This group belonged to an F6F "Hellcat" pilot who flew with Fighting Squadron 60 during WWII. They flew from the USS Suwanee. She would bear her teeth during the Battle of Leyte Gulf and Samar as part of Taffy 1.
On 24–25 October 1944, the Japanese launched a major surface offensive from three directions to contest the landings at Leyte Gulf. While Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa's Mobile Force sailed south from Japan and drew the bulk of Admiral William Halsey's 3d Fleet off to the north, Admiral Shima's 2nd Striking Force, along with Admiral Shoji Nishimura's Force, attempted to force the Surigao Strait from the south. This drew Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf's Bombardment Group south to meet that threat in the Battle of Surigao Strait. With Admiral Oldendorf's old battleships fighting in Surigao Strait and Halsey's 3rd Fleet scurrying north, Suwannee, with the other 15 escort carriers and 22 destroyers and destroyer escorts, formed the only Allied naval force operating off Leyte Gulf when Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita's 1st Striking Force sneaked through the unguarded San Bernardino Strait into the Philippine Sea.
Just before 07:00 on the 25th, one of Kadashan Bay's planes reported a Japanese force of four battleships, eight cruisers, and 11 destroyers. This force, Kurita's, immediately began a surface engagement with Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague's "Taffy 3", the northernmost group of escort carriers. Suwannee was much farther south as an element of Rear Admiral Thomas Sprague's "Taffy 1". Consequently, she did not participate in the running surface Battle off Samar.
Her problems came from another quarter. At 07:40 on the 25th, "Taffy 1" was jumped by land-based planes from Davao in the first deliberate suicide attack of the war. The first one crashed into Santee; and, 30 seconds later, Suwannee splashed a kamikaze during his run on Petrof Bay. Her gunners soon shot down another enemy plane, then bore down on a third circling in the clouds at about 8,000 ft (2,400 m). They hit the enemy, but he rolled over, dove at Suwannee and crashed into her at 0804 about 40 ft (12 m) forward of the after elevator, opening a 10 ft (3.0 m) hole in her flight deck. His bomb compounded the fracture when it exploded between the flight and hangar decks, tearing a 25 ft (7.6 m) gash in the latter and causing a number of casualties.
Medical officer Lieutenant Walter B. Burwell wrote:
"One of our corpsmen tending the wounded on the flight deck saw the plight of those isolated by fire on the forecastle. He came below to report that medical help was critically needed there. It seemed to me that we would have to try to get through to them. So he and I restocked our first aid bags with morphine syrettes, tourniquets, sulfa, Vaseline, and bandages, commandeered a fire extinguisher and made our way forward, dodging flames along the main deck. Along part of the way, we were joined by a sailor manning a seawater fire hose with fairly good pressure, and though the seawater would only scatter the gasoline fires away from us, by using the water and foam alternatively as we advanced, we managed to work our way up several decks, through passageways along the wrecked and burning combat information center and decoding area, through officers' country, and finally out on the forecastle. Many of the crew on the forecastle and the catwalks above it had been blown over the side by the explosions. But others trapped below and aft of the forecastle area found themselves under a curtain of fire from aviation gasoline pouring down from burning planes on the flight deck above. Their only escape was to leap aflame into the sea, but some were trapped so that they were incinerated before they could leap. By the time we arrived on the forecastle, the flow of gasoline had mostly consumed itself, and flames were only erupting and flickering from combustible areas of water and oil. Nonetheless, the decks and bulkheads were still blistering hot and ammunition in the small arms locker on the deck below was popping from the heat like strings of firecrackers. With each salvo of popping, two or three more panicky crew men would leap over the side, and we found that our most urgent task was to persuade those poised on the rail not to jump by a combination of physical restraint and reassurance that fires were being controlled and that more help was on the way. Most of the remaining wounded in the forecastle area were severely burned beyond recognition and hope."
Within two hours, her flight deck was sufficiently repaired to enable the escort carrier to resume air operations. Suwanee's group fought off two more air attacks before 13:00; then steamed in a northeasterly direction to join Taffy 3 and launch futile searches for Kurita's rapidly retiring force. Just after noon on 26 October, another group of kamikazes jumped Taffy 1. A Zero crashed into Suwanee's flight deck at 1240 and careened into a torpedo bomber which had just been recovered. The two planes erupted upon contact as did nine other planes on her flight deck. The resulting fire burned for several hours, but was finally brought under control. The casualties for 25-26 October were 107 dead and 160 wounded. The escort carriers put into Kossol Roads in the Palaus on 28 October, then headed for Manus for upkeep on 1 November.
During the Battle, this pilot shot down 2.5 planes ( the .5 from a shared victory ), earning a DFC in the process. He had earlier earned an Air Medal for attacks on enemy shipping.
He stayed in the USN and the reserves through the 1960's and retired, passing away in 1992.
Edited by KASTAUFFER, 17 March 2013 - 12:22 PM.