The Ship - All Hands - Decorations - Remembrance
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Sections: Fall 1944 Jan 1945 Feb 1945 Mar 1945 Apr 1945 May 1945
February 1945 began where January left off, with Enterprise moored in Ulithi Atoll, and her crew making frequent voyages to Mog Mog for three beers and a sandwich. The tempo of the war increased, though, when she sortied with Task Force 58 on February 9, first to strike at Tokyo, then to support the Marines at Iwo Jima.
Days in port are very routine and have a sameness that would be extremely boring if treated on a day by day basis. For that reason we shall cover the outstanding events of the past week at one full sweep. The time spent on the beach and the experiences encountered were different in the case of each individual but we believe that those included here are fairly representative of the general experiences of all.
Many of us, being crewmen, shall long remember with mingled feelings the recreation parties we went on at Mog Mog. One such party came about last Friday. We got underway about noon, only an hour and a half late. Lt.(jg) Hadley [Robert B. Hadley], squadron welfare officer, was in charge of arrangements; Lt. Henderson [Charles E. Henderson] "exec", and Lt. Bacon [William D. Bacon], administrative officer, also came along. Beer drinking was the main activity although the eating of three hundred sandwiches ran a close second. A few of the more ambitious ones took part in athletics but most hated to get that far away from the beer which at best was three cans. This doesn't go very far, and so there's a continual struggle to wrangle more out of the tight-fisted officer in charge of the island. The results on this occasion were not too good. Mostly we just sat around and "batted the breeze."
It's impossible to imagine how crowded it is every day in the enlisted men's area of the island. Men are everywhere; squatting, sitting and standing - lounging against palm trees or on beer cases. Beer cans are strewn all over the placed in spite of the many GI cans placed around. A big army truck is busy all the time hauling away the empty cans but they never finish. The beer we drink finds its way back to the good earth through three inch yellow pipes with funnels on top which are stuck in the ground in batteries of eight and spaced at frequent intervals about the island. It is not unusual for them to take in $2,000 for beer in one day (at $2.00 per case). That's a lot of brew. 1000 cases.
When our allotted three hours were up, we were herded into the stockade (a wire enclosure down by the boat dock) to await their announcement that our boat had come for us. Just before time to leave, Chiefs Cirillo [John H. Cirillo], Gowling [Ralph A. Gowling], Sturla [Leland F. Sturla], and Gholson [Harold T. Gholson] went to the chiefs' compound and somehow managed to get out with four cases of beer. They skillfully got them past the shore patrol on the dock when our boat arrived. As soon as we got away from the dock they were broken out and all hands got at least one can on the trip back. There was a trail of empty cans all the way from Mog Mog to the Enterprise. It was good to set foot on firm ground again in spite of the difficulty of getting back and forth, and that last can of beer in the boat finished things off in grand style.
Each of us spent a day or two or more over on Falalop Island, where the airstrip is located. The most obvious thing we got out of our trip was a sunburned face, concentrated on the tip of our nose.
While ashore, we lived in Quonset huts made of corrugated sheet metal fastened to semi-circular supporting members, and open at both ends, except for screens. Most of the permanent personnel on the island are Marines, living in tents huddled closely together under the coconut and mangrove trees. Life there is rather primitive. The only water for drinking is contained in Lister Bags, hung from trees scattered here and there throughout the camp. These bags are made of canvas and are fitted with valves for faucets. Naturally, the water is always at least luke warm. Shower facilities are very immodest - strictly outdoor affairs. A dozen shower heads are suspended from wooden frames over a wooden platform. From these heads is emitted a trickle (and only a little trickle) of cold water which had the knack of making your hair feel as though someone had poured very sticky molasses in it. What a system - hot drinking water and cold showers!!
"Head" facilities are equally primitive - in cases a wooden pole and a hole suffice.
Chow was served in tents and Quonset huts. In general, it was not too tasty, though there was always plenty. One drink they served was coconut milk highly seasoned with nutmeg - not too bad to take. The Marine mess at the officer's club was a little better.
This officer's club was a comparatively nice one, situated on the far side of the air strip from the main part of the camp. It was a long, low, rambling building with a veranda along the ocean side commanding a view of the surf booming across coral reefs, the variations in the blue of the water caused by the coral, and the islands and ships in the distance. A very nice scene. The building itself was very rustic, made of coconut logs and rough boards. The bar is made of plywood - very plain but stocked with the necessities. Behind it on the wall are tacked several posters done in gay colors which are reputed to have been left by the Japs when they lost the island. There are also pictures of native chiefs and warriors who originally inhabited the island and have since been moved to a neighboring one; out of bounds for U.S. servicemen for obvious reasons. The bar and veranda are, of course, favorite gathering places for the evening hours. Many drink beer simply because it's the only cold beverage to be found.
The airstrip is the major purpose for this island establishment. It consists of a broad runway running across the widest part. Being constructed of live coral, it must be sprinkled daily to prevent it from turning to dust. However, it makes a very smooth, hard surface, quite suitable for landing all types of aircraft.
