Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rescue At Truk - Part 2

Rescue At Truk
By Sgt. Larry McManus

EARLY the next morning the Tang spotted a Jap sub escaping from Truk through the South Pass. The Tang dived, made an approach and came up for a quick periscope search, but the enemy sub had dived, too. because American planes were overhead. All the way back to Pearl, the Tang's crew blamed the flyers for driving away its quarry just when the American sub was closing in for the kill.
After the Jap sub had escaped, the Tang dived again and cleared away from the area for an hour at good speed. Then she surfaced and found American fighter planes overhead. The Tang followed them toward Ollan Island, expecting to find the pilot sought the night before.
Instead Comdr. O'Kane's men found one of the Kingfisher planes, piloted by Lt. (jg) John A. Burns of Wynnewood. Pa., with Aubrey J. Gill ARM2c of Compton, Calif., as his radioman. Crowded aboard the plane were Lt. (jg) Bert F. Kanze of Freehold, N. J.; Lt. John J. Dowdle Jr. of Wilmette, 111., and Robert E. Hill ARM2c of Houston, Tex.
Lt. Kanze had been piloting his F6F over Fefan Island around noon of the first day of the Truk strike when his plane was hit by antiaircraft fire. He was forced down into the lagoon, climbed into his raft and put up the sail.
"But I yanked it down in a hurry," said Kanze, "when ack-ack tried to blast me. I camouflaged the raft and myself with sail and drifted till dark; when I set sail again. I wasn't thinking about being rescued; I was scared stiff I would wash up on the Jap shores."
The wind carried Kanze away from Fefan Island, and once out of range he set sail again. Finding that he was drifting toward Ollan, .he rigged up a sea anchor to slow the raft. Then, by paddling and sailing all night, he managed to cross the reef of the lagoon at high tide, the only time it was possible to do so. At daybreak he was two miles out.
Soon after, Lt. Burns and Lt. Dowdle, who was flying the second Kingfisher, plane, spotted Kanze. While Burns patrolled above, Dowdle went down to make the rescue. His Kingfisher landed in the heavy seas, bobbed dangerously and finally -overturned as a gust of wind caught under one wing. Dowdle and Hill, his radioman, were tossed in the water alongside Kanze.
Then -Burns landed in waves five feet high and the men climbed on the wings of his plane. Fifteen minutes later he taxied up to the Tang, put the three flyers aboard and took off again with Gill, his radioman, to resume the patrol. Dowdle's overturned plane was sunk by the sub's guns.