by Paul Roberts
For two years, Frank spent his seaman’s life visiting such out of the way places in the south Pacific as Gilbert, Kwajalein Atoll, Trum, Peleliu, Yap, Hollandia, Saipan, Leyte, Luzon, Tokyo Bay, etc. They were not very pleasant visits. Just long enough for the Big “E” to send its fledgling fighter-bombers to shake up the Japanese occupiers, sending them a message that we are on the way. Although he was below deck, working as a 3rd class electrician, he was subject to every battle action (20 in all), which put him in harms way. This included being subjected to kamikaze attacks, cannon fire from Japanese ships and Zero bombings. The kamikaze tactic, known as Divine Wind, was a throwback to a mythical gale that saved the Empire from invasion by Mongol hordes centuries ago.
The USS Enterprise had quite a history in the South Pacific, participating in most major engagements, both supporting Allied invasions and naval engagements. In April 1942 she escorted the USS Hornet carrier, which launched the 16 Army B-25 Mitchells in the “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo five months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. One month later the African-American hero of Pearl Harbor fame, Doris “Dorie” Miller, a mess cook, was decorated on its decks by the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester Nimitz, with the Navy Cross, for heroism during the Japanese sneak attack, “distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety.”
The Big “E” subsequently was in the Battle of Midway, her dive bombers sank a cruiser and disabled an aircraft carrier, and supported amphibious landings in the Solomon Islands. Her famous “Grim Reapers” (VF-10s) sank a carrier and forced back Japanese reinforcements at Guadalcanal.
At the end of October, with a 75-man repair crew of CBs continuous damage control repairs around the clock went on during a battle near New Caledonia, winning praise from the vice admiral William Halsey, commander of the South Pacific Force. At that time their planes sunk the first Japanese battleship, while their planes supported the 27th Infantry Division landing on Makin Atoll. A 3-plane team broke up a bomber attack with one plane, piloted by Lt. Com. Edward “Butch” O’Hare never returning. Later the main Chicago airport’s name was changed in his honor. On Truk Lagoon their planes made aviation history when 12 torpedo bombers, using night radar, sank over 200,000 tons of Japanese shipping.
After that they were busy providing air support for the infantry on Yap, Ulitha and Peleliu. During the largest carrier aircraft battle in history (Battle of the Philippine Sea), over 400 Japanese planes were shot down, from which Japanese naval aviation would never recover. The “E” was part of the units that blasted airfields in the Philippines in preparation for the landing on Leyte. Off Okinawa, the kamikaze raids increased, inflicting her last major wound when one of them destroyed the forward elevator, sending it 60 feet into the air, killing 14 and wounding 34 (see insert photo). This blow was fatal, effectively neutralizing its ability to bring planes up for launching.
After Hiroshima, she was used as a transport for freed POWs and rotated service personnel back to the states. Sadly, her end came after being decommissioned in 1947 and scrapped in 1958. The Enterprise will be remembered for the award of the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Unit Commendation, with 20 battle stars, making her the highest decorated ship.
When Frank was discharged, he went to college on the GI Bill in Denver, Colorado, went to work for the local IRS office as the chief finance officer, became a systems analyst, writing programs for computers, working for such corporation as Unisys and Computer Data Systems. At one time he wore two hats, working in Panama on logistics and finance. The time he had spent in the Navy, with many near death experiences, inculcated in him a spirit of challenges, which led to his taking up flying, with a vengeance. On top of this he sired four boys and four girls, two of whom became successful writers, one of whom wrote about the unrest in the Congo, and one son became a Navy fighter pilot. As a widower, he lives the quiet life in Leisure World®, plays bridge and sees his kids and grandkids constantly.
All photos courtesy of Paul Roberts – Resident of Leisure World® Maryland