Most of us at one time or another took a hop over to Fias Island which is 45 miles from Falalop (alias Flop-Flop). This island was in Jap hands until a few weeks ago. There are still quite a few natives left but at first they were very reticent, hiding in their grass huts which are nearly invisible among the palm trees. If you're persistent, however, and keep flying over they soon decide that you mean no harm and begin coming out. There must have been a group of about fifty or seventy-five that gathered down along the beach. We flew back and forth just over the water at fifty to seventy-five feet and could see the figures below quite plainly. What few garments they wore were very colorful - skirts in the case of the women (and that's all) and loin clothes for the men. Some of the men carried spears and knives or machetes. They seemed very friendly, waving and carrying on at a great rate. One group spread a strip of red cloth on the sand with another strip of yellow across it to form a "T". We never did figure out what they meant or wanted - but it didn't seem practical to go down and see since the TBM does not carry pontoons this season.
Those native women were the first females many of us had seen since Pearl Harbor. It must be admitted that the experience did not do much to satisfy or even stimulate. Some of the guys were lucky, however. They saw a real white woman over at Falalop one day, and at close range too. She was a war correspondent waiting for a boat to the hospital ship Solace. Everyone just stood around and stared at her. She must be used to it by now for she never batted an eye. As one guy said, "She isn't exactly good looking, but she sure is good to look at!"
Most of us returned to the ship after our stay ashore with the confirmed realization that shipboard life beats this shore stuff all hollow. A hot shower and a good shampoo never seemed better; a shave never more welcome. It was rather interesting for a brief change and novelty but Lord deliver us from it as a permanent diet!
The weather on Falalop deserves some mention. Mostly it is just plain hot though it cools off a little at night. It rains for a few minutes at a time four or five times each day. This tends to keep the mud in tip top condition of sliminess at all times. Clothes dry out quickly, and so no one pays any attention to these showers. It is common practice for the Marines to take their ponchos to the outdoor movie every evening to use as cushions or for cover if it should rain - in any event the show goes on.
This afternoon the ship got under way and stood over to the gunnery berth for practice. A "drone" was used as a gunnery target.
Current scuttlebutt has it that our next operations will take us into much more northern climates - up around the Japanese homeland to be specific. We will probably support the invasion of Iwo Jima (in the Volcano Islands) in one manner or another, after or before striking airfields in the Empire. All this is pure, juicy scuttlebutt but seems to be borne out, in part at least, by the fact that we're taking on certain items of gear which can only mean operations in cold weather.
We got underway at 1130 this morning and are now well out to sea on our way to new operations and God knows what experiences. There was no fanfare ceremony as at Pearl Harbor. We just upped anchor and shoved off. We were among the last to leave since we are a part of Task Group 58.5, the last group in the force.
Our tactical setup has changed somewhat from that of the last operation. We are now Task Force 58 instead of 38. The force is under the command of Admiral Spruance. We inherited several planes and other equipment from the carrier which we're replacing. Ed Hidalgo acquired a picture which boosted squadron morale and blood pressure no end.
It's strange to be on the go again after lying in port. The ship has come to life again - awakened from a nap. Somehow it feels good to be underway. Sort of seems as though you're going to get home quicker when you're moving - like riding a train and measuring motion by the wake of little station stops.
The day was highlighted by three operation accidents! One of our fighters [ENS William L. Sadler] returning from an exercise last night was given a wave-off on his approach. He was low and slow and just wasn't able to pull up enough when he shot the gun to her. He grazed the signal officer's platform, taking the wind screen with him, and careened over the side into the drink. The plane flipped over on its back and exploded.
This morning at 0630, ten or twelve VT planes were scheduled for a "mousetrap" exercise (simulated formation attacks on the force using a target towed by the carrier for miniature bombs). Coming in for a landing, Lieut. Moore [James S. Moore], who had led the exercise, ran into a little bad luck. He came in high and fast, got the cut, and dove for the deck. He hit wheels first, bounced without catching a wire and kept right on flying. At the last moment he dove for the deck again in an attempt to catch the barriers. However, he had so much speed that he bounced and crashed into the planes spotted forward. No one in the plane was hurt, outside of a few scratches, but a couple of the deck hands suffered broken ribs and one broken nose. The damage to the planes, however, is another story. The deck looked exactly like a bone-yard with parts, debris, and wrecked airplanes strewn every which way. One TBM and one F6F were completely demolished and at least four others were damaged.
Lt.(jg) Hadley, who rides with Mr. Moore (alias "The Kangaroo Kid"), was so weak-kneed when he scrambled out of the plane that he nearly fell flat on his face. He stated that he was amazed to find that he had some very definite thoughts during the few seconds of action.
Bad luck seems to have been the keynote for the day's operations and was reminiscent of some of our training hops on the way out from Pearl. It continued through the afternoon and evening.
