As the invasion of Iwo Jima continued, the Salt Lake City was one of many
ships with big guns used to try to route the Japs from their emplacements
Our observation planes were also in use and vital. They shared the daily
observation duty with other ship's planes and were used to direct the
gunfire from many ships and correct the gunner's aim.
Our OS2U was a low wing monoplane with a large float and two cockpits.
Also known as a "Kingfisher", the plane had a top speed of 164 mph and a
cruising speed of 119 mph. After launching the plane from our catapult
the pilot would climb to 3000-4000 feet altitude for observation of shell
hits and radio necessary corrections.
On this particular day the observer who was usually an enlisted man riding
with the officer pilot had been replaced by a Navy Lieutenant. I suspect
this mission was considered a suicide mission calling for volunteers. The
Japanese, knowing that Iwo Jima would be invaded, had assembled the best
gunners in the Japanese Army for the defense of Iwo Jima.
Ensign Thomas W. Erickson
was the pilot, agreed to take
Lt. Robert F. Gallagher
observer. Gallagher had washed out of flight school but the lure of
being airborne was strong.
The OS2U was catapulted from the ship and climbed to the altitude required
for observation. It wasn't long before the Jap anti-aircraft batteries on
Iwo Jima began firing at the plane. The plane was hit and spun down into
the China Sea killing both men. Due to a quirk of fate,
Lt. Robert F. Gallagher now became a casualty.
Written by Robert J. Serazin, Lt. (jg)
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