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Japanese Tactics

I shot down 31 airplanes...

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Feightner was in VF-3 [Annotator's Note: Fighter Squadron 3] with Butch O'Hare [Annotator's Note: Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare] at Maui, Hawaii when VF-10 [Annotator's Note: Fighter Squadron 10] came through. Two VF-10 pilots were lost during training so O'Hare offered to become a VF-10 Feightner. Feightner just missed out on the Battle of Midway.Feightner grew up on a dairy farm in Ohio.Feightner was given a four year scholarship to Findlay College by the Ohio Oil Company. He took his first flight with the company's pilot, Mike Murphy, when he had gone to one of the company's executives to thank him for the scholarship. When they went up, Murphy let Feightner fly for a while. Feightner began flying at night with the company pilots who let him fly the four hour shifts that they were in the air.Feightner flew his first solo flight when he went with Murphy to buy a plane. Murphy began training Feightner in more complicated planes like the Piper Cub. From that point on Feightner knew what he wanted to do. He didn't want to be drafted into the army so he joined the Army Air Corps.

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Feightner and a friend, Red Hall, attended the CPT [Annotator's Note: Civilian Pilot Training] class their school [Annotator's Note: Findlay College, Ohio] offered.Just before graduation Feightner and Hall flew up to Michigan to talk to the navy. They volunteered for the navy.Feightner and Hall flew back up to Michigan for navy selection training. Then they went down to Corpus Christi, Texas. Everyone in Feightner's group already had their civilian pilot licenses.When the war started the navy terminated the remainder of Feightner's training and shipped him out to the Pacific.Feightner's first assignment was VF-5 aboard the Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown (CV-10)]. After completing his required five carrier landings, he was sent by train to the West Coast and then put on a boat to Hawaii. They arrived too late to board the Yorktown before the Battle of Midway.During the trip out to Pearl Harbor, the destroyer escorts sank a Japanese submarine. During the war the Japanese had submarines all up and down the West Coast.

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The Yorktown [Annotator's Note: USS Yorktown (CV-10)] was gone when Feightner arrived at Pearl Harbor so he went down to Maui where Butch O'Hare [Annotator's Note: Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare] was putting together his new squadron. Butch O'Hare had just received the Medal of Honor and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and given command of VF-3 [Annotator's Note: Fighter Squadron 3] .VF-3 was used as a replacement air group. This was in June [Annotator's Note: June 1942].The Enterprise [Annotator's Note: USS Enterprise (CV-6)] came in and Feightner was assigned to her after two of her pilots were killed in a mid-air collision. When the Enterprise group left Maui many of the pilots in VF-10 were not carrier qualified.The F4F [Annotator's Note: Grumman F4F Wildcat, American carrier-based fighter aircraft] was a rugged airplane. Feightner was flying the F4F-4 which had six .50 caliber machine guns. The guns carried 14 seconds worth of ammo.Feightner joined Butch O'Hare to teach some dignitaries from Pearl Harbor how to do the Thatch Weave [Annotator's Note: an aerial combat tactic]. By this time Feightner had flown about 1300 hours in 20 something different types of airplanes.Feightner was lucky to have been originally taught by Mike Murphy. Mike Murphy won the Freddy Lund Acrobatic Trophy three times. Murphy kept the trophy at Findlay [Annotator's Note: Findlay College, Ohio].Red Hall, Mike Murphy, and Feightner rebuilt a Bucker Jungmeister biplane. Murphy did the welding and Feightner re-covered the wings with canvas. When the plane was finished Mike Murphy flew it and won the Freddy Lund trophy.

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Butch O'Hare [Annotator's Note: Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare] really invented the Thatch Weave and Thatch's name was applied to it. Both men were top pilots.Butch liked to hunt and fish. Feightner flew the Grumman J2F "Duck" and O'Hare fished out of it.Feightner flew the Duck to rescue seven men from a downed B-24 [Annotator's Note: American bomber] and got them all back to Pearl Harbor.Butch liked to hunt. He rode on horseback to the top of an extinct volcano to hunt wild goats. Feightner fl the J2F Duck up and into the volcano and dropped supplies to O'Hare.The Sprekels, who owned all of the sugar plantations in the area, adopted the men in the squadron.O'Hare decided that the entire squadron needed to learn to spear fish and surf. He taught the men how to survive.The Sprekels would give the men in the squadron horses and guns and the men would go out hunting birds. On one of these hunts, Butch told Feightner about Japanese tactics. He urged Feightner to fire very short bursts. All it took was one good hit to knock the Japanese planes down.