This afternoon a fighter piled into the island - plane was demolished but pilot was laughing merrily as he climbed out. This evening another fighter landed fast. He caught a wire, but his plane broke in two leaving the tail assembly and a couple feet of the fuselage in the gear. The forward end of the plane tore down the deck, spun around and flipped over on its back. The pilot was just dazed and his leg was broken. He was lucky to be alive.
An intelligence meeting tonight acquainted us with the fact that Tokyo itself is our next target and right soon. Scuttlebutt has taken a new lease on life after being so nearly right for once, and we can expect bigger and better things from it in the future. Friday and Saturday of this week will be the two strike days, being D-Day minus two and one for the landing on Iwo Jima. Our principal targets will be airfields and aircraft. It looks like we're really sticking our head into the lion's mouth this time - let's hope we catch him yawning!!!
This has been a routine day of loafing, an intelligence lecture, and training exercise.
Flight operations today included only routine ASPs [Anti-Submarine Patrols] and Snooper Patrols. Parts of the morning and afternoon were devoted to intelligence lectures on the Tokyo area. One lecture this afternoon dealt with a comparison of our own and probable Jap naval and air power in this area. Our surface strength is overwhelming. And our carrier air power must and will be a match for their highly concentrated land-based forces.
It is reasonable to expect that this operation will be considerably hotter than any we have yet seen. The Anti Aircraft reports are staggering. B-29's are working with us in this historical mission. At present we are about 600 miles from Tokyo, proceeding in a northerly direction.
As action draws near, countless preparation are being made. Striking at the heart of Japan, it is natural to suppose that the opposition will be intense. We shall probably go to General Quarters for the entire time. That means that we'll grab sleep where and when we can and subsist on battle rations. Watertight doors and hatches will be battened down making movement from one point to another very difficult. Personnel will be dispersed as much as possible and other unusual conditions will exist.
We are scheduled to launch a six plane hop at four o'clock on 16 February to deceive the Japs as to our position. It will be the first hop launched by our Task Force against mainland Japan.
Other possible operations will be Heckler, Zipper, and Search Missions, as well as Sweeps and Strikes. Due to the very nature of our night operations, most of our action will depend on and be dictated by results of the day strikes. In the meantime we've been preparing for any eventuality by attending lectures and briefing sessions today.
It's amazing how clear the atmosphere is this evening - a result, in part, of our northerly position. It seems as though the ship is in the exact center of an immense disk of deep blue-gray. The horizon, clear around the compass, is a sharp circle contrasting the deep blue of the cloudless sky. It seems hard to believe that this scene of serenity can be the overture to death and destruction.
The action pending at the time of our last entry on 14 February is now over and as we make good our retirement we find the first opportunity to describe the events of the past few days.
Thursday the fifteenth we steamed steadily north toward the Tokyo area at high speed. Most of us spent the day getting our gear in shape and drawing what additional equipment we needed, such as "long handled" underwear, green Marine coveralls, etc. We also had more briefing sessions and stored as much sleep as we could manage. During the day of the sixteenth some 1000 sorties were flown over Tokyo, the major target being as planned, airfields and air facilities. Reports of results were few and unreliable; however, the indication seemed to be that they were quite successful in destroying aircraft on the ground and in the air. At about 1600 that afternoon all of our fighters took off on a Zipper sweep to cover airfields in the Tokyo area. The purpose of this mission was to keep the Japs from sending strikes against the force just when our day strikes were getting back and landing, i.e. "Zip Up" the day's operation. The weather was ideal, with low ceiling over our force and clear over the target.
In the late afternoon one VT, accompanied by one VF, went out on Snooper Patrol, supposedly about forty miles from force, to detect and report snoopers. Charlie "Hose Nose" - 'The Boss' - Henderson was the torpedo pilot on this hop and, being an "indomitable raider", went right into the mouth of Tokyo Harbor. Lt. Comdr. Henry Loomis was along as RCM operator. Much to Charlie's disgust (and Lt.(jg) Halbach's [Edwin H. Halbach] relief - he's Henderson's radar-radio operator) they found no snoopers to shoot at. The fighter that accompanied them also had some doubt about the advisability of this extended sight-seeing tour.
At 0130, an eleven plane VT search and attack mission was launched to guard against attack by Jap naval units, even though such a thing was deemed high improbable. Joe Scarborough was forced to request a delayed emergency landing because of engine trouble. Joe Doyle and Cliff Largess flew the sector that went to the entrance of Tokyo Bay. They found the whole section completely blacked out. On the way back they attacked Nii Shima with results unobserved. Shortly after that Cliff called Joe and asked him to "please for God's sake stop testing your guns". Joe replied that his guns weren't even charged. "Well then," rejoined Cliff, "we ain't alone." and without further conversation they zoomed away in different directions. Damned good thing the Nip was a lousy shot.
Ben Turpin and Charlie Gerbron got several contacts on planes but they were unable to close. They attacked Hachijo Jima in their sector, again with unobserved damaged. Little Joe McLaughlin and Bill Cromley saw one plane but nothing else. Ernie Lawton and Jim Landon encountered considerable icing and consequently made no attacks; and Joe Jewell likewise had a negative search. These were the worst icing conditions ever encountered by any of us.
