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Okinawa, VF-9's Flying Circus and Bob Hope sixty-five years ago!

Waring Hills May 12, 2010

On 12 May 1945 the USS Yorktown (CV-10) was finally underway for a respite from war. During the Okinawa campaign, the Fighting Lady had been at sea for 61 days and steamed over 35,000 miles. She had found herself under enemy attack on 29 of those days. The intense fighting and tension had led the battle group commander and former CV-10 skipper, Rear Admiral Jocko Clark, to circulate a message among his task force, “See Hebrews 13, verse 8.  No irreverence intended.” (Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.)

The rich target environment had allowed the Flying Circus of VF-9 to acquire 50 kills off Okinawa.

VF-9's Flying Circus (L to R, Gene Valencia - 23 kills, Harris Mitchell - 10 kills, Clint Smith - 6 kills and Jim French - 11 kills. The wartime censor has cut out their squadron patches on their jackets.

The crew had been on edge for some time and eventually an accident happened on 09 May. A young Hellcat pilot accidentally strafed the deck with his .50 caliber guns while folding his wings after landing. Nineteen enlisted crewmen and one young officer, Ensign John Battaile were struck by shells. Ensign Battaile died two hours later.

On the night of 12 May as Yorktown sailed toward Ulithi and Mog Mog, the crew finally got to watch their first movie in a month. The movie was “Nothing But The Truth,” with Bob Hope and  Paulette Goddard. Humor and relaxation were exactly what the doctor ordered. It had been a long two months…

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5 thoughts on “Okinawa, VF-9's Flying Circus and Bob Hope sixty-five years ago!

  1. John Mahalak says:

    Served on Yorktown from 5/59 to 6/60 in the Fox
    Division. Made a great wespac cruise and saw a lot of far east. Bringing my family to Charleston on June 23 thru 25 to see the “old lady” who I have missed seeing for 50 years but I know will still be as breath taking as ever! Would love to met up with any of the old crew!

  2. John Mahalak says:

    Served on the Yorktown from 5/59 thru 6/60 in Fox Division. Made a Wespac cruise and enjoyed Hawaii and the far east. Bringing the family to Charleston on June 23rd thru June 25th to see the “old lady” whom I’m sure is still as beautiful as when I last saw her 50 years ago!!

    1. Waring Hills says:

      We’ll be looking for you in June, have a safe trip!

  3. Robert Forbes says:

    Can anybody help me find any pictures of VF-9’s aircraft from Valenci’s Flying Circus. Especially interested in James French’s aircrft.

    1. Sandra Kent says:

      Hi Robert,

      I’m not sure you will receive this reply because I just read your request today Wednesday 8/24/2016. I’m James French’s daughter, and I may have some photos of Dad’s VF-9 aircraft. If you are still interested, let me know & I will check with my brother as well.


      Sandra Kent

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