Franklin Thomas Goodson, From Ensign to Lieutenant Sr. Grade, January 1945 – September 1955
Franklin Thomas Goodson, From Ensign to Lieutenant Sr. Grade, January 1945 – September 1955
To my Dad,
Thank you for your service
To our country and for
Your example of a
Life lived pleasing to God,
Kathryn Goodson Cunningham
Journal written by Frank T. Goodson
During his service in World War II
Pictures and organized by
Kathryn Goodson Cunningham
U.S. NAVY TOUR OF DUTY
PACIFIC ACTION WORLD WAR II
JANUARY THROUGH JUNE, 1945
January 1: Today, New Year’s Day, we set sail for Pearl Harbor on the aircraft carrier USS Bennington. It was 1100 hours when we looked at the coastline of the United States in the distance with a bit of nostalgia, not knowing when we would return.
January 7: Today is Sunday and off in the distance lies the Territory of Hawaii with its 4,000 foot peaks towering above the ocean waves. It was good to see land once more.
This past week was uneventful and dull. Now out there lies our future. What is in store for us, we do not know. Divine services were held on the hangar deck, and I went to church for the first time in several weeks because of so much traveling from base to base.
The climate is very nice…perhaps a little too warm, yet I’m happy because it has taken me 27 months of hard training to reach these shores. I am now stationed at Barber’s Point.
I set foot on Hawaiian soil today. It is so beautiful. There is no comparison to anything that I have seen in the past. The harbor is filled with ships of all kinds. I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of strength that the Navy has. I saw the Battleships South Dakota, Nevada, and Iowa along with the Independence and Saratoga carriers for the first time.
January 12: Ensign McGarry was lost tonight. He was on a strafing flight and pulled out too close to the water and crashed. He has not been found.
January 25: Tonight Ensign Davidson and I navigated 220 miles at sea and intercepted the carrier USS Bataan, worked with them for two hours running sequence vectors (different compass headings) and then returned to our base at Barbers Point in Oahu and landed after a four hour flight.
This flight gave me a great deal of confidence, knowing now that I can navigate at sea, make contact with my target, and return to base at night. We had a good night. At one time, I caught the moon just right and actually saw the carrier at 8 o’clock from me at 20 miles.
February 1: Today, I received a rumor that my former roommate Ensign Charles W. “Gibby” Gibson was killed in action off of the island of Luzon in the Philippines, during a strike on Clarke Field. Gibby and I graduated together and received our wings at Corpus Christi, Texas, and became roommates during both Operation and Night Flying Squadron training in Florida as well as bases in Rhode Island. If the rumor is true, we will all miss him. He was a great friend.
February 6: I read an official communiqué on Ensign Charles W. “Gibby” Gibson today. After a night intruder mission on Clarke Field, Luzon, P.I., he radioed his Fighter Director Officer, Lieutenant Ray Weathers, stating that he and his wingman had a mid-air collision and his right wing was on fire.
The FDO gave them a vector (a compass heading) to the North to avoid taking them over another Task Force. They made the turn to the North, and then another vector was given to the East. In making the turn to the East, Gibson had a wing collision with Ensign Sowell, his wingman, and the FDO heard from them no more. The area was searched that night and the next day, but no trace of them was found. The verdict………. “Missing at sea.”
It is awfully dark tonight and raining. I have a Field Carrier Landing Procedure flight to do!!!!!
February 12: We flew out to the USS Bataan today, 25 miles at sea. I landed four times and then landed at Naska, Maui, then returned to the base after refueling.
We heard today that there will be a strike on Tokyo Harbor on the 15th of this month. We will see!!!!
February 14: We flew out to the USS Bataan, landed aboard four times and were shot off by their catapult each time. After eating aboard, we were again shot off by their catapult for the purpose of night landings. I made four passes and four landings and then was catapulted off for my return flight to Barbers Point, 120 miles away on Oahu.
