Saturday, April 21, 2007

After the Storm--The End of the War

The bow of the Hornet after the typhoon

When it calmed enough to go topside, about 40 to 50 feet of the leading edge of the flight deck had collapsed. The 18 inch steel I-beams that held the flight deck above the bow of the ship were twisted and bent to the extent that they allowed the co.11apsed portion of the flight deck to drape perpendicularly over the bow of the ship. [note: one of the most dramatic photos of the collapsed flight deck can be found here]. The Bennington, along side of us, had experienced the same damages as had the Hornet. The bow of the Pittsburg, which was along side was clipped completely off, although she was afloat and able to navigate. Two or three of the planes that had been lashed down with the steel cables on the flight deck were flipped completely upside down. The next three days kept all hands busy repairing damage from the storm. The various departments, from both ships’ company and the Air Group, were all working together to salvage all workable and usable parts of the dozen or so planes that were damaged beyond repair. When all parts had been salvaged, the hulls of the planes were pushed overboard to a watery grave.

On June 9th, my notes show that we flew to Kadena to pick up passengers and while I made no notation of who the passengers were, I think that they were probably the crew that had been shot down by mortar fire when we were making supply drops. I do remember that we launched by taking off the fan tail of the ship instead of the bow, because we lost the first two fighter planes that attempted take-off, due to the up-draft caused by the collapsed portion of the flight deck. After that, all planes were launched by catapult, or the ship would simply shift in reverse to full speed and we would take off the fan tail.

Our Fighter Squadron was still making sweeps on Kanoya Air Field and they flew their last mission June 9th, 1945.

From the 10th to the 14th, we were en route to the Phillipines: where we dropped anchor at Layete [Layte?] and Samar. We were in port at Layete until the 20th of June. Some of the crew made liberty ashore but most of them came back to the ship disappointed as there was nothing to do. I didn't leave the ship.

On the 20th of June, we got under way to points east, and Pearl Harbor was our next port of call. We thought that the Hornet would probably go into dry dock at Pearl, but they decided to send her back to the states for overhaul and we got to stay aboard and return home with her. So, after taking on supplies, she headed for San Francisco Bay but it was sometime about the middle of July, though I didn't record the date, that we pulled into San Francisco Bay. You can rest assured that the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge and our disembarkment to Alameda Air Station was one of the happiest times of our lives. Every member of the Air Group received a 30 day leave of absence, and I had requested and received permission to transfer from carrier aircraft to patrol planes (from tailhooks to flying coffee shops). I received 30 days delayed orders to Wold-Chamberlain Field, the PB4Y school in Minneapolis, Minnesota and when I left Alameda for Harrison, Arkansas, I had seen all of my old buddies in Torpedo Squadron Seventeen for the last time.

While I was home on leave, the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese capitulated to General McArthur aboard the USS Missouri. VJ Day was a happy time in Harrison, as I’m sure it was all over America. I remember riding around the square in Dad's T-Model Ford, the only car he had learned to drive at the time. Everyone was driving around honking their horns and having a good time. I had been dating Virginia Holmes, and that night we attended a community service at the Methodist Church to give thanks for the war's termination.

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