Fighting Squadron 82 was commissioned an integral unit of the fighting Navy on 1 April 1944 at Atlantic City, New Jersey. Under the guiding hand of Lieutenant Commander Edward William Hessel of Cincinnati, Ohio, who had seen the Japanese in action early in the war, a rigorous training program was instituted. Experienced combat pilots are the backbone of any new squadron and we were fortunate in having among our more "battle savvy" men several who had been with the Commanding Officer aboard USS Hornet; men who participated in the battles of Guadalcanal, Midway and Santa Cruz. James M. Forbes of Kansas City, had been in Scouting Eight; Roy Dalton and Bob Jennings of Hot Springs, had flown together in Fighting 72; and the famous "sub-killer" squadron, VC-9, of USS Bogue, contributed "Red" Donahoe, "Stew" Heim, Sonny Puckett and Phil Perabo, who had built up an impressive number of hours on Atlantic duty.
Most of the men entered the Navy directly from the campus ï¿½ fresh from civilian life ï¿½ into a Navy preparing for war. Using this small nucleus of experienced pilots, the skipper concentrated on teaching those with no combat time the tactics that had been found most successful both in his own and the squadron's experience. The now popular "inner-weave" was given exhaustive trials and adopted as a basis for defense. Proficiency in gunnery was given primary consideration with the result that the squadron gunnery score was considerably above average. Good progress was made while the squadron was based at Atlantic City. Group tactics were stressed when the fighters joined the bomber and torpedo squadrons on 15 June, at Naval Air Station, Oceana, Virginia. Close coordination of forces and teamwork was the goal of our training that included group formation flights, simulated attacks on shipping and pre-arranged strikes on landing craft in Chesapeake Bay. Carrier landing practice was begun aboard USS Charger.
A hurricane was the occasion for the first fatality. On 17 July, Lieutenant Robert Swanson, USN, was killed in an attempted landing, the result of engine trouble, while returning from an evacuation flight.
An important event for Fighting 82 was the commissioning of its ship, USS Bennington (CV-20), in Brooklyn Navy Yard on 6 August. On 16 September, the squadron was moved from Oceana to Norfolk, and the pilots became accustomed to the "feel" of Benningtonï¿½s deck in Chesapeake Bay.
Two weeks later the Air Group moved aboard the "Big B" and she headed for Trinidad, on her shakedown cruise. Our second casualty, Ensign Thomas Connors, USN, was lost in a high speed dive, the result of structural failure. While at Trinidad, we were based at Waller Field, Fort Read. On 13 November, the squadron launched for Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Soon a dispatch arrived authorizing an increase in complement of 26 pilots and advancing the number of aircraft to 54. No possibility was overlooked in an attempt to bring the new pilots up to squadron standards. As though shadowed by the law of averages, which states that for every squadron formed, six pilots are lost in training, we suffered another casualty when Ensign Pat Hackett, USN, a new pilot, was killed on 7 December, during night operations. On 9 December, the squadron complement was again radically changed to consist of 40 pilots and 32 aircraft. This entailed transferring all the new pilots, in addition to some of the regulars, who had been with the group since its inception.
On 15 December, Fighting Squadron 82 landed aboard USS Bennington enroute to the Pacific coast via the Panama Canal. One of the most interesting and successful tactical flights made by the group was the simulated attack against the Canal Zone, the Army defending the locks and installations with mock anti-aircraft defense and zone-based fighters. This was the closest we had yet come as a group to determined defense measures. We emerged more confident in our tactics, determined to make the most of them in actions to come. We arrived in San Diego on 29 December, and three days later, Fighting 82, aboard Bennington, headed for action, "somewhere in the Pacific."
Fighting Squadron 82, aboard USS Bennington (CV-20), left San Diego, 1 January 1945, for Pearl Harbor. After a month, most of which was spent at Kahuluhi field, Maui, in training, we departed for Ulithi Atoll in the Carolines, which was, at that time, the closest staging station for ships operating in the Philippines, and other forward areas. The great number of warships and supply ships, which we found there, suggested that our first action would be, as the captain of Bennington put it, ï¿½Not a warm up, but the big game.ï¿½ None of us thought this was an understatement for when the carrier sortied from the lagoon with Task Group 58.1 on 10 February, we learned that our first action would be over Japan itself.
As the days went by and the force came closer to the coast of Japan, veteran pilots feeling the tension that precedes an attack, stressed the importance of teamwork and the fundamentals of combat. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander E.W. Hessel, made certain that no pilot was unacquainted with the latest enemy tactics and that everyone knew his target and the target area thoroughly. Those last minute lectures paid dividends.
