MIGHTY NINETY

Operation JAMBOREE 2

Chapter 19: OPERATION JAMBOREE part 2
Back to the Tokyo Plain



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A 40mm gun crew aboard USS WILKES-BARRE CL-103 underway in late February 1945.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-265787


Following the surface actions of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, Admiral Halsey was champing at the bit for an opportunity to finish off ships of the Japanese Combined Fleet. Intelligence suggested that the remaining capital ships that had survived the actions at Leyte Gulf were divided into two sections--one group in the Inland Sea of Japan and the other in the South China Sea. Having missed the opportunity at Leyte, Halsey desperately wanted to engage the remaining Japanese surface threat and finish it off.



Task Group 38.2 refuels in the South China Sea on 11 January 1945. USS THE SULLIVANS DD-537 and ASTORIA are taking on fuel underway from opposite sides TALUGA AO-62. Note the shamrock on THE SULLIVANS' forward stack. Halsey's flagship NEW JERSEY BB-62 is in the background at left.
-manipulated from Google Earth imagery




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Track chart of USS ASTORIA as Task Force 38 moves through Bashi Channel between Luzon and Formosa into the South China Sea. After refueling on 11 January, the fortified Task Group 38.2 moved in toward Cam Ranh Bay. The arrows indicate air strikes conducted against Saigon, Cam Ranh, and the coast of French Indochina.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-307058



In January 1945, logistical requirements of the Luzon invasion made this desire a practical reality. The possibility of Japanese warships in the South China Sea posed a significant threat to the supply lines for Luzon. Airfields along the coast of French Indochina (modern Vietnam) and China were also within striking distance of these supply lines. The timing was ideal for a Task Force 38 incursion into Japanese-controlled waters, both to hunt for surface vessels and to strike other targets of opportunity.


9-10 January 1945
Overnight the ships of the Fast Carrier Task Force made a high-speed run southwest, entering the South China Sea via the Bashi Channel of Luzon Strait. This was the first time since the earliest days of the war that U.S. surface vessels had entered these waters.



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The grid chart used by USS ASTORIA CL-90 in preparation for the Cam Ranh Bay fire mission. The ship was to fire over Tagne Island (lower right) into the bay while her floatplanes spotted her fire.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-307044




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The grid chart used by USS ASTORIA CL-90 in preparation for the Cam Ranh Bay fire mission. The ship was to fire over Tagne Island (lower right) into the bay while her floatplanes spotted her fire.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G



12 January 1945
At 0300 the night carriers took the lead in the attack on Cam Ranh Bay. Eight two-plane search teams of TBM Avenger bombers launched from ENTERPRISE and INDEPENDENCE.

From Edward Stafford's The Big E:
The blacked-out TBMs fanned out over the [Indochina] coast from a hundred miles to seaward like the fingers of an exploring hand, peering through the night with radar, laying naked suspicious areas with the harsh brilliance of parachute flares, occasionally scorching a rocket or two into likely targets. And behind the probing fingers, the heavy fist of the day carriers was cocked and ready.

At 0731, as the surface strike unit approached Cam Ranh, aircraft were launched from carriers across all task groups. The Avengers launched from the night carriers had provided precise information on locations of Japanese targets, and strikes were dispatched accordingly.



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Task Group 38.2 refuels in the South China Sea on 11 January 1945. USS THE SULLIVANS DD-537 and ASTORIA are taking on fuel underway from opposite sides TALUGA AO-62. Note the shamrock on THE SULLIVANS' forward stack. Halsey's flagship NEW JERSEY BB-62 is in the background at left.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-265787



From Jim Thomson's Diary:
As the dawn broke to reveal our small but potent force, the PASADENA came steaming up alongside the "Asty" plunging deep into the heavy sea. She gave a short blast on her horn then drove to the head of the formation. All was in readiness on the Asty as we built up speed for the run to the beach. Suddenly the PASADENA cut to our starboard bow and slackened speed; something was wrong. Presently we got the word from Forward Control. Our planes reported the bay empty of shipping and Halsey had ordered us to cruise in the area while he made his decision.

No heavy ships had been sighted. The Japanese Combined Fleet was not in Cam Ranh Bay, nor anywhere else that had been scouted. Frustrated, Halsey ordered the surface strike unit to turn back and the task groups were reconstituted. The focus for the day turned to making the most of the aerial raids taking place against smaller Japanese surface vessels, merchant shipping, and port facilities.



