A Brother’s Tales of Peleliu
Captain Bernard D. Dunn, SC, U.S. Navy (Retired)
I read with great interest the article “Eight Days in Hell” in the October 2019 issue (pp. 42–47). I was only ten years old when the Marines invaded Peleliu, but I feel like I was there. My brother, Lieutenant (junior grade) Gerard M. Dunn, USNR, was commanding officer of LCI(G)-406 during the invasion. Needless to say, on his return home we heard his version of the action. He described the Umurbrogol Mountain just as it was described in the article. The Japanese had positioned their weapons well so they could cover most areas with fire from several directions.
On 2 November 1944, while on picket duty, the 406 was strafed by a U.S. plane. While the official report of the incident, which was declassified on 31 December 2012, does not give all the details of the incident, the story my brother told was that at about dusk, they spotted a small Japanese ship and requested air support. A U.S. plane was dispatched. The enemy ship had departed the area by the time the plane arrived and made its strafing run on the 406. No personnel casualties were reported, but the vessel suffered considerable damage.
With the end of hostilities, the 406 returned to the states. During her decommissioning process at Staten Island, New York, my brother usually would come home on weekends, and I would hear his descriptions of Peleliu, how Umurbrogol Mountain was honeycombed with caves and the Japanese would come out and ambush Marines. He described how the mountain was decaying coral, and artillery and rocket fire had little effect on clearing out the Japanese. It pretty much became a job for the Marines to go in using grenades and flamethrowers. He left a picture in a 12-year-old boy’s mind of what hell could be like.
Carry on the Names
James W. Grace
The October issue’s article “‘Confidence in His Team’” (pp. 34–40) reminds us that the USS Seahorse (SS-304) was one of 35 submarines awarded the Presidential Unit Citation in World War II. Today, none of these boats, which did so much to win World War II, is commemorated by a contemporary sub. Instead, by some “logic,” we have subs named for cities—which historically have been used to name cruisers. That the World War II submarines and their heroic crews should be ignored in this way is the height of disrespect.
It is the same with aircraft carrier names. During the war, at least 8 carriers, 3 light carriers, and 12 escort carriers were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, yet not a single carrier today bears the name of any of these gallant ships. Instead, the names of the famous carriers are delegated to other ships and carriers are named for politicians and selected Presidents.
Confusing A/C Designations
Thomas R. Melville
Norman Polmar’s “Historic Aircraft” column on the Vought XF5U-1 “Flying Pancake” (June 2019, pp. 12–13), together with Lieutenant Commander Thomas Cutler’s “Bluejacket’s Manual” column about the pre-1962 naval aircraft designation system (August 2019, pp. 6–7), brought to mind an odd pair of coincidences. Because each manufacturer’s designs for a given type are designated in a separate numbered series, multiple aircraft bear the designation “F2*”, F3*”, etc., where * is the manufacturer’s letter code. This can cause confusion for the uninitiated.
The Grumman F4F Wildcat and the Vought F4U Corsair were, of course, among the most memorable of naval fighter aircraft. Interestingly, all the pre-1962 F4s—six in total—were important, if not great, fighters. The Curtiss F4C was the contract-built version of the Naval Air Factory–designed TS, the very first specially built U.S. carrier fighter. The Boeing F4B was the dominant Navy fighter for most of the 1930s. After the war, the advent of jets brought the Douglas F4D Skyray and one of the greatest of fighters—naval or land, prop or jet—the McDonnell F4H Phantom II.
Oddly, as successful as the F4s were, the F5s were equally unsuccessful. There was no F5C fighter to confuse with Curtiss-built F-5 flying boats. Boeing’s F5B never got beyond prototype. The Vought F5U and the Grumman F5F Skyrocket were both one-off twin-engine experiments. The Douglas F5D, an attempt to further develop the F4D, might have been a fine aircraft, but in competition with the F8U Crusader was deemed not worth developing. Finally, there was no F5H because of the change in the designation system in 1962.
William F. B. Vodrey
I’m sure Barrett Tillman meant no disrespect, but I must take issue with his description of John Glenn as a “one-shot” hero in his book review of Wade McClusky and the Battle of Midway (June 2019, p. 62).
Certainly, Glenn is best remembered today for his historic mission as a Mercury Seven astronaut. But as a decorated Marine fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War, as a record-setting test pilot, as a longtime U.S. senator from Ohio, in his remarkable 1998 return to orbit on board the space shuttle Discovery, and in his work as a founder of the Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at Ohio State University, which now bears his name, Glenn proved beyond a doubt that he was anything but a single-shot hero.
Correction: The aircraft pictured in the December 2019 issue on pp. 36–37 were mis- identified in the caption. The planes are actually Boeing F4B-2 fighters.