Going to the Naval Academy and Becoming a Naval Aviator

Attack on Taroa and Other Aerial Combat

Air Attacks on Kwajalein, Truk Lagoon and Saipan

Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Invasion of Saipan

Going After the Japanese Carriers

Encountering Chaos and Being Debriefed by Admiral Marc Mitscher

SBD Dauntless or the SB2c Helldiver

The Mission After Darkness

Forming Air Group 98, Postwar Service and Loving the USS Enterprise (CV-6)

Assignment to Bombing Squadron 10 (VB-10)

Attacking Truk

Ramage's Attack on an Aircraft Carrier


James Ramage started his career in the US Navy aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6). The non-aviators in the Navy at the time recommended against getting into aviation because they believed that it was only a novelty and would only be used for scouting. Ramage decided to apply to the US Naval Academy after Admiral Byrd [Annotator's Note: Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd] gave a speech in his hometown. Ramage was impressed with Byrd. Ramage and his father set out to get Ramage into the Academy [Annotator's Note: the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland]. Ramage's father owned a Chrysler franchise as well as a farm. The family lost the farm during the Depression. Ramage liked the Academy. He saw himself and his fellow aviation enthusiasts as misfits. He also had no grease, which was the name for aptitude for the service. Ramage lacked grease. He and two fellow classmates, Blackie Weinel [Annotator's Note: Admiral John P. Weinel] and Means Johnston [Annptator's Note: Admiral Means Johnston, Jr.], both of which retired with 4 stars [Annotator's Note: the rank of full Admiral], were at the bottom of the class. Ramage always wanted to fly. When he reported aboard the Enterprise he knew that flying is what he wanted most. Before getting into flight school he had to spend two years on board ship as a black shoe [Annotator's Note: an officer who is a non-aviator]. Ramage was angry about not being able to fly and the closest he could get to flying at this time was befriending the pilots in the air groups like Wade McClusky [Annotator's Note: Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky], Robin Lindsey [Annotator's Note: Commander Robin M. Lindsey], and Jimmie Daniels [Annotator's Note: Captain James G. Daniels, III], and many others. Ramage finally got his wish and went to flight school. After completing his training he was assigned to the air group aboard the Enterprise. He believes that John Crommelin [Annotator's Note: Rear Admiral John G. Crommelin] was the greatest leader he had ever known. Crommelin was the air boss [Annotator's Note: the commander of an aircraft carrier's flight group] when Ramage reported aboard the Enterprise and rose to become the exec [Annotator's Note: the executive officer or XO is the second in command of a ship or unit]. Ramage graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1939 and reported aboard the Enterprise. After his mandatory two year tour was up, he was assigned to flight school in Pensacola [Annotator's Note: US Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida] in September 1941. His actual flight training began on 1 November and he got his wings in the beginning of March [Annotator's Note: March 1942]. The fleet had gone to Pearl Harbor in 1940. The Enterprise had gone in 1939. This was done because of an expected war with Japan in the Pacific. Another change made was the awarding to Congress of an extra appointment to the US Naval Academy. It was one of these additional appointments that enabled Ramage to get into the academy in 1935. Ramage believes that Franklin Roosevelt knew at that time that war with Japan was coming. Ramage was shocked when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor but not surprised. For the first five or six months there was little information about what was going on in the Pacific. The United States was not doing much during that time and was being beaten. Ramage was at Pearl Harbor when the Battle of Midway began.


