Bob Bell recalls the Black Widow night fighter

Bob Bell was a sonarman on the USS Hadley. He shared an updated story recently. On the night of 10-11 May 1945, a Night Fighter plane based at Okinawa was scrambled to intercept a Japanese patrol plane/bomber 75 miles out. Bell was on mid-watch outside the sonar room. “I had the mid-watch from midnight of the 11th to 0400.  I could hear the TBS (talk between ships) radio on the bridge.” The Night Fighter was vectored right over the Hadley. Bell could see the blue flame from a two-engine exhaust high above. He could hear the pilot being coached by Fighter Control. The pilot said, “I have him in sight, closing 2,000 yards.” Then the sky lit up when the Jap plane exploded.

It was thought that the Night Fighter was Marine F6F-5N Hellcat. Hellcats were single engine. The Army headquarters for twin engine P-61 Black Widow Night Fighters had not arrived at Okinawa yet. But new information confirms that the Army 548th Night Fighter Squadron did have five P-61 Black Widows at Okinawa in May of 1945. Bob Bell was correct with what he saw, and that memory is still vivid 75 years later.