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On 2 November 1944, "The Big T" departed Ulithi as part of RADM Frederick C. Sherman's Task Group 38.3, which was in turn part of VADM John S. McCain's giant Task Force 38. The Vipers were on their way to war.
First Strike - 5 November 1944
Fighting Eighty launched its first combat mission at 0615 on 5 November. Ticonderoga was steaming 150 miles northeast of Manila and the targets were airfields in the vicinity of that city. Preceding the strike, comprised of 12 VB-80 SB2Cs, 9 VT-80 TBMs and an escort of 8 F6Fs, was a 12-plane fighter sweep. Zablan Field was strafed by the latter, then 15 Oscars were spotted above the
TACTICAL AND OPERATIONAL DATA
Air Group Commander Vorse and VF Commander Keith and their wingmen retired to the predesignated rendezvous a few miles away to regain altitude before engaging the enemy. However, according to the aircraft action report, "The other VF pilots, who, with one exception were in combat for the first time, forgot squadron doctrine and attempted to attack the Jap VF without
first attaining altitude advantage and without maintaining mutual tactical support.
During the ensuing melee, the more maneuverable enemy VF had considerable advantage over our sweep VF." ENS Robert K.H. Weeks damaged one OSCAR, which was finished off by LT William C. Edwards. Weeks was then jumped by two more OSCARS, which Edwards drove away, but not quickly enough; Weeks' F6F was seen to crash. LTJG George F. Eckert also went down before this
On the credit side, four of the OSCARS were destroyed and six more damaged. LT John W. Fair exploded one which was on LTJG Louis R. Hamblin's tail for VF-80's first kill. Scoop Vorse also claimed one. Weeks and Edwards another and Pete Keith shared the fourth with ENS Fred Ackerman. Still in all, a kill ratio of "only" two to one was quite unacceptable.
OSCARS burned easily when well hit but air to air action was a large dog fight and few OSCARS were subjected to prolonged fire. OSCARS easily turned inside F6F-5's at combat altitude of 3000-6000 feet. Two OSCARS made attacks on the VT formation during retirement to the assigned rendezvous but did not press their runs home to effective firing range.
More Strikes - 5 November 1944
Other strikes were flown by CAG-80 throughout the day. During the last one, against shipping in Manila Bay, LT Patrick D. Fleming shot down a ZEKE around 1530, the first of his eventual 19 victories. Meanwhile, the combat air patrol saw a bit of action, too, when four suicide planes attacked the task group in the early afternoon. One was shot down by a Lexington F6F, another crashed into
that carrier and a third narrowly missed Tico's bridge. The fourth, a ZEKE, was shot down by ENS Joseph J. Meotti as it was attacking The Big T.
TACTICAL AND OPERATIONAL DATA
Two divisions of VF escorting and striking with VT an VB dived down from 16,000 feet, circling from the North about 10 miles & hitting the target airfields of ZABLAN and MANDALUYONG from the Northwest. No airborne opposition was encountered. AA was heavy from the dock area of Manila, 5-6 miles to the west but the barrage did not affect the strike on the fields. AA was
light and meager
Four grounded planes were noted in the target area and, therefore, Hangars, barracks and other installations were hit with rocket and strafing attacks.. No special results were noted--no fires were started although one hangar on the S.E. end of ZABLAN was hit by at least two rockets of Ens. Bowen . One 2-engine a/c was seen burning on the S.E. end of ZABLAN, damaged from a
Ens. Nettles was last seen prior to the attack dive. The cause of his loss could not be determined by pilot interrogation.
| P.D. Fleming before a 1945 mission VF-80 pilot briefing
VB and VT with escorting Fighters circled Bay twice over CA & DD's until order by Essex Air Coordinator to attack the screening DD. VF came down with rockets and MG's from 10,000'. Several hits failed to do noticable damage. VB 80 scored 4x1000# hits. 15 seconds after the attack the DD was dead in the water, belching clouds of black and white smoke and settling. Escorting
VF pilots confirm the sinking of this DD by VB 80. They also observed several torpedo hits by VT-80 although the latter do not claim any hits. Escorting VF-80 pilots also confirm that the CA (ATAGO Class) which the group (CVG-80) was not permitted to attack, exploded, broke in two, and sank after attack by VB and VT from othe CV's.