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 4
The “West of Tokyo Missionary Society”

Page 1 of 2 Pages

Editor’s Introductory Notes: The information contained in this chapter is a logical follow-on to the stories told in previous Chapters 1 through 3.

It is truly one of the imperatives of human nature, certainly true with the American soldiers and sailors, that amidst the horror of mortal combat, there is a bright and humorous side to be found in the wider situation at hand. In their story “Life Goes to an Aircraft-Carrier Party,” Life Magazine presented an outstanding example of this characteristic. Key players in our related stories on this subject, thus far,
are represented here, as well.

Note: All photos in this chapter are Ctsy: Life Mag., dated 6/3/44

The “West of Tokyo Missionary Society” was founded somewhere in the Pacific Ocean by the crew of a U.S. aircraft carrier who wanted to commemorate the Navy’s first attack on Jap positions west of Tokyo — the successful smashing of Palau Island last March. The founders’ righteous purpose, as set down in their high-sounding “manifesto,” was to celebrate this “zealous attempt to convert the reluctant and retiring Japanese fleet.” The “missionaries,” declared the manifesto, “by their enlightening bombs converted over 30 heathen ships — to scrap iron.”

The missionary society’s behavior was a lot less solemn than its language. Its one big meeting on the carrier, recorded by Life’s Photographer J. R. Eyerman, was devoted to flattop horseplay. A hierarchy of high-pressure, ministering and honorary missionaries was established. Some applicant missionaries were forced to reenact tall tales of shooting Japs down from rubber boats or tearing enemy planes apart with bare hands. The whole membership, which included the crew and task force‘s admiral, had to take an oath promising to have nothing to do with whisky or women while aboard ship — a display of mock saintliness since neither temptation is available on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.

The committee on rules worked hard on the charter. But at the first meeting vociferous members of the society forced through an amendment to provide for “proper refreshments and amusements.”

The committee on credentials decided whether the applicants were to be high-pressure missionaries, mostly fliers, or ministering missionaries, mostly nonflying crew members.

“Missionaries” McLellan, Hutchinson and Greenhalgh earn membership by showing how they blew up 16 Jap cruisers and three carriers from a rubber boat.

Incredible exploits were attributed to Fighter Pilot Bill Burckhalter, owner of Air the Medal and DFC. Members accused him of claiming he had shot down 38 Jap planes with a .38 pistol and had torn two more apart with his bare hands. Burckhalter produced an armful of model planes and was promptly made a high-pressure missionary.

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Fred Gwynn’s “Torpedo 16 Chapter — 1234


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