Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pacific Diary


In the summer of 1942, on his 21st birthday, Alfred Theodore "Ted" Graham, Jr., a trumpet player, volunteer fireman, and newspaper reporter from Jacksonville, New York, enlisted in the U.S. Navy. ... 

This is his story...

After training as an aerial gunner-radioman, ATG was assigned to Bombing Squadron 15, serving on the aircraft carrier USS Essex, which departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on May 2, 1944, for combat duty in the Pacific. 

US Navy photo courtesy of Steven R. Whitby

Between flights in dive bombers engaged in battles with Japanese forces over islands from tiny Wake to the Philippines, Iwo Jima to Formosa, "Otto" Graham took copious notes and wrote letters, diary entries, and articles for the ship's newspaper and an aircrew newsletter, commenting on virtually everything--until the morning of November 11, 1944 (Armistice Day), when he was killed in a sea battle in Leyte Gulf.

Among "Gunner" Graham's possessions, shipped home in a small gray box stenciled "Camera Assembly Gun Sight Aiming Point," was a flight log book recording dozens of dive bomber missions, two gray-covered diaries detailing daily life from the state of his bowels to the swirl of battle, photos of himself and friends in flight uniforms and at ease in tee shirts, notes on midnight thoughts, ribald ditties on Navy life, snapshots of Hawaiian good-time girls. Posthumously, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and numerous other medals. His name was engraved on the flagpole at Camp Barton on the shore of Cayuga Lake, where he had made Eagle Scout.

Hand-written notes sent home after he was killed in action:

Man, it seems, is conceived, born unto the world, lives his life, then leaves the world. But man born unto a war world generation may live but only a part of that life, not realizing even the lesser of his dreams. I am of that age and thinking perhaps some chronicler may some day wonder what some of this great group thought, dreamed, cherished and felt. From the war many will live, of course, but they, in their busy life, may take no time to write their thoughts. Hence, this:

For 20 years a man doesn't have much to show--physically. A class ring, pilot's wings, maybe, a cuff link or two ...


I wanted wings 'till I got the God-damned things,
Now I don't want 'em anymore!
They taught me how to fly,
Then they brought me here to die
I've had my belly full of war!
You can save all those Zeros
For the God-damned heroes,
Cause Distinguished Flying Crosses
Don't compensate for losses.
I wanted wings 'till I got the God-damned things,
Now I don't want them anymore!

I'll take the dames while the rest go down in flames,
I've no desire to be burned!
Air combat's no romance
It made me wet my pants,
I'm just an asphalt Arab I have learned.
You can save the Mitsubishis
For the crazy sons of bitches.
I'd rather have a woman,
Than get shot up in a Grumman.
I wanted wings 'till I got the God-damned things,
Now I don't want 'em anymore!

I'm too young to die
Even in a PBY
That's for the eager not for me!
I wouldn't trust my luck
To be picked up in a Duck
After I'd crashed into the sea.
I'd rather be a bar sop,
Than a flier on a flat-top,
With my hands around a bottle,
Rather than around a throttle.
I wanted wings 'till I got the God-damned things,
Now I don't want 'em anymore!

There is no promotion
On this side of the ocean,
And the guys at home don't really care!
You can have the new style chutes
And those fancy fighter boots,
I'll take comfy slippers and a chair.
You can be a hot shot in a Wildcat,
I'll take the hot-spot in a top hat.
To be the leader of a flight,
Ain't my idea of delight.
I wanted wings 'till I got the God-damned things,
Now I don't want 'em anymore!

At my bit I'm not a chafin'
For the joy of doin' strafin'
I hate the violent use of tail and rudder!
As for livin' like Flash Gordon,
I'll take boating on the Jordan,
I'm a simple soul and all for home and mudder.
You can have your shoulder holster,
I'll take resting on a holster,
And I'll trade my long "pig sticker"
For a tall cool drink of likker.
I wanted wings 'till I got the God-damned things,
Now I don't want 'em anymore!

Hey waiter - bring another round!

Letter home saved in a family scrapbook, with photos, newspaper clippings, telegrams and military items


Excerpts from Book One 
(signed A.T. Graham, Jr., ARM 3/c VB-15) 


September 1, 1943 - Commissioned at Creeds, Va.
January 12, 1944 - Flew aboard the Hornet.
January 14, 1944 - Left for shakedown.
February 7-12, 1944 - "Shakedown" leave.
February 14, 1944 - Left U.S.
February 21, 1944 - At Panama Canal
February 28, 1944 - Arrived San Diego
March 4, 1944 - Arrived Pearl Harbor
March 4-17, 1944 - Based NAS, Barber's Pt.
March 17-Apr. 23, 1944 - Based NAS, Puunene, Maui, T.H.
April 23, 1944 - Aboard USS Essex
May 8, 1944 - Arrived Majuro, Marshall Islands
May 19-20, 1944 - Attack - Marcus Island
May 23, 1944 - Attack - Wake Island
May 26, 1944 - Majuro, Marshall Islands
June 12, 1944 - Attacked Saipan, Pagan Convoy in Marianas
June 15, 1944 - Attacked - Iwo Jima in Bonin lsds.
June 19, 1944 - "Air Battle of June 19th" - Atck Guam
July 6, 1944 - Arrived, Eniwetok Atoll
July 18, 1944 - Began attacks on Guam invasion beaches
July 24, 1944 - Covered Tinian invasion beacheads
August 11, 1944 - Guam fell, Marianas secured
August 13, 1944 - Arrived Eniwetok Atoll
August 29, 1944 - Left Eniwetok Atoll
September 1, 1944 - Crossed Equator

1 May 1944 (20 months of the Navy, good gawd!)

We have left Maui - probably for good. So I'll catch up on
what's been going on since we left San Diego.

