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Interview with Lloyd Karch [11/11/2002]

Edwin Auld:

We're at the home of Lieutenant Lloyd Karch in Arcadia California. it's Veterans Day, 2002, and as part of the Veterans History Project, we're here to discuss with Mr. Karch his experiences at a Navy pilot during World War II. My name is Ed Auld, I'm a teacher, and I want to thank my brother-in-law, John Rothrock, another Navy man, for doing the filming for this project. Mr. Karch has visited my fifth grade classrooms every year for the last nine years. Mr. Karch, happy Veterans Day.

Lloyd Karch:

Thank You.

Edwin Auld:

Could you tell us when and where you were born?

Lloyd Karch:

I was born near Columbus, Ohio, on December 11, 1921.

Edwin Auld:

Can you remember where you were on December 7, 1941, when you heard the news about Pearl Harbor?

Lloyd Karch:

I was at the front porch of my girlfriend's house.

Edwin Auld:

When you heard the news, what course of action did you take?

Lloyd Karch:

Not much, then. I wanted more details. I kind of waited to see what was going to happen.

Edwin Auld:

So when you found out the magnitude of what had happened and you decided to join the service, what did you do then?

Lloyd Karch:

I was at Ohio State University, and the senior ROTC officers kept disappearing, so I decided it was time to go. I went down and I enlisted in the Navy air program.

Edwin Auld:

Where did you receive most of your training?

Lloyd Karch:

New Orleans, Pensacola, and Miami.

Edwin Auld:

You ended up being trained and assigned to the TBM Avenger. Here is a model of the TBM. Could you please tell us about it?

Lloyd Karch:

1 first saw the TBM at Miami, and what impressed me was that the pilot could look straight into the cockpit of a DC-3. I thought, "Well, that looks like a pretty good airplane-

Edwin Auld:

In other words, it was so high off the ground. Tell us just a little about the features of the TBM - its armament, speed.

Lloyd Karch:

It can carry 2000 lbs. of bombs or a 2000 lb. torpedo. It is armed with two forward firing .50 caliber machine guns, one turret gun with a .50 caliber, and a stinger in Hie tail, a .30 caliber.

Edwin Auld:

And here's the turret, and the forward firing guns, were they in the wings?

Lloyd Karch:

They were in the wings.

Edwin Auld:

With the bomb doors open, you can get a glimpse of the 2000 ib. torpedo. When we went to see an airplane like this at the Chino Air Museum, our fifth graders were able to stand up underneath the plane with their heads in the bomb bay. So it was the largest plane of World War II to be flown off of an aircraft carrier, except for the Doolittle B-25s, which were not designed for earners. So it was a dive bomber?

Lloyd Karch:

Well, a glide bomber.

Edwin Auld:

Could you show us the difference between glide bombing, which you would do in an Avenger, and straight dive bombing, that you would do, in say, a Dauntless dive bomber?

Lloyd Karch:

We would glide in at about a 45 degree angle at the most, and the dive bomber, with its dive brakes, would come practically straight down on the target. You had to be equipped with the dive brakes to accomplish that.

Edwin Auld:

What would be the procedure for dropping a torpedo?

Lloyd Karch:

The normal procedure for dropping a torpedo is to come in from high altitude, right down to about 300 feet and taking a bow shot. In other words, if this were the ship, you drop out maybe half a mile and aim to where the ship would be.

Edwin Auld:

So you would lead the ship, so it would sail into the torpedo?

Lloyd Karch:

Yes.

Edwin Auld:

When were you assigned to the USS intrepid?

Lloyd Karch:

In August of '44. We boarded at Pearl Harbor.

Edwin Auld:

What was going on in the war in the Pacific at that time?

Lloyd Karch:

We were going up the north coast of New Guinea, and we were scheduled to make the next island hop, which proved to be the Philippines - Paiau and the Philippines.

