January 26, 1943 (Tuesday)

“Buttons,” Espiritu Santo

Practice fighter attack again this morning. “Snuffy” Wagner led at a “perfect” speed and I had no gripes. One F4F pulled by under my nose and missed me only by inches.

Out on a gunnery hop in the afternoon. The tail turret hydraulic connections broke and drenched the gunner in fluid. Had Oliver and Savio both up in the bow firing, and had an Army ground crewmen in the second pilot seat. Tried to return to field again upon completion the runs, and found myself completely cut off by a solid sheet of water falling from a tremendous black front of clouds. Two formations of carrier planes were in a similar fix. The air was filled with frantic radio calls to the field. Some of the planes flew into the storm, and I could later hear the fields warning them to “take their time” and to “watch out for the plane a half mile ahead of them in the landing circle.” Not wishing to get into the mess, I retreated from my tentative poking to the storm by turning 180° (on instruments at 200 feet) and making for “clearer” skies. Flew north and managed to get around the rear of the thickest front and follow the coast south to the field — and a landing. Fellows who headed south originally had quite a bit of trouble returning.

My first patrol into Jap waters comes out off tomorrow. Out 800 nautical miles towards the Gilberts and Ellice Islands. We may hit a Jap task force.

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