American Aces against the Kamikaze by Edward M. Young, Mark Styling

By Edward M. Young, Mark Styling

The japanese excessive Command learned that the lack of Okinawa might provide the americans a base for the invasion of Japan. Its determined reaction to the invasion of Okinawa used to be to unharness the entire strength of the distinctive assault devices, recognized within the west because the Kamikaze ('Divine Wind'), within the desire of causing punishing casualties at the US Pacific fleet that during flip disrupted the invasion. In a sequence of mass assaults in among April and June 1945, greater than 900 Kamikaze aeroplanes have been shot down. traditional opponents and bombers followed the specific assault devices as escorts, and so as to add their very own weight to the assaults at the US fleet. within the air battles major as much as the invasion of Okinawa, in addition to those who raged over the island within the 3 months, that undefined, and in moves on jap airfields in Kyushu (the base of the exact assault Units), the japanese misplaced greater than 7000 airplane either within the air and at the flooring. during the battling, sixty seven army, 21 Marine, and 3 USAAF pilots grew to become aces, destroying a minimum of 5 airplane among March and June 1945. in lots of methods it was once an asymmetric strive against. whereas many average eastern military and army aviators volunteered for the specified assault devices, quite a few the pilots within the targeted assault devices have been green and just recently out of flying education. additionally they usually flew out of date airplane. those much less skilled pilots have been no fit for the Hellcat, Corsair and Thunderbolt pilots who have been on the top in their online game. certainly, the various latter were flying opponents for 2 or extra years, and had earlier strive against adventure. On a variety of events following those asymmetric contests, American fighter pilots may go back from wrestle having shot down as much as six jap aeroplanes in the course of a unmarried undertaking. certainly, in the course of the crusade thirteen army, 5 Marine Corps and USAAF pilots turned 'aces in a day'.

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Spotting another ‘George’ ahead of him, which he claimed was a ‘Tojo’, Conant closed to within 75 ft before opening fire. Seeing hits on the tail, fuselage and wings, his burst may have also killed the pilot, as the ‘George’ did a slow roll and then dove straight into the water. These two kills made Conant an ace. Lt Cdr Marshal Beebe was leading three divisions of sister-squadron VF-17 on a CAP in the area when he heard reports of the fighting over the radio. He immediately headed southwest towards the action.

With a ‘Dinah’ shot down in February and two ‘Zekes’ destroyed on 18 March, Reber’s four claims of the day made him an ace. Lt(jg) Sturdevant also did well, claiming two ‘Zekes’ and a ‘Betty’. In total, VF-30 pilots were credited with 11 ‘Zekes’ and ten ‘Betty’ bombers destroyed. Between them, VF-17 and VF-30 claimed a total of 26 ‘Bettys’ – more than were actually on the mission! The day became known as the ‘First Turkey Shoot’ in VF-30’s squadron history. After the strikes on Kyushu and the Inland Sea, TF 58 switched to attacking targets on Okinawa and the surrounding islands in preparation for the invasion.

For their skill in downing eight of the nine fighters, both men received the Navy Cross. In VF-30’s squadron history 6 April was recorded as ‘Turkey Shoot Number Two’. Fourteen Hellcat pilots were flying a CAP north of Okinawa when they began to run into small formations of Japanese aircraft – usually three to four aeroplanes in loose formation. After landing, one pilot said ‘It was like an Easter egg hunt – look under any cloud and there would be a Jap plane or two’. In a continuous series of running battles over the next two hours VF-30 pilots claimed 47 Japanese aircraft shot down (26 ‘Vals’,14 ‘Zekes’, five ‘Tojos’ and two ‘Oscars).

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