Curtiss F6C-3 taking off from USS Lexington (CV-2), April 1928

Curtiss F6C-3 taking off from USS Lexington (CV-2), April 1928

Curtiss F6C-3 taking off from USS Lexington (CV-2), April 1928

Here we see a Curtiss F6C-3 Hawk, the main inline engine powered version of the aircraft, taking off from the carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) in April 1928.


National Air and Space Museum

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver would have been the U.S. Navy’s frontline carrier-based dive bomber for much of World War II, but problems with its development delayed its introduction and saddled it with a bad reputation. By the end of the war, changes in technology meant other aircraft could deliver an equal or greater ordnance load with comparable accuracy, eliminating the need for a specialized dive bomber. Thus, the SB2C was the last dive bomber in the Navy’s inventory.

Origins

The SB2C Helldiver has connections to Curtiss’ previous Navy dive bomber, the SBC, also called the Helldiver (the Curtiss company seemed fond of the name). The SBC was a biplane design that began in 1933 as a two-seat fighter with dive bombing capabilities (XF11C) and was subsequently revised to scout-bomber specifications. The SBC-3 entered Navy service in 1937 and was the last biplane combat aircraft to see Navy service.

Curtiss SBC-3 Helldiver ( U.S. Navy, National Museum of Naval Aviation, photo No. 1996.253.094)

Even as the Navy placed its first orders for the biplane SBC in 1936, the Navy was already looking for a monoplane to replace it. It saw an opportunity to improve a plane that had competed with the SBC for the Navy contract: the monoplane Northrop BT-1. Suitably modified, the aircraft was reclassed as a scout-bomber (SB) around the time Northrop had become Douglas’ El Segundo division. Accordingly, the new airplane was designated SBD, the Dauntless. The Navy, however, only expected it to be a stopgap for what would come next.

Northrop BT-1 ( U.S. Navy, National Museum of Naval Aviation, photo No. 1996.253.1979)

In 1938, just a year after the first deliveries of SBC-3s, the Navy issued a specification for a new monoplane dive bomber that would result in the SB2C, the third Curtiss plane to carry the name “Helldiver” but the first to carry it as an official service nickname. The Navy’s requirements for this new monoplane dive bomber were challenging: it had to be able to carry a significant weight of weaponry internally while incorporating specific equipment and structural features within an airframe small enough to fit two on the elevators of the new Essex class carriers. None of the SB2C’s features were entirely new, only the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine had yet to be proven on other aircraft, but some features had not previously appeared on a Curtiss design, and some of the internal systems pushed the state-of-the-art.

Navy practice at this time was to wait until a prototype had been tested before placing any orders. In the case of the new Helldiver, the Navy was watching the gathering war clouds and was eager to replace the “stopgap” SBD with a better aircraft. The Navy also may have been lulled into taking a chance based on design studies and wind tunnel tests. Whatever the reasons, the Navy broke with protocol and ordered 370 SB2Cs from Curtiss on November 29, 1940, before the first prototype had flown.

Development and Production Problems

Unfortunately, the Navy’s gamble did not pay off Curtiss’ Helldiver faced a long developmental road. The lone XSB2C-1 prototype’s maiden flight was December 18, 1940, but it crashed in February 1941 and had to be rebuilt. In December that year, it suffered an in-flight wing failure that destroyed it without ever being turned over to the Navy for testing.

XSB2C-1 prototype with its original small tail. ( Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)

Among its problems was that it was “stubby.” Its wingspan was eight feet wider than the Dauntless, with a wing area almost 25% greater to support an empty weight of 7,122 lbs – roughly a thousand pounds heavier than the Dauntless. But while the Helldiver could fold its wings to save space, little could be done about the length: it was only two feet, four inches longer than the Dauntless. This meant the Helldiver’s tail had less directional authority than the Dauntless despite needing more to control a bigger, heavier airplane.

As a result, the XSB2C-1 suffered from poor handling, directional instability, and bad stall characteristics. The prototype also revealed structural weaknesses, while the R-2800 engine and its 3-bladed hydraulic propeller suffered their own teething problems. The Navy ordered nearly 900 internal and external changes to the design before clearing it for production. These changes, along with necessary adaptations to the production line, significantly delayed deliveries to the Navy. To make matters worse, Curtiss was producing the Helldiver at a brand-new plant, which caused its own delays.

The XSB2C-1 Helldiver prototype (with enlarged tail surfaces) is rolled out of its hangar in Buffalo, New York, circa 1941. (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)

The first production SB2C-1 Helldiver did not fly until June 1942, with the first deliveries to fleet squadrons at the end of that year. Though Curtiss had made numerous changes, the -1 production model still suffered from a number of difficulties. It had aerodynamic problems, while the changes added another three thousand pounds to the airplane’s weight . Once assigned to carriers, it had tailwheel and hook failures that limited it to service ashore until the problems were addressed. In addition, the electrical and hydraulic systems required a lot of maintenance on parts that were difficult to access. Overall, the Helldiver made a poor first impression among both aircrew and maintainers, earning it the pejorative nicknames “The Big-Tailed Beast” (often shortened to just “The Beast”) and “Son of a Bitch, 2nd Class” (a play on the SB2C designation and the Navy’s enlisted rank abbreviations).

Despite the problems, some of which only emerged well after it entered service, initial demand for the Helldiver was high, leading the Navy to assign additional construction to Fairchild Aircraft’s Canadian branch (with these aircraft designated the SBF) and the Canadian Car & Foundry Company (designated the SBW). Though the U.S. Navy was the primary customer, both the British navy and the Australian air force placed orders for Helldivers. The U.S. Army Air Forces ordered some three thousand as the A-25 Shrike (which omitted the wing fold and tailhook, along with other minor differences from the SB2C). Nevertheless, the Helldiver’s problems proved too much trouble for these additional customers. The Army took delivery of only about 900 A-25s before deciding it did not need a dedicated dive bomber, while both the Australians and the British quickly decided the Helldiver was unsuited to service and canceled their orders.

Combat at Last

Modified again, Helldivers returned to carriers in May 1943, but performance was still poor. Embarked aboard the new USS Yorktown (CV-10), the ship’s commanding officer, Captain J.J. “Jocko” Clark, recommended scrapping the entire Helldiver program. The Helldiver did not make its combat debut until November 1943, in a raid on the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul.

SB2C-1Cs from USS Yorktown circa 1944. The object sticking out below the wing is an antenna for the ASB radar. ( Naval History and Heritage Command)

Helldivers were still only slowly replacing Dauntlesses in June 1944 when a defining moment highlighted the aircraft’s weaknesses. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Adm. Marc Mitscher launched a strike force against the Japanese carriers that included 51 SB2C-1C Helldivers and 26 Dauntlesses. The entire strike was launched at extreme range, and this distance significantly affected the Helldivers due to their smaller fuel load: only five returned to land safely on the carriers. Of the 46 lost, 32 ran out of gas and crashed or ditched. Tellingly, only two Dauntlesses were lost: one was shot down and one crashed on landing.

Curtiss SB2Cs and Grumman TBFs (in background) during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, 80-G-238021)

In early 1944, deliveries of the SB2C-3 brought great improvements (with some pilots using “The Beast” nickname affectionately), but the airplane was unable to completely shed its bad reputation. Vice-Adm. John McCain, who commanded the fast carrier task force (TF 38) for the last year of the war, declared that there was “no place for a plane with the performance of the SB2C” on the carriers. In his opinion, the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair fighter-bombers were better suited to the job. The fighter-bombers could carry almost as large a bomb load as the Helldiver and, with the introduction of air-to-ground rockets, could deliver that payload as accurately as the Helldiver. At the same time, the Grumman TBF / Eastern Division TBM Avenger torpedo bomber proved itself equally capable as a level bomber. The Avenger had a somewhat shorter range than the Helldiver but offered a similar payload and slightly more speed. It was also easier to fly and did not have the Helldiver’s maintenance problems. Subsequently, while further improved SB2C-4 and -5 models (deliveries beginning late 1944 and early 1945, respectively) began living up to the promise of the Helldiver’s design, the era of the dedicated dive-bomber was coming to an end.

This photo of an SB2C-5 in a training unit circa 1945 shows off the bomb bay doors and the retracted “turtleback” between the gunner and the tail that gave the gunner a wider field of fire. (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)

The Helldiver would remain in Navy and Marine Corps service until 1950, but after the war, the U.S. sold surplus Helldivers to the navies of Italy, Portugal, Thailand, Greece, and France. The French navy kept them in service until 1958, and Helldivers saw their last combat in the third phase (1946-1949) of the Greek civil war and with the French in the First Indochina War (1951-1954).

Helldivers of the Aeronavale aboard the French carrier Arromanches in the Gulf of Tonkin, late 1953. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

A Helldiver at the Udvar-Hazy Center

One can see history in the Museum’s Helldiver (BuNo 83479) , which is on display at our Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. It is an SB2C-5, which featured additional fuel tanks and replaced the older ASB surface-search radar with the new APS-4 radar as standard equipment. The -5 also carried over changes from earlier models such as a more powerful engine (1900 hp / 1417 kw vs. 1500 hp / 1119 kw in the -1), a four-bladed electric propeller, perforated dive brakes to improve handling, and wing racks for additional bombs or rockets. The Navy accepted BuNo 83479 in May 1945.

The Museum’s SB2C-5. The white APS radar pod and permanent wing mounts for rockets are visible in this view. (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)


Development of the Douglas SBD (1939-40)


Northrop XBT-2 in 1937. Its airframe was a production Northrop BT-1, but it was heavily modified and redesignated by Douglas XSBD-1.

As we saw in the preceding article, the Douglas Dauntless was basically an evolution of the 1935 Northrop BT. As in 1937, the Northrop Corporation was taken over by Douglas, its local projects went on under Douglas supervision (Jack Northrop meanwhile created his own company). BT-1 modifications asked by the Navy from November 1937 made the basis for the BT-2, later standardized as the SBD. Eventually this model entered service in mid-1939, with the team in charge considered it could be improved.


Northrop BT. Despite its deficiencies, it was still in service in 1942.

Ed Heinemann’s team of designers wanted to fit to the BT-2 a 1,000 hp (750 kW) Wright Cyclone. The new model was developed at the same El Segundo plant in California, and the latter started production of the SBD-1. However that facility was soon found too cramped for a mass production, so Douglas Oklahoma City plant came in line for mass production which was setup in 1940. The latter in fact built almost all the SBDs in wartime.




