Bataan Speaking Introduction Aug '43-Mar '44 April '44 May '44 June '44 July '44 Aug'44-Sept '44 Bridge Reminiscence Oct '44-Mar '45 Apr '45 May '45 June '45 July '45 Aug '45 Arthur Bode & Bernard MacDonald Sept '45 Oct '45 Recall & Reminisce

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April '44

 

SATURDAY, 1 APRIL '44

SCHEDULED FLIGHT QUARTERS WERE DELAYED BY BAD WEATHER, BUT AT 1030 THE AIR GROUP WAS LAUNCHED FOR PRACTICE OPERATIONS WITH A COMBAT AIR PATROL OF FOUR PLANES.

EXERCISES INCLUDED GUNNERY AND A 60 DEGREE SECTOR RENDEZVOUS. THE LATTER OF COURSE WILL BE NECESSARY WHEN OPERATING WITH A LARGE CARRIER FORCE. TWO PLANES, A FIGHTER AND A TORPEDO PLANE, WERE DISPATCHED TO GET RECONNAISSANCE PHOTOS OF A SMALL TOWN ON THE BEACH.

AT 1225 THE GROUP MADE A SIMULATED ATTACK ON THE SHIP. THE ATTACKING GROUP WAS INTERCEPTED 25 MILES AWAY BY THE FOUR PLANE CAP LED BY LT. COMDR. JOHNNIE STRANGE. DURING THE AFTERNOON, AN ANTI-SUB PATROL OF ONE TBM AND ONE F6F WAS LAUNCHED AND RECOVERED JUST BEFORE SUNSET. THE GUNNERY DEPARTMENT FIRED AA PRACTICES "ABLE ABLE" AND "TARE CHARLIE". THE ANTI-SUB PLANES WERE WARNED TO KEEP THEIR DISTANCE FROM THE "LITTLE BLACK PUFFS".

DARKNESS BROUGHT "NIGHT FLIGHT QUARTERS": THE AIR GROUP WAS DUE TO BE CATAPULTED. THERE WAS A MOON, BUT ALSO SOME CLOUDS. ONE MINUTE THE DECK WAS BATHED IN SOFT LIGHT, REVEALING THE MEN AND PLANES MOVING CAUTIOUSLY, THEN THE MOON WOULD BE UNDER A CLOUD AND ONLY PLANE DIRECTORS WANDS AND FIREFLY-LIKE EXHAUSTS WOULD SHOW. ALL WENT WELL AND THE PLANES LANDED AT N.A.S. BARBER'S POINT.

MONDAY, 3 APRIL '44

EVERYONE PACKED HIS GAS MASK, HELMET, AND LIFE JACKET FOR MORNING QUARTERS. AS DIVISION OFFICERS INSTRUCTED, MEN PULLED AND SQUEEZED TO ADJUST FACE PIECES ON THE GAS MASK AND GOT THE WORD ON HOW TO MANIPULATE THE DEVICE. MOST OF THE MEN HAD BEEN THROUGH THE GAS CHAMBER AT PHILADELPHIA NAVY YARD, AND SO KNEW SOMETHING ABOUT IT. A FIELD DAY FOR ALL HANDS WAS BEGUN, BUT INSPECTION WAS DELAYED DUE TO THE NECESSITY FOR GETTING AMMUNITION AND FUEL ABOARD IN A HURRY. EVIDENTLY WE WEREN'T GOING TO BE AROUND PEARL MUCH LONGER.

LIBERTY WAS GRANTED TO THE STARBOARD WATCH, THE WORD BEING PASSED, "NO OVERNIGHT PASSES WILL BE GRANTED", MEANING -- UNDERWAY PLENTY EARLY.

MAJURO BOUND: 4 APRIL 1944 TO 12 APRIL 1944

TUESDAY, 4 APRIL '44

THE DAY BEGAN WITH OUR EARLY DEPARTURE FROM PEARL. OUR NEXT LOOK AT LAND WOULD BE SOMEWHAT OF A GUESS AS TO JUST WHERE, SO EVERYONE TOOK A LAST LONG LOOK AT DIAMOND HEAD. TEST FIRING OF THE FIFTY CALIBERS OF THE F6F'S WENT ON DURING THE AFTERNOON. NO PEA SHOOTERS, THEY REALLY PUT OUT A MEAN SLUG. SOMEONE REMARKED TODAY, WHEN THE GENERAL ALARM WAS TESTED, "THAT SOUNDS MORE LIKE THE REAL THING THE CLOSER WE GET TO TOKYO."

BEFORE WE TURNED IN WE FOUND OUT JUST SPECIFICALLY WHAT THE WORD WAS. THE NEXT DAY'S PLAN OF THE DAY HAD A MESSAGE FROM THE CAPTAIN: "WE ARE NOW HEADED FOR THE COMBAT ZONE, IMMEDIATE DESTINATION THE MARSHALL ISLANDS, WHERE WE JOIN ONE OF THE FASTEST AND HARDEST HITTING TASK FORCES IN THE PACIFIC."

WEDNESDAY, 5 APRIL '44

THE DAY'S OPERATIONS BEGAN WITH AN ANTI-SUB PATROL -- SOMETHING THAT WAS GOING TO BE PRETTY ROUTINE FROM NOW ON. THE DESTROYERS WITH US ARE THE REMEDY AND A.W. GRANT, NEW AND SLEEK 2100-TONERS. WITH OUR FLIGHT DECK UNENCUMBERED BY TRANSIENT AIRCRAFT, WE WERE ALL READY TO FIGHT IF NEED BE. MORNING AND AFTERNOON TRAINING FLIGHTS WERE LAUNCHED. ON BOTH HOPS THE AIR GROUP MADE SIMULATED ATTACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS WERE MADE BY A CAP VECTORED OUT FROM THE SHIP.

CREW'S PAY DAY WAS HELD AFTER EVENING CHOW AND A SPECIAL NOTE IN THE PLAN OF THE DAY CAUTIONED -- "DRAW ONLY THE MONEY YOU NEED." IN THE LIGHT OF THE NOTE THAT CAME OUT LAST NIGHT, IT WAS PROBABLY GOOD ADVICE.

THURSDAY, 6 APRIL '44

ANOTHER DAY OF EARLY FLIGHT QUARTERS FOR. THE ANTI-SUB PATROL. LATER IN THE MORNING A TRAINING FLIGHT WAS LAUNCHED WITH AN ATTACK GROUP BEING SENT OUT TO 70 MILES. A FLIGHT OF FIGHTERS WAS LAUNCHED TO INTERCEPT. IN THE AFTERNOON, PLANE CAPTAINS TURNED TO ON WAXING PLANES AND SPOTTING THEM FOR GUNNERY TESTS. DIVISION OFFICERS WERE GIVEN INSTRUCTIONS TODAY REGARDING THE IMPORTANCE AND USE OF ANTI-FLASH CLOTHING. OTHER INSTRUCTIONS INCLUDED RECOGNITION TRAINING FOR GUNNERY OFFICERS AND GUN CAPTAINS. WE'RE GETTING CLOSER TO THE INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE AND THE "GOLDEN DRAGON" MONNIKER.

FRIDAY, 7 APRIL '44

NO TRAINING FLIGHTS TODAY -- THIS IS THE REAL THING. A FOUR PLANE CAP OVERHEAD FROM DAWN 'TILL DARK. ANTI-SUB PATROL AND MORNING AND EVENING SEARCHES.

THE DAY STARTED EARLY WITH PRE-DAWN GENERAL QUARTERS. THE SEARCH AND CAP TOOK STATION AND WAITED FOR SOMETHING TO COME ALONG. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MORNING THE CAP WAS VECTORED TO THE NORTH TO TEST RADAR DETECTION RANGE AT LOW ALTITUDES. AT 25 MILES DUE NORTH, LT. COMDR. STRANGE, LEADER OF BLACK ONE FLIGHT, CALLED IN A CONTACT REPORT: "ONE FRIENDLY CVE AND FOUR ESCORTING DESTROYERS". SHORTLY AFTERWARD MANY FRIENDLY GROUPS OF AIRCRAFT APPEARED ON THE SCREEN, OBVIOUSLY LAUNCHED FROM THE ESCORT CARRIER. A FEW MINUTES LATER THE RETURNING SEARCH GROUP WAS SENT TO THE NORTH EAST TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE CVE. LT (JG) CONNERS LOCATED THE SHIPS WITH HIS PLANE'S RADAR GEAR AND REPORTED THE CARRIER CONDUCTING FLIGHT OPERATIONS.

THE SECOND CAP AND ANTI-SUB PATROL WAS SENT OUT TO RELIEVE. IN A FEW MINUTES AN UNIDENTIFIED PLANE APPEARED FROM THE EAST. LT. LEMMON'S BLACK TWO FLIGHT WAS VECTORED TO INTERCEPT AND THE PLANE WAS IDENTIFIED AS A LIBERATOR EXPRESS. PRIOR TO THE VISUAL RECOGNITION, THE FIGHTERS CHARGED THEIR GUNS AND WERE READY TO DIG IN ON THAT $160 POOL FOR THE PILOT TO GET THE FIRST JAP. THE PILOTS WEREN'T THE ONLY ONES GETTING ITCHY TRIGGER FINGERS. GUNNERS WERE GETTING MORE EAGER. THE WORD GOT AROUND THAT ENEMY SUBS WERE OPERATING IN THE AREA THROUGH WHICH WE WERE PASSING.

