Enemy territory

First Time Out!

On 18 March, 1945,I was launched from the USS ESSEX (CV-9) in a Corsair F4U along with eleven others. Lt. J. J. Stevens led our division of four planes and I was his wingman. The number three slot was filled by LtJg Ed Pappert with Vern Coumbe on his wing.

Our mission was to bomb and strafe two Airfields on the island of Kyushu, Japan and return to the ship. We were the second group to hit Kyushu and figured the Japs were probably stirred up and waiting for us. We climbed out and leveled

USS Essex CV9
off at ten thousand feet. As we approached the beach, I remember suddenly realizing the land we were looking at was Enemy territory and the hairs on the back of my neck raised right up. There was a

Coursair on Deck
broken layer of clouds beneath us. Just as we crossed the shoreline I saw two planes below heading in the opposite direction. Upon looking closer I identified them as Jap Torpedo Bombers. Since we were
on radio silence, I could only wave my hands and signal to Steve, our Leader. I motioned to the left and he nodded OK. We made a diving turn and as I leveled off, one of the Jap planes was squarely in my sights. A squeeze of the trigger and the six fifty-caliber guns literally tore the plane apart. It burst in to flames and headed down. As the other one saw what was happening, he dove for the water at full throttle and took off like a rabbit. Steve hadn't fired a shot or made a sign as we turned back and rejoined the formation. I thought about that
for awhile and then the thought came to me that "My God, I have shot down a US Navy TBM." But then I said to myself, "I saw meat balls on those planes so they had to be Japs." This was our very first combat flight and we all were wound pretty tight. I also later realized that leaving the formation was a violation

Coumbe, Pappert, Pat,(the Skipper) and Wally. Division One
of the "Fighter Code" to never leave the group. I don't remember the names of our two target airfields, but when we arrived at the first one, there were no airborne aircraft in sight. We proceeded to bomb and strafe parked planes, hangars, and runways with no resistance except antiaircraft gunfire from the ground. Then we headed for another airfield and gave it the same treatment with the same results. By then we were pretty cocky, seeing as how this business was so easy and fun too. We even opened up on the radio (big mistake)! Our leader said, "What the hell, lets hit another one on the way back," (another mistake)! Tomitaka Airfield wasn't too far off course so we decided to work it over too. What we didn't know was that 20 Zeros (Hamps & Zekes), were sitting up at twenty thousand feet waiting for us.

Zeke (Zero A6M5)
"Hamp and Zeke" were the US official nicknames for the Japanese A6M3 Type 32 Fighter Plane. "Zero" was the unofficial nickname. We made our approach to the airfield down a little valley and got rid of all hanging ordnance on the first run — there was no second

run! As we pulled up the air was suddenly full of meat balls (Japs), and a wild dogfight ensued. We were caught off guard and at low altitude.

Our standard fighter tactics wouldn't work and it quickly evolved into a wild melee of tail chases — a Zero chasing a Corsair with another Corsair chasing the Zero etc. While our Leader (Steve), was shooting one, I was busily knocking another one off his tail. As I flamed that

one, someone hollered that one was on my tail. Sure enough I saw tracers whizzing by on both sides, so I pulled up into a full-power, straight up, climb until she stalled out and went into a spin. It was a given that one does not intentionally

Zeke (Zero A6M5)

spin a Bent Wing (Corsair), but to me it felt really good until I recovered right back in the middle of the dog fight. That's when I saw Steve's plane smoking and heading out to sea in a shallow dive. I followed to keep the Zeros off his back until he ditched and got out of the plane. I`m not sure how many we got, but Pappert and Coumbe each flamed a Zeke and Pappert also got a probable.

We lost three pilots that day, Stevens, Garner and Sigman. Steve was in the water and swimming around very slowly. Three of us circled him at low altitude with flaps down and each of us threw him a spare life raft, which we all carried. The other two planes finally left but I was reluctant to leave my Flight Leader and kept circling to see if he got one of the rafts, however he didn't even try to get one. I then managed to remove the life raft from my seat parachute and while flying very low and slow, pulled the inflation toggle and threw the raft some distance upwind from him. It drifted right by him but he didn't attempt

USS Salmon

to get it. We had been briefed on the location of the Standby Rescue Submarine so I looked it up on the map and noticed that this one's code name was

"Pal Joey." Approaching the location, I saw it on the surface with a big American Flag flying and some of the Crew on deck. I couldn't make radio contact, so in accordance with prescribed procedures, I lowered the landing gear and flew over in the direction of Lieutenant Stevens. They understood, gave a big wave and headed out on that course — still on the surface! I was impressed by their bravery doing that when so close to enemy shores.

By this time it was getting late so I plotted a course to the ship and headed home. They were waiting for me so they could get me aboard and head out of the wind. As I hit the deck, the Bull Horn squawked for me to report to the Bridge and explain what I had been doing. That was my first combat flight and my "Baptism of Fire," so to speak.

Next day we did it all over again on another mission and, in addition, saw USS Franklin, CV-13, burning in the water on our way home. This was to be our steady diet for the next five months.

07-Arrested landing

The Air Group, (CVG-83), flew 9,982 sorties from USS ESSEX for 39,500 hours in the air. We destroyed 228 Jap planes in the air, with 121 probables and 107 on the ground. We also participated in the sinking or damaging of 265,000 tons of combat vessels, (including the Battleship Yamato), and 77,000 tons of merchant shipping. If we appeared to take death lightly it was because it was necessary to keep from going crazy. When seeing our shipmates being killed day after day, we tried to build up an immunity to it, sort of a defensive shell. 35 pilots and 13 aircrewmen were lost before we would return to the US of A and go ashore at the Naval Air Station, Seattle, Washington, on 14 September 1945. "To make the world safe for Democracy."

LTJG Glen (Wally) Wallace.

In 1990, I received the following note from Henry Sakaida, a Japanese Author who sent me a story about the Kamikaze entitled: "THUNDER GODS, The Kamikaze tell their story." Written by Hatsuho Naito, translated by Mayumi Ichikawa and forwarded by James Michener.


Capt. Wallace -

The Japanese side of your air raid! If the information here is accurate, then it appears that you downed UMENO. It also appears that UMENO and possibly TANIMIZU attacked Lt. J.J. STEVENS, with Umeno causing Stevens to smoke and Tanimizu then chasing him out to sea.



Send Corrections, additions, and input to:


Click the star for Site Map WWII Kilroy Was Here World War 2 gremlins Foo fighters Select Star Bearcat..

Search this site or the web powered by FreeFind
b search