If you can see this text here you should update to a newer web browser

Normal | Highlight & Comment Comments/corrections will appear in yellow like this

U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

Interview of

CAPTAIN J. J. FOSS, USMC
Executive Officer, VMF-121

in the
Bureau of Aeronautics
26 April 1943

Captain Foss tells of experiences as a fighter pilot on Guadalcanal. In his narrative he discusses among other topics Jap and U. S. air tactics, attacks on convoys, the P-38, strafing, gun-spread on planes, ammunition combinations, gunnery, float planes, oxygen, radio, Jap pilots.

Distribution: To all units ashore and afloat concerned with aircraft

GUADALCANAL-JAP TACTICS

         I went into Guadalcanal in VMF-121. Major "Duke" Davis was Commanding Officer and I was the Exec. We flew off a converted carrier, about 350 miles off Guadalcanal, arriving October 9. Our second day there, we started air operations.

         At that time the Jap attacks were with the Type-1 high altitude bomber, coming in in formations of from 27 up to 35 with fighter escort; altitudes from 22,000 to 26,000 feet. They would send down a fighter sweep before the bombing attack. About 12 Zeros would arrive 30 to 45 minutes ahead of the bombers, apparently to draw up all our fighters to start an engagement. About the time an engagement started the second wave of Zeros would come in. They always came in at high altitude, somewhere about 30,000. By the time they arrived, they were hoping you were down at a good low altitude where they could work on you.

         The first outfit that came in would always spar around; they wanted to draw you down so that the high altitude boys could get a good pass at you. Once of that was enough to cure me, and everyone in our outfit. We went in to get something that looked like easy bait and as we started in the Zeros that were above us came down on us. They had a little bit too much speed to do much damage. They didn't shoot down many, but they hit just about all of us.

         So whenever we'd see about six Jap planes that seemed to want to engage us, we were quite sure they had plenty of high cover. If the fighting was on even terms, they weren't at all anxious to engage us. But whenever they had the long end of the deal, they were anxious to engage. Along with the bombers there would be six to eight more Zeros. They'd fly to the rear and above, about 3000 feet

         

- 1 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

above the bombers, doing loops and slow rolls, to slow them down so they could stay with the bombers. They were usually up around 30,000 feet. Then there were another six just prowling around. You never could tell where they were; they would circle wide and try to come in from the opposite direction.

         When I got there, we seemed to be getting off late. The Japs got wise to the fact that if they made a circle and came in over the mountains we couldn't pick them up on the Radar as soon as we used it when they came right down the channel. With the mountain interference on the Radar we hadn't quite enough warning to make it up there. On several occasions I reached the same altitude as the bombers, a bad situation. We didn't have time to climb into a position to get a pass at the bombers. Sometimes my outfit made a parallel run to the bombing formation but couldn't gain a bit on them; we stayed right there just out of range. Their gunners would be shooting at us while Zeros stayed up and didn't seem to want to come down. Finally they could come down, and then we'd get to fight the Zeros. One reason why my squadron had lot (SIC) of Zeros to its credit is that we always wanted to get into a scrap. When there was nothing else around, we always went after the Zeros, if they didn't come after us.

U.S. TACTICS

         Instead of scrambling all the fighters on the first warning, we would send up one flight of eight and sometimes twelve planes just to spar around with these first fighters. They circle around for a long time before they engage; they never press the attack. We were just trying to hold off 'till we could get some more fighters with plenty of oxygen and gas up there in time for the bombers. We always got at least eight planes to the bombers.

         At that time, we were allowed 40 F4F's on the field, about 30 of which were operating. Out of these 30, we could guarantee to have 24 in the air.

         The P-38's didn't arrive until late in October. The day they arrived was the last time that the Japs came in with their big formations for high altitude bombing.