SATURDAY, 8 APRIL '44

ALTHOUGH WE WERE DRAWING CLOSER TO THE JAPS' FRONT YARD, WE HAD NO SURFACE CONTACTS, NEITHER ENEMY NOR FRIENDLY. ABOUT 1100 OF THE FOUR PLANE CAP WAS VECTORED OUT IN THE DIRECTION OF A FRIENDLY LIBERATOR EXPRESS. THE MORNING AND AFTERNOON SEARCHES REPORTED NEGATIVE RESULTS. ALL DURING THE DAY ANTI-SUB AND COMBAT AIR PATROLS WERE MAINTAINED. THE DAY'S OPERATIONS WERE PRECEDED, AS YESTERDAY, BY GENERAL QUARTERS.

TOMORROW WE ARRIVE AT MAJURO. EVERYONE IS ANXIOUS TO GET TO AN ADVANCE BASE TO TALK TO SOMEONE WITH A PARALLEL JOB ON ANOTHER SHIP -- TO TRADE IDEAS AND IN GENERAL "GET THE WORD". ALSO WE WANT TO GET A LOOK AT THAT TASK FORCE WE'RE JOINING.

SUNDAY, 9 APRIL '44

IT MAY BE AN EASTER BONNET IN NEW YORK, BUT ON BATAAN TODAY, IT'S A BATTLE BONNET. THIS AFTERNOON WE DROPPED OUR HOOK IN THE CORAL BOTTOM OF MAJURO LAGOON; EASTER SUNDAY IN THE LESSER MARSHALLS, SOME DISTANCE FROM PHILADELPHIA, WHERE WE HAD SPENT OUR CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY. ON THE WAY WE PASSED WITHIN TWENTY MILES OF ISLANDS WHERE JAPS WERE STILL HOLDING OUT. ABOUT THAT TIME EASTER SERVICES WERE HELD IN THE CREW'S MESS HALL. THEN, LATE IN THE MORNING, SPECIAL GENERAL QUARTERS FOR ENTERING PORT WAS HELD.

MANY FRIENDLY AIRCRAFT WERE IN THE VICINITY OPERATING FROM THE MAJURO AIR STRIP. ONE KINGFISHER FLOATPLANE GOT IN THE "LANDING CIRCLE". ONE OF THE FIGHTER PILOTS TOOK OVER THE SIGNAL PLATFORM AND "WAVED HIM IN." HE MADE A BEAUTIFUL CARRIER LANDING -- NOT ON THE DECK, BUT IN THE WATER TO PORT OF THE SIGNAL PLATFORM. "ARE YOU THE BATAAN?", HE ASKED. WE SAID "YES", AND, EXPLAINING THAT HE WAS A FIGHTER PILOT OUT FOR A RIDE, HE SHOUTED, "WELCOME TO MAJURO."

AS WE NEARED THE ATOLL, WE SAW SOME CARRIERS AND BATTLEWAGONS IN THE DISTANCE. "SOME" INCREASED TO "MANY" AND THEN TO "MORE SHIPS THAN I'VE EVER SEEN BEFORE IN MY LIFE". THIS WAS OUR TASK FORCE -- THE FAST CARRIER TASK FORCE. CARRIERS WITH FAMOUS NAMES WERE IN THIS FORCE AND NOW WE WERE JOINING IT. SOMEONE SAID, "WITH ALL THESE SHIPS WE COULD SAIL AWAY TO TOKYO, JAPAN, RIGHT NOW." A LITTLE TOO EAGER.

MONDAY, 10 APRIL '44

ALTHOUGH WE WERE AT MAJURO, IT LOOKED AS IF WE WEREN'T GOING TO SEE MUCH OF IT. BACK HOME IT SEEMED, WASN'T THE ONLY PLACE WHERE THERE WAS A WARTIME SHORTAGE OF TRANSPORTATION. WE HAD ANCHORED FARTHEST AWAY FROM THE BEACH OF ANY OF THE SHIPS, SO OUR SHIP'S BOATS WERE REALLY IN DEMAND.

FIRST CALL, OF COURSE, WAS FOR OFFICIAL BUSINESS -- THE VISITS TO THE FLAG AND OTHER SHIPS BY DEPARTMENT HEADS AND THE CAPTAIN. THEN CAME DEMANDS FROM THE SUPPLY DEPARTMENT FOR THE STORES, SPARE PARTS, AND OTHER ITEMS. AND, OF COURSE, THE GUARD MAIL TRIPS HAD TO BE MADE. ALL IN ALL, IT KEPT THE OOD IN A STATE OF DISTRACTION AND THE BOAT CREWS BUSY FROM EARLY MORNING UNTIL LATE AT NIGHT. THERE WAS ALWAYS SOME OFFICER FROM ANOTHER SHIP WHO "JUST HAD TO GET BACK", AND COURTESY TO OTHER SHIPS HAD TO BE OBSERVED.

WE WERE QUICKLY "GETTING THE WORD" ON WHAT WAS IN STORE FOR US. OUR PILOTS LOOKED WITH AWE AT A VISITOR FROM THE YORKTOWN WHO HAD JUST RETURNED FROM THE PALAU RAID AND HAD MORE THAN FIVE JAPS TO HIS CREDIT. VAGUE RUMORS BEGAN TO CIRCULATE ABOUT FORTHCOMING OPERATIONS. EXTENSIVE PREPARATIONS INDICATED SOMETHING BIG WOULD HAPPEN SOON.

TUESDAY, 11 APRIL '44

THE "IN PORT" ROUTINE CONTINUED WITH A TREMENDOUS FIELD DAY STAGED BY ALL HANDS; THE REASON -- THERE WOULD BE AN ADMIRAL'S INSPECTION ON THE MORROW. THE WORD THAT THINGS WERE ABOUT TO HAPPEN HAD NOW BECOME PRETTY MUCH OF A CERTAINTY. WE WERE TO OPERATE WITH A TASK GROUP CONSISTING OF USS HORNET, USS BELLEAU WOOD, AND USS COWPENS UNDER THE COMMAND OF READ ADMIRAL J. J. CLARK, LATE IN COMMAND OF THE USS YORKTOWN AND A VETERAN CARRIER SKIPPER.

WITH SO MANY SHIPS PRESENT THERE WAS A NATURAL DESIRE FOR MEN AND OFFICERS TO SEE THEIR "BUDDIES" ON OTHER SHIPS. INTER-SHIP BOAT TRAFFIC PERMITTED SOME VISITING AND THERE WAS A PERMANENT WAITING LINE AROUND THE QUARTERDECK FOR WOULD-BE VISITORS READY TO LEAVE THE SHIP AND ALSO VISITORS TRYING TO GET BACK TO THEIR OWN SHIP.

WEDNESDAY, 12 APRIL '44

THE DAY BEGAN WITH LAST MINUTE TOUCHES BEING PUT ON ALL CLEANING STATIONS AND MEN "STANDING BY" WITH FOX TAIL IN HAND. WORD WAS PASSED FOR SIDE BOYS -- SIX FOR REAR ADMIRAL CLARK'S TWO STARS -- TO "LAY UP TO THE QUARTERDECK."

ALL THE PROPER COURTESIES WERE RENDERED WITH THE SENIOR WATCH OFFICER TAKING OVER THE DECK SO NO SLIP-UPS WOULD BE MADE, BUT WHEN THE ADMIRAL STARTED HIS INSPECTION THERE WAS NOTHING VERY FORMAL ABOUT IT. THE CAPTAIN TOOK HIM FIRST TO THE FLIGHT DECK AND FROM THERE THEY WORKED DOWN. EVERYWHERE THE ADMIRAL WENT HE PUT EVERYONE AT EASE. "MY NAME'S CLARK", HE'D SAY AND EXTEND HIS HAND TO THE NEAREST OFFICER. HE SHOOK HANDS WITH ALL THE OFFICERS NEAR HIM AND LOOKED OVER THE SITUATION WITH AN APPRAISING BUT PLEASANT EYE. THE ADMIRAL SPOKE BRIEFLY TO THE PILOTS IN BOTH READY ROOMS, GIVING THEM A LITTLE HINT OF THE FORTHCOMING OPERATION. AND THERE WAS NOW NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT, SOMETHING WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, THE ADMIRAL HAD SAID SO. AND THERE WAS NO MISTAKE ALSO THAT EVERYONE LIKED THE ADMIRAL.

A SHORT BATTLE PROBLEM WAS CONDUCTED BY THE ADMIRAL AND HIS INSPECTION PARTY. BOMB HITS WERE PROFUSE AND PRESENTED A BIG PROBLEM FOR THE DAMAGE CONTROL PARTIES. THE FLIGHT DECK PATCH DESIGNED BY LT. (JG) HATCHELL WAS GIVEN A WORKOUT ON A CHALKED UP BOMB HIT. LATER ON IN THE DAY AFTER THE INSPECTION HAD BEEN COMPLETED, THE ADMIRAL SENT US THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE FROM HIS FLAGSHIP:

"THE GENERAL APPEARANCE AND CLEANLINESS AND THE EFFICIENT MANNER IN WHICH THE DRILLS WERE HANDLED AT INSPECTION THIS MORNING IS A CREDIT TO THE OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE BATAAN. I AM CONFIDENT THAT THE SHIP WILL PUT UP A GOOD FIGHT WHEN SHE MEETS THE ENEMY."