For all strikes, Task Group 58.1 was assigned Target Area 3, which included Tokyo and the area extending from Tokyo Bay area west to Mikatagahara and Hammamatsu airfield and the west shore of Tokyo Bay to the mouth of the Sumida River. This also included the island of Hachijo Jima, 125 miles to the south. In all cases our primary mission was the destruction of enemy aircraft, shipping, aircraft installations and aircraft engine factories.
Led by Lieutenant Commander Hessel, the first fighter sweep hit Yokasuka and Tateyama airfields that were located in the heart of the Tokyo Bay Area. Needless to say, heavy flak of all types was encountered by the 16 fighter pilots who strafed parked planes and installations inflicting heavy damage. No enemy aircraft were encountered in the air.
About the time this group reached Yokasuka Naval Air Station and the second flight took off to attack Mitsune Airfield on Hachijo Jima with rockets and bombs. Because of the poor visibility and low ceiling, the strike was forced to approach through a valley along which the enemy had disposed anti-aircraft defense batteries. That fire damaged several of the attacking planes, regardless of which, they sank a FTC of 4,500 tons and caused extensive damage to aircraft and installations on the field. No pilots were lost on either of the squadron's first two strikes.
Strike DOG, consisting of 14 Hellcats, took off before noon to attack airborne and parked aircraft at Atsugi and Tateyama airfields. The memory of Atsugi is a bitter one. Two divisions of our fighters were jumped by 12-16 Oscars, Zekes and Tojos. In the ensuing dogfight, three of our F6F-5s were shot down and a fourth so badly damaged that it had to be jettisoned upon return to base. Six fighters broke through however and destroyed eight aircraft on the ground at Atsugi and strafed hangars and barracks at Tateyama. The dogfight, which whirled on for several minutes and finally spent itself in the clouds, accounted for at least 11 Japanese either shot down or badly damaged. Although four of our pilots were missing as a result of the engagement, the possibility of their survival was good. Lieutenant Benjamin A. Inghram was last seen waving cheerfully to circling planes from his life raft in Sagami Bay. Heavy seas, extremely adverse weather and withdrawal of the task force made rescue impossible.
The last strike of the day called for a 36-plane sweep of the Tokyo Area. Because of poor visibility and reduced availability of aircraft occasioned by the dayï¿½s strenuous schedule, no aircraft from the other carriers appeared at the rendezvous point, but with confidence peculiar only to the young, four pilots from Fighting 82 executed this mission. The four pilots, Lieutenant Roy Bale Dalton, Ensign Claire Edsall Noble, Lieutenant Armand Gordon Manson and Ensign Jackson Ross Turner, flying through adverse weather and extremely intense flak of all types, pressed an attack against the heavily fortified naval base at Yokosuka and the airfield at Kisarazu, destroying or damaging 18 single and twin-engine aircraft. On the way out, for good measure, they strafed two patrol craft, burning one.
The following day we continued to pound the Japanese homeland. The squadron made strikes against airfields at Hammamatsu, Mikatagahara and Haneda with bombs and rockets. Good weather over the target and inaccurate return fire permitted us to deal a telling blow against these enemy fields. After the fight on the preceding day, our pilots were anxious to tangle with the enemy and as luck would have it, the flight, led by the ï¿½old manï¿½ ran into four Tojos and a Zeke which they immediately attacked, destroying the Tojos and damaging the Zeke.
On 18 February, the squadron searched for Japanese picket boats and made an attack against the Japanese held island of Chichi Jima. A low ceiling made conditions unfavorable for launching the strike and the combined air groups of several carriers set out for the target. As we were forced to circle the island to clarify the attack sequence and as the weather kept us at a low altitude, the anti-aircraft gunners were forewarned and waiting when we arrived. In the face of their intense reception, the pilots pressed home their rocket and strafing attacks on the ships and installations in the harbor. Routine patrols were flown on the 19th, but the following three days saw us engaged in flying support strikes against Iwo Jima. This was the first time we had been assigned missions in close support of ground forces, the occasion being the support of Marine ground forces in the occupation of the island. We realized the Marines were finding "Bloody Iwo" a tough problem and the squadron did its best to reach the target in weather which would ordinarily have kept it on the deck. We were proud of the "well done" received for our work.
A few days later the squadron was ordered to fire-tomb Tokyo and hit Atsugi and Shimomizo airfields. Weather which was at times "zero-zero" prevented this however, and the rest of the month was spent in flying routine patrols.
