[WWII] US Navy Air Action Report on Attacks on the Lipa and Batangas Airfields in November 1944 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore [WWII] US Navy Air Action Report on Attacks on the Lipa and Batangas Airfields in November 1944 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

[WWII] US Navy Air Action Report on Attacks on the Lipa and Batangas Airfields in November 1944

In an earlier post, Batangas History, Culture and Folklore featured details of air operations undertaken by United States Navy planes flying off the USS Hancock on the Japanese-held airfields at Batangas Town, Lipa and Malvar. These planes, belonging to the squadron called VF-71, took off from the Hancock at 12:30 in the afternoon of the 19th of November 1944.

Much earlier that same date, this time taking off from the carrier USS Cabot, a larger force made up of 25 aircraft belonging to squadrons VF-29 and VT-292 (also conducted operations on the Batangas (Town) and Lipa Airfields. The two squadrons took off from the Cabot at 6:40 in the morning.

Below are the full contents of the now-declassified Air Action Report1 filed presumably by the squadron leaders after the operations

Hellcat fighter
Grumman Hellcat fighters assaulted Lipa and Batangas Airfields in November 1944.  Image credit:  United States National Archives.

AIRCRAFT ACTION REPORT

At 0640, 19 November 1944, the U.S.S. Cabot launched 9 TBM-1Cs4 and 8 F6Fs5 of Air Group TWENTY-NINE for a strike against West Lipa and Batangas Airfields, Luzon. The fighters were loaded with 500 pound instantaneous fused general purpose bombs each, and six of the torpedo planes carried ten 100 pound instantaneous fused general purpose bombs apiece. Each of the remaining three TBMs carried one 2000 pound general purpose bomb with .025 second delay fuses.

After rendezvous and en route to the target, the group climbed through eight-tenths broken clouds extending from 1,500 feet to 9,000 feet. Approaching Lipa Field at 11,500 feet and 14,000 feet, the torpedo planes and fighters found the targets unobscured by clouds.

Lieut. Eder, directing the attack, had established contact with eight planes of Fighting Squadron TWENTY-NINE which had been engaged in a fighter sweep against Nichols and Nielsen Fields, and ordered them to provide cover over West Lipa at 15,000 feet. Then, Lieut. Eder led his division, Ens. Richard L. Bertelson, Ens. Lyle E. Eastling, and Ens. Bobby D. Combs in a coordinated bombing and strafing attack with the torpedo planes against about forty planes parked in revetments and in the wooded area west of W. Lipa Strip. Forty to sixty degree dives were made from a northerly direction and bombs were released from an altitude of 4,000 feet to 2,500 feet with the planes pulling out about 1,500 feet. One 500 pound bomb hit in a coconut covered revetment to the west of the runway was observed, and fire and heavy black smoke obscured the immediate area. This fire was verified by a photographic run made during the attack. The other three fighter bombs struck close to reverted planes in this area with unobserved results.

The six torpedo planes dropped one-half their loads in the dispersal areas6; two twin engine planes were seen to burn for a considerable time in two different revetments, and many small fires were started. The first fighter division wheeled back over the field and strafed individually reverted planes as the sixth TBM dropped its load, and the strafing immediately preceded the attack by the section of TBMs loaded with 2,000 pound bombs. The latter dove from south, parallel with the runway. At about 5,000 feet altitude, the starboard wing of the lead plane piloted by Lieutenant J. H. Ballantine Jr. broke off. The plane immediately went into a spin, crashed on the runway and burst into flames. The bomb was not seen to explode. No men were observed to have escaped, and all are believed dead. It is believed that this accident was due to structural failure, as AA was very meager and of light caliber, and there was no airborne opposition. Lt(jg) Speidel, following, scored a direct hit in the center of the runway. He released from about 4,000 feet, indicating 300 knots. Ens. Maghan, in the third plane, was unable to release his bomb and continued on down and strafed gun installations at the northwest tip of the airstrip.

The second division of fighters, consisting of Lieut. Pleas E. Greenlee, Ens. James J. Gilzean, Lieut. Glenn E. Ellstrom, and Ens. Frank Troup, made a glide bombing attack on the heels of the last TBMs. Lieut. Greenlee’s bomb did not release, but the rest of the division dropped at 2,500 feet toward the palm-concealed revetments at the west side of the runway. Lieut. Ellstrom’s bomb cratered a cement taxi-way running through the revetment area, the the effect of the other two bombs was not observed.

Lieut. Eder’s division followed the second fighter division in a strafing run directed against planes in the dispersal area to the west of the runway. One probable Betty7 and three other twin-engine planes were damaged on these runs.

As the strike group rendezvoused, one of the two divisions of Hellcats, which had covered this bombing, then came in on the target. Lieut. Fecke, who had not dropped his bomb during the sweep to the Nichols Field area, nosed over from 10,000 feet, aimed at reverted planes on the west side of the runway, and released at 2,500 feet, with unobserved results. Ens. Williams, Lt(jg) Sonner, and Ens. Buchanan strafed planes in this reverted area, damaging one single engine and two twin engine planes.