February 15: The prediction was correct. Tokyo Bay was attacked today by carrier base planes. Another BIG strike is supposed to come off in March.
February 18: Today I went out to the USS Fanshaw Bay and landed aboard once. As I came around for my second landing, I received a cut and my hook hit the yielding element on the number one cable, then my hook bounced. I then bounced and caught the number six cable, bounced again and lost the cable.
I bounced once more and hit the barrier with my propeller, cutting it in two. This tripped the other barriers forward leaving my plane with not enough deck to stop and nothing in front of me to stop my plane from going over the side….so I pushed the throttle forward all it would go and tried to take off again. My Hellcat, they tell me, disappeared over the bow of the carrier, and then gradually got airborne. The plane was vibrating badly from the damage of the barrier. I requested an emergency landing by radio, jettisoned my bellytank, and made a straight-in approach to the carrier and landed okay. The propeller was damaged badly with a big hole in one of the blades. The engine mounts were jerked loose, and only one nut and bolt was holding the engine in place.
The landing signal officer praised me for the head work in bringing the plane back, and even the Captain of the ship sent word down that the job was well done.
I had to stay aboard all night and left the next morning on the TBM back to Barbers Point after receiving photographic evidence of my landing.
March 5: Today I landed twice aboard the USS Tripoli. Nothing unusual occurred.
March 6: I heard today that between the 1st and 15th of April there will be an invasion of Japan proper. (This turned out to be erroneous.) We also received word that we are leaving for the “forward area” tomorrow.
March 10/13: Ensign Perkins, Ensign West, and I left Hickam Field today and flew to Johnston Island, then to Kwajalein, then to Saipan. We spent the night on Saipan, and then landed on Tinian, then on to Guam where we spent a second night. The weather was very poor.
March 13: We received our orders to report directly to the USS Enterprise. After flying from Guam to Ulithi, we boarded a barge and motored to the Enterprise. We at last joined the fleet….and a great task force of ships it is.
We went aboard and were given quarters. One of the first gentlemen I met was my old buddy, Ensign Kryshak. We also found VF (N) 90 aboard. This turned out to be the same squadron that my friend Ensign Gibson was with. But the strange part of all this was that I was assigned to the same quarters that he had and his name was still on his locker.
Here I found myself replacing my former roommate who was now missing in action.
March 14: Today the fleet set sail, but I did not know where we were going because they had not yet told us. We flew a two hour training flight from the Enterprise. One of the VT Pilots and two crewmen were lost. I was told that as the pilot of the TBM pulled out of a dive his tail came off and he crashed into the sea. No trace was found.
March 15: We were briefed today on attacks. We are to attack the southern-most island of Japan on the eighteenth (18th). We start Combat Air Patrol tomorrow over Kyushu. At 1430, practice exercises were held between Ulithi and Kyushu. Taking part in these exercises was Lieutenant Nielsen, Lieutenant (JG) Jones, Lieutenant (JG) Horne, Ensign Goodson, Lieutenant (JG) Lockwood, Lieutenant (JG) Latrobe, Ensign Perkins, and Ensign West.
March 18: I was catapulted at 0530 and rendezvoused on my leader, Lieutenant Rodgers. Japs were everywhere dropping flares trying to locate the fleet. We shot down two planes during the night. Lieutenant Rodgers and I were vectored on a Betty, which is a twin engine Japanese plane with a tail gunner.
It had our IFF (identification friend or foe) signal on and was reported to be a friendly aircraft. Therefore, it went through the fleet and strafed the flight deck of the USS Enterprise and made a hit with a bomb that it dropped. The bomb did not explode but the strafing killed two men and injured several others.
We were vectored on another plane, a single engine Zero. We got on its tail but couldn’t catch up to it. It came so close to the fleet heading straight in that we had to pull away from the anti-aircraft batteries.
One of our own pilots from another carrier was shot down by our flak. Another had engine trouble and landed in the water. Both pilots were rescued.
