Friday 16 April
106th Day, 259 Days to come
Took off 0730 rendezvous with 18 SBDs and proceeded to Cactus via SCAT
DC-3 Arrived 1130. Slept most of way. Saw the gang & got the word.
Maj. Britt was killed in take off. Coffeen is missing & Spoide got
the first Jap. The Squadron has been under fire but so far I haven't
really missed much. Will write a letter tonight maybe. Air raid
tonight. Dropped some bombs. Shrapnel & flak fell heavily. We sat it
out in a foxhole (dugout) not much damage. Managed to write V.J. &
Photo at right shows a SCAT R4D (DC-3) at Buttons.
NOTE: It was a long overwater flight between Buttons and Cactus. To ferry
aircraft up to the front a transport aircraft, with a navigator, would
fly with other aircraft in formation. If the group flew into a
thunderstorm some of the planes could be lost if they lost sight of
the others, or if one had engine or other problems it would be lost
because no one could offer assistance, other than to advise the Navy about where it went down so that a destroyer could be sent out to look for the wreckage or crew. Many would crash-land or ditch near one of the myriad of small islands which lined the route.
SCAT was the marine's airborne transportation system, Southeast Combat Area Transport. SCAT did as much to win the Pacific war as any other group.
A night air raid, at this time, was one or a consecutive series of single Japanese bombers which would circle the field as long as they could, dropping a bomb once in a while to keep everyone nervous or at least awake - we later did the same thing to them. Generally the plane would be a twin engine "Betty" sent down from the northern airfields. The pilot of the plane would intentionally unsynchronise the engines so that they would make a peculiar annoying sound, which some likened to a washing machine, hence the nickname for the night bomber "Washing Maching Charlie", or "Maytag Charlie". As we learned to use our airborne radar and how to vector aircraft to a bogey in the dark we gained the ability to shoot down these nightly annoyances.
A foxhole would be more than just a pit in the ground. It was often a long, fairly deep and wide trench covered with the trunks of coconut trees and piled high with dirt. They wouldn't withstand a direct hit but would protect from bomb shrapnel, falling cartridge cases and exploded debris from the AA guns. They would be wide enough for benches on each side and deep enough to sit upright in. If it was raining, or had been, they would be at least partially filled with water and, as often as not, rats, snakes, land crabs and other vermin. As the tour of duty wore on, more and more of the men would just take their chances in their tent rather than endure the foxholes.
From the VMF-213 WAR DIARY:
0745 - 1030 Eight F4Us escorted 2 PB4Ys to central New Georgia Island area. Photo mission.
Saturday 17 April
107th Day, 258 Day to come
Nothing doing today. Went to
Squadron this AM. Left parachute for repacking. Washed some clothes
and corked off. Going to show tonight so Washing Machine Charlie will
probably come over. Enjoyed the show - no air raid.
Photo at right shows officers washing laundry at Cactus.
Sunday 18 April
108th Day, 257 to come
Did nothing this AM. Stood by for alert from 0500. At 1500 went to Knucklehead patrol, up for 3 hrs.
First hop in weeks. Tired me, but I learned the area. Can hardly sit down tonight, alert again tomorrow
AM. Charley came over tonight in a big way. Raids at 1930, 2130, 2340, 0415, at 0415 night fighter got
one. He went down in flames. Dropped lots of bombs, none too close to us. Only got in fox hole twice,
both being 1930 raids. Came in from several directions. Not much damage done. This AM 2 P-38s got 3
bombers & 2 Zeros. One bomber carried Yamamoto, head of Jap Navy.
NOTE: The Yamamoto Mission:
We had the ability to read the Japanese Navy's coded messages, or, as Adm. Halsey said, "We read their mail". This enabled our victory at Midway, and set us up to kill Admiral Yamamoto, the commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet, and, second only to the Emperor, the most respected man in Japan. He was responsible for planning the attack on Pearl Harbor, hence a high profile target for the U.S. We had intercepted the itinerary of the Admiral's inspection of the bases on the south end of Bouganville. The plan to kill him was approved by President Roosevelt, himself, since it seemed to many to be an assassination.
The first plan was to attack the destroyer he was to visit in the bay, but concerns about his being able to survive were too great, so an air interception was the final plan. In order to cover the fact that we could read their messages a second similar attack was run the next day so the Japanese would think we were lucky enough to begin an offensive on the very day the Admiral was visiting the bases.
