Vought F4U Corsair MK IV


White 114, Snr: KD658, flown by Lieutenant Robert Hampton "Hammy" Gray, 1841 Sqn FAA. HMS Formdiable/Pacific, 9 August 1945

Details of the 9th August 1841 Squadron Onagawa Wan attack on Japanese ships are sparse, All that is known for certain is that the flight took off at 0826 and the eight 1841 pilots were arranged in two flights. The entry in the units logbook for 9th August suggests 5 losses among Formdiable´s Corsair squadrons, but the Admiralty report on BPF losses records only 3 Corsairs were lost that day.

However flying from the mainland side at approximately 10,000 feet Lt. Robert Hampton "Hammy" turned his two flights towards Onagawa Bay to avoid anti-aircraft fire. He dove his aircraft in order to get down to sea level for the short bombing run at his chosen target. All Japanese ships in the bay were heavily armed and prepared for an air attack. Additional anti-aircraft positions dotted the surrounding hills creating a killing zone for attacking Allied aircraft.

Hammy headed for the largest ship in the harbour, the ocean escort vessel Amakusa that was about the size a small destroyer. As he leveled out for his bombing run, one of his two five-hundred pound bombs was shot away by a hail of cannon and machine gun fire from Anakusa Amakusa, Minesweeper 33, the target ship Ohama (a target ship being a gunnery training vessel) and Sub Chaser 42. Hammy released his other bomb and scored a direct hit on Amakusa. This bomb penetrated her engine room instantly killing 40 sailors (including all in the engine room) and triggering an the explosion in the aft ammunition magazine. This massive explosion resulted in the sinking of Amakusa in just minutes. Hammy's flight members then recounted seeing his aircraft enveloped in smoke and flame. They reported that his aircraft, at an altitude of only fifty feet, rolled to right into the sea in an explosion of debris and water. The aircraft was never seen again.

The citation for his postumius VC was: August 1945. In the face of fire from shore batteries and a heavy concentration of fire from some five warships Lieutenant Gray pressed home his attack, flying very low in order to ensure success, and, although he was hit and his aircraft was in flames, he obtained at least one direct hit, sinking the destroyer. Lieutenant Gray has consistently shown a brilliant fighting spirit and most inspiring leadership.

It interesting to note that in Onagawa Bay, next to a memorial to those Japanese servicemen killed on August 9, 1945 stands the only foreign military memorial on Japanese soil - a memorial to Canada's Lt. Robert Hampton Gray which was placed by the Japanese military to honor what they saw as an extreme act of heroism.

Lieutenant Robert Hampton "Hammy" Gray was one of the last Canadian to be KIA during the II World War.

Note that this is one of the profiles made for the new Pacific Fighter Book that was not included in the finished product


© Claes Sundin 2021