         Until October 25 we had air combat every day, sometimes two and three times a day. On October 25 we knocked down 17 Zeros and 5 bombers. That attack was the last that came into the field. Every day we picked them up on the Radar. They'd come down to within 40 miles of the field and orbit. We covered the field, and went out in their direction far enough to intercept them, if they came in. That went on for about a week. After that we decided to see what was out farther. As soon as we'd start out, they'd evidently see us coming and turn around, for our control would call us and say they were departing. This went on until November 12, when the Jap

- 2 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

battle ships came down, and we had a Fleet engagement through the 15th. During that engagement the Jap dive bombers came down a couple of times. Our boys intercepted them and cleaned out just about the whole formation.

DESTROYING A CONVOY

         Then they brought a convoy down the channel consisting of eight transports and four cargo ships covered by nine destroyers and three light cruisers. When they were at this end of New Georgia Island, the ENTERPRISE group came in to help us. After we hit them the first time the warships turned around and left their cargo and transport ships to fight it out for themselves, with very light Zero coverage. That was the end of that outfit. The four cargo ships got through that day, because we went after the transports first. The cargo ships arrived at Guadalcanal the next morning the l5th. I took off just at daylight and spotted them as they were coming around Savo Island. I went on up the channel; and when I came back, three of them were in flames. Then we strafed the beach, and the fourth one couldn't unload anything. A P-39 dropped a bomb right in the hold and an SBD dropped another one. That ship was evidently loaded with oil. It was the end of the four cargo ships.

CHANGES

         I left Guadalcanal the 17th of November. On January 1st I came back and found that things had changed. They now had course rules around the field and MP's; enemy action was very erratic. We flew a lot of patrols over the ships in the channel. We were bringing in a lot of supplies. We made fighter sweeps up over Munda and Rekata Bay and once in a while saw a Jap cargo ship, accompanied usually by one or two destroyers, coming down the channel headed for Munda. They would try to leave Bougainville late enough in the day to be coming into our range just at dark. If we came out to intercept them, we had to come back to the field after dark. Usually the weather was really bad up that way; there were squalls almost every day all along the line; it was really a workout to get back.

         Then part of our Fleet force went up and shelled Munda. While they were en route, we covered them until darkness; then the next morning we picked them up at daylight and flew fighter coverage over them. We had only four Grummans to cover them but didn't think it too few at the time. Coming back, I was the first one out at daylight and didn't see a thing for three hours. Just after I had been relieved by the other half of my flight, eight dive bombers, which had evidently been watching, came in. My four boys jumped in, shot down five of the dive bombers, and put two more smoking.

BLUFF

         By that time my boys were out of ammunition and decided to

- 3 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

circle around the ships to get a little protection from their AA fire. But the ships chased them out of there. Then twelve Zeros jumped in (we were about 65 to 70 miles from Guadalcanal at the time). There was a smart chap leading who told the boys to move up on line. The four of them got in line. Then as soon as one of the Zeros peeled off and came down for an attack, the chap on the opposite end just buzzed up and started a head-on run at the Jap as he came down. The Jap would pull right up and give it up. One of my boys who had pulled up at him would slide into the middle of the formation. Then they'd just keep shifting back and forth. The Japs chased them all the way to Guadalcanal, where one of the Zeros burst into flames and flew into the water. Our boys didn't have a bean left in their guns.

COMBAT TACTICS

         On January 15, we went to get an AK, evidently coming to Kolombangara or to Munda, accompanied by one destroyer. It was about 15 minutes before dark when we arrived. There were eleven dive bombers, eight Grummans, and eight P-39's. We had four Grummans at 18,000 (that was I), four Grummans at 16,000, and eight P-39's lower; the dive bombers were at about 12,000 feet. It was so dark that if I had been any higher I couldn't have seen the dive bombers. We kept crossicg back and forth so that we'd loop behind the others and cover their tail. Just as the first dive bombers started in, the Zeros jumped in and attacked the P-39's at low altitude, about l4,000 feet. Then the four-plane section of Grummans which were at 16,000 feet dived in and rescued the P-39's. They shot down four of five Japs. I didn't dare go down because I saw six Zeros at my altitude just waiting for me to go down. I just stayed up and circled around trying to get a shot at them. Finally they moved in and started making a pass on me. By this time we'd gone past our range and didn't dare use full throttle or we'd have run out of gas before we got home. As the Zeros went back to re-form and came back for a second time, we slid into a cloud and got away from them. Every one got home, with the exception of one of my four who had a head-on collision with a Zero. When we got back to Guadalcanal, I had less than ten gallons of gasoline left. One of my wing men ran out of gas taxiing off the runway, so we had a pretty close run on fuel.

