Posts Tagged ‘Aircraft Carrier’

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

It is April 1945, the world is still at war and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).  In my last posts, I covered the Battle of Iwo Jima and other events in February and March 1945 leading up to the Battle of Okinawa.  This post will be the first for the Battle of Okinawa and cover April 1945.

General Background (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Okinawa)

ww2 asia map 47

The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.

USS Hornet (CV-12) operating near Okinawa, 27 March 1945. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 3a. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-K-14466).

USS Hornet (CV-12) operating near Okinawa, 27 March 1945. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 3a.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-K-14466).

The battle has been referred to as the “typhoon of steel” in English, and tetsu no ame (“rain of steel”) or tetsu no bōfū (“violent wind of steel”) in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Based on Okinawan government sources, mainland Japan lost 77,166 soldiers, who were either killed or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered 14,009 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds). Simultaneously, 42,000–150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide, a significant proportion of the local population. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting on Okinawa.

Nimitz reveals to the world the news of U.S. invasion of Okinawa, 325 miles from Tokyo. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

Nimitz reveals to the world the news of U.S. invasion of Okinawa, 325 miles from Tokyo. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

According to the USS Hornet (CV-12) ship’s log:

6/7 Apr 1945 – Okinawa Invasion. During the period more than 500 Japanese planes attacked task force. Of the 152 shot down, HORNET scoreboard tallied more than one third of the kills.

Sixteen F6F Hellcats from VF-17 running up their Pratt & Whitney R-2800's on April 6, 1945 to attack the Japanese battleship Yamato and her escorts.

Sixteen F6F Hellcats from VF-17 running up their Pratt & Whitney R-2800’s on April 6, 1945 to attack the Japanese battleship Yamato and her escorts.

07 Apr 1945 – HORNET pilots find and conducted initial attacks on the largest Japanese battleship YAMATO which is left sinking.

14-16 Apr 1945 – HORNET aircrews downed more than 60 Japanese planes along Kyushu.

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

East Sunday, 1 April 1945, was LOVE Day of the operations against Okinawa and the Task Group’s (58.1) mission was to furnish air support to forces of Task Force 51 which were making the initial landings.  These strikes continued with scattered enemy air assault.  Friday, 6 April 1945 was a “Field Day”.  The Hornet fliers shot down 53 enemy planes, and the ship’s personnel were at General Quarters most of the day, dodging the “Banzai Boys”.

Hornet under attack as seen from Bennington (CV-20), April 1945. Photo by Lowell Love.

Hornet under attack as seen from Bennington (CV-20), April 1945. Photo by Lowell Love.

USS Hornet (CV-12), along with USS Bennington (CV-20), shooting down a kamikaze off Okinawa, April 1945.

USS Hornet (CV-12), along with USS Bennington (CV-20), shooting down a kamikaze off Okinawa, April 1945.

Early on the morning of 7 April 1945, Navy search planes far to the north reported the incredible feet that an enemy task force, comprising the heaviest and fastest warships Japan still possessed, had left its bases in the Inland Sea, steamed stealthily along the coasts of Kyushu during the night and was now headed into the East China Sea.  The entire Task Force (TF 58) raced northward at top speed, and shortly after noon flight quarters sounded and the planes were launched.  The Yamato was mortally wounded by eight torpedo hits and eight 1000 lb. bombs, racked by a series of tremendous explosions and sank beneath the waters of the China Sea less than sixty miles from Kyushu, her guns blazing to the very end.  Two cruisers and three destroyers shared her fate, while the remaining six destroyers, heavily damaged, were left burning in the water.

"A Kamikaze just misses USS Hornet. This picture was taken on the USS Hornet (CV-12) off Okinawa during April 1945 by Photographer’s Mate 2/c Paul D. Guttman, and it was definitely not taken with a telephoto lens! The black specks visible in the midst of the blast aren't flaws in the film, they're bits of shrapnel from the exploding plane. Paul was knocked unconscious by the blast, and came to later, in sick bay. He wasn't even aware that he'd taken this picture until sometime later, after the film was developed!" "The other carrier visible in the background, wreathed in smoke from the firing of her own AA guns, is supposedly USS Intrepid (CV-11) [(?)]."

“A Kamikaze just misses USS Hornet. This picture was taken on the USS Hornet (CV-12) off Okinawa during April 1945 by Photographer’s Mate 2/c Paul D. Guttman, and it was definitely not taken with a telephoto lens! The black specks visible in the midst of the blast aren’t flaws in the film, they’re bits of shrapnel from the exploding plane. Paul was knocked unconscious by the blast, and came to later, in sick bay. He wasn’t even aware that he’d taken this picture until sometime later, after the film was developed!”
“The other carrier visible in the background, wreathed in smoke from the firing of her own AA guns, is supposedly USS Intrepid (CV-11) [(?)].”

Later that afternoon (7 April 1945), two twin-engined enemy Frances’ got through the Task Groups protecting patrol and pounced upon the formation.  They were detected and blasted out of the air within a few thousand yards of the Hornet due to the expert marksmanship of the Hornet’s gunners.

The next several days saw the Hornet’s Air Group ranging up and down the Ryukyu chain, striking at opportune targets. Kikai, Tanoga Shima, Amami O Shima, enemy ground forces on Okinawa, and even Kyushu itself felt the burning sting of our strafing, bombs, and rockets. On Saturday, 14 April 1945, two Bettys carrying rocket planes were shot down.  This rocket plane with rider is called “Baka”, the Japanese name for fool.  Also on 14 April 1945, one of the patrols shot down 18 planes which were trying to reach our force. In the afternoon two planes were splashed by ship’s gunfire.  Sunday and Monday, 15, 16 April 1945 were also days of accomplishment.  The ship was at General Quarters most of the time.  From late Sunday night to early Monday morning the ship was under constant attack in the light of flares almost as bright as day, and much credit goes to the night fighters for their skill in breaking up attacks before the enemy could get in on us.  Monday, 16 April 1945, was another “Field Day” for the Task Group.  Here is an itemization of the results:

  • Early in the morning one of the night fighters shot down a Betty, and ship’s gunfire bagged a low flying heavy enemy plane.
  • Sweeps to Kyushu shot down out of the air fourteen single-engined planes, burned ten on the ground and seriously damaged ten planes which did not burn.
  • The 16 April 1945 saw a total of seventy two airborne planes shot down by this Task Group.
  • No pilots were lost that day.

