|U.S.S. ENTERPRISE (CV6)|
|BOMBING SQUADRON SIX|
|CONFIDENTIAL||February 2, 1942|
FLIGHT LEADER'S REPORT OF ATTACK ON MALOELAP AT 1030, 1 FEBRUARY, 1942, BY NINE SBD'S.
- At 0930, nine SBD's which had landed at 0900 after having taken part in the Group's dawn
attack on Kwajalein, were launched for an attack on Taroa Island, Maloelap Atoll. This group
under my command was composed of seven planes of Bombing Squadron Six and two planes of
Scouting Squadron Six. Each plane was armed with one 500 lb, and two 100 lb bombs, and a full
load of fixed and flexible machine gun ammunition.
At the time of launching the ship was about ninety-five miles from the objective. Emergency departure was taken and rendezvous was effected enroute. Flying in three - three plane sections the group climbed, using 90 to 100 per cent power until an up sun position about thirty miles to the southeast of Taroa Island at 19,000 feet altitude was reached at 1032. At this time, and from this point, a high speed nose down approach was commenced, directly towards Taroa Island, the group remaining closed up in a modified division "V" formation (one wing section high and one wing section low) for mutual defense against enemy fighter aircraft which were reported to be quite plentiful in the vicinity of the target. When about six miles from the target, the sections were released and when almost at the dive point the individual planes of each section were placed in an opened out ABC formation in a generally north to northwest direction. Flaps were opened and a vertical dive made from 13,000 feet altitude directly over the flying field at Taroa. No fighter opposition and no enemy A.A. fire was encountered prior to the attack. The island showed no signs of having been previously bombarded. The hangars and builds were now, uncamouflaged, and undamaged, and the planes were lined up in neat rows all set to receive the bombs of my group. About twelve 2-engine bombers were parked in a single row on the edge of the N-S runway, five fighters were parked in front of the north hangar, and six fighters were parked at the south end of the N-S runway. Two bombers were parked to the northeast of the runways, and were well separated - a most unsatisfactory target from my point of view, and I feel it was very thoughtless and inconsiderate of the Japs to park these planes so far away from the rest of the group. The remainder of the Japanese Air Armada was in the air - or in the hangars (I hope). The attack was practically unopposed and was practically a complete success.
- The first section leader dropped a ripple salvo of two 100 lb and one 500 lb bombs aiming
at planes parked on the field. His bombs destroyed two large bombers and set two others afire,
there being little doubt that the last two were ruined; three small VF planes were also seen
to catch afire from these bombs. The second plane dropped a five hundred pound bomb on the
southern-most of two hangars near the field, making a direct hit. The hangar must have
contained gasoline as it went up in flames very high after the bomb explosion; the hangar
was apparently a total loss. This plane then headed for Ollot Island where the pilot attacked
what appeared to be radio towers and an administration building or barracks and a small radio
station or power house. He dropped two one hundred pound bombs in salvo, hitting one corner
of the large building and the small house; one corner of the large building was blown off and
the small house was demolished. The third plane dropped one 500 lb bomb and two 100 lb bombs
at the northern hangar, hitting about twenty feet in front of the hangar. Three VF planes in
front of the hangar were demolished.
The second section leader dropped one 100 lb bomb at the planes parked on the field from 9,000 feet. This bomb hit alongside a large VB plane which was demolished, and two VF planes were seen to catch on fire. He then dropped a 500 lb bomb on an oil storage tank to the southeast of the hangars, making a direct hit and setting it on fire. He then headed for Ollot Island and dropped a 100 lb bomb on an anti-aircraft gun emplacement there. The bomb explosion was followed by a series of explosions of white smoke, possibly indicating that ammunition was exploding afterward. The second plane of this section dropped all his bombs in the initial dive, but was unable to note where they hit due to pulling out fairly low. The third plane dropped all his bombs on a T-shaped building that was apparently a barracks or administration building, making a direct hit. The building was opened about half way down the stem of the T. These two planes then strafed a small boat seen proceeding toward a pier on Ollot. The third plane was attacked by a fighter just after pulling out of the strafing run. He did not have time to announce the fact over the radio and was forced to take evasive action by himself. The fighter did not push his attack home, but seemed willing to display the maneuverability of his plane and fire outside of gun range. The pilot of the bomber was able then to evade him and eventually make a safe getaway and return to the ship alone without any bullet holes in his plane from the fighter.
The third section leader dropped his 500 lb bomb on the southern hangar making a direct hit. This was the second direct hit with 500 lb bombs on this hangar. He then dropped his two 100 lb bombs in salvo at the planes parked on the field. They hit in the middle of the NE-SW runway in the vicinity of the planes but no damage to the planes was apparent. The second plane of this section dropped all his bombs in ripple salvo in the dive, aiming at the northern hangar, but was unable to observe the drops because of pulling out low. No bombs were seen to hit the northern hangar, however, and the point of impact of his bombs is doubtful. The third plane also dropped at the northern hangar, but his bombs all dropped between the two hangars doing no damage apparent from the air. Planes retired to the northward, and when the section leader was about six miles north of the field a fighter dove on him. He took evasive action and escaped with no bullet holes in his plane. Here again the fighter pilot seemed content to display the greater maneuverability of his plane and did not drive home his attack.
- Throughout the attack no anti-aircraft fire was encountered, except machine gun fire after the first section planes entered their dive. All sections dived through the machine gun fire, but only one small hole in the right aileron of the second section leader's plane was found. A.A. fire from several guns on Taroa and from four or five guns on Ollot Island was observed after the attack. This fire was rather sporadic and inaccurate at first, each gun apparently trying to select its own target. When the flight leader was about five miles on his retiring course, however, the batteries appeared to concentrate on his section and the fire became fairly accurate. The all planes dove for the water, the fire again became very ineffective and ceased when the planes were about eight miles away retiring. The planes had inadvertently put themselves in a position to be enfiladed while joining up on the flight leader. This was soon remedied, however, and no one was hit by the A.A. fire. Seven planes returned together, the two had been attacked by fighters returning singly and joining the group just prior to landing aboard.
- Comments on the flight are:
- The approach at 19,000 feet and 90° to the direction the enemy would probably expect us, allowed a fast approach making fighter opposition ineffective and still allowed entry into the dive at or above 13,000 feet. Japanese fighter opposition was rendered ineffective because the apparently were not operating above 13,000 feet and until the attack group arrived at the point of push-over, the fighters were not fast enough to overtake or else were surprised to find planes overhead, and made no attempt to intercept the attackers until after the attack had been delivered.
- Machine gun fire from Taroa Island was fairly heavy, but the steep diving definitely rendered it ineffective and no damage resulted. Dives were made at angles of from 75 to 90 degrees. It is recommended that all attacks, whenever possible, be made as dive bombing in preference to glide bombing.
- Dropping of sticks of bombs is easily done from a dive when planes are well spaced or if individual planes take a slightly different angle of approach in order not to endanger the planes ahead. It should be noted however, that the bombs must be dropped at those objectives farthest under the plane first in order to allow for a slight pull up in between drops to eliminate the danger of the bomb striking the dropping plane and going off. Dropping of these sticks is very accurate provided the dive is started steep enough.
- Planes are scattered widely after pull outs in various directions and it is incumbent on all hands to report any aerial opposition to the flight leader by broadcast if at all possible. It is extremely difficult to follow all the planes of a group after attack and the leader must be kept informed of the situation if any mutual support is to be had. Planes must report fighter opposition even if it has been successfully dealt with. In this case no report was made and a second attack group was surprised to find fighters on the spot because the flight leader of the first group had reported no aerial opposition and no one had corrected their report.