven. . . ." 


One hundred twenty-five miles to go. 

Now physical fatigue and the strain of taut nerves cut in to bring 
on a debility none had ever experienced before. Few of them had 
heard of vertigo, but this was a perfect beginning. It was inky black 
with no visible horizon not even in the west. They had nothing to 
work on. No moon, no stars, and the overhead gleam that might have 
been of some help was intermittently erased by the low clouds. If 
they flew on the navigation lights or the exhaust glare of planes ahead, 
they held a temporary course, but at times the lights they formed on, 
gradually slipped back as the uneven speeds created a shuttle con- 
dition. Some planes had no navigation lights, some kept flicking 
on and off, and there was no truth in any of it. A tail light that had 
been a godsend for fifteen minutes would disappear suddenly, and 
a pilot would find himself flying in an unlighted dome of unknown 
proportions. If he searched for comfort in his instruments, he discov- 
ered that someone had switched them around and nothing was where 
it was supposed to be. Compass cards danced and refused to give a 
reading. The artificial horizon played tricks until the poor devil be- 
lieved he must be flying upside down. Oh for a star, a gleam of light, 
a pencil line of dawn, just one plane that didn't switch its instruments 
around when a guy wasn't looking. 

If a star was selected to home on for a few minutes, it turned out 
to be the tail light of another guy who was also hopelessly lost. Vertigo 
was building up with the blinking and straining. Pilots would con- 
clude that the needles or index cards on the instruments must all be 
stuck. They punched with gloved fists or tried to kick at the tangle of 
wires and conduits at the back of the panel. 

Oh, this was a lovely night. 

The radiomen, hunched up in comparative tunnels, could see noth- 
ing and vertigo embraced them quickly. There was no escape visually. 
They went slack with the hypnosis of vibration, and the details of the 
bulkhead and instrument panel blurred. Nerves were doubly tight, and 
the once faint sounds of mechanisms, pulsations, and automatic ac- 
tions of the pumps and boosts had now increased to roars, clashes, 
and the insane dissonance of a foundry. 

Hypnosis also stroked at the pilots as they sat alone in the darkness. 
The props sang a taunting melody, the engines beat out a droning 
rhythm, and combined into a lullaby that sucked all resistance from 
the nerves and will power. 

Then the radios clicked on again. Some had one tank left, but 


drowsy pilots refused to believe the needle was that low until the en- 
gine coughed and then there was a wild flurry to switch over and wait 
for the pumps to punch a new stream of fuel into the carburetors. 

"I got fifty gallons left. Where the hell is that fleet? Back at Pearl?" 

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" someone cried from out of the blackness beyond. 
"I got a homing signal. You hear that a homing signal. I figure we 
got only seventy-five miles to go. Any of you guys getting it?" 

"Shut up! Get out there in front, and take us in." 

"Remind me to buy you a flashlight when we get in. Get out there 
and take over, sonny!" 

"Christ! We were only a few points off. We were doing swell, eh? 
Bunker Hill, here we come!" 

What planes were still in the air caught a vertical searchlight beam 
at 8:30. It came up from Bunker Hill's group. 

"Boy, oh boy, what a relief. We're gonner get in." 

"You speak for yourself, chum. I got maybe thirty gallons left." 

So far, so good, but the flat-tops of Task Force 58 were spread out 
over hundreds of square miles of ocean, and this was not a daylight 
recovery. Few of the pilots had ever attempted a night carrier-landing, 
and in their present weary-eyed, exhausted condition could no longer 
make accurate decisions. Many were shocked by the giddy display of 
illumination Admiral Mitscher had ordered for their benefit. One or 
two said later that they thought the war was over. Looking back one 
wonders whether this reaction may have reduced the normal in-flight 
discipline. There was no organization of any kind. The landing pattern 
went completely awry. The traffic circuits became hot-rod racing orbits 
and the perpendicular searchlights became the pylons. 

Too many pilots claimed they were out of fuel when they actually 
had sufficient for normal landing operations. Too many decided that 
they could not make the deck, and flopped into the water beside any 
vessel that would pick them up. One pilot landed with his gun 
switches on, and the sea around the carnival area was aglow with the 
riding lights of aircraft sinking beneath the waves. Here and there a 
few tracers that were carelessly fired, screeched through the wild gleam 
and triggered pandemonium. Exhaust flame, blipping on and off, re- 
sembled wild fireflies darting through a surrealist jungle. 

The whole exhibit provided a frightening kaleidoscope of blinding 
lights, intricate flame trails, and inky backdrops of Stygian darkness. 
Bunker Hill's air officer, Commander "Wingover" Smith, was killed 
during this madhouse display. 


Aboard Lexington the first of the returning planes appeared about 
8:15, and her landing-signal officers, John Shuff and Eugene Hanson, 
both experienced pilots, went aft to bring them in. Both knew that 
each type of plane had to be handled in a different manner, depending 
on its weight and flight characteristics. In fact, different models of the 
same plane require different handling. 

Among the first to get into Lexington's landing circle were some 
SB2Cs, a type not included in this carrier's air group. Still, they had 
to be brought in and Hanson said, "You know more about these babies 
than I. You take over." 

Shuff knew that SB2Cs were "floaters" and that earlier models had 
to come in five knots faster, but how he was going to distinguish in 
the night, he had no idea. Lexington began to steady after making her 
turn into the wind, and Shuff picked up the first plane with his il- 
luminated wand, thinking that he was bringing in a SBzC. When it 
dabbed in and caught the wire, it turned out to be a TBF. 

Admiral Mitscher bellowed down from the bridge: "Whose plane 
is that?" 

"She's off Hornet, sir." 

"Hornet? She's not even in our task group. Holy Smoke, if the boys 
are having that much trouble finding their decks, we might as well tell 
them to land wherever they can. We can unscramble them in the morn- 
ing," the admiral said. 

That did it! 

A Helldiver from Hornet crash-landed on Bunker Hill, although the 
pilot had been given a frantic wave-off, and a display of Very signals 
indicating a fouled deck. The plane stood on its nose and hacked its 
propeller through the flight deck just in time to cause an Avenger from 
Cabot to break off a wing against a gun mount, although this pilot had 
also been warned off. 

Lieutenant V. V. Eason's tank went dry as he approached the lip of 
Lexington. He pulled his wheels up, turned to port, and slithered along 
the top of the waves like a skimmed stone, but he was quickly picked 
up by a destroyer. 

Shuff tried his luck on a second plane, an F6F that had been stray- 
ing about when Admiral Mitscher's order came through. Instead of a 
single fighter Shuff saw half a dozen aircraft, all headed for the same 
flight deck. It was impossible to handle them one at a time. The only 
thing left to do was to wave off the lot, for if two were to attempt to 
glide in together, they undoubtedly would crash and foul up the deck 


for more than an hour. Finally an F6F was brought in, and then an- 
other TBF that lost its engine a few feet ahead of the ramp. Shuff 
saw the port wing drop and the plane swing around sharply, threaten- 
ing to cut him down as a saber cuts down a musketman. He dove into 
the safety net and came up in time to see the TBF splash into the 
sea. Three airmen crawled out and waved as they drifted astern. 

Almost half of the returning aircraft landed on the wrong carriers, 
and in some cases planes and pilots from seven to eight carriers were 
on one flight deck. Two men were killed and four seriously injured 
when an incoming plane slammed into another being moved from 
the flight deck to an elevator. One young ensign pilot mistook the red 
truck lights on a destroyer for his own carrier, Monterey, and thought 
the dancing lights were the wands of the landing officer. He remedied 
this mistake just in time and plopped down in the water alongside the 
destroyer where he was boat-hooked out before he was hardly wet. 
Another pilot from a light carrier decided that such a small deck was 
no place for him under these night-recovery conditions, so he searched 
about, looking for the longest deck in the fleet. He landed safely 
and discovered that he had plopped down on his own light carrier. 

The off-duty men went topside to see the recovery. They clus- 
tered around the island, along the catwalks, and on the searchlight 
platforms, and some of them clambered up on the 4o-mm. gun mounts. 

The first half hour was fun and there were some small bets made 
as to who would make it, right side up. It was hilarious for a time and 
some rare comments rang out, but the truth finally seeped through 
and the fun and comment died down. There was a period of strained 
silence, and when another TBF stumbled in, lost a wheel and splashed 
over the side, one young seaman crunched up his hat and started be- 

"There's nothing in my enlistment papers that says I have to look 
at this," he muttered. 

"For that, they get flight pay?" another asked. 

One by one, they climbed down, suddenly weary, and mumbling 
something about hitting the sack. 

Out on the flight deck John Shuff brought in a fourth F6F, and 
then screamed at a group of men behind him. The fighter dropped 
a wing, shoved a wheel leg up into the well and they all had to dive 
into the safety net again. The F6F pancaked into the water, but Shuff 
was back on his feet in time to safely guide in an SB2C. 

So far he hadn't seen one plane of his own air group. 


Another aircraft appeared in the false glow aft. It had no lights and 
was really hitting the knots, and was aiming at the ramp like a projec- 
tile. Shuff knew that if it ever hit it would take out two or three arrester 
gear cables, and that would be that. No more planes would get in 
that night. He waved frantically, but the oncoming bolt did not swerve 
an inch. 

"Get out of here!" Shuff screamed. 

Midway up the flight deck tragedy was being set out, as a child sets 
out a toy theater. Lieutenant (jg) Verne Prather, top man of the flight 
deck crews, sensed what was coming. He turned and crouched like a 
boxer, knowing he had to move fast. He could see Shuff still waving 
the wands, and knew this was it. Behind Prather, toward the bow, a 
plane-handling crew was securing the SB2C that had just come in. 
Bill Long, an aviation machinist's mate, stood front, flicking his fin- 
gers, as he guided the SB2C forward over the last few feet to its park- 
ing space. Two crewmen crept along close to the wheels, ready to 
shove the chocks in when Long was satisfied that she was in close 
enough. Eight other men were pushing on the wings, working to fold 

The incoming plane shot past Shuff, and someone began twirling 
the handle of the crash siren. 

"Clear the deck!" Prather screeched, and threw himself flat under 
the broadsword blade that was the plane's wing. 

Bill Long did his best and bellowed: "Six, get clear. Crew Six, get 

One or two men rolled into the depressed catwalks, a couple had 
little choice but to flop where they were and coil their arms around 
their heads. Bill Long and the boys with the wheel chocks stood their 
ground they had no choice. 

The incoming plane hit with a horrendous crash. There was a blind- 
ing flash, and suddenly every light on the deck went out. What might 
have been human screams knifed out of the wreckage, and then it all 
worked out to mean: "Loose bomb!" Men nearby moved in like phan- 
toms, and only the hissing of fire extinguishers could be heard ... no 
other sound. 

Prather and Dr. Neal Baxter, group flight surgeon, snatched at two 
fear-stiff corpsmen and a youngster who hugged a stretcher. A 
sickly green spotlight on the bridge flickered, steadied and held until 
it brought out the details. Prather and Baxter started a prayer, and 
then jumped into the forge-hot tangle. 


The six planes that Shuff had brought in successfully had been 
parked at the bow. They were mostly fighters, but there was a TBF 
and an SB2C in the tangle somewhere. The pilot and gunner were 
still in their seats of one SB2C, as they waited for their wheels to be 
chocked up. The berserk plane plowed into them and its propeller 
cut the gunner into bloody slices. The tail assembly was shoved up 
until it pinned in the pilot. This two-plane mess then slammed for- 
ward into the three aircraft ahead, and then there were none. One of 
the boys hauling a chock was battered to death. Bill Long was out 
cold, having been cut down with a hunk of flying wing. The pinioned 
pilot would limp for months, but the pilot and gunner of the SBzC 
that had staged this carnage were uninjured. 

What was left of the deck crew took every precaution to prevent a 
fire. Prather climbed up on the wing of the SB2C to make certain that 
all switches were off, for oil and gasoline from ruptured tanks had 
spewed out and was splashing across the deck, and torrenting down 
into the portside catwalk and gun mounts. All it needed was just one 

Dr. Baxter hauled out the injured men and started pumping his 
morphine gun. Long was yammering again, "Six, get clear! Crew Six, 
get clear!" His feet were kicking in a pool of dead men's blood, that 
in the acid gleam looked like liquid tar. 

An ensign in one of the gun mounts was fingering oil from his eyes, 
when a crewman who was wearing a set of earphones, hauled him 
around. He stood screeching incoherently, and finally managed to gulp 
and point at a 2$o-pound bomb, properly fused and ready to blow, 
that had rolled across the deck and came to a halt a few feet away. 
No one remembers what became of it. 

Cookie Cleland who had been flying Old 39, a rust bucket of an 
SBD, picked up Irish Caffery and Jack Wright, and tried to guide 
them in. It wasn't simple, for slipstreams from stray aircraft tipped his 
wings and gave him a bad time. He'd get Old 39 straightened out, 
and another storm of slipstream would tilt him over again until he 
was finally all alone. 

"Boy, was I a dooley. I felt like I was mummified with a brain to 
match. Boy, I should have a tape recording of all the dumb things I 
thought and said. I tried to get aboard Princeton twice. I made two 
dumb passes at Lexington. I think I made two to get aboard Enter- 
prise, but I really can't remember. Anyway, I seem to have made Enter- 


prise finally but I didn't really come to until I was taxiing up the 
deck when my engine conked cold. I wanted to jump out and pat 
Old 39's cowling, but there wasn't a jump left in me. But she did it on 
her last sniff of gas/' 

When the crew started to haul Old 39 up the deck they gasped as 
they stared at a great hole under the gunner's cockpit. There was a 
long rip in the starboard flap, and a zo-mm. hole under the starboard 
tank. It was such a hulk that no one considered keeping it, and they 
began to yell, "Come on, Cookie, pile out. Get your gunner out, too. 
We gotta heave this hunker-junk overboard." 

It was then that Cookie Cleland moved. He was out of his cockpit 
and on the wing root of his plane in nothing flat. "What did you say?" 
he demanded. 

"I can't help it, Cookie," the plane captain tried to explain. "This 
crate is worthless. There's no room for her. Come on, get clear." 

Cookie reached for his gun. "This plane stays aboard, mister. You 
heard me." 

The plane captain waved a hand, and walked away, as he agreed. 
"O.K. sir. If that is the way you want it, she stays aboard/' 

"You're damn' right she does," said Cookie. 

But there were more planes curling around, trying to get in. Prather 
darted from hulk to hulk, figuring how long it would take to get the 
crane up, and heave the junk overboard. Officers up on the island 
were begging for space and order. 

"Give me ten minutes," Prather pleaded. "Just ten minutes . . . 
maybe five!" 

When the runaway SB2C first hit, someone pulled a master switch 
up on the bridge and blacked out the carrier, mainly to warn other 
aircraft that the deck was "foul." The planes overhead were stamped- 
ing in maverick panic. On each side of the carrier aircraft were hissing 
past, only to pancake into the waves ahead. Another dropped nearby 
and sank. No one climbed out of that mess. The minutes were click- 
ing past. 

The lights aboard Lexington had been doused at 9:10. Exactly at 
9:20 they went on again and John Shuff saw a lone TBF sliding down 
the groove. By the time he had him lined up and steadied, six more 
came out of nowhere, edging in for space, and the mad stampede was 
on again. 

By 10:50 when a check-off concluded that every plane had landed, 


splashed over the side, or been shot down, the carriers moved back 
into cruising formation. Some idea of the carnage was then realized. 
The sea around reminded one sailor of a summer meadow with hun- 
dreds of fireflies carrying out their mating ceremonies. This impression 
was created by the dozens of pilots or crewmen who were swimming 
about or were huddled in rubber rafts, as they switched on and off 
their emergency flashlights. Others added to the pastoral scene by 
blowing boatswain's whistles, that came in clear and distinct with the 
evening's calm. 

Destroyers, flashing their eighteen-inch searchlights, soon spotted 
the rafts and swimmers, and Admiral Mitscher ordered most antisub- 
marine screening held up until all possible aid had been given the 
ditched airmen. All told, only sixteen pilots and thirty-three crewmen 
were lost as the result of the hectic night-recovery operation. Seven- 
teen Hellcats, thirty-five Helldivers, and twenty-eight Avengers were 
destroyed by deck crashes, or ditching near the task force. 

An amusing situation was created by Lieutenant Commander K. F. 
Musick, the torpedo squadron commander of Bunker Hill. Com- 
mander Musick had had to ditch on an earlier operational flight and 
had been rescued by the destroyer Hickox. This night he ditched again 
for the want of fuel, and was picked up by the same destroyer. To 
commemorate this "double" the destroyer's artist painted a caricature 
of Musick on the stack beside the insignia of planes shot down adding 
a "hashmark" to record the second rescue. 

Admiral Ozawa had as bad a time as Admiral Mitscher in getting 
his aircraft back. The Japanese carriers were not as well equipped for 
such night operations, and of the one hundred planes employed in 
attempting to hold off the American attackers, only thirty-five could 
be considered to be operational the next day. And with that, at Ad- 
miral Soemu Toyoda's order, the Japanese First Mobile Fleet put on 
all speed and retired. 

Admiral Spruance had ordered a stern chase, but it was not exactly 
a relentless one. The high speeds used over the previous two days 
had made serious inroads on the destroyers' fuel supplies, and further 
high-speed chase was impractical. The only logical reason for contin- 
ued pursuit was the hope of catching up with damaged vessels, or other 
ships that had been ordered to stand by. Our intelligence, however, - 
was none too specific, so Admiral Spruance steamed west at an ec- 
onomical speed. Several long-range search flights were sent out from 


Wasp and Bunker Hill, which also supplied air protection while 
ditched airmen were fished out of the sea, but they never got close 
enough to harass Ozawa's forces. Orders to break off and retire were 
given at 8:30 P.M. on June 21. The final searches were rewarded with 
the rescue of fifty-nine flying men who otherwise would have perished 
in the Philippine Sea. At the time Ozawa's Mobile Fleet was only 
three hundred miles from Okinawa. 
This was the nature of an aircraft-carrier battle. 



EVENTS in the Pacific moved at such a breathless pace, many people 
believed that the Japanese war was running out its skein. In less than 
four months an advance of more than one thousand miles had been 
made, and when it seemed that the Japanese Navy had received the 
coup de grace, General Douglas MacArthur began to champ at the 
military bit. He recalled his promise to the people of the Philippines 
and made plans to take Leyte, one of the central islands, and then 
move north to Luzon. President Roosevelt and Admiral Nimitz agreed 
to these plans, but when other responsible minds were consulted, they 
brought up new problems; the group of planners wondered, once Leyte 
had been secured, whether it would be wiser to make for the island of 
Formosa, rather than strike at Luzon. Admiral King had conceived a 
plan for taking Formosa, together with a beachhead at Amoy on con- 
tinental China. Such a move would have put American forces a long 
stride nearer the enemy's stronghold, than would the taking of Luzon. 

However, the Formosa plan could not be carried out with the man- 
power and facilities that were available. Formosa was in Admiral Nim- 
itz's area, which meant that he would have to furnish the troops and 
equipment for what would have been a major amphibious operation. 
At this time none were available, since operations on the European 
front were not going according to plan. General MacArthur argued 
that the Filipinos on Luzon would be of more use in the over-all cause 
than the hostile, or at best indifferent Formosans. 

After considerable high-level haggling it was agreed finally that the 
Leyte operation would kick off on October 20, 1944, and once that 
goal had been made General MacArthur would invade Luzon two 
months later, December 20. Admiral Nimitz would provide cover and 



Track of/ 
Admiral Ozawa/ 
until intercepted/ 
by Admiral Halsey/ 

/ / 



'Point from where 
Admiral Halsey steamed 
North to find Admiral 
Ozawa's force, leaving 
U.S. escort carrier 
group to mercy of 
Japanese big guns. 

Area where American 
light carriers were 
trapped by Japanese 
heavy cruiser force 
BAY were lost. 


OCTOBER 24,1944 



support in this Philippine thrust. He also promised to give further as- 
sistance by invading one or more islands of the Bonin-Volcano group 
by January 20, 1945, and optimistically said he would take Okinawa 
in the Ryukyus by March i of that year. 

The Battle of Leyte Gulf proved to be one of the greatest naval 
battles, but also was one of the most controversial engagements in the 
Pacific. It was fought in the maze of the Philippine Archipelago, churn- 
ing up an area of almost five hundred thousand square miles, and 
drawing on every element of naval power from submarines to carrier 
planes. In distances covered, tonnages involved, and casualties suf- 
fered, it made the Battle of Jutland seem like a harbor skirmish. It 
was the naval battle that finished the Japanese fleet. 

