December 25, 1943: “On Christmas Day, Santa Claus arrives aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6) in a dive bomber with six torpedo planes bearing names of his steeds, to distribute gifts. Lt. Louis L. Bangs (Air Group 10) plays the part. ‘Vexen’ in background.”
Several other TBMs of “Santa’s” team were photographed that day as well.
According to DANFS, Enterprise began December 1943 in heavy action, raiding Japanese shipping around Kwajalein and Wotje Atolls at the close of Operation Galvanic— the Tarawa campaign– with her airwing damaging the light cruisers Isuzu and Nagara and sinking the cargo ship Tateyama Maru, among others.
Returning to Pearl Harbor on 9 December, she “stood down the channel and trained two days before Christmas 1943, and early in the New Year (4–7 January 1944) qualified planes flying from NAS Punnene. The ship’s next action occurred during Operation Flintlock — the occupation of the Marshalls.”
As for “Santa,” Bangs, a Kansan, would go on to earn the Navy Cross with VB-10 from Enterprise’s decks in the Philippines Sea just six months after the above image was snapped. Turns out, Kris Kringle could fight.