Sunday, May 30, 2021

A Memorial Day Tribute

 I suspect that any man on the front lines of heavy fighting in World War 2 came home somewhat surprised that he had survived. One of the things I admire about my dad and all those who flirted with death is that day after day and night after night they answered the call, strapped themselves in the cockpit or hunkered down in the foxhole and faced the same terrors again. And again. And again. And again.

To all those men and women who have sacrificed so much, whether in WW2 or modern-day anti-terrorist operations--thank you. You have done your part to keep this country free and safe. I can only hope that those of us not in the military do our part as responsible stewards of the gift we've been given, a gift purchased by the blood, sweat, and tears of those who have served. My dad was one of those who served (1942-1966).

During his first tour in 1944, Dad was aboard theYorktown (CV-10) flying with fighter squadron VF-5. During his second tour he was on the light carrier Belleau Wood (CVL-24) flying with VF-30. At this time in his career dad was flying the F6F Gruman Hellcat.

It has been said that war is composed of a recurring cycle of days of boredom followed by moments of sheer terror. I think you'll see that in what follows below. It's an excerpt from my father's wartime diary during part of his second Pacific Tour, from February 1 to February 19, 1945. 

[Note to those not familiar with carrier operations: the LSO is the Landing Signal Officer (you'll encounter this in the February 11th entry). He is a very experienced pilot standing on the carrier who observes aircraft in the landing pattern and "waves them off" if the deck is not clear or if the pilot is not "in the groove" for a safe landing.]


Thursday and Friday, February 1 and 2, 1945, At Sea

Crossed the international date line so the date moved up one day today. We were paid today. Broke out the dice table, 20 of the boys put up $20 apiece and they form the syndicate which operates the board. I paid out all my money so the crap game doesn't worry me any.

Saturday, February 3 - Monday, February 5, 1945, At Sea

All routine days at sea so to save time & space I've combined 3 days on this page. During this period I have written over 20 letters. We refueled the cans on the 3rd. It seems odd to be steaming along through waters that were exceedingly dangerous this time last year. We passed within 50 miles of one Jap held island in the Marshalls. Passed Eniwetok our base by only 60 miles. We went within 200 miles of Truk, still Jap held. On the night of the 5th we had our first real GQ. Radar picked up a bogey which proved to be a cloud formation. During this period I & my team hasn't flown - just stood Cond. II.

Tuesday, February 6, 1945, At Sea

Stood condition II today. Thought we might have some fun this P.M., our ship rec'd a report that a large number of planes were seen taking off from Truk by one of our patrol bombers nothing developed from this however. We had 8 planes up on CAP this PM. My team is next to fly. Gunndaker settled at the ramp and broke his hook off on the ramp, he went into the barriers. Smitty who had just landed and taxied forward of the barriers was still in his plane, Gunners plane smacked into the tail of his. Gunners plane is a washout, Smittys is badly damaged, neither pilot was hurt. We get in Ulithi tomorrow AM. Hope we get some mail.

Wednesday, February 7, 1945, Ulithi Lagoon

Dropped anchor at about 1300. I have witnessed an impressing sight. Never on the face of the earth has such a fleet been assembled at one place as here in this lagoon. As far as you can see for miles around there are hundreds of ships. Ulithi is a typical atoll, very little land just a coral reef around a large lagoon.

The air group did not get mail though the ship did, sure makes me mad. This is about as poor a ship as I've ever seen. I have refrained from mentioning it prior to this because I thought things might change.

Tonight we received a shock, we are going to hit Tokyo Bay on a 2 day strike prior to a landing on Iwo Jima. This will be the first carrier strike on the Jap Homeland. Rather a dubious honor I'd say.

Thursday, February 8, 1945, Ulithi Lagoon

Still no mail. With the knowledge of where we are going this no mail deal is really setting hard on the squadron. Morale is very low. I tried to go to the mail ship myself but was unable to get there. We have no movies, no mail, no shore recreation no sun bathing and no athletics, all this is sure adding up to a unhappy squadron.

On top of all this comes word that the skipper and the executive officer will not get to participate in the Tokyo strike due to the fact that they know too much to run the risk of falling into Jap hands. This is also bad because the squadron feels like this will be a suicide raid, secretly I'm afraid it is.

Friday, February 9, 1945, Ulithi Lagoon

I spent all PM attempting to run down squadron mail with no success, there has been a foul up somewhere. It will be a long time now before we get mail.

