Task Force 17 – Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher in Yorktown
Task Group 17.5 Carrier Group – CAPT Elliott Buckmaster
USS Yorktown (CV-5) CAPT Buckmaster
CVG-5 – LCDR Oscar Pederson
VS-5 LT Wallace Clark Short, Jr. 19 (17) x SBD-3
VF-3 LCDR John Smith Thach 27 (25) x F4F-4
VB-3 LCDR Maxwell Franklin Leslie 18 (17) x SBD-3
VT-3 LCDR Lance Edward Massey 15 (12) x TBD-1
Task Force 16 – Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance in Enterprise
CVG-6 – LCDR Clarence Wade McClusky, Jr. 1 (1) x SBD-3
VF-6 LT James Seton Gray, Jr. 27 (27) x F4F-4
VS-6 LT Wilmer Earl Gallaher 18 (18) x SBD-3
VB-6 LT Richard Halsey Best 18 (18) x SBD-2, -3
VT-6 LCDR Eugene Elbert Lindsey 14 (14) x TBD-1
CVG-8 – Cdr. Stanhope Cotton Ring 1 (1) x SBD-3
VF-8 LCDR Samuel Gavid Mitchell 27 (27) x F4F-4
VS-8 LCDR Walter Fred Rodee 16 (15) x SBD-3
VB-8 LCDR Robert Ruffin Johnson 18 (18) x SBD-3
VT-8 LCDR John Charles Waldron 15 (15) x TBD-1
Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat
The F4F began life somewhat inauspiciously as a two-time loser – to the Brewster F2A Buffalo of all planes. Initially designed as an unbuilt biplane design entered in a US Navy competition, it was beaten by the monoplane Brewster F2A-1 design. Subsequently remodeled as the monoplane XF4F-2 it was evaluated against the Buffalo, only to come up short again (although it was marginally faster) – the Buffalo was otherwise superior and was chosen for production. Fortunately Grumman persisted and the prototype was then rebuilt as the XF4F-3 with new wings and tail and a most importantly, a supercharged version of the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 “Twin Wasp” radial engine. Subsequent testing of the XF4F-3 led to an order for F4F-3 production models, the first of which was completed in February 1940 and armed four .50 caliber Browning machine guns, joined active units in later that year.
The definitive version and the one by far seeing the most action was the F4F-4, which entered service in 1942 with six guns and folding wings, allowing more to be embarked on a carrier. Interestingly enough, this version was less popular with American pilots, because the same amount of ammunition was spread over two additional guns, decreasing firing time. With the F4F-3′s four 50-caliber guns and 450 rounds per gun, pilots had 34 seconds of firing time; six guns decreased ammunition to 240 rounds per gun, which could be expended in less than 20 seconds. The increase to six guns was attributed to the Royal Navy, who wanted greater firepower to deal with German and Italian foes – Jimmy Thach’s observation was, “A pilot who cannot hit with four guns will miss with eight.” Extra guns and folding wings meant extra weight, and reduced performance: the F4F-4 was capable of only about 318 mph at 19,400 ft. Rate of climb was noticeably worse in the F4F-4, while Grumman optimistically claimed the F4F-4 could climb at a modest 1,950 feet per minute, in combat conditions, pilots found their F4F-4s capable of ascending at only 500 to 1,000 feet per minute. Moreover, the F4F-4′s folding wing was intended to allow five F4F-4s to be stowed in the space required by two F4F-3s. In practice, the folding wings allowed an increase of about 50% in the number of Wildcats carried aboard US fleet aircraft carriers.
Note the TBD’s Hung in the Overhead…
The Wildcat was outperformed by the Mitsubishi Zero, its major opponent in the early part of the Pacific Theater, but held its own by absorbing far more damage and with the adoption of tactics that took advantage of the Wildcat’s abilities (diving attacks) and mutual support (Thach Weave). With relatively heavy armor and self-sealing fuel tanks, the Grumman airframe could survive far more than its lightweight, unarmored Japanese rival. Many US Navy fighter pilots also were saved by the F4F’s ZB homing device, which allowed them to find their carriers in poor visibility, provided they could get within the 30-mile range of the homing beacon.
* Crew: 1 * Length: 28 ft 9 in (8.8 m) * Wingspan: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m) * Height: 9 ft 2.5 in (2.8 m) * Wing area: 260 ft² (24.2 m²) * Empty weight: 5,760 lb (2,610 kg) * Max takeoff weight: 7,950 lb (3,610 kg) * Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine, 1,200 hp (900 kW)
* Maximum speed: 320 mph (290 knots, 515 km/h) * Range: 770 mi (670 nm, 1,240 km) * Service ceiling: 39,500 ft (12,000 m) * Rate of climb: 1,950 ft/min (9.9 m/s)
* Guns: 6× 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, 240 rounds/gun * Bombs: 2× 100 lb (45 kg) bombs
Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless
The Douglas SBD Dauntless was the U.S. Navy’s main dive bomber from mid-1940 until late 1943, when it was supplemented (although not entirely replaced) by the SB2C Helldiver. Derived from the Northrop Model 8 attack bomber developed for the Army and export market, the Dauntless was developed at the Douglas Northrop facility at El Segundo, Calif., and featured a novel “Swiss Cheese” style dive flap arrangement. Slow but rugged (the aircraft was tagged as the “Slow But Deadly” Dauntless by her aircrew) the Dauntless when used in a steep dive profile was proved deadly to shipping, accounting for more ships sunk in the Pacific theater than any other US or Allied aircraft.