From the 18 – 27 April 1945 continuous strikes were made against the areas of Kikai-anami, Tokuno, Okinawa, Minami, Daito Jima, and Kita Daito Jima. Napalm was dropped on several of these strikes with generally good results.  The Task Group began retirement towards Ulithi on the 27th and anchored in the Ulithi Harbor on the 30 April, 1945.

Unique shot of a VF-17 Hellcat being lowered down Hornet's deck edge elevator showing her geometric tail and wingtip design, April 1945.

Unique shot of a VF-17 Hellcat being lowered down Hornet’s deck edge elevator showing her geometric tail and wingtip design, April 1945.

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.

In part 1, I covered February 1945

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

Kobe, Japan after the 1945 Air Raids

Kobe, Japan after the 1945 Air Raids

 

Map showing the destroyed areas.

Map showing the destroyed areas.

Three Japanese aircraft carriers and an unidentified submarine in Kure Bay, during strikes by US Navy carrier planes, March 19, 1945. Carrier at the extreme right is IJN Kaiyo. Those in the center top (barely visible) and at the bottom are probably IJN Amagi and IJN Katsuragi. The submarine is underway in the upper left. Photographed by an Air Group 17 plane from USS Hornet (CV-12). Kaiyo, a 16,748-ton escort aircraft carrier, was built at Nagasaki, Japan, as a civilian passenger liner. Source: http://worldwar2database.com/gallery/wwii1251

Three Japanese aircraft carriers and an unidentified submarine in Kure Bay, during strikes by US Navy carrier planes, March 19, 1945. Carrier at the extreme right is IJN Kaiyo. Those in the center top (barely visible) and at the bottom are probably IJN Amagi and IJN Katsuragi. The submarine is underway in the upper left. Photographed by an Air Group 17 plane from USS Hornet (CV-12). Kaiyo, a 16,748-ton escort aircraft carrier, was built at Nagasaki, Japan, as a civilian passenger liner. Source: http://worldwar2database.com/gallery/wwii1251

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

March, 1945 – A month of Sever-Tolling Strikes.  The first few days in March 1945 were occupied in singeing the board of the Japanese Emperor. Up and down along the fringe of the important Ryukyu chain, or Nansei Shoto, the ships of the fast carrier task force ranged,lashing out with crippling strikes against Okinawa and other islands with our fighter, torpedo, and bombing planes. The Japanese themselves estimated the number at more than six hundred.

Location of the Ryukyu Islands.  In an attempt to include a picture of Nansei Shoto Island, I learned unless I am mistaken that they are one in the same.

Location of the Ryukyu Islands. In an attempt to include a picture of Nansei Shoto Island, I learned unless I am mistaken that they are one in the same.

Nansei Shoto (Ryukyu Islands - Loochoo Islands) Source: http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/nansei_shoto.shtml A Pocket Guide

Nansei Shoto
(Ryukyu Islands – Loochoo Islands)
Source: http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/nansei_shoto.shtml
A Pocket Guide

US Government: Nansei Shoto (Ryukyu Island - Loochoo Islands), A Pocket Guide, US Government, ca 1945 (pre-invasion - April 1, 1945), pamphlet, 2 maps, 9 illustrations (most cartoon type drawings), 4 1/4 x 5 1/4 in, paper wraps, staple bound, 39 pp (2 blank for "Notes"). Reproduced by 30th engineer Base Top BN. USAFCPBC. No. 5356. This is obviously a pocket guide prepared for troops about to engage in the Nansei Shoto (Okinawa) campaign of WWII. Loaded with basic information and guidance to include an "English into Japanese" section with such terms as "Cease fire!," "If you resist you will be shot!," and "Shut up!." A typical government undertaking. Everything the American GI would need to know for the pending invasion of Okinawa. Source: http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/nansei_shoto.shtml

US Government:
Nansei Shoto (Ryukyu Island – Loochoo Islands), A Pocket Guide, US Government, ca 1945 (pre-invasion – April 1, 1945), pamphlet, 2 maps, 9 illustrations (most cartoon type drawings), 4 1/4 x 5 1/4 in, paper wraps, staple bound, 39 pp (2 blank for “Notes”). Reproduced by 30th engineer Base Top BN. USAFCPBC. No. 5356. This is obviously a pocket guide prepared for troops about to engage in the Nansei Shoto (Okinawa) campaign of WWII. Loaded with basic information and guidance to include an “English into Japanese” section with such terms as “Cease fire!,” “If you resist you will be shot!,” and “Shut up!.” A typical government undertaking. Everything the American GI would need to know for the pending invasion of Okinawa. Source: http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/nansei_shoto.shtml

Our forces sank or damaged 55 of Japan’s ships, destroyed or damaged 91 planes; and smashed and burned their military installations such as radio stations, buildings, hangers and barracks.  From March 4th through 14th 1945, the Hornet was at anchor in Ulithi harbor.  The usual replenishment of supplies and recreational parties took place.

Hornet, showing heavy weathering and rust after more than a year of sustained combat and salt water, anchored at Ulithi on March 6, 1945 with Air Group 17 on deck. LCI(L)-1052 is in the foreground.

Hornet, showing heavy weathering and rust after more than a year of sustained combat and salt water, anchored at Ulithi on March 6, 1945 with Air Group 17 on deck. LCI(L)-1052 is in the foreground.

The ship weighed anchor on the 14 March 1945 and set her course for Kyushu.  The 18 March 1945 was occupied in heavy strikes against the southernmost part of the Japanese home islands: Kyushi, Shikoku, Honshu, and the Inland Sea.  The principal targets were airfields.  The planes of the Task Group (58.1) came in so fast that by noon 800 had been sent out and by 2 p.m. 1400 had been sent out.  The devastating blows of our airmen against Kure Bay in the Inland Sea where a large portion of the enemy fleet was hiding, marked a day of brilliant activity that will long be remembered in the history of Naval Air warfare.

One of VB-17's SB2C Helldivers taxiing out for launch, March 1945.

One of the USS Hornet’s VB-17’s SB2C Helldivers taxiing out for launch, March 1945.

The Task Group’s score:

  • Ships sunk:  Six freighters
  • Ships badly damaged: One or two battleships, two or three large aircraft carriers, two light aircraft carriers, two escort carriers, one heavy cruiser, one light cruiser, four destroyers, one submarine, one destroyer escort, seven freighters.
  • Aircraft: 281 planes shot down out of the air, 275 destroyed on the ground, more than 100 damaged in the first days attacks, and a large number damaged in the second day’s attacks.
  • Ground installations: Hangers, shops, arsenals, and storage facilities were destroyed.
Hornet recovering and Bennington (CV-20) launching aircraft off the coast of Japan, March 1945. (National Archives photo).

