Lt. H. H. SCALES
A former test pilot, Lt. Harrell H. "Push" SCALES of Ft. Smith, Ark. has put the Navy Hellcat fighter to practical purpose in recent action with Fighting 31 by shooting six enemy aircraft in aerial combat.
In one of the last missions leading a fighter sweep against an airfield in the Philippines 13 Sept., SCALES shot down two Zeros in a low-level dogfight and destroyed a Japanese bomber on the ground.
"There were about 15 Zeros and 11 Hellcats in the air," said SCALES. "The fighting took place at very low altitude, sometimes at 50 feet. After shooting down two Zeros, I made a treetop strafing run on the field, and there - staring from the window of the operations tower - was a big fat Jap taking in the show. I laughed all the way back at the expression on his face," SCALES said, describing the action.
In that day's fighting alone, SCALES' squadron downed 26 Japanese aircraft in the air. Later, on 21 Sept., while his squadron was topping that score with 29 downed in a day, SCALES got his sixth plane. He sighted it as it was making a dangerous attack on a friendly fighter. SCALES turned in to intercept the attack and after a hard chase, he brought the Japanese down, spinning and smoking.
SCALES was among the Fighting 31 pilots launched to help break up the enemy carrier based attack in the Battle of the Eastern Philippines.
"We sighted the bombers about 40 miles away from our Task Force, already formed into a column for the attack, " SCALES said. "Their formation contained about 15 bombers and 20 fighters.
"We dove through escorting fighters and gave the bombers priority on our shots. I opened up on a two-man dive bomber and as the plane exploded, the pilot and gunner bailed out.
"Climbing again for more altitude, I found myself in a perfect position for an attack on one of the Zeros. After I opened fire, he began to burn, and the pilot parachuted. That finished my fighting for the day; there was nothing in the air but Hellcats.
"Debris, oil slicks and smoke were all that was left of the powerful carrier air force that had trained two years for a chance to destroy the American fleet," SCALES said.
Like most Navy fighter pilots, SCALES is sure the Hellcat is the ultimate in fighter planes, carrier-based or otherwise.
"The fine showing made by this squadron was due in my mind to very severe training, a fine spirit among pilots and the world's finest plane," he said. "Our squadron has always worked with one idea, attack, keep on attacking, and never give a sucker an even break."
In operations against enemy shipping on 14 Sept., SCALES led his four-plane division in what was probably the most distant carrier attack ever. Arriving over the target 350 miles away, his division strafed and set fire to four Japanese coastal vessels.
SCALES, holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, got his first taste of aerial combat in the Marshalls when he shot down a Zero. In the Bonin Islands, he helped destroy a four-engine Japanese patrol plane snooping on our forces; and off Hollandia, he led his division in a strafing attack that destroyed an enemy tanker.