MIGHTY NINETY

ICEBERG: The Invasion of Okinawa
Preparation for Invasion (14- 31 March 1945)



ASTORIA’s view of antiaircraft fire exploding over Task Group 58.3 during Okinawa operations.
-photo taken by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Herman Schnipper



OPERATION ICEBERG, the invasion of Okinawa Gunto and the surrounding Ryukyus, was arguably the most complex operation undertaken in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  The contributions of the Fast Carrier Task Force during ICEBERG were no exception, both in terms of complexity and the heavy price paid for the operation’s success.

During the course of Okinawa operations, the Fast Carrier Task Force remained at sea for three consecutive months.  Throughout this period the task force struck shipping targets, airfields, industrial centers, and other installations through carrier-based attacks as well as shore bombardments by battleships, cruisers, and destroyers.  They struck the Japanese home islands of Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu as well as Okinawa and surrounding islands.

Tension was ever-present as ships spent time daily at general quarters.  Although OPERATION ICEBERG marked the final efforts put forth by the Imperial Japanese Navy, the primary threat came from the skies.  Japanese aircraft, both Kamikaze and conventional, were a constant threat to the ships of the Fast Carrier Task Force.  The United States and her allies were closing in on the home islands, and Japan responded in the manner of a cornered enemy, sending untrained and undertrained young men to their deaths by the thousands.

At least 105 allied ships were knocked out of the war altogether by Japanese aerial attacks during this period, more than half of which were sunk, scuttled, or scrapped as a result.  Dozens more were knocked off the line and retired to anchorage for repair before rejoining the fight weeks later.  As these wounded, limping ships retreated, their defense and support required that other ships be pulled from their assignments as well.  Japan was fighting a war of attrition, trading the lives of her young men for U.S. and allied combatant ships at the rate of several per day.

USS ASTORIA steamed with the fast carriers throughout Okinawa operations.  For 78 consecutive days she provided antiaircraft defense for the carriers in her task group.  She recorded 13 confirmed enemy planes splashed, and shot down and assisted in downing many others.  Additionally, she performed two shore bombardments along with her sister cruisers in Cruiser Division 17.  For the men of the Mighty Ninety, Okinawa would be remembered as their most intense combat experience of the war, but their efforts paid off.  ASTORIA remained on the line in a fighting position throughout, protecting her carriers and keeping them in action by repelling aerial threats.


Task Force 58 Order of Battle at the outset of OPERATION ICEBERG

Note: Although many available sources contain listings of task force organization during ICEBERG, they are filled with inaccuracies and contradictions.  Even Morison’s official US Navy history is incorrect; for example the carriers FRANKLIN and RANDOLPH are listed in the same task group even though they never supported Okinawa operations during the same period.

Task group organization became fluid once ships began to take damage, and no single account appears to accurately reflect changes.  For this reason, the order of battle depicted on this website is incomplete.  Task group assignments will only appear where confirmed by multiple primary sources, including original deck logs.

Confirmed:
Commander Task Force (CTF): Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher

Task Group 58.1            (Carrier listing)
Fleet Carriers:                HORNET CV-12
                                    WASP CV-18
                                     BENNINGTON CV-20
Light Carrier:                   BELLEAU WOOD CVL-24

Task Group 58.2            (Mighty Ninety served briefly in this TG)
Commander Task Group (CTG): Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison
Fleet Carriers:                 FRANKLIN CV-13
                                    
HANCOCK CV-19
Light Carriers:                 SAN JACINTO CVL-30
                                    BATAAN CVL-29
Battleships:                   NORTH CAROLINA BB-55
                                    WASHINGTON BB-56
Heavy Cruisers:              BALTIMORE CA-68
                                     PITTSBURGH CA-72
Light Cruiser:                 SANTA FE CL-60

Task Group 58.3            (Mighty Ninety’s primary TG assignment)
Commander Task Group (CTG): Rear Admiral Frederic C. Sherman
Fleet Carriers:                 ESSEX CV-9
                                    
BUNKER HILL CV-17
Light Carrier:                 CABOT CVL-28
Battleship:                    SOUTH DAKOTA BB-57
Light Cruisers:               Cruiser Division 17
                                    
