Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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We bombers had more than a week’s rest after that attack, and it was well used, though we felt guilty that the fighters had to fly combat air patrol all the time. Ever since we had been in action the Kamikaze menace kamikaze menace had been tremendous. Several carriers, including the Saratoga, the Franklin, and even the Wasp in our task group had been hit and in the case of the first two nearly destroyed. The Wasp had had to leave us and had been replaced by another CVL, the San Jacinto. We had one very close call ourselves. close call A striking group of planes was all ready to take off with the engines even running when those of us in the planes suddenly became aware of the put-put-put of the light AA, and in no time a burning Jap plane, literally a ball of fire, passed just over our heads and fell into the water perhaps 100 feet off the port quarter. A few fragments fell on deck, and some of the people said they felt the heat of the fire, though I couldn’t swear now that I did. Certainly it was one of my closest calls.

Well, when another Kamikaze attack threatened, the “ship” decided to get rid of all the bombers on deck and sent us aloft to circle at a safe distance, for five hours. As I remember, nothing happened all this time until we finally had to return to the ship because of low gas. Then all Hell broke loose, with Kamikaze planes appearing in numbers and Hellcats chasing them all over the sky. We were already in the traffic circle and had to get out of the way, especially of our own ship’s AA, in a hurry. Soon we were called in again only to have the performance repeated, but we finally all got in all right, though dangerously low on gas.

Before returning to Ulithi again we got in several more strikes, in my case four, three on Okinawa and one on Kikai, Okinawa & Kikai strikes but they were pretty much uneventful. Both islands were pretty well battered by this time, though there was still occasional anti-aircraft fire, and it was apt to be accurate in such places, where the gunners had had plenty of practice.

Ulithi Ulithi again was more enjoyable the third and last time than before. Ward Matthews and I found better ways of amusing ourselves there. For one thing we found that the swimming beach wasn’t too terribly crowded, especially late in the afternoon when most of the enlisted men returned to their ships. Though we had no underwater goggles or face masks, we were snorkling occasionally able to borrow them and watch the multitude of small, brilliantly-colored and often oddly-shaped coral reef fishes, one of the most fascinating pastimes. As a matter of fact we could see them pretty well while we waded in shallow water by putting our faces close to but not below the surface. There seemed to be spotted, striped and solid patterns of almost every color, and we were amazed. When we were not doing that, we were collecting worn shells along the beach or live ones, especially cowries, from coral reefs exposed by the low tide. In the very small area of woods not occupied by people or buildings or something we hunted for lizards, finding quite a variety beside the common blue-tailed skinks, but not collecting any. One of our better hunting grounds was on or in the vicinity of a fair-sized fig tree, where, in a hollow, we also located and tussled with a large bluish crab or crayfish.

We took turns going ashore, usually half the squadron going one day, half the next, etc. When remaining aboard we spent a time sunning ourselves on the deck, as we did also at sea whenever it was warm enough, but at Ulithi it was pretty hot for any games.