The Ship - All Hands - Decorations - Remembrance
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Sections: Fall 1944 Jan 1945 Feb 1945 Mar 1945 Apr 1945 May 1945
December 1944 - January 1945 saw Night Air Group 90's deployment with Enterprise, with action in the Philippines and strikes along the China and Indo-China coast, and against Japanese installations on Formosa (present-day Taiwan). This period also saw the squadron's first combat losses, including the loss of its first commanding officer.
|December - January|
The day before Christmas was the date set for our shoving off. The day dawned bright, as do most of the days in this "island paradise". It seemed even brighter when we thought of leaving. As usual, just to remind us that we were still in the Navy, things were considerably fouled up. Most of our gear was sent over to the ship at Ford Island ahead of us and finally we manned the planes and took off for Ford Island also. "This is it", we thought. "Goodbye Barbers Point." But our farewells were a little premature. We were ordered to fly back to Barbers Point - no one seemed to know just why but back we went. We later found out that the sailing had been delayed while they changed one of the radar antennas on the Enterprise.
As a farewell "touch" to Hawaii, Gibby Blake [LT(jg) Gilbert S. Blake] zoomed Fort Shafter, earning the everlasting and vigorous "commendation" of the Commanding General.
Soon after 1400, the Big E was ready to sail. Tugs came alongside and nosed her away from the berth into the main channel of the harbor and cast off. Ship's company was drawn up in formation on the flight deck as she backed slowly and majestically away and then headed, with band playing, out of the inner harbor and finally out to sea. Guns were manned as she passed through the sub net as a gentle reminder that this was no pleasure cruise in spite of the festivities and flag waving.
About 1600, the order came to man planes and we were off again, this time for good, to fly aboard the Enterprise which was to be our home, companion and true love for God only knew how long. It was a good sight to see the old girl sweeping majestically along over the unbelievably blue tropical sea and to many of us, who had sailed aboard her before, it was like coming home, in a sense at least. All of us felt the pride that a true sailor feels when he says "That's MY ship!" The two squadrons put on quite a show for the ship before she finally turned into the wind and prepared to take us aboard. The fighters landed first as usual, and, as usual, the first one took a wave-off! The spectators in the gun galleries and catwalks saw a big red Santa Claus painted on the engine cowl of the first fighter as he roared by - the only reminder that the Yuletide season was so close at hand. It took about an hour and a half to land the thirty-six fighters and twenty-seven torpedo planes but everyone got aboard without mix-up - some of us only took one pass!!
We were all somewhat surprised to find that five new officers had joined the squadron just before we left Pearl Harbor. As a matter of fact they came close to "missing the boat" entirely. These newcomers were radar officers whom we had been expecting for the past six weeks. Hope of their arrival had virtually disappeared.
General Quarters caught most of us sound asleep (an hour before dawn). There was little about the surroundings in keeping with the holiday. A few of us had small presents which we had religiously left untouched and these we ceremoniously opened, trying vainly to capture some of the holiday spirit with very doubtful success. Special church services, a Christmas tree in the wardroom and mess deck, a big turkey dinner with "all the fixin's", an all hands' party after evening chow - otherwise the routine was uninterrupted.
We flew from the carrier today for the first time - training exercises only - making simulated low level attacks on the ship. Went out 65 miles climbing and then came in on different bearings at low levels - tried the oxygen equipment just for the experience.
It was the first flight from a carrier for some of the new officers. They reported no strain on a deck launch but they're not too sure that carrier landings are entirely practical!
Today brought our first operational accident when a fighter went in the drink off the catapult. The pilot was picked up OK by one of our escort cans.
And so passed Christmas Day, 1944!
More routine and training hops today. Anti-sub patrols and exercises. Heddens [ENS J. B. Heddens] made the mistake of opening up on the radio - an unforgivable sin out here, as Heddens learned very shortly after coming aboard. He was invited to "take tea" with the Captain [CAPT Grover B. H. Hall] and the Admiral [Rear Admiral Matthias Gardner] but we understand that there wasn't much sugar in the beverage they dished out to him! We had our first mishap today when Lt(jg) Jones [Robert R. Jones] went in the drink. The plane flipped over when it hit the water and the turret navigator, Nick Curnich ARM 3/c, was not found and is "missing at sea". A destroyer picked up two survivors, pilot and radioman.
A routine day. Most noteworthy item is the scheduled crossing of the international date line at midnight tonight. (We're going west, as you may have guessed, and that right speedily.) Tomorrow will be Friday and not Thursday as one would ordinarily expect. Very confusing! We think it's safe to assume that this will not happen again for some time to come. We are scheduled for night operations tonight.
We were formally excused from General Quarters this morning, which most of us miss anyway, due to operations last night. It was official and therefore we slept with clear consciences. Those operations last night were rather costly - it seems that all the bugs have not yet gotten out of night carrier landings. Six planes were damaged in barrier crashes and hard landings - happily no one was hurt.
We heard an excellent talk by Admiral Gardner this noon on the strategic background for our forthcoming operations against Luzon and Formosa. Admiral Gardner is "our Admiral" aboard the flagship Enterprise. He was her skipper last year when some of us were aboard in VT-10. This lady of ours has an irresistible attraction.
The only flying today consisted of routine ASP's - (Anti-Sub Patrol) - night operations were canceled. One of our ASP pilots, Lt(jg) Lee, [Eugene R. Lee] spun in on the landing when he came in too slow and tried to take a wave-off at the last minute. He headed for the island when his starboard wing dropped, but he managed to clear it and went into the water. Lee was the only one who failed to get out.
At the evening meeting they passed out waterproof charts of Luzon, a small American flag, and a first aid kit.
Besides an abandon ship drill this afternoon and another briefing lecture on the forthcoming operations, the day passed uneventfully.
In a few days we are scheduled to meet and joint Task Force 38 somewhere northeast of Luzon. The softening-up operations against Luzon will have been underway two days. On Sugar minus three, we will work over airfields in northern Luzon. The Army Air Force will take care of the southern part (supposedly) from fields on Leyte, Mindoro, and Peleliu. General MacArthur and his amphibious forces will land at the northern end of the valley leading to Manila, sixty miles away, the same route taken four years ago by the Japanese invaders. This will undoubtedly be the first full scale offensive in the Pacific utilizing armored divisions to the best advantage. Admiral Kinkaid and a fleet of CVEs and battleships will cover the landing and hold off the remnants of the Jap fleet which may be forming in the South China Sea, 800 miles west of Mindoro.
After one day of operations against Luzon we will head north to strike Formosa and the island of Okinawa in the Nansei Shoto, if necessary, to keep them neutralized and prevent sending reinforcements until MacArthur has things under control. This will take the two days before Sugar day after which we will again retire to refuel. All plans following Sugar day are as yet unformulated and will depend entirely on developments in the Luzon campaign and the actions of the Jap fleet. If the latter attacks, we may be called into the China Sea to help route them. That, in a general way, covers the plans for the near future.
