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Late in the afternoon of February 16th, 1945, the planes and pilots of  The USS WASP were in a winner-takes-all battle to determine the supremacy of the skies over Tokyo, Japan.

The battle for control was raging since early morning. As the day wore on, the US Navy Fighter Pilots of VF-81 found themselves in a life or death battle with the best remaining pilots that the Empire of Japan could find at this late stage of the war.

The American Naval and Marine pilots comprised the largest Combat Naval Fleet ever assembled in the history of warfare, an awesome armada that stretched from horizon to horizon.  There has never been and it is unlikely there will ever be one like it again. The Americans were fighting for a quick end to a war – and the Japanese were fighting to keep the Americans off the soil of their beloved Home Island.

John William “Bill” Gage, a 6 year US Navy Veteran and a Flight Leader in VF-81, flew into this setting.  The American Naval Officer from Austin, Texas would ultimately bring down a Japanese aircraft on that afternoon of February 16, 1945, over Tokyo Bay. Only minutes later, he would be shot down by enemy aircraft making the supreme sacrifice for his country.

VF-81 which consisted of approximately 55 Pilots and 36 Hellcats on Feb 16, 1945, were known as the “FREELANCERS“.  Lt.Gage was one of the first members of this elite group, which was the first attack strike squadron on Japan. Actually it was the second strike EVER on the Japanese homeland, the first being the Doolottle Tokyo Raid. Task Force 58 pilots, which the Freelancers were a part of, swept airfields in Tokyo and the surrounding regions. They claimed 344 victories.

I found the following information regarding the unit patch.  The cards are Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 — 2. In a bridge hand that would be tantamount to a “Grand Slam.” In fighter terminology, the term Grand Slam means that the fighters shot down every single enemy plane in sight — which of course, is exactly what every fighter intends to do. The black panther was one of the best  stalkers and hunters because it was quick and lethal. The lightening symbol at lower left follows this same theme.

Gage is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of The Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii – Plot N – Grave 281. Gage was first buried at the USAF Cemetery at Yokohama #1 Japan but was reburied in Hawaii at the request of his wife, Miriani.

Duane A Vachon PhD works at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. He is the author of “Gems From The Antipodes: 12 Collections of Faith-Focusing Insights” He also writes a weekly column  “in The  Big Island Reporter”mailto:vachon.duane@gmail.com/

Late in the afternoon of February 16th, 1945, the planes and pilots of The USS WASP were in a life and death, winner takes all battle to determine the supremacy of the skies over Tokyo Japan.

Grand Slam

Late in the afternoon of February 16th, 1945, the planes and pilots of  The USS WASP were in a life and death, winner takes all battle to determine the supremacy of the skies over Tokyo Japan. skies The battle to obtain control of the skies had been raging since early morning. As the day wore on the US Navy Fighter Pilots of VF-81  found themselves in a life or death battle with the best remaining pilots that the Empire of Japan could muster at this late stage of the war. The American Naval and Marine pilots were the hardened tip of a spear that comprised the largest Combat Naval Fleet ever assembled in the history of warfare, an awesome armada that stretched
from horizon to horizon.  There has never been and it is unlikely there will ever be one like it again. The Americans were fighting for a quick end to a war that could only have one outcome, and the Japanese were fighting to a level born of desperation; to keep the Americans off the soil of their beloved Home Island.

It was into this melee that Lt. John William Beverly Gage  flew his Hellcat.  Into this setting flew one brave American Naval Officer from Austin Texas, “Bill” Gage, a 6 year US Navy Veteran  and a Flight Leader in VF-81, would ultimately bring down a Japanese aircraft on that afternoon of February 16, 1945 over Tokyo Bay. Only minutes later he would  be shot down himself by enemy aircraft thus making the supreme sacrifice for his country.

VF-81 which consisted of approximately 55 Pilots and 36 Hellcats on Feb 16, 1945
were known as the “FREELANCERS“. Lt.Gage was one of the first members of this
elite group which was the first attack strike squadron on Japan. Actually
it was the second strike EVER on the Japanese homeland, the first being the
Doolottle Tokyo Raid. Task Force 58 pilots, which the Freelancers were a part of,
swept airfields in Tokyo and the surrounding regions. They claimed 344 victories

I found the following information regarding the unit patch.  The cards are Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 — 2. In a bridge hand that would be tantamount to a “Grand Slam.” In fighter terminology the term Grand Slam means that the fighters shot down every single enemy plane in sight — which of course, is exactly what every fighter wants and intends to do. The black panther was one of the best  stalkers and hunters because it was quick & lethal — which is exactly what every fighter wants and intends to do!!! The lightening symbol at lower left follows this same theme.

Gage is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of The Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii – Plot N – Grave 281. Gage was first buried at the USAF Cemetery at Yokohama #1 Japan but was reburied in Hawaii at the request of his wife Miriani

Duane A Vachon PhD works at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. He is the author of “Gems From The Antipodes: 12 Collections of Faith-Focusing Insights” He also writes a weekly column  “in The  Big Island Reporter”mailto:vachon.duane@gmail.com/

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We added on an additional feature that will make this easier, so you don’t have to use notepad.  There is a button that allows you to paste from word, so you would just copy your stuff from word then hit this button it will open up  a little editor, you past it in there and click insert and that will put it into the post less all the code tags that word has that we don’t want in the article.  Here is a link that gives you a step by step on how to do this. http://en.support.wordpress.com/microsoft-word/

hope that helps! 🙂

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