PASADENA CL-65        (ComCruDiv 17 RAdm J. Cary Jones)
                                    
SPRINGFIELD CL-66
                                    
ASTORIA CL-90
                                    
WILKES-BARRE CL-103
Destroyers:                   Destroyer Squadron 48
                                    Destroyer Squadron 62

Task Group 58.4            (Carrier listing)
Fleet Carriers:                 YORKTOWN CV-10
                                    INTREPID CV-11
Light Carriers:                INDEPENDENCE CVL-22
                                    LANGLEY CVL-27

Task Group 58.5            (Carrier listing)
Fleet Carrier:                 ENTERPRISE CV-6
ENTERPRISE and TG58.5 were assigned to nighttime operations, the only carrier and screen with this purpose.  During non-operational daylight hours, TG58.5 merged into TG58.4 for protective coverage.


11 March 1945
While still at Ulithi, three days before they even got underway for Okinawa operations, the fast carriers took their first operational casualty .  At 2000 hours, while most ships’ complements were watching movies, two Japanese Frances bombers flew into Ulithi Anchorage intent upon crashing into U.S. carriers.  One missed completely, but at 2007 the other slammed into the aft deck of the ESSEX-class carrier USS RANDOLPH CV-15.  The plane exploded between the flight deck and gallery deck, destroying nearby planes and causing severe damage to aft compartments.  Fires broke out and ammunition cooked off.  26 men were killed and another 105 wounded.

This attack left the Fast Carrier Task Force short-handed for OPERATION ICEBERG from the very beginning.  It also served as a clear example of what the next three months would bring for the fast carriers at Okinawa.  By the time RANDOLPH completed repairs and joined the fight, it was almost a month later—and by then several of her sister carriers had been knocked out of action.


Heavy-hull repair ship JASON ARH-1 alongside RANDOLPH CV-15 at Ulithi Anchorage on 13 March 1945.  The damage to RANDOLPH’s aft wooden flight deck is clearly visible.

-U.S. Navy photo taken from a MIAMI CL-89 Kingfisher, reproduced from www.navsource.org



14 March 1945
Commanded by Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, Task Force 58 departed Ulithi for the final time.  Okinawa was to be the primary focus of ICEBERG, but two full weeks would first be dedicated to neutralizing the surrounding areas prior to the landings.  This meant launching raids against shipping, airfields, and naval targets deep in Japanese waters.

Although RANDOLPH was left behind, 16 carriers in five task groups put to sea, along with dozens of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers—all intent upon bringing the fight to Japan. The Fast Carrier Task Force’s first target would be none other than the home islands themselves.



An ESSEX-class carrier of Task Group 58.3 underway from Ulithi as seen from ASTORIA.
-photo taken by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Herman Schnipper



An INDEPENDENCE-class light carrier viewed from ASTORIA, likely CABOT CVL-28.  Note the bow of the CLEVELAND-class hull converted into a flattop.
-photo taken by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Herman Schnipper



ASTORIA was again assigned to Cruiser Division 17 in the screening force of Task Group 58.3.
From the Mighty Ninety cruise book:
On the 14th of March we left Ulithi for the last time and proceeded with Task Force 38 [sic] once again to support the Marine and Army landings on Okinawa.  Our first strike of this operation was on the 'home' island of Kyushu and this was the first time the Japs put up any resistance.



Ships of Task Group 58.3 silhouetted against a setting sun as they steam north toward Japan.
-photo taken by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Herman Schnipper



15-16 March 1945
Ten days after arriving at Ulithi as a fresh replacement, SPRINGFIELD CL-66 officially joined PASADENA, ASTORIA, and WILKES-BARRE in Cruiser Division 17.  Over time CruDiv17 developed the unofficial nickname “WASP Division” after the first letter of each ship’s name.



