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Torpedo Squadron Four - A Cockpit View of World War II [Kindle Edition]

Gerald W. Thomas , David Thomas
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $2.99

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Book Description

Thomas, in the only combat account of World War II Torpedo Bomber pilot ever published, relates his 25 months of service with Torpedo Squadron 4 (VT-4) on the USS RANGER, USS BUNKER HILL, and USS ESSEX. Thomas served in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters, and in some of the most important World War II battles.

While on the RANGER, he participated in OPERATION LEADER, the most significant attack on Northern Europe by a US carrier during the war. During LEADER, while attacking a freight barge carrying 40 tons of ammunition, Thomas' plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Surprisingly, in spite of the considerable engine damage, the plane made it back to the RANGER, where Thomas crash-landed. That landing was his 13th official carrier landing.

In the Pacific, Thomas participated in the numerous actions against Japanese targets in the Philippines, including strikes on Ormoc Bay, Cavite, Manilla, Santa Cruz, San Fernando, Lingayen, Mindoro, Clark Field and Aparri.

Following these actions, Thomas' squadron made strikes on Formosa, French Indo-China, Saigon, Pescadores, Hainan, Amami O Shima, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Japan. The attack on Japan was the first attack on Japan from an aircraft carrier since the "Doolittle Raid."

While on the ESSEX, just after Thomas had returned from a strike on Santa Cruz, the ship was hit by a Kamikaze piloted by Yoshinori Yamaguchi, Yoshino Special Attack Corps. Yamaguchi was flying a Yokosuba D4Y3 dive bomber. The Kamikaze attack killed 16 crewman and wounded 44.

Returning from a strike on Hainan, off the Chinese coast, Thomas' plane ran out of fuel. After a harrowing water landing, Thomas and squadron photographer Montague succeeded in inflating and launching one rubber boat and his crewman Gress another. After a long day in pre-Typhoon weather with 40 foot swells, the three were rescued by the USS SULLIVANS.

In recounting the events in this book, Thomas draws upon his daily journal, his letters home, and extensive interviews and research conducted over 40 years with fellow pilots and crewman. The book cites 20 interviews and 5 combat journals, and contains 209 photos documenting the ships, planes, men, and combat actions of Torpedo Squadron 4. Many of the photographs were collected by Thomas during the war and include gun photo shots, recon photos, and, remarkably, a picture of the tail of Thomas' Torpedo plane as it sinks in the China Sea following his water crash landing.


Editorial Reviews

Review

One Of The Best Books On The Pacific War
"This book contains more first-person accounts than I have seen in several years. ...we can feel the emotion... tempered by the daily losses that characterized this final stage of the war in the Pacific. All in all, one of the best books on the Pacific War I have seen lately." -- Naval Aviation News, Fall 2011


Fascinating Read
War planes today are so fast and powerful, it's hard to imagine flying a war plane which forced the pilot to purposely make himself an easy target. But that is what Avenger torpedo bomber pilots had to do in WWII. This is the ONLY published account of that experience. Thomas details the many combat losses among his fellow pilots and his amazing 24 months of combat service in both the Atlantic and Pacific. He saw action in numerous World War II battles: Operation Leader in Europe and Luzon, Cavite, Mindoro, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Tokyo....
  - Unknown reviewer, Android Market

Review
[The book ranges] from his first sight of an airplane when he was a young man, through flight school, serving as a pilot on an aircraft carrier, and home again.  It is these descriptions, and those of his fellow pilots and crewman, that enhances the rest of the text by giving a firsthand account of the operations. As Thomas not only includes the living conditions on board an aircraft carrier, problems taking off and landing, the effect of weather conditions, problems with equipment, and morale issues it really brings home what these brave men had to endure to accomplish those missions. It was a privilege to read it, and I'm thankful the Mr. Thomas took put in so much time and effort to leave this historical memorial.
  - inrevue.wordpress.com

From the Author

In July, 2011, I was 92. In the last few months it has become very difficult for me to write because of Parkinson's disease. My goal was to get the new, revised version of Torpedo Squadron Four out as a tribute to my fellow members of Air Group 4, so their story will be recorded. If you read the book, I hope you enjoy it. I spent over 40 years collecting the 200+ photos in the book.

