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William F. Gunn

Seaman Second Class, U.S. Navy

02463030

USS TICONDEROGA CV-14

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: January 21, 1945
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines
Awards: Purple Heart

SEAMAN SECOND CLASS WILLIAM FRANCIS GUNN, of 411 Hill Avenue, Runnemede NJ, was killed in action on January 21, 1945 while serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS TICONDEROGA CV-14.

William F. Gunn was born in New Jersey in 1926 to Frank and Mary Gunn. When the Census was taken in April of 1930 the family also included an older sister, Betty, and a younger brother, Joseph Gunn. 

William F. Gunn enlisted in the United States Navy at Philadelphia on January 29, 1944. After completing basic training he was assigned to the new aircraft carrier, USS TICONDEROGA.

USS TICONDEROGA was laid down as HANCOCK on 1 February 1943 at Newport News, Va., by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.; renamed TICONDEROGA on 1 May 1943, launched on 7 February 1944, sponsored by Miss Stephanie Sarah Pell, and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 8 May 1944, Capt. Dixie Kiefer in command.

TICONDEROGA remained at Norfolk for almost two months outfitting and embarking Air Group 89. On 26 June, the carrier shaped a course for the British West Indies. She conducted air operations and drills en route and reached Port of Spain, Trinidad, on the 30th. For the next 15 days, TICONDEROGA trained intensively to weld her air group and crew into an efficient wartime team. She departed the West Indies on 16 July and headed back to Norfolk where she arrived on the 22nd. Eight days later, the carrier headed for Panama. She transited the canal on 4 September and steamed up the coast to San Diego the following day. On the 13th, the carrier moored at San Diego where she loaded provisions, fuel, aviation gas, and an additional 77 planes, as well as the Marine Corps aviation and defense units that went with them. On the 19th she sailed for Hawaii where she arrived five days later.

TICONDEROGA remained at Pearl Harbor for almost a month. She and CARINA (AK 74) conducted experiments in the underway transfer of aviation bombs from cargo ship to aircraft carrier. Following those tests, she conducted air operations-day and night landing and antiaircraft defense drills-until 18 October when she exited Pearl Harbor and headed for the western Pacific. After a brief stop at Eniwetok, TICONDEROGA arrived at Ulithi Atoll in the Western Carolines on the 29th. There she embarked Rear Admiral A. W. Radford, Commander, Carrier Division 6, and joined Task Force (TF) 38 as a unit of Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman's Task Group (TG) 38.3.

The carrier sortied from Ulithi with TF 38 on 2 November. She joined the other carriers as they resumed their extended air cover for the ground forces capturing Leyte. She launched her first air strike on the morning of the 5th. The planes of her air g roup spent the next two days pummeling enemy shipping near Luzon and air installations on that island. Her planes bombed and strafed the airfields at Zablan, Mandaluyong, and Pasig. They also joined those of other carriers in sending the heavy cruiser Nachi to a watery resting place. In addition, TICONDEROGA pilots claimed six Japanese aircraft shot down and one destroyed on the ground, as well as 23 others damaged.

Around 1600 on the 5th, the enemy retaliated by sending up a flock of planes piloted by members of the suicide corps dubbed kamikaze, or "Divine Wind," in honor of the typhoon that had destroyed a Chinese invasion fleet four centuries previously. Two of the suicide planes succeeded in slipping through the American combat air patrol and antiaircraft fire to crash LEXINGTON (CV 16). TICONDEROGA emerged from that airborne banzai charge unscathed and claimed a tally of two splashes. On 6 November, the warship launched two fighter sweeps and two bombing strikes against the Luzon airfields and enemy shipping in the vicinity. Her airmen returned later that day claiming the destruction of 35 Japanese aircraft and attacks on six enemy ships in Manila Bay. After recovering her planes, the carrier retired to the east for a fueling rendezvous.

She refueled and received replacement planes on the 7th and then headed back to continue pounding enemy forces in the Philippines. Early on the morning of 11 November, her planes combined with others of TF 38 to attack a Japanese reinforcement convoy, just as it was preparing to enter Ormoc Bay from the Camotes Sea. Together, the planes accounted for all the enemy transports and four of the seven escorting destroyers. On the 12th and 13th, TICONDEROGA and her sisters launched strikes at Luzon airfields and docks and shipping around Manila. This raid tallied an impressive score: light cruiser KISO, four destroyers, and seven merchant ships. At the conclusion of the raid, TF 38 retired eastward for a refueling breather. TICONDEROGA and the rest of TG 38.3, however, continued east to Ulithi where they arrived on the 17th to replenish, refuel, and rearm.

On 22 November, the aircraft carrier departed Ulithi once more and steamed back toward the Philippines. Three days later, she launched air strikes on central Luzon and adjacent waters. Her pilots finished off the heavy cruiser Kumano, damaged in the Battle off Samar. Later, they attacked an enemy convoy about 15 miles southwest of Kumano's not-so-safe haven in Dasol Bay. Of this convoy, cruiser YASOSHIMA, a merchantman, and three landing ships went to the bottom. TICONDEROGA's air group rounded out their day of destruction with an aerial rampage which cost the Japanese 15 planes shot down and 11 destroyed on the ground.

