On the trip back to Ulithi, we learned that
a Marine squadron was to be assigned to the Essex. That meant space would
have to be available, and hence, many of the Navy Pilots would have to transfer.
We wondered who would be involved, and where we would go. It wasn't long
before we learned. McBrayer's, Beyer's, and Lackey's teams were assigned
to the USS Wasp to serve with Air Group 81. Others were transferred to various
The Navy had deployed two Fleets in the
Pacific. The Seventh Fleet was made up of most of the older battle ships
and the small or "Jeep" Carriers. This Fleet operated with MacArthur's army
in areas along the Asian coast and islands in retaking territory in preparation
for MacArthur's return to the Philippine Islands. The Third Fleet was made
up of the Fast Carriers (Essex Class), Iowa Class Battleships, and the newer
and faster destroyers and cruisers. The battle group was designated Task
Force 38, and was under the command of Admiral William F. Halsey. Later,
when Admiral Marc Mitcher took command of the battle group it was designated
Task Force 58, and the Fleet became the Fifth Fleet, under Admiral Raymond
It was good to get back to Ulithi for a
little rest and recreation. During this short interval I was lucky enough
to get two trips to Mog Mog Island. The drinks were good and the comradeship
wonderful. As I walked along with drinks in both hands, I bumped into a fellow
from Evanston, Wyoming. I hadn't seen Jack Pfisterer since his last leave
in Evanston in 1942. We had a long talk, and he filled me in on all the news
from home. I hadn't had any mail since we left Hawaii, and it was wonderful
to hear about home. I guess the reason I hadn't received any was because
I was moving faster than the mail. I finally got my first letter in March
Jack had been aboard the USS Hancock for
some time, and his squadron was due to return to the states after our next
operation. Little did we realize at the time, that the next operation would
be such a bloody one.
The second trip to Mog Mog produced two
more friends. Doug Cahoon and Sonny Walker had both been attending the University
of Utah in 1939. We had all eaten at Mrs. Jackson's Edgehill Tea Garden.
We didn't eat in the Tea Garden, but down the basement where the food was
far from Tea Garden quality.
Sonny Walker had joined the Army Air Corps,
and was temporarily assigned to the Ulithi area as liaison between the two
forces. Doug Cahoon was stationed aboard the Essex, but had been on temporary
Doug was trained as a Dive Bomber Pilot.
Early in October 1944, the Navy had decided that Fighters could both fight
and bomb, so they had taken the dive bombers off many of the carriers. The
dive bomber pilots had been put on Falalop to learn to fly the F6F. Doug
had completed the short indoctrination, checked out in the F6F and was now
ready to return the Essex.
The topic of conversation finally got around
to rank. Doug was a Lieutenant Junior Grade and Sonny was a Lieutenant Colonel.
Both joined their respective services at the same time. This highlighted
the unequal and unfair promotional policies of the two services.
After finishing our drinks and conversation,
we espied a tent with a bunch of officers inside. We barged in and damn near
fainted when we saw it was filled with Admirals. I guess we looked so embarrassed
that they didn't kick us out, but bought us a drink from their stock of premium
liquor. Christmas Dinner 1944 was something I shall never forget. I had no
idea anything so delicious was even contemplated considering our location
and the conditions under which we were operating. I have never had a better
meal in any restaurant, no matter how highly rated.
The transfer of the combat teams overloaded
the bunk capacity of the Wasp. I was given a cot, placed in the starboard
passageway in Officer's Country. It was hard to get any sleep in the passageway,
because of the traffic. In the dark, ill-lighted passageway, it was difficult
to see, and many times individuals stumbled against the cot and woke me up,
hardly ideal conditions. A couple of weeks later, some Officers were transferred
and I was assigned a bunk in the starboard bunkroom. This was a pleasant
change. At least I started getting a full nights sleep.
Norm Stark aboard USS Wasp