The second division consisting of Lieut. Uncas Fretwell, Ens. Melvin Cozzens, Ens. Bernard Dunn, and Ens. William turner was employed as a photographic division, and Ens. Dunn made a photographic run over West Lipa for damage assessment purposes. Ens. Dunn’s run was made at 8,900 feet on a heading of 220º magnetic. After this run, the division rendezvoused at 10,000 feet, and Lieut. Fretwell led it in a strafing run, firing from 5,000 feet to 1,500 feet at planes near the runway. Ens. Dunn hit and damaged a Sally8 on a taxi-way off the SE end of the runway, and Ens. Cozzens and Ens. Turner damaged a twin-engine plane in revetments south of the field. Lieut. Fretwell strafed four planes in a row, with unobserved results.

After rendezvousing, the Torpedo Planes proceeded toward Batangas Airfield, escorted by sixteen Hellcats. They climbed to 9,000 feet, and were instructed to circle the field while Lieut. Eder’s division made a reconnaissance strafing attack. Three dummy planes and one previously damaged plane were observed at the southeast end of the runway on the first pass, made from north to south and, as the Hellcats pulled up, an apparently undamaged silver Zeke9 was seen in the same area. A second strafing attack was made from northeast to southwest, with Lieut. Eder scoring hits on the Zeke which, however, failed to burn. Ens. Eastling, on this run, strafed an emplacement on the southeast side of the runway without being able to observe any activity therein. Then, Lieut. Greenlee dove from 8,000 feet onto the planes at the SE end of the runway and dropped his bomb from 2,500 feet, between two planes at the SE end of the runway, destroying both. During this attack, the rest of his division strafed, scoring hits on two planes in the area; one of these, appearing to be a Val10, was damaged by Lt. Ellstrom. On two more strafing runs from northwest to southeast low over the field, two small buildings and a possible gun emplacement at the south side of the runway were strafed.

Lieut. Fecke’s division made one strafing run at Batangas Airfield, with Lieut. Fecke damaging one single engine plane plane at the southeast end of the runway, and Ens. Williams scoring hits on the silver Zeke previously damaged by Lieut. Eder.

Ens. Dunn, with the remainder of Lieut. Fretwell’s division flying protective cover, made a photographic run at 8,750 feet, on a heading of 020º magnetic, to facilitate assessment of the damage. These photographs were the first known to have been taken of the field but proved to be insufficiently clear to make possible an adequate survey of damage.

As targets at Batangas Field did not appear to warrant bombing by the TBMs, Lieut. Eder instructed them to return to West Lipa Airfield where he led a coordinated attack, with eight fighters approaching from the north and strafing planes in the dispersal area, just before the bombers came in. On this run, Ens. Eastling damaged a Kate11 in a revetment southeast of the runway. The lead division made two more strafing runs on planes in this area, but it could not be ascertained whether the planes being strafed had been previously damaged or not.

The second attack by the torpedo planes on West Lipa was a strafing and bombing run made from northwest to southeast. The glide approaches were commenced at 7,000 feet, indicating 160 knots; releases were begun at 4,000 feet altitude indicating about 290 knots; and pull-outs were commenced at around 2,000 feet. Ens. Maghan dropped his 2,000 pound bomb, scoring a hit just off the west side of the runway near the center of its length. As in the first attack, results of the individual drops were not possible to determine due to dust and smoke and the volume of drops made made at the same time. It appeared, however, that the dispersal areas of this field were well covered as a result of these two runs.

Meanwhile, Ens. Dunn made a second photographic run over Lipa Airfield, flying at 8,600 feet on course 210º magnetic. A strafing run was then made by Lieut. Fretwell’s division, directed against planes in the revetment area. One single engine plane, a possible Kate, was damaged by Ens. Gozzens on this run and one single engine plane was damaged by Ens. Turner.

Following these attacks, rendezvous was made, and the formation set out for base. En route, both East Lipa and Lucena Airfields were reconnoitered, but no worthwhile targets were noted. All six Hellcats then covered the bombers in the return to the U.S.S. Cabot.

No aerial opposition was encountered by the strike group at any time. No anti-aircraft fire was observed at Batangas, East Lipa, or Lucena Airfields. At West Lipa, the anti-aircraft fire was meager and of light caliber. Some firing was observed from the turrets of planes on the ground. CAFJG(600) window cut to 28¼ inch lengths were distributed by the torpedo planes during their approaches but there was no indication that the enemy was using any radar controlled guns.

Notes and references:
1 VF is an acronym for a United States Navy fighter plane squadron.
2 VT is an acronym for a United States torpedo plane squadron.
3 “Air Action Report: Mission Strike Against Lipa and Batangas A/F,” November 1944, online at the United States National Archives.
4 TBM-1C was the Grumman-manufactured torpedo-bomber aircraft in World War II.
5 The F6F was the Grumman-manufactured “Hellcat” carrier-based fighter aircraft in World War II.
6 A dispersal area being an area near a runway where planes are parked dispersed from each other as a protection against aerial attacks.
7 The “Betty” was the Mitsubishi-manufactured twin-engine land-based bomber.
8 The “Sally” was the Mitsubishi-manufactured Ki-21 heavy bomber.
9 The “Zeke” was the Mitsubishi-manufactured A6M2 carrier-based fighter plane, otherwise known as the “Zero.”
10 The “Val” was the Aichi-manufactured D3A carrier-based bomber.
11 The “Kate” was the Nakajima-manufactured normally carrier-based torpedo-bomber.
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