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Interview of

First Marine Aircraft Wing, Ass't Operations Officer
Commanding Officer VMO-251
Operations Officer MAG-11

in the
Bureau of Aeronautics
17 July 1943

A little more information about Renner is available here.

Distribution:  Standard Air Information Branch Distribution List.

     Major Renner discusses fighters, fighter tactics, and fighter personnel on Guadalcanal. Among topics he deals with are forming a squadron, training, U.S. fighter tactics, morale, pilot fatigue and replacements, the F4U, radio communication, oxygen masks, ratio of VF to other types, night divo-bombing, maintenance, unified command, casualty rates, Jap evasive tactics, range of planes, bombs on fighters, comparison of aircraft.

       While serving on the Staff at Guadalcanal, I was primarily interested in fighters and fighter tactics. I tried to absorb everything men like John L. Smith, Bob Gayler, Marion Carl, Joe Bauer, and Joe Foss talked about in their bull sessions, even though I was not at that time flying. They were men who really understood fighter tactics and applied their theories.


       I was relieved in Guadalcanal on December 7. Three days later I had a fighting squadron with two pilots, my executive officer, and myself. Since there were not enough fighter pilots at Guadalcanal, they assigned to me eight boys who had been SBD-trained. They had had approximately 220 hours apiece and had never been in an operating squadron. To these were added fourteen SBC-4 pilots from an Observation Squadron in Samoa. When I received this motley crew, I was told that in two weeks' time we would be sent into Guadalcanal as a Fighting Squadron. Luckily, we had three and a half weeks to train. As each boy asked to be transferred to my squadron, I inquired if he was determined to be a fighter pilot. Each assured me that he was; that he had been forced into other types by people who didn't understand him.


       In training, I allowed one hour for solo, to get the pilots used, to the airplane. The second hour they started flying section and division tactics. About the fourth hour they were in gunnery. We went through a very hurried



syllabus, trying to cover everything we would need at Guadalcanal. One of the most important things is individual combat, - the same thing we had practiced in peacetime, except that we took up two teams of four planes each, and got up there and mixed it up. There are going to be mid-air collisions in combat, and you may as well get used to looking out for seven other men in the sky besides yourself.

       The most important rule I made was "stick together". The formation ultimately breaks up, but each wing man must stay with his section leader. What it amounts to is that several small columns revolve about each other. Whenever in training a pilot lost his section leader, I gave him hell.


       Since there was time to practice only one pass, we emphasized the overhead pass in tactics against bombers. If a man can do the proper overhead pass, he can do an above-side from either side. A direct overhead pass gives the enemy less time to fire, and he can't bring his guns to bear.

       We also stressed altitude work. We had pilots arrive at Guadalcanal who had never been above 15,000 feet; and out there on practically every hop we could expect to go up on oxygen. In the overhead pass that I speak of as being the primary pass against the enemy horizontal bomber, the training started in at 12,000 feet with a tow plane at 8,000 feet. We made one set of dummy runs and started firing on our second flight. The altitude was gradually increased, and firing stopped around 16,000 feet. We made runs on another fighter at 22,000 with the attacking planes at 26,000. A pilot who has made only low altitude passes around 10,000 to 15,000 feet misjudges his distance in rarifled atmosphere and does not come in close enough to the target to get hits.

       After all this training on how to attack enemy bombers, my squadron had a chance to attack twin-engine enemy bombers only once, and that time at an altitude of 500 feet! One of my boys said, "Gee, there they are! Let's get up above them and, make that overhead pass." He started to climb; then realized that if he made the overhead pass it would be the end of him, not the enemy. In training, we had tried to cover each type of plane the enemy had, and the type of approach to be used against it. The twin-engine Mitsubishi had been used as a torpedo plane. The tactics against the torpedo plane was to make an above-rear pass or an above-side pass, pulling up above the target plane. So when this pilot saw the overhead pass wouldn't work, he immediately thought of making the above-rear pass. The squadron shot down five out of the six twin-engine bombers they encountered that day.

       On the dive bombers with the fixed landing gear, the theory was to get just low enough behind so that the rear gunner would have to shoot through his own horizontal stabilizer and elevator. We came directly in on practically a no-deflection shot from underneath to blast them.

