The Last Day

August 15, 1945 - The Last Day of the War

On their way to bomb Japanese airfields in the interior of Japan, 4 Hellcats from VF-31 from the USS Belleau Wood were flying with 4 Hellcats from VF-49 from the USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) when they came across four British torpedo bomber aircraft being attacked by a group of 15 Zeros. This was very unusual as there had not been much enemy fighter resistance in the last month of the war as there were very few aircraft and fewer pilots remaining with the Japanese forces.

The four fighters from VF-49 dropped down to engage the enemy aircraft while the pilots of VF-31 flew top cover. The pilots of VF-49 succeeded in downing 4 of the Zeros but were having difficulties from the other 11 so VF-31 dropped down and engaged the enemy aircraft and VF-49 flew top cover for a while. They switched back and forth until 12 of the enemy aircraft were shot down and the other 3 fled.  Not one of the British torpedo planes or American fighter planes were lost or badly damaged in this engagement.

Lt (jg) Ed Toaspern: Is credited with 2 aerial victories
Lt. Jim Stewart: Is credited with 1 aerial victory

35 minutes after regrouping with the aircraft from VF-49 and heading once again for their assigned target, the division from VF-31 got word over the radio from the air officer aboard USS Belleau Wood to abort their mission and return to the carrier Belleau Wood as Japan had just surrendered and the war was over.  All aircraft landed safely aboard.

This may very well have been the last fighter to fighter aerial engagement of the war against Japan.

Shortly after 1400 hours radar picked up a single unidentified contact closing on the fleet. Four divisions from VF-31 were flying CAP over the task force and were ordered to intercept. The aircraft was identified as Japanese "Judy" dive bomber and Admiral Halsey gave the order "To shoot down, not with hostility but with compassion".

Ens. Clarence Moore fell in behind the Judy and with 2 short bursts from his F6F, set it on fire and it crashed into the ocean.

This was the last aerial engagement of the war against Japan.

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