The World War II Experiences of George Bomely

     The Hartford Hornets were a group of men from the Hartford, Connecticut area
who had enlisted in the United States Navy Aviation Cadet program in the late
summer and early fall of 1942. I was a member of that group. A patriotic fervor
gripped the country and the Hartford paper carried a picture of the group and gave
the group a lot of publicity as part of that fervor. We were called to active duty on
October 29, 1942 and were immediately sent to Pre-flight school at Chapel Hill,
North Carolina. After fourteen weeks there, during which time some of the
Hartford Hornets washed out for different reasons, we were sent to primary flight
training in various places. I was sent to Squantum, Massachusetts. This too was a
fourteen-week program. From there I was sent to Pensacola, Florida for twelve
weeks for advanced flight training. Upon completion of flight training at Pensacola
we were presented with our pilot’s wings and commissioned as Ensigns in the
Naval Reserve. Some of us newly commissioned pilots then went to Opa Locka,
Florida for transition into the F4F, Wildcat, one of the Navy’s first line fighter
aircraft. Upon completion of this training, it was off to Chicago for simulated carrier
landing school. With a few days leave prior to my next assignment, my fiancé and I
were married back home in Connecticut.
     My next assignment was to the Naval Air Station in San Diego, California.  My
new bride and I were fortunate to have first class train accommodations for the
long ride from Hartford to San Diego where we rented a room in a rooming house
where several military personnel awaited further orders. I was given orders to
proceed to Seattle, Washington to become a member of a new Composite
Squadron, VC 87, being newly activated at the Naval Air Station, Seattle.  We
trained at Arlington, Washington and then moved to Holtville, California where we
spent more time in training.
     Finally, at the end of September 1944, we transferred to our home ship the USS
Salamaua, an escort carrier and departed almost immediately for the Western
Pacific. Our last glimpse of the United States was on October 16, 1944. We
stopped briefly in Pearl Harbor, but were ordered to proceed to Leyte Island in the
Phillipines as the invasion of Leyte was on. On our way, we stopped briefly at
Eniwtok Island and arrived at Ulithi Atoll.
     One morning, shortly after arriving at Ulithi, an alert was signaled and pilots
scrambled to man their planes. Due to some kind of mix-up, the aircraft on the
catapult was launched before the engine was turning at full power and the aircraft
ended up in the ocean. Thankfully, the pilot had only a cut lip, however an enlisted
man standing on the wing of the aircraft, was killed. Our first introduction to
combat occurred shortly after this when we were performing escort duty of ships
between Kossel and Leyte. Several Japanese aircraft referred to as “Frances”
attacked a formation of our aircraft. As they turned to attempt to escape, one of
them was shot down by the guns of an LST.                                                                                                                
       November 25, 1944 was a momentous day in my life. My wife gave birth to
our first child, a boy we named Roger. It was also Thanksgiving Day and the day I
was promoted from Ensign to Lieutenant, Junior Grade. In addition we were
steaming out of the combat zone and headed for Manus in the Admiralty Islands.
On the way we crossed the equator. No one on the Salamaua could claim
membership in the Shellbacks, an honorary fraternity of sailors who have crossed
the Equator, so we all had to undergo the indignities of being made members of that
infamous group. The squadron was shore based for the next month at Ponam, and
the Salamaua was anchored nearby in Seeadler Harbor. We spent Christmas in the
hot equatorial heat of the Admiralties, but the Squadron was soon back aboard the
Salamaua and we were steaming north on the third day of the New Year. We sailed
through the Sulu Sea past Manila Bay into the Lingayen Gulf and we were in the
midst of the war for which we had trained. It seemed that we were at General
Quarters almost constantly. Our radar screens were almost never clear of enemy
aircraft. We saw quite a few Kamikazi aircraft, many of them being shot down
before they could reach the ships of the Task Force that were their targets. Several
of our pilots were successful in shooting down Japanese aircraft, even though the
squadron’s main job was direct support of the invasion force. Our planes dumped a
substantial tonnage of bombs and rockets on enemy positions
     On January 13th, shortly after 9:00 AM local time, the Salamaua was waiting her
turn to take on fuel from an oiler. Seemingly, from out of nowhere, a kamikaze
came hurtling almost straight down and crashed  through the carrier’s flight deck.
The Japanese Kamikaze and the two bombs that it carried tore deeply into the
bowels of the ship. It created a hole in the flight deck about sixteen feet by thirty
-two feet. One of the bombs went completely through the ship and out the starboard
side at the waterline, without detonating. The other bomb exploded near thetop of
the fuel tank, but thankfully did minimal damage except for buckling several
bulkheads. If the bomb had exploded just a few frames farther aft, it would have
been right in the middle of the ships bomb storage area.
      The ship was taking on water through the gaping twenty-inch hole left by the
dud bomb and the aft engine room was flooded. The starboard engine was knocked
out and steering was lost for a while.  The human cost was quite severe. Fifteen
men were killed and eighty-eight were wounded. The attack on the Salamaua was
the last successful Kamikaze attack in the Philippines. 
     The war was over for the Salamaua and the Squadron was reassigned to another
escort carrier, the USS Marcus Island. We would spend some time ashore at Pityilu
back in the Admiralties before embarking on the USS Barnes on February 11th. At
Ulithi we transferred to the Marcus Island and began a rigorous training schedule
that went on for about six weeks.
     We finally departed for Okinawa on March 21st along with other escort carriers
and a convoy of transports and support ships. From March 26th until April 5th our
job was to fly in support of the invasion of Okinawa. This included combat air
patrol, anti-submarine flights and other special jobs. One more Japanese aircraft
was shot down by two of the pilots of our squadron. Then, on the afternoon of
April 5th, while the Marcus Island was being rearmed, the 87th received some
news that for many of its members was the biggest thrill of the whole tour. We
were ordered to leave the Marcus Island in thirty minutes for the USS Wake Island.
After our goodbyes we boarded the Wake Island and headed Southeastward. We
were headed home!
     We rode the Wake Island to Guam where we spent a brief period and then
boarded the USS Sitkoh Bay for Pearl Harbor and the United States. For us the
war was over.


