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VF(N)-90 Squadron History
Along with Night Torpedo Squadron 90, Night Fighting Squadron 90 (VF(N)-90) made up Night Air Group 90, which deployed with Enterprise CV-6 between 24 December 1944 and 31 May 1945. In five months of intensive action at Luzon, Formosa, Tokyo, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Kyushu, VF(N)-90 claimed 42 enemy planes destroyed, and 4 more damaged or destroyed, a VF(N) record bested only by VF(N)-41 operating from the carrier Independence in 1944.
VF(N)-90's squadron history was compiled by squadron yeoman John W. "Speed" MacGlashing. Its presentation here is dedicated to Speed, who passed away on 1 February 2002.
Dinah, Helen and Zeke
|The VF(N)-90 squadron history makes numerous references to Japanese aircraft using a system of code names originally developed by Army Air Force intelligence, and later adopted by all services. Below is a brief guide to the code names used in this document.|
|Betty: Mitsubishi G4M1/G4M3 two-engine Navy medium bomber, or Mitsubishi G6M1 trainer/transport.|
|Dinah: Mitsubishi Ki-46 two-engine Army high altitude reconnaissance plane.|
|Frances: Yokosuka P1Y1 two-engine Navy medium bomber and night fighter.|
|Helen: Nakajima Ki-49 two-engine Army heavy bomber.|
|Jack: Mitsubishi J2M3/J2M5 single-seat Navy interceptor/fighter.|
|Jake: Aichi E13A1 long range reconnaissance float plane.|
|Oscar: Nakajima Ki-43 single-seat Army fighter/interceptor.|
|Peggy: Mitsubishi Ki-67 two-engine Army heavy bomber.|
|Pete: Mitsubishi F1M2 two-seat observation seaplane.|
|Tabby: Showa/Nakajima two-engine Navy transport.|
|Tojo: Nakajima Ki-44 single-seat Army fighter.|
|Tony: Kawasaki Ki-61 single-seat Army fighter/interceptor.|
|Topsy: Mitsubishi Ki-57 two-engine Army personnel transport.|
|Val: Aichi D3A1 two-seat Navy dive bomber.|
|Zeke: Mitsubishi A6M single-seat Navy fighter, a.k.a. "Zero".|
"Form and commission following carrier groups on 25 August (1944) at N.A.S. Barbers Point. CVG(N)90 for U.S.S. Enterprise, composed of VF(N)90 and VT(N)90 with operating complements 36 VF and 15 VTB respectively... On same date decommission VF(N) ... 103, 104 ... utilizing personnel and aircraft in forming above night carrier groups." Such was the dispatch from COMINCH [Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest J. King] to CINCPAC [Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester E. Nimitz], which was the basis for the formation of this squadron. Pursuant to the above, Captain Griffin of NACTU [Night Attack and Combat Training Unit] lined up the officers and men of VF(N)-103 in hangar B at Barbers Point and decommissioned VF(N)-103, immediately commissioning VF(N)-90 under the command of Lt. Comdr. R. J. McCullough. The next higher echelon of command being Commander Air Group (Night) 90 and then Commander Air Forces Pacific.
On that date VF(N)-104 was at sea in transit to Pearl Harbor, knowing nothing of this action. VF(N)-103 had been at N.A.S. Barbers Point since 17 August on which date it arrived from San Diego, aboard the U.S.S. Rudyerd Bay. A short history of VF(N)-103 -104 and -106 is necessary.
VF(N)-103 was commissioned at Quonset Point on 5 April 1944 by ComFair Quonset with a complement of 12 VF, 25 officers and 21 enlisted men. Lt. Comdr. R. J. McCullough was commanding officer and it was under his direction that the squadron was trained at N.A.A.F. Charlestown, R.I., 5 April to 5 August.
The VF used in training were F6F-3Ns equipped with AIA [Airborne Intercept Model A] radar gear and were maintained during training by CASU [Carrier Aircraft Service Unit] 27. It must be said that the plane availability by CASU 27 was excellent and contributed materially to the progress made by the squadron.
The complement of officers was broken down as follows:
|Naval Aviators||Ground Officers|
|Lt. Comdr.||1||Lt. Administration||1|
|Lieutenants (jg)||5||Lt. Radar Maintenance||2|
The complement of enlisted men consisted of 4 aviation machinists mates [AMM], 2 aviation radiomen [ARM], 12 aviation radar technicians [ART], 3 aviation ordinance men [AOM] and 1 yeoman [Y].
The contemplated use for a night fighting squadron at that time was to combat enemy aircraft at night, locating the enemy through the use of radar and obtaining a splash through the use of radar gun sights. This type of action involves a number of factors which are peculiar to night fighting and which must be learned by the pilots in addition to everything required of day fighters. The readiness date of 103 was fixed as 5 August, which gave the squadron less time than that ordinarily allowed for day fighters. A period of intensive training began.
The training consisted of tactics, gunnery, carrier landing practice and the rest of the sy1labus required of day fighters. Navigation, as well as the use of all homing devices, became more important. Of necessity the pilots learned instrument flying and became most proficient in their use.
Then, the thing most peculiar to night fighters, the use of radar, occupied a large part of the training time. Night after night there would be the old familiar hop, "Charlie with Mickey". Since, however, this was the one thing above all other for which we were being trained, it was necessary to devote every effort towards the mastery of radar operation and intercept problems. The pilots, in the short time assigned to them, did remarkably well and soon became most adept at interception.
The time passed rapidly and on 5 August sixteen pilots took off in their F6Fs, beat up the air station as it was never beaten before and set out for San Diego. But, first there are a number of events and problems deserving of mention.
Social life was never lacking. All of the married officers had their respective wives and children in near by communities. The first party upon commissioning was a memorable occasion. The beaches afforded unusually fine recreational facilities. "The Dunes" was near and made available to all officers of the squadron. The golf course there was excellent and provided those so inclined with further recreation. The Skipper even became a fair sort of a clam digger. The season of the year was probably the best that could have been chosen. Housing facilities, while not plentiful, did seem to provide for all the officers and their families.
