The Ship - All Hands - Decorations - Remembrance
Home > Action Reports And Logs > VT(N) History >
Sections: Fall 1944 Jan 1945 Feb 1945 Mar 1945 Apr 1945 May 1945
Enterprise continued operating off Iwo Jima through the early part of March 1945. After a brief stay in Ulithi, the Big E sortied with Task Force 58 on 14 March to conduct raids against the Japanese Home Island of Kyushu. The task force found itself under continuous attack off Kyushu, remaining at general quarters for three days, before retiring again to Ulithi.
The past two days have been routine but are noteworthy in that they mark the last of the Chichi strikes. Most of us are very pleased!
The day before yesterday Cliff Largess [LT Clifton R. Largess] flew over to Iwo on official business. However, he utilized the trip to look up his brother who is in the Fifth Marine division fighting on the west flank. He found him in good health. The Marines are having a damned rugged time of it.
Yesterday, several Air Group and Air Department officers also flew over to Iwo, bringing back tall tales and souvenirs. They say the whole island is shockingly barren - not a trace of vegetation. The airfield is doing a rushing business - there are P-51's, P-61's, Marine TBM's, and a few night fighters, not to mention the transports that come and go continually to evacuate the most seriously wounded. The underground installations on the island are unbelievable - miles and miles of underground tunnels, reinforced concrete pill boxes and block houses, caves, etc., all interconnected and all extensively stocked and supplied. There is still a strip along the north and northeastern side of the island where 5000 Japs are cornered. Each cave and subterranean opening must be sealed. Demolition squads follow each advance to destroy installations thereby preventing their use by the Japs who infiltrate our lines at night. One group of Marines have holed up a single Jap in a cave and can't seem to dislodge him by any means. So they've just left him there, going on about their business - they call him "Joe". Just off the west coast there's a small island with gun emplacements. Each night the Japs swim out to it and give the Marines a pre-dawn going over. One story tells about an F4U that made an emergency landing a few days ago when they were fighting near the middle of the island. In order to land, the Marines had to discontinue their artillery barrage. As soon as they did this the Nips popped out of their holes and ran to their guns, proceeding to lob shells on the airstrip.
Whenever there's a new landing there are always a few shylocks who make plenty of money out of the souvenir racket; Iwo is no exception. Their suckers are the new guys coming to relieve them, or stray sailors who manage to get ashore. A Jap rifle sells for $100. A fancy Jap sword brought an offer of $400, but the owner wouldn't sell. One Marine has a canteen full of Jap teeth - all with gold!!
The best piece of news we've heard in the past three days is that we're headed for Ulithi. An announcement to that effect was made over the public address system this morning. Ulithi is not an especially wonderful place, but it sure beats being a sitting duck target for any Jap raiders that happen along.
There's plenty of speculation and some sizeable bets (most daring of these by Chief Cirrilo) concerning the date of our return to the States. Some say it will be the middle of April and others the first of May - most of us will be satisfied with the first of June or any other time next summer, just so long as there's a thirty day leave for us when we get there, and just so we do get there! The most common belief is that we'll go out on one more operation, which may be expected to be rugged, and then either be relieved or go back to Bremerton with the Big E.
Yesterday we proceeded all day on a southerly course, flying a few ASPs [Anti-Submarine Patrols]; but otherwise, there were no operations.
Last night we had a big air group blow-out, given mostly for the crewmen and using all three ready rooms. Bob Jones [LT Robert R. Jones] put on one of his outstanding programs - lots of talent and lots of humor - group singing, jazz band, etc. One of the highlights of the program was of two enlisted men who accompanying their songs with guitar and mandolin. They featured such favorites as "Little Ball of Yarn", etc. Most outstanding feature of the evening, however, was the fact that they actually served beer for all hands and in quantity.
Yesterday a memorial service was held for those of the air group who didn't come back. It was simple, sincere, and entirely appropriate.
This morning we came into Ulithi. The rest of Task Force 58 has been here almost two weeks. In two days we're all due to pull out on another series of operations. We take on supplies, fuel and ammunition in two days is a tough assignment; no time was wasted.