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Two Japanese freighters and a tanker are sunk during strikes on Saigon conducted by planes from USS TICONDEROGA CV-14 on 12 January 1945. Note the empennage of the turning aircraft visible at the top of the photo.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G





Ships of a Japanese convoy burning heavily off the coast of French Indochina on 12 January 1945.
-U.S. Navy photo
from Brent Jones collection




Task Group 38.2 refuels in the South China Sea on 11 January 1945. USS THE SULLIVANS DD-537 and ASTORIA are taking on fuel underway from opposite sides TALUGA AO-62. Note the shamrock on THE SULLIVANS' forward stack. Halsey's flagship NEW JERSEY BB-62 is in the background at left.
-manipulated from Google Earth imagery




CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Task Group 38.2 refuels in the South China Sea on 11 January 1945. USS THE SULLIVANS DD-537 and ASTORIA are taking on fuel underway from opposite sides TALUGA AO-62. Note the shamrock on THE SULLIVANS' forward stack. Halsey's flagship NEW JERSEY BB-62 is in the background at left.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-307049




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A TBM Avenger marked to LEXINGTON CV-16 over the burning Japanese convoy off French Indochina on 12 January 1945.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-K-5339





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A TBM Avenger marked to LEXINGTON CV-16 over the burning Japanese convoy off French Indochina on 12 January 1945.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-308591





Task Group 38.2 refuels in the South China Sea on 11 January 1945. USS THE SULLIVANS DD-537 and ASTORIA are taking on fuel underway from opposite sides TALUGA AO-62. Note the shamrock on THE SULLIVANS' forward stack. Halsey's flagship NEW JERSEY BB-62 is in the background at left.
-manipulated from Google Earth imagery


Samuel Eliot Morison later wrote:
Task Force 38 planes sank 44 ships totaling about 132,700 tons. Of these, 15 ships... were combatant vessels of the Japanese Navy and 29 ships... belonged to the merchant marine. An even dozen of the sunk Marus were oil tankers. Admiral Halsey did not exaggerate in calling this "one of the heaviest blows to Japanese shipping of any day of the war," and stating that "Japanese supply routes from Singapore, Malaya, Burma, and the Dutch East Indies were severed, at least temporarily."

At 1931, exactly twelve hours after airstrikes were launched, Task Force 38 steamed away from Indochina for a refueling rendezvous with the Logistic Support Group. The U.S. Navy later discovered the true location of the elusive Japanese capital ships. They had been moved much further south to safe anchorage at Lingga Roads, Malaya.



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Hancock CV-19, Wasp CV-18 and an unidentified CVL.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-K-3507





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Captain Armitage is received on the fantail of ASTORIA from HALSEY POWELL on 14 January 1945.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper





CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Task Group 38.2 refuels in the South China Sea on 11 January 1945. USS THE SULLIVANS DD-537 and ASTORIA are taking on fuel underway from opposite sides TALUGA AO-62. Note the shamrock on THE SULLIVANS' forward stack. Halsey's flagship NEW JERSEY BB-62 is in the background at left.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-308805




CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Task Group 38.2 refuels in the South China Sea on 11 January 1945. USS THE SULLIVANS DD-537 and ASTORIA are taking on fuel underway from opposite sides TALUGA AO-62. Note the shamrock on THE SULLIVANS' forward stack. Halsey's flagship NEW JERSEY BB-62 is in the background at left.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-308453




CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Task Group 38.2 refuels in the South China Sea on 11 January 1945. USS THE SULLIVANS DD-537 and ASTORIA are taking on fuel underway from opposite sides TALUGA AO-62. Note the shamrock on THE SULLIVANS' forward stack. Halsey's flagship NEW JERSEY BB-62 is in the background at left.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-319010


13 January 1945
Weather conditions again deteriorated as the task force steamed on a northeasterly course. The high-speed departure from the Indochina coast had served two purposes--to prevent an enemy search and to outrun an approaching typhoon. As the seas rose throughout the morning, fueling proved to be impossible. Many ships parted lines while attempting to pass across fueling hoses.