On 14 May, one of the pilots, James P. Gannon, was killed in an accidental crash of his plane in the woods near Shantuck. This was the only serious accident during the entire training period. His remains were escorted to his New Jersey home by Lt.(jg) Hettwer [Donald F. Hettwer].
A few of the problems presented were, most likely, common to all squadrons; a few would be experienced only by a night squadron. Among the problems was that of office and ready room space. The office was small, making it impossible to keep an accurate set of records and accomplish the office work required of a squadron. Of necessity, the office was used for smaller meetings and all conferences. The yeoman experienced continual interference. The necessity for more office space, even better, two offices, is apparent if the office work is to be done in the required manner. The ready room was too small and the seating arrangement was impossible. This made briefing and ground school quite difficult.
Then, the one problem we meet wherever we go. Nobody is equipped to handle a night schedule. The squadron officers, who lived aboard, continually had their sleep interrupted during the day by men walking through their quarters and the noise of the day's routine. The station stayed on day schedule. Midnight meals were meager and served by a skeleton crew. The barber shop, the laundry, the ships service and all such establishments were on a day schedule and would not alter their hours to meet the convenience of those on night schedules.
The very limited time allowed to train the squadron made it necessary to use every available day. For this reason no pre-designated day off could be set aside upon which the officers could plan ahead. The days off came on days of foul weather and would be determined from day to day.
One of the tactical maneuvers to be covered in the night fighting syllabus was radar bombing. The target was too far away to be readily available and because of the time element could not be scheduled as often as desirable.
Toward the end of the training period, the pilots checked out on day and then night landings aboard the CVE's, Mission Bay and Tripoli. No particular difficulties were experienced. The officers and men of both ships cooperated fully and readily.
But with all the problems, by 5 August the squadron was in a remarkable degree of readiness, and for this the guiding hand of the commanding officer was largely responsible.
On 27 May 1944, the complement of night fighting squadrons were changed slightly, and their proposed future use made clearer. Our complement then became 26 officers and 19 enlisted men. The Engineering Officer was dropped, radar maintenance officers increased to three and F.D.O.'s increased to three. The number of pilots remained the same, though there were some adjustments made in the allowable rank. In the enlisted personnel, aviation machinists rates were decreased one, aviation radiomen were increased one and aviation radar technicians decreased three. The reason for the change of complement was to provide for a more equitable distribution of officers and men into three groups, as it was then planned that there would be but one detachment aboard a single carrier. Each detachment was to have 4VF, 6 naval aviators, 1 F.D.O. [Fighter Direction Officer], 1 radar maintenance officer, 1 AMM, 1 AOM, 1 ARM and 3 ART's. The administrative officer, the A.C.I. [Air Combat Intelligence] officer and the yeoman were to remain with the commanding officer's detachment. The purpose of the night fighting squadron seemed, then, to be primarily for the protection of the fleet at night, the division into detachments making for more simplified radar control. Each carrier was to direct its own planes.
No one in the squadron looked forward to this division with any degree of pleasure. It was feared by all that the "esprit de corps" of the squadron would be lost and that the small detachments would be so absorbed by the carrier air groups to which they would be assigned, that they would be improperly used and lose their identity. From later stories carried to our ears it seems that the fears were fully justified.
Just before leaving Charlestown, we received another change of complement. This change was effective 27 July. The officer complement remained the same, but the enlisted complement changed considerably. We were now given 5 AMMs, including an instrument mechanic and a propeller mechanic. ARMs remained at 3, ARTs at 9 and AOMs at 3. We were now allowed an AM and a PR. Still one yeoman for a total of 24. The most significant change, however, was the apparent abandonment of the idea of small detachments for our squadron, as the new complement contemplated one undivided unit.
7 August - San Diego, California - North Island and all present except Ensign Jim Purcell, who was forced down at Floyd Bennett with engine trouble. Fifteen pilots arrived in their planes. A transport plane brought a pilot and some of the other officers and crew. Most of the ground officers and crew traveled by train or automobile. Our gear consisting of one baggage car, well loaded, arrived with us and Jim Purcell showed up on the 9th. Those who flew to San Diego came by way of Jackson, Mississippi, San Antonio, Texas, El Centro, California to San Diego.
On 10 August the squadron and all its gear was embarked on the CVE U.S.S. Rudyerd Bay. No serious problems presented themselves between Charlestown and Barbers Point, T .H.
Aboard the Rudyerd Bay we were well treated and kindly received by the officers of the ship. It was loaded to the gunwales and for the most part we used cots for sleeping. The crossing to Pearl Harbor was uneventful. On 17 August we arrived at Ford Island - Fox 5. Our gear was immediately unloaded and for lack of transportation could not be taken from the dock for two days.
Immediately upon arrival at Pearl Harbor we were ordered to base on CASU 2 at N.A.S. Barbers Point and all officers and men proceeded there that evening, going by way of Iroquois Point. We were assigned living quarters in BOQ and the squadron was assigned space in hangar B. We were also assigned the use of one jeep and one carry-all with capacity of about 20 men. The big question in everyones' mind was, how long would we be there? After we learned that we were to be aboard the Enterprise we were sure that our stay would last several months, because the best scuttlebutt had it that the "Big E" had just recently left Pearl Harbor.
VF(N)-104 was commissioned on 20 April and VF(N)-106 on 20 May. Both squadrons' experience was much the same as 103's and both were decommissioned upon arrival at Barbers Point. Lt. Comdr. Dudley Adams was commanding officer of 104 and Lt. Comdr. J. G. Smith was commanding officer of 106. Out of these three squadrons came the great percentage of the officers and men that formed VF(N)-90.
