VBF-1 Tour Journal
fighter pilot with the Bombing Fighting Squadron One (VBF-1), known as the Royal Flushers (a name they picked up while stationed at the Naval Air Station in Fallon, Nevada and gambling at the casinos, I'm told). On June 17th, 1945, his squadron was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Bennington (CV-20) operating in the Pacific. During the last year of World War II, Dad flew his Corsair into several combat missions, including strikes against the Imperial Japanese navy, its airfields, trains and factories, and he was awarded the Navy Cross and the Air Medal for his actions.
As children, my brothers, sisters and I all looked upon Dad as a courageous man and a hero, but Dad would have none of it. "I'm not a hero," he chided us. "I was scared to death. During those dives (fighter dive attacks - tb). I was praying the Lord's Prayer at the top my lungs just to just to get through it."
Dad's humble admonitions belied what courageous men he and his fellow fighter pilots really were. Brave men do know fear, and Dad and his squadron certainly realized the dangers into which they were flying. Each of them must have been afraid of what lay ahead, and perhaps some even wondered privately whether they would be able to do their duty in the face of the enemy. Each of them must have been aware that the next sortie might be his last.
Heroes are ordinary mortals who, in spite of their fears and doubts, find within themselves the extraordinary strength and will to press on. Placing themselves in harm's way as Dad and the men in his squadron did - mindful that they might even sacrifice their very lives in defense of their country, their families and liberty itself - serves as the very definition of heroism and courage.
Dad and those of the VBF-1 fighter squadron were all men of great courage and shall forever be heroes. They represent the best of America's finest generation.
For those interested, Dad's first strike day in combat was July 10th, during which he attacked Japanese airfields at Ishioka and Tskuba, destroying three planes on the ground. On July 15th, he bombed a factory.
Between the 24th and the 28th of July, he and fellow pilots from the Bennington joined other pilots from the USS Essex (CV-9), Ticonderoga (CV-14), Randolph (CV-15), Hancock (CV-19), Monterey (CVL-26) and Bataan (CVL-29) in attacks against the remaining Imperial Japanese fleet at the Kure Naval Base, anchored at Nasake-Jima, located south of Kure. This proved to be the final destruction of the Japanese Naval Fleet, and a fitting reprisal for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Among the remaining battleships of the Japanese Navy anchored at Kure was the Hyuga, an Ise-class battleship undergoing repairs, according the notes in my Dad's pilot log. The Hyuga suffered four direct hits from the Bennington pilots on the 24th, and I seem to recall Dad saying his bomb was the second of the four that day, striking amidship. Throughout the repeated attacks, a number of direct bomb hits and several near misses open the Hyuga's seams and she takes on tons of water. One of the direct hits blows the anchor deck apart while three others hit the bridge and demolish the right side of the conning tower. The Hyuga's crew runs the ship aground in shallow waters at 34°-10N, 132°-33E.
On July 30th, Dad and other pilots attacked another airfield called Okazaki on Honshu , and on August 10th he attacked a rail yard and burned three trains.
On August 9th, Dad "got" his plane with Searcy. They were flying a DCAP (air defense over the fleet), when they were vectored to a Kate. At seven miles from it, the Kate's pilot attempted evasive maneuvers, snapping off its wing when trying to pull out of a split ess.
Today, two decades after Dad's passing, I've come to fully appreciate the sacrifices that he and the other pilots of the VBF-1 fighter squadron made for their country and for the world. We have - all of us - taken our freedoms and liberties for granted. Dad and the men of his generation fought and died for these freedoms in a horrible war that today's generations neither comprehend nor appreciate.
The 130 pages contained in this tour journal chronicle the lives of these brave VBF-1 pilots. It includes hundreds of photos and a daily war diary of the squadron's activities, marked in my father's own hand. The pages are scanned "as-is", without any attempt to make corrections or otherwise clean-up the pages. At this writing (March 11, 2007), the scanning has been completed and I intend to place the images on CDs and send them to the USS Bennington Memorial organization for their safe-keeping and historical records, and a second set to the U.S. Library of Congress for their archives.
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God bless America and those who fight for her, both past and present.