The day strikes began again at dawn of the seventeenth but were canceled at noon due to poor weather conditions; hence we began our retirement. Scuttlebutt now has it that the next phase of our activity will be to directly aid the landings at Iwo Jima, due to start tomorrow. Also there is some "vicious" rumors afoot that we're due in a few days for more attacks on Tokyo.
These two days of operations have been very puzzling. We were prepared for and expected the most intense opposition. We looked for a wide-scale air attack on the force, but there was comparatively none. A few bogies were shot down by the CAPs but all were at considerable distance. Our gun crews were never even alerted. Even over the target there was much less air opposition than expected. Though flak in some areas was heavy, it proved ineffective. One group of forty day fighters encountered one hundred enemy planes over the target. They shot down fifty and lost only two; the remaining fled. There were plenty of planes on the ground and many of these were destroyed. It seems as though this strike was a complete surprise, catching the Nip with only a handful of combat pilots and few planes ready for immediate use.
All in all a mission which seemed on the face of it to be extremely hazardous and daring turned out to be a Japanese tea party for us. In spite of the unexpected ease of the mission the ship stayed at General Quarters throughout most of the day. Battle rations were served. However, we did go into condition "Baker" above the third deck and secured from G.Q. about eight o'clock each night. A warm meal was served to all hands at midnight.
Some of us were asleep when G.Q. was sounded one morning during this Tokyo operation and didn't awaken till some time later. As we lay there in the abysmal darkness on the verge between sleeping and awaking we experienced an ominous and eerie sensation which could not at first be explained. As the cobwebs of sleep gradually left us we realized that a heavy and unusual silence hung over the whole ship. It brought to mind the deathly calm described in "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner." We slowly became aware that this strange silence was caused by the cessation of the wind tunnel sound produced by the forced ventilation system in our compartments. It was indeed a queer sensation, this eerie calm, broken only by the occasional clang of a hatch, the faint hum of a gun director, or a mount moving in train!
Though our total effort in the Tokyo strikes was disappointingly small we did not escape without our losses. One occurred when launching the zipper mission. Tex Luscombe [ENS Francis R. Luscombe], a droll, loose-jointed, and very likeable character in the fighter squadron went into the drink off the catapult. A destroyer located him hanging onto a tank, and everyone took it for granted that rescue had been effected. Then word came from the destroyer that they'd lost him. He must have gotten so weak that he couldn't hold on - no one knows exactly what happened.
Two other fighters made bad landings but no one else was hurt or lost. One flipped over on its back and another tried to go down the ladder at the after end of the island when his hook failed. Both pilots walked away, though the planes were complete wrecks.
The VT squadron's great loss was that of Ensign John Stuckey and his two crewmen, radar-radioman James Eldred, ARM 3/c, and turret-navigator Vic Chaney, AOM 3/c. John was extremely well-liked by everyone and an exceptionally good pilot. He was on the search mission - flying wing on Joe Jewell - about forty miles from the force on the way back. Suddenly, as he was trying to join up, he dropped away in a hard left turn losing altitude; he stayed in that turn till he hit the water and exploded. Whether it was vertigo, engine failure or something else, no one will ever know. No trace of any survivors was found though Jewell dropped smoke lights and remained till destroyers could arrive to comb the area.
A story was told by one of the fighters about how he scared a luckless Jap out of his "hari-kari". He came across the Nip riding his bicycle unconcernedly along a country road. This wag of a fighter was skimming along at tree top level when he saw him; he promptly zoomed the cycler almost blowing him out of his pants with slipstream.
Today is D-Day for the landing on Iwo Jima, but so far we have no reports on the progress of that operation. Yesterday afternoon we had a briefing session on Iwo in which the landing plan was outlined. The island is located about midway between Saipan and Japan in the Volcano Island group. It has three airfields and is very heavily defended, being one of the outer defense-ring points for the Japanese Empire. For the past few days it has been undergoing a terrific bombardment.
Today they are planning to make a feint at the northern end and another at the southwest while the actual landing proceeds on the southeastern beach - this is a 4000 yard strip of gradually sloping water suitable for landing wheeled vehicles.
Yesterday evening, after we had "gone to press", the Skipper, "C" "B" Collins - acting skipper since Kippen's [LT Russell F. Kippen] loss at Kiirun Formosa - suggested a squadron party. The suggestion received enthusiastic support and so Hadley and Blake [LT(jg) Gilbert S. Blake] turned to on the arrangements. The mess stewards were very helpful, providing ice, coke, crackers, fruit juice, and other items. Some 200 appetizers were made; Gibby proved his ability at mixing punch, using pineapple juice, orange juice, ice, ginger ale, cherries, sliced oranges and liberal portions of rum for the ingredients. This punch, served from a large dish pan, proved very popular and required frequent additions of the original constituents, especially the rum. There were also dishes of assorted nuts and olives scattered about; and, of course, liquor - originally four fifths, but more appeared miraculously from drawers and safes when the original supply ran low.
