A selection of related stories of
U.S. Naval Aviation In the South Pacific during WW II

Featuring the Lexington Aircraft Carrier
and her dedicated crew as key participants in

The Battle of the Marianas — June 1944

Chapter 3
The Tom Bronn Story

Page 4 of 7 Pages

Over the target the gunfire from the enemy ships started to pick us up. We all had experienced enemy antiaircraft gunfire on numerous occasions during strikes against island strongholds. But this enemy gunfire that we were now experiencing had a new twist to it. Instead of the usual ugly grayish black bursts when the shells reached their intended altitude we were seeing bursts in very vivid colors encompassing every color of the rainbow. It looked more like a Fourth of July fireworks display than enemy fire. However this fireworks display was not to be our concern for long. We were now over the target and it was time to go to work. We had been told to go for the carriers and we had two of Japan's largest right below us.

The assignment for the torpedo bombers was to follow immediately after the last dive bomber started his dive. That was the way it was planned and that was the way it happened. We commenced our dive at about 9500 feet. I was the third Avenger to dive out of the 5 remaining torpedo planes. Sterrie had led us into position on one of the two large carriers. All of the enemy ships were taking evasive action as we dove.

SBD Douglas “Dauntless” dive bombers peel off to start their dive over a flaming Japanese warship.

The carrier that we had selected accommodated us very nicely by making a rudder change just prior to our drop altitude. This resulted in the ship being on a relative steady course for a few seconds before it changed direction.

I saw one of Sterrie's bombs hit the flight deck and another explode along side of the ship. By this time I was between 3000 and 2500 feet and looking from the stern of the ship right down the carrier deck to its bow. If I had been intending to land, my deck alignment would have been perfect. I released the bombs, continued for a few seconds in the dive and then started looking for a way out. Others in our flight said they saw all four of our bombs hit the carrier deck. The assessment of my crew and me was that 3 bombs hit the ship and one went into the water just off the bow.

Artist’s conception of a similar confrontation that had taken place in the Coral Sea in 1942.

Now reality began to set in. As we started our dive at a little after 7:00 pm we could still see the sun low in the horizon to the west. When we completed our dive at that lower altitude it was dusk and the sun had disappeared on the horizon. This was both bad and good. Good from the standpoint that the gunners on the ships would have greater difficulty picking us up in their sites but bad from the standpoint that when we got clear of the enemy task force we had to try to find each other and start back to our own ship.

The intent of every pilot that ever bombed a ship is to get as far away from that ship as quickly as possible. They just do not like to have you bomb their ships.

My crew was well aware that my next move would be to get as close to the surface of the water as possible and the sooner the better. Our next goal would be to thread our way out through the other ships in the enemy TF and out of the reach of their guns. This is accomplished with some rather violent changes of direction at a very low altitude and with the throttle as far forward as you can push it. For these few minutes you really do not spend a lot of time thinking about conserving your fuel.

My crew and I do not believe we took any appreciable enemy fire during our dive. We do believe however, that on our way out of the enemy TF we did take some fire. It did occur to me shortly after the dive that the bombay doors might still be open. I had pushed the lever that should have closed the doors but a red light on the instrument panel indicated that they were in the open position.

Within a few minutes (which seemed like an eternity) we were outside of the destroyer screen of the enemy force and looking for our friends. We found Sterrie and Swanson at about 1000 feet circling and waiting for us and the other planes. Soon Cushman and Thomas joined us and the five planes headed out on a course that Sterrie had plotted while he waited for the rest of us to join him.

Chapter 3— End of Page 4 of 7 Pages — Go to Page 5

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Cover PageEditor’s IntroductionTable of Contents

Fred Gwynn’s “Torpedo 16 Chapter — 1234


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