Air Group and ship morale is very low, that's bad before a raid but it is strictly the ships fault. This is going to be a hell of a tour of duty unless changes are made.

We were briefed today on rescue facilities tough raid coming up. Sure would like to hear from my little girl. The letters we mail here won't be [mailed ?] for three weeks so it will be a long time before my little girl and the folks hear from me.

Saturday, February 10, 1945, At Sea

Hoisted the hook about 1030. I might mention that I am once again in Task Force 58 we are in group one under my old captain Jocko Clark. This is a large task force.

We did not get our mail this A.M. so we have the long prospects of no mail. Ship had gunnery practice in the P.M. Landed our 2 replacement aircraft aboard around noon. Briefing every day on Tokyo Bay area. Have a full schedule tomorrow I have 2 flights.

Sunday, February 11, 1945, At Sea

This is the darkest day I've ever had in my life. Young and Wescott were killed this AM on our first flight. We took off around 0700 on a strike against a spar towed by a CV. Young went in right after take off before he had rendezvoused. According to Lee who was right behind him he started his left turn and settled right into the sea, his plane blew up. Evidently he was working on something in the cockpit and just flew in. Wescott who was a spare was launched in his place. The hop went off OK and was 3 hrs & 1/4 long. I landed first, Curry got a waveoff, then Lee came aboard followed by Wescott, for some unknown reason, the deck crew held Wescott aft of the barriers and due to carelessness the L.S.O. gave Curry a cut with Wescott still aft of the barriers. Curry's hook pulled out on no. 5 wire and he crashed on top of Wescott. Wescotts death was merciful, the planes caught on fire immediately and Curry was very fortunate to get out unhurt.

Wescott's body was not saved as the planes burned for 15 minutes and finally had to be pushed over the side still burning. It was not Curry's fault at all nor was it Wescott's fault, it was the L.S.O. fault for giving Curry a cut, the LSO was busted down. Even if Curry's hook hadn't of broken he would have still crashed into Wescott.

Naturally Curry was all broken up and the Doc gave him some knock out pills and put him to bed. Team 9 was scheduled to fly again in the P.M. So with two substitutes Lee and I flew again, Lee didn't want to fly nor did I but I believe it was best we did.

This is the termination of team 9. We no longer have enough pilots for nine teams. The skipper since he does not have combat experience nor do none of his team has asked me to lead his 2nd section. Since I've lost my team, I don't care where or if I fly, I wouldn't have been prouder of my boys than if they were aces.

Monday, February 12, 1945, At Sea

I can't realize Wescott and Young are gone. Curry is coming around OK. We have convinced him that it wasn't his fault. I have some awfully tough letters to write soon.

I flew a scouting CAP this PM with the skipper. I find that I have the first strike against Japan with him, we are assigned to 27,000 ft against air opposition if there are no air borne aircraft we have 4 important fields to strafe. I guess the skipper convinced them that he should be allowed to go in over Japan. Lee & Curry fly tomorrow.

D-6, Tuesday, February 13, 1945, At Sea

I didn't fly today. Curry did however, and I'm glad because I was afraid he was going to be nervous. The Task Groups refueled today. The weather is getting cool.

D-5, Wednesday, February 14, 1945, At Sea

Flew a 3 ½ CAP over the Logistic support group. No Bogies. Spent most of the day being briefed. We hit Japan on D-3 day, day after tomorrow, good night!

D-4, Thursday, February 15, 1945, At Sea

Flew a 3 ½ hr. CAP with the skipper got a vector bogey which turned out to be a PB4Y-2 [??]. One other Group CAP splashed a Betty. Tomorrow is the big day, I'm in a VF sweep against Tokyo Bay area at 1055 big day ahead!

Tokyo Raid, D-3, Friday, February 16, 1945, At Sea

To tired to write much. 0-0 weather so strike wasn't very successful, very cold snowing in fact. The 4 of us shot down a Dinah the credit will probably go to the skipper & his wing man but we all had a hand in it. All of our boys returned safely. Will add more tomorrow am too tired to write now.