Subsequent briefings will deal with more specific details on the particular objectives. Our job, presumably and theoretically, will be to follow up the day carriers' work to keep harassing the enemy during the night - keep him from repairing the day damage.
The last day of the year. A year ago found most of us under very different circumstances and, to a man, we hope that next year will also see some changes made. Most especially we hope that it won't be such a "sober" occasion as this one is.
Two planes flew down to Eniwetok to bring four staff officers who will give us the final details on the Luzon-Formosa operation. We are passing about sixty to a hundred miles north of Eniwetok.
Another briefing lecture this afternoon dealt with the geography of Luzon and Formosa and the Nansei Shoto. They also gave us the word on survival. Very interesting dope but we hope we never have the occasion to put it to use. Formosa especially sounds a little rugged - the natives there hate the Japs but they also hate Americans and some parts of the island are reported to be inhabited by the old fashioned type of head hunters. One would undoubtedly have an exciting time of it if forced down there.
Here we go on a new year! The day brought only the routine number of anti-sub patrols and offered little else worthy of note.
Each of us stops to realize now and then what an exceptionally good bunch of guys there is in this squadron. A screwy bunch without a doubt but there's the intangible feeling of unit and a definite feeling of good fellowship that gives one a sense of pride to be included as a member of the outfit. There are very few dull moments when there are more than two of us together - joking and clowning is the order of the day. Tonight at the meeting someone started singing "Bringing in the Sheaves" followed by "Let Us Gather at the River" and from there it carried on through a whole list of favorites, eventually degenerating into the rendition of such ditties as can only be described as "bawdy". Another stunt is to hold "whiskey tests" - at the signal, everyone blows his whistle as loud and long as his breath holds out. This is apt to occur at any time.
Of all the things!! We had an inspection today on the flight deck. Imagine making an air group stand out there while someone in the higher pay grade walked quickly by! Of course the worst aspect of the whole thing was that we had to get out of the sack so early - eight o'clock.
Operations today included the routine ASPs and a night exercise involving a twelve plane simulated attack with theoretical interception by our dauntless and skillful fighters. We didn't see a sign of them until they cut us out in the landing pattern.
We spent most of the afternoon listening to briefing lectures on targets in Formosa - mostly airfields, of which there seem to be quite a number.
Ever since we left Pearl Harbor we have been gradually accumulating more and more equipment until now, when we struggle out to the planes, we are fully prepared to set up light housekeeping under any given set of conditions for any length of time. Our gear includes a hunting knife, a thirty-eight calibre revolver, one and two cell flashlights, a pencil flashlight, waterproof charts, flags, whistles, heavy Marine shoes, vitamin capsules, first aid kit, Mae West life jacket, parachute harness, chart board, helmet and goggles, flight suit, very pistol and flares, dye marker, and a back pack which contains "K" rations, machete, malted milk tablets, jack knife, whet stone, mosquito net hood, poncho, water, first aid kit, fishing tackle, more flares, smoke bombs, twine, matches, compass, gloves, and various other useful items. Each man also has a one-man raft secured to his parachute pack.
Today was payday, which in all Navy circles is a favorite, ranking only second to mail calls which have been very meager since we shoved off.
Our track westward is progressing rapidly. Today we passed Saipan, which some of the fellows saw from the air. We were also warned that our course would be close aboard Rota, which is still Jap-held. We were careful not to get near enough to alert them.
Happy Day! Mail came aboard today and the usual festive air prevailed for the lucky ones - the others just sulked.
The briefing lecture today dealt with the geography of Okinawa and the Nansei Shotos in general. Also at this meeting they issued Japanese and Philippine money for use in case we are shot down in any of the forthcoming operations. This money is to be returned with the package unopened and everyone is trying to think of safe ways of keeping it as a souvenir.
Lt(jg) Ed Hidalgo (the man who has been in longer than any other man in the Navy, by his own admission) briefed us on one of our specific targets on Luzon. This is Aparri airfield on the northern coast. Every one hopes to be picked for this first bit of action - we wonder if this desire for action will continue throughout the cruise.
The day after tomorrow we are supposed to rendezvous with the rest of the task force somewhere northeast of Luzon.
Except for one unfortunate incident, the day passed in a routine manner. Ens. Heddens had a little bad luck on a landing today. He bounced when he hit the deck, the hook missed all the wires, and he ripped off the starboard wing on the island. Thinking he was going to crash into the planes parked on the bow, he nosed her over and the prop went clean through the flight deck and stuck about 12" down into our air crewmens' ready room and cut through one of the ceiling cots where our navigators and radar-radio technicians take a nap while on alert. No one was hurt luckily and no one ever used those cots again and the plane was considerably the worse for wear.
We recommend a trip to the photo lab for all hands, as a morale builder-upper, to see Chief Gholson's [Harold T. Gholson CPhoM] collection of stimulating pictures. It consists, of course, of many nudes in various poses and is guaranteed to bring the spark to your eye and the low appreciative whistle to your lips. The chief may even be induced to give you a pin-up that will without a doubt ruin your matrimonial life or plans.
This is the date set for our meeting with the rest of the fleet. When we came up on deck this morning after chow, we beheld one of the most awe-inspiring sights that Navy men can ever see. Warships of every type and description lay halfway round the clock and as we steamed steadily toward them, more and more rose into sight over the horizon. We were witnessing one of the greatest accumulations of Naval strength ever seen in the Pacific. A few hours later ships were visible on all sides as far as the eye could reach. What a sight!! The surprising number of carriers of all classes, with complete screens, gave us some indication of the tremendous striking force as well as defensive power of our fleet.
We spent most of the day steaming slowly with tankers alongside refueling. Part of the time the same tanker that fueled us was simultaneously fueling a destroyer - all three ships underway.
Admiral Gardner and Commander Martin [CDR William I. Martin] flew off this morning for conference with the Task Group Commander. As yet the results of that meeting have not been disclosed but we will undoubtedly get the final word concerning our specific targets before long. Rumor has it that there will be a predawn strike by the fighters tomorrow morning and that the torpedo planes will stage a night strike tomorrow night against Aparri Airfield in Northern Luzon. Time will tell.
We have a Lt. Stein aboard who is a movie cameraman taking pictures to use as a background and atmosphere for a carrier picture to be produced soon in Hollywood. It would be almost impossible to photograph the real activity of this Enterprise air group. How could they really record night catapult launches, night fighting, night bombing, and night landings? He wanted to get some shots of pilots manning their planes on the double - a scramble - so we all decked out in full battle regalia and ran out of the ready room onto the flight deck, while Stein ground away on the camera. It was rather amusing because actually every such maneuver that we've seen so far has been very deliberate - everyone walks - no one runs - especially during a night operation when the planes are hard to see. Maybe someday we'll crash the movies.