Today we managed to make arrangements for a crewmen's recreation party at Mog Mog. Jim Moore [LT James S. Moore] and Bob Hadley [LT(jg) Robert B. Hadley] went along. It was undoubtedly the best party we've had so far, or are likely to have for some time. The simple but logical reason, we had beer and food for 100 men and there were only forty in the party. Every one had all he could drink in the three hours allowed us. As there were four cases left over, we took them along to be consumed on the boat trip back to the ship. It's quite a complicated procedure to get ashore the way it is set up now. We boarded an LCM [Landing Craft, Mechanized] from the ship which took us to an LCI [Landing Craft, Infantry]. When we got about 200 yards off Mog Mog we transferred to another LCM which took us in to the dock. Coming back the LCI was late calling for us, so we had to spend some time drifting around on the LCM. Horseplay ensued, and before it was over about six men had fallen, or jumped, or had been tossed over the side.
So far no dope has come out concerning the next operation. However, there aren't too many probable objectives; it's a safe bet that we'll travel in the general direction of the Imperial cherry trees.
Our stay in port this time ran according to pattern except that everything was more concentrated - more working parties, larger working parties, larger shore parties, and more guys getting tighter faster. How they got us ready for another period of operations so fast is a mystery.
Yesterday was just like Christmas. Scads of mail came aboard! Morale has rocketed!
Early this morning we got under way with the rest of the fleet. Just what or where, we haven't been told. The new policy is to keep flight personnel uninformed except as regards the immediate future. We suspect what it may be of course - carrier strikes against the Jap Empire at either Tokyo or Kyushu.
A training schedule has been set up. We must be getting near the scene of action because the ship is rolling much more than we consider necessary and the weather is growing steadily worse. This is an unmistakable omen that action is imminent for VT(N)90.
We continued today on a northerly course. We again sent out several training hops - simulated attacks, etc. The evening flight was canceled due to the missing number two wire which a fighter pulled out the other day and hasn't been fixed yet.
We did find out this afternoon that the first phase of the current operation is to be directed against Kyushu and the Inland Sea. There are concentrations in that area of many major industries including aircraft engine and frame plants, iron and steel allied industries, as well as the expected number of airfields and considerable shipping - there may be some units of the elusive Jap Fleet hiding in the Inland Sea.
The squadron suffered another serious loss today as the result of an operational accident. During the afternoon training exercise, Big Red Atkinson [LT(jg) George H. Atkinson] and his two crewmen, radar-radioman Magalotti ARM 2/c [Ernest R. Magalotti] and turret navigator Moss ARM 3/c [Norvel P. Moss] were killed when the tail of their plane failed and they crashed into the water. Doc Williams [LT(jg) Wesley R. Williams], a fighter, was with them as they made a strafing dive and saw pieces along the trailing edge of the elevator break off and the resulting vibration finally caused the entire tail assembly to give way. They dove, out of control, into the sea and no survivors were picked up or observed in the water. This loss is a hard blow to the whole air group - Big Red was unmatched in his humor and spirit of comradeship.
A very routine day - no operations - no nothing. We started preliminary briefing but that's the only thing worthy of note. The briefing covered the major industries and airfields on Kyushu. The "Op Plan" calls for strikes on the eighteenth and nineteenth.
Yesterday was spent getting ready for action. The only flight operations were a few routine ASPs which were as boring as usual. By nightfall we were getting near our destination and, soon after dark, several bogies were seen on the screen but none of them closed so we assumed that they were just tracking us. A couple of fighters were vectored out but only one was splashed. Special church services were held yesterday since we were to be (and have been) at General Quarters all day today.
Last night at 2400 we were scheduled for a 200 mile search but for some reason it was canceled after we'd been in condition eleven from midnight to 0200. We get a little "teed" off at these frequent cancellations - undoubtedly there is sufficient and good reason but it's sometimes hard for us to understand. After all preparations are made - navigation, charts and pictures studied, gear all donned, tactics worked out, etc. - a last minute word is passed that the hop is delayed and eventually cancelled.
