Ray's story

WORLD WAR 2...AS I SAW IT………………..

Ray Tyler…..


At a meeting Tuesday nite, there were 2 club attendants asking about World War 2, a seldom event as WW2 is way back in history. A great % of those who are living now have never been interested in history.

Those who served in WW2 sometimes are interested enough to put it down in words of their experiences as the war was fought all over the world. Other veterans are in a silent mode about their time. The story I am going to write consists of only what I saw and did which was considered several, 2 years of training as an Torpedo Plane Aircrew man in a plane flying off an aircraft carrier by the name of USS WASP. More about that later.

To begin, when WW2 began after the Japanese hit Hawaii and the main story of the Navy battleships were sunk or damaged. Many actual films have been shown for years. Many of our war planes were destroyed as they show to be parked in a row. Personnel deaths were in the hundreds and injured also. Our fleet of ships and planes were cut down into a serious count.

Our group of boys were walking down the street in Rogers, TX. when met by the town tailor who told us: THE JAPANESE HAVE BOMBED PEARL HARBOR. None of us knew or heard of Pearl Harbor. Some of our men and boys signed up and went to the various services…..mainly the Army. I was a Jr. in Rogers High School at age 16 and I was raring to go but my mom said not until you graduate out of high school.

I graduated in June of 1943, I went into the Navy in July of ‘43 and immediately was shipped to San Diego, CA. thru San Antonio for physicals and on to boot camp. The training was about 6 weeks and was very tough and those that failed were sent home. Most of the recruits were of teen age with ‘salty’ leaders and a number of recruits were heard sobbing in their bunks and after ‘lights out’. I have always thought that the services try to break the spirits of the new boys and install into the recruit’s spirits the Navy way. So….. On graduation from boot camp, we were to fill out a form asking the grads what school, if any, they would like to go to. I asked to go to Electric school but they thought I was more advocated for Radio & Gunnery school.

So, off to NATTIC in a small base just outside of Memphis, TN. There were female NAVY WAVES, most of them instructors. They taught Morse Code, hand codes and reading flags...most I passed but I hated and when out in the combat zones used very little except radar guiding the planes home if they had been off a long distance and we had a instrument called the IFF, to sort out our plane from maybe a Jap plane who would like to get close to our ship.

After gunnery and radio school, we were given a leave to go home for a short time. I went by train and when I popped in the front door, my mom almost fainted as she didn’t know I was coming home. We had orders to report in by at a certain time and to be in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. It was during that ride that we heard that President Roosevelt had died and VP Harry Truman was installed in the White House with little knowledge of his duties. That was the time that the atom bomb was tested in New Mexico.

When several of us reported in to Quonset, the squadron was not there. Instant communicate came later on. They thought that we were on the Island of Nantucket, so on a shuttle boat that took us there. Again...no squadron there. After a couple of days of whoop-to-do with all the pretty girls anyone would savor but most of us ‘kids’ knew little of how to savor. Word came that our squadron was quartered in New Bedford, Mass. And if we didn’t get there soon our positions would be filled with others. There, as a squadron we were a part of Air Group 86 and our planes were returned TBFs that were to be replaced with TBMs, a later model.

New Bedford was wonderful to be stuck in. Those who catered the taste of wine and stronger had a ball. The rest of us hung around the USO and there I met what I thought would be forever for me. Those were broken up as we left after several months and only letters sufficed and that soon came to an end. (See, war aint too bad, but it was to come). My mom rode a train to New Bedford for a few days. Many of our crew and pilots have long since died. (Heard of one today)

Since we were to be shipped out soon we got a few days leave and as Rogers, TX. Was too far for such little time I went home to Evansville, IN. I went home with one of my buddies. That’s the first to feel cool in our train car...both ways.

So now back in Boston we boarded a train we headed out to San Francisco, CA. We de-boarded in San Francisco, after midnite and we were bussed to a base there. After a few days we boarded a small aircraft carrier, and headed off for the Hawaiian Island of Maui...for more flying since our carrier was delayed due to construction delays. So the same ole’ stuff. We got a good view flying of most of the islands. Then a mid-sized carrier came and got us, after about 5 days, we reached the island of Enewok in the Caroline’s group, and far deep into the Pacific.

At 2 a.m. in the morning we loaded on our aircraft carrier...USS WASP and by day break we were headed north and cold weather. Within 2 or 3 days, we got our first taste of war...we had been hearing close booms of guns but not close to us. To break us in, we bombed Jap buildings and run ways. Other planes with us went to other targets. We got back to the WASP for the night as big things were on the menu.

Our man that tells us of the target, it was told that we were to hit the Japanese ships anchored in Kure Harbor. We had come close to Japan in our desires to hit more and more targets. We were told this could be the most important strike of the war thus far in. Our squadron was divided in 2 strikes. Ours was called the Port group-(Port is left and Starboard is right side). But for some reason the Port was called back and Starboard was to fly the first sortie. We were all in the air by 7 a.m. and on the way to Kure Harbor where many ships were anchored. Our leader Skipper was a veteran of many drops and led us up to about 16,000 feet over the harbor and got the sun to our back to as the ground ack ack, AA would be partially blinded. Also, we were busy throwing Window (scraps in small packs of tiny foil out of our hole in the door to foil the big guns directed by radar.) As the Skipper sees the AA was on our level so he tips the lanes downward and does that all the way until its time to drop our bombs. We pulled our planes out of dive at somewhere between 500 and 1,000 feet. I had little time to look out my windows but not enough to see where our bombs went. It was said that hundreds of our planes went in and out all day and with some planes hit and crashed into the harbor. This days work made the Japs Navy almost ruined as a major weapon.

But...while we were hitting them, a Jap 500 # bomb hit the Wasp and it went through the flight deck, thru the hanger deck, thru the crews deck, (where I bunked and ruined all of my clothing), went into the mess hall where crews were having breakfast and exploded in the laundry. Killed was 102 and injured was about 200. A pilot lost a leg in the shrapnel thru out the holes. In what we (our pilots and crew) called “Ready Room” right under the Flight Deck...another killed in the pilot’s Ready Room.

I had loaned my steel helmet before we took off, he was found dead...smothered in an aisle and dead. He was a nice kid from Dallas but was one of the dead put into the ocean. Our ship, WASP, retired back to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and sent to Bremerton, WA. for repairs. Our Air Group left the ship and about 5,000 repaired the ship...the Group gave libro leaves to go home. I think for 3 weeks. Some of our crews did not return to the ship...was jailed and new men came aboard.

I will skip now to when we returned to the ship in San Diego and soon went back to sea, and on the way back out to the far reaches of the Pacific. We flew again and again, hit Kure Harbor and this time the plane that was diving behind us was hit with AA and crashed into the harbor. I think that’s the only plane to be hit from our Group and lost.

Soon...the atom bomb told the Japs it was time to quit and go to the house, I may have a few items out of place but did my best to “see what I saw”, considering our seat in the plane put me and other crewmen in what we called a “bilge”. I realize that millions of troops hit the beaches with thousands killed...many planes were hit and planes and crew lost forever. END