The cruise out was horrible. We were all hungry, overcrowded,
the air-conditioning didn't work. Sweat held us adhesively to our
leather seats. Officers ate three meals a day - had a snack stand
besides. We stood in line for 2 to 3 hours to eat twice a day -
and there wasn't much. This - coupled with that things looked as
tho we'd be going straight out - didn't make anybody overly

P.H. At the approach - an SBD labored overhead - back and
forth across our bow - a loo-pounder under each wing.
Everybody was topside. At first P.H. didn't look as big as I
imagined. Yet after I'd been here awhile you seemed lost in its
immensity. Over-ballyhoo - as always - spoiled us for the
Islands. There was Diamond Head all right and Waikiki - but
they weren't particularly startling. In Honolulu everything was
overcrowded. There were lines at the barber shop - the Island
folk are "hair-conscious" There are barber shops everywhere -
and everywhere there are shoe stores - apparently someone tried
to get the barefooted natives to really go for shoes.

Maui - aboard the USS SWAN, once a proud seaplane tender
now relegated to inter-island. Our gear piled high on the fantail.
Ate off plates - full of canned frankfurts and beans - crapped out
as best we could under the 20 mm mounts topside - but it
rained. So we rolled under the lifeboats to keep dry. The ship
wallows in the swell. Over the after-end the crew drops lines -

Off Maui - As dawn comes over the two peaks of Maui - the
Swan was laying off Kahului harbor waiting for a couple of
transports to make their way into the channel. Just before we
turn toward the harbor - a school of porpoises comes up to the
bow, playfully nudging the bow, splashing delightedly like
schoolboys. All along the cut-rock coast, heavy [can't read],
Pacific swells break bright and white in the sun - the foam is
milk-white against the blue water.

Maui - land of milk and honey - peace and quiet. No-violence.
How incongrous! For we hadn't been at Maui five minutes
before there was violence. A flight of five fighters were
swarming overhead, sliding playfully hack and forth underneath
each other. Suddenly, one swirled down - a piece of wing
flapped haplessly above it. The plane fell in a spin, suddenly a
blossom of white stopped in the sky. Parachute. Meanwhile, a
second plane had flecks of flame catch at its cowling - suddenly
a stream of smoke trails behind it - it falters, wings over, falls
straight - a flaming trail into the sea.

It was not a pleasant introduction to Maui.

Weiluku, Puunene, Kahului, Paia ... villages of Maui. Wailuku
- the largest, the most thriving. Shops line the thorofare -
directed at Servicemen - novelty & gift shops - restaurants - (not
advertising native food - but Steaks!) - green beer. But you
usually have to stand in line for it.

The oriental women are attractive [--] the[y] wear lipstick
especially well. But if they have nice legs they're flat-chested.
And if they have nice breasts, the legs! But as always, there are
exceptions. Beautiful, charming exceptions. And as Ray
Hanagan, when it comes to wearing color - they can really wear
it! But how do you make approaches - the normal U.S. way
doesn't work. The girls seem shy, irritated.

Liberty in Honolulu

Honolulu Rooms

"Five dolluhs" - "Straight, nothing fancy."
"Lay your pistol down for five dollars."
A Chinese - American or Hawaiian -
(which do you want?)
Chinese looks out says "Where did
you all come from'?"
"The U.S."
"Where did you come from?"
"The Cat House!"


Never doubt an Hawaiian's patriotism.
If you say, "Are you an Hawaiian?"
They glare at you and say,
"No, I am an American!"
In church on Sunday they
pray for the U.S. and its people.

The newspaper ads are full of patriotism. The Honolulu
Advertiser - and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin - both seem fairly
"Stateside" conscious - carry all the leading columnists and their
editorials frequently are concerning U.S. (proper) stuff. And
they give the Territory it's full due too. They don't however,
seem to have as many local by-line writers as they might.

In peacetime in the Islands - the natives do all the work - and
the white man never lifts anything heavier than a lead pencil or a
silver dollar.

So a grey-haired, Irish-faced, rotund, rough-talking adopted-
Islander told us.

According to his story, "Pop" - as he's known at the USO where
he keeps track of the serviceman's valuables or them - he was
once the Far East representative for some machinery concern.
But after years of tramping around in the Hawaiis, the Indies, -
drink, a fouled-up family life. So, one day, fidgeting with the
remnants of the d.t.s, he just upped and off the boat at Maui.
That was over 20 yrs ago. He's heen there ever since.

At first he just lolled around - loofed in the sun - 'til one day he
needed some money - so he began making various jewelry and
old gold deals with the Jap shopkeepers - tiI P.H. came along.
He has a wife, said she's a wardrobe mistress or something in
Hollywood. Likable, a good storyteller, his language smacked of
the South Boston wit.

A strand of sand near Paia, Maui.

Bared to the waist, laying in the warm sun, the shifting sand -
Cribb and I plunge into the surf - and both pick ourselves up
from the sifting bottom, rubbing the salty foam out of our eyes.
We saunter along the beach, feeling the wet sand ooze up
between our toes. We pick up shells, stuff - strictly "beach
comber" stuff!
Beer, cold, tasty, - laying in the sand. Warm sun, blue whitecapped
sea, lighter-blue sky - white billowy clouds make a
pillow for the twin peaks that look down over Wailuku.

