Flying the SB2C Helldiver into probable suicide
On June 19, 1944, Task Force-58’s (TF-58) fighter and dive-bomber aircrews celebrated the combined destruction of 380 Japanese airplanes during the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. But our exhilaration was almost dashed the very next day when we went hunting for the fleeing Japanese fleet. Those of us flying the SB2C Helldivers were literally sweating bullets as we flew our aircraft to the limits of fuel starvation. As I droned over the black inky water below on that ‘Mission Beyond Darkness,’ I wondered if I would ever find my carrier, the USS Hornet again.”
—Foster E. Looney, VB-2 SB2C Helldiver pilot
Earning my wings of gold
When I joined the Navy in 1943 as a 19-year-old kid from Texas, I knew I wanted to be a fighter pilot. Heck, every guy who wanted wings in the Navy lusted after fighters more than a pretty girl! Besides, who in their right mind would want to be strapped to a slow-moving dive-bomber? By the time I had been sent to Navy boot camp in 1943, I had already earned my pilot’s license in a J-3 Cub. I think the time I spent in the Cub gave me a leg up over the other guys as I wound up finishing first in my class. My wish came true as I was selected to proceed on to the Navy fighter program in Miami, Florida. Unfortunately, my wish turned into a nightmare one week later at morning muster when the base commander advised us that the Navy desperately needed dive-bomber pilots. His selection method was quite simple; he walked along in front of us and said, “You, you and you just volunteered for dive-bombing school at Jacksonville, Florida. Congratulations, gentlemen!”
Read the article by James P. Busha, click here.