Sinking the Rising Sun: Dog Fighting and Dive Bombing in World War IIby William Davis
"Neither honor nor glory rode that Hellcat down to the deck, just duty. Navy fighter pilot Lt. Bill Davis was about to bomb the last ship remaining from the attack on Pearl Harbor - and in so doing was about to write the greatest untold story of World War II. Sinking the Rising Sun is that story - a memoir of World War II that traces the path of a young man graduating from the Ivy Leagues to deadly combat in the Pacific in a richly textured story you won't soon forget."
In October of 1944, a young Navy lieutenant nosed over his F6F Hellcat and began a dive towards a Japanese aircraft carrier below. "I screamed down on the carrier which now completely filled my gunsights," the pilot wrote in his memoir Sinking The Rising Sun . "I rested my finger on the bomb release button. I kept going."
And go he did. U.S. Navy fighter pilot William E. "Bill" Davis had no idea of it then but he was just seconds from taking his place among the many great Americans that have worn a Navy uniform. The ship filling his gunsights was no less than the Japanese carrier Zuikaku, the last of the fleet that had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Unlike today, back in 1941 no one sent out a fleet directive to hunt down those ships but every sailor had a mental list and as each ship was sunk, one name was checked off. Zuikaku was the last. With his F6F Hellcat insanely past the redline, Davis triggered the release, pulled back on his stick, and promptly slumped down into unconsciousness. No, he never saw his bomb but it squarely hit its mark, the beginning of the end for the Zuikaku, closure you might say, but Bill had little time to think about any of that. When his eyes fluttered open, his off-the-charts F6F was headed squarely into the side of the light cruiser Oyodo.
Today, 69 years after Pearl Harbor, Bill's bombing run may be the last untold story of Pearl Harbor. He managed to pull his F6F above the gunwales of the Oyodo and he flew through an impossibly small space between the forward gun turret and the bridge; he remembers the white uniform of a Japanese admiral and perhaps he saw his life flash before his eyes as he twisted his plane into a 500-mile-per-hour knife-edge pass and cleared the destroyer. Of course this is the stuff of the Navy's highest honor but none of this had anything to do with why Bill nosed over into a hail of anti-aircraft fire and held steady until his bomb found its mark. Neither honor nor glory rode that Hellcat down to the deck, just duty. Bill did his duty and the reward he fought for was the reward men in World War II wanted more than any medal or ribbon. They wanted to go home. That Bill could do that and provide a measure of closure for the sailors that went down on December 7th was merely the added satisfaction of a job exceptionally well done.
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