While her air group busily pounded the Japanese, TICONDEROGA's ship's company also made their presence felt. Just after noon, a torpedo launched by an enemy plane broached in LANGLEY's (CVL 27) wake to announce the approach of an air raid. TICONDEROGAs gunners raced to their battle stations as the raiders made both conventional and suicide attacks on the task group. Her sister ship ESSEX (CV 9) erupted in flames when one of the kamikazes crashed into her. When a second suicide plane tried to finish off the stricken carrier, TICONDEROGA's gunners joined those firing from other ships in cutting his approach abruptly short. That afternoon, while damage control parties dressed ESSEX's wounds, TICONDEROGA extended her hospitality to that damaged carrier's homeless airmen as well as to INTREPID (CV 11) pilots in similar straits. The following day, TF 38 retired to the east.

TF 38 stood out of Ulithi again on 11 December and headed for the Philippines. TICONDEROGA arrived at the launch point early in the afternoon of the 13th and sent her planes aloft to blanket Japanese airbases on Luzon while Army planes took care of those in the central Philippines. For three days, TICONDEROGA airmen and their comrades wreaked havoc with a storm of destruction on enemy airfields. She withdrew on the 16th with the rest of TF 38 in search of a fueling rendezvous. While attempting to find calmer waters in which to refuel, TF 38 steamed directly through a violent, but unheralded, typhoon. Though the storm cost Admiral Halsey's force three destroyers and over 800 lives TICONDEROGA and the other carriers managed to ride it out with a minimum of damage. Having survived the tempest's fury, TICONDEROGA returned to Ulithi on Christmas Eve.

Repairs occasioned by the typhoon kept TF 38 in the anchorage almost until the end of the month. The carriers did not return to sea until 30 December 1944 when they steamed north to hit Formosa and Luzon in preparation for the landings on the latter is land at Lingayen Gulf. Severe weather limited the Formosa strikes on 3 and 4 January 1945 and, in all likelihood, obviated the need for them. The warships fueled at sea on the 5th. Despite rough weather on the 6th, the strikes on Luzon airfields were carried out. That day, TICONDEROGA's airmen and their colleagues of the other air groups increased their score by another 32 enemy planes. The 7th brought more strikes on Luzon installations. After a fueling rendezvous on the 8th, TICONDEROGA sped north at night to get into position to blanket Japanese airfields in the Ryukyus during the Lingayen assault the following morning. However, foul weather, the bugaboo of TF 38 during the winter of 1944 and 1945, forced TG 38.3 to abandon the strikes on the Ryukyu airfields and join TG 38.2 in pounding Formosa.

During the night of 9 and 10 January, TF 38 steamed boldly through the Luzon Strait and then headed generally southwest, diagonally across the South China Sea. TICONDEROGA provided combat air patrol coverage on the 11th and helped to bring down four enemy planes which attempted to snoop the formation. Otherwise, the carriers and their consorts proceeded unmolested to a point some 150 to 200 miles off the coast of Indochina. There, on the 12th, they launched their approximately 850 planes and mad e a series of anti-shipping sweeps during which they sank a whopping 44 ships, totaling over 130,000 tons. After recovering planes in the late afternoon, the carriers moved off to the northeast. Heavy weather hindered fueling operations on the 13th and 14th, and air searches failed to turn up any tempting targets. On the 15th, fighters swept Japanese airfields on the Chinese coast while the flattops headed for a position from which to strike Hong Kong. The following morning, they launched antishipping bom bing raids and fighter sweeps of air installations. Weather prevented air operations on the 17th and again made fueling difficult. It worsened the next day and stopped replenishment operations altogether, so that they were not finally concluded until the 19th. The force then shaped a course generally northward to retransit Luzon Strait via Balintang Channel.

The three task groups of TF 38 completed their transit during the night of 20 and 21 January. The next morning, their planes hit airfields on Formosa, in the Pescadores, and at Sakishima Gunto. The good flying weather brought mixed blessings. While it allowed American flight operations to continue through the day, it also brought new gusts of the "Divine Wind." Just after noon, a single-engined Japanese plane scored a hit on LANGLEY with a glide-bombing attack. Seconds later, a kamikaze swooped out of the clouds and plunged toward TICONDEROGA. He crashed through her flight deck abreast of the No. 2 5-inch mount, and his bomb exploded just above her hangar deck. Several planes stowed nearby erupted into flames. Death and destruction abounded, but the ship's company fought valiantly to save the threatened carrier. Capt. Kiefer conned his ship smartly. First, he changed course to keep the wind from fanning the blaze. Then, he ordered magazines and other compartments flooded to prevent further explosions and to correct a 10-degree starboard list. Finally, he instructed the damage control party to continue flooding compartments on TICONDEROGA's port side. That operation induced a 10-degree port list which neatly dumped the fire overboard! Fire-fighters and plane handlers completed the job by dousing the flames and jettisoning burning aircraft.

Wounded denizens of the deep often attract predators. TICONDEROGA was no exception. The other kamikazes pounced on her like a school of sharks in a feeding frenzy. Her antiaircraft gunners struck back with desperate, but methodical, ferocity and quickly swatted three of her tormentors into the sea. A fourth plane slipped through her barrage and smashed into the carrier's starboard side near the island. His bomb set more planes on fire, riddled her flight deck, and injured or killed another 100 sailors - including Capt. Kiefer. Yet, TICONDEROGA's crew refused to submit. Spared further attacks, they brought her fires completely under control not long after 1400; and TICONDEROGA retired painfully.


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