James Ramage was at Pearl Harbor when the Battle of Midway took place. He was not aboard ship at the time. The newspapers of the day, especially in Honolulu, claimed that the battle was won by the Air Corps but when the air group returned to Pearl after the battle Ramage discovered that the Air Corps had not made one hit on the enemy. Ramage reported back aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6) in late 1942. John Crommelin [Annotator's Note: Rear Admiral John G. Crommelin] was the exec [Annotator's Note: the executive officer or XO is the second in command of a ship or unit]. When Ramage returned, he told Crommelin that he wanted to be assigned to the air group. Crommelin told him to report to Bomber 1 on Espirito Santo and if anyone wanted him, Crommelin would transfer him. Ramage knew Bucky Lee [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Commander James R. Lee] who commanded the scout squadron and Bernie Strong. Strong checked him out in the SBD [Annotator's Note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber] and he got into that unit in early 1943. His first combat was on the second cruise during the attack in the Marshalls. Ramage was assigned the island of Taroa as his target. He took off before sunrise, after the fighters. During the launch of the fighters, two of them collided. Ramage and Bernie Strong were sent over to Bombing 10 [Annotator's Note: Bombing Squadron 10 (VB-10) flying from the USS Enterprise (CV-6)]. Ramage was the exec and Bernie Strong was the CO [Annotator's Note: commanding officer]. Strong was an excellent pilot and once told Ramage that he was going to make Ramage the second best pilot in the Pacific Fleet. The airstrike on Taroa began before dawn. The target assigned to Ramage was an ordnance workshop near the airfield. The raid began with a fighter sweep which later on became known as a Mitscher Shampoo [Annotator's Note: these sweeps were used often by US Navy Admiral Marc Mitscher, hence the name]. The sweep was successful and Ramage didn't see a Zero [Annotator's Note: Japanese Mistubishi A6M fighter aircraft, also known as a Zeke or Zero]. The Mitscher Shampoo was a 72 plane fighter sweep with each ship in the group dedicating about 12 planes for the sweep. Ramage was part of the close air support for the landings on Kwajalein and was the air coordinator for Saipan. The airborne coordinator was originally Killer Kane [Annotator's Note: US Navy Commander William R. Kane] who was the CAG [Annotator's Note: commander of the Carrier Air Group]. The air group came in from the east. They were to do close air support for the landings. When they got together, Killer Kane was the airborne coordinator and Ramage led the strike group. Killer Kane was shot down and Ramage took over as airborne coordinator and Lou Bangs [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Commander Louis Lee Bangs] took over the strike group. Killer Kane was fished out of the water quickly. Ramage believes that the men who picked him up were probably the ones who shot him down. Kane also went in the water at the Phil Sea Battle [Annotator's Note: the Battle of the Philippine Sea]. He had two quick dumps in about three or four days. Kane had been Flatley's [Annotator's Note: Vice Admiral James H. Flately, Jr.] exec.


Kane [Annotator's Note: US Navy Commander William R. Kane] took over the squadron then took over as CAG [Annotator's Note: commander of a Carrier Air Group] when Roscoe Newman [Annotator's Note: US Navy Commander Roscoe L. Newman] left. James Ramage got more satisfaction out of bombing Truk than any other island. The attack on Truk was preceded by a Mitscher Shampoo [Annotator's Note: nickname given to attacks by large groups of Navy fighter aircraft] so when Ramage arrived he only saw two Zeros [Annotator's Note: Mitsubishi A6M fighter aircraft, also known as the Zeke or Zero] that were trying to get away. The harbor was full of merchant ships. Ramage picked the largest ship in the Dublon Anchorage [Annotator's Note: one of the many islands that make up Truk Lagoon] and sank it. He thought it was an oiler but it turned out to be some type of support ship. The Japanese lost about 250 planes in the fighter sweep. Ramage made three strikes on the first day. He got a lot of satisfaction from the raid. He was still bitter about the attack on Pearl Harbor so the Truk raid made up for it. Ramage had a hatred for the Japanese because of Pearl Harbor. Ramage describes Truk Atoll. It was enormous. After the raid on Kwajalein, Ramage returned to Majuro. He was tossing a medicine ball with a friend when Kane approached and asked how he felt about attacking Truk. To Ramage, Truk was like the Bogie Man. Truk was the Japanese Pearl Harbor and Ramage looked forward to the strike. The intenseness of the antiaircraft fire depended upon where you where. There were no enemy fighters to contend with. In the harbor where Ramage was the antiaircraft fire was minimal but near the naval base it was heavy. Ramage made three strikes on Truk on the first day and two or three on the second day. After the first day, the carrier moved to within 40 or 50 miles from Truk. The strike groups could attack the island then return to their ship to rearm and refuel and go back out again. On the second day, Ramage took off before sunrise. He and Lou Bangs [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Commander Louis Lee Bangs] came across two ships and sank them. Ramage believes that these were the last two ships afloat at Truk at the time. Ramage and the other airmen were very satisfied and confident after the raid on Truk. The air group was very good at their job by now. During the first raids on Guam the Enterprise was back attacking targets on Kwajalein. The first strike Ramage made in the Marianas was Aslito Airfield on Saipan. The landings on Saipan took place on 15 June [Annotator's Note: 1944]. The plan was to start with a shampoo [Annotator's Note: Mitcher shampoo] on 12 June, but it was feared that they had been spotted.


