USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story (July and August 1944)

Posted: July 19, 2013 in History, Uncategorized, World War II
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Since my last post, I have taken steps to obtain what ever records are available to me from my father’s files with US Navy.  If you need to do similar, here is the website that can help.

http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/

My hope is that I will get some information that I don’t already have.

This next image was created in 2005; however it is the USS Hornet CV-12) during World War II, and I really think it is awesome.

USS Hornet (CV-12), World War II. Overhead plan and starboard profile meticulously drawn by John Robert Barrett. Available from Navy Yard Associates (if you decide to purchase artwork from them please indicate that you heard about their work from NavSource).

USS Hornet (CV-12), World War II.
Overhead plan and starboard profile meticulously drawn by John Robert Barrett. Available from Navy Yard Associates (if you decide to purchase artwork from them please indicate that you heard about their work from NavSource).

In my last post, I told the story of the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot from late June 1944.  In today’s post, I will pick up the story of the USS Hornet (CV-12) in July and August 1944.  According to the ship’s log:

Jul-Aug 1944 – Strikes against Guam, Rota, Saipan and Volcano Islands in preparation for Guam/Palau invasions.

A starboard side view of USS Hornet (CV-12), with Air Group (CVG) 2 aboard, July 1944. Her dazzle pattern (Measure 33, Design 3A) was still in good shape then.

A starboard side view of USS Hornet (CV-12), with Air Group (CVG) 2 aboard, July 1944. Her dazzle pattern (Measure 33, Design 3A) was still in good shape then.

During this period of the war in the pacific, the carriers of Task Force 58 and their attached air groups bombarded these islands to allow for troops to come ashore.  So just where are these islands and what happened.

Saipan (June 15-July 8, 1944)

American planners debated how to attack The Marianas. The initial plan was to take peripheral islands and then attack Saipan. Admiral Nimitz vetoed this approach and decided to go right for Saipan.

battle_marianas75

Admiral Spruance, Admiral King, Admiral Nimitz, and Brigadier General Jarman at Saipan, Mariana Islands, 1944 Source   United States National Archives Identification Code   80-G-307861

Admiral Spruance, Admiral King, Admiral Nimitz, and Brigadier General Jarman at Saipan, Mariana Islands, 1944
Source United States National Archives
Identification Code 80-G-307861

The Americans decided to bypass Rota. Tinian was a smaller island 5-miles southwest of Saipan and thus combined in the Saipan invasion. The American invasion force was enormous. It was an armada of 535 ships with 127,570 U. S. military personnel. About two-thirds were Marines (2nd and 4th Divisions). Seven American battleships and 11 destroyers shelled Saipan and Tinian for 2 days prior to the landings. On the second day the initial force was joined by 8 more battleships, 6 heavy cruisers and 5 light cruisers. Saipan and Tinian were ringed by an incredible naval force which conducted one of the most intensive shelling of the War. Without planes and ships, the Rota garrison had no ability to threaten the American assault on on Saipan and Tinian. The main American invasion force went ashore on a 4 mile stretch of beach at Chalan Kanoa.

TBF-1C of Torpedo Squadron Two (VT-2) off USS Hornet (CV-12) pictured in flight near Saipan 1944

TBF-1C of Torpedo Squadron Two (VT-2) off USS Hornet (CV-12) pictured in flight near Saipan 1944

Despite the 2-day naval barrage, Japanese shore defenses were still largely intact. The Japanese destroyed 28 American tanks the first day. The Japanese had carefully prepared for the invasion. They had placed colored flags in the lagoon to indicate the areas in which howitzers in positions beyond Mt. Fina Susu has been ranged. The artillery fire proved deadly on the Second Marine Division which suffered 2,000 casualties.  Fighting continued for 24 days

2nd Marine Division, Saipan 1944

2nd Marine Division, Saipan 1944

smith_11

The Marianas was different than the previous islands invaded. Here they encountered Japanese civilians. This photograph was published in American newspapers on July 4, 1944. The caption read, "Jap women, children rounded up on Saipan: Japanese women and children whose husbands and fathers are opposing American troops on Saipan Island in the Marianas are guarded after being rounded upfor removal to a compound where they are now comfortably quartered. Source: U.S. Army Signal Corps. It is unclear why the wire service did not mention that the Japanese Army was incourging civilans to commit suicide rather than be captured and many did so.,

The Marianas was different than the previous islands invaded. Here they encountered Japanese civilians. This photograph was published in American newspapers on July 4, 1944. The caption read, “Japanese women, children rounded up on Saipan: Japanese women and children whose husbands and fathers are opposing American troops on Saipan Island in the Marianas are guarded after being rounded up for removal to a compound where they are now comfortably quartered. Source: U.S. Army Signal Corps. It is unclear why the wire service did not mention that the Japanese Army was encouraging civilians to commit suicide rather than be captured and many did so.

