All posts in “Naval Aviation Centenary”

National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action

There are 12 “official Navy” museums in the US – and of these, all but one, the US Navy Museum onboard the Washington Navy Yard in Washington DC, are privately funded. This includes the National Museum of Naval Aviation (NMNA) located on NAS Pensacola, FL where I recently spent some time getting re-acquainted with exhibits old and new.

I offer this tidbit of info by way of background for this column’s topic.  Let me state up front that by no means is this a slam on the museum or its leadership. Rather, recognizing the constraint of resources (which, BTW, membership in the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation will help assuage – and yes, I am a member) I would like to offer some perspective and suggestions on some key topics and exhibits I didn’t see, nor, as I understand it, may be in the offering in the near term. In no particular order they are context, Midway, ASW and airborne radar.

Context

The main museum is organized and grouped roughly by epoch. This is a convenient and relatively thrifty way to organize a large number of aircraft in a linear, chronological fashion that is easily assimilated by the general public that may have at best, a tangential understanding or association with Naval Aviation (blue prop fighters = WW2, F-14 Tomcats = Tom Cruise = 1980’s, etc.). Yet if one of the intentions of the Museum is to “… educate young aviators and endow them with a deeper appreciation of their heritage” an effort must be made to put the exhibits into context that merely grouping in epochal clusters fails to accomplish. For example – the Museum has, in my opinion, one of the best collections of fighters from the 1950’s. Reaching back to the final days of WWII and the early attempts at carrier operations with aircraft like the McDonnell FD/FH-1 Phantom, North American FJ Fury and Vought F6U Pirate the decade saw breathtaking advancement into the supersonic, all weather realm that spawned the F-4 Phantom II and F-8 Crusader, two fighters that not only favorably compared with their shore-based counterparts, but in some cases were so superior that in one case, the F-4, it was adopted as a mainline fighter for the Air Force. Yet there is little in the way of placing this evolution into context so that the observer would understand the design and industrial genius behind the path that led to these aircraft (and some of the unintended shortcomings uncovered during the Vietnam War) and their successors. The Phantom and F-14 sit side-by-side in Hangar Bay One – but how did we get from the one to the other? How might the lessons of the aborted F-111B be imparted to today’s acquisition process? In parallel with this major theme are the sub-themes of engines and weapons. Why did the Phantom not have a gun, but the F-8 and F-14 do? (and why doesn’t the F-35C, but the F-35A?).  Similarly – looking at the magnificent (and privately undertaken) restoration of the PB2Y Coronado alongside the equally exquisite PBY Catalina (and the cutaway fuselage underneath), one is prompted to ask why we no longer fly amphibs. Other threads may be followed for multiple topics, some of which we will touch upon later.

In sum – context acts as the hyperlink tying the aircraft exhibited to history and in turn, provides enhanced perspective on its value and associated artifacts displayed around it.

Midway

I’ll be brief – but this is another area that demands context and historical perspective. At present, the Midway exhibit consists of a display case with flight suited figures displayed in proximity with period aircraft (notably the earlier highlighted SBD-2, an F4F and a Zero, though this is a post-Midway variant). A video is available to recount the battle, but something else is needed to provide the visitor with an understanding of the vast distances the battle was waged over (and let’s add Coral Sea too) and how this event truly changed the face of naval warfare.

ASW

When we think of WWII and Naval Aviation, we almost reflexively think of the fast carrier-led task forces sweeping across the broad expanse of the Pacific, brushing the IJN before it and supporting the amphib forces wresting back control of the islands on the way to the Japanese homeland. And yet, half a world away, another equally vital battle was being fought, in some cases well within sight of our own beaches. It was an epic struggle whose outcome was not pre-ordained and which turned to a large degree on shore- and carrier-based aviation. I speak of the Battle of the North Atlantic waged against the German U-boats operating with some degree of impunity, early on, off our coasts. The development of airborne radar (and later on, other technologies like ESM gear and Magnetic Anomaly Detection, or MAD) was instrumental, when combined with a re-emphasis on TTPs like convoying, in pushing back the U-boats and eventually, ruthlessly hunting them down and killing them. A full range of shore-based aircraft (Lockheed Hudsons, PBY Catalinas, PB4Y Privateers), lighter-than-air and carrier-based aircraft (TBF Avengers, FM-2 Wildcats) expanded an umbrella of protection that pinned down the U-boats, turning the hunter into the hunted. After the war we continued development, building and refining aircraft lke the P2V Neptune, P-3 Orion, AF Guardian, S-2 Tracker and S-3 Viking, deployed from bases near key chokepoints or from carriers (CVS’ and later CV/CVN’s). Joining in this effort were helicopters operating from big decks and small, operating in concert or association with surface ships and our own subs. This highlights one of the signatory features of Naval Aviation as it has evolved over the years – our integrated approach working with other, non-aviation platforms and organizations to achieve a particular mission. It also brings to bear the importance of science, engineering and technology in a mission that is often compared to a chess match as opposed to the sound and fury of the power projection mission.
And again, an opportunity to put Naval Aviation in context for the casual observer.

