Guam. The new Wasp carried more than 72 air
craft, including fighters, bombers, and torpedo
planes. When our squadron came aboard, we
were replacing Air Group 14, which held its own
in June 1944 as it joined the navy air armada in
searching out and destroying the Japanese navy
near the Marianas. From there, it continued on
with the incredibly fierce fighting around the
Philippines, Formosa, and Okinawa. When we
arrived, we knew there were still a lot of tough
battles ahead of us.
We barely had time to get acclimated to the
ship before we began flying combat missions.
My first one occurred on November 11 on
a combat air patrol over Manila Bay. I was
assigned to the skipper’s flight as the number
four man, so our flight was always the first off
the deck and out front of the rest of the pack
of Hellcats. During one of those early missions,
an attack of Cabanatuan and Tarlac airfields
on central Luzon, there were 11 of us orbiting,
looking for trouble, and it didn’t take long to
find it. As if on a leisurely crosscountry trip,
the skipper spotted a lone Tony fighter, an
inline singleengine airplane, cruising along at
3,000 feet below us.
It sure was a sight to see as 11 Hellcats pushed
their noses over and jammed the throttles
forward to see who could get this guy first.
By the time I got close, that Tony’s right wing