       Against the bi-plane float we cautioned pilots about maneuverability and the rear gunner, but explained that if you could get down below the stabilizer into the rear it was "duck soup".

       Against the Zero, because of its maneuverability and climb, we used tactics developed by Foss, Bauer, and Smith. In order to knock Zeros down the

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Grummans stuck together, and each pilot paid less attention to the man on his tail than to the Zero on somebody else's tail. The Grumman fighters tried to stay in the same air, as we called it; once the dogfight started, we all revolved about in tho same area. If a Zero dived out from the dogfight, our instructions were not to follow him but to swing back into the middle of the merry-go-round. In swinging back, you look for a Zero on some other Grumman's tail. This tactic worked out because a Zero can't take two seconds' fire from a Grumman and a Grumman can take sometimes as high as fifteen minutes' fire from a Zero. If you can summon up the courage in yourself to quit worrying about the guy peppering at you from behind and go after tho Zero peppering your wingman from behind, gradually the Zeros all disappear from the fight; and only the Grummans are left. Now it's damn hard to instill in a pilot the idea that even though there is somebody on his tail he's got to work on the guy that's on another's tail. That's exactly what we did, however, and it worked out very successfully.

       Naturally, the characteristics of the plane determine the tactics. The Zero could outmaneuver, outclimb, outspeed us. One Zero against one Grumman is not an even fight, but with mutual support two Grummans are worth between four and five Zeros; and so on up.


       After determining that a man wanted to be a fighter pilot; I asked him if he thought he was a "hot" pilot. One boy who was just coming in said. "No, sir" I said, "Then I don't want you". "Well", he said, "What do you mean? I've always been brought up with the idea that only senior pilots were hot pilots; that young pilots are supposed to keep their mouths shut and listen and learn how to fly." "Well", I said, "I want tho hottest outfit that's ever been collected; and if you're not hot, there's no place here for you". He said, "Now that you bring it up, I'm tho hottest boy that ever graduated from a naval training station." I said, "Okay". Well, it turned out he was pretty hot.

       I tried to build up a winning spirit in the boys; tried to convince then that they were the very best; that there wasn't anybody who could beat them; that it was going to be fun to go out there and knock the Japs down. It isn't always possible to convince them that it's going to be fun; but you can get them out there under one ruse or another; and if their first two or three combats are successful, and if their pals come back and say, "I knocked down two Zeros today", they soon get enthusiastic. If, however, the first flight goes out and gets its tails shot off; enthusiasm dies out in a great hurry. Our enthusiasm increased during the time we spent up there.


       We became greatly fatigued because of the hours we had to fly. In the Guadalcanal area, at least, pilots have been required to fly too many hours a day. For a period of six days, one group of fighter pilots were flying an average of six and a half hours a day. The time we weren't flying, we were on scramble standby, which meant that we had to get up before daylight and either take off on a dawn patrol or assume a scramble standby. If we had to stand by, we were on that until noon; and then in the afternoon we flew a combat patrol over the area. Probably at l645 we went out on a mission and came home after dark. It doesn't take long to burn the boys out at that clip.

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       The thing that bothers them more than anything else is this: they are sent into the combat area with a scuttlebutt rumor that they will come out in four weeks or five weeks and find themselves there indefinitely. Pretty soon they think, "Well, we're never coming out; they're just going to wait until we all got shot down and then they won't have to worry about pulling us out, and feeding in replacements all the time." If the going is tough, fighter squadrons should be relieved in three weeks' time. Otherwise they lose their desire to close with the onemy and their power to recuperate.

BUREAU COMMENT: Requests for replacement pilots have been filled to the extent permitted, by the number available. Replacement squadrons and groups are formed as fast as pilots and planes are available. It is believed that an orderly rotation of duty in combat area can now be effected.


The boys flying the F4U are very enthusiastic about it. It's the first airplane I have flown that will do everything the manufacturer says it will do - but it will only do it one day a week. The maintenance problem is terrific. Perhaps when our mechanics and our engineering crews are adapted to the plane and find out its idiosyncrasies, they will be able to straighten it out; and maybe we'll be able to get it to fly two days a week. The planes are very sturdy. A pilot from Fighting Squadron 124, who in one scrap with the Japs shot down three Zeros, said the F4U would do everything the Zero would do except a tight flipper turn at low speeds. Whenever a Zero went into a tight flipper turn, he just poured on the coal and climbed back to altitude to make another pass.