         After that, there weren't any Jap ships coming down the channel in daylight hours. They'd always start from the far end of Bougainville and be out of our range by morning, though we made sweeps every morning.

         About noon on January 25th or 26th a bogey was picked up, and one flight was scrambled along with four P-38's which climbed up and hit the ceiling at 18,000 feet. There they circled around, and waited for the bogey to move in. Over Savo Island we spotted our first planes about twelve Zeros. I gave the command to move in and see what was there. As we got out toward the Zeros, I came to a big gap in the clouds and decided to take a short look above to see

- 4 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

what was up there I saw plenty! There were above twenty more Zeros up there and in back of those, about twenty more dive bombers! They wanted us to go on out and attack the Zeros over Savo Island. Then those boys would call and say, "They're out here now; go on in and take the field". We just circled between the field and Savo Island, under the clouds, and they just kept sparring around but didn't attack us. They sent bait in within 2000 or 3000 feet directly below us; they pulled right in front so we'd make a run on them, I just called and told everyone to stay in formation. The P-38's were flying on the opposite side of a large circle - we covered each other's tails. Finally two of the Zeros decided they were going to get some action. They met us, head-on, a little off to the side so we'd swing over at them. But we didn't; we just passed them about 100 yards off. They decided to swing around to get on our tail, failing to notice that the P-38's were following. They pulled in front of the P-38's; that was the end of those two birds.

         We sparred around there for about an hour. In the meantime all airplanes came up had sixteen more Grummans, eight P-40' s, and two more P-38's. The Japs turned around and went home with their big outfits. They'd lost five in the deal and hadn't fired a shot.

         I left the last of January.

THE P-38

Q.       What was your impression of the P-38's?

A.       The P-38 is really a good plane as an interceptor, above 20,000 feet. If you get notice that a bogey is coming in, and don't have much time, give it to the P-38's; they can really get up there. If it's above 20,000 feet they make their runs, go on out far enough to make a turn, and come back for another run, When the P-38's were sparring around with me, they would buzz way down below me, take a look, then go up through a hole in the clouds, take a short look around and come back down. They ran all around the sky while I was doing my best just to stay where I was.

Q.       Was any attempt made to use them at the limit of their range?

A.       They went clear up to Bougainville. They sent P-38's to fly cover on B-17's and on B-24's. There would be Zeros above them and below them would be more Zeros, float bi-planes and float Zeros, but their orders were to stay in formation with the bombers. If any of the enemy fighters made an attack, they'd just pull up, give a short burst, and the enemy fighter would pull right back up out of range. When they failed to do this one day, three of them were shot down. They went down below 20,000 feet to get some "easy meat", (these float bi-planes that can turn on a dime) - went down and tried to dogfight - that was the end of three P-38's

- 5 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

STRAFING

Q.       Did you do much strafing on enemy ships?

A.       Yes. When we first came, they said there wouldn't be much strafing of enemy ships; I thought I'd start out on canoes or something easy. But our first assignment was some transport ships. Before we went out (I was going out in another formation just to get the idea), the leader said, "Now I don't like to go down close, but you just follow me." When we got out there, there were four or five cargo ships and nine destroyers. We went right on down. I don't know how he missed the ship. That was my first indoctrination in strafing. We came in at about a 45° angle. There were plenty of AA bursts, too close for comfort, on that attack. From then on I was leading.

