Archive for the 'Naval Aviation' Category

Nov 5

First Catapult Launch: November 5, 1915

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 8:38 AM
First catapult launch from a ship.

First catapult launch from a ship.

On November 5, 1915, Lt.Comdr. Henry C. Mustin, in an AB-2 flying boat, made the first catapult launching from a ship, flying off the stern of the USS North Carolina (ACR 12) in Pensacola, Fl.

View NHHC’s Facebook Photo Album for this event:
http://goo.gl/VaBTHC

This and other historic photographs are available in the Naval Institute’s on-line photo gallery: photos.usni.org

For research or sales assistance call (410) 905-7212 or email NavalInstituteArchives@usni.org

 
Jun 5

Remembrance of a Rear-Seater

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 6:41 PM

Remembrance of a Rear-Seater

by CAPT N. J.”Dusty” Kleiss, USN-Ret

27 April 2007

Note: the following post is from the Battle of Midway Roundtable andwas a letter from VS-6 pilot “Dusty” Kleiss in response to a Roundtable member seeking information on her uncle. The subject is Aviation Ordnanceman First Class Thurman Swindell, who was killed in his SBD as it dove on the Kaga at Midway.

* * *

Tracy Lewis asked the Roundtable if it could give her more information about her great uncle Thurman Randolf Swindell, AOM1/c, who was KIA in the Battle of Midway. Tracy is interested in knowing this man not only as a relative, but because she is taking a history class in college and must have a paper about a famous person of WWII. The Roundtable passed Tracy’s request to me to determine if I could give any additional information other than that given to her by the Roundtable.

I first met Thurman Swindell in the fall of 1941, when I was given a collateral duty as Education Officer of Scouting Six. One of my first assignments was scoring the official (closely secured) tests for enlisted personnel to meet qualifications to a higher rating. One of the first official tests I examined was for determining the necessary qualifications of moving from 2/c to 1/c status. There were only two enlisted men of Scouting Six who met possible advancement to that difficult promotion. Meeting official tests was not enough. The contenders also had to score on petty officer ratings, approval from their division officer, their executive officer…and they had to obtain approval of Chief Myers. Gaining approval from Chief Myers was about as difficult in reaching Mount Everest without stopping for breath.

Chief Myers, with a small crew, could repair a shot-up plane brought in on an afternoon and have it ready for flying at 0400 next morning; that was after replacing a wing or a tail and checking all items including the compass. If the plane was beyond repair, he would hoist it onto the overhead and bring down a new one and make certain that everything worked. Then he would repaint the plane and put in all markings and insignia. He would do everything except replacing an engine. That chore was left to Chief Dodge. Before the Pearl Harbor attack, Chief Myers’ hair was black. A few months later it was totally gray.

My little black book shows that Swindell made 3.54 on the official exam, 3.8 on petty officer ability, good ratings from all commissioned officers, and an OK from Chief Myers. That was the highest rating ever given by Myers. In contrast, the other applicant for possible advancement to first class made 3.1 on the official exam, a 3.2 rating for petty officer ability, and was not recommended for advancement by the division officer, the executive officer or by Chief Myers.

Douglas SBD Dauntless bombers

SBDs over the burning Japanese cruiser Mikuma, 6 June 1942

Now let me give some indication of what an AOM1/c [Aviation Ordnanceman First Class] was expected to do, and how he must train those under him. On the night of 7 December 1941, our Torpedo Squadron Six and five of us in SBDs (carrying hydrofluoric acid for TBD smoke screen), and some F4F fighters searched late into the night to hit Japanese carriers. We couldn’t find any. Those F4F fighters were shot down by our people on Pearl Harbor. We SBDs landed on our ship ahead of the TBDs. One new TBD pilot, who had never landed on a carrier at night, made a rough landing. The torpedo broke loose, its propeller started twirling, meaning that it was armed and needed only a little bump on the nose to explode. “Slim” Townsend, the flight deck officer, saw it coming towards him at high speed. Slim jumped on it like a bucking bronco, steered it away from the island, and stopped it. Two ordnance men ran to it, disarmed it in two or three seconds, and helped place it on a cart, out of the way, allowing the next plane to land without circling.

 Swindell was not on any SBD of those 7 December 1941 flights. He and his crew were too busy putting depth charges, bombs and ammunition on aircraft. On 20 February 1942, AOM2/c Swindell flew with ENS M. A. Merrill in 6-S-19 on our attack against Wake Island, which had been captured by the Japanese. We sunk one ship in the harbor and damaged another ship as we made a “dog leg” heading back to our Enterprise. (We never went directly back to our ship because that would show the enemy our position.) We were tearing that ship apart, using left over ammunition, when a U.S. cruiser several miles away saw what was happening. She fired one salvo, sinking that ship. Only four Japanese survived. We captured them, interrogated them, and made them the first Japanese prisoners of war. Lots of damage was done to Wake Island from our dive bombers and from shells from our cruisers.

On 4 March 1942 Swindell flew with ENS Merrill in 6-S-3, making an attack on Marcus Island. Based on heavy cloud cover and many AA batteries aiming at us, it was hard to tell how much damage was inflicted on their hangars, storehouses, and oil and gasoline tanks. One thing we knew for certain: we clobbered their radio station. We heard Tokyo repeatedly calling Marcus to answer. They continued for the next 24 hours. Marcus never replied.

A photograph of 13 May 1942 has a caption showing that Swindell was now AOM1/c. Apparently a vacancy had opened for that petty officer slot. Almost always a slot opened only when the previous recipient was lost in battle.

On the morning of 4 June1942, Swindell flew with ENS J. Q. Roberts. I watched them dive on the Kaga, two planes ahead of me. They were in the fifth plane to dive. I never saw them again. I was too busy aiming my bombs on the Kaga. The official battle report states, “forced landing near Kaga.” Neither Roberts nor Swindell were ever found. All available evidence indicates that their plane was shot down by AA gunfire.

It took only four hits, only seconds apart, to demolish the Kaga. Each of us carried a 500-pound bomb and two 100-pound incendiaries. Additional hits were made, but many SBDs had to select other targets because flames and smoke obscured the carrier. The Battle of Midway was won in less than five minutes. That’s all the time it took to make three of the best Japanese carriers into balls of flame.

It might be noted that only the very best people occupied the rear seat of our SBDs in battle. Don Hoff, of Fresno, California, who was a Radioman 3/c at that time, assures me that AOM1/c Swindell had flown numerous previous flights. He was an expert in gunnery, and was capable of operating all the numerous radio equipment in our SBDs. That included knowing how to operate the new YE-ZB homing equipment. Not all SBD plane crews from other carriers were able to operate the new YE-ZB homing system. They landed on the ocean. Fortunately, most of those crews were picked up at the end of the battle.