The battle for Leyte was initiated somewhat precipitously after our 
fast carriers, supported by the battleships of Admiral Halsey's fleet, 
had investigated and pounded Japanese bases from Mindanao to Lu- 
zon. U. S. Naval pilots flew over Manila Bay on September 21 and 
found the opposition most feeble, and our intelligence decided the 
time was ripe for an immediate invasion. A quick switch in strategy 
discarded the planned capture of Yap and the step-by-step moves to 
Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Instead an amphibious assault 
on Leyte in the central grouping was advanced by two months to 
October 20. 

Seven hundred U. S. vessels steamed for Leyte Gulf on October 
19. Only one Japanese plane was in the air to give battle. This lone 
pilot could do nothing against 151 LSTs, 58 transports, 221 LCTs, 
79 LCIs, and hundreds of auxiliary craft. By October 21, some 103,- 
ooo American troops had been landed with few casualties only three 
warships received any damage and General MacArthur had kept his 
word. He had returned. 

The Japanese were in an unenviable position. Admiral Soemu Toy- 
oda, commander-in-chief of the combined fleet, sent out word to "en- 
gage and conquer this enemy who enjoys the luxury of material 
resources." It was a ridiculous order, considering the fact that he was 
in no condition for another major engagement after the defeat in the 
Philippine Sea. Worse still, his fleet was divided and could not be 
concentrated immediately prior to battle. A few crippled carriers, some 
cruisers, and destroyers were still based in the Japanese Inland Sea. 
Admiral Kurita's First Division of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers 
was based in Lingga Anchorage near Singapore, convenient to its oil 


These factors, combined with the geography of the Philippines dic- 
tated the Japanese plan that had to be modified at the last minute 
when it was found that they had practically no carrier aviation avail- 
able. However, the Singapore force was ordered to steam northward 
toward Leyte, with a stop at Borneo to refuel, where it would split 
and the central group under Admiral Kurita, with five battleships, ten 
heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and fifteen destroyers, would head 
for San Bernardino Strait at night. The southern group, under Vice- 
Admiral Shoji Nishimura, with two battleships, one heavy cruiser, and 
four destroyers was to be joined at Surigao Strait by three more cruisers 
and four destroyers, under Vice-Admiral Kiyohide Shima, This flotilla 
was ordered to steam through Formosa Strait on a run from the home 
islands, and make one stop in the Pescadores. 

This combined force planned to surprise and attack the American 
armada in Leyte Gulf during the dawn of October 26. Unfortunately, 
as we know now, the Japanese carrier fleet had been reduced to one 
heavy and three light carriers, and these four flat-tops could put only 
one hundred aircraft into the sky, but Admiral Toyoda devised a smart 
ruse. He decided that this small carrier force, under Admiral Ozawa, 
was to steam directly toward Luzon and act as a deliberate decoy, and 
in that manner induce Admiral Halsey to give chase and forsake his 
job of covering the amphibious invasion of Leyte. As it turned out the 
idea paid off, and if it did not afford Toyoda a major victory, it did 
furnish fuel for controversy. 

Admiral Halsey, commanding eight large attack carriers, eight light 
carriers, six fast new battleships, fifteen cruisers, and fifty-eight destroy- 
ers, had been assigned to cover the support forces of the Southwest 
Pacific command in order to assist in the seizure and occupation of 
objectives in the Central Philippines. He was responsible to Admiral 
Nimitz, but "necessary measures for detailed co-operation of opera- 
tions between the Third and Seventh Fleets was to be arranged by 
their commanders." This chart-room phraseology, mystifying to the 
layman, must have been somewhat bewildering to all nautical experts 
when this multiangled action began. 

The Seventh Fleet, under Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, was made 
up chiefly of five old battleships that had been retrieved from the mud 
of Pearl Harbor, but it did have sixteen escort carriers, eight cruisers, 
and scores of destroyers, destroyer escorts, frigates, and motor torpedo 
boats. It was the Seventh's task to furnish shore bombardment and 


close air support for the Army, and antisubmarine and air defense for 
the amphibious forces. 

First blood was drawn by U.S.S. Darter when that submarine inter- 
cepted and torpedoed Admiral Kurita's heavy cruiser flagship, Atago. 
The cruiser Takao was also damaged by the same pigboat. Dace hit 
the cruiser Maya with four torpedoes, and the battle was on. Atago 
went down within twenty minutes, and Admiral Kurita moved over 
to the destroyer Kisinani, and later to the giant battleship Yamato. 
Maya blew up and sank in four minutes, but Takao, escorted by two 
destroyers, managed to slip back to Brunei in Borneo. 

Search planes were sent out from the decks of the American Third 
Fleet, and before Darter and the other subs could radio details of their 
exploits and the position of Admiral Kurita's force, the largest task 
group of the fleet, TG 38.1, under Vice-Admiral John S. McCain, was 
ordered to retire to Ulithi, an atoll between Guam and Peleliu, for 
rest and supplies. The remaining three task forces were spread over 
three hundred miles of ocean to the east of the Philippines from cen- 
tral Luzon to southern Samar. One of these had been tracked for hours 
by enemy snooper planes, but while American carrier aircraft moved 
out on similar reconnaissance missions, Admiral Kinkaid's ancient bat- 
tlewagons were still off Leyte, banging away in support of General 
MacArthur's invasion troops. 

About 7:45 on the morning of October 24, Lieutenant (jg) Max 
Adams, who was piloting a Helldiver, picked up a radar contact that 
turned out to be Kurita's attack force. With this warning the whole 
U. S. fleet was alerted and even McCain's task group was recalled. 
The Third Fleet turned its attention to San Bernardino Strait with 
intent to launch strikes against the enemy who was first seen at 8:20 
A.M. This was Admiral Nishimura's southern arm steaming on a course 
for Surigao. 

Aircraft off Enterprise bulled their way through a solid curtain of 
antiaircraft. The battleship Fuso's catapult was hit and all her availa- 
ble planes damaged beyond immediate repair. A serious fire broke 
out and took considerable effort to bring under control. A gun mount 
aboard the destroyer Shigure was blasted away, but Admiral Nishi- 
mura continued to order full speed ahead. At the same time Admiral 
Halsey was concentrating on the Japanese central force, known to be 
heading into San Bernardino Strait. Up till now there had been no 
morning search to the north or northeast, and Admiral Ozawa's decoy 
carriers, still steaming southward, were as yet undiscovered. 


Admiral Toyoda's neck-or-nothing plan was moving toward a dra- 
matic climax. Japanese land-based planes that flew out of Philippine 
bases furiously assaulted the Seventh and Third Fleets. Langley, 
Princeton, Essex, and Lexington, north of Luzon, took the brunt of 
this determined fire that required comparable resistance to extinguish. 
Seven Hellcats off Essex, led by Commander David S. McCampbell, 
intercepted sixty Japanese planes, half of which were Zeke fighters. 
After a melee of more than ninety minutes twenty-four of these enemy 
planes were destroyed with no losses on the American side. Airmen off 
Princeton claimed thirty-four more, while pilots off Langley and Lex- 
ington, not to be outdone, made similar claims, which indicated that 
the caliber of Japanese airmen was rapidly deteriorating. 

But eventually the Japanese scored a "kill," and again proved that 
if you drop enough bombs, something will be hit. While a formation 
of Princeton's Hellcats was being recovered that morning, a lone Judy 
glide bomber that had been skulking in a muffin of cloud, decided this 
was the time for glory, and with rare skill and courage planted a 550- 
pound bomb on Princeton's flight deck. The missile bore in on the 
port side, drilled through three decks and exploded in the bakeshop, 
where every man working there was killed instantly. 

The blast then mushroomed through the hangar deck, and started 
several serious gasoline fires. Fed by fuel spurting from the supply 
lines, these flames raced to where six TBFs stood with their bomb-bay 
doors open. The flames licked up into the fuselages and detonated 
the torpedoes that had been loaded for the next take-off; these missiles 
exploded one by one, and hurled the forward elevator mast high. The 
great platform seemed to float in mid-air, and then fell back into the 
pit, a tangled pile of wrenched steel. The after elevator also went up, 
but this platform was folded over and slapped down on the flight deck. 

At 10:10 Salvage Control Phase i was ordered, which meant that 
all but 490 damage-control men were to abandon ship. Within ten 
minutes Phase 2 was set, which would have left 250 men aboard. 

A beautiful morning sun had come out to look down on this trag- 
edy, a light breeze was blowing, and some ground swell was noted. 
The carrier had almost come to a halt with her bow into the wind 
and most of her crew gathered well forward to take shelter from the 
explosion area. At 9:53 Admiral Sherman had ordered three destroy- 
ers to move in and stand by. The Irwin tried to get up to Princeton's 


forecastle, but the carrier's gun sponsons prevented the destroyer from 
moving in closer than thirty feet. 

A period of almost panic ensued; many sailors jumped overboard 
or went down the lifelines off the flight deck into the water. They 
then attempted to swim the narrow gap to Irwin's cargo nets that were 
lashed to the destroyer's hull. It was difficult going, even for strong 
swimmers, for the concentric wave action between the two vessels 
threw the men about like plastic toys in a child's bath. A few struggled 
across the gap only to be snatched away by the devilment of the 
waves. At times seven or eight sailors would be seen on top of a wave 
bulge, all snatching at the same section of net, where it was the 
survival of the fittest, as the stronger climbed over the weaker. A num- 
ber of men drowned in this vortex, but many managed to clamber 
to safety. A few kept their heads and allowed the waves to carry them 
well aft where they were picked up by other boats at least those who 
evaded the sharks. 

The members of Princeton's black gang worked their way up from 
below and some managed to climb over to the destroyer's bow, a very 
difficult feat as both bows were rising and falling over a vertical gap 
of three to ten feet. 

The cruiser Birmingham, commanded by Captain Thomas B. 
Inglis, next moved in to pick up men, afford antiaircraft protection, 
and to assist the stricken carrier. Hoses were passed and a volunteer 
party, under Lieutenant Allen Reed, climbed on board to lend assist- 
ance to the damage-control crew who were still fighting the several 

The destroyer Morrison, darting in and out like a disturbed mother 
hen, snatched up more than four hundred survivors, and then steamed 
up to the lee side of Princeton to return a number of engineers to aid 
in damage control and fire-fighting. In that position she was smothered 
with smoke from the fires and many of the men were almost asphyxi- 
ated. Then her foremast and stack became wedged between two of 
Princeton's uptakes and were crushed and mangled when heavy 
debris, loose vehicles, and broken equipment tumbled down in a 
noisy avalanche. It required considerable hauling and tugging by the 
destroyer Irwin to free Morrison from the torrent of broken jeeps, 
tractors, and mobile derricks. 

In the midst of this confusion another air raid was signaled, and 
the destroyer Reno which had moved in close to pass fire hoses, had 
to scamper out and take up antiaircraft offense again. The Bz'rmmg- 


ham's crew which was almost exhausted by its effort to save the 
carrier, was warned that an enemy submarine might possibly be ma- 
neuvering nearby, so it had to unhook everything and move off. 

The threatened air attack was broken up by a formation of Hellcats 
from Lexington long before they had come into the Princeton's area. 
Another large formation of Judy dive bombers came through but 
made only ineffectual passes against Lexington, Essex, and LangLey. 

When the air probe had been driven off and the submarine report 
proved to be false, Birmingham moved in again to fight the fire and 
provide a tow. All these well-meant plans were being carried out by 
3:25 and the big cruiser was just nudging in when a tremendous ex- 
plosion tore away Princeton's stern. The entire aft section of the flight 
deck went up like a great wall and fell back, a tangled heap of wreck- 
age. The torpedoes and bombs in the aft section were sizzled by the 
heat and exploded, raining death and destruction on the Birmingham. 
It was one of the most horrible spectacles in naval history. 

When the flight deck went up there were dozens of men preparing 
to pass hoses, fight fires, and man the antiaircraft guns. In seconds 
the deck area, or what was left of it, was a chopping block of dead, 
dying, and wounded. Most of the men were badly torn by the blast, 
some bodies were hurled up to the communications platform, blood 
streamed down the scuppers and waterways, yet tradition and disci- 
pline rose to the occasion. Men with stumps for arms tried to help 
men with no legs, some attempted to crawl away to throw themselves 
overboard, one man muttered: "Don't waste morphine on me, just 
crack me on the head." Some with dreadful head wounds, thumbed 
the blood out of their eyes and attempted to aid others. More than 
two hundred sailors lay dead in the wreckage. 

When first-aid workers made their way below decks, one of the 
chaplains was already turning a wardroom into an emergency hospital. 
In a short time the space was jammed with wounded or dying men. 
A few corpsmen struggled to bring order out of this bloody confusion, 
and as morphine gradually slowed down the pain, more advanced care 
was possible. Those who were able to stand, wrote out identification 
cards and lists required for burial of the dead. Others, tottering and 
weaving, held up plasma bottles. 

The cruiser Birmingham was only slightly damaged, but her casu- 
alties were high. She had, however, set a good example in several new 
fire-fighting drills which were put to excellent use later on when 
Bunker Hill and Franklin were hit. Birmingham was ordered to bury 


her dead and pull out. She steamed to the United States under her 
own power and was repaired in time to take part in the Okinawa en- 
gagement the following March. 

Princeton had no such luck. Her hull was seaworthy, but there was 
no other available vessel equipped to tow her. Loss of water pressure 
prevented flooding the gasoline storage areas, and by 8 P.M. Captain 
W. H. Buracker ordered everyone over the side, and abandoned ship. 
Realizing that the situation was hopeless, Admiral Sherman ordered 
her to be sunk. The destroyer Irwin, which was burdened with some 
six hundred survivors, was given the job. Standing off a mile away, her 
first torpedo caught Princeton's bow, the second was a miss, the third 
porpoised, broached and ran wild, turning back to chase Irwin. By 
putting on flank speed and hard-left rudder, the captain managed to 
dodge this renegade, which passed less than thirty feet on a parallel 
course. The next torpedoes were wild misses, the sixth started off 
clean, and then turned suddenly and came hissing at Irwin exactly as 
the third had done. Once the destroyer had evaded that rogue, the 
task group commander decided that Irwin had had enough, and as- 
signed Reno to finish the job. This destroyer had quadruple tubes, 
and she went in close for the kill. Her first two "tin fish" bored into 
Princeton's hull directly under the forward gasoline tank and more 
than 100,000 gallons of fuel went up in flames, ripping the carrier to 
blackened junk. She went down in a 27oo-fathom deep, about eighty- 
five miles northeast of the Polillo Islands in the Luzon area. Although 
her casualties were less than half those of Birmingham, she had seven 
dead, 290 wounded, and 101 missing. 

While October 24 was a sad day for Princeton, Admiral Kurita was 
also taking his bumps. It will be remembered that he had moved his 
flag to Yamato, and shortly after midnight his center force moved into 
Mindoro Strait. A search plane from Admiral Gerald F. Bogan's 
TG 38.2 picked it up early that morning, and this resulted in the 
air-surface battle of the Sibuyan Sea. 

The Intrepid and Cabot launched a covey of fighters, dive bombers 
and torpedo planes, but this strike was hampered by heavy antiair- 
craft fire and a second mixed formation was sent away. In the mean- 
time Helldivers and Avengers from Lexington and Essex took off, 
and before the day was over more than 250 sorties were made against 
the center force. Kurita had little air cover and had to rely on anti- 


aircraft fire from every available battery. As a result only eighteen 
American planes were shot down during these hours of attack. 

The battleship Musashi was heavily damaged by planes from 
Cabot and Intrepid, and had to fall astern to be escorted by the 
cruiser Tone. Bombers and torpedo planes from every American car- 
rier in the area pounded at the enemy battleship over the next few 
hours, and eventually she heeled over and went down at 7:35 P.M., 
taking 112 officers and 984 men with her. 

Yamato and Nagato suffered two severe bomb hits, and Haruna was 
damaged by a storm of near misses, but none of the hits was severe 
enough to eliminate the Japanese vessels from further fighting. 

The heavy cruiser Myoko received a torpedo in her stern that dam- 
aged two of her shafts, and she had to limp away and head for Brunei. 
This was too much, and Admiral Kurita decided to withdraw until 
Japanese land-based aircraft could make the situation less hazardous, 
but this decision upset the over-all plan since it was no longer possible 
for the center and southern forces to meet inside Leyte Gulf by dawn. 

Although fortune seemed to be smiling on the American forces, Ad- 
miral Halsey felt that the picture kcked something vital; all this action 
going on everywhere, but no trace of any enemy carriers. The northern 
task force had been under attack by enemy carrier-type planes, but this 
fact proved little. They might have been flown from land bases. If 
there were any carriers in the enemy fleet, where were they? By 7:50 
that night Admiral Halsey informed Admiral Kinkaid that he was 
pulling out to proceed north with his three groups to search for the 
Japanese carrier force. 

This left San Bernardino Strait uncovered, an area where Admiral 
Shima's 2nd Striking Force and Admiral Nishimura's Force C planned 
to rendezvous. Admiral Kurita trusted that they would be there by 
eleven the next morning or shortly after Admiral Halsey hoped to be 
engaging a fleet of Japanese carriers. We now know that Halsey went 
north, believing many of the exaggerated reports concerning the dam- 
age inflicted on Kurita's fleet. He presumed that the main force had 
been sunk, or at least driven home. At the same time Admiral Kin- 
kaid, burdened with protecting the ships and personnel of the Leyte 
invasion, was, until the very last minute, under the impression that 
Halsey would stay around Leyte Gulf to handle the Japanese rendez- 
vous there. 

Admiral Shima, who was steaming down the western side of Luzon 
with his 2nd Striking Force, believed that he would have a picnic mop- 


ping up what was left of the U. S. task force after Kurita had worked 
it over. Unfortunately, Kurita had not told of his plight, and instead 
Shima found himself hours behind Nishimura, and realized that he 
would have to take his slim force through the dangerous waters south- 
west of Panay and Negros Islands with little or no air cover. 

From this point on everything began to go haywire. Rear Admiral 
Jesse B. Oldendorf set out a beautiful trap for Nishimura. First, he sent 
thirty PT boats to the southern entrance of Surigao Strait, and then 
deployed across the Leyte Gulf end of the strait everything he had avail- 
able from submarines to the "ghost" ships that had been resurrected 
from the bottom of Pearl Harbor. It was inevitable that Admiral 
Nishimura would sail into the cauldron of disaster. 

The little PT boats put on an ambush late in the evening of October 
24, but Nishimura's gunfire drove them off. A destroyer flotilla, under 
Captain Jesse G. Coward, fired thirty torpedoes at the Japanese, and 
then escaped under its own smoke. At 3:10 the destroyers McDermut 
and Monssen launched twenty more torpedoes and sneaked away. The 
Fuso was hit and floundered helplessly, the destroyer Michishio was 
badly damaged, and all the rest of the way along Surigao Strait the 
American "small boys*' hammered at the force and evaded the return 
fire, but Nishimura continued doggedly on. Four torpedoes drilled into 
the battleship Yamashiro; these were deep-running "fish" that broke 
Yamashiro's back and she sank in fifteen minutes. 

Admiral Nishimura still plunged on with the cruiser Mogami and 
two destroyers, ordering a continuation of his "attack/ 7 which took 
them under the guns of another U. S. destroyer squadron that 
donated more torpedoes and sneaked away without being hit in re- 

Their place was taken by three other destroyers, A. W. Grant, R. P. 
Leary, and Newcomb, and in attacking from ahead through broiling 
waters and the smoke that billowed in the narrows between Dinagat 
Island and Leyte the three "tin cans" found themselves surrounded 
by dozens of ships. The blips on their radar screens hopped about like 
trapped flies and no one knew where to direct the fire until it was 
noticed that heavy cannonading came from vessels shifting from a 
northerly to a westerly course. This had to be the enemy and the three 
destroyers turned westward to run a parallel course. Once in position, 
spreads of torpedoes were fired and the Japanese destroyer Asagumo 

Now the American "tin cans" had to retire from the heavy gunfire 


of the enemy, and had the questionable choice of churning up the 
middle of the strait, or turning west and then proceeding along the 
Leyte shoreline. If they went up the middle they possibly would come 
under the heavy guns of their own battleships or cruisers, so they de- 
cided on the lesser of the two evils or so they thought. After a short 
dash to the west, they turned northward and came under double salvos 
from Japanese and American big guns. The last in the column, A. W. 
Grant received a terrible blow. 

