On the way out, I caught up with the others on the back side of North Daughter, where we set our headings for Torokina. Back to Bougainville.
One Anzac reported he had been hit on the way down and had to pull out before dropping his bombs. Four or five other TBFs suffered flak damage, but remained airborne. All planes made it back to Torokina.
As I lit a cigarette and walked into the Strike Command tent for debriefing, somebody handed me a small bottle of brandy. It was good for two or three fiery gulps. Marine Corps policy provided every pilot overseas with a few slugs of alcohol after every combat mission—to help calm raw nerves.
The liquor that day was LeJon Brandy, provided to The Corps by the Gallo Wine Company of Modesto, California. And the brand fives on. Cheap LeJon Brandy is still available on the shelves of liquor stores and markets throughout California.
In a 45-degree, glide-bombing dive, the TBF Avenger was red-lined at 315 knots, or 370 miles per hour. But over Rabaul, we adopted a dive bombing mode we had practiced during operations over the Salton Sea. We sighted the target closely along the left edge of the nose. Then, the moment the target disappeared under the wing root, we rolled into a split-S maneuver and plunged down on target in a steep 65 degree dive. This maneuver gave us greater accuracy and less exposure to anti-aircraft fire.
In our dives at Rabaul, we sometimes pushed the TBF Avenger to 370 knots or 425 miles per hour. Thank God “The Grumman Iron Works” built them strong.
Our strike on Rabaul’s Vanukanau air base was another that remains vivid in my memory—only because of the extraordinary Kiwi briefing performance the night before.