But a flight of TBFs, snarling, drove
low in front of us. All is real, war-like
There is no paradise! Not until there is peace!

Flying, Aplenty!

Hop, skip and a flip.
Night bounce drills. 90 knots across the
soft, grass-topped sands of Maui - over
on our back.
That breathtaking, startling, hair-raising,
moment when the plane stood on its prop -
all the world to me depended upon what would
happen next.
The rent of tearing metal. The heart-sickening silence.
"All right, Graham?"
"Yeah, You?"
"Let's get outta here then!"

Note in ATG's flight log book on crashing during night flying and landing practice in Hawaii with pilot Ensign Crellin on April 7, 1944; according to a hand-written casualties list in his diary, seven pilots and five tail-gunners died in training and flight accidents between Nov. 1, 1943-Feb. 23, 1944.

Ted Graham in air group photo at Naval Air Station in Maui, April 1944

White Woman on A Bus

Her blond-head was bowed over a book. She looked startingly
white next to the brown-skinned Hawaiians - The book was
"Gone With the Wind" - So Cribb - of Waycross, Ga., - could
hardly contain himself - She was blue-eyed, sharp-witted,
charming. She didn't screech - nor was her voice high-pitched.
She just sort of smouldered with her eyes and spoke softly with
her full, red mouth.
Intelligent - "We're all Americans, Remember that!"
"Even those of us born here in the Islands!"
Well-Read - "Sure, I read a lot. This is the second time I've
read "Gone with the Wind" - Yes, I liked
"This Above All."
We found out later - she sang in the church choir -
She did look sort of angelic at that!


Back Aboard

After a four-day cruise - back again.
Baker flying.
Lines - ant-like, with ammunition on their shoulders. Up the
ramp, across the hanger deck. Down hatches. Bombs, depth-charges.

Mormon Service on Maui


A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
Maui { Return to Religion by H. C. Link
Mansions of Philosophy by Will Durant
Disputed Passage by Lloyd C. Douglas
Trial by Fury by Craig Rice
News is What We Make It by Kenneth Stewart
Qf Time And the River - Wolfe

[list of 38 more books, many with check marks next to them,
All Men are Enemies by Auslander (?)
All Quiet on the Western Front by Remarque
Citizen Tom Paine by Howard Fast
Here Is Your War - Ernie Pyle

We arrived in Pearl Harbor aboard Hornet - Mar.. 4th
Tomorrow We Sail

May 2 - 44

Headlines: Carolines Blasted
Scuttlebutt has been rampant for 2 or 3 days that we' II
head for the Phillipines & eventually the Indian Qcean.
But, then, when we were abd the H- we thot we'd hit
Truk. Apparently they did tho.
The fellows are gay as Hell - been reading - getting
letters out - cuz it'll probably be a while before we see a
mailbox again - listening to records all day.

I read Lloyd Douglas' Disputed Passage. No great work
hut just couldn't put it down.
The boys seem over-optimistic. Combat reports have
been good. Hope they're straight dope. I guess we'll know soon.
Right now tho the Japs don't perturb me as much as the

3 May - 44

Bussy and I puhlished the 9th Edition of the Bullsheet
Tried to read Tolstoy's War & Peace, but after 4 pages I
gave up. Perhaps, again sometime.
The Pacific today was almost as blue as ink. The weather
is clear - looks at tho we'll get a clear view of the war.
Morale still excellent.

4 May - 44

Moonlite on the flite deck.
Cribb and I talked ahout lots of things. Both of us
agreeing, re-assuring each other of our opinions.
He said: "I feel more like a professional out here than a
Crusader." We agreed - we don't actually know what we're
fiting for - probably greed, politics.
Why doesn't FDR get rid of Hull - we need a good
foreign policy - even our "good neighbor" policy is shot

Our next port - Majuro - in the Marshalls.
Tried to write a letter to B- but there wasn't a damned thing to
Morale is good. - It was only the moment at Puunene when it
was announced we were going out that there was the least
sobriety - and quickly they dismissed it with a shrug, "This is
it!" -


'nother day - bright, warm, sunny.

Briefed by Lt. Sullivan on Majuro. Seems it's to be a hot humid
place. (85% humidity avg). We're also coming here at the time
of plenty of storms.
The library finally opened today. Checked out "News is What
We Make it."

Lemon pie, my mother always said, is hard to make. But the
bakers aboard really do all right by it.
Somebody pilfered two hot loaves of bread and a pound of
butter from the chow-hall. We all tore great hunks of it -
chewed like demons. It was indescribally delicious.

Morale is still excellent. We seem to be going to war -
nonchalant as Hell.

Wrote to Mary D. Owed her a letter for a long time.
Must hit the sack - but the sweaty soiled sooty stench of
sweating bodies is not much to look forward to. And to bang my
shins against the hatchway - and stumble drunkenly - hand thrust
in front of me - trying desperately to locate my locker in the
bottomless dark.


Closer to M-.
There were the first signs of tension today. A couple of
scuffles - and irritation on the part of quite a few of the guys.
Wrote a hunk of tripe for the Buccaneer.
Finished "News Is What We Make It." A good book
about the news business but nothing superb. Too many names.
Best parts: His beginning - parts on Heywood Braun, the guild,
and credit given Vince Sheehan. Checked out another hook
Wolfe's "Of Time & the River."

