Posts Tagged ‘USS Hornet (CV-12)’

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.

 

 

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.

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.  Today I added the December 1944 information.

According to the ship’s log, in January 1945 – the USS Hornet (CV-12) enters the South China Sea for strikes on Formosa, Pescaderos, Saigon, Camranh Bay and Hong Kong.   According to various sources, the events of January 1945 were called Operation MIKE I and Operation GRATITUDE.

Operation Mike I was the first of seven operations, a series of American landings at Luzon between 1945-01-09 and 1945-01-31 after the conclusion of Operation KING, which was obligated by General McArthur’s insistence that he liberate the entire archipelago. MIKE consisted of seven proposed landings and other operations. Each plan was numbered, but they were executed out of sequence. Operation MIKE was followed by Operation VICTOR.  It was the major American landing on Luzon, the principle island of the Philippines. On 1945-01-09, the United States I Corps and XIV Corps performed an amphibious landing at Lingayen Gulf, halfway up the west coast of the island. The Japanese responded with an aerial Kamikaze attack that failed. The operation was concluded with no major contact between the ground forces.

The arrow on the map indicates the area of the landings

The arrow on the map indicates the area of the landings

Rushing out of a Higgins boat during the Luzon Invasion.

Rushing out of a Higgins boat during the Luzon Invasion.

Operation Gratitude was a raid of the South China Sea area conducted by the United States Third Fleet between 10 and 20 January 1945 during the Pacific War of World War II. During the operation, the Third Fleet’s aircraft carriers and battleships attacked Japanese shipping in and near Indochina on 12 January. The fleet then sailed north and attacked Formosa on the 15th of the month. Further raids were conducted against Hong Kong, Canton and Hainan the next day. Further planned attacks were frustrated by bad weather, and the Third Fleet departed the South China Sea on 20 January.  The Third Fleet’s raid on the South China Sea was highly successful. The American carrier aircraft and warships sank 40 Japanese ships and destroyed 110 aircraft. The Japanese succeeded in shooting down 98 aircraft, however.

FORMOSA

If you are not familiar with Formosa, it is the former name for Taiwan.

Formosa-3

January 3 and 4, 1945

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

In accordance with the stated mission, first strikes were scheduled for 3 January, against Formosa and the Ryukyus.  The four days enroute to launching position were spent in routine patrols, group exercises, and fueling.

Operations began with a predawn fighter sweep, launched on schedule in spite of unfavorable weather.  Weather was to remain the severest obstacle during the entire cruise, and it is greatly to the credit of the fliers that missions were generally carried out under the conditions encountered.

Airborne opposition was negligible, which was to be the rule throughout the cruise.  The principal targets on this and most subsequent strikes were plans on the ground and shipping underway and in the harbors.  Anti-aircraft fire and weather were invariably the chief causes of casualties.

The targets assigned to the Hornet this first day, as on all subsequent strikes on Formosa, were the airfields grouped around Tainan, the Pescadores and Takao and Toshien Harbors (see map above).  Frequently, under conditions of bad visibility Hornet fliers attached other fields, and shipping wherever encountered.  But for the most part they remained over the assigned areas.  On 3 and 4 January, the first two days of the operations, these targets were not particularly productive.  The net for the two days was one plan shot down, 30 planes destroyed or damaged on the ground, 1DE, 9 AKs, 25 luggers probably sunk or damaged, and various buildings and installations bombed.  There were no personnel losses during these strikes.

For me it is time for definitions:

What is a DE?  The Japanese Destroyer Escort Program. The Japanese suffered crippling destroyer losses in the Solomons in 1942. While the standard Yugumo destroyer class was an excellent design, its construction took far too long to make good the Japanese losses. The Japanese Navy therefore rushed a new design into production (the Matsu class) that emphasized ease of construction and survivability. These were designated as destroyers but resembled the American destroyer escorts, being slightly smaller but faster and better armed. Further simplifications to speed up construction resulted in the Tachibana design

Japanese Matsu Class Destroyer Escort

Japanese Matsu Class Destroyer Escort

What is an AK?   Cargo ships, together with transports, are the ultimate reason why navies exist.  They are the least expensive way to transport goods over long distances, though not the fastest.  A typical cargo ship of the late 1930s could carry a few thousand tons of goods at a cruising speed of perhaps 10 knots, with a fuel consumption of around 0.1 ton per nautical mile. Some of the older cargo ships still used coal instead of fuel oil.

jap_merch_vessels

What is a lugger?  A lugger is a class of boats, widely used as traditional fishing boats, particularly off the coasts of France, England and Scotland. It is a small sailing vessel with lugsails set on two or more masts and perhaps lug topsails.