USS SPRINGFIELD CL-66 on her shakedown cruise circa December 1944.  She wore the same disruptive camouflage scheme as ASTORIA during this period and throughout Okinawa operations (Measure 33, Pattern 24d).  Three significant features differ from ASTORIA in this photo—her SK-2 radar dish, angular supports under her mainmast truck, and plate steel recovery crane.
-U.S. Navy Photo from CL-66 cruise book



En route to Japan, “Task Force 59” was temporarily formed from elements of each task group to conduct training exercises.  WILKES-BARRE was one of the cruisers detached to Task Force 59.  A day later, still several hundred miles southwest of Iwo Jima, exercises were completed and Task Force 59 was dissolved.  The individual units rejoined their task groups and the Fast Carrier Task Force refueled throughout the day.


17 March 1945

ASTORIA and the Fast Carrier Task Force continued their run-in toward Japan, steaming northwest on a line roughly equidistant between Okinawa Gunto and Iwo Jima before turning back north.  As they closed on Japan, they were observed by their enemy, and both sides prepared for offensive operations the following morning.



Track Chart of ASTORIA’s position as Task Force 58 steams toward Japan 15-19 March 1945.  The position on 19 March indicates the close proximity to Japan that the task force had when Kamikaze attacks began to inflict damage.
-imagery by NASA and manipulated using Google Earth
-coordinates from original ASTORIA documentation courtesy of US Navy Historian Robert A. Migliorisi


18 March 1945
Task Force 58 took up position east of Kyushu and launched aircraft strikes at dawn on three Japanese home islands: Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu.  Upon reaching their objectives, the carrier pilots were puzzled by how few planes they found on the ground.  The Japanese had been well alerted to their arrival and had launched attacks of their own, sending their planes in the opposite direction against the carriers and their screens.

On this first day of trading blows, Task Group 58.4 received the most attention from Japanese attacks.  ENTERPRISE CV-6 was struck by a dud bomb, INTREPID CV-11 was damaged by a near miss, and YORKTOWN CV-10 suffered a bomb detonation below decks from a Judy dive bomber.  Total casualties from the three incidents were 8 men killed, 71 wounded.  It would pale in comparison to the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Also on this day, after more than three months of combat operations, USS ASTORIA finally opened fire on her first Japanese aircraft.
From the CL-90 cruise book:
The first plane bearing a meatball that we saw was a Frances who was apparently as surprised about the whole thing as we were.  He was flying very high over our port quarter.  There was a heavy cloud cover that day and we weren’t able to identify him until he had almost passed over us.  The port AA battery got a few rounds out before they were blocked out by the ship’s superstructure, but he got away.

The cruise book of USS SPRINGFIELD summed up the day:
These operations were staged within forty miles of the enemy coast and represented the deepest penetration of Japanese waters up to that time by U.S. surface vessels…  [We] found out what that new bugle call meant after hearing it a dozen times in so many hours.



5-inch and 40mm antiaircraft shells burst over the carriers of Task Group 58.3 in this view from ASTORIA during operations off Okinawa.
-photo taken by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Herman Schnipper



A second view of antiaircraft fire over ships of Task Group 58.3.
-photo taken by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Herman Schnipper


19 March 1945
On the second day of combat operations against the home islands, Task Force 58 advanced even closer to Japan.  Strikes were launched against concentrations of Japanese ships at Kobe, Kure, and the Inland Sea.  Seventeen vessels were damaged, including the super-battleship YAMATO and several carriers, although none were put out of commission.



Planes from ESSEX CV-9 bomb Japanese carriers anchored off Kure, 19 March 1945.
- U.S. Navy Photo from Lt. Cdr. G.C. Waldo, reprinted from Victory in the Pacific 1945, Morison



The Japanese also started their second straight day on the offensive.
From the Mighty Ninety cruise book:
It was on this strike that the Astoria began her campaign of speedy deliverance of ‘honorable’ Nippon pilots to ancestors.  The three days following our first firing on an enemy were the ‘hottest’ we were to know during our entire cruise.  The ship stayed at General Quarters most of the time and the guns were kept very busy on plenty of customers.  The Jap [Kamikazes] were coming in so fast that we didn’t have time to stop and count those that were splashed.