Cutaways of the Douglas SBD (Official ordnance documentation)

Both the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps placed orders for promising SBD dive bomber, which received production designated as SBD-1 and SBD-2. The latter was improved, having increased fuel capacity and a new armament. The main asset was still their perforated split flaps, also called “dive-brakes” which eliminated tail buffeting during diving manoeuvrers. However the hydraulic system made it impossible to fold the wings. That was an unusual and grave trade-off for carrier aircraft use, but it was traded for structural strength, which was greatly appreciated in combat. The Dauntless indeed proved to be capable of near-impossible manoeuvres for a dive bomber and high-G forces, allowing dives from a greater altitude, at greater speed, with a delayed resource. All this greatly improved accuracy. Other modifications concerned detailed modifications of the wings and tail, and structural changed, but the main fuselage was still riveted over an aluminium frame.

Gone was the engine ventral cowling and roadwheels carriage fairings of course and the cockpit had now straight framing. It was still divided into three sections in which the pilot sat at the front, its wind-shield being retractable backwards on rails, as the gunner’s aft position. His tail cockpit section could be retracted forward under the central fixed section, rotated down to make room and be kept below the retracted front section. The rest was pretty much the same as for the BT serie. Of course over time, many improvements were brought up, until the main wartime production variant, the SBD-5. The ultimate SBD-6 had a better engine and many improvement but in 1944 the USN considered it already obsolete, putting great hopes in the successor of the Curtiss Helldiver that was supposed to replace it from 1943.


SBD-5 identification by BuAer: 3 view drawing

Specifications SBD-5


Production of the SBD-5 in Oklahoma Douglas plant, 1943

Evolution

SBD-1 (1940)

The SBD-1 was absorbed by the Marine Corps in late 1940. Production: 57, all in California. The SBD-1P was a reconnaissance variant made with the remaining planes in 1942-43.

SBD-2 (1941)

SBD-2 went to the Navy in early 1941. It replaced the SBU Corsair and Curtiss SBC Helldiver biplanes still in service on US carriers. Production: 87. Also declined in the SBD-2P reconnaissance variant in 1943.

SBD-3 (1941)

The next iteration was started manufacturing in early 1941. As requested by the Navy, it had increased armor and self-sealing fuel tanks, plus an armament standardized to four machine guns: Two 0.50 in (12.7 mm) forward-firing synchronized Browning M2 machine guns in the engine cowling and a twin 0.30 in (7.62 mm) flexible-mounted Browning M1919 machine guns in the rear. The bomb load was fixed and standardized to 2,250 lb (1,020 kg) total, with one 1,000 lb (454 kg) Mark 45 or larger under fuselage, and two 116 lb (52.6 kgs) under wings. 854 Produced.

SBD-4 (1941)

The SBD-4 was provided with a 12-volt electrical system, a new 3-bladed Hamilton-Standard constant-speed propeller and fuel pumps. 780 Produced. A few were converted into SBD-4P reconnaissance aircraft.
Comparison of the XBT-1 and XBT-2 (SBD)

SBD-5 (1942)

The main standardized version of the Dauntless during the war. It was produced mostly in the Douglas plant of Tulsa (Oklahoma). Its main improvement was a 1,200 hp (890 kW) Wright R-1820-60 Cyclone 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine, and increased ammunition supply. Production: 2,400.
The Royal Navy evaluated it and some were used by the No. 25 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, before replacing them by the Vought F4U Corsair. Others were supplied to the Free French Air Force in Europe in 1944 and were still used in Indochina after the war, as well as Mexico for those sold as surplus after 1945 (many countries purchased it).
The SBD-5A was part of the A-24B last batch of 60 intended for USAAF which rejected it. Instead they were delivered to the USMC.

SBD-6 (1944)

This final version, featuring more detail improvements and a Wright Cyclone 1,350 hp (1,010 kW), but production was terminated in the summer of 1944 (450 built). It was already replaced by the Curtiss Helldiver. Many ended in training units.

A-24 banshee: The army Dauntless (1941)

The U.S. Army Air Force attack version, which of course lacked the tail hook and its aft pneumatic tire replaced a solid tail wheel. The First were assigned to the 27th Bombardment Group (Light) based in Hunter Field, Georgia for evaluation and training. A-24s took part in the famous large scale Louisiana maneuvers of September 1941. Ultimately two versions were declined of the Banshee in addition, the A-24A and A-24B with a host of modifications: indeed, they were took from the Navy production line: The A24 was the equivalent of the SBD-3, always without arrestor hook (168 built) while the A24A corresponded to the SBD-4 (170 built) and the A-24B to the SBD-5 (615 built). The USAAF used them in limited numbers as only 948 were delivered in all. They all used the Navy maintenance network so stayed in the Pacific exclusively until declared “limited standards”. Only the Free French ones -about 50- saw action in Europe, in particular during and after Operation Dragoon for close air support (COS).


One of the few Dauntless Mk.I (SBD-5) experimented by the RNAS and RAF in 1942

They saw action in Australia, in the 16, 17 and 91th Bombardment Sqns in preparation of the defense of Java in early 1942. Some scored hits against Japanese shipping but they were still heavy preys. This early version also lacked armor and self-sealing tanks. They soldiered on in new Guinea afterwards. By July 1942, most of the A24s had been lost in action. Still waiting for the A-24 Shrike, the USAAF ordered the A-24A and later A-24B, which did better. The last arrived in December 1943, all based in Australia. However there was a change of doctrine and the USAAF no longer wanted dive bombers. They saw massive use during the Gilbert islands campaign, but started afterwards to be retired. Most ended with the Free French or were mothballed and sold after the war (Mexico and Chile). The US Army “psy-ops” branch also tested a screaming siren as for the Stukas, but it never went into production.


Warship Wednesday, March 14, 2018: Always on the edge of history

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, March 14, 2018: Always on the edge of history

Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library,

Here we see the Porter-class destroyer USS Phelps (DD-360) dockside at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston shortly before she was commissioned in early 1936, note her armament has not been fitted. Though with the fleet just a decade, Phelps always seemed to be just off the portside of some of the most important Naval vessels of WWII and always did everything that was asked of her, picking up twelve battle stars along the way.

The 8-ship Porter class had fine lines and looked more like a light cruiser with their high bridge and four twin turrets than a destroyer. Their displacement was fixed at 1850 tons, the treaty limit at the time, but with their 381-foot oal they were very rakish. Truly beautiful vessels from that enlighten era where warships could be both easy on the eyes and functional. With a 37-knot high speed, they could bring the pain with an eight-pack of 5″/38 (12.7 cm) Mark 12s in four twin Mk22 turrets, which Navweaps refers to as “unquestionably the finest Dual Purpose gun of World War II” in addition to surface target torpedo tubes, a smattering of AAA guns, and an array of depth charges for sub busting. Designed in the early 1930s, all eight ships in the class were completed by February 1937, half built at Bethlehem Steel’s Fore River yard and the other half by New York Shipbuilding.

Our hero, Phelps, was first of the Fore River vessels, laid down 2 January 1934. She is the only Navy ship thus far to tote the name of Rear Admiral Thomas Stowell Phelps, USN, a hero of the Civil War navy.

Rear Admiral Thomas Stowell Phelps, USN (1822-1901) Portrait is taken circa 1865-1870 when Phelps was a commander. Photo from: “Officers of the Army and Navy (regular) who served in the Civil War,” published by L.R. Hamersly and Co., Philadelphia, 1892, p. 315. NH 78327

Phelps joined the Navy in 1840 at age 18 and gave the service 44 years of his life, most notably serving as the skipper of the 11-gun Ossipee-class steam sloop USS Juniata during the Civil War, taking her in danger-close to the Confederate batteries at Fort Fisher and helping to capture that rebel bastion. Phelps was named a rear-admiral on the retired list and the old but still beautiful Juniata went on to circumnavigate the globe and was only decommissioned in 1889.

The 11-gun Ossipee-class sloop-of-war USS Juniata in 1889, Detroit Photo. Via LOC. Her class included the ill-fated USS Housatonic.

USS Phelps commissioned 26 February 1936 and, as soon as her shakedown was complete, escorted the beautiful new heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA 35) with President Roosevelt aboard on his Good Neighbor Cruise to South America that included stops in the Caribbean and points south.

USS PHELPS (DD-360). Note her Mark 35 directors above the pilot house, she had another on the after deckhouse– yes, two GFCS on one destroyer, pretty big league for a pre-1939 tin can. Courtesy of The Mariners Museum, Newport News, Va. Ted Stone collection Catalog #: NH 66339

Assigned to the Pacific Fleet by 1941, Phelps was at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day, moored in a nest of destroyers alongside the old tender USS Dobbin (AD-3) in berth X-2 along with fellow destroyers Worden, Hull, Dewey, and Macdonough. Though in an overhaul status and on a cold iron watch, according to her report of that fateful morning her crew observed bombs being dropped from planes diving on Ford Island and on ships moored in vicinity of the target ship USS Utah at 0758 and, by 0802, her guns were loaded and had commenced firing “it having been necessary to reassemble portions of the breech mechanisms which had been removed for overhaul.”

Phelps downed one confirmed Japanese aircraft and took shots at another couple that were probable. By 0926 she was “underway, with boiler power for 26 knots, and stood out to sea via the North Channel,” to take up patrol offshore. The lucky destroyer suffered no casualties.

Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941 View taken around 0926 hrs. in the morning of 7 December, from an automobile on the road in the Aiea area, looking about WSW with destroyer moorings closest to the camera. In the center of the photograph are USS Dobbin (AD-3), with destroyers Hull (DD-350), Dewey (DD-349), Worden (DD-352) and Macdonough (DD-351) alongside. The ship just to the left of that group is USS Phelps (DD-360), with got underway on two boilers around 0926 hrs. The group further to the right consists of USS Whitney (AD-4), with destroyers Conyngham (DD-371), Reid (DD-369), Tucker (DD-374), Case (DD-370) and Selfridge (DD-357) alongside. USS Solace (AH-5) is barely visible at the far left. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-33045

Within days, she was with the fleet looking for some payback, escorting the big fleet carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) on roving raids across the increasingly Japanese-held Western Pacific. By May 1942, she was just 400 miles off the Northern coast of Australia and heavily engaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Tragically, Lexington was mortally wounded in the exchange with Vice Admiral Takeo Takagi.

USS Lexington (CV-2) under air attack on 8 May 1942, as photographed from a Japanese plane. Heavy black smoke from her stack and white smoke from her bow indicate that the view was taken just after those areas were hit by bombs. Destroyer in the lower left appears to be USS Phelps (DD-360). The original print was from the illustration files for Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 95579

Though the majority of Lady Lex’s crew survived and were taken off, with the carrier’s Commanding Officer, Captain Frederick C. Sherman, the last to leave, the mighty flattop needed a coup de grace, a task that fell to Phelps.

Our destroyer fired five torpedoes between 19:15 and 19:52, with at least two duds or missed fish being observed. Immediately after the last torpedo hit, Lexington, down by the bow but nearly on an even keel, finally sank.