The first of March found us over Okinawa looking for airborne aircraft and destroying those that were parked on the airfields at Katena and Ie Shima as well as completing many photographic missions on the Kerama Rhetto and Okinawa beaches. We also hit shipping at Myako Shima. Numerous strafing runs were made against accurate medium flak that did not succeed in dampening our enthusiasm for the task of cleaning our parked planes and sinking the shipping which was an easy prey for our rockets and bombs. Heavy AA fire was encountered over Sukuma airfield on Myako Shima as well as from the ships, which held their fire until we had committed ourselves to a run. We lost one pilot, Lieutenant B.P. Limehouse Jr., from the flak over Myako but caused heavy damage to the fields and harbor facilities.
Following the Okinawa operations which took place on the first, Bennington headed for Ulithi where we flew an occasional combat air patrol. After a two week layover for resting, rearming and refueling, we headed for Japan once again. On 18 March, Fighting Squadron 82 attacked Kanoya East and Shimbushi airfields and also hit shipping in Kagoshima Bay, Kyushu. Our first assignment on the Kyushu raid was the destruction of the installations at Kanoya East airfield. The pilots did a masterful job and many direct hits were scored both here and on the secondary target, Shibushi airfield.
By this time, the fighting squadron was operating smoothly and efficiently and was building up a score to be proud of. Strikes were no longer a novelty. The squadron flew routine patrols and performed the numerous tasks necessary for the safety and efficient operation of the ship and task group. All this of course in addition to the numerous strikes and searches that were required.
On 19 March, our big chance came with word that an enemy fleet was at anchor in Kure harbor, probably in Hiroshima Bay. A flight consisting of 14 VF, 12 VB and 12 VT, proceeded in search of the elusive enemy who had until then been hard to find. Bennington planes in company with others from carriers in Task Force 58, hit a battleship of the Yamato class, a cruiser, a carrier and a number of destroyers and various ships. Crossing over the mountainous Shikoku, which separates the Pacific from the Inland Sea, we approached the important Japanese stronghold of Kure. The welcome was warm. An ensign described the flak, not as flak, but as "a lot of low hanging black clouds." Others claimed that it was impossible to see through the stuff, it was so thick and heavy. There was no doubt that there was a great deal of flak thrown at us that day both from the fleet and from the shore batteries which put up a wicked barrage. It was an awe inspiring sight. As we approached, the fleet was on our left, the harbor on our right. The ships were getting up steam preparatory to commencing evasive action. As one looked about the sky, one could see large flights of our air force bombers, torpedos and fighters, closely bunched, heading for the now active fleet. The sky was literally full of anti-aircraft bursts. We expected enemy planes to attack at any moment. Reaching our push-over point, we nosed over. A long screaming dive from 14,000 feet ï¿½ sights on battleship, cruiser or "can" ï¿½ a quick release and pull out. Out of the corner of an eye a dive bomber suddenly trailed a long, silken streamer of smoke and headed for the water. The battleship, which was the major target, was hurt as were the cruiser and destroyers. Lieutenant Richard E. Britson of Roland, Iowa, put a bomb into the battleship. Other VF pilots bombed and strafed 2 DDs and a large tanker ï¿½ one DD was seriously damaged by a direct hit and several near misses. After the pull-out, one of Fighting 82's divisions caught a train along the coast of the mainland ï¿½ destroyed the engine and strafed the cars. The same four destroyed another train and damaged a third a short time later. The fighters rounded the torpedo and bomber planes and escorted them back to the Bennington leaving the Japanese something to think about.
The second strike of the day was against Hiroshima airfield where 10 of our planes strafed, bombed and rocketed installations. Seven of Fighting 82's Hellcats, led by Lieutenant Robert E. Jennings Jr., found a prize package in the form of a Japanese carrier anchored in a bay, northeast of Naga Shima. Lieutenant O.J. Donahoe scored a hit on the fantail and a near miss with his two 250 lb. bombs while Ensign Jerry Huffman scored hits with two rockets. They succeeded in starting a fire but as pictures were not taken damage was unassessable. While Lieutenant (JG) Earl Alder McCallister of Provo, Utah, was making a strafing run against Kochi airfield, Shikoku, his aircraft disintegrated ï¿½ as though it had struck a projection from the ground ï¿½and fell into the sea about 200 yards offshore. McCallister was recorded as "missing in action."