Dwyer, Cribb & I held forth in the full moon that flooded the
flite deck. Covered nearly everything.

Cribb: "I wondered what's beyond the stars. There could he a
race far superior to ours.

Dwyer:: "One cannot believe in a personal God."
Graham: "One day I can, the next day I can't."

Cribb: "Our minds are so insignificant - we work on great
problems - do our best - call ourselves thinkers - yet there is so
much we can't answer."

Wrote Butch - just tripe - hooks, cinema

Getting hotter more sultry every day. Below decks it's always
suffocating. I don't know how they stand it - especially those
white slaves who sweat over the hot stoves and steam tables. But
I guess man can get used to anything.


Still, Westward the Course!
Tried to read "Of Time & the River" but many interruption -
Hottest, sweatiest night I can ever remember. I lay bathed in
sweat all night.

The Bullsheet started a poll - !!!
M- was 400 some miles away in A. M.
Morale - excellent - It's either do or die.


Today I got my first look at a Pacific atoll. Low,
skimpy, coconut-palm-topped chains of coral.
Approaching the low (16 ft above sea level) atoll, the
outlines of the ships were higher than the islands themselves.

Here lies a good share of the fleet's might - craft all description
- EMT, W- , SJ, L,BH

Lowe, "Why should 1,000 of men lose their lives in fighting for
little ole islands like these?
Cribb & G - "Just because of what's inside here now -

Cribb - "I feel more like a highly paid professional than a
Crusader. "

Pate-Bussy table game - clue & number
Pay day - plan to send home a $100

Oppressive heat. Sweat seeps thru the skin, then your clothes
Bussy & I went to work on our 10th Bullsheet - plan to break it
in a couple of days.

Didn't get anytime to read Wolfe today.
Finished the poll!!
Puffing, huffing jellyfish lay in the blue waters of the harbor.
Chow was good today - twin pork chops - applesauce (I've
loved ever since I used to sneak spoonfuls out of the bowl when
Mother wasn't looking.)
Movie: Desert Victory. I'd seen it before, therefore didn't go
Lowe implores me to write something about the "soft," "easy"
life the officers live.
Cribb found that the newest best books in the library are for the
wardroom. Such stuff. Christ, we can read as well as they - Just
another of those inevitable dicriminations against the enlisted
Mail - but none for the airgroup.

We've been looking at the map - we're about 8,000 miles from
Of the 31 Marshall atolls the Japs still hold 7 - principally Mille
to the south; Maloelap to the north; Wotje to the NW; and Jaluit
- s.w. -
Morale still good.


15 May 1944

Set sail.
This is D-4 day. Marcus Island will be the Baptism of Fire for
Bombin' Fifteen. Briefed today by Lt. Sullivan. Little or no air
opposition is expected and moderate anti-aircraft fire. On the
way back to M- we'll hit Wake.
Marcus - only 990 miles from Tokyo!!!
" 600" " Saipan!!!
Movie "The Male Animal"

There are the first signs of irritation beginning to show - at least
we have air-conditioning during the day.
Everything as usual - guys writing, reading, playin' poker,
listening to record player

16 May 1944

D-3 Day.
DD The Sullivans is with us. Flew 4-hour anti-sub patrol today.
Saw nothing. An SB2C on the Wasp spun in - depth charges
exploding. P & G lost!

I hate to go to bed tho I'm tired - it's so damned hot down there
in the compartment

Pay day - $40. Bought box of cigars - a luxury at any price -
too damned extravagant I might better sent the money home.

Picked up Vem Haugland's "Letter from New Guinea."

Didn't sweat my landing at all - he came right in neat as Hell.

Morale still good - and if there was air-conditioning all over the
place all the time - morale would be excellent. I wonder how
it'll be D+l day.

Marcus has not been hit since the first of September last year
when hit by the Essex then.

17 May 1944

To describe the ready room - now deserted except for myself - is
not difficult but almost unbelievable.

Cigarette butts overflow in ashtrays and stray butts crunched
underfoot, litter the deck, on both abeam bulkheads flight gear -
suits, helmuts, masks, jackets, life jackets hang in lazy, reposing

Wrappers, scraps of paper litter the deck, empty cigarette
cartons. Into one chair seat - two pipes stuck - ready for instant
smoking in the morning. Books, magazines are strewn about.
"Disputed Passage" lay open on the deck - the wastepaper
baskets are spilling over. Records are piled high next to the
record player. On two bulkheads beside a pic of Chili Williams
& one of Betty Grable, also Maria Montez, are maps of Marcus
- our target.

Stuck in front of the room is a Varga girl looking outward a
soft-and-fluffy version of "The Thinker" - her trim legs nudging
each other tenderly. On the blackboard is notice of a radio check
- and the new "Bullsheet" is posted - along with the cleanup
detail and some air intelligence information.

On the bookcase - the books - their inspiring titles on their nonlustrous
sides - dejectedly sleeping on the shelf.

Decks of cards are stuck in beams along the bulkhead - and
dungaree shirts have been slung over chair backs - it is much too
hot to wear them below.

At the back of the room lay tool boxes, gun cleaning
paraphenalia: long-handled rods, caterpiller-like ramrod tips.

That's the ready room tonight.

AS Patrol today. Cleaned guns - put in new ammunition -
checked oxygen. First signs of irritation today - the boys are
getting short-tempered.

