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

miles distant.

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

August 2022

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.

INFO Eduard