Product Details

  • File Size: 11197 KB
  • Print Length: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Doc45 Publications; Second, Revised Edition edition (May 20, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005208J8S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,800 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what you seldom see in a miliary history September 28, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a excellent book. It is the first book I have read about the USS Ranger's carrier raids over Norway. It is also one the first book I have read where the author describes many of the actual pilots and crews that were lost during carrier operations rather then generic number of aircraft that did not return to the carrier he was serving on, here he list the names of the men and where known the reason for the loss. His description of each type of aircraft he flew, their positive side and short commings made understanding the book much easier. As I said and excellent book that I recommend to anyone interested in WWII carrier operations.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely Accurate November 5, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Completely accurate to the smallest detail is the way I would describe "Torpedo Squadron Four-A Cockpit View of World War II". As a former Avenger aircrew man flying off the deck of an escort carrier the memory of carbon monoxide exhaust fumes came back as I read the book. The description of carrier landings, catapult takeoffs, and carrier life in general matches my memory perfectly. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting an accurate and interesting description of our greatest war; the pictures are priceless and the author's telling is both modest and heroic.
Andrew Winnegar former ARM USS White Plains Composite Squadron VC
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Torpedo Squadron Four - A Cockpit View of World War II October 12, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
This is the most amazing book. To have actual photos that document historic action makes it feel like I am living it along with Gerald Thomas and those serving with him. Very interesting look at WWII through the eyes of a pilot who was engaged in the midst of battle....
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better December 31, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In the six months since getting my first Kindle book, I have downloaded a dozen World War II histories, mostly first person accounts. This book covered the most unfamiliar history, the US Navy air strikes on occupied Norway, and the longest and wides range of combat from the coast of Europe to Tokyo Bay. Sad to say, this was the most disappointing.

The author goes to the trouble of listing the combat crews for his squadron for each mission, taking a page to do so each time. Except for a few family or friends, the listings are meaningless. Had some his mates been fleshed out, it would make sense to include the fact that this friend or that crazy guy was involved. For me at least, I develop some identification with many of the authors squadron mates, but very little of that happened in this book.

The Norway attacks information was all new to me and interesting. The comparisons of the Ranger to the newer carriers he served on later in the war gave some "ground level" insight into how quickly the carrier was evolving. Just after completing Torpedo Squadron Four, I read The First Hellcat Ace, also a Kindle book, and enjoyed it much more. Both pilots were in the same actions for a while in the Pacific and I believe were even on the same carrier for a time, but the Hellcat book kept my interest from start to finish and I was sorry when it was over.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pictures Tell the Story November 5, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Valuable photos and documentation for all Pacific War interests. The first hand presentation is well written and provides information with pictures of the WWII experience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The dying goes on and on. April 10, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
While not a particularly well written memoir, this book makes very clear to the reader the immense and relentless dangers of flying from aircraft carriers in WWII. Unlike the stock footage one sees again and again on television of a few clear weather landings that resulted in wrecked aircraft but apparently unharmed pilots, this account makes it clear to the reader how these ordinary young men went up day after day, often in awful weather or fading light, to fly imperfect aircraft over a vast ocean, and frequently failed to return. This memoir makes it clear that combat was frightening and difficult, that crews often had little idea how their efforts and sacrifices fit into the big picture, and were often unsure of the real success or failure of their efforts. But the most impressive and valuable contribution this book makes to my understanding of the war was to help me see how difficult and dangerous ordinary daily service was for these pilots and how many died alone in anonymous and unknown circumstances as a routine part of their jobs. In a culture that now seems to value personal safety over all else, it is a wonder to see how these people accepted that danger and did their jobs. I have read hundreds of books of all kinds about this war, but this is the first one that really allowed me to appreciate that aspect of the experience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE DETAILS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE March 3, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Thomas provides an excellent witness to wartime operations that aren't often written about, the day to day operations of a TBM squadron operating from a carrier in the hectic closing days of WWII. There is much more than just action and sea-stories in the book, and Thomas supplies a treasure of fascinating operational details. I never knew the extent that the TBM was used for bombing, rather than torpedo operations. Given the unsavory reputation of the Curtiss SB2C, I can better understand why. Thomas explains the functions of the other two crew members and sheds light on their contributions to a successful mission. Information is also given on changing tactics, use of radar and countermeasures, even back then.

I can only imagine that landing a damaged TBM on a carrier in heavy weather could only be described as, "Thrill-A-Minute!"

A good book and well written. One thing more: I read this Kindle edition on my smart phone and the photos came through like gangbusters! Good job!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars VT 4
Very well written first person account of a Navy torpedo squadron in WWII. Some interesting info about the little noted Naval air exploits in the Atlantic, plus good narrative... Read more
Published 17 hours ago by Nahkhii
3.0 out of 5 stars Imformative
I'm still reading this book. I'm a little disappointed with it. It is written too much like a report rather than a personal experience.
Published 4 days ago by George J. Joustra
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for Pacific War Students, not necessarily for General Readers
While I enjoyed this book very much, it does in fact read more like a "diary" of events, than a smoother flowing "story of events". Read more
Published 10 days ago by Diecast Joe
4.0 out of 5 stars The Life of Carrier Pilots in WW2
excellent narative about very brave pilots , from the greatest generation, I highly recommend, author covers not only his experiences but details of other brave VT4 pilots
Published 17 days ago by michael w. nigh
5.0 out of 5 stars On Target
Outstanding insight into the daily lives of young 20-22 year olds flying missions off of a small moving landing strip in the middle of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Bernard Semler
1.0 out of 5 stars Just a boring list of things over and over again with very little...
Had to stop reading it because it was mostly a just a clutter of listed names and pictures.

