1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 2 – The Doolittle Raid

Blown Slick Series #13 Part 2

War, Remembrance, Honor – The Doolittle Raiders

18 April, 1942

Lead Pic

Spotted by a Japanese ship two days before they intended to launch 400-450 miles off the coast of Japan, Admiral Halsey, Hornet commanding officer Captain Marc Mitscher, and LtCol. Jimmy Doolittle determined the necessity to launch immediately – probably 600 plus miles out and meaning the raiders could most probably not reach the Chinese mainland.

The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, on Saturday, April 18, 1942, was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle as the first air operation to strike the Japanese Home Islands including the Japanese capital Tokyo.

Specifics

  • Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the  aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men.
  • The flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8)  was 814 by 86 feet. (Wingspan of the Mitchel Bomber was 68 ft.) She was designed to host a Carrier Air Group of 18 fighters, 18 bombers, 37 scout planes, 18 torpedo bombers, and 6 utility aircraft.
  • The B-25B carried 4 bombs totaling 2000 pounds. Some were incendiary bomb-lets
  • In comparison note that an A-7 on an Alpha Strike into North Vietnam routinely carried 6 1000 lb bombs and A-6E Intruders carried multiple ejector racks holding up to 6 Mk 82 500 lb bombs each  on 5 stations.
  • The originalplan called for them to launch at 400-450 NM and bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China.
  • The weather was bad with the flight deck pitching significantly during the launch. Launches were timed as best as possible so that the a/c lifted off as the bow was coming up. In several cases the up swing pushed the bomber nose up close to a stall. Capt. Mitscher considered the whole evolution fairly ugly but all 16 made it safely to Japan.
  • Navigation assistance was unavailable.  Fifteen aircraft reached China. Most if not all a/c missed their planned coast in point by significant margin. Flying in at wave top altitude they had little visibility of landmarks. They were surprised with how similar all the villages, suburbs, looked making finding their planned targets extremely difficult.  In many cases when they found a structure that looked like a manufacturing concern, then popped up to 1500-2000 ft and dropped their ordnance. Some did find their planned targets like a naval facility.  In some cases they dropped their four bombs individually and made multiple runs.
  •  No a/c was lost over Japan, but all but one crashed in China or just short of the beach, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union.
  • All but three of the 80 crew members initially survived the mission. Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of those were later executed. The B-25 that landed in the Soviet Union was confiscated and its crew interned for more than a year. Fourteen complete crews, except for one crewman who was killed in action, returned either to the United States or to American forces. All eighty aircrew were awarded with medals from China and from the Unites States, the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Air Crew

The raid caused negligible material damage to Japan, but it achieved its goal of raising American morale and casting doubt in Japan on the ability of its military leaders to defend their home islands. It also contributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s decision to attack Midway Island in the Central Pacific. Prior to Doolittle’s Raid, the senior Japanese Army officers had strongly opposed the attack on Midway believing it would divide Army resources and require too long a logistics trail. After the attack they felt they could ill afford to be seen as non-responsive and were thus compelled to support Yamamoto’s plan for the Midway assault —the attack that cost them four carriers and turned into a decisive strategic defeat in the Battle of Midway. Doolittle, who initially believed that the loss of all his aircraft would lead to his court-martial, received the Medal of Honor and was promoted two ranks to brigadier general.

Doolittle’s Raid demonstrated that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack, served as retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and provided an important boost to American morale. Probably of more importance it was leverage to go on the offensive, first stopping the Japanese move towards Australia in the Coral Sea, second going on the offense against Yamamoto’s four carriers at Midway, and finally attacking and holding Guadalcanal. See Part 3 for overview of the carrier battles of 1942.

Books

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1942 – The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 1- Background

Blown Slick Series #13 

Midway

Seventy-five years ago -1943 – Nimitz, King, and particularly the air navy admirals worked a seemingly endless slate of problems to leverage the advantages the navy had hard earned in the last year. The F-4 Wildcat was replaced with new F-4U Corsairs and F-6F Hellcats, replacing scout bombers and torpedo bombers proved problematic. Roles and missions had to be adjusted, particularly for the ever increasing demands of observation and reconnaissance. New Essex class aircraft carriers were coming on line. The careful days of a single carrier in the Pacific after Guadalcanal were over, but how best to employ- individually or with two inside the screen? Experienced carrier operators supported both concepts.