Rota

mariana

The Spanish when they forced the Chamorros on the larger Marianas islands of Guam, failed to do so on Rota because most managed to hide from the Spanish in the hills to avoid capture. As a result, the Chamorros on Rota are the least mixed of any on the Marianas. Rota was occupied by Japanese forces and heavily garrisoned. It was located half way between Saipan in the north and Guam in the south and became an important link in their air routes from Japan to the south Pacific. They built a single air strip on the highest elevation of the island. After the American air strikes, however, Rota was cut off and had no way of attacking the Americans. It became one of many islands on which Japanese garrisons were left isolated. It showed a major weakness in the Japanese war effort. Not knowing where the Americans would stroke they had to garrison large numbers of islands and were unable to concentrate their forces. Without planes and ships, the Rota garrison had no ability to threaten the American assault on on Saipan and Tininan. Nimitz decided an invasion was unnecessary. The Japanese having lost control of the sea had no way of meaningfully resupplying Rota. When the Japanese surrendered, the garrison was close to starvation. Bypassed by the United States, Rota came out of the war with little physical damage.

Guam

532px-Map_of_the_Battle_of_Guam,_1944

The Second Battle of Guam (July 21 — August 10, 1944) (the first was in 1941) was the American capture of the Japanese held island of Guam, a United States territory (in the Mariana Islands) during the Pacific campaign of World War II.

Guam is the largest of the Marianas, 30 miles (48 km) long and 9 miles (14 km) wide. It had been a United States possession since its capture from Spain in 1898 until it was captured by the Japanese on December 10, 1941, following the Attack on Pearl Harbor. It was not as heavily fortified as the other Mariana Islands such as Saipan that had been Japanese possessions since the end of World War I, but by 1944 it had a large Japanese garrison.

The Allied plan for the invasion of the Marianas called for heavy preliminary bombardment, first by carrier aircraft and planes based in the Marshall Islands to the east, then once air superiority was gained, close bombardment by battleships. Guam was chosen as a target because its large size made it suitable as a base for supporting the next stage of operations towards the Philippines, Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands; the deep-water harbor at Apra was suitable for the largest ships; and the two airfields would be suitable for B-29 Superfortress bombers.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Boeing B-29 Superfortress

The invasion of Saipan was scheduled for June 15, 1944, with landings on Guam tentatively set for June 18. The original timetable was optimistic, however. A large Japanese carrier attack and stubborn resistance by the unexpectedly large garrison on Saipan led to the invasion of Guam being postponed for a month.

Guam, ringed by reefs, cliffs, and heavy surf, presents a formidable challenge for an attacker. But despite the obstacles, on July 21, the Americans landed on both sides of the Orote peninsula on the western side of Guam, planning to cut off the airfield.

Two U.S. servicemen plant the American flag on Guam eight minutes after U.S. Marines and Army assault troops landed

Two U.S. servicemen plant the American flag on Guam eight minutes after U.S. Marines and Army assault troops landed

The 3rd Marine Division landed near Agana to the north of Orote at 08:28, and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed near Agat to the south. Japanese artillery sank 20 LVTs, and inflicted heavy casualties on the Americans, especially on the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, but by 09:00 men and tanks were ashore at both beaches.

Guam Liberation Day, July 12, 1944

Guam Liberation Day, July 12, 1944

The 77th Infantry Division had a more difficult landing. Lacking amphibious vehicles, they had to wade ashore from the edge of the reef where they were dropped by their landing craft. The men stationed in the two beachheads were pinned down by vicious Japanese fire, making initial progress inland quite slow.

By nightfall the Americans had established beachheads about 2,000 meters deep.   Japanese counter-attacks were made throughout the first few days of the battle, mostly at night, using infiltration tactics. Several times they penetrated the American defenses and were driven back with heavy loss of men and equipment. Lieutenant General Takeshi Takashina was killed on July 28, and Lieutenant General Hideyoshi Obata took over the command of the defenders.

Above, left, Lt. Gen. Takashina Takeshi was the commander of the Japanese forces on Guam at the time of Liberation. He planned the tactically-sound July 25-26 counterattack at the Asan beachhead, but the counter faltered and ultimately failed. He died on July 28 at Fonte Plateau, on what is now called Nimitz Hill, leading his troops in retreat. At right is Lt. Gen. Obata Hideyoshi, commander of all Japanese forces in the Marianas, Palau, and the Carolines. In Palau when Saipan - the location of his headquarters - was invaded, Obata took over Guam forces at Takashina's death. He committed suicide Aug. 11 in Mataguac, Yigo, as U.S. forces assaulted his command post.