The strike groups began hitting Guam and Saipan on the 12th [Annotator's Note: 12 June 1944] in preparation for the landings on those islands. James Ramage's duty as airborne coordinator was to remain in contact with the main coordinator who for Saipan was Captain Dick Whitehead. The main coordinator was based on the amphibious ships. The main coordinator would tell the airborne coordinator where to place his aircraft. There were a lot of aircraft there as well as four or five jeep carriers [Annotator's Note: jeep carrier is the nickname for escort carriers or CVEs, however, the carriers Ramage is referring to were actually Light Aircraft Carriers or CVLs]. There were 15 carriers in the task force, eight CVLs and seven big ones [Annotator's Note: fleet carriers] totalling about 1,000 aircraft. Airstrikes were scheduled to minimize confusion. Aircraft on station would fly up and down the beach and would look for targets to assist the ground troops. Ramage inherited Killer's [Annotator's Note: Commander William R. "Killer" Kane] wingman. Ramage didn't need him and when he was shot down and killed it really bothered Ramage. Ramage was impressed by the Marines in their landing craft hitting Saipan. The task force was enormous. It was composed of the 15 carriers plus battleships but the battleships didn't do much. The battleships provided gunfire support. They had learned a lesson at Tarawa and really pounded Saipan before the troops went ashore. It was the old battleships that did the shore bombardment. Ramage was only the airborne coordinator for the first day. After that first day he returned to his job as strike leader. After the initial landings on Saipan, Ramage's air group started attacking Guam. The Orote Peninsula was a main Japanese base. Airstrikes kept the base on Orote contained. Ramage talks about the difference between 1942 and 1943 when it comes to naval vessels and brings up the beating the American cruisers took at Guadalcanal. Ramage had no idea of when the war would end. He states that a common phrase of the time was the Golden Gate by 48 [Annotator's Note: passing under the Golden Gate Bridge to return home by 1948]. Ramage looked forward to striking Japanese carriers. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Ramage says that they could smell the Japanese carriers. The Turkey Shoot had taken place on the 19th [Annotator's Note: 19 June 1944] so Ramage knew that they had to be coming from somewhere. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea the Japanese had nine carriers and about 600 aircraft and had many land based planes. There were roughly 1,000 planes on each side of the battle. Ramage believes that Mitscher [Annotator's Note: US Navy Admiral Marc A. Mitscher] having all of his aircraft in one place made coordination easier and resulted in the lop-sided victory attained by the US Navy. On the day of the Turkey Shoot, Ramage was airborne with a full load of bombs. The reasons for getting the bombers airborne was to get them out of the way of the fighters and to be able to attack if the Japanese carriers were sighted. Ramage led a strike group of about 16 bombers and eight torpedo planes. After being up for about two hours, Ramage was ordered to attack Guam. They cratered the runway which assisted the fighters because the Japanese aircraft could no longer use it. The first definite contact report Ramage got of the Japanese carriers came on the 20th [Annotator's Note: 20 June 1944].