On the following strike the same day, before the 14 Navy and two Marine fighters had an opportunity to press home an attack on Kanoya airfield, they were intercepted by a force of 25 to 30 Tojos and Oscars. A mad scramble ensued in which three of the enemy were probably destroyed. Several of the pilots unloaded on the airfield. An Oscar got in a burst on Lieutenant (JG) Richard Lester Pfeifer of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whose plane was seen to break in half aft of the cockpit at 2,000 feet. Pfeifer was not seen to bail out and was declared "missing in action." Kerama Rhetto came in for its share of fire on 23 March. This date was Love Minus 9 Day, and the missions assigned the group were the destruction of all shipping, communications, stores, gun emplacements and in fact, any targets which might impede the landing operations scheduled for Love Minus 6 Day in Kerama Rhetto. This was an invitation to warm the heart of any fighter pilot and the boys went out to make the most of it. A field day was declared on Kerama Rhetto and an untold and unassessable amount of damage was caused, many fires were started and many small ships sent to the bottom.
A convoy strike of nine Navy and six Marine fighters, which had been sent out to apprehend a reported Japanese supply group, found not the main convoy, but a small one consisting of six ships. As the strike group had expended most of its fuel in the search for the main convoy, little time could be spent in the attack, which resulted in damage to a FTC, DE, two SD and two luggers.
Kerama Rhetto was hit again the next day with the same results. Of more importance however, was the finding of a large convoy that had been reported the preceding day. No doubt was left in anyone's mind as to the outcome of this strike, which consisted of 11 bombers, 12 torpedo planes and 12 Navy and four Marine fighters. The whole convoy consisting of three FTCs, one DD, one TB, one SD and one trawler was sent to the bottom. After making repeated strafing runs on the largest of the ships, we found it was carrying a powerful load of some sort, when it blew up, sending a huge column of smoke skyward. Luckily none of our pilots were over it at the time or they would surely have been blown out of the air. The long flight back to the Bennington was made without incident.
The following day was the first day that the squadron devoted its entire efforts to close support missions on the island of Okinawa. The procedure in the execution of these strikes followed closely that established at Iwo Jima. The same elaborate communication system, rigid air discipline and demand for efficient cooperation were required. The fighters were, by now, used to carrying loads of bombs and rockets to the enemy and placing them in the most lucrative positions, this we did at the now familiar target of Okinawa.
Although 26 and 27 of March, were originally scheduled as rest days for the group, fueling operations were completed on the 26th, which made the fighter squadron available for strikes on the 27th, against any plums the admiral might select. The plums were not long in being handed out, for on the previous evening a search plane spotted an "armada of Japanese merchant ships" in Sase Ko, Kakeroma Shima, and orders came through to destroy them. 16 Hellcats escorting bombers and torpedo planes took off to do just this. Upon reaching Sase Ko, they found that the original report had been exaggerated as most of the shipping was made up of small craft. However we were never averse to sinking anything, even small boats, so we went ahead and expended our ammunition, bombs and rockets. Results were excellent.
Lieutenant Elbert Stewart Heim of Bossier City, Louisiana, was last seen pulling out of a dive during a bombing attack on Japanese ships in the harbor and going into a cloud. He was not seen again and was declared "missing in action." One other pilot was shot down on this strike, Lieutenant (JG) Bradford Paul Smith, who made a capable water landing, was picked up by a submarine, and ultimately returned to the squadron. What started out to be another day of close-support missions on Okinawa Jima, wound up in an all-out search for the elusive remnants of the Japanese fleet. Word was received that it was steaming south along the coastline of Kyushu and a large group of fighters, bombers and torpedos was launched to intercept. After a wide search of the area, we concluded that the enemy had either taken to their heels or never been there in the first place. This did not deter the fighters from shooting down five Japanese planes which had been unwary enough to be in the vicinity at the time. One of those created a bit of confusion when we saw that it was towing another plane, which proved to be a glider. They both crashed into the sea. On the morning of the 29th, four of our night fighters took off to reconnoiter Kure harbor for the Japanese fleet. Much before sunrise they arrived at Kure, and there, in the light of the moon, they saw a long column of warships apparently leaving the safety of the Inland Sea for the Pacific, which was then becoming the final resting place of many of the Emperor's Imperial Fleet. The same day, a sweep of the airfields at Miyakanojo and Korimoto on Kyushu was accomplished. Eight pilots from Fighting 82 took part in this raid, strafing and bombing installations and parked planes with their usual efficiency.
On the last day of the month, VF-82 made a sweep against the fighter field on Tokuno. On the first run, only normal ammo was carried and planes parked on the sides of the strip were strafed. The word was passed, however, after the photo interpreter saw the photos of the area, that many aircraft were parked off the runways in revetments and that bombs and rockets would be a welcome addition to future loads. On the afternoon sweep, the airplanes were loaded accordingly, with most satisfying results. We carried pictures of the revetments and the well-camouflaged hiding places and by comparing them to the actual outline of the field were able to achieve spectacular results. What appeared to be simply piles of brush were found to conceal fueled Japanese planes. The lack of anti-aircraft fire made the task of cleaning out all these spots a pleasant one.
