A Personal Story – Nov 25, 1944

A personal story by WWII FCM, AMM2 Elmer E. Anderson, ’42-‘45

I was a member of V-I-E Division; the arresting gear crew; stationed on the flight deck.

Task force 38.2 had pulled back from Luzon on 11/24/44 in order to celebrate Thanksgiving. Church services were held and turkey and all the trimmings were served to the crew that day.

On the evening of the 24th we began a high speed run to reach a position to attack Clark and Henderson airfields on Luzon. On the morning of the 25th we launched strike groups against these targets. About noon our radar picked up a group of about 150 Japanese planes headed towards us. The combat air patrol protecting our group splashed most of them but approximately 10 or 15 reached our group. We were at GQ when they arrived.

The word was passed for “All hands topside take cover”. I went into a crews shelter in the Island Structure, because as a member of the Air Department I didn’t have a battle station. The door to the flight deck was open and I could see some of the flight deck. Suddenly the 5” guns commenced firing, followed shortly by the 40 mm and then the 20 mm guns. The 20’s meant the enemy was close.

Suddenly I saw a huge yellow ball of fire about 70’ away and debris rained on the flight deck. A planes propeller lay spinning on the deck. A thumping explosion followed as the bomb exploded on the hangar deck. We had been hit by the 1st ‘Kamikaze”. This bomb killed most of the damage control party on the hangar deck.

As Captain Bolger requested volunteers to fight fires on the hangar deck the 2nd Kamikaze hit us. We were trailing a huge plume of smoke behind us and this Kamikaze had approached us from astern, being undetected while hiding in the smoke cloud.

Another crewmember, Fred Beck, and myself when down to the hangar deck to help where we were needed. We had 2 holes in our flight deck and couldn’t land planes. The hangar deck was a scene of devastation; dismembered bodies, burned planes, wounded men bandaged and still fighting fires. It took about 2 hours to put out the fires. Burning gasoline from planes on the hangar deck was jettisoned by making high speed turns, causing the ship to list, and allowing the burning gas to run off the side of the ship.

I remember later passing through a crews sleeping compartment. The bunks were occupied and I wondered how they could sleep through such a holocost. Then I saw a medical corpsman bent over one of them and I realized they were all dead. They were radar crew men off watch who had assembled in one of the pilots ready rooms during the attack. A bomb had exploded in the next compartment and the concussion had killed thirty of them. Not a mark on their bodies, it was hard to believe they were dead.

On the forward part of the flight deck, near the bow, lay the body of one of the Kamikaze pilots. It had been thrown nearly 400’ when his plane hit our flight deck. It was extremely mutilated, as could be expected.

The next day, November 26th, burial services were held for 69 men killed in action. I remember 2 of them, Ed Zielinsky, who was a survivor from the old Lexington sunk in the Coral Sea; he always said ‘nothing could happen to him’, and Shorty Nelson, who managed to get leave to go home to Texas, while waiting in Newport News to put the ship in commission. I’m glad he got his leave.

 AMM2 Elmer E. Anderson, ’42-‘45

Let Us Not Forget Those Who Have Gone Before Us 

 

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