Things got underway in two of the larger rooms on the "Oh Two" deck forward about eight o'clock. Nearly all the officers in the squadron were present, in addition to Commander Martin [William I. Martin] and Lt.Cdr. Chace [William B. Chace]. From time to time special guests were invited to join us, so that our party soon included Ray Tennant, Landing Signal Officer, his two assistants Bob Grant and Jim Tout, Cmdr. Jack Blitch, Air Officer, and various others in ships company and the air group. Captain Hall and Admiral Gardner weren't there, but it is presumed that they heard it or about it.
There was a great deal of singing, laughing, and loud talk which increased in volume as the evening wore on and the bottled spirits ebbed and flowed. The occasion gave birth to a great many poems and songs which were sung with great gusto. Many of these, the "mentionable" ones, can be found in the song section.
By midnight the general mood was a glowing one, to put it mildly. Frankly, there were several members of the party who were down right "stinking". The rooms became so packed that it was impossible to move - smoke so thick you could walk on it, and heat so oppressive that it weighed tons. But no one noticed these things, outstanding feat of the evening was Gibby Blake hanging by his toes from the overhead beams, swinging back and forth like a monkey, till his arc surpassed all limits and he fell headlong into the mob below - the same Gibby perched atop a desk with his yo-yo bobbing up and down, now in this face, now in that. Bill Chace throwing ice, hitting Jim Moore on the forehead - Bud Jenks [LT(jg) Edwin R. Jenks], every bit of his massive Irish policeman build as drunk as could be, lumbering unheedingly about the room - Halbach getting gloriously and happily tight on the upper bunk - Al Stephan with his droll and never ending Yiddish humor - Herb Wade singing his inevitable repertoire of songs old and new with Cromley [LT(jg) William L. Cromley] harmonizing in his best glee club manner - Joe Jewell falling on his face - Rob Roy and Charlie Henderson composing fitting lyrics and rendering them with a zest - Big Atkinson [LT(jg) George H. Atkinson] hobbling up from sick bay with his infected foot ("I'll try some internal medication for a change!") - and over all this the unbelievable din and confusion. By 12:30 things began to break up a little and people went staggering off to bed, or to carry on with their own private little parties. Everyone who stopped to think about it at all, soberly realized that things had gotten considerably out of hand, but the general consensus of opinion was that "it was one hell of a good party!"
This has been another uneventful, non-operational day, milling about in the general vicinity of Iwo Jima. We spend these days of idleness by pursuing such activities as reading, writing letters, sleeping, sitting around the ready room, etc., depending on our individual whims or fancies. Getting sack time seems to be the most popular past time. No one knows where the future will take us but the odds seem to favor a return to the Tokyo area.
The past two nights at our regular meetings, Ed Hidalgo has given us summaries of the results of our Tokyo strikes, and the Iwo Jima landings. The former netted us 509 aircraft destroyed on the ground and in the air and a hundred or so probables. In addition, considerable damage was inflicted on aircraft engine and assembly plants, and twelve ships were damaged or destroyed including a CVE or CVL which burned and sank. The powers that be seem well pleased with the results of this surprise punch.
The Iwo Jima landings has apparently progressed as scheduled. But the casualties are mounting and the 20,000 (or so) Japs, with their powerful defensive positions will undoubtedly make Iwo a historic battle ground. At 1500 today we held the southern third of the Island including the southernmost airfield, except for the volcanic mountain peak ("Hotrocks") at the southern tip and a strip along the western beach. They are already attacking the second air strip and Sea Bees are at work on the first one. It is expected to be in an operational condition in two days. Two Marine divisions made the landing - the Fourth and Fifth with the Third standing by as a reserve.
Yesterday it was announced that Kippen would be awarded the Silver Star; Koop [LT(jg) Chester G. Koop] and Wood [LT James J. Wood] the Air Medal. These three officers and their crews were lost at Kiirun. Also Joe Jennings' and Landons' [ENS James D. Landon] recommendations for Air Medals were boosted to DFCs for hits scored on shipping in the South China Sea.
We missed a day again. Sorry. These past two days have been tragic ones. We are still in the Iwo Jima vicinity, and the details of our next operation have not been disclosed. In fact, the status of the Enterprise in these future plans is particularly unsettled for reasons which we shall presently make clear.
Yesterday, a short time before sunset, a group of bogies was spotted on the screen at about eighty miles. The ship went into General Quarters, remaining in that condition until 2300. After sunset the attack began to develop but was mainly directed against [missing from original]
They called on us to launch an eight plane search this morning for friendly planes airborne at the time of the attack. The weather was terrible. But the flight took off anyhow, led by Lieut. "C" "B" Collins, acting skipper. They had completed one sweep and were rendezvousing to commence the second when they inadvertently broke out of the overcast at about 1000 feet, over the Seventh Fleet. Those ships had been under intermittent attack all morning and were expecting more at any moment. They were in a condition of red alert and friendly planes had been warned only a few minutes before to keep clear. Evidently, due to poor visibility our planes didn't suspect their presence. At any rate, as they came into sight out of the clouds, one of the LSTs opened up on them and at once others followed suit.