Hornet recovering and Bennington (CV-20) launching aircraft off the coast of Japan, March 1945. (National Archives photo).

This video is freely downloadable at the Internet Archive, where it was uploaded by WWIIPublicDomain. Naval Photographic Center film # 11149. National Archives description “This film shows Okinawa under a bombing attack and views of the USS Hornet (CV-12).” National Archives Identifier: 2462408 Invasion of Okinawa: The USS Hornet, 03/19, 1945 (full)

During this time, our fleet was under heavy air attack.  The afternoon of 21 March 1945 at least twenty “Bettys’ with escorting fighters were on their way to get the ships.  The Hornet’s CAP broke up the attack completely by shooting down 16 of the Bettys and 14 of the fighters.  Three fighters and one Betty were damaged.  The rest high-tailed for home.

planes

Beginning on 23 March 1945, preliminary neutralizing strikes were sent out against Korama Rotto, which was shortly thereafter successfully invaded.  The islands of Miyako, Mikusuki, Amami O Shima, Kikai and Minami Daito are generally in this area.  On 24 March 1945, Lt. (jg) W.B. Vail and Walter F. Miller made the 18,000th landing on the Hornet.

March 1945, with Air Group 17 on the flight deck. National Archives.

March 1945, with Air Group 17 on the flight deck. National Archives.

Another aerial view of USS Hornet (CV-12) during operations off Okinawa, in March 1945, with Air Group 17 aboard.

Another aerial view of USS Hornet (CV-12) during operations off Okinawa, in March 1945, with Air Group 17 aboard.

Another aerial view of USS Hornet (CV-12) underway, that might have been taken at the same time as the photos above

Another aerial view of USS Hornet (CV-12) underway, that might have been taken at the same time as the photos above

USS Hornet (CV-12) operating near Okinawa, 27 March 1945. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 3a. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-K-14466).

USS Hornet (CV-12) operating near Okinawa, 27 March 1945. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 3a.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-K-14466).

In the last 13 days of March 1945 in attacks on the Ryukyus and Kyushu, the task force (58.1) planes destroyed 750 Japanese planes, damaged 217, sank 34 ships, probably sunk 14 more and damaged 33.  This is why there was so little initial enemy interference with the Okinawa invasion.

What else happened in the US Navy during March 1945 – USS Franklin (CV-13) bombed.

This is one of three videos about the USS Franklin’s attack in March 1945.  The other two cover her recovery.

 

 

hornetisland

Originally I planned on writing the haunted story of the USS Hornet after completing the story of my father’s time on the carrier but then I thought that it is a story for Halloween.  After all, the USS Hornet is considered the most haunted ship in the Navy, past or present.

158531-325x216-USS-Hornet

The USS Hornet (CV-, CVA and CVS-12) is a floating history of the US Navy where in her years of service, she housed a hospital, a tailor shop, a cobbler shop, three barbershops, and seven galleys.  She is the size of three football fields and could carry 3,500 servicemen.  Her history is spectacular with much already reported in my previous posts; however I’ll sum up her record:  Nine battle stars for military service, In WWII, her pilots destroyed 1,410 Japanese aircrafts and almost 1.3 tons of enemy cargo.  If ever there was a ship that would be haunted, it would be the Hornet since In her 27 years of service, there were 300 deaths from battles, accidents and suicides.  The USS Hornet holds the Navy record for the most suicides.  Very sad statistics.

Now a museum docked at the Alameda Naval Air Station in California, she is reported to be full of ghosts.  There has been a lot of unexplained phenomena reported by tourists and staff members since she arrived in Alameda and many skeptics are now believers.

  • unusual noises
  • items that come up missing
  • apparitions
  • Psychics and ghost hunters have investigated and agree that the activity is probably souls of the departed sailors carrying out their final orders.
  • People reported the feeling that someone touched or grabbed them when no one else was about
  • The spotted servicemen have not all been Navy
  • Report of ghostly figures that are real looking.  They blend in with the living.  They appear dressed in uniform, patrolling the hallways and carrying out their duties
  • They have been spotted on decks, climbing ladders and in the Combat Information Center.
  • Toilets mysteriously flush by themselves
  • Lights turn on and off on their own.
  • Men have been heard talking but no one is present.

The steam room is one of the most haunted sections of the USS Hornet.  One sailor believed to have died in the steam room remains there as he doesn’t know that he is dead.

Engine Room #1 was one of two engine rooms that provided propulsion power to the Hornet. Eight boilers produced the steam required to generate 150,000 horsepower.

Engine Room #1 was one of two engine rooms that provided propulsion power to the Hornet. Eight boilers produced the steam required to generate 150,000 horsepower.

There has also been a report of ghosts that are not American.  One spirit is believed to be a Japanese pilot who had been a prisoner of war on board during WWII.  He allegedly went mad in the small cell and inhabits the room and is still trying to get out.

Another ghost that is often seen is Admiral Joseph “Jocko” Clark who served as commander during WWII.

Here are a few of the witness accounts from the following website:  http://www.its.caltech.edu/~drmiles/ghost_stories.html  There are several more like these.

In early February, 2009 I was volunteering on USS Hornet with a group of my fellow US Coast Guardsmen. We were painting a compartment and a few of us were wearing white Tyvek paper suits. When our paint started running low I went off in search of the Hornet worker that was supplying our paint, getting lost in the process. As I wandered the passageways I came off a “side” passage onto the starboard main passageway, one deck below the hangar deck. I saw what I thought was one of my coworkers stepping off the main hall onto a side passage about 25 feet away from me. I called out to him but he kept walking and when I got to the hall he stepped into, there was a chain blocking the entrance and it was an empty compartment! Needless to say I was confused, but kept walking and eventually found my way back to the room we were painting. When I saw the coworker I thought I had seen earlier, I mentioned to him that I had called him in the passageway but he told me that he hadn’t left the room for about an hour. Later when I mentioned this to the Hornet employees, one lady said that I had seen the “Dress Whites Ghost”, apparently an apparition of a sailor wearing his dress white uniform!