This morning at about 0800 many of us were awakened by an unusual (to say the least) noise, the origin of which was at first impossible to determine. A couple of minutes later, those of us who hadn't gone back to sleep already, heard the announcer on the PA system say that we had just received a bomb hit on the number one elevator. When the full of that casual announcement gradually seeped into our groggy minds we began to realize that the number one elevator was not nearly far enough away - in fact it is practically right in the heart of officers country! The bomb, of course, was a dud or we'd have heard considerably more than we did. We learned later that it was a Judy and the bomb was a delayed action armour piercing type. Jennings [LT(jg) Joseph F. Jennings] was catapult-launched seconds before it struck. It isn't often that a ship takes a 600 pound direct bomb hit and comes off so easily. Lady Luck must have adopted the "Big E" for her flagship!
During the rest of the morning and early afternoon there were frequent aerial attack alerts and the batteries on the Enterprise opened up several times. However, these attacks were never concerted - only one or two planes came in at a time. Just what peculiar logic lies behind these tactics is not very clear but so far they have not proved effective. Most of the Japs were either shot down by the CAPs or were splashed by gunners on the various ships. We can guarantee that those who escaped had the "glory for the emperor" scared out of them.
This afternoon the word was passed that a twin engine plane had been shot down off our starboard quarter. We all rushed out on the flight deck and saw it just as it hit the water in flames. Two parachutes were still floating lazily down and a can headed over to pick up the survivors.
In the ready room just after one of these attacks, someone remarked that it seemed rather cold and did anyone else notice it? One of our better wise-crackers, Bob Heid [LT(jg) Robert S. Heid], piped up with the sage observation. "I don't know about the temperature but this trembling I'm doin' ain't from patriotism!!!
We've been at G.Q. all day of course, so there's no water and all doors and hatches are dogged or battened down. With the blower system off, a ghostly silence pervades the whole ship - it's just as though she were holding her breath - just watching and waiting - it's quite an eerie sensation.
The torpedo squadron is scheduled for a couple of missions tonight but we're still skeptical - we have to be shown first!
Believe it or not, we flew four hops and 22 sorties during this memorable Kyushu raid. On the morning of the 18th Waldo Cummings [LT Ralph W. Cummings] led a RCM mission taking station 50 miles south of the entrance to the Kii Channel - Cromley [LT(jg) William L. Cromley], Bruehl [LT(jg) George W. Bruehl], Scott [ENS Knox O. Scott], Thomas [LT(jg) William R. Thomas] and Roy [ENS Robert Roy] took part. That night Joe Doyle said Joe Scarborough smacked three major airfields in eastern and southern Kyushu, starting some sizeable fires. On the morning of the 19th Skipper Henderson [LT Charles E. Henderson] led the "night raiders" up and down the Inland Sea for seven hours. "Hose Nose" successfully attacked an MV 7500 tons, a DE and gave Ted Halbach [LT(jg) Edwin H. Halbach] an unforgettable thrill in splashing an Emily. Ernie Lawton [LT(jg) Ernest J. Lawton] did a single-handed job on a Yamato-class BB [Yamato] and a CV [probably Amagi]; Shannon McCrary [LT(jg) Shannon W. McCrary] was relentless with two merchant ships; [illegible] McLaughlin [LT(jg) Lavern F. McLaughlin] fought a one-man war with the Mitsubishi Mishima Plant and Baldy [LT(jg) William H. Balden], with fouled radar, nevertheless attacked Saeki Airfield.
The "night raiders" went out again on the morning of the 20th and Cliff Largess added fire to the Skipper's thesis that the TBM is an "invincible interceptor" - he splashed another Jap. "El Gruppo" [CDR William I. Martin], Casey Moore, Waldo, Gibby [LT(jg) Gilbert S. Blake], Jim Landon [ENS James D. Landon], Gordo Hinrichs [LT(jg) H. Gordon Hinrichs] and Cliff took care of five major airfields in the Kyushu-Shikoki-Inland Sea area.
We must have scared the life out of those Japs on our four hops. They didn't even try to nauseate us with the smell of "Saki" - me, not a shot of A/A nor a lonely searchlight beam!!!
The day strikes continued today, aimed primarily at Kyushu but so far we've heard very few reports concerning their success. Today the Franklin received a 100 pound bomb hit [two bomb hits in fact: sizes unknown] on her flight deck that set fire to her planes standing all loaded and ready for strikes, with full gas tanks and bomb bays. The results were devastating. Her topside was almost completely wiped out and the fire spread to her hangar deck and raised havoc there too. A skeleton crew got the fire under control at last and at present she is under tow by the cruiser Pittsburgh making three knots. The rest of the force started retiring this afternoon to refuel tomorrow before starting the second phase of the operations.