EVERYONE "TURNED TO" ON THAT LAST LETTER, FOR THE WORD HAD GOTTEN AROUND THAT WE WERE SHOVING OFF SHORTLY AND THAT MAIL LEAVING THE SHIP IN THE AFTERNOON WOULD BE THE FINAL ONE FOR SOME TIME. A LAST MINUTE CONFERENCE ON THE GROUP FLAGSHIP, THE HORNET, WAS HELD IN THE AFTERNOON WITH THE CAPTAIN, AIR GROUP COMMANDER, AIR OFFICER AND SEVERAL OTHERS ATTENDING.

THURSDAY, 13 APRIL '44

AT 0700 A SQUADRON OF DESTROYERS STEAMED PAST THE SHIP. SHORTLY AFTERWARDS THE CRUISERS STARTED TO GET UP STEAM AND SOON FOLLOWED THE DESTROYERS, AND AT 0900 THE BATAAN MOVED OUT OF THE MAJURO LAGOON TO RENDEZVOUS WITH TASK GROUP 58.1. THE BATAAN WAS IN THE CENTER AND FORWARD OF THE FORMATION -- CRUISERS NEXT, THEN THE DESTROYER SCREEN. NO BATTLESHIPS. THE REST OF THE DAY WAS SPENT WAITING FOR 58.2 AND 58.3 TO JOIN UP AND THEN WE PROCEEDED TOWARD THE SOUTHWEST.

FRIDAY, 14 APRIL '44

OUR FIRST DAY OF AIR OPERATIONS FOR TASK GROUP 58.1 CONSISTED OF AN 8 PLANE CAP AND 4 PLANE ANTI-SUB PATROL. THE LAUNCH WAS EXECUTED PROMPTLY AT 1230, TAKING SEVEN MINUTES FOR THE 12 PLANES.

SHORTLY AFTER THE LAUNCH, THE FIRST TBM WATER LANDING CASUALTY OCCURRED. ENS. J. J. FITE, TBM PILOT, AND THREE CREWMEN HAD TAKEN OFF TO FLY AN ANTI-SUB SECTOR. ON THE FIRST CHECK-IN, FITE SIGNALED FOR AN EMERGENCY LANDING. PLANES WERE IMMEDIATELY TAXIED FORWARD AND THE SHIP TURNED INTO THE WIND. NOT SOON ENOUGH, HOWEVER, AS THE PLANE SUDDENLY LOST ALL POWER AND WENT IN THE WATER. TWO FIGURES CAME TO THE SURFACE AND A YELLOW LIFE RAFT INFLATED. A CRASH BOAT AND DESTROYER STEAMED TO THE SCENE AND THE DESTROYER EFFECTED THE RESCUE. THE TWO CREWMEN IN THE TBM TUNNEL HAD NOT ESCAPED.

LATER DURING THE FLIGHT, TWO OTHER TBM'S REPORTED IN FOR EMERGENCY LANDINGS, ONE WITH A HYDRAULIC LEAK AND ANOTHER WITH A FAULTY GASOLINE PRESSURE GAUGE. THE DECK WAS SPOTTED FORWARD AT THE TIME SO NO DIFFICULTIES WERE ENCOUNTERED.

SUNDAY, 16 APRIL '44

THIS WAS "POLLYWOG DAY"; TOMORROW WILL BE "SHELLBACK DAY" -- SAY THE SHELLBACKS.

A FULL DAY'S AIR OPERATIONS INCLUDED A TRAINING FLIGHT OF 14 FIGHTERS AND 4 TBM'S, PLUS A REGULAR PATROL. AT VARIOUS INTERVALS BETWEEN WORKING HOURS THERE WERE SHELLBACK AND POLLYWOG BATTLES, MOSTLY INVOLVING WILD ESCAPADES WITH SHEARS AND UNSUSPECTING HEADS. AFTER DINNER, OFFICER POLLYWOGS ROUNDED UP ALL AVAILABLE SHELLBACKS, INCLUDING THE AIR OFFICER, FIGHTER COMMANDER, AND THE AGROLOGICAL OFFICER AND ADMINISTERED "HAIRCUTS". AT 2115, THE LINE WAS CROSSED AND THE SHELLBACKS SAT "BALDLY" IN THE READY ROOMS, PLANNING REVENGE.

THE LAUNCH AND RECOVERY WERE EXCELLENT TODAY AND WE LOOKED GOOD. NO SCHEDULED OPERATIONS FOR TOMORROW, SO THE VISIT OF NEPTUNUS REX AT 0800 SHOULD BE WELL ATTENDED.

MONDAY, 17 APRIL '44

TRUE TO PREDICTION, THIS WAS SHELLBACK DAY -- IN A BIG WAY. ALL THOUGHTS OF JAPS, OUR NEARNESS TO TRUK AND OTHER ENEMY INSTALLATIONS WERE SUBORDINATED (BUT NOT FORGOTTEN) FOR SOME HIGH CLASS TOMFOOLERY. AND IF THERE'S ANYBODY ON THE SHIP WHO ISN'T A SHELLBACK NOW, IT'S HIS OWN FAULT. UNIFORMS FOR THE CEREMONIES WERE VARIED; OFFICERS WORE BLUES WITH WHITE GLOVE AND WHITE CAP COVERS FOR BREAKFAST; ENLISTED MEN WORE BLUES, P-COATS AND LEGGINGS. THE UNIFORM FOR QUARTERS WAS STANDARD KHAKIS AND DUNGAREES. A GOOD THING, FOR THE TWO HOURS FROM 0800 TO 1000 ALLOWED FOR KING NEPTUNE'S VISIT WERE CRAMMED FULL OF SCUFFLING, PADDLING, AND HAIR CUTTING.

THE KING AND HIS COURT CAME OVER THE FORWARD END OF THE FLIGHT DECK. ALL POLLYWOGS WERE MOST REVERENT AND BOWED LOW ON THEIR KNEES. A FEW SPECIAL CHARACTERS WERE PICKED OUT OF THE CROWD FOR DUE CONSIDERATION BY THE MASTER OF CEREMONIES, LT. CDR. CLAPHAM; LT. CDR. SMITH, THE GUN BOSS; LT. LAAKE, FIGHTER PILOT WHO LED THE SHELLBACK HAIR-CUTTING RAID THE NIGHT BEFORE, AND OTHERS. THE LINES WERE FORMED AND THE ROYAL BARBERS CALLED OUT IN FORCE. MASS PRODUCTION STARTED AND AS FAST AS THE SHEARS COULD CLIP, ALL OFFICER POLLYWOGS WERE SENT THROUGH THE LINE -- AND AS FAST AS THEY COULD RUN. AS SOON AS ALL THE OFFICERS HAD MADE THE TRIP, THE MEN CAME THROUGH BY DIVISION -- HOWLING, JUMPING. THE LINE GREW LONGER AS THE POLLYWOGS BECAME SHELLBACKS. AT THE END, THE LINE EXTENDED FROM THE ISLAND TO THE FORWARD END OF THE FLIGHT DECK AND BACK ON THE PORT SIDE TO THE ISLAND.

AT 1000 THE WAR AGAIN CAUGHT UP WITH THE PROCEEDINGS AND KING NEPTUNE AND HIS COURT SHOVED OFF, LEAVING IN THEIR WAKE A FLIGHT DECK COVERED WITH HAIR, TORN CLOTHES, PIECES OF "CLUBS" AND SCATTERED NEOPHYTE SHELLBACKS ADMIRING EACH OTHER'S HAIRCUTS AND VARIOUS STAGES OF UNDRESS. THE REMAINDER OF THE DAY WAS SPENT IN "FIELD DAY" AND PREPARING FOR TOMORROW'S AIR OPERATIONS. IN THE LATE FORENOON, A DESTROYER BROUGHT BACK J. J. FITE, TORPEDO SQUADRON 50 PILOT, AND HIS CREWMAN, AND TRANSFERRED THEM TO BREECHES BUOY.

LATEST DEVELOPMENT IN THE TACTICAL SITUATION WAS THE REPORT THAT OUR FUELING FLEET HAD BEEN DETECTED BY THE JAPS. THE NEXT DEDUCTION WAS THAT WE WOULD BE DETECTED -- PROBABLY SOONER THAN WE HAD HOPED.

TUESDAY, 19 APRIL '44

TODAY WE WERE ASSIGNED THE FIRST PATROL, LAUNCHING SHORTLY AFTER 0500 BY CATAPULT. IN ADDITION TO THE REGULAR EIGHT PLANE CAP AND TBM FOUR PLANE ANTI-SUB, A FIGHTER ACCOMPANIED EACH TBM AS AN "ANTI-SNOOPER".

JUST BEFORE SECURE FROM MORNING GENERAL QUARTERS, THE CAPTAIN SPOKE OVER THE BATTLE ANNOUNCING CIRCUIT:

"ATTENTION ALL HANDS THIS IS THE CAPTAIN SPEAKING. NOW THAT THE ENTIRE SHIP'S COMPANY OF THE U.S.S. BATAAN ARE DULY INITIATED AND PROPERLY DESIGNATED AS HARD-BOILED SHELLBACKS, YOU ARE ENTITLED TO SOME INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON IN THIS PART OF HIS MAJESTY'S KING NEPTUNE'S DOMAIN.

