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Bernard J. St. John Oral History

Identifier: OHP 027

Scope and Contents

Bernard “Ben” St. John served aboard Intrepid as an Avenger torpedo bomber pilot in VT-18 during World War II, from late 1944 until July 1945. St. John began his interview by discussing his hometown, Adams, Massachusetts, his years in high school, and some of his early jobs. He also recalled hearing about the war in Europe and later the attack on Pearl Harbor. St. John then discussed his decision to become a pilot, the different levels of pilot training, carrier quals, and his first landing on Intrepid, which he performed without flaps due to a hydraulic failure. He also described the pilots’ ready room, life aboard ship, and training that had occurred while aboard ship. St. John even recounted a humorous story involving Captain Bolger, who was also from Adams, Massachusetts. The interview then shifted toward discussing combat experiences. St. John spoke about gun tub 10 being struck by a kamikaze, as well as his first water landing. He then spoke more about gun tub 10, the steward’s mates who manned that gun tub, and race on board Intrepid. The next action that St. John recounted was at Formosa, where he bombed oil dumps, was attacked by fighters while leaving the area, became separated from his squadron, and eventually made it back to Intrepid. He received an air medal for this action. St. John then spoke about the second battle of the Philippine Sea. He stated that he was part of the third strike and remembered the anti-aircraft fire they faced when attacking the battleship Musashi. He also explained the procedures for dropping a torpedo and stated that the torpedo he dropped had travelled ahead of or behind the battleship and struck a cruiser. At this time, St. John also explained his mentality, and the mentality of many of the pilots, which was, assume that you are going to make it and don’t think too much. He was then asked about the medals he had won: the Distinguished Flying Cross, the air medal, and the Navy Cross. St. John explained that the DFC was for a mission on November 25. He stated that this was the day Intrepid was struck by 2 kamikazes and that Intrepid was still in his sight when it was struck by the first kamikaze. St. John said that he continued on his flight, sank a Japanese minelayer, which earned him the DFC, and landed at Tacloban since Intrepid had been damaged by the kamikaze attack. He also noted that the pilots were worried about what had happened to the men on the ship. St. John then stated that the torpedo bomber pilots were sent back to San Francisco, and he remembered the time he spent in the city, noting a group of men he had taken a photograph with and a particular story involving one of those men, Ben Preston. St John continued, discussing his squadron splitting in half, different duties he had on the west coast, and a party he had attended at the nurses’ residence, which was where he met his future wife. St. John also noted that he had just gotten married and was with this wife in the mountains of California when he learned that the war was over. He explained that he returned to San Diego, discovered that anyone with a DFC or above could get out of the Navy immediately, and left the Navy. St. John then discussed his life after the Navy, which involved applying to schools, traveling cross country with his wife, and entering the reserves while continuing his old job and attending school. The interview had to end before St. John was able to discuss the rest of his post Navy career because he was attending a Pearl Harbor ceremony on the day of the interview. However, St. John did note what stood out about his time on Intrepid: hearing, “Pilots, prepare to start engines,” and having all of the airplanes’ engines running on the flight deck, which he said is a sight that you won’t see anymore, and how pilots were treated by the crew, who brought the pilots food after their missions and asked them what had happened.


  • December 7, 2013



25 Sheets

7 Files

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David Dzendzel
November 19, 2015
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Repository Details

Part of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Online Archives Repository

One Intrepid Square
W. 46th Street and 12th Avenue
New York NY 10036-4103 United States