History Of Pacific Avaition

I was fighter director officer (FDO) in charge of the Combat Information Center (CIC) on the day McCampbell won
the Congressional Medal. His memory as recounted in this book (”Use Your Best Judgment”) and mine differ on
what happened on that particular day. As I recall that day, we had launched early attacks of fighters and bombers
against the Japanese mainland when our task forces came under severe attack from large Japanese raids. We were
under such attack that for the first time during the war, so far as I know, I sent out the distress call of “Mayday.” This
was a prearranged signal to indicate that the base was under severe attack and that all planes should abort their
missions and return to base immediately. Then Commander McCampbell had been leading fighter cover for a raid
over Japan. He immediately returned to base, where he was quickly rearmed and refueled to take off and hopefully
intercept a large raid coming in from the northwest. From the size of the blip on the radar scope, that raid appeared to
include 75 or more Japanese planes. Dogfights were occurring all over the sky, guns were firing, and planes were
falling. American pilots were ditching, being picked up by destroyers; pandemonium reigned. We launched
McCampbell and his wingman and violated all Navy doctrine by sending out seven planes instead of eight. Normally
nothing less than two four-plane divisions would be launched, but we could only put together seven aircraft (one fourplane
division and one nonstandard three-plane division) in the hopes of intercepting a raid 10 times that size. I was
controlling McCampbell on that day.
As soon as we launched the seven planes, they rendezvoused and were given the heading to intercept the oncoming
Japanese aircraft. When they finally spotted the huge raid of Japanese torpedo planes and bombers with a high cover
of Zero fighters, McCampbell confirmed the size of the raid and asked for reinforcements. I said, “There are none
available.” He then said, “We are incredibly outnumbered; what shall we do?” After I responded, “Use your own
judgment,” he and his wingman decided to take the Zero fighter cover by themselves, leaving the other five planes to
work on the Japanese bomber and torpedo planes below them. They actually pursued the Japanese planes back to the
mainland and were shooting them down almost in the landing pattern. As McCampbell landed back aboard ship and
his tailhook caught the restraining wire, his engine died, totally out of gas. He had five rounds of ammunition left in
his guns. He had destroyed nine Japanese aircraft, two more probables, and his wingman had got six. An
unbelievable day!

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