18 May 1944

D-l Day
Announced this a.m. the personnel of tomorrow's Marcus attack
- we made the first wave - will fly "tail-end Charlie" in 15-plane
formation. Still no fiter opposition expected.

Checked out on K-20 camera - but can't see it go on my first
raid checked rearseat - guns, water, etc.

Bitter argument in a.m. - Pate & Terrell - the old NFlying -
versus - flying personnel argument - it will flare again. And,
then, Pate ran 'n' told Lt. Brad--d

Rumor of Bettys tonight but no substantiation. Looks like
Marills after we make this trek.

Possibility of fiters coming from Bonin Islds. However no
opposition is expected. Nothing is expected to happen.
   If something should
   Please send home no clothes! No gear!
   Send typewriter to Butch Van Nostrand - if she doesn't
   want it - have it given to Ken Bussy - if he promises to
   write something worthwhile on it. This book send to
   RBB. when possible.
   Send pictures home - all of 'em (Nudes included)
   That's all.

I wonder how the rest of the guys feel - there doesn't seem to be
much feeling of apprehension Still - that attitude of "You do or
you don't." We're quite confident I think And are fairly
convinced it will be a comparatively "safe" raid.

Poker game now - few guys reading - most guys sleeping. In tile
a.m. - we'll be about 100 miles from Marcus - a thousand or so
from Tokyo.

Dwyer "I have nothing much to
live for - but I don't wanna die either."

Cribb in good humor - tho a bit more lubricated than usual, it
Normal briefing by Lt. Sullivan.
Crellin could not contain himself when we discussed the attack.

19 May 1944
The record player groaned "This Is No Laughing Matter."
"Man your planes!!!"
"Go get 'em!!!"
   0815 - Swell takeoff. Best we've ever made. Wasn't
especially nervous - tho I didn't know quite what to expect.
The climb (with 2-500 lbs and 2-100 pounders) was laborious.
Our rendezvous was completed in 15 minutes and we headed N
for the target.
   0848 - Could just see the task force - smoke & tracks on
the calm sea off our stbd qtr. The only clouds were sparse at
2,000 feet.
   0900 - test fired guns - working excellent.
   0905 - We headed into fairly thick cumulus clouds, our
altitude 9200.
   0910 - 10,000 ft altitude. Sighted target - covered by
heavy clouds at 5,000 - except West Point.

   We moved in - my stomach dropped at the first puff of
ack-ack - tho it was inaccurate - very low - & far ahead.
We pitched over into the cloud - broke thru at 5,000 And
passed target. Crellin made a violent corkscrew back on target. I
saw two great fires along No 2 runway (outboard midway) - I
thot we were hit - water flew all over - but it was just that the
top of the canteen had blown off. We made a violent pullout -
low - with long vapor trails streaming from a our wingtips. I
saw several heavy explosions - just like the movies - and a direct
hit which blew a building to bits. I'm positive now that it was
ours. I let go three bursts at the target and they seemed fairly
   We pulled out on the south - middle side of the island
and roared seaward. I looked below and saw spouts in the water
- it was not until we landed that I realized it was shellfire.

I wasn't overly scared. We've had so much divebombing, it was
all quite familiar. However, the puffs of ack-ack & an
ocassional stream of 20 mm tracers were not familiar.

After rendezvous - we returned to ship - a hard landing - but we
hit - and that's what counts - F6F landed one wheel - shell hole
in wing.
The second wave caught Hell. Several planes were hit by
shrapnel. McNaught, TBF tunnel gunner, was wounded in the
lower left rih. Ens Woods & MacPherson got a direct flak hit on
the motor & made a water landing were seen to get in the raft.
But tonight we have no word.

Third wave (Strike "B") also caught Hell. Reported heavy ackack.
Ens Dixon & Hogue were seen to dive never seen
Fourth wave reported sparse AA (similar, apparently) to first.

F6F was lost.
CAG's plane was hadly hit on "C" strike - returned okay.
CAP F6F shot down Betty 30 mins off stbd bow of ship!
Tonight, morale is still good.
Tomorrow, D+ 1 - there will be 2 strikes. I'm scheduled for
ASP standby. Then to Wake for D+4 (5 strikes!)

La Bonde thru smoke bomb overboard, marked "So Sorry!"
Cribb pulled out - saw Japs shooting at him - instead of shooting
- he shook his fist at 'em.

Map of Marcus Island among ATG's war materials

20 May 1944

D+l Day.
"A" strike reported medium amount of ack-ack in 0630 hop.
"B" strike at 0800 ran into heavy "ack-ack." Prop spinner of
Bailey-Gotsis plane hit. Rudder of Barnitz-Stienkemeyer had a
foot-square hole blown thru it. Fiter - with hole in the wing -
made wheels up water landing, was picked up.

Believe now that Woods-MacPherson picked up by sub. Hope
Dixon-Hogue were too, tho not so confident concerning them.

Morale still excellent. A couple of card games - And plenty of ..
bull sessions:-
The raid:
"Those Japs - They're "Yankee" Japs,
ya know it, Lowe!"
"That one AA kept blinkin' at us and I swore I'd get
the cocksucker!"
"What a dive - we corkscrewed to beat Hell!"
"I thought we were goin' in about three times!"
"If that's light AA, I never wanta see any heavy AA.

Bull session about pre-war days
"We went around f- every corner on two f- wheels ...
what a f- smootie I had in the back seat ... We didn't have a
license ... What a list of f- women he's got ...

