February 7, 1943 (Sunday)

“Buttons,” Espiritu Santo

Patrol to the new Georgia Group in the Solomons. Passed within 15 miles of Munda field at 10,000 feet. No sign of any Jap planes or shipping. Mistook a group of peculiarly shaped islands in the southern end of the group for Jap task force including carriers, but discovered my error upon closing in. One of the islands looked exactly like a flat top even to a trailing wake, formed by a reef!

Saw the Russell Islands, which the Japs occupied a few days ago; also Guadalcanal, way off among the clouds on my port.

Passed over Rennell island on my return leg. A very long, peculiarly shaped island. It most resembles a walled garden, the walls rising abruptly from the sea to a height of 500 to 700 feet, and then dropping, just as abruptly, 200 to 300 feet into the flat central saucer that comprised the main area of the island. The trees and dense vegetation of the island grows smack up against the “walls,” exactly as in a garden. A tremendous and beautiful fresh water lake occupies most of the southern end of the island. The whole island is dotted with small clearings containing native villages and gardens. The natives, brown skinned rather than black, pulled off their loin cloths or sarongs to wave at us as we passed overhead.

On our return leg we failed to see the two task forces we’d spotted on our morning leg. The first was comprised of the Saratoga and four new battleships; the second contained the Enterprise and a cruiser group. They lay within 50 miles of each other and seem to be milling about aimlessly.

Yesterday Jay Bacon, on this Munda sector, ran into two Mitsubishi 01s. He gave them the slip by jumping into a nearby cloud.

Also yesterday Snuffy Wagner in a Sector East of the Solomons got jumped by a Mitsubishi 96. After a long running fight, he managed to get to wing the Jap in the port engine with his crown turret. As soon as the engine quit, the Jap dove for a front and escaped. Snuffy didn’t have a single hole in as a plane. Whether the Jap managed to return to his base is questionable.

Heard upon return that a Marine B-24 crashed into the bay on takeoff this morning killing all hands.

Had no lunch on patrol today, due to my turning up my nose at “one slice of stale bread and some Vienna sausage.” Had a wonderful evening meal aboard the Minneapolis with Larson.

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