Statistics show that our dive bombers were the best in the world and they sunk more Japanese military ships than any other method, including attacks by submarines and surface ships. That great method paid a high price. More than half of our original Scouting Six crews were lost in the first six months of WW II. Just imagine sitting on the back seat of an SBD during combat. You would face to the rear, holding twin .30 caliber machine guns, scanning the sky for Zeros, ready to shoot them down before they shoot you. Then, suddenly, you are plunged downward vertically at 250 miles per hour, pushing downward on your seat with a force of one ton at eight “G’s” after the pilot has dropped his bomb. Then you must be ready to aim at more Zeros. Then the pilot tells you to go on the air, or switch to the homing frequency, or give hand signals to nearby crews in Morse code. All of this requires securing the guns, reaching forward, changing radio coils, and moving dials accurately and quickly.

We pilots always received medals when our airplane and crew did something important. The enlisted man in the back seat was rarely mentioned. I would have been killed long ago had it not been for the skills of my RM3/c, John Snowden. As Educational Officer, I had selected him before other pilots noticed his abilities. He scored number one in all categories for promotion, the highest ever recorded in my little black book.

 
Jun 5

Remembering Midway

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 2:21 PM

REMEMBERING MIDWAY

by Captain Roy P. Gee, USN-Ret

(The following post was written for the Battle of Midway Roundtable, in 2003. Note: CAPT Roy P. Gee passed away on 28 DEC 2009)

 Here I am, sitting at my computer, trying to recall the details of my involvement in a great naval battle that was fought 61 years ago. I’m 83 years old and as my recollections of combat fade, I seem to get braver and more heroic than I really ever was. I needed some help in remembering those long-ago events, so I’ve relied upon a letter that I wrote back in 1988 to Bill Vickrey, a Battle of Midway historian, detailing my participation in the battle. In addition, I’ve used certain dates, times, and facts contained in various Battle of Midway logs, reports, and books in order to maintain as much accuracy as I can. My flight log was not recovered when the Hornet was sunk in the Battle of Santa Cruz, which meant that I’d lost the most valuable resource a pilot can have in reporting what he did in the air.

With those qualifications then, here is my story at the Battle of Midway. 

 PREPARATION FOR WAR 

As I grew up in Salt Lake City Utah, I believe I was unknowingly preparing for war. I was a member of the Mormon Church, a very conservative Christian faith. I became a Cub Scout and eventually advanced to the Boy Scout program, where I reached the rank of Eagle Scout. As youngsters, my friends and I played war games between the Yanks and the Huns, or the Chinese. We dug trenches and then went “over the top,” which was a well-known phrase from World War I. That meant that the infantry troops came out of their trenches, rushed up and over their high, protecting walls of dirt and sand bags, and from that position made a frontal assault through “no man’s land” against the enemy’s frontline trenches. I remember playing that game many times in my early youth.

Also, I remember as a youngster having seen several movies about World War I aerial warfare, such as “Wings” and “The Dawn Patrol,” and from that I developed a great desire to learn how to fly an airplane. I visualized myself as a gallant young aviator, flying a Spad fighter, and dog-fighting with Baron Von Ritchhofen (the “Red Baron”) and his bright red Fokker triplane.

I participated in the ROTC program as a platoon commander in high school, and during the summer months I learned infantry strategy and tactics in the Citizens Military Training Program, provided by the U.S. Army at nearby Fort Douglas. I participated in that program during four consecutive summers, graduating as a Sergeant-Major and with a temporary commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army Infantry Reserve Corps.

But I still wanted to fly. During my sophomore year at the University of Utah, I completed an aviation class in pilot training, which was sponsored by the Civilian Pilot Training Program. That program was established by President Roosevelt in order to gather a very large cadre of young pilots who could quickly be inducted into the armed forces whenever necessary. I completed the program and earned a private pilot license.

One day in June of 1940, a U.S. Navy aviation recruiting team came to Salt Lake City. I took their flight physical exam with the belief that if I passed that tough test, I would be a cinch for acceptance by the U.S. Army Air Corps. Instead, as fate would have it, I was skillfully talked into becoming a naval aviator. Because of that decision, the course of my life has led me to this moment in time. I now know that I made the right decision on that June day so long ago.

Upon completing flight school at Pensacola in 1941, I eagerly awaited my orders to see whether I was staying there or going on to Miami. The patrol bomber and cruiser scout pilots were trained at Pensacola, while candidates for any of the fighter or attack squadrons were sent for advanced carrier training at NAS Miami. The orders came—Miami! I was destined for the air group of the brand-new USS Hornet (CV-8). 

DAY OF INFAMY 

Before boarding the Hornet, the air group was stationed at Norfolk, where my roommate was Grant Teats. During the first weekend of December, Grant and I took a trip with two other buddies to Washington, D.C. to see a pro football game between the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles. During the course of the game we began hearing announcements for Admiral or General So-and-So to report to the War Department, or for Congressman or Senator So-and-So to report to their offices at the Capitol. There was a suspenseful feeling throughout the stadium that something awful had happened. Our fears came true when a man sitting in our vicinity with a portable radio exclaimed that reports were coming in from Hawaii about Japanese aircraft bombing and torpedoing Navy ships at Pearl Harbor. Many had been sunk or severely damaged. Scores of people quickly left the stadium, as did my three shipmates and me.

We drove back to the Naval Air Station at Norfolk, Virginia, and reported to the squadron duty officer for further orders. We felt nothing but hatred for the Japanese at that moment. Their navy had carried out a very dastardly and cowardly sneak attack against our navy on the morning of the Sabbath. President Roosevelt put the attack in perspective: “December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy!” When our country declared war on Japan and Germany in the following days, I was both mentally and physically prepared to do my duty to God and my country.

The Hornet pilots were like a group of race horses chomping at the bit. We were in a big hurry to get into combat against those “dirty Japs” who had attacked us in such a devious manner. In retrospect, though, I think that I wasn’t fully aware at that time of the enormity of the situation or the realities of war. 

ABOARD THE HORNET 

After the Hornet launched Jimmy Doolittle’s B-25s on 18 April 1942, task force commander RADM “Bull” Halsey, in the flagship USS Enterprise, ordered a 180 degree reversal of course back towards Hawaii. Our aircraft were moved from the hanger deck to the flight deck, and we pilots were able to get in a little flight time. I was with Bombing Squadron 8 (VB-8) while my former roommate Grant Teats had been assigned to Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8). Our two squadrons plus Fighting 8 (VF-8) and Scouting 8 (VS-8) flew CAP and search missions during the 7-day transit back to Hawaii.

g66129USS Hornet

USS Hornet att Pearl Harbor, 26 May 1942, just after the Battle of Coral Sea, and just before the Battle of Midway.

On the 25th of April, as Hornet approached Pearl Harbor, the air group flew to Ewa airfield on Oahu. After the fly-off, Hornet proceeded to its berth at Pearl Harbor. After four days in port, Hornet departed Pearl on the 30th, recovered the air group, and steamed to the South Pacific in order to aid USS Yorktown (CV-5) and USS Lexington (CV-2) at the Battle of the Coral Sea. While en route, the pilots of VB-8 and VS-8 flew many 200-mile search missions. During one such mission, LT(jg) Randal Gardner and his radioman-gunner (R/G) from VB-8 failed to return. They were never found.

