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A Catalna mission - SWPA

Discussion in 'Honor, Service and Valor' started by FighterPilot, Jun 12, 2009.

  1. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    This is a little quote from a letter I sent to my wingman after he
    went home. He trained me so I would survive in combat. - FP

    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    20 August, 1945
    APO 245, c/o PM, SF
    418th Night Fighter Sqrd
    Ie Shima, The Ryukyus

    Dear Bill:

    Yesterday there was quite a to-do. The Japanese planes, with
    the surrendering Japanese, came in and were escorted for the last
    200 miles by our squadron. They were picked up off Kyushu by a
    squadron from the 49th, and the 35th hovered over the field. The
    planes were Bettys painted white with green crosses. When I got
    down to the runway, only the pilots and crew were left near the
    planes. One [pilot] seemed very warm and kept wiping the
    perspiration from his face with a handkerchief. Maybe he figured
    we'd do to him what his pals do to our pilots. He looked almost
    human. Considering!

    Those Generals and Admirals are due back tonight to return to
    Japan during the early morning, they tell us. They are telling
    "dugout Doug" where all Jap fighting units are located so the
    surrender will be effective.

    Our group of 'Widows' will only watch by radar, so they won't
    know we are out there. Their Bettys are poorly equipped with
    virtually no navigational aids.

    After the news a week ago Saturday that Japan was asking for
    peace, provided the Emperor's prerogatives were not injured, the
    end came quietly here on the morning of the 15th when President
    Truman's announcement was received. A mission had been planned
    for that morning . . . but had been cancelled at 0430 just after
    the OD had made his rounds. We rolled over.

    Two days before, our last day of the war, there had been a couple of
    Catalina missions to the lnland Sea. We led out the flight of
    six. At 13,000 ft., as we were letting down from 17,000 ft.,
    six "Franks," in loose trail, came in from behind. One element
    broke to the right and, as the Franks overshot, he reversed his
    turn and met head-on one of the Franks who had banked around for
    another pass. They both shot, missed, and turned into each other
    again. Then "R" shot him down. That "R" is a natural pilot,
    isn't he?

    "H", the odd man flying on "R's" left, broke to the left
    and turned into the #4 Frank, far behind the leader. "H"
    met him head-on and shot him down. A little later, "S",
    "R"'s wingman, saw a Frank below him coming out of a loop, so he
    nosed down and raked the Frank until it rolled over and went in.
    Those guys will never learn about losing speed in combat airspace,
    will they?

    There was then some dog fighting, diving attacks, and
    evasive maneuvers. Capt. "M" chased a Nip, followed
    him up into a stall, and shot him down just as he winged over. I
    was on "H"'s wing and shot up a Frank and his canopy almost
    seem to explode, but he went into clouds, so no one saw him go in.
    I had raked him from left wing root to canopy before anything seemed
    to happen.

    In the combat, our fifth pilot's right engine was shot out by
    an enemy chance snap shot and the pilot was lost. The others
    chased and severely damaged this Frank. We got five out of the
    six, but we are missing a good man. That brought our destructions
    over Okinawa to 130...

    My wingman and I flew through the clouds and over the water for
    quite a while looking for evidence of my little battle, but no confirmation
    means, no score.

    We are now using a squad tent, just for Intelligence, for the
    office and mapboards range down one of the long sides. The maps
    and the photographs for a mission we never flew now look fatigued
    and dated...

    The P-38s still look as slim and born for the air as ever, and
    the silhouette of a B-24 when the skyline and the edge of a
    revetment are one, is yet the symbol of force at rest.

    Someday I know I shall be lonesome for the sound of many
    planes and I shall miss the excitement. Remember those three
    group raids on Japan with hundreds of B-29's? Those still make
    my heart leap with pride at our forces overcoming theirs.

    But we are all grateful for the end of alerts and raids, the
    sweating out of missions has ended, and all has been accomplished.
    I still jump under the messhall table when some smart guy beats
    up the runway.

    You know, I still feel lucky as all get out with only eight
    months of combat, to have two kills and one probable and up to
    two more maybe's and still be alive. I once told you that while
    in Cadets, they told us to pay attention because we were going up
    against enemy pilots who had fought the war and gotten lots more
    experience and flight time than we did. Yet, most Jap pilots I
    met were less well trained than I and apparently had fewer hours
    in a fighter than I did. I only had 680 hours when I arrived
    in the Philippines and from what Intelligence told us, we were
    facing pilots with less than a hundred hours in all aircraft!
    You guys killed all the experienced enemy pilots and they didn't
    know that in training, or didn't want us to know.

    Have a good time and hoist a few for those who now and then
    are thirsty. Will you still be in Ontario training new pilots?

    All good luck,
    "D"

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    I arrived in the Philippines in January, 1945 and flew 395 hours
    of combat in the Philippines, over Siam, Borneo, Okinawa and Japan.
    I remained in Okinawa - flying P-61 night fighters, until the fall
    of 1949 and then returned to the U.S. and out of the service.

    My original letter was returned to me by my wingman's widow with
    the idea of keeping some information of historical value. So, this was
    it.
     
  2. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    FP,

    Are you a member of, or aware of, a club called 'The Double Sunrise Club' I believe it is called.

    I takes its name from the fact that a 'Catalina' could stay in the air for over 24 hours on patrol.

    Many operated out of Australia, both US and RAAF.

    John.
     
  3. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    "only" 680 hours!

    He was right about the Japanese air time. By then, they were lucky to have that much time in a aircraft before facing combat.
     
  4. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    brndirt1 likes this.
  5. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Thanks again for your service Sir! As ever, Clint.
     
  6. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    FP,

    A question that has puzzled me.

    The P-61 looks and I am sure was, a deadly aircraft, but it would have had trouble finding nightime 'customers' in the late Pacific War.

    I cannot remember reading of many night air operations by the japs, especially late in the war, and wonder if it was used as a ground attack aircraft instead, or even as a fighter against the 'Betty' etc.

    Your views?


    John.
     
  7. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    <><<>>It was a wicked machine with three people inside. <><><<><>

    <><<><<><><>
    When I was assigned to the 418th, in August of '45, most enemy aircraft were in the Philippines, Singapore, Borneo and Japan. General Wurtsmith feared the Japanese would not all honor the surrender and bolstered the 418th to group size with a required eight aircraft patrol from darkness to dawn every night. We flew whether there was a target or not. (The General went home and didn't cancel his orders so we flew until 1948 - every night).
     
  8. lcgm18

    lcgm18 Member

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    Hat off to all of the WWII veterans.
     
  9. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    FighterPilot,
    Thanks for posting the letter. It is a piece of History and much appreciated. I still talk to a relative who was there at Ie Shima after battling their way up from New Guinea. Two pilots of his group, the 348th, were in the air and saw the mushroom cloud of the first bomb. Were you anywhere in the vicinity? He has a picture (and saw them board), of the Japanese delegation boarding the transport aircraft to take them to the signing ceremony. Since his group could not be at the signing they were all given a copy.
     
  10. USMC

    USMC Member

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    Thank you for your service sir
     
  11. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Just stumbled on this over at HyperWar and thought it should go in one of FighterPilot's threads.

    US Night Fighter Radars of WWII

    [h=2]SCR-720 10 cm Radar[/h]Improved SCR-520 developed for installation on P-61 (right), P-70 and DeHaviland Mosquito. Wavelength and Function
    10 cm radar for air search with beacon functioins and connections to IFF. Similar in purpose to SCR-520-A and B, but components are smaller and lighter in weight. Manufactured by Western Electric.

    View attachment 18499

    More info on the SCR 720 at the link.
     

    Attached Files:

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