         We went out again around October 13. There were six cargo and transport ships with sevel (SIC) destroyers covering them. The cargo ships were in column with three destroyers on one side and four on the other. We were supposed to go in and strafe a cargo ship, but when we came out they spotted us. They all turned in different directions when I came in at the usual 45°, I failed to look out for a destroyer over at the side, and she real1y packed them right into the middle of the flight. She didn't shoot anyone down. But on the way out one plane in another flight was shot down. I didn't seem to have enough speed, so the next time I went out to strafe destroyers I came down at about 70° and just made a tight spiral to keep my fire right on the decks. The boys came in a little from the side; none of us got shot down that trip.

         The next time we went out to strafe a light cruiser off New Georgia. We lost one man out of eight on that deal.

         On November l4th my flight had the pleasure of strafing a Jap battleship off Savo Island. The bad thing about that was that they had pompom guns on her, all forward of the big guns clear to the tip of the bow. They kept shooting even after we started sprinkling around right into the gun positions. Finally we shut them up. I couldn't tell you whether they were worked by indirect control - I never did see anyone there. I came right down, but I was looking at other things.

         As far as strafing goes, you got a lot of it. Then strafing the fields - we made several attacks on Rekata Bay, a seaplane base. There we really did some good work. We'd get five or a dozen planes and set them on fire. We'd get the radio-shack, and things like that, or get a gas dump - start a few fires, etc. They had five or six AA guns there. And then their small arms fire was something fierce. There is a point at Rekata Bay with a little island right at the end of the point. Whenever you strafe that bay, you come

- 6 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

past this point, right off this island. On this island they have an anti-aircraft position covered with small arms fire. Every time we went through there, somebody got badly shot up, but we always had enough speed to go around the corner and make a forced landing down the coast. The boys usually get back, unless they were killed in the plane.

         When the field at Munda was constructed, we made several attacks, getting as high as a dozen planes one day, started fires around the field, got some trucks, dropped in one time and surprised the men whe were working on the runways, and cleaned the field off pretty well. They kept moving in anti-aircraft and three-inch stuff. The last time I went to Munda there looked to me to be around twelve big anti-aircraft positions located so that if you got in there you'd really have to pull a Houdini to get out. Their small stuff would light up the boundary of the field, when they started shooting. Everybody that went in there got pretty well peppered

         They have a new destroyer, comparatively new, with anti-aircraft. It resembles the ATLANTA class cruiser, in shape of the turrets. When you come down on those babies, they light up like a Christmas tree. Just about everyone in the formations gets hit a few times

Q.       What was the highest altitude at which you operated?

A.       The highest altitude that my outfit operated was 31,000 indicated. We could have used a few thousand more feet on several occasions. Our main trouble with the Grumman was that we couldn't get enough altitude in time. We liked to make overhead and high side runs; those were the only two runs that we ever used. Once in a while someone would use a headon run, When we used the headon run, we'd come out behind the Zeros - where some of them had a clear shot at you.

Q.       If you'd had planes with a good enough rate of climb, would you have used it up to 35,000 or 36,000 feet?

A.       Yes.

Q.       What was the effect of the strafing on the ships?

A.       Sometimes it'll start a fire on a cargo ship, and on the troop transports the decks are just packed with men. When you strafe the deck on a troop transport, you really do some damage to personnel. When you strafe a destroyer, that's the end of anti-aircraft from that destroyer, if you're placing them good, up and down the deck. They'll stop shooting at you when you get to about 3000 feet.

         There were two destroyers that came in one afternoon. Broad daylight around Savo Island, and they saw two of our little old corvettes. These two corvettes saw the destroyers coming, and started

