Historical Article: Clipped Wings of the Rising Sun

historical-article-clipped-wings-of-the-rising-sun-logoJapan’s Aircraft Carrier Operations in WWII

By John Dudek @ The Wargamer

The bright sunny brilliance of a warm Pacific Ocean early June day was marred by the angry black mushrooming flak shell bursts of anti-aircraft fire as the remaining American Douglas Devastator torpedo planes of USS HORNET’S Torpedo Squadron 8 swung into their final low level attack runs on the four Japanese aircraft carriers of the Midway invasion task force. Previous torpedo attacks had proven fruitless so far as the combat air patrols of Zero fighter planes had attacked the earlier torpedo bomber formations like so many swarms of enraged bees, shooting down virtually every one of them. This latest attack proved no exception. The last remaining torpedo plane, piloted by Ensign George Gay was rocked by flak bursts, but he grimly pressed on with his attack as Japanese Zero’s attacked him from all quarters. He heard his back seat radioman gunner shout over the plane’s intercom. “Mr Gay! I’m hit!!” and then, nothing more. Gay himself was wounded in the hand and leg by machine gun bullets. As he pulled the plane’s manual torpedo release lever, he felt the aircraft’s aileron controls go slack, obviously shot away by Japanese machine gun fire. There’d be no returning to the carrier now. The badly damaged plane, its engine coughing and blowing black smoke, bucked and lurched along, gradually losing most of its remaining altitude. Gay somehow managed to fly his terminally damaged plane a few more miles before crashing it into the ocean. The torpedo plane sank like a rock and he only just managed to keep from being carried down with the plane to the ocean bottom, surfacing with his yellow seat cushion and attached un-inflated life raft. He later remarked how he had a “ring-side seat” for what happened next.