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USS Enterprise CV-6
The Most Decorated Ship of the Second World War

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Don Gordon of VF-10 continues:

At 0830, the Japanese van - Carrier Division 3 with three light carriers and 100 miles closer to Task Force 58 than the rest of the Mobile Fleet - launched 69 aircraft: a strike known as Raid I in American accounts. Task Force 58 radar detected flocks of bogeys 150 miles west at 0959. The fighter directors called a "Hey Rube" to fighters sent to investigate aircraft over Guam. Five minutes later, General Quarters sounded for all ships. At this time Lexington, our flagship, was 105 miles northwest of Guam.

Contrails over Task Force 58
Contrails fill the sky over Task Force 58 during the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, 19 June 1944.

At 1023 TF 58 turned into the wind, 22 knots east by south, and the Ready Alert pilots manned their aircraft. In the case of Enterprise, that was four divisions of four aircraft each to be led by the Commanding Officer, LCDR Bud Schumann. My division was included in this launch. In just eight minutes, the full deck load of fighters were launched and the decks were cleared of the bombers which had been loaded for possible strike against the Mobile Fleet. The bombers orbited east of the Task Force, waiting for further orders. With the decks clear and with a constant heading into the wind, the carriers could recover the Hellcats when necessary to fuel, re-arm, and change pilots.

After launch, we were directed to 15,000 feet overhead. Schumann was having radio problems and did not receive the instruction for two divisions to vector 270 degrees. I assumed the lead and acknowledged.

As we approached our battleship formation, it did not look like a healthy situation as the umbrella of anti-aircraft fire was well above our horizon. I climbed the group of fighters to 25,000 feet to avoid their AA and altered our course to the north as added precaution. The AA umbrella was up to 20,000 feet - and on the surface at least five miles beyond the screen. This force made up of six battleships, four heavy cruisers, and 14 destroyers was unique and awe inspiring. The lone battleship in the center, Indiana, added to my confidence in our power at this moment. It is my most memorable scene in World War II.

Records show that battleship South Dakota was hit by a bomb at 1049 during the 69 plane attack. With the amount of AA it was obvious that we had missed Raid I. We proceeded west and saw no enemy aircraft and returned over base by 1115. We should have been launched earlier or vectored earlier.

By 1057, the Raid I attack was complete. Forty-two of the 69 aircraft had been destroyed, 25 by fighters from Essex and other carriers. The inexperienced do not and can not realize how fast these actions occur. If you tangle with Zeros, you miss the bombers and torpedo planes. If you chase bombers you miss out on torpedo planes, and so on. At 200 to 240 knots, 10 to 15 miles can be covered rather rapidly. With the enemy closing at the same speed, you should be in a defensive position as early as possible. We were out of position.

Ozawa's Carrier Division 1 - the most southern group of three carriers - began launching 128 aircraft at 0856: Raid II. This raid took a track on their first leg over the van group, which made their distance to the target much longer than a direct route of 445 miles.

At 1107, this raid was detected at 115 miles. They had been in the air three hours before arriving over the target area, and this original group of 130 aircraft suffered some amazing early losses. One warrant officer in a Judy dove into the ocean to destroy a torpedo fired by the submarine Albacore at carrier Taiho, Admiral Ozawa's Flagship. It was a fruitless effort: one torpedo found its target at 0905 and the carrier sank at 1530. Eight aircraft had engine trouble and returned to their carriers. Also, as the group departed and flew over their own task force, friendly anti-aircraft fire shot down two planes. Another eight were so damaged that they returned to their carrier. Thus, the strike was reduced to 109 aircraft.

Raid II included two pathfinders. They were probably responsible for dropping chaff to the northeast of Task Force 58, drawing our fighters off in that direction.

As the raid neared, I was vectored 250 degrees. This time 10-15 miles southwest of the battle line, I tallyhoed four aircraft with in-line engines to our port and low. We reported them as Judys. We were probably at 15,000 feet. I ignored some Zeros to our right that appeared to carry drop tanks. I did not think they could damage anyone but me. We selected the most lethal target, the aircraft that had torpedos. As we followed the Judys, I shot down one as we approached the battle line from the south. At a lower altitude we shot down another. At this time the AA from the battle line was very intense, as before. Shrapnel was churning the water at least 5 miles from the center. I was firing at the third Judy as we flew about fifty feet over the water. Neither of us could see through the AA, I am sure, and the churned up water. Suddenly, he dropped his torpedo and turned right to avoid the AA. I got him in that turn. I doubt that the torpedo had enough endurance to reach the battle line. The fourth torpedo plane escaped.

