Thursday, February 08, 2007

Torpedo Squadron 8: Part 8-The finale!

cont'd from previous post

The impact slammed his hood shut tightly and the plane began to sink. He opened the hood and rose to the surface. As he reached the surface, he heard the explosion of his torpedo striking home on the Jap carrier. Floating beside him was a black rubber seat cushion and a deflated rubber boat. Apparently the Jap bullets had broken the straps which held them secure. Afraid that the Zeros would dive again and machine-gun him, Tex held the seat cushion over his head. Two cruisers steamed close by him and a destroyer saw him and ran to the deckside to point him out. However, he was unmolested. In about ten minutes the dive bombers from his carrier, apprised of the Jap fleet’s location by the Skipper’s contact report, swooped in. As they exhausted their bomb loads, more came in. The Jap fleet was in utter confusion, with most of its air arm trapped on the decks of the carriers where they had been refueling. For two hours the bombers dived, sending their destructive loads into ship after ship.

Thus, with all of its 15 planes destroyed and all but one of its pilots killed in its first engagement, Torpedo Squadron 8 had done its part to rout, for the first time in the war, a Japanese fleet. It had also kept the planes which were refueling on the carrier’s deck from taking off in time to meet the attack. Had the Skipper not played his hunch with his faithful boys following in his wake, the planes that were caught refueling on the decks of the Jap carriers might have had time to take the air again to reverse the tide of battle.

When the next dawn came, the ships of the Jap fleet that had not sunk had limped away, leaving telltale oil slicks behind. Gaunt and sick from swallowing salt water, Tex Gay floated idly in his rubber boat, heedless of his badly burned leg, a shrapnel-torn left hand and bullet-punctured arm. At 6:20 a PBY patrol boat roared over the horizon. Spying the oil slicks, its pilot swooped down, waved to the figure in the lifeboat and flew on out of sight. Tex didn’t mind. He knew the PBY had a patrol mission to execute. At 2:30 that afternoon, the PBY returned and he was flown to Midway for hospitalization.

Ensign Gay, 30 lb. lighter and slimmer and harder, is back in the U.S. He has had a furlough and time to tell his story to friends who knew him before he became a warrior. He has done his best to console the widows, mothers and fathers of his lost pals, and he is now back in San Diego with a new torpedo squadron that is being formed. He knows he is probably going back into the Pacific again to fight the Japs and he is certain that he knows who is going to win. If it should be his fate to die, he is ready to join the boys of Torpedo 8 who, when put to the test, proved they were just what the Skipper said they were—“the best in the world.”

Life August 31, 1942

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