The Battle of the Coral Sea was over before Hornet reached the scene, so the ship was ordered to return to Hawaii. We flew still more searches on the return leg, and tragedy struck VB-8 again when ENS Louis J. Muery and his R/G, Richter, failed to return. We later learned that they made a forced landing in the water as a result of engine failure and had spent 23 days in a rubber life raft before washing into the rough surf of an island. The raft capsized in the surf, and as the two weakened survivors struggled to get ashore, Richter drowned. Muery was later rescued.

Hornet arrived at Pearl on May 26th, but sailed again only two days later—we and our sister carriers were to repulse an expected Japanese fleet assault against Midway Atoll. 

PLOTTING THE ENEMY’S COURSE 

We went to general quarters at 0630 on the morning of June 4th. All Hornet pilots and crewmen were at flight quarters in their ready rooms. A PBY flying from Midway had spotted the Japanese task force. The teletype in VB-8’s ready room was steadily clicking away with navigational data that I diligently copied to my chart board, as did the other VB-8 pilots. The required information consisted of following elements: (1) enemy position, course, and speed, (2) own task force position, course, and speed, (3) wind speed on the surface and at various altitudes, (4) latitude and longitude of the operational area plus magnetic compass variation. Using these four elements, each pilot was responsible to prepare his own navigational solution for flying a relative motion course to intercept and attack the enemy, and also the return course back to our carrier.

CHAG (Commander, Hornet Air Group: Stanhope C. Ring) had his own navigation solution, as did our VB-8 CO, LCDR Ruff Johnson, the VS-8 CO, LCDR Walt Rodee, and the VT-8 CO, LCDR John Waldron. The VF-8 CO, LCDR Mitchell remarked that he would use the solution that was chosen. The squadron COs’ solutions were different from CHAG’s, but he overruled them and said that the air group would fly his navigational solution. LCDR Waldron strongly disagreed. (The conflict over our proposed navigation was explained in my 1988 letter to Bill Vickrey, and is reported on page 84 of A Glorious Page In Our History, published in 1990. Waldron subsequently decided that he’d follow his own solution, and told his Torpedo 8 boys to follow him—he would lead them to the enemy.) 

“PILOTS MAN YOUR PLANES” 

Suddenly, “Pilots Man Your Planes” was announced. We all wished each other good luck as we left the ready room for the climb to the flight deck and our SBDs. (And by the way, climbing up and down the ship ladders many times a day will get you in great physical condition! Carriers didn’t have escalators in those days.)

I met my R/G, Radioman First Class Canfield at our assigned SBD and went over our mission and recognition charts with him. I don’t know which particular aircraft (side number) we flew that day—my only record of that went down with the Hornet at the Battle of Santa Cruz.

After completing an inspection of the aircraft and its bomb, Canfield and I climbed into the cockpits. As I sat there waiting for the signal to start engines, I suddenly got the same feeling of apprehension and butterflies in the stomach that I got before the start of competition in high school and collegiate athletics. The butterflies left after takeoff as I focused on navigating and flying formation. Our two squadrons (VB-8 and VS-8) rendezvoused in two close-knit, stepped-down formations on each side of CHAG’s section, which consisted of CHAG and VS-8 wingman ENS Ben Tappman and VB-8 wingman ENS Clayton Fisher. CHAG’s section was flying above and somewhat separated from VB-8/VS-8 and was escorted by 10 VF-8 F4Fs. As we proceeded to climb to 19,000 ft, we soon lost visual contact with VT-8. We were maintaining absolute radio silence and were on oxygen, and our engines were on high blower. I eased my fuel mixture control back to a leaner blend in order to conserve fuel as we leveled out at 19,000 feet and proceeded on our assigned course.

We continued flying on a westerly heading for some time and were getting close to our point of no return without seeing anything of the Japanese fleet. LCDR Johnson decided to break away and fly towards Midway because some of our pilots didn’t have enough fuel to return to the Hornet. So we left CHAG, VS-8, and VF-8 and flew to Midway. Shortly after we turned towards Midway, LT Tucker, for some reason, turned his section of 3 SBDs away and headed in an easterly direction. As the remaining 14 VB-8 SBDs headed towards Midway, ENS Guillory suffered engine failure and made a forced water landing. He and his R/G, ARM2/c Cottrell were observed to safely leave the aircraft and get into a life raft. They were later rescued by a PBY.

As we approached Midway, the skipper signaled us to jettison bombs. Afterwards, as we continued our approach to the Eastern Island airfield, we received sporadic AA fire that caused minor damage to some of the planes, but it quickly ceased after our SBDs were recognized as friendly. Shortly thereafter, ENS T. J. Wood ran out of gas. He and his R/G, ARM3/c Martz were safely rescued after ditching their aircraft. ENS Forrester Auman ran out of fuel on his landing approach and safely ditched in the lagoon, where he and his R/G, ARM3/c McLean were rescued by a PT boat. After the remaining 11 SBDs had landed, we taxied to an area where our aircraft were refueled and rearmed with 500 lb. bombs. Refueling from gasoline drums was necessary due to fuel trucks being damaged from the Japanese air attack. The runways had not been damaged, but certain buildings and the water system had been hit.

Midway Air Operations had notified Hornet of the arrival of VB-8 at Midway. LCDR Johnson was ordered to return to the ship and to attack any Japanese ships that we might find while en route. So we departed Midway and returned to the Hornet without incident. We were recovered aboard at about 1400 with our 500 lb. bombs intact. When I entered the VB-8 ready-room, I was shocked to learn that none of VT-8’s 15 TBDs nor VF-8’s 10 F4Fs had returned, and that all the crews had been declared MIA. I went to the wardroom to get something to eat and paused to look at the empty chairs that were normally filled by my friends from VF-8 and VT-8. It was a sorrowful site, but I could only dwell on it for a moment—the announcement came for all VB-8 pilots to report to the ready room immediately.

 ATTACKING THE HIRYU

 Upon entering the ready room, I was informed that we were launching on a mission to attack the Japanese Carrier Hiryu. The attack group would consist of 9 VS-8 SBDs carrying 1000 lb. bombs and 7 VB-8 SBDs carrying the 500 lb. bombs that we’d loaded on Midway. No VF escort would be available. The enemy ships were located approximately 162 miles out, bearing 290 degrees. I plotted my course for intercepting the enemy formation and returning to the Hornet. LT(jg) Bates, the VB-8 flight leader for this mission, briefed us on tactics for the strike. We were ready to go.

