Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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Before leaving the States first
cruise, on
takanis bay
aug. ’44
everyone in the airgroup had to make some more carrier landings, an escort carrier, the Kaiser-built U.S.S. Takanis Bay (CVE no. 89) being made available for that purpose. Accordingly, we all packed aboard with a number of planes and headed out on what for many of us was our first salt-water cruise, a three-day affair. Those who had been out before had to make only one or two landings, as I remember. We who had once qualified on the Wolverine or Sable, out of Glenview, had to make four, and those few who had never qualified at all had to make eight. The weather was fairly rough and made the little ship pitch so much that landings were tricky, and several of the boys missed wires and bounced into the barrier* or part way into the catwalk.

For me the cruise was interesting ornithologically. albatrosses Black-footed Albatrosses followed the ship most of the time. Though not large compared with the famous Wandering Albatrosses, the ship followers of southern oceans, and mostly brown instead of mostly white, they were the first I had ever seen and were fascinating to watch as they glided in irregular zig-zags behind the ship just above the waves and occasionally landing and swimming about to fish for garbage. Two kinds of shearwaters*, one all dark, the other light below, as well as the pearly-gray Fork-Tailed Petrel, were also seen. Of the auk family the California Murre and Tufted Puffin were the only ones positively identified. The puffin, with its huge orange-red beak, black body, white face and yellow tassel behind the eye, was a veritable clown in appearance.

Besides the Takanis Bay we also went on ranger (cv-4) the Ranger for a couple of days shortly before we left, almost everyone getting two practice attacks and two landings on the old ship. As before various birds were seen but no new species.

We off to Hawaii 11/3/44
11/10/44 Hawaii
left the States and our planes (ours no longer) on the Hollandia (CVE–97), a Bogue-class* escort carrier, catching her at San Diego, and after an uneventful trip of six days arrived at Pearl Harbor. As we had expected, we found we were due to proceed to Hilo, Hawaii, over 200 miles to the southeast, immediately. For this trip those who didn’t fly in transports went on an overnight trip in a very comfortable seaplane tender, the U.S.S. Cumberland Sound.

We were a month at Hilo, and a very interesting and enjoyable month it was. There were plenty of planes in good condition, so we got in a good bit of flying even if we didn’t particularly need it. Our squadron was cut down to 23 pilots and 15 planes.

The scenery scenery (volcanoes) around Hawaii was something to behold from the air. Two massive volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, form the bulk of the island, the first still active and occasionally violently so, the second quite dormant, but both not far below 14,000 feet in height—the highest island mountains in the World with the exception of those in New Guinea, and from their ocean base, some 18,000 [feet] below the surface, the highest of all. Mauna Kea is slightly higher though a little less massive and regular in shape, the result of weathering over a longer period. Mauna Loa, with its not infrequent outpourings of lava, is more than holding its own against weathering, being, in effect, a huge smooth dome with no appreciable gullies cut by the streams, like its neighbor. Both mountains are said to accumulate considerable quantities of snow in some winters, though while we were there only Mauna Kea had any, and this was in traces. These mountains were each, of course, extremely interesting to fly over, Mauna Kea because of its snow, little cinder cones and a tiny pond near the top, Mauna Loa because of its two huge craters, Kilauea on a low shoulder (the main feature of the readily accessible portion of Hawaii National Park), and another on the very top of the mountain. An even larger crater, Haleakala (said to be the largest in the World), on the nearby island of Maui and itself also a part of the National Park, was interesting to fly over too.

* [actually Casablanca-class]


* Pink-footed and Sooty
* a wire high enough to catch a plane’s nose and incidentally ruin its propeller!