Monday, August 6, 2018

Snooks 6

Beans, the newest of my fellow oar pullers on the lower deck of the Roman Trireme "Chant du Départ", had posted about a person he'd known growing up who had shot down 7 German Aircraft in one engagement.  An excellent post both from description of the engagement and the reflection on personality contained therein.

Beans, don't get cocky, lad.  I've heard the Captain of the Ship wants to go waterskiing after lunch.

His post contained a name that I'd recognized from Lackland.  Major Bill Shomo.  Major Shomo had also shot down 7 aircraft in one engagement and that will be the subject of today's posting because for this engagement, he received the Medal of Honor.


Yeah, I know.  Same-o, Same-o picture, but it's the only one I have that has all 60 recipients on it.  The Museum of the United States Air Force still only has 59 names on theirs.
Major Shomo's war occurred in the South Pacific where he was attached to the 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.  That squadron had fought in New Guinea and then Morotai and finally to Mindoro in the Phillipines.  They had been flying P-39s until December 1944, when they were upgraded to the F-6D, the photo-reconnaisance model of the P-51.

No, Sarge, I didn't know they had a recce version of the P-51, and surprisingly, given the Air Force and Recce aircraft, it was armed with 8 (oops) 6 x 50cal machine guns and bomb racks.


The F stands for Foto.  The cameras are the two dots on the insignia and just below. source
So, anyway, Major Shomo has flown at least 200 combat missions and most of which were flown in an aircraft that had been declared obsolete for training inside the United States.  Talk about being on the far side of the supply chain.  During that time and on his first combat mission in the F-6D, he had seen only one enemy aircraft, which he had shot down.

Two Days later, it's January 11, 1945.  General McArthur is preparing to land forces in the Lingayen Gulf on Luzon.  He needs to know what defenses the Japanese have prepared in the area to oppose the landing. 

Major Shomo, now the Commander of the Squadron, flies the mission along with LT Paul Lipscomb and as they are ingressing the target area, they see 12 Japanese Fighters escorting a lone bomber, slightly above them and headed in the opposite direction. 

He decides to engage them.

Pretty ballsy.  His mission is reconnaissance and he's greatly outnumbered.  "He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day." is certainly a valid option.

But.....That's not what he decided to do.

He begins a climbing turn and engages the 4 ship on the bomber's right wing.  Closing to very close range (40 yards) , he opens fire and destroys one of the fighters.  Transitioning across the Bomber's six, he shoots down another fighter on the other side of the formation. 

He's now gone through the formation, and as the Japanesefighters reform for a counter attack.  Major Shomo, repositions his formation transferring airspeed into altitude above the Japanese. (This is called a High Yo-Yo,  which means he actually knows what he's doing.)  Coming back down through the formation, he shoots down another fighter and as he blows through that formation descending behind and below the bomber, then pulls up and shoots it down (a Low Yo-Yo).

As he regains Situation Awareness, he notices a fighter approaching head on and opens fire shooting it down.  Repositioning again, he sees the remaining 4 ship of Japanese fighters, attacks and shoots down its leader.  Diving through the fight, he sees a fighter at 300' AGL trying to escape.  He closes on it and shoots it down.

Meanwhile, poor Lt Lipscomb "only" shoots down 3 fighters in this melee.

In the roughly 10 minute engagement, they engaged 12 enemy fighters and 1 bomber, 6 to 1 odds, and destroy 10 of them.  RTB was uneventful.

Not a bad day.

Major Shomo survives the war, remains in the Air Force finally retiring in 1968 from Thule Greenland.  Want to bet there's a story there?

BTW, all his Fighters were named "Snooks" with a number to enumerate which in the series it was.  Snooks 5 was the fighter on this mission and was lost shortly thereafter along with the pilot.  Major Shomo finished the war in Snooks 6.

Here's a video of him from 1981 where he spoke at the dedication of one of his P-39s at a museum.  I think it's a well done video and you get a pretty good idea of him as a man.  If you stay to the end, you'll find out why he named his aircraft "Snooks".  I think you'll like it.