Since we’d seen no action that morning, I thought that this could be VB-8’s first exposure to real combat. We were ordered to man our planes at about 1540. I met Canfield at our SBD for the second time that day, and we completed our same routine and boarded the aircraft. We went through the takeoff checklist after I started the engine, then we were ready to roll when our turn came. As I approached the take-off position, I was given the stop signal followed by the hold brakes signal, and was then handed over to the Takeoff Control Officer (TCO), who held a stick with a brightly colored flag in his right hand. When the deck ahead was clear, the TCO rotated the flag above his head, which was the signal for me to rev the engine to full takeoff power while holding the brakes and keeping the tail down with the elevators in the full-up position. The TCO made eye contact with me, then suddenly bent forward on his knee, pointing the flag towards the bow. That was my signal to release the brakes and let ‘er rip. It’s an exhilarating way to take off in an airplane, and old-time carrier pilots can recount many interesting tales.

We were safely airborne and proceeding to our rendezvous point. Our VB-8 SBDs, led by LT(jg) Bates joined up with VS-8 and LT Stebbins, who was the strike leader. The Enterprise had also launched a much larger strike group about 30 minutes before ours.

By the time we arrived in the target area, the Enterprise group had already finished their strike. That had cleared the upper altitudes of Zeroes, leaving our approach over the enemy force unopposed. The Hiryu was observed to be completely on fire, so LT Stebbins directed us toward other suitable targets. He took VS-8 toward one while signaling LT(jg) Bates that our squadron was to bomb a nearby cruiser. We maneuvered to make our attack out of the sun from 15,000 ft. There were puffs of AA fire all around us.

Hiryu (2)

Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu burning, 5 June 1942. NHHC Photographic Collection #NH73064

Just as we were approaching the dive point, we noticed several explosions on the ocean’s surface, quite some distance from the target. Looking up, we saw a flight of B-17s high above us. They’d dropped their bomb loads right through our formation, missing us as well as the enemy ships!

We then tailed off into our dives. LT(jg) Bates had the lead plane (bomb 50 ft. off the starboard bow) followed by ENS Nickerson (100 ft. astern). I was next (hit astern). The second section dove next with ENS White first (miss), followed by ENS Friez (miss wide), followed by ENS Barrett (hit on starboard quarter), followed lastly by ENS Fisher (no release). During the dive, what looked like orange balls were popping up at me and continued coming from all directions during my high-speed retirement at sea level. Following the strike, all 16 of Hornet’s SBDs rendezvoused unscathed and returned to the ship, landing back aboard at dusk. VB-8 had at last lost its combat virginity.

 TRAGEDY ON THE FLIGHT DECK 

The Hornet’s deck log reported the following remarks on Friday, 5 June 1942: 

“Zone Description: plus 10

0 to 4

Ship darkened and in readiness condition three.

0110: held funeral service and buried the remains of the late Lieutenant R.R. INGERSOLL, U.S. Navy; the late CUMMINGS, W.B. JR. Pvt, USMC; the late HUMFLEET, L. E., Pvt, USMC; the late IGNATIUS, W.B. SGT, USMC; and late MAYER, E.A. Sea. 2c, USN, in Latitude 30 degrees- 19′ N, Longitude 174 degrees- 52′ W.” 

Thus, the Hornet’s deck log recorded the final resting place of five brave men who were mortally wounded at their battle stations during a tragic landing accident that had occurred the day before. Radar had observed many bogeys in the direction of Yorktown, which was reporting that she was under attack by enemy aircraft. The sky in her direction was filled with AA bursts. As the attack subsided, Yorktown’s fighters were low on gas and ammo and were ordered to land on either Hornet or Enterprise. A wounded pilot flying F4F, side number 5-F-4, crashed on landing aboard Hornet, which caused the plane’s machine guns to accidentally fire. That resulted in the five deaths noted above in the ship’s log, and it also wounded 20 other men at their battle stations.

 SEARCHING 

Hornet went to general quarters for an hour at 0530 on the morning of June 5th. Thereafter, readiness condition 2 was set in order to await strike scheduling from CTF 16, and by late afternoon we had been in the ready room for most of the day. Readiness condition 2 allowed the pilots to leave the ready room for meals so long as we kept updating our chart boards with the latest navigational data reported on the teletype.

A mission assignment from CTF 16 finally came in at about 1700. We were tasked to search for and attack a damaged Japanese aircraft carrier and its escorting ships bearing 315 degrees, about 300 miles out and on a westerly course with a speed of 12 knots. At about 1730, I launched in SBD no. 8-B-8 with an eleven-plane strike group consisting of CHAG and ten VB-8 SBDs. Clay Fisher was again flying CHAG’s wing, and our skipper, LCDR Ruff Johnson was leading a nine-plane division of three stepped-down sections, slightly separated from CHAG and Fisher. LT Tucker’s section was flying loosely on the LCDR Johnson’s left, while LT Moe Vose had positioned his 3rd section aft of Tucker’s and stepped down to facilitate maneuvering. I was flying number 3 on the right wing of Vose, and LT John Lynch was number 2 on his left wing.

We proceeded on course at 18,000 feet to search for our target. After about an hour, five B-17’s were sighted apparently returning to Midway. We continued on course, and at about 1910 a lone enemy cruiser was sighted heading west. We passed it by in order to locate the damaged carrier, but to no avail. At our maximum range, CHAG reversed course back toward the cruiser we’d previously sighted. We found it again shortly after 2000, and it began to increase speed and send up AA fire as we formed to attack. We followed CHAG down toward the cruiser, which skillfully maneuvered to avoid our bombs. CHAG’s bomb failed to release and none of the other ten hit the ship, although there were several near-misses.

We all turned toward home with little attempt to rendezvous after our dives. I was able to form up with Vose, and we flew back toward the Hornet together. By the time we approached the task force, darkness had enveloped the ships and it didn’t seem that a deck landing would be possible. Suddenly their lights came on and we were ordered to land. I followed LT Vose into the landing pattern, and Canfield and I went over the carrier landing checklist: wheels down and locked, flaps down, tailhook extended. I picked up the LSO and his lighted wands as I turned into the groove. My approach speed was good, but I was a little high. The LSO gave the high-dip signal, meaning I was to drop the nose, come down about ten feet, and resume my approach attitude. The LSO then gave me the Roger signal, followed shortly by the cut engine signal, and I landed the aircraft, catching the third wire. This was my first night carrier landing in the SBD, and I felt very good.

After my tailhook was cleared from the arresting wire and put in the up position, I revved the engine in order to quickly clear the landing area and move forward so that the barriers could be raised in time for the next plane to land. After the propeller stopped turning and the wheels were chocked, Canfield and I climbed down and proceeded to our ready rooms. As I went through the hatch and down the ladder, I felt uncomfortable with the surrounding bulkheads and passageways. Somehow, they looked strangely unfamiliar. And for good reason—as I entered what I though was VB-8’s ready room, I discovered that I’d landed on our sister ship, the Enterprise! And of course, LT Vose had done the same thing.

They told me I’d be assigned to fly another search on the following morning, so I was billeted in a room and told to go to sleep. Although three additional Hornet pilots (ENS Doug Carter of VB-8, ENS Jim Forbes of VS-8, and one other whose name I don’t remember) had also landed aboard Enterprise, I don’t recall having any contact with them while aboard.

