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VP-91 Up-Floats

VP91 Up-Float's

Contributed by George B. Winter pbycat@bellsouth.net

October 26, 1942

The following is a report on the sinking of the Japanese AOBA class cruiser "Teruzuki" as prepared by "Ace" Atwell and Dick Mather.

"We took off at 1815 (local), October 26, 1942, from Espiritu Santo in 91-P-4, with myself, Lt. M. K. Atwell, at the controls, Lt. (jg) R. F. Mather as second pilot, Ens. J. A. Hayes as navigator, J. A. Koons, AP1/c in bow gunner station, G. L. Young, RM3/c, as radio operator, L. A. Carter, AHM 1/c, in the tower, J. K. O'Malley, S1/c, in port waist hatch, M. L. Buchanan, RM3/c, in starboard waist hatch, and R. J. Yarnell, AMM3/c, in tunnel hatch."

"Ten minutes after take-off Ens. Hayes requested permission to drop float light to take a drift sight. This was necessary due to the darkness and bad weather which could be seen ahead. At 1840 we took departure from the northeastern tip of Espiritu Santo on a course of 343 degrees true. Bad weather and darkness closed in immediately, visibility was 00. On instruments we climbed through, breaking at 4,500 feet. We climbed to this altitude to be sure of clearing any mountains and islands which were on our track. We continually used our radar to keep in touch with islands and this gave us an excellent check on our navigation."

"At 2100 the moon came up and we could see the weather breaking up below us. We let down through a hole to 1,500 feet, just under the overcast. We made a landfall on Tinakula at 2145, and continued on track for a distance of 600 miles from Espiritu Santo. We changed course to 075 degrees true at 2400. At 0020 radioman Young reported radar contact on port side at a distance of 35 miles. From this time on Young directed the pilots until visual contact was made at an altitude of 2000 feet and distance of 4 miles at 0035. We passed parallel to the contact made at LAT 5 degrees -25 - LONG 16W degrees -35. The object which was on a course of 080 degrees true, speed 30 knots, keeping it slightly on our starboard at a distance of 1/2 mile in an attempt to identify the type of ship and in order to scout the area for any accompanying vessels. We lost sight contact when we had passed about 5 miles beyond the vessel. We started circling to the left, lowering to an altitude of 1,000 feet and reestablished radar contact. Young directed us to within 1 mile of the ship before visual contact was established, because the ship had stopped in the shadow of a small cloud. We passed to the west at approximately 1 mile distance at an altitude of 500 feet. The moon was at an altitude of eighty degrees, giving very little silhouette."

"We were looking for a carrier that was reported to be in this area therefore we took great pains in attempting to identify this ship. At this time the ship got under way at very high speed and made for the shadow of a very large cloud that was about 5 miles distant. The ship laid-to in the shadow of this cloud and we continued to circle keeping the object within sight. We turned on our IFF because the radioman reported impulses on the radar screen and in his earphones. I (Lt. Atwell) saw a flash on the deck that looked to be like the start of an aircraft engine. By this time the entire crew was of the opinion that the ship was an aircraft carrier, due to its size and the inability to see any superstructure because of the shadow. Then the ship fired two sighting-in shots which looked like 20-mm tracers. One shot passed just off our bow; the other just over our engines."

"We turned off our IFF and circled into position to make a run on the target from the stern, coming just out of the base of the clouds which was at 1,900 feet. The run started at 0105, and at the same time a heavy concussion, probably a shell of four or five inch caliber, burst just under the hull, shaking the plane violently, and we immediately nosed over into a very steep glide. When over the stern of the ship, I pushed the nose of the plane over sharply and reached for the bomb-release. At this time the plane was at an angle of approximately 75 degrees to 80 degrees. Lt. (jg) Mather released two 500-lb bombs from the starboard swing which hit within 75 feet of the starboard quarter of the ship. These were released at an altitude of approximately 800 feet, and by this time the ship had gotten under way, turning sharply to port, and it is thought that possible damage was done to rudder, screws and the stern of the ship. We continued on in the dive at this angle, with airspeed indicating 180 through heavy anti-aircraft and machine-gun fire. At 600 feet, indication, I released the two 500-lb bombs under the port wing which made direct hit just aft of the forward stack. At this instant I saw the superstructure two forward twin turrets, and started the pull-out at which time we received a very violent concussion. Recovery was made at approximately xxx feet from the water at an indicated airspeed of 240 knots. The concussion put out the lights in the tower, put the radio out of commission and had carried away our antenna. We held an approximate course for east for 5 minutes, keeping close to the water until we were sure we were out of gun range. However, there had been no firing at us since our last bomb run."

"We climbed to 1,600 feet, circling back to relocate the ship to astain damage done. The airplane was vibrating very badly and it was impossible to ascertain how much damage we had suffered ourselves. After xxxx for 20 minutes we were unable to relocate the ship, so we set a return course to the base at 0135. 15 minutes after taking departure the watch xxx the starboard blister reported a large orange-colored explosion in the approximate location where we had left the ship. 15 minutes later the same station reported the reflection of a second explosion in approximately the same location."

"Shortly hereafter I saw gunflashes off our port beam at a distance of 25 miles. Our radioman intercepted a message of an enemy task force being sighted, but we were unable to join in, due to the damage of our aircraft and no armament on board. We arrived at the base at 0645, October 27, 1942."

"Crew as listed in action report: LT. M. K. ATWELL, PPC AT CONTROLS; LTJG R. F. MATHER, SECOND PILOT; ENS. J. A. HAYES, NAVIGATOR; J. A. KOONS, AP1/C BOW GUNNER; G. L. YOUNG, RM3/C RADIO OPERATOR; L. A. CARTER, AMM1/C INTOWER; J. K. O'MALLEY, S1/C IN PORT WAIST; M. L. BUCHANAN, RM3/C IN STARBOARD WAIST; and R. J. YARNELL, AMM3/C IN TUNNEL HATCH..."


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