Love Day had arrived for Okinawa. Timed to the split second, our first strike in support was a pre-H Hour Napalm and strafing attack whose mission it was to neutralize the gun positions commanding the western beach approaches. 10 minutes were allowed for all planes to complete their attacks and to clear the area in favor of the 64-plane napalm strike. 32 fighters from the Bennington completely scorched the areas as far as 2,000 yards inland. The tempo was stepped up as the fighters completed their napalm attacks and proceeded to a pre-determined orbit point in preparation for a strafing attack on the beaches. At the exact second that CASCU called for the strafing attacks to begin, four teams, each with 16 fighters abreast, plastered the land area with .50 caliber gunfire. Each team made four runs moving the impact area inland each time to maintain fire at least 200 yards ahead of the approaching landing craft. CASCU gave the pilots a "well done" after the fourth attack and the fighter pilots returned to base in high spirits, having had part in the success of the landings, climaxing the largest amphibious operation ever attempted in the Pacific.
The following day, Fighting 82 was assigned targets on Okinawa, the airfields at Tokuno and Kikai Shima and the submarine base at Kuchinoyerabu Shima. Buildings, radio stations and boats were strafed. On 3 April, Fighting 82 struck airfields and installations at Sakishima Gunto. The main reason for this was to deny the Japanese the use of Hirara, Myrara and Nobara as staging points for aircraft enroute to Formosa and Okinawa. Four of our aircraft bombed, rocketed and strafed Ishagaki Airfield on Ishagaki Shima. During this attack the pilots reported that they were subjected to something new in enemy AA. First the Japanese shot phosphorous shells at them, which, upon exploding, ejected a parachute with a small black object attached. They avoided flying too close to the chute for fear it might be a delayed action bomb, so this new gismo remained a mystery. After a day of refueling, Task Group 58.1 returned to the scene of action around Okinawa. As no close support missions were ordered, the group was again assigned a neutralization job. This time it was Tokuno Airfield on Tokuno Shima, a target which was to become exceedingly familiar to us as the weeks went by. Tokuno is an island 105 miles northeast of Okinawaï¿½s Point Bolo, the reference point for all operations conducted in the vicinity. The field on the island was being used by the enemy as a staging point for aircraft flying from Kyushu to attack our ships which were lying off Okinawa supplying our troops; the threat was one not to be ignored. Fighting 82, by maintaining patrols in this area, and by neutralizing the field itself, played an important role in the initial landings and in the development of the Okinawa campaign.
The order was passed on the night of 5 April, to de-gas and de-bomb all, but the fighters, which were to be kept in readiness to intercept the Japanese sky-train believed to arrive on the following morning. However the morning of the sixth proved a disappointment as the unreliable Japanese failed to appear. Things began to happen later in the afternoon, however, for during a Target Combat Air Patrol, 11 pilots intercepted and shot down 18 Vals, four Oscars, one Zeke, one Frank and one Jill. The three divisions of Hellcat pilots led by Lieutenant R. Britson, Lieutenant Robert Jennings and Lieutenant "Buck" Gregory were a proud bunch that night.
Fighting 82 made attacks on two occasions against enemy task groups consisting of one battleship of the Yamato Class and eight to 10 escorting ships (light cruisers and destroyers). The first of these, which took place on 19 March, has already been mentioned. The second took place in the East China Sea about 70 miles off the west coast of Kyushu on 7 April. The 45,000-ton battleship and its cruiser and destroyer escort proved no match for the bombs and rockets of the attacking planes, which with the assistance of other attacking groups, sank the BB, the cruisers and all but three of the destroyers. A four-plane radar picket patrol that was in the air at the time, proved that we were adept at all kinds of destruction by intercepting four Franks and a George that made a good deal of smoke as they burned. The next five days were spent neutralizing the field at Tokuno and destroying shipping at Amami O Shima. Many enemy planes were destroyed at both places, ï¿½ on the field at Tokuno and at the seaplane base on Amami. Pilots of the fighting squadron also flew protective cover over Okinawa. Squadron pilots doubled in brass on the fourteenth, by hitting Inujo field on Tanego Shima and by conducting a sweep of Minami Daito. At Inujo, the fighter skipper started things off by flaming a Tojo that was flying around alone over the field. The group continued to mete out punishment by strafing and rocketing planes and installations and by paying a whirlwind visit to Tokuno airfield on the way home, where three more of the sorely tried enemyï¿½s planes were flamed and damage inflicted to installations. By this time, the Japanese should have realized that Tokuno was useless for staging purposes, for the runway was pitted with craters hundreds of feet across; the buildings bordering the field were demolished; and the houses of the inhabitants were either rubble or well on the way to being so. Movement on the island must have been restricted to night, for unexpected attacks were always occurring and the Japanese never knew from which direction they were coming. The fighter sweep on Minami Daito continued to keep this staging airfield neutralized.