 MOGAMI AND MIKUMA 

I awoke about 0500 on June 6th and remembered that I was on Enterprise and scheduled to fly a 200-mile search that morning. I hopped out of the bunk, washed myself a little, slipped into my flight suit, and hurried to the wardroom for breakfast where I encountered an atmosphere similar to the one in the Hornet’s wardroom the previous morning: many missing pilots would never again sit in the empty chairs. I have never forgotten that feeling.

I finished breakfast and went quickly to the ready room to prepare for the mission. The search group was launched at 0700, and Canfield and I were flying a sector to the southwest at 1500 ft. I was on autopilot, making it easy to keep track of my relative position from the task force as the search proceeded. After about an hour I noticed several silhouettes on the horizon ahead. As the distance closed, I could see that they were four ships in formation on a southwesterly course. I dropped down to 800 ft. and tracked them for several minutes in order to record their position, course, and speed, and also to determine their ship class from my IJN silhouette cards. The two larger ships were cruisers with pagoda-type superstructures, and the other two were destroyers. (I later learned that the two larger ones were the Japanese heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma.)

Remaining at a safe distance out of AA range, I dictated a message for CTF 16 to Canfield. The message contained the enemy formation’s composition, relative position, course, and speed. Canfield sent the message by radio but got no confirmation that it had been received. He was concerned that a problem with his radio transmitter might have prevented the task force from receiving the message. It was already 0835 and I decided to get out of there and back to task force ASAP. Arriving over the Enterprise at about 0930, I dropped them a message containing the data on the enemy cruiser formation that we’d located. I then returned to the Hornet’s air pattern to await recovery. After she launched a strike group, I was recovered aboard at about 1015. I proceeded to the bridge in order to brief RADM Mitscher on the details of my sighting. After reporting to the VB-8 ready room, I was told that I wouldn’t be flying any more that day.

 FINAL PATROL 

No flights had been scheduled for the VB-8/VS-8 pilots on June 7th, although half of us were on standby in our ready rooms from 0600-1300 while the other half did the same thing from 1300-1900. Our SBDs were also on standby, loaded with 500 lb. bombs and machine gun ammo. On June 8th we were tasked to provide intermediate air patrols covering sectors up to 50 miles out from Task Force 16 during ship refueling operations. I launched in 8-B-7 at 1340 to fly an intermediate patrol, and after a time I spotted a life raft with one man in it. I rocked my wings to let him know that I saw him and tried reporting his bearing and distance to CTF 16, but once again Canfield got no response. I noticed that I wasn’t receiving a ZB homing signal either. I reversed my course in order to fly back toward the task force, but it had become enveloped in a local storm and I couldn’t see it. With my ZB inoperative, I didn’t want to waste fuel waiting for the ships to break clear of the weather, so I decided to fly to Midway. I radioed CTF 16 with my decision and reasoning, and changed course for Midway, which wasn’t far.

I was directed to taxi to the Marine Air Group area upon landing, where Canfield and I reported to the air group commander, Lt. Col. Ira Kimes. He informed us that we would be temporarily assigned to the Marine bombing squadron pending further orders. A message was sent to the Hornet notifying them of our safe arrival on the island, and a reply was received that we were to turn our SBD over to the Marines and to await sea transport to back to Pearl Harbor.

Gee2005

Gee in 2005

z-vet-fishgee

Roy Gee (at right) with squadron mate Clay Fisher, 1941

Around June 20th, USS Pensacola (CA-24) put into Midway in order to pick up wounded personnel and other survivors of the battle for transport to back to Pearl Harbor. Canfield and I boarded the cruiser for the short transit to Hawaii, and rejoined our squadron a few days later. While en route, I asked the Pensacola’s communications officer about Canfield’s transmission concerning the man I’d spotted in the life raft. He did some checking and later told me the message had been copied and the man was rescued. I felt very relieved, but I never found out his name.

 

 

Editor’s note: In Gee’s narrative above, he reports two hits on a cruiser during the Hiryu mission, one by himself and one by ENS Barrett. Japanese records did not record a hit on any of the Hiryu’s screening vessels on the afternoon of June 4th, but Gee’s bomb was seen to strike a cruiser by his section leader, his R/G, and by ENS Fisher. Gee was awarded the Navy Cross for this action.

 
Jun 4

Navy Cryptology and the Battle of Midway: Our Finest Hour

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 7:00 AM

 

Navy Cryptology and the Battle of Midway: Our Finest Hour

A special feature of the BATTLE OF MIDWAY ROUNDTABLE

by LCDR Philip H. Jacobsen, USN-Ret 

(Editor’s note: the following is the text of an address given by LCDR Jacobsen to a gathering of Naval Security Group personnel at San Diego in 2000. It has been edited slightly for clarity and to better suit this format.)

The Advent of U.S. Naval Cryptology

 Although my part in the Battle of Midway was very small, I appreciate this opportunity to relate to you some of the more important achievements of my contemporary naval cryptologists that made the success of the Battle of Midway possible. As a current member of the Naval Security Group, you can take pride in the great accomplishments of your predecessors, not only related to the Battle of Midway but long before World War II as well as throughout World War II.

There are not many naval cryptologic veterans alive today that were involved in providing the communications intelligence information that gave our inferior forces on land, sea and especially in the air the equalizer of knowing the composition of enemy forces, and when and where those huge Japanese forces would attack U.S. territory under Admiral Yamamoto’s grandiose invasion plan. This crucial communications intelligence information, when combined with the heroic actions of fighting forces under the brilliant command of Admiral Nimitz, led to the great U.S. victory in the Battle of Midway.

We should keep in mind that intelligence itself does not win battles. However, I believe the lesson of the Battle of Midway is that good, solid intelligence can make the difference between winning and losing a crucial battle for our country. I hope you will keep this in mind in the future.

What was the genesis of the naval cryptologic success at the Battle of Midway? So much was involved in building up dedicated experts in all the various fields of cryptology that it is impossible to point to one single source. Credit must be given to many individuals who operated under difficult conditions, extremely limited budgets, and poor promotional opportunities. This relatively tiny group of dedicated individuals accomplished much in their efforts over the years to keep abreast of the growing force of the Japanese navy and their ever increasing communications security precautions. With the Japanese instigation of war with the U.S., this cadre of technical experts made it relatively easy to expand into a large organization and to immediately provide increasingly vital intelligence to not only U.S. Navy operational forces but also to U.S. Army and Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific and Indian Ocean areas.

 

Attacking JN-25 

 

220px-Joseph_rochefort

Captain Joseph John Rochefort
U.S. Naval Historical Society

 Despite successes with prior Japanese naval and diplomatic codes, the high priority placed on the small group of naval cryptologists to provide decrypts of Japanese diplomatic communications precluded any significant decrypts of the current Japanese fleet code, JN-25B. Immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Station HYPO in Hawaii under Commander Joseph J. Rochefort was given the authority to attack JN-25B. By early 1942, HYPO was producing some usable JN-25B decrypts. Station CAST at Corregidor, which was moved to Melbourne after the Philippines fell, and Station NEGAT in Washington soon followed with a number of important JN-25B decrypts. 