- 7 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

on down the channel, trying to outrun them. The destroyers cut loose and had them well bracketed. When the little fellows saw there was no use trying to run, they just turned and headed straight towards the two destroyers, shooting full blast with their 3-inch. I'll swear that one was sinking - there was a squirt of water coming up - and they were still shooting at the Jap destroyer, All the men on the two corvettes were saved. Then we went out and strafed the Japs. After they cleared Savo Island, one of them exploded, caught on fire, and sank. Then a little farther on, the other one did the same thing. They gave the last four planes credit for sinking two destroyers. But as for doing any damage to a cruiser or battleship, in my estimation, you don't do any. The main thing is to draw fire so that your dive bombers and torpedo planes can get in. When the torpedo planes were coming in on this battleship, the battleship would blaze away with big guns trying to cause geysers so that the torpedo planes would fly into them. They did that all day, but they didn't get a single torpedo plane. I saw one of Captain Dooley's hits, he got one right amidships. I was just a few feet off from the ship when it hit. Then I saw thousand-pound bombs hit on the battleship, and they still kept shooting their big guns; they never would shut up those big guns; torpedoes would hit them and thousand-pound bombs, still the big guns kept going.

Q.       Did you see her sink?

A.       No, sir. That's the thing we all missed out on. We got the old thing dead in the water at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon; you could see that it had a slight list. It was then about two miles off Savo Island. A nice big cloud came up, what you'd call a thunderhead, up to about 24,000 feet and tight down to the water. The Japs were right under that thing. They were in that place with five destroyers, a light cruiser, and that battleship. We couldn't get in to get at them. I tried to go under the thing because I knew that they would be taking personnel off the battleship, and I thought that was really a chance to score. We'd go in there a few feet and we couldn't tell the water from the rain. It was solid. We just turned around and came back out again, That night, they evidently left a skeleton crew aboard and towed the battleship around Savo Island so that it could take a few shots at Henderson Field as a farewell. There was one salvo of big stuff came in that night - that was all. Some think it turned over and sank after that one. Whether they planted dynamite in it or not, I don't know; but the next morning there was a big explosion. We never sighted the battleship again.

Q.       I don't suppose you ever identified it what class

A.       It was of the KONGO Class.

Q.       Do you feel that fighter strafing is worth while in making the torpedo and bombing attacks more effective?

- 8 -



CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

A.       There's a lot of pro and con on that because sometimes it will cost you about 50% of your fighters. You really lose the fighters on that deal. When you do get out and get out alive on a strafing attack on warships, you just aren't good, you're lucky.

Q.       It does silence the anti-aircraft?

A.       Yes, it does on destroyers and transports, but on cruisers and battleships the anti-aircraft keeps pegging away. The only thing that I silenced on the battleship was pompom guns. The anti-aircraft there was still plenty of that around - I got one hit right under my wing. I had an idea of turning one way but just happened to turn the other way. It hit where I would have been.

SPREAD BETWEEN GUNS

Q.       How important do you think it is to keep your guns from being too widely separated?

A.       I noticed on the F4U that the guns are really close together. I was wondering if they weren't so close together that they'd overheat.

Q.       I didn't mean close to each other - but you've got one group of guns on one wing and one on the other wing - whether that's 15 or 10 feet, does it make very much difference?

A.       No, sir. I wouldn't say that it did. In the Grumman whenever we've caught troops we've been able to wipe out the whole outfit. One day, my wing man and I caught some troops on the road as we came out of a dive. They just stood still until we went by, and I called to him and said, "I'm going to do a quick wing over here and start shooting; you just get right under my wing and shoot where I am." We cut loose and when we came back, they were all knocked off. Our guns were set for 250 and 350.

Q.       How about combat against other aircraft - does the spread between the two-gun emplacement make very much difference there?

A.       No, sir. In combat, against the other planes, I've always used my outboard four guns and left off my inboard guns to save them in case I ran short on ammunition. On one occasion I made a mistake and instead of turning on my outboard four guns, I turned off my outboard four and turned on my inboard. When I started shooting, it sounded like a sewing machine; but I happened to be right on him and got him with the two. I'd like six guns on the plane and save two in case something goes wrong with the others or if you run out of ammunition.