The Army's P-38 was the only aircraft with enough range to make the flight, and at that with only 10 minutes of fuel at the site. Fuel tanks were mounted, plumbed, and wired the night of the 17th/18th, using one 165 and one 310 gallon fuel tank on each of the 18 aircraft because there weren't enough of the larger ones available, and those used were flown to Cactus especially for the mission.
There were 4 attack fighters to shoot down the bomber the Admiral would be in, and 18 flying top cover for the four "shooters." One of the P-38s blew a tire and couldn't take off, one couldn't switch to one of the new fuel tanks and had to return. VMF-213's SSgt Coffeen, floating in his raft since his ditching on the 13th, saw the 16 planes pass over him. The mission went flawlessly, and the Admiral's Betty bomber #323 was shot down into the jungles of Bougainville. The Admiral was found still strapped into his seat, killed by two .50 cal bullets, one in the jaw and one in the chest.
One American was lost, Lt. Raymond K. Hine. Two pilots, Capt. Tom Lanphier and Lt. Rex Barber, both claimed credit for shooting down the Admiral. Originally there were three bombers reported to have been shot down, as Lt. Winnia writes. Later it was proven that there were only two. There was great controversy over the credit for the kill for many years until Japanese documents and investigation of the crashed plane seem to indicate that Lt. Barber was the victor. Officially, the Air Force shared the kill between the two pilots after reviewing the mission in 1960 and again in 1985. The American pilots were rotated from the front for morale and intelligence reasons.
SSgt Coffeen saw the 15 P-38s return to Cactus, still afloat in his leaky liferaft, surrounded by shark's fins.
Monday 19 April
109th Day, Patriots Day (Mass, Me.), 256 to come
Part of a
movie made today. Got a letter from V.J. & 2 from Mother. Aside from
that absolutely nothing happened. Went to the show tonight. No
Photo at right shows the "movie house" on Guadalcanal.
Tuesday 20 April 110th
Day, Tuesday before Easter, 255 to come
0530 alert. Patrol at
1030 to Rekata Bay but returned due to weather.
Made some more of
picture. The darned movies. Nothing of special event. Later -
Charlie came over but got discouraged & went home. I didn't even get
out of the sack.
The movie being made was a morale movie such as would be seen in
stateside theaters before showing the feature movie. Several shots of
some of the VMF-213 pilots, some take offs, landings, high speed
passes and loops over the field; some canned shots of Japanese
airplanes being shot down (described as Zeros, but actually Val dive
bombers) accompanied by the tough patriotic patter typical of these
types of movies. Many of the photographs of Guadalcanal are stills
from this movie.
Photo to the right is a still from the movie - Left to Right are: Winnia, Leary, Jones, Humberd, ?(Garison?), Votaw,
McLeary (back). Identification courtesy General Leary.
Wednesday 21 April
111th Day, Wednesday before Easter, 254 Days to come
alert this AM. Nothing happened until 1700. Knucklehead patrol then
night landing. My first in F4U. Had trouble & couldn't lower the
wheels for a while. That plane is a big joker at night. Charlie came
over again tonight. Didn't get as far as usual.
The Corsair had a backup system to lower the landing gear in case the hydraulics went out. There was a large bottle of CO2 which could be used to purge the fuel tanks when they were empty and also "blow down" the gear if they couldn't come down normally. The oxygen and the CO2 bottles were originally near each other so there are instances of pilots blowing down the gear instead of turning on the oxygen. Landing gear blown down with CO2 couldn't be raised again. If they were on a bomber escort mission they could fly their now-slow & vulnerable fighter beneath a bomber and hope their fuel held out and the Zeros weren't too bad on the mission. Pilots were lost due to this mistake, however. Later versions and field modifications separated these two tanks.
Winnia doesn't say if he blew down his gear. He may have flown around, diving and pulling up sharply in order to force them down. This would be unnerving enough, but to then have to do a night landing...
The original XF4U had the cockpit much further forward than the production model. The Navy originally wanted one .30 cal. and one .50 cal. machine gun firing through the propellor and one .50 cal in each wing. After the first prototype was built they changed the specs to six .50 cal. machine guns in the wings. Placing the six .50 cals in the wings eliminated a fuel tank in each wing, so a fuel tank was added behind the engine and the cockpit was moved aft. This decreased forward visibility dramatically. The bent wing design placed the flaps very close to the ground which made the plane teeter-totter or float just before touchdown. The big prop transferred so much torque back through the airframe that the port (left) wing would stall before the starboard one, causing the plane to fall off to the left. If the wing stalled at more than thirty feet the plane would flip over. It was a tricky airplane to land. Later planes had a spoiler added to the starboard wing which caused it to stall at about the same time as the port wing.
