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Tom Cleaver
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Top Gun 1945 (UPDATED)

May 9, 2022 · in Photo Collections · · 10 · 1.2K

Lynn Ritger just spent the last three days playing "Squirrel!" in the digital archives of undesignated film footage at NARA and found some gems.

Lynn is a solid historian, but there are times he is seriously "bent." He took the footage he found and did this:

Top Gun 1945
Be sure to expand to full screen!

Here's the original footage, taken aboard Hornet on April 12, 1945, the day of the first "Kikusui," the massed Kamikaze attacks. The Hellcats are from VF-17.

One of the 20-year old kids landing at last light here is my old friend the late Bill Hardy. That day, he entered his first and only air combat, when he and his wingman were in a hurry to get home to Hornet because they had never landed at night and it was getting close, when they got a call from the FDO on one of two radar picket destroyers that had been attacked all day and were under a final attack they felt would be final (it was, for one). "As much as we didn't want to, we were the only ones around, so we got stuck with the duty," as Bill put it. They arrived over the ships and in "two of the four scariest minutes of my life" Bill shot down five D4Y "Judy" kamikazes and his wingman shot down three. "We then skedaddled and I had my two scariest minutes in the pattern, making my first night carrier landing."

Oops! He did it again! · on youtube
Reader reactions:
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10 responses

  1. Tom, @tcinla
    This reminds me of a pilot who flew Hellcats with VF-16 on the Lexington. He had to land on another carrier at night after returning from the Marianna's Turkey Shoot. His name was Arthur "Payne" Whiteway, and I built a Hellcat #13 which he said he was "assigned" to. But he also told me that they flew whatever was available at the time, so the assignment was only on paper.

    This is a great video clip. Thanks

  2. Yeah, the only guy who wasn't a CAG who ever flew "his" airplane in an "event" was Spider Webb from VF-2 when he shot down 7 Vals over Guam (maybe 9 but credited with 7) and he was in #32, "His" Hellcat when he did it.

  3. The sunset deck landing shots are spectacular. So atmospheric.
    And wonderbread sandwiches to boot (some things haven't changed since '44).

  4. Great video, Tom @tcinla.
    Those sunset landings are indeed very spectacular.

  5. Impressive video, Tom!

  6. This footage is amazing. Good synch up with the music and mirroring the WW2 footage with the songs. One thing I noticed is that the Shooter's job hasn't changed much in nearly 80 years.

  7. Thanks, Tom and Lynn.
    Videos very special and with the music causes a bit of emotion in this old man. How blessed we oldsters are to have had so many, so very young, going to battle to save the USA.

  8. Great video! While technology and the hardware has changed the flight deck dance is about the same.

  9. Here's a photo of Lynn, who really is, like Tom, incredibly knowledgeable in aviation history. Here he's is a re-enactor as a USAAF pilot during a show at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

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