The Franklin is being escorted by a fair-sized force to which we have been assigned. They hope to get the cripple up to fifteen knots soon. Lady Luck seems to have forgotten all about the Franklin - she just got out here after being patched up from her action in the Leyte landing last fall.
The past three days, will, to use a time-worn phrase, live long in the memory of each and every man on the Enterprise. To attempt a description is probably a mistake. It is impossible to recapture and accurately record all that took place and all that we went through emotionally - experiences that men would never go through in the normal trend of living. Probably that is just as well. The man who said that all he wanted from this war was "a very faint recollection" certainly knew what he was talking about.
I doubt if the safe, protected, states-bound imagination could ever grasp or fully understand the various emotional stresses which we have recently known. It's somewhat surprising and certainly inspiring to see how these men, most of who were taken unceremoniously from peaceful civilian pursuits not more than two years ago, react in the face of danger and emergency. We would be wrong to claim there was no fear or panic. The waiting and the not knowing is the worst element in most cases but everyone does his job and does it well regardless of what's going on around him. Undoubtedly the best and only way to describe these happenings is to give a simple running account of events as they transpired during the ages which elapsed in the last forty-eight hours.
At last recording we were escorting the crippled Franklin to safety. The night of March 19 found us maneuvering about 80 miles east of Kyushu, twenty to thirty miles from the "invalid". That night we were scheduled at the last minute to send out a night plane search to determine whether or not any surface force was being sent out from the Inland Sea to attack our force. This was the hop the Skipper led and which we described above.
During the day of the twentieth we were again under intermittent aerial attack but came through it without mishap. As was to be expected, the Franklin took the brunt of the Jap attack. Today is the third day we've been under attack and the third running that we've been at General Quarters. It was by far the worst, though we are on a retiring course. During the morning several planes attacked and scored several near misses, one of which shook the ship from stem to stern though apparently did no great damage. Most of these attackers were shot down either by surface batteries or the CAPs. There were a few more small scale attacks during the rest of the day but the most severe one came at about 1630 and lasted the better part of an hour. During that time at least twenty seven planes attacked from the clouds. We sustained three near misses.
Our gun crews accounted for seven enemy planes and the CAPs splashed thirteen. That finally took pretty good care of all of them - there wasn't even one left to report the "sinking" of another Enterprise to good old Hirohito. (He gets more Enterprises that way!)
The ship secured from GQ about 1930 and went into condition Baker. A hot meal was served at 2030 to all hands - steak, potatoes, peas and ice cream. It surely hit the spot after living most of the past three days on battle rations of bean soup, spam and peanut butter sandwiches, strong hot coffee and cigarettes of course.
At 2300 torpedo defense was sounded and soon thereafter, general quarters. Three bogies were reported at ten miles. The attacked proved ineffective but the nervous strain of a night raid is perhaps even worse than one in the day time. All three planes were shot down - one by the screen, one by the CAP, and one by our own gun crews. The rest of the night passed quietly and most of today has been the same. One small attack did develop but was quickly repulsed and we are fast getting out of aerial attack range. Just after the attack today in which our batteries shot down a plane, one of the gunners was heard to remark, "We go from condition three to general quarters, shoot down a plane, and go right back to condition three - Damn, what a war!!"
The skeleton crew has by this time gotten steam up in the Franklin and she is now making fifteen knots under her own power so we're fast leaving the danger area headed south. It is rumored that the Captain has requested a ten day period in port at Guam or Ulithi before another operation. Everyone has a glimmer of hope that we'll be sent back to the States - just wishful thinking. One juicy bit of scuttlebutt has it that the Shangri La has our replacement group (91) aboard and is already six days west of Pearl Harbor. Personally we've come to the point where we believe what we see and nothing else - but that doesn't keep us from passing these choice bits along and an interested audience is never lacking.
The date today reminds us that it is the first day of Spring and our southerly course seems to bear out the change in season by taking us into warmer climate. This temperature change comes with amazing rapidity once it starts. It was quite chilly up around the Empire (or seemed so at least to us tropical sailors) - "long handles" were welcome additions to our wearing apparel, especially when flying.