Japanese wooden luggers

Japanese wooden luggers

The USS Hornet (CV-12) was part of Task Force 38 in the TG 38.2

TG 38.2

CTG RAdm Gerald F. Bogan

Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan

Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan

CV Hornet II, Hancock, Lexington II/GF
BB New Jersey/FltF, Wisconsin
CA (temporarily attached 01/11-01/12): Boston, Baltimore
CL San Juan
CruDiv17: Wilkes-Barre, Pasadena, Astoria II
DD Trathen (from 01/05)
DesRon52 DesDiv103: The Sullivans, Miller, Owen, Stephen Potter, Tingey
DesDiv104: Hunt, Marshall
DesRon62 DesDiv123: Ault, English, Waldron, Haynsworth, Charles S. Sperry
DesDiv124: Wallace L. Lind, John W. Weeks, Hank
DesRon61: (temporarily attached 01/11-01/12):
DesDiv121: De Haven II, Mansfield, Lyman K. Swenson, Collett, Maddox II
DesDiv122: Blue II, Brush, Taussig, Samuel N. Moore
Elements of Task Group 38.2 underway from Ulithi on 30 December 1944. Aircraft carriers are (front to back) INDEPENDENCE CVL-22, HORNET CV-12 and LEXINGTON CV-16. Cruisers at right are SAN JUAN CL-54 followed by CruDiv 17 ships. -U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-300093

Elements of Task Group 38.2 underway from Ulithi on 30 December 1944. Aircraft carriers are (front to back) INDEPENDENCE CVL-22, HORNET CV-12 and LEXINGTON CV-16. Cruisers at right are SAN JUAN CL-54 followed by CruDiv 17 ships. -U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-300093

VT-4 Avenger over the mountains of Formosa, January 3, 1945.

Not from the Hornet, but in the same operation. VT-4 Avenger over the mountains of Formosa, January 3, 1945.

January 5 – 7, 1945

I tried to find a map of Luzon that shows all the places mentioned below and this is the best I could find.

clark2

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

After fueling for a day, target was shifted to Luzon, and strikes were launched on 6 and 7 January from a position off the east coast of that Island.  Conditions were much the same as at Formosa – bad flying weather and little air opposition.  Five airborne enemy fighters were destroyed over the target in the two days, but there was no real fighter defense.  Friendly planes roamed over the island at will.  All airfields were attacked.  Hornet’s assigned area was a group of fields north of Clark Field, principally Bamban and Tarlac.  However, Mabalacat was frequently struck, and one sweep covered the Cagayan River Valley as far north as Aparri.  Frequently the weather was so bad that only fighters in a strike would get to the target.  The two days showed a score for Hornet of 25 planes destroyed or damaged on the ground, and many military trucks and several railroad locomotives strafed and burned.  Two fighter pilots and a bomber pilot and crewman were lost in action on 7 January, largely as a result of the very bad visibility.

Clark Field, Luzon, Philippines

Clark Field, Luzon, Philippines

 

US Army 40th Division, showing American soldiers advancing on the Japanese held up in the Bamban Hills, Bamban, Tarlac, Luzon, Philippines, 1945

US Army 40th Division, showing American soldiers advancing on the Japanese held up in the Bamban Hills, Bamban, Tarlac, Luzon, Philippines, 1945

 

January 8 and 9, 1945

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

After Luzon, the Task Force moved back to Formosa, fueling enroute on 8 January.  The first landings n Luzon were scheduled for 9 January, and there were reports of enemy shipping concentrations on the wet coast of Formosa.  This proved correct, as Takao Harbor and vicinity produced many fine targets on 9 January.  A few planes were strafed on the various airfields, and five locomotives destroyed, but the shipping score totaled a destroyer and 2 medium AKs blown up, a large oiler, a DE, and 6 medium freighters probably destroyed of damaged.  One torpedo plane was shot down by flak over the south tip of Formosa and one Torpedo crewman was killed in his plane, also by flak.