This photo taken on 19 March 1945 shows the first Japanese plane shot down by ASTORIA as it falls toward the ocean.  The aircraft carrier appears to be ESSEX CV-9, as she is smoking from light damage amidships.
-photo taken by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Herman Schnipper


Through the course of the day ASTORIA fired on at least three additional planes, and WILKES-BARRE also shot down her first plane, a Judy dive bomber.  The fighting in the skies above Task Group 58.3 was so intense, group flagship ESSEX CV-9 was hit by friendly fire from a ship in her screen.

While ASTORIA and her sisters warded off attacks, Japanese planes struck elsewhere throughout the task force.  This time Task Group 58.1 and 58.2 bore the brunt of enemy attacks, and the damage inflicted far surpassed the results of the previous day.

At 0708, the ESSEX-class carrier FRANKLIN CV-13 came under attack from a single Japanese aircraft that broke through the cloud cover and performed a low-level run.  Although accounts conflict as to the type of plane and her ultimate fate, in any event two 250kg bombs were released with devastating consequences.  One struck aft and the other near the centerline, and both penetrated multiple decks.  In addition to the 45 planes FRANKLIN had airborne, 53 more were fueled and armed on the flight and hangar decks at the time of the bombing.  The result of the twin explosions was nothing short of an inferno at sea.  As fire raged and gasoline burned, smoke poured skyward and ammunition began to cook off.



Four sequential color frames show a secondary explosion aboard FRANKLIN as munitions cook off and fires blaze across several decks aft.
-from the War Department documentary "Saga of the USS FRANKLIN"



The carnage was not over.  Two minutes after FRANKLIN was struck, at 0710, another Japanese bomber dove on WASP CV-18 and dropped a single 250kg bomb.  The bomb struck near the centerline and penetrated through the hangar deck before detonating in the third deck galley where breakfast was being prepared.  Many cooks and mess personnel were killed instantly.  Fires erupted across multiple decks and aviation gas added to the blaze.

Task Force 58 was now dealing with two major damage control situations simultaneously.  With ships only 50 miles from the coast of Japan, the force was vulnerable to continued attacks while working to recover aircraft, fight fires, and conduct rescue operations.  To make matters more difficult for Task Group 58.2, Vice Admiral Ralph Davison, the group commander, was aboard the ship in greatest peril—USS FRANKLIN.

Immediately damage control crews set to work aboard WASP, and their efficient efforts and training paid off.  Within fifteen minutes fire parties had extinguished the flames, and by 0800 the damaged carrier was recovering her planes returning from sorties over Japan.  However, within minutes another Japanese plane dove toward her smoking deck.




These three photos taken in quick succession show the second Japanese plane diving on the smoking WASP.  The plane has already been hit by CV-18’s gunners, and trails flames until breaking apart upon impacting the water a few yards off  her port beam.  The impact damaged WASP’s number two elevator.
- U.S. Navy photos from WASP CV-18 cruise book


From the WASP cruise book:
One hour after the bomb explosion gutted the after messing compartment, a deadly, green, two-engined Jill
chose the wounded Wasp for a Kamikaze dive. Wasp's large, medium and small batteries crescendoed and killed the pilot or jarred his aim enough to cause him to crash into the water missing the deck edge elevator by 30 feet.

WASP had averted further catastrophe.  Meanwhile, USS FRANKLIN was fighting for her life.




Secondary explosions rock FRANKLIN as fires intensify.  Smoke also pours from USS WASP on the horizon at left.
-from the War Department documentary “Saga of the USS FRANKLIN"


FRANKLIN, “Big Ben” to her crew, had slowed to a stop as her fires were fought.  Water from firefighting efforts poured down through her decks, and she took on a pronounced list to starboard.  By 1000 her list was stabilized at 13 degrees and other ships were ordered alongside to continue the firefighting efforts.



FRANKLIN burns and lists to starboard as ships approach to render aid.  Large numbers of crewmen have gathered along the sides of the forward flight deck, as virtually the entire deck aft of the island is obscured by thick smoke.
- U.S. Navy photo in Brent Jones collection


A CLEVELAND-class cruiser from her screen, SANTA FE CL-60, took up position to Big Ben's starboard side.  She fought fires and took on more than 800 wounded and non-essential personnel.  USS MARSHALL DD-676, a FLETCHER-class destroyer, took another 200 men aboard from FRANKLIN's stern. Over the course of the next several hours, fires were slowly brought under control as the quick actions of many saved the ship and hundreds of her crew.