The explosion created a serious situation and Commander T. A. 
Nisewaner ordered all torpedoes fired, to get rid of them, but before 
they could be cleared other shells struck the wallowing destroyer. 
Seven Japanese 47-inch shells and eleven American six-inch armor- 
piercing loads hit her. Fires broke out, explosions roared in all sections 
of the little sea greyhound, men were cut down and unmercifully 
butchered, but A. W. Grant remained afloat and was finally towed out 
of Surigao Strait. 

By 3:01 A.M., October 25, Nishimura's battered force still steamed 
on, but within half an hour his flagship Yamashiro was hit. The de- 
stroyer Yamagamo had been sunk, and two other destroyers were run- 
ning in circles with their rudder controls shot away. Nevertheless, 
Admiral Nishimura issued his last command: "You are to proceed and 
attack all enemy ships!'* 

The battleship Fuso, the cruiser Mogami, and the destroyer Shig- 
ure, in a pathetic effort to comply, churned on toward Leyte Gulf. 
At 4 A.M. the Yamashiro burst into flames, and spewed a wild confu- 
sion of pyrotechnics, and then another torpedo caught her magazine. 
She seemed to tear apart, and the battleship flying Nishimura's flag 
went down. 

Ft/so carried a similar ticket. She headed straight into the guns of 
America's "ghost fleet." These reprisal vessels, steaming back and 
forth across the mouth of the strait, belched concentrated broadsides. 
Both Fuso and Mogami stumbled into a hell-hail of shells and the 
battleship drifted helplessly and then suddenly burst into an inferno 
and finally went to the bottom. Mogami was also burning, but man- 
aged to turn away. She was finished off later with the other cripples. 
The destroyer Shigure miraculously evaded the torrent of steel, owing 
to her speed, and slipped off through the smoke and escaped. The 
captain was so relieved at being spared after all he had witnessed, 
that he forgot to warn Admiral Shima who had been following Nishi- 
mura in. All he reported was: *I am having rudder trouble." 


Not being advised of anything more serious than steering problems, 
Shima plunged on into the strait, took one look, fired a handful of 
torpedoes, and turned around. He then sailed his flagship Nachi smack 
into the burning hulk of Mogftmi which had come suddenly out of 
the battle murk, but luck was with Admiral Shima. He backed off, got 
his bow all the way around, put on every pound of steam he had, and 
headed for the Mindanao Sea and naval obscurity. 

At dawn that October 25 Admiral Ozawa's decoy force was east- 
ward of Cape Engano. He was spotted by American planes at 7:12, and 
although he had but a handful of aircraft left, he gave it a final try. 
But it was a hopeless gesture for with little air opposition, Halsey's 
carrier planes could pick and choose their targets. The enemy carrier 
Chiyoda was soon hit. The Chitose, another flat-top, was hammered 
from above and below and sent up columns of smoke. She wallowed 
to a stop and began to list. The light cruiser Tama was neatly tor- 
pedoed and soon limped in erratic spurts of speed. The destroyer 
Akitsuki blew up from a salvo of air bombs, the light carrier Zuiho 
was hit, and Admiral Ozawa's flagship, Zuikaku took a torpedo aft, 
which eliminated her steering engine, and she had to be guided by 

A second strike by American carrier planes crippled Chiyoda, and 
she slobbered to a halt where she lay a practice target for U. S. surface 
vessels. Another strike early that afternoon finished Zuikaku, which 
had taken part in the Pearl Harbor attack. She rolled over slowly and 
went to the bottom. The carrier Zuiho followed her down at 3:57, but 
there were two more fat targets left the Hyuga and Ise, dual-purpose 
battleships with sections of flight deck aft. These ships were bombed 
savagely, and their decks were ripped out. Torpedoes fanged into their 
safety bulges, near misses buckled great sections of hull, and the port 
catapult aboard Ise was blown away, but these vessels bore charmed 
lives and survived. 

When Admiral Ozawa's flagship was going down, he transferred his 
flag to the cruiser Oyodo, gathered what cripples were left, and hur- 
ried out of the Cape Engano area. He had had a bad time. Like all 
decoy groups, some sacrifice has to be made for any success enjoyed. 
Ozawa eventually lost four carriers, one of his cruisers, and two of his 
eight destroyers, but he had accomplished his mission. 

Admiral Halsey had left San Bernardino Strait unguarded, and Ad- 
miral Kurita moved like a hawk among the chickens. 


Samar, one of the islands of the Philippine group, is best known 
today for the famous Battle of Samar, in which the baby flat-tops, or 
escort carriers, won their spurs. Task Group 77.4, under Rear Admiral 
Thomas L. Sprague, was carrying out a routine midwatch offshore 
while Admiral Oldendorf was engaged in the Surigao Strait debacle. 
Sprague's force was divided into three task groups, known at the time 
as Taffies Taffy i, Taffy 2, and Taffy 3 for radio and communica- 
tions convenience. Among them they had the light carriers Sangamon, 
Suwannee, Santee, Petrof Bay, Natona Bay, Manila Bay, Fanshaw 
Bay, St. Lo, White Plains, and Kdinin Bay. A special carrier division, 
under Rear Admiral W. D. Semple, was made up of the light carriers 
Marcus Island, Kadashan Bay, Savo Island, and Ommaney Bay. Rear 
Admiral R. A. Ofstie had command of Kitkun Bay and Gambler Bay. 
All of this carrier force was screened by more than twenty destroyers 
or destroyer escorts. 

We now see clearly how Admiral Halsey had been lured out to take 
care of Admiral Ozawa's decoy force, and Task Group 774 was left 
to cany out routine air searches. No one on the American side had any 
idea that Admiral Kurita's "beaten force" would continue on and still 
look for a fight. Obviously, some of the earlier success had been exag- 
gerated, a point used later by Admiral Halsey when he was under heavy 
criticism. But within seven hours after breaking off against Admiral 
Bogan's Task Group 38.2, and presumably out of the fight, Kurita had 
collected his cripples and steamed on for nearly 135 miles, completely 

Early that morning he was well within American radar surveillance 
long before he was spotted by visual lookouts. On the other hand, 
Kurita made little profit from his surprise, for when he first came upon 
the U. S. Navy ships he was not able to identify them, and for a time 
believed that he had joined Admiral Ozawa's carrier force. 

On the American side disbelief, amazement, and consternation 
reigned, for the silhouettes were recognized immediately. These enemy 
ships were supposed to be -west of the Philippines, and Admiral Halsey 
with his fast battleships and attack carriers was somewhere north off 
Cape Engano. All that stood between Admiral Kurita and the U. S. 
transports, supply ships, the amphibious craft in Leyte Gulf, the Army 
headquarters and their supply dumps on the beach were the CVE 
baby flat-tops. Some old-timers said: "CVE combustible, vulnerable, 
and expendable!" They were built on merchant hulls, carried very little 
armor, mounted only five-inch guns to protect themselves, and could 


accommodate less than thirty planes. In this particular action they 
were intended only for air support of ground operations ashore, anti- 
submarine operations, and minor air-defense missions. 

Within five minutes the Yamato was lobbing over eighteen-inch 
shells while Admiral Sprague endeavored to get every available plane 
off the jeep-carrier decks. White Plains was damaged by near misses, 
and her starboard engine room went out, electric circuits were broken, 
and one fighter plane was lifted off its chocks and hurled across the 
flight deck. The enemy then switched to Si. Lo and more near misses 
and fragments caused severe damage. 

The tin-can carriers tried to make smoke for each other, and for a 
few minutes this trick worked. Most of the aircraft were launched 
safely. They carried small-sized anti-personnel bombs or depth charges 
that were designed for their normal missions. There was no time to 
rearm with bombs that would even damage battleships. Admiral 
Kinkaid aboard Wasatch in Leyte Gulf realized the worst had hap- 
pened when he received the news. He did what he could and asked 
for battleship support from wherever it could be sent. In Hawaii, Ad- 
miral Nimitz, who was warned of the probable disaster, radioed Ad- 
34? The first six words of the message were obviously padding to help 
in code security, but unfortunately it was later presumed to be criti- 
cism of Admiral Halsey. 

Kinkaid's appeal fulminated action in Leyte Gulf and along the 
Surigao Strait, but the battleships were a long way off, their crews 
were worn and weary, and the ships needed ammunition and fuel. In 
the meantime, off Samar, Admiral Sprague was fighting for his life. 

The jeep-carriers steamed to the east under Admiral Kinkaid's or- 
ders. The enemy had them within 25,000 yards range, an easy distance 
for their heavy guns, and the American five-inchers were completely 
outdistanced. But heroics were the order of the day. The destroyer 
Johnston moved in at thirty knots to launch a spread of torpedoes, and 
escaped being damaged until she was making the run back when a 
salvo of fourteen-inchers and six-inch shells beat her to fragments. 
She limped away at less than sixteen knots, and a heavy weather squall 
came up which proved a temporary sanctuary. 

At 8 A.M. Admiral Kurita sent some of his faster ships seaward to 
head off and flank the CVEs. Admiral Sprague had little choice, lie 
ordered another destroyer attack, and Heenrutnn, Hod, and the bat- 
tered Johnston answered the call Johnston had no torpedoes left, but 


her skipper, Commander Ernest E. Evans, argued that they had some 
five-inch ammunition to fire, so these three little vessels went out on a 
daylight attack against the heaviest available ships of the Japanese 

But the speedy destroyers made the most of every bit of weather 
squall; they covered each other with black smoke, or ejected chemical 
smoke from their fantails. As they raced in, coursing like greyhounds, 
they could hear the thunder of fourteen-inchers roaring overhead. 
They fired torpedo spreads at a heavy cruiser, slammed five-inch salvos 
at the superstructure of a battleship, and stayed there until there was 
nothing left to fire. 

Commander Amos T. Hathaway, skipper of Heermann, calmly 
called Admiral Sprague on the TBS telephone between ships and 
reported: "Exercise completed, sir/' 

That report turned out to be a naval classic, for the destroyers were 
"completed'* too. Hoel had lost her port engine and was being steered 
manually. Her decks were scarlet with blood, fire control and power 
were off, and what few men were left alive tried their best to save her, 
but scalding steam, power failures, and the continued raking fire by 
the enemy ended her fight. She was abandoned at 8:40 when she had 
a twenty-degree list, and went down fifteen minutes later. 

The situation was equally grave aboard Heermann; dozens of men 
were killed or wounded, but Commander Hathaway skillfully fish- 
tailed his ship away under a storm of shells and escaped. The gallant 
Johnston, still bold and impudent, sneaked in to fire her pop-guns, but 
she was soon sighted and an avalanche of enemy metal, enough to 
capsize her by its sheer weight, sent her to bottom shortly after Hoel 
went down. 

Undaunted by this, four slower escort destroyers, Raymond, John 
C. Butler, Dennis, and Samuel B. Roberts sailed in for their chunk 
of glory. Dennis soon had her guns knocked out, but Samuel B. Rob- 
erts came out of the smoke of battle and fired a few rounds, and then 
went down under the weight of enemy fire; only Raymond and John C. 
Butler crawled out of the inferno. 

All this heroism and gallantry were not enough, for Admiral Kurita, 
sniffing victory, sent his cruisers seaward to intercept the lumbering 
flat-tops. Wounded and crippled, they were strung out miles apart, 
and all making a desperate effort to get to Leyte Gulf where succor 
might be possible. The Fanshaw Bay was hit by six bad blasts from 
eight-inch shells, and caught fire. Kalinin Bay was battered with fifteen 


direct hits. White Plains, although raked from stem to stern, enjoyed a 
strange twist of fortune. Her thin-skinned hull was not solid enough 
to detonate the enemy armor-piercing projectiles and they bored clean 
through without detonating. Gambier Bay, which was lumbering 
along in an area unaffected by the smoke screens received a direct hit 
on her flight deck, and a near miss alongside, the force of which 
halted an engine. Her half speed soon dropped to a mere wallow where 
she was caught cold. She took a shell a minute over the next half hour, 
and finally went down when a Japanese cruiser, standing off at two 
thousand yards, riddled her mercilessly. 

Although he had a great naval victory within his grasp, Admiral 
Kurita suddenly broke off at 9:25 A.M., and turned his ships to the 
north, and ended the surface phase of the Battle of Samar. 

The rest of that day and over most of the next, American air and 
naval forces hammered at what remained of Admiral Toyoda's fleet. 
Enemy land-based planes tried to hold the line, and in sheer despera- 
tion the Japanese launched a number of kamikaze planes, one of which 
sank the carrier St. Lo, but American air attack later sank the famous 
Tone as she tried to sneak back through San Bernardino Strait. U. S. 
surface forces intercepted and sank the destroyer Nowaki, and the next 
day, October 26, the destroyer Noshiro was sunk. A cruiser, Abukuma 
and the destroyer Hayashimo were trapped and eliminated, while the 
monstrous Yamato, armed with eighteen-inch guns, was again hit 
twice, and had her superstructure blasted to wreckage. 

What was left of Admiral Toyoda's fleet crept back to Brunei Bay. 
He had lost one large and three light aircraft carriers, three battleships 
including one of the two largest in the world, six heavy cruisers, four 
light cruisers, and eleven destroyers. Between 7500 and 10,000 Jap- 
anese seamen had died. Leyte Gulf was a blow from which the enemy 
did not recover. 

The United States lost 2803 men, several hundred aircraft, one light 
carrier, two escort carriers, and the gallant destroyers that had fought 
so well to turn the tide of battle at a critical time. 

Smoke was still billowing up from the Leyte Gulf conflict when the 
forces that were assigned to the Luzon landings, left Leyte. Con- 
cerned about the plans for the recapture of the Philippines, the Navy 
admirals gathered for a conference with General MacArthur on Hol- 
landia. The Army chief belittled the possibility of Japanese air opposi- 
tion over Leyte and the Central Visayans, despite the fact that both 


Army and Navy aviation experts had warned him that it was unlikely 
that this opposition could be eliminated by December 5. For good 
or evil, nothing would move MacArthur's determination to keep his 
original date. 

While this conference was in session Japanese kamikaze aircraft 
were battering Allied shipping in Leyte Gulf, and when the final de- 
tails of the proposed attacks were considered closely, it was apparent 
that the original target dates would have to be postponed. MacArthur 
finally agreed to set back the Mindoro operation to December 1 5, and 
the Lingayen landings to January 9, 1945. 

The Divine Wind activity of the suicide planes became more threat- 
ening with each day, and Vice-Admiral John S. McCain, who had 
relieved Admiral Mitscher as commander of Task Force 38, knew that 
he had inherited many problems. The kamikazes were so determined 
and deadly during the final strike of the Leyte campaign that all hands 
realized that the mop-up would not be a practice milk-run. 

The carrier Hancock was set afire on her flight deck when a wing 
and part of a disintegrated suicide plane piled up and exploded. The 
light carrier Cabot was damaged by the explosion of a near miss. Essex 
was also hit, but had only superficial damage. 

The kamikazes were not one hundred per cent lethal, but one in 
every four found a good target and racked up some damage, and one in 
every thirty-three sank a ship. In his report covering the periods of 
October 27-30, and November 9 to December 15, 1944, Admiral Hal- 
sey stated: "One fact is becoming increasingly evident. The Japanese 
air command, profiting by bitter experiences, has at last evolved a 
sound defensive plan against carrier attacks. He has co-ordinated and 
centralized his command responsibilities, but decentralized and dis- 
persed his air forces, taking advantage of dispersal opportunities he 
had previously rejected." 

Admiral McCain's first countermeasure was to reorganize Task 
Force 38 into three, instead of four, task groups, each consisting of 
a larger number of carriers, supported by a heavier screen. For exam- 
ple, these fast carrier groups were made up as follows : 

TG 38.1 TG 38.2 TG 38.3 

CV Yorfetoivn CV Lexington CV Essex 

CV Wasp CV Hancock CV Ticonderoga 

CVL Cowpens CV H met C VL Langley 

CVL Monterey CVL Independence CVL San Jacinto 

CVL Cabot 


Battleships: Battleships: Battleships: 

Massachusetts New Jersey North Carolina 

Alabama Iowa Washington 

Wisconsin South Dakota 

Cruisers: Cruisers: Cruisers: 

San Francisco Pasadena Mobile 

Baltimore Astoria Biloxi 

New Orleans Vincennes Santa Fe 

Miami . Oakland 

Cruisers: (antiaircraft) San Juan 
San Diego 

Eighteen destroyers Twenty destroyers Eighteen destroyers 

The Franklin, Intrepid, and Belleau Wood were undergoing major 
repairs, and the "Big E" and Independence were being refitted for 
nighttime operations, but a number of new Ess^x-class carriers were 
due to join the fleet shortly. 

Admiral McCain, who was reputed to be an expert in the handling 
of aircraft carriers, was assisted ably by Rear Admiral Wilder D. Baker 
and Captain James Thach, members of his staff. These three put their 
heads together to formulate important tactical innovations to foil the 
kamikaze attacks. First, radar picket destroyers equipped with the lat- 
est in electronic gear and aircraft homing devices were to be stationed 
sixty miles out on each side of the target-bearing line. Their duty was 
to give advance warning of enemy aircraft approaching the carrier 
groups. Planes returning from previous strikes would then make a full 
turn over the picket ships to "de-louse" themselves of any kamikaze 
planes that might have joined the returning formation of U. S. Navy 
aircraft. This separation was to be effected by aerial specialists flying 
a combat-air patrol over the destroyers. This also helped in keeping 
the radar screens clear of friendly aircraft over the line of the most 
probable enemy approach. For instance, if any aircraft adopted any 
but the standard approach, they were identified quickly for what they 

Another important consideration was a change in the complement 
of aircraft to be carried by the big flat-tops. Previously each Essex- 
class usually carried thirty-eight fighters, thirty-six dive bombers, and 
eighteen torpedo bombers. Under this new plan they would have 
seventy-three fighters, fifteen dive bombers, and fifteen torpedo bomb- 
ers. The idea here was that McCain had had his Hellcat and Corsair 
fighters turned into all-purpose planes; now they could carry up to 
two thousand pounds of bombs and fly a bombing mission unes- 


corted, they could intercept enemy strikes, or fly combat-air patrols. 
All this added materially to the carriers' effectiveness. With this re- 
vamped force, Task Force 38 was able to throw a blanket-cover of 
fighters over the Luzon airfields day and night, which kept the enemy 
aircraft pinned down and halted their attacks on the Mindoro con- 
voys. During the short intervals when fighter formations were being 
relieved, the carrier bombers would sneak in and cut up the airstrips 
and grounded planes. In these operations 270 Japanese planes were 
destroyed, 208 of which were wiped out while in their dispersal bays. 

Many other enemy planes were victims of two smart interceptions, 
the first taking place on December 14 when eight fighters from Tzcon- 
deroga that were making their last sweep of the day came upon 
twenty-seven Nakajima fighters and Zeros off the northeast coast of 
Luzon. In this scramble the U. S. Navy pilots claimed to have sent 
down twenty enemy planes, and not one American plane brought back 
a bullet hole. Again on December 16 during the first patrol of the day 
off the decks of the Lexington and Hancock eleven Japanese aircraft 
were spotted headed for the task force, but within a very short time 
every one was down in the sea. 

From this it was apparent, as Admiral McCain stated later, that 
"the offensive air strength of tie fast carriers had to be spread to cover 
the enemy in his large island systems and land-mass dispersions/' At 
the same time the force found it necessary to concentrate its defense 
to a degree never considered necessary before. Previous to the innova- 
tion of suicide attacks, destruction of 80 or 90 per cent was consid- 
ered an eminent success. Now 100 per cent destruction of the attackers 
was necessary to maintain the safety of the task force. These new offen- 
sive and defensive requirements, always in conflict, made immediate 
and sound compromise the continual task of the force commander. 