Major Shomo's Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Maj. Shomo was lead pilot of a flight of 2 fighter planes charged with an armed photographic and strafing mission against the Aparri and Laoag airdromes. While en route to the objective, he observed an enemy twin engine bomber, protected by 12 fighters, flying about 2,500 feet above him and in the opposite direction Although the odds were 13 to 2, Maj. Shomo immediately ordered an attack. Accompanied by his wingman he closed on the enemy formation in a climbing turn and scored hits on the leading plane of the third element, which exploded in midair. Maj. Shomo then attacked the second element from the left side of the formation and shot another fighter down in flames. When the enemy formed for Counterattack, Maj. Shomo moved to the other side of the formation and hit a third fighter which exploded and fell. Diving below the bomber he put a burst into its underside and it crashed and burned. Pulling up from this pass he encountered a fifth plane firing head on and destroyed it. He next dived upon the first element and shot down the lead plane; then diving to 300 feet in pursuit of another fighter he caught it with his initial burst and it crashed in flames. During this action his wingman had shot down 3 planes, while the 3 remaining enemy fighters had fled into a cloudbank and escaped. Maj. Shomo's extraordinary gallantry and intrepidity in attacking such a far superior force and destroying 7 enemy aircraft in one action is unparalleled in the southwest Pacific area.

Major Shomo passed away in 1990.

Rest in Peace, Warrior!

Sources

https://www.pacificwrecks.com/people/veterans/shomo/index.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_A._Shomo
http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_F-6_Mustang.html
https://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/p-51/44-14873.html
https://www.afhistory.af.mil/FAQs/Fact-Sheets/Article/639652/maj-william-a-shomo.aspx


35 comments:

  1. F6F-5P Hellcats retained their 6 Fifies, and JM-1P Marauders also kept all their guns, the photo Mustangs were the only USAAF photo planes that kept all of their guns weren't they?

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    1. I don't know, but thanks for the suggestion for next Week's post.

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  2. Two against twelve......that's....earning your pay that day...... Good video to post Juvat, remember reading about this engagement maybe by Edward Sims(?) back in junior high. Wouldn't Thule have been considered a bit "out of the way" back in the sixties? Although a search of that base with Wiki(not the most trust worthy info site) revealed a lot I didn't know. Indeed, Rest in Peace Major Shomo!

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    1. Thule was indeed "Out of the way". My Dad was commissioned through the aviation cadet program, so in the drawdown after Korea, he was put in a rated sup job, basically he flew only enough to keep landing currency. At that point, he decided to go to College and get a degree, which he did and completed a Batchelors degree in Civil Engineering. His first assignment was to Thule. Pay your dues. Most of the folks there were sent to "encourage" them to leave the service. Late in my career, managing the AF's Information Warfare program budget, I was threatened by a 4 star of being sent there if I took more money from one of his programs. 1) I took that as a sure sign it was a "good" take, meaning the money was not needed. and 2) I thought it would have to be better than that job.

      Yeah, I'd hate to have been in the Japanese Debrief. Launch with 13 and return with 3?

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  3. And I see Major Shomo retired as a lieutenant colonel. I disliked the bomber mafia when I was on active duty, I dislike them more and more as time goes on. Sunsabitches believed their own press releases.

    But damn, what a guy. RIP Sir.

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    1. Yeah, it eventually got replaced by the fighter mafia which morphed into the Thunderbird Mafia which was every bit as bad as the bomber toads.

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    2. I noticed the same thing sarge. Funny how we put stuff together anymore.

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  4. Great story, and very educational. I had no idea that P-39s were in use that late in the war, and on combat missions even! I see why sarge would like the part at the end highlighting the crew chief's contribution the the team's effort. The exploits of the pilots would not be possible without the work of the maintenance crew. The reporter giving the interview was a bit ditzy, as per usual, but Co. Shomo was very gracious and patient with her, wasn't he?

