USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story – Battle of Iwo Jima (Feburary – March 1945)(Part 1)

Posted: December 27, 2014 in History, World War II
Tags: , , , , ,
John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

The world is still at war and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

I recently accessed a war diary on the website Fold3.  This war diary provides a narrative of the Hornet’s activities during each month.  Most of my posts on this blog have been based on factual sources about the war in the pacific and where the Hornet was involved; however there wasn’t always something in those sources specifically about the Hornet.  I plan to go back to some of my previous posts and add some of these pieces of information.  Recently I added the January – March 1944 and the December 1944 information.

According to the ship’s log:

16 Feb 1945 – HORNET launches pre-dawn strikes on Tokyo to resume where HORNET (CV-8) had left off 34 months before.

Late Feb 1945 – Strikes in support of Iwo Jima invasion.

19 Mar 1945 – Strikes conducted against Kobe and Kure while HORNET cruised 40 miles off Japanese coast.

Iwo_jima_location_mapSagredo

February 1 – 18, 1945

40mm Quad Machine Gun Mount firing on board USS Hornet (CV-12), circa February 1945, probably during gunnery practice. The original picture caption identifies the photo as having been taken during Task Force 58's raid on Japan, 16 February 1945. However, helmetless members of the gun crew, and rolled up shirt sleeves, strongly indicate that the occasion was in warmer climes and not while in combat. View looks aft on the port side, with the carrier's port quarter 5"/38 guns just beyond the 40mm mount. Note ready-service ammunition and spent shell casings at right; men passing 4-round clips to loaders at left. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-413915).

40mm Quad Machine Gun Mount firing on board USS Hornet (CV-12), circa February 1945, probably during gunnery practice. The original picture caption identifies the photo as having been taken during Task Force 58’s raid on Japan, 16 February 1945. However, helmetless members of the gun crew, and rolled up shirt sleeves, strongly indicate that the occasion was in warmer climes and not while in combat. View looks aft on the port side, with the carrier’s port quarter 5″/38 guns just beyond the 40mm mount. Note ready-service ammunition and spent shell casings at right; men passing 4-round clips to loaders at left.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-413915).

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

The personnel of the USS Hornet (CV-12) enjoyed a period of rest and relaxation at Ulithi up to the the tenth, on which day the ship once again got underway for major action.  The sixteenth of February was D minus 3 days of the operations against Iowo Jima and the day of our first carrier plane attack against Tokyo.  The weather proved a serious handicap and limited the amount of damage which might have otherwise been inflicted on grounded aircraft on the numerous fields around Tokyo.  Strikes were launched against Chichi Jima on 18 February 1945 where Susaki Airfield and Omura Seaplane Base were attacked.

 

 Direct air support of expeditionary forces which landed on Iwo Jima on the nineteenth were begun on 20 February 1945.

U.S. Marines in Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel (LCVPs) head for the beach at Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945, during the initial landings.

U.S. Marines in Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel (LCVPs) head for the beach at Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945, during the initial landings.

Upon a designated area near Iwo Jima, the Commander Control Unit (CTG 51.10) in the USS Eldorado (AGC-11) assigned specific targets or target areas to strike leaders.  It was the observation of flight leaders from the Hornet’s Air Group that this system of attach functioned well and that the ship-air communications were generally satisfactory throughout this phase of the operation.

ELDORADO in the Pacific. AGC-11 USS ELDORADO 1945.

ELDORADO in the Pacific. AGC-11 USS ELDORADO 1945.

For the next two days strikes were made on Chichi Jima and Haha Jima during the continuing air support of the Iwo Jima invasion.

Chichijima

Chichi Jima

Hahajima Island

Hahajima Island

The Task Group proceeded from here to make strikes on Tokyo for the second time.  The first strikes were launched on 25 February 1945 but weather conditions proved an insuperable obstacle to the mission and only one strike reached the assigned target.  After the fourth strike was launched further offensive operations were cancelled.  Task Group 58.1 in company with Task Group 58.2 and 58.3 continued steaming towards the vicinity on 28 February 1945 from which point strikes against Okinawa were to be launched the next day.

