Archive for the 'Aircraft' Category

Jan 3

Frank Erickson and the First Helicopter Rescue

Monday, January 3, 2011 12:01 AM

 CDR Frank A. Erickson, USCG, struggled to keep his Sikorsky HNS-1 helicopter in the air as high winds drove blinding snow squalls and sleet into him. A fierce storm swept the Atlantic coast and forced authorities to ground aircraft and close airfields, however, Erickson persevered because men’s lives depended upon him.

Captain Frank A. Erickson, USCG

Devastating explosions ripped USS Turner (DD 648) apart as she lay anchored off Ambrose Light near Lower New York Bay, during the morning watch on 3 January 1944. The fires cooked-off ammunition and despite the crew’s gallant attempts to save their ship, she sank within hours. Rescuers brought survivors to the nearby hospital at Sandy Hook, and the wounded urgently needed blood plasma.

Erickson took off from Floyd Bennett Field in New York and fought gusting winds that tore through the corridors of downtown Manhattan. Reaching Battery Park, he picked up two cases of the precious fluid, and with the cargo lashed to the helicopter’s floats, he then delivered the plasma in the first helicopter lifesaving operation. The intrepid pilot afterward observed that the “weather conditions were such that this flight could not have been made in any other type of aircraft.”

Born near Portland, Oregon, Erickson enlisted in the Navy and became a midshipman before he resigned and enlisted in the Coast Guard. He received an appointment to the Coast Guard Academy and commissioned as an ensign in 1931. After service on board cutters before World War II, he transferred to Honolulu and witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Erickson subsequently became instrumental in the early development of helicopters and pioneered some of the techniques that the Navy and Coast Guard adapted, before he retired at the rank of Captain to Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1954.

For more about CAPT Frank Erickson, click here.

 
Dec 3

Navy Ace Bill Davis and The Last Ship

Friday, December 3, 2010 8:48 AM

Bill Davis in his F6F Hellcat. The washed out rectangles on the side are actually Japanese flags, one each for his seven aerial kills.

Naval History Blog is pleased to present a guest post by author Doug Keeney about his friend Bill Davis:

In October of 1944, a young Navy lieutenant nosed over his F6F Hellcat and began a dive towards a Japanese aircraft carrier below. “I screamed down on the carrier which now completely filled my gunsights,” the pilot wrote in his memoir Sinking The Rising Sun.

“I rested my finger on the bomb release button. I kept going.” And go he did. U.S. Navy fighter pilot William E. “Bill” Davis had no idea of it then but he was just seconds from taking his place among the many great Americans that have worn a Navy uniform. The ship filling his gunsights was no less than the Japanese carrier Zuikaku, the last of the fleet that had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Unlike today, back in 1941 no one sent out a fleet directive to hunt down those ships but every sailor had a mental list and as each ship was sunk, one name was checked off. Zuikaku was the last. With his F6F Hellcat insanely past the redline, Davis triggered the release, pulled back on his stick, and promptly slumped down into unconsciousness. No, he never saw his bomb but it squarely hit its mark, the beginning of the end for the Zuikaku, closure you might say, but Bill had little time to think about any of that. When his eyes fluttered open, his off-the-charts F6F was headed squarely into the side of the destroyer light cruiser Oyodo.

I met Bill Davis in 1972 at the Los Angeles Tennis Club and we became instant friends. Bill and I were of course avid tennis players but in the greatest of all coincidences we were both from the same very small suburb of Philadelphia and in fact had grown up just blocks apart, albeit with 40 years in between us. Bill had gone to the University of Pennsylvania as had my father and we were both pilots, too, but that’s where the comparisons ended. Bill was the recipient of the Navy Cross, a fighter ace in the Pacific with seven kills, the first in a gaggle of fighter pilots that would drop the bombs that would sink the last Japanese carrier that had attacked Pearl Harbor. Militarily at least, the final revenge for Pearl Harbor would come here.