James Ramage and other pilots were ready to go [Annotator's Note: Ramage is talking about attacking Japanese aircraft carriers during the Battle of the Philippine Sea]. Mitscher [Annotator's Note: US Navy Admiral Marc A. Mitscher] wanted to detach Task Force 58 to go after the carriers but Spruance [Annotator's Note: US Navy Admiral Raymond Spruance] said no. Their job was to protect the landings on Saipan. On the afternoon of the 20th [Annotator's Note: 20 June 1944] they knew they were going. They began launching aircraft at 4:20 in the afternoon. Ramage was leading a squadron of 12 dive bombers, 12 fighters, and nine torpedo planes. Torpedo 10 [Annotator's Note: Torpedo Squadron 10 (VT-10) flying from USS Enterprise (CV-6)] was a good outfit and Mitscher liked to use them for scouting. The strike radius of the SBD [Annotator's Note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber] was advertised as 250 [Annotator's Note: 250 miles] but they knew they could do 300. The bombers took off last because they did not have folding wings. They received a contact report showing that the first report was off by one degree. Where they were, one degree could translate into a great distance. They ended up flying a 340 mile trip on the strike. To maximize the distance they could fly, Ramage had his squadron flying at 138 [Annotator's Note: 138 knots] to 140. They hit the fleet 20 minutes after the other air groups had attacked. They had flown 320 miles. They could tell that the fleet was ahead of them by all of the noise of battle. Ramage's gunner [Annotator's Note: Aviation Radioman 1st Class David Cawley] notified him of an air wing attacking Japanese oilers. Ramage called the wing commander telling him the the CVs, Charlie Victors [Annotator's Note: aircraft carriers], were dead ahead and asked if they were trying to sink their merchant marine. The attack went exactly as planned. They were only there for five minutes or so. They were just plain lucky. They dove out of a modified V to keep the Zero's [Annotator's Note: Mitsubishi A6M fighter aircraft, also known as the Zeke or Zero] off of them. One Zero passed Ramage. Ramage thinks the Japanese pilot was trying to kamikaze him. Ramage's gunner fired on the Japanese plane which passed by about three feet. Ramage was fixed on the target. When in a dive on a target, the gunners have a better idea of the fighter situation. Ramage went lower than usual. They usually released at 2,000 indicated feet which was actually about 1,800 feet. Ramage pulled out of his dive right over a destroyer and he fired on the ship, raking it from the bridge to the waterline. Ramage then climbed to 9,000 feet. He began picking up aircraft and began heading back to his carrier. He had most of his air wing cruising slower than some of the other aircraft that had joined him. The other aircraft were in a hurry to get back and were flying 20 or 30 knots faster than Ramage. Ramage got his group all the way back to his carriers.


