Missmus Bismus #4: Epilogue

Testimony of Pilot# 26

I never would have made it if I could not have laughed. It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable. — Viktor Frankl

All I claim to know is that laughter is the most reliable gauge of human nature. — Feodor Dostoyevsky

At the ‘Prom’ – Mike ‘Manny’ Bader, Kent Bader, Ed ‘Boris’ Beakley, Paulette Beakley

The four part Missbus Bismus series is based on memories brought on by the Christmas season and particularly those of 1972 during the Vietnam War. I’ve tried very hard to center the writing on either people or laughter.

As the historical story has been told, the end of the war in Vietnam is considered mainly the result of the Christmas bombing operations of Linebacker II –the eleven days of Christmas.

I’ve used the convention of memories as ornaments and gifts and so I’ll end this “Christmas Stories” series discussing what I choose to refer to as the extended in time gifts of Christmas 1972 – memories beyond price. There are seven story gifts, all but one (the picture above in context) in the link below and summarized here: Continue reading

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Missmus Bismus #3: Shangri-La…found

Testimony of Pilot# 25

The comic and the tragic lie inseparably close, like light and shadow. Socrates

The human race has only one effective weapon, and that is laughter. Mark Twain

  • Shangri-La is a fictional place sought and wished for by many, described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. He describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley amongst high mountains. Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia – a permanently happy land, isolated from the world.

USS Midway and Airwing Five had deployed seven weeks early because of the North Vietnamese 30 March’72 invasion of the South known as the Easter Offensive, We began combat operations on the 28th of April and were now in our seventh line period (of nine eventually).  A little pleasure of “shangri-la” would most certainly be welcome.

But before getting to discussion of finding Shangri-la and  of Bob Hope, Red  Foxx, and all the ladies, plus some serious partying, a little context  is appropriate. Continue reading

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Missmus Bismus #2: The Ornaments

Testimony of Pilot# 24

Missmus Bismus, Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas

USS Midway in San Diego Harbor. Photo by Sandi Whitteker.

Remembered Sky was introduced on September 15th of 2012 and the first post included the introductory piece of Ghosts Of Christmas Past written for Christmas 1999 in relation to the upcoming first meeting over the holidays with “Frenchy”- fellow Naval Aviator and my future son-in-law. Ghosts offered the words of writers like James Michener and Herman Wouk as Christmas “ornaments” collected over a career and love affair with flying and Naval Aviation. Originally sent along the old-boy naval  aviator e-mail chain, it was later published in MIG SWEEP, the magazine of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (River Rats), and then on Project White Horse 084640 as part of the 100th year anniversary of Naval Aviation.

I like these written ornaments and though I’ve posted them before, it seems a good way to reflect on the intersection of  traditional Christmas elements and those special people and memories that arise out of the military wartime experience.  … Merry Christmas to all and particularly to “these good men” still serving the United States of America.

Here is the link to the original 1999 second part of Ghosts of Christmas Past republished on RemberedSky on Christmas Day 2012:

Christmas ’72 Stories: (1) The “Ornaments” from Ghosts of Christmas Past

Continue reading

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Missmus Bismus #1: The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Testimony of Pilot# 23

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world—oh, woe is me!—and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”   Jacob Marley (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)

Missmus Bismus, Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas

The back wall in Boris’s toy shop, the domain of Elvis the Elf, fixer of all model aircraft, hammer in hand

Christmas of course is a time of the birth of a child , of a star, and of ornaments, brightly wrapped presents, eggnog, parties, long established traditions, family and good friends and most certainly of memories.  For some of us, there are those inescapable memories that come like it or not of a war finally unleashed, but with the accompanying stress, fear and inevitable loss. The 1972 eleven days of Christmas included some incredible stupidity, multiple examples of above and beyond bravery, a manifestation of hope long battered for the residents of the Hanoi Hilton, and the portending of their return to freedom.