Edwin Auld:

So the Army and McArthur had been moving through the southern Pacific, and Nimitz and the Marines had been moving through the northern Pacific, and the plan was to converge on the Philippines?

Lloyd Karch:

We blunted them at Tarawa, and bypassed Truk, so the next objective would have been the Philippines.

Edwin Auld:

Truk was a huge Japanese base, but you were able to bypass it?

Lloyd Karch:

Yes, we neutralized it and bypassed it.

Edwin Auld:

What was your first combat assignment?

Lloyd Karch:

The first combat assignment was at Palau, bombing the airfield.

Edwin Auld:

Could you tell us about that? What were your feelings the first time under fire?

Lloyd Karch:

There was not much opposition, hardly at all, and we were able to pick out our targets as such, and I put a 2000 lb. bomb on a hangar area.

Edwin Auld:

I see that you have been awarded three medals. Could you tell us which of these medals you earned first, and what were the circumstances?

Lloyd Karch:

The first medal I received was for torpedoing a tanker in the South China Sea, off the west coast of Luzon. That was the Distinguished Flying Cross. And the Navy Cross I got far a torpedo run on what proved to be the battleship Musashi. And the Ait Medal was for hitting a Japanese cargo ship loaded with ammunition.

Edwin Auld:

And what happened to that cargo ship?

Lloyd Karch:

It went up in a puff of smoke.

Edwin Auld:

So it didn't sink, it just went "poof"?

Lloyd Karch:

It blew.

Edwin Auld:

The first Japanese Kamikaze suicide planes made their appearance during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Could you please give us a little background about the Battle of Leyte Gulf, why it was important, and tell us about your experiences with Kamikazes?

Lloyd Karch:

We had landed troops on Leyte, and the Japanese got their ships in order to form a "pincer" movement on our fleet in Leyte Guif. We were assigned to attack the Central Force, which was going to come through the San Bernardino Straights, which they eventually did. The first Kamikaze attacks were on the escort carriers supporting the landings, and we didn't get our first attacks until the 29th of October, 1944.

Edwin Auld:

Could you tell us what happened when the first Kamikaze hit the Intrepid?

Lloyd Karch:

I was up on the catwalk watching the show, and we were firing the 5 inchers, and then the 20mm. He kept boring down, and when he was about 300 feet away I ducked for cover. He sliced a gun turret, and then crashed about 30 yards from where I had been standing. The top of a sparkplug hit the bulkhead between me and my buddy.

Edwin Auld:

So that's how dose you were? Some of the debris rolled up to you.

Lloyd Karch:

Some of the debris came right up to where we were standing.

Edwin Auld:

At that time, did you know that there were such things as Kamikazes?

Lloyd Karch:

Oh yes, we knew.

Edwin Auld:

You had heard about them already.

Lloyd Karch:

Yes, we had heard.

Edwin Auld:

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the greatest naval battle in world history, because it involved more ships, more men, and more area of the ocean than any battle before or since. And because of the way wars are fought now, there will never be another battle like the battle of Leyte Gulf. One of the key players in the Battle of Leyte Gulf was the Yantato class battleship, the largest battleship ever built. The only larger ship is the present day Nimitz class aircraft carrier. Here is a Yamato class battleship, of which there were two. The names of the two Yamato class battleships were the Yamato, which is well known because it was the flagship of Admiral Yamamoto, and the Musashi. You had an encounter with the Musashi at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Could you tell us a little about the Yamato class battleship?

Lloyd Karch:

They had three turrets carrying three guns apiece with an 18 inch bore. Kurita had loaded the ship with as many one inch guns as they could get aboard.

Edwin Auld:

Antiaircraft guns?

Lloyd Karch:

Antiaircraft guns, and they had all sorts of 40mm up to 5 inch antiaircraft guns. It had an armor belt about 16 inches thick, designed to stop shells and torpedoes, and heavy deck armor.