Last week, Paul Allen’s RV Petrel discovered one of Phelps’ unexploded fish in the debris field for Lexington

A U.S. Mk 15 21″ surfaced launch torpedo near Lexington, one of Phelps’. RV Petrel

Following the Coral Sea, Phelps retired to Pearl in the company of the wounded carrier USS Yorktown and prepared for the next engagement.

(DD-360) At Pearl Harbor, circa late May 1942, following the Battle of Coral Sea and shortly before the Battle of Midway. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-66124

Then came Midway, where Phelps was part of TF16, serving as escort and plane guard for USS Hornet (CV 8).

80-G-88908: Battle of Midway, June 1942. A close-up of USS Atlanta (CL 51) with USS Hornet (CV 8) and USS Phelps (DD 360), all of Task Force 16, in the background. The picture was made during the third day of the battle as Atlanta came up to aid the destroyer, which had broken down temporarily because of fuel shortage. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2016/09/27).

After Midway, Phelps left for the West Coast where she received an updated AAA suite that saw her marginally effective 1.1-inch and .50-caliber guns swapped out for many more 40mm and 20mm pieces along with the Mk 51 Fire Control System for the former. For her main guns, she swapped out the older Mk33 for a new Mk35 GFCS and added both an SC air search radar set and one SG surface search radar set.

USS Phelps (DD-360) Description: Plan view, forward, taken while she was at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 24 November 1942. Circles mark recent alterations to the ship. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-38915

Plan view, aft, taken while she was at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 24 November 1942. Note submarine building ways and cranes in the background. Circles mark recent alterations to the ship. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-38914

The rest of the war was extremely busy for Phelps, fighting the nightly raids by the Japanese and supporting the invasion of Guadalcanal, bombarding frozen Attu and Kiska in Alaskan waters, marshaling the troopships and closing just off the beach at Makin, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok the hell of Saipan.

USS Phelps (DD-360) underway at sea, 27 May 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Note, her # 3 5″ mount has been deleted, the superfiring aft installation. Catalog #: 80-G-276951

In August 1944, Phelps was reassigned to the Atlantic, her place taken in the warm waters of the Pacific by newer destroyer types with more massive AAA suites. It was figured that the fast Porter could be more useful in the ETO.

USS Phelps (DD-360) Off the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, about November 1944. She is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 3d. Note that her eight 5-inch twins have been swapped out for five 5″/38 Mark 12 guns in a combination of Mark 38 twin mounts and a single Mark 30 mount superfiring aft. Her GFCS also has been upgraded to a Mk37. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-73963

She spent the rest of the war on convoy duty and serving in the Mediterranean, arriving back on the West Coast post VE-Day on 10 June and was soon laid up.

USS Phelps (DD-360) moored at Casco Bay, Maine, 9 August 1945. USS McCall (DD-400) and a frigate (PF) are moored with her. Note she now has Measure 21. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-332952

Decommissioned 6 November 1945, Phelps was struck from the list 28 January 1947, sold 10 August 1947 to George Nutman Inc., Brooklyn, and subsequently scrapped– just 11 years after her completion.

Of her sisters, only class leader, Porter, was lost, torpedoed in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in 1942. The other six Porters managed to complete the war in one piece and, save for USS Winslow, were paid off by 1946. As for Winslow, she endured for a while longer as an experimental unit and only went to the breakers in 1959.

Besides Phelps’ torpedoes on the bottom of the Coral Sea, she is remembered in maritime art.

Tom Freeman (American, born 1952) U.S.S. Arizona passes Diamond Head on November 28, 1941. U.S.S. Phelps (DD-360) is the escort

USS Phelps (DD-360) in her final form. Off the New York Navy Yard, 8 August 1945 in Measure 21. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-87408

Displacement: 1,850 tons, 2,663 fl
Length: 381 ft (116 m)
Beam: 36 ft 2 in (11.02 m)
Draft: 10 ft 5 in (3.18 m)
Propulsion: 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers. Geared Bethlehem Turbines,2 screws, 50,000 shp (37,285 kW)
Speed: 37 knots (65 km/h)
Range: 6,500 nmi. at 12 knots (12,000 km at 22 km/h) on 635 tons fuel oil
Complement: 194 (designed) later swelled to 276 with new systems, AAA suite
Sensors: SC search radar, QC sonar
Armor: Splinter protection (STS) for bridge, guns, and machinery
Armament:
As Built:
1 x Mk33 Gun Fire Control System
8 × 5″(127mm)/38cal SP (4×2), though only three turrets (6 guns) fitted
8 × 1.1″(28mm) AA (2×4),
2 × .50 Cal water-cooled AA (2×1),
8 x 21″(533mm) torpedo tubes two Mark 14 quadruple mounts (2×4) with 16 torpedoes carried
2 Depth Charge stern racks, 600lb charges
c1944:
1 × Mk37 Gun Fire Control System,
5 × 5″(127mm)/38cal DP (2ࡨ,1ࡧ),
1 × Mk51 Gun Director,
4 × Bofors 40mm AA (1ࡪ),
8 × Oerlikon 20mm AA (8ࡧ),
8 x 21″(533mm) torpedo tubes two Mark 14 quadruple mounts (2×4) with 8 torpedos carried, later removed by 1945
2 Depth Charge stern racks, 600lb charges
4 300lb K-Gun Depth Charge throwers, 2 stdb, 2 port

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The Aircraft Carrier and World War II

When war came again, the aircraft carrier became a major part of naval operations, and had an significant impact on the conduct of the Second World War. Aerial combat was a major factor throughout the worldwide conflict, and aircraft carriers provided a base for these attack runs. Especially in the Pacific, where much of the war was fought on the sea, carriers played a large role in combat.

One of the first examples of the power and importance of the aircraft carrier came in 1940, when HMS Illustrious of the Royal Navy carried out a strike against the Italian Fleet from a range that would otherwise have been impossible. The US Navy showed off the capabilities of its carriers during the Doolittle Raid, the “revenge” strike against Tokyo in April of 1942.

Despite their versatility in combat, aircraft carriers also proved to be vulnerable compared to other traditional warships. The importance of the carrier led to the design of the so-called light carriers, a smaller but quicker-to-build version of the standard aircraft carrier. For the United States, the USS Independence (CVL-22) was an example of a light carrier that was converted from the hull of a cruiser.


Chronology: 1920-1929

Feb. 25, 1920. Establishment of an Air Service School is authorized at Langley Field, Va.

Feb. 27, 1920. Army Maj. R.W. “Shorty” Schroeder sets a world altitude record of 33,114 feet in the Packard-LePere LUSAC-11 biplane over McCook Field, Ohio.

June 4, 1920. The Army Reorganization Bill is approved, changing the title from Director to Chief of Air service, and endowing the Army Air Service with 1,514 officers and 16,000 enlisted men.

June 5, 1920. A provision in the Fiscal Year 1921 appropriations bill restricts the Army Air Service to operating from land bases.

Feb. 22, 1921. American transcontinental airmail service begins. The route between San Francisco and Mineola, N.Y., is flown in 14 segments by pilots flying US-built de Havilland DH-4s. The first flight, made mostly in bad weather, takes 33 hours, 20 minutes.

June 8, 1921. The first flight of an Army Air Service pressurized cabin airplane occurs.

July 13–21, 1921. In a series of tests off the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, Army crews from the First Provisional Air Brigade at Langley Field, Va., flying Martin MB-2 bombers, sink three ships, including the captured German battleship Ostfriesland, demonstrating the vulnerability of naval craft to aerial attack.

Aug. 3, 1921. Lt. John A. Macready, flying a Curtiss JN-6 “Jenny” fitted with a 32-gallon hopper tank filled with insecticide dust, performs the world’s first successful aerial crop dusting. The spray system is devised to save a grove of catalpa trees near Troy, Ohio, being devoured by Catalpa Sphinx caterpillars. Flying at 20 to 35 feet back and forth over the trees, Macready spreads the dust completely and all the caterpillars are killed within 46 hours.

Sept. 26, 1921. Sadi Lecointe pushes the recognized absolute speed record past 200 mph, as he hits 205.223 mph in the Nieuport-Delage Sesquiplane at Ville-sauvage, France.

Nov. 12, 1921. Wesley May, with a five-gallon can of gasoline strapped to his back, climbs from the wing of one aircraft to the wing of another in the first “air-to-air” refueling.

March 20, 1922. USS Langley (CV-1), the Navy’s first aircraft carrier, is commissioned in Norfolk, Va. The ship is converted from the collier USS Jupiter.

June–July 1922. Army Air Service Balloon and Airship School established at Scott Field, consolidating balloon and airship training activities previously conducted at Brooks Field, Tex., Langley Field, Va., and Ross Field, Calif.

July 1, 1922. Congress authorizes the conversion of the unfinished battle cruisers Lexington and Saratoga to aircraft carriers.

Sept. 4, 1922. AAS Lt. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, flying a deHavilland DH-4B, takes off from Pablo Beach, Fla., and lands at Rockwell Field, San Diego, 21 hours and 20 minutes later, marking the first flight across the US in a single day. Doolittle only makes one refueling stop (at Kelly Field, Tex.) during the 2,163-mile trip.

Oct. 17, 1922. The first aircraft carrier takeoff in US Navy history is made by Navy Lt. V.C. Griffin in a Vought VE-7SF from USS Langley (CV-1), at anchor in the York River in Virginia.

Oct. 18, 1922. Army Brig. Gen. William H. “Billy” Mitchell becomes the first US military pilot to hold the recognized absolute speed record, as he sets a mark of 222.97 mph in the Curtiss R-6 at Selfridge Field, Mich. This is also the first time the world speed record has been certified outside of France.

Oct. 20, 1922. Army Lt. Harold R. Harris becomes the first American pilot to save himself by use of a parachute, bailing out of a Loening PW-2A that had shed its wings in flight over McCook Field, Ohio.

Dec. 18, 1922. Col. Thurman H. Bane makes the first flight of the Army Air Service’s first rotorcraft at McCook Field, Ohio. Bane reaches an altitude of six feet, covers nearly 300 feet, and hovers for one minute and 42 seconds. The 65-foot diameter X-shaped vehicle, developed by George de Bothezat, a Russian immigrant working for the Army, utilizes four six-bladed rotors for lift. Several subsequent tests were all successful, but the Army loses interest in the project.

May 2–3, 1923. Army Lt. Oakley G. Kelly and Lt. John A. Macready complete the first nonstop transcontinental flight. The trip from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, N. Y., to Rockwell Field, San Diego, in the Fokker T-2 takes 26 hours, 50 minutes, and 38 seconds and covers 2,520 miles.