To land a Corsair, the pilot didn't watch the runway ahead as in other aircraft - he couldn't see it. He would watch his instrument panel and keep the horizon in his peripheral vision. At night there is no horizon, so a night landing was always exciting, and this first one must have been incredibly tense after the problem with the landing gear.
Thursday 22 April
112th Day, Maundy Thursday, 253 Days to come
Alert again this
AM. Did nothing until 1130 when went out Knucklehead patrol. Three
hour patrol, nothing eventful. McCleary came home early with a bad
motor. This evening 8 planes went on strafing hop to Munda. All got
back OK. Defabia had a wing tip shot off, blew a tire on landing and
turned over unhurt. They raised hell: fired several planes, a gas
truck & generally created a mess. DeFabia's wing lost 46". Only a
miracle got him home. All planes were hit lightly except flight leader
From the VMF-213 WAR DIARY:
1545 - 1915 Strafing mission on Munda. Four F4Us flown by Major Weissenberger, Lieutenants Defabio and Thomas and Captain Cloake. Flight braved bad weather and flew at tree tops, through heavy clouds over New Georgia Island to Vila. They took the airfield at Vila completely by surprise and made a straffing run on it, after which they circled back, South of the Munda airfield and made a very low and daring run on it. A large tractor or roller was set afire at Vila and a truck, two airplanes and a fuel dump were fired at Munda. They received heavy anti-aircraft fire at Munda. DeFabio's plane received a hit from the AA that tore away 46" from the end of his right wing. He had made about one third of his run when his plane was hit, but was able to gain enough altitude to clear the trees at the end of the runway...On landing he was able to get the plane on the runway in proper order, but due to loss of flying speed, the crippled wing gave a dip, the right tire blew out and the plane tipped up on its nose, sliding thereon for 200 feet.
Defabio was uninjured and the plane was not seriously damaged.
A plane with 46" of wing missing, and having slid on its nose for 200 feet was not considered to be seriously damaged!
Friday 23 April
113th Day, 252 Days to come, Good Friday
Did little today. No hop. Forgot about fasting until evening meal, then passed up delicious stew (at least it looked good). Tref & I may be flying together again before too long. So far I have been limited in radius of action until I learn area. Rained like hell tonight.
Saturday 24 April
114th Day, Easter Even, 251 Days to come
Little doing today. Spent most of the day washing scivies. Made a
wrist band of stainless steel for watch. Plan to attend 0630 mass
tomorrow morning. If I keep wangling I may get a hop yet. There is
so damned little doing for us. They save us with our hot planes for
the good jobs, yet we have had no interception. Whole squadron has
seen only one jap plane. Spoede got that. If we could get an
interception we would really do OK, but you can't shoot down planes
if there are none.
The leather watchbands rotted away very quickly in the Solomons. Many pilots would make or have the metal shop make a stainless or aluminum band - preferably from a crashed Japanese plane.
Saturday 25 April
115th Day, Easter Day, 250 Days to come
THE STUFF HIT THE FAN TODAY
Tried twice. Finally hit mass at 1000. Three divisions went on strike. On return Maj. Payton's div hit Jap strike. 15 bombers & 30-35 Zeros. Tangled with 16 Zeros. Maj. Payton got 3, Lt. Peck one (had to come home - gas) Lt. Vedder got one definitely seen by Maj. Payton. Vedder & Lt. Eckhart didn't get back. Payton had no oil, 71 holes, three scratches, 2 in left arm one in left leg, no hydraulic system. His opinion they got Vedder & Eck. Still no word from Coffeen. Total to date for Squadron: 2 killed at Eva, T.H. Operational, one killed in action Cactus (on take off for strike) three missing in action. I (per usual) didn't leave the deck. SQUADRON TOTAL 6 ZEROS
Monday 26 April
116th Day, Easter Monday, 249 Days to come
Nothing doing this AM. This afternoon I was put on alert with Boag's division. Instead of scramble, though we had Knucklehead patrol. When on the alert we thought the stuff was in the fan because we were ordered down from a photo mission when in the air. Word rec'd today that Vedder was with coast watcher. No word yet from Eckhart.