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At Santa Cruz Feightner and Wickendoll [Annotator's Note: Lt(jg) Maurice Wickendoll] were flying CAP [Annotator's Note: Combat Air Patrol]. They were vectored out to a flight of Japanese "Val" bombers. Feightner killed one of them but Wickendoll's guns froze.Feightner and Wickendoll then encountered two Japanese Zeros and Feightner got one of them as well.O'Hare [Annotator's Note: Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare] had impressed on his pilots that they would always be outnumbered so they had to fi then break away, because there would be another enemy plane behind them.Later in the war Feightner was involved in a fight including 14 American planes and 60 Japanese planes.Five SBD [Annotator's Note: Douglas SBD "Dauntless" dive bomber] pilots became fighter pilots in VF-10; Bobby Edwards, John Lepla, Swede [Annotator's Note: Stanley "Swede" Vejtasa], Fritz Faulkner, and one other. All of them had shot down enemy planes with their SBDs. Many of the VF-10 pilots had been recruited from their jobs as instructors. Feightner didn't even know many of the pilot's names when they left Pearl Harbor for the Battle of Santa Cruz.The night before the Battle of Santa Cruz, Feightner was out on a search mission looking for the enemy fleet. The strike group included about eight fighters, six or eight SBDs, and four or five TBMs [Annotator's Note: TBF Avenger, naval torpedo bombers]. There were a number of "big wheels" on this mission including Swede, Flatley [Annotator's Note: Vice Admiral James "Jimmy" Flatley], and Bucky Lee.The mission lasted into the evening. Feightner saw one Wildcat [Annotator's Note: Grumman F4F "Wildcat" fighter] fall out of formation and then bail out. He had run out of fuel.When the flight got to where the fleet should have been it wasn't there. Swede, in the dark, found the oil slick being left by the fleet and followed it back to the fleet.

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Lepla took off with the strike group on the morning of the Battle of Santa Cruz [Annotator's Note: 26 October 1942]. When the group was testing their gun's altitude, they were jumped by a group of eight or ten Japanese Zeros that knocked out seven of the group that had just taken off. Lepla was one of the pilots shot down and he was never seen again.Feightner was flying CAP [Annotator's Note: Combat Air Patrol] and did not see either the USS Enterprise or the USS Hornet get hit.When Feightner made it back to his ship [Annotator's Note: USS (CV-6)] it was under a torpedo attack. The ship went into a right turn and Feightner landed.When Feightner taxied after landing he saw that the forward elevator was gone.Robin Lindsey was the best LSO [Annotator's Note: Landing Signal Officer] in the navy.Feightner got back to Pearl Harbor in May [Annotator's Note: May 1943]. Between the Battle of Santa Cruz and his return to Pearl, Feightner took part in actions around Guadalcanal. The air boss, John Crommelin, told the pilots that if the Japanese were able to land, Guadalcanal would be lost. He said they were the only ones who could stop the Japanese.Flatley led the flight out after the Japanese ships. The Japanese transports were loaded with troops.At about the time they saw the ships, Feightner looked up and saw a group of over sixty Japanese airplanes. The Japanese pilots didn't see Fightner's group until they nosed over to dive at the transports.

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The fighters rendezvoused with the SBDs [Annotator's Note: Douglas SBD "Dauntless" dive bomber], then had to look after some straggling aircraft. Feightner saw a bomber with two Japanese Zeros attacking it. He shot down one Zero and the other one left.Feightner flew to Guadalcanal. When he landed on the fighter strip he looked out of his cockpit and saw a geyser of dirt which was followed by another. The airstrip was being shelled.Feightner taxied off of the strip with the help of two Marines.Feightner stayed on Guadalcanal. During the night a shell penetrated the position where some of the dive bomber pilots were.The following morning the pilots were told by the Marines to stay where they were. A group of Marine Raiders went out and fired into the treetops to kill the Japanese snipers who snuck in during the night.The fighters were fueled using a hand crank pump. There was very little food for the men.After the initial attack on the Japanese transports, Feightner and other pilots continued to attack the ships that had been beached during the battle.The Japanese continued to get supplies from the beachhead transports. During a mission to strafe the beached enemy ship, Feightner shot down two Japanese fighters. Butch had trained his men not to fire at targets farther than 800 feet. The only time Feightner shot at a target past 800 feet was when he shot a Zero off of his squadron commander's tail while flying an F6F [Annotator's Note: F6F Hellcat, carrier-based fighter aircraft].The Japanese planes had no armor plating at all. They would come apart completely with a few solid hits. Feightner frequently flew through the debris.