AS I TOLD YOU SHORTLY AFTER LEAVING PEARL HARBOR, WE WERE ON OUR WAY HEADING WEST TO JOIN ONE OF THE FASTEST AND HARDEST HITTING TASK FORCES IN THE PACIFIC. WE ARE NOW PART OF THAT OUTFIT, TASK FORCE 58, COMMANDED BY VICE ADMIRAL MARC A. MITSCHER, AND COMPOSED OF THE CARRIERS, BATTLESHIPS, CRUISERS AND DESTROYERS WHICH YOU SAW IN THE HARBOR AT MAJURO AND WHICH ARE NOW ON THE HIGH SEAS WITH US, SPREAD OUT TO THE HORIZON AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE.

WE ARE HEADING WEST AND SOUTHWEST INTO AN AREA BETWEEN THE NORTH COAST OF NEW GUINEA AND THE CAROLINE ISLANDS, WHICH, UP TO THE PRESENT TIME, HAS BEEN MORE OR LESS UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE ENEMY. OUR MISSION IS TO STRIKE ANOTHER POWERFUL BLOW AT BASES HELD BY THE ENEMY AND TO SWEEP THIS AREA CLEAR OF ANY JAP OR ENEMY NAVAL UNITS ENCOUNTERED. IT IS ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE STRIKES WHICH YOU HAVE BEEN READING ABOUT IN THE PRESS NEWS. THE TIME FOR ACTION WILL COME MOST ANY DAY NOW. HOW TOUGH THE ENEMY OPPOSITION MAY BE, REMAINS TO BE SEEN. WHATEVER IT MAY BE, WE ARE PREPARED TO TAKE THEM ON. WE ARE OPERATING IN CONJUNCTION AND COORDINATION WITH OTHER POWERFUL TASK FORCES -- LAND, SEA, AND AIR. WE ARE IN THE BIG LEAGUE NOW, SO BE PREPARED TO ACT ACCORDINGLY.

I QUOTE WITH A GREAT DEAL OF PRIDE A MESSAGE WHICH WAS SENT TO THIS SHIP BY ADMIRAL CLARK, OUR TASK COMMANDER, ON COMPLETION OF THE MATERIAL AND BATTLE READINESS INSPECTION OF THIS VESSEL, "THE GENERAL APPEARANCE AND CLEANLINESS AND EFFICIENT MANNER IN WHICH THE DRILLS WERE HANDLED AT INSPECTION THIS MORNING IS A CREDIT TO THE OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE BATAAN. I AM CONFIDENT THAT THE SHIP WILL PUT UP A GOOD FIGHT WHEN SHE MEETS THE ENEMY. ADMIRAL CLARK."

REAR ADMIRAL J. J. CLARK, OUR TASK GROUP COMMANDER (ON THE HORNET) IS A WAR VETERAN OF THE PACIFIC, HAVING TAKEN PART IN MOST OF THE ENGAGEMENTS WHICH HAVE BEEN FOUGHT IN THIS AREA. A DISPATCH LIKE THE ABOVE COMING FROM HIM IS A REAL COMPLIMENT. IT INDICATES, I BELIEVE, THAT WE HAVE DONE A GOOD JOB IN PREPARING OURSELVES FOR ACTION. I THINK WE CAN TAKE FURTHER ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE FACT THAT WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TAKE OUR PLACE IN THE FLEET FORMATION AND OPERATE WITH SMOOTHNESS AND RAPIDITY COMPARABLE WITH THAT OF MORE EXPERIENCED AND VETERAN CARRIERS. THE REAL TEST OF BATTLE, OF COURSE, IS STILL TO COME, BUT I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT I FEEL, AND YOU CAN FEEL, FULL OF CONFIDENCE THAT WE WILL GIVE A GOOD ACCOUNT OF OURSELVES WHEN THE TIME ARRIVES. THAT IS ALL."

TWO DESTROYERS CAME ALONGSIDE TODAY, ONE TO PICK UP SOME MUCH NEEDED RADIO TUBES, THE OTHER TO TAKE OFF AND TRANSFER OFFICIAL MAIL. THE MAIL SACK STIRRED A VAIN HOPE AT FIRST -- IT LOOKED AS IF IT MIGHT CONTAIN PERSONAL MAIL. NO LUCK. THE CONTENTS WERE CHANGES IN OPERATIONAL PLANS AND SECRET CHARTS OF OUR STRIKE TARGETS.

PART OF THE FUELING FLEET CAME IN SIGHT TODAY AND WE SLOWED OUR SPEED TO INSURE THEIR STAYING WITHIN OUR SCREEN DURING THE NIGHT. TOMORROW'S A BIG DAY -- VITAL FUEL TO BE BROUGHT ABOARD. PREPARATIONS WERE MADE THIS AFTERNOON. OUR COURSE TOOK US BACK ACROSS THE LINE, BUT NO CELEBRATION THIS TIME. THE BARBER SHOP RAN AT CAPACITY "TRIMMING" THE ROYAL BARBERS' CUTS TO A RESPECTABLE SHAPE.

WEDNESDAY, 19 APRIL '44

THE JAP IS LOOKING FOR US -- TWICE TODAY WE THOUGHT HE HAD FOUND US; ONCE IT WAS A PBY AND THE OTHER TIME IT WAS A BETTY JAP BOMBER WHICH CRASHED IN FLAMES UNDER THE IMPACT OF THE GUNS OF FOUR F6F'S FROM THE PRINCETON. GENERAL QUARTERS SOUNDED SHORTLY BEFORE 0400, A BOGEY WAS CLOSING ON THE FORCE FROM DUE NORTH. THE GENERAL ALARM SOUNDED OMINOUSLY AS ALL HANDS GRABBED CLOTHES HURRIEDLY AND RAN ON THE DOUBLE.

NIGHT FIGHTERS ON HORNET HAPPENED TO HAVE A TRAINING FLIGHT SO THEY WERE LAUNCHED EARLY AND VECTORED TO INTERCEPT. THE ADMIRAL GAVE "STAND BY TO REPEL AIR ATTACK" ON THE TBS AND ALL HANDS BRACED THEMSELVES AND HOPED THAT THE NIGHT FIGHTERS WOULD INTERCEPT. AT 20 MILES THE BOGEY TURNED TO THE EAST AND THE NIGHT FIGHTERS CALLED IN "BOGEY IS BLACK CAT PBY".

FUELING OPERATIONS BEGAN SOON AFTER DAYLIGHT AS PER SCHEDULE AND OUR COURSE FOR THE OPERATION WAS DUE EAST. NORMAL ROUTINE FLIGHT OPERATIONS BEGAN AT NOON WITH AN EIGHT PLANE CAP AND FOUR TBM'S ON ASP.

JUST BEFORE 1400 THINGS STARTED POPPING -- A BOGEY STARTED TO CLOSE THE FORCE FROM THE SOUTH. A CHECK WITH OTHER SHIPS CONFIRMED THE BOGEY AND THE CAP STATIONED OUT IN THAT DIRECTION WAS VECTORED TO INTERCEPT. GENERAL QUARTERS WAS SOUNDED AGAIN. "SCRATCH ONE BETTY" SOMEONE SHOUTED OVER THE RADIO. WE HOPED THAT IT WAS ONE OF OUR FIGHTERS, AND STARTED TO CELEBRATE THE FIRST VICTORY OF THE MISSION. A LATER CHECK, HOWEVER, REVEALED THAT ANOTHER CVL HAD DONE THE JOB -- THE PRINCETON.

THURSDAY, 20 APRIL '44

AGAIN, OVER THE BATTLE ANNOUNCING CIRCUIT, CAME THE CAPTAIN'S VOICE:

"ATTENTION ALL HANDS, THIS IS THE CAPTAIN SPEAKING. THE CURTAIN IS ABOUT TO GO UP ON THE BIG SHOW. TODAY WE CONTINUE OUR COURSE TO THE WESTWARD TOWARD THE LAND OF THE SETTING SUN. TAKE A LOOK AT THE CHART SKETCHES FURNISHED YOU, WHICH WERE DRAWN CORRECTLY TO SCALE, IN ORDER THAT YOU MAY KNOW APPROXIMATELY WHERE WE ARE, PARTICULARLY RELATIVE TO THE ENEMY BASES AND TO OUR OWN BASES. STUDY THIS GEOGRAPHY CAREFULLY SO THAT IT BECOMES FIXED IN YOUR MIND, AS THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN IT MAY BECOME USEFUL TO YOU AT SOME LATER TIME. YOU MAY KEEP THE CHART SKETCHES FOR FUTURE REFERENCE. AS YOU WILL NOTE, AT NOON TODAY WE WILL BE AT 600 MILES FROM TRUK, TO THE NORTHEASTWARD; 350 MILES FROM WOLEAI TO THE NORTH; AND 625 MILES FROM THE PALAU ISLANDS TO THE NORTHWESTWARD. TO THE SOUTH OF US, SOME 250 TO 300 MILES AWAY ARE THREE IMPORTANT JAP BASES, WAKDE, HOLLANDIA, AND AITAPE. TONIGHT, AFTER IT IS COMPLETELY DARK, WE CHANGE COURSE TO THE SOUTHWARD.