Being in the air group, we have no particular battle stations during these "interludes" when the ship is in action so it falls our lot to disperse as much as possible and then just sit and listen and wonder and maybe worry a little. It proves to be a rather nerve-racking thing at times. The five inch signals the approach, the 40's tell us they're closing, the 20's indicate their arrival, and the gradual dwindling of the volume of fire signals their retreat with the five inch getting in the last word like some old truculent dowager. Many of us found it best to avoid thinking about it by reading, writing, etc. - quite a feat in itself. We create a sort of philosophical frame of mind.
Those of us who went topside last night found the stars out in full brilliance. It was quite striking to see and contrast between the apparent peace and beauty of the sky, stars, and ocean on the one hand and the stark, harsh, mute testimony of the action of the past few days.
The past few days have been relatively uneventful - an extremely pleasant and welcome change from the excitement of last week. During that time we've been making our way south to spend some time in port getting much needed supplies and repairs to ship, planes, and personnel. Mog Mog will undoubtedly play its usual important role.
Yesterday brought about our arrival in the fair port of Ulithi. Our course here was more circular than usual because of the possible submarine threat to our crippled group of ships. We dropped anchor at noon, closer to Mog Mog than we've ever been though still quite a long swim. Port activity is much more limited than on former occasions due to the absence of the fleet. There is, however, a sizable amphibious force which is due to depart in a few days, probably for the pending landings on Okinawa. Rumor has it that the entire fast carrier task force will be in support of that landing - ourselves included.
We were all much surprised to find, upon our arrival here, twelve new VT pilots and twenty-four new aircrewmen sent out to join the squadron. They were entirely unexpected but very welcome - naturally the more pilots we have the less flying each one of us should have to do. By this time many of us have lost the all-consuming desire to fly and are now content to wait for the ship to head East - one of the few notable exceptions, of course, Charlie Henderson who is still his same old driving self. Anyway these new fellows seem like a pretty good bunch of boys and we're genuinely glad to have this transfusion of new blood. It's nice also to get a chance to look at some new "Pin Up" pictures.
A voluntary movement started on the ship a day or two ago to raise money for three of the men wounded in the recent action who will be crippled for life. The response by all hands - officers and men alike in both ship's company and the air group - was inspiring. It was announced over the loud speaker system that the sum raised amounted to over $3000 for each of the three.
The berth assigned to us in the anchorage is near several hospital ships, the nearest one being off our port bow. In no time at all binoculars were trained on that hospital ship, with two or three men in a huddle at each vantage point. A fleeting glimpse of the nurses who occasionally came out on deck was the momentous reward. Things are tough all over these days!
This afternoon the movie "Meet Me In St. Louis" played at the hangar deck "Bijou Theater" since they had a special program arrangement for the evening. The latter was staged by one of the hospital ships - the cast did not include any nurses much to the disappointment of all present.
Today bought another recreation party for the aircrewmen which was much like others we've had on Mog Mog, "the garden spot of the West Pacific". As usual, there wasn't nearly enough beer. The guys who can get "feeling good" on three cans are much to be envied. The main difference in this recreation party was the fact that sailors were in the minority on the beach. This was due to the presence of the amphibious force of Marines. Those Marines were a rough, rugged, well-tanned bunch of guys who made most of us look pale and anemic by comparison. It was amazing and pitiful to see how they stood around and watched us eat the cold cuts and cheese sandwiches we had brought from the ship. They acted half starved and many of them offered to buy sandwiches for a dollar apiece. We gave them a share of our supply and they surely made quick work of it.
Coming back, of course there was the usual mixup and rain; everyone got drenched. Finally, however, we got back to the ship.
This evening the show was "Tall in the Saddle" starring John Wayne - a humdinger. About half way through the show, general quarters was sounded and everyone made a rush for his battle station which in the case of the air group is a spot about one inch below a tin helmet. There was a bogie reported at thirty miles, closing. Just after condition Able was set, with the ship buttoned up, the bogie was identified as friendly. Some poor joker undoubtedly caught hell for coming in with his recognition gear off. The movie was quickly resumed.
