MARCH 21, 1945 -- MAY 26, 1945
The following morning the entire 7th fleet sailed from Ulithi.
Once at sea we were to see no other ships other than our force
of escort carriers and their escort destroyers. My first view
of the CVEs was a line of twelve carriers from horizon to horizon.
I don't know how many there actually were in that line but I
do know that our particular force was made up of eighteen CVEs
and that we would be operating in three groups of six.
We arrived on station about sixty to eighty miles southeast of
Okinawa where the ships would remain for the next ninety days.
All of our flight operations would originate from this area.
The only times the ship would leave this area would be to rearm
from the supply ships at Kerama Retta, a group of small islands
about 10 miles west of Okinawa that
Departing Ulithi for Okinawa
formed an anchorage. These islands were invaded and secured for
that purpose. We arrived on March 25th and began combat missions
that day against Kerama Retta and Okinawa. It only took a couple
of days to secure the anchorage and for the supply ships and
troop ships to move in.
The first combat mission against Kerama Retta involved
a flight of fighter planes from VC 93. It was on one of the strafing
runs that an antiaircraft shell burst under the plane of Ensign
Tony LaMarco. A piece of shrapnel pierced the plane and struck
Tony in the butt causing him to be grounded for several days
. This was the first causality due to enemy action to be suffered
by the squadron. He survived, but unfortunately the wound leaves
a scar where Tony will not be able to show it off---- I don't
VC 93 pilots on USS Petrof Bay
On April 1, 1945 the invasion of Okinawa began and I was
in the first flight from the Petrof Bay to give direct support
to the Marines landing on the beach. The landing took place about
a mile from Yontan, the Japanese air field. Because we were flying
in from the sea and directly over the air field we were able
to strafe building, planes and anything else that came in our
sights. I'm sure that the
planes we saw and strafed had been shot at before but there was
a certain amount of enjoyment in making the runs. On one run
I saw a fire break out under a camouflage netting. Even though
I didn't have any idea what other damage I might have caused
or how effective we were in supporting the Marines, I know that
I had left something had burning.
On our final run we started at 10, 000 feet making a run on the
field firing all the way down. When we leveled off at about 100
feet I held the trigger down all the way across the field and
firing at a control tower as we pulled up over the hills on the
north side of field. When I released the trigger the guns were
so hot that they kept right on firing. The other three planes
in my flight made a left turn that took them over the landing
craft coming into the beach. I was forced to fly straight ahead
until all my ammunition was expended so that I would not endanger
the landing force. I never found out but I'll bet there were
four 50 caliber machine guns that were of no use after that.
Although many of our flights were uneventful, especially
the local combat air patrols (LCAP), there were enough eventful
ones to give my adventuresome soul a lifetime of memories. The
uneventful flights do not stick in my memory but a majority of
the target combat air patrols (TCAP) flights usually had something
that I will never forget, especially those that end up in disaster
or near disaster. The first combat death that occurred was on
March 27th when a burst of antiaircraft fire exploded just behind
the ball turret of a TBM. The turret was occupied by the gunner
Price Seferian. He was killed instantly and his blood ran down
into the radio compartment on the radioman. He was buried that
evening from the fantail of the ship with the ship's company
in attendance. That was the first service at sea I was to observe
but would not be the last. Most of the deaths occurred when a
plane was lost at sea and no one returned.
Kamakazi attack on USS Petrof Bay
October 26, 1944
Three days later Ensign Gordon Collipriest was killed in a mid-air
collision with a plane from another squadron. For some reason
he wasn't missed until his group landed and he wasn't there.
A short time later the other pilot involved made it back to his
ship and reported the collision.
Twenty one years later my wife, son, daughter and I were vacationing
in Hawaii where we visited the Punch Bowl cemetery. On a wall
where all the servicemen that are missing in the pacific are
listed, the names of our missing are listed with the exception
of Ensign Collipriest. Don't understand why!
Ensign G. Alan Collipriest
Ensign Charles Janson
On April 12, the day President Roosevelt died, Ensign Janson,
whom I mentioned earlier in our double dating adventures in Long
Beach, was also killed in a midair collision. Because of the
interesting story that goes with this accident I will relate
it later. On June 15th Ensign George Vigeant was killed when
his plane exploded while making a water landing after being hit
by antiaircraft fire. On July 20th airman A.R. Katough was drowned
when the TBM he was riding in crashed while taking off the carrier.
He was pinned in the plane when it was struck by the carrier.
The pilot and gunner got him out and aboard the rescue destroyer
but they were unable to revive him.
My squadron lost several planes at the hands of the enemy and
I am willing to bet that we lost more without their help. Certainly
we lost more than double the number that we are credited with