The immediate problems upon the commissioning of VF(N)-90 were administrative. First of all, there was no fixed complement, either of officers or men. Then orders kept coming to us from AIR PAC directing that officers be transferred from VF(N)-103 to VF(N)-90, all subsequent to 25 August. Actually, there was no 103 nor no commanding officer of 103 to endorse the orders. Furthermore, it seemed that Captain Griffin's commissioning "exercises" had already accomplished that. We never did get orders transferring the enlisted personnel and for authority in making the transfer fall back on the dispatch first quoted in this history.
By this time it was apparent that the entire purpose of the squadron had changed. It had become part of a CV group with a VT squadron. The small detachments of night fighters were to remain on the carriers. But, as for VF(N)-90 being in a CVG, comprised of VF(N) and VT(N), it now meant that the offensive rather than the defensive was to be emphasized. This transition called for a new syllabus of training. Radar interception was still an important part of the training and was found on most of the schedules for the entire four months. Radar masthead bombing was scheduled and practiced. CAP'S (Combat Air Patrols), land-based but flown over a carrier, were regularly scheduled. It was during this training that the use of picket destroyers, to increase radar range, was developed. A considerable time was devoted to this particular "exercise." Elevated C.I.C. [Combat Information Center] was attempted, but apparently without any particularly satisfactory results since it was never used in later operations. At regular intervals, field carrier landing practice would be held, followed by actual day and night carrier landings on the U.S.S. Ranger and the U.S.S. Saratoga. A significant change in our previous training was the requirement of visual identification before firing upon a bogie. This requirement practically eliminated the use of radar gun sights.
In the meanwhile and under date of 30 September BuPers [Bureau of Personnel] established a complement. 32 VF(N), 56 officers and 33 enlisted men. The VF(N) were to be divided into 16 F6F-5Ns equipped with AN/APS6A radar gear and 16 F6F-5E equipped with AN/APS4 (ASH) radar gear. The officer complement was as follows:
|1 Lieut.||AV(S) Administration.|
|1 Lieut.||AV(S) Air combat information.|
|1 Lieut.(jg)||AV(S) Engineering.|
|1 Lieut.(jg)||AV(RS) Electronic maintenance.|
|2 Lieut.(jg)||AV(S) Night interceptor.|
|2 Ensigns||AV(S) Night interceptors.|
The complement of enlisted personnel now became 8 AMMs, 1 AM, 3 AOMs, 1 PR and 1 Y.
Towards the end of this training period the planes were ordered equipped for use of rockets. The final training period found ASH gear check-outs and rocket firing as high priorities on all schedules, but with that the squadron was considered in a state of 100% readiness.
The four months at Barbers Point had passed with considerable drag. This four months of additional training, coming as it did after the intensive training at Charlestown, was in a fashion an anti-climax. While it is true that additional valuable experience was required by the pilots, still a few weeks would have sufficed. But it was necessary for VT to complete a reasonable period of training and as we were to go together there was no alternative.
First of all the squadron began to lose its planes, which were being sent into the forward areas. The replacement planes were a new type, F6F-5Ns equipped with AN/APS6A radar. For several months the new type radar caused considerable trouble, due both to mechanical difficulties and the fact that the maintenance crew had to learn the new gear. Before embarking, however, both the pilots and the maintenance crew became familiar with this gear, which in the opinion of most of our pilots should replace all other airborne radar gear that has yet come to the fleet.
Availability during this period was not good, often below 50%. For the most part, radar squawks downed the planes. There was considerable argument with CASU 2 as to what part squadron personnel should play in maintenance and what should be handled by CASU men. By the time the squadron left, most difficulties had been ironed out fairly well.
Again, as at Charlestown, the squadron office and ready room were inadequate. But we had no choice. We are temporari1y attached wherever we operate and so always get what is left over. In the first place, the offices were on the noisy side of the hangar, and for hour on end the roar of the planes would prevent any organized or efficient work. The ready room was too small, had only two-thirds of the necessary chairs, and the pilots would sit around on the floor during briefings. The chairs that were there were only ordinary wooden folding chairs. Briefing and ground school could only accomplish a fraction of what it should. If the windows were open, we had as well be in a boiler factory. If the windows were closed, a few minutes would produce suffocation.
Also, again, as everywhere we go, the station was not set up to handle a night-operating squadron. The pilots could get but one regular meal a day and that around 1800. The rest of the time it was ham and eggs or, for a change, bacon and eggs. The pilots would normally sleep through the 1200 meal if they flew all night. About the time we left, steps were taken to obtain a regular midnight meal. But as for the ship's service, the barber shop, the moving picture show, small stores and all the rest, they were operating on a normal daytime basis. The station bus service stopped after early evening and our enlisted men, who worked all night, were continually being picked up by the Marine guards because they were out after 2200.
Now, to cover briefly the brighter side of the picture. First of all, flying conditions were almost perfect. Practically no time was lost because of adverse weather conditions. Rarely was a pilot grounded because of physical condition and the climate during the period we were there was ideal.
Recreational facilities for the officers was remarkable considering the large number of service personnel on Oahu. The station was equipped with tennis courts and a good softball diamond. The nearby beaches afforded swimming facilities and usually a group of officers could arrange for the necessary transportation. Organized trips around the island were regularly scheduled, and if necessary special trips could be arranged. While on the subject of transportation, a "well done" to Lt(jg) Whalen, transportation officer of CASU 2, for his handling of the transportation problems of the squadron and all others based on CASU 2, with a grossly inadequate supply of vehicles.
In October the officers of the squadron gave a big party at the beach club. A steak dinner, swimming and dancing. Music supplied by the Naval Air Station band comprised most of the party. Native dancers and entertainers added their bit. Among the guests of honor were Commander W. I. Martin, our Air Group commanding officer and Commander Blackburn, returning from the forward areas.
The end of November saw the large Air Group party attended by the officers of both squadrons and held at the Outrigger's Club at Waikiki. A pheasant dinner and dancing were the main events, costing about $13 an officer. Guests of honor included Rear Admiral Gardner [Rear Admiral Matthias Gardner].
