Fourth of July, 1944

July 1, 2017

From George Pitts’ diary:

From Frank Studenski:

July 4, 1944:  This morning at 0500 our planes were launched to bomb the bases and air strips of Iwo Jima.  At 1530 hours the Boston, Canberra, San Juan, Santa Fe, Mobile and about 15 destroyers went in to bombard the island. We fired our 8″ and 5″ guns.  We got in close to fire 5″ shells.  We launched one of our catapult planes for spotting duty over the target.  We were hitting the southern airfield where almost seventy aircrafts were lined up.  We also hit gas storage tanks.  We were hitting all our assigned targets.  Looking through the binoculars, I could see a lot of planes on the field blowing up.  There was a lot of large fires and explosions.  The smoke was thousands of feet into the air.  A ship was sighted leaving the harbor, so we immediately opened fire on her, a destroyer went in to finish her off.  One of the planes from the Santa Fe that was spotting for us was shot by three Jap fighters.  The crew was picked up by one of our submarines.  All together this day 116 Jap planes were destroyed and five ships were sunk and several damaged.  This was a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July, killing Japs.

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Battle of the Philippine Sea


The (First) Battle of the Philippine Sea (6/19 & 20/44) was a major victory for the ships of Task Force 58.  When we began the invasion of Saipan (6/15/44) – the opening round of our Marianas’ campaign, the Japanese Navy headed north and east to disrupt the landing(s) and destroy the American fleet.  Their plan was to whack the task groups from their carriers to the west, and from land based planes launched from bases on Guam.  Planes were supposed to be on the ground ready to launch, and planes were supposed to be arriving in great numbers from the Bonins (Iwo and Chichi Jima).  Unfortunately for them, we had been striking airbases relentlessly.  There weren’t any available Japanese planes to speak of. (The Boston’s group was called back from bombing Iwo Jima on June 17 at full speed to return to the Task Force.)  TF58 was forming up into a gigantic Battle Formation west of Guam, in anticipation of the arrival of the Japanese Fleet.  A fifth task group, made up of battleships and called the Battle Line, was added.  We were going to have a kick-ass ship-to-ship battle, old-school, like two man-o-wars lining up across from each other and firing their cannons.

None of that worked out as planned.  Instead, the Japanese carriers, desperate after searching for the American ships for days, finally spotted part of one of the task groups and launched all their fighters.  They were way out of range and could not strike American ships and return home (not enough gas).  Pilots were instructed to strike the Americans, then land on Guam, refuel and then strike again on their way home.  The Task Force commanders, many of them old-school Navy guys, were itching to sink some Japanese ships.  What developed instead, was wave after wave of Japanese fighter and bomber planes getting intercepted and picked off by the better-trained and more seasoned Navy pilots.  The resulting lopsided disaster came to be known as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.  We destroyed over 400 Japanese planes that day.  The Imperial Japanese Navy never recovered from the devastating loss.

. . .  The fleet refueled early in the morning of 20 June and set course for Nakagusuku Bay, Okinawa. At 1710 a reconnaissance plane reported the sighting of two enemy carriers accompanied by ten other warships, some 200 miles to the rear of the Japanese force.  Hoping for a break, at 1900 Ozawa ordered Kurita’s Second Fleet to prepare to engage in night battle.  Before that order could be carried out, however, enemy planes came sweeping down on the Mobile Fleet to score direct hits on carriers Zuikaku, Junyo, Ryuho, and Chiyoda; and carrier Hiyo, still adrift after it’s torpedoing by an enemy submarine, was sunk by aerial bombs.

Thus the Japanese Navy’s last real opportunity to destroy the enemy fleet ended in tragic defeat. With two out of three fleet carriers and one out of three light carriers lost, together with the destruction of nearly 400 carrier planes, it would be almost impossible to reconstitute the Mobile Fleet.  In contrast to Japan’s tremendous losses in this two-day naval battle, the United State’s Navy suffered damage to battleships South Dakota and Indiana, carriers Bunker Hill and Wasp, and heavy cruiser Minneapolis, and lost slightly more than 100 planes.      [Excerpted from “The End of the Imperial Japanese Navy” by Masanori Ito.]






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Vought-Sikorsky OS2U-3 Kingfisher

I came across this at the Smithsonian Aerospace Museum in Washington DC. This is the type of seaplane which saw service in WWII on the USS Boston.

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June 17, 1775


6-17-75: Bunker Hill Day.  I have just finished gobbling up Season 3 of Turn, AMC’s ambitious retelling of the Revolutionary War (seen through the eyes of “Washington’s Spies.”) If you haven’t watched this fascinating show, the action in Massachusetts (Paul Revere, the Battles at Concord and Lexington, the Battle at Bunker Hill, etc.) are in the past.  What we see is Washington fighting on a shoestring and a prayer . . .  the outcome is ALWAYS in doubt.  There is treachery everywhere.  As season 3 ends with General Benedict Arnold’s defection to the British Army for less-than-noble-reasons, we get a peek at Washington’s new and shaky alliance with France.  Without France’s help (sworn enemies of England), Washington and his rag-tag Army would not have won Our War of Independence.

Not too long ago many Americans excoriated France for not joining the “coalition” of countries willing to back our invasion of Iraq.  We seem to forget that nations act in their own best interests, and that our best interests do not always align with theirs and vice-versa.  The world, and the history of the world and its wars is complicated and nuanced.  When I think about the history of humanity, it seems that War is somehow the common thread, and that all Wars are somehow related to events in the past, even hundreds of years later.

6-17-44: The war in Europe rages on. Allied forces move on from the D-Day beaches in Normandy; paratroopers and armored units move from the hedgerows to block the German advance.  Fighting continues all across the Mediterranean.  In the Pacific, Task Force 58, engaged in strikes against the Bonin Islands and the Marianas, steam to rendezvous west of Guam.  Intelligence reports indicate the Imperial Japanese Navy is heading towards Saipan and Tinian.  The ships begin to assemble into a massive battle line, in anticipation of the impending “Battle of the Philippine Sea” (6/19/44)

6-17-72:  Watergate Day.  If you are not old enough to remember this day, I urge you to google it and read about it.

6-17-XX: Steve’s birthday.

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Nicholas Zeoli, RdM3c

Memorial Day, 2017

Nick Zeoli (l) with his brother Gene

Nicholas Zeoli is a Boston plankowner, reporting aboard on Commissioning Day (June 30, 1943).  During his service on the ship, he was promoted to RadarMan, 3rd class.  Having been part of all the action on CA-69, he mustered off the ship on 12/26/45 and headed for Home.  (Best Christmas ever, Nick?)

One of our Facebook Group members, Marty Irons, pointed out that Nick was one of the Featured Veterans this last Saturday (5/27/17) in the Fair Haven, VT Memorial Day Parade.

Picture submitted by Nick’s son, Chris Zeoli. 

Happiest Memorial Day post since we started this website.



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