South Pacific

On that same morning, our skipper, Maj. Bill Dean, was leading a 24-plane strike on Rabaul. They met the same dangerous weather head-on. But Dean bravely or stupidly didn’t turn back. He tried to push through the front, resulting in 24 TBFs scattered all over the sky. Three planes made it to Green Island. The others straggled back to Torokina on their own. Amazingly, no planes were lost.

Two days later, we were in the air again. Although the most violent weather had passed, stacks of low clouds remained. The ceiling at Buka Passage was about 1,500 feet. Hank Hise abruptly changed our approach. Instead of coming in from the hills and dive bombing the gun emplacements, we flew in under the fringes of the low- hanging clouds and then dropped down on the deck for the final run, low over the water. .

As the angry, antiaircraft fire erupted, we attacked in a staggered column, aiming at the center of the guns.

Again, my memory of what happened next may be distorted by the intervening years. I know that I saw the flashes of the guns—and shells coming in my direction. And I saw tracers streaking past my cockpit on the right. Everything else at the time was blocked out of my mind. I totally concentrated on the guns firing at us, except for one startling moment when I glimpsed the bomb from Hank Hise’s plane arcing down into the water. Too soon. A miss. Off target.

Now, more than ever, I focused on the center of the gun emplacements. I had to make it. Straight ahead. I continued in with both wing guns blazing. And a few seconds later, I was in perfect position for the release. I sent my 2000-pound bomb on its way—crashing into the center of the multi-gun installations.

Fragments of Buka Passage guns exploded in all directions.

Batten and Manning followed, delivering their payload successfully on the north side of the gun positions. I think Batten’s bomb hit in the target area. Manning’s bomb went to the left, but within range. The entire gun emplacement area was blasted.

The guns at Buka Passage were destroyed.

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