Dawn came at 0430 on 19 June 1944. The weather was expected to be CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited) and the temperature in the low to mid 80′s. Wind was out of the east at 9 to 12 knots. Conditions were also right for lots of contrails at altitude…in other words, a great day for an air battle at sea.
The day started off not very well for the U. S. Navy as a VP-16 Mariner was mistakenly attacked by a Hellcat combat air patrol (CAP) and one crewman was killed. However, the day was to be a fantastic one for the United States Navy.
Admiral Ozawa would launch four strikes against the American carriers between 0830 and 1130 totaling 326 aircraft. With the advent of radar and the direction of combat air patrols by fighter director officers (FDOs) onboard in the carrier’s combat information centers (CICs), very few Japanese strike aircraft made it into the inner circle of carriers. Of the fifteen American carriers only Bunker Hill (moderate damage) and Wasp (slight damage) were hit by Japanese attackers.
The Hellcat pilots of Fighting One (VF-1) off Yorktown had shot down thirty-seven Japanese aircraft and 6 probables for the loss of only 1 Hellcat. Combined with the fighter pilots of the other 14 carriers, the United States Navy on 19 June 1944 destroyed approximately 402 Japanese aircraft.
While no American carriers were sunk, two of Japan’s largest carriers, Taiho and Shokaku, were sunk by American submarines. Taiho was Ozawa’s flagship and he wanted to go down with his carrier, but one of his staff officers convinced him to shift his flag and live to see a victory. Interestingly, Shokaku (a Pearl Harbor attack participant) was sunk by SS Cavalla whose skipper was Commander Herman Kossler. Kossler would eventually retire as a Rear Admiral and become Patriots Point’s first executive director.
At the end of the day, the aviators were itching to get a carrier themselves…in the Yorktown’s Plan of the Day for 20 June the byline was “We don’t know where they are yet, but we do know that there are a lot less of them there!” Notice in the image of the Monterey pilot below receiving his medicinal brandy after the Turkey Shoot, the caption “Get the carriers.”
Tomorrow we’ll see if the brown shoes have any luck..