The Ship - All Hands - Decorations - Remembrance
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This period commenced at 1600-K 23 February at which time Admiral Gardner in ENTERPRISE with TG 58.5 reported to CTG 52.2 and became TU 52.2.5. The task unit consited of the one CVN plus 1 CB, 1 CA, 1 CLAA and screen. The mission was primarily to protect the occupation force on Iwo Jima, and its surface support units, from enemy air attack at night. The secondary mission was the daily dusk observation and neutralization of Susaki Airfield, Chichi Jima, the enemy's only nearby airfield from which an attack could be staged against Iwo Jima. Obviously, since she was operating without other carriers, the ENTERPRISE had also to provide routine daytime, dusk, and night patrols for TU 52.2.5. From the nature of the foregoing it will be seen that ENTERPRISE was called on to maintain a continuous 240hour air operations schedule every day during a large part of this period.
From the first launch on 23 February for the incredible span of 174 consecutive hours, the ENTERPRISE kept planes aloft ... a record of continuous carrier aircraft operation without parallel. Actually, the grand total was 198 out of 200 hours, when a warm front with its attendant bad flying weather forced a 2-hour suspension of this schedule.
Operations during this period were almost evenly divided between day (47%) and night (53%). At no time was the task group under attack.
On 9 March, TU 52.2.5 was detached from TG 52.2 and proceeded south toward Ulithi as TU 51.26.2, Admiral Gardner CTU in ENTERPRISE. The task unit arrived at Ulithi on 12 March.
Upon arrival at Ulithi Admiral Gardner became again CTG 58.5, heading a group which consisted of 1 CVN, ENTERPRISE, and screen. This group sortied on 14 March as part of TG 58.4, operating within the latter group's screen until 18 March. The task force steamed toward Kyushu, commencing a high speed run-in the night of 17-18 March. As this final approach was detected by the enemy, TG 58.5 launched night fighters which made 2 kills and 2 probables.
Daytime strikes against Kyushu and Southern Honshu airfields were launched on 18 March. The ENTERPRISE was hit on the forward elevator by a 250 kilo enemy bomb at 0700 which ricocheted and failed to detonate. The task group was under enemy air attack most of the day with no further damage. A "zipper"mission over Kyushu airfields and night CAP and intruder flights were provided by TG 58.5. The next day, 19 March, at 0015 TG 58.5 launched a successful VTN search and attack mission against Bungo Channel and the Inland Sea. At 0700 that morning the FRANKLIN was badly hit by an enemy bomb. This caused CTF 58 to order CTG 58.5 to assume temporary tactical command of TG 58.2 (of which the flagship had been the FRANKLIN). Thus TG 58.5 left TG 58.4 and joined TG 58.2. During the night of 19-20 March ENTERPRISE furnished night CAP for the task force.
On 20 March, Task Group 58.2 operated north of the retiring, crippled FRANKLIN (TU 58.2.9). Enemy planes continued to attack throughout the day. ENTERPRISE suffered 3 near misses from suicide dive-bombers. In mid-afternoon friendly 5-inch AA fire started a stubborn fire among aircraft and ready ammunition forward of the ENTERPRISE's island structure. She was rendered unfit to continue tactical command of TG 58.2, so this command shifted to ComCarDiv TWO in the HANCOCK.
On the 21st, while continuing to cover the FRANKLIN's retirement, the task group was under enemy air attack for most of the day. On 22 March, TG 58.5 was absorbed into a reorganized TG 58.2 which cleared the task force and steamed for Ulithi. Ulithi was reached at 1320 24 March. Repairs to ENTERPRISE battle damage were commenced immediately.
Task Group 58.5, consisting of Admiral Gardner in ENTERPRISE (CVN) and screen, sortied from Ulithi on 5 April and the following day joined TG 58.2 and operated within the screen of TG 58.2 until 1428 on 10 April. The task group steamed north and northwest to join TF 58 off Okinawa. This rendezvous was effected 90 miles east of Okinawa at 0500 on 8 April.
ENTERPRISE provided dusk and night CAP over Okinawa during the 8, 9 and 10 of April. On 10 April, ENTERPRISE and TG 58.5 were shifted to TG 58.3. On 11, 12 and 13 April, ENTERPRISE provided night CAP over Okinawa as well as Hecklers over Kikai and Tokuna airfields (north of Okinawa). On the 11th, the task group was under sustained enemy air attack all afternoon. The ENTERPRISE took two near misses, and suffered a hit on the port quarter. Some underwater damage to hull and machinery resulted but the ship was fully operational. The night of 11 April, CTG 58.5 was made OTC in order to facilitate conduct of a night heckler program of VTN over Kikai and Tokuna, and dusk and night CAP over Okinawa. Similar operations were conducted on 12 April. During the night of 13 April, TG 58.3 retired toward a fueling rendezvous.
On 14 April, ENTERPRISE joined a group headed by ComBatDiv SEVEN, cleared TG 58.3 and headed south for Ulithi. During air operations the ensuing two days, CTG 58.5 was directed to serve as OTC. Ulithi was reached at 1347 on 16 April. Repairs to ENTERPRISE's battle damage were commenced immediately.
In compliance with orders from CinCPac, on 19 April Rear Admiral Gardner, USN, ComCarDiv SEVEN, was detached, hauled down his flag in ENTERPRISE and proceeded in accordance with orders. Staff and Flag personnel embarked on NEW JERSEY for Pearl Harbor, arriving 28 April 1945.
During this two month period the Administrative Command, CarDiv Seven, was based ashore at U.S. Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor, T.H.
