Testimony of Pilot# 18
They do tell stories about fighter pilots and indeed, fast mover combat pilots of the fighter/attack clan are seldom reluctant to pass on a little this is no s..t (TINS) with quite possibly some embellishment of their swashing of buckles derring -do over time.
Most readers are familiar with Pat Conroy’s book and follow-on movie The Great Santini, and some most certainly are knowledgable about Conroy’s Marine aviator father Colonel Don Conroy. Even though there is most certainly a dark side to Don Conroy as a father, for me this series and particularly for a chapter labeled “where did we get such men,” not capturing Pat Conroy’s eulogy for his father would just be incomplete … and so here’s to the Great Santini – and note, even among fighter and attack guys, carrying off that call sign required some real TINS.
COLONEL DON CONROY’S EULOGY
by his son, Pat Conroy. Continue reading
Testimony of Pilot# 17
Proceedings Magazine – September 2011 published an article by Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman “Is Naval Aviation Culture Dead?” discussing the fallout of Tailhook ’91 and the effect political correctness has had on a hard-earned mystique, noting The swaggering-flyer mystique forged over the past century has been stymied in recent years by political correctness.
Secretary Lehman’s focal point and full text go beyond the scope of Testimony of Pilot Chapter 3, “Where did/do we get such men?” but his lead in defines our heritage very well.
Is Naval Aviation Culture Dead?
by John Lehman
Proceedings Sept 2011, U.S. Naval Institute
We celebrate the 100th anniversary of U.S. naval aviation this year, but the culture that has become legend was born in controversy, with battleship admirals and Marine generals seeing little use for airplanes. Even after naval aviators proved their worth in World War II, naval aviation faced constant conflict within the Navy and Marine Corps, from the War Department, and from skeptics in Congress. Throughout the interwar period, its culture was forged largely unnoted by the public.
It first burst into the American consciousness 69 years ago when a few carrier aviators changed the course of history at the World War II Battle of Midway. Continue reading
Testimony of Pilot# 16
MEDAL OF HONOR citation… for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while Senior Naval Officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam on 4 September 1969. Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners’ of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Admiral Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt…
… Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self-dis-figuration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Admiral Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country…
Always Leading and Always Will
by Orson Swindle (USMC, Ret)
with add by Paul Galanti (USN, Ret)
Prisoners of War in North Vietnam
[Reproduced with permission of USNI and the author]
The country, the Navy, the Stockdale family, especially his beloved wife, Sybil, and those of us who were POWs in North Vietnam suffered a terrible loss with the passing on 5 July (2005) of Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale. Husband, father, patriot, mentor, author, and dear friend, he touched our lives profoundly. Distinguished graduate of the Naval Academy, Medal of Honor recipient, courageous warrior, brilliant leader, almost bigger than life, he never stopped inspiring us. It is difficult to accept that he is gone. We recognize how fortunate we are that he came our way. Continue reading
Testimony of Pilot# 15
Where do we get such men?
…From the farms and the fields of America, grown from boys who labor and look beyond the horizon toward better lives—for themselves and for their families.
The fields of Lewis Alexander Hopkins were red Georgia clay, and he saw the horizon along the backs and between the plow harness of Tom and Golden, the mule and the horse. After a long day, Lewis would trudge back home to a farmhouse with loose-fitting boards that let in the wind, a front porch where the family visited with neighbors, and with the outhouse down yonder.
That’s the way Anne Hopkins began the eulogy for her father, Rear Admiral Lew Hopkins – “from a farm in Georgia.”
Below are excerpts from an interview with her Dad for the oral history collection of Admiral Nimitz Historic Site-National Museum of the Pacific War, Center for Pacific War Studies in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Admiral Hopkins and his daughter Anne in a Dauntless.
RADM. Lewis A. Hopkins (USN-Retired)
SBD Pilot (VB-6) – USS Enterprise –Battle of Midway
Testimony of Pilot# 14
We begin Chapter 3 of testimony with the source of THE question from James Michener. I remember my parents taking me to see the movie when it first came out. I’ve watched it multiple times since and done some research on the original Korean War context. Can’t say I was ever in favor of the ending but both the book and movie were a significant factor in my early interest in flying and eventual desire for and then pursuit of wings of gold. It represents pretty well the way navy combat flying is in reality.
THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI
by James a Michener
Now the sky was empty and the helicopter stood burned out in the rice field and in the ditch there was no one beside him. Harry Brubaker, a twenty-nine-year-old lawyer from Denver, Colorado, was alone in a spot he had never intended to defend in a war he had not understood. Continue reading
Blown Slick Series #13 Part 13-3
The Eastern Solomons became the most intensively studied carrier action yet… Despite intensive analysis, the battle as a whole remained a mystery. Lundstrom
Blindman’s Bluff (3) – An Empty Sea
After the final near miss on the 24th and continued retreat on the 25th, the Enterprise air group was flown off to the Wasp, the Saratoga, and area islands. Freed from duty to the departing aircraft carrier, the North Carolina, the Atlanta, and two destroyers were sent to join the Saratoga group.