We were vectored on a third bogey (an unidentified aircraft) which turned out to be three Hellcats.
After the deck was fixed, we landed aboard at 0940. All together we shot down five planes and lost two planes. No pilots were lost. In addition, the ship’s gunners shot down two planes that almost got too close. I saw one crash into the water and another streaming down in flames, then crash.
Lieutenant (JG) Wattenburger shot down a Helen.
Lieutenant (JG) Williams shot down an unidentified Japanese plane.
Lieutenant (JG) Purcell shot down a Tabby.
Ensign Earl shot down a Frances.
Lieutenant (JG) Squires strafed a Japanese boat, spotted a Jake and shot it down.
Lieutenant (JG) Cole was shot down by our own friendly fire and was rescued by a destroyer.
March 19: I was catapulted at 0500 with Lieutenant Rodgers and others on a combat mission to the southern most islands of Japan. It turned out to be my longest flight. After our mission in strafing the airfield at Chichi Jima, we returned to the fleet only to find it to be under attack. We had to wait until the raid was over to land. I finally landed with about 15 minutes of fuel left at 1040.
The USS Franklin was hit with a bomb from an enemy aircraft while loading 100 pound bombs themselves. This set off a series of explosions that lasted most of the day. There were some 30-50 explosions. The report was that there were some 1200 casualties. The Enterprise was also hit during the raid and we are to accompany the Franklin back to a safe port for repairs.
During the night, we shot down two planes. Ensign Perkins was credited with a probable, being ordered back to the ship after setting a Betty on fire as it headed for Japan.
March 20: Everything was quiet most of the day. A few bogeys were spotted but did not come in. Most of our planes were on the flight deck at 1630 when all hell broke loose. Several enemy planes came in strafing and dropping bombs. It set fires all over the flight deck destroying around ten planes. Everyone was plenty excited. Smoke was everywhere. Some seven men burned to death. Several others were killed by bomb explosions and shrapnel. Many of our planes were blown to bits, exploded and set off ammunition in the planes. Several of us were laying flat on the deck in the ready room. The enemy got away.
A second attack was warded off and one Hellcat was shot down by our own firepower as it chased a Japanese Zeke through the fleet. One destroyer was hit killing several men.
The fire aboard the Enterprise was put out and the deck is now being repaired. Flying has been secured and an account of our planes is being made. Nearly all of our planes were put out of commission. The island was hit by a bomb destroying the forward superstructure.
One pilot was hit by shrapnel but was not seriously injured. The planes damaged beyond repair are being thrown over the side, and the dead and injured are being carried to sickbay.
Tonight we had snoopers of Japanese planes dropping flares but they did not succeed in finding our position. During the night, we were told that fifteen torpedo runs were made on the Enterprise by enemy submarine.
March 21: Three Japanese snoopers were shot down within fifty miles of the ship. One plane, a twin engine Betty got through and dropped a bomb which fell short of the Enterprise. It was shot down by our anti-aircraft batteries and crashed and burned in the water before sinking.
March 23: I was catapulted at 0545 for a combat air patrol flight over the Enterprise. It was routine. We intercepted a PB4Y at 7000 feet, made a high side run on it from 8500 feet. They fired one short burst at my leader and me before recognizing us as friendly. We landed at 1030 after the barriers were fixed that Ensign West crashed into. He was uninjured.
March 26: We spent the week at Falalop Island in Ulithi Lagoon. I flew one three hour combat air patrol and one test flight of one and one-half hours. We intercepted three bogeys…all friendly.
April 5: We took off from Falalop at 1030 and landed aboard the Enterprise at 1200 noon. We were catapulted off at 1930 and had a night attack training exercise. Two night fighters flew wing on two TBF’s seventy miles from the Big “E” and made a run on the base. We spotted one bogey, but were unable to catch it. We came back to the ship and landed at 2250 hour. It was a pretty dark night, but all planes made it back okay.
We are off to the war zone again. This time it is Okinawa.