       We had considerable trouble with the radio installation of the Navy and Marine fighter as opposed to the Army fighter. The Army and Navy had given us different bands to work on in peacetime. The Army didn't have coils to cover our frequencies, and we didn't have coils to cover their frequencies. The joint frequencies assigned did not work in that locale. At one time our fighter director had two microphones and two radios; he talked to the Navy and Marines on one and to the Army on the other. Well, the Army base radio wasn't any good; it was just a pick-up set that we'd salvaged out of a fighter. We couldn't talk with the Army in the air, and they couldn't talk with us in the air. It seems to me Army and Navy fighters could be given the same type radio, covering the same frequency, especially if they are to go into the same theatre of action: we could build one big set for four-engine planes, one medium set for twin-engirt planes, and one standard set for single-engine fighters. Since I've come to the Bureau I've been assured that work along this line is progressing but, of necessity, is very slow.


       The biggest fault we had to find with the oxygen equipment was the rubber mask that fits high over the bridge of the nose. When we put goggles on after applying the mask, the lower frame of the goggle went right across the line of vision. We either had to fly with the goggles up on the forehead or with the oxygen mask off. Most of us decided that we'd leave our oxygen on as long as we were up there.

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BUREAU COMMENT: This objection is well founded and is characteristic to varying degrees of all demands for masks heretofore available to either the Army or Navy. A new mask designated as the A-l4 is being procured. Distribution has already been made to certain air groups.


       In the rear areas we had difficulty convincing pilots they should fly with their sleeves rolled down. Many of them pulled their shirts off after they left the ready room to get in the planes, and flew in their undershirts. They'd fly without goggles, and land with their hoods closed, (take-offs and landings should he with hood open; combat flying with hood closed.) and do everything we told them not to do. But once on Guadalcanal, we never had to tell anybody to roll down his sleeves or wear his goggles on a flight. One or two of the boys came back with their faces filled with 20-mm shrapnell and pieces of broken plastic from the hood. The only parts of their faces not scarred up were the parts covered by goggles. They thought the goggles a pretty good thing.

       One day on Guadalcanal when the field was wet and very muddy, the Japs decided to make a big push and establish aerial supremacy over us. They came down about seven o'clock in the morning at 25,000 feet when all our fighters were on the ground. We were on the ground for a very good reason -- none of us could get in the air; we couldn't even taxi to the end of the strip to take off. (The tri-cycle landing gear and large tires of the P-38 and P-29 (sic) (P-39) make them far superior to our planes when operating from a muddy field).


       Another thing that's affecting morale out there is the failure of some combat pilots after they arrive in the battle zone. A definite policy, I think, must be established. It's not so much what you do with the pilots who refuse to fight, or who find one excuse or other not to go out on a combat mission, as it is the effect the treatment given them has on the rest of the squadron. For a while the policy was to remove these people and send them back to the training bases to be instructors. Now there isn't a pilot out there who has been fighting the Japs who doesn't want to come back to the U.S.A. It seems to them that the man who is a failure is the one who gets that reward. Although we're short of pilots and we're trying to turn out as many as possible, we'd do the combat, operating outfit more good if we'd reach down and pull the wings off the chest of these boys. It wouldn't have to be done to many before they'd stop singing the song. And if a pilot says, "I haven't had enough training and I have to be trained a little more" - under no circumstances send him back to the United States to get trained. Leave him down there: and when he's had sufficient training, send him back in. If he comes cut with the same plea again, don't listen to him. Take his wings away; and if he's no good as a ground officer, take his uniform away.

       A letter went in from our Command suggesting wings be taken from these boys, and in some cases, uniforms too. They all began to flock around and say, "Well, if I'd known you were going to treat me like this I'd never have said a word. But old Joe Doe got to go home. He couldn't stand the gaff, and he's back instructing at Pensacola. I thought you'd do the same thing for me. I didn't

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have any idea you'd treat me as an outcast and take me off flight status, and just leave me sitting around here to do-nothing, waiting for somebody to rule on what was going to happen to me." With a little strong arm, a little strict discipline, you'd find that type of person would practically disappear. They would turn in their wings of their own volition when they found themselves approaching the combat area.