When he was still 100 miles out from his carrier [Annotator's Note: USS Enterprise (CV-6)], the primitive radar in James Ramage's SBD [Annotator's Note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber] picked up the YZ-BZ bands which showed a return blip from the carriers so he knew right where they were [Annotator's Note: Ramage is talking about returning after attacking Japanese aircraft carriers during the Battle of the Philippine Sea]. When they got to the fleet, radio discipline was poor and planes were flying around everywhere. Ramage got his group back to the Enterprise, but was unable to land on it because of an overturned aircraft. He split up his strike group and told them to land wherever they could. Ramage landed aboard the USS Yorktown (CV-10). When he landed, he was given the wing fold sign but the wings on the SBD do not fold. The deck crew was used to working with SB2C's [Annotator's Note: Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bomber]. After stopping, a deck crewman told him to get out of the area because of an earlier crash and the possibility of another one. Ramage went into the island structure and saw that one of his strike groups was there. He saw Hound Dog Lewis and Mankin. He asked what ship and they replied Yorktown. Ramage and the others went to the ready room and then to the wardroom to eat. He saw John Crommelin [Annotator's Note: Rear Admiral John G. Crommelin], who wanted to talk to him about the strike. Crommelin told Ramage that according to the reports they had been getting, the attack did a lot of damage to the Japanese. Ramage replied that he did not think so. Ramage found someone to debrief him. There were problems debriefing following the strike. During the return, planes landed on any carrier they could. It took several days for all of the aircraft to be back aboard their own carriers. Ramage had to rely on information from his gunner [Annotator's Note: Aviation Radioman 1st Class David Cawley] and others like Flash Gordon [Annotator's Note: US Navy Captain Donald Gordon] to know the results of the strike. Ramage's strike group hit Japanese Carrier Division 2 which was made up of the Hiyo, Junyo, and Ryujo. Ramage believed at the time that he had gone after the Ryujo but was later told that he had attacked the Junyo. The strike resulted in the sinking of the Hiyo with the Junyo and Ryuho being severely damaged. There were other groups involved in the strike and Ramage thinks they did well. Ramage returned to Eniwetok [Annotator's Note: Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands] after the strike on the enemy carriers. While there, he was called over by Admiral Mitscher [Annotator's Note: Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher]. Mitscher gave Ramage a look that told him he was very proud of him. Ramage never felt so proud or pleased with Mitscher. He felt that Mitscher was a great leader. Mitscher wanted to talk to Ramage about the SBDs. Lexington and Enterprise had the only two squadrons of SBDs in the fleet. He wanted to know how Ramage had gotten all of his planes back when there were close to 100 planes lost in the battle. Arliegh Burke [Annotator's Note: Admiral Arliegh Albert Burke] and Admiral McCain [Annotator's Note: Admiral John S. McCain, Sr.] were there. Ramage had never been in an admiral's cabin before and wondered if he was taking too much of the admiral's time. Mitscher wanted to talk about every aspect of the flight, strike, and return, like fuel settings and throttle settings. Ramage was impressed with Mitscher's knowledge of aviation and was very pleased and proud of him.


James Ramage was not pleased with the results [Annotator's Note: the results of the US Navy's attack on the Japanese carrier fleet during the Battle of the Philippine Sea]. Ramage believed for a while that it was going to be a one way mission. Ramage did not have any radio contact with the flight before they got the redirection. They were a quiet air group and did not talk much when they were flying. Ramage was asked which plane was going to be the better one to fly, the Helldiver [Annotator's Note: Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bomber] or the SBD [Annotator's Note: Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber]. There was a discussion that took place on whether or not they should switch from the Helldiver back to the SBD, but the logistics would not support the switch. As it turned out, this was the demise of the Japanese fleet. They did not need dive bombers towards the end of the war like they needed at the beginning. They needed more fighter planes to counteract the growing number of kamikazes. Ramage was sent to Air Group 98 to help those guys qualify for carrier landings and he trained with the SBD. The Dauntless was simple to fly and easy to get on target. It took more skill to fly the Helldiver. The Dauntless was the plane for Ramage. They flew SBD-5s for their second tour; on the first cruise they flew the SBD-3. When Ramage saw the fleet it was getting dark and there were some clouds. Ramage was at about 12,000 feet. Ramage could see three carriers. He saw one of the carriers right away. Ramage knew he was going to take the first carrier, then the torpedo planes were going to come in. The torpedo planes had 500 pound bombs instead of torpedoes. Ramage calls it good luck finding the carrier. It was the chance of a lifetime. It worked out to the minute. Ramage did have to navigate some flak that was being fired at them. Once they got their dive lined up they were almost impossible to hit. The dive was 70 degrees plus. When they pulled out they had to fly over the battleships and the cruisers. They were shooting at them with everything they had. There were a couple of Zero's [Annotator's Note: Mitsubishi A6M fighter aircraft, also known as the Zeke or Zero] that had started in to attack them, but they had already gone into their dive. Ramage talked to Joe Foss [Annotator's Note: US Marine Corps ace and Medal of Honor recipient Joe Foss] about it later, but they noted that there were a bunch of airplanes that appeared to be doing acrobatics. Ramage could not figure out what they were doing. Ramage never figured it out. Ramage got out of the antiaircraft as fast as he could.