Bob Eiess
Coast Guard Island
Alameda, California

I love ghost stories and shows on tv about ghost and ghost investigations. About 3 or 4 years ago, I visited the Hornet with my family and about 15 other people from our church. I knew stories about seeing soldiers at certain parts of the ship, and kept my eyes open, but didn’t see anything. After the tour, before we were leaving, my mom and I stopped off at the bathroom. We were the only ones in there, and when we went to wash our hands we were chatting. When we got over to the sinks, we could hear two guys talking (one of them actually sounded like a kid perhaps) pretty loud; not loud enough to understand what they were saying, but loud enough that we noticed and had to talk over them. We figured that there was a men’s restroom next door to the women’s, but when we walked out there wasn’t, so we just figured someone must have been outside talking and we just didn’t see them. A few months later, we were watching a ghost show and they talked about the Hornet. Sure enou gh, they showed the bathroom we were in and talked about reports of men talking near the sinks! It was very creepy and I for sure will never go there at night for one of those overnighters!

Katie

shifty.jones@gmail.com

My husband and I went with my aunt to tour the USS hornet. At the end of the day when the tours were closing down, my husband drug me off into a section of the ship that was obviously not open to tourists. The hallways were dark, the side rooms had bed frames just tossed into them, debris strewn all over like a trash heap. I was getting nervous we would either get lost or get into trouble for being in a section that was closed. Suddenly a full uniformed officer came from around the corner. I knew for sure we were in trouble. He walked past us. He never made ANY eye contact, no acknowlegdment of our presence what so ever. He then turned into one of the rooms about 10 feet ahead. We followed behind him, and when passing the side room he went into, again piled high with bed frames and what not, he was gone. I told my husband we had to get out of there. Just then my camera crashed to the floor. The camera came apart from the strap. I have owned this camera for 8 years. Ne ver before and never since has the camera come off the strap. I think back now – and I think what sent off alarms was the lack of air movement as he walked by, and NO acknowldgement that we were even there. I truly believe we saw a ghost!

Kathleen

katpickett@comcast.net

I was recently aboard the USS Hornet on a 4H Exchange Club trip with my host family and took lots of pictures but when I got home and started looking through the pictures I took, I noticed in the medical wing in one of the rooms I took a picture and when I took it the chair in the picture was empty and when I looked at the picture that night chills ran up my spine when I seen someone sitting in the chair in that picture that was wearing something that looked like an old time pilots helmet and looked like he was tied down. I asked all the people that were on that trip if they would look at the picture and they did and saw the same thing I did. Take it this was down in medical operating wing on Tuesday, July 4, 2006 around 4:25 pm.

Steven Shirk

walnutst@hotmail.com

Here is a video about the haunted USS Hornet.

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

October 1944 continues and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

20-26 Oct 1944 – Strikes on Leyte supporting invasion of the Philippines as stated in the ships log for the USS Hornet (CV-12).

In my previous post I wrote about the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea (Leyte Gulf).  The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the Battles for Leyte Gulf, and formerly known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.  Since the Battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions, I decided to break the story into multiple parts.  In Part 1, I covered the background and the submarine action in Palawan passage on October 23, 1944.  Today for Part 2, I write about the Battle of Sibuyan Sea.

The four main actions in the battle of Leyte Gulf: 1 Battle of the Sibuyan Sea 2 Battle of Surigao Strait 3 Battle of (or 'off') Cape Engaño 4 Battle off Samar. Leyte Gulf is above 2 and to the left of 4. The island of Leyte is to the left of the gulf.

The four main actions in the battle of Leyte Gulf: 1 Battle of the Sibuyan Sea 2 Battle of Surigao Strait 3 Battle of (or ‘off’) Cape Engaño 4 Battle off Samar. Leyte Gulf is above 2 and to the left of 4. The island of Leyte is to the left of the gulf.

The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea (24 October 1944)

Around 08:00 on 24 October, the Center Force was spotted entering the Sibuyan Sea and attacked by VF-20 squadron F6F-5 Hellcat fighters, VB-20 SB2C-3 Helldiver dive bombers, and VT-20 Avenger torpedo bombers from USS Enterprise of Halsey’s 3rd Fleet.
The Japanese "Center Force" leaves Brunei Bay, Borneo, on 22 October 1944, en route to the Philippines. Ships are, from right to left: battleships Nagato, Musashi and Yamato; heavy cruisers Maya, Chokai, Takao, Atago, Haguro and Myoko. Courtesy of Lieutenant Tobei Shiraishi. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Source: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-fornv/japan/japsh-xz/yamato-k.htm

The Japanese “Center Force” leaves Brunei Bay, Borneo, on 22 October 1944, en route to the Philippines.
Ships are, from right to left: battleships Nagato, Musashi and Yamato; heavy cruisers Maya, Chokai, Takao, Atago, Haguro and Myoko. Courtesy of Lieutenant Tobei Shiraishi.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
Source: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-fornv/japan/japsh-xz/yamato-k.htm

Despite its great strength, 3rd Fleet was not well-placed to deal with the threat. On 22 October, Halsey had detached two of his carrier groups to the fleet base at Ulithi to provision and rearm.

It was called "Murderer's Row." Aircraft carriers lined up across Ulithi Lagoon. Ulithi was used as the major "secret" naval base during WWII. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

It was called “Murderer’s Row.” Aircraft carriers lined up across Ulithi Lagoon. Ulithi was used as the major “secret” naval base during WWII. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

When Darter‘s (A US Submarine) contact report came in, Halsey recalled Davison’s group, but allowed Vice Admiral McCain—with the strongest of TF 38’s carrier groups, to continue towards Ulithi.  This will turn out to be a poor decision by Admiral Halsey.  In order to be clean in my understanding of the different groups in this part of the theater, I needed to understand the individual sections of TF 38.   I found a document online that details out which ships were part of which group under TF 38.  Here is Vice Admiral McCain’s Task Force 38.1  This is the group I just wrote that Halsey didn’t recall back from going to Ulithi for supplies with the other parts of the taskforce on October 22, 1944.

Task Group 38.1: Vice Admiral J.S.Mccain
USS Hornet (CV8)  This had to be an error and should be CV-12 as the CV-8 was sunk at the Battle of Santa Cruz in 1942.
USS Wasp (CV18)
USS Hancock (CV19)
USS Monterey (CV26)
USS Cowpens (CV25)
USS Pensacola (CA24)
USS Chester (CA27)
USS Salt Lake City (CA25)
USS Boston (CA69)
USS San Diego (CL53)
USS Oakland (CL95)
USS Brown (DD546)
USS Conner (DD582)
USS Cowell (DD547)
USS Case (DD370)
USS Cummings (DD365)
USS Cassin (DD372)
USS Downes (DD375)
USS Dunlap (DD384)
USS Fanning (DD385)
USS Farenholt (DD491)
USS Grayson (DD435)
USS Izard (DD589)
USS McCalla (DD488)
USS Woodworth (DD460)

Halsey finally recalled McCain on 24 October—but the delay meant the most powerful American carrier group played little part in the coming battle, and the 3rd Fleet was therefore effectively deprived of nearly 40% of its air strength for most of the engagement. On the morning of 24 October, only three groups were available to strike Kurita’s force, and the one best positioned to do so—Bogan’s Task Group 38.2 (TF 38.2)—was by mischance the weakest of the groups, containing only one large carrier—USS Intrepid—and two light carriers (the failure to promptly recall McCain on 23 October had also effectively deprived 3rd Fleet, throughout the battle, of four of its six heavy cruisers).