Recreational facilities for the enlisted personnel were not nearly sufficient and for the most part the men preferred to find their own recreation in Honolulu. Just before embarking and after considerable effort a party was given for the men at a cost of $6 apiece. The party included a native Luau, native dancers and entertainers and five cans of beer, also a little coco-cola per man. The party was held at Nimitz Beach, a fleet recreational facility. The men unanimously decided that five cans of beer to a man is insufficient.
But, from officers and men alike comes an everlasting thanks to our good friends, the VT(N)90 pilots, who so kindly ferried our entire squadron, about ten at a time, to the island of Hawaii for the finest recreation we had. Two days of the fine rest and relaxation at Hilo and the Volcano House. A most worthwhile trip.
On 23 December, the squadron, except for those who were to fly aboard, embarked on the "Galloping Ghost", the carrier that was so often "sunk" by the enemy. But first, lest we forget: On 31 August, Ensign Richard Blake Jones crashed into the sea to become the first loss to the new squadron. He was on a run-in hop and crashed in mid-afternoon, just south of Waikiki Beach. On 10 November 1944, Ensign John F. Lungershausen, on a practice masthead bombing run, crashed into the sea about a mile off the coast of Oahu near Waianae, to become the squadron's second and last loss while at Barbers Point.
On Sunday 24 December at 1500, the Enterprise shoved off, slid down the east channel of Pearl Harbor through the sub nets, her bow gradually turning to the west. As if it were a parting tribute, one of many brilliant rainbows of Hawaii appeared behind her in the hills of Aiea. At about 1700 the airplanes of the group appeared over the horizon. The VT planes flying in the shape of a big "E" and VF in the shape of a "V", symbolic of two words that were to become synonymous, "Enterprise" and "Victory". All landed safely and our cruise began.
We sailed in a routine manner from 24 December to 5 January to our rendezvous with Task Force 38, passing north of Eniwetok and between Rota and Tinian in the Marianas. Scratch one "Thursday 28 December." Crossed the International Date Line during the night, 27 December. The ship fueled on 5 January and prepared for the first action of VF(N)-90 to come the following morning. Now for a chronological recitation of the strikes and sweeps of the squadron on its first operation.
6 January 1945: A 15 plane strike, led by our Commanding Officer, from 235 miles out was launched at 0430 at targets in the Clark Field area near Manila. 12 planes attacked the targets encountering heavy AA fire. All returned. The Skipper's plane was badly damaged by AA fire and he had to make his landing with most of his controls shot up and hydraulic system out. His plane crashed through the barriers and went over the side. He was soon picked up by a destroyer and returned to the ship. "Sandy" Latrobe [LT(jg) Charles H. Latrobe] and "Keg" Kegelman [LT(jg) Arthur P. Kegelman] were hit by AA, but no serious damage done. The squadron's first strike found no enemy planes in the air so confined its activity to damage to Clark Field.
6 January 1945: A 4 plane sweep from 250 miles out was launched at 1500 at targets in northern Luzon. All returned safely. Carl Nielsen started himself and his squadron on the road to fame. He shot down three enemy planes: a Dinah, an Oscar and a Zeke over Alaminos.
7 January 1945: A 12 plane target CAP over northern Luzon was launched at 0500 from 160 miles. The weather was bad and no enemy planes were encountered. Two rockets were lobbed into a bridge about 15 miles south of Aparri.
7 January 1945: An 8 plane sweep over the Lingayen corridor and Clark Field was launched at 1500. Upon reaching Clark Field, they strafed one Zeke. Then, proceeding north, strafed a truck load of soldiers (Jap) and shot some rockets into a factory and some railway yards. On their return, in very heavy weather and almost total darkness, "Gibby" Gibson [ENS Charles W. Gibson] and John Sowell collided and are now listed among those missing. Sowell proceeded over the fleet and probably bailed out, as the cruiser San Diego reported seeing flares or tracers near her. But, there was no rescue. Gibson, undoubtedly, hit the water very quickly.
7 January 1945: At 1710 a two plane heckler was sent over northern Luzon, strafed the air field at Aparri and shot two more rockets into the bridge 15 miles south of Aparri.
12 January 1945: An 11 plane shipping strike was launched at 1030. Approximately 15 Japanese ships were found sailing in a northerly direction. This force included 5 DD's and 4 DE's. All but three of the ships were heavily strafed by our planes and rocket hits were scored as follows. On DD's 2; SA's 1; FTC's 1; DE's 2. Hits were scored by Lt. Phillips [Nelson V. Phillips], Lt(jg) Jones [Richard I. Jones], Lt(jg) MacMillan [Logan T. MacMillan], Ensign Harrison [Lamar F. Harrison] and Ensign Kurant [Stanley P. Kurant]. Ensign Truhowsky [Frank J. Truhowsky] had his oil line hit and made a water landing about 8 miles off shore. An 0S2U from the U.S.S. Pasadena was dispatched under fighter protection furnished by the Skipper and Lt. Nielsen [Carl S. Nielsen]. Truhowsky was picked up in about 2 hours and according to a dispatch from the Pasadena, "in excellent condition."
12 January 1945: With 45 minutes notice, an 8 plane sweep was launched at 1550 against Saigon #7 airfield, destroying nine enemy aircraft on the ground with three probables and one damaged. All our pilots returned without damage.
12 January 1945: At 1700 a three plane fighter sweep over Saigon was launched. Strafed and shot a rocket into an FTC and strafed a DE, destroyed a Betty and a Topsy on the ground at Tan Son Nhut field, then returned to the ship.
15 January 1945: A four plane strike with eight VT's was launched at 1415 for a strike on Pratas Reef. Two concrete buildings probably housing the radio station and weather station and practically all other installations were destroyed. An Oscar was strafed and burned. All pilots returned safely.
16 January 1945: At 1630 four plane zipper was launched over Hong Kong and Canton. One Tojo was shot down by Ensign Wattenburger [Robert C. Wattenburger] with the help of Lt. Wood [James J. Wood]. A power house, a radio tower, a warehouse, and a radar station were either strafed or hit with rockets. Returning from this mission, Ensign E. G. Nash crashed into the sea just aft of the carrier. He was never recovered.