I couldn't believe it, there I was flying around in a lazy orbit off the coast of Japan gazing at the snow shrouded Fuji San [??], its the most beautiful mt. I've ever seen. I tallyhoed a Dinah and a Emily we got the Dinah but the skipper dropped the ball and let someone else beat us to the Emily. Because of extremely bad weather we did not attack the fields we were supposed to but were ordered to cover the rendezvous point while the other groups carried home the attack. Oscar kept popping down through the clouds but would not stay down long enough for us to engage them. Score for the squadron today was one dinah, 1 grace, 1 frank, and 1 oscar. Evenson was high with two. Extremely bad weather kept the task force from attack but also kept our planes from delivering a good punch.

Tokyo Raid, D-2, Saturday, February 17, 1945, At Sea

Same story, extremely bad weather kept the raids from being extensive. I flew a scouting CAP with Reber on my wing. Part of the time we were on instruments, never could we go above 500 ft. Snowed and rained all 3 ½ hr of the hop.

Aygher and Clark got in some good licks on a air strip 80 miles down the coast from Tokyo Bay, they met no opposition and succeeded in burning up numerous planes on the ground. All hands returned safely.

Retirement, D-1, Sunday, February 18, 1945, At Sea

Proceeding South today for our refueling rendezvous [off ] of Iwo Shima tomorrow. Weather some better. Flew a 3 hr. antisnooper patrol with Jake as a wingman. The Boys have got a good one on me, I requested permission to strafe a rock, yep old Eagle eye Cobb slipped up. While in my sector I noticed something on the surface of the water some 60 miles from the Task Group. I called the ship and they said they had no surface contacts in that area and for me to go and investigate. About 10 miles from the object I decided it was a Sampan under sail and requested permission to attack, almost immediately I realized it was nothing but a rock and shamefully informed the base as such. The ship had me turn on emerg. IFF and orbit it so they could get a fix on it and chart it. Can you imagine a lone rock in the middle of the ocean with no other land in sight? Dahms [??] shot down a Nick today.


Monday, February 19, 1945, At Sea

We refueled today while the Marines were landing on Iwo Jima. The baby flat tops furnished the air support. We may participate in it tomorrow.

Wonder of wonders we got mail today though not much. I heard from Helen and the Folks though so I am happy. Flew a CAP this PM, no excitement.


Thanks for serving, Dad--you were a great example. Love you. Miss you.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Book Review: Dangerous calling by Paul Tripp

Some writers make a living off cheap shots. It’s pretty easy to create a patina of profundity by manipulating guilt in your readers. It’s been done all too often in Christian circles, especially in books dealing with the modern church or modern ministry. That is not what Paul Tripp does in his terribly convicting book, Dangerous Calling, as he takes the reader on a tour of the lethal dangers associated with the ministry.

None of the hazards he explores come from the outside—they all come from within the minister himself. Pride, anger, hypocrisy, the danger of celebrity, the danger of personal isolation, thinking one has “arrived,” thinking that theological knowledge equals spiritual maturity, are just some of the minefields and pitfalls Tripp covers. It’s a wake-up call, whether you’ve been in ministry for forty years, or have just entered the ministry.

Tripp’s warnings are all the more powerful as he makes it clear that he himself has failed multiple times in multiple ways. He bares his soul—and his sins—to the reader. I think the book gains in two ways from Tripp’s painful self-disclosures. First it encourages those of us who struggle with transparency to become transparent ourselves, knowing that we are safe and forgiven in the grace of Christ. Second, when I see what Tripp struggles with, I know he knows what he is talking about. It’s not pastoral practice according to the ivory tower; it’s blood-and-guts practical.

But the book is not a negative downer. Each chapter contains reminders of the love and grace of Christ for broken sinners like us, and practical steps and suggestions for accountability, transparency, and a renewal of our love for Christ and passion for ministry.

Read this book. It might save both your marriage and your ministry. Five stars. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Book Review: The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, by Hornfischer

In October of 1944, the Japanese threw the remainder of their naval power into an attempt to destroy MacArthur’s invasion of the Philippines, particularly the landing on Leyte. In a three-pronged desperate operation called Sho-1, employing powerful naval task forces under the command of admirals Nishimura, Kurita, Shima, and Ozawa, the Japanese sought to stall the American island-hopping advance. While Ozawa martialed Japan’s remaining fleet carriers in hopes of drawing Halsey’s Third Fleet north, away from its position blocking the San Bernadino Strait, the other three Japanese forces would advance on Leyte in a pincer movement from north and south.