Sept. 4, 1923. First flight of the airship USS Shenandoah (ZR-1) is made at NAF Lakehurst, N.J. The airship will make 57 flights in two years before it is destroyed by a storm near Marietta, Ohio.

Sept. 18, 1923. The first mid-air hookup of an airplane to an airship takes place over Langley Field, Va., as a pilot flying a Sperry M-1 Messenger, with its top-wing mounted trapeze, hooks on to a rig suspended below the Goodyear D-3 airship and shuts the engine down. The Messenger, the smallest aircraft ever built for the Army, is intended as a “dispatch rider of the sky,” relaying messages between field commanders. This test is one of several experimental tasks the aircraft would be used to accomplish.

Sept. 28, 1923. At Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, off England’s southern coast, Navy Lt. David Rittenhouse claims the Schneider Cup for the United States for the first time. Flying a Curtiss CR-3, Rittenhouse wins the prestigious seaplane race with an average speed of 177.37 mph.

Feb. 5, 1924. Army 2nd Lt. Joseph C. Morrow Jr., qualifies as the 24th and last Military Aviator under the rules set up for that rating.

March 4, 1924. The Army Air Service takes on a new mission: aerial icebreaking. Two Martin bombers and two DH-4s bomb the frozen Platte River at North Bend, Neb., for six hours before the ice clears.

April 6–Sept. 28, 1924. The Army Air Service completes the first circumnavigation of the globe. Four crews in Douglas World Cruisers begin the voyage in Seattle, but only two aircraft and crews (Chicago, with pilot Lt. Lowell Smith and Lt. Leslie Arnold aboard and New Orleans, with pilot Lt. Erik Nelson and Lt. Jack Harding) complete the 175-day, 27,553-mile, 371-hour, 11-minute trip.

June 23, 1924. Army Lt. Russell L. Maughan makes the first dawn to dusk flight across the US. Taking off at first light in a Curtiss PW 8 from Mitchel Field, N.Y., Maughan races the sun across the continent and, after five refueling stops, lands in San Francisco 21 hours, 48.5 minutes later. Although he does not actually land before the sunsets, he is credited with the dawn to dusk flight because of the loss of one hour and 20 minutes at McCook Field, Ohio, as his airplane had to be repaired because an over eager mechanic accidentally twisted off a fuel line vent with a wrench that was too large.

Oct. 12–15, 1924. As part of World War I reparations, the German zeppelin LZ-126 is flown from Friedrichshafen, Germany, to NAF Lakehurst, N.J. The Navy will later christen the airship USS Los Angeles (ZR-3).

Oct. 28, 1924. Army Air Service airplanes break up cloud formations at 13,000 feet over Bolling Field, D.C., by “blasting” them with electrified sand.

Dec. 13, 1924. Army Lt. Cliff Finter attached and detached a Sperry Messenger airplane to the TC-3 airship from an altitude of 3,000 feet over Scott Field, Ill.

Jan. 24, 1925. The Navy airship USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), with 25 scientists and astronomers on board, is used to make observations of a solar eclipse.

Feb. 2, 1925. President Calvin Coolidge signs the Kelly Act, authorizing the air transport of mail under contract. This is the first major legislative step toward the creation of a US airline industry.

July 15, 1925. The A. Hamilton Rice Expedition, the first group of explorers to use an airplane, returns to the US. The expedition, which used a Curtiss Seagull floatplane, discovered the headwaters of the Amazon River.

Sept. 11, 1925. Army Lt. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle loses a coin toss to Navy Lt. Al Williams to be first to fly the Curtiss R3C-1 racer at Garden City, N.Y. The aircraft, which could be fitted either with landing gear or floats, would go on to win both the Pulitzer Trophy and Schneider Cup races the next month.

Oct. 26, 1925. Army Lt. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, flying the Curtiss R3C-2 floatplane racer, wins the Schneider Cup race in Baltimore with an average speed of 232.57 mph. This marks back-to-back wins for the United States and the only time the Army had competed in a seaplane race. (Note: The US won the Schneider Cup race in 1923, and the race was not held in 1924.) The next day, Doolittle sets a world seaplane speed record of 245.713 mph over a three-kilometer course.

Dec. 17, 1925. Airpower pioneer Billy Mitchell is found guilty of violating the 96th Article of War (“conduct of a nature to bring discredit on the military service”) and is sentenced to a five-year suspension of rank, pay, and command. Already demoted from brigadier general, Colonel Mitchell decides instead to resign from the Army.

“Billy Mitchell: Warrior, Prophet, Martyr,” Air Force Magazine, September 1985 (not yet online)

Jan. 8, 1926. The 719,000 cubic-foot semi-rigid RS-1 airship, the largest semi-rigid in the world, makes its maiden flight from Scott Field, Ill.

Jan. 16, 1926. The Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics is founded.

March 16, 1926. Robert H. Goddard launches the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket at Auburn, Mass.

May 20, 1926. President Calvin Coolidge signs the Air Commerce Act, the cornerstone of the federal government’ s regulation of civil aviation. The act charges the Secretary of Commerce with fostering air commerce, licensing pilots, issuing and enforcing air traffic rules, certificating aircraft, establishing airways, and operating and maintaining aids to navigation.

July 2, 1926. US Army Air Service becomes US Army Air Corps as the Air Corps Act of 1926 goes into effect. The act sets a goal of 1,800 serviceable aircraft and 16,650 personnel by Jan. 30, 1932, but the Depression will prevent this goal from being reached.

July 2, 1926. Congress establishes the Distinguished Flying Cross (made retroactive to April 6, 1917).

Dec. 21, 1926–May 2, 1927. In an effort to garner publicity for the newly established Army Air Corps (and to show that the Army was more adept at long distance flight over land or water than the Navy), five Air Corps crews, led by Capt. Ira C. Eaker and Lt. Muir S. Fairchild, make a 22,000-mile goodwill tour of 25 Central and South American countries in Loening OA-1A amphibians. The flight starts at Kelly Field, Tex., and ends at Bolling Field, D.C.

May 20–21, 1927. The first solo nonstop transatlantic flight is completed by Charles A. Lindbergh in the Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis: New York to Paris in 33 hours, 32 minutes. Lindbergh’s achievements will be recognized by the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross, and by special act of Congress, the Medal of Honor.

May 25,1927. AAC Lt. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle flies the first successful outside loop.

June 28–29, 1927. AAC Lt. Albert Hegenberger (navigator) and Lt. Lester Maitland (pilot) make the first flight from the US mainland to Hawaii. Flying a modified Fokker C-2 nicknamed Bird of Paradise, the duo leaves Oakland, Calif., travel 2,407 miles and arrive at Wheeler Field 25 hours and 50 minutes later. The flight is primarily a demonstration of the Army’s advances in navigation (and also to show up the Navy). Hegenberger and Maitland would later be awarded the Mackay Trophy for 1927.

Sept. 16, 1927. In a staged publicity event, MGM Studios attempts to make the first nonstop flight across the US with an animal on board an aircraft. Noted pilot Martin Jensen was chosen to fly Leo, MGM’s trademark lion, from San Diego, Calif., to New York City for a promotional tour. Man and beast never arrive, however. After a nationwide search and three days of front-page headlines, Jensen and Leo are found unhurt in the Arizona desert. A storm had forced Jensen down, and the Ryan BI monoplane (that had been fitted with a steel cage for Leo) was heavily damaged on landing.

Oct. 12, 1927. Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, is formally dedicated as the Army Air Corp’s new test center. The citizens of Dayton raise $400,673 to purchase 4,000 acres of land east of the city for the new facility. McCook Field, which had been the center of military aviation research and development for the past 10 years, but which was too small and had no room for expansion, is closed.

Nov. 4, 1927. Using a free balloon, Capt. Hawthorne C. Gray achieves a world record altitude of 42,470 feet, but his death nullifies the record.

Nov. 16, 1927. The US Navy’s second designated aircraft carrier—USS Saratoga (CV-3)—is commissioned. The ship will later be deliberately destroyed during a 1946 atomic bomb test.

Jan. 27, 1928. The Navy airship USS Los Angeles (ZR-3) lands on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) near Newport, R.I., and resumes its patrol after replenishment.

Feb. 15, 1928. President Calvin Coolidge signs a bill authorizing acceptance of a new site near San Antonio to become the Army Air Corps training center. This center is now Randolph Air Force Base.

March 1–9, 1928. AAC Lt. Burnie R. Dallas and Beckwith Havens make the first transcontinental flight in an amphibious airplane. Total flight time in the Loening Amphibian is 32 hours, 45 minutes.

March 30, 1928. Italian Maj. Mario de Bernardi pushes the recognized absolute speed record past 300 mph, as he hits 318.624 mph in the Macchi M.52R at Venice, Italy.

April 15–21, 1928. Britain George Hubert Wilkins and American Carl B. Eielson, a former AAC lieutenant for whom Eielson AFB, Alaska, is named, fly from Point Barrow, Alaska, across the Arctic Ocean to Spitsbergen, Norway, in a Lockheed Vega. This first west-to-east trip over the top of the world takes only 21 hours of flying, but the duo is delayed by weather. Wilkins was knighted for the exploit.

May 12, 1928. Lt. Julian S. Dexter of the Army Air Corps Reserve completes a 3,000-square-mile aerial mapping assignment over the Florida Everglades. The project takes 65 hours of flying, spread over two months.

May 30–31, 1928. Capt. William E. Kepner and Lt. William O. Eareckson won the National Balloon Elimination Race and the accompanying Paul W. Litchfield Trophy.

June 9, 1928. For the third consecutive year, Lt. Earle E. Partridge wins the distinguished gunnery badge at the Army Air Corps Machine Gunning Matches at Langley Field, Va.

June 15, 1928. Lt. Karl S. Axtater and Lt. Edward H. White, flying in an Army Air Corps blimp directly over an Illinois Central train, dip down and hand a mailbag to the postal clerk on the train, thus completing the first aircraft-to-train transfer.

June 30, 1928. Capt. William E. Kepner and Lt. William O. Eareckson took first place at the James Gordon Bennett International balloon Race, bringing the Army Air Corps international recognition for its lighter-than-air activities.

Aug. 1, 1928. Airmail rates rise to five cents for the first ounce and 10 cents for each additional ounce.

Sept. 22, 1928. The number of people whose lives have been saved by parachutes exceeds 100 when Lt. Roger V. Williams bails out over San Diego.

Oct. 11–15, 1928. The German Graf Zeppelin (LZ-127) makes the first transoceanic voyage by an airship carrying paying passengers. Graf Zeppelin travels from Friedrichshafen, Germany, to NAF Lakehurst, N.J., in nearly 112 hours, with 20 passengers and a crew of 37.

