While my protagonist, Dr. John Welles, and one of his best friends, Dr. Sam Feldman, joined the Army as civilian doctors to participate in the European Theater, his other best friend, Claude Willoughby, joined the Navy as a pilot to serve in the Pacific Theater.
In my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, Claude and his wife, Patsy, move to California after suffering a personal tragedy. Patsy spends her days volunteering in a pediatric ward to work through her grief, and Claude obtains a pilot license to keep his mind off their loss.
You’ll find previous research I used to create Claude’s experience in the blog post Straighten Up & Fly Right. Today’s post is in regards to Claude’s involvement as a World War II Navy pilot flying in the battle for the Caroline Islands.
Japanese troops occupied the Caroline Islands in 1914 during World War I. After the war, Japan received a League of Nations mandate over them. However, the League of Nations imposed restrictions on Japan between 1914 and 1933. During this time, Japan was not able to build up the Caroline Islands for military purposes. In 1933, Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations gave her the freedom to do just that.
Prior to the Pacific War, the atoll of Truk was built as a forward naval base. It had five airfields, several seaplane and torpedo boat bases, and repair facilities. During World War II, a radar station was also constructed. It also served as an anchorage in favor over Ulithi Atoll.
The base at Truk was destroyed in February, 1944, by American airpower in Operation Hailstone, and was cut off for the remainder of the war. The attack by the United States involved a combination of airstrikes, surface ship actions, and submarine attacks over two days. The Japanese appeared to be completely taken by surprise. Operation Hailstone is sometimes called the equivalent to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Several daylight and nighttime airstrikes against the base at Truk employed fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo aircraft in attacks on Japanese airfields, aircraft, shore installations, and ships in and around the Truk anchorage. American surface ships and submarines guarded potential exit routes from the island’s anchorage with the purpose of preventing any Japanese ships from escaping.
The Caroline Islands became part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered by the United States after the World War II. The Federated States of Micronesia was formed in 1986 and gained sovereignty over the Caroline Islands.