Task Group 58.1 Composition (Source: http://home.grandecom.net/~cvproj/tg-fast.htm)

Heavy Carriers (Essex-class): CV-12 USS Hornet  [ Flag of United States ] , CV-20 USS Bennington
Light Carriers (Independence-class): CVL-24 USS Belleau Wood, CVL-30 USS San Jacinto
Battleships (South Dakota-class): BB-58 USS Indiana, BB-59 USS Massachusetts
Battleships (Iowa-class): BB-62 USS New Jersey, BB-63 USS Missouri, BB-64 USS Wisconsin
Heavy Cruisers (Portland-class): CA-35 USS Indianapolis
Heavy Cruisers (Baltimore-class): CA-68 USS Baltimore, CA-72 USS Pittsburg
Light Cruisers (Brooklyn-class): CL-49 USS St. Louis
Light Cruisers (Atlanta-class): CLA-54 USS San Juan (Anti-aircraft light cruiser)
Light Cruisers (Cleveland-class): CL-64 USS Vincennes, CL-86 USS Vicksburg, CL-89 USS Miami
Destroyers (Fletcher-class): DD-502 USS Sigsbee, DD-540 USS Twining, DD-556 USS Hailey, DD-573 USS Harrison, DD-574 USS John Rogers, DD-575 USS McKee, DD-576 USS Murray, DD-658 USS Colahan, DD-659 USS Dashiell, DD-683 USS Stockham, DD-684 USS Wedderburn, DD-796 USS Benham, DD-501 USS Schroeder (Radar Picket), DD-554 USS Franks (Radar Picket), DD-797 USS Cushing (Radar Picket)
Destroyers (Allen M. Sumner-class): DD-727 USS Dehaven, DD-728 USS Mansfield, DD-729 USS Lyman K. Swenson, DD-730 USS Collett, DD-744 USS Blue, DD-745 USS Brush, DD-746 USS Taussig, DD-747 USS Samuel N. Moore, DD-731 USS Maddox (Radar Picket)

 THE BIG PICTURE

 While the war diary focused on where the USS Hornet was during this important battle of the war, I thought I’d step back and provide some information on Battle of Iwo Jima as a whole.  The following is a brief synopsis with the assistance of the following source http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/iwojima/iwojima.htm

On 19 February 1945 U.S. Marines stormed ashore on Iwo Jima, a small volcanic island half way between the Mariana Islands and Japan. These landings opened more than a month of extremely bloody ground fighting between three Marine divisions and more than 20,000 Japanese defenders.

iwo_jima_landing

The Iwo Jima invasion began on 16 February 1945, when a formidable U.S. Navy armada started three days of pre-landing preparations. As minesweepers and underwater demolition teams cleared the nearby waters, warships and aircraft methodically tried to destroy the island’s defenses. However, given the abundance of well-concealed strong points and deeply buried underground facilities, this was not nearly enough.

The black sands of Iwo Jima with Mt. Suribachi in background. February 1945.

The black sands of Iwo Jima with Mt. Suribachi in background. February 1945.

Thus, when the Marines landed, they confronted intense opposing fire from the landing area and from flanking positions on Mount Suribachi in the south and the rugged terrain of northern Iwo Jima. Securing Mount Suribachi and the rest of southern Iwo Jima required more than four days of intense combat. Another week’s bloodshed brought the Marines into the middle of the desperately defended north, where the bitter fight to eliminate organized Japanese resistance took nearly four additional weeks.

Raising the flag on Iwo Jima 1945

Raising the flag on Iwo Jima 1945

For the U.S. Marines, Iwo Jima was the most difficult of World War II’s many tough fights. It remains an enduring demonstration of the essential role of infantry when ground must be captured, even when seemingly overwhelming air and sea power is present. The abundant heroism of the attackers was recognized by the award of twenty-seven Medals of Honor, more than half given posthumously.

Medal of Honor. (twenty-two) were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry at Iwo than for any other World War II battle. (A total of eighty-one Marines were thus decorated for the entire war.)

Medal of Honor. More than twenty were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry at Iwo. More than for any other World War II battle. (A total of eighty-one Marines were thus decorated for the entire war.)

In American hands, Iwo Jima soon became an important base for the air campaign that ended with Japan’s August 1945 capitulation, thus justifying the blood spilled to take it. Had the war continued, its role would have been even more critical.

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Comments
  1. Richard McCoid says:

    Actually it was 27 medals of Honor awarded to the marines on Iwo. I know because my uncle fought on Iwo Jima.

  2. Mustang.Koji says:

    Nicely reported, Maryann! As you know, both of the US flags raised on Iwo Jima are kept at the National Museum of the Marine Corps outside Quantico. Recently, a friend of a friend was fortunate enough to visit Iwo Jima. His photos on flickr truly show how exposed these young Marines were from atop Suribachi. A humbling realization of terror.

  3. a gray says:

    Great photos, Maryann, and even greater information.

  4. Reblogged this on IF I ONLY HAD A TIME MACHINE and commented:

    The next posting on my blog dedicated to my father’s WWII story was posted today.

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