Jul. 10 - Today was the first strike for SHANGRI-LA planes on the Tokyo area. Target was aircraft on various fields. No airborne opposition was met and all our planes and pilots returned. Sorties flown were 46 sweep, 78 strike, and various combat air patrols and photographic.1
SHANGRI-LA's first air strikes in the Tokyo area. Total of 4 sweeps and 2 strikes netted considerable damage on enemy airfields with little airborne resistance and no planes or pilots lost by AIR GROUP 85.2
Reveille this morning was at 0136. General Quarters at 0326. First group of 24 planes were launched at 0415 as fighter sweep. At this time our location is 140 miles east of Tokyo and the Japanese mainland. At 0615 another sweep of 12 fighters departed for Tokyo. Returning planes of the previous sweep reported very little enemy opposition. At 0715 a combined striking group of 12 fighters, 14 bombers, and 15 torpedo planes were launched. The above strike returned at 1330 reporting heavy damage to airfields and personnel installations. All planes returned safely. Strikes continued throughout the day amounting to 7 in all. One of our planes was shot down over the target and another made a water landing returning to the carrier, later picked up by a destroyer. At 1400 2 enemy aircraft were picked up on the radar screen at 30,000 but 70 miles away. Both were shot down by our Combat Air Patrols. They were a Dinah and a Jill. The Captain commented(sic) the AIR GROUP (85) on their splendid show over the Tokyo area late this evening.3
Struck Tokyo; did considerable damage.4
0208hrs. USS BON HOMME RICHARD plane crashed in the water, port beam, distance approximately 2 miles.9
0801hrs. Completed recovery of 22 F4Us, 2 F6Fs, and 1 F4U from USS BENNINGTON.9
1345hrs. Completed landing aircraft having landed 18 F4Us and 1 F4U from YORKTOWN.9
VF-85: Two 16 plane fighter sweeps on the airfields in the Tokyo area, the first led by the Captain and the second led by Ted HUBERT. Katori, Choisi, Konoiki, Ikisu, Kitaura, Hokoda, Kashiwa, Imba and Shiroi Airfields were covered in these sweeps. The object of these attacks was to knock out the Japanese air force, either on the ground or in the air. The first extensive use of the VT fuzed bomb was made on these sweeps.
It was a successful day. Considerable damage was done to Jap aircraft on the ground. No airborne enemy opposition was encountered.
The United States THIRD FLEET had been joined by the British Pacific Fleet which was to operate as a part of the THIRD FLEET in this operation. TG 38.4 had also been increased by the addition of the USS BON HOMME RICHARD, a night fighter carrier.
SUBCAPs were flown over the rescue submarines which were stationed just off the coast of Japan.
VB-85: Exactly three months after leaving Pearl Harbor, BOMBING SQUADRON 85 made its first attack on the homeland of Japan. The squadron insignia, consisting of the Mark 8 bombsight superimposed on a black dragon forming the islands of the Empire with the pipper of the bombsight on Tokyo, had taken on renewed significance when it was learned that airfield in the Kanto Plain around Tokyo were the next target. LCDR A. L. MALTBY, Jr., Commanding Officer, led the bombers off the deck at 0715 into crisp, clear air with ceiling and visibility unlimited. Target for the morning strike was Kasumigaura Airfield with aircraft in revetments assigned to the Squadron. Reaching the coast north of Chosi, the flight headed west up the Tone River valley. Upon hearing the familiar cry of "Let's go Dragons!" from the Skipper, the bombers pushed over from 12,000 feet, dropped their VT fuzed 260 pound fragmentation bombs at 4,500 feet and retired over Kasumigaura Lake. In spite of intense anti-aircraft fire over the airfield, no planes were damaged and all returned aboard safely. That the mission was well executed is evidenced by the "very well done" given by Commander W. A. SHERRILL, CAG-85, on the return trip.