SANTA FE CL-60 pours water across FRANKLIN's aft 5-inch mounts.  This footage was likely shot from USS MARSHALL DD-676.
-from the War Department documentary “Saga of the USS FRANKLIN”



A composite image from four frames of film shows a closeup of SANTA FE dousing fires, likely shot from USS MARSHALL DD-676.
-Composite constructed from the War Department documentary “Saga of the USS FRANKLIN"



SANTA FE alongside Big Ben to assist in firefighting and evacuate casualties.
-photo taken by U.S. Navy Chief Photographer's Mate Albert Bullock.   NARA #80-G-273880



Another composite image from three frames of film.   SANTA FE moved in so close she suffered a long gash in her hull from dragging alongside Big Ben.
-Composite constructed from the War Department documentary “Saga of the USS FRANKLIN”



Taken from a forward position in SANTA FE’s superstructure, this image shows how closely the two ships maintained position while transferring personnel over the course of several hours.  Note the large “13” clearly visible on FRANKLIN’s forward flight deck and scattered blankets where wounded men are wrapped prior to transfer.
- U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection




A close-up from the previous shot clearly shows men scaling Big Ben’s forward lattice antenna to safety on SANTA FE’s weather deck.  A total of 832 men were transferred aboard the CLEVELAND-class cruiser.
- U.S. Navy photo in Brent Jones collection


Casualties from WASP were heavy, numbering 101 killed and 269 wounded.  In terrible comparison, the casualties from FRANKLIN were staggering.  724 sailors and marines were dead, while another 265 were wounded.  Almost half of the wounded were among the 832 men transferred to SANTA FE while she was alongside Big Ben.  The destroyers of DesDiv104 scooped another 850 men out of the water, many of whom were blown overboard or driven off the ship by heat and fire.



A small portion of the FRANKLIN sailors transferred, these men are scattered across the fantail of SANTA FE between her catapults.
- U.S. Navy photo


As a result of the damage to WASP and FRANKLIN, task group organization was shuffled.  Carriers and their screening vessels were redistributed to round out the short-handed task groups, a practice that would become all too commonplace throughout Okinawa operations.

From the Mighty Ninety cruise book:
The USS Franklin was hit on the first of these three days and we were detached to join the Task Group she had been operating in.  We took the place of the USS Pittsburgh.  The Pittsburgh guarded the Franklin who was unable to keep up with the force.  The fleet stayed between the Franklin and the Japanese mainland to keep enemy planes from finishing her off.



This photo clearly shows the 13-degree list of FRANKLIN as she floated dead in the water during her ordeal.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection


As ASTORIA was ordered to detach from Cruiser Division 17 and report to TG58.2, Yeoman 3rd Class Anthony Migliorisi was at his usual post on the ship’s bridge.  He later recounted to his son that ASTORIA was first ordered into position to tow FRANKLIN, a task that was soon redirected to the heavy cruiser PITTSBURGH CA-72.

PITTSBURGH was charged with hooking a 7-inch towing cable to Big Ben, a feat she accomplished with the assistance of SANTA FE.  At 1404 she began to tow FRANKLIN out of the immediate area at 3 knots.  It would be another day before power would be restored and FRANKLIN could get underway on her own.



USS PITTSBURGH towing USS FRANKLIN.  Shot from high in FRANKLIN's island, the carrier's listing deck is barely visible in the foreground.
-from the War Department documentary “Saga of the USS FRANKLIN"


ASTORIA wasn’t the only ship detached and assigned to Vice Admiral Davison’s badly damaged Task Group 58.2.  ENTERPRISE CV-6 and her destroyer screen also joined the TG58.2 formation.  As the eventful day drew to a close, ASTORIA and the fast carriers began a slow withdrawal from Japan for refueling and resupply, keeping the main force between their wounded vessels and an enemy that would hunt them again the next day.