Before they could disperse and gain altitude, two planes were hit."C" "B" and Gordy Hinrichs were the two pilots. One was forced to make an immediate water landing and the other was last seen disappearing into the clouds with flames covering the underside of the fuselage. A report said that only three survivors had been picked up. So far we aren't sure which pilot was picked up, though we believe it was Gordy and that "C" "B" is missing. Lt. (jg) Bob Gowdy and Ferris Ivory ARM 3/c were with the Skipper; Caswell [Everett H. Caswell], AMM 3/c, and Ryan [Michael C. Ryan], ARM 3/c, were with Hinrichs. We're anxiously awaiting further news of this incident.
Toar McLaughlin, also on the search, had a deck crash on landing when he was out high and way to port. He tried to drop his right wing to recover position, spun in, and crashed into the 40mm mount aft of the island. No one was hurt.
It may be surprising how we react to tragic losses. It's as though we'd drawn a protective coat of steel around our feelings. The atmosphere in the ready room is much the same as always on the surface - guys reading and talking. No one sits and broods - we talk about the known details in matter-of-fact tones and make brief conjectures as to the fate of our comrades. Heaven knows there is nothing cold blooded about it. It's just that one realizes quickly that emotions must be mastered by some form of stoical outlook. Ernest Hemingway said in his introduction to "Man at War" that a good soldier realizes the fate that may be in store for him and, having come to that realization and accepted it for what it's worth, puts it out of mind. That states the case pretty well.
Our detachment from Task Force 58 has become a fact and we are now part of the support fleet for the Iwo Jima invasion. Our new designation is Task Group 52.2.5. The main part of Task Force 58 has departed for another strike against Japan which is supposed to start tomorrow.
The action on Iwo has met with fierce opposition - 20,000 Japs instead of 5,000 and the terrain consists of endless caves and pits from which the Japs have to be blasted or killed one by one.
Definite word came today that Gordy Hinrichs and his crew [Caswell and Ryan] were picked up, but no word at all has reached us of the Skipper, Gowdy, or Ivory. Their plane seems to have completely disappeared. Our hopes and prayers are with them.
In days of comparative idleness many of us have found time and ambition to do considerable reading. The books we find to read are extremely varied. Anyone with a private library of any description can boast of it or as in the past times, once his possessions are discovered by greedy shipmates. One of the most universally popular subjects is the good old wild Western. Maxwell Brand is a particular favorite in this category; "The Dudes" spent many weeks bringing thrills and excitement to many of us. Books delving into the mysterious realms of sex are read with avid interest. Hence "The Passionate Virgin" found widespread popularity. Not all of our reading however, is in such a light or frivolous vein. Any really good or worthwhile book is in demand. Stories by such authors as Lloyd C. Douglas ("The Robe", "Magnificent Obsession", "Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal", etc.), Betty Smith ("A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"), Lillian Smith ("Strange Fruit"), W. Somerset Maugham ("The Razor's Edge", "Of Human Bondage", etc.), A.J. Cronin ("The Keys of the Kingdom", "The Citadel", "The Green Years", "The Stars Look Down", etc.), Thorne Smith ("The Stray Lamb", "Turnabout", "Topper", etc.), Katherine Bowen's "Yankee from Olympus" or Welles' "Time for Decision" are popular. The more ambitious of us tackle "Anthony Adverse", "War and Peace", "Men at War", and others. Others which we have enjoyed are "Island in the Sky", "And Then There Was One", "Queen of the Flattops", "Shore Leave", etc. Such are the samples of literary diversions in the many hours between flights.
Practically nothing happened today. The Air Department plan of the day called for an afternoon strike against Chichi Jima, 110 miles north of Iwo Jima, followed during the night by three hecklers. We were scheduled for the first heckler at 2045, but an hour before take-off the Admiral cancelled all night operations - the Army planned to be over the same target tonight and when the Army flies it's best for the Navy to stay on the deck.
The afternoon strike of six planes did go out as scheduled and hit the Susaki Airfield on Chichi. Those who made the jaunt were Henderson, C. E. McLaughlin, Gerbron [LT(jg) Charles E. Gerbron], Balden [LT(jg) William H. Balden], Heid [LT(jg) Robert S. Heid] and Turpin [LT(jg) Ralph A. Turpin]. Blake and Roy [ENS Robert Roy] were forced to return due to engine trouble. Heid and Balden stopped off at Haha Jima on the way up and attacked the town of Okimura starting fires. Heid claims that his rockets landed smack on room 23 of the Geisha house, just off Main street. Henderson and Turpin both attacked a large merchant ship. All the planes dropped their bombs on the airfield but it was difficult to assess the damage. Gerbron was hit by AA in the port wing which caused a dangerous flutter in the tail section. He and his crewmen ditched all the RCM gear and other equipment from the tail that wasn't fastened down securely. They made it back OK but "it seemed like a night long trip". On the same strike a fighter [ENS Robert M. Woods] was shot down. He got out all right and was picked up by a destroyer.