Airborne Radar

Ok, I admit it – as a former E-2C NFO I am particularly interested in this area, but it is for more than just personal reasons.

As epitomized by projects and programs like CADILLAC and the development of night fighting tactics and capabilities (viz. Enterprise and Air Group TEN), Naval Aviation was at the forefront of cutting edge technology and science. Radar, already showing it’s importance (when properly trained to and employed) in surface actions, was quickly recognized as a critical necessity for the kind of long-range warfare found in the Pacific. It was essential in finding the “needle-in-a-haystack” surfaced or later, snorkeling sub. And in the planed invasion of the Japanese homeland, when the task forces would be faced by waves of the first generation of “smart” cruise missiles (aka kamikaze’s), radar in the form of airborne, long-range early warning radar could give the fleet initial warnings of a raid while it was still over a hundred miles out, giving relief to the beleaguered radar-picket DDs which were already absorbing tremendous blows in the initial waves of attacks as witnessed off Okinawa.

But it wouldn’t end there. Airborne intercept radar, deployed on night fighter versions of the F6F and F4U would go on to more complex systems as seen in the Douglas F3D Skynight which would also serve as the trial platform for a new form of air-to-air weaponry – the AA missile. AEW sets grew in size and power, forming the basis of part of the early DEW line with barrier patrols off our coasts, flown by USN WV-2 Connies. As the threat to the carrier task force grew in speed and numbers, the E-2 Hawkeye arrived and in the form of the E-2C, revolutionized AEW, C2 and Battle Management. In concert with the F-14 and it’s AWG-9 weapons system, and later teaming with Aegis equipped CG and DDG, the concept of integrated air defense, first rolled out with the “rings of steel” during WWII finds it’s form today.

What Next?

Resources (funding and skilled craftsmen) are always a challenge for museums of all stripes – and even more so these past few years.  As such, there is an inevitable rack/stack of benefits received for resources expended that establishes prioritization for utilizing those resources. I understand there is a list making the rounds of aircraft that should receive priority for restoration and exhibit, some of which are at once exceptionally noteworthy as rare examples (e.g., an early “birdcage” F4U Corsair) and others which on the surface, may appear more pedestrian when viewed by themselves, but tell a greater story as part of a larger exhibit.  Many aircraft are in the “back lot” where the former re-work facility still stands and serves as the locale for the volunteer restorers’ work.  Additionally, there are long-range plans for another facility like Hangar Bay One to be added – providing significantly more exhibition space; however that is on the distant horizon.  All of this requires more resources and specifically, more funding.  The Navy provides the “hotel” services (power, etc.) but not for exhibits or restoration.  That comes from individuals like you and me; grants and corporate donations.  And to be blunt, the latter are especially important because of the enormous costs involved in restoration – from location, recovery and transportation of the artifact(s) to storage, restoration and display.  Just ask the A-3 Skywarrior Association folks about the costs involved in restoration and relocation of an EA-3 from Rota to CONUS. (Ed. Note: There is an example of an association doing it right with an active and dedicated membership – SJS)

Along the way there are a stack of laws and regulations, local and above, that must be met and that all adds to the bill.  One example – the EPA laws on airborne HAZMAT figure significantly in the stripping and re-painting of aircraft, especially where the epoxies used in today’s aircraft are concerned. Fold in paint containing lead from older aircraft and you start to get the picture.  Spares for aircraft produced during WWII vary widely in availability because during the war the were acquired in significant abundance for most of the widely produced aircraft, one of the reasons so many DC-3′s (ex-C-47s) and P-51s remain flying or find their way back after many years of neglect.  For others, like an SB2C – they are somewhat less.  Still others, like the F-14, may be non-existent altogether because of national security policies that directed the immediate destruction of the type (save examples sent to museums) because of concerns that spares may find their way to Iranian F-14s.  That means parts must either be fabricated from drawings (if those still exist) or workaround solutions developed to permit exhibit.  The former often calls for skill sets that are disappearing on pace with those who were the young mechs working on these aircraft when they were operational, age and depart this mortal realm.  All the while, those same elements – sun, moisture, heat – that conspired against the aircraft when flying, remain today.  These are but a few of the practical factors that must be accounted for in the rack/stack prioritization.  In essence – what is the greatest good that can be done with the available resources at hand.