 World War II in Pictures- On January 9, 1945 the Hell Ship Enoura Maru was still in the harbor at Takao (and moored to the same buoy with a Japanese tanker making them a prime target) when aircraft - again from the USS Hornet - attacked.

World War II in Pictures- On January 9, 1945 the Hell Ship Enoura Maru was still in the harbor at Takao (and moored to the same buoy with a Japanese tanker making them a prime target) when aircraft from the USS Hornet attacked.

 

January 10 – 12, 1945

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

From Formosa, the Task Force steamed south to transit the Luzon Straits for the first time.  Night fighters from Independence splashed two high flying bogies, probably ferrying between Formosa and Luzon in the early dawn of 10 January.  Heavy weather delayed fueling on the 10th, and it was continued on 11 January.  Searches were flown on this day, covering practically the entire South China Sea.  Hornet’s Air Group flew three ten degree sectors to 420 miles, two fighters and one bomber in each sector.  Searches were negative, and after completion of fueling, course was set for the Camranh Bay-Saigon section of the coast of French Indo-China, for a surprise shipping attach at dawn on 12 January.  Two fast battleships, with cruisers and destroyers, were detached to steam ahead and destroy any fleet units found in Camranh Bay.

Predawn searches by night fighters found no major targets in Camranh Bay and the battleships and cruisers rejoined.  But the air strikes up an down the coast, from Saigon and Cape St. Jacque to Tourano, produced one of the biggest shipping hauls on record.  Hornet’s share of the shipping was a Katori Cruiser, a large oiler, a DE, and 2 medium freighters sunk, 7 DE’s and 9 freighters (large, medium and small), damaged, beached or set on fire.  Other air groups joined in some of these attacks.  Added to this were three seaplanes destroyed at Camranh Bay, and 14 land planes strafed at Tan Son Nhut field, near Saigon.  One torpedo plane and crew were lost in one of the shipping strikes, and a fighter pilot made a forced landing on land.  Word was subsequently received that this pilot was in friendly hands.

F6F-5N's VFN-41 CVL-22 USS Independance

F6F-5N’s VFN-41 CVL-22 USS Independance

 

Curtiss SB2C-3 Helldiver aircraft bank over the carrier before landing, following strikes on Japanese shipping in the China Sea, circa mid-January 1945. Photographed by Lieutenant Commander Charles Kerlee, USNR. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-469319).

Curtiss SB2C-3 Helldiver aircraft bank over the carrier before landing, following strikes on Japanese shipping in the China Sea, circa mid-January 1945. Photographed by Lieutenant Commander Charles Kerlee, USNR. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-469319).

 

$_57

A U.S. Navy Grumman TBM-3 Avenger of torpedo squadron VT-11 from the aircraft USS Hornet (CV-12) flies past three Japanese oilers burning in Cam Ranh Bay, Indochina (later Vietnam), on 12 January 1945.

A U.S. Navy Grumman TBM-3 Avenger of torpedo squadron VT-11 from the aircraft USS Hornet (CV-12) flies past three Japanese oilers burning in Cam Ranh Bay, Indochina (later Vietnam), on 12 January 1945.

 

January 13 – 15, 1945

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

For two days after the Indo-China strikes, the Task Force was occupied chiefly in riding out the fringes of a tropical typhoon.  On 13 January there was no flying at all.  On 14 January, searchers were flown, and the Task Force was fueled.  On 15th January, strikes and sweeps were launched against both Formosa and Hong Kong, and the China coast between.  Hornet’s Hong Kong fighter sweep bagged the prize of the day, a Tess, escorted by 4 Zekes, approaching Hong Kong.  All were splashed and even Tokyo Rose railed at this loss.  Hornet’s CAP splashed a Jill (Ticonteroga’s CAP got 4 Zekes a little later), a destroyer was bombed at the Pescaderos, but Formosa produced little, only about 15 planes strafed and probably destroyed, on the various fields near Tainan.  Of the fields near Hong Kong, only Kai Tak showed any planes, sixteen being counted, and three destroyed.  There were good shipping targets in Takao Harbor, but a low ceiling plus barrage balloons and intense anti-aircraft made any attacks suicidal and they were not undertaken.  One bomber water landed on return, the pilot only being recovered.

