The Ship - All Hands - Decorations - Remembrance
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Shortly before operations started against Okinawa, the fast carrier force which had supported the landings on Iwo Jima was sent north to continue strikes against the Japanese home islands. Enterprise departed Ulithi on 14 March as a unit of a night carrier task group. On 18 March, the task group operating to the southeast of Kyushu was subjected to sporadic attacks by single Japanese planes. Although taken under fire, one plane, a "Judy", flew head on toward Enterprise and dropped a 250kg bomb, a dud.
On 20 March, the ships were subjected to additional sporadic attacks from Japanese planes. At 1613 a Judy dropped a bomb about 50 feet to port, and at 1626 another plane dropped a bomb off the starboard quarter. Other ships in the vicinity had opened fire and two 5-inch 38 cal. projectiles detonated over Enterprise.
On 18 March, a Japanese plane released a 250kg bomb at masthead height, which ricocheted off the forward elevator, struck just below the port side of the navigating bridge and broke into two parts. The small tail cone fell to the flight deck, immediately below the navigating bridge, and the main portion came to rest further aft on the flight deck without detonating. Some picric acid was strewn under the navigating bridge and ignited by short circuits, causing a small fire. The fire was quickly extinguished and temporary repairs were made to No. 1 elevator within half an hour, permitting it to operate. Direction of air activities was shifted to secondary fly control.
During a bombing attack on 20 March, a 5-inch, 38 cal. projectile, fired by another U.S. ship in the task group, detonated over 40mm mounts Nos. 5 and 7, on the starboard side of the flight deck. Almost simultaneously a second 5-inch, 38 cal. projectile detonated off the port bow. Shell fragments from the first detonation pierced the belly gasoline tanks of two F6F planes spotted in the vicinity of the hit, igniting gasoline which spread over the flight deck. The burning gasoline ignited two additional planes and initiated the explosive burning of 40mm ready-service ammunition.
As a result of the fire of 20 March, Nos. 5 and 7 40mm mounts and the Mk.51 director for No. 5 mount were burned out. Electrical, radio and IC systems in the pilothouse, main communications office and Radio I were burned out or grounded by water. Although hampered by exploding ammunition, flying fragments and continued dive bombing attacks, repair parties attacked the fire vigorously, cooling and smothering it with fog and mechanical foam so that after 35 minutes all but a few persistent blazes were smothered beneath the foam blanket. Electrical fires in the island structure persisted somewhat longer, but all fires were out 50 minutes after the hit.
The navigating bridge remained habitable and the ship's course was altered to take advantage of the wind to clear smoke and heat to port, away from the island. Primary fly control was made untenable by heat and smoke. Fire-resistant paint and fiber glass insulation on the inside of the island plating stood up excellently to intense heat. Although paint on the inside of dead-lights in some cases carbonized and flaked, it did not ignite, thereby preventing fire from spreading through the interior of the island.
The main communication office, radio central and CIC were made untenable by heat and smoke, and abandoned via descending lines previously attached to the navigating bridge.
While the fire raged on the flight deck, measures were taken to prevent its effects from spreading to other parts of the ship. Ready-service 40mm ammunition was sprinkled, hose streams were played on the overhead of the hangar deck beneath the conflagration and the after water curtain of the forward bay was turned on to segregate planes aft.
Burning gasoline and exploding ammunition presented the initial ingredients which in some other cases of carrier damage resulted in fatal or near-fatal conflagrations. The characteristically skillful and vigorous attack made by Enterprise's crew on the conflagration, however, confined to the initial area - with the exception of a small fire in the forward bomb elevator - so that a minimum amount of damage resulted.
Diagrams derived from Bureau of Ships, Navy Department, blueprints provided courtesy Arnold Olson, Public Affairs Officer, USS Enterprise CV-6 Association. Narrative derived from War Damage Report No. 59, "U.S.S. Enterprise (CV6) War History", Bureau of Ships, Navy Department.