Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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We returned to Ulithi Ulithi after that and had a really good rest this time. I think I went ashore only once, having got such a poor opinion of Mog Mog the previous time. Instead I just spent more time reading, my greatest source of entertainment the whole time I was aboard ship. Of course there were letters to write too, and often two or more of us chewed the rag for hours on end, especially if such a subject as the pros and cons of religion, marriage, etc. came up. Everyone in the squadron, of course, had particular extra-flying assignments. I was supposed to be Operations Officer, but it wasn’t much of a job, what little there was to do being very dull—the filling out of forms and such indicating the number of planes “up” (in flying condition), the number that went on particular flights and the hours flown, was one of them, and the other was the making out of duty lists—as for officer-of-the-day, for the more senior officers, and security watches for the more junior officers.

We had some excitement, however, even kamikaze at the Anchorage. One evening when we were sitting at the movies we were disturbed by a tremendous explosion on one of the ships just ahead of us, and looking out we could see what looked like the end of one of our carriers. It turned out to be a Kamikaze from Yap on the Randolph—damage not too bad.

On the way north we had a couple of warm-up practice attacks on towed spns [?], and on Kanoye
March 18 hit Kanoye Airfield, in southern Kyushu, severely damaging some of the hangars and other buildings. As before we carried two 500 lb. general purposed bombs in the bomb-bay and a 250 lb. on each wing, our usual load, but I was more than annoyed to find that the two in the bomb-bay were still there when we got back to the ship because of my not holding down the release button long enough, as indicated by the fact that they plopped out all right before we went in to land. This was particularly annoying as we had made strafing runs on a ship in the bay after attacking the airfield.

Doug was lost on an airstrike at Kure, on the Inland Sea, which I missed, perhaps having already been transferred to the Skipper’s division. Kerama Retto Our next strike was against a small island group west of Okinawa by the name of Kerama Retto, scheduled to be invaded before the big island was, We had orders to soften up around the two possible invasion beaches, and since there was an innocent looking town at each, it wasn't much fun, especially as we made strafing attacks after our bombing runs. There was no AA fire. The next day a Jap convoy was reported northwest of Okinawa, and two bombers well escorted by fighters were ordered to go out and relocate it. Unhappily and very much against my will I was one of the bomber pilots chosen, which meant I couldn’t go on the striking group. What’s more, we never found the convoy, though fortunately the attackers did and sank every ship, including something like three or four small freighters and perhaps the same number of escort patrol craft.

The following day I got in two strikes on the same day for the first time, one against Yontan
Yontan airfield, in Okinawa, the other against revetments of some kind (still unknown to me) nearby. We encountered considerable ack-ack. Two days later we were getting ready to take off for Okinawa again when a radio message reporting many merchant ships at Amamai
o Shima
Amami o Shima, the next big island north of Okinawa, was intercepted, which called for an obvious change in plans. Arriving over the island we found nothing but a bunch of small fishing vessels, so small, in fact, that in spite of each pilot making three or four runs dropping a bomb each time, very few were hit. I may have hit one, but rather think I didn’t. What stands out more clearly was encountering some disconcertingly accurate anti-aircraft fire from one gun position I could see all too clearly on retiring from the first run. Hearing a thumping and perhaps feeling it a little too, I thought something was wrong with the engine until I spotted AA bursts of AA fire just below me. Thence forward until we got safely behind a cloud our movements were so erratic that Ives nervously called up to ask if everything was all right.