Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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On the way back to the ship one of our fighters tragic incident came alongside obviously in trouble, and I being nearest to him accompanied him back, while the rest of the bombers circled to wait for everyone else. He didn’t get very far before his failing engine conked out completely and forced him to make a water landing. He got in his own little life raft obviously all right, and we contacted “Bull Durham” (the Hornet) which answered that it would send a Kingfisher immediately. We also dropped our own life-raft in case he needed it, but the drop was poor, and he ignored it. By this time another Helldiver had joined me. The Kingfisher finally arrived, landed all right and picked our man up, but in trying to take off caught a wing on an extra large wave and rolled over on its back. The occupants (it turned out there were three) clambered to safety and sat on the overturned float, the only visible part of the plane, which, however, seemed to want to stay afloat indefinitely. In the meantime we had contacted the ship again, and this time they said they’d direct a trio of Kingfishers to the spot. By then several fighters had joined the group, and since we two Helldivers were getting low on gas, we left them in charge. Just before we got back to the ship I heard one of the fighter pilots report that they couldn’t see the survivors any more. The Kingfishers apparently never did find them or even the circling fighters, and a search that went out the next day had no luck either. It was perhaps the worst tragedy that I saw all the time I was overseas.

Another two happened the next day. Miyako Jima We went down to Miyako to bomb the airfield, and darned if some sharp-shooter on the ground didn’t shoot off one pitot tube and put a little hole in the fuselage. It was a little ticklish coming in for a landing back at the ship, not knowing our airspeed, but by trusting the L.S.O. we made it without even a wave-off. more tragedies One fighter pilot from another ship had to make a water landing just off the shore of Miyako, and I doubt if he was ever rescued. One of our own was so badly damaged that, while he could still fly, he didn’t dare try and make either a carrier or a water landing, deciding to bail out near a destroyer. All they found was his parachute, and it looked as if he might have misjudged the distance above the water when he let go of it, or something. He had recently accounted for five Jap Bettys* all headed for our Task Group loaded with Baka bombs*, the first time they had been reported.

* flying bombs with suicide pilots
* large bombers