Accident Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat 66015,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 203765
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Date:Saturday 1 January 1944
Type:Silhouette image of generic HCAT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat
Owner/operator:VF-18 US Navy
Registration: 66015
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Solomon Sea -   Solomon Islands
Phase: Landing
Departure airport:USS Bunker Hill
Destination airport:USS Bunker Hill
On 25 December 1943, the US Navy Task Group 37.2 led by Rear Admiral Frederick Sherman (carrier Bunker Hill, light carrier Monterey and six destroyers) attacked Kaviend, New Ireland, just north of Rabaul. No large warship were in Kavieng’s harbor but the airmen sank only the medium-size merchantman Tenryu Maru and several barges.

Admiral Halsey wanted more attacks and ordered the two carriers back for another strike against Kavieng. This attack was launched on 1 January 1944. This time more ships were reported in Kavieng Harbor and the carriers sent out scouting planes to find out. Two Japanese cruisers and two destroyers were spotted off Kavieng. They were the light cruiser Noshiro and Oyodo and the destroyers Akikaze and Yamagumo, that left Truk on 30 December 1943 on a troop transport run.

Both carriers launched an all out attack. Thirty Japanese fighters fell on the carrier planes as they attacked the four ships. During this battle the American airmen claimed 14 victories and 12 probables while two US fighters and a bomber were lost. One of Noshiro’s turrets was put out of action temporarily and ten men were killed. Oyodo lost two men. Yamagumo was damaged. The ships arrived at Kavieng that day.

At 1030, the combat air patrol landed on the Bunker Hill to refuel but Fox 1, the F6F-3 Buno 66015 of VF-18, made a hard landing, caught a wire and the tail section pulled off forward of the Stabilizers, the engine revved up and it went over the port side. The pilot, Ensign Webb Hayes, was not recovered. A new CAP was launched. Hayes had downed two enemy planes prior to his death.

Ens. T.R. Ogden, one of Webb’s division mates, with whom he had flown on many of his missions, sent to his mother a letter describing the accident. It reads as follows:

"January 21, 1944

Dear Mrs. Hayes, This is the first chance that we have had to get any letters in the mail or I would have written sooner. I think John’s division leader, William Ambrosio, has written you telling what happened but perhaps you haven’t received his letter as yet and I feel sure you would like to know.

The tail of John’s plane pulled off when he landed aboard the carrier and the plane went out of control and over the side. The plane sank almost immediately and no one saw John get out. I circled the spot for 10 minutes, but with no results, so we assumed that he went down with the plane.

I know that these are hard cold details, Mrs. Hayes, and they are very hard for me to write, but I’m sure you would rather know the truth than be forever ignorant of the facts. I wouldn’t tell of these things if I weren’t sure of that.

It was the most unfortunate accident we have had and nothing I could say would express how we feel. I flew in the same division with John and got to know him very well. John had a wonderful personality and made many friends easily. He was well liked by everyone in the squadron.

I want to tell you too how well he was doing with his work in the squadron. He already had two planes to his credit and was considered one of our best flyers. He always did his work with a cheerfulness that was wonderful for everyone who worked with him.

I know the sorrow you bear and the only thing left that I can say is that you should be very proud of your son, as we all are. If there is anything I can do for you, do not hesitate to let me know. With my deepest feeling, Ted. Ogen."

"Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events, Volume I 1909-1945", by Norman Polmar. ISBN 1-57488-663-0

Revision history:

03-Jan-2018 21:15 Laurent Rizzotti Added
21-Apr-2024 09:50 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]

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