There's an air about the ship foreshadowing the coming action. It's an elusive thing and one that defies analysis but it's there none the less - last minute preparations - scuttlebutt and conjecture - the unknown - our thinking is no longer divorced from the coming events by even a few days time. Morale is as high as ever and most of us look forward, illogically, to our first strike with a feeling of anticipation. Each of us shall be disappointed if we're not included on that first strike. This probably seems like sheer foolhardiness to a layman but people don't seem to function the same out here - there's still the banter and joking, even about being shot down, but underneath there's actually a purpose and a sincerity - almost the belief that it's worthwhile doing what we're doing, all of which may sound slightly corny and Boy Scoutish but nevertheless expresses our feelings to the feeble extent possible in writing. Logic never did have much control over feelings and emotions, but out here it seems to have lost all control. In some cases this attitude may be just sheer courage but for the newcomers how is it possible to be courageous about the unknown?
The rumor concerning the fighters turned out, amazingly, to be true. At 0430 this morning they launched sixteen VF on a predawn strike against Clark Field on Luzon, armed with six rockets apiece.
About eight o'clock they started coming back and by 0900 they were ready to start taking them aboard. All planes returned but several showed signs of heavy flak - one had his entire starboard elevator shot away but he made a very good landing in spite of it. Another didn't do so well on the landing, however, and hit the rear deck gun mount ripping up his right wing. No one was hurt. The worst crack-up of all occurred when the VF skipper, Lt. Cmdr. McCullough [Robert J. McCullough] came in. He made a couple of fast passes without flaps but got wave-offs. As he went by we saw that his port elevator was shot up some. He called the ship and said that he didn't have enough gas to make another pass, so on his third try he hit beyond the last wire and streaked up the deck going like hell. Three barriers went down like they weren't there and into the parked planes he went, veering over toward the port side. He knocked one of the planes clean into the water, smashed the tail of another and went over the side himself. He somehow managed to get out (as his plane burst into flames) and dropped into the water, later to be picked up by a destroyer. His burning plane was quickly shoved overboard before the flames could spread. Four plane handlers were hurt but are expected to recover.
The rumors have changed concerning VT's share in the action and it is now thought that we will undertake a search and attack mission for enemy shipping in the Formosa Strait south of Formosa, and west as far as the China coast. Nothing definite is known but supposedly this will take place tonight about midnight. These things seem to change at a moment's notice so we're not counting on anything yet.
Later - The weather has been getting progressively worse all afternoon and as a consequence all VT plans have been canceled. The fighters had another combat patrol over Luzon this afternoon, shooting up what whipping they could find, and strafing airfields. Lt. Nielsen [Carl S. Nielsen] shot down three enemy planes - one Oscar, a Zeke, and a Dinah. So far that gallant group of airmen in the torpedo squadron has done nothing but stand-by! We save more planes and pilots that way!!
Dirty weather is still closed in around us and hampers most of our operations. The fighters have sent out a few CAP's (Combat Air Patrols). Rain, high winds, poor visibility, and considerable rolling and pitching combined to make it a thoroughly stinking day for flying. A can came alongside again today for fuel. If we thought we were tossing around, we changed our minds when we saw that little destroyer taking green water over the bow every few minutes. It's an awesome sight to look out across the angry, leaping water; standing braced against the wind with the spray blowing in your face. Gone is the magic blue of a few days ago - here only is desolation and hungry gray - bleak, cold, and forbidding. Visibility changes rapidly but is never good - in short it's a helluva day for aviating.
Being Sunday, it seems an appropriate time to mention the church services which most of the air group takes advantage of more or less regularly. Of necessity these services are of a very simple nature. They are kept as nearly undenominational as possible though of course there is a separate Catholic Mass. The most outstanding feature is the complete sincerity that marks these services. Those who attend do so because they want to and because they feel that they derive benefit. The meeting takes place in the war room. Everyone dresses the same as he does every other day and the only outward appearance of a church-like nature are the altar cloth, the Bible, the candles, the Chaplain's black robe, and the cross. But one glance at the earnest faces is enough to tell the casual observer that this is no ordinary meeting.
This waiting for something to happen - waiting to be sent on strikes - the continual cancellation of flights at the last minute is beginning to tell on our nerves and patience. Most of are very anxious to get into action. Undoubtedly we'll get plenty of it before we're through, but right now we're keen on doing something. Not that nerves are cracking or anything like that, but there's an undercurrent of frustration and impatience.
Tonight they have finally broken down and scheduled us for a couple of heckler missions but they only involve four planes. Lt. Henderson [Charles E. Henderson], Lt(jg) Blake, Lt. Doyle [Joseph A. Doyle], and Lt(jg) Largess [Clifton R. Largess] are the lucky pilots. They are due to return about midnight and most of us will probably stay up to hear their story.
This is Sugar minus two days - tomorrow we will spend refueling but it seems reasonable to expect that the next three or four days will see considerable activity. Reports filtering through from Luzon already indicate that things there are getting pretty hot. It's to be expected that this will be a pretty tough landing though just what our part in it (if any) will be no one seems to know. You can be sure that there's plenty of conjecture.
Last night our four hecklers found rather poor hunting all in all. They saw no enemy planes, encountered no enemy ground defense, and found visibility so poor that they were unable to ascertain what damage they did. The town of Aparri was reported to be in flames from day strikes when they got there, but that's apparently all they saw.
We are "tentatively" scheduled for a ten plane strike against Okinawa tonight but the final OK is still forthcoming. The force is working northward toward a point east of Formosa.
A six plane search for two fighter pilots [ENS Charles W. Gibson and ENS John G. Sowell] who collided in mid-air last night proved fruitless this afternoon and it is feared that they were both lost. Last night, the Independence, our sister night carrier, suffered a bad fire on the flight deck when one of her fighters dropped his belly tank in landing. It took some time to get the flames under control; in the meantime we took her planes aboard, since they were running low on gas.
Rumors from the Seventh Fleet in the China Sea, supporting the landing, indicate fairly vigorous action. We may be called to help them out.
We refueled today and the tanker had some mail for us; so we're busy with pictures and memories of the people and fun we left behind.
An amusing incident occurred on the heckler mission last night when Lt(jg) Gibby Blake reached for his relief tube which wasn't there. In desperation he tried using a glove as the only liquid container available but found that the slipstream had a marked tendency; to drench him when he attempted to empty the glove's contents out the cockpit hatch. He underwent this humiliating soaking three times before he was entirely relieved. Gibby says it wasn't funny as it may sound. There is we believe, a fuller account of this incident in the literature section of his collection.