In following out their policy of understatement of damage, the Japs once claimed that a certain American air raid was successful only in killing one cow. A small American newspaper commented, "True perhaps, but that Jap cow burned for four days!!"
The Sea Bees have come aboard and are hard at work repairing our battle damage. They seem to be getting along very well but there is plenty to be done.
The Marine amphibious force is beginning to leave - some go every day and there aren't many left now.
Those of us who have to stand air department security watches in port (non-flying squadron personnel and radar officers) find them extremely boring but it gives us a chance to "bat the breeze" with the sailors in hangar control. This seems to be a sort of clearing house for all the best scuttlebutt on the ship. Everyone who draws the watch has a little to add and takes away plenty more. All this hot dope is, of course, very "authentic". No one pays any attention to the fact that much of it is conflicting and contradictory. One of the best versions concerning our future is that we aren't going out again at all - we're just getting repairs and taking on supplies and ammunition and fuel so we can stand by in Ulithi, as a relief for any carrier severely damaged in the Okinawa operation. Only genius could conceive and circulate some of the juicy morsels that make the rounds.
The torpedo squadron enlisted men's basketball team won their second game in the intra-ship tournament today from S-1 division by a score of 47 to 9 - quite a rout. They've got a pretty good little outfit - Kitchen [James B. Kitchen ARM 1/c], the diminutive little sparkplug, Lindsey [Joseph D. Lindsey AMM 1/c] , McHale [Daniel J. McHale AOM 2/c], Smith [Marvin E. or Peter G.] and several others lend their skill for the glory of good old VT(N)90.
The past several days in port have been of little interest. Wednesday, a repair ship, the Jason, came alongside to do some of the heavier metal work. Work goes on night and day and at the same time we're taking on supplies, fuel and ammunition. It has rained a good deal but work continues under tarpaulins.
Wednesday night the show was "To Have and Have Not" with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, a slinky, sultry babe that set the sailors to whistling and for good reason. Frisco is really going to know it when this crew hits town!
A typhoon was reported in the vicinity on Thursday and precautions were taken to meet it. Planes were brought down to the hangar deck, the Jason cast off, and we prepared in general to get underway, if necessary, with everything doubly secured and battened down. The storm went around us, however, and all we felt of it were high winds and heavy rains. The weather delayed the work somewhat but they still expect to meet the sailing date set for 5 April - all repairs are to be completed and tested by the fourth.
The mail we've gotten from the States this time has brought Jim Moore, Bob Hadley, and Tommy "Goon" Watts [Thomas T. Watts ACRM] several newspaper clippings and report of radio broadcasts telling of their cruise in the life raft. Each report has a different story and not a single one apparently got the right one. We are led to wonder if the newspaper men always got the details of their stories as fouled up as in this case!
Thursday night the Enterprise played host to men and officers of the Randolph in a boxing tournament. A program of concert music preceded the matches. Lt.(jg) Jerry Flynn was Master of Ceremonies with his usual wisecracks aimed at the Admiral ("There's more than one way to get a transfer to stateside duty," says he). The fights were pretty good in general - honors were equally shared, with each ship taking three bouts. Most amusing diversion of the evening was Commander Jack Blitch who acted as referee - he worked harder than any of the contestants - shirt wringing wet and completely exhausted by the time things were over.
A Chief in the ready room said that he had definite proof at long last that the cruise is about over. He says that he saw Chief Chillaci, Commander Martin's yeoman, dusting off his suitcase the other day. Said the Chief, "When the group commander's yeoman gets this suitcase out ready to be packed, that's good enough for me!"
By Friday the repair gangs were getting well along on their job of getting the Big E back in battle trim. The forward elevator where the bomb struck is nearly fixed and the metal work on the island is coming along. They have four good sized motor generators set up in a row on the flight deck to generate power for the arc welding machines. They're installing thousands of feet of new shielded cable - quite a job!
In addition to the regular movie "Hollywood Canteen" on Saturday, an officer from a nearby ship came over and put on a short show of magic. His tricks were pretty good but his line of chatter was the best - he really had his audience with him all the way. The movie had been given a 4.0 rating but the general consensus was that it "stank". They must base their ratings on the number of women in the picture - Well!!!