World War II Navy Ace Recalls Harrowing Mission
(December 15, 2010)
|WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2010 – When the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor
occurred, America sought retribution and finally took up arms. It wasn't until
almost three years later that the country would receive its final closure.
In October 1944, Navy Cross recipient and fighter ace William E. "Bill" Davis
participated in a bombing run on the Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku, the last
remaining aircraft carrier afloat that had taken part in the surprise attack on
Pearl Harbor. Davis recalled the harrowing experience during a Dec. 8 “DOD Live”
“There were two clouds forming, one at 10,000 feet and one at about 4,000 feet,
of continuously exploding shells, and I knew there was no chance to fly through
that and come out the other end,” he said. “But I still didn't care. I was going
to get my hit. I went down, went through both clouds without taking a single
hit, which is hard to imagine, and went fairly low. ... I pulled the release and
pulled out, and of course, blacked out.”
Moments later, Davis said, he came to. “Blood came back to my brain, or what was
left of it, and I could see again, and I was actually clipping the spray from
the waves,” he recalled. “Another five feet would have done it. But I had not
Despite that miraculous escape, the pilot was not out of harm's way yet.
“I was kind of marveling that I was still alive,” he said. “But I looked up and
saw that I was flying into the side of a Japanese ship, the Oyodo. Before I hit
the ship, I rolled the plane on its side, and went through between the No. 2 gun
turret and the bridge. And I could see the Japanese crew in on the bridge
manning the wheel, ... all in dress whites. I have a feeling that that was because
they expected to die that day.”
Having survived the run unscathed and earning the Navy Cross, Davis settled down
with his family in California. Drives to the Sierra Mountains for annual ski
trips inspired him to tell his story in book form.
“At that time, it was before FM radio and so forth,” he said. “You couldn't get
anything the other side of the Sierra. So we were driving up and one of my
daughters said, 'Daddy, tell us war stories.' And I hadn't thought of telling
them, ... and it became a routine. When we went skiing, I told stories going up
and back. And finally, I had to tell more and more.”
While looking back at all his experiences may have been a bit challenging, Davis
said, he had a little help from diaries he kept during the war.
“I didn't know we weren't allowed to keep diaries,” he said. “Somehow that
directive missed me. So I had something to work from and a map of all of our
movements throughout the Pacific.”
The resulting book, “Sinking the Rising Sun,” documents Davis' service in the
Navy, his experiences in World War II, and even his first time in an airplane.
“At the time I volunteered for the Naval Air Corps, I'd never been in an
airplane,“ he admitted.
The book has received favorable reviews, and the 89-year-old former pilot is
considering opportunities to promote his memoir.
“I haven't made it to a bigtime, on-camera interview with any of the talk shows,
which I would love to do,” he said.
by Jian DeLeon
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
American Forces Press Service
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