Last night's search and attack was canceled again. Everyone is thoroughly disgusted and fed up with the incessant waiting and repeated disappointments of these cancellations. When we're out here to fight a war it's hell to have to put up with continued inaction for no apparent reason - true the reason is probably there, but it hasn't been disclosed to us.
Today is the day scheduled for MacArthur's landing on Luzon in his Lingayen Gulf. So far we're without word of the progress of that landing. At present we're steaming up the Eastern coast of Formosa and the day boys are off on strikes against that island and on shipping in the Formosa Strait. "Perhaps we'll get a crack at them tonight" we thought.
But no, this afternoon we changed course and headed southeast. An announcement on the loud speaker system said we are headed for the South China Sea "to engage the enemy". The tentative plan is to proceed down the China Sea making strikes against shipping and bases in China but always looking for the Jap fleet. We are expected to spend about seven days on this series of strikes.
Last night we were required to maintain five VT pilots in condition of readiness eleven (ready to man planes on a moment's notice). At 0300 the order came down from the bridge to send six TBMs on a 240 mile search ahead of the force. We manned planes as quickly as possible and took off (a catapult launch, of course) at about 0330.
The weather was terrible - about forty knots of wind across the flight deck, frequent rain squalls, and tremendous seas. It was almost impossible to stand against the wind and the deck rose and fell alarmingly, threatening to take water over the bow and actually doing so once or twice. The ceiling was closed down practically to the water and it was evident that the entire flight would be made on instruments. The flight itself was negative - no contacts were made. Some of the planes actually broke out into clear moonlit places at the southern end of their legs, but of course the weather got just as bad as before when they headed back. The search landed back aboard about 0830 without mishap.
While the search was out, three Dinahs approached but were shot down by the CAP - all of them.
Today we went into a night schedule that completely fouls up the normal daily routine. We have "breakfast" at 1430, "lunch" at 1800, and supper at midnight. We sleep from about 0400 (if we aren't flying or standing by) until noon or 1300. Some of us it appears, will do considerably more sleeping than that!
We got the first news of MacArthur's landing today, and it seems favorable. Everything went as planned in the first day: 65,000 troops were put ashore. They met little opposition, and now every one is wondering where the Jap air and land power is that's known to be on Luzon. The unloading of supplies is progressing according to schedule.
We got some preliminary briefing today on the targets in China which we may be hitting soon. They issued us Chinese money and flags, same as the "Flying Tigers". Our strategy is to penetrate the China Sea as far as possible without being detected, always on the lookout for a contact with the main Jap fleet. All other targets will be avoided for fear of disclosing our position.
On the 14th we will reach our southernmost position and will then commence a series of strikes against the China coast on the most strategic military bases and targets.
The master plan for defeating Japan seems to be to cut her various lifelines of supply from Borneo, the Dutch East Indies and Indo China. There are two major lines - one, the water route up through the Philippines, Formosa, and the Nansei Shoto chain to the Empire and the second, by rail and water up the China coast and across by water to Japan.
Oops! Missed a day! The past two days have been all fouled up - no regularity at all - we get all confused on this new schedule.
Thursday evening we had an extensive briefing session on the Camranh Bay and Cape St. Jacques areas which were considered among the most likely hiding places for the Jap fleet.
At 0300 Friday morning an eight plane search went out, one sector to Camranh Bay; another into Cape St. Jacques. Ernie Lawton obtained contact with one DE "destroyer escort" and two Fox Tare Baker cargo ships. Since he was armed only with flares he decided against "pressing home the attack". Otherwise the search was negative.
While the search was out, twelve torpedo planes were kept in readiness, loaded with torpedoes, in the event that any good-sized shipping targets should be reported. Since nothing of sufficient importance had been found by dawn, they dropped the torpedoes and loaded the planes with bombs for a strike against Tourane Bay [Da Nang], 340 miles north of our position. Before the planes took off, however, a report came in of a sizeable convoy 200 miles north along the China coast.
At 1000 this morning we launched ten VT and twelve fighters, "loaded", as Red Atkinson [LT(jg) George H. Atkinson] says, "for B'ar and headed for the big thicket". It would have been an eleven plane launch except for the fact that Lt. Moore[James S. Moore] drew himself a small dud which wouldn't spread its wings. Those of us who witnessed the return of the estimable Stanley Moore to the ready room concluded after one look at his usual cheery face that he was somewhat disappointed. We also agreed that his countenance strongly resembled the worst weather the China Sea had to offer.
The pilots on the strike were Lt. Kippen [Russell F. Kippen], Ens. Jennings [Joseph F. Jennings], Ens. Landon [James D. Landon], Lt(jg) Ashton [John M. Ashton], Lt(jg) Cromley [William L. Cromley], Lt. White [Melber A. White], Lt. Cummings [Ralph W. Cummings], Lt. Collins [C. B. Collins], Lt(jg) Brooks [Charles E. Brooks] and Ens. Atkinson. Four VT and 12 VF from the Independence also joined us in the attack. The convoy was located in Kanfong Bay and turned out to be a group of fifteen ships (the convoy and its escorts). There were three DDs, four DEs, three SA, two FTC, two TB and one CL of the Katori class (though the latter was not positively identified until later). Kippen led the attack, going for the CL and scoring a straddle with some damage done. Jennings went after a DD scoring two hits and strafed an SA. Landon made runs on a DD and an SA getting a direct hit on the stern of the latter, leaving it settling and dead in the water. Ashton and Cromley both attacked SAs with no hits, and both were hit by enemy fire in the wing or elevators. Both returned, scared but safe. Lt(jg) Brooks and Lt. Cummings both went for DEs and DDs but scored no hits.
That still leaves three of our dauntless crew unaccounted for: White, Collins, and Atkinson. These stalwart individuals somehow (almost forgot the weather) got separated from the others and never did locate the convoy. In order to keep out of mischief, they scouted around for a suitable land target. In due course they chanced upon a lonely and undefended lighthouse which they attacked with a vengeance scoring at least one direct hit. To do it full justice, the story should be told by Big Red in his own inimitable style and dialect.
Day groups from the Hornet and Lexington were more successful. Against an eight ship fueling force located in the same general area they sank seven of the eight. One of our fighters was downed by AA during our attack but was seen in a life raft and it is expected that he will be picked up.
Friday morning we reached our southernmost position about 200 miles from the southern tip of Indo China and about 65 miles off the coast. We're still searching, in vain, for the Jap fleet. At present, we're on our way north striking major points along the China coast as we go.
