Archive for the 'Aircraft' Category

Oct 10

Commitment and Perseverance: Float plane pilots Ens. Harvey P. Jolly and Lt (jg) Robert L. Dana.

Sunday, October 10, 2010 12:01 AM

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.”

Oct 8

Trailer to “Wings for the Navy…the Birth of Naval Aviation”

Friday, October 8, 2010 12:27 PM

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.

Oct 4

Navy-Marine Corps Photo Reconnaissance Over Cuba

Monday, October 4, 2010 10:51 AM

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.

Sep 30

Naval Aviation

Thursday, September 30, 2010 12:01 AM

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).


Sep 24

The Navy’s First Ace: Lieutenant Junior Grade David S. Ingalls

Friday, September 24, 2010 12:01 AM

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.

Sep 2

Lieutenant Junior Grade George Herbert Walker Bush, USNR and his rescue by Finback

Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:01 AM

On September 2, 1944 Lieutenant Junior Grade George Herbert Walker Bush, then a pilot with Torpedo Squadron Fifty-One (VT-51 ) assigned to the USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) , flew a bombing mission against a Japanese radio station on Chichi Jima. Despite his TBM Avenger being struck by heavy anti-aircraft fire before reaching the target, Lt.(jg) Bush pressed onward to deliver his payload of four 500-lb. bombs. This dedication to the completion of his mission earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross. 

Shortly thereafter, clouds of smoke enveloped the cockpit and Bush evacuated the aircraft 1,500 feet above the ocean. Radioman Second Class John Delaney and gunner Lieutenant Junior Grade William White were not so fortunate. One of them died when his parachute failed to open and the other went down with the aircraft. Lieutenant Doug West, an Avenger pilot from VT-51, strafed a Japanese boat that attempted to capture Bush as he as paddled his inflatable life raft out to sea. 

Fighter planes in the area then transmitted his position to the submarine Finback (SS-230) patrolling nearby waters to rescue downed aviators. A few hours later the submarine sighted him, but being plucked from the ocean did not completely put an end to the danger. Bush, along with four other pilots, stayed with the submarine for the next thirty days, the remainder of her patrol. During this time period, Finback sank two small freighters and endured attacks by bombs and depth charges. The pilots also stood watch searching for enemy planes and vessels. 

After the submarine disembarked the aviators at Midway, Bush was taken to Hawaii for a period of rest and relaxation. However, concerned about the fate of his crew, Bush boarded a plane to Guam and made his way back to San Jacinto.

Sep 1

Attempted California to Hawaii Flight: 1 September 1925

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 1:21 PM

Today is the 85th anniversary of the day in 1925 when the first intended flight from California to Hawaii stopped being a flight and became a sea voyage. CDR John Rodgers and a crew of four left San Pedro on 31 August but developed fuel problems and landed their PN-9 seaplane on the water. While Navy ships searched for the plane, Rodgers and his crew rigged a sail from the aircraft’s wing fabric and sailed for nine days to within fifteen miles of Kauai before being met by the submarine R-4, which towed the airplane into port. CDR Rodgers was killed the next year in a plane crash.

Aug 31

Ensign James H. Eoff and USS Ranger

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 12:01 AM

Heroism is not confined to the battlefield, and opportunities to demonstrate it occur as naval aviators train to be ready for war in time of peace.

On 31 August 1939, the day before war would begin in Europe that would eventually become a global conflict, it was business as usual for naval aviators at Hampton Roads, Virginia.

That morning, 27-year old ENS James H. Eoff, A-V(N), USNR, of Bombing Squadron Four, attached to the Ranger (CV-4) Air Group, took off in a Vought SB2U-1 [Vindicator] from NAS Hampton Roads, on what was slated to be a routine navigation and radio training flight. Radioman 3d Class Joseph T. George rode in the after cockpit as his passenger.

At about 1022, a witness on the ground heard the sound of an engine cutting out. Eoff, apparently realizing that the plane was in extremis and the terrain below would not permit a forced landing, ordered his passenger to bail out.

Tragically, Radioman 3d Class George’s parachute became fouled on a part of the plane, for he seemed to be dangling some 15 feet behind and below it. Eyewitnesses then saw the SB2U-1 sway from side to side, as if Eoff was trying to dislodge his trapped passenger. In staying at the controls, however, the young pilot sacrificed his own chance to jump clear of the plane in its terminal dive as it plunged to earth in a near-vertical attitude near Stony Creek, Virginia, and crashed, killing both men instantly.

For his courageously remaining with his doomed plane in an attempt to save his passenger’s life, ENS Eoff was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, posthumously.

« Older Entries Newer Entries »