20 March 1945
After two days of trading blows with Japanese home island airfields, Task Force 58 began the next morning by moving slowly away to the south for refueling and resupply.  USS FRANKLIN was far from being out of danger.  Both sides were keenly aware that with a crippled American carrier still in the area, the day would likely revolve around a struggle to finish her off.  Fighters were launched for Combat Air Patrol over southern Kyushu to ensure that Japanese planes stayed on the ground.  Throughout the morning the strategy appeared to be working, but another harrowing day was in store for Task Group 58.2.

The skeleton crew still aboard Big Ben had worked through the night to affect repair and return some degree of control to the crippled ship.  Their efforts were successful as Big Ben first regained power, then steering control by mid-morning.  By 1100 she was able to make 15 knots under her own power, and she cleared from PITTSBURGH an hour and a half later.

 

During the night additional support had been brought into TG58.2 to bolster protection for FRANKLIN.  In addition to ASTORIA, ENTERPRISE, and her screening destroyers, the battle cruisers ALASKA CB-1 and GUAM CB-2 were detached from TG58.4.  The reconfigured 58.2 contained five carriers, four of which were operational: ENTERPRISE, HANCOCK, SAN JACINTO, and BATAAN.  The Officer in Tactical Command (OTC) was Rear Admiral Gardner aboard ENTERPRISE.  RADM Davison had transferred OTC to him the previous afternoon as he transferred his flag from FRANKLIN to HANCOCK following the attack on Big Ben.

By early afternoon, refueling operations were well underway for TG58.2.  At 1358, the FLETCHER-class destroyer HALSEY POWELL DD-686 steamed alongside USS HANCOCK to starboard for fueling.  Almost an hour later, just as fueling for HALSEY POWELL was nearing completion, Japanese planes were reported sighted in the area and general quarters was sounded.

Immediately a Japanese Zeke was sighted at 500 feet beginning a steep dive on HANCOCK’s port beam with the destroyer still alongside.  Frantic efforts were begun to cast off lines and get clear as HANCOCK’s antiaircraft guns opened fire on the Japanese plane.  The Zeke caught fire and broke apart just above HANCOCK’s island superstructure, raining debris onto the two ships.  HALSEY POWELL took the brunt, as the plane's engine and bomb crashed onto the fantail of the destroyer.



The exploding Kamikaze aircraft strikes HALSEY POWELL on her fantail near her aft 5-inch mount.
-U.S. Navy photo reproduced from www.navsource.org, contributed by Bill Taylor


The Zeke's bomb punched through without detonating, but the crashing plane engine damaged her steering gear.  Although no longer connected by fueling hoses, the two ships were still underway and now one was out of control.  HANCOCK changed her speed and course to back emergency full, left full rudder.  HALSEY POWELL shot out in front of the carrier, cutting under her bow hard to port.  The ships missed collision by a matter of feet.  Almost at the same time, another Japanese plane made a bombing run on HANCOCK and was brought down by her gunners--ending a very hectic few minutes.



The out-of-control HALSEY POWELL pulls away from HANCOCK following the near collision, smoke trailing from her fantail.  Both ships have made hard turns to port in front of another destroyer at right.
-U.S. Navy photo reproduced from www.usshancockcv19.com


The harassment of  ASTORIA's task group continued throughout the afternoon, with sporadic attacks from 15-20 more aircraft.  ASTORIA steamed in the screen off the port beam of the YORKTOWN-class carrier USS ENTERPRISE CV-6, both ships in their first full day in TG58.2.  At 1613, a Judy released a bomb over the Big E that hit the water and detonated off her port quarter, missing by a mere 50 feet.



Two Japanese bombs barely missed Big E on 20 March 1945 before she was damaged by friendly fire from her screen.  This photo depicts the first bomb as it detonates in the water.  The photo appears to have been taken from the ship directly behind ASTORIA in the screen.
-photo reproduced from www.cv6.org, James C. Barnhill source


Less than 15 minutes later, at 1626, another Japanese plane dove on Big E and released another bomb.  Heavy gunfire erupted from ships throughout the task group as the plane made its run.  The deck log of NORTH CAROLINA BB-55 recorded that her antiaircraft guns “opened fire on Japanese aircraft but it was able to drop [a] bomb on ENTERPRISE creating an explosion and fire forward.”  Indeed, smoke began to pour from ENTERPRISE forward of her island, and other ships may have drawn the same initial conclusion that the Japanese bomb had found its mark.