After the flight schedule for the day had been published, the word was passed that the Japanese would launch a surprise attack against our forces in the Okinawa area late in the afternoon. This information called for a change in plans: the close support strikes against Okinawa slated for the afternoon were cancelled and instead a task group fighter sweep on the airfields at Kanoya and Kanoya East was substituted. This surprise attack, which found Fighting 82 in the van, proved so effective that an all-out attack by the enemy never materialized. The attack was swift, sure and highly successful. An estimated 200 parked aircraft provided a plentiful supply of targets and pilots returned incredulous at the lack of opposition, which was in contrast to earlier experiences over this field. Our fighters destroyed another five aircraft in the air. The next day was a recap of the strike of the fifteenth, however, the Japanese had learned a lesson from the previous attack and had withdrawn some of the more lucrative targets. Lieutenant R.B. Dalton caught a Zeke in the landing circle and helped it along to a perfect three-point landing ï¿½ spinner, propeller and cowling. A strike against Kikai airfield on Kikai was launched in the afternoon during a respite from an enemy air attack, which had heckled the fleet most of the morning. We struck AA positions, which had accounted for several of our planes the morning of the 13th. On a DCAP, two of the ensigns who had recently joined the Bennington fighter group, made a devastating debut when G.E. Frazier splashed an Irving and O.O. Klibbe nicked a Nick 40 miles north of the force.
The following 10 days, from the 18th to the 27th, were used for close air support and covering missions in the Nansei Shoto Area. Tokuno Airfield was again systematically pounded. Earlier photo coverage had made possible the preparation of an excellent mosaic of the target area, a copy of which was carried by each pilot. The individual sectors assigned to the squadron and pilots were clearly marked on the charts. Each pilot knew his target and went for it, with the result that the field was rendered inoperational.
On 21 April, Ensign C.C. Robbins shot down a Myrt flying at 27,000 feet 40 miles from the task force. This kill raised VF-82's total of planes shot out of the air to 79.
On the 27th, Lieutenant (JG) Richard Thomas Hayes of Solon, Ohio, spun into the sea immediately upon take-off and was listed as "killed, not due to enemy action." At the conclusion of the day operations, Bennington proceeded in company with the other ships of 58.1 toward Ulithi Island Anchorage, Caroline Islands, for replenishing, and for a much needed 10-day rest for the pilots and crew. We anchored on the 30th. From 1-8 May, VF-82, aboard USS Bennington, remained at Ulithi. 12 F6F-5s, which had been flown to the airfield at Falolap Island, were used to fly combat air patrols in anticipation of a Japanese air attack, which failed to materialize. Our pilots made the most of facilities available for recreation while we were there and when the 9th rolled around were able to leave Ulithi refreshed. We flew training hops until the twelfth, when strikes were ordered against the airfields at Tokuna Shima and Kikai Jima. A close support mission to Okinawa found our aim up to standard and our bombs and rockets found the target which was an underground truck depot.
The second major attack against the Japanese Island of Kyushu, got underway the morning of the 13th. This time we hit Izumi airfield installations, which included hangars and shop buildings. Our pilots seemed to have a penchant for trains, for they strafed and destroyed two on the west coast of Kyushu, one consisting of tank cars which blazed furiously. Sampans, luggers and other small boats came in for their share of retribution from the same flight.
During the photographic run made on Izumi after the strike, Ensign J.B. Hoag and Lieutenant Phil Perabo were attacked by 15 enemy planes. Hoag managed to boresight two Georges and one Frank but was badly shot up himself. Lieutenant Perabo was hit in the fight but may have ditched off Tirarikake Light, Shiaokoahiki Shina, however, no trace was found in later searches of the area, and he was declared "missing in action." The next strike, the same day, bombed AA positions and rocketed parked aircraft at Chiran airfield. The group then made a strafing attack against Ibusuki field but found that the B-29s had done their job well and left few lucrative targets. The fourth strike of the day found the Hellcat pilots over Saiki Airfield where bombs enveloped the entire seaplane hangar and shop facilities in smoke and flames.
