February 13, 1943 (Saturday) 

“Cactus,” Guadalcanal

Nine planes took off this morning to bomb a “very important” (?) Jap ship south of Shortland Island.

Squadron Formation Setup:

1. Moffett, 2. Davis, 3. Cooper, 4. Bacon, 5. Beswick, 6. Nolan, 10. Glans, 11. Fisler, 12. Glover.

We climbed steadily to 12,000 feet accompanied by our fighter escort of 12 F4Us and four P-38s. Spotted the target ship south of Shortland and accompanied by two Jap destroyers (large type). I spotted them at 20 miles, but the skipper failed to see them till we were close aboard — too close.

We turned right and made a run. No good. We turned 360° left and made another run. Dropped an excellent close pattern but the ships by this time had broken out of their cruising positions and were maneuvering wildly. As we dropped the target ship turned hard toward us and the bombs fell where she would have been had she not turned. The whole attack was very stupid, as we threw away the element of surprise and made three (figuratively) separate runs on the ships. Our run was of the following thoroughly unorthodox pattern:

The destroyers AA was fairly good. Altitude right on and deflection slightly aft of us. Five Zeros were on patrol above — two attacked us at long range with no results. As we headed south east toward Cactus. Six Army B-24s passed as we headed for an attack on Shortland Harbor. They dropped at 15,000 feet amidst heavy AA fire. Three planes were injured, one falling out of control, while the other two slowly dropping back out of formation, which was, at this time, headed for home under full throttle. Swarms of Zeros pounced on the two maimed B-24s and shot them down, one crashing, and the other landing in the water near Choiseul. (This latter plane floated long enough for the crew to get out into a rubber boat. In this they paddled for one week toward Cactus, and finally were forced to land on Santa Ysabel Island due to their food giving out. They were brought by the natives to the coast watcher, who radioed Cactus for a PBY. They finally arrived back at Cactus around 1 March).

The remaining three bombers got back okay. The six Army B-24s had only four P-40s and four P-38s for an escort; to fight off 45 Jap Zeros (30 landplanes and 15 float type estimated). Two P-40s were shot down and one P-38. Their (the B-24s’) bombs hit and sank a Jap transport in Shortland Harbor. Pretty stiff price for one lousy ship!

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