Synopsis: Two flights of the torpedo squadron flew to attack the approaching Japanese fleet. One from land and one from sea. We have seen the Avengers from Midway meet their fate; now the Devastators from the Hornet would meet theirs.
“JAPANESE STRIKING FORCE TORPEDO SQUADRON EIGHT 0917
Staring into the distance, Waldron suddenly saw the wispy smoke columns dead ahead of them. The enemy ships began to take shape as dark silhouettes on the cryslalline sea. To Tex Gay, it looked like they almost covered the ocean. As the squadron closed in on the enemy task force, he could see three carriers in the first group, and a fourth following behind.There were battleships and cruisers and destroyers all over the place. Maybe all that guff about the skipper’s Sioux intuition had been right after all. He had gone straight to the enemy fleet like they had been on the end of a plumb line. Waldron was on the radio again. He was attempting to contact Commander Stanhope Ring to let him know that they had located the Japanese carriers. “Stanhope from Johnny One,” Gay heard him say. “Enemy sighted.” There was no response. “Stanhope from Johnny One…answer,” he called again. “Enemy sighed.” Flying behind Commander Ring in the Hornet air group, Leroy Quillen, the radioman-gunner in the dive bomber piloted by Ensign K. B. White, heard Waldron loud and clear. “Stanhope from Johnny One,” he repeated once more. As Waldron continued leading Torpedo Eight toward the vanguard of the enemy striking force, Tex Gay observed that one of the four Japanese carriers was in the process of landing a plane. Remembering that the original attack plan called for hitting the carriers while their aircraft were off bombing Midway, his first reaction was, “Oh Christ, were late.” Waldron was back again on the radio, this time talking to his men. “We will go in,” he said, sounding very calm. “We won’t turn back, we will attack. Good luck.” The skipper put his nose down before leveling off at about five hundred feet as he headed in. The rest of the squadron followed him in perfect precision, almost like synchronized swimmers. He had told them that they might have to go in alone, and now the worst had come. His words gave Tex confidence that they had a fighting chance to get in and drop their torpedoes, then light out for home. A moment later, the sky around them was filled with Zeroes. The enemy fighters swung around in half loops and wingovers to gain better firing positions. “Johnny One under attack,” Waldron radioed. From the bridge of the carrier Akagi, Commander Minoru Genda, Admiral Nagumo’s operations officer, watched with almost detached fascination as the fifteen torpedo planes came on. The slow-moving Devastators reminded him of a flock of waterfowl crossing a lake. To Genda, it was sheer idiocy for them to attack without fighter protection, and a total violation of the first rule of war, which was to concentrate one’s forces. At last they have come, Genda thought to himself, having wondered when they would arrive ever since the American carrier force had been sighted. It puzzled him that they were coming in so low.”
Excerpted from “A DAWN LIKE THUNDER”, author, Robert J. Mrazek. Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group. 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10012.
To be continued: Islander