Short version of “Wings for the Navy” highlighting Ely’s First Flight on 11-14-1910.
Short version of “Wings for the Navy” highlighting Ely’s First Flight on 11-14-1910.
During a fierce battle over North Korea Lt. Comdr. William T. Amen of VF-111 Sun Downers made the Navy’s first MiG kill, on 9 November 1950. Amen, the Sun Downer’s skipper, led a group of F9F-2B Panthers flying from Philippine Sea (CV 47) that covered a strike force of Corsairs and Skyraiders against the Sinuiju Bridge when at least five MiGs flying from the sanctity of Antung, Manchuria, attacked them.
The Panther pilots lost no time as they aggressively streaked in to protect the bombers, and the battle swirled from just above ground level up to eighteen thousand feet. Turning inside of a tight loop on the tail of a nimble but poorly flown MiG-15, Amen closed the gap and shot down his opponent with a quick burst.
“I was coming head on at one of them and he didn’t even try to get in a shot,” Amen recalled. “When I got on his tail he tried to evade but he wasn’t very sharp.” Along with many of the pilots, Amen had already chalked-up quite a record during WWII and added Gold Stars in lieu of four Air Medals. Amen further received the Distinguished Flying Cross following no less than thirty-five missions over Korea.
For all the horror of the war, this first tangle with the dreaded MiGs nonetheless produced a macabre comedy. Admiring Panther pilots surrounded Comdr. Albert D. Pollack, the skipper of VF-51 Screaming Eagles, when he returned to the ready room on board Valley Forge (CV 45). “Were you nervous about those MiGs Dave?” they asked. “No, I was just keeping an eye on them”, wearily replied Pollack. “Then why did you report 20,000 MiGs coming in at five feet?” his men quipped.
Following WW1, the Navy began experimenting with the possibility of submarine observation and scouting aircraft; S-1 became the experimental platform for this project, late in 1923. She was altered by having a steel capsule mounted aft the conning tower; a cylindrical pod which could house a small collapsible seaplane, the Martin MS-1. After surfacing, this plane could be rolled out, quickly assembled, and launched by ballasting the sub until the deck was awash. The first successful attempt was made on November 5th 1923.
Of the many dangerous and unglamorous assignments during World War II, flying single-engine float planes as part of an aviation detachment in a cruiser was particularly grueling duty. Tasked with scouting, search & rescue and gunfire spotting missions, the hours were long – especially in an open cockpit – the task technically complicated and the mission critical. It was also extremely dangerous, as pilots and support crew struggled with salt corrosion, lack of spare parts, tricky water landings and high performance enemy fighters.
The wartime exploits of two pilots of the float plane detachment in light cruiser Biloxi (CL 80) illustrate these points perfectly. Ens. Harvey P. Jolly joined the brand new warship for shakedown training in Chesapeake Bay in September 1943. Less than two weeks later, while the warship was enroute to Trinidad, Ens. Jolly’s Curtis SO3C Seagull float plane crashed during a landing attempt in rough water off the port beam. Both Jolly and his radioman ACMM John Phagan survived but the crash illustrates the daily hazards of aircraft at sea.
After the aviation detachment – as put in their own words – “exchanged four SO3C Seagulls and spare parts for two Vought OS2U Kingfishers and no spare parts,” Biloxi sailed for combat operations in early 1944. The float plane pilots spotted for shore bombardment missions – during which they often dodged enemy fighters – flew search & rescue missions and carried out anti-submarine patrols.
During air strikes off New Guinea on 21 April, Biloxi launched two Kingfishers to search for the crew of a downed dive bomber. Neither found the missing crew, despite Ens. Jolly pushing his aircraft to the limit and running out of gas. He made a hazardous water landing and was later picked up by Frazier (DD-607).
