Saturday, February 2, 2008
JUNE 1944 – A BUSY MONTH FOR AIR GROUP TWO
In preparation for eventual landngs of our troops on Saipan and Guam, Task Group 58.1, consisting of the carriers end air groups of HORNET, YORKTOWN and ESSEX made strikes on Saipan, T1n1an and the Bonin Islands Group, Chichi Jima, Haha Jima, with special attention to the airfields Orote and Agana on Guam.
June 15 – The landings on Saipan with the Second and Fourth Marine Divisions met more resistance inland than on the beaches.
On June 17 the air groups of HORNET, YORKTOWN and ESSEX continued attacks on the airfields at Guam. At about 0100 June 19 bogies were reported just west of TG-58 and ENTERPRISE launched search planes but no contact, was made. At about 0600 CABOT’S CAP shot down a Val. (CABOT was about 24 miles south of HORNET) It became evident that many Japanese aircraft were in the area and head1ng and heading in the general direction of Guam. CAP aircraft were launched from HORNET, YORKTOWN and BELLEAU WOOD and by 0845 our aircraft had downed 10 ZEKES and several HAMPS. By this time Task Groups 58.1, 58.2 and 58.3 were placed between th4 Japanese fleet and Guam. This began what was later called the “MARIANNNAS TURKEY SHOOT” with about 400 Japanese aircraft destroyed.
The VT-2 and VB-2 squadrons were launched with 100 lb. and 500 lb. bombs to hit the airfields at Agana and Orote with Japanese planes landing or trying to land. As we circled the field we had a front row seat to watch Tex Vineyard (VF-2) shoot down four Japanese planes as they went into echelon to land. By 1045 the “Turkey Shoot” was over, and of the 500 planes the Japanese had launched, about 100 returned to their fleet. Our losses for the entire operation were 22 shot down by fighters or the deadly flak around Orote.