       We were always short of fighters; there never was a time when we had enough fighters to do our job. I have seen sixteen SBD's and six TBF's go off with eight Grummans for escort. You could protect part of them and get embroiled with probably sixteen or twenty Zeros, but there would be enough Zeros left to pick up the planes that were without fighter protection. And I've seen the time when we'd sent everything we had that would fly on escort duty because we didn't want to lose our dive bombers and because we wanted to strike a telling blow at the enemy. Our field was entirely without fighter protection. The first month and a half I was at Guadalcanal we couldn't even send fighters out on escort without SBD's and TBF's because we didn't have enough fighters to go along. It's criminal to send dive bomber pilots and torpedo pilots unescorted against a Jap surface force when we know there is a probability the Japs will have fighter protection above them. We should have at least six-to-one fighter planes for every dive bomber and torpedo plane we have in the area, because after we're established and have some of our own surface forces in the area supplying us, we must maintain constant patrol. That means we have four to eight or maybe twelve planes on patrol, depending on the tactical situation; and four or eight or twelve more getting ready to take off to relieve those in the air, and so on all day long; plus planes standing by for scramble in case a big raid comes in; plus the fighters that must go out on escort duty. If you think a pilot can go up there and fly the dawn patrol, and go back on patrol again at two o'clock and fly till twelve, and then take scramble standby till four o'clock, and then go out on a mission that afternoon, you'll find that he'll last about a week and a half or two weeks. Then he'll be through, especially if you're getting bombed every night and shelled intermittently.

BUREAU COMMENT: The proportion of VF to other types depends on the tactical situation. Two problems had to be met on Guadalcanal (l) defense of a very small area against persistent aerial and surface attack, and (2) attack against Japs on Guadalcanal itself and on adjacent islands. In this situation a relatively high proportion of fighters was desirable.


       We found through experiment at Guadalcanal that night dive bombing was not only unsuccessful but very costly. We tried at first to send our dive bombers out at night to drop flares, or to get an enemy surface force in the path of the moon, and dive bomb it. We considered this necessary because we did not have a too strong hold on the field at Guadalcanal. The Jap garrison had made two pushes, one at Teneroo River and one at Edson's Ridge. They were resting up to make another push, following their usual infiltration tactics of running a few hundred troops in every night. They had what we called the Tokyo Express, that departed from the Shortland-Faisi area every afternoon and got just within our range about a half hour before dark. It would be out approximately 180 miles at 1800 in the evening. We could take one crack at them beforve dark. If they were

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undamaged; they could go on and land from 500 to 1000 troops that night and sneak back out and be beyond our range by the time we could find them in the morning. If you think you have insufficient forces to hold an airfield and you happen to be on that airfield with no way of getting off, with the enemy coming in by 500 or 1000 men every night, you will do everything that seems reasonable to knock off those little yellow boys before they get to your airfield. We sent our dive bombers out to night dive bomb, and we lost several airplanes and several pilots. I don't recall any hits.


       I had an experience while I was out there (and several of the other squadron commanders had the same experience) of being sent out to cover friendly surface forces with no radio contact whatever, though I am sure fighter frequencies were available to communications officers on those ships. We would go out and stay on station all day long and never a word or even a peep over the radio to let us know they were in contact with us. In one instance, in particular, I am sure it might have saved an attack. I happened to be assigned to give cover to a convoy coming up to Guadalcanal. We hadn't more than landed, which was probably a half hour to an hour after dark, and got back up to the ready room when I was informed the task force I had just left had been torpedoed. At the time I left that task force it was too dark for me to see another airplane more than 30 or 40 yards away. Actually I could have been of no assistance in intercepting the enemy unless he had been flying with his lights on. But if the enemy had known we were still in the vicinity, circling over the task force, he would probably have delayed his attack until later at night or at least until we had left. The radar operators on the ships of this task force must have known that there were enemy planes in the vicinity. In all probability there was a shadow plane some place up above me (I was at at 14,000 feet) spotting our friendly VF. When we left station and disappeared, he probably called his own boys and said, "Come on in, it's all clear." The surface force could have called the fighters on patrol and notified them that enemy aircraft were in the vicinity, that consequently they ought to remain on station as long as possible. We, however, received no communication whatever from the surface force.