16 January 1945: At 1750 a four plane night heckler over Hong Kong and Canton was launched. Installations were strafed and shot up with rockets. Lt(jg) Wright [Robert F. Wright] never returned from this flight. He was last heard of by radio in the vicinity of Hong Kong.
20 January 1945: At 1845 a zipper over the Toko-Heito area in Formosa was launched. This consisted of four of our planes and four from the Independence. The mission consisted principally of a rocket attack on the airfields at Toko and Heito. All pilots returned safely.
20 January 1945: At 2115 a four plane heckler was launched. The mission was to heckle air fields in southwest Formosa. The air field at Toko was shot up somewhat. During part of this flight a brilliant orange colored light was sighted. After a considerable run it was decided that they were chasing a star and withdrew for other targets.
21 January 1945: At 1650 a six plane zipper was launched. Again the airfields at Toko-Heito and Eiko were attacked. All pilots returned safely.
21 January 1945: A two plane heckler was launched at 1810 to cover Tainan airfield. A torpedo plane accompanied these two and developed engine trouble before reaching the target. One fighter returned with the torpedo and Lt. Wood went to the target alone. He moved into the traffic circle over Tainan airfield and picked off a Frances that was coming in for a landing.
22 January 1945: At 1630 a four plane zipper over Okinawa was launched. Naha field was the principal target. Some rockets were shot into the field. No aircraft was observed. All pilots returned safely.
The foregoing is a chronological recitation of the sweeps and strikes of our first operation. It far from tells the whole story. With the strike on Okinawa we headed for Ulithi. To properly record this period it is necessary to cover other portions of the operation that are not covered by the strikes.
First, of all the pilots flew CAP's (Combat Air Patrols) over the fleet at night (and in the daytime when the weather was too foul for the day fighters). It is regrettable that no night interception with our planes was attempted. For the most part the Japs kept their planes away from us. Practically the only planes encountered, except on the strikes, were those flying between Luzon and Formosa, apparently intent only upon covering this distance without engaging our forces.
No history of this squadron would be complete unless it covered the weather in the South China Sea. For six or eight days we were in a rough and stormy sea. The ship rolled and pitched making both takeoff and landing difficult. The sea and sky literally met at times. It was difficult to tell one from the other especially at night in a torrential rain. The Catapult Officer developed a new launching technique. When the pilot was ready to be launched, the Catapult Officer would turn his head sideways and take a mouth of water. If it was fresh he would bong the plane off, if it was salt, he would wait until the bow of the ship raised a little. The memory of the storms in the South China Sea will long remain with us.
Again, as elsewhere, an outfit that works at night and tries to sleep at day, has its trouble. The ship's company kept a regular day routine. We could by special arrangement get meals for our pilots at night, but arrangements had to be made each time. The barber shop and ships service remained on a day schedule which restricted our use of these facilities. Candy was sold at ships service from 0900 to 1000 each day and only then. We never did get up in time. The noise of the days routine began with G.Q. each morning and continued with various ships calls such as the great long, blow on the bosun whistle followed with "SWEEPERS MAN YOUR BROOMS, CLEAN SWEEP DOWN FORE AND AFT, ETC."
But this was new to the ship and in time most of the problems were met. The ship's officers and crew were individually and collectively most cooperative and did everything they could for us. We were soon made to feel a part of the "Big E", and except for the losing of four of our pilots, the operation will remain a pleasant memory.
For a statement of the flights made by the pilots see Annex Able.
On 26 January in a low overcast and persistent drizzle we entered Ulithi Lagoon and stayed until our sortie on 10 February. Most of our time was devoted to recreation. Basketball and volleyball games were held aboard. Motion pictures every night and numerous beach parties.
Considering the number of men in the area it is a wonder that any beach recreation facilities could be available. But we were able to get to the beach almost every day - Mog Mog. Beer and whiskey were available, although it was sometimes an effort to work up to the bar. The air group as a whole had one very nice party in one of the native huts. The roof was thatched with woven coconut palm leaves, and the sides were open. We had all we wanted to eat and the ships orchestra was on hand to sound out a few old time tunes, and college songs.
The enlisted men also had a party. They were limited to three cans of beer apiece and unanimously decided that the trip was not worth so small a ration. They would prefer to go less often and have more beer.
The time passed quickly and everyone had sufficient rest, recreation, mail from home and sleep. After our sortie, our course was in a general northeasterly direction and it was then announced that we were headed for...
On the night of 10 February, Ensign Sadler [William L. Sadler], in taking a wave-off, caught his tail hook on the landing signal officer cage, stalled out and dropped into the sea, plane upside down. He was declared dead as it was improbable that he could have survived the accident. Rescue ships reported no signs of anyone.
We sailed up east of Guam and between the Nampo Shoto islands and Marcus Island and arrived off the Japanese coast at Tokyo on the morning of 16 February. On this morning, day strikes were sent out against enemy military installations in and around Tokyo. What the results were, we were not told and when our 1615 strike went out pilots had no idea what had been done, what enemy opposition was encountered, or what to expect. It appeared to all of us, that by this time of day some intelligence should have reached us to help us plan, make the pilots more effective, and contribute to the success of our mission.
The plan of the day read - "Strike TOKYO". Our fleet lay off the coast protected by a front of mild intensity. Over the target it was clear. After briefing the pilots all the way from Ulithi to Tokyo, the 1615 zipper of twelve planes over Tokyo was launched. Ensign Luscombe [Francis R. Luscombe] hit the water on being catapulted. His plane cracked up and he caught hold of the floating belly tank. He safely cleared the ship, but when the rescue destroyer pulled alongside of him, he let go of the belly tank and slowly sank, to become our eighth casualty.