In addition, the fight over who’s in charge between Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur was constant, but it had serious repercussions. MacArthur wanted Navy carriers to protect his right flank as he moved northward with Army Air Force fighters and bombers executing the main thrust from the air.  But the Army approach would place the carriers in restricted island waters most vulnerable to Japanese land-based air, and second the Army Air Force and Navy differed drastically in the approach of air support for troops – a major concern for the Navy/Marine Corps combination of fast carriers and amphibious operations intended for the thrust in the central Pacific. Much was at stake and all of it allowed by the hard won battles and lessons of 1942.
Today the context is what to do with A-10’s for Close Air Support (CAS), a new carrier with problems, an expensive over due multi-role 5th generation F-35 with three service variants, and two very different types of war to consider – the insurgencies of Middle East and the more conventional potential conflicts with Russia and China. Conventional. yes, but threat technologies like S-400 SAMs and their versions of 5th generation create much concern. China is of particular interest for the Navy because of the islands and waterways associated with the South China Sea.

Based on China’s rapidly developing A2/AD or anti-access/area-denial  capabilities focused on a “two island chain” defense perimeter for the South China Sea (and also Iran’s similar albeit far more modest capabilities, focused on the Persian Gulf)  in September 2009 the US Air Force chief of staff, General Norton Schwartz, and the US Navy’s chief of naval operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, signed a classified memorandum to initiate an effort by their Services to develop a new operational concept known as “AirSea Battle.”

ASB Island Chain2

A notional operational concept (developed by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, CBSA) centered around future power projection was presented for review in the spring of 2010 to mixed reviews. Some seemed to think the authors were attempting to regenerate a 21st Century Battle of Midway. Yet in at least some ways the Chinese two island chain defense of the South China Sea is not so different from the Japanese approach related to attacking Pearl Harbor and Midway which sought to eliminate the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific, thereby giving Japan a free hand in establishing its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Midway

Indeed, any assessment of future air power must certainly take into account China’s growing defense capability, objectives, and ongoing operations, so a  reasonable starting point suggested is a review of that first year of WW II in the Pacific and the emergence of aircraft carrier warfare. On its 18 April, 1942 anniversary we start with the Doolittle Raid from USS Hornet in Part 2. Follow-on pieces will then provide a review of the four major carrier battles throughout 1942.

Overview: 1942, the Year of the Carrier

On 18 April, 1942, sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the  aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) deep in the Western Pacific Ocean. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China. The raid caused negligible material damage to Japan, but it achieved its goal of raising American morale and casting doubt in Japan on the ability of its military leaders to defend their home islands.  Prior to Doolittle’s Raid, the senior Japanese Army officers had strongly opposed the attack on Midway. After the attack they felt compelled to support a response and therefore turned to support  and thus the raid contributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s decision to attack Midway Island —an attack that turned into a decisive strategic defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) by the U.S. Navy in the Battle of Midway

The severe Japanese losses in carriers at Midway prevented the Japanese from reattempting to invade Port Moresby from the ocean and helped prompt their ill-fated land offensive over the Kokoda trail. Two months later, the Allies took advantage of Japan’s resulting strategic vulnerability in the South Pacific and launched the Guadalcanal Campaign; this, along with the New Guinea Campaign, eventually broke Japanese defenses in the South Pacific and was a significant contributing factor to Japan’s ultimate surrender in World War II.

While the Battle of Midway was a crushing defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy, that battle did not stop Japanese offensives, which continued both at sea and on the ground. The victories at Milne Bay, Buna–Gona, and Guadalcanal marked the Allied transition from defensive operations to the strategic initiative in the theater, leading to offensive campaigns in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and the Central Pacific, that eventually resulted in the Surrender of Japan and the end of World War II.

The Doolittle Raid

Doolittle_1

April 18, 1942 on board USS Hornet

The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, on Saturday, April 18, 1942, was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle as the first air operation to strike the Japanese Home Islands including the Japanese capital Tokyo. It was composed of sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers launched from the  aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) deep in the Western Pacific Ocean. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China. See Part 2.

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A Second Look – Aviation Week Debate on the F-35

Blown Slick Series #12

Last summer Aviation Week conducted a podcast debate between the first commanding officer of a USMC F-35B squadron, retired  LtCol. David Berke,  and former “fighter mafia” participant during the Light Weight Fighter competition (YF-16/17) Pierre Sprey.

BerkeSprey

Berke has an  extremely unique  flight experience background in that he’s instructed at TOPGUN, conducted operational test flights of the F-22 and has significant flight time in the F-16, F/A-18, F-22 and F-35. Sprey was a participant in the LWF program and heavily involved with the A-10 program development. Their views of the F-35 and future airpower needs and application are significantly different.

Given the RememberedSky thought that like it or not the F-35 is THE elephant in the room for assessing future airpower application, upon listening for the third time, it seemed an appropriate post. A few comments are provided below the links.

Aviation Week Podcast: F-35 in the Crossfire, Part 1

Aviation Week Podcast: F-35 in the Crossfire, Part 2

Brief Comments

Continue reading

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War and Remembrance 18 December 1972; Linebacker II and the General Who Made It So

On the third night of LB II three B-52s were shot down on the first raid. Seventh Air Force Headquarters Headquarters in Saigon and SAC Headquarters in Omaha went into shock. As a result they recalled the six B-52Gs targeted for Hanoi on the second raid, with the result that the North Vietnamese had done something that the Germans, Japanese, Soviets, Chinese, and North Koreans had never been able to to achieve – they had made an American bombing raid abort for fear of losses (Michelle, The Eleven Days of Christmas).

