Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat VBF-17 'White 31' and operated CV-12 USS Hornet II CVG-17 USN Pilot Lt. Fred Prinz.
VBF-17 Tour of Duty: From 1945/02 to 1945/04/17 CV-12 Hornet II CVG-17 F6F-5
Asisbiz according to further research this plane was lost on 3/19/1945
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List March 1945
3/19/1945 F6F-5 71781 VBF-17 USS HORNET (CV-12) KURE EMPIRE LT PRINZ S
Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106) began as Bomber Fighter Squadron 17 (VBF-17) at Agana Air Field, Guam on 11 January 1945. One month later, flying F6F-5 Hellcats, VBF-17 embarked onboard USS Hornet (CV-12) to participate in combat operations against the Japanese. Operations included strikes against Tokyo, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa as well as the first major air strikes against the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku.
On 21 March 1945 Lt.jg Henry E. Mitchell became VBF-17's first ace when he shot down five Betty twin-engine bombers that were part of a sortie attacking the squadron's task force. He was later awarded the Navy Cross for his action. Other aces were LTs Edwin S. Conant, Byron A. Eberts, and John M. Johnston; LTjg Carl V. Stone; and ENSs Robert A. Clarke, William J. Kostik, and Harold Yeremain. To cement its identity, VBF-17 created a squadron patch: the "Skeleton Riding the Rocket."
On March 21, 1945 Lt (jg) Henry E Mitchell was leading a section of F6F-5 Hellcats from USS Hornet on CAP duty over Task Force 58. He was a member of VBF-17 and was on his second tour of duty in the Pacific. His first was with VF-6 in the battle for Truk. Wounded in that battle by AAA he was given the chance to come home and serve as a flight instructor. However, he wanted back into combat and volunteered to serve in one of the newly formed VBF (ground attack) squadrons.
On this day, while patrolling his section was vectored to a flight of bogeys 70 miles from the task force. It turned out to be a flight of 18 Bettys escorted by Zeros. The Bettys were engaged in the first ever attack using the new Ohka flying bomb. Mitchell took his flight into attack and was soon joined by members of VBF-17's sister Squadron, VF-17 and VF-30. In the course of the battle Mitchell was given credit for shooting down 5 Bettys, bringing him ace status and 6 kills.
He was awarded the Navy Cross, but never received it.
Two weeks later he volunteered to run a photo recon mission over Okinawa and was damaged by flak. He was able to bring his crate home but the damage forced him to bail out over a friendly destroyer. Pilots were instructed to cut their shrowds before hitting the water to avoid being swamped by the shoot on landing. He apparently cut his too high from the surface and was knocked unconscious and drowned. The destroyer found his chute but Mitchell's body was never located.
F6F-5 of Lt. Fred Prinz, VBF-17, March 1945. The yellow cowl band was for identification during the Japanese home islands raids of February 1945. RN Ronnco firstname.lastname@example.org
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