When Halsey took the bait and left his assigned station to chase north after Ozawa, the only thing standing between the massively powerful Japanese fleet and the Leyte landings was Taffy 3 (Task Unit 77.4.3) consisting of 6 light carriers, three destroyers and four destroyer-escorts, under the command of Admiral Sprague.

Hornfischer’s fascinating book details the heroic stand of Taffy 3, which faced the largest battleship in the world whose 18” guns had a range of 20 miles, plus three more battleships armed with 14” guns, six heavy cruisers with 8” rifles, two light cruisers, and eleven destroyers. The 5” guns on Taffy 3’s small force had a range of only about 7 miles, and their shells were insufficient to put even a dent in the armored sides of the Japanese battleships and heavy cruisers. And yet Taffy 3 slowed the Japanese onslaught, and eventually caused Admiral Kurita to lose his nerve and withdraw.

The author does a superb job of introducing the reader to the human combatants, from cook to admiral, primarily on the American side. The book is full of riveting first-person accounts of the fear and courage of the men of Taffy 3, sailors and airmen, as they faced the devastating punishment of an opponent that overmatched them in every category except courage.

Hornfischer points out it was a battle of firsts and lasts: first time in history that an aircraft carrier was sunk by a surface fleet, and the last time this sort of surface melee involving battleships ever happened. His writing is superb: you can feel the spray and the concussion from the Japanese shells as they straddle the ships of Taffy 3.

If you enjoy military history, this is a must read. Five stars, highly recommended.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Book Review of Ruth Batstone's Moving On: Beyond Forgive and Forget

Ruth Batstone’s writing style is warm and engaging—this book will be very helpful in teaching and encouraging victims to deal biblically with their trauma, particularly when it comes to forgiving the perpetrator. The author does a powerful job of connecting with those who have suffered greatly at the hands of an abuser. Her empathy and understanding of the emotional damage such suffering produces is compelling as she gently nudges the reader toward the imperative to forgive.

Batstone constantly leads the reader back to the Gospel as the landmark and source of forgiveness. She repeatedly reminds us that the grounds on which we are commanded to forgive others is God’s forgiveness of our own sins through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Moving On is fully Christ-centered and is an excellent tool for presenting the Gospel to a counselee who’s not yet professed faith in Christ but who has suffered at the hands of others.

The strengths of the book include the writer’s sharing of her own suffering. Her personal experience provides Batstone with a deep-level understanding of the complex emotions swirling in the heart of a victim. Each chapter ends with questions for reflection, making the book a great homework tool for biblical counselors. She also does a good job covering the various peripheral topics surrounding the issue of forgiveness, such as anger, desire for revenge, the danger of not forgiving, and the relationship of forgiveness to worship.

There are a few matters that weaken the volume. One of the book’s strengths is also its weakness: Batstone deals mostly with the subjective aspects of forgiveness; there are a few glaring holes when it comes to her treatment of the objective, transactional nature of forgiveness. The best example of this is her failure to deal with the little word “if” in Luke 17:3. Jesus says very clearly, “if he repents, forgive him.” Batstone, on the other hand, claims boldly that “forgiveness is not contingent on another’s repentance” (p. 96). She presents forgiveness as a unilateral, one-sided transaction. I don’t recall her dealing with Psalm 86:5, in which God is said to be “ready to forgive, and abundant in loving kindness to all who call upon You” (NASB). This is the posture a believer is to take with someone who refuses to repent: the heart attitude is that of forgiveness, but without actually making the transaction of forgiveness. This is more than a semantic difference when it comes to restoring relationships broken by sin: restoration is always a two-way interaction. Batstone’s unilateral idea of forgiveness unintentionally weakens that interactive dynamic.

Another weakness is apparent in her treatment of the notion of “forgiving oneself.” Again, she deals with the subjective, emotional matters and never touches on the fact that our sins are not primarily against ourselves to begin with, but against the Lawgiver. We are not the lawgiver, and therefore there is no need to “forgive ourselves” (texts such as 1 Corinthians 6:18 really speak to self-damage we wreak, not to moral transgression against our own law thereby requiring “self-forgiveness”). While she does a excellent job of exploring what issues might be rattling around in the heart of someone who “just can’t forgive themselves,” she does not deal plainly with the fact that sin is against God, not ourselves.

I recommend this book highly, but I would suggest Jay Adam’s From Forgiven to Forgiving as a companion text to anchor the subject in a more thoroughly biblical frame work. Four stars.