Tuesday 27 April
117th Day, U.S. Grant born 1822, 248 Days to come
Vedder brought in today, slight shrapnel wounds in both legs. His story confirmed yet another jap. Squadron total - 7. Rained all day so no operations. Stood by from 0530 - 1830 just waiting. Wrote Art. Tomorrow is jap emperor's birthday so the stuff will probably hit the fan.
Wednesday 28 April
118th Day, 247 Days to come
Big day today. 0600 - 1045 raid on Lolabinauri. Repeated this afternoon. My hind end is absolutely numb. SBDs & TBFs bombed the hell out of everything; but I think we will have to attain final objective by fighter sweep. The Japs certainly are good at camouflage. Air Raid warning this evening - False.
NOTE: Japanese engineers built the entire runway beneath palm tree tops which were suspended from cables strung from the
live palms lining the runway. Very effective until the cut tree tops began to turn brown, though by then they were mostly
Thursday 29 April
119th Day, 246 Days to come
Started the day with air raid at 0415. Didn't get close to us this time. Went to local movie after inactive day. After show listened to Radio Tokyo tonight - the biggest entertainment and pack of lies in the Pacific.
VMF 221 leaving so they are throwing a big one tonight. 2 letters from Mother praising V.J. highly. Says "marrying is up to you, but will go further and fare worse." The plot thickens.
Friday 30 April 120th Day 245 Days to come
missed a day somewhere
Lt. Winnia made his mistake on the entry for the 27th. Lt. Vedder was
brought in on the 27th, but the day of all-day rain was the 28th.
Saturday 1 May
121st Day, St Phillip and St. James, Apostles, 244 Days to come
Rained all day. Had duty this afternoon. Lecture tonight by
Exec. All hell broke loose. Wrote mother & V.J. today. Am now with
Hall's division as tailback. Sick list raised hell with division
The squadron had 26 pilots on 1 May. Winnia's experiences with
illness were probably not much different than any of the others, so
having enough pilots for the missions must have been beginning to
present problems, i.e. "raised hell with division organization". There
were only 18 operational aircraft, and under normal circumstances
about a quarter of those would not be flight ready on any given day.
Twenty six pilots, from 13 to 18 aircraft, and still some pilots were
having to fly two missions a day.
Sunday 2 May
122nd Day, 243 Days to come
Missed mass today due to task force coverage. Rec'd letter from Mother. Nothing doing this PM. Conference tonight on strike tomorrow at Rekata Bay. Should really be good. We have 12 planes strafe.
The Japanese had a seaplane base at Rekata. The two seaplanes most commonly found here were the "Pete"and the
"Rufe.", The Pete was a biplane with a crew of two which could carry a couple of bombs. Petes were often used to fly
the nightly bombing missions which were such an annoyance. The Rufe was a floatplane version of the Zero fighter
which, in spite of the added weight and drag of the large main float and two wingtip stabilizer floats, was a formidable
fighter at low altitudes - especially against damaged bombers on their return flight.
Monday 3 May
123rd Day, St Mark (from April 25th), 242 Days to come
Strike came off this AM perfectly. I got one AA position.
Col. Moore stated: "The best coordinated attack we delivered in this
area." 12 planes in 3 div, strafe. 12 SBDs with 1000# daisy cutters.
12 TBFs with 2000# daisy cutters. Rekata Bay is about secured after
that. Went to local show, cooked some chow & retired dreaming of V.J.
A daisy cutter is a really big bomb designed to clear a large area and
throw a lot of shrapnel rather than blow a deep hole. The SBDs
couldn't carry much more that a one thousand pounder but the larger
Grumman TBF Avengers (nicknamed "The Turkey") could carry the much
more significant one ton bomb. The SBD is smaller than the Corsair.
Lindbergh, of trans-Atlantic fame, later would put 5000 lbs of bombs
on a Corsair to show how effective it could be at close air support.
A B-17 on a long flight could only carry 6000 lbs of bombs, though it
also had to carry a crew of 10.
Photo to right shows a Grumman TBF Avenger
Tuesday 4 May 124th Day 241 Days to come
Strike today at Vanga Vanga - third strike there. Finally attained demolition of objective. I didn't go this afternoon weather closed down and I didn't fly at all. Rec'd letter from V.J. and replied today.
Radio Tokyo as big a laugh & lie as ever. We hear our story and theirs. Anybody would have to be in bad shape to believe anything they say.
