The full-scale air raid on Formosa by the task force of the United States has begun in the morning of October 12, 1944. I was a 6th grader at the Showa elementary school昭和公学校. The first wave of the formations reached Karenkou花蓮港 just after we had finished our late breakfast; so it must be around 9:30 or 10:00AM. Hearing the strange engine sound, I knew immediately that they were here finally. We ran to the shelter at once. For the whole day, the air raid by the waves of Hellcats continued endlessly. Attacked by bombing and machine gun sweepings, the citizens had experienced the fears of the air raid for the first time and what they could do was nothing but to beg for the help from Buddha and kept chanting the prayer.
Around noontime, the impatient people were already hand carrying all they could and started escaping to the countryside by trains. The trains that ran between the gaps of raiding were attacked while stopping at the Keikou Station渓口駅. Many were killed and more were injured by the sweeps of the machine gun fire from the Hellcats. I was not aware of the incident neither had knowledge that my classmate, Chen陳 was in the trains until received an E-mail from other classmate recently. After the attack, Chen successfully escaped to Houlin鳳林 on foot and was saved by a stranger, so ended the unfortunate story happily.
Not knowing the attack on trains, we went to the station while the Americans had finished a day’s work and were enjoying their dinners with favorite steaks. The trains were all fully occupied and we had to climb in through the windows and standing on feet all night long to reach our destination.
We had no way of knowing then that it was the beginning of the long evacuation period that we had to bear through until the end of war, August 15, 1945. We have read many stories written by the authors who are on the victims’ side, but not too many or none at all from attackers’ side. It was a surprise when I read an article in the Air Classic magazine recently. The story was about a pilot who had participated in the campaign of attacking Taiwan. I thought it was a good idea to translate part of the story into Japanese (then to English later) for our classmates so that we can compare the different viewpoints of the participants on both sides.
“Hellcat Ace in a day”, November 2003 issue was the story describing how Charlie Mallory became an Ace in a day. When the Navy came to West Virginia University in order to recruit Aviation Cadets, just few days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Mallory volunteered at once and finished his training successfully to become a Naval Aviator in January 1943. Mallory was then sent to light carrier USS Monterey as a dive-bomber pilot. He met Gerald Ford who later became the President of the United States. Luckily, he also met Cecil Harris who was a combat veteran with a total of 23 aerial victories. “I credit most of my success as a fighter pilot to the rigorous training of Harris,” Mallory said afterward, “he made me appreciate that I was part of the team.” Later, Mallory was transferred to USS Intrepid as a fighter pilot and left Hawaii on August 16, 1944. It was on September 21 that day Mallory had destroyed 5 Japanese enemy plans while on the mission for photo taking and became an “Ace-in-a-day.”
As one of the 24 high-speed aircraft carriers, Intrepid was commissioned in 1943. She suffered from the torpedo attack the next year and just has finished the repair works at San Francisco, and carrying a full load of Grumman Hellcat F6F-5 when Mallory boarded in Hawaii in August. Intrepid was also called the “untouchable” since she recovered and joined the battle again and again after many Japanese attacks. After serving in the navy for 31 years, she finally retired. Luckily, instead of being scrapped, she was converted as the Air and Sea Museum and now greeting the spectators at New York harbor.
The Grumman fighter F6F was nicknamed the Hellcat when unveiled to the world for the first time in August 1943, with a maximum speed of 380 MPH and equipped with six 13mm cannons. Created as the direct response to the Mitsubishi built Zero-fighter, Hellcat had established the highest kill ratio of 5156/270 at the end of war.
Commanded by John McCain Sr., the grandfather of the defeated presidential candidate, the attack on Formosa continued for 3 days, starting on October 12, 1944. The allocated area for Intrepid was northern Taiwan, the targets were Shinchiku新竹 air base, and the seaplane base located in Tamsui淡水, which happened to be my hometown. I wonder where Mr. Iwamoto 岩本was when Charlie was attacking the seaplane base. I met Mr. Iwamoto in the States years later, and he claimed that he was a Japanese Zero fighter pilot stationed at Tamsui air base.
The followings are condensed from Mallory’s diary: As expected the anti-aircraft fires were heavy. Suddenly, 4 Tojos東條 showed up and started coming behind us. After shaking the Tojos loose, I saw 3 attacking Beatley and Picken. I shot down the one chasing Beatley. Then together we shot the one chasing Picken until Beatley killed it. When we started home, the third one showed up, we chased it all over the northern part of island and finally I got it with the only remaining gun. We met the fourth one on the way home at 10 miles off Karenkou at the sea. We realized he was the best one at once. He flow low from sea to land and escaped to a valley. Beatley and I shot alternatively at the enemy plan until Beatley run out of ammunitions. While I was leading, I knew that he would come up sooner or later and followed him tightly. As expected at the end of valley he did pulling up and exposed in front, and I finished the enemy plane with my last round of ammunition.
A 12 year-old boy who ran for his life from the air raid and a pilot who flew the Hellcat at age 24 have crossed at the same spot once in their life times. It is strange that 64 years later, the boy is retired in California, and so is the Ace who seemed to have retreated to the other side of the States - at least I thought so, but was not sure.
Did not hear from Mr. Mallory since I wrote him on April 15, 2004, I started wondering what appended to him or I might have made a mistake by sending the letter to a wrong address. My question was not answered until last week when I received a voice mail, left by Mr. Mark Pieschke, the chairperson of the AFAA. To my surprise, Mark said that Charlie was invited as a guest speaker for the American Fighter Aces Association Convention 2008 in Moffett federal field in Sunnyvale, CA near S.F. on Veterans Day weekend. He asked if I was interested to participate, and also mentioned that my phone number was from Charlie.
Indeed, Charlie Mallory, the Ace is still very alive and full of zip at his age, and my letter was mailed to the right address. After so many years, my questions were finally answered.