George, thank you sincerely for serving and thank you for sharing your Memories.

Commentary:  The following story tells us some of the experiences of a Naval
pilot, George Bomely. When I read this, I got a better idea of the massive mobilization
that our country undertook.  More than that, I was reminded of what it means to be a
Patriot.  See if you don't agree.
       Memories of WWII Pilots & Crews
Pilots Journals: Page 4
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                                        Morris Ellington’s Memory

  In 1943 I was an 18 year old army draftee. My first assignment after
  basic training was to Guadalcanal. I was assigned to an anti-aircraft
  outfit guarding the airstrip. This airstrip was used for bombing runs
  along the island chains including New Guinea. P39 Bell Aircobra pursuit
  planes were used to escort the bombers on these missions.

  In those days the air force was not a separate service but was a part of
  the army. However, even back then the aircrews were pretty much
  daredevil maverick types, unlike the spit and polish army. For example
  no pilot would wear his garrison cap without taking out the wire support
  inside the upper crown of the cap. The crumpled cap then sort of
  resembled the cap of a New York cab driver.

  The P39 was a beautiful single engine aircraft. The Allison V-14 water
  cooled engine was mounted behind the pilot, with power to the propeller
  provided by 2 crankshafts, one on each side of the pilot.

  While I still believe the P39 was one of the most beautiful planes ever
  built, it had one major problem. Designed and produced before WW2 it was
  underpowered. It simply could not compete, toe to toe, in the South
  Pacific, with the Japanese Zero. In addition the army required all
  planes be painted olive drab, a flat finish, with almost a sandpaper
  roughness. As a consequence the rough finish produced wind drag that
  reduced maximum speed by 40 mph.

When I got to Guadalcanal the P39 was being phased out in favor of the
  twin engine, twin fuselage P38 Lightning, which not only solved the P39
  problem of being underpowered, but had radar built in the nose which
  enabled it to be used at night.

  One hotshot pilot, however, wanted to keep his P39. He and his pit crew
  proceeded to sand off the olive drab paint, leaving the plane with a
  beautiful polished aluminum finish. It stood out like a diamond bracelet
  from Tiffany's among the other olive drab planes.

  This particular pilot was an ace. Painted on the side of his pretty
  plane was a scoreboard of the Jap planes he had "killed". I think there
  were about a dozen rising sun emblems on it when I last saw the plane.
  Naturally the polished aluminum finish and the emblems of the "killed"
  enemies made this plane a target for every Jap pilot in the sky.

  And sure enough, a week or two after this daredevel pilot prettied up his
  plane he left on a mission to Bougainville, New Guinea, I think, from
  which he did not return.

  A more cautious person would perhaps say that by being so flamboyant and
  conspicious this pilot surely had a death wish. I don't think so. I met
  several pilots in those days. To a man they felt invincible. They would
  readily tell you that a particular mission would be dangerous with
  casualties expected to be 50% or more. And they knew some of them would
  not be coming back. But they themselves always expected to get back;
  maybe some of the other fellows wouldn't.

  There were many brave men who served in all branches of the service in
  WW2. And some of them, like the pilot described here, never came home.
  And I sometimes wonder if we will ever see the likes of them again.

  THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE MR. ELLINGTON.  And thank you for
  this story.
COMMENTARY:  This nest story is interesting for a couple of reasons.  Not
  only does it tell us of the bravey of our pliots, but it also reminds us of the
  humility of men like Mr. Ellington who, rather than focus the spotlight on
  themselves, point to someone else to illustrate qualities they admire.  This
  reminds me once again how fortunate our country has been to have men like Mr
  Ellington and the pilot he so admired.
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