The intersection of those great Christmas memories and the unbidden wartime memories is the people . For the Christmas of this horrible year, I’ve dusted off some writing that focuses on the friends indelibly linked – “these good men.”

It would most certainly be an unforced error in ignoring ole Marley’s words, no? Continue reading

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Complete Series List: 1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier

Blown Slick Series #13 

1942 – The Year of the Aircraft Carrier

Given the two years plus this series has taken, below is a list/linkage for easy access  for all 30 posts. But first a bit of  site background review ...

Remembered Sky began as a way to tell the stories  of myself and my friends on that ’72-’73 Vietnam war cruise on USS Midway, for Linebacker I and II. A significant catalyst was also my decision in regard to the 100th year anniversary of Naval Aviation to spend some time re-reading my collection of books and articles, discussing the details of that 100 years. This included my continuing fascination with the history of the Battle of Midway which encompasses  the evolution of carrier warfare and the 1930’s Fleet Battle Problems, and then finally re-treading my own years within that  story.

Moving along first, these paths of exploration of naval aviation’s beginnings, and second, the distinct passage for all U.S. airpower that was the air war in Vietnam, and the somewhat different tracks that the Air Force and Navy followed post Vietnam on into Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, I began to sense and then finally acknowledge that  with my own experiences and aeronautical engineering education, I was developing very distinct questions, arguments, opinions, and outright disagreement with certain aspects of the analysis and conclusions about airpower being offered by many of the current crop of well respected academic, historian, and military analysts.

That questioning along with a recent bit of research and analysis I conducted as a paid consultant focusing on potential testing and training scenarios for the F-35, all together convinced me that the next step for Remembered Sky should be a move from air warfare storytelling to air warfare analysis. This then is the back story for discussion of the evolution of fighter, attack, and strike fighter airpower application  – Blown SlickLight Attack Fast Pursuit Airpower Analysis – the series.

Any assessment of future air power must certainly take into account China’s growing defense capability, objectives, and ongoing operations in the South China Sea. This suggested that a  reasonable starting point  would be a review of that first year of WW II in the Pacific, the Japanese island chain or co-prosperity sphere, and the emergence of aircraft carrier warfare. The sub-series posts provide a review of the four major carrier battles throughout 1942. And thus, Blown Slick #13 – 1942 the Year of the Aircraft Carrier.

Tales of the South Pacific

The following is a complete listing with links to each article:

Continue reading

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1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 30 – Conclusion* or “Tales of the South Pacific”

Blown Slick Series #13 Part 30

Life is rooted in narrative, humans construct their lives and shape their world in terms of these  memories. Storytelling taps into existing knowledge and creates bridges as a means for sharing and interpreting experiences. Facts can be understood as smaller versions of a larger story, and thus storytelling can supplement analytical thinking and demonstrate the potential of human accomplishment.

This is the concluding post for a two year effort focused on carrier aviation in 1942. The final piece borrows the title of James A. Michener’s  Pulitzer Prize winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific to emphasize a point.

This effort was never intended as a draft of a book, or as a retelling in shorter form of the battles of 1942 in the Pacific. I’m not an historian, nor author. I am though, a great reader of history and if it concerns combat aviation – particularly Navy – I’m you’re huckleberry! But digging in type reading reveals elements and stories that even interested people may never have realized. And so my offerings. Continue reading

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“1942” – Part 29 – Afterword by Barrett Tillman

1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier Series

Blown Slick Series #13 Part 29

Lexington, Yorktown, Wasp, Hornet, Saratoga and Enterprise held the line.  Herein is their June 19–20, 1944  pay-off story.