This morning a contact report was made on a life raft sighted in the general vicinity in which Collins disappeared, so we immediately sent out a four plane search, hoping it might be the missing crew. No trace was discovered, however, and it is becoming doubtful if they will ever return to us. It's impossible to imagine how difficult it is to see a life raft from the air, even when you know approximately where to look. And when you haven't the vaguest clue - well, it isn't a very encouraging outlook.
Today has been "condition normal". We feel about as useful as a worn out milking machine. We are still sticking to a night schedule, but the fighters are doing all the flying on target CAPs over Iwo - they've now had planes in the air continuously for over four days. Charlie Henderson, acting skipper since "C" "B" was lost, has been "chipping his teeth" at the powers that be, trying to convince the Flag, the ship, and the rest of the pilots that the TBM is every bit as good an aircraft for CAPs as the F6F, and, in other ways, doing his volcanic best to get us some kind of flights. So far he hasn't had too much luck, though a change may be underway - we're scheduled for a predawn at Chichi.
Most of us have led a boring existence the past few days. We sleep till one, have breakfast at 1400, waste the "morning" till 1800, eat "lunch", waste the "afternoon" till 2400 (midnight), eat "supper", waste the time till 0230 or 0300 when we go to bed, and start the cycle all over again. This sort of program allows us to do plenty of sleeping and reading, but it's hard to feel that we're earning our pay.
Gordy Hinrichs came back aboard today and told us the grim story of his experience. He landed in the water midway between two lines of LCIs [Landing Craft Infantry] and SCs [Sub Chaser] about 1000 yards apart. They were firing the whole time he was coming down. The plane was all but shot out from under him and the wonder is that all of them weren't killed. There was a huge hole in one wing, another in the tunnel, the top of the turret was shot away, the greenhouse over the cockpit was carried away, the instrument panel was completely shot away, and the plane in general was riddled with small caliber shells. Just before they hit the water, the belly tank exploded. But in spite of all, the only one to suffer any severe injuries was Caswell in the tunnel who got quite a bit of shrapnel in his legs and other places about the lower part of his body. He is still on one of the ships which has adequate medical facilities - it was thought best not to move him. Even after they were in the water and had the raft inflated, they were still mistaken for Japs. When the SC came alongside to pick them up, the sailors on deck had small arms trained on them. It wasn't until Hinrichs cussed them out in considerable detail and length that they realized that no Jap could possibly have such a fluent vocabulary of American profanity. Gordy told one sailor who was trying to throw him a line that if he was as handy with a line as he was with those 'God damn guns' they'd have been aboard five minutes earlier. You must read Gordy's own account - "Flak Survival" - later on in our diary.
During this period, striking Chichi became a routine matter - a sort of milk-run affair despite the heavy defenses and the Jap skill in operating them. In all, thirteen strikes were sent out which we shall cover in a more or less general manner.
On the predawn on 26 February, Lieut. Jim Moore took a 25mm shell in his engine; it conked out in a few seconds. He ditched about 3000 yards east of the island - to damn close to the enemy for comfort. Moore and his crew, Lt(jg) Hadley and T. T. Watts, ARM 1/c, all got out before the plane sank. Scott [ENS Knox O. Scott] sighted them just as they went in the water and Largess [LT Clifton R. Largess] joined him soon after - these two stayed over the spot until they saw that all survivors were safely settled in the raft. Scott departed immediately to send a report to the ship while Cliff stayed around until his gas ran low and he also headed back. He landed aboard with a fuel "reserve" of 8 to 10 gallons. As soon as Largess landed two fighters and a TBM flown by Joe Doyle took off, the air-sea rescue organization sent a destroyer [Gregory DD-802] up to help in the search and rescue. Flares were spotted by Doyle and his crew at about 1400 and they were soon zooming over the three raft-mates. Doyle immediately communicated with the destroyer and vectored it to the actual position. Moore and company were eventually returned to the "Big E" none the worse for their experience except for Watts who suffered a sprained back and badly bruised chest. The quick and efficient action taken by the Air-Sea rescue people in this instance has done much to bolster the morale of the entire squadron. When our wandering airmen came aboard from a can via breeches buoy, they led us to believe that eight hours in a raft is plenty long for anyone. Jim Moore's one time boast that he never planned to land in the water was cause for much good-natured kidding by all hands. Just the same we were plenty glad to see them safe and sound. Jim has told the story for our diary - "Crashed by Flak" - and has commemorated Bob Hadley's quick and courageous action in organizing the escape from the sinking plane.