On the third wave, two more G’s were lost with nine of twelve crew-members lost.  When Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Moorer was briefed on the third night losses of the B-52’s, he picked up the phone and called the SAC Command post – “they’re setting their God-damned watches by the timing of your bombing runs!” 

Brigadier General Glenn Sullivan at U-Tapao had had enough with the SAC/Omaha imposed “same  way, same time,” single file bomber streams that were costing lives and aircraft. At 0930 the next morning, General Sullivan Sent a U-Tapao developed set of recommended new tactics directly (copy only to Eighth Air Force in Guam) to  General J.C. Meyer, Commander of SAC. Things changed, but Sullivan’s action came at the cost of his career- one more assignment, not promoted and retired.

Whether you spent 18 hours watching Ken Burns Vietnam documentary or as many vets did, just skipped it, you owe it to yourself to spend 30 minutes or so watching this video on Linebacker II and the career ending courage of Brigadier General Glenn R. Sullivan who jumped his chain of command after the first three nights of disastrous same tactics over and over for the B-52’s and changed they way the rest of LB II was conducted.

This video plus the website Triumph and Tragedy at 30,000 Feet are the products of General Sullivan’s son, G. Ray Sullivan, Jr.

“Sully: A General’s Decision” from Peachtree Films on Vimeo.

December 18, 1972 The beginning of Linebacker II one of the most important operations in the history of the Vietnam conflict. Often overlooked, excluded or completely mischaracterized, it is, in fact, what brought the POWs home and ended our involvement in Vietnam. Please visit the site www.linebacker2.com and at the very least, the “Day by Day” page to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice during those 11 days. …
We share a toast with ALL of those who participated in whatever capacity and whatever branch of service. It was an amazing feat on so many levels. Who knows what would’ve happened had we started here rather than finishing here…THANK YOU to all who were involved…Remember forever those who didn’t return…

Ray Sullivan

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Veterans Day 2017: What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?

Burns and Novick The Vietnam War – A Counter Anthology

The PBS documentary The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick has received critical acclaim  and has been recommended for showing in schools. It follows Burns reputation well as a work of film art.

For all its ‘truth telling,’ I simply cannot get in tune with its overall context. This Veterans Day post focuses on the Vietnam veteran with remembrance of all.

“This documentary succeeds in vividly evoking sadness and frustration. But that is not all there was to the story. “The Vietnam War” strives for a moral equivalence where there is none. The veterans seem sad and detached for their experience, yet 90 percent of Vietnam War veterans are proud to have served. So there’s a large gap between what we see and the attitude of the vast majority of veterans.” Bing West

Veterans understand their heritage.  They know the links from Valley Forge and Gettysburg, from Belleau Wood to Midway and Normandy, from Chosen to Ia Drang. They know that all war is brutal, friends are lost, and scars are created for a life time. But the veterans of the Vietnam War carry forever a different kind of scar, one made not by the battles but rather by their own government leadership and fellow countrymen. Carried by each individual to some lesser or greater extent, it manifests itself for Americans as the long black wall pictured below.

vietnam_veteran_memorial_0021

The second Vietnam War lasted from November 1955 until April 1975, almost twenty years. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick  created an eighteen hour  ten part narrative of that war and their craftsmanship is certainly evident and superb. Comments hail its excellence and heap praise for unveiling things not previously known, touting it as an educational high point.  They  took ten years to research North and South Vietnamese sources along with those of the U.S. and then craft the type documentary Ken Burns is famous for.
Ten years… and they got it wrong. Continue reading

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Thinking Multi-Role “Strike Fighter”

Blown Slick Series #11

multi-mission-capability

Air to air is what you do going into and coming off of the target. Ed Rasimus, Air Force Vietnam War F-105 and F-4 fighter pilot  

In the previous post, I suggested as a thought experiment that one draw a straight line graph comparing fighter aircraft performance/capabilities over time beginning with WWI and say the Sopwith Camel, then continue through WWII with your choice of best fighter (Spits, Zero, Mustang, Corsair), on into the Korean War and the MiG-15 and F-86, then to Vietnam and the MiG-21 and F-4, and next on to the F-14/ F-15/16/18 group. I suggested that you would not find the F-35 on an extension of that line. Irrespective of cost, schedule or development problems, it is a different type “fighter” plane with intent to conduct air combat in a different way.