April 7: Lieutenant Runion shot down one Frances, a Japanese bomber, just 34 miles from the Enterprise. He hit the Frances’ starboard engine with one out of his six guns, as the others were not working. The Frances was at 1500 feet, crashed and exploded. Lieutenant (JG) Milton assisted him.
April 8: I was catapulted at 0500 with twenty-four other planes on a Target Day Combat Air Patrol over Taku Shima just north of Okinawa. We were over the target at 0615. No enemy planes were in the air. One air base was on the island with single runway running north and south.
The torpedo bombers made seven direct hits with their bombs on the runway. The weather was bad and after taking several good looks at the island and seeing nothing but three planes on the field, several houses but not live targets, we departed at 0710 and landed aboard the Enterprise seventy-five miles away at 0845.
April 9: Lieutenant (JG) Squires shot down one Val tonight. Some of our pilots came back from the other carriers. Lieutenant Smith shot down two planes, and Lieutenant (JG) Piscopo shot down one plane also while away.
April 10: I was catapulted at 0300 this morning, navigated to Okinawa and circled waiting for enemy planes. I was alone at 8000 feet above the island. I could see the blast of the guns on the front lines below. It lit up the heavens like lightening. I was fired at four times by anti-aircraft batteries below but the enemy had no success in finding my range.
The weather was again bad, and instrument flying prevailed. After having no success with any enemy planes in my area, I navigated back to the Enterprise and landed aboard at 0720.
April 11: Today was another red letter day. We were calmly watching a movie in the ready room when reports came that two groups of enemy planes were heading for our Task Force. The movie was shut off and pilots began manning planes. It was 1400 hour. Before pilots were catapulted, the fireworks began.
One kamikaze dove for the Enterprise amidst the spray of anti-aircraft fire power. We swerved and he missed diving into us and crashed into the water so close to the stern that it blew a hole in the ship bursting an oil blister. We trailed oil; nothing serious has developed. Two men were blown overboard, but I believe they were picked up by our destroyers. Pieces of the Japanese plane fell on the flight deck.
At 1430 another Japanese Zeke kamikaze made a dive at our deck. He hit the plane on the starboard catapult setting it on fire and shearing off his own wing. The rest of the planes went over the side and into the water and sank. We have his wing on board with its bright red painted “meat ball” flag insignia for all to see.
One plane came in high and was hit twice. It burst into flames and came streaking down crashing and scattering parts of the plane everywhere. Eleven crew members were injured, two very seriously.
Intercepting a Japanese communiqué, our intelligence officer reports an all out attack against us today and tomorrow. Tonight they were out dropping flares again, hunting for us. Having no success, they reported that “they could not find the enemy” and told the air group that was supposed to relieve them to “go home.”
We have night fighters over Chichi Jima Island now heckling the Japanese forces where the strike originated.
The report is that the Day fighters from other carriers shot down approximately forty planes today.
One of our destroyers was hit by a kamikaze and was set dead in the water.
At 2320, one of our Torpedo Pilots crashed aboard setting our ship on fire. Two bogeys were in the area, but the fire was put out before they could close in.
April 12: Lieutenant Runion shot down a Tony over the target tonight.
Lieutenant (JG) Gallant shot down a Peggy.
Ensign Perkins shot down a Jack.
Lieutenant Smith shot down a Betty.
Lieutenant Wood shot down a Peggy.
Lieutenant Cummings, VT Pilot, shot down a Mavis.
April 13: Ensign Hunzekeir was lost at 0420 this morning chasing a Betty close to the water. It is believed he crashed as he was too close to the water.
We received word that President Roosevelt died today.
VF (N) 90 was split up today. Two night fighters were sent to seven different carriers in the fleet. Ensign Kryshack and I were sent to the USS Yorktown. We were told that the rest of the squadron was heading home to the US for extensive repairs.