HYPO first reported an offensive action in the “AK” or Hawaiian area which culminated in the ineffectual bombing of Oahu on the night of 4/5 March 1942. Rochefort determined that the long range Japanese seaplane was refueled by a submarine at the isolated island of French Frigate Shoals. This information would later play a vital part of the preparation for the Battle of Midway. 

 

The Japanese Plan for Midway 

 

The Japanese geographical designator “AF” began to appear in partially decrypted messages as early as 4 March 1942. On 13 March, Corregidor firmly identified “AF” as Midway. Melbourne and Washington confirmed that “AF” was Midway from subsequent decrypts, but for some unexplained reason Washington evaluated it as a communications designator, not a geographical designator even though Midway was obviously not a Japanese communications station.

Decrypts in late April by Melbourne and Hawaii showed intentions of hostile Japanese action at Dutch Harbor and Kodiak in the Alaskan area.

Beginning on 1 May, activity in Japan proper reflected preparations for both the Midway and Alaskan areas and provided detail of Japanese planning and the size of the forces committed to each objective. As the Japanese ships departed their anchorages, communications intelligence provided information on their future disposition. Both Melbourne and Hawaii reported the pairing of Japanese Carrier Divisions 1 and 2 for exercise activity in home waters on 3 and 12 May. In addition, HYPO provided a decrypted message of 7 May 1942 containing the complete agenda for an “aviation conference” on 16 May called by Vice Admiral Nagumo in Kagoshima, Kyushu. Also to be discussed was an “amphibious assault” and battle for “air superiority” together with a study of organizations for use in dive bombing, torpedo attacks, bombing, and strafing to wipe out local resistance.

For some time the status of Admiral Kondo’s powerful Second Fleet was clouded. Finally on 8 May 1942, HYPO correctly associated the carriers of the 1st Fleet with several important 2nd Fleet elements and warned of a possible creation of a strike force organization under Vice Admiral Nagumo, Commander 1st Air Fleet, consisting of CarDivs 1 and 2, CruDiv 8, two battleships from BatDiv 3, and other 2nd Fleet elements. These early correct conclusions gave a major advantage to the planners in the U.S. Pacific Fleet. They were reinforced by Melbourne on 9 May by a decrypt ordering destroyer screens for many of the capital ships in the Striking Force and revealing a sailing date from Sasebo of 21 May.

 

Troubles in Washington 

 

On 14 May Admiral King directed Admiral Nimitz to declare a state of “Fleet Opposed Invasion” and gave Nimitz complete control of all military forces, including B-17s in the Hawaiian Islands. By 16 May Admirals King and Nimitz were in almost total agreement concerning Japanese intentions toward Midway and the Aleutians. However, this view was in sharp contrast to the confusion that reigned between OP-20-G (Station NEGAT) and War Plans staff under Admiral Richmond K. Turner. Turner placed some ridiculous restrictions on what Station NEGAT could report. 

On 16 May, Nimitz ordered Admiral Halsey [Task Force 16 with USS Enterprise and Hornet] to return to Hawaii, indicating the Japanese would probably make simultaneous offensives against Port Moresby, Dutch Harbor, and Midway where the main striking force would be employed.

Two days later, all three navy cryptologic centers reported that the Strike Force’s attack would be from the northwest from N minus 2 days until N day, while Hawaii and Melbourne added that the attack would be launched from fifty miles northwest of AF. While this did not solve the attack timing problem completely, Nimitz immediately sent messages to Halsey and Fletcher [Task Force 17 with USS Yorktown] to expedite their return to Pearl Harbor as well as ordering submarine search activity off Midway to an area fifty miles northwest of the island.

An acrimonious relationship between Admiral Turner and his War Plans Division and OP-20-G continued, with Turner directing Commander Redman not to comment on certain intelligence evaluations and assume that Turner’s views were correct. The record suggests that the analysts in War Plans and OP-20-G were so engrossed in their own activities that they sometimes overlooked information concerning the Imperial Fleet readily available from translations in OP-20-GZ and the daily reports of the Pacific centers.

While the Pacific centers were convinced that the identity of AF was Midway because of its position in the “A” or American digraphs in the Japanese designator system, various persons at OP-20-G and in Washington thought it might be Johnston Island, Samoa, the U.S. West Coast or even Hawaii itself. HYPO was aware of this lack of agreement on AF in Washington. In order to rid themselves of this annoying backbiting, Rochefort approved a ruse that was probably thought up by Jasper Holmes, the author of Double Edged Secrets. Nimitz approved the message to be sent in the clear from Midway complaining of a water shortage. Rochefort let Melbourne make the first report of the decrypt from Tokyo Naval Intelligence advising of a “water shortage at AF.” Even the naysayers in Washington could not argue with this confirming evidence. 

 

Stealing the Enemy’s Secrets 

 

Additional information about a Japanese northern force prompted Nimitz to activate Task Force 8 under Admiral Robert A. Theobald. In spite of accompanying and subsequent accurate information about Japanese intentions in the Aleutians from decrypts, Theobald chose to treat such information as enemy deception and moved his forces out of the area to the Kodiak vicinity. That allowed the enemy to pound Dutch Harbor and occupy Kiska and Attu.

From information of Japanese successes in determining carrier movements simply by monitoring air to ground communications, Nimitz ordered Halsey and Fletcher to maintain radio silence, particularly among the aircraft when coming in to land. He also warned MacArthur that the Japanese were intercepting air-to-ground contacts between Port Moresby and allied planes. Nimitz also implemented a MacArthur suggestion that two or three U.S. vessels in the South Pacific conduct radio deception to create the impression that our carriers were remained in that area.

On 22 May, a Melbourne decrypt revealed the word “Midway” in a request for photographs of the island that had been “handed over to you.” Washington published a message from Nagumo to the 11th Air Fleet showing that his carriers had 33 aircraft on board that were destined to be the nucleus of land based aircraft in the new Japanese perimeter. Their loss was completely unnoted in accounts of Japanese carrier losses.

The 25th of May began with HYPO’s critical discovery of the Japanese date cipher. Now the U.S. possessed the means to determine the final ingredient of the Japanese plans—when the attack would take place. Application of this information allowed Rochefort to predict that the Japanese attack on the Aleutians would occur on 3 June and on Midway on 4 June. Despite objections from his staff, Nimitz decided to base his final timetable on these dates. Melbourne applied this date cipher information to older traffic and alerted the Pacific Fleet that on the 22nd of May CruDiv 8 and the battleships Kongo and Kirishima were scheduled to depart the Inland Sea of Japan.

Task Force 16 (Hornet and Enterprise) under Admiral Halsey returned to Pearl on the 26th and began a whirlwind of preparation for battle. The CINCPAC Bulletin of the 26th reported that the Northern Force had begun to depart Ominato and that all the Japanese carriers were probably at sea. Admiral Nimitz advised King how much he was dependent on communications intelligence and noted that they were only copying 60 percent of Japanese naval messages and only decrypting 40 percent of those copied. King attributed all of the Navy’s progress in the Pacific to the success it was having from timely information from Japanese naval codes. Without this information King said, “disaster is probable.”