The afternoon strike was against aircraft in revetments at Konoike Airfield on the east coast of Honshu, a short distance north of Chosi. Anti-aircraft fire was moderate but again no damage was sustained. On neither of these attacks were any airborne enemy fighters encountered. Although the extent of damage to aircraft on the ground could not be determined, as there were 34 in revetments at Kasumigaura and 40 at Konoike, it is believed that a large number were destroyed or damaged. In addition, two hangers at Kasumigaura were damaged.
VT-85: The general plan was mount a series of attacks against the enemy's air power. In the morning of a strike day two successive fighter sweeps were to cover the fields in the task group's area and they were to be followed by an attack in force by bombers and torpedo planes. This schedule was to be repeated in the afternoon and a fighter sweep over the area was to close the day. The whole day's work was known as a "blanket operation" and while TASK GROUP 38.4 was so engaged, its sister task groups and the British were doing the same thing in their area, the Army planes from Iwo and from Okinawa were striking and at night the B-29s from the Marianas were over Japan's cities in force.
The "Fighting Lamas" of TORPEDO 85, now a seasoned combat squadron reached their best form to date in the two strikes which were their contribution to the joint Army-Navy operations over Japan on 10 July 1945. The morning strike covered Kasumigaura airfield, and the afternoon strike hit Konoike airfield, both in the east central part of the Kantoo plain on Honshu.
CDR W. A. SHERRILL of AIR GROUP 85 led 100 planes from the SHANGRI-LA, YORKTOWN, COWPENS AND INDEPENDENCE carriers of TASK GROUP 38.4 (the other carrier of the group, the BON HOMME RICHARD being used for night operations) in the early attack, taking off at 0700 Item. LCDR Edward V. WEDELL was the leader of TORPEDO SQUADRON 85, the base element of the strike group. The object of the attack was to discover and destroy enemy aircraft in the air and on the ground. The Japanese chose to keep their planes on the ground and none were shot down by the 38.4 group on this attack.
A comprehensive approach, attack and retirement plan had been promulgated by CDR SHERRILL and it was strictly followed. The result was a beautifully coordinated "organized chaos" which saturated the target field's defenses and achieved a very satisfactory bomb coverage
with the loss of no planes.
After takeoff and rendezvous, LCDR WEDELL took departure on a course that would carry the strike group to a point off the Honshu coast several miles directly north of Choshi. Enroute the lifeguard submarine was observed offshore, much to the satisfaction of all hands. CDR SHERRILL and the rest of his division of fighter bombers there left the formation and began a fast cross-country run to inspect the possible targets and choose the most profitable, it having been predetermined that the rest of the group would proceed through an area believed to be lightly defended by A/A to a point between Yatabe and Kashiwa fields, at which time CDR SHERRILL would designate the target. The fact that Kasumiguara had been selected as the target to be struck in the event circumstances prevented further advice from the strike leader is believed to be worthy of mention. The approach was made as planned at an altitude of 14,000 feet, the group attracting some inaccurate heavy anti-aircraft fire from the batteries at the coastal fields. Window was dropped from the TBM planes on approaching the coast and may have contributed to the lack of success enjoyed by the Jap gunners. The main body of the flight proceeded up the Tone River over a landscape strangely familiar, the result of irksome and protracted study and briefing, to "Point Zebra", whereupon orders from the strike leader and Mr. WEDELL's rendition of Torpedo 85's war cry, "Seminole! Seminole!" (traditional, source and author unknown), the fighter-bombers dove to worry the gun crews, the Helldivers peeled off to cover their assigned areas and the Avengers swung into their glides. It was all over in three or four minutes and the high-speed retirement was made over the north shore of Kasumiguara Lake to the rendezvous point some ten miles at sea.
Several aspects of the near perfect operation deserve comment.
VT FUZES - It is believed that in this operation the Navy first used the VT fuze on a large-scale attack. The pilots and crewmen were enthusiastic about it because it permits pull-out at an altitude which greatly reduces the hazard of light and medium anti-aircraft fire.