This is a a tough call that is made harder by the advocacy groups that naturally spring up around organizations like the Museum and the work it does.  Not to say it is necessarily bad because there are legitimate interests at stake and while some naturally claim a large and vocal constituency, others get lost in the shuffle.   My intention here today is to add the voice of this site to the list of advocates, but also offer a venue to sound out ideas and and reach out to portions of the Naval Aviation community that tend to get lost in the background — all of us “cats and dogs”; and those communities and warfare professions who, while not directly part of Naval Aviation, are still significant participants and partners.  With that in mind and in light of the issues surfaced above, I offer the following:

1.  Stand up an exhibit on integrated air defense and procure an E-2C for display.  Other key aircraft are immediately available (E-1B and EC-121), but the E-2C should serve as the focus of an exhibit built around airborne radar and integrated air and missile defense (IAMD).  Radar, computerized data links, long-range missiles, and integrated operations with surface forces – it is a compelling story that is uniquely maritime in nature and one that should be a centerpiece with aircraft and, yes, some surface components displayed to show their relationships. Perhaps it would include a cutaway E-2C (along the lines of what was done with the cutaway PBY) or, if still available, the old E-2C WST for more of a hands-on approach and a mock-up of a CG CDC with a variety of scenarios being played out.  The role and development of all weather interceptors neatly folds in with, for example, a side-by-side comparison of the radar from an F6F-5N, F3D, F-4 and F-14’s AWG-9 and a display of weapons form the Hellcat’s .50 cal to the AIM-54 Phoenix (and an interactive display showing their effective ranges and threats countered).  Most importantly though, is the story of Project CADILLAC and the parallel development of CICs that needs to be told – and the inclusion of signatory aircraft like the TBM-3W, AD-3W, E-1B, WV-2/EC-121 and of course, an E-2C.  Regarding the latter, all the Group 0′s that served in ground-breaking fashion, including all the conflicts during the latter part of the Cold War and afterwards (ELDORADO CANYON, Grenada, Bosnia, Desert Shield/Storm) are retired now and either serving as gate-guards (except at NAS Norfolk – that was an E-2B with fiberglass implants) flightdeck training aids or sitting in the desert awaiting the scrapper’s torch.  If still around (and I’m researching the BuNo and status), perhaps the E-2C from VAW-125 that ran the mission to capture the hijackers of the Achille Lauro (OPERATION RED HAT) in October 1985 might be one airframe of particular interest.  Such an exhibit would offer significant possibilities for teaming arrangements between industry, individuals and associations like the Hawkeye-Greyhound Association, Surface Navy Association, Northrop-Grumman, etc. in terms of funding, volunteer researchers and restorers (I can think of some former Steeljaws just down the road onboard NAS Pensacola).  It would also avail the Navy History and Heritage Command an opportunity to contribute to a major exhibit outside of the Beltway for an aspect of Naval Aviation that had such wide impact on Fleet operations and tactics over the past 60-odd years and more importantly, has direct and tangible links to efforts ongoing today and in the future.

2.  Stand up an exhibit for ASW.  Like IAMD, ASW as a mission area was one that pressed the edge of the envelope for Naval Aviation’s capabilities.  It also brings a fascinating array of aircraft and display possibilities with the range of fixed-, rotary and lighter-than-air aircraft and blimps.  An example might be to center on an SH-3, S-3 and P-3C – the latter setup as a “walkthrough” exhibit that gives visitors a sense of all that takes place in “the tube.” An interactive display of the globe with all the ASW forces and capabilities employed a the height of the Cold War would serve to tie it all together and provide the necessary context and a link to today’s challenge of ASW in the littorals and re-emerging blue-water ASW threat.  With the DASH form yesterday and BAMS for today, a discussion may be established on the utility and role of un-manned aircraft in the patrol and ASW role.  Similarly for the role of the CVL and later, CVS in ASW in particular, and sea control to a larger degree.

3.  Go digital.  Fixed displays have all sorts of limitations, not least of which come from aging materials and out-dated information.  Printed material fades, wears and limits access by language.  As the numbers of smart mobile devices (phones and tablets) explode in the general populace, why not offer an expanded media opportunity through a local wireless network that is available to those who either chose not to or are simply unable to devote time to a walking tour with one of the (very excellent, BTW) docents.  Think of it as a virtual docent that the user can tailor to their own desires and interests.  For example, the aforementioned transition from the first gen fighters at the close of the 1940s to the Phantom/Crusader at the close of the 50s lends itself very nicely to this sort of convention.  Using online multi-media and data, in concert with the Museum’s up close and personal philosophy of displaying aircraft provides an exceptionally rich visit and opens access to a wider range of visitors.  Add in an ability to tailor and scale prior to your visit (e.g. “I’d like to focus on restored WW2 prop fighters and dive bombers and learn more about their recovery and restoration process”) and I think you start to get the picture and you might just pull in folks that weren’t originally planning on visiting the Museum.

