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Marshall Islands Raid - 1 February 1942 (Read More...)

The 1 February 1942 carrier raids on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands were the first major offensive operations by the U.S. Navy in the Second World War. While the Yorktown CV-5 group operated in the Gilberts, Enterprise and her escorts pounded several Japanese bases in the Marshalls, then repelled an enemy air attack while retiring after the raid.

Raids on Kwajalein and Maloelap.
Enemy Air Attacks.
Comments and Conclusions

7 Feb. 1942
From:The Commanding Officer.
To:The Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Via:The Commander Aircraft, BATTLE FORCE.
Subject:Report of action on February 1, 1942 (Zone Minus Twelve) against Marshall Island Group.
Reference:(a) Art. 712, 874 U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920.
  1. Preliminary Report (C.O. Memo to CABF dated February 2, 1942).
  2. Report of Executive Officer.
  3. Report of Air Group Commander, with Enclosures.
  1. In compliance with reference (a) the following report is submitted of operation conducted on February 1, 1942 against Marshall Islands by ENTERPRISE Air Group, and subsequent ship action on that date in defense against enemy air attacks while retiring from the area in vicinity of the initial point of launching aircraft attacks.
    1. Before dawn, in accordance with Commander Aircraft, Battle Force's directive, the Kwajalein Attack Group (36 VSB) was launched plus six VF for Combat Patrol. Seventeen SBD's of Scouting Six had Roi, a small island at the northern tip of Kwajalein Atoll, as an objective. There was a landing field there and considerable fighter as well as AA machine gun opposition. Three planes were lost on the initial attack. The Air Group Commander and eighteen planes of Bombing Six reconnoitered Roi, but their primary objective was ship targets so they proceeded on south to Kwajalein Island at the southern tip of the atoll. About ten large ships, shore facilities and a radio station provided targets there. Nine TBD's, which were somewhat later in reaching the objective, also attacked Kwajalein. The SBD's each dropped one 500 lb. bomb and two 100 lb. bombs. The TBD's dropped three 500 pounders. Many direct hits and near hits were scored and the damage was great. One scout that was delayed by engine trouble and departed from the ship with the TBD's was lost in the Kwajalein Island attack.
    2. About 0615 twelve VF were launched, six to attack Wotje and six to attack Maloelap. These islands were considerably closer than Kwajalein so the later launching still enabled the attack to be synchronized. The other planes carried out attacks on their respective objectives. Maloelap proved to be a formidable target. Fighters were in the air and taking off when our planes arrived. Numerous bombers were bombed and strafed on the ground. At least three enemy fighters were shot down. Our planes received numerous hits but all returned to the ship. The armor plate in Lieut. ______ plane stopped several hits which might otherwise have been fatal.
    3. The Wotje group did not encounter such heavy aerial opposition. They attacked shore facilities as well as several ships in the anchorage. This attack was followed up by heavy shelling from the NORTHAMPTON, SALT LAKE CITY and DUNLAP. Flames and clouds of smoke could be seen rising from the island.
    4. The Air Group Commander radioed that there were suitable objectives for torpedoes remaining at Kwajalein, so the remaining nine TBD's armed with their "fish" were launched. This attack was made in the face of heavy AA fire, but there were no casualties to our personnel or material. It is believed that a light cruiser, a large transport and four or five auxiliaries were "finished off". At least two vessels were already beached and others were damaged as a result of the previous dive bombing and glide bombing attacks.
    5. A second attack on Maloelap was made by nine VSB which had returned, refueled, rearmed, and launched at 0939. This attack encountered no aerial opposition but there was heavy AA fire. A fuel tank, two hangars, and a radio station, four or five two-engine bombers, and several fighters are known to have been destroyed on this attack.
    6. Later nine more VSB were launched for a third attack on Maloelap. It is probable that there was very little undamaged material or uninjured personnel left on the island after this third attack. Three enemy planes were in the air over the island and one was shot down. 6B15 failed to return from this attack.
    7. The final attack was launched at 1122. Eight SBD's armed with one 500 lb. and two 100 lb. bombs, and nine TBD's armed with three 500 lb. bombs attacked Wotje.
    8. The last of the attack planes was landed at 1322. A heavy combat patrol was maintained as the ship took up a retiring course at high speed.
    9. We were attacked by five twin-engined bombers. A near hit caused a serious fire in the machine gun battery on the port quarter, and resulted in one fatality and two men receiving superficial wounds. About two minutes later a Japanese plane which apparently was already damaged by fighter or AA fire tried to crash on deck. He missed the deck but his wing struck the tail of 6S5 which was so seriously damaged that it was partially stripped and then shoved overboard.
    10. At 1600 we were again attacked, this time by two twin-engine bombers. Again near bomb hits were made. The AA got one of these planes and the fighters another as he retired.
    11. Other enemy planes were reported in close proximity for about one hour. One torpedo plane was shot down by the Combat Air Patrol.
    12. The Combat Patrol was landed at 1900. Sunset was at 1835 but unfortunately a full moon rose at 1845.
    13. The material damage suffered by ENTERPRISE as a result of enemy aircraft attacks was practically negligible. This in spite of the fact that the ship was subjected to bombing attacks which were pressed home with great determination by the enemy.
    14. Omitted.
  3. Omitted
  4. Omitted
  5. Omitted
  6. Enclosure (D) includes (a) track chart of ship from 1200 LCT of the day before the action until 1630 of the day of the action and (b) track chart of Ship from 1200 LCT of the day before the action to 0127 of the morning following the action.
  7. Ship action, supported by fighter interception of enemy aircraft in defense against enemy air attacks follows:


    Made by 5 two-engine bombers. (Some persons, who saw the attack, insist a sixth plane peeled off from the formation and dropped bombs in the vicinity of the SALT LAKE CITY.)