The success of this new planning renewed Admiral Halsey's hope 
to make his long-desired raid into the South China Sea where what 
vessels were left, or had escaped from the Leyte Gulf battle, had 
sought shelter. But both Admirals King and Nimitz thought that our 
land-based aviation at Leyte was not as yet strong enough to risk mov- 
ing the carriers from positions where they could cover Luzon, and so 
withheld their consent. It turned out to be an unfortunate decision, 
for before Task Force 38 could make any definite move it encountered 
the famous typhoon, the worst storm of the year in the Philippine 

Possibly nothing equal to this disaster has ever been suffered by any 


modern navy. Tremendous losses in all classes of vessels were en- 
dured. The U.S.S. Spence and U.S.S. Monaghan, noted destroyers, 
were lost. Other destroyers were severely damaged and were lucky to 
ride out this mad typhoon. Stacks were torn out, complete bridge 
structures were hacked off, and many foremasts were knocked down. 
High winds cut down radio and radar antennas so that much of the 
inter-communication was lost, making it impossible to maintain sta- 
tion. Damaged ships of the Third Fleet were scattered all over the 

The carriers had to be deployed for safety, and by the afternoon of 
December 18, Task Force 38 and its attendant fueling groups were dis- 
persed over an area estimated at fifty to sixty miles. Every ship was 
laboring heavily, few were in visual contact, and many could only lie 
dead, battered in the violent troughs of the sea, as their aircraft crashed 
about, or burned themselves to hulks as the result of the heavy 
weather. No carrier man had ever seen the like before. The rain was 
so heavy that visibility was almost nil. The light carriers stood up on 
their fantails or plunged their bows into the wild waters. To get about 
the decks men had to crawl along safety lines. One hundred degree arcs 
were standard performances. Planes that had been lashed to the decks, 
broke their bonds, yanked out the hold-down lugs, and slithered up 
and down. They collided with others and burst into flames. The 
Monterey caught fire and lost steerageway a few minutes later. The 
blaze was finally doused, but her skipper, Captain Stuart H. Ingersoll, 
let her lie dead until temporary repairs could be made. Monterey lost 
eighteen planes before the nightmare was over; some were burned on 
the hangar deck, and others blown overboard. Sixteen aircraft were 
seriously damaged, three of her 20-mm. guns were lost and the whole 
ventilation system was disrupted. 

The carrier Cowpens had seven planes blown overboard. Langley 
pitched and rolled through seventy degrees which injured a number 
of crewmen and broke up valuable equipment. A fighter airplane went 
adrift on the San Jacinto and before it could be pinned down again it 
had wrecked seven other aircraft. Fires broke out on the flight deck 
of the Cape Esperance but were doused quickly. The Kwajalein had 
a maximum roll of thirty-nine degrees, her port catwalks scooped up 
water, and three of her aircraft had to be jettisoned from the flight 
deck. Three other escort carriers lost a total of eighty-six aircraft, but 
other than that escaped with little material damage to themselves. 

Total aircraft losses in the Fleet, including those that were blown 


overboard or jettisoned, amounted to 146, but the carriers' crews never 
flinched or failed. They disregarded their own safety to bring these 
hurtling, exploding, burning aircraft under control, but in mastering 
this typhoon many men lost life or limb. 

As soon as the Third Fleet had recovered from the battle with Na- 
ture, Task Force 38 gave support to the Lingayen Gulf landings, but 
after recent experiences the aircraft complement of some carriers was 
revised. Two squadrons of Marine Corps Corsairs were established 
aboard the Essex, the first use of the Marine Corps air arm by TF 38. 
Essex and Wasp each carried ninety-one fighter planes and fifteen 
Avenger torpedo bombers. Then, in order to improve and extend night 
operations, a special night-flying carrier-task group, consisting of In- 
dependence and the newly converted Enterprise with a six-ship de- 
stroyer screen, was formed early in 1945. 

When Admirals Halsey and McCain sortied from Ulithi on Decem- 
ber 30 with the Third Fleet and Task Force 38, they were command- 
ing the most powerful naval striking force the world had ever known. 
Both admirals were determined that 1945 would see the final wrap-up 
of Japanese sea power. They were to have their wish, but the imme- 
diate road ahead was rough. Halsey had hoped for air strikes on 
Formosa over January 3 and 4, a strike against Luzon on the sixth, and 
others against Luzon and Formosa on the seventh. After fueling on 
January 8 he would strike Formosa again the next day. If all these 
attacks brought the anticipated results, Halsey felt that he could move 
into the South China Sea. 

Through the week of January 3-9 Task Force 38 flew a total of 
3030 target or combat sorties, dropped 9110 bombs, and lost 86 air- 
craft. These operations, combined with the all-out efforts of the Army 
Air Force, must have saved hundreds of American lives in the Linga- 
yen landings. Admiral Halsey was then permitted to steam out into 
the South China Sea in the expectation of rounding up the pennants 
of the Imperial Japanese Navy. 

At the same time it was hoped that the first available squadrons 
of the new Super-Fortresses would be able to take over the task of 
keeping Formosa under control. Thus, the 8-295 that were land-based 
in India and China played an important role in the Philippine cam- 
paign. The 2oth Bomber Command, which had been hitting industrial 
targets in Japan since June 1944, also co-operated with the Third 
Fleet in the strike at Formosa, but these operations were restricted 


by the fact that fuel had to be moved to the advanced bases by tanker 
aircraft that flew over the Hump through variable weather. Mainte- 
nance and repair facilities were less than adequate, and vast prepara- 
tions had to be made for each major strike that was launched from 
the Chinese bases. Because of all these problems it was not possible 
to provide frequent attacks. 

General Kenney's Far Eastern Air Force, having moved much of its 
equipment to Mindoro and Leyte in the Philippines, and Morotai in 
the Dutch East Indies, was also co-operating. Thus, when Admiral 
Halsey decided to risk a dash into the South China Sea, all available 
air and surface forces were mobilized to defend the Mindoro-Linga- 
yen line. 

While the combined operations occupied the enemy with raids on 
Formosa and other strategic points, the Third Fleet moved through 
Luzon Strait and into the South China Sea, and the fast-fueling group 
steered a southerly course through Balintang Channel without being 
spotted by the enemy. This force cleaned up dozens of enemy convoys 
and snooper aircraft, while fighter and bomber sweeps from the carrier 
decks mauled airfields and dispersed airplanes. The destroyer Haia- 
kaze and a high-speed transport were sunk off Takao, Formosa"? Other 
strikes off Mako in the Pescadores finished an ancient destroyer, 
known as the Tsuga, and a Japanese weather station and radio instal- 
lations on Pratas Islanda reef were bombed by eight night-flying 
planes off Enterprise. 

By January 15 the carriers moved to a striking position east of Hong 
Kong, hoping to complete the pattern of devastation of enemy ship- 
ping off the China coast, but bad weather was a great handicap, and 
our torpedo planes took beatings in the low-level attacks from intense 
antiaircraft fire. At the same time many of their torpedoes, with depth 
settings that were adjusted too deep, buried themselves in the harbor 
mud instead of in the bowels of ships. 

Filters swept enemy airfields along the coast of China from the 
Luicfiow Peninsula north to Swatow, but the results were not too re- 
warding. Admiral Halsey claimed to have sent five ships, aggregating 
13,000 tons, to the bottom, but postwar investigation shows that only 
one freighter and one io,ooo-ton tanker were sunk. The first day's bag 
of planes was thirteen, but the Third Fleet operational losses were 
twenty-seven planes, and combat losses twenty-two more, mostly 
from antiaircraft fire. 
Japanese reports now said that TF 38 was bottled up in the South 


China Sea. To some extent this claim was valid, and the situation 
turned out to be Admiral Halsey's main problem. What with threat- 
ening weather, refueling contacts, and the fact that the Japs still held 
Mindanao, he was indeed fortunate to move back to safety. During 
the eleven days of his intrusion, however, the Third Fleet had logged 
3800 miles without serious mishap. It was well conceived and brilliantly 
executed, and it was unfortunate that more important targets the 
capital ships of the Japanese Navy were not within reach. 

It will be remembered that the proposed major operations for 1945 
were many, complex, and all crowded into a very short space of time. 
Lingayen Gulf was booked for January 9, Iwo Jima for February 19, 
Okinawa was down for April i, and Kyushu November i. It will be 
seen that in January, Admiral Nimitz had two major operations to 
carry out, and at the same time support General MacArthur and the 
Seventh Fleet until the Philippines were properly secured. Each com- 
mander considered his job the most important, and the distribution 
of naval forces between the Philippines campaign and those still on 
the docket was often the occasion for lively discussion, and the art of 
compromise had to be practiced constantly. 

While General MacArthur and Admirals Nimitz and Kinkaid con- 
tinued to press for their particular requirements, Admiral Halsey 
hewed to the line of his original plan to lead the Third Fleet through 
a series of actions designed to support the Philippines campaign. He 
earned some measure of success, but Task Force 38 was left hanging 
on the nautical ropes. 

On January 21, after steaming through Balintang Channel to the 
north of Luzon, the carrier force changed course and headed for For- 
mosa and a launching position about one hundred twenty miles east 
of Takao on southern Formosa. Early that morning all three task 
groups were launching fighter sweeps against Formosan airfields. Later 
fighter strikes were directed against enemy shipping when the weather 
was the best encountered that month. The airfields at Takao, Tainan, 
and Kirun were well worked over, and in a total of 1164 sorties flown 
104 aircraft were destroyed on the ground. A postwar check disclosed 
that ten ships, including five tankers, were sunk, and the destroyer 
Harukaze damaged. 

Although this air-strike effort brought some success, the surface 
Task Force was still fighting a grim war. The kamikaze furies came to 
life again, and American ships took a savage, damaging attack for the 


first time since November. The Japanese were far from defeat the 
Divine Wind had once more turned into a hellish gale. 

At noon of January 21 the carrier force lay about one hundred miles 
east of the southern spur of Formosa. Rear Admiral Arthur W. Rad- 
ford's Group i was twelve miles south of Rear Admiral Gerald F. 
Bogan's Group 2. Group 3, under Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, 
was farther north, and caught the hate first. Picture, if you can, four 
destroyers being fueled from the battleships North Carolina and 
Washington, while the vessels steamed at sixteen knots. Just then four 
kamikazes, with three escort fighters, came roaring in. Six minutes 
later a lookout aboard LangLey spotted a single-engined aircraft com- 
ing in down sun for an astern attack. The ack-ack boys took her on, 
but she managed to eject two small bombs that hit the forward sec- 
tion of the carrier's flight deck, opened up a gash ten feet by fourteen 
feet, and started small fires that were doused quickly. 

The refueling was broken up, of course, and everyone moved out to 
diminish the target area. It took Langley three hours to effect tem- 
porary repairs before she could recover her aircraft. Below decks three 
men were dead and eleven wounded. 

Two minutes after Langley was attacked a kamikaze came but of 
the sun and crashed the Ticonderoga. The hulk, carrying a 55opound 
bomb, went through the flight deck and exploded between the hangar 
and gallery decks. A raging fire swept up among the closely spotted 
aircraft, which were gassed-up and armed for the next strike, and then 
spread to the second and third decks. For a time the situation ap- 
peared hopeless, but Rear Admiral Sherman ordered his group to take 
up positions of support while the crew of Ticonderoga carried out 
battle-damage and fire-control measures. 

At the height of this anxious period seven kamikazes, escorted by 
six fighters, headed for Group i. Apparently they had come out of the 
Babuyan Islands to the south. Eight Navy fighters from Cowpens 
were alerted and vectored to intercept, and so well was this fighter 
control carried out that a majority of the enemy formation was de- 
stroyed and the rest dispersed. 

At 12:50 a second raid of eight kamikazes, with escorts out of For- 
mosa, headed for Group 3. Some were intercepted immediately, six 
were shot down, but two escaped and attempted to dive on the 
harassed Ticonderoga. Despite their trials aboard the carrier the anti- 
aircraft gunners shot one out of the sky, but the other fulfilled his 
mission and crashed into the carrier's island structure. Once again 


flaming gasoline enveloped the vessel and many aircraft that were 
spotted about the deck were damaged, but quick and efficient work 
had all fires under control by 2:15, and steps were being taken to cor- 
rect a nine-degree list that had developed. At six o'clock that night 
the list had been reduced to three degrees, all compartments had been 
cleared of smoke, and the gunnery department was making a valiant 
effort to restore her fighting gear. Again, a severe price had been paid. 
Casualties included 143 killed or missing, and 202 wounded, including 
her skipper, Captain Dixie Kiefer who, although seriously hurt, recov- 
ered later. 

The destroyer Mad dox, in company with Brush, was on picket duty 
thirty-five miles closer to Formosa. It was their job to report planes 
flying toward the carrier force, recover dunked pilots, and carry out 
combat-air-patrol control. In spite of keen vigilance they were tricked 
by a kamikaze that had joined a returning flight of American planes. 
He should have been "de-loused," but at the right moment he peeled 
off and crashed the Maddox amidships at i : 10 P .M., or less than twenty 
minutes after Ticonderoga had been attacked the second time. His 
bomb exploded, but the result was comparatively minor and the fire 
was soon brought under control. Casualties were seven killed and 
thirty-three wounded. 

When things start to go bad, the dice can be heavily loaded. At 
1:28 a torpedo plane returning to the Hancock, Vice-Admiral Mc- 
Cain's flagship, made a successful landing, but just as it was being 
taxied up the deck a joopound bomb tumbled from its bomb bay 
and exploded. This caused heavy fires on the flight, hangar, and gal- 
lery decks. The one on the hangar deck was quenched within fifteen 
minutes and by 2:05 all fires were under control and emergency re- 
pairs under way. Again, the casualties were heavy. Fifty-two men were 
killed and 105 were wounded. 

A special task group composed of two light cruisers and three de- 
stroyers, including the Maddox, was assigned to escort the Ticonder- 
oga back to Ulithi. The rest of TF 38 headed north for more strikes 
against the Ryukyus. En route seven night-flying torpedo bombers 
were sent against Kirun Harbor. They sank a io,ooo-ton tanker, but 
three of the aircraft failed to return. 

Okinawa in the Ryukyus became a primary objective when on Jan- 
uary 22 a photographic reconnaissance in anticipation of the campaign 
was carried out. A mixed bag of equipment was sent out, since it was 
desired also to destroy shipping and bomb airfields. How such a be- 


wildering array of objectives was to be obtained is a mystery, but pre- 
dawn searches were started about 6:15 A.M. A total of 682 sorties were 
flown, of which forty-seven were photoreconnaissance. Fortunately, 
there was no enemy air opposition, and twenty-eight planes were de- 
stroyed on the ground. Admiral Halsey claimed that a very complete 
job had been done, but apparently there was a great deal left for the 
Fifth Fleet to work over before the landing was attempted in April. 

TF 38 then turned south and returned to Ulithi for a well-earned 
rest. The work of the Third Fleet in the support of the Luzon cam- 
paign is worth consideration. More than 300,000 tons of shipping was 
sunk or destroyed and the number of enemy aircraft destroyed was 
615. The cost to the United States Navy was 201 carrier aircraft, 167 
pilots and air crewmen, and 205 seamen killed in kamikaze crashes. 
According to Admiral Halsey, "the outer defenses of the Japanese 
Empire no longer include Burma and the Netherlands East Indies; 
those countries are now isolated outposts, and their products are no 
longer available to the Japanese war machine except with staggering 
and prohibitive losses en route." 

On January 26, 1945, Admiral Halsey turned over the command of 
the Third Fleet to Admiral Raymond A. Spruance. 

Admiral Halsey's foray in the South China Sea brought an end to all 
major carrier operations in the Pacific war. Luzon was liberated and 
General MacArthur began his long trek toward Manila, and on March 
11, as General of the Army, he returned to Corregidor from where 
he had been driven on March 12, 1942. Now the war went amphibious 
and the dread island-hopping was next on the calendar. Palawan and 
Zamboanga were secured after heavy fighting. The Southern Visayas, 
Panay, Negros, Cebu, and Bohol were taken after much sweat and 
bloodshed. Mindanao and the Davao Gulf demanded heroic measures 
and the co-operation of the PT boats. But the bloody attacks and 
advances went on until an Army Air Force 6-29, named Enola Gay, 
spewed an atomic bomb that finally set up the complete capitulation 
of the enemy. 

This then is the history of the aircraft carrier and its performance 
in its first major campaign. In previous pages we have seen that the 
flat-top played a very important role in the Pacific operations, and in 
those waters completely overshadowed the battleship as the prime 
weapon of the Navy. 

In the European conflict, British carriers had no opposite numbers 


and were limited in their activity, especially after the Mediterranean 
became the vital area of combat and strategy. It should be explained, 
however, that a number of British carriers had an active part in the 
Japanese war, once they could be released from their home waters. 
For instance, early in 1945 part of the British Fleet was based at Ceylon 
and Sydney, and a token force of four fleet aircraft carriers, Illustrious, 
Indomitable, Victorious, and a new 3o,ooo-ton Indefatigable was in 
the Pacific. 

These carriers came into prominence at the time with a program 
of attacks, one of which aimed at Palembang, Sumatra, proved to be 
most important. This was the site of the principal Japanese oil refinery 
from which more than three quarters of the aviation fuel for the South- 
west Pacific was drawn by the enemy. 

For some time American officials had planned to wipe out this plant 
with high-level precision bombing, much on the same scale as the 
U. S. air attacks on ball-bearing plants in Germany, but they had en- 
countered the problems of weather. The refinery site was almost con- 
tinuously obscured by low mist and tropical cloud and the chances 
of a successful high-level raid were very slim. 

The British Naval Air Arm was given the opportunity of staging a 
surprise attack with the stipulation that it be completed in a very 
short interval, since the task was of primary importance to coming 

Aboard Indefatigable was a squadron of Fairey Firefly two-seater 
reconnaissance fighters. These planes are not to be confused with the 
earlier Firefly biplane. This aircraft could be armed with rocket 
projectiles, a weapon that the British had been using with rare skill 
and success for many months. In this case, however, this Firefly squad- 
ron had left British waters with practically no experience with these 
missiles, but by the time Indefatigable had reached the Japanese area 
sufficient practice had been made to risk this important attack. The 
main British force was led by Major S. B. G, Cheesman, a Royal 
Marines pilot of great valor and distinction. 

The squadron took off in vile weather, made a flight of more than 
two hundred miles through low cloud and misty conditions. When 
they arrived over the target, the weather had cleared and Major Chees- 
man and his neophytes had a picnic. They went in for the attack and 
wisely concentrated on one particular section that housed important 
refinery equipment. Their salvos of rockets worked wonders, and 


eventually this site was destroyed completely by resulting explosions 
and fire. 

The success was almost immeasurable and the plant was out of 
commission until some time after the war. Japanese aviation squadrons 
were grounded because of this fuel shortage, and the Palembang 
complex exploit stood out as one of the most important British actions 
in the Pacific war. 

At the same time other attacks, staged at regular intervals, extended 
from the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal to Tokyo Bay. These 
were made by Avenger and Barracuda dive bombers off carriers in the 
Indian Ocean area, and by Fireflies, Corsairs, and Seafires a naval 
version of the Spitfire in the Pacific. On another occasion a task al- 
lotted to four British fleet carriers attached to the U. S. Navy was, in 
broad terms, to protect the left flank of the American advance on to 
Japan. This meant action in the Sakishima Islands' area off Formosa 
where the Japanese launched many kamikaze suicide bombers. Sev- 
eral British carriers were hit in these attacks, but owing to their heavily 
armored decks, damage was superficial. None of their carriers was out 
of action for more than two hours, and none had to withdraw from 

So far as is known, the U. S. Navy has not as yet adopted a truly 
armored carrier deck. 



THE READER will by now have begun to wonder about the future of 
the aircraft carrier. Unquestionably, it rendered a major service in the 
Pacific campaign against a foe who started with a series of unbeliev- 
able victories and then failed to furnish reserves in men and materials 
to consolidate his gains. It performed with great profit for the British, 
but in Europe there were no enemy carriers to counter it. The carrier 
was simply a mobile airfield for Great Britain and was employed ac- 
cordingly. The police action in Korea afforded little opportunity to 
use the carrier in an important role; or any other modern weapon, for 
that matter. Only napalm, delivered by light bombers, paid its way. 

Was the 1939-45 campaign the aircraft carrier's greatest period of 
triumph? Will it continue to hold its place as the Queen of the Seas? 
Will the thermonuclear weapon, which conceivably might decimate a 
whole task force, prove its undoing? Will it be replaced by a new type 
of nuclear submarine that can deliver atomic warheads, or even launch 
military aircraft? 

It has been proved that had not the flat-top been developed, the 
airplane would have had a very limited function in World War II 
naval operations. It would have contributed only a negligible assist 
over the vast ocean areas that lie thousands of miles from land bases, 
and had the navies involved relied on the float planes catapulted from 
battleship or cruiser decks, their range and missions would have been 
of secondary importance only. 