Today, 69 years after Pearl Harbor, Bill’s bombing run may be the last untold story of Pearl Harbor. He managed to pull his F6F above the gunwales of the Oyodo and he flew through an impossibly small space between the forward gun turret and the bridge; he remembers the white uniform of a Japanese admiral and perhaps he saw his life flash before his eyes as he twisted his plane into a 500-mile-per-hour knife-edge pass and cleared the destroyer. Of course this is the stuff of the Navy’s highest honor but none of this had anything to do with why Bill nosed over into a hail of anti-aircraft fire and held steady until his bomb found its mark. Neither honor nor glory rode that Hellcat down to the deck, just duty. Bill did his duty and the reward he fought for was the reward men in World War II wanted more than any medal or ribbon. They wanted to go home. That Bill could do that and provide a measure of closure for the sailors that went down on December 7th was merely the added satisfaction of a job exceptionally well done.

Doug Keeney is a widely published author including his forthcoming book from St. Martin’s Press titled 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation. Bill Davis, 90, received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. Bill began to write during his successful thirty-year career in business. His first work was optioned by 20th Century Fox.

 
Dec 1

December 1, 1921: First flight of airship filled with helium

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 1:32 PM

Blimp C-7 was piloted by LCDR Ralph F. Wood from Norfolk, Virginia to Washington, DC during the first flight of an airship filled with helium on December 1, 1921.

The design of the “C” model was based upon operational experience and was a decided advance over the “B”. The “C”s were 192 feet long and 42 feet in diameter, and had a streamlined car for the six-man crew. Speed ranged from 45-60 mph.

 

 
Nov 20

World Record Flight

Saturday, November 20, 2010 1:01 AM

On November 20th 1933, LCDR Thomas G.W. Settle, USN and MAJ Chester I. Fordney, USMC set a world record balloon flight into the stratosphere at 62,237 ft.


LCDR Settle & MAJ Fordney

The Soviet Union had captured the imagination of the world by sending men higher than anyone had ever gone before. America’s response was made shortly afterward by a naval officer and a Marine officer. Their names were not Shepard and Glenn, and the time was not the Sixties, but the Thirties. In an all-but-forgotten flight, two American military men carried their country’s colors to a world altitude record and began the race for space …

From the article; “When the Race for Space Began” by J. Gordan Vaeth printed in Proceedings August, 1963


Read the rest of this entry »

 
Nov 15

“Saving American lives” Andrew P. Hayes and the hunt for the Taliban

Monday, November 15, 2010 12:01 AM

Army Green Berets fighting the enemy in Afghanistan on 15 November 2001 had discovered a hornet’s nest as Taliban tanks and armored vehicles rumbled up to within two miles of the special operators. They obviously intended to attack at any moment, and the men did not have the heavy weapons to stop tanks. They needed help, and fast.

Lieutenant Andrew P. Hayes of Fighter Squadron (VF)-102, the radar intercept officer of a Grumman F-14B Tomcat, launched as the lead of call sign Brando 01, a flight from aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). As Lieutenant Hayes assumed forward air controller duties he spotted the Taliban, and thinking quickly, decisively took command of the situation and attacked the Islamic extremists.

The tribesmen resolutely opened fire but Hayes dropped three laser-guided bombs and scored direct hits on two moving tanks and on a revetted armored vehicle. Meanwhile, his wingman released three additional GBU-12 laser-guided bombs which Hayes guided in to destroy two revetted tanks and a fuel truck. When the truck exploded about fifty Taliban leapt out of their positions and fled into the desert.

Over the next six hours Hayes continued to guide weapon deliveries by a dozen aircraft from Blueridge, Everest, Rocky and Sinai flights, and to track the Taliban as they scattered, until low fuel forced him to disengage and return for refueling. Hayes’ heroic actions resulted in the destruction of 33 vehicles, 27 of them armored.

“…The bigger accomplishment was saving American lives on the ground” the lieutenant humbly reflected afterward. “It was Americans helping Americans. It was my job to make sure they were safe while they continued their mission…” Lieutenant Hayes subsequently received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism that day.

 
Nov 14

Eugene B. Ely’s First Flight From a Ship: November 14, 1910

Sunday, November 14, 2010 12:01 AM

Short version of “Wings for the Navy” highlighting Ely’s First Flight on 11-14-1910.

 

 
Nov 9

“I was coming head on at one of them” Lt. Comdr. William T. Amen

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 12:01 AM

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.

 
Nov 4

1st Seaplane Launch From Submarine

Thursday, November 4, 2010 7:37 AM

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.

Martin MS-1

Quick Assembly on Sub S-1

S-1 beginning to submerge

Success!

 
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