The only VT action today was another long search at 0400. Nothing was sighted. On the landing, Ens. Heddens had another piece of hard luck when he made a bad approach and went over the side, after catching a wire. He left about six feet of his tail hanging in the arrestor gear, while the rest went in the drink. All three of the occupants of the planes were picked up by a destroyer. One of his crewmen, Bob Brought, was injured.
We're still steaming north in the China Sea. Reports indicate that the convoy against which our strike was directed was later completely annihilated by day carrier groups. In all, the force is said to have sunk 22 ships up and down the China coast. We got some more briefing today on Hainan Island, Hong Kong and Canton areas. Here's hoping we get in on some strikes against these juicy targets.
It is becoming evident that we are indeed lucky in having Lt. Hidalgo as our ACI officer. His sources of information seem infinitely better and more reliable than ordinary sources of Naval intelligence. It seems that he has thoughtfully placed cousins at all the strategic points where the Navy is apt to strike, to ferret out information firsthand so that he can adequately brief his boys. All this arises from a simple little remark he made at the briefing today about what a cousin had told him concerning the terrain in Indo China, having lived there for some time. That innocent remark has been the cause of much good natured kidding for our esteemed Mr. Hidalgo!
The most noteworthy item of the day has been the abominable weather. The seas were actually breaking over the forward end of the flight deck. The ship was pitching so badly last night that one of the planes bounced out of the chocks and rolled back into the prop of the plane behind. Winds of thirty-five knots velocity have blown all day out of the northeast and it rained most of the time. This South China Sea is evidently full of foul weather from one end to the other.
Our indolence is bound to assert itself occasionally, so we request forgiveness for such omissions in chronological order as we have made and will make. In most cases however, we have given fairly complete coverage to the omitted days when our conscience finally drove us back to the pen, full of remorse and new resolve. This cycle shall probably be repeated in the future so we hereby give fair warning - and an end to insincere apologies.
Operations have claimed the limelight the past few days. Tuesday morning, we sent out another long range search which covered a sector ninety degrees wide to a distance of 300 miles. The westernmost sectors of this mission reached the China Coast at Hong Kong and up as far as Swatow Harbor. The middle sectors projected into the Formosa Strait and around the Pescadores Islands, while the easternmost sectors touched the west coast of Formosa.
Shannon McCrary was the first to be catapulted. He appeared to be airborne to an altitude of 300 feet and then suddenly headed for the water about a mile from the ship. As he struck his belly tank exploded and the resulting blaze lit up the sky and bow of the ship with a ruddy glow, giving the tragic scene an eerie and frightening aspect. Somehow Mac managed to get out and was miraculously picked up by a can. We regret and mourn the loss of his two crewmen, navigator Porter [Marvin L. Porter ARM 3/c] and radar-radioman Cooney [Manford L. Cooney ARM 2/c]. We are all anxious to hear Mac's story when he gets back. The rest of the launch and search were without mishap. The weather was zero-zero with moderate to high winds. No contacts of any consequence were made and even those who went into Hong Kong harbor were disappointed with what they found. The planes landed shortly after dawn.
While that mission was out it was decided to send a day strike against Pratas Reef. Eight planes made up the strike, led by Lt. Kippen. A few installations were all the island boasted, the most important of which was a radio station which we thought might possibly be a radar installation. Practically everything, except a Shinto temple or shrine and a fine, big three-hole out-house was destroyed. Kippen, Henderson and Lawton attacked the radio station; Commander Martin and Lt. Cummings pounded a group of grass huts; Cummings also hit and blew up an ammo dump. White and Collins attacked the radio station buildings; and Blake went after the towers. Four VF accompanied the strike.
Today was a tragic day for the fighters. They sent out two four plane patrols to strike the Hong Kong and Canton area and they got back about nine o'clock this evening. The first one to land crashed the barrier and flopped onto his back. The pilot was OK. The second flew into the water astern of the ship and exploded, without signs of a survivor [ENS Erwin G. Nash]. Another barrier crash. The fourth was a wheels-up landing. A fifth is still missing with no trace or clue [LT(jg) Robert F. Wright]. It was one of those frightfully unlucky days that makes a person stop and wonder if this aviation business is entirely practical after all and especially at night.
Just a routine day - no operations. We were scheduled to leave the South China Sea tonight, passing out through the strait between Luzon and Formosa at high speed, to minimize the danger of lurking submarines or air attack. However, that plan was delayed a day or two because of weather. The course we had to make lay parallel to the seas and the cans just couldn't take it. They were rolling forty degrees and things were getting no better fast.
We had a very good squadron meeting this evening. Since no immediate operations are pending, it was proposed and decided that we undertake daily Spanish lessons with Lt. Hidalgo as instructor. (We forgot to mention that Ed made full Lieutenant on the Jan. Alnav - however since no cigars have been forthcoming as yet, "some" feel that no recognition is due.) Lt. Ed spent thirteen months in South America on active duty for the Navy and hence has a wealth of background to liven the classes. Furthermore, he is of Spanish descent, speaking that language before he learned English, so he's well qualified as a Spanish teacher.
After the Spanish lesson, Ernie Lawton read us a ballad about Air Group 90 which is still in the throes of composition. After that, Blake, Cummings, and Lawton, the squadron trio (and very good) sang a parody based on the popular song "It Could Happen to You", using Commander Martin's late barrier crash as inspiration. The words were also written by Ernie. A second rendition was made over the "squawk box" direct to the Commander in his ready room. He took it in fine form as was expected and soon appeared in person to laugh at himself. We refer you to the section of squadron songs and poetry in this collection for the words of this ditty.
This afternoon there were funeral services for Bob Brought, one of Hedden's crewmen. He was seriously injured in the deck crash which pulled their plane apart near the tail a few days ago and died early this morning. This was our first burial at sea.
The service was held on the fantail with the heaving, tumultuous sea of blue and white as a background. The other ships of the force were visible and groups of planes returning from day strikes and patrols roared overhead. The sky was gray and laden with dark clouds, and the noise of the sea drowned out the words of the chaplain as he paid simple tribute to our young shipmate and friend who had given his life for our cause. Then the Chaplain, reading the burial-at-sea service, came to the words, "I commit this body to the deep...". The stretcher was tilted up and the body slid from beneath the flag into the depths of the ocean. The Marine guard fired a salute as Taps was sounded. The band played "Onward Christian Soldiers" as we sadly left the fantail and went to our several tasks.
The weather continues bad. The vertical displacement from trough to crest of the sea running at present must be between twenty and thirty feet. Our bunks seem to rise and fall at least twice that far. The only air operations were routine fighter CAPs of four planes at a time. Landing in such weather is a breathtaking sight. Rain whips across the deck, driven by a forty knot wind and the deck itself rises and falls twenty to thirty feet. The LSO (Landing Signal Officer) brings the planes in high and fast and they dive straight for the deck when they get the cut. Naturally some of these landings are extremely rough and tires are frequently blown.