In my research, I found out that the Zeros did carry bombs in these raids and Judys only carried bombs. So after nearly 50 years, I learned that I shot down Jills. Anyhow, these aircraft had in-line engines and carried torpedos, whether they were Judys or Jills. Furthermore, the official record gives my wingman and I credit for one Judy each. I do not know who got credit for the third! Enterprise's 16 fighters were given credit for two Judys and one Kate from Raids I and II. Again we were almost too late to make the intercept. If the fighter directors did anything wrong this day, they held the CAP over their own Task Group until the raid was too close for an effective intercept.

At 1130, Ozawa's CarDiv 1 and CarDiv 2, six carriers, completed a combined launch of 82 aircraft in Raid IV. When it was launched, Raid IV was directed to a bogus fix about 110 miles south of Task Force 58 and about 95 miles southwest of Guam. It was a fiasco. When no targets were found at that fix, 18 aircraft returned to their carrier. The other 15 aircraft from CarDiv 1 took up a heading to Rota, while 49 aircraft from CarDiv 2 proceeded toward Guam. At 1423, the small group of 15 aircraft, sighted TG 58.2. They changed course for the attack. Six aircraft came in under the CAP and attacked the cruiser Mobile, and carriers Wasp and Bunker Hill.

The larger group of 49 aircraft from CarDiv 2 continued on a heading to Guam. At 1449, they jettisoned their bombs near Guam. An hour earlier, Enterprise had launched two divisions of Hellcats and escorts for seaplanes from the cruisers and battleships. The SOCs were also escorted by the F4U night fighters. One of the Enterprise divisions was led by Lt. Rod Devine. It was his first launch of the day.

The Devine division was ordered to investigate bogeys enroute to Guam around 1510. When the remainder of Raid IV arrived at Guam, they were met by Yorktown, Cowpens, Essex, Hornet, and Enterprise fighters. Thirty of the 49 aircraft were destroyed. Nineteen aircraft that managed to land at Rota were so badly damaged that they were beyond repair. In ten minutes the Devine division destroyed 11 aircraft, while another section of Hellcats from Enterprise accounted for 4 more kills. The Devine division was in the right position at the right time and made the most of it. This brought the Grim Reapers' (VF-10) total to 18 aircraft destroyed at the loss of one Hellcat: a total that was less glamorous than some carriers, but only a few of the enemy escaped once contact was made.

One Hellcat from Enterprise was lost while escorting SOC seaplanes from Montpelier, sent to pick up two men in a raft about three miles west of Guam. Two Hellcats were escorting one SOC, while an F4U-2 from VF(N)-101 escorted the other. After landing, each SOC rescued one man, but could not take off because of the east wind condition. The SOCs started taxiing to the northwest. One of the SOCs was strafed by a Zeke. An Enterprise Hellcat came to its defense, but was shot down. We should remember that many SOC pilots risked their lives with a very defenseless aircraft.

By 1845, most of the enemy aircraft had been shot down, returned to their bases, or landed on the islands.

Japanese Raids And Losses
RaidTotal AircraftLosses
IV82   73   
Seaplanes45   23   
Total Remaining130 

The Japanese carriers and other ships launched 373 aircraft and only 130 returned, a loss of 243 aircraft. U.S. aircraft losses were 23 shot down, and 6 others were lost operationally. Aviation personnel casualties were 20 pilots and 7 air crewmen. U.S. carrier planes made 300 intercepts: all but 5 were by Hellcats. Three Task Force 58 ships were hit or near-missed with the loss of 4 officers and 27 enlisted men. The reported superior readiness of the U.S. pilots is hard to imagine:

Historians have studied this action for years. There is general agreement that the fighter pilots' claims were consistently thirty percent higher than the facts will bear. The US Pacific Fleet Command released a total of 402 aircraft destroyed, 366 by Hellcats, 19 by AA fire and 17 by ground fire. The Japanese carriers launched only 328 aircraft and 45 seaplanes for a total of 373. At the end of the day 130 of these remained. Aircraft from Guam, Rota and Truk were destroyed, but not enough to make up the difference between 243 and 402.

With land-based losses on the order of 60 aircraft, operational losses and 22 aircraft that sank with Taiho and Shokaku, the real losses on June 19 may have been 315 to 325. In any case, it was a big defeat for his Imperial Navy, which would appear only one more time, in the battle for the Philippines.

