Bogie Passes over Fleet
Feb. 7, 1945; Alethea, Pacific
A WWII F6F Navy Fighter Pilot’s Experiences in the Pacific
My further acquaintance with Falalop Atoll came during this visit to the Alethea anchorage. While at the anchorage, each carrier had to provide fighter pilots to fly Combat Air Patrol over the area for one day. With many carriers in the Fast Carrier Task Force, this was not much of a problem. Our carrier's turn finally arrived, and MacBrayer's team was selected as one of the flights to participate on 7 February 1945. To ensure adequate protection to the anchored fleet, three to four divisions of fighters were kept in the air around the clock. At night, night fighters from the various carriers flew CAP.
The afternoon before we were scheduled to fly, we took a boat to Falalop. After looking around at the island's facilities we adjourned to the Officer's Club and had a fine dinner. As afternoon turned into evening, the liquor continued to flow. We all got a little tipsy. Having been without spirits for a time, none of us had a tolerance for alcohol. We retired to our tent in the midst of a heavy rain. Needless to say, we all had hangovers and were in mighty poor condition when the 0500 call came to rise, eat, and become airborne.
We ate a little breakfast and reported to the Operations shack for instructions. After being briefed, we packed our headaches and queasy stomachs into our planes and took off. Our assignment was to be on station at Angels 20 (20,000 feet) directly over the fleet. At 20,000 we were on oxygen and that helped reduce the pain in the throbbing heads.
About an hour after takeoff, the Fighter Director vectored us to a spot approximately 15 miles west of the fleet where the radar had picked up some bogies (enemy planes). We set off at full speed to get the beggars. When we arrived at the point of contact, no planes were to be seen. Circling, we could see something flashing in the sunlight as it fell toward earth. After reporting our find to the Fighter Director, we were informed we had seen "Window" floating to earth. Window consisted of metallic chaff (metallic material cut into slim elongate strips) which when dropped out of a plane produced blips on the radar screen resembling blips caused by planes. Window is dropped to lure fighters from the area where they are providing a safety umbrella. The enemy plane, or planes, drop the Window and then leave the area at full speed. Shortly after we had been sent on the wild goose chase, more Window was dropped in several places around the area, but the Fighter Director failed to respond to the same trick. All flights continued to orbit above the fleet, but saw no enemy planes.
At noon we landed to refuel and eat. That enabled us to walk around and stretch our legs. While we were waiting for the planes to be refueled, one of the mess boys brought our lunch in a jeep. He spread the delicious repast out on the hood of the jeep. One look at the meal was enough to sicken anyone. The sandwiches consisted of thick slabs of white bread with thick slices of Spam between. No mayonnaise, no mustard, no anything—just dry bread and meat. The drink provided was a large pan full of a green liquid that tasted very much like citric acid. After a few bites were crammed down, we all crawled back into our planes for the afternoon patrol.
During the afternoon, we had one alert. The Fighter Director indicated that a bogie had registered on the radar screen at 30,000 feet some 10 miles to the west. We were to climb to 30,000 feet and intercept the bogie. By the time we got to 30,000, the bogie had passed over the fleet and turned and headed back west. The Fighter Director was constantly exhorting us to add speed and close on the bogie. We had all advanced our throttles past the normal stop into the range where we were using water injection, but the bogie continued to widen the distance. An object was seen, at a distance, moving away at great speed, but it could not be identified. In the years since, I have wondered if this could have been one of the early Japanese jets being used for reconnaissance.
At last the day came to a close. We landed and crawled from the planes, a mass of tired, sore muscles, after spending the day cramped in the cockpit on oxygen. A good meal at the Officer's Club and a pleasant boat ride back to the carrier prepared us for a good night's sleep. It might be well to clarify the above reference to "Water Injection." Each F6F carried a 5 gallon tank containing a mixture of alcohol and water. When the throttle was advanced beyond the normal "Full Throttle" stop, the mixture of alcohol and water was injected into the carburetor along with the air-gas mixture. This mixture permitted a 15% increase in power available without doing any damage to the engine. A cooling effect was created by evaporation of the alcohol-water mixture.
Reference for the above text is:
UFOCAT PRN – NONE
Pacific Ocean – Federated States of Micronesia
Falalop Latitude 10-01-21 N, Longitude 139-47-47 E (D-M-S) [island – part of the Ulithi Atoll]
Alethea – unable to locate [The Federated States of Micronesia consist of more than 600 islands, so this is probably one of them.]
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