4.  Open the Flightline.  With a number of the larger aircraft left uncovered or others, like the PV-2 Harpoon left outside for otherwise inexplicable reasons, access to the flightline by some means must be established.  Many of us still kicking dust on this mortal realm flew aircraft in the recent and not so recent past and forcing us to view from behind a chainlink fence or the windows of an un-airconditioned bus moving at it’s pace and schedule rather than ours is unacceptable.  Use mobile security walls like those used on temporary road course tracks setup on metropolitan streets if you must, but some way needs to be found to allow pedestrian traffic back to these important aircraft. and maybe (from a safe distance) see the restoration process in action.

There’s more to be sure – the role of Naval Aviation in the PARPRO program is a very compelling story with more aspects still being revealed.  A tie-in with the ongoing MIA location and recovery efforts around the world for our lost aviators is another that comes to mind.  And of course, with next year’s 70th anniversary, something needs to be done to focus and highlight the Midway exhibit.  What I find heartening is that in discussions I’ve had both at the Museum and subsequent, is that those there and in a position to do something “get it” – especially in their grasp of the heritage and trust they hold. Our job, whether as those who have or are currently contributing to the Naval Aviation story or interested associates is to do all we can to aid the Museum in it’s endeavors through our advocacy and support – fiscal and physical.  Write with your concerns and support.  Join the Foundation.  Contribute articles for The Foundation and others.  Where feasible and appropriate, contribute your memorabilia to their collection.

In this, our Centennial, let’s spread the word about the good works underway at our Museum and act like the stakeholders we are supposed to be.

P.S. One other item — folks, NAS Pensacola is the starting point for NFO’s for Basic and Intermediate. It would be *really* nice if the gift shop had a few things with NFO (and NAC) wings beyond a single, solitary t-shirt.  I know of several customers that walked away disappointed recently (*ahem*).  Not a sermon – just a thought… – SJS

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years

From the good folks at the Naval Institute:

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum

After having spent the better part of a day re-visiting the National Museum of Naval Aviation, located onboard NAS Pensacola, there is much to post about – most good, but some others.  For background, despite spending 26 years on active duty, when I left Pensacola for the E-2C replacement squadron (RVAW-120) in Norfolk, I would return to P-cola only twice – the most “recent” being 1987.  Much water has passed under the bridge since then and the Museum has considerably expanded in floor space and exhibits.  Included in the visit was an opportunity to re-connect with an old OPNAV shipmate who now is on the Naval Aviation Museum’s staff as CEO, Kevin Miller, who took time out of an exceptionally busy schedule to point out some items of particular interest, including a walk through of the National Academy of Flight (a separate post to come).  I probably should also mention that several hundred pictures were taken (the joys of digital SLRs) and after I winnow the wheat from the chaff, I’ll be sharing some here.

But before any of that, a personal observation of the museum and the attending philosophy.  Being a connoisseur of aviation museums here and abroad, I believe this is by far the best on a number of fronts – variety and presentation of exhibits to be sure, but most important is access.  Visit the museum at Wright-Patt or the Smithsonian’s NASM on the Mall or Dulles annex, and you will find the rare and historical neatly and exquisitely restored to pristine condition.  And just like viewing the collection of diecasts at your uncle’s place, you can look, but can not touch, beign kept at a distance by barriers of one sort or another.  Like delicate moths and butterflies in some master collectors’ compendium, the aircraft are neatly ordered and set at ground or from high in the rafters. From afar, you can oh and ah, take the obligatory shots, and be herded on to the next beautifully set exhibit.

Not so at Pensacola.

Here, you can walk right up to arguably the two most important aircraft in the Museum’s inventory  – the NC-4 and an SBD-2 Dauntless that survived Pearl Harbor and Midway.  You can run your hand along the hull of the NC-4, feel the polished smoothness of the wooden props, and admire, up close and personal, the assortment of guy wires and doped fabric that held and covered the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic.  Here you can run your hand over the fuselage near the gunner’s mount and observe the seeming random squares of skin rivited in place – reminders of the desperate battles in the skies over the Pacific as BuNo 2106 as one of only 8 of VMSB-241′s strike launched from Midway against the Kido Butai.  Originally assigned to VB-2 on Lexington after Pearl Harbor (it was being held at Ford Island for further transfer to the Marines on Midway) BuNo 2106 participated in the first coordinated strike against Japanese shipping when on 10 March 1942, flown by Lieutenant (junior grade) Mark T. Whittier with Aviation Radioman Second Class Forest G. Stanley as his gunner, the aircraft joined 103 other planes from Lexington and Yorktown (CV 5) in a raid against Japanese shipping at Lae and Salamaua in New Guinea. Credited with pressing home his attack against a Japanese ship, Whittier received the Navy Cross.