Stories of the damage caused by the storm are coming in from other ships of the force. The San Jacinto, a CVE, rolled so severely that she lost eleven planes over the side when the tie-down lines carried away. A CVE lost eleven planes when her flight deck was all but torn away by the fury of the waves. In our Big E, one of the weather curtains on the hangar deck was smashed in, crushing the wing of a TBM, and a spare engine broke loose and ended up in number two elevator pit, after spinning about the deck.
Our Spanish lessons continue despite the raging elements and our own special method of redistributing the squadron wealth - via high stake, ready room poker.
No operations again today. We're still puttering around in the South China Sea in the vicinity of Luzon. The force took advantage of a very good change in weather to refuel. The plan seems to be to try the northerly passage into the Pacific. It was a good sight to see a clear horizon again after better than a week of the most stinking weather imaginable.
Spanish lesson again tonight. This project seems to be gaining attention and publicity throughout the air department. Tonight, the Group Commander (since the advent of old Spain into our lives he has become known as "El Grouppo") and Lt. Cmdr West (ACI) were present. Several of the fighters have been sitting in also and most of the squadron is still in hearty support. We think it's a very good idea and hope it doesn't fizzle out.
Today has been unusual in that we have had several torpedo defense calls, caused by bogies on the screen. Most of them were shot down before the got within sight of our Task Force Group. Only one Jap came near, and he was "splashed" before he could do any damage: the CAPs were really on their toes. This is the first sign of enemy threat to our force.
We're still in the China Sea, west of Formosa. The day groups have made several sweeps and strikes against targets in the southeastern part of that rugged island. So far we've been completely idle, except for a two plane ASP at sunset tonight. One of these, Ens Scott [Knox O. Scott], landed aboard the Hancock for some unknown reason, and has not yet returned; perhaps he has friends there - surely it couldn't be a case of mistaken identity!!
This evening, after the Spanish lesson, we had a dual birthday celebration for Waldo (Cummings) and Gibby (Blake). It consisted primarily of the consumption of one rather inadequate eight inch cake. One fiftieth of a cake that size doesn't make a very man-sized ration. Not that any of us complained, you understand - we just made the remark in passing.
Then bridge for the intellectuals and poker for the rich and would-be rich - "those what have none want some and those what got some want more!" Ever were it thus!
We came through the Bashi Strait between Formosa and Luzon last night and headed for a position east of the middle of Formosa. The weather holds fair and the day groups are making the most of it.
Many of us were awakened at noon today by the dismal sound of general quarters and shortly thereafter the ship went into condition Able - all hatches and watertight doors dogged down. The force was under aerial attack! However, the report soon came that all the attacking aircraft had been shot down. During the day we were alerted several times, but on no occasion did the Nips come close enough for our batteries to open up though once or twice we could see neighboring groups firing. Reports soon began to come through of damage done to other ships not so fortunate as ourselves.
A carrier, whose station is off our port bow, was landing a TBM and about a second after it hit the deck there was a loud explosion followed by a severe fire on the flight deck - all this we could see and hear but there was no way of knowing the full particulars of the extent of the damage. Knox Scott landed aboard this carrier and has not yet returned. We hope he was safe in the sack or somewhere out of harm's way. (One of the TBM's 500lb bombs dropped and exploded, killing many aboard, besides the TBM crew.)
At last, VT has crashed into the big time!! We are scheduled for an eight plane strike tonight! It's to be against shipping in the harbor at Kiirun on the northern end of Formosa. Some twelve to eighteen large cargo ships were reported there by day groups (AKs [cargo ships] probably). This seems to be what we've been waiting for - shipping targets, good ones, too. and at night!!
Our strike launch got a little fouled up last night due to an unreasonable number of duds. Two radio duds, a catapult failure, and a return with engine trouble left four of the originally scheduled flight plus the two standbys, making a total of six planes out of eight for the attack. The ready room loungers again got a fleeting though terrible glimpse of Lt. Moore's stormy countenance after he drew one of the radio duds. It can't happen twice in a row!!
Most of us can sympathize with Jim's feelings. It's actually surprising the keen disappointment one feels when denied the chance of making a strike like that. Logically a person should feel damn glad and relieved to be spared the danger. Last December 31st we were told of this rugged Formosa target, where the natives didn't like the Japs or Americans, and we were warned not to go to them for help if shot down for some were reported to be headhunters.
Those pilots who made the attack were Kippen, Koop [LT(jg) Chester G. Koop], and Wood [ENS John P. Wood] in the first division and Cmdr. Martin, Jennings, and Cromley in the second division. The planes carried two 500lb bombs and eight rockets. The round trip established (or close to it) a record for long range strikes. Turret navigator Peter Smith reported it was off his plotting board on the return trip. The plan was for the first division to attack as soon as they reached the target while the second division searched along the west coast for shipping targets, making their attack on the harbor later and after the first division had completed theirs. In general this plan was carried out: Kippen made the first run announcing the commencement of his attack by radio - that was the last ever heard from him. When the attack started, numerous search lights came on so Cmdr. Martin returned to the target staying at 6000 feet to act as a searchlight decoy and cover the attacking planes. Kippen made his attack on a FTB tied alongside a dock, scoring hits and starting fires on the shore which spread rapidly, as well as causing the ship itself to explode. A few minutes later an explosion was seen near the mouth of the harbor which is now believed to be Kippen's plane when it hit the water.
Koop picked out a small arms plant which he set afire, causing many other explosions and spreading the damage rapidly. Each attack was made by one plane with the others circling five miles north of the harbor maintaining a l000ft difference in altitude. When the first three planes did not return, Cmdr Martin in Nero 356 (code name & plane number) ordered Jennings to go in next. He was going in low to look for ships when suddenly he banked sharply to the left yelling "what was that?" It looked like a mountain in the harbor that was not on the navigational charts. The radar which should have been pointed down for ships was pointed up by the radioman, concerned about the other missing planes. After using up his rockets and ammo on the search lights and dock installations, Jennings turned back out of the harbor and climbed for a bombing run. All of the searchlights were pointing in every direction but towards Jenning's plane, but only for a second. When he nosed over on his target, they all had him. The navigator Smith could hear him yelling, "read the altitude". He couldn't see the instrument panel because of the searchlights. Griffin [William A. Griffin ARM 2/c], the radioman who was the only one that could see, started yelling the altitude. Halfway down the lights all snapped off and then followed the fire and explosions from the target.
Others hit wharves, dock installations, and warehouses causing fires. Searchlights were strafed. Three planes made good their retirement to the rendezvous point but the other three failed to show up so they took departure for base without them shortly before dawn. This delayed return made it necessary to pass alarmingly close to several Jap island airstrips. This was accomplished, however, without mishap though not without considerable worry. No sign of the missing members was seen on the return trip nor back at the ship and it was concluded that they must have been forced down. Nothing whatsoever had been heard or seen of Koop or Wood after the attack commenced.