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    1. Yeah, I hadn't known that about the P-39 until I read Jim Curran's book, Check Six!: A Thunderbolt Pilot's War across the Pacific. While the author had flown P-47s through out, New Guinea to the PI, the stories of supply problems as well as how primitive things were was eye opening to me.

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  5. Nice post. Major Shomo seems like quite a man. And there has to be a story about retiring from Greenland, has to be.

    Just... one question. All my research on Mustang variants never came up with an 8 gun version. 4x.50 on early versions, up to 6x.50 on later, or 4x20mm on some British variants. If his photo-recon version had 8x.50s, it would have made it the heaviest armed version of them all. Hmmm.

    Reading the citation, Shomo deserved the MOH. I wonder, comparing it to Col. Leverette's AAR, how Col. Leverette didn't get the MOH. I guess you're right about politics more than derring-do determine awards. It shouldn't be, but it is.

    Teachers driving you crazy yet?

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    1. That's probably a Typo on my part. And I may have been thinking about the P-47's mentioned in the book above. I'll look into that and correct if needed. Good Catch.

      Yeah, this was MacArthur's Theater. I'm sure his personality was a factor in recommending it as well as it being awarded. Which is not to denigrate Major Shomo's courage and deserving of the Medal. Col. Leverette was certainly no less brave or deserving.

      Yes. But I did learn that the Hippocampus, which controls short term memory, shrinks under stress. I think mine is about the size of a Hydrogen Atom right now.

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  6. I'm surprised he could get his flight gear on considering how big those brass ones were.

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    1. Yep. There were quite a few folks around back then with that concern.

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  7. Major Snook was quite the warrior. While the Japanese air arm was pretty spent by January 45, that doesn't lessen his accomplishment.

    I can see the Japanese debrief: "How in the Emperor's name were 10 of you shot down by an American reconnaissance plane?"

    "Sir, it was a trick, there were TWO American reconnaissance planes!"

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    1. Oh....Well....That explains it then!

      Here's your transfer paperwork to the #101 Kamikaze Squadron "The Emperor's Own".

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  8. Oh, an interesting observation about Recon flights in the Pacific. Seems we gave the Japanese such a shellacking by mid '44 that 1 to 2 plane missions, mainly reconnaissance, were unopposed by the Japs. Armed recon flights could get in a little ad-hoc shooting at targets of opportunity. One of the reasons the Hiroshima (anniversary was yesterday) and Nagasaki flights were unopposed by Japanese Air Defense.

    Also, the Japanese were so good at camouflage there was a need to shoot at suspected targets in order to either elicit a ground reaction or get some other sort of response, such as an explosion or movement, in order to make a potential target worth photographing. The Japanese were very good at making real targets disappear and also setting up fake targets to draw attention away (to the point of cobbling together 'whole' planes from totally trashed ones to serve as decoys.)

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  9. Great post and the video - so needed in these days. What a great Squadron CO he may have been. I'll bet his guys were encouraged daily (in some way or another ;-)). He mentioned a couple of things that struck me as being forgotten in my time of service.
    First story. When I got to Itazuke AB in Oct of '62 (yes, THAT October, and that day, actually), one of the first things they did for me after passing my StanEval testing was to assign me a beautiful F-102 Delta Dagger #553386 (but who remembers stuff like that). They put my name on it and that of the crew chief and I couldn't have been prouder. I was around it as much as I could be and I always asked that I get to fly it in the rotation. In less than a year, the orders came out of PACAF that all of the airplanes were to be placed in a pool and no personalized Deuces would be allowed. Well you know how that went over. My point is that the Major stated that in wartime different things become important, little things. Life becomes more simple in combat (later in my career). But the PTBs in DC - MacNamara, Johnson and their breed (but I digress) don't have a clue. The pool of A/C theories moved with us to Vietnam and continued to make life in many cases miserable. Like, (for example) the famous tail number scheduling. We often would have a four ship fragged and one of the aircraft so delineated would have been lost or whatever weeks previously and yet there the number was. So we knew that there would flights that day that was either a three ship or no spare for several of the next foursome restraining the Asian horde.
    Life becomes simple and easy to control (except if they're shooting at you), but no one in Washington (those that went beyond O-5) had forgotten somehow. Nuff said.