Task Force 58 Strikes
20 June 1944

"Jig-Dog" Ramage resumes the narrative:

As we move into the second phase of the battle, I must point out two events of great importance which were not known at that time. The first was the attack by our submarine Albacore on Ozawa's Flagship Taiho at 0909 on the 19th. She was Japan's newest carrier but succumbed to one torpedo. This fact was not known until months later. Second was the attack on Shokaku by our submarine Cavalla at 1220. Shokaku took four hits. These two ships went down with a loss of over 2900 men, and 22 aircraft.

This brings up a question. After the loss of his two big carriers on the 19th and most of his aircraft, why would Ozawa remain in the area? First, he was not aware of his heavy losses in the Turkey Shoot, and was standing by to recover the aircraft that supposedly had landed on Guam and Rota. Second, his pilots reported sinking at least four American flattops with six more covered with black smoke. They also reported huge success against the Grumman F6Fs. He intended to complete the job on Task Force 58 on the 21st.

At 1300 on 20 June, Ozawa finally got aboard the Zuikaku where he learned of his terrible aircraft losses of the previous day. He counted about 100 planes operational in the Mobile Fleet. He was again confused by Admiral Kakuta, who advised him that a number of planes had landed in Rota and Guam - not adding that most of them were not operational. Ozawa assumed that Kakuta's force had been augmented from Iwo Jima, Yap, and Truk.

Our TBM search that morning, which covered a 120 degree sector to the west out to 325 miles, was 75 miles short of the Japanese. An additional noon search by Hellcats on bearing 340 degrees to 476 miles was to the north of Ozawa's force. We in the ready rooms were still sweating it out.

Bombing Ten Dauntless Launches at Dusk
A Bombing Ten SBD Dauntless launches from Enterprise at dusk in early 1944, much as the squadron did on the evening of June 20.

At 1542 on the 20th, Lt Stu Nelson of VT-10 finally reported the enemy fleet position as 135° 25' east and 15° 00' north. At 1548 Mitscher signaled "prepare to launch a deckload strike." At 1621 the force had reversed course into the east wind and commenced launching. The prevailing east wind had much to do with controlling operations that day. At 1636 the launch was completed and the task force headed back to the west to try to shorten the return trip of the airborne striking force. Barrett Tillman, the historian, says the totals involved were 98 F6Fs, 51 SB2Cs, 26 SBDs and 52 TBMs, for a total of 227 aircraft. RADM Harrill's TG 58.4 consisting of Essex, Langley, and Cowpens did not participate in this strike.

There were two SBD Dauntless squadrons remaining in TF 58 at that time: VB-16 commanded by LCDR Ralph Weymouth in Lexington and VB-l0 in Enterprise. Both squadrons were nearing the end of their combat cruise, hence were well experienced. We felt that in the SBD (Slow But Deadly) we had a much better dive bomber than the SB2C (Beast). However, we had about 50-75 miles less combat radius in the Dauntless. Hence, we were the strike-limiting aircraft in the task force. Records will show that of the 26 SBDs flying on that strike, only three Dauntlesses went in the water. Lt. Lou Bangs, my second division leader, our only loss, went in the drink after having been waved off from the Big E because of a foul deck. He was rescued.

We were well briefed for the attack. We had decided to use vice automatic lean fuel control, and to stay low enough so that we would not have to use high blower. I reluctantly went to high during the run-in because we picked up some Zeros and I didn't want to get shot down for lack of reserve power.

Prior to launch we were given the Japanese position as about 270 miles to the west: beyond our range, but it didn't seem to be a problem. It did become of great interest when, after launching, we found out that the fleet was one degree (60 miles) farther out; definitely out of range. Upon receiving this information, I felt certain that all the SBDs would take a bath. I was not worried about the TBFs and F6Fs.

We used a running rendezvous in order to save fuel and by 20 miles out I had the 12 F6Fs and 5 TBFs with my 12 bombers. We launched into a clear blue sky at about 1630 local time. We were in a gradual on-course climb indicating about 140 knots. This was not comfortable for the other aircraft types, but we had the fuel problem. We gradually climbed to about 15,000 feet. I got a whiff of smoke and said to my gunner Aviation Radioman 1/C D. J. Cawley, "Are you smoking?" He replied in the negative and said, "Skipper, I can smell it too." Then the cockpit began to fill with a heavy black smoke. "Damn. I think we are on fire!" Cawley waited awhile and offered the suggestion that perhaps some lube oil had been spilled and was beginning to burn off as the cylinders became heated. I hoped so. Here was our big chance and here I was with an engine fire. I said, "Cawley, you may be right. We're going on anyway." Within five minutes the smoke cleared up!

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