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Thomas "Tom" Hall

Thoms A. "Tom" Hall

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Thomas A "Tom" Hall was a young freckled face Texan with a smile and pronounced draw to go with it. "Tom" joined "Butch" O'Hare's squadron (VF-6) in San Diego in the spring '43. He deployed with the squadron to Puunene, Maui. There he trained and flew with a division lead by 'Moose" Merritt. He flew as a part of that division through the raid on Marcus Island and other raids during the fall of '43.

In early Nov. after "Butch" became the Commanding Officer of Air Group Six (CAG-6) and Harry "Stinky" Harrison became the new VF-6 skipper, Tom Hall was still flying in "Moose" Merritt's divison aboard the USS Independence CVL-22 with "Bob"Hobbs and "Pearley" Gates. They were in a task group commanded by Adm. Montgomery with two of the new big carriers, USS Essex (CV-9) and USS Bunker Hill (CV-17). The objective was to raid the Japanese anchorage at Rabaul.

On 11 November 1943 they were engaged by 120 enemy aircraft that attacked in several waves. During the hour long fight, forty enemy planes were shot down while we lost eleven. "Pearley" Gates, "Tom" Hall and "Bob" Hobbs each shot down one enemy fighter while "Moose" Merritt downed two. Unfortunately, "Pearley" Gates did not survive.

As they withdrew, after the battle, Adm. Montgomery took his three- carrier task force north to get in on Operation Galvanic*, which was scheduled to begin on the 20th of November with Marines landing on Tarawa and Army forces taking Makin Atoll.

On the first day of the operation, the USS Independence (CVL-22) was hit by three torpedoes (only one exploded) which knocked her out of action. She retired under her own power and withdrew to Funafuti in the Ellis Islands for emergency repairs.

Operation Galvanic having been concluded on 4 December 1943, the VF-6 people from the Independence joined those coming from the Cowpens (CVL-25) and the Belleau Wood CVL-24 at Kaneohe in Hawaii. Thus, the whole squadron (VF-6) was back together again; the first time since early August '43. This gave the squadron time to compare notes, get re-acquainted, rest and an opportunity to mourn the recent loss of their beloved leader "Butch" O'Hare who was lost during Operation Galvanic defending the carrier task force against a torpedo attack during the night of 25 November 1943.

Christmas, 1943, the squadron met with our dear friends, Frank and Ethal Hoogs, at Wailiku, Maui for Christmas Dinner, at which time we joined the Hoogs family and others, in memorializing our late skipper. "Butch O'Hare.

He later participated in the 21 plane Memorial Flight of Hellcats back to Barber's Point on Dec 26, 1943.

In January 1944, some reorganization took place as the complete Air Group Six (AG-6) went aboard the new carrier USS Intrepid (CV-11).

We were to become a part of the largest carrier task force ever assembled, (to date) and become involved in "Operation Flintlock", which was designed to take and occupy the Marshall Islands from the Japanese.

As Operation Flintlock began, on January 29, the first predawn fighter sweep on Kwajalein Atoll included Al Vraciu's division with "Tom" Hall as his wing-man. Al Vraciu had originally flown with "Butch" as his wing-man.

Among other things during the sweep, Al Vraciu and his division over-took and shot down an enemy twin engine bomber called "Betty".

The very next morning (30 January), Al's division of Hellcats were again a part of an early morning fighter sweep or strike against Kwajalein. The fighter planes were being "deck-launched" at the time rather than being catapulted. "Tom" made a normal deck-run and take-off; however, for some reason not fully understood, his plane contacted the water soon after take off and was not recovered.

A few days later in my state room, I was busy up-dating the "Squadron Master Log", and the "Pilots Flight Logs", which was one of my duties. All entries had to be confirmed by the official records of the flights flown and what was accomplished. This included making the final entry in "Tom" Hall's flight log and closing it out, in preparation for sending it home with his personal belongings. In his log, I indicated that he had assisted in shooting down the Jap "Betty" on the 29th of January. This entry was hotly contested by "Tom's" division leader, who did not see it that way.

When all else fails, even Naval Officers have a way of settling disagreements.

Tom Hall will never be forgotten !!

Tom Hall - Sept 6, 1943.

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Tom Hall - second from Right with "Moose" Merritt's Third Division on USS Independence CVL-22 on Sept 6, 1943.

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Note: It must be said that Al Vraciu was a top notch fighter pilot. He had been well trained by "Butch" O'Hare and was a good marksman and tactician. By the end of the war (while flying with other squadrons), he emerged as one of the Navy's top fighter aces with a record 19 enemy aircraft shot down.

- Hersch Pahl

* Operation Galvanic is also mentioned on the following pages. Use your 'Back Button' or 'Return' Button at bottom of the page to return here.

  1. Pete Somerville Dedication
  2. Robert "Moose" Merritt
  3. Things of Interest - Play by Play Reporting

"For those who fought for it...
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