 

Definition time again.

What is a Tess? The United States gave names to Japanese aircraft.  Tess was the name for Douglas DC-2 used by Japan.

Douglas DC-2

Douglas DC-2

What is a Zeke?   Another American name for Japanese aircraft.  A Zeke was better known as a Zero which was the Mitsubishi A6M.

A6M3 Model 22, flown by Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa over the Solomon Islands, 1943

A6M3 Model 22, flown by Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa over the Solomon Islands, 1943

What is a Jill?  Another American name for Japanese aircraft.  A Jill is a Nakajima B6N Navy Carrier Attack Bomber.

A Japanese Nakajima B6N2 "Tenzan" torpedo bomber in flight.

A Japanese Nakajima B6N2 “Tenzan” torpedo bomber in flight.

 

Heavy seas and rain on the morning of 13 January 1945. USS LEXINGTON CV-16 attempts to fuel from ATASCOSA AO-66 while a destroyer takes a heavy roll to starboard. -U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-299869

Heavy seas and rain on the morning of 13 January 1945. USS LEXINGTON CV-16 attempts to fuel from ATASCOSA AO-66 while a destroyer takes a heavy roll to starboard.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-299869

 

In an image often incorrectly attributed to Typhoon Cobra, a SUMNER-class destroyer plunges in a trough in the South China Sea on 13 January 1945. This image was taken from NEW JERSEY BB-62. -U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-470284

In an image often incorrectly attributed to Typhoon Cobra, a SUMNER-class destroyer plunges in a trough in the South China Sea on 13 January 1945. This image was taken from NEW JERSEY BB-62.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-470284

 

Tokyo Rose (alternative spelling Tokio Rose) was a generic name given by Allied forces in the South Pacific during World War II to any of approximately a dozen English-speaking female broadcasters of Japanese propaganda. However, Iva Toguri is the most famously linked name behind the Tokyo Rose. She was a native to Los Angeles and was stranded in Japan because she was visiting her family when the war broke out. The intent of these broadcasts was to disrupt the morale of Allied forces listening to the broadcast. American servicemen in the Pacific often listened to the propaganda broadcasts to get a sense, by reading between the lines, of the effect of their military actions. She often undermined the anti-American scripts by reading them in a playful, tongue-in-cheek fashion, even going as far as to warn her listeners to expect a “subtle attack” on their morale.

 

Iva Toguri D'Aquino mug shot, Sugamo Prison - March 7, 1946.

Iva Toguri D’Aquino mug shot, Sugamo Prison – March 7, 1946.

Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong. Circa 1946, Short Sunderland Mk.V flying boats of en:No. 209 Squadron RAF (visible in the middle left of photo is 'WQ-S', one of the squadron's Sunderland) parked on land and at the seaplane anchorage of en:Kowloon Bay off en:RAF Kai Tak. Also visible in the foreground is a Douglas Dakota Mk.I of en:No. 215 Squadron RAF.

Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong. Circa 1946, Short Sunderland Mk.V flying boats of en:No. 209 Squadron RAF (visible in the middle left of photo is ‘WQ-S’, one of the squadron’s Sunderland) parked on land and at the seaplane anchorage of en:Kowloon Bay off en:RAF Kai Tak. Also visible in the foreground is a Douglas Dakota Mk.I of en:No. 215 Squadron RAF.

