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

Posted: July 28, 2013 in History, Uncategorized, World War II
Tags: , , , , , ,
John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

It is the autumn of 1944, my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

he U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) underway in September 1944. She wears camouflage Measure 33, Design 3a.

he U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) underway in September 1944. She wears camouflage Measure 33, Design 3a.

The Carrier’s World War II story continues but first I need to introduce her new Captain.  He took command of the USS Hornet (CV-12) on August 9 1944 and remained for a year until August 1, 1945.


I searched the internet for a biography and found a wonderfully written accountant of his life an career compiled by Charles A. Lewis.  I am abstracting some highlights as the biography is over four pages.

Admiral Austin Kelvin Doyle, U.S. Navy. Served in WWI, WWII & Korea.  He entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD, with the Class of 1920. As a Midshipman, in the summer of 1918 during WWI, he served in the USS Connecticut.  After graduation from the Academy in 1920, he served in the USS Orizaba, USS Utah, and in the USS McFarland. In July 1922 he reported to NAS Pensacola and received his wings as a Naval Aviator in December. He was assigned to Scouting Squadron One, attached to the USS Wright, in January 1923. Following that he returned to NAS Pensacola as an instructor for three years.

In July 1928 he joined Fighting Squadron Two, based in the USS Langley. The following June he reported as an instructor in the Department of Engineering and Aeronautics at the Naval Academy for three years. During that tour he coached the 1933 Navy baseball team.

Doyle returned to sea for the next two years, serving in the USS Lexington and the USS Idaho. In June 1935, he was assigned as Tactical Officer on the staff of Commander Aircraft, Battle Force, and was attached to the flagship USS Saratoga for one year. From June 1936 to June 1938 he had duty in the Plans Division, Bureau of Aeronautics, in Washington, DC.

He assumed command of Fighting Squadron Three of the USS Saratoga in June 1938. The following year he became Carrier Air Group Commander, remaining in the Saratoga. From July 1940 to August 1942, he again served in the Bureau of Aeronautics; first in the Personnel and later in the Training Division.

Captain Doyle fitted out and was then Commanding Officer of the USS Nassau (CVE-16), an escort carrier, from her date of commissioning, 20 August 1942, until 16 September 1943.   On 10 October 1942, Nassau arrived at the Naval Air Station, Alameda, CA, and loaded aircraft. Four days later she steamed for Pearl Harbor, HI, then to Palmyra Island, arriving 30 October. For the next four months, she operated between Palmyra; Nouméa, New Caledonia; and Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides.  Nassau returned to Pearl Harbor on 14 February 1943, embarked personnel and aircraft, and sailed on a ferry mission to Espiritu Santo on 21 February. She returned to Pearl Harbor in mid-March and then continued on to NAS Alameda. In April, she moved to San Diego and conducted flight training operations, after which she rendezvoused with Task Group 51.1 and steamed for Cold Bay, AK, with Composite Squadron 21 (VC-21) embarked.

On 4 May, Nassau got underway on a search mission and conducted flight operations with Task Force 51, providing air cover for the occupation of Attu Island from 11-20 May. She returned to San Diego in late May, arrived at Alameda on 8 June, and on-loaded 45 aircraft destined for Brisbane, Australia. She delivered the aircraft on 2 July and returned to San Diego via Nouméa, New Caledonia. In August, she trained off San Diego before ferrying planes to Samoa. Captain Doyle relinquished command of Nassau while she was in port in Samoa. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service in that command in May 1943.  In September 1943, Doyle returned to the Navy Department and served on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet, until July 1944.

Captain Doyle’s next assignment was as Commanding Officer of the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CVE-12) from 9 August 1944 to 1 August 1945.  Much of the biography covers his success as Captain of the USS Hornet (CV-12) and since that information will be part of my main story, I have not included it here.

Captain Doyle

Captain Doyle

Rear Admiral Doyle became Commander Carrier Division 25 in August 1945. The following September he was named Inspector General, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean areas. In May 1946, he reported to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations for duty as Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air). In April 1947 he was designated Deputy Naval Inspector General and in August he assumed duty as Commandant, Naval Operating Base, Bermuda. He served as Chief of Naval Reserve Training, NAS, Glenview, IL, from July 1949 until August 1951.