Q.       Did you have any trouble with the reflector sight in night strafing?

- 9 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

A.       Never did any night strafing or night fighting.

AMMUNITION COMBINATION

Q.       In shooting at aircraft, what was the ammunition combination?

A.       One-one-one. When we were in there the first time, we had one-one-one. When I came back, all the pilots said it won't be so easy shooting down Zeros now because they've got armorplating in them and they have self-sealing tanks. They told us that they weren't blowing up like they used to. So we took a short check on the ammunition. The ordnance chief or someone had decided that maybe they should get rid of some AP ammunition they had over there. About 50% of it had been loaded - with five AP's, an incendiary, and a couple of tracers. As a result they weren't blowing the planes up so readily. We got that changed right then and now and started out the same way again, blowing them up.

Q.       Do you think the AP was necessary? We had an idea that tracer and incendiary were enough.

A.       Well, the AP comes in handy with headon (SIC) passes at Zeros. In fact, about 25% of the Zeros shot down are direct headon (SIC) passes; just staying right in until the last second, hoping you get him or hoping he pulls up. That's where your AP comes in handy because you just keep drilling him right head on with the AP. He usually goes down or up.

Q.       Did you see any skip-bombing?

A.       No, Sir.

Q.       What do you think of the idea of it for fighters?

A.       I don't know enough about it to make any comments.

GUNNERY

Q.       What do you think of the use of tracer? Did you use your tracer for sighting?

A.       Yes, sir. To start out I used the sight. After I got started, however, I just dropped my seat clear down so that I wouldn't have my neck stuck out and just barely looked over the edge. Then I used my tracer altogether, but, I had previously used the sight enough to know right where to shoot. As for deflection shots, I'd always lead enough so that I'd never underlead. I'd always over-lead. When you overlead, you just ease forward on your stick and you can always see as far as the axis where he's going to go. You shoot in front of him and just ease forward on your stick. He flies right into it - you see your tracer work right on him. And on the tail end

- 10 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

shot just give a burst of tracer, If it's over or under, you just go up or down. I never wanted to sit up high enough to look at the sight. I just stayed down. To start with, I flew around looking in the sight. It works fine, as far as the sight goes; but after a while you don't need it. Is fact, I don't believe any of the boys that had been in combat a lot were using it; they all slid away down in the seat.

Q.       Depended entirely on tracer?

A.       Yes, sir.

Q.       How close do you have to come to do effective damage?

A.       When we started out, all our shooting was out of range. We would begin on the enemy a quarter of a mile away, and by the time we actually got into range we'd used up our ammunition. Then we started getting in there from 300 yards to 50 foot off, and really started hitting them. Then we moved it down so that we'd shoot right at 100 yards - then you can't miss. If you're off to one side or the other, just kick it on. If you shoot too far off, you scare 'em! If you keep your tracers out of there - the Jap pilot shoots. I've seen him shoot half a mile off; they just keep shooting until they go on range, and they're still shooting whan they pass you. They really get rid of the ammunition! I talked to the boys when a new outfit would come in. When you talk to a man before he goes out the first time, it doesn't do any good; but after he's been out the first time or the first two times, then you can talk to him. He knows what you're talking about. I'd just tell them, "Get in there, really get them in your sights, and really shoot close." I told one group that, and every flight scored on the trip. They'd all had a couple of combats before; they were shooting away out of range - 500 or 600 yards.

Q.       Have you flown the F4U's?

A.       Yes, I have. One 1½ hour hop in it. There were no other planes in the sky, so there was nothing to compare it to. But I liked the way it climbed and handled.

Q.       How bad is the visibility?

A.       I kept the seat clear up and my head up in that little knot on the top. I think that it would probably be all right, - unless it was on a Zero, a full deflection shot going full speed.

FLOAT PLANES.

Q.       What do you think about float fighters?

A.       Well, sir, those float fighters that they have don't last

- 11 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

anytime at all, I mean, they're sure death. Anytime we ever tangled with float fighters, none got away. If you got float fighters and mentioned it to somebody, he'd just laugh.