Above, left, Lt. Gen. Takashina Takeshi was the commander of the Japanese forces on Guam at the time of Liberation. He planned the tactically-sound July 25-26 counterattack at the Asan beachhead, but the counter faltered and ultimately failed. He died on July 28 at Fonte Plateau, on what is now called Nimitz Hill, leading his troops in retreat. At right is Lt. Gen. Obata Hideyoshi, commander of all Japanese forces in the Marianas, Palau, and the Carolines. In Palau when Saipan – the location of his headquarters – was invaded, Obata took over Guam forces at Takashina’s death. He committed suicide Aug. 11 in Mataguac, Yigo, as U.S. forces assaulted his command post.

Supply was very difficult for the Americans in the first days of the battle. Landing ships could not come closer than the reef, several hundred yards from the beach, and amphibious vehicles were scarce. However, the two beachheads were joined up on July 25, and the Orote airfield and Apra harbor were captured by July 30.

Captured by 1st Brigade Marines, rebuilt by Marine engineers, and in full-scale operation, the Orote Peninsula airstrip is home to Marine Aircraft Group 21 and its Marine Fighter Squadrons 217, 225, and 321, and Marine Night Fighter Squadron 534. Taxiing down the strip are Vought F4U Corsair fighters, while parked off the runway are Grumann F6F Hellcats. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 92396

Captured by 1st Brigade Marines, rebuilt by Marine engineers, and in full-scale operation, the Orote Peninsula airstrip is home to Marine Aircraft Group 21 and its Marine Fighter Squadrons 217, 225, and 321, and Marine Night Fighter Squadron 534. Taxiing down the strip are Vought F4U Corsair fighters, while parked off the runway are Grumann F6F Hellcats. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 92396

The counterattacks against the American beachheads, as well as the fierce fighting, had exhausted the Japanese. At the start of August they were running out of food and ammunition and had only a handful of tanks left. Obata withdrew his troops from the south of Guam, planning to make a stand in the mountainous central and northern part of the island. But with resupply and reinforcement impossible because of American control of the sea and air around Guam, he could hope to do no more than delay the inevitable defeat for a few days.

Rain and thick jungle made conditions difficult for the Americans, but after an engagement at Mount Barrigada from August 2 to August 4, the Japanese line collapsed; the rest of the battle was a pursuit to the north. As in other battles of the Pacific War, the Japanese refused to surrender, and almost all were killed. On August 10, after 3 long weeks of bloody and ferocious fighting, organized Japanese resistance ended, and Guam was declared secure. The next day, Obata committed ritual suicide.

VT-2 Avengers returning to Hornet from a mission, August 1944. National Archives.

VT-2 Avengers returning to Hornet from a mission, August 1944. National Archives.rom them please indicate that you heard about their work from NavSource).

Although the USS Hornet (CV-12) was involved with strikes against the Volcano Islands in July and August 1944, the story of the battles for these islands from the fall of 1944 will be written about in a future blog post.

Source:  http://histclo.com/essay/war/ww2/camp/pac/marianas/w2pm-mi.html

Source:  http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/12.htm

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Guam_%281944%29

26 Aug 1944 – Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher (CDR TF-58) aboard to honor ship for helping in conquest of Marianas Islands.

Hornet's flight deck and island taken while at anchor in Eniwetok Atoll, August 26, 1944. This was a ceremony in which Admiral Mitscher, Commander of TF-58, honored the ship, crew, and Air Group 2 for their part in the conquest of the Marianas Islands. The ship anchored off Hornet's starboard side is USS Essex (CV-9). The light carrier is believed to be USS San Jacinto (CVL-30). National Archives photo.

Hornet’s flight deck and island taken while at anchor in Eniwetok Atoll, August 26, 1944. This was a ceremony in which Admiral Mitscher, Commander of TF-58, honored the ship, crew, and Air Group 2 for their part in the conquest of the Marianas Islands. The ship anchored off Hornet’s starboard side is USS Essex (CV-9). The light carrier is believed to be USS San Jacinto (CVL-30). National Archives photo.

Must have been quite a visit.  The men deserved to be honored by Admiral Mitscher as they played a huge role in the success in the Marianas Islands.  Quite a success:  Great Marianas Turkey Shoot (Battle of the Philippine Sea), Battle of Saipan, Battle of Guam and many other bombardments.  Looking at this picture, of course I would be unable to identify any one person, but I know my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is standing there a hero.

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

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Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    My Father, ARM1 Denis F Gerbereux was in VT2 flew with Lt Skinner and Gunner Marzuco(sp)

  2. chmjr2 says:

    A great posting. I enjoyed reading it, and was educated at the same time.

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