On the 14th, we continued the hectic pace set the preceding day, by hitting Tachiaria Airfield, Kyushu, where we again found evidence of the efficiency of the B-29 bombadiers. Kanoya Field came in for a shellacking when our fragmentation bombs and rockets hit their marks starting fires and destroying parked aircraft. While reconnoitering Tanega Shima after the attack, a radio station was strafed.
Strike Dog had for its target the Kumamoto Airframe Plant. All bombs hit some part of the immense, strung-out plant destroying an estimated 50% of the entire factory.
Strike Easy lived up to its name except for the 450 miles which had to be covered to complete the mission. The target was Matsuyama West, Shikoku, where the remaining hangar and shop buildings were left battered and smoking.
Enroute to Izumi Airfield, the next strike ran headlong into a dog fight over Kagoshima Bay. The Marines who accompanied us jettisoned their bombs and rockets and pitched in with alacrity while the Hellcat pilots retained theirs for an attack on the field. After the scrap, it was too late to proceed to Izumi, so while the Marines gave high cover, the three VF attacked Kokubu Airfield on the north end of Kagoshima Bay. The results of the dog fight were four kills for the Marines (three Tonys, one Frank) and two for VF-82 (two Tonys). This raised the total of enemy aircraft shot down by Air Group 82 to l67; competition between the Marine and Navy pilots was naturally keen and this friendly rivalry helped sharpen our appetite for rising sun aircraft.
On the l6th of the month, a fighter sweep was ordered against the airfield at Minami Daito Shima, in order to keep this strategic base neutralized, preventing the enemy from launching an attack against our forces at Okinawa. A four VF rescue team covered two Kingfishers, which were dispatched to the target along with the strike group, proved to be an excellent precaution, for Lieutenant Commander Hessel, the C.O. of VF-82, whose plane was downed by AA fire about two miles southwest of the island, was given immediate and efficient service.
The air group was put back into the game after two days of scrimmage, in order to assist the troops in Okinawa. On the first day of close support, we bombed, rocketed and strafed command posts, troop concentrations, storage and bivouac areas, gun positions, pillboxes, tanks ï¿½ anything CASCU called for. Close support was given for three days.
On the 21st, we practiced horizontal bombing on Tokuno Airstrip. Weather had been poor enough to warrant flight to the target by the entire group at 500 feet and less, but when the island was reached, good air discipline and fine coordination made it possible to use our bombs to good advantage, regardless of the low ceiling.
On the 22nd, what started out to be another day spent in close support work over Okinawa, wound up in a shipping strike levelled at a troop laden LSM and two PC-13s, presumably headed to reinforce beleaguered garrisons north of Okinawa. The result: scratch several hundred of Tojo's Tartars which our men won't have to blast out of caves, foxholes and pillboxes on Amami, Kikai, Tokuno or some other fortified island. The skipper scored a direct hit on the LSM with his 500-pounder G.P., leaving numerous warriors of Japan clinging to bits of wreckage and wondering how it was possible that with their armies in California moving on San Francisco (Japanese propaganda), we could afford to send our air force so far away from home. Special pride and a large share of the glory is taken by the fighters in Admiral Mitscherï¿½s message to Admiral Clark regarding our lethal handling of the Japanese. "Efficiency of your shipping strikes leaves little to be desired. Well done."ï¿½ Mitscher.
Much excitement prevailed in the fighters' ready room when on the 23rd word from CTG-58 was flashed over the teletype to de-gas and de-bomb all bombers and torpedo planes and be prepared for an all-out attack by the Kamikazes. Pea-soup fog and rain, which rolled around by the morning of the 24th, unfortunately called the whole thing off and resulted in another precautionary raid on Kyushu Fields by the Marine fighters. VF-82 flew routine patrols, weather permitting, for the rest of the month.
Okinawa with its hard fighting, die-hard Japanese troops occupied our time from 1-7 June when we flew patrols over and around the islands of the Sansei Shoto Chain.
Our final opportunity to hit the enemy homeland came on 8 June, when word came through that many Japanese aircraft were parked in the revetment area at Kanoya Airfield, Kyushu and presented a possible threat to our forces to the south. The flight schedule for this attack was a difficult one to make up. Pilots who had been through all the enemy could offer in the way of flak and fighters, volunteered eagerly although they knew it would be the last squadron action before we were relieved. Planes were launched 300 miles from the coast of Kyushu and told that Bennington would come no closer because of the serious Kamikaze threat which had already badly hurt other groups. The weather was perfect and we accomplished our final mission with no aerial opposition and no personnel losses. Due to a mid-air collision, Lieutenant (JG) W.L. Stallings made a landing in Kagoshima Bay but was whisked out from under the enemy's nose within half an hour by a Dumbo.