Nov. 11, 1928. In a Lockheed Vega, Sir George Hubert Wilkins, who was knighted for his previous feat on April 15–21, 1928, and Carl B. Eielson make the first flight over Antarctica.

Jan. 1–7, 1929. Question Mark, a Fokker C-2 commanded by AAC Maj. Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz, sets an endurance record for a refueled aircraft of 150 hours, 40 minutes, 14 seconds. The crew includes AAC Capt. Ira C. Eaker, Lt. Elwood R. Quesada, Lt. Harry Halverson, and Sgt. Roy Hooe.

Jan. 23–27, 1929. The aircraft carriers USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Saratoga (CV-3) participate in fleet exercises attached to opposing forces.

Feb. 10–11, 1929. Evelyn Trout sets a women’s solo flight endurance record of 17 hours, 21 minutes, 37 seconds in the monoplane Golden Eagle.

April 24, 1929. Elinor Smith, 17 years old, sets a women’s solo endurance record of 26 hours, 21 minutes, 32 seconds in a Bellanca CH monoplane at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, N.Y.

May 16, 1929. At the first Academy Award ceremonies in Los Angeles, Calif., the Paramount movie “Wings” wins the Oscar for Best Picture for 1927–28. The World War I flying epic stars Richard Arlen, Buddy Rogers, and Clara Bow. A young Gary Cooper has a minor role.

Sept. 24, 1929. AAC Lt. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle makes the first blind, all-instrument flight at Mitchel Field, N.Y., in a completely covered cockpit (accompanied by check pilot). He takes off, flies a short distance, and lands.

“Flying Blind,” Air Force Magazine, September 1989 (not yet online)

Sept. 30, 1929. At Frankfurt, Germany, Fritz von Opel travels just over a mile in the world’s first flight of a rocket-powered airplane. The Rak-1 tops 85 mph but crashes.

Nov. 23, 1929. After visiting Robert H. Goddard, Charles A. Lindbergh arranges a grant of $50,000 from the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics to support Goddard’s work with rockets.

Nov. 29, 1929. Navy Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, Bernt Balchen, Army Capt. Ashley McKinley, and Harold June make the first flight over the South Pole. Balchen is the pilot of the Ford Trimotor, Floyd Bennett.

Dec. 31, 1929. The Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics ends its activities.


Specifications (TBD-1) [ edit | edit source ]

Data from Devastator. The Not-so-Devastating TBD-1 ⎰]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Three: Pilot, Torpedo Officer/Navigator, Radioman/Gunner
  • Length: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)
  • Wingspan: 50 ft 0 in (15.24 m)
  • Height: 15 ft 1 in (4.60 m)
  • Wing area: 422 ft² (39.2 m²)
  • Empty weight: 5,600 lb (2,540 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 9,289 lb (4,213 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 10,194 lb (4,624 kg)
  • Powerplant: One × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp radial engine, 900 hp (672 kW) each
  • Maximum speed: 206 mph (179 knots, 331 km/h) at 8,000 ft (2,400 m)
  • Cruise speed: 128 mph (111 knots, 206 km/h)
  • Range: 435 mi (700 km) (378 nmi, 700 km)with Mk XIII Torpedo, 716 mi (623 nmi, 1,152 km) with 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs
  • Service ceiling: 19,500 ft (5,945 m)
  • Rate of climb: 720 ft/min (3.7 m/s)
  • Guns:
    • 1 × forward-firing 0.30 in (7.62 mm)or0.50 (12.7 mm) machine gun
    • 1 × 0.30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun in rear cockpit (later increased to two)
    • 1 × Mark XIII torpedoor
    • 1 × 1,000 lb (454 kg) bomb or
    • 2 × 500 lb (227 kg) bombs or
    • 12 × 100 lb (45 kg) bombs

    Get to the choppa: Battlewagon edition

    An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter is secured by flight deck crewmen aboard the battleship Iowa (BB-61) on 1 Sep 1985. Official USN photo # DN-ST-86-02511, by PHC Jeff Hilton,

    The Iowa-class battleships received official helicopter pads and a helicopter control station below their after 5-inch director–although no hangar facilities– in the 1980s during their Lehman 600-ship Navy modernization.

    The helicopter control station on the 02 level of the battleship Iowa (BB-61). Official USN photo # DN-ST-86-09557, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

    They used them to host visiting Navy SH-60 and SH-2s, as well as the occasional Marine UH-1, CH-46, and CH-53 while also running their own early RQ-2A Pioneer UAV detachments–to which Iraqi units would later surrender to during the 1st Gulf War.

    Crew members aboard Iowa (BB-61) wait for a Helicopter Light Anti-Submarine Squadron 34 (HSL-34) SH-2F Seasprite helicopter to be secured before transporting a badly burned sailor injured during NATO exercise North Wedding 86. Official USN photo # DN-ST-87-00280, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

    CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter approaches the landing area at the stern of the battleship USS IOWA (BB 61)

    A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter is parked on the helicopter pad during flight operations aboard the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61).

    A U.S. Marine Corps Boeing Vertol CH-46D Sea Knight (BuNo 154023) of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (HMM-165) prepares to land aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64). The helicopter was transporting Allied military personnel who were coming aboard the ship to be briefed by Wisconsin´s Commanding Officer, Capt. D.S. Bill. The meeting was taking place during the 1991 Gulf War. 6 February 1991 Navy Photo DN-ST-92-07868 by PH2 Robert Clare, USN

    However, it by far was not the first time those dreadnoughts sported whirly-birds.

    1948-55

    Back in 1948, while the ships still had floatplane catapults and a quartet of Curtiss SC-2 Seahawk floatplanes on their stern, USS Missouri (BB-63) accommodated a visiting experimental Sikorsky S-51, piloted by D. D. (Jimmy) Viner, a chief test pilot for Sikorsky.

    Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter (Bureau # 122527) landing on Missouri’s forward 16-inch gun turret, during the 1948 Midshipmen’s cruise. Guard mail, ships’ newspapers, and personnel were exchanged via helicopter while the Midshipmen’s cruise squadron was at sea. Most exchanges were made by hovering pick-up. The forward turret was used as a landing platform since the floatplane catapults on the ship’s fantail prevented helicopters from operating there. The photo was filed on 13 September 1948. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-706093

    With the cats deleted in the early 1950s, the Iowas saw more HO3s, now equipped with folding blade rotors and externally-mounted rescue hoists.

    USS New Jersey (BB-62) A Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter of squadron HU-1 takes off from the battleship’s afterdeck, while she was operating off Korea. The upraised green flag signifies that the pilot has permission to take off. Crash crew, in yellow helmets, are standing by with fire hoses ready. This helicopter is Bureau # 124350. The photograph is dated 14 April 1953. The photographer is Lt. R.C. Timm. 80-G-K-16320

    USS Iowa (BB-61) steams out of Wonsan harbor, Korea, after a day’s bombardment. The photograph is dated 18 April 1952. Note HO3S helicopter parked on the battleship’s after deck. Also, note the WWII catapults are deleted but the floatplane crane is still on her stern. NH 44537

    USS Wisconsin (BB-64) snow falling on the battleship’s after deck, 8 February 1952, while she was serving with Task Force 77 in Korean waters. Note 16″/50cal guns of her after turret, and Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter parked on deck. Photographed by AF3c M.R. Adkinson. 80-G-441035

    Four Marine HO4S/H-19 (Sikorsky S-55) and one Navy HO3S/H5 on the fantail of USS Missouri during the Korean War, 1952. The H-19s are likely of HMR-161, which largely proved the use of such aircraft in Korea.

    Vietnam

    New Jersey also supported the occasional helicopter during her reactivation in the Vietnam war. Notably, she received 16-inch shells and powder tanks from USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) by H-34 helicopter lift, the first time heavy battleship ammunition had been transferred by helicopter at sea.

    New Jersey (BB-62) underway off the Virginia Capes with an SH-3D Sea King from HS-3 “Tridents”, (attached to the Randolph CVS-15 and a squadron of CVSG-56), about to land on the fantail. However, it is more likely that the helicopter flew out to the “Big J” from NAS Norfolk. Official Navy Photograph # K-49736, taken by PH3 E. J. Bonner on 24 May 1968, via Navsource.

    Two UH-1 Huey helicopters resting on the fantail of the New Jersey (BB-62) during her service in December 1968 off Vietnam. Courtesy of Howard Serig, via Navsource.

    But wait, old boy

    With all that being said, it should be pointed out that it was the Brits who first successfully used a helicopter on their last battlewagon, HMS Vanguard, in 1947, a full year before Missouri’s first rotor-wing visit.

    Landing a Sikorsky R4 helicopter on the aft deck of the battleship Vanguard February 1, 1947

    And Vanguard would go on to operate both RN FAA Westland WS-51 Dragonflies and USN Piasecki HUP-2s on occasion in the 1950s.

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    Contents

    Ordered on 30 June 1934, and entered into a US Navy competition for new bomber aircraft to operate from its aircraft carriers, the Douglas entry was one of the winners of the competition. [1] Other aircraft ordered for production as a result of the competition included the Northrop BT-1 which would evolve into the SBD Dauntless, the Brewster SBA and the Vought SB2U Vindicator. [2] [N 1]

    The XTBD Devastator, which flew for the first time on 15 April 1935, marked a large number of "firsts" for the US Navy. [3] It was the first widely used carrier-based monoplane as well as the first all-metal naval aircraft, the first with a totally enclosed cockpit, the first with power-actuated (hydraulically) folding wings and in these respects the TBD was revolutionary. [4] A semi-retractable landing gear was fitted, with the wheels designed to protrude 10 in (250 mm) below the wings to permit a "wheels-up" landing which might limit damage to the aircraft. A crew of three was normally carried beneath a large "greenhouse" canopy almost half the length of the aircraft. The pilot sat in front a rear gunner/radio operator took the rearmost position, while the bombardier occupied the middle seat. During a bombing run, the bombardier lay prone, sliding into position under the pilot to sight through a window in the bottom of the fuselage, using the Norden Bombsight. [5]

    The normal TBD offensive armament consisted of either a 1,935 lb (878 kg) Bliss-Leavitt Mark 13 aerial torpedo or a 1,000 lb (450 kg) bomb, to be carried semi-recessed into a fuselage bomb bay. Alternatively, three 500 lb (230 kg) general-purpose bombs (one under each wing root and one inside the bomb bay), or twelve 100 lb (45 kg) fragmentation bombs (six under each wing root), could be carried. This weapons load was often used when attacking Japanese targets on the Gilbert and Marshall Islands in 1942. [5] Defensive armament consisted of a .30 in (7.62 mm) Browning machine gun for the rear gunner. Fitted in the starboard side of the cowling was either a .30 in (7.62 mm) or .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun. [5]

    The powerplant was a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp radial engine of 850 hp (630 kW), an outgrowth of the prototype's Pratt & Whitney XR-1830-60/R-1830-1 of 800 hp (600 kW). [6] Other changes from the 1935 prototype included a revised engine cowling [7] and raising the cockpit canopy to improve visibility. [4]

    The XTBD had a flat canopy that was replaced on production models by a higher, domed canopy over a rollover bar. Other than requests by test pilots to improve pilot visibility, the prototype easily passed its acceptance trials that took place from 24 April-24 November 1935 at NAS (Naval Air Station) Anacostia and Norfolk bases. After successfully completing torpedo drop tests, the prototype was transferred to the USS Lexington for carrier certification. [8] The extended service trials continued until 1937 with the first two production aircraft retained by the company exclusively for testing. [9]

    A total of 129 of the type were purchased by the US Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer), and starting from 1937, began to equip the carriers USS Saratoga, Enterprise, Lexington, Wasp, Hornet, Yorktown and Ranger. In prewar use, TBD units were engaged in training and other operational activities and were gradually approaching the end of their useful service life with at least one aircraft being converted to target tug duty. [10] By 1940, the US Navy was aware that the TBD had become outclassed by the fighters and bombers of other nations and a replacement [N 2] was in the works, but it was not yet in service when the US entered World War II. By then, attrition had reduced their numbers to just over 100 aircraft. [11] The US Navy assigned popular names to its aircraft in late 1941, and the TBD became the Devastator, although its nickname "torpecker" was commonly used. [12]

    The TBD is prominently featured in the 1941 film Dive Bomber.