At Midway, with with 1st Lieutenant Daniel Iverson as pilot and Private First Class Wallace Reid manning the .30-caliber machine gun in the aft cockpit, BuNo 2106 was one of sixteen SBD-2s of VMSB-241 launched to attack Japanese aircraft carriers to the west of Midway. Approaching the enemy carrier Hiryu, the Marine planes came under fire from antiaircraft gunners and fighters of the enemy combat air patrol. Iverson, with two Japanese Zero fighters following him down in his dive, released his bomb at an altitude of 800 feet. While egressing the target area, the pair of Zeroes on Iverson’s tail were joined by two others, which pursued the Dauntless for miles, holing his plane 219 times, knocking out his hydraulic system and wounding Reid. One bullet came so close that it clipped Iverson’s throat microphone chord. Nevertheless, he managed to return to Midway, making a one-wheel landing on the atoll. His was one of only eight SBD-2s of VMSB-241 to return from the attack against the Japanese fleet. For their actions, Iverson received the Navy Cross and Reid was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Today you can physically link the post-strike photo of BuNo 2106:

with the real thing – note the patch above the number 6:

Try doing that from 20 – 30 feet away, and without attracting the unwanted ministrations of the always ready, frowning security personnel somewhere else.

A final thought in this regard – while many of the aircraft have been restored to exceptional status (see especially the 50′s era jets which will be in a subsequent post), this shot was particualrly compelling:

This was the VF-213 F-14D that flew the final combat mission for the Tomcat.  Still in her final warpaint, it sits in the new extension, Hangar Bay One and looks like it was recently removed from the flight deck.  The paint is still faded and stained by hydraulic fluid (and it still has a whiff of the stuff about it).  Scuffed, scraped, rubbed and worn, it looks like the workhorse that it was.  Just like the F-4 sitting next to it that carries a couple of NVAF MiG’s to its credit, but is wearing paint from her final deployment – it shows our aircraft may have been part of historical events, but they were still workaday aircraft that had to be prepped and armed for the next mission.  Looking at the above, you have to stop an wonder at the number of aircrew or plane captain boots, themselves worn and slick from the accumulated grease and fluids of the flightdeck, had braced themselves there.  How many gloves, of countless crews manning for any variety of missions to be logged with regular or green ink found purchase there.

I think folks like Pinch will especially come to recognize and appreciate it for what it is.  As a former NFO and squadron CO, I know I do.  And it is one of the chief reasons that the Naval Aviation Museum is more than just a collection of aircraft and why all the gee-whiz audio visual stuff others try to employ will just fall short – because nothing can beat the undiluted real deal.

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

Flightdeck Friday – What Am I? Updated & Answered

A little something for the recce crowd out there:

1. What is it?
2. What is it used for?
3. What platform is it a part of?
Hint: You’ve read about it here before…look in here.

Update: What Am I? — dive brakes on the martin AM-1 Mauler:

Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears

The dream was given form and fire on April 12, 1981 with the launch of STS-1, the world’s first reusable spaceplane — the Shuttle Columbia. At the controls were a crew of only two, Astronauts John W. Young, commander for the mission, and Robert Crippen (both Naval Aviators) for this first “test flight” which would last 54 hours and recover at Edwards AFB in a powerless glide. Thirty years later we are on the eve of one of two remaining flights for the shuttle fleet. Waiting in the wings, still under development is an evolutionary outgrowth of the Apollo program – a conical spacecraft launched on a partially expendable booster to carry astronauts to the ISS and return via a water landing. An underwhelming development — back to the future, as it were. The intervening years have seen extraordinary triumph and unyielding pain as the human experience was painted across the cosmos. American ingenuity and enterprise given form and function. Born of a merger of the idealism of space exploration and hard realities of the Cold War, the Shuttle was supposed to take the extraordinary efforts of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and turn it into a regular occurrence.

And it almost did – twice.

Each time though, we were reminded again of the terrible toll exacted when boundaries are pushed and knowledge expanded; while a system’s fundamental flaws were revealed, forcing an endgame determination. Still, along the way a semi-permanent habitat was built in low Earth orbit, satellites launched to look deep into space and give us new perspectives on Earth and scientific and industrial experiments performed.

But in 1981, that all lay in the future and now – now the Dream is given fire and form:

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

USNI: Getting It Right

The ongoing furor over the Board of Director’s attempt at a mid-watch hijacking of the Institute’s mission can, unfortunately, overshadow the very good work being done down in the trenches by the editorial board and legion of ink-stained wretches (and I use that term affectionately) in the trenches. Before re-directing to the BoD’s hi-jinks, I’d planned to post the following as but one example of their unheralded efforts.

Recall sometime back that a consortium of businesses and “interested parties” got together for the purpose of highlighting the 100th Anniversary of U.S. Naval Aviation. Part and parcel with this effort was the obligatory website and a timeline highlighting the accomplishments of Naval Aviation.

