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The personal experience and account of
Louis Vilmer, Jr.


When the second General Quarters of the morning was sounded, Pilot Shroyer, Gunner Britt and I, radioman Vilmer, were fortunate to occupy one of the two TBM Avengers that were prepared for the early morning anti-submarine hop. We had a full load of fuel and were armed with eight solid-head rockets and two 500 pound general purpose bombs with both contact and dept-charge fuses.

We were launched by catapult and as we cleared the flightdeck the first Japanese salvo landed in front of the Gambier Bay. One splash to Port and three to Starboard. We flew right between them. When we reached altitude, Skipper Huxtable was already there and gave us a hand signal to head to the Japanese Fleet on our own.

When we approached the enemy fleet, Shroyer picked a target and as we broke through the heavy overcast he fired the rockets and his 50 caliber wing guns. Britt fired the 50 caliber in the ball turret. Shroyer was unable to open the bomb bay doors with the control in the cockpit and as a result of his trying we were very low and he did not have the power to pull away quickly. We skimmed the water along side of much of the enemy battle line just a few feet from the ships. We were so low that I, as a radioman in the belly of the plane, had to look up to see the Japanese sailors on their ship’s deck.

Finally we regained power and were able to pull away and up to altitude. Shroyer informed me over the intercom that the bomb bay door control in the cockpit was not responding and asked me to try the one in the radio compartment. It worked. He told me that we would make another run and he would tell me when to open the bomb bay doors. Shroyer chose a target and made his run flying from the cruiser’s stern toward its bow. I opened the doors on his cue and when the bombs cleared he was able to close the doors with his control. I then observed the results through the bottom rear window and reported to Shroyer.

The bombs did not hit the cruiser directly. They hit just a few feet behind the stern and went off underwater – probably as dept charges. Fighter pilots following us in on the run reported that the cruiser slowed and lost steering.

At a Gambier Bay/VC10 reunion years later in Oklahoma City, Skipper Hustable and Shroyer asked me to recall the happenings of that fateful day. Hux surmised that the direction and momentum of the bombs carried them below the waterline to the most vulnerable part of the ship and that would explain why the Japanese Captain was puzzled by what appeared to be a torpedo hit when no launch by plane was observed and no US Submarines were present.





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