TOMORROW, AS THE FIRST GRAY STREAKS OF DAWN APPEAR ON THE EASTERN HORIZON, WE STRIKE. OUR OBJECTIVES ARE THE LAST THREE MENTIONED JAP BASES, WAKDE, HOLLANDIA, AND AITAPE. OUR TASK FORCE IS DIVIDED INTO THREE TASK GROUPS. WE ARE TASK GROUP 58.1. WE CONDUCT THE ATTACK AGAINST WAKDE AND CONTINUE OUR AIR ATTACKS UNTIL THAT PLACE IS PUT OUT OF COMMISSION. THE OTHER TASK GROUPS ATTACK HOLLANDIA -- HUMBOLDT BAY AREA IN SUPPORT OF LANDING OPERATIONS CONDUCTED BY AN ARMY FORCE UNDER GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR. THIS FORCE IS TO TAKE POSSESSION OF THE ENEMY BASES IN THAT AREA AND WE MAY JOIN IN THESE OPERATIONS LATER WHEN WE HAVE FINISHED WAKDE.

THE INDICATIONS ARE THAT WE HAVE BEEN SPOTTED BY THE ENEMY PATROLS AND THEREFORE MAY EXPECT AIR ATTACKS FROM ENEMY PLANES STARTING AROUND DUSK THIS EVENING AND POSSIBLY CONTINUING THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT. OUR TASK FORCE COMMANDER, VICE ADMIRAL MITSCHER, HAS SENT US THIS MESSAGE, "WE FACE THE ENEMY TOMORROW. MAY GOD GRANT THAT HE RECEIVES HIS JUST DESERTS, WHICH CAN ONLY BE A HELL OF A POUNDING." I CAN DO NO BETTER THAN TO SECOND THAT MOTION. THAT IS ALL."

FINAL PREPARATIONS WERE BROUGHT TO A PEAK. WE HAD THE DAWN PATROL, AFTER WHICH ALL PLANES WERE GIVEN A FINAL CHECK. THERE WAS A STRANGE ATMOSPHERE ABOUT THE SHIP. WE WERE OBVIOUSLY WITHIN THE JAP SEARCH AREAS AND GETTING POISED FOR THE NIGHT RUN TO THE SOUTH FOR TOMORROW'S LAUNCH AT OUR TARGET. MOST OF THE OFFICERS AND MEN HAD NEVER SEEN ACTION AND TOMORROW WE'D HAVE IT. EVERYONE WAS OVER-NONCHALANT, ESPECIALLY THE PILOTS. AFTER ALL, YOU CAN'T TRAIN FOR A YEAR AND A HALF TO FLY A PLANE IN COMBAT AND NOT HAVE A STRANGE FEELING ABOUT YOUR FIRST "IN" ON A TARGET. IT WAS HOT AND EVERYONE SEEMED TO BE WANDERING AROUND -- SPRAWLED OUT IN THE WARDROOM AND IN THE READY ROOMS. IT'S TOUGH SLEEPING WHEN YOU LIE IN YOUR BUNK; IN A FEW MINUTES YOU'RE COVERED WITH SWEAT AND EVERYTHING AROUND YOU IS DAMP.

FRIDAY, 21 APRIL '44

THIS WAS THE DAY.

EARLY MORNING GENERAL QUARTERS SOUNDED AND EVERYONE WENT TO HIS STATION AND WATCHED AND WAITED AND WAITED FOR AN ENEMY ATTACK. NOTHING CAME OUT. FOUR HORNET FIGHTERS TOOK OFF IN THE PITCH DARK, TWO OF THEM CIRCLING THE FORMATION AND TWO GOING OVER THE TARGET AS "INTRUDERS".

IN BOTH READY ROOMS PILOTS WERE GETTING LAST MINUTE BRIEFING, THEN WAITING FOR THE TAKEOFF. BAD WEATHER SLOWED UP THE STRIKE FROM THE OTHER CARRIERS OF THE GROUP AND CONSEQUENTLY OUR STRIKE WAS DELAYED.

JUST BEFORE THE SCHEDULED TAKEOFF, CHAPLAIN McHUGH HAD OFFERED A PRAYER OVER THE ANNOUNCING SYSTEM FOR THE SUCCESS OF OUR MISSION AND THE SAFETY OF OUR PILOTS. SO ABOUT AN HOUR LATER AS LT. CMDR. STRANGE CATAPULTED OFF THE DECK IN F6F NO. 1 WITH A 12 FIGHTER 4 TBM STRIKE, EVERYONE'S PRAYERS WENT WITH THEM.

THE PREPARATIONS STARTED IMMEDIATELY FOR THE SECOND STRIKE. OTHER THAN THAT WE COULD DO NOTHING MORE THAN WAIT. THE TARGET FOR STRANGE'S STRIKE WAS SAWAR AIRSTRIP. INTELLIGENCE PHOTOS SHOWED ANTI-AIRCRAFT, BUT OTHER THAN THAT WE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT AIR OPPOSITION, SO ABOUT 0830 IT WAS A RELIEF TO HEAR FROM OUR PLANES THAT NO ENEMY FIGHTERS WERE OVER THE TARGET; THERE WAS HEAVY AA, HOWEVER, ESPECIALLY ON THE WEST END OF THE FIELD.

LT. LEMMON WAS FIRST OFF ON THE SECOND STRIKE FROM THE BATAAN, LAUNCHED AT 0819. NO WORD WAS RECEIVED FROM HIM UNTIL HE LANDED ABOARD SEVERAL HOURS LATER. EVERYONE SWARMED AROUND THE PILOTS WHO RETURNED FROM THE FIRST STRIKE. THE LANDINGS HAD BEEN WELL EXECUTED. THEY CAME THROUGH WHEN IT COUNTED, AND THE WAVE-OFFS WERE AT A MINIMUM. EVERYONE TOOK A LOOK AT THE COWLING OF ENS. "BUZZIN" RUDA'S PLANE. IT HAD AN AA HOLE IN IT, AND THE IMPACT OF THE EXPLOSION HAD FLIPPED HIM AROUND CONSIDERABLY, HE REPORTED.

THE PILOTS WERE PLENTY EXCITED -- AS IF THEY'D JUST COME OFF THE FIELD FROM A CLOSE FOOTBALL GAME; ONLY THIS GAME WAS FOR KEEPS, AND THEY KNEW IT. "THOSE LITTLE BLACK PUFFS" WERE WHAT THEY LIKED TO AVOID. FOR ALL BUT A FEW, THIS HAD BEEN THE FIRST TASTE OF THE "REAL THING". ACCORDING TO REPORTS, THE FIGHTERS HAD REALLY USED THEIR FIFTY CALIBERS, SPRAYING THE GUN EMPLACEMENTS AND ANYTHING THAT LOOKED GOOD ENOUGH TO SHOOT UP WITH ALL SIX GUNS. AND THE TBM'S HAD DROPPED THEIR BOMBS RIGHT ON TARGET.

AS OUR THIRD STRIKE TOOK OFF AT 1100, THE AIR WAS SWARMING WITH THE RENDEZVOUSING OUTGOING PLANES, AND THE RETURNING SECOND STRIKE PREPARING TO COME ABOARD. WHEN THE FLIGHT DID LAND, WE FOUND THAT THE $160 POOL FOR THE MAN OF THE FIGHTER DIVISION TO SHOOT DOWN THE FIRST JAP HAD BEEN COLLECTED. ON THE WAY BACK FROM SAWAR, LT. LEMMON, LEADER OF OUR FIGHTER DIVISION, SPOTTED A JAP "BETTY" LOW ON THE WATER APPROACHING THE FORCE AND ABOUT FIVE MILES AWAY. LEMMON'S DIVISION WENT IN FOR THE KILL AND FLAMED THE JAP IN SHORT ORDER. TO POLISH OFF THE PROCEDURE, LT. ED LAAKE CAME PAST WITH HIS RECONNAISSANCE CAMERA AND TOOK A PICTURE OF THE PLANE, ENVELOPED IN FLAMES WITH IT'S LEFT "MEATBALL" SHOWING.

AFTER THE THIRD STRIKE, THE AA STARTED TO THIN OUT; THE GUNNERS EVIDENTLY DIDN'T LIKE THE FIFTY CALIBER COMING AT THEM. AND ON THE FOURTH STRIKE, LEMMON'S DIVISION HAD SOME MORE LUCK. AS THEY CAME IN OVER THE TARGET, LEM SAW A JAP "SALLY" FAIRLY LOW, FLYING AGAINST THE JUNGLE BACKGROUND TO THE WEST, EVIDENTLY TRYING TO ESCAPE. SO HE PULLED AWAY FROM THE TARGET AND WHAM! ANOTHER JAP FLAG FOR THE MECHS TO PAINT ON THE ISLAND. DURING THE SAME STRIKE, JUST FOR GOOD MEASURE, LEM TOOK HIS DIVISION OVER A BARGE, STRAFING IT THOROUGHLY AS JAPS JUMPED MADLY INTO THE WATER.

BY THE FIFTH STRIKE, THE PILOTS WERE HAVING A FIELD DAY, BOMBING AND STRAFING WITHOUT AA FIRE BEING MUCH SAFER. ENS. "ROSY" VEACH AND OTHERS MADE LOW ALTITUDE RUNS, SHOOTING UP PLANES, BARRACKS AND ANYTHING HANDY. THE LATER STRIKES INCLUDED WAKDE ISLAND AIRSTRIP.

