Air Group 6 used oversize insignia on their F4F-3s and covered the upper wings while the aircraft were on deck to make them less conspicuous to enemy snoopers.
At 1830 hours, Enterprise began her run-in to the launching point at 30 knots.
At 0220 hours, the OOD reported sand
blowing in his face. Halsey ordered the
position be checked, since they were
using old maps of questionable accuracy and there was fear they could run into
one of the numerous small islands at top
speed. Moments later, the OOD realized
the “sand” tasted sweet; the source was
traced to a watchstander stirring sugar in
his coffee. At 0300 hours, the ship went to
General Quarters. Taroa and Wotje were
less than 40 miles distant. Shortly before 0400 hours, the command “Pilots! Man
your planes!” echoed through the ship.
At 0430 hours, Enterprise turned into the
wind. At 0445 hours, six VF-6 F4F-3 Wildcats were launched, followed by 18 VS-6
SBD-3s and 17 VB-6 SBD-2s followed
by nine VT-6 TBD Devastators. The 46
aircraft headed for Kwajalein Atoll, 155
Sunrise was still an hour off when 12
Wildcats were launched to hit Wotje and
Taroa. Ensign David W. Criswell became
disoriented in the darkness shortly after
takeoff; his Wildcat stalled and plunged
into the sea, taking him with it. The five
surviving Wildcats, each with a 100-pound
bomb under each wing, headed for their
de” fighters a mile ahead. Staying low, he
crept up on them unawares and crippled
one with a long bust of fire. The wingman
turned on him. The enemy pilot didn’t
turn away and Rawie clipped the “ClauThose aboard Enterprise could see the de” with the belly of his Wildcat, knocking
attack on Wotje carried out by Fighting the less-rugged fighter out of the sky. Six
Six CO Wade McCluskey as his six F4F-3s more “Claudes” managed to get airborne.
made two high-speed bombing runs over Rawie’s four guns jammed on his second
the sleeping island, hitting the under-con- pass, as did Ensign Ralph Rich’s guns.
struction airfield, then strafing the island. Moments later, the guns on two more
VF-6 Executive Officer Lt James S. Gray’s Wildcats jammed and the four pilots turfive Wildcats found the most action at Ta- ned back for the carrier.
roa. Gray and wingman Lt(jg) Wilmer Ra- Gray was suddenly alone. Three of his
wie mistakenly bombed the unoccupied guns jammed as he maneuvered to get
island of Tjan, which Gray misidentified as away. He turned and fired at each “ClauTaroa, at 0700 hours. They found Taroa 15 de” with his one gun as they streaked past.
miles away, already alert. They had been Finally he broke away from the enemy at
briefed to attack what was thought to be 0720 hours. When he landed back aboard
a lightly-defended seaplane base. Instead, Enterprise, there were 30 bullet holes in
they found a fully-operational air base his fighter, making him the first of many
with at least 30-40 G3M bombers on the pilots to owe his life to the Grumman Iron
ground. After dropping their bombs on the Works.
airfield, they turned back to strafe, With
no incendiary ammunition, they were only With the strike aircraft back aboard, Halable to set one airplane on fire.
sey judged he had taken as many chances
as was prudent and ordered the fleet to
Gray’s wingman Rawie recovered from head north. At 1330, a “bogey” appeared on
his pass and identified two A5M4 “Clau- Enterprise’s radar, closing at high speed.