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Captain Armitage is received on the fantail of ASTORIA from HALSEY POWELL on 14 January 1945.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper





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Captain Armitage is received on the fantail of ASTORIA from HALSEY POWELL on 14 January 1945.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper





Captain Armitage is received on the fantail of ASTORIA from HALSEY POWELL on 14 January 1945.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper





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Captain Armitage is received on the fantail of ASTORIA from HALSEY POWELL on 14 January 1945.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper





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Captain Armitage is received on the fantail of ASTORIA from HALSEY POWELL on 14 January 1945.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper





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Captain Armitage is received on the fantail of ASTORIA from HALSEY POWELL on 14 January 1945.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper





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Hancock CV-19, Wasp CV-18 and an unidentified CVL.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-K-3814


Once Armitage was transferred back to ASTORIA, he received quite the good-natured send-up from his fellow officers to commemorate his adventure. At dinner he was awarded an "Extinguished Service Cross," an oversized cross on a chain. They also sang to him their own version of a well-known tune

For Gerard Armitage, the day was all the more memorable for another reason; the Marine Captain had been returned safe and sound to USS ASTORIA on his 24th birthday.



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Enterprise CV-6, Bunker Hill CV-17, Essex CV-9, and an unidentified CV in the distance at center right. My best guess is Bennington CV-20, but I will save that thought process for now unless anyone is interested. Foreground cruisers are Flint CL-97 and Miami CL-89 with USS Shannon DM-25 underway at center. Note that Miami is either launching or recovering her starboard floatplane.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-K-3816



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A closer view of Flint CL-97. The bow of Enterprise is at left, Bunker Hill at center and Essex CV-9 at right.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-K-3813


15 January 1945
Halsey was given the green light to conduct further strikes in the direction of Hong Kong. Along the way he intended to continue the search for capital ships of the Japanese Combined Fleet. Weather remained terrible as the Fast Carrier Task Force steamed north. In spite of adverse conditions, the task force launched planes.

From J. Fred Lind's diary:
We headed north to a point about 100 miles from Hong Kong. Our planes raided Hong Kong, Canton, Swatow, and Amoy, as well as Formosa. The weather was foul, but was reported clear over the targets. We had two Air Alerts. The Japanese lost five Zekes and one Betty (twin-engine bomber) plus one Jake shot down by our pilots twenty miles from our group. We are on watch four hours and off four hours now.



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A closer view of Miami CL-89. Note that her starboard Kingfisher is missing, perhaps the floatplane visible overhead. An intriguing side note is that Miami's aviation unit was responsible for the overhead view of USS Randolph the day after her Kamikaze hit in her berth on 11 March, making it entirely possible that these photos show that flight in progress. Randolph's berth would be in the center distance of this photograph and all ships identified were present as of the morning of 12 March, so it all matches well.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-K-3812




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DD-660 passes between the photographer and Bunker Hill CV-17. The cruiser at left is either Pasadena CL-65 or Springfield CL-66, and USS Astoria CL-90 is partially visible off the port quarter of Bunker Hill.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-K-3815




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F6F Hellcats line up behind the ESSEX Corsair on the HANCOCK flight deck later the same day as they prepare to launch. In contrast to the ESSEX Air Group 4 tail marking, the distinctive horseshoe painted on USS HANCOCK planes is visible on the tail of the first Hellcat.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-344531



16 January 1945
Air strikes launched in the early morning. The focus for the day's attacks was Hong Kong with ancillary raids conducted against Hainan and Canton. Weather was again a factor, and unexpectedly heavy antiaircraft fire also took its toll.



CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE
F6F Hellcats line up behind the ESSEX Corsair on the HANCOCK flight deck later the same day as they prepare to launch. In contrast to the ESSEX Air Group 4 tail marking, the distinctive horseshoe painted on USS HANCOCK planes is visible on the tail of the first Hellcat.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA record group 80-G-344531



Coming soon  CHAPTER 20: OPERATION ICEBERG part 1


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Sources:

Aman, Joseph. Joey Fubar's Cavalcade of Humor. Printed aboard USS ASTORIA CL-90, 1945.

Dyer, George C., Vice Admiral USN (Ret.) Personal interviews conducted by John T. Mason, Jr.
Annapolis, MD: 1970

http://commons.Wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page  Wikimedia Commons image database.

http://earth.Google.com/  Google Earth.

Jones, Brent. Private photo and document collection.

Lind, J. Fred. Sea Attitudes: A Collection of WWII Memories. Privately published.

MIGHTY NINETY: USS ASTORIA CL-90 cruise book. 1946.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in WWII Vol. XIII: The Liberation of the Philippines. Boston: Little, Brown and Company Inc., 1959.

Peddie, Jim. Private document collection.

Schnipper, Herman. Private photo and document collection.

Stafford, Edward P. The Big E. New York, NY: Random House, Inc., 1962.

Thomson, James. Diary kept aboard USS ASTORIA CL-90, 1944-45.

www.usshancockcv19.com  USS HANCOCK CV-19 Association website.

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