       Out there commanding officers continually send units up to the forward area with insufficient personnel to maintain their planes. They send a fighting squadron into Guadalcanal with a reduced complement when actually the complement should be increased. There is more work to do; it is more fatiguing, because the people are not getting the proper sleep; and yet the number of men to take care of the planes is cut down when we're up there to do the job that is most important to ourselves and our government.


       I don't believe we'll ever have a satisfactory unified command until the man who is in command of the combined forces has the power of writing fitness reports for the officers serving under him, of making recommendations for decorations for everybody under him, and of being able to give a court marital to anybody under him. If the squadron commander of the Army or Navy or Marines didn't like the way a plan was outlined, he nevertheless agreed, to it, and went

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out on the mission--but then did as he pleased. When on returning from the mission he was reminded of his failure to follow planned procedure, he always had a reason for it; something had happened, or the situation had changed, and he thought it best to do it this other way.



Q.     Was there any evidence that the Army's method of handling relief was better than the Navy's and Marines'?

A.     Well, there were so few Army pilots around while I was there that I really couldn't answer that.

       One of the criticisms of our present system was the length of time pilots spent in the rear area waiting to get back when relieved. When the personnel of a squadron came out of the combat area, they were given a seven-day malaria treatment and checkout to be sure they were okay to go on the recreation tour to Sydney. At the end of the seven days all those that had checked out satisfactorily were put on the recreation list; and as soon as transportation was available, they were flown to Sydney, where they spent from seven to ten days. Thirteen days were allowed for the round trip from the time they left the rear base to go to Sydney and return to the rear base. The time spent at this base in the rear area varied from six weeks to three months, subject to malaria and other tropical ills: no recreation in the way of wine, women, and song, which every man seems to have a desire for out there. All they could do was swim and look at the same old Marines day after day. They wanted to come out, go through their seven-day checkout period, for malaria, get ten days in Australia if possible, return and spend three or four Weeks getting into shape, and then go back in. Morale is very high when they return from Australia. They'll say, "Come on, let's get back up there and shoot down some more Japs, and we'll be back in Sydney in a couple of weeks!"

       If you sent them back up to Guadalcanal in four weeks, you would have to institute a new training set-up, because now during the three-month period squadrons remain in the rear they receive a few replacements from the States who are green. Each squadron is required to train its own replacement pilots and fit them into its organization.

Q.     What was your suggested plan for replacements?

A.     Our plan was that once an original outfit, fresh from the States, had gone up for its first tour of duty and made the first part of the cycle--in other words, been to Guadalcanal to Sydney and back -- we would replace one-fourth of that squadron with new people who had been trained in this local training command and that the fourth who were removed would go back to the States. The senior pilots would go back to the States to form new outfits. In that way, on the second tour of duty the squadron would have three-quarters trained and experienced in combat and one-quarter new people who had, never been in combat before. When they finished the tour down to Sydney and came back, you would again pull out one-fourth of the experienced personnel and feed in

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one-fourth green. By the time the squadron, had made four trips up there, it would always have about one-fourth, depending on how many casualties it had suffered, who'd been up there three times before. Part of the outfit would have been up there twice before; part once before; and one-fourth would be green.

Q.     What's to prevent that from being carried out?

Comment:  They have this "three-way team" as they call it, down there now, having one-third of the pilots in the operating area, one-third in the back area, and one-third in the so-called rehabilitation center in New Zealand. They could run a four-way scheme, if they had the people. The trouble is, they want to run that scheme and then ask for new people; and we have nothing to send down there of course, except completely green men out of training school. Actually to date the practical application of the thing has been a sort of controversy between the people in that area and in the States who try to get pilots back to form more or less complete units.