Because of these queries it may be of interest to review briefly what 
our present-day carrier forces have to offer, and what contribution they 
are likely to make in the future. Where will the carrier fit in the 
nuclear, thermonuclear, push-button conflicts we have been told lie in 
the future? 


The modern aircraft carrier is one of the most complex devices 
created by man for the defense of his homeland. Its present-day prog- 
ress and ftiture employment may prove to be as important as any gains 
we may make in the science of nuclear warfare. Whether this type of 
warship will furnish the all-important deterrent in any future inter- 
national strife, or whether the nuclear submarine, or the long-range 
ballistic missile have signed the death warrant of the carrier, are ques- 
tions that face and puzzle our Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Our potential enemy has no aircraft carriers, and from all evidence 
at hand, has no intention of matching the United States Navy or the 
British Royal Navy in this very technical field. Whatever his status in 
the nuclear weapons armory, in the development of intercontinental 
strategy, or the production and training of fighting manpower, he has 
small hope of ever reaching a parity in the science of aircraft-carrier 
operations. Nevertheless, we should be warned by experience never 
to accept the military standards of today as the rules and techniques 
of tomorrow. In order to reach reliable conclusions, we should know 
how far the aircraft carrier has progressed since the Korean conflict 
when it was used chiefly in seaborne tactical aviation. 

As has been shown, the carrier started out as a long-range weapon 
to protect the main surface fleet, but that concept was discarded after 
the Battle of the Marianas. Flight-deck ships of today make up the 
force of the front line, whether on attack or defense, for with their 
ability to launch long-range, heavy-attack planes, the carrier force can 
deliver practically any impact of offense from a rack of fragmentation 
bombs to a nuclear warhead. It can release conventional bombs that 
are capable of destroying enemy strong points, centers of communi- 
cation, or vital transportation facilities. Its aircraft can deliver special 
projectiles for the disruption of enemy merchant shipping; its fighters 
can pour heavy machine-gun fire in support of friendly ground forces. 
If a global war threatens, the carrier can transmit full-power nuclear 
or thermonuclear weapons to any theater. In many cases, the carrier 
and its air group should be able to replace or augment the forces of 
the Army or Air Force. As of this writing, it cannot furnish much man- 
power for amphibious operations, except in cases where light carriers 
have been modified for helicopter-troop operations, but it can put up 
protective air cover to assure their success. 

Possibly no modem weapon has reached the carrier's pinnacle of 
combined defense and offense. There is stowage, handling, and main- 
tenance facilities for the Sidewinder, Sparrow III, and the Bullpup 


guided missiles. This mechanical support system is divided into two 
divisions conventional and special weapons. The carrier has stowage 
for over 1800 tons of conventional ammunition that is tucked away 
in 175,000 cubic feet of magazine space. This includes bombs weigh- 
ing from 250-pound (general purpose) to 2Ooo-pound, low-drag mis- 
siles designed for mass pyrotechnics, 20-mm. ammunition, guided 
missiles, and rockets. This great store of ammunition takes up 84 
magazines, and 24 electric hoists are available to carry this explosive 
tonnage from the magazines to the hangar and flight decks. 

The modern carrier is a most amazing, all-inclusive weapon. It can 
attack practically any military target, and at the same time defend it- 
self. In theory it is not shackled to any land or sea area exce/tf when 
launching or taking on its aircraft. It is highly mobile, flexible in 
action, and free to select its battlefield if an enemy puts it on the 
defensive. As an attacking force, today's carrier can take on any major 
concentration or critical center, regardless of the distances involved. 
Its air weapons are co-operative, and give mutual support. Long-range 
targets can be attacked, and the aircraft involved are assured of extra 
range by refueling in the air from companion planes. Enemy shoreline 
bases or naval establishments can be attacked from one area, and the 
attacking planes can return by another route to avoid interception, 
and be assured of finding their carrier in any predetermined position. 
This phase of action is a definite feature of modern carrier work. 

All these factors are important, but the inherent weaknesses of this 
weapon cannot be ignored; weaknesses that have been noted in previ- 
ous chapters. Most Navy officials are confident that the aircraft carrier 
is capable of defending itself, and they point out that it has a gunnery 
department, built around a five-inch weapon, and a fully controlled 
fire system beneath protective turret accommodation. These weapons 
can fire twenty-five rounds a minute through an accurate chart of de- 
fense. The fighter planes should provide an immediate pattern of 
defense in meeting, engaging, and destroying attackers before they 
can reach a position from where tftey can launch their main at- 
tack, whether by torpedoes, dive bombs, or high-altitude saturation 

But does the aircraft carrier actually retain this deterrent? Will it 
stand up in any future war, brush-fire or global? Is it worth the astro- 
nomical s nr -pent in its building and upkeep? Can we continue to 
recruit the legions of skilled manpower that are required to keep it 


at sea? Is it, as many sound minds in the Navy Department believe, 
the ultimate weapon? 

One researching group in the Navy assumes that a nuclear stalemate 
will continue to exist, and points out that our nuclear stockpile can 
wipe out any enemy several times, but by the same token the United 
States is endangered by the nuclear capability of its most likely ad- 
versary. Each side has fears and qualms; each knows the other is 
capable of massive retaliation. Any sane consideration of this shows 
the need for residual power in the event of enemy attack. This leftover 
and intact power can be built up by the Navy to a very high degree, 
and could spell the difference in our retaliation and survival. Better 
still, it could be the prime factor in deterring the enemy from making 
his attack. 

Carrier forces and Polaris (nuclear) submarines are the principal 
means of maintaining this leftover and intact power. The range of 
their weapons, the enemy's difficulties in locating them, and their mo- 
bility through the oceans give them special advantages. Mobile land- 
based weapons can, and perhaps will, be difficult for the enemy to 
locate, but meanwhile the Navy is determined to keep itself in the 
van of the shifting nuclear picture until it is made abundantly clear 
what its weapons can contribute, and what can be achieved with mo- 
bile land-based weapons. 

From an engineering standpoint today's carrier is unbelievably mas- 
sive. The main propulsion plant non-nuclear occupies an area 280 
feet long and 90 feet wide, and is located in the mid section of the 
hull. Power for the main propulsion is generated in four spaces, each 
containing two boilers, two turbines and their reduction gears, in ad- 
dition to miscellaneous auxiliary equipment. Each main propulsion 
space drives a shaft to a twenty-two-foot propeller. The boilers gen- 
erate steam at 1200 psi pounds per square inch and at 1000 
Fahrenheit to supply energy to the turbines. Each boiler is capable 
of producing 300,000 pounds of steam per hour. The turbines in turn 
develop a total of 280,000 hp under full power. 

The water used in these boilers and for the various domestic uses 
is distilled from sea water in four evaporators, each capable of produc- 
ing 50,000 gallons per day. Boiler feed-water storage capacity is 180,- 
ooo gallons, while potable-water storage capacity reaches 315,000 

Considerable fuel is required to produce this power, and 2,650,000 


gallons of heavy oil is usually carried. This oil is a thick low-grade 
product that must be heated to enable the pumps to deliver it to the 
fire nozzles. The electric power necessary in this mechanical complex 
is generated by eight isoo-kilowatt turbine-driven generators. Two 
25<>kilowatt, 40o-cycle motor-generator sets, and two 6oo-kilowatt, 
4oocycle turbine-driven generators supply power for general purposes. 
An emergency service is furnished by three looo-kilowatt diesel-driven 

These factors and statistics are interesting and important, but the 
carrier's prime mission is the launching and recovery of her aircraft, 
the weapons that deliver her war impact. In a 6o,ooo-8o,ooo-ton car- 
rier of the U. S. Navy, aircraft are launched faster than from any other 
type carrier in any other navy. Her four catapults are powered by 
steam from the ship's boilers, and the refinements in the operating 
mechanisms enable the flight-deck officer to launch four planes every 
thirty-eight seconds. In the rest of the sequence the hydraulic arresters 
will stop 70,000 pounds of jet aircraft within 150 feet after it touches 
down at speeds better than one hundred miles an hour. 

The formula for launching and recovering aircraft, whether a drill, 
general operations, or wartime combat offers a fascinating experience. 
Both aircraft crews and pilots are alerted by a bugle call known as 
"Flight Quarters" which puts a thousand men to work. Deck hands 
rush to their stations, the air crews charge out of the Ready rooms, 
and the Primary-Flight officer, known as Pri-Fly, gives the order: "Re- 
spot the deck!" Blue-shirted plane handlers move like shuttles rear- 
ranging the planes for a quick launching operation. Three elevators 
groan and rattle as they bring required aircraft from the hangar to the 
flight deck. The first aircraft off are two helicopters, known as Angels, 
which hover or fly nearby over the starboard quarter to set up rescue 
operations in case any plane is forced into the water. 

Red-shirted crewmen finish topping off the tanks and secure the 
tip-tanks while their G-suited pilots or air crews make themselves 
secure and comfortable, assisted by the plane captains who help adjust 
belts and shoulder straps. 

The flight plan, set up by the Air Operations schedule and previ- 
ously sent to the squadrons for briefing, is fully understood, and all 
pilots have condensed copies in metal frames strapped to their thighs 
for convenience. This data includes code names for the carrier, the 
operation, and the squadron. It gives required radio frequencies, bear- 
ings, and distances to the nearest land bases. It also has clear spaces 


for filling in information as it is compiled, which is used later in the 
pilot's official report of his whole operation. Prior to the launch Air 
Operations has sent all weather and navigation information to the 
Ready rooms. Thirty minutes before the launch, "Man Your Planes" 
is sounded and pilots and aircrews are rushed to the flight deck by 
means of a special escalator; to climb all the ladders and companion- 
ways necessary to make this journey, would be exhausting with the 
weight of clothing and equipment. 

Pri-Fly next gives the command: "Stand Clear of all Props, all In- 
takes and Exhaust . . . Start Engines!" Propellers flash or jet engines 
scream and whine. The propeller-driven aircraft are started fifteen 
minutes before take-off, the jets five minutes kter. 

The officer of the deck orders the ship brought into the wind for 
the first launch. The planes taxi forward and are turned over to the 
yellow-shirted plane director who stands well clear of the jet blasts 
and in a position where he can be seen by the pilot. Before arriving 
at the catapult rigging position, the director gives the "Stop" signal, 
and the hold-back unit is rigged or attached. Next, the heavy cable 
bridle is hooked in and tension is checked by the director who points 
at the deck at a 45 angle. He requests partial power and then turns 
the tune-up and control over to the catapult officer who wears a green 

The air officer lowers the white launch flag from the Pri-Fly bridge 
while the catapult officer drops to one knee and thrusts out his arm. 
When everything is ready, the catapult gear stiff, the pilot alert, the 
take-off clear, the catapult officer points a forefinger at the deck and 
somewhere below at the catapult console, a button is pushed and the 
plane screams away for its take-off. 

The activity, timing, and training of these deck crews are an out- 
standing feature of carrier operations. While the piloting and airman- 
ship witnessed are almost unbelievable, and the skill necessary to fly 
planes on and off these decks is something only a few will ever see or 
appreciate, it is the work of the deck crews who prepare the planes for 
catapult or fly-off take-offs, and recovery, that first strikes the lands- 

A plane will move out of a spotted space under the guidance of a 
deck worker. It will roll into position over the catapult shuttle, and 
almost instantly it is set, the heavy bridle which weighs 190 pounds, 
is hooked in not only to the aircraft, but to the recovery lines that 
prevent the cable from being hurled into the sea. All these hookups 


must be made with clocklike precision, and every adjustment must be 
perfect or the take-off may end in tragedy. The signals from the men 
huddling under the plane must be sharp and clear to the catapult 
officer. All this is carried out while the men scurry, lie on their bellies, 
or stand crouched under the nose of the plane as the propeller or jet 
engines scream and a plume of murky, excess steam drifts through this 
Dante-like tableau. If one item of the sequence is incorrect, the 
take-off will fail; it may switch the aircraft over the side, it may spin 
it around and tear it to shards, or it may snap the plane toward the 
lip of the deck and then refuse to release it. Again tragedy will result, 
for, still shackled to some portion of the catapult gear, the plane will 
have its underbody ripped out and the wreckage and all it contains 
tossed under the knifelike prow of the carrier or sucked into the ship's 
whirling screws. 

A dozen important signals must be made, received, and understood. 
Only keen teamwork contributes the daily meticulous accuracy, and it 
is noticeable that in practically all cases there is perfect co-ordination, 
sincerity of effort, and even affection between the air crews and the 
plane handlers. In fact, after a long cruise and many exercises, pilots 
tell me that the co-operation is refined to what almost amounts to a 
transference of thought. In this case, many of the signals can be 
dispensed with, and all operations are carried out with simple facial 
expressions or lip reading. But only after many months of continual 
practice can this spirit be risked. 

Once a plane or squadron is in the air, control is passed from Air 
Operations to the Combat Information Center (CIC). From here in 
a darkened vault below decks, voice circuits in key positions through- 
out the ship keep everyone advised of the progress of the launch. The 
air controller in CIC follows the planes or plane on his radar during 
the full cycle of eighty to ninety minutes until the return to the carrier. 
Once they leave CIC control they are turned back to Pri-Fly or to 
the Carrier Controlled Approach officer for landing instructions. 

A few years ago a pilot on landing his plane aboard a carrier relied 
on the arm and paddle movements of the Landing Signal officer. To- 
day he is guided in his approach by a grouping of colored lights set 
around the Mirror Landing System, with the L.S.O. only assisting. 
This Magic Mirror is mounted on a flexible bracket that compensates 
automatically in a small way for the pitch and roll, if any, of the flight 
deck. It can be adjusted to the difference in the position of pilots in 
different planes. For instance, one pilot may be sitting in a relative 


position of fifteen feet above the deck, the next may be only nine 
feet above it. To accommodate this the mirror can be raised or tilted 
to change the pilot's angle of approach, making each one come in at 
the proper angle, according to his particular line of vision. 

A pilot using the Magic Mirror simply brings his aircraft to the 
stern of the carrier. Ahead he sees a square mirror into which a red 
light is reflected. All he has to do, once he is in his glide path, is to 
keep the red light centered in the minor and fly in under its guidance. 
The mirror in this particular piece of equipment is precision ground 
and costs $11,000. The pilot may be in radio communication with Pri- 
Fly or the Flight Deck officer, but if it seems necessary to wave him 
off because of a faulty approach, a series of bright red lamps snap on 
around the mirror, and he "goes around" again to remedy his error. 

These recovery operations demand the same fidelity and trust be- 
tween the pilot and the landing crew. He must not only rely on his 
own skill and judgment, but he must believe every instrument before 
him, as well as the guidance provided by the landing mirror. It might 
be noted here that the U. S. Navy is experimenting with a new gun- 
sight landing system, in which the pilot, after setting all controls for 
a normal landing, peers down a gunsight tube at a deck light or 
marker. Once he has this target spot centered, radar control takes over 
and brings him in. So far this has been worked out only on a land- 
based "deck," but from all accounts it will be tried aboard an actual 
carrier deck shortly. 

The arrester gear, which began with a series of ropes strung across 
a small platform aboard the old U.S.S. Pennsylvania, has gone through 
many phases and improvements. Today it is a very elaborate and com- 
plex device, and in general consists of five or more 2Vi-inch steel cables 
held a few inches above the deck by curved bars resembling auto- 
mobile springs. Each cable is 1700 feet long, and only a small portion 
of this is seen above the deck, the rest runs down into a cable room 
several decks below where it is taken into a maze of pulleys, and con- 
trolled by hydraulic pistons. 

The layman observing a series of deck landings will note that the 
average plane coming in sets up a number of immediate problems. 
In the first place it will be approaching at about 120 knots (about 137 
statute miles per hour), or about 90 knots (103 statute miles), allow- 
ing for the 3o-knot speed of the carrier. To stop the plane dead is out of 
the question. It must be allowed some flexibility of movement and 


gradually snubbed to a halt. The average snubbing distance is about 
two hundred feet. 

Once the cable has been caught by the hook, inertia carries the 
plane forward some sixty-five yards, which means that from 400-500 
feet of cable not 200 feet is pulled out because extra cable has been 
drawn from wells on each side of the deck in a long V. At rest, these 
five or six cables pass through apertures in the deck, run over a series 
of pulleys to each side of the arrester-gear compartment some distance 
below where they are wound over a series of drums, and their ends 
connected to piston heads set in long buffer chambers. The whole 
device acts similar to a large hydraulic shock absorber, except that the 
cables are more flexible and must be free to run at high speed to 
handle this type of snubbing. 

In order to accommodate all types and weights of aircraft, the snub- 
bing can be adjusted quickly by operators who are advised of the type 
coming in by an officer on the deck. These arrester-gear operators 
never see the aircraft they are controlling. Jet planes come in at speeds 
between 120-145 knots, and propeller airplanes land at 90-100 knots. 
Each arrester-gear cable has its own "engine," and there is always an- 
other for the special emergency barricade made of webbed nylon. This 
device will halt safely a plane if for any reason it is out of action, such 
as breaking its hook, or if the regular arrester gear is not working. In 
this case the pilot comes in, makes a normal landing and brakes as 
best he can until the nylon-web barrier brings him to a halt. Usually 
the barrier is cut to ribbons and some damage inflicted on the aircraft, 
but in most cases the pilot is uninjured, and the plane can quickly be 
made serviceable. 

Here again the carrier pilot relies completely on the deck crew, and 
almost every member is in grave danger while the incoming aircraft 
is engaged with the arrester-gear cable. If the landing is normal and 
correct, if the hook grabs, and the cable holds to arrest the plane, all 
goes well. But there are many areas for slip-up. If a landing-gear leg 
collapses, the plane will most likely slither into a group of deck han- 
dlers and maim or kill several of them. Suppose a cable is caught and 
arrests the plane up to a point and then breaks some five hundred 
feet of wild, flailing steel cable writhes, and slashes at everything within 

A short time ago a chief petty officer and two crew members were 
kilhd and nine others injured by a wild cable. A man need not be 
standing on the flight deck; he may be crouching in the catwalk and 


have his head suddenly snapped off by a flailing whip, or he may be 
crushed to death by a plane that has slithered off the landing area. 
Nevertheless, these men are always in their assigned positions, wait- 
ing to help their pilots. An airplane may catch fire after making a 
normal landing; the pilot may be injured and need immediate atten- 
tion; he may be unable to help himself in a dozen emergency situa- 
tions. The deck men are always on hand to lift him clear of the wreck, 
free an entangled cable, or simply guide him to his proper parking 

If his plane is fit and serviceable, just requiring refueling, the pilot 
gives a "thumbs-up" signal. If it is in no state to fly again, he signals 
the reverse, and it is moved to an elevator or spotted where temporary 
repairs can be made. 

Most aircraft carriers of today are built with the angled flight deck, 
an arrangement of landing space that permits more efficient launching 
and recovery operations. It was originated by the British Navy which 
also contributed the Magic Mirror and steam catapult. 

The angled deck, seen in several of the accompanying illustrations 
in this book, is a portion of the deck that is angled out about ten 
degrees to port from the stern lip. With this arrangement incoming 
planes have no trouble "going around" again if their attempt to land 
is unsuccessful. If an aircraft coming in fails to pick up a cable, it 
continues on, banks away, goes around and is termed a "bolter." If 
it takes a cable, and then loses it for some reason, it continues on and 
either flops into the sea or flies clear. In the previous arrangement 
where the flight-deck line ran down the center of the ship, any such 
faulty landing would result in the plane's crashing into a number of 
aircraft parked on the forward portion of the deck. The angled section 
also allows more space for plane parking and routine deck work, since 
the recoveries are confined to a small section reserved for just that 

How long the angled deck will be standard equipment is a moot 
question. Plans for a new generation of aircraft carriers for the British 
Navy are now being worked out by service experts; being considered 
are vessels somewhat larger than Great Britain's present-day 43734- 
ton Ark Royd, that would be capable of handling not only aircraft 
in service within ten or twelve years' time, but also cope with aircraft 
flying with the Royal Navy twenty-five years from now. 

These future carriers will show radical changes in the flight deck; 
the angled deck will be dispensed with and the island structure 
moved from its position on the deck edge to a point farther inboard. 


Aircraft landing on the port side will taxi to a parking and refueling 
position set up on the other side of the island, and the forward section 
of the deck will be reserved for launching operations. 

