Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rescue At Truk - Part 3

Rescue At Truk
By Sgt. Larry McManus

MEANWHILE the Tang's crew had seen a TBF crash near Ollan and throw up a column of thick smoke. Following Lt. Burns' plane, the Tang cruised toward the island and hove to 4,000 yards offshore, giving Gunner White a chance to throw some more shells at Ollan. Comdr. O'Kane also called for planes as support and they blasted the island's, gun emplacements while the sub sped on to pick up the pilot of the crashed TBF, Comdr. Alfred R. Matter of Butte, Mont., and his two crewmen. Matter, who was also air-group commander, said that his plane had been hit as it made an approach to the target, Param Island, 25 minutes earlier.
"I was taking pictures through the bomb-bay windows when I felt a thud," said James J. Lenahan ARM2c of Westfleld, N. J. "When that shell hit our engine," added H. A. (Tommy) Thompson AOM2c of San Bernardino, Calif., turret gunner, "the oil covered my turret and- I thought, ‘What a pot-poor way to die.' "
After landing in the water, Comdr. Matter and Thompson had worked for several minutes to inflate the raft while Lenahan rested, one arm thrown over the fuselage just forward of the fin. , He was holding the emergency rations and chute pack in one hand. When the plane plunged toward the bottom. 250 fathoms below, Lenahan was momentarily dragged down with it. "What did I do?-'' he asked when questioned later. "I dropped the rations, of course."
Matter and his crew were hardly aboard the Tang when Lt. Burns radioed Comdr. O'Kane that three , more rafts had been sighted east of Truk. The sub started after them but was still 15 miles away when F6Fs reported sighting two other men down between Truk and Kuop. Since this was nearer, the Tang followed and picked up Lt. Harry E. Hill of Virginia, Minn., and Lt. (jg) James G. Cole of Killeen, Tex.
Hill had been in his raft overnight, while Cole had been in the water less than an hour. Cole, however, had been supported only by a Mae West and was ill from sea water he had swallowed. To pick up Cole was a ticklish job. Lt. Comdr. Murray B. Freeze, navigator of the Tang, stood in the tower watching the reefs as the sub came in slowly within 400 yards of the surf.