The following day, 27 February, Ernie Lawton led one of the most successful strikes against Chichi. It was a dusk attack, outstanding in coordination between VT and VF. The fighters provided exceptionally good support by shooting out several search lights that attempted to pinpoint the torpedo planes making their runs. After that the Japs were very cautious about even turning on their lights, and when they did, left them on only a few seconds at a time. L. F. McLaughlin, Jewell, and Brooks were the other pilots on this mission. They dropped bombs on the airfield and seaplane base which had three to twelve hour delay fuses - too bad no one could be around to witness the effect of these little surprise packages.
3 March brought word that numerous ships of considerable size had been sighted in the harbor at Chichi. "Hot damn," we thought, "here's where we have a field day - just our meat!" Yes, the report was viewed with considerable skepticism. Six planes were hurriedly loaded with torpedoes and launched about noon with eight VF. It soon became apparent that the report was in error - they found only the usual collection of small barges and garbage scows, and the boys came home with the fish still in the bomb bays - that is, everyone except Charlie Henderson. He snooped around Haha on the way home and found a "good sized" ship tucked back in Higashi Harbor. Of course, in spite of the difficulty of making a run on a ship in this position, Charlie attacked and dropped his torpedo scoring a direct hit amidships which blew the thing in two. It was a little disappointing (and the cause of considerable "ribbing") to find on his return that this ship had been in that same position for some time - a grounded "Sugar Baker", because of damage done on some previous attack. Nevertheless it was a beautiful attack, a beautiful hit, and Charlie was happy. Of course there were some disparaging remarks passed by certain members of the squadron, but Charlie didn't mind - much!
Other routine Chichi strikes were flown on March 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Everyone flew at least two or three of these milk-runs; in general, they went off without mishap or noteworthy event. During the latter part of our stay around Iwo we sent out several RCM snooper patrols to take station forty miles or so north of the force for the purpose of intercepting any Jap planes sent down from the Empire, with no results.
On March 1, Ens. Jim Landon made the 44,000th landing aboard the Enterprise. A cake, with appropriately inscribed message, was baked by the wardroom cooks and dispensed to as many of the squadron members as could get their hands on a piece.
During this period, the fighters set a record. They kept planes in the air continuously for 175 hours. That is 7.3 days straight non-stop. Four days was the previous record. This continuous operation is hard on the pilots; it's murder on the deck crews and plane handlers. They must man their stations every time "Flight Quarters" is sounded - that means almost constantly. They've done a hell'uva good job and deserve a lot of credit.
There have been a few operational accidents without serious consequences. One day, Lt.(jg) Turpin made a one wheel landing when he couldn't get his right wheel into the locked down position. It was a beautiful landing causing but slight damage to the wing and prop.
Task Force 58, after leaving Tokyo, concentrated on Okinawa in the Nansei Shoto group south of Japan. It has now returned to Ulithi. That leaves us up here all alone, the only CV operating continuously in the same widely-heralded area. It doesn't leave much to the imagination to know what ship the Japs would pick out for a target.
The Marines on Iwo have advanced slowly but steadily, at a tremendous cost in lives. During the past few days they have taken all of the third and northernmost air strip. The southern field is open for operation. They are beginning to evacuate the most seriously wounded by air. A Marine Air Group will probably be sent in very soon to take over our job of giving air support and protection. Reports of March 6 estimate 12,000 Jap dead plus 145 prisoners, most of them are Korean.
The squadron meeting held on March 7 was quite an exceptional one and bears some mention here. A full length movie, "Background for Danger" was shown in the ready room followed by an extremely good program. The fighters were our guests, as well as the group commander, Air Officer, and several other dignitaries. Doc Hurlburt [LCDR Edwin G. Hurlburt] (flight surgeon) passed out two ounces of brandy to everyone - obviously quite an occasion. Lt.(jg) Bob Jones was the Master of Ceremonies and a very successful one too, being a past master at dry humor and droll ad libbing.
The program included songs written by members of the squadron - parodies and satires of personalities present. One of the enlisted men (Roy Pintacura) who is an artist of no mean capability, drew caricatures; his victims squirmed considerably. Big Red Atkinson told the story of his "Bonsai" raid on Chichi with one rocket - he's the funniest guy you can imagine with his Texan drawl. The squadron trio, (Ernie Lawton, Ralph Cummings, and Gibby Blake) sang several selections, including some excellent songs written by Ralph. Renditions by these three would mark the peak in any program for downright good entertainment. We're all rather proud of them. Next came a jam session with Jennings [LT(jg) Joseph F. Jennings] (bass fiddle), Atkinson (drums), Jones [LT Robert R. Jones] (guitar) and Loveridge [LT(jg) James F. Loveridge] (trumpet); the last of the artists are fighters. They were all pretty hot; the selection composed by Loveridge and entitled "The Night Fightin' Blues" was especially well received. Torpedo wound up the program by reading a technical report written by Bob Hadley. It cleverly described Gibby Blake's unfortunate experience with a relief tube. (Several of the songs and poems can be found in other sections of this document.) All in all the program was a big success.
 Arnold Olson indicates that censors deleted a reference to Saratoga CV-3 in the missing section for 22 February.