Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Aircraft Carrier, March 18, 1945

"This is one of the best stories of the human side of shipboard life during war conditions that has been published, Every good American should read it. To the wartime sailor it will bring back vivid memories. To those who know little about shipboard life, it will afford a chance to renew their faith and pride in the U.S. Navy".--Admiral William F. Halsey

My grandfather's book, Aircraft Carrier, published in 1954, is based on a diary he kept on board "The Fighting Lady"--the U.S.S. Yorktown. Through four months of action in the Pacific in 1945, he sailed on the Essex Class aircraft carrier as it moved out on an enormous strike against the Japanese homeland.

The Japanese , of course, tried to strike back.
On March 18th three "judy" dive bombers launched attacks on the carrier. Two were shot down, but the third planted his bomb on the signal bridge. It passed through the first deck and exploded near the ship's hull, puncturing the ship's side with two large holes, killing five men and wounding another 26.

>In Grandpa Joe's words:

"The bomb burst directly below (chaplian) Joe Moody's battle station--Repair 3, a small shop at the after end of the island. As soon as Joe heard the explosion, he dashed out onto the flight deck. A Marine in the 20mm gallery around the corner was rubbing his bloody eyes and screaming. Nest to him, another Marine was trying to stanch a jet of blood from his leg. Joe grabbed a stretcher, commandeered three corpsmen, and rushed the blind man toward Battle Dressing 1, at the forward end of the island. On the way, they passed a sailor who pointed to the clipping room and shouted, "Bad ones up there, Father! A lot of 'em!"

(Among the wounded was a radio technician whose body was riddled with bomb fragments.)

Joe began to wash him down. Presently the man asked, "Father, what are you spending so much time with me for?"
Joe asked, "Are you a Catholic?"
"Not too good a one."
"Well, " Joe said, "we won't worry about that now."
A little later the man said, "I'll tell you a funny thing, Father: I'm glad this happened to me. I'm completely at peace with God for the first time in my life."
Shortly after midnight he repeated it: "I'm glad this happened to me. It's made it easy for me to do what I've been wanting to do for a long time--be a part of the Church."
Those were his last words.

It made me think of a stanza from a Scottish ballad I once read:

"Fight on my men!" Sir Andrew said.
"A little I'm hurt but not yet slain.
"I'll but lie down and bleed awhile,
"And then rise up and fight again."

The Yorktown remained fully operational. Her anti aircraft guns shot down the third plane.

At wartime, there were official regulations against naval diaries, but Grandpa Joe was given special permission for a diary. In fact he was instructed to keep one, for a reason "no longer of interest" as he put it. The fact that nobody but Grandpa Joe could read his scrawl must have provided comfort to the High Command. At the time J Bryan lll was 40 years old and a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve.

Today The U.S.S. Yorktown is a museum ship, anchored at Patriot's Point in Mount Pleasant, SC. I've visited the ship a few times for pleasure and business. Just a mile from the Yorktown, I had a job at my first television station, WCBD-TV.

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