Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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The next day, March 28, came an easy attack against some hidden coastal defense guns on the southeast Okinawa coast of Okinawa that had apparently been something of a nuisance to our ships laying a little way offshore. We had a try at where we were told they were, but as usual results were undetermined at the time.

In the afternoon it was reported, presumably by B–29’s, that the Jap fleet had come out of Kure and were either trying to escape around southern Kyushu or were heading south to attack us. Every one got very tense, and, of course, the planes were loaded up as soon as possible—two 1000 lb. semi-armor-piercing bombs for us, with torpedoes for the Avengers. Because of a late start it was obvious that those of us who would return would have to land after dark, which didn’t make us feel any happier. We carried extra gas tanks for the first time and so didn’t have to worry about gas. Well, we got right up to off Kyushu Kyushu without seeing anything but some fishing vessels and a patrol craft or two.
on frigate
or DE
Finally we turned around and spotting another patrol craft (perhaps one we had seen before), went in to attack it. Two nearby submarines were seen but dove before we even made a pass toward them. The Skipper’s section had three instead of the usual two planes. The Skipper and Richmeier, the extra man, just missed, and Joe Gross’s bomb didn’t release, which may have been lucky for me. Then I dove, with Dusty right behind me. The little ship fired up at us all the way down but ineffectively if close, and just after we pulled out it exploded in a hit most spectacular fashion. First there was a huge ball of orange flames with rocket-like things off in every direction, and then a great mushroom of smoke went up thousands of feet in the air. I was credited with a hit, though so was Duce, but since I was ahead and, according to him went lower, my bomb must have gone off before his no matter how close he was, and every one said it was the third one that did it, though it could have been with his help. The ship was later identified from photographs as a patrol frigate, probably about 300 feet long and of 1000 tons with a complement of perhaps 200 or more men, though pictures published much later in Naval Aviation News called it a DE or destroyer escort, not that there’s very much difference.

Well, that was pretty satisfactory except that if I hadn’t got so excited, I’d have had enough wits to circle the sinking ship low enough to give Ives a chance to get some really good movies. The good stills were taken by Cornier, Duce’s gunner.

We returned to the night landing Task Group after dark all right, and though it was a little hard to tell what ship was ours, colored lights helped. I was the first bomber to land and [had] no trouble, the signal officer and his motions being as plain as day. That was my 13th strike. Two of the boys made minor crack-ups, and, though it was too bad that it had to be bombers, it was a good record, as we had never even practiced night carrier landings as an air group. We had had night field carrier landings once many months before.

Another strike against Amami O Shima on April 2 proved more successful than the earlier [one]. Though a supposed cruiser reported as badly damaged turned into an LST, that was something, and there were several patrol craft and medium-sized merchant ships sunk or damaged. On the first pass I somehow dove ahead of the Skipper and Goss, not being used to the way the former zig-zags before he pushes over. and pretty well fouled all three of our dives up. What with all the smoke, it was hard to see who hit or missed what, but the Skipper led Duse and me around for another pass, as not all of our bombs had been dropped the first time. Though I had pretty surely missed the supposed cruiser the first time with my smaller bombs, Chief Stecker, the Skipper’s aircrewman, reported a big explosion after I dropped my 500’s the second time, hit so it looks as if I got the already damaged ship I aimed for that time.