posted on February 07, 2012 10:57
Life on Able Sugar Peter (Anti-Submarine Patrol)
(By LT. Joseph N. "Jobbo" Polski, TBF/TBM pilot with VC-66 (T-1 and T-2).
As published in the VC-66 (T-2) Cruise Book. Thanks to Mrs. Millie Ward-Spaner.)
Catapulting isn't bad, except that your tonsils are driven down your esophagus, and the radioman loses a vertebra for lack of a back rest, and every third day it's done in the dark with a faint red glow for a horizon, unless it's hazy; then water and sky merge into continuous shadow. But fly always. You stagger off the world's shortest operational runway at two knots above stalling speed, thinking of depth charges and praying to God you'd never know.
Then for three hours you look. You investigate two million white caps glistening like a periscope. Month after month you examine thousands of cloud shadows and track down endless destroyer wakes. Pouring over the scope, your radioman ruins his eyes, and the turret man develops blisters sitting on hard homo. Always looking - never finding.
Except for eyestrain, cricks in the neck, and blisters, the hops aren't bad. You must expect the water out of plastic cnateens to taste like hell, and you soon get accustomed to bad generators, dropping mags, and surging propellers - that is, until you read on the blackboard, "All pilots be on the lookout for survivors of a TBF down in our operating area." You never see "Survivors rescued."
As I say, the hops aren't bad, but you can hardly suppress a sigh for the good old days when you think about crawling back aboard a built-up pocket handerchief. After a few passes you compromise high-and-the-barrier and low-and-the-ramp and you hook a wire - unless the old hook decides to bounce a while anyway. If you hadn't nosed her over you might have caught number six wire. Or you might have gone over the barrier. Take your choice.
But things rock along serenely for a few months until you do sight a sub. Hallelujah! You nose her over, pick him up in your sights, and give him the whole load. Your depth charge lands twenty feet short, jars the skipper out of his bunk, and breaks his best set of china. Undaunted, he turns tail and ducks out of sight, Tokyo-bound. The second, third, and fourth depth charges would have been direct hits and he would have been a dead duck. Weeping tears that pull your heart out, you make your report "Sighted sub, attacked, damage undetermined."
You missed with the first bomb because the boys back home hadn't had time to keep practice bombs on the empty racks. You had only one depth charge because it had been too much trouble to rig delay fuses on 500 lb. bombs after depth charges ran out.
But what the hell? You'll spot another one next year.