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A Carrier Goes to Battle: Joe Rucker Saw It All

PEARL HARBOR, Feb. 13 (AP) - A gripping account of war at sea and a spectacular but futile suicide plunge by a Japanese dive bomber, were related at Pearl Harbor, by Joseph Rucker, veteran Paramount newsreel man, and only civilian aboard a United States aircraft carrier that participated in the attack on Marshall and Gilbert islands, February 1.

In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Rucker reviewed the events of the momentous day with these cryptic, graphic phrases:

"Three a.m. An awful hour to get up. We are on a 'galloping ghost off the Oahu coast.' The boys have nicknamed her the ghost because the Japanese have reported her sunk so often.

An Unearthly Noise

"Everyone is on his toes. All hands are busy. Now the general quarters sound. It is an unearthly noise. A booming voice says 'Man your stations.'

"Everyone rushes to battle positions. The loud speaker orders covers taken off the cockpits and rudders. Hands on the flight deck hasten to comply. Pilots get their last minute instructions and dash for their planes.

"The plane handlers yell the plane numbers so the pilots and gunners are able to find their right places without delay. The latter climb into the planes. The loud speaker shouts, 'Stand by to start engines.' A minute later the speaker hollers, 'Stand clear of the propellers,' and then 'start engines.'

"The sudden roar is startling. The 'ghost' heels over at fast speed into the wind, the first plane on the starting line. Two blue streaks from the exhaust pierce the darkness. The pilot releases the brakes and the plane is off."

"The other planes roar seaward. Blue flames dot the sky, then the streaks converge in perfect formation and disappear toward their objective.

All Hands Cheer

"It is the zero hour - daybreak now. Powerful glasses are trained on the island in the distance. We watch for the first bomb blast. All hands cheer as the first column of smoke is sighted and a dull blast echoes.

"Mechanics and refuelers already are preparing for the return of the first squadron. They start landing. Bombs are wheeled out and attached. New ammunition is loaded. Damaged planes are rushed below for quick repairs.

"A tall, curly haired pilot reports prosaically to his commanding officer that he had just shot down two enemy planes, and had his own aileron controls shot away. He was not worried, the same as the rest, just waiting to take off again.

"Word comes that torpedo planes might be useful for a kill. Off they go. I learned later that they scored 100 per cent.

"Time has gone fast this afternoon. Now the Japs are just starting to retaliate with their few remaining planes in this sector. Five twin-engined bombers drop from the clouds. A gunnery officer comes in the 'sky control room' atop the mast, lets out a yell. 'Here they come. Give 'em hell.'

"Our antiaircraft throws them off the course. The leader seems to be hit. They overshoot the mark. Twenty heavy bombs land in the water on the port side. The concussion is terrific.

"The leader apparently is disabled. He tries a straight down suicide dive to the 'ghost's' deck. He knew he was going to miss us. He managed to swoop level and attempted to plow straight toward the deck load of planes.

"One of our gunners conked him. He crashed on the edge of the deck, the plane wreckage flying in all directions, mostly into the sea.

"I learned later that some of the other four bombers with him also were destroyed.

"Meantime, bomb fragments, with near misses, start a fire. A sailor rushes to put it out pronto.

The Eye of An Eagle

"Now there's another attack. Two Japanese twin-engined bombers are up 2,000 feet, our planes chasing them. A marine captain on the sky control yells an order not to shoot because the American planes are in the line of fire. He had an eagle eye.

"The gunnery officer sings out to the captain 'Bombs are on the way, hard over.'

"The 'ghost' maneuvers quickly. The bombs drop off the starboard bow. A fighter plane gets one of the Jap bombers. Antiaircraft gets the other.

"The smoke control lookout is still busy. He has been that way all day. He's the guy who tells the engine room when the stacks are smoking. He also tells them other things. I heard him on the phone line.

"He said, 'The No. 2 stack is smoking black. Enemy planes are diving. Bombs hit the water. No. 2 stack is clear. There's a small fire on the port side. Now it's out. No. 5 stack is smoking black. Hang on, here are more bombs. Okay, No. 5 clear. The attack is over. Take it easy.'

Congratulations Are On

"The attack ends. The pilots congregate in the wardroom for coffee. They have fun swapping notes. One says he got a big one. Another reports he dropped a heavy one on a tanker. Someone says he left a ship blazing from stem to stern. Another chimes in about a terrific explosion in a land hangar. They are a happy lot. One says Japanese fighting planes are no match for ours.

"Give these boys plenty of planes and they'll finish the job. We've men in our navy."

News of U. S. Attack Brightens Headlines

New York, Feb. 13 - (UP) - A Scripps-Howard editorial today expressed the hope that the Japanese-held survivors of Wake would get the news of the successful American attack on the Marshall and Gilbert islands, announced last night by the Navy Department in Washington.

"This is good news for Friday, the 13th," the editorial said, "that offers an otherwise most somber set of headlines. And it should teach us all to have more patience - to lay off 'where's the Navy' murmurs.

"The Navy is not forgetting Pearl Harbor."

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