USS Intrepid (CV-11)

USS Intrepid (CV-11)

Planes from carriers Intrepid and Cabot of Bogan’s group attacked at about 10:30, making hits on the battleships Nagato, Yamato, and Musashi, and severely damaging the heavy cruiser Myōkō.

Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 24 October 1944 Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret, during attacks by U.S. carrier planes as she transited the Sibuyan Sea. This hit did not produce serious damage.

Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 24 October 1944
Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret, during attacks by U.S. carrier planes as she transited the Sibuyan Sea.
This hit did not produce serious damage.

A second wave from IntrepidEssex and Lexington later attacked, with VB-15 Helldivers and VF-15 Hellcats from Essex, scoring another 10 hits on Musashi.

A USS ESSEX ordnanceman carries ammunition to the ship's F6F Hellcat fighters, 24 October 1944. -Paul Madden photo from NARA collection

A USS ESSEX ordnanceman carries ammunition to the ship’s F6F Hellcat fighters, 24 October 1944.
-Paul Madden photo from NARA collection

As Musashi withdrew, listing to port, a third wave from Enterprise and Franklin hit her with an additional 11 bombs and eight torpedoes.

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Kurita turned his fleet around to get out of range of the aircraft, passing the crippled Musashi as his force retreated. He waited until 17:15 before turning around again to head for the San Bernardino Strait. After being struck by at least 17 bombs and 19 torpedoes, Musashi finally capsized and sank at about 19:30.

IJN Admiral Takijiro Onishi

IJN Admiral Takijiro Onishi

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi had directed three waves of aircraft from his First Air Fleet based on Luzon against the carriers of Rear Admiral Sherman’s TG 38.3 (whose aircraft were also being used to strike airfields in Luzon to prevent Japanese land-based air attacks on Allied shipping in Leyte Gulf). Each of Ōnishi’s strike waves consisted of some 50 to 60 aircraft.

Most of the attacking Japanese planes were intercepted and shot down or driven off by Hellcats of Sherman’s combat air patrol, most notably by two fighter sections from Essex led by Commander David McCampbell (who is credited with shooting down nine of the attacking planes in this one action). However, one Japanese aircraft (a Yokosuka D4Y3 Judy) slipped through the defences, and at 09:38 hit the light carrier USS Princeton with a 551 lb (250 kg) armor-piercing bomb. The resulting explosion caused a severe fire in Princeton‘s hangar and her emergency sprinkler system failed to operate. 
The light aircraft carrier Princeton afire, east of Luzon, 24 October 1944.

The light aircraft carrier Princeton afire, east of Luzon, 24 October 1944.

As the fires spread rapidly, a series of secondary explosions followed. The fires were gradually brought under control, but at 15:23 there was an enormous explosion (probably in the carrier’s bomb stowage aft), causing more casualties aboard Princeton, and even heavier casualties – 233 dead and 426 wounded – aboard the light cruiser Birmingham which was coming back alongside to assist with the firefighting. Birmingham was so badly damaged, she was forced to retire. Another light cruiser and two destroyers were also damaged.  All efforts to save Princeton failed, and after the remaining crew were evacuated, she was finally scuttled—torpedoed by the light cruiser Reno—at 17:50.
The light carrier USS Princeton explodes at 1523 on 24 October 1944 - after being bombed by a Japanese aircraft during the Battle for Leyte Gulf. The light cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-62) is visible on this side of the Princeton. Birmingham was seriously damaged in the explosion, which caused more than three hundred casualties aboard the cruiser. [This is an official US Navy photograph, probably taken from the battleship USS South Dakota]

The light carrier USS Princeton explodes at 1523 on 24 October 1944 – after being bombed by a Japanese aircraft during the Battle for Leyte Gulf.
The light cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-62) is visible on this side of the Princeton. Birmingham was seriously damaged in the explosion, which caused more than three hundred casualties aboard the cruiser.
[This is an official US Navy photograph, probably taken from the battleship USS South Dakota]

Of Princeton’s crew, 108 men were killed, while 1,361 survivors were rescued by nearby ships. USS Princeton was the largest American ship lost during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
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In all, US 3rd Fleet flew 259 sorties—mostly by Hellcats—against Center Force on 24 October. This weight of attack was not nearly sufficient to neutralize the threat from Kurita. It contrasts with the 527 sorties flown by 3rd Fleet against Ozawa’s much weaker Northern Force on the following day.  Moreover, a large proportion of the Sibuyan Sea attack was directed against just one ship, Musashi. This great battleship was sunk, and cruiser Myōkō crippled, but every other ship in Kurita’s force remained battleworthy and able to advance.

In my research I note that there is a story within the story of the Battles of Leyte Gulf that warrants a separate posting.  It is part of the October 24th story but too lengthy to include here.  It is a story of communication and miscommunication and the devastating results.  So in my next part, read about Admiral Halsey’s decisions and the San Bernardino Strait.

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

October 1944 continues and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

20-26 Oct 1944 – Strikes on Leyte supporting invasion of the Philippines as stated in the ships log for the USS Hornet (CV-12).

Second Battle of the Philippine Sea (Leyte Gulf) – largest naval battle in history.  I will tell this part of the story in multiple parts (anticipating five parts) because the Battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions.  For Part 1, I will cover background and the submarine action in Palawan passage on October 23, 1944.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the Battles for Leyte Gulf, and formerly known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.

