F6F-5, Lt. Fred Prinz, VBF-17, USS Hornet (CV-12), March 1945

Before the planned landing of the American units on

Okinawa (Operation Iceberg, April 1, 1945) on March 19,

1945 the USN airplanes attacked the enemy air bases

located on the islands of Kyūshū, Shikoku and southern

Honshū and the naval bases Kure and Kobe. The mission was to destroy the Japanese ships and aircraft

and prevent them from any action against the invasion

forces. One of the units that were to participate in this

strike was VBF-17 based on the aircraft carrier USS

Hornet (CV-12). In the formation of twenty Hellcats,

with which VBF-17 was equipped, flew Lt. Prinz and Lt.

Karr. Kōkūtai 343 equipped with N1K2-J fighters was

launched against the approaching enemy. The dogfight

took place over the ocean. During the surprise attack

on two American pilots Lt. Karr was shot down while Lt.

Prinz’s Hellcat was damaged and the unit’s comman-

der was destroyed after the collision with one of the

attackers, Kiku-ichi Ishikawa. Prinz managed to nurse

the damaged aircraft back to Hornet where he landed.

Hellcats participating in these missions were marked

by white-painted noses for the better recognition of the

friendly aircraft.


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