IT WAS A BIG DAY ACCORDING TO EVERYONE FROM THE CAPTAIN ON DOWN. NO PLANES, NO PILOTS LOST, BUT A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF DAMAGE DONE TO THE ENEMY. AT SECURE FROM EVENING GENERAL QUARTERS, THE CAPTAIN SPOKE, COMMENDING THE SHIP, AND ESPECIALLY THE PILOTS, FOR A FINE PERFORMANCE. THEN WE HAD A FIRST HAND REPORT ON OPERATIONS FROM COMMANDER MATTER, LT. CMDR. STRANGE, AND LT. LEMMON.

THE BATAAN HAD FLOWN 76 OUT OF A SCHEDULED 80 SORTIES, A HIGH PERCENTAGE, AND A TRIBUTE TO THE MAINTENANCE CREWS THAT KEPT THE PLANES FLYING. WE WERE ASSIGNED 84 SORTIES, BUT HAVING LOST ONE TBM EARLIER, WE COULD NOT SCHEDULE THE "VACANT" BOMBER. PERSONNEL ON WATCH DIDN'T HAVE TROUBLE SECURING TONIGHT AND WE STEAMED TO THE NORTHWARD WITH ALL HANDS TIRED, BUT HAPPY AFTER A GOOD DAY'S WORK.

SATURDAY, 22 APRIL '44

OUR JOB FOR THE SECOND DAY OF THE STRIKE -- THE "D" DAY FOR THE OPERATION -- WAS THE COMBAT AIR PATROL. THE FIRST PART OF A DULL DAY FOR THE PILOTS WAS SPENT WITH HALF THE FIGHTER FORCE PROVIDING COVER FOR THE CRUISERS RETURNING FROM THE BOMBARDMENT OF HOLLANDIA.

AS DUTY CARRIER, SOME EXCITEMENT WAS OFFERED BY AN F6F SHORT OF GAS FROM THE COWPENS COMING ABOARD AT 1015. THE PILOT, ENSIGN H. A. SANCHES, HAD BEEN A STAND-BY PILOT ON A STRIKE. WHEN HE GOT OFF THE DECK LATE, HE HAD RENDEZVOUSED WITH THE WRONG STRIKE. WHEN HE CAME BACK FROM THE TARGET, THE COWPENS WASN'T READY TO RECEIVE HIM ABOARD AND HE BEGAN RUNNING LOW ON GAS. THE ABSENCE OF RADIO COMMUNICATIONS COMPLICATED THINGS. HE FINALLY BUZZED THE ISLAND ON THE COWPENS AND THEY POINTED TO THE BATAAN. HE CAUGHT ON QUICKLY AND LANDED ABOARD WITHOUT MISHAP.

WORD FROM THE BEACH REGARDING THE SUCCESS OF OPERATIONS WAS SCARCE, BUT WE HAD SEEN PART OF THE LANDING FORCE MOVING IN. EVIDENTLY FROM THE INTERCEPTED MESSAGES OF THE AIR COORDINATORS OVER THE TARGET, EVERYTHING WAS ON, OR AHEAD OF, SCHEDULE.

FUELING WAS THE BIG ITEM ON TODAY'S PROGRAM. IT BEGAN AT 0900 FROM ONE OF THE FLEET OILERS. GASOLINE AND FUEL OIL BOTH CAME ABOARD RAPIDLY, AND WE WOULD HAVE COMPLETED EVERYTHING OKAY -- EXCEPT FOR THREE BETTYS INTERCEPTED BY AN ANTI-SNOOPER FIGHTER FROM THE HORNET WHICH RESULTED IN ONE BETTY SHOT DOWN. THIS HAPPENED AT 1052. THE ADMIRAL IMMEDIATELY PASSED THE WORD ON THE TBS TO BE ON AN AIR ALERT. GENERAL QUARTERS WAS SOUNDED, AND IN ORDER TO BE PREPARED FOR ATTACK AND CONSEQUENT LAUNCHINGS OF PLANES, FUELING LINES WERE CAST-OFF EVEN THOUGH WE WERE SHORT OF OUR FUEL OIL CAPACITY.

AT 1200 WE WERE SUPPOSED TO LAUNCH A CAP, BUT EVIDENTLY DUE TO THE LOW GAS CONDITION OF THE HORNET'S FIGHTERS AND THE LIKELIHOOD OF AN ATTACK, WE WERE ORDERED TO LAUNCH AT 1145. THE TWO BETTYS THAT GOT AWAY DIDN'T COME BACK. NOTHING CAME NEAR THE FORCE EXCEPT SIX B-24'S WITHOUT THEIR IDENTIFICATION EQUIPMENT OPERATING. LT. BARACKMAN'S FLIGHT INTERCEPTED THEM 60 MILES AWAY. NO NEWS OF ACTIVITY ON THE BEACH.

MONDAY, 24 APRIL '44

ANOTHER CARRIER LAUNCHED THE EARLY PATROL SO THINGS WENT EASILY UNTIL ABOUT 1005. AT THAT TIME, 4 BAKER OUTLOOK, THE HORNET'S ANTI-SNOOPER FIGHTER SHOT DOWN ONE BETTY -- NO SURVIVORS.

NOTICE WAS SERVED BY THE ADMIRAL ABOUT 1030 TO BE PREPARED FOR A POSSIBLE STRIKE ON A TARGET. NOTHING MORE WAS HEARD, HOWEVER, SO PREPARATIONS WERE MADE TO LAUNCH THE SCHEDULED CAP. JUST PRIOR TO THE NOON CAP LAUNCH WORD CAME TO STRIKE AT WAKDE AND OTHER TARGETS IN THE AREA AS ASSIGNED BY THE STRIKE AIR GROUP COORDINATOR, WHO WOULD BE THE AIR GROUP COMMANDER OF THE HORNET. THE PILOTS DIDN'T NEED MUCH BRIEFING -- THEY'D TAKEN THE TARGET APART BEFORE. THE TROUBLE WAS WITH CHANGING THE BOMB LOADS FOR THE TBM'S FROM ANTI-SUB. SOME OF THE DEPTH CHARGES WERE GIVEN INSTANTANEOUS FUSES INSTEAD OF HYDROSTATIC FUSES. THE RELIABLE CATAPULT, WHICH HAD NEVER GIVEN ANY TROUBLE BEFORE, WOULDN'T FIRE; THIS HELD UP THE LAUNCH, BUT THE STRIKE FINALLY GOT AWAY. THE REPORT CAME IN A SHORT TIME: "NO AA OR FIGHTER OPPOSITION OVER THE TARGET."

PREPARATIONS WERE MADE TO LAUNCH A SECOND STRIKE, TO BE LED BY COMMANDER MATATER, ON TARGETS TO BE DESIGNATED BY THE AIR GROUP COMMANDER OF THE FIRST STRIKE, WHO WAS TO REMAIN OVER THE TARGET. JUST PRIOR TO LAUNCHING, HOWEVER, WORD CAME FROM THE FLAG TO CANCEL THE STRIKE.

THE NEXT ORDERS FROM THE FLAG DIRECTED AN ANTI-SUB PATROL WITH ANTI-SNOOP FIGHTER PLUS TWO DIVISIONS OF CAP. THE SCHEDULED LAUNCH WAS HELD UP BY MORE CATAPULT TROUBLE AND ALL PLANES HAD TO GO OFF FLYAWAY. TWO FORCED LANDINGS ALSO COMPLICATED THE OPERATIONS. LT. (JG) ZIARKO, RETURNING FROM THE WAKDE STRIKE, CALLED IN FOR A DEFERRED LANDING AND WAS ORDERED TO THE HORNET. ENS. KENDRICK REPORTED ENGINE DIFFICULTIES SHORTLY AFTER HIS CAP TAKEOFF AND LANDED ON THE HORNET ALSO. SOON AFTER PLANES WERE AIRBORNE, THE HORNET PASSED THE WORD TO THE LEXINGTON (OF TASK GROUP 58.3) THAT "AIR ATTACK WAS IMMINENT". THE DOPE ALSO CAME BY VISUAL THAT THE ENEMY WAS MARSHALLING ALL HIS FORCES FROM VARIOUS ISLAND BASES FOR A STRIKE AT OUR TASK FORCE.