The weather at launching time was very poor. There was a solid overcast from 500 feet to 2000 feet with icing conditions above 3000 feet. It was clear over the target. The planes reached the coast of Japan at Yawata Saki and then turned southwest and followed the coastline around the tip of Chiba Peninsula to Tateyama. Seeing nothing there the flight proceeded up the bay to Yokosuka. There the flight split into three divisions.
Division 1 - Otis [LT Russell D. Otis], Hansen [LT(jg) Arthur G. Hansen], Earl [ENS Glen R. Earl], and Hunziker [ENS Fred A. Hunziker] - This division strafed a row of twin engine and a row of single engine planes at Yokosuka airfield, destroying several. Ensign Earl then spotted a ship in the bay, proceeded to strafe it and caused an explosion. While clearing the area a Zeke made a run on him and he gave the plane full power leaving the Zeke behind. In the meanwhile Ensign Hunziker had been hit and was forced to make a water landing, which he did in perfect form. He was picked up in a few minutes by the U.S.S. Longshaw.
Division 2 - K. D. Smith [LT Kenneth D. Smith], Young [LT Owen D. Young], Latrobe, Tucker [ENS James T. Tucker] - This division strafed Yokosuka airfield following Division 1, then upon being fired on by four freighters, proceeded to strafe them. They then flew to Naruto and proceeded out to the coast and to Choshi, strafed the field there, headed northwest, strafed a radio tower, three railway locomotives, a radar station and a factory.
Division 3 - MacMillan, Kurant, Kenyon [ENS John R. Kenyon], Close [LT(jg) Kenneth D. Close] - This division flew cover for the other two engaged in strafing Yokosuka field. Ensign Kenyon found a Jack on his tail and MacMillan came in to his rescue, and drove the Jack off. Kenyon then found himself headed straight for another Jack which was also headed for him. They exchanged gunfire but neither plane received visible damage. The two Jacks broke away and that ends the Tokyo action for VF(N)-90.
By Jim Loveridge,
Sung in 10-beat blues rhythm
Now listen to me brother
'Cause I'm an old night fighter
Who has been away out to sea
I've got the blues and
They are the loneliest blues
That any man can have
Now the skipper has asked for
Volunteers to be over Tokyo
I said "Lord, Lord, Skipper
I don't want to go"
(I've got the blues...)
Now it's black as hell out there
As black as it's ever been
I wish I were at home
With a great big quart of gin
(I've got the blues...)
The following day Tokyo was under attack again, but our planes were limited to flying CAP's. The night of the 17th we went through the Nampo Shoto and on the 19th took up our position north and west of Iwo Jima. For the next four days we flew the usual number of CAP's and on the 24th took our position north and east of Iwo Jima, to protect the amphibious forces which landed on Iwo Jima on the 19th and were being furnished night protection by the Saratoga up to that time.
On 23 February at 1630 the squadron began what turned out to be an all-time record for continuous flying from a carrier. Night and day our pilots flew night CAP's, day CAP's, target CAP'S, and sweeps and intruders on Chichi Jima. Hour upon hour the record went on. Some of the pilots began to tire. Many pilots had two flights and a standby condition in one twenty-four hour period. A statement of our day's schedule is attached and marked Annex Baker. Day after day the record went on until 2 March at 2330 when the total continuous hours of flight amounted to 175. The first 99 hours and 40 minutes of this record was without a single serious deck accident. Ensign Milton [Rex D. Milton] then brought his plane in three distinct pieces and emerged without serious injury. We had received the help of five pilots from Air Group 53 who stayed with us when the Saratoga returned to the rear areas. Their help was greatly appreciated and no doubt was somewhat responsible for our sustained flight record. Forty-five minutes after the record ended, our planes were in the air again and stayed there most of the time, until 10 March when we headed back to Ulithi.
During this operation the ship had still further adjusted itself to night operations. G.Q. [General Quarters] was now only sounded when it was "the real thing." Routine G.Q. was abolished and the morning alert was now called by Torpedo Defense. A breakfast was served at 1330 and a midnight dinner was served. A pilots' pantry was organized. The various ship services remained on a day schedule, and the routine noise of the day, while cut down considerably, still did interfere with the pilots' sleep. All in all, however, the ship did a fine job of adjusting itself to a night schedule.
Our aircraft availability on this operation was much better than on the first operations. This is especially significant considering the constant use of the planes.
The pilots' main gripe was the lack of targets. Very little enemy opposition was encountered, but the following are the highlights:
On the night of 19 February, Lieut. Wood was vectored onto a bogie, followed it for some time to obtain positive identification and shot it down. A Dinah? No, a Helen.
On the night of 22 February, Lt. Cdr. McCullough and Lieut. Young were officially given credit for breaking up an air attack on the fleet.
On the afternoon of 24 February, Ensign Woods was hit over Chichi Jima and was forced to ditch forty miles off shore. He made a good landing and inflated his raft immediately. Ensign Franklin [George E. Franklin] circled him until relieved by Comdr. Martin and Lieut. Runion [Dallas E. Runion]. He was picked up by the U.S.S. Paul Hamilton and returned to us.
On the night 24 February, Lt. K. D. Smith, flying a lone wolf patrol, spotted a Helen over Chichi Jima, came in behind it, opened fire and followed it down almost to the water where it exploded and burned after being hit.
A resume of flights for 10 February through 9 March period shows a total of:
|Av. Hr. per 24 hr. period||95.0|
|Total condition time||1732.5 hours|
The most intensive period during that time was 23 February to 3 March and shows the following total:
|Av. hr. per 24 hr.period||136.4|
A summary of all flights involved in this operation is attached and marked Annex Charlie.
We entered Ulithi the morning of 12 March, all had a chance to get ashore once, and sortied the morning of 14 March, headed for Kyushu, Shikoku, the Inland Sea, and Southern Honshu. There was very little flying until 18 March. Starting that morning at 0000 we began a night CAP. For once shooting was good.
Lt(jg) Wattenburger chased a bogie all over the western Pacific, through clouds and around the fleet, into one rain squall then another, a slow long, persistent chase that paid dividends for the fleet and for Watt in the form of "one Helen splashed."