Finished Haugland's "Letter from New Guinea." Fairly good.
Good reporting.

Tonight the ready room was thick with cigar smoke. They were
Sam Hogue's box of cigars for his making second class. Sheehan
passed 'em out. Where's Sam. Buried in a heap on Marcus,
drowned in the calm, billowy reefblue Pacific? I hope not - I
hope he's aboard the rescue sub.

Notes in ATG's diary and flight log book on crashing into the sea on return from a raid on Wake Island with pilot Ensign Crellin on May 23, 1944 and being picked up by a carrier escort ship

Map of Wake Island among ATG's war materials


27 May 1944
Crellin made j.g. today.
Sam Hogue, Dixon to be an listed as "missing in action." Seems
a shame because there's no doubt they're gone.

28 May 1944
"If it gets any warmer - it's gonna get awful hot"
- W.J. Lowe

29 May 1944
Tuned ATC, cleaned guns.

Scuttlebutt rampant - Bonin Islands - 500 miles from Tokyo -
We'll bomb runways, hamper aircraft while Marianas invaded.
Rumor - 40 days cruise. Rumor - 6 weeks patrol. Rumor -
Skipper DFC ....

Tried twice to write Butch. How to start. I don't know what to
say that's worthwhile - I think of her day & night - yet she
wouldn't believe it should I tell her.

Duncan - "We're pint paid killers - we haven't learned
a damn thing."

Sheehan violated his most famous ideal about flying - "Never
get to like a guy so well you can't see him die." He violated
this. He didn't want to see Sam Hogue die. But who could
adhere to that and be even reasonably happy.

Memorial Day 1944

Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprang
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose
But young men think it is, and we were young.
-Buna Cemetery

I wonder who wrote such truism.

1 June 1944
It is very difficult in this squadron to discover whether this outfit
is primarily interested in fighting a war or carrying out an
extensive persecution (& prosecution) campaign against the
enlisted men.
The latest, in substance, is this:
All of us who lost (or had stolen) gear were advised to make out
a chit for another. Now, those of us who did it, are headed for a
captain's mast.
This in addition to the rate "turn-down" session of a couple days
ago - and the fact that the squadron won't even issue air crew
wings to guys (who've been over Marcus & Wake) - And men
who finish operations in the state get 'em.

In port - only officers' readyrooms are air-conditioned. this plus
fans in their living rooms - plus air-conditioned wardrooms.
Enlisted gunners have sweltering readyroom - stuffy, oppressive

Democracy in action!

13 June 1944

Was in "B" strike - attacked "Mucho" ack-ack on Mutcho Point.
"AA" fairly heavy and damned accurate tho nobody hit. HIS
approach from 13,000 - nose over at 10,000 - No flaps - pullout
3500. 50 cat. shooting at us at pullout. R/2 and attacked
Sampans (3) at small harbor in Artinaban Is - North of Saipan.
One blazing - two others out of cornish. I strafed at pull-out
Saipan (ships) - and Sampans.

Two Bettys shot down by Cowpens fighters in sight of ship. Ens
Gardner hit barrier, engine ripped off -

Had 250-mi search almost due N with F6 escort saw several
small islands in chain And at end of 250-mi leg saw smoking
volcano. Tired as Hell and hit sack early.

15 June 1944

D-Day. Today at 0815 the Marines were to start their landings
at South Saipan.

Blackboard "Don't leave your bones in the Bonins."
Record-player: "Ride, Cossack, Ride"

We attack tomorrow - then haul ass.
Iwo Jima - we don't know much about the target.

On take-off we spun in on stbd side - port wing snapped - alt
(about 90') both got in life raft - "is this it - or will I live?"
Whole task force went by - but last "can" - the Sterrett (Steerett)
picked us up - immediately hit sack - rough as Hell.

Note in ATG's flight log book on crashing into the sea on takeoff on June 15, 1944; this was his second ocean landing flying in a dive bomber with Crellin.

ATG's subsequent copy for aircrew newspaper on gunners in his unit who had been dunked in the ocean when their planes crashed at sea, with a follow up in a later issue of the "Bullsheet" on the addition of more members to the "Dunkers" Association.

16 June 1944

Still aboard Tin Can. We announce that Saipan invasion started.
Spent entire day in sack - verra verra sick ... finally got some
jello to stay down at night

17 June 1994

Still seasick. Trsfd via "beeches buoy" at about 0800 back
aboard ESSEX. Was sure glad to get back aboard something that
didn't rock all over Hell.

Heard: killed in action (shot down) over Iwo Jima - Ens.
Clement & Ken Jackson - 2 more fine fellows -

And this - one the most tragic stories I've ever heard - a fighter
pilot had been hit by enemy shellfire in one eye - he was back
over ship when he apparently went blind in both eyes - one pilot
flew up next to him, wriggled his wing but failed to attract his
attention. Last seen the fighter, with its blinded pilot, was flying
alone - northward - to Iwo Jima - to Tokyo - finally he
disappeared from the radar screen. We destroyed 84 planes on
Iwo lima VB credited with 24 of these.
Heard Radio Tokyo: Reported 4150 Marines died and 3
waves of Marines repelled at Saipan.
Reported 29 US planes shot down
over Iwo Jima in Bonins.

US Reported B-29 raid over Japan proper.

