How two USS Enterprise SBD Dauntless planes sank the I-70 submarine, the first large Japanese combat ship sunk in WWII

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The war had begun and the Enterprise had drawn its first blood in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

By the time the USS Enterprise CV-6 (The Big E) returned to Pearl Harbor on the evening of December 8, 1941, the entire US strategic situation in the Pacific was in ruins. The Pacific Fleet’s battle line was all but wiped out, while Oahu, the US military’s hub in the Pacific, saw the majority of its air power wiped out. Further west across the international date line, Wake Island lost 8 of 12 Enterprise Wildcats which had just delivered to Japanese naval bombers based ashore from the Japanese-occupied Marshall Islands. US forces in the Philippines had already lost half of their bomber strength and a third of their fighters. For all intents and purposes, the American war effort was like a boxer entering a ring, entering and expecting a fight, but receiving a punch right before the bell rang.

On board the Enterprise, Vice Admiral Halsey’s anger at what had been done to his navy simmered like a pressure cooker, turning into a deep and lasting hatred for the Japanese that would simmer for the rest of his life. Halsey represented the US Navy’s spirit of Revenge, a desire to eliminate those responsible, a hatred deep within him. Halsey had lost friends, classmates, and men he had trained, all to an attack that he could do nothing to stop. He had also suffered casualties to his Enterprise Air Group, his boys, to both enemy and friendly fire. Finally, he would have been aware of the great personal cost suffered by his Naval Academy classmate, Admiral Kimmel, whom he had known for almost half a century.

Halsey, down but still looking a lot like the fighting admiral he was.

Staying just long enough to pick up extra supplies, calling in a freehand drill, the Enterprise was able to restock within 7 hours and hit the road before dawn. From now on, the Enterprise would act as the guardian of the Hawaiian Islands, once again patrolling as a mobile air base, dispatching reconnaissance planes to all quadrants armed and ready for war. Those who outfitted Enterprise planes were equally spoiled for a fight, they had lost other airmen, and many had heard the last astonished transmissions from their fellow fliers as they were shot down as they approached. Oahu at dawn on December 7th. Halsey’s anger channeled the fury of everyone in her task force, and over time that would be something that permeated the entire war effort.

So when two SBD Dauntless planes flown by the VS-6 pilots spotted the Japanese submarine I-70 on the surface, there was no doubt what would be done. The submarine was an obvious threat, as evidenced by the loss of HMS Courageous in similar circumstances in 1939, and the events of the remainder of 1942 would show it thereafter.

Participating in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the I-70 was the first large Japanese combat ship sunk during World War II.

How two USS Enterprise SBD Dauntless planes sank the I-70 submarine, the first large Japanese combat ship sunk in WWII
The Japanese submarine I-65, a twin submarine of the I-70, sank by the Enterprise.

According to the Battleship Cove Facebook page, the I-70 was part of a group of submarines sent to patrol the coast of the Hawaiian Islands during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. That day, it didn. did not answer a radio call. . The last radio received from the submarine was dated December 9, 1941, when he reported seeing the USS Enterprise near Naval Base Pearl Harbor.

On December 10, 1941, he was sighted by a Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless aircraft from the VS-6 after 6:00 a.m. The plane was in a near miss with a 1000 pound bomb that damaged its hull and prevented it from diving. Later that day, another VS-6 SBD saw the damaged submarine. Although the submarine attempted to maneuver and was even able to fire its 13mm deck machine gun, the SBD was able to climb to 5,000 feet and hit the ship in the middle of the ship with a bomb, detonating several gunners by above board. The submarine stopped and then disappeared underwater approximately 45 seconds later.

The war had begun and the Enterprise had drawn its first blood in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The famous BIG E strikes back first …

Be sure to check out the William Cobb Pensacola Aerospace Museum Facebook page for awesome aviation photos and stories.

Photo credit: US Navy

How two USS Enterprise SBD Dauntless planes sank the I-70 submarine, the first large Japanese combat ship sunk in WWII
An often shown, but still historical, photo of Scouting Six SBDs on the Enterprise immediately before the war in October 1941.


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