The U.S.S. Essex (CV-9) departed Pearl Harbor
on 22 August 1943 in TG 15.5. The next day, an impressive armada had formed
west of Hawaii. The new U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-10), light carrier U.S.S.
Independence (CVL-22), and four destroyers were joined by the Essex, the
battleship Indiana, two cruisers, more destroyers, and a fleet oiler. This
was Task Force 15 and they were headed into battle. Rear Admiral Charles
A. Pownall on the Yorktown was in command. The target was Marcus Island,
2720 nautical miles west of Hawaii and 989 miles from Tokyo.
On the way to Marcus, Pilot LTJG Richard
B. Zentmeyer; Radioman Herbert C. (Andy) Anderson; and myself, Turret Gunner
Walter J. Deptula flew a number of anti-submarine patrols. For the Marcus
strike, our plane was loaded with four 500-pound bombs with delayed-action
fuses, set to go off up to 24 hours after being dropped. On the morning of
30 August, the force made a high speed dash--about 25 knots-south toward
The Yorktown was the first to launch aircraft
at 0415 hours on 31 August with Marcus Island 128 miles to the south. At
0520 Essex began launching her planes. First off were several Hellcats of
VF-9 followed by eighteen TBF Avengers of VT-9. Next off were the SBD Dauntless
dive-bombers of VB-9. Then more fighters were launched. All the planes were
milling around in the early morning darkness trying to find their own squadrons.
This was not only scary, but also downright dangerous.
At 0605 Marcus came into view of the leading
Yorktown planes and three minutes later, the lead Avengers roared over the
island releasing 500-pound bombs and incendiaries to start fires for the
Air Group Nine was now battle tested. Strike
after strike was launched from the three carriers. After ten hours, Marcus
Island was in shambles; shrouded in a pall of black smoke. The attacks continued
through the morning and into mid-afternoon.
From Admiral Pownell came this message:
"Congratulations on a bang-up job well done. You have marked Marcus' face
so badly, Tojo won't recognize him for a long time". After the strike and
back on the ship, I kept thinking about the delayed fuses on the bombs we
had dropped and that they would explode up to 24 hours after we'd dropped
them. The Japanese must have been surprised when the bombs exploded well
into the night.
Strike on Marcus
on image for larger view