Lt(jg) Williams [Wesley R. Williams] chased a bogie for almost three hours, through a few rain squalls and away from the fleet. The bogie returned and again persistency paid off. An unidentified single engine Jap was splashed.
Lt(jg) Purcell ran into a Tabby and after a tough chase sent the Jap's port engine into flames and the Tabby, no doubt, to Davey Jones.
Ensign Earl found a Frances in the clouds, drove it out, put the starboard engine in flames, followed it down and splashed it.
Lt(jg) Squires [W. J. Squires], after strafing a Jap boat, spotted a "Jake" sending it into the water with an explosion.
That completed the biggest days' bag of planes shot down by this squadron.
On this same morning Lt(jg) Cole [John W. Cole] was shot down by friendly fire and rescued by a destroyer.
The following morning Lt(jg) Harrison and Lt(jg) Robison [Layton E. Robison] teamed up on a Betty, each making a run and sent it into the sea where it burned and sank.
That same morning Ensign Perkins [James R. Perkins] ran onto a Betty. He set fire to its port engine and chased it through the clouds finally leaving it under orders, still burning and headed for Japan.
It began to look like open season and plenty of game and all the pilots expected to begin getting planes regularly, but the fortunes of war decreed otherwise and it was back to Ulithi on the evening of the 20th. The fleet had been under attack for four days (18th 19th, 20th, and 21st), the heaviest being on the 18th and 20th. A summary of all flights during this operation is attached and marked Annex Dog.
Before leaving the fleet, it was necessary to leave twelve of our pilots with other carriers in the task force. Those who volunteered were: Lt. Otis, Lt. Smith, Lt. Young, Lt(jg) MacMillan, Lt(jg) Cole, Lt(jg) Piscopo [William G. Piscopo], Lt(jg) Jones, Lt(jg) Kurant, Lt(jg) Kenyon, Lt(jg) Latrobe, Ens. Tucker and Ens. Sowar [Joseph F. Sowar].
On 24 March we entered Ulithi where we stayed until 5 April. The pilots used this time to do some refresher flying off Falalop. Mog Mog attracted the usual number of visitors and the enlisted men had a beer party, in a rain storm, but this time with enough beer.
We again joined the fleet on the afternoon of 7 April, in time for Lt. Runion, who was on a day CAP, to lead his division in an attack on a Frances. He made the first run, found only one of his guns working, but this was sufficient to send it towards the sea with its starboard engine burning. On the way down, Lt(jg) Milton added a burst that sent it straight into the water. With this Lt. Runion became known as "one gun, one run Runion."
On the night of 9 April, Lt(jg) Squires added another plane to his credit when he splashed a Val that was making a run on one of our destroyers. He pressed his attack home, following the Val down through the anti-aircraft fire of the destroyer, exhibiting unusual qualities of courage and valor.
Good hunting again on the night of 11 - 12 April. Lieut. Runion, while returning from a bogie chase, ran into a Tony. He turned into the Tony and sent a burst of fire into the cockpit. The Tony dove straight into the water from 200 feet and sank.
Lt. K. D. Smith, chased a Betty all around the fleet, dropped it when the fleet opened fire and took up the chase when it left the area of the fleet. He finally closed and sent the Betty into the water.
Lt(jg) Gallant [Joseph C. Gallant] was vectored onto a Peggy, and after overshooting it a few times, finally closed and fired, sending the Peggy into a dive that ended up when it hit the water, exploded, burned and sank.
Ens. Perkins, after being vectored in the general vicinity of a bogie, caught a Jack dropping a flare, chased it and caught it on a maneuvering turn to send it crashing into the extreme northern tip of Okinawa. And this concluded the bag of planes on this operation.
For a full list of flights during this operations see Annex Easy.
On 13 April, Ens. Fred Hunziker was listed as missing in action. He was last heard of hot on the tail of a Betty low over the water. We had been under heavy attack on 11 and 12 of April, so the evening of the 13th we headed back to Ulithi for repairs. Entered Ulithi Lagoon noon the 16th. This time it was hotter than any of our other visits.
Before leaving the fleet it was necessary to leave fourteen pilots and 3 ART's. For the most part names were chosen by lottery and the following stayed - Lt. Wood - Lt(jg) Truhowsky - Wattenburger - Corbit [LT(jg) Robert T. Corbit] - Purcell - Gallant - Hettwer - Jones - Milton - R. J. Smith [Robert J. Smith] and Ens.'s Kryshak [Edward P. Kryshak] - West [Waldo W. West] - Perkins - Goodson [Franklin T. Goodson]. The ART's were - McKinney [William I. McKinney] - Linfield [Robert F. Linfield] - Gary [Leon Gary]. This saddened the entire squadron. It was hoped that we could remain intact for our return to the States.
On the evening of the 16th April the officers of the air group, and the squadron had a large farewell dinner aboard for a real friend of ours leaving us - Rear Admiral Gardner.
On the 17th dispatch orders came through detaching two of our FDO's, Lt. Weathers [Raymond E. Weathers] and Ens. Rodemyer [Richard L. Rodemyer]. They were ordered to ships company. Their work with us had been outstanding, and they would have been a real asset in the reforming and training of a new VF(N)-90. On this same date we heard that CTF 58 is requesting the permanent transfer of Lt(jg)'s Wilmoth [Leonard W. Wilmoth] and Toffolon [John E. Toffolon] who have been on picket destroyers throughout our tour of duty. And so goes the process of disintegration.
We stayed with the ship at Ulithi until 4 May on which date it was determined that the ship was fully operational and sailed for the battle area. The pilots for the most part spent their time on Falalop. It was a welcome rest. Headquarters on Falalop was Fly Speck Hotel. The officers club was very pleasant and the nights were cool. Considerable time was spent in swimming and more spent in speculation as to the outcome of the repairs to the ship. We flew daily CAP's and ferried planes down from Guam. A trial run of the ship on 4 May indicated that for us it was - Okinawa.