The island itself may also undergo some alteration. Instead of the 
present bulky structure, it may be replaced by a construction, narrower 
at the base perhaps only ten feet wide with overhanging bridge and 
flying control, something on the order of a railroad signal house. Such 
planning would not be feasible with the smaller type of carrier, but 
considering the aircraft of the next few years, carriers are not likely 
to gross less than 50,000 tons. 

This brings up the subject of night-landing operations. The reader 
will recall the confusion and tragedy that marked the close of the 
Battle of the Philippine Sea when hundreds of American Navy 
planes, caught by darkness, had a difficult time in getting back aboard 
their carriers. Today, this problem has been faced and mainly over- 
come, but during World War II U. S. Navy carrier pilots were not 
exactly proficient in the art, and very little experimental work had been 
carried out prior to Pearl Harbor. In contrast, night operations were 
routine aboard British carriers, and had been for some time before 
1939. What was done aboard Japanese flat-tops has never been spelled 

Contrary to the general impression, night landings are not carried 
out under intense artificial illumination. All lighting is kept to a 
minimum, chiefly as an aid to the pilot's night vision, which is most 
important. The deck itself is marked out with white or yellow lines 
that are very helpful, but small hooded white lights, no larger than 
a pocket flashlight, are set into the deck which indicate only the out- 
lines of the main runways and do not set up a strong glare. 

As one pilot pointed out to the author, the ship is always clearly 
seen from the air during good weather and the outline of the angled 
deck is not difficult to find, but if he came out of the darkness of the 
night sky and bored into the strong glare of massive illumination, he 
would be blinded temporarily. If he missed the arrester gear and had 
to "bolt," the quick change from deck glare to comparative darkness 
would be very dangerous, and it would be minutes before night vision 
was obtained again. 

So all modem night operations are performed in semidarkness. The 
deck crews work under the low glow of red torches, and all signals 
are made with electric wands that show clearly but do not glare, and 
there are several colors, just as there are colored jerseys to indicate 
the various tasks. 


There are, of course, more ''bolts'* and rough landings at night; the 
heavy jets in particular seem to come in much faster and when they 
hook into the cables they stretch them farther forward than they do 
in daytime activities. In one hour of night operations I noticed sev- 
eral fast and dangerous touchdowns, and two interceptor fighters each 
blew a tire. 

The aircraft aboard the modern American carrier cover a wide range 
of performance. There are A3D, all-weather bombers; A4D, jet attack 
planes; AD-6, propeller attack aircraft; F3H, Demon attack planes; 
F4D, Skyray fighters; FnF, Tiger interceptors; and F8U, Crusader in- 
terceptors. All these are valuable and important in their particular 
roles, but none reaches the pinnacle of performance of Willie Fudd, 
the Grumman WF-2. This ungainly beast is the modern Kilroy of the 
United States Navy; his opinions, statements, commands, and hair- 
raising profundity are to be found all over every carrier with lead 
captions running something like this: "Willie Fudd, him'a say . . ." 
The name Willie Fudd was created from the WF-2 designation of 
this workhorse of most VAW Aircraft Warning squadrons. I was in- 
troduced to Sweet William during a cruise in the Mediterranean 
aboard U.S.S. Independence. 

The primary mission of the WF aircraft is Advance Early Warning. 
Its secondary mission is antisubmarine warfare, Willie's chief weapon 
is radar, particularly the Navy's new APS-82 type, which is more ac- 
curate, powerful, and efficient than any used previously. The WF air- 
craft should not be confused with the earlier Grumman "Guppy" 
which carried its chief radome in a compartment below the fuselage, 
thus the guppy appellation. 

As a mobile information center Willie Fudd apparently has no 
equal. The WF can take off from carrier decks or land bases. It can 
stay in the air on station, operating for six hours. It does not have high 
speed, but generally speaking, speed is not important. The platform 
is the thing. The WF can range out and search over a wide area, pro- 
viding information not only for the surface fleet, but for the fleet air- 
craft. Senior controllers aboard can direct fighter formations against 
enemy aircraft. They can detect enemy aircraft, pinpoint their posi- 
tion, speed, direction of flight, and, most important, they carry a quick- 
reading instrument that gives the "bogies' " height They can vector 
photography planes to their targets, bring in stragglers, and furnish 
reliable information concerning enemy surface activity. In other words 
the Willie Fudd teams are Navy men first, and flying men second. 
They are experts in all recognition problems. 


The crews, called teams for a good reason, consist of two pilots and 
two skilled Naval Air observer controllers who are Combat Intelli- 
gence Center-trained. These men are radar and radio experts and are 
drilled continually in all types of Advance Early Warning and anti- 
submarine problems. The controllers' posts are set up before an in- 
tricate panel built behind the pilots' seats. Here they have a ten-inch 
radarscope, some flight instruments, and half a dozen other instru- 
ments that are used in their varied and intricate duties. Both pilots 
are trained controllers and can take over either seat to give the regular 
controllers a break, or to check any particular problem where three 
minds are superior to two. These men rotate on the various radar- 
scopes and relieve one another in the mission problems. The control- 
lers can seldom relieve the pilots, although in many instances some of 
these men were once pilot candidates who for some reason washed 
out, or requested other flying duties. In an emergency, it must be 
presumed that one of them might get the airplane back to the carrier 
or to a beach strip. One of the pilots also serves as a tactical director. 

Another responsibility of Willie Fudd is to relay the picture seen 
on his own radarscope, over a radio circuit to a radarscope aboard the 
surface flagship. This system is known as the Bellhop and is very im- 
portant for it moves out the horizon of the surface vessels and gives 
more people the opportunity of interpreting the picture which is well 
beyond the range of their own antennas. This factor alone is worth 
the price of the aircraft, the crew and their training. 

Since it was designed to carry bulky equipment into critical areas, 
the WF-2 is hardly a thing of beauty. The radome is a large bulbous 
casing mounted about three feet above the wing, and extends back to 
the fin point of the fuselage. Inside, the large antenna twirls through 
360 degrees and supplies the reception equipment for the main search 
radar. It also carries an integral antenna used by the instrument that 
registers the height of the enemy aircraft. The radio is handled over 
two UHF and one HF circuits, and all three may be used at the same 

In addition to all this electronic assistance, the WFs can do COD 
Cargo on Deck duty and drop messages to the fleet. They have 
quick-jettisoning fuel gear for emergency purposes, but other than the 
pilots' .38-caliber pistols, carry no ordnance. They fly at great altitudes 
for obvious reasons, and their teams are on oxygen most of the time, 
and this service is piped through the aircraft and passes through a 
system of coils which transforms it to breathable oxygen. The crew 


is self-sufficient in that they have galley service, can feed themselves, 
and have toilet comfort and sanitation. They take part in search and 
rescue work but do not carry rescue equipment. Their task is to find 
as quickly as possible the downed aircraft, the surviving crew, learn 
the general condition, and vector the rescue helicopters, destroyers, or 
flying-boat equipment to the scene. Nothing much can be done until 
Willie Fudd finds the target whatever it is. 

Our most important defense against enemy submarines is probably 
found in the airborne force aboard our carriers. The aircraft employed 
are not high-speed jets, but work-horse piston-engined planes that carry 
specially trained crews and the latest in track-and-trace instrumenta- 
tion, weapons, and radar. Their greatest weakness is the possible 
breakdown of the intricate communications necessary to make the 
system function. 

The available planes are not particularly well-fitted or designed for 
the work, and at best are vehicles that have been modified from pre- 
vious types, or have been hurriedly equipped to cope with the situa- 
tion. One gets the impression that the designers load the aircraft with 
a lot of instrumentation, and then hope it will do the mission that was 
assigned formerly to two airplanes that worked together. Most of to- 
day's antisubmarine planes are overloaded or badly loaded for efficient 

Besides conventional aircraft the Navy also uses H.Si helicopters 
that are capable of moving fast to a suspect area and hover for long 
periods. They carry sonar and radar equipment, and for the eventual 
attack have a homing torpedo that is discharged from a tube fitted 
to the side of the cabin. 

The conventional type aircraft S.2F Grumman is fitted with a 
searchlight and ECM equipment electronic countermeasure with 
its antenna in a radome set above the pilot's cockpit. It carries a crew 
of four, can cruise for four hours or more on station, and fight with 
torpedoes or six five-inch rockets. It also mounts depth charges on the 
rocket rails, and various arrangements of these weapons can be set 
up. This is the typical all-in-one airplane, and although the electronic 
equipment is a great help, the Mark-8 Eyeball, as normal vision is 
called, is still the best detector. The S.2F also carries a Julie instrument 
and a set of sonobuoys. 

The Julie system makes use of the explosive echo-ranging technique 
for the detection and location of submarines, which is based on the 


principle that accurate timing between the creation of the sound and 
the receipt of its echo permits calculation of the distance between the 
submarine and the source of the sound. 

Sonobuoys are small but expensive instruments used to find a sub- 
marine after it has been spotted and has submerged to hide. The 
sonobuoys are dropped in a circular pattern, with one in the center 
at the datum point. If the submarine has moved in any direction from 
where it was last seen, at least two other sonobuoys will pick it up. 

Each sonobuoy is a small transmitting station, and each transmits 
on a different frequency. When one hits the water it lowers a micro- 
phone that will pick up any sound emitted by the submarine; this 
sound can be created by engines, propellers, or interior noises. Thus, 
if any sound is picked up, several of the sonobuoys will detect it. The 
Number i, or center, instrument will transmit on its frequency, as 
will any two others near the sound. These three frequencies will pro- 
vide a segment or area, like a slice of pie, in which the enemy sub- 
marine is moving. As it moves away the impulses increase or decrease, 
furnishing clues that are recorded aboard the airplane. The position 
of the loudest sound shows which way the submarine is moving. These 
sonobuoy instruments will remain active for about three hours. 

Aboard Lake Champkdn, a true antisubmarine warfare carrier, a 
special squadron of fourteen helicopters is equipped with most regula- 
tion ASW gear, and they generally are first into a suspect area. These 
aircraft also carry a fish-line microphone that is lowered into the water 
on a ninety-foot wire, while the copter hovers at twenty-five to thirty 
feet. This practice relies on sonar evidence of the hunted submarine, 
but much of this work is hampered by fast moving destroyers carrying 
out their sonar track-and-trace work, or by low-flying fixed-wing 

Another antisubmarine instrument that is mounted on some of the 
carrier's aircraft is known as MAD Magnetic Aircraft Detection. This 
device works through the magnetic field given off by the target; it 
checks the changes in the earth's magnetic field that may be caused 
by "foreign" bulks in the water, just below the water, or just protrud- 
ing from the water. The unusual MAD antenna protrudes from the 
rear of the fuselage for about twelve feet and resembles the perforated 
exhaust of a racing car. 

With all this, and with all the specialized training the various crews 
or teams undergo, detection of enemy submarines is not completely 


satisfactory. Apparently there is no single item that gives a reliable 
answer to the submarine threat, particularly against the tactics of the 
nuclear submarine. In the first place, the target is very small, is very 
fast and maneuverable, and most evasive. Submarines are or were 
comparatively cheap to build, operate, and to train crews. Any attack 
or defense measure requires too great a force in men, machines, and 
money, and although there is no real solution as yet, each service of- 
ficer understandably pushes for his own contribution, and probably 
believes that he has the answer. 

Will offshore or land-based equipment meet the threat? 

Will aircraft carriers furnish the answer? 

Are long-range patrol boats of any great value? 

Will a conventional surface fleet, including submarines, supply the 

Apparently, what works in one area is a failure in another. There is 
one argument, based on the variations of water temperatures, that even 
sonar is not of great worth. Recent reports indicate, however, that the 
system has been vastly improved. But whatever service is to be saddled 
with the problem of the enemy submarine will be haunted by the 
rapid turnover of skilled men. Specialists and technicians, particularly 
in the electronic fields, are walking about carrier decks with letters in 
their pockets from many of the big industrial companies that offer 
them jobs, doing much the same work at much better rates of pay. 
To compete with these tremendous turnovers in all departments, 
long-serving men must be parceled out to support the half-trained 
groups, so that at no time can we boast that any vessel is at full 

The United States Navy believes its carrier force is the great deter- 
rent, and points out that it can move to any part of the world at a 
rate of six hundred miles a day. The greater part of the world is com- 
posed of water, and these vessels and their auxiliary support can steam 
practically anywhere. They can carry out strategic or tactical warfare. 
They can fight brush-fire wars faster than any other service. They can 
employ conventional or atomic weapons quicker, and because of all 
this play a very important role in the NATO problem. 

The Navy's Polaris submarine is perhaps the most important factor 
of American defense. It can be used immediately, or at any point of 
time. It cannot be blasted out of action, since it is always on the move. 

The Navy also argues that Air Force installations probably will be 
destroyed by the first enemy attack, and since we have stated over 


and over again that we will not make the initial strike, we must pre- 
sume the enemy will attack first. 

Although the U. S. Navy has a number of Polaris missile subma- 
rines on station, it would appear that their targets are at present un- 
decided. The Strategic Staff wants to aim for: i) enemy missile 
centers, and 2) great centers of population. The second target, it is 
believed, will have profound effect on the Soviet Government, which 
for years has been showing its satellites how strong it is and how well 
bound together is the Communist world. If Polaris missiles were to 
destroy several large cities, more than a routine military blow would 
have been struck; it would indicate the political disintegration of 
Soviet strength. This makes these areas prime psychological targets. 

This military potential brings up the question: If the Polaris mis- 
sile has such capabilities, why do we continue to build expensive air- 
craft carriers, train skilled crews, and equip the decks with complex 
aircraft and weapons? 

As has been explained, the carrier is at its best when engaged in 
brush-fire wars. In a thermonuclear conflict, it would not last thirty 
minutes, and many a carrier skipper has told me, "Just give me thirty 
minutes in which to launch my planes, and what happens to the car- 
rier after that will have no effect on the outcome of a war. We will 
have delivered a full arsenal of atomic weapons ourselves and paid 
our keep." But gaining those thirty minutes might be the great prob- 
lem, for any present-day thermonuclear weapon would not only de- 
stroy the carrier, it would wipe out the whole task force. Of this we 
are certain; only a very alert Willie Fudd will be able to give his carrier 
commander that most valuable half hour. 

Within many circles of thought, in several admirals' cabins, at 
senior officers' tables, and at Air Force dining rooms one gathers the 
view that both sides realize the futility of all-out atomic war. All agree 
that nothing can be gained by the ruthless use of atomic weapons. No 
war can be won by such devastating measures, for there will be nothing 
left to invade or "liberate." Whatever campaigns are to be fought in 
the future will be carried out within the limits of tactical brush-fire 
warfare. Both sides will continue to build up their atomic stockpiles, 
but only as a last and final resort will these weapons be used. On this 
theory, then, we continue to build, equip, and man aircraft carriers. 






Sept. 9, 1939 



June 8, 1940 


Ark Royd 

Nov. 14, 1941 



Dec. 21, 1941 



April 9, 1942 



May 5, 1942 



May 7, 1942 



May 8, 1942 



June 4, 1942 



June 4, 1942 



June 4, 1942 



June 4, 1942 



June 7, 1942 



Aug. 11, 1942 



Aug. 24, 1942 



Sept. 26, 1942 



Oct. 26, 1942 



Nov. 15, 1942 


Liscomb Bay 

Nov. 24, 1943 



Dec. 4, 1943 


Block Island 

May 29, 1944 



June 19, 1944 



June 19, 1944 



June 20, 1944 



Aug. 18, 1944 



Sept. 16, 1944 



Sunk off Norway 
Torpedoed off Gibraltar 
Torpedoed in North Atlantic 
Sunk by Japanese aircraft 

Sunk by torpedoes and bombs 
Sunk by Japanese aircraft 
Sunk at Battle of Midway 
Sunk at Battle of .Midway 
Sunk at Battle of Midway 
Sunk at Battle of Midway 
Sunk after torpedoing at 

Battle of Midway 
Torpedoed west of Gibraltar 
Sunk off eastern Solomons 
Torpedoed by Japanese 
Lost during Battle of 

Santa Cruz 
Sunk during Algerian landing 


Torpedoed off Gilberts 
Sunk by torpedoes 
Torpedoed in Atlantic 
Torpedoed by submarine 
Torpedoed by submarine 
Sunk by aircraft bombing 








Oct. 24, 1944 


Gambler Bay 

Oct. 25, 1944 



Oct. 25, 1944 



Oct. 25, 1944 



Oct. 25, 1944 



Oct. 25, 1944 



Oct. 25, 1944 



Nov. 17, 1944 



Nov. 29, 1944 



Dec. 19, 1944 


Ommaney Bay 

Jan, 4, 1945 


Bismarck Sea 

Feb. 21, 1945 



July 24, 1945 



July 24, 1945 



Torpedoed off Luzon Island 
Sunk off Samar Island 
Sunk by kamikaze attack 
Sunk by aircraft bombing 
Sunk by aircraft bombing 
Sunk by aircraft bombing 
Sunk by aircraft bombing 

Sunk by aircraft bombing 
Sunk by aircraft bombing 
Sunk by aircraft bombing 
Sunk by aircraft bombing 
and minefield 


Japan lost 22 aircraft carriers 
U.S. lost 11 aircraft carriers 
Britain lost 7 aircraft carriers 


As MENTIONED in the Author's Note, I am indebted to many bureaus, 
divisions, departments of information and individuals for their help and 
guidance in writing this book. Commander R. L. Bufkins, Chief, Maga- 
zine and Book Branch of the U. S. Navy's Office of Information was 
most helpful. It was Commander Bufkins who cleared the way for my 
two aircraft carrier cruises to the Mediterranean, and who later supplied 
me with important records, histories, and photographs. 

The office of Admiral Arieigh A. Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, 
gave me much help and encouragement in attempting this volume, and 
Vice-Admiral Robert B. Pirie contributed valuable advice. 

I am particularly indebted to Captain E. C. Outlaw, commanding of- 
ficer of U.S.S. Intrepid, and his executive officer, Commander L. P. 
Smith, for their many courtesies while I was aboard that famous vessel. 

Captain R. E. Riera, commanding officer of U.S.S. Forrestal, and his 
executive officer, Commander J. M. Tully, Jr., were particularly helpful 
and generous with their precious time. 

Aboard U.S.S. Saratoga Captain J. J. Hyland and his executive officer, 
Commander Paul F. Stevens, contributed much of their time and staff 
resources tp me, and increased my knowledge of carrier operations. 

Captain J. W. O'Grady, skipper of U.S.S. Independence, and his execu- 
tive officer, Commander R. E. Elliott, afforded me many important inter- 
views and set up several briefings that gave me valuable information. 
Commander Elliott's briefings were especially rewarding. Rear Admiral 
Ray C. Needham, then commander of Carrier Division Two, who flew 
his flag aboard Independence was particularly interested in my quest and 
spent much of his valuable time with me on his bridge and in his Staff 

Captain R. W. Leeman, commanding officer of U.S.S. Lake Champldn, 
and his executive officer, Commander Jere J. Santry, were my hosts dur- 
ing a most rewarding trip back from the Mediterranean late in 1959. 
Aboard Lake Champldn, too, was Rear Admiral Alfred R. Matter, then 
commander of Carrier Division Twenty, who drilled me on the many 


problems of antisubmarine warfare as it pertained to carrier operations. 

My thanks go also to Captain A. H. Wallis, C.B.E., Royal Navy, who 
supplied much information and arranged that I visit H.M.S. Ark Royal 
when she was off Majorca, an experience that, alas, I was unable to ac- 
cept owing to the pressure of time, and time-brackets. 

H. E. Bockrath of Grumman Aircraft and Engineering Corporation 
contributed information and advice on the aircraft and antisubmarine 
equipment his company supplies to the U. S. Navy. 

Again, I must express my sincere thanks to Admiral Samuel Eliot Mori- 
son, and his publishers, Atlantic-Little, Brown and Company for written 
permission to use his History of United States Naval Operations in 
World War II as a source in compiling this work. 


I HAVE combed every available shelf for volumes pertinent to this very 
complex subject, and many friends all over the world have aided me 
with books and records from their own libraries. Dozens of books were 
read and studied, and for those who would delve deeper into the story 
of the aircraft carrier, any of the following volumes will provide hours 
of rewarding reading. I recommend every one. 

Perchance, B. J. Hurren, Nicholson & Watson. 

