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david leigh-smith
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On This Day…January 21st

January 21, 2019 · in Uncategorized · · 11 · 1.7K

In the morning of 21 Jan 1945, Ticonderoga (CV-14) aircraft, along with others of Task Force 38, attacked airbases at Formosa in the South China Sea. During these raids, the Ticonderoga was hit twice by kamikaze pilots. Despite the heroic efforts of the damage team and some inspired leadership, the attacks left 144 dead on the ‘Big T’.

Edgar Newlin was part of the aircraft maintenance crew on the USS Ticonderoga and he recalled;

“As I remember, it was a nice calm day, which influenced a later decision. I was a plane captain. For anyone that doesn’t know what that is. I took care of an airplane, a fighter to be exact. I was suppose to keep it fueled, tied down, cleaned etc. We were suppose to stay with the plane anytime we were at flight quarters if it wasn’t tied down.

At this time we were at flight quarters, but for some reason the lunch had been delayed so my plane was just sitting there. I would have been the third plane launched, one on each catapult, and then mine.

It was past noon and we hadn’t had chow when another plane captain came along and talked me into going. Remember, we were not suppose to leave our plane in that condition, but we did and it probably saved my life. We had just reached the mess hall when the fantail 40s started firing, maybe three or four rounds. Then they started General Quarters, maybe two or three boings, when a suicide plane hit and blew up on the hangar deck. It sounded like a bucket with rocks in it;more of a rattle than an explosion.

I dropped my tray and started back up the flight deck, but by then smoke was everywhere and some of the hatches had been closed so I had an awful time getting back to my battle station, which was my plane, and when I got there it was gone! Thats was where the jap had hit. He must have aimed for my plane; it went through the flight deck and blew up on the hangar deck. That was what I heard when I was in the mess hall.

I didn’t have a battle station so I just wandered around kind of in a daze. I had no idea what to do. I tried to help others, but I seemed to be in the road. I don’t know how much later it was, it seemed like hours but was probably not over 30 minutes, when I found myself standing on the flight deck, forward of the five-inch guns, watching a second Jap plane heading straight for the island. I just stood there watching because I was sure he would go down. I could see the tracer shells, going through the plane and the pilot.

It soon became clear that he was going to hit us. About then I realized where I was standing. I looked around;all I could do was jump down to the catwalk and head for the port side under the flight deck. When I was about halfway across I heard the plane hit the island.

From then on I remembered only flashes of what happened. I remember wandering around, trying to find where I was needed but I don’t recall doing anything specific. I still feel the hopeless feeling of not being able to do anything for my friends. I don’t remember many names – Selbe walking around holding a big wad of cotton on what was left of his arm. blown off just above his elbow. He died about 2:00 the next morning – shock they said. There was a little boy named Menard, blown in half. He always wore his dog tags on his belt loop, so we could identify him from that. I don’t think he was much over fifteen at the time.

I remember they used our compartment as part of Sick Bay that night so we slept wherever we could. The next day the hospital ship took the wounded and we had burials at sea all afternoon. I have never had any doubt that I was saved by divine intervention. If I had been where I was supposed to be, I would surely have been killed. If we started two minutes later we would have been caught on the hangar deck where all the casualties of the first plne were. If we had gone sooner we might have been back to my plaane and I would have been killed then”.

In a bad day for Task Force 38, a TBM Avenger loosed her two 500lb bombs just after landing, killing 62 and seriously injuring many more on the USS Hancock (CV-19), bellow...

Pilots of 485 Squadron (Gravesend, England), 21st January 1943.

A British soldier with a (very) young German prisoner sitting on the bonnet of a Jeep, Italy - 21st January, 1944.

The British ‘Centurian’ tank first saw active duty today, 21st January, 1952 in the Korean War.

Demonstrating the range of dangers these crews faced, two B-17G bombers of the 381st Bomber Group collide in poor visibility (seen in the image) after returning from a raid over Aschaffenburg - 21st January 1945.

A lovely colorised photo of a whitewashed M10 ‘tank destroyer’ of 773rd Tank Battalion in Benonchamps (Bastogne), 21st January, 1945. This tank was commanded by Sgt. Jacob Kretchik and credited with destroying five German tanks during the Battle of the Bulge.

US Marines take cover at the lengthy Khe Sahn siege in Vietnam January 21st.

Reader reactions:
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11 responses

  1. Great story about the Task Force & the "Big T." Thanks, David.

  2. David, more interesting stuff, the TBM that blew its self up, is that the USS Hancock incident ?

  3. You are welcome, Jeff. These first hand records are gold.

  4. Great stories and pics again David, this Khe Sanh image is telling...

  5. Very nice David, the Ticonderoga piece particularly!

  6. Hi Terry. Yes, it was aboard the Hancock. I forgot to annotate that and have now edited the piece. Thanks!


  7. "The Tillman Rule" strikes again ("You find your best material after the book is published" - Barrett Tillman). That Ticonderoga story would have been perfect in "Tidal Wave." Also those photos.

    Great material today, David. Thanks!

  8. Thanks a million. Appreciate the support, Tom.

  9. Just excellent stuff, David.

  10. Yes, excellent, David, Khe Sahn, I grew up during that war, didn't understand it then, still hard to understand it.What we put those guys through...

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