Dauntless

FROM "DAUNTLESS"
Three Baker Five, 24 August 1942

The first thing Rogers noticed was the flak. The cruiser was belching brownish clouds of medium caliber stuff, and tracers scarred the air in long strings of glowing light. Then the radio caught his attention. "This is Queen Bee. Syd, shift targets. I say again, shift from the cruiser to the carrier."
"It's Midway all over again," Rogers thought. He marveled at the similarity to the evening strike of 4 June. He pulled in his flaps, added throttle and eased out of his dive just as he had when Lieutenant Gallaher had called Dave Shumway off the battleship to finish the fourth carrier. "Maybe it'll always be like this--Bombing Three batting cleanup."


The high altitude pullout required additional time to regroup, but Rogers noted that Syd Bottomley had the second division well in hand. the exec brought his seven SBDs around to the heading of the little carrier and resumed the attack. Nearing the pushover point, Rogers saw the target describing
a complete circle on the water. She appeared unharmed, and he knew that her Zeros had to be up and waiting, just as Hiryu's had been. Briefly he wondered if the US Navy would ever stock enough
fighters aboard its carriers both for strike escort and task force defense. Then he nosed over from 15,000 feet.


As he settled into his dive, Rogers began tracking the carrier. "Hello there," he thought. Then he glimpsed something on deck--the briefest flicker amidships. It was not a good view
because of Burnett ahead of him. But there was only one explanation: Commander Felt, leading the attack, had got a hit. Rogers' mind began sorting priorities. There was still time to refine his dive heading, thankful for the SBD's wonderfully balanced ailerons that made last-second corrections possible. He envisioned the problem in spatial geometry--the constantly changing aspect between Bottomley's lead section and Burnett's, and both of those in relation to the turning target down there.
Rogers thought himself through the problem in the first ten seconds of the dive. He saw that Lieutenant Bottomley was taking his section down from a different angle. "Good," Rogers thought,
"it'll force the Japs to split their AA fire."


Halfway down, Rogers selected his aimpoint. "Wind's from the southeast," he remembered. "Target's turning in that direction, so adjust upwind." He jockeyed stick and rudder to place his crosshairs slightly forward of the carrier's bow. Nearing the drop point, the flak increased. Brown-black puffs magically appeared in space, silently violent. Rogers felt two or three near misses jostle his aircraft, but the Dauntless immediately returned to its trimmed-out, steady dive. He shot a glance from the crosshairs to the ball indicating yaw error. "It's pegged in the middle. This is good, this is very good..."
He thumbed the red button on his stick and felt the half ton bomb leave the aircraft.

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