ABOUT 1745 A BOGEY INDICATION WAS REPORTED FROM ANOTHER SHIP ON THE TBS, COMING FROM THE NORTHWEST. THIS PROVED TO BE CLOSING AND SOON IT WAS PICKED UP BY THE COWPENS. APRICOT 6, LED BY LAAKE, WAS VECTORED TO INTERCEPT. THE BOGEY CIRCLED THE TASK GROUP CLOCKWISE ABOUT 40 MILES OUT FROM NORTHWEST, COMING AROUND TO THE SOUTHEAST. LAAKE REPORTED MANY SQUALLS, CLOUDS, AND BAD VISIBILITY IN GENERAL. HE WAS AT 7 MILES RANGE FROM THE BOGEY, BUT ABOUT 1615 IT WAS REALIZED BY THE HORNET WITH THEIR SM (FIGHTER DIRECTOR) RADAR THAT THE BOGEY WAS AT 20,000 INSTEAD OF 2,000. LAAKE WAS TOLD TO CLIMB TO 20,000. ABOUT THAT TIME THE HORNET FDO DECIDED TO CHECK ON GAS. LAAKE'S DIVISION WAS RUNNING LOW, SO HE WAS VECTORED HOME. THE HORNET FDO ALSO CALLED BY RADIO TO CHECK ON OUR PILOT'S QUALIFICATIONS FOR NIGHT LANDINGS. MOST OF THE PILOTS HAD CHECKED OUT ONCE IN THE GULF OF PARIA, BUT SOME HADN'T, SO WE ANSWERED "NEGATIVE". THE FLAG ORDERED AN IMMEDIATE "CHARLIE" AND THE PLANES STARTED TO COME HOME IN THE GATHERING DARK. EVERYONE MADE IT OKAY, ALTHOUGH LT. MIKE HINN SAID HE "COULDN'T SEE A DAMN THING EXCEPT THOSE SIGNAL WANDS". NO FURTHER BOGEY CONTACTS CLOSED TOWARD THE SHIP DURING NIGHT, BUT ONE WAS PICKED UP AT 2030 HEADED SOUTH TOWARD TASK GROUP 58.3. LATER "FRIENDLIES" WERE SEEN IN THE SAME AREA AND IT WAS BELIEVED THAT PERHAPS NIGHT FIGHTERS WERE LAUNCHED TO INTERCEPT THE SNOOPER TO THE SOUTH.

TUESDAY, 25 APRIL '44

NO PATROLS, NO NOTHING! MECHS WORKED TO GET ALL PLANES "UP" AND READY FOR ANYTHING ELSE TO COME. SOMETHING DID COME, FOR IN AN AFTERNOON DISPATCH ACI OFFICERS WERE INSTRUCTED TO START BRIEFING PILOTS FOR AN ATTACK ON TRUK.

THINGS WERE EVIDENTLY UNDER CONTROL AT HOLLANDIA. A RADIO BROADCAST FOR REBROADCAST TO JAPAN AND THE U.S. WAS HEARD DIRECT FROM THE HUMBOLDT BAY AREA. THE ANNOUNCER GAVE A ROSY DESCRIPTION OF OUR CONQUESTS, HIS MAIN PHILOSOPHY BEING THAT "THE JAP HAS FLED."

WEDNESDAY, 26 APRIL '44

THIS WAS A QUIET DAY AND THE FIRST ONE IN QUITE A WHILE WHEN WE HAVEN'T HAD CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY IN SOME WAY OR OTHER. THE HORNET'S "BATS" STARTED IT OFF BEFORE FIVE IN THE MORNING. ROUTINE PATROLS CONTINUED THROUGHOUT THE DAY. WE HAD THE SECOND PATROL. AN INTERESTING MESSAGE CAME FROM THE CAPTAIN AFTER GENERAL QUARTERS. HE ANNOUNCED WE WERE HEADED FOR THE VICINITY OF SEEADLER HARBOR WHERE WE COULD GET REPLACEMENT AIRCRAFT AND FURTHER ORDERS.

SEVERAL SUB CONTACTS BY OUR SCREEN LIVENED UP THE DAY. OUR ANTI-SUB PATROL, WHICH WAS OPERATING IN THE SECTOR WHERE THE SUB CONTACT OCCURRED, HOWEVER, OVER THE SCENE WAITING TO GO TO WORK ON SOMETHING. A FEW DEPTH CHARGES WERE FELT, BUT NO RESULTS WERE ANNOUNCED. ANOTHER EVENT TO BREAK THE DAY'S ROUTINE WAS THE FUELING FROM THE TANKER AND, MORE IMPORTANT TO THE INDIVIDUAL THAN THE FUEL AND GASOLINE WE RECEIVED, WAS THE MAIL THAT WENT OFF THE SHIP. IT WAS GOING TO MEAN A LOT TO THE FOLKS AT HOME. IT WAS TOUGH TO GO WITHOUT MAIL, BUT TOUGHER TO KNOW THAT THE FOLKS AT HOME COULDN'T GET OURS.

THURSDAY, 27 APRIL '44

REMEMBER HOW EVERYONE GATHERED AROUND TO INSPECT A NEW CAR IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD BACK HOME? HOW WE LOOKED OVER THE DASHBOARD, THE TIRES, OPENED THE HOOD? TODAY A REPLACEMENT FLEW ABOARD FOR OUR TBM NO. 8, WHICH CRASHED AT SEA. ALL THE V-2 DIVISION SWARMED OUT TO LOOK THINGS OVER. THE RADIO OFFICER WAS HEARTBROKEN TO FIND IT CONTAINED NO VHF RADIO EQUIPMENT; THE PROPELLER EXPERTS WERE NOT PLEASED TO NOTICE A PROPELLER LEAK; AND THE ORDNANCE MEN WERE UP ON THE GUNS CHECKING TO FIND THAT THE PLANE HAD BEEN SENT OUT WITH ITS FIFTY CALIBERS EMPTY. OTHER EVENTS OF THE DAY INCLUDED TAKING A DESTROYER ALONGSIDE FOR OFFICIAL REPORTS AND PICKING UP SOME BADLY NEEDED RADIO TUBES FOR ANOTHER SHIP. AT 1520 WE LAUNCHED OUR CAP OF FOUR F6F'S AND ASP OF FOUR TBM'S AND FOUR FIGHTERS. THE RESULTS OF THE PATROL WERE NEGATIVE AND THE PILOTS WERE VERY EAGER TO GET BACK ABOARD AS SOON AS THE SUN DROPPED INTO THE PACIFIC.

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SOME DAYS WE DID NOT HAVE GENERAL QUARTERS IN THE MORNING -- OR EVENING. CONDITION THREE WAS SET AND THE OLD FAMILIAR SIGHT OF MEN ON THEIR CLEANING STATIONS WAS SEEN. ALL PORTS WERE OPENED IN THE AFTERNOON TO AIR OUT THE SHIP. EVERYONE WAS RELAXING BEFORE THE NEXT STRIKE.

FRIDAY, 28 APRIL '44 WE

WERE ALL SET TO LAUNCH OUR 0900 CAP ANDASP WHEN ORDERS FROM ADMIRAL CLARK TO CANCEL THE FLIGHT AND PROCEED WITH TWO DESTROYERS TO SEEADLER HARBOR. THE TRIP WAS TO PICK UP BOMBS AND, MOST IMPORTANT, MAIL. U.S. MAIL, NOT OFFICIAL MAIL.

SHORTLY BEFORE NOON WE ARRIVED AT SEEADLER WITH DESTROYERS BANCROFT AND CALDWELL, THE ORDNANCE MEN MADE PREPARATIONS FOR TAKING THE BOMBS AND THE DESTROYERS CONTACTED THE INDIANA AND TOOK OFF 120 SACKS OF MAIL FOR OUR TASK GROUP. BY 1700 WE HAD COMPLETED TAKING OUR BOMBS ABOARD AND ALSO OUR SHARE OF THE TASK GROUP'S MAIL. WE GOT UNDERWAY BEFORE DINNER AND HEADED NORTH TO RENDEZVOUS WITH THE TASK GROUP TOMORROW.

"MAIL CALL" SOUNDED VERY SWEET TO OUR EARS. THIS HAD BEEN THE LONGEST TIME YET WITHOUT MAIL -- 14 DAYS. AN OLD, BUT GOOD, MOVIE "GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE" WAS THE RESULT OF SOME GOOD TRADING WITH OTHER SHIPS AT SEEADLER.

SATURDAY, 29 APRIL '44

THIS IS "D-MINUS-ONE" DAY. TONIGHT WE ARE STEAMING INTO THE ONCE FAMOUS STRONGHOLD OF THE JAP NAVY -- TRUK. SOMEHOW, THOUGH, THERE'S NOT THE TENSION NOR THE EXCITEMENT THAT WE FELT BEFORE OUR NEW GUINEA STRIKE. MAYBE ITS BECAUSE TOMORROW WE HAVE THE CAP THE ENTIRE DAY, OR MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE WE WENT THROUGH IT ONCE BEFORE AND NOW WE KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE. THE USUAL "SNOOPER A DAY KEEPS THE JAPS AWAY" CAME THROUGH THIS MORNING WITH THE YORKTOWN MAKING THE KILL FROM ANOTHER TASK GROUP 58.2.

THE FUELING FLEET PROCEEDED PART WAY WITH US DURING THE EARLY PART OF THE DAY, BUT DURING THE AFTERNOON, THE SPEED WAS ACCELERATED TO PUT US IN RANGE OF THE TARGET.

D-DAY PUT US ABOUT 110 MILES FROM TRUK WITH THE JAP STRONG-HOLD BEARING 030. THE ASSIGNED CAP AND ASP WOULD GIVE US A DULL OR EXCITING DAY DEPENDING ON WHETHER ENEMY AIRCRAFT TRIED ATTACKING THE FORCE. THE WEATHER WAS WHAT THE STORM KING WOULD CALL "DEFINITELY UNFAVORABLE FOR FLYING". ALL THE LAUNCHINGS WERE DELAYED BY CTG 58.1 FOR ABOUT THIRTY MINUTES UNTIL THERE WAS A GOOD HORIZON. AT 0645 THE VF SWEEP TOOK OFF AND WE FOLLOWED AT 0700 WITH OUR CAP.