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Living aboard the USS Enterprise was tough. Feightner slept in a hammock under a 5 inch gun mount. Other pilots bunked in racks that were installed outboard of the passageway.Feightner didn't spend much time on the ship. They spent much of their time on Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santos, and Noumea.The ship was very banged up and had the remnants of two air groups, theirs and the group from the USS Hornet, which were combined into one squadron.The group returned to Guadalcanal a few times. On their last trip they left their planes there and picked up new planes to fly back to the Enterprise.Feightner took part in the mission to escort the Chicago [Annotator's Note: heavy cruiser USS Chicago, CA29]. Feightner's engine quit during a climb. When he got it restarted he looked up and saw a group of twelve Japanese Bettys [Annotator's Note: Mitsubishi G4M medium bomber]. Feightner believes that the Bettys were actually after the Enterprise but attacked the Chicago.Feightner got off a one second burst at a Betty and she blew up. He then shot at a second and knocked it down too.Some of the Bettys got through and launched their fish [Annotator's Note: torpedos] into the side of the Chicago. During the attack the gunners aboard the Chicago shot down two of the Bettys.Feightner and Flatley took off after a Betty. The Betty flew into the clouds and Feightner followed it and shot it down. Feightner and Flatley headed back toward the Chicago which was already going down.Feightner saw a Betty that was smoking and heading away. He then saw an F4F [Annotator's Note: F4F Wildcat, carrier-based fighter aircraft] that was apparently out of ammunition with it's tail hook down attempting to snag the vertical fin on the Betty. The pilot was Russ Reiserer. He made a couple of passes at the Betty. Feightner tried to shoot the Betty down but only got one shot off before he ran out of ammo so Russ and Feightner formed up and flew back to their ship.

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On his first tour, Feightner was officially credited with 4 kills but he knows he shot down 12. Feightner shot down 31 airplanes. All of his kills were right up close. He didn't miss any plane he shot at.Feightner shot down one plane over Truk. The enemy pilot bailed out from 26000 feet with no oxygen. The American aircraft in the area all made a run on the body floating down.Feightner believes that the Japanese airman was an engineer out dropping magnesium strips on American aircraft.The USS Chicago was the last combat Feightner had before returning to the US.Back Stateside the squadron was split up. Half of the men went to the East Coast and went aboard the Intrepid [Annotator's Note: USS Intrepid, (CV-11)].While back in the US, Feightner began flying the F6F [Annotator's Note: Grumman F6F "Hellcat" fighter]. The F6F was the best plane in the war in the Pacific. Feightner says that on three occasions he just flew the biggest piece home.Feightner was part of a group assigned to knock out a camp in which guerillas were based and planning to attack American units. They were going to knock the camp out using napalm.Napalm was very primitive at this time.Before the attack, Feightner flew an F6F with an F-56 camera installed to take pictures of the antiaircraft defenses around the airfield. During this flight, Feightner's group discovered that the Japanese had radar-controlled guns.Feightner's F6F was hit twice with 75mm shells but he still got the pictures he had gone to take.

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When Feightner pulled up at the end of the runway he was hit again. His F6F [Annotator's Note: Grumman F6F "Hellcat" fighter plane] caught fire. He started to bail out then decided not to because he wanted to die on his own terms.Feightner was trying to clear a mountain ahead of him when the plane blew up. When he looked out of the left side he didn't see a wing. There was only about 14 inches of wing left between the main spar and the leading edge of the wing.Feightner flew out over the water and started looking for a submarine that was in the area to pick up downed airmen. He saw the Bunker Hill [Annotator's Note: USS Bunker Hill, (CV-17)] and decided to land on it. He managed to put the plane down even though it was in such bad shape.The film from Feightner's camera was developed and the pictures were used to guide an attack on the field.The enemy began sending out boats of all types in the hopes of opposing the landings and Feightner and others were sent out to sink them. They couldn't sink them fast enough so some destroyers were sent out to finish the boats off. While Feightner was aboard the Intrepid [Annotator's Note: USS Intrepid (CV-11)] the ship was crashed into a rock face in the Culebra Cut in the Panama Canal by the canal pilot. The ship hit the rock wall doing 8 knots.Feightner and Red Carmody were on deck when the collision happened. Temporary repairs were made and the ship steamed to San Francisco where permanent repairs were made 10 or 15 days around Christmas.

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When they arrived at Pearl Harobr, Air Group 6 needed one more run before they rotated home. During the trip to Truk the Intrepid [Annotator's Note: USS Intrepid (CV-11)] was hit by a torpedo and had to return.Feightner was transferred to the Bunker Hill [Annotator's Note: USS Bunker Hill (CV-17)]. Feightner spent 11 months on that ship.Feightner spent a couple of years as an instructor in Long Beach, California with a replacement air wing. Then he moved to San Diego with VF-21 [Fighter Squadron 21] for a while.After the jet squadrons came out, he transferred to VF-5 flying FJ's [Annotator's Note: North American FJ-1 "Fury" fighters].Feightner was selected to be an aide for the former skipper of the USS Enterprise. Even though he didn't want to go at first the assignment was beneficial. Feightner learned to fly jet fighters with Dick Bong as his instructor. He then reported to Patuxent where he spent the next four years. He missed the Korean War because of his assignment to Patuxent. Feightner became the head of the fighter division.Fightner retired in July of 1974 as a Rear Admiral. Immediately after he retired from the US Navy he went to work as a consultant. He worked for various companies over the next 25 years and is now completely retired.Feightner does some work for several organizations he belongs to.Video ends at 01:56:19:122.

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