    USN Aircraft Carriers

    Jupiter (AC-3) was laid down 18 October 1911 by Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif. launched 14 August 1912 sponsored by Mrs. Thomas F. Ruhm and commissioned 7 April 1913, Comdr. Joseph M. Reeves in command.

    Jupiter (AC-3) was laid down 18 October 1911 by Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif. launched 14 August 1912 sponsored by Mrs. Thomas F. Ruhm and commissioned 7 April 1913, Comdr. Joseph M. Reeves in command.

    After successfully passing her trials, Jupiter, the first electrically-propelled ship of the U.S. Navy, embarked a Marine detachment at San Francisco and reported to the Pacific Fleet at Mazatlan, Mexico, 27 April 1914, bolstering U.S. naval strength on the Mexican Pacific coast during the tense days of the Vera Cruz crisis. She remained on the Pacific coast until she departed for Philadelphia, 10 October. En route the collier steamed through the Panama canal on Columbus Day &#8212 the first vessel to transit it from west to east.


    Prior to America's entry into World War I, she cruised the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico attached to the Atlantic Fleet Auxiliary Division. The ship arrived Norfolk 6 April 1917, and, assigned to Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS), interrupted her coaling operations by two cargo voyages to France in June 1917 and November 1918. She was back in Norfolk 23 January 1919 whence she sailed for Brest, France, 8 March for coaling duty in European waters to expedite the return of victorious veterans to the United States. Upon reaching Norfolk 17 August 1919, the ship was transferred to the west coast. Her conversion to an aircraft carrier was authorized 11 July 1919, and she sailed to Hampton Roads, Va., 12 December where she decommissioned 24 March 1910.

    Jupiter was converted into the first U.S. aircraft carrier at the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Va., for the purpose of conducting experiments in the new idea of seaborne aviation, a field of unlimited possibilities. Her name was changed to Langley 11 April 1920 she was reclassified CV-1 and recommissloned 20 March 1922, Comdr. Kenneth Whiting in command.

    As the first Navy carrier, Langley was the scene of numerous momentous events. On 17 October 1922 Lt. Virgil C. Griffin piloted the first plane, a VE7-SF, launched from her decks. Though this was not the first time an airplane had taken off from a ship, and though Langley was not the first ship with an installed flight-deck, this one launching was of monumental importance to the modern U.S. Navy. The era of the aircraft carrier was born introducing into the Navy what was to become the vanguard of its forces in the future. With Langley underway 9 days later, Lt. Comdr. G. DeC. Chevalier made the first landing in an Aeromarine. On 18 November Commander Whiting, at the controls of a PT, was the first aviator to be catapulted from a carrier's deck.

    By 15 January 1923 Langley had begun flight operations and tests in the Caribbean for carrier landings. In June she steamed to Washington, D.C., to give a demonstration at a flying exhibition before civil and military dignitaries. She arrived Norfolk 13 June and commenced training along the Atlantic coast and Caribbean which carried her through the end of the gear. In 1924 Langley participated in more maneuvers and exhibitions, and spent the summer at Norfolk for repairs and alterations, she departed for the west coast late in the year and arrived San Diego 29 November to join the Pacific Battle Fleet. For the next 12 years she operated off the California coast and Hawaii engaged in training fleet units, experimentation, pilot training, and tactical-fleet problems. On 25 October 1936 she put into Mare Island Navy Yard, Calif., for overhaul and conversion to a seaplane tender. Though her career as a carrier had ended, her well-trained pilots proved invaluable to the next two carriers, USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Saratoga (CV-3).


    Langley completed conversion 26 February 1937 and was reclassified AV-3 on 11 April she was assigned to Aircraft Scouting Force and commenced her tending operations out of Seattle, Sitka, Pearl Harbor, and San Diego. She departed for a brief deployment with the Atlantic Fleet from 1 February to 10 July 1939, and then steamed to assume her duties with the Pacific fleet at Manila arriving 24 September.


    At the outbreak of World War II, Langley was anchored off Cavite, Philippine Islands. She departed 8 December and proceeded to Balikpapan, Borneo, and Darwin, Australia, where she arrived 1 January 1942. Until 11 January Langley assisted the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in running antisubmarine patrols out of Darwin. She was then assigned to American-British-Dutch-Australian forces assembling in Indonesia to challenge the Japanese thrust in that direction. She departed Fremantle, Australia, 22 February in convoy, and left the convoy 5 days later to deliver 32 P-40s to Tjilatjap, Java.


    Early in the morning 27 February 1942, Langley rendezvoused with her antisubmarine screen, destroyers USS Whipple (DD-217) and USS Edsall (DD-219). At 1140 nine twin-engine enemy bombers attacked her. The first and second Japanese strikes were unsuccessful but during the third Langley took five hits. Aircraft topside burst into flames, steering was impaired, and the ship took a 10 degree list to port. Unable to negotiate the narrow mouth of Tjilatjap Harbor, Langley went dead in the water as in-rushing water flooded her main motors. At 1332 the order to abandon ship was passed. The escorting destroyers fired nine 4-inch shells and two torpedoes into the old tender to insure her sinking. She went down about 75 miles south of Tjilatjap with a loss of 16.

    After successfully passing her trials, Jupiter, the first electrically-propelled ship of the U.S. Navy, embarked a Marine detachment at San Francisco and reported to the Pacific Fleet at Mazatlan, Mexico, 27 April 1914, bolstering U.S. naval strength on the Mexican Pacific coast during the tense days of the Vera Cruz crisis. She remained on the Pacific coast until she departed for Philadelphia, 10 October. En route the collier steamed through the Panama canal on Columbus Day &#8212 the first vessel to transit it from west to east.


    Prior to America's entry into World War I, she cruised the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico attached to the Atlantic Fleet Auxiliary Division. The ship arrived Norfolk 6 April 1917, and, assigned to Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS), interrupted her coaling operations by two cargo voyages to France in June 1917 and November 1918. She was back in Norfolk 23 January 1919 whence she sailed for Brest, France, 8 March for coaling duty in European waters to expedite the return of victorious veterans to the United States. Upon reaching Norfolk 17 August 1919, the ship was transferred to the west coast. Her conversion to an aircraft carrier was authorized 11 July 1919, and she sailed to Hampton Roads, Va., 12 December where she decommissioned 24 March 1910.


    Jupiter was converted into the first U.S. aircraft carrier at the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Va., for the purpose of conducting experiments in the new idea of seaborne aviation, a field of unlimited possibilities. Her name was changed to Langley 11 April 1920 she was reclassified CV-1 and recommissloned 20 March 1922, Comdr. Kenneth Whiting in command.


    As the first Navy carrier, Langley was the scene of numerous momentous events. On 17 October 1922 Lt. Virgil C. Griffin piloted the first plane, a VE7-SF, launched from her decks. Though this was not the first time an airplane had taken off from a ship, and though Langley was not the first ship with an installed flight-deck, this one launching was of monumental importance to the modern U.S. Navy. The era of the aircraft carrier was born introducing into the Navy what was to become the vanguard of its forces in the future. With Langley underway 9 days later, Lt. Comdr. G. DeC. Chevalier made the first landing in an Aeromarine. On 18 November Commander Whiting, at the controls of a PT, was the first aviator to be catapulted from a carrier's deck.


    By 15 January 1923 Langley had begun flight operations and tests in the Caribbean for carrier landings. In June she steamed to Washington, D.C., to give a demonstration at a flying exhibition before civil and military dignitaries. She arrived Norfolk 13 June and commenced training along the Atlantic coast and Caribbean which carried her through the end of the gear. In 1924 Langley participated in more maneuvers and exhibitions, and spent the summer at Norfolk for repairs and alterations, she departed for the west coast late in the year and arrived San Diego 29 November to join the Pacific Battle Fleet. For the next 12 years she operated off the California coast and Hawaii engaged in training fleet units, experimentation, pilot training, and tactical-fleet problems. On 25 October 1936 she put into Mare Island Navy Yard, Calif., for overhaul and conversion to a seaplane tender. Though her career as a carrier had ended, her well-trained pilots proved invaluable to the next two carriers, USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Saratoga (CV-3).


    Langley completed conversion 26 February 1937 and was reclassified AV-3 on 11 April she was assigned to Aircraft Scouting Force and commenced her tending operations out of Seattle, Sitka, Pearl Harbor, and San Diego. She departed for a brief deployment with the Atlantic Fleet from 1 February to 10 July 1939, and then steamed to assume her duties with the Pacific fleet at Manila arriving 24 September.


    At the outbreak of World War II, Langley was anchored off Cavite, Philippine Islands. She departed 8 December and proceeded to Balikpapan, Borneo, and Darwin, Australia, where she arrived 1 January 1942. Until 11 January Langley assisted the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in running antisubmarine patrols out of Darwin. She was then assigned to American-British-Dutch-Australian forces assembling in Indonesia to challenge the Japanese thrust in that direction. She departed Fremantle, Australia, 22 February in convoy, and left the convoy 5 days later to deliver 32 P-40s to Tjilatjap, Java.


