Frederick T. Weber

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Frederick Thomas Weber
Born (1916-02-04)February 4, 1916
Des Moines, Iowa
Died June 4, 1942(1942-06-04) (aged 26)
vicinity of Midway Atoll
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Naval Reserve
Years of service 1938–42
Rank Lieutenant (j.g.)
Unit Bombing Squadron 6 (VB-6)
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of Midway
Awards Navy Cross

Frederick Thomas Weber (4 February 1916 – 4 June 1942) was a naval aviator in the United States Navy during World War II.

Biography[edit]

Weber was born on 4 February 1916 at Des Moines, Iowa. He attended college at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1933 and 1934 before transferring to Drake University in Des Moines in 1935. He graduated from the latter school during the summer of 1938 and enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve on 30 August of that year. During the ensuing winter, Seaman 2d Class Weber successfully completed elimination flight training at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Kansas City, Kansas; and, on 27 July 1939, he was appointed an aviation cadet in the Naval Reserve. After 10 months of training at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla., Weber was appointed a naval aviator on 10 May 1940. A little over a month later, he concluded his training and, on 12 June 1940, received his commission as an ensign in the Naval Reserve. That same day, he received orders to report for duty with Bombing Squadron 6 (VB-6) attached to the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CV-6).

Enterprise and VB-6 proved to be Ens. Weber's only assignment during his brief naval career. During the remainder of 1940 and for 11 of the 12 months of 1941, he served with his ship and squadron operating out of San Diego, Calif., and later out of Pearl Harbor. His duties consisted entirely of training in aerial warfare in preparation for the conflict with Japan expected to erupt at any time.

At the end of the first week in December 1941, he was at sea with Enterprise which was returning from Wake Island where she had just delivered Marine Fighting Squadron 211 (VMF-211). Foiled in their attempt to locate the Japanese striking force on 7 December, Weber and his colleagues rode their carrier into devastated Pearl Harbor on the 8th. The following morning, they put to sea in Enterprise and began defensive patrols of the area to assure that no enemy invasion force was on its way to Hawaii.

In January 1942, Weber's ship guarded reinforcement convoys on their way to the southern Pacific. In February, he participated in the carrier raids on Japanese-held islands in the Central Pacific. In April, his ship served as an escort for Hornet (CV-8) during the HalseyDoolittle bomber raid on Tokyo and returned to Oahu on 25 April. Dispatched too late to join in the Battle of the Coral Sea, his ship returned to Pearl Harbor on 26 May to prepare for what would be an even more important strategic battle — the first real defeat of Japanese naval airpower during the struggle over Midway Island.

The Battle of Midway[edit]

On 28 May, Enterprise steamed out of Pearl Harbor, accompanied by Hornet and the cruisers and destroyers of Task Force 16 (TF 16), to lie in ambush north of Midway. Partially repaired, Yorktown (CV-5) followed two days later. On the morning of 4 June, land-based patrol planes from Midway made contact with the advancing Japanese force spearheaded by four of the six carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor. While Midway defended itself against enemy air attacks and land-based air unsuccessfully tried to pierce the Japanese defenses, Weber and his comrades in VB-6 took to the air to begin a long grueling search. By 07:30, the entire attack group was aloft and streaking off toward the enemy's reported position. Lieutenant Commander Clarence Wade McClusky, the Enterprise air group commander (CAG), led the squadron himself as the formation winged on toward Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo's Carrier Striking Force.

At 09:20, the squadron arrived at the supposed location of the enemy. Gazing down, the aircrewman strained for a glimpse of the threatening carriers but saw only empty seas. At that juncture, the air group commander made a hard decision. His planes had already consumed a great deal of fuel; and, were they to initiate a search, some would surely fail to return as a result. On the other hand, if they returned for fuel, Midway might fall or, even worse, the enemy might find and sink or severely damage one or more of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's three remaining carriers. Therefore, the importance of stopping Nagumo's carriers at almost any cost dictated the course of action. The American pilots ignored their fuel gauges and started hunting for the Japanese.

At 10:05, Weber and his colleagues were rewarded for their perseverance and determination. On the horizon to the northwest loomed a task force composed of three large carriers and numerous escorts. Initially, some Americans believed that they had inadvertently circled back to their ships, but "pagoda" masts and yellow flight decks of the carriers below quickly dispelled that fear.

Though originally intending to attack Akagi, the squadron leader, Lt. Dick Best noticed that Scouting 6 (VS-6) had only near-missed Kaga, so he switched targets at the last minute and headed for the latter. Ens. Weber followed his squadron leader in on carrier Kaga as the third plane in the first section. The Bombing 6 Action Report states that "... at least three 1,000-pound bomb hits were observed on that target and it became a mass of flame and smoke." Since only the three Bombing 6 planes which participated in the attack on that carrier carried that size bomb, Weber and his two squadron mates all apparently scored direct hits on the target. Hence Weber contributed as much as anyone to the sinking of Kaga.

Pulling out of his dive, Weber formed on his leader, and the squadron headed home to refuel and rearm. At least one Japanese carrier remained intact, Hiryū, whose position far ahead of the other three saved her momentarily.

That afternoon, Weber took off from Enterprise with a composite attack group made up of the remnants of the several groups decimated earlier. At about 15:45, planes from Scouting 6 and 14 from Yorktown's Bombing 3 joined with the four operational aircraft remaining to Bombing 6 and sped off in chase of the remaining carrier. Unfortunately, the American fighters still extant had to remain with the carriers as combat air patrol so the attack group was denuded of fighter cover.

About an hour later, the American hunters found their quarry. The American planes climbed to 19,000 feet (6,000 m) and maneuvered their way up-sun of Hiryū and her escorts. During the jockeying for position, Japanese fighters jumped the unprotected dive bombers. Before reaching the "push over" point, Ens. Weber's plane fell victim to the enemy fighters. He and his aircrewman, Aviation Ordnanceman 3d Class E. L. Hilbert, spiraled into the sea and to their deaths. For his part in sinking Kaga and for his supreme sacrifice in assisting his colleagues to sink the remaining enemy carrier, Ens. Weber was promoted retroactively to lieutenant (junior grade) and was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.

Namesake[edit]

In 1943, the destroyer escort USS Weber (DE-675) was named in his honor.

References[edit]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.