For the next year he was Commander Carrier Division Four. In October 1952, he became Commander Caribbean Sea Frontier with additional duty as Commandant, Tenth Naval District, with headquarters at San Juan, PR. On 7 May 1954, Doyle received his third star as a Vice Admiral. His next assignment, in June 1954, was as Chief of Naval Air Training, NAS, Pensacola. He was ordered to duty as Commander of the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command in March 1957.

Vice Admiral Doyle retired from the Navy on 1 August 1958 and was awarded the four stars of Admiral.

Major Medals & Awards:  Navy Cross (2 Awards), Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (2 Awards)

Navy Cross

Navy Cross

Navy Distinguished Service Medal

Navy Distinguished Service Medal

Legion of Merit

Legion of Merit

Captain Doyle’s one-year tour in command of the USS Hornet earned him two awards of the Navy Cross.

Honors:  Doyle was a recipient of the John Towers Memorial Award from the Aviation Commandery of the Naval Order.  He received an honorary Ph.D. in Engineering from Michigan Tech.

In 1992, twenty-two years after his death, Admiral Austin Kelvin Doyle was enshrined in The Naval Aviation Hall of Honor. A bronze plaque of Admiral Doyle and his contributions was cast and placed in Naval Aviation Hall of Honor located in the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, FL. The Hall was established in 1980 to recognize those individuals who by their actions or achievements made outstanding contributions to Naval Aviation. Final approval is made by the Chief of Naval Operations.

In Retirement as a civilian, Doyle served as director of a bank, country club, and a sports association. He later taught History in the Florida public school system.

Admiral Austin Kelvin Doyle died in Florida on 12 July 1970. He was survived by his wife, Jamie (Reese) Doyle, of Pensacola, FL, and five children.
You can read his complete biography at this link: Admiral Austin Kelvin Doyle

September 6, 1944 – Strikes against Palau Islands.

Palau (sometimes spelled Belau or Pelew), officially the Republic of Palau (Palauan: Beluu er a Belau), is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is geographically part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country’s population of around 21,000 is spread across 250 islands forming the western chain of the Caroline Islands. The most populous island is Koror. The islands share maritime boundaries with Indonesia, Philippines and the Federated States of Micronesia. The capital Ngerulmud is located in Melekeok State on the nearby island of Babeldaob.

The country was originally settled around 3,000 years ago by migrants from the Philippines and sustained a Negrito population until around 900 years ago. The islands were first visited by Europeans in the 18th century, and were made part of the Spanish East Indies in 1885. Following Spain’s defeat in the Spanish–American War in 1898, the islands were sold to Imperial Germany in 1899 under the terms of the German–Spanish Treaty, where they were administered as part of German New Guinea. The Imperial Japanese Navy conquered Palau during World War I, and the islands were later made a part of the Japanese-ruled South Pacific Mandate by the League of Nations.

During World War II, skirmishes, including the major Battle of Peleliu, were fought between American and Japanese troops as part of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign. Along with other Pacific Islands, Palau was made a part of the United States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. Having voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, the islands gained full sovereignty in 1994 under a Compact of Free Association with the United States.


15 September 1944: The first wave of LVTs approach the beaches during the American assault on Peleliu (Palau Island).

15 September 1944: The first wave of LVTs approach the beaches during the American assault on Peleliu
(A Palau Island).

07-24 Sep 1944 – Strikes against Philippine Islands of Davao, Cebu, Minandao and Negros in preparation for General MacArthur’s invasion of Morotai.

My search of the internet for information on these islands in the Philippines turned up a formerly classified report dated September 20, 1944 about the prisoner of war camps on these islands.  The report was issued by the Military Intelligence Division and is titled Prisoners of War in the Philippine Islands.  The report was declassified in 1950.