RADAR-COUNTERMEASURE - During the attack the value of applied Radar Countermeasure was again made apparent. Enemy fire-control and IFF frequencies were electronically jammed. Fighters, bombers and torpedo planes carried window and rope which was dispensed in flak-infested areas and also before, during and after a dive. AIR GROUP 85 suffered no losses due to flak, the use of RCM sharing the credit for this fine showing. An interesting development occurred during strike retirement from the target area, when RCM showed that five enemy radars were tracking the flight, presumably to learn the location of the TASK GROUP. This information was passed to the flight leader, CDR SHERRILL, who immediately ordered the flight to the deck. Further application of RCM showed enemy loss of contact when their gear resumed sweeping.
FLAK - It was reported by pilots and crewmen that there appeared to be a blanket of white bursts of anti-aircraft over the target at about 2,000 feet. It is conjectured that this was either mortar fire or an improvised box barrage of heavy A/A with short cut fuzes. The use of the VT fuze with high pull-out doubtless foiled what appeared to be an ingenious defensive measure.
Reports of long range coastal artillery firing at groups of planes at extreme range were again substantiated when a coastal defense gun at Chosai lobbed shells at the group when it was 15 and 20 miles off shore.
SMOKE SCREEN - Just before the attack on Kasumigaura field developed, smoke was observed to the south and east which was carried over the field by the prevailing wind. Another smoke projector was activated near the operations building in the center of the hard stand during the attack. The screen was not effective in obscuring the area.
WIRE RECORDER - LCDR Clifford MCDOWELL flew in Mr. WEDELL's plane and gave a play-by-play account of the strike from take-off to landing, recording the same on a wire recorder. He not only described the attack in detail (with one excusable interruption when the tail hook caught the wire on landing) but was able to secure over the inter-phone comments of Mr. WEDELL and the gunner, ACRM Victor S. ZAMOSKY, and , by switching to the strike frequency, secured plane-to-plane conversations, including weather reports, target designation and the aforesaid "Seminole!". Upon his return to the ship, the voice of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air Mr. John L. SULLIVAN, was added to the recording which was then dispatched by air to the states for what would doubtless be a most realistic and exciting broadcast of an actual combat experience.
COMMENT - All hands considered the hop a good one. Approach to the target was direct, the attack was well coordinated and fast. The retirement and return to the ship was prompt. The fruitless circling so often typical of an airborne attack involving a large number of planes was agreeably absent. An analysis of photographs obtained during the early attacks of 10 July indicated that Konoike airfield's revetments sheltered a sufficient number of planes to justify a concentration of effort against it. It was therefore chosen as the target for the 1300 strike group from TASK GROUP 38.4. The leader was CDR SEARCY of AIR GROUP 88 based on the YORKTOWN. The leader of TORPEDO 85 was LT James W. SMITH.
Seven of the pilots and their crews had participated in the 0700 strike on Kasumiguara and they found they had barely enough time to eat a few small steaks before they were again airborne. They were LT Guy M. BROWN, LTJG Lyndon "E" EBERLY, LT John O. JENKINS, LTJG Philip E. MCINTYRE, LT Graham TAHLER, LT Delmer A. SCHATZ and LT Donald E. MACINNES and their crews.
This strike approached the coast somewhat north of the target and meanwhile CDR SEARCY went down to examine it. He reported that there appeared to be a number of dummies on the field but that the revetment area northeast of the field looked good for the attack. The group proceeded northwest of the field and, at the leader's signal, attacked from the west with retirement to the east over the sea.
A barrage of anti-aircraft fire was observed here as at Kasumiguara at an altitude of about 3,000 feet, but the high pull-out permitted by the use of VT fuzes rendered it ineffective.
No use of smoke for concealment was observed.
Window and Radar Countermeasure jamming was employed and no planes of CVG-85 were lost to A/A, but a YORKTOWN fighter was observed to crash in flames at the target.
Although slight visual observation of results could be made, flight personnel reported the target was well-covered and it was generally felt that planes in the revetment area suffered considerable damage.