It was an epic fail.

Over a very short course (a couple of days), the blogmeisters over at USNI, under Head Mistress Mary Ripely (USNI Blog), aided and abetted by a roster of willing and able volunteers — professional historians and aviation enthusiasts (and bloggers), pulled together a signature website and timeline for Naval Aviation.

This, for those stumbling around in the dark, is what *should* have been rolled out first. Rich in content (checkout the section on WWII for example), wide ranging in scope it is an experience that provides the serious student and casual browser alike a meaningful opportunity to explore our heritage, tradition and sacrifices that constitute the powerful, unmatched capability we enjoy today.

Expository – not lobbying, the way it should be done. Well done all.

Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights

Forty-nine years ago – within one day of each other, one astronaut headed for orbit as America’s first to circle the Earth and a future astronaut opened a series of record attempts in the McDonell F4H Phantom:

Images Courtesy Rex Features & NASA

20 Feb 1962: Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn. USMC, in Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7, was launched from Cape Canaveral by an Atlas rocket. His three turns about the earth were the first U.S. manned orbital flights. He was recovered some 166 miles east of Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas by the destroyer Noa (DD 841) and then delivered by helicopter to the carrier Randolph.

F4H-1 Phantom (BuNo 149449) Image Courtesy Boeing Co.

21 Feb 1962: The F4H-1 Phantom II established new world records for climb to 3,000 and 6,000 meters with times of 34.52 and 48.78 seconds. Lieutenant Commander J. W. Young and Commander D. M. Longton piloted the plane on its respective record flights at NAS Brunswick, Maine.

Glenn completed three orbits reaching a maximum altitude (apogee) of approximately 162 statute miles and an orbital velocity of approximately 17,500 miles per hour. Glenn would later go on to be the only Mercury astronaut to fly on the Shuttle (Discovery/STS-95).

LCDR John W. Young, wrapping up his assignment to the Naval Air Test Center, went on to set another time-to-climb record flying out of Point Mugu reached an altitude of 3000 meters (9843 feet) in 34.523 seconds. Three more time-to-climb records were set at NAS Brunswick on 3 Apr 62, reaching an altitude of 25,000 meters (82,021 feet) in 230.440 seconds. Young was selected as part of the second cohort of astronauts later in 1962 (while MO in VF-143) and went on to be the first person to fly 6 times in space – Gemini 3 (first flight of the Gemini spacecraft), Gemini 10, Apollo 10 (CM pilot), Apollo 16 (CDR), STS-1 (Columbia’s and the Shuttle’s first flight) and STS-9 (first Spacelab flight).

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)

7 Feb 1950: In a demonstration of carrier long-range attack capabilities, a P2V-3C Neptune, with Commander Thomas Robinson in command, took off from Franklin D. Roosevelt off Jacksonville, Fla., and flew over Charleston, S.C., the Bahamas, the Panama Canal, up the coast of Central America and over Mexico to land next day at the Municipal Airport, San Francisco, Calif. The flight, which covered 5,060 miles in 25 hours, 59 minutes, was the longest ever made from a carrier deck. (Naval Aviation Chronology 1950-1953, Naval History Center)

To set the scene – the immediate post-war environment called for substantial cuts in conventional forces based on the idea that future aggressors would be deterred, or fought, at arms length with the advent of long-range bombers and the atomic bomb, both the sole province of the newly formed USAF. The Navy, despite the success and critical role played by its fast carrier battle groups in the Pacific War found itself in a bureaucratic knife fight over roles/missions and ultimately, funding that turned on this critical capability. Writing in his biography, Bluejacket Admiral, ADM Hayward noted:

Still, persuading Forrestal and CNO Nimitz didn’t make it (the super-carrier United States) a done deal. In the psychological warfare called “the budgeting process,” their fiscal year 1947 (1 July 1946 to 30 June 1947) funding request already was before Congress, and their “Ships” plan for FY1948 already included a call for funds to modify our largest carriers, the forty-five-thousand-ton (sixty-two thousand, fully loaded) Coral Sea, Midway and Franklin Delano Roosevelt for nuclear operations. The supercarrier couldn’t get into the cycle until FY1949. Amending the FY1948 plan to put it in might have been justified by a crisis, but the only one evident at the time was the attack at home on naval aviation. (Largely because of an assault on Berlin begun by Moscow in mid-1948, Congress in late 1948 voted to build the supercarrier, a small victory, we thought, against the “anti-navy” onslaught.)
In any case, from 1946 on, building the carrier-based big-bomber force evolved along two parallel, interactive lines. One focused on hardware; the other on hiring able people. In both, we were ‘pushing the envelope,”as pilots say. In hardware, getting big carriers left the question of what plane to put aboard
.”