However, the bomb had also missed Big E, this time to starboard.  Instead she had been struck by two stray 5-inch/38 caliber rounds from ships in her screen.  Many ships were firing on the plane as it dove toward ENTERPRISE, and the antiaircraft fire had dipped too close to her deck.  The two stray rounds detonated over her almost simultaneously, the more serious of which struck Big E’s 40mm mounts on her starboard forward flight deck.  Fragments from the explosion struck the fuel tanks of two F6F Hellcats in the area, and flaming aviation gasoline spilled out onto her deck.  Two more planes ignited and 40mm rounds from the two destroyed mounts began to cook off.



CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Smoke pours from USS ENTERPRISE after being hit by two stray 5” AA rounds from a ship in her screen on 20 March 1945.  Four aircraft and two quad-40mm mounts are burning.
-photo taken by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Herman Schnipper



ENTERPRISE and ASTORIA have turned to port in this second photo taken on 20 March 1945.  The turn was made so that Big E could use wind to her advantage, drawing smoke and heat out to port and away from the forward island area where emergency firefighting and damage control was underway.
-photo taken by USS ASTORIA ship's photographer Herman Schnipper


Twenty minutes after the explosions, Japanese bombers renewed their attacks.  Intent on finishing off the distressed carrier, a third enemy plane dove on ENTERPRISE.  The task group again opened fire, and for the third time the bomb missed.

At 1650 a plane made a run on USS HANCOCK.  She took evasive action, turning hard right rudder as her attacker crossed from starboard to port.  Her efforts were successful, as the bomb crashed into the ocean only fifty feet off to port.  As the Japanese plane attempted her escape back through the screen, she fell under ASTORIA’s guns and was shot out of the sky.



A single-engine Japanese plane burns as it plunges toward the ocean in this undated photo taken from ASTORIA during Okinawa operations.  The photo appears to have been retouched to accentuate the fiery path of the plane.
-photo taken by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Herman Schnipper


21 March 1945 and Forward
-UNDER CONTRUCTION-


                                                            BACK TO SHIP HISTORY


Sources:

Deck Log and Action Reports, ENTERPRISE CV-6.  Reproduced at http://www.cv6.org/

Deck Log, RANDOLPH CV-15.  Portion reproduced at
http://hometown.aol.com/jhmcgoran/air_raid.html

Friedman, George.   U.S. Cruisers.   Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1984.

Hudson, J. Ed.  USS CABOT (CVL-28): A Fast Carrier in WWII.  1986, reproduced at http://www.mcallen.lib.tx.us/books/cabot/cab00_02.htm

Jackson, Steve.  Lucky Lady: The World War II Heroics of the USS Santa Fe and Franklin.   New

York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003.

Jones, Brent.  Private photo collection.

Migliorisi, Robert A.  Private collection of original ASTORIA deck log documents from Yeoman 3rd Class Anthony Migliorisi.

Mooney, James L., ed.  Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, 8 Vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1959-91.

Morison, Samuel Eliot.  History of United States Naval Operations in WWII Vol. XIV: Victory in the Pacific.   Boston: Little, Brown and Company Inc., 1960.

Saga of the USS FRANKLIN.  United States War Department documentary, 1945.

Unk. Editor.  USS SPRINGFIELD CL-66 Cruise Book.  Unk. Publisher and Date.

Unk. Editor.  USS ASTORIA CL-90 Cruise Book.  Unk. Publisher and Date.

Unk. Editor.  USS WASP CV-18 Cruise Book.  Unk. Publisher and Date.

War Diary, HANCOCK CV-19.  Reproduced at http://www.usshancockassociation.org/

War Diary, NORTH CAROLINA BB-55.  Reproduced at http://www.battleshipnc.com/

www.navsource.org
photo archives

 

 

 

Web Hosting Companies