On June 9th Bennington headed for the Philippines where VF-82 went aboard the USS White Plains for transportation to the United States. We arrived in Pearl Harbor 2 July, left on the 3rd and arrived in San Francisco 9 July.
Pilot Planes Shot Down Assists
Jennings, R.H. Jr. Lieutenant 7 1 Zeke 1 Tojo 1 Jack 1 Tony 3 Vals
Huffman, G.M. Lieutenant 3 1 Zeke 1 Tojo 1 Oscar
McCrea, C.A., Jr. Lieutenant (JG) 3 2 Zekes 1 Tojo
Donahoe, O.J. Lieutenant 3 2 Tojos 1 Jack
Gregory, H.A. Lieutenant 5 1 Zeke 1 Oscar 3 Vals
Klingerman, B.F. Lieutenant (JG) 4 2 Lilys 2 Bettys
Robbins, C.C. Lieutenant (JG) 2 1 Myrt 1 Frank 1 Jack
Frazier, G.E. Ensign 1 1 Irving
Klibbe, O.O. Ensign 1 1 Nick
Dalton, R.B. Lieutenant 4 1 Zeke 1 Tojo 1 Frank 1 Tony
Hoag, J.B. Ensign 5 2 Zekes 2 Georges 1 Frank
Hessel, E.W. Lieutenant Commander l 1 Tojo
Harper, A.T. Lieutenant l 1 Oscar
Murray, L.B. Lieutenant (JG) 2 1 Zeke 1 Frank
Manson, A.G. Lieutenant 5 2 Tojos 1 George 1 Frank 1 Nell 1 Oscar
Britson, R.E. Lieutenant 3 2 Vals 1 Tabby
Davies, O.E. Lieutenant (JG) 4 2 Oscars 2 Vals 1 Oscar 1 Val
Budinger, P.M. Lieutenant (JG) 2 1 Zeke 1 Val 1 Val
Ward, S.P. Lieutenant (JG) 3 1 Frank 2 Vals
Lupien, E.f. Lieutenant (JG) 1 1 Val 1 Oscar
Hahn, W.F. Lieutenant (JG) 1 1 Val 1 Oscar
Stallings, W.L. Lieutenant (JG) 2 2 Vals
Howell, F.M. Lieutenant (JG) 2 1 Oscar 1 Jill
Sturgis, S.P. Lieutenant (JG) 1 1 Val
Craig, D.E. Lieutenant (JG) 1 1 Irving 1 Jill 1 Irving
Dace, C.C. Lieutenant (JG) 0 1 Jill
Gear, B.B. Lieutenant (JG) 1 1 Zeke
Wagner, W.H. Lieutenant (JG) 2 1 Jill 1 Nick
Turner, J.R. Ensign 1 1 Glider
Smith, B.P. Lieutenant (JG) 1 1 Frank
Carroll, J.f. Lieutenant 1 1 Zeke
McAllister, E.A. Lieutenant (JG) 1 1 Zeke
Perabo, P. Jr. Lieutenant 1 1Betty
Heim, E.S. Lieutenant 2 1 Zeke 1 Irving 1 Irving
* Smigh, K.D. Lieutenant 2 1 Jill 1 Unknown
* Piscopo, W.g. Lieutenant (JG) 1 1 Jill
*Temporary Duty from VF(N)-90 Attached to USS Enterprise
Damage Inflicted By VF-82 10 February to 8 June 1945
A/C in the air Destroyed...85 Damagedï¿½ 17
A/C on the ground Destroyed...89 Damagedï¿½144
Warships Destroyedï¿½ 4 Damagedï¿½ 20
Merchant Ships Destroyedï¿½18 Damagedï¿½ 70
Gun Positions Destroyedï¿½ 6 Damagedï¿½ 21
Ground Installations Destroyedï¿½25 Damagedï¿½ 37
Miscellaneous Installations Destroyedï¿½22 Damagedï¿½ 63
.50 Caliber 912,810 rounds
5ï¿½ AR 1,764
5ï¿½ HVAR 1,172
150 gal Napalm 62
100 lb. G.P. 24
250 lb. G.P. 118
500 lb. GP 502
1000 lb. G.P. 4
260 lb. Frag. 87
Pilots Lost Combat 13
A/C Lost Combat 24
Combat hours flown 10,419 (includes all flights ï¿½ CAP & Strikes)
1 February ï¿½ 10 June 1945