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From 26,000 feet he punched through a hole in the overcast over Tokyo early on a freezing Feb. 12, 1945, rolled into a roaring 60-degree dive and fired his rockets at a Mitsubishi engine plant.

As antiaircraft tracers whizzed around him, he leveled his Grumman F6F Hellcat off at rooftop level, hightailing it at 500 knots for the coast on a course plotted to get him and his formation back to their carrier, the USS Essex, waiting 500 km out in the Pacific at different coordinates from where Fighting Squadron 4, the “Red Rippers,” took off. The predawn raid achieved total surprise.

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