After absorbing the brunt of the U.S. carrier strikes and seeing one of his two large carriers damaged, Nagumo decided he had had enough. He ordered a withdrawal to Truk.
First a RememberedSky note: As in the analysis of the Battle of Midway, which leveraged Shattered Sword by Parshall and Tully, this post will lean heavily – both the analysis itself and actual words – on one particular work, in this case Blackshoe Carrier Admiral: Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Sea, Midway and Guadalcanal, by John B. Lundstrom.
Before jumping into his discussion, two points: Continue reading
Blown Slick Series #13 Part 13-2
To say the least we were in a bad predicament. All of our attack planes were committed on missions with the main enemy force still unlocated and his planes coming in to attack us. The best we could do was to get ready for an air attack and hope for the best. Captain Davis, Enterprise
Blindman’s Bluff (2) – Incoming
Afternoon of the 24th continued
At 16:02, still waiting for a definitive report on the location of the Japanese fleet carriers, the U.S. carriers’ radar detected the first incoming wave of Japanese strike aircraft. Fifty – three F4F-4 Wildcat fighters from the two U.S. carriers were directed by radar control towards the attackers. However, communication problems, limitations of the aircraft identification capabilities of the radar, primitive control procedures, and effective screening of the Japanese dive bombers by their escorting Zeros, prevented all but a few of the U.S. fighters from engaging the Vals before they began their attacks on the U.S. carriers. Continue reading
Blown Slick Series #13 Part 13-1
Thus begins the day of 23 August, 1942 – Battle of the Eastern Solomons [24–25 August 1942]
At breakfast Fletcher read a special Cincpac Ultra message advising that the “Orange striking force” of two Shokaku-class carriers, two fast battleships, and four heavy cruisers was now “indicated” to be “in or near Truk area,” and thus not nearer to Cactus than one thousand miles. “In Truk-Rabaul area” was “Cinc Second Fleet” with “possibly” two fast battleships and “definitely” four heavy cruisers. This valuable intelligence, however, failed to answer the prime question of when the assault on Guadalcanal might come. With the Japanese carriers so distant, such a move now seemed unlikely for several days.
John B. Lundstrom, Black Shoe Carrier Admiral: Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Sea, Midway & Guadalcanal . Naval Institute Press.
The Enterprise under attack around 4;30 in the afternoon of the 24th by the Japanese aircraft from carriers 1000 miles away AM of the 23rd?
The battle of the Eastern Solomons (24-25 August 1942) was the second battle in the series of six naval actions linked to the fighting on Guadalcanal and the third of four carrier vs. carrier battles in 1942. Continue reading
Blown Slick Series #13 Part 12-4
“…the only place on Earth where you could stand up to your knees in mud and still get dust in your eyes.” Marion Carl
First Marine Ace by Roy Grinnell. Capt. Marion Carl over Henderson Field – the first Marine Ace of WWII, finishing with 18.5 kills. Awarded the Navy Cross.
Commander in Chief, United States Fleet (COMINCH) and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Ernest King pushed hard in Washington for operations in the Pacific – Navy ops. The victory at Midway gave him the leverage he needed in the Europe first Washington D.C. comings and goings. King directed Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, Chester Nimitz to move out and thus began the push to move to the offensive by invading Guadalcanal. The number of ships would grow close to ninety, vastly more than say the Wake Island or Doolittle events. As noted previously it combined land, sea and air combat capability as never before. Watchtower was indeed a recognized gamble, and yet, the planning was seriously short of consideration of that complexity and what situations might evolve, not the least of this would be the lack of early land based air.
There is no Japanese defeat in the Solomons without the defense of Henderson Field and the combat flying of the Cactus Air Force.
Henderson Field and the Beginnings of the Cactus Air Force
The 7 August landings on Tulagi and Guadalcanal at Lunga Point, included the capturing of a partially completed Japanese airfield. Indeed, the uncompleted Japanese airfield was the reason the Americans landed on Guadalcanal in the first place. Continue reading
Blown Slick Series #13 Part 12-3
“It is true, Marines will take a pounding until their own air gets established (about ten days or so), but they can dig in, hole up, and wait. Extra losses are a localized operation. This is balanced against a potential National tragedy. Loss of our fleet or one or more of these carriers is a real, worldwide tragedy.” Colonel Melvin J. Maas, USMC TF-61 Staff
TF-61 at Guadalcanal: three of the for carriers in the Pacific in August 1942 – Wasp, Saratoga, and Enterprise.
In a series on carrier operations at the beginning of WWII it would be remiss not to discuss the controversial decisions made by VADM Fletcher concerning withdrawing his TF-61 carriers from the immediate vicinity of the attack after the initial landings. The basic role of the carriers in the Watchtower landings was, of course, to provide air support, in particular fighter cover.
This piece is not intended to cover the events in detail but only to provide basic context in the early evolution of carriers in warfare. In hindsight it is useful to reflect on two items: 1) TF-61 was composed of three of only four US carriers in the Pacific and 2) it is well worth highlighting how much the rough parity of carrier forces of the two sides contributed to the protracted nature of the overall bloody struggle for the island.
Withdrawal of the Carriers