Q.       There's been a lot of talk about float planes.

A.       Shooting float planes is just like shooting down clay pigeons. They buzz around - they'll turn on a dime. I saw five P-39's chasing one one day. They had just started to shoot when he decided that was enough of that; so he turned around and came headon back out. The P-39's scattered and went all directions. Then they made another run; and when he'd see them all bearing down on him and start shooting, he'd made a quick turn and jump right back through them nearly causing them to have collision with each other. They were all so crazy to get him that they chased him for fifteen minutes before they finally got him. Another morning my flight ran into two of them, and all seven of the boys turned off after the one. I had the other one to myself. I didn't want to fool around with him; so I gave him a burst and he started smoking. I thought I had him. I then raced over to get this other one that they were chasing. I started over and looked back. The one that I thought I'd got was taking off again up the channel. I went back.

Q.       What good are they to the Japs? Or how do they use them?

A.       They use them at low altitudes, and they use them to jump SBD's. They come in handy as search planes. At first they had no bases on Guadalcanal, Munda, and Kolambangara; their closest land base was Kahili. They moved these seaplanes into Rekata Bay, and from Rekata Bay they could sneak out and catch SBD's that were flying the different searches. They can handle an SBD. They can maneuver but they just haven't got the speed, I've seen them do slow rolls and all that stuff with their float plane.

STRAFING

Q.       In strafing a destroyer, what is the maximum distance for attack?

A.       In strafing a destroyer, I would start shooting at 3000 feet. Some of them start shooting at 5000 feet; but in my opinion that's just wasting time and ammunition. I go right down and pull up below 1000 feet. After I pass the destroyer, I am right on the water. In strafing a troop transport, I'd drop over the bow or the stern, so that when I went out I was right on the water. I just cleared the ship, went over it, and then really snaked along. We shot all the way in, down to 500 feet - by that time you're really going, high speeds - we were always upward of 300 when we came by. On the way out none of us were hit; it was when you were coming down that you were in a bad spot. You have to look out for crossfire. The ship that you're strafing isn't the dangerous one; there's one on each side; they start playing a crossfire into you, and they pretty well

- 12 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

put it on you. When six or seven or eight destroyers and cruisers were escorting transports and cargo ships, we'd come in and attack the corner warships so that we'd draw fire from these ships and give the dive bombers a chance to go in and drop on the cargo and transport ships. They used to shoot the fighters in preference to the dive bombers. Whether they couldn't tell a dive bomber from a fighter, I don't know. The Grumman looked so chubby that they right away thought it was a dive bomber with a big bomb on it!

Q.       Can you hit anything with a TBF in a 45° dive - using bombs?

A.       They put these bomb racks on and I know they got one hit. That kind of attack was comparatively new when I left there, so I have really no word on that.

Q.       How did you coordinate strafing with dive bombing?

A.       The fighter flight commander would use his own judgment. The dive bombers never told us. As soon as I'd see them getting ready, I knew just about what to do, so then I carried out my attack. It worked well.

OXYGEN AND RADIO

Q.       Have you any comment on oxygen, communications, radio equipment?

A.       In regard to oxygen - when new pilots went in, there'd be a couple who would fail to have their mask on tight, or would get excited and get the mask off their face, and pass out. Everytime that some new pilots came in we'd always lose a couple of men. A lot of time we'd have gasoline left after returning. If the Japs kept orbiting out there, we wouldn't have enough oxygen to stay; we'd have to go on back down and hope that someone else got up there in time for the attack. They used to pull that old stuff all the time. They'd start an attack in and then turn out and go back out and orbit a while and then start in again for the attack, and then change their mind again. They knew that we were using gasoline and oxygen.

Q.       Were you using the white mask or the newer one?

A.       They were about 50-50 when I first arrived. Later all the white ones were gone, and we were using the latest one, the big one. Some don't like the large mask. They like the little white one. As far as that's concerned, either one was all right. We just left the mask in the plane. We flew a different plane every hop so you never had the same type mask twice in a row.