One of the guys that James Ramage was flying with looked back at one of the burning Japanese carriers and said, "Look back. She's burning from asshole to appetite!" Ramage never looked back and saw it. He had other things to focus on. Ramage knew he was going to get back. He was a cocky guy and he just knew they had enough fuel. Ramage knew some of the other guys would not make it because they had not planned their strike right and had wasted fuel. When they got back to the fleet, everyone had turned their lights on, battleships and cruisers included. It made it more confusing for the returning airmen because they could not differentiate between the ships. Ramage knows they lost some planes because there were too many lights. Ramage recalls looking down and saying, "This must be Atlantic City." They began to pick up the lights 20 to 30 miles off. The carriers had a vertical light pointing straight up. There was a panic that ensued on the radio because guys were running out of fuel. There were several squadrons that went into the water en masse so that they would have a chance to cling together and survive. Ramage feels that they did as well as they could with the raid. Ramage was disappointed with the lack in radio discipline. Many guys made false reports after the raid. Ramage notes that the Japanese were pretty badly beaten up. The following morning, Ramage was woken up after a poor night's sleep. The USS Enterprise (CV-6) had lost her entire dive bombing squadron. Ramage went up the next morning. His SBD was equipped with a 1,000 pound bomb. They were told they were going to mount another strike. They still had a few SB2-Cs [Annotator's Note: Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bomber]. Ramage did not want to go because of the different specifications of the plane. Ramage was able to fly back to the Enterprise that morning. Bangs [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Commander Louis Lee Bangs] and Killer [Annotator's Note: US Navy Captain William R. "Killer" Kane] made it back. Killer told the guys he did not run out of fuel, but rather he ran out of altitude. Ramage believes that Flatley [Annotator's Note: US Navy Vice Admiral James H. "Jimmy" Flatley] was the best pilot out of the guys. The air group commander was completely useless. His name was Dick. The guys called him Slippery Dick. He never flew. There was a lot of talent aboard the Enterprise.


[Annotator's Note: US Navy Rear Admiral James D. "Jig Dog" Ramage, commanded Bombing Squadron 10 (VB-10), a scout-bomber squadron from the USS Enterprise (CV-6) and led the strike on the Japanese fleet during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.] Air Group 98 was stacked with talent. The group was a replacement training and ready service group, ready to provide airmen when they were needed. They got back in July 1945. They set up Air Group 98, first at Ventura County airport. Ramage notes again that they had a lot of talent. Ramage had three squadron commanders who were ready to go at any time. Ramage felt that they had served enough time overseas and most guys were ready to go home. He was in Los Alamedos when the war ended. Ramage got his Rear Admiral rank in 1967 and retired in 1976. Every time he wanted to get out of the Navy, they gave him a new plane to fly. Ramage considers himself lucky to be able to make the transition into jets. He has had more air carrier commands than anyone. Ramage had two dive bomber squadrons, a night fighter squadron, an air group, an air wing, two carriers, and a seaplane tender. He was just plain lucky. Ramage was on the Independence [Annotator's Note: USS Independence (CV-62)] and the Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB/CVA/CV-42)]. Ramage notes that when the sun set on 2 July [Annotator's Note: 2 July 1944], it also set on the Japanese carrier fleet. Philippine Sea was a striking blow. The USS Enterprise (CV-6) will always be Ramage's carrier. In 1939, they sent out a Hawaiian detachment. The Enterprise was a special ship to Ramage and the guys who served aboard. Ramage got to choose the Enterprise, and was told by the commanding officer that they were never going to regret that decision. There was a great bunch of people aboard the Enterprise. There were very few family issues aboard the ship. The Enterprise was deployed in 1939 and would serve the duration of the war. Ramage wanted to serve on the Enterprise because it was the newest carrier and it was based on the West Coast. Ramage had never been to the West Coast before. When he got on the Enterprise, the elevator had been previously blown out and Ramage notes that he could see the damage when he came aboard. The Enterprise could take a beating. In 1941, the Enterprise was stripped of all materials that would help a fire spread.

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