Major Renner:  Well, I don't see any necessity for relieving a complete unit, as far as the flight echelon is concerned. We will achieve our purpose more satisfactorily if we will draw out the experienced people who have been there a certain length of time and bring them back to the States, because as you feed in the green ones at the bottom, even if they are fresh from flight school, you have an outfit that is always battle-experienced going back in there. But if you send that same squadron back in there three times, at the end of the third time they're ready for relief. Then you have to throw in a completely green outfit, or one that has been trained but is not battle-tested. I would rather have a squadron commander who is a second lieutenant and has been up there twice and been in combat several times than a major who is fresh from the States and doesn't know what to expect out there.

Comment:  But they feel very strongly about going in as units and coming out as units.


Q.     What percent of pilots do not wish to go into combat?

A.     I'd say if you took a squadron of thirty pilots tip there you could expect one to three of them to be "giggle girls", as we call them, or "rover boys". One of them will come up and admit that he's afraid to fly - "Send me back, I've had enough". The other two will use different tactics. When the time comes to scramble, such a man will run out and jump in a plane, and it'll be dropping 300 r.p.m. on the left mag. He'll jump out and give it a down; the mech turns it up and it's dropping 25 on the right mag and 25 on the left mag. He'll run down the line and jump in another plane, anxious to get off with his outfit. He'll get his parachute on, his throat mike on, his gloves on, and be all ready to turn her up -- when he looks out and finds the left wing gone! The plane was one of the wrecks we had around the field to fool the Japs. He runs to the next plane; and when he gets in, finds no engine in it. By that time it's too late to get off. And the same pilot that does it on Monday, does it on Tuesday. On Wednesday he's got a stomache, and he thinks he's getting malaria. By

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Monday of the next week he's ready to come back to duty; and he runs out; and sure enough, his plane won't start (he's flooded it purposely). He gets in the next plane, and it's out of commission. He runs all around, and he can't find one that will go. That goes on day after day, until everybody gets to realize that he hasn't been up in the air. Finally you get one of these birdies in the air on a mission and look around end can't see him -- well, his prop went out, and he had to land again. It's impossible to get them into combat.

Q.     You suggested taking wings and uniform off them? Do you really recommend that we do that a few times?

A.     Yes. The recommended plan was this. If a pilot entered a plea that he didn't think he had sufficient training, we would send him down to New Zealand or some place in the rear area, but still in the South Pacific, for further training. He would be placed on probation during that time. That training period would not exceed six months. The probation period would not count as part of his time in the South Pacific. Otherwise, you can see what would happen - some fellow with about six months to go, would appear before the Board and get placed on probation, and at the end of the six months he'd come back to the States. He'd never have to go back in and fight, and he would have escaped all the way around. Well, if he's put on probation the time not only would not count, but he could not be promoted. At the beginning of that six months time he would be given his choice of what type plane he wanted to fly: fighters, or dive bombers, or torpedo planes. Sometimes they think they're in the wrong type. He'd get trained in the type he wanted to be in and come back. Then he'd be sent up with an organization to the front lines, and if he panned out, all would be forgiven. If he failed the second time, he would not rate a second period of probation. He would be through as an aviator. But it may be that he would be a good ground officer - engineering officer, an adjutant, or something like that, where he wouldn't have to fly. The Board could ask him if he wanted to try to be an aviation ground officer. If he said, "Yes", he could be given a trial. If he proved satisfactory, he could be carried on throughout the war as a ground officer. If he were a failure as a ground officer, he should be told, "You'd better get back and face your draft board, because you're not doing the job you took a pledge of allegiance and swore on oath to do, to defend the United States against all her enemies, as an officer." That plan, I think, would straighten that problem out in short order.

Q.     What happened to this recommended plan?

A.     The plan was submitted to a higher commander than the unit of which I was a member, and he did not agree with it. Certain parts of it were satisfactory; other parts did not meet with his approval. And I imagine that is as far as the plan has ever gone.

Q.     What is being done?

A.     They put them on the ground; let them sit around the tents; take them off the flight schedule; make them answer telephones in the ready room or operations tent -- make glorified clerks of them.

Q.     Aren't they a bad influence?

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A.     Yes, they are, definitely. But the squadron commander has to see the group commander, and he in turn the wing commander, in order to get such men evacuated and sent back to the rear area. And besides, I don't want to send them back to the rear area. If we're getting bombed every night and shelled every two weeks, why they can sit right up there and take it along with the rest.