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It was fought in waters near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar and Luzon from 23–26 October 1944, between combined US and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy. On 20 October, United States troops invaded the island of Leyte as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from the countries it had occupied in Southeast Asia, and in particular depriving its forces and industry of vital oil supplies. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) mobilized nearly all of its remaining major naval vessels in an attempt to defeat the Allied invasion, but was repulsed by the US Navy’s 3rd and 7th Fleets. The IJN failed to achieve its objective, suffered very heavy losses, and never afterwards sailed to battle in comparable force. The majority of its surviving heavy ships, deprived of fuel, remained in their bases for the rest of the Pacific War.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions. It was the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze attacks.  ka·mi·ka·ze (kä m -kä z ). n. 1. A Japanese pilot trained in World War II to make a suicidal crash attack, especially upon a ship

A Japanese Kamikaze suicide plane shown swooping down on a U.S. warship in a dramatic action in World War II. In the three-day battle of Leyte Gulf, in Oct. 1944, the Japanese threw the suicide planes into action for the first time in a desperate effort to save their fleet. (AP Photo)

A Japanese Kamikaze suicide plane shown swooping down on a U.S. warship in a dramatic action in World War II. In the three-day battle of Leyte Gulf, in Oct. 1944, the Japanese threw the suicide planes into action for the first time in a desperate effort to save their fleet. (AP Photo)

By the time of the battle, Japan had fewer aircraft than the Allied Forces had sea vessels, demonstrating the difference in power of the two sides at this point of the war.

Background

The campaigns of August 1942 to early 1944 had driven Japanese forces from many of their island bases in the south and central Pacific Ocean, while isolating many of their other bases (most notably in the Solomon Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Admiralty Islands, New Guinea, Marshall Islands, and Wake Island), and in June 1944, a series of American amphibious landings supported by the US 5th Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force captured most of the Mariana Islands (bypassing Rota). This offensive breached Japan’s strategic inner defense ring and gave the Americans a base from which long-range Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers could attack the Japanese home islands. The Japanese counterattacked in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The US Navy destroyed three Japanese aircraft carriers (and damaged other ships) and approximately 600 Japanese aircraft, leaving the IJN with virtually no carrier-borne airpower or experienced pilots.  You can read about many of the 1944 engagements especially the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot in my previous posts.

Admiral Ernest J. King

Admiral Ernest J. King

For subsequent operations, Admiral Ernest J. King and other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff favored blockading Japanese forces in the Philippines and attacking Formosa (Taiwan) to give the Americans and Australians control of the sea routes between Japan and southern Asia.

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“I have returned” — General MacArthur returns to the Philippines with Philippine President Sergio Osmena to his right, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P. Romulo at his rear, and Sutherland on his left. Photo taken by Gaetano Faillace

US Army General Douglas MacArthur championed an invasion of the Philippines, which also lay across the supply lines to Japan. Leaving the Philippines in Japanese hands would be a blow to American prestige and a personal affront to MacArthur, who in 1942 had famously pronounced, “I shall return.”

The considerable air power the Japanese had amassed in the Philippines was thought too dangerous to bypass by many high-ranking officers outside the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Admiral Chester Nimitz. However, Nimitz and MacArthur initially had opposing plans, with Nimitz’s plan centered on an invasion of Formosa, since that could also cut the supply lines to Southeast Asia. Formosa could also serve as a base for an invasion of mainland China, which MacArthur felt was unnecessary. A meeting between MacArthur, Nimitz, and President Roosevelt helped confirm the Philippines as a strategic target, but had less to do with the final decision to invade the Philippines than is sometimes claimed. Nimitz eventually changed his mind and agreed to MacArthur’s plan.

Pictured above: MacArthur, Roosevelt & Nimitz on board USS Baltimore, July 1944

Pictured above: MacArthur, Roosevelt & Nimitz on board USS Baltimore, July 1944

It was also estimated that an invasion of Formosa would require about 12 divisions of US Army soldiers and Marines. This was more land power than the Americans could muster in the whole Pacific Ocean area at that time, and the entire Australian Army was engaged in the Solomon Islands, on New Guinea, in the Dutch East Indies, and on various other Pacific islands. The invasion of Formosa would require much larger ground forces than were available in the Pacific in late 1944, and would not have been feasible until the defeat of Germany freed the necessary manpower.

It was eventually decided that MacArthur’s forces would invade the island of Leyte in the central Philippines. Amphibious forces and close naval support would be provided by the 7th Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid.

Vice Admiral Thomas Cassin Kinkaid had had a distinguished naval career when he took command of the United States Seventh Fleet, also known as MacArthur’s Navy.

Vice Admiral Thomas Cassin Kinkaid had had a distinguished naval career when he took command of the United States Seventh Fleet, also known as MacArthur’s Navy.

The 7th Fleet at this time contained units of the US Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, including the County-class heavy cruisers HMAS Shropshire and Australia, and the destroyer Arunta, and possibly a few warships from New Zealand and/or the Netherlands.

The US 3rd Fleet—commanded by Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., with Task Force 38 (TF 38, the Fast Carrier Task Force, commanded by Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher) as its main component—would provide more distant cover and support for the invasion.

For the Leyte operation,  as 'Task Force 38,' and constituting almost all of the US Third Fleet,   the Fast Carrier Force contained nine large fleet carriers and eight light carriers.   Of the nine heavy carriers eight were of the new Essex Class,  the ninth being the old Enterprise (of the Yorktown Class),  a ship with a matchless combat record.

For the Leyte operation, as ‘Task Force 38,’ and constituting almost all of the US Third Fleet, the Fast Carrier Force contained nine large fleet carriers and eight light carriers. Of the nine heavy carriers eight were of the new Essex Class, the ninth being the old Enterprise (of the Yorktown Class), a ship with a matchless combat record.

A fundamental defect in this plan was there would be no single American naval admiral in overall command. Kinkaid and his 7th Fleet fell under MacArthur as Supreme Allied Commander Southwest Pacific, whereas Halsey’s 3rd Fleet reported to Nimitz as C-in-C Pacific Ocean Areas. This lack of a unified command structure, along with failures in communication, was to produce a crisis, and very nearly a strategic disaster, for the American forces.

By coincidence, the Japanese plan, using three separate fleets, also lacked an overall commander. The American options were apparent to the IJN.

Soemu Toyoda is an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy

Soemu Toyoda is an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy

Combined Fleet Chief Soemu Toyoda prepared four “victory” plans: Shō-Gō 1 was a major naval operation in the Philippines, while Shō-Gō 2, Shō-Gō 3 and Shō-Gō 4 were responses to attacks on Formosa, the Ryukyu and Kurile Islands, respectively. The plans were for complex offensive operations committing nearly all available forces to a decisive battle, despite this substantially depleting Japan’s slender reserves of fuel oil.

On 12 October 1944, the US 3rd Fleet under Admiral Halsey began a series of carrier raids against Formosa and the Ryukyu Islands, with a view to ensuring the aircraft based there could not intervene in the Leyte landings. (See a previous blog post) The Japanese command therefore put Shō-Gō 2 into action, launching waves of air attacks against 3rd Fleet’s carriers. In what Morison refers to as a “knock-down, drag-out fight between carrier-based and land-based air”, the Japanese were routed, losing 600 aircraft in three days, almost their entire air strength in the region. Following the American invasion of the Philippines, the Japanese Navy made the transition to Shō-Gō 1.