Edwin Auld:

And the deck armor was to stop bombs. So the Musashi and Yamato were both about 970 feet long, and I've heard different versions of the displacement, between 64,000 and 72,000 tons. You sailed with the American battleships, like the New Jersey, and they didn't approach this.

Lloyd Karch:

Didn't approach it at all.

Edwin Auld:

Could you tell us about your encounter with the Musashi

Lloyd Karch:

I was on the third strike of the day, which consisted of three torpedo bombers, plus 10 or so dive bombers. We came upon the Central Fleet there (in the Sibuyan Sea - ed.) at about 15:30 hours on October 24, 1944. We came in from the north at about 20,000 feet, looked down and saw the Musashi and Yamato in tandem, along with other ships. There were nice, big flashes coming from the decks of the big battleships. We thought that some other air group was bombing the daylights out of them. But it turned out they were firing their main batteries, and using them as antiaircraft guns, in a few moments, here come these big phosphorus shells exploding ahead of us. So we just moved out about a mile or so, and drded so we could make our attack down-sun, and dove in from 20,000 feet first we encountered different colored antiaircraft bursts.

Edwin Auld:

Why were they different colors?

Lloyd Karch:

I would assume that each ship was firing its own separate color, so they knew where they were firing. Then the antiaircraft fire became all black. We came through that, which seemed to last about four or five miles. Then we got down amongst the ships. We passed over a destroyer, and because it was there, I fired at it, but I was a little high, I could see bullets going in through the rigging, but I didn't want to lose too much altitude at that time. I turned to the northeast, and got onto the stem of the thing. I came in from behind it. I lined up straight and level for just a second, because they were firing their one inch guns, and there was smoke coming from the superstructure, right near the funnel, going down the trade wind. I dropped, and made a violent turn to the port, through the smoke column.

Edwin Auld:

The smoke coming out of the Musashi?

Lloyd Karch:

It had been under attack. Our dive bombers had hit it. And when i was vertical, I looked, and saw about a foot and a half hole in the forward edge of the wing, and about a foot and a half hole in the trailing edge, I wondered at that speed and with that violent turn whether that thing was going to come apart at any moment. It held together, I had control, but I figured I wasn't going to do a water-landing in amongst those ships, so I'd fly right into this nice cruiser that happened to be there. But I didn't have to. I passed between a cruiser and a destroyer and got out of it. We decide to the northwest, and joined up. Looking back, the Japanese fleet had pulled away to the west, and the Musashi was lying dead in the water, with its bow underwater practically up to the first gun turret.

Edwin Auld:

Before the attack, the Musashi was under its own steam?

Lloyd Karch:

it was sailing along beautifully.

Edwin Auld:

The Musashi had been hit with numerous bombs and torpedoes from other American planes throughout that day, but what was so fortuitous about your torpedo so that it caused the Musashi to go under?

Lloyd Karch:

f dropped it so it would come to equilibrium underneath it, where the armor plate wasn't. That's the only shot I had at it.

Edwin Auld:

So the torpedo went underneath the stem and came up underneath? So it can't have heavy armor everywhere, or it won't float.

Lloyd Karch:

No, it won't float-

Edwin Auld:

So this was its only vulnerable spot. So the other torpedoes that the American flyers fired at the Musashi hit that 16 inch armor and did damage, but not enough to sink it. The Musashi had a compliment of about 2200 men. About how many of them survived?

Lloyd Karch:

Probably about 1200 of them, I would imagine, because they lost over 1000 men when it went down.

Edwin Auld:

So the Musashi was on its way to Leyte Gulf to turn its 18 inch guns loose on the American soldiers on the beaches.

Lloyd Karch:

And shipping.

Edwin Auld:

So it was crucial that the Musashi and Yamato be stopped. Then one of your crew members was seriously hurt

Lloyd Karch:

My turret gunner received shrapnel in his hip. The radio man got him down out of the turret and rendered first aid as best he could. We went through our survival packs, and there were no morphine surrets.

Edwin Auld:

So people were druggies at that time?

Lloyd Karch:

Druggies at that time.

