The Ship - All Hands - Decorations - Remembrance
On 29 January 1944, just two days short of the second anniversary of the first Marshall Islands raids, Enterprise, Yorktown CV-10 and Belleau Wood CVL-24 conducted continuous attacks against Taroa, in the Marshall Islands. Early in the evening, a flight of nine unidentified planes appeared on task force radar, approaching at low altitude, high speed and out of the sun. All too familiar with dusk attacks, like the one Frank Albert mentions below, the task force went to battle stations. CAP and anti-aircraft fire both bore into the intruders. Frank Albert, in an excerpt from his memoir "From The Prairies of Chicago", tells the rest.
Lying on the flight deck, frightened but relieved because I was not below deck, I watched as Jap twin engine, land based torpedo planes made their runs low over the water headed straight for our ship. The Enterprise was always their main target. They flew over our destroyers, cruisers and battle wagons, our main line of defense. With thousands of rounds of shells firing at low, incoming, enemy torpedo bombers from all ships in the task force, shells bouncing off the water, there was no place to hide. With shells bursting overhead exploding and shrapnel falling out of the sky like hot hail stones, many sailors on all ships were caught in the cross fire and injured. We watched the Jap torpedo planes explode and crash in the ocean as our gunners made direct hits preventing torpedo hits on our ship, saving the lives of the many sailors on duty below deck who would certainly be drowned and trapped in total darkness. I in no way would want to be stationed below the water line.
A new responsibility was added to me. Each enlisted men's division had a water meter. Of course, there were none installed in the officers' quarters. I had to read the meters in each section once a week. If a division used more water than allocated, they were ordered to cut their fresh water showers off for a day or two and convert them to salt water showers which the sailors hated. Of course, I made sure that the shipfitters' head always had fresh water.
I was assigned a new general quarter station way up in the crow's nest 80 feet above the ocean. My responsibility was to man the phones connected to all repair parties throughout the ship, reporting damage as I saw it whenever we were hit. All damage was relayed to central repair who would coordinate the work to all repair parties, springing into action fire fighters and damage control parties.
Being in general quarters many hours at a time with no ventilation, all compartments dogged down tight and all drinking water and heads closed. Men had to go without relief. When there were no bogies on the screen and a lull in an attack, a few heads were opened for men to relieve themselves. And I was ordered to kick in the fresh water pumps for a half hour or so. Down the ladder I would rush, eight stories above the water line, then dog myself down six more levels to the number one elevator shaft and kick in the fresh water pumps. I had to stay below until I was ordered to cut off the pumps or report back up to the crow's nest. I in no way would stay below deck while in general quarters to be drowned in a closed compartment if we were hit by a bomb or a torpedo. I dogged myself up and remained on the flight deck until I was ordered to cut off the pumps, then scurried back up to my station in the crow's nest.
It was always very windy up there with Lt. Jerry Flynn, the aircraft spotter, along with another sailor spotting bogies on the screen. Under the stress of attack Jerry looked into the sky and yelled into his phone to the gunners to fire as a plane came into a steep dive over head. Noticing that it was one of our fighters he yelled "Cease firing!" It was too late for our guns had opened up. Our aircraft were ordered not to enter a ten mile zone of the fleet while under attack. But every so often one our fighters would engage in a dog fight, lose his sense of direction and enter the ten mile zone.
One of the many reasons the Big E survived the entire war was that we were in "condition able" whenever we entered enemy waters even on routine, which meant that we were at 50% general quarters while the rest of the crew continued their many duties. Our fuel lines carrying high octane aviation fuel were drained, half the ship was dogged down, and half the heads and vents were closed making the tropical heat almost unbearable below decks.
On January 29, 1944, while in condition able, our alert gunners spotted a twin engine bomber coming in low over the water in what looked like a bombing run. It was shot down only to find out that it was an American B-17. All six men were rescued and brought aboard, wounded and angry. Of course, this action had to be taken. Any plane flying into the fleet had to be dealt with if they were not recognized.
Excerpt reprinted with kind permission of Frank Albert. Frank Albert's full memoir, "From The Prairies of Chicago", can be ordered from the author.
 In fact, nine American B-25s closed the Big E's task force on an apparently hostile approach, and were identified as Japanese "Nells." They received a very hot welcome, resulting in one plane downed. One of its crewmen were lost; the rest were rescued and transferred to Enterprise the following day.