The last a/c on that line would be the F-16 and F/A-18.( The F-22 is a departure along the way to the F-35 as a Fifth Generation fighter). These two a/c are the results of the mid 70’s Light Weight Fighter (LWF) competition between the YF-16 and YF-17. With the Cold War  ongoing, it’s understandable why the focus was entirely centered on air to air warfighting and dogfighting capabilities.

yf_16_72_1568_and_yf_17_72_1569_in_formation_by_fighterman35-d9pppo9

While the Air Force selected the F-16 to compliment the F-15 and the Navy decided on a variant of the YF-17 to become the replacement a/c for both their fighter F-4’s and attack A-7’s, both a/c very quickly were adapted as multi-role “strike fighter” type combat aircraft.

  1. What is the significance of multi-role strike fighters?
  2. Essentially a one size fits all kind of design, is this the best way to fight in future air battles?

Continue reading

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Airpower Analysis Phase II: F-35 – Flying Circus Center Ring

Blown Slick Series #10

ulus-10189-game-ss-7

For some time now, center ring for the airpower flying circus has been the F-35 Lightning II. But since the F-35 was similarly noted as the elephant in the room in #8 in this series some time ago, much as transpired as the a/c moves into operational status within the USMC, USN, and USAF, along with the first Israeli F-35 Adir’s beginning to fly.

To date the Blown Slick series has discussed attack pilots, fighter pilots, fifth generation aircraft, analysis tools and metrics, offered selected books on air warfare and taken a broad look at the ideas behind airpower theory. This post focuses on the F-35 -in the center ring of the airpower “circus.” It serves to provide links to updated operational status before we continue on with more airpower analysis from the “attack pilot” side.

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Over time much F-35 writing has focused on cost/schedule/technical problems and with mostly end game agenda of cancelling the program.  For writing on the positive side, much  presented has been what the a/c is supposed to do, rather than what it has actually been able to perform. Only recently have articles begin to emerge from the pilots who are in the early stages of learning the a/c, its capabilities and developing tactical employment schemes. Bottom line, the “fat lady can’t end the opera” until day-day operational aviators have their say.

The first part of this post covers general considerations of the F-35 as it evolves into the airpower picture and the second part will provide several “reports” from the operational introduction environment. Continue reading

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Thinking Airpower in Context: American War in Seven Charts

Blown Slick Series #9

Rough Riders

 Seven Charts That Help Explain American War

  1. How Many Years In Its History Has America Been at War?
  2. Where Has America Fought?
  3. Why Has America Fought?
  4. How Does America Fight ?
  5. Who Are America’s Formal Defense Partners?
  6. Why Is the American Military So Attracted to Technology?
  7. So How Much Does It All Cost?

Give the focus of the Blown Slick series, upon reading this article by Aaron Bazin*, it seemed only natural to question what then is the impact of airpower on these seven and how is airpower influenced by how we approach the issues? In a concise way, the issues and charts highlight airpower usage in war and need to be one piece of Blown Slick’s airpower mosaic. Below are quotes from only two of the questions/charts. I will leave it to the reader to explore the  complete article here. Continue reading

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Airpower, Elephants and Such (Part 3)

Blown Slick Series #8 (Part 3/3)

Continuing from Part 1 & 2 – the “something new”

Airpower Application and 5th Generation Aircraft

Cruisin’

The term “fifth-generation aircraft” is part of the problem facing the future of airpower. The usage of the term might suggest a linear relationship to preceding aircraft, so that one could argue that F-18s and F-16s can be upgraded and become 4.8-generation aircraft, closely replicating 5th generation capability. For the proponents of F-22 and F-35, they believe this is simply not the case.  For them, the fifth-generation aircraft are a benchmark for a new approach to air power, and leads to the thought by some that 5th generation aircraft will result in “Re-norming” of Air Operations. This will be the subject of a separate post, but for now from Re-Norming Air Operations: Continue reading

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Airpower, Elephants and Such (Part 2)

Blown Slick Series #8 (Part 2/3)

Continuing from Part 1 – drilling down

Airpower threads

To make reasonable decisions in regard to analysis of future airpower, and also how implementation of emerging technical and derivative tactical concepts plays into the application of airpower, one must certainly have some understanding of these elements:

  • current potential crisis and warfare environments (subjects of future articles)
  • overall theories of airpower (some discussion in this series)
  • necessity for a truly joint, even integrated, approach to warfare that has been provided through experience (to be discussed in future articles but can be particularly seen in the AirSea Battle concept and in regard to potential problems related to operations in the South China Sea)

Historical context also must guide airpower’s future evaluation and application.  Quoting from Part 1:

Airpower is all about power projection and mobility. It is the theoretical and eventual conceptual application that comprises the application of military strategy and strategic theory to the realm of actual aerial warfare via strike warfare tactics, techniques and procedures.  

And so our background on airpower moves to the historical context of airpower application in regard to power projection, and strike warfare.

Application of Airpower (Something Old) Continue reading

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