 

January 16, 1945

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

On 16 January, the Task Force strikes covered Hong Kong, Canton, and Hainan.  Hornet’s Air Group was assigned shipping, docks, and airfields in and about Hong Kong.  Strikes on the docks and shipyards were successful.  Three ships were burned and much damage done to the docks at Taikoo shipyards, Kowloon and Cosmopolitan Dockyards at Kowloon, and the Royal Navy Yard at Hong Kong were heavily hit.  But the results of the strikes against ships anchored in Hong Kong Harbor were not commensurate with the effort expended or the losses.  A combination of cramped terrain, intense and concentrated A/A (my guess anti-aircraft) and water too shallow for proper torpedo runs all contributed to the unsatisfactory outcome.  Hornet lost 2 fighters and on torpedo with all personnel.  Photos showed 2 large oilers in Hong Kong Harbor damaged by the attack, one moored at the Royal Navy Yard.  Planes on Kai Tak field were strafed, and the Texaco Oil Tank at Kowloon was burned.

24208-050-01C640E2

Task Force 38 Air strike on Hong Kong 16 Jan 1945

Task Force 38 Air strike on Hong Kong 16 Jan 1945

Kowloon 1945

Kowloon 1945

 

January 17 – 21, 1945

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

For the next four days, the Task Force cruised the South China Sea, fueled, flew extensive searches, but conducted no effective operations.  On the night of 20 January, the Luzon Straits were transited again, this time on a northeasterly course.  The CAP’s of the two other Task Groups accounted for 12 bogies destroyed during the transit, again all appearing to be ferry planes.  Strikes on Formosa were ordered for the following morning.

Formosa, particularly Takao, Tainan, Pescadores area (see map at beginning of post), was by this time a familiar target for Hornet’s fliers.  Shipping was not plentiful, but there were targets in Takao, Toshien, and Pescadores Harbors.  Two destroyers were hit (one fresh out of dry dock at the naval base at Mako Ko, Pescadores), and three large oilers, 5 medium freighters damaged at Takao and Toshion.  Three airborne fighters were destroyed, and upward of 60 destroyed or damaged on the ground.  Enemy rolling stock was reduced by three more locomotives.  The weather was favorable for once, and there were no losses to Hornet’s Air Group.  The day was marked, however, by the only real enemy attack on the force during the entire operation.  Shortly after noon, with hardly any warning from radar, CTG 38.3 reported his Task Group under attack.  No planes got as far as Task Group 38.2, 10 miles distance, but in all, 28 planes were counted in the two main raids which came in.  Of these, 22 were splashed, 20 by CAP and 2 by ships A/A.  Hornet remained at General Quarters for several hours, but all strikes were launched on schedule.  Task Group 38.2 CAP did not encounter any enemy planes.

 

January 22 – 31, 1945

From the war diary found on the website, Fold3:

The last strike of the cruise was against Okinawa, on 22 January.  The mission was primarily photographic, and there were very few respectable strafing or bombing targets.  A few luggers and fishing boats were fired by strafing, several old looking planes bombed, rocketed, and strafed on Yontan, and Le Shima fields, and various buildings and trucks destroyed.  But in general the day was unproductive and uneventful.  Machinato and Yonabaru fields assigned to Hornet, were completely negative.  The target also clouded up in the afternoon, and photographic results were impaired.  The Okinawa strike ended offensive air operations for the cruise.  It has been a long and intense period for the Air Group, made more difficult by continuous bad weather.  All hands were ready to return to Ulithi for replenishment, which was ordered on 23 January

 

A mix of Hellcats. Flat windscreen F6F-5's and round windscreen -3's from VF-11 on Hornet, late January 1945, launching for strikes against Formosa.

A mix of Hellcats. Flat windscreen F6F-5’s and round windscreen -3’s from VF-11 on Hornet, late January 1945, launching for strikes against Formosa.

Hornet and Independence (CVL-22) together, Jan. 25, 1945, as seen from Enterprise (CV-6). National Naval Aviation Museum, photo # 1996.488.245.010. Robert L. Lawson Photograph Collection.

Hornet and Independence (CVL-22) together, Jan. 25, 1945, as seen from Enterprise (CV-6).
National Naval Aviation Museum, photo # 1996.488.245.010. Robert L. Lawson Photograph Collection.

CV-12-USS-Hornet-II-1945-01

USS Hornet (CV-12), January 22, 1945

Check back next time for the Battle of Iwo Jima (February – March 1945).