    Early in the morning 27 February 1942, Langley rendezvoused with her antisubmarine screen, destroyers USS Whipple (DD-217) and USS Edsall (DD-219). At 1140 nine twin-engine enemy bombers attacked her. The first and second Japanese strikes were unsuccessful but during the third Langley took five hits. Aircraft topside burst into flames, steering was impaired, and the ship took a 10 degree list to port. Unable to negotiate the narrow mouth of Tjilatjap Harbor, Langley went dead in the water as in-rushing water flooded her main motors. At 1332 the order to abandon ship was passed. The escorting destroyers fired nine 4-inch shells and two torpedoes into the old tender to insure her sinking. She went down about 75 miles south of Tjilatjap with a loss of 16.

    Courageneverdies

    SENIOR MEMBER


    displacement: 41,000 tons
    length: 888 feet
    beam: 105½ feet
    draft: 32 feet
    speed: 34¼ knots
    complement: 2,122 crew
    armament: 8 eight-inch and 12 five-inch guns
    aircraft: 81
    class: Lexington

    The fourth Lexington (CV 2) was originally designated CC 1 laid down as a battle cruiser 8 January 1921 by Fore River Shipbuilding Co., Quincy, Mass. authorized to be completed as an aircraft carrier 1 July 1922 launched 3 October 1925 sponsored by Mrs. Theodore Douglas Robinson, wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and commissioned 14 December 1927, Capt. Albert W. Marshall in command.


    After fitting out and shakedown, Lexington joined the battle fleet at San Pedro, Calif., 7 April 1928. Based there, she operated on the west coast with Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fleet, in flight training, tactical exercises, and battle problems . Each year she participated in fleet maneuvers in the Hawaiians, in the Caribbean, off the Panama Canal Zone, and in the eastern Pacific.


    On 16 January 1930, Lexington completed a 30-day period in which she furnished electricity to the city of Tacoma, Wash., in an emergency arising from a failure of the city's power supply. The electricity from the carrier totaled more than 4.25 million kilowatt-hours.


    In the fall of 1941 she sailed with the battle force to the Hawaiians for tactical exercises.


    On 7 December 1941 Lexington was at sea with Task Force 12 (TF 12) carrying marine aircraft from Pearl Harbor to reinforce Midway when word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was received. She immediately launched searchplanes to hunt for the Japanese fleet , and at mid-morning headed south to rendezvous with USS Indianapolis (CA 35) and USS Enterprise (CV 6) task forces to conduct a search southwest of Oahu until returning Pearl Harbor 18 December.

    Lexington sailed next day to raid Japanese forces on Jaluit to relieve pressure on Wake these orders were canceled 20 December, and she was directed to cover the USS Saratoga force in reinforcing Wake. When the island fell 23 December, the two carrier forces were recalled to Pearl Harbor, arriving 27 December.


    Lexington patrolled to block enemy raids In the Oahu-Johnston-Palmyra triangle until 11 January 1942, when she sailed from Pearl Harbor as flagship for Vice Adm. Wilson Brown commanding TF 11. On 16 February, the force headed for an attack on Rabaul, New Britain, scheduled for 21 February. While approaching the day previous, Lexington was attacked by two waves of enemy aircraft, nine planes to a wave. The carrier's own combat air patrol and antiaircraft fire splashed 17 of the attackers. During a single sortie Lt. E. H (Butch) O'Hare won the Medal of Honor by downing five planes.


    Her offensive patrols in the Coral Sea continued until 6 March, when she rendezvoused with USS Yorktown's TF 17 for a thoroughly successful surprise attack flown over the Owen Stanley mountains of New Guinea to inflict heavy damage on shipping and installations at Salamaua and Lae 10 March. She now returned to Pearl Harbor, arriving 26 March 1942. Lexington's task force sortied from Pearl Harbor 15 April, rejoining TF 17 on 1 May. As Japanese fleet concentrations threatening the Coral Sea were observed, Lexington and USS Yorktown (CV 5) moved into the sea to search for the enemy's force covering a projected troop movement. The Japanese must now be blocked in their southward expansion, or sea communication with Australia and New Zealand would be cut, and the dominions threatened with invasion.


    On 7 May 1942 search planes reported contact with an enemy carrier task force, and Lexington's air group flew an eminently successful mission against it, sinking light carrier Shoho. Later that day, 12 bombers and 15 torpedo planes from still-unlocated heavy carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku were intercepted by fighter groups from Lexington and Yorktown, who splashed nine enemy aircraft.


    On the morning of the 8th, a Lexington plane located the Shokaku group. A strike was immediately launched from the American carriers, and the Japanese ship was heavily damaged.

    The enemy penetrated to the American carriers at 1100, and 20 minutes later Lexington was struck by a torpedo to port. Seconds later, a second torpedo hit to port directly abreast the bridge. At the same time, she took three bomb hits from enemy dive bombers, producing a seven degree list to port and several raging fires. By 1300 her skilled damage control parties had brought the fires under control and returned the ship to even keel. Making 25 knots, she was ready to recover her air group. Then suddenly Lexington was shaken by a tremendous explosion, caused by the ignition of gasoline vapors below, and again fire raged out of control.


    At 1558 Capt. Frederick C. Sherman, fearing for the safety of men working below, secured salvage operations, and ordered all hands to the flight deck. At 1707, he ordered, "abandon ship!", and the orderly disembarkation began, men going over the side into the warm water, almost immediately to be picked up by nearby cruisers and destroyers. Admiral Fitch and his staff transferred to cruiser USS Minneapolis (CA 36) Captain Sherman and his executive officer, Cmdr. M. T. Seligman insured all their men were safe, then were the last to leave their ship.


    Lexington blazed on, flames shooting hundreds of feet into the air. The destroyer USS Phelps (DD 360) closed to 1500 yards and fired two torpedoes into her hull. With one last heavy explosion, Lexington sank at 1956 on 8 May 1942 at 15º 20' S., 155º 30' E. She was part of the price that was paid to halt the Japanese overseas empire and safeguard Australia and New Zealand, but perhaps an equally great contribution had been her pioneer role in developing the naval aviators and the techniques which played so vital a role in ultimate victory in the Pacific.


    Lexington received two battle stars for World War II service.

    Courageneverdies

    SENIOR MEMBER

    displacement: 33,000 tons
    length: 888 feet
    beam: 106 feet
    draft: 24 feet 1½ inches
    speed: 33.91 knots
    complement: 2,111 crew
    armament: 8 eight-inch and 12 five-inch guns, and 4 six-pounders
    aircraft: 81
    class: Lexington

    The fifth Saratoga (CV 3) was laid down on 25 September 1920 as Battle Cruiser #3 by the New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, N.J. ordered converted to an aircraft carrier and reclassified CV-3 on 1 July 1922 in accordance with the Washington Treaty limiting naval armaments. The ship was launched on 7 April 1925, sponsored by Mrs. Curtis D. Wilbur, wife of the Secretary of the Navy and commissioned on 16 November 1927, Capt. Harry E. Yarnell in command.


    Saratoga, the first fast carrier in the United States Navy, quickly proved the value of her type. She sailed from Philadelphia on 6 January 1928 for shakedown, and, on 11 January, her air officer, the future World War II hero, Marc A. Mitscher, landed the first aircraft on board. In an experiment on 27 January, the rigid airship Los Angeles (ZR-3) moored to Saratoga's stern and took on fuel and stores. The same day Saratoga sailed for the Pacific via the Panama Canal. She was diverted briefly between 14 and 16 February to carry Marines to Corinto, Nicaragua, and finally joined the Battle Fleet at San Pedro, Calif., on 21 February. The rest of the year was spent in training and final machinery shakedown.


    On 15 January 1929, Saratoga sailed from San Diego with the Battle Fleet to participate in her first fleet exercise, Fleet Problem IX. In a daring move Saratoga was detached from the fleet with only a single cruiser as escort to make a wide sweep to the south and "attack" the Panama Canal, which was defended by the Scouting Fleet and Saratoga's sister ship, USS Lexington (CV 2). She successfully launched her strike [340] on 26 January, and despite being "sunk" three times later in the day, proved the versatility of a fast task force centered around a carrier. The idea was incorporated into fleet doctrine and reused the following year in Fleet Problem X in the Caribbean. This time, however, Saratoga and carrier, USS Langley (CV 1), were "disabled" by a surprise attack from Lexington, showing how quickly air power could swing the balance in a naval action.


    Following the fleet concentration in the Caribbean Saratoga took part in the Presidential Review at Norfolk in May and returned to San Pedro on 21 June 1930.

    During the remaining decade before World War II Saratoga exercised in the San Diego-San Pedro area, except for the annual fleet problems and regular overhauls at the Bremerton Navy Yard. In the fleet problems, Saratoga continued to assist in the development of fast carrier tactics, and her importance was recognized by the fact that she was always a high priority target for the opposing forces. The fleet problem for 1932 was planned for Hawaii, and, by coincidence occurred during the peak of the furor following the "Manchurian incident" in which Japan started on the road to World War II. Saratoga exercised in the Hawaii area from 31 January to 19 March and returned to Hawaii for fleet exercises the following year between 23 January and 28 February 1933. On the return trip to the west coast, she launched a successful air "attack" on the Long Beach area.


    Exercises in 1934 took Saratoga to the Caribbean and the Atlantic for an extended period, from 9 April to 9 November, and were followed by equally extensive operations with the United States Fleet in the Pacific the following year. Between 27 April and 6 June 1936, she participated in a fleet problem in the Canal Zone, and she then returned with the fleet to Hawaii for exercises from 16 April to 28 May 1937. On 15 March 1938, Saratoga sailed from San Diego for Fleet Problem XIX, again conducted off Hawaii. During the second phase of the problem, Saratoga launched a surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor from a point 100 miles off Oahu, setting a pattern that the Japanese copied in December 1941. During the return to the west coast, Saratoga and Lexington followed this feat with "strikes" on Mare Island and Alameda. Saratoga was under overhaul during the 1939 fleet concentration, but, between 2 April and 21 June 1940, she participated in Fleet Problem XXI, the last to be held due to the deepening world crisis.


    Between 14 and 29 October 1940, Saratoga transported a draft of military personnel from San Pedro to Hawaii, and, on 6 January 1941, she entered the Bremerton Navy Yard for a long deferred modernization, including widening her flight deck forward and fitting a blister on her starboard side and additional small antiaircraft guns. Departing Bremerton on 28 April 1941, the carrier participated in a landing force exercise in May and made two trips to Hawaii between June and October as the diplomatic crisis with Japan came to a head.

    When the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Saratoga was just entering San Diego after an interim drydocking at Bremerton. She hurriedly got underway the following day as the nucleus of a third carrier force [Lexington and USS Enterprise (CV 6) were already at sea], carrying Marine aircraft intended to reinforce the vulnerable garrison on Wake Island. Presence of these aircraft on board made Saratoga the logical choice for the actual relief effort. She reached Pearl Harbor on 15 December and stopped only long enough to fuel. She then rendezvoused with USS Tangier (AV-8), which had relief troops and supplies on board, while Lexington and Enterprise provided distant cover for the operation. However, the Saratoga force was delayed by the low speed of its oiler and by a decision to refuel destroyers on 21 December. After receiving reports of Japanese carrier aircraft over the island and Japanese landings on it, the relief force was recalled on 22 December. Wake fell the next day.