Wednesday 5 May
125th Day 240 Days to come
Stood alert all day. Weather prohibited all but one hop and that was pancaked after 15 min. Listening to the radio tonight. Program from S.F. News report mentioned out strike on Rekata Bay and Munda. Task force to shell Rekata tomorrow. Our div. is relief so probably won't go. Lt.s Ailton, Peck & TSgt (AP) Hodde evacuated today.
To "pancake" is to land the airplane.
S.F. news report would be a reference to a high powered radio station at San Francisco which could be picked up
on the HF (High Frequency) radios on Gaudalcanal. Tokyo Rose would also be transmitting on an HF radio transmitter
Thursday 6 May 126th Day 239 Days to come
No action this morning. 1700 task force cover. 3CL, 4DD on way to shell Murrea. The night landing went off OK but lightning was bad. The night is black as pitch making flying very nerve trying. Listening to Radio Tokyo again tonight. The dirty lying sons of sin.
From the VMF-213 WAR DIARY:
0545-0810Task Group Cover4 F4Us
Major Weissenberger, Lts. Thomas,
DeFabio, and Garison.
0815-1145Task Force Cover4 F4Us
0915Lt. Shaw, Test Hop
0930-1205 Task Force Cover 4 F4Us
Major Weissenberger's Flight
1245-1315 Lt. Thomas, Test Hop
1330-1630 Lt. Boag's Flight of 4 F4Us conducted
the Knucklehead Patrol.
1700-1900Major Weissenberger, in command of
8 F4Us furnished cover for Task Force.
Friday 7 May 127th Day 238 Days to come
Had day off. Only at squadron for chow relief. Worked clothes. Sgt. Charles Wrotenberry came over. First time I had seen him since Dago. We shot the breeze for about an hour. Wonder where we will meet next? Wrote Mother & sent personal & squadron snapshots. Radio Tokyo is in good form tonight. Alert at 0530. Dumbo at 0615 to Segi.
Saturday 8 May
128th Day 237 Days to come
Stood alert 0530
weather foul. Took off at 0915 for strike at jap CL & DD. Saw both but
bombing seemed ineffective. No torpedoes & no ceiling so had to skip
bomb. We encountered no Zeros though. Strike only 50 miles from Kahili.
Returned 1330. Tried again from 1415 - 1715 with B-17 Weather so bad
couldn't find target. AA not close enough even to plug wing tanks.
NOTE: The Corsair had the ability, as did all U.S. aircraft,
to make the fuel tanks safer when empty by closing off the valves
and filling the tank with CO2. An empty tank full of avgas vapors
is the equivelant of a huge stick of dynamite if hit with an
incendiary shell. The AA fire was so far away Lt. Winnia didn't even
Sunday 9 May 129th Day Mother's Day 236 Days to come
Stood by all day for strike but weather prevented any flying. Even bad to miss mass. News came today that we will be relieved tomorrow, leave next day. Probably won't leave for a week.
Monday 10 May 130th Day 235 Days to come
Had chow relief today. 8 F4Us went on fighter sweep. This afternoon 16 went on strike to Villa & assorted points about there. I went & came closest of all to getting ack-ack. Bounced plane all over but always just behind me. SBDs & TBFs We strafed a little. Had a fine time. On way home my battery boiled over, filling cockpit with H2SO4 fumes. I ran for it & made the field OK though a trifle suffocated.
Tuesday 11 May
131st Day 234 Days to come
Left Cactus today on 30 min notice. Came to Buttons by SCAT DC-3. Twelve came rest to follow in a day or so. Seems we will get to Sydney. Total score at leaving 7 zeros, one pilot killed, two missing, two wounded, three evacuated.
Wednesday 12 May
132nd Day 233 Days to come
Moved to Dallas hut in
another area today. Rest of pilots came in. Saw crew. Went to local
movie. This place is getting most of the comforts of home now. Rec'd
news today that I am 1st LT. Capt Humberd made Maj. Now 4 majors,
1 Capt., 2 2nd Lt., rest all 1st Lt. Shaved off mustache. A great loss
but general opinion it looks better not there.
NOTE: A Dallas hut is now more commonly known as a Quonset hut. A half dozen SeaBees could build 3 or 4 or these corrugated half-round huts in a day. The Navy allowed four days for this small crew to build one. Obviously the SeaBees were in a bigger hurry than the Navy.