Thanks to Barrett Tillman for all the help during this series and for permission to use this portion of his book Clash of the Carriers. JEB at RS

Air Battle Of The Philippine Sea by John Hamilton (Naval History and Heritage Command)

The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot Adapted from Clash of The Carriers by Barrett Tillman

By any measure, the United States would dominate its Pacific enemy, yet Tokyo’s warlords convinced themselves that Bushido warrior spirit would defeat steel, expertise—and rage. In 1941 America out produced Japan in every category. That year the U.S. Navy commissioned forty-four warships and thirteen submarines—a further investment in Franklin Roosevelt’s two-ocean navy. In comparison, Japan managed twenty-four: three carriers, one battleship (the world’s largest), two cruisers, and seven destroyers, plus eleven subs. Three years later the U.S. launched more than nine million tons of cargo vessels, while Japanese yards produced less than eight hundred thousand: a twelve-to-one disparity. And that figure did not account for the attrition that U.S. submarines inflicted upon the empire’s vulnerable merchant marine. Excluding escorts, in 1944 America commissioned 762 warships, Japan barely 200. America built 93,000 aircraft versus 28,000 “made in Japan.” Yet for all its egregious folly, Japan enjoyed breathtaking success in the five months after December 7.

There had not been a fleet engagement since the fall of 1942, when some seventy American and Japanese ships clashed in the Battle of Santa Cruz. The U.S. lost the carrier Hornet (CV-8) but Japan’s strategic goal—isolation of Guadalcanal—was stymied. Subsequent battles were mostly small surface duels: brief, bloody, nocturnal engagements fought with gunfire and torpedoes. The next battle was bound to be far bigger and bloodier.

… the Marianas. Continue reading

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“1942” – Part 28 – Reflections (6 of 6); CAS

Blown Slick Series #13 Part 28

The story of how the Marines developed a close air support system needs to be told. It is a story that is distinct from the volumes of literature written about the controversial strategic bombing campaign or the more glamorous air-to-air battles that raged in the skies of Europe and the Pacific. It tells of the commitment to support the ultimate instrument of National policy: a soldier or Marine on the ground. The story of Marine CAS is important because it shows how a force, while constrained by lack of money and hindered by administrative opposition, became a more effective fighting organization. Marine CAS development is a pertinent subject for the study of modem day air and ground operations for the same reasons.

Major Brian S. McFadden, Marine Close Air Support In World War II 

Getting started – in a war 

Guadalcanal allowed Marine pilots to provide the first Marine CAS in the Pacific. Theater, with the Dauntless SBD dive bombers and the Army Air Corps P-400  flying many of the missions. Continue reading

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“1942” – Part 27 – Reflections (5 of 6); Land Based Air

Blown Slick Series #13 Part 27

“However the danger exists that the more important and more fundamental fact may be lost sight of that the land plane bases and the operating units thereon should be available in supporting positions before the operation is undertaken at all. It is only by this provision in advance that the risking of carriers in restricted covering positions can be avoided.” Adm  Bull Halsey

The term “land based” in regard to World War II requires some context.  Of note is the differences between how air power was applied in European  and the Pacific theaters.

The game plan for the eventual focus on Japan included a two pronged attack progressing through the islands of the central Pacific under Admiral Chester Nimitz and a southern approach under General MacArthur. While a major objective was to capture (or build) airfields within range of mainland Japan for heavy bombers (B-29s) as in European bomber commands, this required a different operational approach for land-based air in the early days. Continue reading

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“1942” – Part 26 – Reflections (4 of 6); Fighter Operations

Blown Slick Series #13 Part 26

The U.S. Navy’s carrier fighting squadrons took particular pride in their own contribution during the first fourteen crucial weeks, from 7 August to 15 November 1942. At heavy cost VF-5, VF-6, and VF-71 provided fighter support during the initial two days of the amphibious invasion, the first time they attempted such a difficult endeavor. In August and October, VF-5, VF-6, VF-72, and VF-10 fought two desperate carrier slugging matches whose level of ferocity was seldom equaled until the Kamikaze onslaught of 1944–45. Beached when their carriers were sunk or heavily damaged, VF-5 and VF-71 joined the 1st MAW at besieged Henderson Field, pitching in during one of Marine aviation’s proudest exploits.

 John B. Lundstrom, First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign: Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942 

Fighter issues Continue reading

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