Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

prev next

Doug Yerxa my first strike
(on Japan  proper)
Hamamatsu, Honshu
led the second bombing strike, and those of us who didn’t go on the other went on this, the first in our task group at any rate, to hit the mainland. Actually, we didn’t get very near to Tokyo but aimed for Hamamatsu, well to the southwest, passing some of the rocky islands south of the entrance to Tokyo Bay, however. We passed fairly close to a DD. The weather was terrible until we got close to the mainland and then could begin to climb. I remember remarking to Ives something like, “Well, there’s Japan,” and a little later, “You can just make out Fujiyama Mt. Fuji over there to the right, sticking out of the clouds but, because of its snow, the same color as them.”

We had brief glimpses of the shore line and the narrow coastal plain of rice fields, etc., on the way in to the target, where we approached from inland in order to make a quick getaway. The torpedo bombers, with bombs, of course, instead of torpedoes, went in first on one set of hangars and had started a good series of fires there just as we pushed over on another set. These we damaged considerably but just how much was impossible to see. We were too interested in getting away to try and see where the individual bombs hit, retiring at maximum speed and low altitude over the city and thence out to sea. There should have been good strafing targets but I saw none. I saw no anti-aircraft fire except for the flashes of small stuff, if I remember correctly, though others reported some big puffs right behind me on the way out. Well, that was all there was to it, and probably not a bad job considering it was our first. Certainly it wasn’t as “rugged” as expected.

The next day we expected to attack Yokosuka Naval Base and though the weather was much better, the flight leader apparently decided that Tokyo Bay might be closed in again and had us head towards our Toyohashi alternate target, Toyohashi airfield, which was further down the coast than even Hamamatsu. We had magnificent views of Fuji, passing much Mt. Fuji closer to it than the day before, and it stood out very clearly, an almost perfect cone, with its mantle of snow making it resemble a very fancy dish of ice cream. Hamamatsu was waiting for us this time and fired at us as we went by at good altitude. These were the first puffs I saw, but they didn’t come very close, especially as we swung wide as soon as they were spotted. At the target itself I don’t remember seeing any puffs, though again we didn’t linger around very long. Ives thought we hit a building short of the main hangars, which might well have been the case, as I had observed that the hangars seemed to be well taken care of. The trip back was long and tiresome, over four and a half hours, in fact, before we got down.

Three days later we were off Iwo Jima Iwo Jima and still in poor weather. Most of us got in two strikes on two successive days, giving support to the Marines, who had landed a few days before, but the targets (enemy strong points) were hard to pick out, especially on the first day, as I remember, and we probably didn’t do as much damage as might have been possible under more favorable conditions.  The island looked pretty grim and barren, though there were what looked like fields and at least scrubby woods, more than the curious island to the south had, this being a completely bare 3000 foot cone rising right out of the sea.

After Iwo the Air Group had quite a rest, except that our fighters had to have combat air patrols around the Task Group, taking turns with the three other fighter squadrons. On March 1 the Skipper led a strike to Okinawa, but not having been along I don’t remember the details. Doug’s division, along with the usual fighter and torpedo divisions, were sent down to attack some ships reported to be in the harbor at Miyake Jima* the Miyake Jima next important island south of Okinawa and not very far from Formosa. We found the ships, but the attack was poorly executed, perhaps because of fairly close AA fire, the bombers making a miserable glide bombing attack on a destroyer escort, all missing except apparently Doug, largely because of obscuring low haze. The torpedo planes made good use of their “fish” and blasted a merchant ship or two to hell. One of them was a tanker and sent clouds of black smoke sky high.

* near Formosa (Taiwan)