IN THE EXCITEMENT OF THE LAUNCH AT 0650, A BOGEY CONTACT APPEARED FROM THE NORTHEAST, EVIDENTLY LOW ON THE WATER. NO CAP WAS AIRBORNE BUT THE HORNET FDO VECTORED ONE OF THE DIVISION OF THE VF SWEEP TOWARD THE CONTACT. NO LUCK HOWEVER, SO THE FIGHTER SWEEP CONTINUED OVER THE TARGET AND OUR PATROLS TOOK STATION. ABOUT AN HOUR LATER, BOGEY INDICATIONS SHOWED UP TO THE NORTHEAST AND THE FLAG ORDERED US TO LAUNCH THE FIGHTERS OF THE SECOND PATROL IMMEDIATELY. THIS WAS DONE JUST ABOUT THE TIME THAT THE ALABAMA OF ANOTHER TASK GROUP SHOT DOWN THREE ZEROES. NOTHING ELSE SHOWED UP AND THE ROUTINE OPERATIONS CONTINUED.

LT. ROLLA LEMMON AND LT. MIKE HINN HAD THEIR DIVISIONS ON PATROL AROUND NOON WHEN A BOGEY CONTACT APPEARED 30 MILES NORTH. BOTH DIVISIONS WERE ORDERED BY THE HORNET FIGHTER DIRECTOR TO BE VECTORED TO INTERCEPT. THE BOGEY WAS JUST SOUTH OF THE OUTER FRINGE OF THE ATOLL AT THE TIME OF ORIGINAL CONTACT AND REVERSED COURSE AND WENT OVER THE TARGET AREA, SO THE INTERCEPTING VECTOR TOOK THE PLANES RIGHT OVER THE TARGET AREA. THE HORNET FDO WAS ASKED IF HE WANTED THE CHASE CONTINUED, AND HE SAID "LET ONE DIVISION LOOK SOME MORE AND HAVE THE OTHER DIVISION RETURN TO BASE". HINN'S TEAM WAS ORDERED TO DO THE LOOKING AND LEMMON CAME HOME. MIKE DIDN'T RUN INTO ANY JAP PLANES, BUT, ON THE WAY BACK AFTER HIS LOOK AROUND, HE SAW A JAP SHIP BLOW UP, EVIDENTLY AS A RESULT OF A MINE. EVERYTHING REMAINED ROUTINE ON THE BATAAN THE REST OF THE DAY. ANTI-AIRCRAFT FIRE WAS TAKING ATOLL OF PLANES FROM OTHER SHIPS. ONE COWPENS TBM, WHICH PICKED UP A 20MM SLUG IN THE FUEL SYSTEM AND ENGINE, MADE A FORCED LANDING ON OUR DECK. WHEN HE STARTED INTO THE LANDING CIRCLE HIS ENGINE WAS SMOKING AND OIL COVERED HIS FUSELAGE. MIKE MIKRONIS, THE LSO, GAVE HIM A WAVE OFF ON HIS FIRST APPROACH AND EVERYONE WAS SURE THAT HE WAS GOING TO DROP IN THE DRINK ON THE NEXT TURN AROUND. TO EVERYONE'S RELIEF, HE MADE A PERFECT APPROACH THE SECOND TIME AND HIT THE DECK OK -- A VERY LUCKY FELLOW.

AN UNSCHEDULED OPERATION WAS CARRIED OUT BY LT. (JG) FOX AND LT. GUS SERMOS. AT THE END OF THE AFTERNOON, WE WERE OPERATING ABOUT 60 TO 70 MILES FROM THE CENTER OF TRUK AND THE ASP SECTOR INCLUDED A SMALL ISLAND ON WHICH WAS PARKED A JAP PLANE. BOTH BATAAN PLANES TURNED THEIR 50 CALIBER GUNS ON THE SINGLE PLANE AND THOROUGHLY STRAFED IT, THE BATAAN'S ONLY WORK OF DESTRUCTION FOR THE DAY.

SUNDAY, 30 APRIL '44

IT WAS PERFECT WEATHER FOR LAZY PILOTS, BUT NOT FOR PILOTS ON A CARRIER STRIKE. THE SQUALLS AND LOW VISIBILITY WERE WORSE THAN ON THE PRECEDING MORNING, AND ALL FLIGHTS WERE HELD UP. THE VF SWEEP AND STRIKE 2-ABLE MADE IT OFF AT 1000 WITH LT. CDR. STRANGE LEADING THE FIGHTERS IN FOX 1 AND COMDR. MATTER LEADING THE BATAAN SHARE OF THE STRIKE IN TBM NO. 1.

THE FREQUENCY FOR THE RESCUE SUBMARINE WAS BEING KEPT BUSY AND WE WERE MONITORING IT IN AIR PATROL. BUT, WE BECAME PLENTY INTERESTED WHEN WE HEARD 8 PALISADE, LT. LEMMON'S CALL, RADIOING THE SUB AND GIVING A REPORT THAT 99 PALISADE -- THE CALL FOR COMMANDER MATTER -- WAS DOWN IN THE WATER SOUTHEAST OF TRUK. LEM REPORTED THAT THE RUBBER BOAT AND PERSONNEL HAD MADE IT OUT OF THE PLANE OKAY, AND ALL WE WANTED TO HEAR WAS A MESSAGE FROM THE SUB SAYING THAT THEY HAD PICKED UP THE SURVIVORS ALL RIGHT. THE CALL CAME THROUGH SHORTLY -- ALL PERSONNEL SAFE ABOARD WITH NO INJURIES. EVERYONE WAS READY TO GIVE ALL HANDS ON THE SUBMARINE A BIG MEDAL.

THE FIGHTER SWEEP WAS FIRST BACK TO THE SHIP. ONE BY ONE, THE DIVISIONS CAME PAST THE STARBOARD SIDE AND EVERYONE LOOKED ANXIOUSLY TO SEE IF ALL FOUR PLANES WERE THERE. ABOUT HALF WAY THROUGH THE RECOVERY, ALL PLANES WERE WAVED OFF TO GIVE ENS. "BRONKO" RICH A CHANCE TO GET IN WITH HALF OF HIS LEFT ELEVATOR SHOT AWAY. HE MADE A FAIRLY GOOD APPROACH BUT HE WAS SLIGHTLY TO PORT AND MIKE GAVE HIM A WAVE-OFF. "BRONKO", KNOWING THAT HIS STABILITY WAS IMPAIRED BY THE LOSS OF PART OF HIS PORT CONTROL SURFACE, DIDN'T THINK HE COULD "FEED THE COAL" TO THE PLANE AND TAKE THE THE WAVE OFF WITHOUT SPINNING IN. SO, HE TOOK THE CUT, LANDED ON THE PORT SIDE WELL FORWARD, ENGAGED A WIRE AND VIBRATED TO A STOP, HIS TAIL TWISTING AS THE ARRESTING HOOK SLID CROSSWISE ON THE CABLE. AFTER HE HAD TAXIED FORWARD AND CUT HIS MOTOR, BRONKO GAVE HIS PLANE A BIG SMILE AND ENTERED THE INJURED ELEVATOR ON THE "YELLOW SHEET". HE WASN'T PARTICULARLY WORRIED ABOUT ALMOST GETTING SHOT DOWN, BUT WAS EAGER TO EXPLAIN HIS LANDING AGAINST ORDERS.

THE ADDITIONAL STRIKES HAD NO DIFFICULTIES, BUT, THE COMMENTS WERE PRETTY STRONG. THE MAIN THEME WAS THAT ON WAKDE, SARMI, AND SAWAR, THE STRAFING HAD SILENCED THE AA FIRE. NOT SO AT TRUK. THERE WERE TOO MANY GUNS -- AND IF YOU SHOT UP ONE EMPLACEMENT, ONE NEXT TO IT WOULD KEEP RIGHT ON BANGING AWAY AT YOU.

NOTHING HAPPENED AT THE EVENING GQ; JUST BEFORE "SECURE" THE CAPTAIN, LT. CDR. STRANGE, AND LT. SWANSON SPOKE, TELLING A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE DAY'S WORK. THE CLOUDS HAD BEEN A HELP AS WELL AS A HINDRANCE, GIVING PROTECTION FROM AA FIRE AFTER THE TARGET RUN. THE AA FIRE HAD BEEN GOOD AND BATAAN'S PLANES HAD BEEN LUCKY TO HAVE ONLY ONE TBM SHOT DOWN, AND OF COURSE EVERYONE WAS GLAD THAT CDR. MATTER AND CREW HAD BEEN RESCUED. THE SUB, THE PILOTS SAID, WAS REALLY "SCOOTING AROUND", PICKING UP SURVIVORS ALL OVER THE PLACE. AN OS2U KINGFISHER FROM A CRUISER WAS ALSO IN THE RESCUE BUSINESS, GOING RIGHT INTO THE TRUK LAGOON TO RESCUE PILOTS AND CREWS FORCED DOWN RIGHT UNDER THE JAP'S NOSE. IN FACT, AT ONE TIME THE SITUATION HAD BECOME SO CROWDED THAT AN OS2U HAD TO TOW A LIFE RAFT FILLED WITH A TBM CREW OUTSIDE SO THE SUBMARINE COULD GET AT THEM. TALK ABOUT UNSUNG HEROES, THERE'S WHERE THEY WERE.

 

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