USS Lexington - National Archives Photo of my father
The third pilot from the left with his fist pumped is my father (deceased), Addison Ramsel English of Globe Arizona. He made a career of Navy Aviation and retired as a Captain. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in the Section above the Section with the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. He was awarded his first Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions at Tarawa and received his second Distinguished Flying Cross for bombing the Hwachon Dam in Korea.
My sister sent me this photo from the National Archives.
75. "Pilots pleased over their victory during the Marshall Islands attack,
grin across the tail of an F6F Hellcat on board the USS LEXINGTON, after
shooting down 17 out of 20 Japanese planes heading for Tarawa." Comdr.
Edward Steichen, November 1943. 80-G-470985. (ww2_75.jpg)
Here is some commentary on the Korean mission titled The Dambusters at Hwachon
. . .Ensign Robert E. Bennett, one of only three pilots who had practiced antishipping tactics, said, "We trained extensively at coordinated tactics against shipping on a previous cruise, before Korea, and we got good at it." Still, most of them had never dropped a torpedo, much less tried anything this unorthodox. In fact, Bennett recalled that he had never even seen an aerial torpedo before Hwachon. Thus, they decided to include on the strike three VC-35 pilots who had already practiced torpedo drops, Lieutenants Arthur F. Clapp, Frank Metzner and Addison R. English.
The high hills surrounding the reservoir continued to limit the approach to a two-plane section runin, while the remainder of the group circled overhead. Making the run-in over the heights surrounding the reservoir required a letdown to drop altitude without exceeding torpedo drop speed. In addition, the drop required limited water space to avoid grounding the torpedo, while still allowing sufficient time for the "fish" to arm. And the departure from the target had to be made down a narrow valley lined with antiaircraft guns. To top it all off, with just eight fish available, only a minimum error rate was acceptable.
Bennett elaborated, "Too high and the torpedo would enter the water steeply and dive. Too low and the torpedo would skip off the water. There was difficulty also in slowing down to maximum drop speed, and if the ball wasn't centered, the torpedo wouldn't run true. The torpedoes were finicky little devils."
Still, there was no other option, so early on 1 May 1951 Merrick led his second strike, consisting of eight ADs from VA-195 and three from VC-35 Det 3, backed up by eight Corsairs from VF-192 and four from VF-193. Looking ungainly with their fish slung under their bellies, the Skyraiders had nonetheless been designed with just such a mission in mind, and they performed beautifully.
Arriving over the target at 1130, the pilots were amazed to find the valley ominously quiet. Expecting the guns to riddle them at any moment, they pushed themselves over and went in, only then being greeted by the first bursts of flak. Apparently, the enemy did not expect them to return so soon and was caught by surprise. While the Corsairs went after the guns or circled, each pair of ADs flew in at wave-top level, struggling to hold their letdown to drop altitude so that they did not exceed torpedo speed.
Running the gauntlet took nerves of steel, each pilot dropping his torpedo and then climbing sharply up the great bulk of the dam as it suddenly loomed over him, waiting breathlessly during those agonizing seconds for his lightened AD to respond. During their run Clapp and English discovered the hard way that their torpedoes were faulty. Both men were stunned to watch their fish swerve at the last minute and avoid their targets completely!
Fortunately, the other six torpedoes ran true, slipping momentarily beneath the surface, but then regaining their calibration and racing on to slam into the gates. The explosions echoed off the hills and sent great waves roaring across the reservoir. The center gate was ripped apart, the second gate was torn by a 10-foot gash and one of the abutments was damaged. Circling above, the pilots watched in awe as millions of gallons of water poured through the stricken gates in huge churning columns, flooding the valley for miles.
From this single raid, the enemy was denied control of the reservoir's waters for the rest of the war. The elated pilots returned to Princeton for much needed rest. The squadron historian can perhaps be forgiven if he allowed his pride to get the best of him while listing his squadron's accomplishments. Near the bottom of a long list of targets hit, ranging from bridges to tanks and barrels of fuel, he added an unusual item: "Flood Gates: 2 Destroyed, 1 Damaged."