The Battle of Morotai, part of the Pacific War, began on September 15, 1944, and continued until the war ended in August 1945. The fighting began when United States and Australian forces landed on the south-west corner of Morotai, a small island in the Netherlands East Indies (NEI), which the Allies needed as a base to support the liberation of the Philippines later that year. The invading forces greatly outnumbered the island’s Japanese defenders and secured their objectives in two weeks. Japanese reinforcements landed on the island between September and November, but lacked the supplies needed to effectively attack the Allied defensive perimeter. Intermittent fighting continued until the end of the war, with the Japanese troops suffering heavy loss of life from disease and starvation.

Morotai’s development into an Allied base began shortly after the landing, and two major airfields were ready for use in October. These and other base facilities played an important role in the liberation of the Philippines during 1944 and 1945. Torpedo boats and aircraft based at Morotai also harassed Japanese positions in the NEI. The island’s base facilities were further expanded in 1945 to support the Australian-led Borneo Campaign, and Morotai remained an important logistical hub and command center until the Dutch reestablished their colonial rule in the NEI.

LSTs landing supplies at Blue Beach, Morotai

LSTs landing supplies at Blue Beach, Morotai

30 Sep 1944 – For month of September, HORNET air wing has shot down or destroyed 55 aircraft, sunk 27 ships, probably sunk 22 more and damaged more than 128. -VF-2 had become the top fighter squadron in the Pacific with more total victories and more ace pilots than any other fighter squadron. Of 50 pilots on board, 28 were confirmed ACES.  I was impressed with these successes but I didn’t know what ACE meant until I looked it up.

An “ace” is a fighter pilot who shoots down 5 enemy aircraft during aerial combat.  Each country had a slightly different set of rules for claiming an enemy aircraft “kill”. For example, the rule may require that another pilot or person on the ground witness the event. Or some will allow two pilots take share the credit for a kill, thus each would get credit for 1/2. In World War 2, some U.S. commands also credited aircraft destroyed on the ground as equal to aerial victories. Soviets distinguished between solo and group kills, as did the Japanese.  The Allies (US) began to mount gun cameras on the aircraft that could help confirm an enemy aircraft shot down. Of course, if the enemy a/c dove out of the camera range before exploding then it was still in doubt.

Tonight while I was researching the material for this segment, I happened upon a website about a book that I am going to see if it is available on Amazon.  This 19 year old sailor aboard the USS Hornet (CV-12) secretly kept a diary and gives an account of the loss of his friend on September 23, 1944 from strafing of the carrier by Japanese planes.


I am so proud that my father was a part of everything that was the USS Hornet (CV-12).  Now according to the USS Hornet Museum website, Airgroup 2 will be leaving in October and Airgroup 11 will join up with the USS Hornet (CV-12).  Although I will need to write about this exciting recognition again as the war is not over yet, in honor of Airgroup 2 I am proud to report the following:

HORNET was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation
for the following operations:

Air Group 2 (VF-2, VB-2, VT-2, and part of VFN-76)

March 29 – May 1, 1944 — Palau, Hollandia, Truk.

June 11 – August 5, 1944 — Marianas, Bonins, Yap.

September 6 – September 24, 1944 — Philippines, Palau.

Air Group 11 (VF-11, VB-11, and VT-11)

October 10 – Nov. 22, 1944 — Ryukyus, Formosa, Philippines, Luzon.

December 14 – Dec. 16, 1944 — Luzon.

January 3 – January 22, 1945 — Philippines, Formosa, China Sea, Ryukyus.

Air Group 17 (VF-17, VBF-17, VB-17, and VT-17)

February 16 – June 10, 1945 — Japan, Bonins, Ryukyus.

You see the citation is for much more than the USS Hornet has experienced to date but I wanted to honor Airgroup 2.  What is special about this to me, is that among my father’s papers, I have the citation.

Hornet Presidential Citation

  1. […] The Palaus, part of the Caroline Islands, were among the mandated islands taken from Germany and given to Japan as one of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles at the close of World War I. The U.S. military lacked familiarity with the islands, and Adm. William Halsey argued against Operation Stalemate, which included the Army invasion of Morotai in the Dutch East Indies, believing that MacArthur would meet minimal resistance in the Philippines, therefore making this operation unnecessary, especially given the risks involved.  I wrote about Morotai in the post covering September 1944 – USS Hornet (CV-12) – September 1944 […]

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