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Strike days aboard a WWII aircraft carrier in the Pacific

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WWII Veterans Series

By WILBUR GINN
Special to The Trimble Banner
A strike day starts early in the morning with the bombs being loaded in the planes. The planes had to be tied down at all times expect during takeoff. While these aircraft were being prepared and fueled, the pilots were in the ready room studying maps and targets to hit on Japan. These pilots were equipped with life jackets and parachutes and their gear was so heavy they had to have help to get up in the planes.
One half-hour before takeoff the mechanic would start the engines. When it was time for takeoff, the pilots would be helped up into their planes. When the pilot got the signal from the signal man, he would roar from his spot on the flight deck to the forward end of the deck and was on his way to Japan. When the first plane cleared the deck, the next plane would take off. This was repeated until every plane was off the ship.
The planes were equipped with metal propellers. One day a pilot walked into the propeller of his own plane and was killed. We were instructed to walk behind the propellers at all times and never touch the propeller. Another pilot was called to take off in this plane but he lost his nerve. The third pilot flew this plane off the flight deck and was killed when the bomb exploded in his plane, just as he cleared the ship.
Another day when planes were taking off, a pilot roared his plane across the flight deck when the engine started to cut out, losing power as he cleared the deck. The plane turned to the right, lost power and splashed into the ocean. I ran to the right side of the ship to see if the plane was floating. The pilot and plane had already sunk into the Pacific.
When the planes returned from their mission to land on our flight deck, it was the job of the landing signal officer to signal the planes to come aboard or make another circle and try again. The plane should be near the center of the flight deck at the rear of the ship. The rear end of the ship sometimes raised approximately 15 feet above level and then dipped 15 feet for a span of 30 feet. The signalman would want the pilot to make another circle if the rear end of the deck was in a dip position, because if the deck raised the plane would crash into the deck. The signalman stood with blue canvas background behind him so the pilot could see him clearly.
One day a plane was coming in for a landing with the deck in the dipped position. The pilot was signaled to make another circle, but came on in, crashed into the flight deck, caught fire and went over the side into the ocean. The signalman had to jump over the side but was caught by a net below. He told me he thought his time had come when the burning plane came over the side above the net where he had jumped.
It was my job to make another canvas background for the signal officer because the old one burned during the crash.
Another day as I was on watch, wearing headphones with a long cord at the island structure, I walked out of my station on the flight deck. I was watching the planes come in for a landing when a plane was way off center and was waved off by the signal officer, The pilot came on in for a landing. The right wing hit a five-inch gun mount near the island structure. Buddy Rogers from Milton was a gunner on one of the five-inch gun mounts. He told me later his gun was shooting at a suicide plane that made a hit on the aircraft carrier USS Franklin that killed B.G. Neal, also from Milton.
Steel cables were stretched across the flight deck to stop the planes as they landed on deck. If they missed one cable, there were several more cables at intervals up the flight deck. The tails of the planes were equipped with hooks.
When a pilot would come in for a landing he would lower the nose of the plane before he arrived at a cable, raise the nose and the tail hook would catch in the cable and stop the plane.
One pilot missed several cables and lowered the nose of the plane too far and the plane turned a somersault and landed upside down destroying the plane.

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Next Week: The conclusion of Mr. Ginn’s Navy experiences as Japan surrenders to bring an end to WWII.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We invite those of you WWII veterans who remain with us to share your military experiences and the accomplishments of your lives since the war. If others have a relative or good friend whom you feel should be recognized for their service we would be interested in reading their stories.

If possible, please send or email a photo of the soldier, sailor, airman or marine from their military days to accompany the information.
WWII veterans stories may be mailed to The Trimble Banner, P.O. Box 289, Bedford KY 40006, or dropped by our office at 322 U.S. 42 East (at the Y intersection of U.S. 42 and U.S. 421) in Bedford. Or email them to editor@mytrimblenews.com.