         We had a lot of trouble with the radio. They'd go out. They'd get them back in commission, but they'd go right out all the time. And then when we'd get 35 or 40 miles away, we were unable to receive Guadalcanal. We could talk to each other, and maybe the base could

- 13 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

hear us; but we couldn't talk back and forth to the base. That's a handicap. The radio as I use it in combat is very important, because I direct the whole flight with it. We talk back and forth, though we don't put on a lot of unnecessary stuff over the air. If you see a Zero banging up and down and if one chap get's another one in his sight, you just yell over at him that there is a Zero on his tail to give him a chance so he doesn't make any fancy pull-ups. We saved a lot of necks by the radio. I've talked to the Army pilots the same way when I had P-38's or P-39's in combat with me. We'd direct the attack, and tell them not to attack or to move around to the other side.

Q.       Did you use the throat microphone?

A.       Altogether.

Q.       You didn't have microphones in those new masks you got out there?

A.       Yes, sir, in some of them they did. As it happened, I had the throat mikes all the time.

Q.       Do the Japs use radio much in their tactics?

A.       One time they happened to be on our frequency, and we couldn't use our radios at all. Whether they were just being funny, I don't know, and I don't know what they were saying. It was just some mad mass of Japanese over the radio. They blocked us, and we couldn't say a word. We got off that frequency in a hurry. That's the only time I ever heard the Japs on the air

JAP TACTICS

         They have a rather unusual way in their attacks. The leader always shies around; his wing mate flies back far enough so you can hit him off without the leader's ever knowing it. They fly more or less in a column - the wing man is supposed to stay with that leader. How he does it, I don't know. When you stay 200 or 300 yards behind your leader and try to follow him, you've really got something on your hands. The wing man has a tough time of it. I talked to some of the Japanese through an interpreter, some of the Japanese pilots, and they'd always shake their heads about following their leader, and talk about their heads going around and around. I see their point.

U. S. TACTICS

         In our attacks, we'd move in close. Eight planes right close together. If we broke up it would be first one four-plane section and then the other four-plane section; then into two planes. In the end it's just a big dog fight. My wing man would stay right on me until there'd be a plane in front of me that I was chasing.

- 14 -


CAPTAIN FOSS, USMC U. S. CONFIDENTIAL

Then a plane would be coming from one side or the other, and that was a farewell for my wingman. He just made a quick swing out, and he'd always get a head-on shot, probably not such a good shot; but he'd put out a shot and make a quick turn. I'd turn around the other way and hope that we'd come back together; if we didn't see each other, we joined up on the first Grumman we saw. And always branch out from that again. I had my boys fly up more or less on line when they were going into an attack; they flew pretty well up. If the attack moved in from the tail end, I'd just call to him; and he would lead the attack in - he'd be first man in, and I'd be last. Instead of all having to slide over, I'd just call him, and he could take over. We had very good luck that way. We were never surprised. He flew back about 30° I'd say, or as much as 45° but never any of this column stuff. I always want to know where all my wing men are.

Q.       Are the Jap pilots who have teen taken prisoner high-grade people?

A.       The Zero pilot seems to be the better of the two, Bomber and combat pilots. They were very young, lads of 19-21; with very good builds. As for intelligence, they were pretty "thick". I don't mean to say they wouldn't answer my questions, because they would really answer questions. They would tell you about their fighter cover and about their tactics - things that we had been able to figure out already from the attacks. They gave us very accurate information in regard to six planes down and six up, and twelve planes in a flight. The Japs are pretty well broken up when they're taken prisoner. One told me the only reason he ever joined up in the Air Corps was so he could fly. Now he couldn't fly anymore - by that he meant that he'd never be able to fly for Japan again; and we won't take him on. He was out of luck. He was a 21-year chap who had gone to the University of Tokio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- 15 -


SOURCE:
National Archives & Records Administration, Seattle Branch
District Operations Office Central Subject Files 1943-56, "Central Subject Files, 1943-44"

Transcribed by RESEARCHER @ LARGE. Formatting & Comments Copyright R@L.

Aircraft Home | Researcher@Large Home