 
Preparations for Battle 

 

On the 27th of May, the Yorktown finally limped into port, showing the damage inflicted during the Coral Sea battle. This good news was offset by some bad news from Commander Rochefort’s center: a new underlying code (JN-25C) and additive cipher had been introduced that rendered unreadable almost all the texts of JN-25 messages from the 27th on. However, some previously originated messages were still readable including one from the 5th Fleet that contained tactical call signs for the Northern Force, its Strike Force, and the Occupation force for “AQ” and “AO” identified as Kiska and probably Attu. Again, Theobald refused to believe this intelligence and kept his force near Kodiak. Another prior message concerned the “Ichiki Detachment” to command the 2nd Combined Landing Force, which was to occupy Midway’s Eastern Island. A third message revealed the intended use of civilian engineers captured on Wake Island to be used in the rebuilding of Midway. Additional warnings that the carriers were at sea were also published.

On 30 May, U.S. task force commanders were alerted by HYPO that direction finding had located three submarines in northern waters and one west of Midway. That day, the Yorktown (Task Force 17) slipped out of Pearl but was detected by the ComInt unit aboard the Yamato, Admiral Yamamoto’s flagship. However, due to radio silence restrictions, this information was not passed on to the Japanese carriers. NEGAT in Washington reported that the carrier Ryujo was at sea with the Northern Forces and that the Commander of the 6th Army Air Force was probably aboard the Akagi.

An old message produced the important information that fighter pilots from the carrier Zuikaku had been transferred to the Northern Force, ruling out the possibility that the Zuikaku could be called on to support either the Aleutian or Midway campaigns. Another message determined that major participants were called to a conference aboard the Akagi on the 26th, which meant they were still in port on that date.

Melbourne’s analysis of air activity in the Marshalls on 2 June led them to conclude that the Occupation Force was approaching the Marshalls. However, Admiral King’s headquarters report of that day contained serious errors. It estimated that BatDivs 2 and 1, CarDiv 4, and DesRon 3, parts of the Main Body, were still in the Bonins home waters area when in fact this force was approaching the western edge of the occluded front northwest of Midway. Perhaps, more importantly, the Office of Naval Intelligence chose this moment to report the presence of a fifth carrier, and identified the carrier as the Zuikaku. Fortunately, Admiral Nimitz and his intelligence staff had confidence in the information being generated by the centers in the Pacific, and this ONI estimate was not acted on or repeated to the task forces off Midway.

 
Predictions Confirmed 

 

As predicted by HYPO, the Japanese offensive against the Aleutians began on 3 June with the carriers attacking Dutch Harbor. Shortly thereafter, Midway notified Nimitz that the Japanese “Main Body” was sighted at 2100Z by a patrol plane bearing 261 degrees and a distance of 700 miles from Midway. After a second sighting of a smaller group of warships and cargo vessels, Nimitz advised that the forces sighted were the attack and occupation forces, not the main body. HYPO’s report of 3 June identified Admiral Yamamoto, CINC of the Combined Fleet as in overall command and correctly identified major commanders and functions of 2nd Fleet, 1st Air Fleet, and 5th Fleet.

discovering the fleet

Diorama of PBY discovering Japanese minesweepers. NHHC Photograph Collection 80-G-701843

Just after midnight on the morning of 4 June, Nimitz realized he had not yet advised the task forces how far the “Main Body” was from Midway. In addition to repeating earlier reports on its course and speed, he concluded it was now 574 miles from Midway. At 0604 Midway time, a reconnaissance plane from Midway spotted two Japanese carriers and their escorts and reported “many planes heading Midway” from 320 degrees, distance 150 miles. Less than a half hour later, Midway was attacked by Japanese carrier aircraft.

Nimitz was only able to muster 47 warships and 26 submarines against the Japanese fleet of 113 warships and 16 submarines. However, the U.S. was able to concentrate its forces at Midway with a slight advantage at the scene of the battle with three carriers, 22 escorts, 234 aircraft afloat and 110 at Midway versus four carriers, 17 escorts, 229 aircraft and 17 seaplanes for the Japanese. In addition, Admiral Nimitz and his task force commanders had advance knowledge of the identity of the Japanese objectives; virtually the entire Japanese Midway and Aleutian order of battle; the organization of the Midway forces into a Striking Force, Occupation Force, Invasion Force; the preliminary and final timetables of the Midway and Aleutian Striking Forces; the general direction from which each force would approach Midway, and the Midway Strike Force’s plan of attack. All of that information was supplied by communications intelligence in time to influence decisively the provisions of Admiral Nimitz’s Operation Plan 29-42.

In addition, luck was on the side of American forces in several key instances. Partly due to poor Midway bomber group sighting reports, two of the U.S. carrier aircraft groups [from Enterprise and Yorktown] were fortunate to locate the enemy carriers after changing their original course, while Hornet’s planes failed to make any contact. The late takeoff of the #4 search plane from the cruiser Tone prevented the Japanese from discovering the presence of U.S. carriers in time to make significant operational changes.

 
A Victory of Intelligence 

 

The Americans lost only one carrier, one destroyer and 147 planes, while the enemy suffered the loss of four large carriers, all their aircraft, as well as one heavy cruiser and the damage to one heavy cruiser. These losses plus the rejection of the enemy invasion and occupation forces resulted in a huge victory for the U.S. Navy early in WWII. This great success after so much bad news from Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia was a great morale booster to the American people.

After the battles of Coral Sea, Midway and the Aleutians, the invaluable contributions made by communications intelligence were recognized by senior naval officials in Washington and Honolulu. In their words, communications intelligence had given the United States a “priceless advantage” over the Japanese. In few battles before or since would any navy possess an enemy’s order of battle, their plan of attack, and their timetable, all of which had been provided to the U.S. Navy’s high command by the communications intelligence units in Hawaii and Australia under the direction of Commander Joseph J. Rochefort and Lieutenant Rudolph Fabian, respectively.

 
Apr 18

Operation Praying Mantis, 18 April 1988

Thursday, April 18, 2013 6:40 AM

On 14 April 1988, watchstanders aboard USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) sighted three mines floating approximately half of a mile from the ship. Twenty minutes after the first sighting, as Samuel B. Roberts was backing clear of the minefield, she struck a submerged mine. The explosive device tore a 21-foot hole in the hull, causing extensive fires and flooding. Ten Sailors were injured in the attack. Only the heroic efforts of the ship’s crew, working feverishly for seven straight hours, saved the vessel from sinking. Four days later, forces of the Joint Task Force Middle East (JTFME) executed the American response to the attack: Operation Praying Mantis. The operation called for the destruction of two oil platforms being used by Iran to coordinate attacks on merchant shipping. On 18 April, the coalition air and surface units not only destroyed the oil rigs but also various Iranian units attempting to counter-attack U.S. forces. By the end of the battle, U.S. air and surface units had sunk or severely damaged half of Iran’s operational fleet. Navy aircraft and the destroyer Joseph Strauss (DDG 16) sank the frigate Sahand (F 74) with harpoon missiles and laser-guided bombs.