Jap fleet is reported by our subs to be steaming northward out of

They should come out now if they're ever going to for we're
hitting Japan proper
the Bonins
the Kuriles
the Marianas (including Saipan invasion)
Truk & the Carolinas

Seven (7) Jap prisoners - apparently refugees from the convoy
we blasted a few days ago - were picked up by tin can and
brought aboard Essex They looked not startling - just like the
natives on Maui.


19 June 1944

Had five-hour (pre-dawn) search - saw nothing but a
dazzling sunrise and a thousand-foot water spout.
Jordan shot down a Val!!!
When we landed - ship was in bedlam - "bogies"
reported all over the place. Fighters were being catapaulted as
we landed - we launched all launchable planes.
Our fighters attacked all formations. Comdr McCampbell
shot down grp ldr of 30 Judys - and everybody had a field day.

However a Judy sneaked and dropped a 500-lb. 20 feet off the
stbd bow bigger 'n' shit. 
46 Jap planes destroyed by our fighters by 1300 - 1 down by
Our bombers hit Guam airstrip as did Hornet, Lex & other air
Enterprise shot down 36 planes by 1405.
Still in GQ.

Day's total 64 enemy aircraft shot down - McCampbell's 7 in
one day - new carrier record! Another AGC got 13! Morale
Tops! !!!!!

Day's total 65 planes shot down in air - 5 destroyed on grd by

In all - US planes & ships in TF 58 destroyed 300 Jap planes.

20 June 1944

Marines captured Aslito airstrip, CBs moved in and fiter
sqdn to report tomorrow!!!

VF(N)s shot down 3 Vals early this am - they circled Guam and
Japs turned on landing lights thinking them there planes - they
strafed field & 4 Vals took off - 3 of which the F6's got -

Brewer (comder VAI5), Carr (5 planes) & ~ failed to
return yesterday - "Three gallant men" - GQ reporter

Scheduled for DB attack on Rota & Guam Cancelled - too far'
from target. Fiter sweep sent out.
Ships fueled today from tankers

Topside Reporters;

Rest of TF 58 chasing Jap fleet - Tokyo-bound - bearing סס oo -
picked up today by York planes - We're to stay here in the
Marianas - apparently to help blast way for invasion of Guam.
Fiter sweep on Guam today - one Jap shot down - one fiter -
Ens. Powers failed to return. P-61s to go in on ASLITO airstrip
tomorrow. Then, the fun should start.

Attack at 0525 tomorrow. Crater runway at OROTE airfield on
Guam - I'm on it.

21 June 1944

Attack okay. No flaps - and most violent pullout I can
remember - worse than Wake. Medium amount of Ack-Ack.
Small stuff heavy & pretty accurate. "A" attack at dawn. Guam
is of course the largest of the islands we"ve hit yet. Tankers
with us - so TF able to make only 18 Kts.

"B" strike went to do "spot" bombing on Saipan.

TOPSIDE REPORTER: "If you want any runways cratered -
call Bombin' Fifteen.

G. John & I had B-session about the "old days" over strawberry
gelunks (1st we've had on this cruise)

Nolte & Lowe spun in - went into spin at 8,000 - crashed in
ocean - Believe Nolte was hit. The effect on the readyroom was
indeed sobering - even to these guys who've heard the words
before it was a blow . Lowe was extremely popular - there'll he
a deep gap in the squadron by his loss - irreplaceable. That's 20
men we've lost.

Sub reports 3 torpedos shot at SHOKAKU class carrier.
Immediately crash dived.
No news as yet from rest of fleet - Searches tomorrow -

22 June 1944

"This is the News:" 39 of our pilots & gunners were picked up
today - (apparently they had been on a long strike and ran out of
EMILY attacked DO Miller later shot down by CAP. CAP also
got a Mairs.
Now heading East.
Another Emily shot down - and unidentified plane got.
Est. damage to TF (Jap) hy others in attack night before
last: 1 carrier probahly sunk (at least ten (l0) homb hits
reported) 2 others (CVs) heavily hit, probably crippled; 2 to 5
tankers fired.
56 fliers picked up now from that long-range strike
(which proves pretty conclusively that Air Groups are
expendable. However, carriers aren't.

The boys are tired, some near exhaustion. They're weary,
nerves stretched taut. Those who smoke - smoke a lot; those
who fidget - fidget a lot. Most of them are busy tho - reading,
playing chess writing, Bull-s-ting. The death of Lowe was
sobering - it brought it close to home again - Lowe, newlymarried,
ravenously read his Bible, was well-liked, a hardworker,
a humorous, satirical fellow - his getting killed - we
didn't like at all. It struck me hardest since Smitty's death - even
George Cobbe's going (which was a terrible blow) - didn't seem
as terrible

Scuttlebutt rampant as to when we'll go Stateside - some say
after this operation. I doubt it - these other Air Groups were
hard hit - need replacement, need new planes, have seniority
over us - despite our damned good record they'll probably go
back to Eniwetok, Majuro, etc., while we do more work here in
the Marianas - supporting the Marines on Saipan and the
expected landing on Guam.
Strike tomorrow at 0530 on Guam.
Schedule not out yet. (lst "A" strike Mills Section ... )

Finished Sholokov's lusty, vibrant, rough "And Quiet Flows the
Don" today - stirring, fast-moving - action-packed - story of the
Don Cossacks at the time of War with Germany, Revolution &
Civil War. Said to be comparable to "War & Peace" -

Reading suave, snooty, high-toned - "Philosopher's Holiday" by

23 June 1944

   Stateside Aug. 25th - Sept. 15th!!!
   Scuttlebutt rampant.
   We had three strikes - Tenian - 2 on Guam. I was on
from 14,000 - I took pix - Eisenhart reported flak burst just off
our port beam just before nose-over - I was looking over the
other side taking pix. Saw many good hits in revetment area
(our target) And one large fine on west end of runway. Fiters
reported they shot down 2 Zekes making for us (we dove next to
last) as we pushed over. Saw a dogfight far in the distance in the
haze coming back. Landing OK. Hope pics okay too.

