R&R in Mog Mog


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 Carriers.


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 Spruance.


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 1945.


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 duty.


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  Norm Stark