Shō-Gō 1 called for Vice-Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa’s ships—known as the “Northern Force”—to lure the main American covering forces away from Leyte.

Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa of the Imperial Japanese Navy

Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa of the Imperial Japanese Navy

Northern Force would be built around several aircraft carriers, but these would have very few aircraft or trained aircrew. The carriers would serve as the main bait. As the US covering forces were lured away, two other surface forces would advance on Leyte from the west. The “Southern Force” under Vice Admirals Shoji Nishimura and Kiyohide Shima would strike at the landing area via Surigao Strait.

Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita

Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita

The “Center Force” under Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita—by far the most powerful of the attacking forces—would pass through San Bernardino Strait into the Philippine Sea, turn southwards, and then also attack the landing area.

Photographed just prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Ships are, from left to right: Musashi, Yamato, a cruiser and Nagato.

Photographed just prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Ships are, from left to right: Musashi, Yamato, a cruiser and Nagato.

This plan was likely to result in the destruction of one or more of the attacking forces, but Toyoda later explained this to his American interrogators as follows:

Should we lose in the Philippines operations, even though the fleet should be left, the shipping lane to the south would be completely cut off so that the fleet, if it should come back to Japanese waters, could not obtain its fuel supply. If it should remain in southern waters, it could not receive supplies of ammunition and arms. There would be no sense in saving the fleet at the expense of the loss of the Philippines.

—United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) – ‘Interrogations of Japanese Officials’

The submarine action in Palawan Passage (23 October)

As it sortied from its base in Brunei, Kurita’s powerful “Center Force” consisted of five battleships (YamatoMusashiNagato,Kongō, and Haruna), ten heavy cruisers (AtagoMayaTakaoChōkaiMyōkōHaguroKumanoSuzuyaTone and Chikuma), two light cruisers (Noshiro and Yahagi) and 15 destroyers.

centerforKurita’s ships passed Palawan Island around midnight on 22–23 October.

Map of the Philippines with Palawan highlighted

Map of the Philippines with Palawan highlighted

The American submarines Darter and Dace were positioned together on the surface close by.

USS Darter (227)

USS Darter (SS-227)

USS Dace (227)

USS Dace (SS-227)

At 00:16 on 23 October, Darter‘s radar detected the Japanese formation at a range of 30,000 yd (27,000 m). Her captain promptly made visual contact. The two submarines quickly moved off in pursuit of the ships, while Darter made the first of three contact reports. At least one of these was picked up by a radio operator on Yamato, but Kurita failed to take appropriate antisubmarine precautions.

Darter and Dace traveled on the surface at full power for several hours and gained a position ahead of Kurita’s formation, with the intention of making a submerged attack at first light. This attack was unusually successful. At 05:24, Darter fired a spread of six torpedoes, at least four of which hit Kurita’s flagship, the heavy cruiser Atago. Ten minutes later, Darter made two hits on Atago‘s sister ship, Takao, with another spread of torpedoes. At 05:56, Dace made four torpedo hits on the heavy cruiser Maya (sister to Atago and Takao).

Atago and Maya quickly sank. Takao turned back to Brunei escorted by two destroyers—and was followed by the two submarines.

Sunk by planes from the U.S.S. Natoma Bay CVE-62 on October 25, 1944 at the battle of Leyte Gulf.

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Atago sunk by planes from the U.S.S. Natoma Bay CVE-62 on October 25, 1944 at the battle of Leyte Gulf.

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Maya torpedoed October 23, 1944

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Maya torpedoed October 23, 1944

On 24 October, as the submarines continued to shadow the damaged cruiser, Darter ran aground on the Bombay Shoal. All efforts to get her off failed, and she was abandoned. Her entire crew was, however, rescued by Dace.

Takao returned to Singapore. She was joined in January 1945 by Myōkō.

Atago had sunk so rapidly, Kurita was forced to swim to survive. He was rescued by one of the Japanese destroyers, and he then transferred to the battleship Yamato.

In my next post, I will continue with this campaign in Leyte Gulf with the The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea (24 October, 1944)

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).

Overhead view of an ammo ship replenishing USS Hornet (CV-12), October 1944. Note the forward antenna masts half way up.

Overhead view of an ammo ship replenishing USS Hornet (CV-12), October 1944.
Note the forward antenna masts half way up.

U.S. carrier-based torpedo bombers are seen during an attack on Japanese airbases at Okinawa, Ryukyu islands, on Oct. 9, 1944. AP Photo/U.S. Navy

U.S. carrier-based torpedo bombers are seen during an attack on Japanese airbases at Okinawa, Ryukyu islands, on Oct. 9, 1944.
AP Photo/U.S. Navy

10-19 Oct 1944 – Strikes on Okinawa, Ryukyu Retto, Aparri, Luzon and Formosa. 13 Oct 1944 – First Japanese plane confirmed splashed by HORNET anti- aircraft fire.

The Ryukyu Islands, known in Japanese as the Nansei Islands and also known as the Ryukyu Arc, are a chain of volcanic Japanese islands that stretch southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan: the Ōsumi, Tokara, Amami, Okinawa, and Sakishima Islands (further divided into the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands), with Yonaguni the southernmost. The largest of the islands is Okinawa.

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Planes from fast carriers of Admiral Nimitz's Pacific Fleet hit targets in the industrial area of Naha City on Okinawa Island in the Ryukyu chain south of Japan. These vast plumes of smoke stem from stricken ships and warehouses, at least four ships having been fired.

Planes from fast carriers of Admiral Nimitz’s Pacific Fleet hit targets in the industrial area of Naha City on Okinawa Island in the Ryukyu chain south of Japan. These vast plumes of smoke stem from stricken ships and warehouses, at least four ships having been fired.

The Formosa Air Battle took place between October 10 and 20, 1944, off the eastern coasts of the Ryukyu Islands, Formosa, and Luzon. It was fought by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and the approaching Task Force 38 of the United States Third Fleet and was one of a series of air raids on Japan during the Pacific War. The attacks served to prevent the Japanese aircraft from involvement in the Battle of Leyte Gulf later that month.

The battle was one-sided, as the Americans practically dominated air warfare due to the superior training and weaponry that they possessed at that point. The Japanese air power in the region was battle exhausted, giving the Americans air superiority and weakening Japan’s ability to defend the Okinawa Islands in the upcoming Okinawa Campaign. However, in an effort to boost morale and to cover up the defeat, Japanese headquarters claimed to have sunk 45 Allied ships, including 11 aircraft carriers and four battleships.

