destroy Hellcats claimed 10 that day, with the
entire squadron bagging a total of 53. Although I
was now officially an ace, things would become a
lot hotter the very next day.
Shooting fish in a barrel
On the morning of October 25, our recon flights
had detected at least four Japanese carriers and
their escort ships steaming south off the northeast
coast of Luzon. Vice Admiral Mitscher was in command of our carrier task force with our task group
the Lexington, Essex, Princeton and the Langley.
The previous night he had ordered the throttles
opened as we closed the gap on the Japanese fleet.
By morning we were a little over 100 miles apart
when our bomb-laden Hellcats were launched.
Our 18 Hellcats, all sporting a 500-pound
bomb, launched from Lexington and joined in
a loose formation on a northerly course. There
were over 60 other strike aircraft from the other
carriers in the air with us as we made our way to
destroy what we could of the Japanese fleet. Our
flight was ordered to climb to 18,000 feet, and as
we got closer, we saw Japanese ships everywhere.
What I found amusing, however, was that only
three Japanese planes were spotted over their naval armada to guard their battle group below.
What the Japanese lacked in airpower, they
made up for it with deck guns as the sky opened
up with heavy flak. We spiraled down over cruis-
ers, battleships and Japanese carriers, includ-
ing the Zuikaku, which had participated in the
bombing of Pearl Harbor. Commander Winters
was more like a traffic cop in his Hellcat as he
directed our attacks from his lofty perch placing
us over the selected targets below. I saw bombs
falling, columns of water rising with near misses
and direct hits as ship after ship began to absorb
our wrath. When it was my turn to dive I pushed
the Hellcat’s nose over and filled my sight with
the Zuikaku. I released my bomb but never stuck
around to see where it hit as I leveled off just
above the enemy fleet.
The saying that "carrier landings
cause more stress than combat''
was probably true in this case
of F6F- 3 #10 of VF-2 that
suffered an engine failure during
its landing approach and crashed
into the stern of the USS
Charger CVE- 30 in Chesapeake
Bay during 1944. (Photo
courtesy of Jack Cook)