On February 1st 1945 Lt. Commander Fritz E. Wolf was transferred from the USS Hornet (VF-11, Sundowners) to the USS Yorktown to take command of a newly formed squadron VBF-3. This was part of Air Group Three. This was the first time that the Navy developed a Bombing Fighter Squadron. The Navy must have felt that this was an important thing to do for they’re up coming attack against mainland Japan. The Navy divided VF-3 into two squadrons. One was VF-3 commanded by Lt. Commander E. H. Bayers USN and Lt. Commander Fritz E. Wolf USNR commanded VBF-3. Lt. Commander Wolf got his combat experience fighting the Japanese in China under the leadership of Claire Chennault, the commander of the American Volunteer Group better know as the Flying Tigers. Fritz was the first to shoot down a Japanese plane for that organization and ended up with 4 confirmed kills with 3 probable.
VBF-3 was commissioned on the 1st of February by the Commanding Officer of the USS Yorktown, in accordance with a secret dispatch by the Navy Department. Within a short time after her christening, VBF-3 on board the Yorktown shoved off for Ulitihi lagoon to join up with the other battle groups that were preparing to attack mainland Japan and to give support to the invasion of Iwo Jima. This short time didn’t give them much time to prepare but they were ready. Each commanding officer brought along a combat team. A team that trained and fought together. A team is made up of four men with a fifth as back up. A good majority of the teams had combat experience fighting on other ships. The one thing they didn’t like was the letter B in their title. They were fighter pilots not bomb droppers. At least that’s how some of them felt. One thing that should be mentioned here is that in the beginning of the war the Navy sent individual replacement pilots to the front. Later on they became convinced that sending combat teams was a better thing to do. This change came about with the introduction of the Thatch Weave, developed by a naval fighter pilot by the name of James Thatch. He came up with this idea after it became clear that the Navy’s F4F Wildcats were no match for the Japanese Zero in single combat. He came up with the concept of placing your planes in such a formation that all points were covered making it very hard for the Japanese to shoot you down.
On February 16, 1945, the pilots of 2-A Flight from the Yorktown were the first Navy pilots to attack and bomb Mainland Japan. 1-A Flight was launched earlier but never made it to the target because of bad weather. Lt. Commander Fritz E. Wolf, from Shawano, Wisconsin, led the attack. At the end of the attack he shot down his fifth plane to make him an ace. In addition he damaged another and destroyed two twin-engine planes and seriously damaged three single-engine planes on the ground. For his courage and airmanship, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The following is taking from a newspaper clipping dated march 4th, 1945. “ Airplanes from the famous carrier “Fighting Lady” shot down 62 Japanese aircraft in 2 1/2 days of attacks upon Tokyo without the loss of an American flier.
Four planes from the Yorktown were lost but every airman was picked up. In their first look at the Tokyo area, the pilots counted more than 1,000 enemy planes, closely packed on their fields. Many airdromes were only a mile and half apart. Most of the planes were in outlying areas.
Lt. Commander Fritz Emil Wolf, skipper of the bombing squadron from Shawano, Wisconsin, said the Japanese had a full size plastic dummy of a B-29 at Tsukuba field. He said that the plastic B-29 was apparently used for bombing practice. A similar dummy was seen in Formosa.
Wolf also told of seeing a Tony fighter drop a dummy in a parachute and a black box after a head-on attack. The dummy was intended to deceive his opponent, but the purpose of the black box was a mystery. “Japanese tactics are very poor,” Wolf said. “Although they had a number of the newest type fighters, they were the dumbest pilots I have ever run into and I’ve met some dumb ones as well as some very good ones in China. We divide Jap fliers into students and instructors. Occasionally you hit instructors. That’s the way it’s been all along”
After its two and half day attack on the mainland of Japan, the Yorktown’s battle group sailed back to Iwo Jima to give support to the Marines landing on the island. On the 20th and 22nd of February VBF-3 joined in direct support missions over Iwo. Fritz said “The Marines were down below being held back by concrete pill boxes, and we were shooting rockets within 100 feet and it got pretty dangerous.” Thank God that all went well with no accidents or Marines being killed by friendly fire.
Once again the Yorktown sailed back to Japan to make more attacks. Lt. Commander Wolf led another attack against the Tsukuba Airfield. They rocketed hangers, parked aircraft and strafed extensively. After the return of this flight other missions were cancelled and the fleet with drew. Yorktown returned to Ulitihi Lagoon thus ending a brief tour for VBF-3. Lt. Commander Wolf transferred to the USS Lexington for his return to the United States. He ended the war at Brown Field, Chula Visa California as Executive Officer. When it was all said and done Lt. Commander Fritz E. Wolf officially shot down 5 aircraft with 4 probable.
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the USS Yorktown, "The Fighting Lady.
The F-14 Tomcat breaking the sound barrier. The Squadron has flown the F-14 longer than any other squadron and this history making squadron started out flying off the wooded flight deck of the USS Yorktown in 1945. In 1946 VBF-3 transitioned to F8F-1 "BEARCATS" and was redesignated VF-4A. Finally, in August 1948 the squadron was redesignated VF-32, the designation that it still bears today.