Our missing personnel are Lt. Kippen, Lt(jg) Munro (Kip's radar-navigator) [Uri A. Munro], Lt(jg) Koop, Ens. Wood, Floyd ARM 1/c [Paul A. Floyd], Lieberenz ARM 3/c [Dale A. Lieberenz], Beevers AMM 2/c [Guy Beevers Jr.], Hall AMM 3/c [Richard J. Hall], and Findley ARM 3/c [John H. Findley]. These losses are all keenly felt and deeply regretted by the whole squadron and we cling hopefully to the thought that some of them at least may still be alive and may eventually return.
Lt. Kippen was our Skipper. Many of us have flown and lived with him so long in this squadron and in VT 10 that his loss seems impossible. To all of us he was an intrepid pilot and a true friend and shipmate.
The rest of the day passed without noteworthy activity but there was an undercurrent of strain, tension and thoughtfulness beneath the seemingly calm and normal appearances.
It appears that air operations are over, for the time being at least. It was a day of leisure except for the officers' athletic period at 1600. It is feared that not all officers complied with the request for their presence.
Mail call today, and, as always, greatly appreciated - an occasion for smiles and memories. There is much reading of excerpts and showing of pictures - "How the hell did she get my address!!" or "Boy, I remember the night...", etc. at great length.
We had quite an unusual squadron meeting this evening. Cmdr. Martin spoke to us concerning yesterday's losses, giving us his ideas about what happened. He's got a pretty good way of looking at that sort of thing. Out here (he says) there's a job to be done regardless of inevitable misfortune. We expect losses and count on them so that they don't hit us the way they ordinarily would. But we're not hardhearted or cold blooded in this outlook - we've just got too much more to do now - we can't afford to look back or take time for extensive thought. So we have our sincere and deeply heartfelt regrets but shake them off quickly and go on as normally as possible. It's the only way. And later, when we've done our part of the job we'll take care of our sorrows.
After the Commander's talk, they did an unprecedented thing. They passed out a ration of brandy, in small bottles with the Navy seal over the top, to the whole squadron. "For medical purposes only", but the Commander got permission to declare a "medical emergency" and the rules were relaxed. Doc (Lt.Comdr.) Hurlburt [Edwin G. Hurlburt] issued a blanket prescription. It was two ounce slugs per man but that little bit was mighty potent and was well received by all hands.
The past two days have been pleasant. We're making good a southeasterly course which will in due time bring us into the port of Ulithi. Here we will take on supplies, fuel, ammo, and beer. The latter will be an individual operation; every man for himself. Six planes will fly ashore with maintenance personnel. It is the plan to give everyone at least two days on the beach to get in a little extra training. We're well out of the immediate combat zone by now so the only routine is the morning and evening GQ which we in the air group either sleep through or ignore. The department heads and ACI officer are busy writing the reports of our first month's operations, covering them from all possible angles.
The show this evening was "Girl Crazy" starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. As the title suggests, it was a little crazy with a very improbable plot, but there were lots of women in it. Judging by the standards of this locality it was a very good show. One of the songs in the picture was "I Got Rhythm." It was sung by a chorus of beautiful and shapely gals and as they came to the words "I got plenty of nothing...", the camera swept down this line of beauties. Just as they got to the word "nothing", the last girl in the line came into view, a profile shot. She was an exceptionally buxom young lady and that shot showed off her charms to the very best advantage. The assembled crew of the Enterprise, to a man, let out a perfectly timed and executed, concerted howl of mingled approval, longing, and laughter that was wonderful to hear. Everyone seemed to feel that anyone who used the description "plenty of nothing" for that bit of feminine pulchritude, was guilty of gross understatement to say the least. I fear the men of the good ship Enterprise have reached the point where the female of the species is sorely missed! And the cruise only one month old!
This has been a day of general preparation for entering port. We're due to drop anchor at 0830 tomorrow morning.
This morning at 1030 there was a memorial service honoring those missing after our first series of operations; a most impressive occasion. It was not a funeral service as the Chaplain pointed out, but rather a public or group supplication to God, to be with them and return them to us if it be His will. The service was held on the hangar deck at the forward elevator. The elevator was lowered to a point about three feet above the hangar deck to form a raised platform which held the pulpit, choir and band. We could look up and see the blue patch of sky through the elevator well and the silhouette of a plane parked on the flight deck. The choir sang several appropriate elections under the direction of Lt. Cummings. The band also played and the Chaplain gave a short address, read the Scripture and said a Prayer. During the proceedings a gunnery drill was underway. Each time the tow plane flew past all the batteries opened up and the service had to stop for a few minutes.
This evening a big poker game was raging in the ready room with twice as many kibitzers as players. One of the players, as usual, was "Big Red" Atkinson, one of the squadron comic characters. He plays with an eight inch hunting knife laid out on the table before him to bring him luck, so he says. At crucial moments in the play he picks up this formidable implement and gently scratches his head with the tip. At one time after losing pretty heavily he exclaimed: "A-a-agony, beyond all human comprehension!"
We've gotten back to those southern latitudes where one encounters the National Geographic beauties of tropical seas. We went out on the gun gallery just before turning in tonight and found a perfectly glorious night - one of those magic scenes with a moon so big and bright that it seemed like it was sitting on the yard arm of the ship in the next station. Fleecy clouds, made silver by moon light, puffed across the sky and the sombre deathly blackness of the ship's island superstructure swayed gently across that billowy background. Fifty feet below the inky water swept past and seemed to go down, down into an eternity of time and contemplation. The blackness of the water was broken by the white, fluorescent wash from the bow or the crest of a breaking wave. A scene of complete peace and security, despite the harsh note of grim reality supplied by the nearby mass of the 5 gun mount and the barrel projecting out toward the moon.
Today was marked by our arrival in port. Many of us watched the process of making a landfall and coming to anchor from the fo'castle deck, where the massive anchor chain comes up from the pipe. We followed the Hancock through the submarine net and up the anchorage to our designated spot. Here the anchor was let go with a mighty rumble of chain through the hawse. And so we came to rest, dead in the water for the first time since leaving Pearl Harbor. Our spot is in the midst of a huge fleet of ships that reaches as far as the eye can see - ships of every type and description - fighting ships and ships of the train.
