Friday, February 4, 2011

"Remember the Folks Back Home"

Some years ago I discovered my father's
s 25th alumni yearbook published by the 
Naval Academy to update classmates on what 
had come to pass since graduation in 1935.

My father, in his spectacles, had led a fairly 
unassuming career as a shipyard engineer.

Some of his classmates, many, in fact, 
not quite so unassuming.

John James Powers.jpg

Consider Lieutenant John James Powers, 
a dive bomber pilot in Bombing Squadron 5 
aboard the USS Yorktown at the 
Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942.

During the first day of battle, according to a radio 
address by President Roosevelt,
 he and his team sank the carrier Shoho. The next day, 
Lt. Powers "flying a divebomber in the face of 
blasting enemy anti-aircraft fire, demolished one 
large enemy gunboat, put another gunboat out of 
commission, severely damaged an aircraft tender and a 
twenty thousand ton transport, and scored a direct hit 
on an aircraft carrier which burst into flames and sank soon after."

Not bad. 

There's more.

To sink that second carrier, the Shokaku, 
Powers climbed to 18,000 feet and then dived 
"through a wall of bursting anti-aircraft shells 
and swarms of enemy planes. He dived almost to 
the very deck of the enemy carrier, and did not release 
his bomb until he was sure of a direct hit."

That morning, before taking off, he had told other pilots, 
"Remember—the folks back home are counting on us. 
I am going to get a direct hit if I have to lay it on the flight deck." 

Medal of Honor winner.

Divine wind.