We left at 1100 hours this morning with all of our gear aboard a TBM. We were catapulted and landed aboard the USS Intrepid at 1200. We ate lunch and were catapulted at 1630 and landed aboard the Yorktown at 1730. We are now in VF(N) 9 Squadron. There are only eight night fighters aboard this carrier and only six night equipped Hellcats.
Lieutenant Orr was lost tonight at 2315 chasing a bogey close to the water. It is believed he crashed into the enemy plane as both planes went down. He was aboard the Intrepid but trained with us in Squadron 108 at Charlestown, Rhode Island.
April 14: The Day Fighters shot down three planes today.
Tonight the Japs were out dropping flares in order to see the fleet but with no success. However, they sank one destroyer and damaged two more before dark tonight.
April 16: We have been under attack all day. The Day fighters in VF-9 Squadron aboard the Yorktown shot down twenty-six planes. The Intrepid was hit by a kamikaze real bad and is on its way back to a safe port. One destroyer was set dead in the water by enemy planes.
Tonight I was catapulted with three other Night Fighters at 1730 hour. Two of us were vectored on a bogey and chased him for about 30 minutes in full RPM’s and full throttle. Our anti-aircraft batteries opened fire on him and we were vectored away. He was shot down by the anti-aircraft fire power.
Later I was vectored on a bogey and believe I saw his tail light as I merged within his same area, but lost sight of him as he did evasive maneuvers. I chased a third bogey for thirty minutes with full throttle and closed within one mile, but he dove and made a 180 degree turn into the fleet. He was shot at but got away.
Lieutenant (JG) Kryshak shot down one Frances and Lieutenant Knopf shot down two with a third as a probable.
My landing at 2220 was pretty hard and I blew out a tire. It was a safe landing, but taxiing the plane to the forward elevator was very difficult.
April 17: The Day Fighters shot down seventeen planes today over Okinawa. The high score was six for one pilot. We had eleven raids today. Nothing for the Night Fighters tonight however, as the surviving bogeys flew back to their home bases in Japan.
April 18: I was catapulted at 1100 hour for a Combat Air Patrol over the fleet. It was a routine flight and I landed at 1600 aboard the Yorktown. The weather was very bad and visibility was poor.
April 22: I was catapulted at 0300, orbited twenty-five miles north of the formation. No bogeys came in and I landed aboard the USS Yorktown at 1710.
April 24: Since March 14, carrier based planes have shot down over five hundred enemy aircraft. Fierce ground fighting is going on in Okinawa by Marine and other ground forces.
April 26: I was catapulted from the Yorktown at 1730 and landed aboard the USS Shangri La at 1800 hour, ate supper, and was catapulted at 2100 hour and orbited over the task force for a Night Combat Air Patrol.
Lieutenant Knopf was credited with a balloon which he must have dislodged from the air with his slip-stream at 15,000 feet. It sank to the water. I saw no action. There were no bogeys in our area and at 2330 hour we landed back aboard the USS Yorktown.
April 29: One of the Night Fighters aboard the USS Shangri La shot down a Japanese Betty at 0245 this morning.
April 30: The Day Fighters shot down nine planes today. One of our destroyers was hit by a kamikaze. Another of our destroyers was hit by a torpedo. The Yorktown’s gunners were credited with shooting down one plane by anti-aircraft fire power on the port beam.
At 0130 Ensign Orth shot down one Betty and one Irvin and left another Irvin burning. I was catapulted at 0232 and orbited for four hours. All the bogeys went home and I landed aboard the Yorktown at 0630 hour.
The USS Shangri La lost three pilots and their planes flying over Kakia, a little island just north of Okinawa by anti-aircraft fire today. We were warned against flying too close to this island.
May 1: One of the Day fighters was shot down by anti-aircraft fire flying too close to the island of Kakia today. He was rescued by a Navy Jumbo sea plane.
May 4: Ensign Patton crashed aboard the USS Shangri La tonight, wheels up and a full belly tank of fuel. There was a huge fire on the flight deck which was put out quickly. There were no casualties.
