March 30, 1944:
USS Cabot launched 3 divisions of Hellcat fighters (12 aircraft) in the pre dawn hours to fly CAP (Combat Air Patrol) over the task force. Lt (jg) "Jack" Wirth could not locate his division in the darkness to join up with but came across other Hellcats and joined with their group. What he found was not VF-31 but a group of aircraft that were going to attack the Japanese forces at Peleliu.
After realizing that he was not with VF-31 Lt. (jg) Wirth decided to stay with the group he had joined rather than taking the risk of returning to the Task Force alone. During the air battle that ensued Lt. Wirth downed 2 Zeros and 1 Hamp (clipped wing Zero fighter). Since he had left his division and joined another force he was not credited with these 3 kills. Lt (jg) Wirth returned to the USS Cabot and filed a report on his encounter. Read Lt. Wirth's official account of this action.
Late that same evening about an hour before sunset while flying CAP, Lt. Cmd Winston was instructed to take his group which consisted of himself, his wingman Ens. Nooy, Lt. (jg) Wirth, and his wingman Ens. Hancock to intercept a small group of "bogies" which Cabot's radar had picked up. Most of these intercepts turned out to be aircraft returning to the task force from their attack on Palau but this time the division came across a large flight of, what they thought were Zero fighters but turned out to be the newest Japanese dive bombers (Judy) heading toward the Task Force. Expecting to find a small number of planes they found that they were looking at 9 Judy dive bombers which out numbering the Hellcats better than 2 to one. The first to spot the enemy was Ens. Nooy who started a dive down to where the enemy aircraft were flying in a large double V formation. The first kill on the Japanese bombers was made by Lt. Cmd. Winston who opened fire at well over 1000 yards. Circling back around he once again fired a short burst and another bomber burst into flames, without thinking he fired a second short burst at the wingman of the first bomber he had just destroyed and it also burst into flames. By his account of events, these 3 kills took less than 30 seconds. Within 10 minutes all 9 of the attacking Japanese dive bombers had been destroyed.
April 1, 1944:
Once again VF-31 was assigned to fly CAP over the Task Force while aircraft from the other carriers flew to the target to engage enemy aircraft. Launching before dawn the divisions of VF-31 were sent to intercept incoming bogies which would invariably turn out to be returning friendly fighters and dive bombers.
Two divisions of VF-31 were sent to Wolei and Yap Islands on escort, photo recognizance, bombing and strafing missions. Cabot's radar reported a contact approaching the Task Force. The division comprised of Lt. Wirth, Ens. Stewart, Ens. Hawkins, and Ens. Hayde who were nearest to Wolei island. The bogie was a twin engine Betty bomber that was sent out on recognizance patrol. After a chase lasting several minutes Ens. Hayde was credited with downing the enemy plane.
On April 2, 1944 Cabot set course for a return to the anchorage at Majuro Atoll to be replenished and stayed there for two weeks before setting out for New Guinea.
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