Recognizing this need, in 1946 Navy contracted with North American Aviation to build the AJ Savage, a carrier-based, long-range bomber capable of hauling the 10,000lb+ Mk4 atomic weapon off a carrier, delivering it and returning to an arrested landing. A complex undertaking, the AJ would not be available until 1950 and in the meantime, an alternate “gap-filler” needed to be found. Looking at its inventory, Lockheed’s shore-based P2V Neptune seemed to provide a solution. It certainly had the range (as demonstrated by the flight of the Truculent Turtle in 1946 from Australia to Ohio, over 11,000 nm unrefueled) and with some modifications, could be adapted for one-time flights off the larger Midway-class CVBs.

A P2V-2C (BuNo 122449) was diverted and modified for testing in what would become the P2V-3C configuration. The central features included reduced crewing, increased internal fuel and attachment points for JATO (Jet Assisted take-Off) rockets (8 total – four to the side) as well as changes to accommodate carriage of the Mk1 atomic weapon modeled on the “Little Boy” uranium gun-type device which was substantially less bulky than the plutonium-based Mk5 weapon based on the “Fat Man.”

JATO was necessary as the hydraulic catapults of the time could not provide the necessary assist to get a 70,000+ gross weight aircraft airborne. With JATO and a 28 knot headwind, a fully loaded P2V could punch the JATO assist midway down a 900 ft deck run and instantly reach a required 150 knot airspeed (with the starboard wing clearing the carrier’s island by about 10 feet). Initially, the modification also included a tailhook and some 128 field arrested landings were conducted at Lockheed’s Burbank plant and NAS Patuxent River with then-CAPT Hayward, future CO of VC-5, at the controls. Shipboard trials consisted of pattern work and touch-and-goes onboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt – but no arrested landings. Carrier landings, however, would not be part of the P2V-3C’s portfolio – airframe deformities (stretching in the fuselage) were discovered following the field arrestments, not entirely unsurprising as the P2V, rugged as it was, was not designed for carrier ops (likewise, the P-51, found to be quite capable round the carrier, suffered from rear bulkhead weaknesses after its carrier trials). Operations for the P2V then would mean it had to be craned aboard (giving away intentions) and following its launch and delivery, either return and ditch alongside the carrier or land at a friendly airfield should any remain – in essence, a one-time use weapon system. Under the circumstances, however, it was considered sufficient. Little time was wasted from the 1948 trials – eleven aircraft (BuNos 122924, 122927, 122930, 122933, 122936, 122942, 122947, 122951, 122966, 122969 and 122971) were procured under the P2V-3C configuration (12 total counting BuNo 122449, “NB41″ which was the prototype and still serving) and assigned to VC-5 (stood up in Sept 1948) and later VC-6 (stood up in Jan 1950). Special weapons units, based at Kirtland AFB, NM would store and service the weapons on each of the three Midway-class carriers configured for nuclear weapons.

With 1949, the Navy began an aggressive series of demonstrations, starting in March with the load aboard of three P2V’s on Coral Sea. Weighing in at 70, 65 and 55,000lbs respectively, all three launched sequentially off Coral Sea using their JATO assist. Later, in September, the capability was demonstrated to members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with CAPT Hayward flying off Midway with Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, flying in the right seat. Interestingly enough, this came a few months after Johnson had canceled the United States. CAPT Hayward’s XO, Dan Ashworth, launched on a long-range mission totaling a little over 4800 nm from the Midway, operating off Norfolk and recovering onboard Moffet field – by way of the Caribbean and Panama. And then in early 1950, CDR Robinson extended that even further with a flight of over 5,000 nm (for reference, the range from a mid-Mediterranean Sea launch to Moscow and recovery at Aviano Capodichino AB, outside Naples, Italy was about half that distance — 2500 nm).

The first deployment for VC-5 came in 1951 when six AJ-1s (newly delivered and problem beset) deployed with three P2Vs to Port Lyautey, Morocco. The Savages periodically operated off the Midway and FDR (the Midway-class carriers were not deployed to Korea as they had the only nuclear capability and were reserved for the nuclear mission in the Med). In a relatively short time, the P2V and AJ would be replaced and the carrier-based nuclear delivery mission would be assumed first by the A3D Skywarrior (contracted for in 1949) and as weapon sizes grew smaller (and yields increased) the AD4 Skyhawk and AD Skyraider. Most of the P2V-3Cs were re-configured to -3B with the AS-1B bombing system added and sent to the Heavy Attack Training Units (HATU) as trainers.

