Profile no 71. Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat

White 17, own by Lieutenant Richard E. "Dick" Stambook VF-27, USS Princeton, San Pedro Bay/Leyte/Philippine Sea, 18 October 1944
When Lt. Stambook was posted to VF-27, he was a seasoned veteran that previously had been flying SBD Dauntless' in VS-3 and later F4F Wildcats in VF-3 and VF-6. On board CVL-23, the USS Princeton, he participated in the assault on Saipan targeting Guam, Rota, Tinian, Pagan and Saipan 11-18 June. Then Task Force 58 steamed west to intercept a Japanese fleet reported to be en route from the Philippines to the Marianas. On 19 June, the U.S. task force would be engaging a force of 326 IJN carrier aircraft in the fifth main carrier-versus carrier engagement - the battle of the Philippine Sea. During the following battle the Imperial Japanese Navy would lose two main carriers including the newly commissioned Taiho and two submarines with a total loss of 192 combat aircrafts, including 60 fighters, 45 fighter-bombers, 56 dive-bombers and 31 torpedo-planes. The U.S. losses amounted to 32 aircraft, a battleship and one cruiser damaged. During the battle the pilots of VF-27 claimed 30 victories, one of the successful pilots in the unit this day was Lt. Stambook, who shot down one D4Y dive-bomber and three A6Ms into the sea at 10:30 hours and thereby he reached ace status. Although 19 June would be his best day he would continue to score and on 18 October, while U.S. forces prepared a landing on Leyte, he shot down his tenth and final adversary, a Kawasaki Ki-45 Nick. Two days later, on 20 June General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore on Leyte, saying, "I have returned", but the Japanese continued to resist and in the following four days of battle, the Leyte Gulf would developed into the largest naval battle in history. One of the USN losses was the carrier USS Princeton that on the 26th was attacked by a lone D4Y that dropped a single bomb. It struck the carrier between the elevators, punching through the wooden flight deck and hangar before exploding. Although the structural damage was minor, fire broke out and quickly spread owing to burning aviation fuel, causing further explosions. When the ship was abandoned, Lt. Stambook jumped from the side of the carrier deck and saved himself by swimming to safety. Later, the USS Princeton was torpedoed by the USS Reno, she exploded and sank at 17:50 hours. Lt. Richard E. "Dick" Stambook is officially credited with 11 cofirmed victories in the Pacific. Note the non-authorized Cat Mouth markings on the engine cowling. It was a creation of three pilots in the unit, one of whom was Richard Stambook. And when the nine surviving Princeton F6F Hellcats with the Cat's Mouth landed on a number of the other carriers, the commanders of those carriers were not amused.

Note that this is one of the 130 profiles/captions included in my new Pacific Fighter Book.

© Claes Sundin 2019