Birds and Fishes, Phillip Joubert de la Fert6, Hutchinson of London. 

Fleet Air Arm, Lieut-Commander P. K. Kemp, Herbert Jenkins. 

The R.N.V.R., J. Lennox Kerr and Wilfred Granville, George G. Harrap & 
Co. Ltd. 

Proud Fortress, Allen Andrews, E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc. 

Battk for the Solomons, Ira Wolfert, Houghton Mifflin Company. 

Admiral Doenitz-Memoirs, Admiral Karl Doenitz, The World Publish- 
ing Company. 

Mission Beyond Darkness, Lieut-Commander Joseph Bryan III and 
Phillip Reed, Duell, Sloan and Pearce. 

Destroyer Man, Rear Admiral A. F. Pugsley, Weidenfeld and Nicholson. 

History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II, Robert Sherrod, 
Combat Forces Press. 

Air Power: Key to Survival, Alexander P. de Seversky, Simon and Schuster. 

Fleet Air Arm, (Official) British Naval Ministry of Information. 

Ark Royd, (Official) British Naval Ministry of Information. 

Everyman's History of the Sea War, (3 volumes) A. C. Hardy, Nicholson 
and Watson. 

History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, (14 vol- 
umes) Samuel Eliot Morison, Atlantic-Little Brown. 

The Second World War, (6 volumes) Winston S. Churchill, Houghton 
Mifflin Company. 

The War, (5 volumes) Edgar Mclnnis, Oxford University Press. 


Flattop, Barrett Gallagher, Doubleday & Company. 

Midway, Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya, United States Naval 


Combat-Pacific Theatre, Don Congdon, Dell Publishing Company, 
Aircraft Carrier, Joseph Bryan III, Ballantine Books. 
With Ensigns Flying, David A. Thomas, William Kimber and Com- 
pany, Ltd. 

Day of Infamy, Walter Lord, Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 
The Divine Wind, Inoguchi, Nakajima and Pineau, United States Naval 


The British Navy's Air Arm, Owen Rutter, Penguin Books. 
War in the Mr, Gerald Bowman, Evans Brothers, Limited. 
Pocket History of the Second World War, Henry Steele Commager, 

Pocket Booh, Inc. 

Coastal Command, (Official) Air Ministry of Information. 
Queen of the Flat-tops, Stanley Johnston, E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc. 
Zero, Martin Caidin, E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc. 
Pearl Harbor to Cord Sea, Walter Karig and Welbourn Kelley, Farrar 

and Rinehart, Inc. 
Battk Report, Walter Karig and Welbourn Kelley, Farrar and Rinehart, 


Heroes of the Pacific, Ted Shane, Julian Messner, Inc. 
The Last Nine Days of the Bismarck, C. S. Forester, Little, Brown & 

The Battleship Scheer, Theodor Krancke and H. L. Brennecke, William 

Kimber & Co., Ltd. 
73 North-The Defeat of Hitler's Navy, Dudley Pope, J, B. Lippincott 

Victory at Midway, Griffith Baily Coale, Farrar and Rinehart, Inc. 


Abe, Chief Petty Officer, 210 
Abe, Rear Admiral Hiroaki, 210 
Adams, Lieutenant (jg) Max, 327 
Adams, Pinkv, *o6 

Advance Early Warning, 363, 364 
Aircraft carrier, evaluation of, 207-69; 

modem, 352-68 

Amagai, Commander Takahisa, 209 
Anderson, Lieutenant Edward L., 142 
Angled flight deck, 361, 362 
AoS, Captain, 207, 208 
Arbuthnot, Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey, 


Arnold, Commander J. D., 308 
Arnold, General Henry H., 162 
Arrester gear, 359-61 
Ault, Commander William B., 1 57, 179 
Australia, 178; Hobart, 178 

Baker, Chief Electrician's Mate, L. R., 


Baker, Rear Admiral Wilder D., 341 
Baldinus, Lieutenant L., 231 
Banazak, Mike, 306 
Bay of Biscay, <}8 
Bayles, William, 57 
Baxter, Dr. Neal, 317, 318 
Beale, Sub-Lieutenant A. W. Duncan, 


Beatty, Admiral David, 16 
Bellhop system, 364 
Bennion, Captain Mervyn S., 131 
Bentley, Dick, 306 
Best, Lieutenant Richard H., 207 
Bigalk, Lieutenant Commander, 99 
Birchall, Squadron Leader Leonard J., 

144, 275 

Blair, Lieutenant William K., 302 
Blanchard, Commander J. W., 303 
Bode, Captain H.D., 133 
Bogan, Admiral Gerald, 331, 347 
Bougainville, 170, 259, 276 
Boyd, Captain Denis W., 88, 90, 96 
Brewer, Lieutenant Commander C. W., 

296-98, 301 

Brewster Buffalo, 38, 124 

Acasta, 51; Achilles, 58; Africa, 25; 

Africa Shell, 58; Agamemnon, 47; 

Ajax, 58; Albatross, 49, 50; Anson, 47; 

Ardent, 51; Argus, 32, 33, 50, 81, 

101, 104; Ark Royd, 27, 28, 42, 49, 

50, 52-04, 361; Athenia, 50; Audac- 
ity, 97-100; Avenger, 108, 109, 112; 
Ben-My-Chree, 28; Campania, 29 
34; Cassandra, 17; Cornwall, 160; 
Courageous, 33, 42, 49, 50, 55; Cu- 
racoa, 18; Devonshire, 50; Doric Star, 
58; Dorsetshire, 80, 160; Dunedin, 
97; Eagk, 33,49, 86-88, 101, 103-5; 
Echo, 103; Emperor, no; Empress, 
28; Engondine, 28; Exeter, 58; Fanad 
Head, 54, 55; Faulkner, 55; Fencer, 
no; Formidable, 42, 52, 92, 94-^7, 
111, 159; Furious, 32, 33, 49, 104, 
105, 110, in; Glorious, 33, 42, 49, 

51, 52, 59; Gloucester, 97; Hermes, 
26, 28, 33, 49, 159, 161; Hermzone, 
81; Hibernia, 15; Hood, 65, 75, 78; 
Howe, 47; IHustrious, 42, 52, 86-90, 
96, 97, 166, 167, 350; Implacable, 
42; Indefatifpbk, 42, in, 350; In- 
domitable, 42, 91, 104-7, 159, 166, 
167, 350; Intrepid, 103; King George 
V, 76, 80; Laforey, 83, 84; Legion, 
82; Malaya, 81; Manxman, 29; Maori, 

37 6 


80; Nabob, 111, 112; Ndrana, 29; 
Nelson, 55, 104; Norfolk, 75; Onslow, 
109; Pegasus, 28, 29; Phoenix, (sub- 
marine) , 86; Prince of Wdes, 178; 
Pursuer, 110; Rdmz'ZKes, 68, 159, 167; 
Redoubt, 15, 17, 18, 21; Renown, 58, 
68-70, 72, 74, 75, 80, 102; Repulse, 
178; Resolution, 159; Revenge, 159; 
Riviera, 28; Rodney, 55, 76, 80, 104; 
Royal Oak, 33; Royal Sovereign, 109, 
159; St. Day, 83, 84; Searcher, no; 
Sheffield, 75, 77, 78, 80; SomdZi, 56; 
Southampton, 97; Storfc, 99; Suffolk, 
75; Trumpeter, in; Vampire, 161; 
vanguard, 47; Victorious, 42, 52, 75, 
101, 104, 106, no, 350; Vzndex, 28, 
32; Vindictive, 33; WdZnwr Cosffo, 
98; Warsptie, 159, 178 
Brown, Commander Gaylord B., 302 
Brown, Lieutenant (jg) B., 307 
Brown, Rear Admiral Wilson, 141, 144, 

147, 150 

Brown, Sub-Lieutenant E. M., 99 
Browne, Lieutenant ( jg) Milton F., 309 
Browning, Commander Miles R., 207 
Bruce, Lieutenant (jg) J. L., 301 
Buckmaster, Captain Elliott, 187, 212, 

218, 219 
Bullpup, 353 

Bunkley, Captain J. W., 134 
Buracker, Captain W. H., 331 
Burke, Captain Arleigh A., 305 

Caffery, "Irish," 318 
Caldwell, Commander Henry H., 260 
Callaghan, Admiral Daniel J., 248 
Can, Lieutenant (jg) G. R., 296, 297 
Canine, Lieutenant G. A., 90 
Carver, Lieutenant E. S., 77 
Casablanca Conference, 258 
Casson, Lieutenant Commander J., 62 
Charlier, Sub-Lieutenant R. S., 71 
Cheesman, Major S. B. G., 350 
Churchill, Sir Winston S., 38, 50, 90, 

91, 97, 101, 103, 135, 166, 167 
Clark, Rear Admiral Joseph K., 277 
Cleland, Commander Cook, 10, 306, 

3 l8 > 319 
Clement, Lieutenant Colonel William 

T - *37 

Clifford, Lieutenant E. W., 88, 90 
Combat Information Center, 358 


Conklin, Eugene, 306 

Connolly, Captain Richard L., 164 

Convoy PQ-i7> 109 

Convoy PQ-i8, 108, 109 

Coode, Lieutenant Commander T. P., 

Coral Sea, Battle of, 162, 169, 182-90 

Coward, Captain Jesse G., 333 

Grace, Rear Admiral John G., 177, 178, 


Creehan, Commander E. P., 243 
Crutchley, Rear Admiral Victor A. C., 

Culley, Sub-Flight Lieutenant Stuart D., 

15, 17-22 
Cunningham, Admiral Sir Andrew 

Browne, 86, 87, 92, 94, 95 
Curtiss, Glenn, 23, 25 
Cushman, Kent, 306 

Dalyell-Stead, Lieutenant Commander 

Darlan, Admiral Jean, 63 
Davis, Captain Ralph O., 253, 255 
De Gaulle, General Charles, 167 
Denny, Admiral Sir Michael, no 
Dicken, Chief Signalman R. J., 176 
Dickenson, Lieutenant Clarence E., 142 
Di6go-Suarez, Madagascar, 166, 167 

Dixon, Commander Robert, 179-81 
Doenitz, Admiral Karl, 49, 112 
Doolittle, General James H., 36, 37, 

136, 162, 164, 165 
Douglas Captain Archibald H., 139 
Draemel, Rear Admiral Milo F., 141 
Duncan, Captain Donald B., 162 

Eason, Lieutenant Van V., 308, 31 5 
Edmonds, Flight Commander C. H. K., 


Eggert, Lieutenant Joseph R., 295 
Egusa, Lieutenant Commander Taka- 

shige, 128 

Elias, Sub-Lieutenant P. R., 76 
Ely, Eugene, 23, 24 
Eniwetok, Marshall Islands, 272 
Esmonde, Lieutenant Commander Eu- 
gene* 75 

Espiritu-Santo, New Hebrides, 170, 233 
Evans, Commander Ernest E., 338 
Everett, Lieutenant R. N., 66 

Fabre, Henri, 25 


Fain, Ensign Edgar M., 1 34 
Fairey aircraft: 

Albacore, 91; Fulmar, 53, 67; Sword- 
fish, 53 

Farrow, Lieutenant William G., 166 
Felt, Commander Harry D., 227, 228 
Fitch, Rear Admiral Aubrey W., 170, 

173-75, 184 
Flatley, Lieutenant Commander James 

H., 254 

Fleet Air Arm, 87, 90 
Fleming, Captain Richard E., 217 
Fletcher, Rear Admiral Frank J., 144, 
145, i?> 174. 1 75> *17> i7 8 1 97> 

211, 223 

Fletcher, Sub-Lieutenant G. R. P., 98 

Foltz, Ensign R. E., 299 

Ford Island, Hawaii, 124, 125, 127, 133 

Fowler, Ensign R. E., 296 

Francke, Leutnant Adolf, 56, 57 

Bearne, 37; Bretagne, 64; Bevetieres, 
167; Bougainville, 167; d'Entrecas- 
teaux, 167; Dunkerque, 63, 64; Joftre, 
37; Pdnleve, 37; Provence, 64; Stras- 
bourg, 63, 64 

Frey, Lieutenant H. W., 261 

Gaida, Aviation Machinist Bruno, 147 
Gains Lieutenant Commander Richard 

K., 238 
Gallaher, Lieutenant Commander Wil- 

mer E., 207, 213 

Gatch, Captain Thomas L., 236, 242 
. Gay, Jr., Ensign George H., 202, 205, 

206, 216 

Gayler, Lieutenant Noel A. M., 1 57 
Genda, Commander Minoru, 40, 130 
Admired Graf Spee, 58, 59; Admiral 
Scheer, 58; Mimark, 59; Bismarck, 
58, 75-79J Gneisenau, 51, 72, 75; 
~ '" ppelin, 38; Hipper, 51; Qrt- 

, , 34, 46; Prinz Eugen, 75, 76; 

Scharnhorst, 51, 62, 72, 75,' 112; 
Tirpitz, 109-12; Uhenfels, 58 
Submarines: 11-90, 50; U-3O, 55; 
U-39, 50, 55; U-73, 105; U-8i, 81; 
U-88, 109; 11-751, 99 
Gensoul, Admiral Marcel-Bruno, 63 
Ghormley, Vice-Admiral Robert L., 225 
Gibraltar, 65, 66, 68, 70, 8o 7 82, 84 
Giffen, Rear Admiral Robert G, 251, 


252, 254 
Gilbert Islands, 1 
Glassford, Vice- 

Goebbeb, Dr. Joseph, 55, 57, 84 
Goering, Field Marshal Hermann, 57 
Going, Lieutenant G. R. M., 88, 90 
Goto, Rear Admiral, 179 
Graves, Lieutenant V. N., 72 
Great Yarmouth, England, 17, 18, 26 
Gregory, Lieutenant, 25 
Guadalcanal, Battle of, 169, 220 
Guam, 138, 258, 293 
Guggenberger, Leutnant, 81 

Hale, Lieutenant Commander J. W., 90 
Hall, Leading Signalman J. E., 54 
Hallmark, Lieutenant Dean E., 166 
Halsey, Admiral William F., 139, 140, 
145, 146, 164-66, 236, 238, 336, 

Hamilton, Captain J. H., 192 
Hamilton, Lieutenant Commander 

Weldon L., 157, 158, 179, 180 
Hanson, Eugene, 315 
Hanson, Lieutenant M. C. E., 61 
Hara, Rear Admiral K., 182 
Hardison, Captain Osborne B., 241, 249 
Harrill, Rear Admiral William K., 277 
Harrison, Harry, 306 
Hart, Admiral Thomas C., 1 35, 137 
Hartley, Sub-Lieutenant J. V., 75 
Harwood, Lieutenant Bruce L., 228 
Hathaway, Commander Amos T., 338 
Haynes, Ensign Leon W., 148 
Healy, Lieutenant Commander Howard 

R., 187, 188 

Helfrich, Admiral C. E. L., i53> *54 
Henderson, Captain George, 259 
Henderson, Commander Harry, 255 
Henderson Field, 223, 226, 227, 231, 

237, 247 
Hepburn Board Report, 191 
Hickam Field, 121, 122, 124, 128 
Hill, Chief Boatswain E. J., 132 
Hitler, Adolf, 86 
Hobby, Lieutenant Commander Wil- 

liam H., 133 
Hodgkinson, Lieutenant Commander 

G. B., 66 
Hoel, Lieutenant Commander R. W., 

Holland Captain C. S., 59, 63, 73 


Hollandia, New Guinea, 274 
Honolulu, Hawaii, 121, 126 
Hoover, President Herbert, 119 
Hopping, Lieutenant Commander Hall- 

sted L., 146 

Hosogaya, Vice-Admiral B., 194 
Howard, Petty Officer Airman L. G. }., 

Hutchinson, Sub-Lieutenant D. A., 98 

Ingersoll, Admiral Royal E., 101 
Ingersoll, Captain Stuart H., 343 
Inglis, Captain Thomas B., 329 
Inouye, Vice-Admiral S., 137, 170, 175, 

179, 190 
Ironbottom Sound, 221, 224, 226, 246, 


Irvine, Ensign Charles B., 238 
Isely, Lieutenant Commander Robert 

A., 280, 306 
Bolzano, 93; Cavow, 89; Cavour- 
class, 68; Corzdzottere-class, 69; Conic 
Rosso, 32; Duttio, 89; Fiume, 95; 
Italia, 89; Libeccio, 89; Lz'ttorio-class, 
68, 89, 90; Pessango, 89; Polo, 94; 
San Casimiro, 72; Trento, 89; Vzt- 
torio Veneto, 68, 92-95; Zara, 95 
Itaya, Lieutenant Commander Shigeru, 

126, 127 
Iwo Jima, 346 

aluit, Marshall Islands, 145 
apanese aircraft (catalog), 123-24 
apanese Navy, strength, 114-19 
Submarines: 1-15, 235; I-ig, 232, 235; 
1-26, 232; 1-70, 142; I-i68, 198, 219; 
1-172, 247 

Abukuma, 159, 133; Agano, 260, 
262; Akagi, 32, 38, 39, 117, 119, 125, 
128, 159, 161, 201, 203, 207, 208, 
210; Akebono Mam, 200; AJtitsuki, 
335; Anuzgz, 40; Arashio, 218; Asa- 
gunio, 333; Asakazi Mara, 267; 
Atago, 260, 304, 327; Bordeaux. 
Mam, 146; Chikuma, 129, 159, 214, 
245; Chitose, 194, 335; Chiyoda, 
308, 335; Chokai, 249; Fujinami, 
261; Fuse, 327, 333; Ha&kaze, 209; 
HaguTO, 170, 309; Harukaze, 346; 
HCTUTUL, 159, 214, 308, 332; Haru- 
same, 287; Hatokaze, 345; Hayanami, 


287; Hayashimo, 339; Hiei, 121, 159, 

248, 249; Hfryu, 38, 119, 129, 159, 
203, 208, 210, 213-16; Hz'yo, 247, 

249, 307, 308; Hosho, 32, 38, 39, 
119, 194, 215; Hosyo, 32, 40; Hyuga, 
335; &<*> 335J ^sokaze, 249, 266; 
Isuzu, 249, 266; Jintsu, 194, 231; 
Junyo, 200, 242; Kaga, 32, 38-40, 
117, 119, 125, 203, 207-9; Kagero, 
231; Kanto Mam, 146; Kashimar 
Maru, 146; Kfltori, 146; Kawakaze, 
226; Kazagumo, 215; Kikuzuki, 173; 
Kinryu Mara, 231; Kinugasa, 249; 
Kirishima, 159, 245; Kisinani, 327; 
Kongo, 159; Kongo Maru 9 158; Ku- 
manOy 210; Maikaze, 209; Maya, 249, 
260, 261, 327; Michishio, 249, 333; 
Mikuma, 216-18; MinazuM, 287; 
Mochizuld, 246; Mogami, 216-18, 
260, 308, 333; Musashi, 39, 117, 332; 
Mutsukz, 231; Myofeo, 170, 309, 332; 
Nachi, 335; Naganami, 262; Nagara, 

208, 215, 267; Nagata Mam, 146; 
Ndgato, 308, 332; NoshiTO, 260, 339; 
Nowdfef, 339; Otori, 277; Oyodo, 
335; Ryuho, 308; Ryu/o, 32, 119, 
137, 160, 200, 226, 228; Ryuzyo, 32, 
38; Sendai, 194; Shigure, 327, 334; 
Shoho, 179-81; Shohdku, 38, 119, 
123, 159, ijo, 181, 183, 184, 190, 
228, 245, 289; Soryu, 38, 119, 124, 
125, 128, 129, 159, 203, 206, 208, 

209, 214; Suzanami, 192, 262; 
Suzuya, 216; Taiho, 289; Taiyo, 119; 
Tazyo Mow, 120, 121; Takao, 260, 
327; Tama, 335; Tama Maru, 173; 
Tanikaze, 287; Tofezwd, 146; Tone, 
129, 159, 202, 203, 214, 228, 332, 
339; Tsuga, 345; Ushio, 192; Wakat- 
suJti, 260; lamagumo, 334; Yamd- 
shiro, 333, 334; Yamato, 39, 117, 
iQ4> 3 2 7 332> 337, 339J Yubflri, 262; 
Yugumo, 215; Yuzufa, 174; Zuzho, 
119, 215, 238, 335; Zwkaka, 119, 
127, 150, 170, 181, 183, 184, 190, 

r 237> 3<4 3.9> 335 
elucoe, Admiral John, 31 
'essel, Commander R. S., 82 
eweU, RM3/c J. B., 158 
bhn Rogers Airport, 121 
bhnson, Ensign Joseph Phillip, 158 
bhnstone, Lieutenant Commander 
Mervyn, 67, 68 


omard Passage, 174 
oshima, Admiral T., 307 
ulie system, 365, 366 
linkers, Commander Heine, 188 
urika, Lieutenant Stephen, 164 
utland, Battle of, 31 