    The approach was made from about broad on the starboard bow from a position angle of 25°. At the time the planes broke through the clouds, they were approaching using a glide attack of about 20°.

    The first range finder range (about 3 seconds after breaking through the clouds) was 3500 yds., altitude 6000 feet.

    The bombs were dropped at about 3000 to 4000 feet and the planes passed over the ship at about 1500 feet after dropping. The attacking plane speed was about 250 knots.

    The planes simultaneously dropped 3 bombs each, of about 100 to 200 kilograms.

    One of the bombers peeled off from the formation after passing over the ship and made an effort to either strafe the planes on deck or crash into them but the pilot was either killed or lost control of his plane due to the heavy machine gun fire, and crashed into the deck and over the side.


    Made by 2 two-engine medium bombers at high altitude, (14,000 feet) in level flight, speed 140 knots.

    The position angle when opening fire was about 45°, and slant range 6500 yards. Two bombs were dropped from each plane simultaneously. Each bomb weighed 500 lbs. or more.

    Those planes were originally sighted on the starboard quarter at a range of more than 50,000 yards.

    They were tracked all the way to the port quarter, range about 70,000 yds. Then they made their approach from the sun and through the large scattered clouds. At the time they were sighted coming in, the rangefinder was unable to get a range due to the smoke gasses. Fire was opened using the set-up obtained from tracking. A report from 6-F-1, who was apparently close to the planes, was received that our shots were short. A spot of out 500 was applied, and a long trail of smoke appeared from the right motor of the near plane and this trail of smoke was still visible when the plane disappeared into the clouds.


  1. The inability of the 5" AA battery to knock down the formation of enemy twin-engine bombers during the first attack, phase A, before they reached the point of release is a matter of grave concern. It is believed the reason can be attributed in part to over-anxiety to hit on the part of the gun crews, as the rate of fire was exceptionally good. However, it was apparent that the target was not led sufficiently (a characteristic fault in all AA firing by inexperienced personnel), with the result that practically all bursts were late and behind the targets.


  1. Prior to the time when the approach of enemy formation was actually sighted from Conn speed was increased from 25 to 30 knots emergency and the range closed by very easy rudder toward direction of reported approach which was 60° relative. As formation was sighted the bearing had drawn ahead to about 45° on the starboard bow. It is quite certain, from the appearance of the enemy formation that they had settled on a fixed bombing track with the expectation that by use of a line formation, maintaining a steady interception approach track, and releasing a continuous stick of bombs the width of their formation, one would be bound to hit if they pressed the attack home. Before range was closed sufficiently to open fire, the rudder was put over hard left and when the ship started to heel to starboard it was taken off, but not fast enough for the battery to be forced to elevate rapidly. Fire opened from all guns at this instant and in order to steady up the ship, full reverse rudder was used until the fast turn was checked. The effect on the ship was that its forward speed was checked and at the same at the same time [sic], the ship was suddenly moved sideways out of its own track. It is believed this change in speed and movement which amounted to the ship following a very irregular track was sufficient to cause the near misses of the enemy bomb salvo off starboard bow.


  1. It was apparent that great improvement was noticeable in fire-control and concentration of fire during the second attack, (Phase B). However due to the evasion action of the ship, the approach of the enemy down sun, and the relative wind from starboard to port quarter, it was inevitable that smoke gasses would interfere with director aft which was controlling the fire. The approach developed around the stern from the starboard to port quarter, and was finally made from the port quarter as the ship was turning to port in an effort to bring the entire port side battery to bear.


  1. At 30 knots the ship responded to rudder almost instantly, and in order to throw the stern around, full rudder was used in one direction followed almost immediately by full opposite rudder. The effect on the maneuverability of the ship was quite remarkable and it is believed that the bomb misses were largely due to the "crabbing" motion of the ship. That the ship escaped practically unscathed from such determined bombing attacks can only be described as miraculous.
  2. Some idea of the scope of ENTERPRISE operations and activities may be gained from the following details which are furnished as a matter of general interest:
    (a) Miles steamed from 1900 the night prior to day of raid until 1900 night of raid564.1
    (b) Fuel consumed during this raid148,043 gal.
    (c) Total hours flying day of raid474.2
    (d) Total number of individual flights158
    (e) Total number pilots engaged in operations77
    (f) Maximum number hours flown by any pilot10.1
    (g) Maximum number flights made by any pilot5
    (h) Number of times ship was maneuvered into wind to launch or recover aircraft22
    (i) Number of times deck was respotted to launch or recover aircraft16
    (j) Rounds 5" ammunition expended156
        Rounds 1.1 ammunition expended1400
        Rounds .50 .Cal ammunition expended12000
  3. Conclusion and Recommendations:
    1. That every effort be made to improve and increase AA batteries, at earliest date.
    2. That gunnery Radar installations be provided immediately.
    3. That AA Gunnery Practices be scheduled when opportunity offers, with ship steaming at not less than 25 knots. If adequate safeguards can be introduced, ship should be required to make radical changes of course.
    4. That own carrier is and will continue to be principal objective of enemy effort in any air attack at sea. Although it will always be true that the most vigorous aggressive action on the part of the carrier air group may largely nullify the amount and degree of enemy air attack against the carrier, the need for providing carriers with the best anti-aircraft batteries, including the latest Radar fire control installation, and adequate fighter protection with friendly aircraft identification equipment is apparent.

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