68 planes for ESSEX, 15 probable
405 planes total (18 by AA)
We lost 41 planes -


Amid air missions, ATG wrote news items for the USS Essex aircraft carrier's newspaper, "Buccaneer," and was coeditor of the "Bombing Bullsheet" for Bombing Squadron 15 aircrews; "Bomber's Poll" apparently appeared in both publications. He also wrote more biting and blunt observations that were likely meant for publication after his war tour, such as the following:


Excerpts from Book Two
(signed A.T. Graham, Jr., ARM 3/c VB-15) 

ATG's diary passages above describe preparations for, and detailed description of, massive bombing raids on Japanese ships and military facilities in Manila, as well as relentless bombing missions to other places in the Philippines and other islands in a wide area of the Pacific. 

Lt. John Avery (pilot) and ARM 3/c A.T. Graham, Jr. (tail-gunner), who flew 12 missions together in Oct.-Nov. 1944                                                                      

9 November, 1944 –Off Marianas
GREAT DAY, during AM GO – after announcing that Gov Dewey had conceded FDR’s victory in Pres’l race—Lt. Mills. In bellowing tones – gave out the dope:
Nimitz ordered Halsey to release Bunker and AG 15 –
So it looks as tho we’re going home at last! Probably get off at Guam.  Dope is we’ll get relieved on 11th in Guam going home on Bunker. Couple of guys pack seabags – other guys try blues on. 
Spirits sky high- but, goddamit we still  aren’t off this thing.
During the nite -- I woke up several times -- ship shaking like Hell – under full power -- Anti-sub precautions probably.
Movie:  “Nite of Jan. 16th

10 November, 1944 
The BUBBLE BURST,  we’re under full speed to Leyte – the Japs – with assorted BBs (Battleships), CA (Heavy Cruisers), CLs (Light Cruisers) & DDs (Destroyers) are stirring between Palowan & Borneo – and Doug’s (MacArthur) screaming for our  support.  Bitter day, indeed. It’s days like today that makes Sherman right as rain.
Cleared guns, radio check.  Finally got some dungarees from small stores.
MacArthur reports raids by B-24’s, A-20’s, P-40’s in Visayas. With all that, what the hell does he need us for?
Scheduled condition 12 & searches tomorrow – we’re supposed to be off Leyte at dawn.  

11 November, Armistice Day 1944
Jap reinforcements attempt to land on Leyte and imperial MacArthur’s men. 2 DD’s, 2 DE’s, 4 AK’s.  At least 20,000 Japs aboard AK’s.  Task force launched  tremendous strike, 20 bombers from Essex.  Invasion fleet annihilated!
“Otto” Graham failed to return from this flight. He was shot down while diving through enemy ack – ack.  Two other of our bombers are missing.
Today a great blow was struck by the Navy in defending the Army, but it was truly a sad day for VB-15.  We will miss you “Otto” Graham, but never forget. 
Air crewmen  of VB-15.

On Nov. 13th Paul Sheean,  who wrote the last entry in Ted’s diary on behalf of the squadron, was killed.
                                                                                                                                   K. Bussy 


The last entry in ATG's casualties list notes the deaths of his 
former pilot, Lt. (j.g.) Conrad Crellin and tail-gunner Carl Shetler in a sea battle on Oct. 24, 1944

Last entry in A. T. Graham, Jr.'s Aviator's Flight Log Book, 
11 Nov. 1944; pilot Lt. John Avery was also killed, as were two other aircrews from VB-15, in a battle engagement with a Japanese troop convey steaming into Ormoc Bay to fight U.S. Army units on Leyte in the Philippines.

Atleast 14 of the VB-15 tail-gunners in this undated group photo died in combat actions in the Pacific between May 19-November 14, 1944: Sam Hogue, Guy Henry, Ken Jackson, Bill Lowe, L.G. Murray, J. Daniel Downey, George A. Duncan, Stan Whitby, Carl Shetler, Norm Schmidt, Chuck Swihart, Ted Graham, Paul Sheehan, Simon Dorosh. In most cases, they died with their pilots. In some cases, pilots died and gunners survived.

Of the 100 pilots and gunners in VB-15 who sailed to war in 1944, "45 came home unhurt. That was the highest loss rate in any Navy dive bombing unit during WWII," according to research by Steven R. Whitby for his book, "World War II Exploits of Bombing Squadron 15 and the Short Life of ARM2c Stanley Nelson Whitby while Flying from the USS Essex (CV-9) in 1944."

Losses for Air Group 15, which VB-15 was attached to along with fighter planes and a torpedo-bombing unit, were "Pilots: 43 killed or missing and 12 wounded. Crewmen: 29 killed or missing, and 13 wounded," according to "Pacific Champions" by Morris Markey in Liberty magazine, May 26, 1945.

photo by Jan Barry, June 2012
Memorial plaque for Ted Graham next to his parents' graves
in Grove Cemetery, Trumansburg, NY             

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