Kaafjord, Norway, 109, no 
Kai-shek, Generalissimo Chiang, 164 
Kaku, Captain, 214 
Kakuta, Rear Admiral Kakuji, 193, 194, 


Kamikaze warfare, 340-51 
Kaneohe Naval Air Station, Hawaii, 

122, 128 
Kemp, Lieutenant Commander P. K., 


Kendall, Lieutenant E. F., 295 
Kendari, Celebes, 159 
Kenney, Lieutenant General George C., 

262, 345 

Kenworthy, Commander Jesse L., 133 
Kidd, Rear Admiral Isaac C., 1 32 
Kiefer, Captain Dixie, 348 
Kimmel, Admiral Husband E., 139-4! 
King, Admiral Ernest J., 101, 140, 162, 

220, 322 
Kinkaid, Rear Admiral Thomas C., 237, 

243, 286, 326, 332, 337 
Kirkpatrick, Donald, 306 
Kirn, Lieutenant Commander L. J., 230 
Koga, Admiral Mineichi, 259, 262 
Komatsu, Warrant Officer Sakio, 289 
Kondo, Vice-Admiral N., 155, 194, 216, 

Kurita, Rear Admiral T., 194, 216, 260, 

299. p5> 33*> .33? 
Kusaka, Admiral Jimchi, 121, 261 
Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, 140, 145, 

266, 272 

Leary, Vice-Admiral Herbert F., 144, 
153, 178 

LeBlanc, Ren6, 306 

Lee, Lieutenant Commander James R., 

Lee, Jr., Rear Admiral Willis A., 236, 

Leppla, Ensign John A., 180, 181 

Leyte Gulf, Battle of, 325-44 

Lindsey, Lieutenant Commander Eu- 
gene E., 206, 210 

Lingayen Gulf, Philippines, 346 


Liska, Gunner John, 180 
Lockhard, Joseph L., 122 
Long, Aviation Machinist's Mate Bill, 

V7> 3 l8 
Lowry, Captain Frank J., 140 

Lucy, Lieutenant W. P., 61 
Lynch, Lieutenant John J., 245 
Lyster, Rear Admiral Arthur L. St 
George, 104 

MacArthur, General Douglas, 137, 223, 

259, 275, 281, 322, 349 
McCain, Vice-Admiral John S., 327, 

McCampbdl, Commander David S., 

299, 302, 328 
McCluskey, Commander Clarence W., 

McConnell, Commander Robert P., 

154, 155 

McEwen, Lieutenant B. E., 56 
Mackendrick, Commander D, M., 99, 

Magnetic Aircraft Detection (MAD), 


Maher, Captain James E., 243 
Makeig-Jones, Captain, 50 
Makin Island, 145 
Malaya, 137, 138 

Maloelap, Marshall Islands, 145, 146 
Malta, 100-7 
Mangrum, Lieutenant Colonel Richard 

C., 231 
Marianas, 264 

2nd, 281; 4th, 281 
Marshall Islands, 264 
Martin, Captain William I., 278, 279 
Marumo, Admiral Kuniori, 179 
Marusan Program, 39 
Mason, Captain Charles P., 243 
Massey, Lieutenant Colonel Lance E., 


Matapan, Battle of, 93-95 
Maund, Captain L. E. H., 73, 81, 82, 84 
Midway, Battle of, 194-217 
Midway Islands, 130, 143, 162, 166, 


Mikawa, Admiral Gunichi, 224, 249 
Mirror landing system, 358, 359 
Mitchell, Able Seaman E., 81 
Mitchell, Ensign John J., 233, 234 

3 8o 

Mitchell, Brigadier General William, 

34> 3 6 
Mitscher, Admiral Marc A., 162, 196, 

Miura, Commander Y., 208 
Montgomery, Rear Admiral Alfred E., 

261, 262, 280 

Mori, Chief Petty Officer Juzo, 124-26 
Morison, Admiral Samuel Eliot, 10, 101, 

119, 134, 141 

Mountbatten, Admiral Louis, 274 
Murata, Lieutenant Commander Shige- 

haru, 124 
Murphy, Lieutenant Commander }. W., 


Murray, Admiral George E., 139, 243 
Murray-Seuter, Captain F., 29 
Musick, Lieutenant Commander K. F., 


Mussolini, Benito, 86, 91 
Myers, Lieutenant R. F., 295 

Nagoya, Japan, 164, 165 

Nagumo, Vice-Admiral Tadaichi, 122, 

123, 129, 142, 159, 161, 193, 199, 

202, 208, 215, 288 
Namsos, Norway, 60 
Narvik, Norway, 61 
Naval Limitations Treaty, 114 
Neely, Ensign P. F., 180 
Nelson, Lieutenant R. S., 304 
New Britain, 156, 276 
New Guinea, 156 
New Ireland, 148, 276 
Newton, Rear Admiral John H., 139, 


Night-landing operations, 362, 363 
Nimitz, Admiral Chester W., 196, 197, 

264, 286, 322 

Nisewaner, Commander T. A., 334 
Nishimura, Vice-Admiral Shoji, 326, 

Nordholz, Germany, 19 

Noyes, Rear Admiral Leigh, 223, 235 

Oahu, 122, 123, 128, 129 
Ofstie, Admiral R. A., 336 
O'Hare, Lieutenant Edward H., 150-52 
Oishi, Captain, 199 
Okada, Captain Jisaku, 208 
Oldendorf, Admiral Jesse B., 333, 336 
Oliver, Lieutenant Commander A. G., 


Omark, Lieutenant (jg) Warren R., 


Onishi, Rear Admiral Takijiro, 40 
Operation A-Go, 285, 286 
Operation Grab, 67 
Operation Ironclad, 167 
Operation "KA," 226 
Operation Pedestal, 104, 107 
Operation Smash, 67 
Operation Torch, 257 
Operation Watchtower, 223, 258 
Oraie, Leading Airman R. N., 74 
Osaka, Japan, 164, 165 
Ozawa, Vice-Admiral Jisaburo, 160, 

285-87, 289, 290, 298, 309, 320, 


Partridge, Captain R. T., 62 

Patch, Jr., Major General Alexander M., 


Patterson, Sub-Lieutenant N. H., 98 
Pearl Harbor, attack on, 41, 114, 131 
Philippines, 137, 138 
Philippine Sea, Battle of, 282-321 
Phillips, Captain J. S., 176 
Polaris submarines, 355, 367, 368 
Port Moresby, New Guinea, 156, 169 
Power, Captain A. J., 54 
Pownall, Rear Admiral C. A., 266, 269- 

7 1 

Prather, Lieutenant (jg) Verne, 317-19 
Presley, Seaman S. D., 241 
Pridham-Wippell, Vice-Admiral Sir 

Henry, 92-94 

Primary flight operations, 356, 357 
Proell, Kapitanleutnant, 19 
Proximity fuse, 253 
Pye, Vice-Admiral William S., 1 33, 196 

Rabaul, New Britain, 144, 147, 224, 


Radford, Rear Admiral Arthur W., 347 
Ramsey, Captain Dewitt C., 232 
Reed, Lieutenant Allen, 329 
Reeves, Jr., Rear Admiral John W,, 101, 


Rennell Island, 259 

Richardson, Lieutenant David C., 227 
Ridgway, Lieutenant C. D., 295 
Riduka, Chief Quartermaster F., 242 
Rodee, Commander Walter F., 239 
Roosevelt, President Franklin D., 101, 

119, 166, 191, 322 


Rosenbaum, Lieutenant Commander, 


Roth, Lieutenant Eli, 255 
Royal Air Force, 47, 100 
Royal Flying Corps, 25, 27 
Royal Naval Air Service, 16, 17, 24, 26 
Runyon, Warrant Machinist Donald E., 


Saipan, Marianas, 276, 277, 281 
Saito, General Yaheita, 286 
Sakamoto, Lieutenant Akira, 124 
Samejima, Admiral Tomoshige, 259 
Samoa, 143, 145 
Samson, Commander Charles Rumney, 

16-18, 24, 25, 28 
Saunt, Lieutenant Commander W. H. 

J., 92-94 

Savo Island, Battle of, 174, 225 
Savoia-Marchetti aircraft, 79, 96 
Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, 30 
Scarlett, Lieutenant N. J., 89 
Scheer, Admiral Reinhard, 32 
Schofield Barracks, 122 
Schuhart, Lieutenant Commander, 50 
Seligman, Commander M. T., 186 
Sellstrom, Ensign Edward R., 148 
Semple, Rear Admiral W. D., 336 
Seversky, Major Alexander P. de, 268 
Seybert, Sy, 306 
Seymour, Acting Petty Officer Airman, 

, Lieutenant Courtney, 234 

Sherman, Captain Frederick C., 139, 

Sherman, Rear Admiral Forrest P., 233, 

251, 261 
Shima, Vice-Admiral Kiyohidi, 326, 

33 2 > 334> 335 
Shimazaki, Lieutenant Commander 

Shigekazu, 127, 128 
Shindo, Lieutenant Sasburo, 128 
Short, Eustace, 26 
Short, Horace, 26 
Short, Lieutenant Wallace C., 213 
Short, Oswald, 26 
Short, Seaman L. V., 133 
Shuff, John, 315-19 
Shultz, Ensign O. J., 181 
Shumway, Lieutenant Commander De- 

witt W., 288 
Sidewinder (missile), 353 
Simard, Captain Cyril T., 217 

3 8i 

Sims, Lieutenant (jg) Charles A., 300 

Sleigh, Lieutenant J. W., 99 

Smeeton, Rear Admiral Richard M., 65, 


Smiley, Commander Curtis S., 147 
Smith, Chief Machinist's Mate Wil- 
liam A., 231 
Smith, Lieutenant Commander Her- 

schel A., 230 

Smith, Commander "Wingover," 314 
Solomon Islands, 148, 275 
Somerville, Vice-Admiral Sir James, 63, 

159, 160,273,274 
Sonobuoys, 366 
South China Sea, 344, 345 
Sparrow III (missile), 353 
Spate, Sergeant Harold A., 166 
Sprague, Rear Admiral Thomas L., 3*6 
Spruance, Rear Admiral Raymond A., 

139, 164, 193, 196, 197, 204, 279, 

291, 320 

Stanfill, Grady, 306 
Stanley, Lieutenant Onia B., 148 
Sterrie, Norman, 306 
Stewart-Moore, Lieutenant Commander 

J. A., 69, 78 

Strong, Lieutenant Stockton B., 238 
Stump, Captain F. B., 271 
Sumatra, 273, 274, 350 
Surabaya, 275 
Sutherland, Lieutenant General R. K., 

Suzuki, Lieutenant Commander Suguru, 

120, 121 
Swann (Schwann) Commander Oliver, 

25, 29 
Swanson, Clint, 306 

Takagi, Vice Admiral Takeo, 174, 175, 

Takahashi, Lieutenant Commander 

Kakuichi, 124 
Tanabe, Lieutenant Commander Ya- 

hachi, 219 
Tanoka, Rear Admiral R., 194, 226, 

231, 249, 250 

Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, 265 
Tarr, Ensign Thomas, 301 
Task Group Organization, 340, 341 
Tate, Lieutenant (jg) Benjamin C., 307 
Tawitawi, Philippines, 286 
Taylor, Ensign Thomas H., 132 

Taylor, Lieutenant Commander Joseph, 

*73 l8 3 
Thach, Captain James, 341 

Thach, Lieutenant Commander John S., 
148-52, 206 

Theobald, Rear Admiral Robert A., 197 

Thomas, Lieutenant Commander Fran- 
cis J., 132 

Thomas, Lieutenant Commander James 
A., 250 

Tinian, Marianas, 277 

Tjilatjap, Java 153 i 154 

Tokyo Raid, 162-66 

Tollberg, Watertender 2/c M. W., 255 

Tomonaga, Lieutenant Joichi, 212, 213 


Trondheim, Norway, 60-62 
Trousdale, Lieutenant J. H., 295 
Truk, Caroline Islands, 148, 258 
Tsukahara, Admiral Nishizo, 226 
Tulagi, Solomon Islands, 170, 174 
Turner, Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly, 

223,233,2^7 272,289 
Twining, General Nathan F., 259 
Tyce, Robert, 122 
Tyrwhitt, Commander Sir Reginald, 16, 


Ugaki, Rear Admiral ML, 21 5, 288 

Ulithi, Caroline Islands, 349 

Army, 27th Div., 281; Air, 2oth 
Bomber Command, 344; Navy, 119, 

Submarines; Albacore, 289, 302; 
Bang, 302; Cavalla, 288, 289, 303; 
Dace, 327; Darter, 327; Dolphin, 145; 
Finback, 291, 302; Flying Fish, 288, 
290; Harder, 287; Puffer, 287; Redfn, 
287, 288, 290; Seahorse, 290; Sting- 
ray, 302; Tarnbor, 217 
Alabama, 209; Arizona, 122, 127, 
131, 132; Astoria, 139, 174, 211; 
Balch, 231; Bataan, 289; Belleau 
Wood, 256, 265, 289, 293; Benham, 
219; Birmingham, 329, 330, 331; 
Blue, 226; Bobolink, 134; Boxer, 10; 
Brush, 348; Bunker Hill, 256, 262, 
265, 300, 314; Cabot, 293, 340; CaU- 


fornia, 122, 131, 133, 134; Cape 
Esperance, 343; Cassin, 122; Che- 
nango, 251, 254; Chester, 145, 146, 
174; Chicago, 139, 177, 252-55; 
Cimarron, 163; Colorado, 139; Cow- 
pens, 256, 265, 289, 343; Curtiss, 
122; Dennis, 338; Downs, 122; Ed- 
sail, 154, 155; Edwards, 255; Enter- 
prise, 36, 120, 123, 130, 139-42, 145, 

147, 204, 2O6, 207, 210, 217, 226- 
28, 230, 231, 236, 237, 239, 241-43, 

- 8, 278, 292; Essex, 37, 256, 265, 
280, 340, 344; Fanshaw Bay, 336, 
ijB;Forrestal, 10, 306; 

.- 336, 3395 GwiTi, 218, 
219; Grant, A. W., 333, 334; Ham- 
mann, 174, 219; Hancock, 340, 348; 
Heermann, 337, 338; Helena, 122; 
Henley, 177; Sickox, 320; Hoe/, 337, 
338; Honolulu, 122, 197; Hornet, 30, 
120, 136, 162-65, *95> 20 4 210 > 

217, 218, 226, 232, 233, 235, 236, 
238, 239 241, 243, 244, 277, 289, 
301; Hughes, 218, 243; Idaho, 140; 
Independence, ip, 37, 256, 265; In- 
diana, 299; Indianapolis, 141, 197, 
279; Intrepid, 10; Irwin, 328, 329, 
331; Jarvis, 223; John C. Butler, 338; 
Johnston, 337, 338; Juneau, 243; 
Jupiter, 35; Kadashan Bay, 336; 
Kalinin Bay, 336, 338; Kitkun Bay, 
336; Kitty fwwfe, 192; Kwajatein, 
343; Ixzfee Champlain, 10, 366; Lang, 
103; I^ngfey, 35, 36, 119, 153-55. 
28 9> 343> 347; Lansdovme, 236, 246; 
Ld Valtette, 255, 270; Leary, R. P., 
333; Lexington, 10, 36, 43, no, 130, 
139, 141 147-49 152, 156] 157, 
170, 181-84, 186-88, 190, 256, 265, 
270, 288; Long Island, 37; Louisville, 
145, 147, 197, 252, 254; Mac- 
Donougfi, 232, 279; McDermut, 333; 
Maddox, 348; Mdhan, 245; Majaba, 
246; Manila Bay, 336; Marcus Island, 
336; Maryland, 122, 127, i33;Minne- 
<#oKs, 140, 142, 173, 232, 298; Mis- 
sissippi, 140, 265; Mobile, 302; Mo- 
naghan, 343; Monterey, 265, 343; 
Morris, 240; Morrison, 329; Musier, 
235; Mustin, 244; Nashville, 1^3, 
105, 197; Nafond Bay, 336; Navaho, 

218, 254, 255; Neches, 144; Neosho, 
173-74; Nevadd, 122, 132, 133; New- 


combe, 333; New Mexico, 140; New 
Orleans, 173; Northampton, 139, 
145, 146, 240, 243; North Carolina, 
25, 35, 120, 235, 347; Oglaga, 122; 
Oklahoma, 122, 131, 133; Ommaney 
Bay, 336; Pennsylvania, 23, 122, 131, 
132; Pensacola, 243; Petrof Bay, 336; 
Phelps, 190; Phoenix, 153; Porter, 
141, 240, 243; Portland, 139, i4i, 
211; Princeton, 256, 259, 260, 265, 
300, 328-31; Raleigh, 122; Ranger, 
36; Raymond, 338; Reno, 329, 331; 
Rochester, 145; Russell, 173, 240, 
243; Sabine, 164; Salt Lake City, 142, 
145, 146; Samuel B. Roberts, 338; 
San Diego, 259; Sands, 255; San 
Francisco, 247, 270; Sangamon, 336; 
Son Juan, 241-43, 259; San Jacinto, 
343; Sante, 336; Saratoga, 10, 36, 43, 
119, 139, 144, i9 2 226-28, 232, 
250, 259, 260; Savo Mind, 336; Sea 
Witch, 153; Shaw, 122, 240; Sims, 
175, 176; Smith, 241; Southard, 246; 
South Dakota, 236, 241, 242, 245, 
298, 299; Spence, 343; Sterett, 103; 
St. Lo, 336, 337, 339; St. Louis, 145, 
147, 197; Stockham, 298, 299; Su- 
wannee, 251, 254, 336; Taylor, 270; 
Tennessee, 122, 131; Ticonderoga, 
342, 347; Utah, 122; VestaZ, 122, 
132; Vincennes, 163; Vireo, 134, 218, 
219; WaCer, 252, 255; Wasatch, 
337; Washington, 120, 347; Wasp, 
36, 101-3, 120, 226, 232-36, 30 

? ---' P; W/li 



t**t, J*JS+, 11 *mn*"* *r ,.. --, ^ / 7 

West Virginia, 122, 131; Wright, 
192; YarnaH, 293, 298; Yorfetown, 36, 
120, 140, 144, 147, 156, 158, 173, 

178, 181-84, l8 ^> 1 9 X 9"' 20 4' 2 6 ' 
210-13, 218, 219, 256, 265, 270, 289 

Valkenburgh, Captain Franklin van, 


Vejtasa, Lieutenant S. W., 241 
Vose, Lieutenant James .,245 
Vraciu, Alex, 306 

Wainwright, General Jonathan M., 175 

Wake Island, 129, 143 

Waldron, Lieutenant Commander John 

C., 204, 205 

Washington Conference, 114 
Wavell, General Sir Archibald, 91, 97, 


Wells, Vice-Admiral L. V., 54 
Welsh, Flight Lieutenant W. L., 29 
Weymouth, Lieutenant Commander 

Ralph, 301 

Wheeler Field, 122, 124 
White, Commander Arthur J., 153, 189 
Widhelm, Lieutenant Commander Wil- 
liam J., 238, 244, 245, 305 
Williams, Sub-Lieutenant H. E., 99 
Williamson, Lieutenant Commander 

K., 88, 89 

Willie Fudd, 363, 364, 368 
Winston, Lieutenant Commander F. L., 

Wintour, Lieutenant Commander J. M., 

Wood, Lieutenant Commander Hunter, 


Woods, Quartermaster D. E., 271 
Wotje, 145 

Wright Brothers, 22, 23, 26 
Wright, Jack, 318 

Yamada, Rear Admiral Sadoyoshi, 170 
Yamaguchi, Rear Admiral Tamon, 210, 

211, 213, 214 
Yamamoto, Admiral Isoroku, 41, 170, 

193-95, 198, 200, 208, 215, 216, 


Yanagimoto, Captain, 210 
Yashiro, Rear Admiral, 146 

Zeppelin L.53, 19-21