 

The main building of the Iranian Sassan oil platform burns after being hit by a BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-guided, Wire-guided (TOW) missile fired from a Marine AH-1 Cobra helicopter

The main building of the Iranian Sassan oil platform burns after being hit by a BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-guided, Wire-guided (TOW) missile fired from a Marine AH-1 Cobra helicopter

A laser-guided bomb dropped from a Navy A-6 Intruder disabled frigate Sabalan (F 73), and Standard missiles launched from the cruiser Wainwright (CG 28) and frigates Bagley (FF 1069) and Simpson (FFG 56) destroyed the 147-foot missile patrol boat Joshan (P 225). In further combat A-6s sank one Boghammer high-speed patrol boat and neutralized four more of these Swedish-made speedboats. One Marine AH-1T Sea Cobra crashed from undetermined causes, resulting in the loss of two air crew. Operation Praying Mantis proved a milestone in naval history. For the first time since World War II, U.S. naval forces and supporting aircraft fought a major surface action against a determined enemy. The operation also demonstrated America’s unwavering commitment to protecting oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf and the principle of freedom of navigation.

The Iranian frigate Is Sahand (74) burns after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

The Iranian frigate Is Sahand (74) burns after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

An aerial view of the Iranian frigate Is Alvand (71) burning after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

An aerial view of the Iranian frigate Is Alvand (71) burning after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

Sources: Edward J. Marolda and Robert J. Schneller Jr., Sword and Shield: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf War (Washington, DC: GPO, 1998), 37-8; Michael A. Palmer, On Course to Desert Storm: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf (Washington, DC: GPO, 1992), 141-46; unpublished draft material from Mark Evans’ forthcoming naval aviation chronology.

For more information on Operation Praying Mantis,
visit the NHHC website:
http://www.history.navy.mil/Special%20Highlights/OperationPrayingMantis/index.html

 

 
May 24

NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch and MDSU2 Survey SB2C Helldiver Wreck

Thursday, May 24, 2012 4:34 PM

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) is currently cooperating with the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and U.S. Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit TWO (MDSU-2) to investigate a WWII-era SB2C Helldiver aircraft wreck off the coast of Jupiter, FL. The objectives of the investigation are to identify the aircraft using its numbered identification plates, measure and map the wreck site, and document the aircraft.

Investigation operations are being conducted from USNS Apache (T-ATF 172), one of MSC’s four Fleet Ocean Tugs and one of the 14 ships in its Surface Support Program. USNS Apache’s main mission is to render assistance to the US Navy’s numbered fleets by providing towing, diving platform and other services. UAB is also pleased to have the opportunity to once again work with MDSU-2. Their expertise and support were much appreciated aboard USNS Grasp, during the 2011 collaborative survey expedition to locate the wreck of USS Bonhomme Richard in the North Sea. (Photo to the left courtesy of Military Sealift Command Ship Database)

In addition to assisting UAB with its archaeological investigation, this project also provides MDSU-2 divers the opportunity to gain valuable training experience by performing deep water, mixed-gas dives up to 185 ft (56.4 m); collecting measurements of underwater sites; and conducting underwater navigation exercises. Over the previous four days, MDSU-2 divers have assisted with measuring the wreck site, documenting the aircraft, and mapping its disarticulated pieces. All divers are equipped with live video feed in their helmets, which allows MDSU-2 dive supervisor and UAB representative underwater archaeologist Heather Brown to observe underwater operations from aboard Apache in real time.

The wreck was first discovered and filmed by a local dive charter operator late last year, who then contacted NHHC about the find in early 2012. Video footage of the wreck (photo on the right is a still taken from video by Randy Jordan) shows that it is relatively intact and currently rests in an inverted position on the sandy ocean floor. The vertical stabilizer, ailerons, flaps, and elevators initially appeared to be missing, however portions or fragments of those elements have since been located on the site. The propellers and engine have been separated from the fuselage and lie several meters away from of the main body of the wreck. There are a number of ropes wrapped around the propellers and what appears to be a lobster trap lying beside the engine, suggesting the wreck may have been previously snagged by a fishing boat. (Sonar image of the SB2C site shown at the right)

As the wreck is resting in an inverted position on the sandy bottom, the cockpit and the aircraft bureau number were not readily accessible to the divers. However, they were able to locate a model number plate, heavily covered in marine growth and currently illegible, and carefully remove it. The plate is being sent to the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Lab at NHHC headquarters on the Washington Navy Yard, DC, where it will be treated and examined by UAB’s conservation team and hopefully provide data to help identify the aircraft.

(The heavily corroded data plate)

Stay tuned for more updates as the project progresses!

Click the below link to watch Local News Channel 5 WPTV.com interview with NHHC underwater archaeologist Heather Brown:

 
Mar 25

Beginning of Naval Aviation

Sunday, March 25, 2012 1:00 AM

March 25th, 1898

Beginning of the Navy’s Interest in Aviation

In 1898, Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, ushered in the beginning of Naval Aviation, with a proposal that the Navy investigate Samuel Langley’s flying machine for military purposes. However, as an article printed in the January 1971 issue of Proceedings notes, a long time passed between Roosevelt’s proposal and the first use of planes by the Navy. The article excerpted below, written by Thomas Ray, documents the first application of Roosevelt’s proposal, beginning in 1910.

Prior to September 1910—when the Navy Department appointed an officer to keep abreast of world aviation developments—the U. S. Navy had manifested little interest in aviation except to send token representation to certain aeronautical test flights and meets. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Nov 19

Apollo 12 Moon Landing

Saturday, November 19, 2011 1:00 AM

November 19th, 1969

Navy astronauts become 3rd and 4th men to walk on the moon.

“The impact of man in space and man on the Moon has been felt in almost all segments of our society. The astronauts are in every sense explorers who have broadened the limits of mankind’s environment . . .”

On November 19th, 1969, CDR Charles Conrad Jr. and CDR Alan L. Bean became the third and fourth men to walk on the moon. Conrad and Bean were members of the all-Navy crew in the Apollo 12 mission, along with CDR Richard F. Gordon, Jr., the mission’s Command Module Pilot. In the October 1972 issue of Proceedings, Midshipman Second Class Raymon Paul Wiggers, Jr., U. S. Naval Reserve, described the Apollo 12 mission in an article about the Navy’s invaluable role in the United States Astronaut Corps. This detailed history examined the importance of Navy astronauts in the success of NASA’s missions, and speculated on the fate of the space program following the acheivements of the Apollo lunar missions.

 In the exploration of a world consisting of island continents surrounded by vast oceans, it is not difficult to understand why explorers have often been men of the sea. Throughout history, the great seafaring nations, using their navies and maritime fleets, have predominated in the great discoveries. Read the rest of this entry »

 
« Older Entries