We joined the fleet on 6 May and went back into action the morning of the 7th.
7 May 1945: The mission was a TDADCAP over Kikai. The flight took off at 0300, flew over Kikai and shot some rockets into the wooded area next to Wan Field. Runion and Franklin shot up a radio station on Amami Oshima. They all then strafed Wan Field and returned to the ship.
7 May 1945: A 4 plane TDADCAP was launched at 1730 over Kikai. They found two Franceses on the runways and destroyed them. Then flew to the north end of the island, took up their orbit for the remainder of the flight and all returned.
8 May 1945: Heard the welcome news that Germany had unconditionally surrendered.
9 May 1945: At 0345 four planes were launched for a TDADCAP over Kikai. On the take off Lt(jg) James T. Tucker crashed into the sea off the port beam of the carrier, in an accident whose cause will forever remain unknown. He became the eleventh and last loss to the squadron.
The rest of the planes patrolled the target, found nothing, and returned.
9 May 1945: A four plane TDADCAP was launched at 1730 over Amami Oshima and Kikai, shot a rocket into Mutate Yama and a rocket into Ese Akaogo, strafed Wan airfield and returned.
11 May 1945: Vice Admiral Mitscher came aboard and for four days the Enterprise was the flagship of Task Force 58.
12 May 1945: The Task Force had moved north during the night and at 0230 a patrol was launched to cover southern Kyushu. Seven planes took off, proceeded to Tanega, split up and covered the various fields of southern Kyushu. Once again the hunting was good. Lt. Young spotted the exhaust of a plane, made two runs on it and splashed a Tony. On a strafing run Lt. K. D. Smith had his controls jamb and headed for the ship. On the way he was surprised by tracer bullets passing him and found two Tonys on him. He splashed one of them. The other Tony and Lt. Smith (controls still jammed) both headed for their honorable and respective homes.
Lt. Young found some Jakes flying low over the water and in ten minutes splashed three of them. Lt. Young and Lt.(jg) Latrobe then teamed up to splash a Pete.
Lt(jg) Kenyon chased an Oscar seven miles, caught him and splashed him, after which all pilots returned to base. A successful morning.
13 May 1945: At 2145 Lt(jg) Oden [George A. Oden] was launched from Condition ten for a bogie chase. The chase lasted one hour and fifteen minutes and paid off in the form of "Splash one Dinah".
On the same evening and one hour later Lt(jg) Latrobe was also launched from Condition ten. He orbited for a while and was then vectored onto a bogie. After a ten minute chase he splashed one Betty.
14 May 1945: At 0300 fifteen planes were launched on a TDADCAP. Ten went over Kyushu and five over Shikoku. The flight over Kyushu while in the vicinity of Kushira air field were jumped by three Oscars. The Oscars made one diving attack, missed our planes and were followed down by Lt(jg) Harrison who sent one of then down out of control in a burning dive. Upon their return to the fleet, they found it under attack. They were ordered to orbit until it would be safe to land. They were vectored onto a Zeke coming in to attack the fleet and went for it. Lt(jg) Taylor [George P. Taylor] arrived there first and promptly sent the Zeke flaming into the water, for what turned out to be our last kill.
The flight over Shikoku found about 25 or 30 Jap planes on Kochi field. The planes were thoroughly strafed. The flight then spotted a factory and some barracks which they strafed before returning to the fleet.
About 0715 of this same morning our ship suffered some battle damage and the flights were taken aboard carriers in an adjacent Task Group. They were immediately regassed and relaunched for fleet protection, later again landing on other carriers. All pilots were returned by destroyers two days later.
The chronological recitation of flights leaves much untold. Other things were happening to the squadron. The men we had left with other fleet units were returning. The first were Lt(jg)'s Corbit and Wattenburger who returned from the Intrepid shortly after we returned to Ulithi in the latter part of April. Soon after Lt(jg)'s Jones and Truhowsky left the Bennington, proceeded by slow freight to Ulithi where they rejoined us.
Lt. Hettwer and Lt(jg) R. J. Smith returned from the Hornet and also caught us before we left Ulithi.
We heard from a visiting pilot, and later confirmed the sad news that Lt. James J. Wood, who had been aboard the Randolph, had been missing since 2 May 1945. He was last heard of proceeding north, towards Amami Oshima, that night in company with another plane. Neither of the planes nor pilots were ever again heard from.
Within the next few days after we rejoined the fleet, Lt(jg) Gallant returned from the Randolph; Ensigns Kryshak and Goodson returned from the Yorktown; and Lt(jg)'s Purcell and Wilmoth and Toffolon returned with their fighter director teams and ART's Linfield and Gary returned. This brought the squadron pretty well together again. We are still missing Ensigns Perkins and West who were sent to the Bunker Hill, Lt. Weathers and Ensign Rodemyer who were transferred to ship's company, and ART McKinney who was left on the Randolph.
During the attack on the fleet of 14 April, Robert F. Riessland, AMMH 1/c was burned and blown over the side. A number of other men from the ship were in the water and came to his rescue. He was kept afloat until taken aboard by a destroyer. He was later transferred to the hospital ship U.S.S. Bountiful.
The ship retired from the Kyushu area on the 14th. On 16 May at 1327, over the public address system of the ship came the Bosuns whistle followed by "NOW HEAR THIS - ATTENTION ALL HANDS - THE SHIP IS NOW HEADED FOR UNCLE SUGAR - FIRST STOP ULITHI".
On 19 May in the early morning we entered Ulithi, off-loaded ammunition and supplies, lay at anchor until 23 May at 1440. We left Ulithi as we first saw it in a drizzle. In the distance lay the ring of coral atolls - Mog Mog, Falalop - Azor (Identical). We headed east, our combat days as a squadron behind us.
We passed through the Marshall Islands just south of Eniwetok. In the early morning (about 0130) of 28 May the ship was buzzed by planes, friendly planes, those of VF(N)-91, our relief passing us on their way to take up where we left off.