The U.S. Third Fleet started carrier-launched raids against Formosa on October 12, 1944. The Japanese response was to send waves of aircraft against the U.S. carriers. On October 13, the cruiser USS Canberra was seriously damaged by a torpedo bomber while for one of the first times in the war a kamikaze aircraft was used, which lightly damaged the carrier USS Franklin. The following day saw the island all but neutralized but the light cruiser USS Houston was damaged by an enemy torpedo,

View looking aft showing the damage to the starboard catapult after the first torpedo hit.

USS Houston CL-81 – View looking aft showing the damage to the starboard catapult after the first torpedo hit.

while the carrier USS Hancock, the light cruiser USS Reno and two destroyers had all incurred some form of damage. However over three days the Japanese had lost approximately 500 aircraft and countless ships, which was almost their entire air strength in the area while American losses in aircraft amounted to 89.

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At this point I am going to take a break from my father’s story and write about my uncle and the Battle of Formosa. If you recall from my introduction, my father had a twin brother, James Ryan.

James RyanAround the time my father was boarding the USS Hornet (CV-12), his brother was on board the USS Houston (CL-81), a Cleveland Class Light Cruiser.

USS Houston (CL-81) 1943

USS Houston (CL-81) 1943

In a biographical account of his naval career, my uncle mentions that he and my father did get to meet once when their ships were anchored in Saipan Harbor. Both ships were part of the same Task Force. My uncle passed away this year at the age of 90 but he had a written account of his experience in the Battle of Formosa. I now share his words.

The major invasion of the Philippines was scheduled for late October so our Task Force was sent North to intercept the Jap Fleet if they tried to interfere with this landing. We then supported air strikes on Okinawa and Formosa (now Taiwan). We operated in the China Sea and were the first Task Force to penetrate so close to the Japanese Homeland. This meant we had to be within range of land-based planes in Formosa and China.

At about 6 p.m. on October 14th, our Task Force was attacked by about 90 enemy fighters and bombers. The fighter planes from our Carriers destroyed most of these planes, but about 7 p.m. a bomber launched his torpedo and struck us amidships (between the forward fire room and the after engine room). I was extremely lucky that General Quarters sounded (the alarm that enemy planes are approaching) when I was not at my regular station, i.e. the after engine room. I proceeded to my battle station, a Damage Control Unit, just one deck above the engine room. The initial blast killed about a quarter of my division.

Ordeal of the U.S.S. Houston by Jack Fellows

Ordeal of the U.S.S. Houston
by Jack Fellows

About 8 p.m. the Captain passed the word to “Abandon Ship”. So I made my way up three decks to the topside to my “Abandon Ship” location. I jumped in with my life jacket on and clung to the side of the raft type float that had several severely wounded men in the center. [They had burial at sea for two men from rafts who did not make it.]

USS Houston (CL 81) Burial at sea for crewmen killed when the ship was torpedoed off Formosa on 14 October 1944. Photographed while Houston was under tow on 15 October. The following day, 16 October, she was hit in the starboard quarter (just aft of where this view was taken) by another aerial torpedo. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. - 19-N-110835.

USS Houston (CL 81) Burial at sea for crewmen killed when the ship was torpedoed off Formosa on 14 October 1944. Photographed while Houston was under tow on 15 October. The following day, 16 October, she was hit in the starboard quarter (just aft of where this view was taken) by another aerial torpedo.
Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. – 19-N-110835.

We drifted for about 6 hours in heavy seas until we were picked up by the Destroyer Grayson. The next day we saw that our ship did not sink and was being towed by the Cruiser Boston. They eventually got the ship back to Manus in the Admiralty Islands (above Australia) about a 2,000 mile trip.

View looking aft, showing damage to the ship's stern area resulting from a torpedo hit amidships received off Formosa on 14 October 1944. This photo was taken while Houston was under tow, but prior to the second torpedo hit on 16 October. Note OS2U floatplane that had been jarred off the port catapult, breaking its wing on impact with the aircraft crane. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives #19-N-106304.

View looking aft, showing damage to the ship’s stern area resulting from a torpedo hit amidships received off Formosa on 14 October 1944. This photo was taken while Houston was under tow, but prior to the second torpedo hit on 16 October. Note OS2U floatplane that had been jarred off the port catapult, breaking its wing on impact with the aircraft crane.
Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives #19-N-106304.

Japanese aerial torpedo hits the ship's starboard quarter, during the afternoon of 16 October 1944. This view shows burning fuel at the base of the torpedo explosion's water column. Houston had been torpedoed amidships on 14 October, while off Formosa, and was under tow by USS Pawnee (ATF 74) when enemy torpedo planes hit her again. USS Canberra (CA 70), also torpedoed off Formosa, is under tow in the distance. The original photograph is in the USS Santa Fe (CL 60) "Log", a very large photo album held by the Navy Department Library. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center #NH 98826.

Japanese aerial torpedo hits the ship’s starboard quarter, during the afternoon of 16 October 1944. This view shows burning fuel at the base of the torpedo explosion’s water column. Houston had been torpedoed amidships on 14 October, while off Formosa, and was under tow by USS Pawnee (ATF 74) when enemy torpedo planes hit her again. USS Canberra (CA 70), also torpedoed off Formosa, is under tow in the distance. The original photograph is in the USS Santa Fe (CL 60) “Log”, a very large photo album held by the Navy Department Library.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center #NH 98826.

I was transferred at sea from the Grayson to another Cruiser, the Santa Fe, and to the Troop Ship Dashing Wave that took us back to Pearl Harbor.

USS Grayson (DD-435)

USS Grayson (DD-435)

USS Santa Fe CL-60

USS Santa Fe CL-60

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They ordered the “Black Gang” (workers in the engine room) to rejoin our ship, so we got a ride on a carrier back to Manus. We worked on a giant loading dry-dock to repair the ship to make it seaworthy enough to take us back to the United States.

Seaworthy in February 1945 USS Houston CL-81

Seaworthy in February 1945
USS Houston CL-81

By Mid-February we left Manus and limped back to the Brooklyn Navy Yard arriving about the end of March. The war ended in early September but our ship wasn’t finished until October. We took another shake-down cruise in the Caribbean and arrived back in Norfolk, Virginia. I was discharged in Mid-December 1945.

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.

doyle_austin_k

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
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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.

USMC-IV-2

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.

air_philippines

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.

carmencover1

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