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    1. I meant to say that "no one had remembered" in that last sentence

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    2. Yeah, that was the case when I got to Korea on my initial assignment during the reign of the second worst president ever. However, when I got back to the Pacific during the Reagan Buildup, the "owning" of an airplane by Pilot and Crew Chief was back in fashion. I was a Flight Commander and then Asst Ops Officer, so got to manipulate the schedule to fly the jet with my name on it. That simple bit of paint really instilled a sense of ownership, any time I had some spare time, I'd go out and talk with the crew chief and/or asst crew chief and see how things were going. I only had to explain one time what it was like in an air to air engagement and not being able to detect an aircraft closing on me because there were bugs on the windscreen. We had a much more "partnership" relationship, much like I think Maj Shomo and Sgt Winkle had. I endeavored not to break the jet, and he took good care of it.
      There was a place in Angeles City that would make near lifelike wooden models of any airplane you wanted. I had them make one of OUR jet, complete with names, and a "Thanks, Chief" on the stand. Gave it to him when he PCS'd. It seemed a small cloud of dust must have enveloped him when I gave it to him.
      He was a good man.

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    3. I'll bet your crew chiefs loved you.

      Good man yerself.

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    4. What a boner idea to have 'pool' aircraft. Just when a pilot gets the seats adjusted, and has ownership, to take it away and give him a rental. Definitely a stupid idea, wasn't like we didn't have the planes available at the time.

      Now, if one is trying to keep a larger pool of pilots current on a smaller pool of aircraft, I can understand that. Still stupid, but not as stupid.

      A pilot should be able to own his/her plane, or at least borrow it from the plane Captain or Chief. Pride of belonging is part of the Elan that makes any unit that much better. Works on ships, boats, artillery, tanks, mess equipment, repair equipment and planes. Heck, even works on office proles (having to share desks and other office equipment just sucks.)

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    5. The crew chief "owns" the aircraft, the air crew just borrows it. While it's cool to have one's name on a jet, due to maintenance down time and all that, if they give you a pig, or hangar queen to be more polite, you might not get to fly much. But the pukes who put the kibosh on names on planes and no nose art deserve a special place in Hell. "Hey, I've got an idea to kill morale!" - pretty much says it all.

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  10. My favorite recon story is from Robin Olds. You can read it in his book. I will try to do the short version justice. Olds was also flying an F-6.

    The plan was for him to make THREE low level passes on the target. One before the bombs hit, one AS the bombs hit, and one after the bombs hit (by which time the AA would be like sticking your finger in an anthill). He dutifully makes his first pass, swings around and sets up his timing for the bombs coming down from above. As he makes his second pass, the bombs hit to his right, probably at about the same distance as to the near side of the tree line in the above photo. Olds banks hard left and RTB's post haste.

    He knows that a certain major is chomping at the bit to get the photo results, so plays a pat hand until it is realized that he made no third pass. Said major blows his stack, to which Olds remarks (with colorful language) "Well, just look at the first pass photos. They all look the same because you missed the fire truckin' target!".

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    1. That is a good book, ain't it. Back when Leaders could manage, but managers couldn't lead.

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    2. I think that is still the case, neh?

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  11. I would have sent a telegram to Hirohito: "Fellow in a plane named "Snooks" just shot down one of your bombers and six of your fighters. We're sending the really tough guys next week. Regards."

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  12. Great story and video. All honors to him AND his crew chief! And yes, he pissed somebody off. I've BEEN to Thule, operated out of there for two weeks in the 'spring'... It was ONLY 60 below ambient, with 105 below wind chill...

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    1. Yeah, Dad said it was a tad chilly. But it was an Air Force Base, so it had a golf course. No...The runway went in first. O'Club next then the course.

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    2. Procedures, where would the AF be without procedures?

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)