Binning and Lodato did 900-mile patrols,
January 18, 1945
Weller and Pettes flew 1,000-mile patrols, with
Pettes making close visual contact with Iwo Jima.
Luehman went out also, but had to return one plane
for a gas leak, then another for an oil leak,
before getting a solid plane and took it on a
patrol that took it past Chichi Jima.
January 19, 1945
On a regular 1,000-mile NW sector patrol, Keiser
dropped out of the cloud cover to investigate a
radar target and saw that they were over a
previously unknown Japanese position on Oagari
Daito. Startled, they left quickly and returned to
base low on fuel, with only 20 minutes' worth left
in the tanks. Montgomery was also on patrol and as
well as Keiser sighted a submarine. Montgomery was
able to make a positive ID and start a run on the
sub but it slipped away. It is believed that this
sub was on its way to Ulithi with kamikazi
torpedoes, based on Japanese war records.
January 23, 1945
On 1,000-mile patrol going past Haha Jima, Chichi
Jima, and Muko Jima, Binning sighted what he
estimated as a Sugar Charlie Sugar 100-ton Japanese
freighter, which they strafed and showered with
cluster bombs. The damaged ship apparently did not
sink. On the return trip, they strafed a motor
launch and set it on fire. (Note: I will add a
glossary for the ship classifications soon.)
January 24, 1945
Start of Fleet Coverage
Lloyd and Keiser flew the first of fleet coverage
patrols in preparation for the invasion of Iwo
Jima. During fleet coverage patrols, VPB-118 planes
would report to the fleet Air Control Officer to be
assigned patrols using visual inspection and radar
to look for enemy ships or surfaced submarines.
Patrols were frequently at night and lasted about
twelve hours. However, since the round trip from
Tinian was about eight hours, the patrols usually
lasted about four hours. Other squadrons
participated in these patrols to give as close to
round-the-clock coverage as possible.
During these fleet coverage patrols, Dodson,
Weller, and Pettes flew 1,000-mile patrols beyond
the fleet. No enemy was encountered. During this
time the Task Force fleet shelled and bombed
targets on Iwo Jima to soften up Japanese defenses
before the coming landing.
January 29, 1945
VPB-118 has been flying four patrols per day, and
all crews have been out on patrols. There have been
no enemy ships sighted. Navy Task Force raids are
about two weeks away, with the invasion of Iwo Jima
to take place about three weeks in the future.
January 30, 1945
The Fifth Fleet, commanded by Admiral Spruance,
took over operations from the Fifth Fleet,
commanded by Admiral "Bull" Halsey. Spruance was
considered more conservative by VPB-118 personnel;
Halsey's leadership style was appreciated for its
recognition of acheivements by fleet crews.
February 1, 1945
A few miles NE of Iwo Jima Finley crew intercepts
1200-ton Fox Tare Dog. They broke off attack
because of "accurate moderate to intense AA fire."
Although no bombs were used, the crew strafed the
ship, starting fires on the stern and causing an
explosion amidships. After four minutes, there was
a second explosion on the aft of the ship. Despite
calling for help, none arrive after 40 to 50
minutes. Degolia was out and responded, but was
intecepted by a Japanese night figher which succeed
in diverting his plane. The Fox Tare Dog was left
dead in the water, outcome unknown.
In retrospect, VPB-118 crews had not yet become
accustomed to the capabilities of their planes and
crews. The authors of the VPB-118 book note that only
weeks later, the Privateers would have dominated in
First Week of February, 1945
Since PB4Y-2 Privateer patrol bombers were unfamiliar
aircraft, Weller and Pettes flew a "recognition flight"
patrol past the ships of the fleet on 4 February. Lt.
Commander Farwell did another on the 12th. The profile
of the PB4Y-2 bore somewhat of a resemblence to that of
a Japanese "Betty" 2-engine bomber, so concern about
"friendly fire" was a real concern. Bettys were fairly
common, which added to the problem.
On 5 February, the Leuhman crew was about 25 miles north of
Iwo Jima, headed outbound on a sector patrol, when they were
attacked by two Zeroes (Zekes) which were by then based on
island airstrips, since there were no operational carriers
at that time. One Zero attempted to hit the Privateer with a
phosphorous bomb, but it missed. Then they made runs on the
PB4Y-2 from in front and broadside, firing 20mm cannons.
However, both Zeroes fired from "extreme range" and broke off
their runs as soon as the gunners on the PBY4-2 fired their
.50 cal guns. After that, the Zeroes ended their attack and
flew away, with one plane smoking.
On 7 February Degolia was on a patrol passing five miles east
of Iwo Jima, with Hollywood actor Leif Ericson onboard.
Ericson had enlisted for the war effort and was serving as
a war photographer. While Ericson was photographing several
small ships near Iwo Jima two Zeroes took off from #2 runway
and came after the Degolia plane. One attacked from 5 o'clock
but broke off when gunner Brooks fired a burst back. The other
Zero flew alongside from 600 yards out then came around and started
a run from 1 o'clock but was dissuaded by gunner Ransom in the
forward top turret. Another phosphorous bomb was dropped, but
apart from a little nervousness on the part of the crew, no
damage was done to the Privateer. By this time the Japanese
fighters were starting to be seen by VPB-118 crews as cautious
and their phosphorous bombs as dramatic but ineffective. In
fact, no damage was ever done to a VPB-118 plane by a phosphorous