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After Action Report
Date of Action: April 18, 2008
VMF-251 launched at 2308 from Task Group 95 in 12 F4U-1D Corsairs. Squadron was assigned escort of TBM Avengers from 347th Fighter Squadron, coordinating with 8 F4Us of Army of Muppets.
251 flight roster:
251 and Army of Muppets circled carrier to form up, then proceeded north towards target and began climb to altitude. Strike Commander 68falcon intended low-level attack by TBMs, with F4Us flying topcover. TBMs remained NOE while escorts climbed to Angels 30. 347th executed looping turn to assume position behind the F4Us as fighters climbed to altitude. Bravo Flight turned NW to avoid warning zone for nearby factory. Belton experienced mechanical failure at 2315 and forced to return. Second attempt to rejoin failed at 2317. Managed to take off again at 2329.
At about 2330 after levelling at combat altitude, contact made with flight of A6Ms, spotted by Army of Muppets low and to the NW. Escorting squadrons resolved for pass through the enemy to break up the formation. VMF-251 and Army of Muppets engaged in short action. Engagement extended after some enemy broke through to make contact with TBMs. Wyatt shot down A6Ms at 2334 and 2335. 1Duke1 shot down at 2334.
Escort squadrons resumed climb to altitude. VMF-251 Blue Flight retained altitude and provided top-cover. During engagement with A6Ms part of Army of Muppets proceeded to target area and engaged numbers of enemy Ki-61s, attempting to draw enemy down and away from target area. At about 2340 Wyatt spotted bogies low inbound towards bomber formation. Wyatt ordered engagement and rolled in.
Sharp action ensued as TBMs arrived over target. Wyatt claimed Ki-61 on first pass at 2344. After pulling out and reversing, Wyatt shot second Ki-61 off tail of several TBMs at 2345. VonKost claimed a Ki-61 at 2345. Wyatt and DeVice closed in on pair of Ki-61s trailing a TBM and each shot down one at 2346. VonKost added additional Ki-61 at 2347, and Guthrie another at 2347. Roche crashed at 2347, and Belton shot down at 2349. TBMs successfully withdrew after inflicting heavy damage on target area. Review of logs suggest only five TBMs downed to direct action by enemy fighters, remaining losses crashed or downed by ground fire.
VMF-251 Blue Flight maintained top-cover during engagement. Drazz shot down Ki-84 at 2352, and MEF4UD an additional Ki-84 at 2354 in engagement above Angels 15, before diving out to withdraw. Drazz suffered heavy engine damaged and forced to ditch at 2359 in enemy territory.
On egress Morgan and Wyatt spotted lone Ki-84. Enemy aircraft attempted attack on Morgan but driven off by Wyatt. Aircraft ran when pursued, but attempted to re-engage when Wyatt broke off pursuit. Bodie, Guthrie and VonKost assisted in driving off enemy. Bodie engaged briefly, before suffering heavy damage in collision with target, and went down at 0002.
Morgan and DeVice returned to carrier and took on fuel and ammunition, while remainder of Red and Blue flights regrouped and returned to base. Wyatt recovered with damage to left landing gear at 0015. Control of squadron assumed by MEF4UD. MEF4UD, Morgan, DeVice, Trol, Guthrie and VonKost rearmed and returned to operating area, but no further contact made with enemy forces. Squadron safely recovered by 0105.