The sight of land (for many of us the first in over a month) was not particularly impressive. Ulithi is a collective name which includes a chain of coral reefs and small islands forming a rough ring around the more or less protected anchorage. The islands themselves are disappointing. Small in every case, they fail to compare very favorably with some of the bigger ships anchored in this flotilla. We are so far from the nearest of the islands that we can just barely make them out. The maximum elevation here is fifteen feet above sea level plus palm trees, in some cases. They are little more than coral reefs above water. The atoll is located at approximately ten degrees north latitude, 140 degrees east longitude and is part of the Caroline group. It is less than 100 miles northeast of Yap which is still Jap-held (though now isolated from supplies and reinforcements and almost bombed out of existence). There are some shore installations here on the longer islands - a supply depot and an airstrip, etc.
The day passed in a routine manner. When in the port, an air group is excess baggage that has to be fed, transported to the officers' club on Mog Mog Island, and, in general, put-up with. Repair gangs are already at work on the deck and painting - the job aboard ship that is never done. Most noteworthy was the arrival of lots of mail.
Tonight was the first time since our cruise started that the ship hasn't been blacked out. Doors and ports were left open indiscriminately and it sure looks good to step out on deck and see all the lights winking across the water. One doesn't feel quite so "all alone".
We were rousted out of the sack this morning at the indignant hour of seven-thirty to stand Captain's inspection on the hangar deck. The occasion was used to make the award of a DFC to Lt(jg) Largess. Cliff earned the medal on the last cruise with VT-1O when he landed his plane safely with one wheel down, his elevator controls shot away, no tail hook, and various other defects. He and his crew were wounded.
Many of us spent considerable time hanging about the quarter deck waiting vainly for a boat to take a party to the officers' club on Mog Mog, and were finally forced to give it up as a bad job. The small boat situation seems to be considerably fouled up according to the best in old-fashioned Naval tradition and practice.
The church service was unusual in that it was held on the hangar deck instead of in the wardroom and was a Communion service. Nearby working parties were more or less hard at work checking newly arrived equipment and supplies, painting the deck, and welding. All this activity tended to divert the attention from the service but it went on uninterrupted. It was an unusual atmosphere for worship but somehow that didn't seem to matter.
The day was routine except for the athletic contests with men and officers from the Hornet. There were basketball and volleyball games and boxing matches. The Enterprise enlisted mens' team and officers' team came out with most of the honors in the games played in the afternoon. The boxing matches were held after evening chow and attracted a very sizable audience. There were good and bad fights.
The Hornet took the first three of the seven bouts, but the Big E came through to take the last four. By thus trouncing the visiting athletes, the Enterprise was deemed to have avenged its former defeat in a previous engagement with these traditional rivals.
All during our stay here in Ulithi there have been, and will continue to be, parties on dear old Mog Mog. We shall undertake to describe only one of these inasmuch as only the more rugged members of the squadron could stand more than one anyway. All these functions have common elements.
This particular party was to be a squadron affair and quite typically, started out late due to the scarcity of small boats. The sea was running quite high when we boarded the LCM [Landing Craft, Mechanized] that was to take us ashore, making the loading procedure quite a precarious one. It led one to wonder and fear what the return trip would be like when the officers, too, might be expected to be "running a little high." But we're getting ahead of our story. The loading was finally accomplished without mishap (though there were 44 in a boat designed for 36), and we set out in high spirits. Those spirits soon became a trifle dampened, however, for the blunt bows of an LCM were never designed for the comfort or dryness of its occupants. Before two minutes had passed it became quite apparent that we were all in for a good soaking. Some of us managed to keep dry to a certain degree. However, as we came fairly within sight of land, a good hard rain squall hit us, playing the role of the great equalizer by soaking all to the skin.
It got so bad that visibility was reduced to about fifty feet. Commander Martin decided that it would be prudent to lay to under the stern of a supply ship and make fast to await the passing of the storm. We got quite a kick out of it when "William One" had to pull rank on the Cox'un (Seaman Second) who was in favor of keeping on. Rank won a victory and we lay to as proposed. Then came the job of making fast the line. Ashton was back on the fantail (trying to keep dry probably) attempting to hold some slack in the line while someone else made it fast to the cleat. He had a good hold on it above his head, so that when the boat suddenly dropped away in the trough of a wave he was left dangling in mid air with the friendly little waves lapping gently at his feet. He finally just let go and dropped, without further ceremony, into the water and was subsequently fished out. By this time the only difference in Ashton's condition and that of the rest of the party was that he was drenched with salt water and we were drenched with fresh and salt. Finally, after making doubly sure that everyone was properly soaked, we sallied forth and in due course made our landing.
Once ashore it didn't take long to get things humming. Beer and liquor appeared miraculously, the chow was brought out, and the sodden company proceeded with the business of party making. It would have amazed a poor layman to see the speed and dexterity which all hands displayed in the matter of getting quickly, completely, and gloriously "skunk drunk". Another great equalizer was hard at work and soon the lowest Ensign was slapping Commanders on the back with the greatest abandon. Six men from the band were along to provide music - mess stewards to prepare and dispense the chow. It wasn't long before some of the merrymakers had taken over the instruments from the band and the bandsmen applied themselves to catching up with the rest of the party. A drunken jam session quickly ensued - Joe Jennings wearing the skin off two fingers slapping the bass; Tex Luscombe [ENS Frank R. Luscombe], a fighter, throwing his long lanky Texan frame and big feet into an intoxicated clog dance; an unknown lieutenant beating a very loud and in-expert drum; Jack Loveridge blowing himself blue in the face on the trumpet; Rip Whalen rendering a "blue's" song in raucous voice; and everywhere much laughter and loud talk; beer cans, olive pits, palm trees, sand and coral, confusion and intoxication - it was wonderful!! Al Stevens, with high Yiddish humor and dialect, had a great time calling the attention of one and all to the unusual and unequaled natural phenomena of Ed Hidalgo's four teats - challenging anyone to equal or surpass the display. Many tried but all were judged incapable of dethroning Hidalgo, "champion and king of the many teats!"
At five o'clock it came time to leave and what a melee that was! Everyone was yelling and crowding into boats, threatening to capsize them. Leckner, fighter material officer, insisted on diving off the boat every time he wasn't held in. At last the boats shoved off and a more disreputable and thoroughly unmanageable crew would be hard to imagine. Officers are "Seigneur" at times, perhaps, but definitely not now. All the way out to the ship a rough-and-tumble fight raged in one boat till it was a wonder to everyone even remotely approaching sobriety that someone didn't get his head split wide open. But at last the trip was done and even the unloading at the gangway was accomplished without mishap.
To those of us who have been on brawls of this nature, no justification for nor explanation of these drunken misbehaviors is called for or necessary, but the unacquainted reader may be shocked and amazed at such actions, especially among a party of "congressional gentlemen." But those of us who thought about it at all realized that this was probably the only way men in our position have to relieve the tension of nerves high strung from weeks of uncertainty and danger, bad weather and the hazards of night carrier operations.