Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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Well, by the time we headed north again it had been nearly two weeks since we had flown, practice attacks so we got in a couple of practice hops on the way. The first was some simulated glides on our battleships, and I took along the leading dental officer, who had never flown before, and he got a real thrill out of it. The second was something new—simulated kamikaze on our own carriers. We went out in groups and were to try to sneak in twos any way we could. The task group’s combat air patrol was supposed to intercept us. Two of us came in low all the way, going up into the low ceiling just before making our attack, and though I never discovered whether the ship’s gunners had us in their sights, no fighters came anywhere near us as we went through. It was lots of fun, but it seemed as if we should have been picked up by radar in time for fighters to be directed after us even if we did have an advantage (though not against radar) in the weather.

We didn’t go right back to Okinawa, but to up near Kyushu, and almost before we knew it were over Japan proper again. Kyushu On one flight to Izumi airfield and another the same day, my second to Kanoye, we were after hangars and planes in revetments respectively. The flak over Kanoye was thick, and though we all came through that time, we lost Walker on another flight, “Nick” Nicholson, the fighter-bomber skipper, and Durkin, the torpedo exec., were lost on subsequent flights.

I went on two flights the next day to bomb a factory outside Kumamoto, more than halfway up the west side of Kyushu. Both times we flew right across the island going and coming back, and since we were not so high above the Kyushu’s
mountain scenery
mountains, we had very good views of the terrain. It’s practically all very rugged and, except for the fields in the few level areas along the shore and the terraces going up a little way on the slopes behind them, there’s nothing but forested mountains. Most of the trees could be seen to be of broad-leaved species, but there were natural stands of pine or something of the sort here and there and quite a few plantations of the same. Reservoirs well up the streams were another characteristic of the country, and doubtless some of the little inland settlements centered around mines of some sort. One mountain we passed over turned out to be a live volcano. live volcano

On the first strike there was some heavy anti-aircraft fire, but it was rather inaccurate. Going down in the dive I could see all too clearly the gun emplacements just north of the factory. After pulling out we sped at near tree-top level to the rendezvous point over the bay. On the way the first three of us spotted a train. train locomotive hit Bollinger stopped it. Richel put some more slugs in it, and, though only one of my guns was working, which put the plane in a slight skid when it fired, it had enough to blow up the boiler, as a huge cloud of steam arose. Finding at the rendezvous that my big bombs hadn’t released as I had expected, I let them go on what looked like some kind of cement plant but forgot to arm the bombs. One of the aircrewmen, however, reported an explosion later, which made me feel better.

The flak seemed a little closer the second trip. I aimed for one of the buildings that looked untouched, but, as usual, results were undetermined. After pulling out this time I strafed a gas or oil tank, oil tank hit and though again only one 20 mm fired, I could see hits from its tracers. Disappointingly, the tank didn’t explode. The last flights over Kyushu were pretty grim, the Air Group losing three more planes.