The SBD was involved in combat from the first day of the Pacific War, as Dauntlesses arriving at Hawaii from USS Enterprise were caught in the Pearl Harbor attack. The type’s first major use was in the Battle of the Coral Sea, when SBDs and TBDs sank the Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō. SBDs were also used as anti-torpedo combat air patrol and scored several times against Japanese aircraft trying to attack USS Lexington and USS Yorktown. the SBD’s most important contribution to the American war effort probably came during the Battle of Midway (early June 1942), when SBD dive bomber attacks sank all four of the Japanese aircraft carriers (the Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, and Hiryū) as well as heavily damaging two Japanese cruisers (including the Mikuma, which sank before a Japanese destroyer could scuttle it.). 5,936 SBDs were produced in WWII.
* Crew: Two * Length: 33 ft 1 in (10.08 m) * Wingspan: 41 ft 6 in (12.65 m) * Height: 13 ft 7 in (4.14 m) * Wing area: 325 ft² (30.19 m²) * Empty weight: 6,404 lb (2,905 kg) * Loaded weight: 10,676 lb (4,843 kg) * Max takeoff weight: 10,700 lb (4,853 kg) * Powerplant: 1× Wright R-1820-60 radial engine, 1,200 hp (895 kW)
* Maximum speed: 255 mph (410.38 km/h) * Range: 773 mi (1243.8 km) * Service ceiling: 25,530 ft (7,780 m) * Rate of climb: 1,700 ft/min (8.6 m/s) * Wing loading: 32.8 lb/ft² (160.4 kg/m²) * Power/mass: 0.11 hp/lb (0.18 kW/kg)
Douglas TBD-1 Devastator
While the Dauntless may have earned the moniker “Slow But Deadly,” the Douglas TBD Devastator just turned out to be deadly – to her crews at Midway. The TBD was ordered in 1934, first flew in 1935 and entered service in 1937. At that point, it was the most advanced plane flying for the USN and possibly for any navy in the world. However, the fast pace of aircraft development caught up with it, and by the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the TBD was already outdated. It performed well in some early battles, but in the Battle of Midway the Devastators launched against the Japanese fleet were almost totally wiped out. The type was immediately withdrawn from service, replaced by the Grumman TBF Avenger.
The TBD Devastator marked a large number of “firsts” for the US Navy. It was the first widely-used carrier-based monoplane as well as the first all-metal plane, the first with a totally enclosed cockpit, the first with hydraulically folding wings; it is fair to say that the TBD was revolutionary. A semi-retractable undercarriage was fitted, with the wheels designed to protrude 10 inches (250 mm) below the wings to permit a “wheels-up” landing with only minimal damage.
A crew of three was carried beneath a large “greenhouse” canopy almost half the length of the airplane. The pilot, of course, sat up front; a rear gunner/radio operator took the rearmost seat, 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 for either a single Mark XIII torpedo or a single 1000 lb (450 kg) bomb. Defensive armament consisted of either a .30 or .50 cal (7.62 or 12.7 mm) machine-gun firing forward, and a .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun for the rear gunner.
The Devastator suffered from two principle short-comings – it was excruciatingly slow on torpedo runs, which themselves required a log, straight un-maneuvering run-in to the target and from poorly designed torpedoes that if it did survive the run in, usually failed to detonate or ran deep under their targets. The fact that US submarine crews were likewise having similar problems with their torpedoes in the early stage of the war was cold comfort to the TBD crews and Navy leadership…
Eventually 129 of the type were purchased by the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer), equipping the carriers USS Saratoga, USS Enterprise, USS Lexington, USS Wasp, USS Hornet, USS Yorktown and USS Ranger. The last TBD was scrapped in 1944 and as a result (combined with combat and operational losses) there are no examples in existence today.
* 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: 6,182 lb (2,804 kg) * Loaded weight: 9,862 lb (4,473 kg) * Max takeoff weight: 10,194 lb (4,623 kg) * Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp radial engine, 900 hp (671 kW)
* Maximum speed: 206 mph (331 km/h) * Range: 435 miles (700 km) * Service ceiling: 19,700 ft (6000 m) * Rate of climb: 720 ft/min (3.7 m/s) * Wing loading: lb/ft² (kg/m²) * Power/mass: hp/lb (kW/kg)
* 1x 0.30 cal (7.62 mm) machine gun forward-firing * 1x 0.30 cal (7.62 mm) machinegun in rear cockpit (later increased to two) * 1x 1,000 lb (453 kg) bomb * 1x Mark XIII torpedo – 1,200 lb (544 kg)