Q.     That same trouble goes all the way through, not only in aviation, doesn't it? Is the death rate among fighter pilots considered greater than in other types?

A.     Definitely not. That's the reason I wanted to be a fighter! I think you've got a better chance of living. That's the feeling among the fighter pilots; I don't know how the rest of them feel. -- It goes deeper than that, though; I mean it is not just the fact that you think you have a better chance of living. It's that you close in and shoot down the enemy that interests most of the people. But I really feel a fighter pilot has a better chance of living. At least when you go, you know you're the one that didn't do it right!

Q.     Did you attack the Jap dive bombers? And did they maneuver? How did they protect themselves?

A.     None of the dive bombers came down when my squadron was up there. I had however, an opportunity to see Colonel Joe Bauer go after the outfit that bombed the MACFARLANE. (USS McFarland AVD-14, there was no MacFarlane) Unfortunately, he didn't arrive on the scene of action until after they had dropped their bombs and were going for home as fast as they could. From my vantage point on the hill I saw him burn three of them. They were so determined to get away at full throttle that they were just right down over the water going as fast as they could. He came right behind them and let them have it. One would blow up; he'd jump over its wreckage and get the next one. He shot down four that day. He said he probably could have got all nine, but he had just come up from Espiritu Santo and was a little short on gasoline. He was afraid to chase them any farther for fear he couldn't get back.

Q.     Did they ever take evasive action?

A.     I think an Army P-39 pilot chased one of them around Baraku Island one day - around and around and around, and he never did get to shoot the Jap. The Jap planes are very maneuverable -- jinking and flying up the coves and jumping over the coconut trees and down the other side -- the P-39 just couldn't get on him.


Q.     Did you have trouble being sent on missions outside your range?

A.     Yes. The manufacturer puts out a performance chart that shows you can fly some astronomical number of miles out and back. In actual operation that doesn't work out very well. Once we had dropped our belly tanks or wing tanks, and fought, we had not only to come back but keep a reserve supply to go around a storm or adverse weather, or take care of ourselves if we found on getting back

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the Japs were over the field and we couldn't land. The F4U of course has a much greater range than the F4F. But no matter how many belly tanks or wing tanks you hang on, the limit of your fighter range is the capacity of the integral tank; you have to carry enough in that tank for the fight, the return trip home, and the reserve. The gas inside that airplane limits the range.


Q.     What do you think of hanging a 1000-pound bomb on the F6F?

A.     I am one of those who do not believe in hanging anything of any kind on a fighter plane. If you want to make & dive bomber, glide bomber, or masthead bomber of the F6F, it's probably an ideal plane to put a 1000-pound bomb on. But a fighter has too many missions to add that of dive or glide bombing. When our fighters first arrived in Guadalcanal, they took their bomb racks off and threw them away (by throwing them away I mean they threw them in a salvage pile in a tent). They didn't bother with them from that time on, except for about five fighters on which we replaced racks one time when the Japs were coming in with six transports and we were determined to hit them with everything.

Q.     If you were going in to, say, occupy Munda, and you were going to take forty airplanes, would you rather go in with two squadrons of VF and two of VSB or four VF with bombs?

A.     I would rather go in with two squadrons of fighters and two squadrons of single-seat dive bombers.

Q.     What do Marines think of carrier-type aircraft?


A.     I believe that all the active combat pilots in the Marine Corps agree with me on this: though at various times they have voiced loud criticisms of the Navy carrier plane and wished they had the Army P-38 or the Army P-51, they believe the Navy has scooped the Army on the F4U and the F6F. If Grumman or Vought were given the job of building a land-based fighter, they would be able to build a fighter superior to anything the Army now has and one which would be ideal for Marines or Navy squadrons based ashore. As the war in the South Pacific expands and there are more and more island bases to be held by the Marines and by the Navy, and ever-increasing number of squadrons, both Navy and Marines, will be land-based. I therefore see a need now for planning a land-based Navy fighter.




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13th Naval District, Commandant's Office, Central Subject Files, 1942-43
National Archives & Records Administration, Seattle Branch

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

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