Sources:
VC-5 History: http://cv41.org/vc5history.html
History of the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt: http://ussfranklindroosevelt.com/?page_id=2264
Lockheed Neptune prototypes and special project P2Vs: http://www.verslo.is/baldur/p2/prototypes.htm#122449
US Navy and US Marine Corps BuNos: Third Series (120341 to 126256)(last revised 31 July 2010): http://www.joebaugher.com/navy_serials/thirdseries13.html
Aerofiles: Lockheed K to Lockheed-Martin: http://www.aerofiles.com/_lock2.html
HATWING-1: http://web.cortland.edu/woosterk/hatwing1.html
P2V In Action: http://www.scribd.com/P2V-NEPTUNE-IN-ACTION-SQUADRON-1068/d/20610007
Bluejacket Admiral: the Navy Career of Chick Hayward By John T. Hayward, Carl W. Borklund
STRIKE FROM THE SEA: U.S. Navy Attack Aircraft From Skyraider to Super Hornet 1948-Present, By Tommy H. Thomason

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93

The last pilot from the Doolittle raid, Col Bill Bower, USAF-Ret., passed away Jan 10 at his home in Boulder CO:

Bill Bower, last surviving bomber pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, dies at 93

Capt. Bill Bower was the last surviving bomber pilot in the Doolittle Raid against Japan in April 1942. Pictured are Col. Bower's crew from the raid. From left to right, William Pound, navigator; Bill Bower, captain; Waldo Bither, bombardier; Thadd Blanton, co-pilot; Omer Duquette, flight engineer. (Family photo via Washington Post online)

As a 25-year-old first lieutenant, Col. Bower commanded one of the 16 Army Air Forces’ B-25s in the top-secret mission under the direction of then-Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle. Col. Bower and the 79 other men who participated in the bombing run came to be known as the Doolittle Raiders . . . After skimming the waves during the 600-mile flight to Japan, Col. Bower directed his plane toward Yokohama and was stunned by the island’s natural beauty.
“I had the impression that, my gosh, what peaceful, pretty countryside that was,” Col. Bower later said. “What do they want war with us for?”
When Col. Bower arrived over his target in Yokohama, about 25 miles south of Tokyo, he encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire. His crew dropped the plane’s 2,000 pounds of ordnance on Yokohama’s dockyards and an oil refinery.
Col. Bower then throttled on toward China, where the Americans had tentatively planned to land and regroup in Chuchow, 200 miles south of Shanghai.
But plans changed. The planes encountered strong headwinds and stormy weather that burned fuel
.

Like many of those who survived and made it back to the States, Col Bower continued to fight:

After the Doolittle Raid, Col. Bower flew missions in England, North Africa and Italy. He became an officer in the Air Force when it was formed in 1947. He served as the commander for an Air Force Arctic supply unit and later commanded Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Ga. He retired from the military in 1966.

With his passing, there remain five survivors in toto of the raid to carryout the annual toast:

(Click on thumbnail to enlarge - note the inscription on the goblet - SJS)

At every reunion, the surviving Raiders meet privately to conduct their solemn “Goblet Ceremony.” After toasting the Raiders who died since their last meeting, they turn the deceased men’s goblets upside down. Each goblet has the Raider’s name engraved twice — so that it can be read if the goblet is right side up or upside down. When there are only two Raiders left, these two men will drink one final toast to their departed comrades.

From another time – another war echoes an age old sentiment: “Where do we get such men?”

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years

18 January 1911: At 11:01 a.m., Eugene Ely, flying the same Curtiss pusher used to take off from Birmingham (CL 2), landed on a specially built platform aboard the armored cruiser Pennsylvania (Armored cruiser No. 4) at anchor in San Francisco Bay. At 11:58 he took off and returned to Selfridge Field, San Francisco, completing the earliest demonstration of the adaptability of aircraft to shipboard operations.


And so it began. Fragile constructs of wire, canvas and wood, given flight by human guts and ingenuity would give way to immensely more powerful creatures flying from the decks of leviathans that themselves, were once the sole provence of fantasy writers. In so doing, the margins of naval warfare were stretched to fantastic margins and capabilities. Powerful naval forces, centered on aircraft carriers and their embarked airwings and supported by land- and sea-based maritime patrol would dominate broad swaths of the mightiest ocean barely thirty years later. Fifty years hence supersonic fighters would lift from the deck of the first nuclear-powered carrier while Naval Aviators prepared for the first manned spaceflight. And today – 100 years on, the edge of the envelope continues to be stretched and pushed as Naval Aviation in all its forms – carrier-based, rotary winged and maritime patrol provide critical and flexible options to our nation’s leaders – in times of peace and war.

As part of the celebrations and observances for this milestone, there will be regular posts based on this theme here and at other sites – like that hosted by the Naval Institute and of course, the official site for the celebration. Check the “Centennial of Naval Aviation: 1911-2011″ block over on the right for updates and links to special events. Over at the U.S. Naval Air Forces Facebook site you will find additional information, including a growing collection of aircraft which are receiving “retro” paint schemes based on period aircraft (personal favorites are the tri-color schemes from 1944).

More to follow…

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

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