On 27 June 1945, Rear Admiral John J. Ballentine, USN, reported to 3rd Fleet at Leyte, P.I., for temporary duty as Commander Carrier Division Seven, and hoisted his flag in U.S.S. BON HOMME RICHARD. Here he was joined by key staff officers from Pearl Harbor. During the subsequent period until Rear Admiral Ballentine was detached on 19 August, ComCarDiv Seven was in an indoctrination status and observed the operations with the prospect of being assigned a task group. On 1st July, the BON HOMME RICHARD with Air Group NINETY-ONE (N) aboard, sortied from Leyte Gulf as part of Task Unit 38.4.1 to conduct routine training exercises. This training was conducted daily until 8 July, both routine task group daytime operations and independent night operations. On 8 July rendezvous was made with TG 30.8 for refueling and replenishment.
With training operations completed, BON HOMME RICHARD, as part of TG 38.4, began a high speed run-in with TF 38 for an air attack on the Tokyo area. Only routine patrols were flown by BON HOMME RICHARD, both on the 9th and 10th of July, since bad weather caused cancellation of most scheduled night operations.
After refueling on 11 and 12 July, the planned attack on southern Hokkaido and Northern Honshu 13 July was prevented by bad weather. But the following day successful strikes were made on important targets in this area. BON HOMME RICHARD operated a dusk CAP and in addition maintained a night CAP over the cruiser group making a night bombardment of southern Hokkaido. On 15 July the same area was attacked. Routine patrols and night weather flights were made.
After refueling, the task force again struck the Tokyo area. TU 38.8.2 (Heavy Bombardment Group) conducted night bombardment in the Sukagawa area. BON HOMME RICHARD conducted a full night's operation: dusk, night and dawn CAP for TU 38.8.2; aerial pickets employing RCM; gunfire spotters; hecklers for adjacent airfields; and dawn CAP for the task force. On the following day the BB NAGATO at Yokosuka Naval Base was attacked.
From 19 to 23 July, the task force proceeded to a fueling rendezvous, refueled, and conducted some routine training exercises. On the 21st, the remainder of CarDiv Seven Staff and flag personnel arrived and were transferred to BON HOMME RICHARD. Late on the 23rd, the task force commenced a high speed run-in for strikes against northern Kyushu and western Honshu, to be conducted the following day.
The BON HOMME RICHARD on 24 July launched dawn, dusk and night CAP over the bombardment group (TG 35.3) operating off east Kyushu, as well as conducting "zipper", heckler, and anti-shipping strikes. On 25 July and again on 28 July, two attacks on the Inland Sea area were conducted, separated by a day of refueling and one of training exercises. BON HOMME RICHARD launched routine patrols and rescue mission CAP.
Southern Honshu was again the target on 29 July, with a night bombardment of the Hamamatsu area by TU 34.8.1. This was supported by night aircraft from BON HOMME RICHARD. On the following day, the Tokyo area was similarly attacked, with the BON HOMME RICHARD supporting the DD bombardment group which shelled Shimizu. On 31 July the task force retired to refuel and replenish.
On 1 and 2 August, the task group refueled, replenished, and conducted gunnery exercises. Air activities were limited to routine patrols. The following day the group steamed to avoid a typhoon and continued fueling and gunnery exercises. From then until 7 August training exercises occupied the task group, including independently conducted night training for BON HOMME RICHARD. After refueling on the 7th, TG 38.4 and the balance of TF 38 commenced a run-in for launching strikes the following day against northern Honshu and Hokkaido. Bad weather and fog caused the cancellation of these strikes.
Northern Honshu was struck on both 9 and 10 August by aircraft from TF 38, and by the Bombardment Group (TU 34.8.1) which bombarded Aemaishi. Although bogies were contacted, only one enemy plane penetrated the screen to be splashed by ship's gunfire from within the task group. On the 9th, BON HOMME RICHARD launched dawn and dusk CAP for the task force, and dawn, dusk and night CAP for TU 34.8.1. On the 10th August, after air sweeps and strikes, the task force withdrew for refueling. BON HOMME RICHARD launched dusk and picket CAP. The following day the task group refueled while BON HOMME RICHARD provided ASP, CAP and weather flights. On 12 August the task group steamed to avoid a typhoon. At this time, Commander Carrier Division SEVEN was designated CTU 38.4.1 by order of CTG 38.4 in connection with the organizing of landing force units by carriers of the task group.
On 13 August, TG 38.4 launched strikes and sweeps against targets in the Tokyo plains area. Throughout the day and night, 22 enemy planes were splashed. Four kills (and 2 probables) were victims of VFN from BON HOMME RICHARD, one pilot alone accounting for 3 kills and 2 probables. After one day of refueling and replenishing (14 August) the task group launched one more sweep and one strike against the Tokyo area on the morning of 15 August. Further operations were cancelled and aircraft recalled upon orders from CinCPac-CinCPOA via Com3rdFleet to suspend offensive operations as the enemy had expressed willingness to accept Allied surrender terms. Later several bogies were splashed approaching the task group. BON HOMME RICHARD provided routine CAP for the task force.
The 16th and 17th of August were spent steaming and topping off destroyers while awaiting further developments regarding the enemy's surrender. On the 17th the task force formed a special closed disposition for photographic purposes. BON HOMME RICHARD provided day CAP.
Rendezvous with the Logistic Support Group was made on 18 August for refueling and replenishment. And on 19 August, while refueling and replenishing continued, pursuant to CinCPac's secret dispatch 171112, Rear Admiral John J. Ballentine, USN, was detached as Commander Carrier Division SEVEN, hauled down his flag on BON HOMME RICHARD, and departed to carry out his orders. The Administrative Command and Staff of ComCarDiv SEVEN remained in BON HOMME RICHARD.