Lieutenant Knopf shot down an Emily twenty miles from the task force. It burned and crashed immediately in the water from five thousand feet. This is Lieutenant Knopf’s fourth kill with one probable and one balloon to his credit.
Tonight I was scheduled to fly a Night Combat Air Patrol flight, but while sitting on the catapult, my radar just would not function properly. My plane was removed from the catapult and my alternate, backup, Ensign John Orth was moved in to the vacated position.
On Ensign Orth’s flight, he came in contact with three Bettys and a Jake. He was able to shoot the three Bettys down and the Jake got away. The Admiral of the fleet and the Commanding Officers of several ships sent their congratulations to him. He eventually received the Navy Cross for his accomplishments. All that I got was a good night sleep.
Today the Day Fighters shot down thirty-two planes around Kakia. Two planes came back shot up pretty badly, but all pilots made it back safely.
I catapulted at 1630, rendezvoused with four VF (N) Night Fighters and navigated to Kakia some ninety-three miles away. We flew over the target until 1910. While over the target an F4U made a high-side run on us before recognizing us as friendly. We were fired on by enemy anti-aircraft over the target, but they did not have our range. Coming back to the Yorktown, my engine cut out on me three times, but worked well enough to get me back on board.
Lieutenant (JG) Helmick crashed into the barriers and the rest of us circled in the dark until the barriers were repaired and landed aboard at 2030 hours. He was uninjured. Air Group Nine seems to be making a name for itself. One of the pilots has already shot down twenty-four planes and several of the other pilots are aces.
In the past few weeks, five planes have been shot down by enemy anti-aircraft over Kakia. There were three from the Shangri La, one from the USS Bunker Hill, and one from our ship, the USS Yorktown. Only two pilots have been rescued.
May 6: I was catapulted at 0200 and orbited thirty miles east of the Task Force. I could see firing on Okinawa. They were under heavy attack, but no enemy planes came into our area, and we landed at 0610 hour.
Two Day Fighters crashed aboard today. The flight deck is getting in bad shape – catching the hooks and breaking them in two. One of the crashes caused the pilot and plane to go over the side, but the pilot got out okay.
May 8: I was catapulted at 0300. It was raining and the weather was plenty bad. I orbited at seventy-five hundred feet for four hours on instruments. When it got light enough to see, the rain was so hard you could hardly see ten feet. There was no bogey so we landed aboard at 0630. I had another flat tire when I landed.
May 11: The Day Fighters shot down twenty planes today over Okinawa. Two planes from the Yorktown were lost. We have been under attack most of the day.
Lieutenant (JG) Kryshak and I received orders to report back to the USS Enterprise today. We boarded a DD Dermany Destroyer and were taken to the Enterprise. We were transferred by buoys and cable over the rough seas.
After getting aboard, we found Squadron VF (N) 90 still aboard and getting ready to leave for the United States on June 1, 1945. We also learned that Ensign Tucker was killed when shot off the catapult and crashed into the sea and burned. Also, Lieutenant Wood was killed by anti-aircraft fire over Kakia.
The USS Bunker Hill was hit today and is hurt pretty badly. It was said that one third of the personnel aboard was on the casualty list and eighty percent of the squadron were injured or killed. My friends Ensign West and Ensign Perkins are aboard.
Today on board the Yorktown, while the wings of the TBM were being folded, the guns went off killing one officer and injuring nineteen other men.
May 12: An enlisted man was killed this morning by a TBM which landed and ran over him.
May 13: Ensign Kryshak and I were catapulted at 0200 and were vectored on a bogey after a narrow escape from the catapult which almost put me in the drink. We separated and I chased a bogey for forty minutes, finally making contact at 12 o’clock and two and a half miles. A few seconds later he disappeared and no more trace was found of it.
