Chapter 14

Standby,     Mark!
by Lynn Forshee

During this time our SBDs had been busy with the Jap carrier fleet.  In just six minutes the Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu were destroyed and the Hiryu became the fourth carrier that day that had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor to be sunk by our SBDs.  It would have been nice if the crews of the torpedo bombers who gave their lives that day could have known this.  A sizable Jap force was still out there somewhere and we still had work to do.


There was so much activity around us it was hard to keep up with it.  A PBY would fly over, a PT boat would come out of nowhere and a sub surfaced nearby giving the recognition signal and dove again.


Now we were an amalgamation of orphans, VB5, VS5, VB3 and some of VB8.  We got our assignments in the ready room after an early breakfast and our planes were respotted on the flight deck.


We were dependent on the PBY Catalins for a lot of our information.  The PBY is a seaplane with a rather high parasol wing with twin engines mounted rather close together over the fuselage, two blisters, one on each side aft for 50 cal. machine guns and a tail gun.  They were quite slow with a cruise speed of about 95 knots or less but with a good long range.


We were acting on a PBY reported sighting and after launch formed 4 three plane sections under Wally Short.


We struggled up to near 20,000 feet with our 1,000 pounders and overheard some radio operator with a small voice talking to his pilot and thinking he was on ICS, intercom.  Someone finally went on the air and told him to shut up.  Now out ahead appeared the thin white feathery plumes of the wake of ships.  We had found them.


As we drew overhead of the enemy Short picked out the biggest ship in the absence of any carrier.  It was the Mogami class battleship.  I was in the second section to dive and we did our roll to the left, nose down and a vertical dive toward the target.  I was facing aft to cover any fighters that may be above us but saw none and after viewing all of the tracers converging behind our tail I thought facing the muzzle flashes to the better alternative.  Standby, Mark and I braced myself for the pain in the ears from the pull out and then quickly turned my head to locate our bomb hit.  Right behind the stack amidships.  I told Horenburger we had a good one.  We formed up a few three plane sections for the return and it was becoming dusk rapidly. We used the ZB homing device to locate the ship in the darkness and she showed us enough deck lights for the night landing.  This for many was the first after dark recovery and I’m sure Soupy Campbell felt the weight of his responsibility that night.


Later as we viewed the pictures of the Mogami, everything above decks was a mass of twisted metal and she had a torpedo hanging from a torpedo tube on the port side and also at this time we were told we had misidentified her and she was in fact the heavy cruiser Mikuma.  This also explained the heavy antiaircraft fire we had received in our dive.


We went below for coffee and a sandwich, then back topside to check the flight schedule for the morning.  I spent a little more time working on the squadron insignia patches I had been painting for our squadron as we had lost our identity in the mixing of three other squadrons.  They looked nice on our jackets I thought.


As I turned in for the night a thought struck me, all I own is the clothing on my back and my 45, and they were both in need of cleaning.  Wow, what would I do when we hit Pearl?


The Japs were beaten badly and were headed west and TF16 and TF17 were running low on fuel so we flew scouting missions, watching for subs and set a course for Pearl  We had not been witness to the final gasp of the Yorktown but relied on the accounts of those who were there.  At first they rigged a cable and were attempting to tow her in, then they gave up on that for the time being and ran the Hamman alongside to take off pay records and health records.  The Hamman was also supplying power from her generators for the pumps in an attempt to correct the heavy port list.


This brought to mind how the Yorktown had tied up at the pier at Bremerton Washington and supplied electrical power for the city during an emergency back before the war.  The Hamman was still tied to the “Y” when a Jap sub sneaked in and sent a torpedo toward the Yorktown, missing her and hitting the Hamman.  The Hamman had her depth charges set and armed and that one fish sent the Hamman down with great loss of life.  When the Hamman got to the depth that the charges were set for they went off practically blowing the bottom out of the Yorktown.  She could have probably taken that one torpedo and still survived had the Hamman not caught it.


I spoke with Wilbur Daley of Algona a few times in recent years and he was one of a very few survivors of the Hamman.



Copyright ©2004-2007 Lynn R. Forshee.  All rights reserved.