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Operation Raptor Rescue (Part 7)

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The Mongoose had taken a beating and we were barely able to make headway. By the time we reached the task force, the Raptor had been repaired enough so that it could get underway and new planes had been transferred to it from the transport carrier. The transport carrier still was unable to launch planes though because its decks were still packed with supplies. At half speed, and with a sluggish rudder, it was all we could do maneuver adjacent to the repair ship and keep up with it. However, even while underway, the engineers, machinists, and repairmen of the floating workshop did wonders. Not a small part of this was due to the new self-sealing repair plates that the Mongoose's engineers had ordered the floating workshop to be stocked with. The shell damage, and the earlier torpedo damage too, was repaired and the Mongoose's rudder also was patched. Then the steam pipes feeding the disabled turbine were replaced and the Mongoose, though no longer as sleek-appearing as it once had been, was rendered serviceable.

Unfortunately, we still had two concerns. One was that our active camouflage no longer worked properly with all the damage and patch repairs performed to the deck armor and the hull. The other was that we were out of torpedoes and also running low on main battery ammo. Unfortunately for us, our ammunition was of an experimental high-pressure/small-case type different from that which the other cruisers used. We still had thirty rounds left but that was all we ever would have on this mission. We did, however, have two twin 40mm Bofors guns, which were mounted so that they could be fired in any direction. While the standard Bofors was loaded with a 4-round clip, those of the Mongoose were fitted with twenty-five round magazines and also were radar guided. These anti-aircraft guns could do substantial damage to a destroyer at short range. We therefore stocked up on spare 40mm ammo, storing it anywhere we could find space for it.

While we had been away fighting our battle, the rest of the task force had be fighting its own much larger one. Planes from an enemy carrier (this confirmed my suspicion that we, indeed, had stumbled into the midst of an enemy carrier group) had been attacking the task force for some time. Fortunately, the Raptor was now fully resupplied and its planes, along with those of our light carrier, were able to sink the enemy carrier and its escort ships without too many losses, while our cruisers defended the carriers and supply ships and shot down most of the enemy planes. The Farragut had been tasked to the area to recover downed aircrews. This left only the Mongoose to range out to the right flank of the convoy and screen for any more enemy coming from that direction.

It wasn't too long before our long-range radar spotted more enemy ships. This was a larger battle group than we had previously encountered. One that was equal in size to out own force. Apparently the enemy had grown tired of attacking us piecemeal and decided to attack in force with all the remain ships it had in the area. The new group heading our way was comprised of a carrier, two battleships, three cruisers and two destroyers.

While the rest of the task force prepared to deal with the bulk of the enemy, the Mongoose was dispatched to sink the carrier if we could, or at least, with the assistance of the Raptor's dive bombers, damage her enough that she could not launch planes. As soon as we had received the order a squadron of enemy dive bombers passed overhead, Our active camouflage was running but not at full functionality. Had they detected us us? Apparently not, as they showed no indication of this. Perhaps to them the visible repair plates, scattered randomly against a shimmering background of the active camouflage, simply looked like wreckage floating in the water. We radioed the task force to be prepared for an air attack and headed in the direction the planes had come from to search for the carrier.

Soon there was a flash on the radar; it was the carrier but it was over fifteen miles distant. Could our-rocket assisted projectiles travel that far? Even the technicians didn't know as ballistics was what they had been testing when the experimental ship was called into service. I ordered the Mongoose to stop and anchor in calm water leeward of an island large enough to screen us from the main enemy fleet. Then out guns were raised to a 45 degree elevation and a firing solution plotted as if the shells could actually travel fifteen miles. We received a radio report that our dive bombers were heading for the enemy carrier but we needed to cripple it if at all possible so that it couldn't move and hide or launch more planes. Our first salvo apparently hit nothing, not did the second. However, after the third salvo we could see a faint column of black smoke in the distance. We then fired for effect, sending half of out remaining 24 rounds toward the carrier. The faint plume if black smoke was replace d by a large column of smoke. We quite obviously had hit the carrier, and hard too. We got back underway and swung toward the task force to assist them in their fight. By this time out dive bombers had reached the enemy carrier. They reported that it on fire and sinking and that they were returning themselves to assist with the fight as no further action against it was necessary.

There is not much to report after this. Our main force handily dealt with the enemy that was attacking them. We did get back in time to throw out remaining twelve 6-inch shells into the one remaining battleship, which was then finished off by our torpedo bombers. And we also were able to sink a crippled destroyer with our Bofors guns when it came around an island and practically ran into us. Through sheer determination, out small repair and resupply task force had destroyed an entire enemy carrier group of fifteen ships. They should have easily destroyed us but they made the mistake of coming at us piecemeal as they encountered out ships rather than to just keep us spotted until the entire force could gather and attack as one. Why had they been so scattered around the archipelago? We in the Mongoose had sighted Japanese marines on several of the islands and it almost appeared as if they were searching for something. If so then what was it? I was never to find out myself, but uncle Seymour, years later, mentioned to me that he had known what they had been looking for, because the Raptor's planes had been searching the area too before she came under attack and was put out of action.

Once back at Pearl Harbor, the Mongoose and most of her crew departed back to the secret experimental compound from whence they came. The task force received a Presidential Unit Citation for the action. For my part, I was awarded a Silver Star. What well-deserved awards the crew of the Mongoose received I would never know, as most of them were intelligence operatives and researchers working for the OSS or Navy Intelligence. I was offered a position in the intelligence services but I declined. While I know that military must always have its secrets and the ability to uncover the secrets of the enemy, I'm no Uncle Seymour. I'll just let someone else deal with the clandestine stuff. I just want to captain a ship and sail the seas. I, therefore, transferred to a Cleveland-class cruiser where I was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and given the position of senior fire-control officer. After the war, I would stand beside Uncle Seymour on the deck of my ship and watch a nuclear test. A few years later, as captain of that same cruiser, I would be part of a carrier group fighting in yet another war, though I never again would encounter such a hard-fought action as I did in Operation Raptor Rescue.

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