    Saratoga continued operations in the Hawaiian Island region, but on 11 January 1942, when heading towards a rendezvous with Enterprise, 500 miles southwest of Oahu, she was hit without warning by a deep-running torpedo fired by the Japanese submarine, I-16. Although six men were killed and three firerooms were flooded, the carrier reached Oahu under her own power. There, her 8-inch guns, useless against aircraft, were removed for installation in shore defenses, and the carrier proceeded to the Bremerton Navy Yard for permanent repairs and installation of a modern anti-aircraft battery.


    Saratoga departed Puget Sound on 22 May for San Diego. She arrived there on 25 May and was training her air group when intelligence was received of an impending Japanese assault on Midway. Due to the need to load planes and stores and to collect escorts, the carrier was unable to sail until 1 June and arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 6th after the Battle of Midway had ended. She departed Pearl Harbor on 7 June after fueling and, on 11 June, transferred 34 aircraft to USS Hornet (CV 8) and Enterprise to replenish their depleted air groups. The three carriers then turned north to counter Japanese activity reported in the Aleutians, but the operation was canceled and Saratoga returned to Pearl Harbor on 13 June.


    Between 22 and 29 June 1942, Saratoga ferried Marine and Army aircraft to the garrison on Midway. On 7 July, she sailed for the southwest Pacific and, from 28 to 30 July, she provided air cover for landing rehearsals in the Fiji Islands in preparation for landings on Guadalcanal. As flagship of Real Admiral F. J. Fletcher, Saratoga opened the Guadalcanal assault early on 7 August when she turned into the wind to launch aircraft. She provided air cover for the landings for the next two days. On the first day, a Japanese air attack was repelled before it reached the carriers, but since further attacks were expected, the carrier force withdrew on the afternoon of 8 August towards a fueling rendezvous. As a result, it was too far away to retaliate after four Allied cruisers were sunk that night in the Battle of Savo Island. The carrier force continued to operate east of the Solomons, protecting the sea lanes to the beachhead and awaiting a Japanese naval counterattack.

    The counterattack began to materialize when a Japanese transport force was detected on 23 August 1942, and Saratoga launched a strike against it. The aircraft were unable to find the enemy, however, and spent the night on Guadalcanal. As they were returning on board the next day, the first contact report on enemy carriers was received. Two hours later, Saratoga launched a strike which sent Japanese carrier Ryujo to the bottom. Later in the afternoon, as an enemy strike from other carriers was detected, Saratoga hastily launched the aircraft on her deck, and these found and damaged the Japanese seaplane tender Chitose. Meanwhile, due to cloud cover, Saratoga escaped detection by the Japanese aircraft, which concentrated their attack on, and damaged, Enterprise. The American force fought back fiercely and weakened enemy air strength so severely that the Japanese recalled their transports before they reached Guadalcanal.


    After landing her returning aircraft at night on 24 August, Saratoga refueled on the 25th and resumed her patrols east of the Solomons. A week later, a destroyer reported torpedo wakes heading toward the carrier, but the 888-foot flattop could not turn quickly enough. A minute later, a torpedo from I-26 slammed into the blister on her starboard side. The torpedo killed no one and only flooded one fireroom, but the impact caused short circuits which damaged Saratoga's turbo-electric propulsion system and left her dead in the water. The cruiser USS Minneapolis (CA 36) took the carrier under tow while she flew her aircraft off to shore bases. By early afternoon, Saratoga's engineers had improvised a circuit out of the burned wreckage of her main control board and had given her a speed of 10 knots. After repairs at Tongatabu from 6 to 12 September, Saratoga arrived at Pearl Harbor on 21 September for permanent repairs.


    Saratoga sailed from Pearl Harbor on 10 November 1942 and proceeded, via Fiji, to Noumea which she reached on 5 December. She operated in the vicinity of Noumea for the next twelve months, providing air cover for minor operations and protecting American forces in the eastern Solomons. Between 17 May and 31 July 1943, she was reinforced by the British carrier, HMS Victorious, and, on 20 October, she was joined by USS Princeton (CVL 23). As troops stormed ashore on Bougainville on 1 November, Saratoga's aircraft neutralized nearby Japanese airfields on Buka. Then, on 5 November, in response to reports of Japanese cruisers concentrating at Rabaul to counterattack the Allied landing forces, Saratoga conducted perhaps her most brilliant strike of the war. Her aircraft penetrated the heavily defended port and disabled most of the Japanese cruisers, ending the surface threat to Bougainville. Saratoga, herself, escaped unscathed and returned to raid Rabaul again on 11 November.


    Saratoga and Princeton were then designated the Relief Carrier Group for the offensive in the Gilberts, and, after striking Nauru on 19 November, they rendezvoused on 23 November 1943 with the transports carrying garrison troops to Makin and Tarawa. The carriers provided air cover until the transports reached their destinations, and then maintained air patrols over Tarawa. By this time, Saratoga had steamed over a year without repairs, and she was detached on 30 November to return to the United States. She underwent overhaul at San Francisco from 9 December 1943 to 3 January 1944, and had her antiaircraft battery augmented for the last time, receiving 60 40-millimeter guns in place of 36 20-millimeter guns.


    The carrier arrived at Pearl Harbor on 7 January 1944, and, after a brief period of training, sailed from Pearl Harbor on 19 January with light carriers, USS Langley (CV 27) and USS Princeton (CVL 23), to support the drive in the Marshalls. Her aircraft struck Wotje and Taroa for three days, from 29 to 31 January, and then pounded Engebi, the main island at Eniwetok, the 3d to the 6th and from the 10th to the 12th of February. Her planes delivered final blows to Japanese defenses on the 16th, the day before the landings, and provided close air support and CAP over the island until 28 February.


    Saratoga then took leave of the main theaters of the Pacific war for almost a year, to carry out important but less spectacular assignments elsewhere. Her first task was to help the British initiate their carrier offensive in the Far East. On 4 March 1944, Saratoga departed Majuro with an escort of three destroyers, and sailed via Espiritu Santo Hobart, Tasmania and Fremantle, Australia, to join the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. She rendezvoused at sea on 27 March with the British force, composed of carrier, HMS Illustrious, and four battleships with escorts, and arrived with them at Trincomalee, Ceylon, on 31 March. On 12 April, the French battleship, Richelieu, arrived, adding to the international flavor of the force. During the next two days, the carriers conducted intensive training at sea during which Saratoga's fliers tried to impart some of their experience to the British pilots. On 16 April, the Eastern Fleet, with Saratoga, sailed from Trincomalee, and, on the 19th, the aircraft from the two carriers struck the port of Sabang, off the northwest tip of Sumatra. The Japanese were caught by surprise by the new offensive, and much damage was done to port facilities and oil reserves. The raid was so successful that Saratoga delayed her departure in order to carry out a second. Sailing again from Ceylon on 6 May, the force struck at Soerabaja, Java, on 17 May with equally successful results. Saratoga was detached the following day, and passed down the columns of the Eastern Fleet as the Allied ships rendered honors to and cheered each other.


    Saratoga arrived at Bremerton, Wash., on 10 June 1944 and was under repair there through the summer. On 24 September, she arrived at Pearl Harbor and commenced her second special assignment, training night fighter squadrons. Saratoga had experimented with night flying as early as 1931, and many carriers had been forced to land returning aircraft at night during the war but, only in August 1944, did a carrier, USS Independence (CVL 22), receive an air group specially equipped to operate at night. At the same time, Carrier Division 11, composed of Saratoga and USS Ranger (CV-4), was commissioned at Pearl Harbor to train night pilots and develop night flying doctrine. Saratoga continued this important training duty for almost four months, but as early as October, her division commander was warned that "while employed primarily for training, Saratoga is of great value for combat and is to be kept potentially available for combat duty." The call came in January 1945. Light carriers like Independence had proved too small for safe night operations, and Saratoga was rushed out of Pearl Harbor on 29 January 1945 to form a night fighter task group with Enterprise for the Iwo Jima operation.


    Saratoga arrived at Ulithi on 7 February and sailed three days later, with Enterprise and four other carrier task groups. After landing rehearsals with Marines at Tinian on 12 February, the carrier force carried out diversionary strikes on the Japanese home islands on the night of 16 and 17 February before the landings on Iwo Jima. Saratoga was assigned to provide fighter cover while the remaining carriers launched the strikes on Japan, but, in the process, her fighters raided two Japanese airfields. The force fueled on 18 and 19 February and, on 21 February 1945, Saratoga was detached with an escort of three destroyers to join the amphibious forces and carry out night patrols over Iwo Jima and night heckler missions over nearby Chi-chi Jima. However, as she approached her operating area at 1700 on the 21st, an air attack developed, and taking advantage of low cloud cover and Saratoga's insufficient escort, six Japanese planes scored five hits on the carrier in three minutes. Saratoga's flight deck forward was wrecked, her starboard side was holed twice and large fires were started in her hangar deck, while she lost 123 of her crew dead or missing. Another attack at 1900 scored an additional bomb hit. By 2015, the fires were under control and the carrier was able to recover aircraft, but she was ordered to Eniwetok and then to the west coast for repairs, and arrived at Bremerton on 16 March.

    On 22 May, Saratoga departed Puget Sound fully repaired, and she resumed training pilots at Pearl Harbor on 3 June. She ceased training duty on 6 September, after the Japanese surrender, and sailed from Hawaii on 9 September transporting 3,712 returning naval veterans home to the United States under Operation Magic Carpet. By the end of her Magic Carpet service, Saratoga had brought home 29,204 Pacific war veterans, more than any other individual ship. At the time, she also held the record for the greatest number of aircraft landed on a carrier, with a lifetime total of 98,549 landings in 17 years.


    With the arrival of large numbers of Essex-class carriers, Saratoga was surplus to postwar requirements, and she was assigned to Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll to test the effect of the atomic bomb on naval vessels. She survived the first blast, an air burst on 1 July, with only minor damage, but was mortally wounded by the second on 25 July, an underwater blast which was detonated under a landing craft 500 yards from the carrier. Salvage efforts were prevented by radioactivity, and seven and one-half hours after the blast, with her funnel collapsed across her deck, Saratoga slipped beneath the surface of the lagoon. She was struck from the Navy list on 15 August 1946.


    Saratoga received seven battle stars for her World War II service.


    Watch the video: End Of The Uss Lexington 1942