Edwin Auld:

That was distressing. So you've got a wounded man in pain, and someone has stolen the only painkiller available to him. So then what?

Lloyd Karch:

We flew back to the earner, and I asked permission to land first and was granted it, we got the gunner out, Dugas, and took him to the sickbay. The plane itself was in such bad shape, they just pushed it over the side.

Edwin Auld:

You must have had quite a report to make.

Lloyd Karch:

They told me that the skipper wanted to see me, and he said, "Which way are they going?" I said, "270 degrees," and that was that.

Edwin Auld:

270 degrees is due west?

Lloyd Karch:

Due west.

Edwin Auld:

The opposite direction from which they were trying to go?

Lloyd Karch:

Yep.

Edwin Auld:

Let's talk about a little side story. Here is (a picture of) your gunner, Irvine Dugas, and could you tell us a little bit of the story of his delayed medal?

Lloyd Karch:

He was recommended for a Distinguished Flying Cross, and he called me about 48 years later, and I asked him if he ever got his medal, and he said no. So i wrote a letter requesting one, and nothing happened for two years. So i wrote another one, and that one produced results.

Edwin Auld:

By the time he got it, it was 55 years after the battle. So for your action as the pilot, you were awarded the Navy Cross, which is the highest decoration that the Navy can give, except for the Medal of Honor. At this point in the interview, the following photos are displayed for the camera: 1. Lt. Karch with his Avenger squadron onboard the USS Intrepid 2. Lt. Karch next to an Avenger at an air show in the year 2001 3. Lt Karch receiving the Navy Cross at Edmonton, North Carolina 4. Lt. Karch on the front page of the Pasadena Star News newspaper

Lloyd Karch:

Our squadron picture was on the back page of the newspaper, and this lady in Arcadia says, "Well, I've seen that picture! It's in my uncle's house!" And, sure enough, Lt. Don Morris got in touch with me, and we had a pretty good talk about it.

Edwin Auld:

As it turned out, he had put the first torpedo into the Musashi.

Lloyd Karch:

He had put the first torpedo in. He was on strike number one. I was scheduled for strike number one, but my hydraulics were out, and my wings wouldn't unfold.

Edwin Auld:

That's quite a coincidence.

Lloyd Karch:

Yeah.

Edwin Auld:

So 55 years later, the person who put the first torpedo into the Musashi meets the person who put the last. That's quite a coincidence. Where were you when you heard about the atom bomb, the war's end, and what was your reaction?

Lloyd Karch:

I was in training in North Carolina. In fact, I was in the air when I heard it. I thought, "Hurrah! I don't have to go back there!"

Edwin Auld:

You were still getting training?

Lloyd Karch:

We were scheduled to support the landings in Japan.

Edwin Auld:

So you had two years of training in tire States, then actual combat duty, but they were still training you?

Lloyd Karch:

They put together a whole new squadron, and you have to train it. We had qualified for night carrier landings, and we were ail set to go, just waiting for a ship to open up.

Edwin Auld:

So the plan was to invade the Japanese islands, and you were obviously going to be a part of that.

Lloyd Karch:

We were going to be in dose support of Army ground units.

Edwin Auld:

And then the atom bomb put everything to a sudden stop, and that was it for you.

Lloyd Karch:

That was it.

Edwin Auld:

The interviews that constitute this Veterans History Project are intended for contemporary people that will be doing research, and in addition, it is for future generations who are going to be using the Library of Congress to find out about Mr. Karch's generation and what his generation did to preserve world freedom, I just wondered if you'd like to give a little message to future generations.

Lloyd Karch:

To future generations, you should certainly defend your liberties that you have, and be ready to defend your country in time of need. And that would about sum it up.

Edwin Auld:

Well, Mr. Karch, I would like to thank you and your generation for everything you have done to preserve freedom in the world, and it's been a pleasure, as always.

Lloyd Karch:

Well, thank you, Ed.

 
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