On 27 July 1944 Biloxi launched two birds to rescue a pilot sighted in the water just off Yap Island. Lt (jg) Robert L. Dana spotted the pilot and landed just outside the reef line. A Japanese anti-aircraft gun took the almost motionless plane under fire but was quickly silenced by circling American fighters. The downed pilot paddled his raft through the creaking swells but collapsed from exhaustion on the reef. Lt (jg) Dana taxied his aircraft close to the reef and managed to pull the pilot in with a line, saving the man’s life.
Lt (jg) Dana had another adventure on 10 October 1944 after picking up a carrier aircraft pilot off Okinawa. Trying to take off in rough seas his Kingfisher flipped and crashed, spilling the two pilots into the water. They were both rescued by submarine Sterlet (SS-392) and spent the next month on a war patrol, during which Sterlet sank at least two cargo ships.
Both Jolly and Dana illustrated commitment and perseverance, refusing to back down in the face of tough odds. “Mission first, Sailors always.”
This is a trailer for the 25 minute video “Wings for the Navy …the Birth of Naval Aviation” which is being prepared for next year’s Centennial of Naval Aviation.
As Fidel Castro worked furiously to build an offensive missile capability in the Caribbean in the fall of 1962, the Navy/Marine Corps team utilized his folly as an opportunity to demonstrate its inherent synergy.
Navy Light Photographic Squadron Sixty-Two (VFP-62), stationed at Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Florida, received the warning order in early October to have 8 camera-ready RF-8A Crusaders ready to launch from Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West on short notice. The mission was treacherously simple: confirm the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.
Shortly thereafter, the Second Marine Aircraft Wing (2d MAW) at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina received tasking to augment VFP-62 with Marine photo Crusaders. After a monumental effort to update the camera suite on the aircraft, a Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron Two (VMCJ-2) detachment of four Crusaders linked up with VFP-62 at Cecil Field on 21 October and flew with them to NAS Key West the following day.
Marine photo reconnaissance pilots flew their Crusaders along side the Navy aircraft for the duration of the crisis. The joint service unit documented the operational state of the Russian missiles and confirmed their dismantling during the crucial last week in October. They then documented the retrograde of the Russian ships as they carried the missiles back across the Atlantic.
With one exception, the Marines flew their own aircraft as wingman or lead in section with Navy aircraft. On 10 November Commander Ecker, the squadron Commanding Officer, authorized an all-Marine mission to commemorate the 187th birthday of the Marine Corps. President Kennedy attested to the effectiveness of this powerful Navy/Marine team by personally presenting it the Navy Unit Commendation.
This silent film, shot circa 1930, contains footage of aircraft squadrons from the first aircraft carriers of the United States Navy: USS Langley (CV-1), USS Lexington (CV-2), and USS Saratoga (CV-3).
While on a test flight in a British Sopwith Camel on 24 September 1918, Lieutenant Junior Grade David S. Ingalls sighted a German two-seat Rumpler over Nieuport, Belgium. In company with another Camel he aggressively dove in and scored his fifth aerial victory in six weeks to become the Navy’s first ace.
Born to a life of privilege in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1899, Ingalls had matriculated at Yale University when WWI erupted. As a young man he enjoyed tinkering with aircraft, and enlisted as a machinist mate second class as a member of the First Yale Unit, a group of aviation pioneers, just before the United States entered the war.
Ingalls qualified as a Naval Aviator, commissioned, and exchanged with the Marines and the British to fight the Germans along the Western Front, where he shot down four German planes and at least one balloon to become the Navy’s first ace. Ingalls received the Distinguished Service Medal, the British Distinguished Flying Cross and the French Legion of Honor.
“He is one of the finest men” the British subsequently evaluated his service, “[No. 213] Squadron ever had.” They further noted that he was an “Excellent officer…exceptionally good pilot…bold and aggressive…made enviable record…” After WWI Ingalls completed his education at Yale and Harvard and practiced law. He served during WWII, returned to law and became involved in politics following that conflict. The intrepid pilot retired to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, with his wife Louise, where he died in 1985.