I was vectored on a second bogey and was called off because of heavy anti-aircraft fire from the fleet. I was vectored on a third bogey and made contact at one mile and closing fast. I chopped off my throttle and apparently passed either under or above him. No further contact was made. I was vectored on a fourth bogey and chased him for thirty minutes before losing contact. Then I was vectored on a fifth bogey and made contact at two and a half miles. The Fighter Director Officer gave me permission to open fire when ready. There were three planes in the group and no IFF signal coming from them. I almost pressed the trigger, when I noticed that they had belly tanks underneath the fuselage. Upon closer examination, they turned out to be three F6F Hellcats from another carrier. I pulled away and headed back for the “Big E” and landed aboard at 0600 hours.
Lieutenant Smith shot down 1 Tony.
Lieutenant (JG) Latrobe shot down 2 Petes.
Lieutenant (JG) Kenyon shot down one Pete.
Lieutenant Henderson from VT (N) 90 shot down one plane and received a probable on a
All of these Japanese planes were shot down over the target at Kyushu’s airfields. While there the VT (N)’s dropped bombs and incendiaries.
Two planes were splashed by the USS Essex Night Fighters as well as one Myrt by the Day Fighters some forty-five miles from the fleet.
May 14: Ensign Kryshak and I were catapulted at 0130. Japs were all over the screen dropping flares. At 0400 I was vectored on a bogey. He was doing heavy evasive action. I chased him for forty minutes to within one and a half miles but made no contact on my radar. The Fighter Director Officer advised me that I had merged with the enemy plane on the ships radar screen.
I chopped off my throttle, while looking up to see if I could identify the plane which I presumed was above me and felt an in-rush of air on my head. I felt back about a foot from my head on the port side and found a large hole in my canopy. When I reported this to the FDO he immediately called me back to the ship and I landed at 0600.
Upon landing, I asked the FDO why he had called me back to the ship. He told me that they had intercepted a message from the twin engine Betty that I was tracking that stated they had a Night Fighter on their tail and were opening fire. He also stated that within one minute I radioed in that I did not know whether I had been hit or not, but I had a hole in my canopy. He immediately called me back.
Lieutenant (JG) Oden shot down a Betty and Lieutenant (JG) Latrobe shot down a Pete.
At 0700 attacks were made by Japanese planes and caused a delay in the landing of fifteen of our planes which were returning from a Target Combat Air Patrol over Khyusu and Shikoku.
At 0730, a Kamikaze in a Zeke with a 550 pound bomb made a pass over the stern of the Enterprise at 4000 feet weaving in and out of the cloud cover that was there. The ship’s gunners shot at him and finally he started his dive toward the Enterprise. I was watching him from the cat-walk and was so spellbound that I could not take my eyes off of him. As he neared the ship, we swerved to the port side as he did a “Split S” at 200 feet firing his guns as he crashed into the flight deck of the Enterprise just aft of the forward elevator.
There was a short delay after he crashed aboard, then a tremendous explosion and heavy concussion was felt. Then fire broke out in that vicinity. I simultaneously dove for cover inside the ready room and never felt the concussion. One gun mount was wiped out right near where I had been standing. On one side of me a gunner was blown over the side of the ship and on the other side of me the Skipper was knocked unconscious and lay on the deck for a few moments, but recovered okay.
I later discovered that thirteen (13) officers were killed from shrapnel from the bomb when it exploded near their sleeping quarters and seventy (70) men were injured, eight (8) men were blown over the side, but all were recovered. Twenty-three planes were greatly damaged or destroyed either by concussion or from the fire and the bomb.
Lieutenant (JG) Franklin, my roommate, was asleep in our bunkroom at the time of the Kamikaze crash and bomb explosion. He was uninjured except for a cut on his knee. But walls of our room were all crushed in and water was all over the deck several inches thick. But the thirteen officers killed and seventy other crew members injured were not as lucky.
When the fire was put out, we could see the parts of the Japanese plane at the bottom of the elevator floor as the elevator itself had been blown 400 feet in the air and landed nearby in the ocean burning all the way.
