"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
"The Snare Of The Fowler"
November 5th , 1943. The VF-12 ready room aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga. Squadron CO Joseph "Jumpin' Joe" Clifton reads an inspirational Bible passage to his pilots as they await takeoff for their escort mission as part of the air group's strike against Japanese warships anchored in Rabaul's Simpson Harbor. Thanks to a Time Magazine correspondent who was present, we have some further insight into the scene above. After the air group completed it's tour and returned to the United States, an article, titled "From The Snare Of The Fowler", was published in the July 10, 1944 issue of Time and recounted some of  their combat experiences. Bellow is an excerpt:

The flyers of Group Twelve, now to be dispersed to spread their lore among new airmen, carried away many another memory last week as they said goodbye and went to their new stations. But none was sharper than the great carrier strike on Rabaul on Nov. 5, 1943.

Biggest Show. It was their biggest show up to that time. The outfit (said Joe) was "scared—but not afraid." By Admiral Halsey's order they were to help beat down a Jap task force, keep it from moving south and smashing inferior U.S. naval forces in the Solomons. There could be no failures by Group Twelve.

The helmeted pilots sat in the ready-room and waited. They had been briefed. For once, Jumping Joe ran out of conversation. Finally he got out his Testament and began to read aloud the gist Psalm:  

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress. . . Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler*. . . . For He shall give His angels charge over thee. . . .

The call came: "Pilots, man your planes!" Group Twelve went out to battle, and won.


By using this written account and enlarging the above photo, we have been able to determine that Jumpin' Joe is reading from a pocket New Testament, published by The American Bible Society, of the type that was made available to Naval Aviator's during their training and featured miniature aviator's wings, embossed in gold, on the cover. Seen below (in full size) is the complete text of the 91st Psalm as found in the "Psalms, Prayers and Hymns" supplement at the rear of this volume.


Following the Bible passage are images from a photo album kept by CMDR Clifton and now in the collection of the National Museum of Naval Aviation. From top to bottom we have:

Clifton, in his Hellcat and leading the "Peg Leg Petes" of VF-12, prepares to launch.

Over Simpson Harbour, as seen from a TBF Avenger, the enemy ships have started to scramble.
 
The attack is in progress and hits are being scored!

Upon his return, the Skipper enjoys a treat. Clifton's penchant for ice cream and cigars was known throughout the fleet.

Clifton's log book, showing his two Zero kills during the four hours he was in the air on November 5th for the Rabaul strike.

Clifton was promoted from VF-12 CO to Commander Air Group Twelve, replacing his good friend Howard Caldwell.

U.S.S. Saratoga, CV-3, circa November, 1943. Task Force 38 launched a total of 97 planes, from Saratoga and U.S.S. Princeton, in this strike against Rabaul.

Located on the island of New Britain in the Territory of New Guinea, Rabaul was the main Japanese naval base for the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. Simpson Harbor was known as "the Pearl Harbor of the South Pacific" and was heavily defended by approximately 200 aircraft and over 300 anti-aircraft guns. Map reproduced from History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II, Volume II.

*For the supply of non-domesticated birds, ancient people were dependent on the art of "fowling", which is the trapping of (not killing) live birds. A snare, as used by a fowler, is a simple noose-like trap which is sprung after a bird has been attracted to it with bait. 
Ironically, as part of their training, Naval aviators were schooled in the construction of simple snares and traps as a means of providing food when in a survival situation. Below are some examples used in a survival equipment display done at NAS Norfolk.
Below:   Actual gun camera footage from the raid was used in this newsreel, released in early 1944.