I am sad to give it a negative reveiw but what a waste of money. Read more
Published 21 days ago by LSL
4.0 out of 5 stars Torpedo Squadron
A great view of the life of an aviator at war. Many of the things revealed in this book were not brought out to the general public. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Leslie R. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars loads of detail but easy to read
Author kept focus upon the pace of the book and gave the reader a good feel of his experiences. The path through both theaters of WWII contrasted the differences between both with... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Michael Hayes
5.0 out of 5 stars Written by a man that chose to do the most he could without a chance...
Made you feel like you were there with him. Not written like a professional writing but written with the emotion and feeling for the men that have gone on before him and now he has... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Polecat52
4.0 out of 5 stars war is ugly
It was a good recounting of the trials and tribulations of the war in different theaters. A lot of print was wasted naming the commissioned aviators and the enlisted were pretty... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Chuck
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More About the Author

Gerald W. Thomas was born at home in Small, Idaho, in 1919. He grew up on a ranch during the Great Depression. His rural school went only to the 10th grade, so his Mother took his brother and him to California to finish High School and attend Junior College. He graduated from the University of Idaho just in time to volunteer for Navy service following Pearl Harbor.

Drawn to flying after seeing his first flying machine while salvaging rusty barb wire at an abandoned homestead, Thomas applied for, was accepted, and graduated from flight training.

As a Navy Cadet he was trained as a dive bomber, but his duty assignment was to Torpedo Squadron VT-4 as a carrier-based TBF torpedo bomber, serving on USS RANGER, USS BUNKER HILL, and USS ESSEX, in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters.

While on the RANGER, he participated in OPERATION LEADER, the most significant attack on Northern Europe by a US carrier during the war. OPERATION LEADER was a strike against German shipping and shore installations along the fjords south of Bodo, Norway. This operation was a complete surprise to the German defensive forces and destroyed 23,000 tons of shipping, damaged 4 other ships, and killed about 200 German troops.

During LEADER, while attacking a freight barge carrying 40 tons of ammunition, Thomas' plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The engine began burning and it appeared the plane was going down. Thomas ordered his crew of two to bail out and had just opened the cockpit and was climbing out when his turret gunner yelled, "Don't jump, don't jump." The other crewman had accidentally opened his parachute in the belly of the plane. With bailing no longer possible, Thomas considered his options and decided their best chance was to fly the plane toward the carrier as far as it would go. Surprisingly, in spite of the considerable engine damage, the plane made it back to the RANGER, where Thomas crash-landed. That landing was his 13th official carrier landing.

In the Pacific, Thomas participated in the numerous actions against Japanese targets in the Philippines, including strikes on Ormoc Bay, Cavite, Manilla, Santa Cruz, San Fernando, Lingayen, Mindoro, Clark Field and Aparri.

Following these actions, Thomas' squadron made strikes on Formosa, French Indo-China, Saigon, Pescadores, Hainan, Amami O Shima, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Japan. The attack on Japan was the first attack on Japan from an aircraft carrier since the "Doolittle Raid."

While on the ESSEX, just after Thomas had returned from a strike on Santa Cruz, the ship was hit by a Kamikaze piloted by Yoshinori Yamaguchi, Yoshino Special Attack Corps. Yamaguchi was flying a Yokosuba D4Y3 dive bomber. The Kamikaze attack killed 16 crewman and wounded 44.

Returning from a strike on Hainan, off the Chinese coast, Thomas' plane ran out of fuel. After a harrowing water landing, Thomas and squadron photographer Montague succeeded in inflating and launching one rubber boat and his crewman Gress another. After a long day in pre-Typhoon weather with 40 foot swells, the three were rescued by the USS SULLIVANS.

Following World War II, he earned a Ph.D in Range Management, and after stints as professor at Texas A&M University and Dean of Agriculture at Texas Tech University, he became president of New Mexico State University. He retired after serving as president for 14 years.

Thomas was awarded 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 Air Medals, and 2 Presidential Citations for his combat actions in WWII. He retired from the Navy Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

He is the author of numerous books, including "Torpedo Squadron Four: A Cockpit View of World War II," "A Winding Road To The Land Of Enchantment," and "The Academic Ecosystem."

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