This, of course, put our elevator out of commission and left a gaping and jagged hole on the flight deck. The flight deck was now warped and had burned out sections. The catapults were put out of order. We could neither launch nor land planes. Therefore, the crippled Enterprise was forced to begin its long journey home, but not until we picked up several pilots that had been loaned to other carriers in the fleet.
We later learned that the Japanese pilot’s name was Tomi Zai who was a Lt. in charge of 50 Kamikazes that day. Their purpose was to sink as many ships as they could or die trying. None of them returned to Japan.
All toll Night Air Group 90 shot down 40 planes, but not without the loss of eleven good pilot including my former roommate Charles “Gibby” Gibson from Philadelphia, Pa.
Those pilots that died on this tour of duty were:
Ensign Richard Blake killed at Barber’s Point on August 2, 1944
Ensign John Lungerhausen killed at Barber’s Point on November 10, 1944
Ensign Charles William Gibson missing at sea on January 7, 1945
Ensign John Gary Sowell missing at sea on January 7, 1945
Lt. (jg) Robert Franklin Wright, missing in action in the Hong Kong area on
January 16, 1945
Ensign Edwin Garner Nash, missing at sea on January 16, 1945
Ensign William LeRoy Sadler killed at sea on February 10, 1945
Ensign Fred Allen Hunzinker missing in action in the Okinawa area, May 2, 1945
Lt. James J. Wood, missing in Action in the Okinawa area May 9, 1945
Ensign Tucker, killed when shot off the catapult and crashed into the sea and burned,
May 11, 1945
They died that others might live. Our hats are off to each one of them because they made the supreme sacrifice.
May 19: We reached Ulithi, taking back the pilots that had been on loan to other carriers.
May 23: We left Ulithi for Pearl Harbor.
June 11: We arrived at Seattle, Washington.
June 14: We left for a thirty day leave before reporting for further training at Jacksonville, Florida’s Naval Air Station in order to be prepared for a second tour of duty.
According to my log book, I now have fifty-eight carrier landings, seventeen of which were made at night, and twenty-four catapult shots.
I also had the privilege of landing on nine different carriers both in training and in combat. Those nine aircraft carriers were the UUS Wake Island, USS Kasa Bay, USS Bataan, USS Fanshaw Bay, USS Tripoli, USS Enterprise, USS Yorktown, USS Langley, and the USS Shangri La.
On July 8, 1945: Sarah Ellen Beall and I were married.
July 19: I reported for duty at the Naval Air Station at Jacksonville, Florida, for further training before going back overseas for a second tour of duty.
October, 1945: The war ended.
October 8, 1945: I received my Certificate of Service from the US Naval Reserve and placed on inactive duty.
Ten years later
September 15, 1955: I received my Honorable Discharge from the US Naval Reserve as a Lieutenant Senior Grade.
Back Area – Safe zone
Balloon – Helium “balloon” with a weight and cable hanging from the bottom. They are placed in enemy airspace so that a plane will fly into the cable causing extensive damage
Belly tank – 60 gallon auxiliary fuel tank under the belly of the airplane
Betty – twin engine Japanese plane with a pilot, navigator, and a tail gunner
Bogey – unidentified aircraft
Emily – Japanese four-engine plane which primarily lands on water
Flak – Shrapnel-filled ammunition fired into airspace from anti-aircraft guns
Forward Area – Combat zone
Frances – Japanese bomber
IFF – Identification friend or foe
Jettison – Act of discarding or casting off the belly tank in order to land an aircraft safely
Names of Japanese single engine fighter planes or reconnaissance planes:
P4Y – United StBates four-engine plane which primarily lands on water.
Receive a cut – Landing signal to cut the throttle (stall out the engine) so that the pilot can land
Sequence vectors – different compass headings
Strafing – Synchronization of the Hellcat’s six 50-calibur machine guns as the pilot descends to fire on a runway or planes, etc.
Vector – compass heading