1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 13(3) – Guadalcanal -Battle of the Eastern Solomons Conclusions

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.  Lundstrum

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. Lundstrum.

Before jumping into his discussion, two points: Continue reading

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1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 13(2) – Guadalcanal -Battle of the Eastern Solomons Continued

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

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1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 13 – Guadalcanal – Battle of the Eastern Solomons

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.

1024px-USS_Enterprise_(CV-6)_under_attack_and_burning_during_the_Battle_of_the_Eastern_Solomons_on_24_August_1942_(NH_97778)

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?

Blindman’s Bluff

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

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1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 12 (4) – Guadalcanal, From the Start, A New and Different Context; Cactus

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

Marineace

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 Situation

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

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1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 12 (3) – Guadalcanal, From the Start, A New and Different Context; CV Withdrawal

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

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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

Continue reading

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1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 12 (2) – Guadalcanal, From the Start, A New and Different Context; Problems

 Blown Slick Series #13 Part 12-2

It was one thing to defend Midway operating in open ocean; being closely tied to the geography of the island and surrounding waters to provide air support was a whole other thing. With intelligence far inferior to that during Midway, staying in one general area exposed the carriers to submarine, land and sea based attack. There was much to be learned – at the expense of all participants.

First Day’s Air Support -Problems 

Bridge_off_USS_Wasp_(CV-7),_August_1942

Lieutenant Commander Wallace M. Beakley, Commander Wasp Air Group (CWAG), debrief of operations over Tulagi on the bridge wing of the USS Wasp (CV-7), during operations off Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942 after eight hours airborne. Present are (from left to right) Wasp Commanding Officer Captain Forrest P. Sherman, (wearing helmet), Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes, Commander Task Group 61.1 (facing camera), and CWAG Beakley.

The initial operations of 7 and 8 August though mostly successful posed multiple problems. This was most certainly an emerging warfare environment and thus operational learning was critical both in regard to holding Guadalcanal but also in regard to preparation for support of the planned operations of 1943-45 on the pathway to Japan itself. Indeed carrier aviation in 1945 would barely resemble that of ’42.

To understand the evolution of carrier warfare  to include expeditionary warfare here  are abbreviated summaries of the problems noted at the initiation of the Operation Watchtower campaign. Continue reading

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1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier; Part 12 (1) – Guadalcanal, From the Start, A New and Different Context; First Day Overview

RS Note: With the close of Chapter 2 of the Testimony of Pilot series, this posts continues with the 1942- The Year of the Aircraft Carrier series picking up with the story of the initial attack on Guadalcanal 7-8 August, 1942. Given the long break here is the link to Part #9 the Guadalcanal Introduction: http://rememberedsky.com/?p=2201

Blown Slick Series #13 Part 12-1

First Day’s Air Support – Overview

An hour before dawn on 7 August, Dog Day, Fletcher’s three TF-61 carriers (with Noyes, CTG-61.1, in tactical command) closed Point Victor, thirty miles west of Guadalcanal. … TF-61 was ready to begin the first Allied counter-offensive of the Pacific War. Ghormley exhorted Fletcher, Turner, and McCain, “Electrify the world with news of a real offensive,” and “Sock ’em in the Solomons.”

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Reflecting on the Battle (Campaign) of Guadalcanal, most likely the first thought to mind is the brutal aspects of Marine combat in terribly hot, wet, insect and snake infested jungle with an enemy who simply would not give up. But as noted previously the U.S. victory  was a function not only of the land battle but also of the linkage of land, sea and sea and  land based airpower.

The intention of this post in the Guadalcanal portion of the stories of the CVs in 1942 is not to retell the actions of August 7-9 1942, but rather to use the early events to highlight several serious problems that began to emerge. These problem areas would remain throughout the Guadalcanal Campaign and are telling context for the last two carrier battles of 1942 – Battle of the Eastern Solomon’s and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Indeed, their resolution can be viewed as stepping stones in large part for the U.S. victory in the Pacific. Continue reading

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Testimony of Pilot (13): Chapter Two – Final Reflection on “harnessing the sky”

Testimony of Pilot# 13

This second chapter takes its characterization as “harnessing the sky.” Remembering the sky trajectories from Kill Devil Hill to Paris to the Battles of Britain and Midway, to transcontinental airlines and to the edge of the atmosphere and eventually the Moon provide superb “this is no s…t” stories of so many great men and women. They were not only brave risk takers and great “sticks” but extraordinary engineers using aircraft as their data sources and computers in a continual effort to stretch the envelop of flight. Here to complete Chapter Two ARE reflections on three of the greatest with most significant impact on harnessing the sky. TINS

Special thanks to Fritz Trapnell and Dana Tibbitts – son and granddaughter of Admiral Trapnell – authors of Trap’s biography Harnessing the Sky!!!

Masters of the Sky

From

The Aviators

By Winston Groom

THE LIVES OF RICKENBACKER, LINDBERGH, AND DOOLITTLE give weight to the question: where do we find such men? Continue reading

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Testimony of Pilot (12): So, Where Does the Sky End?

Testimony of Pilot# 12

The whole history of the space program is part of moving on and making life better for people on Earth. I want to carry on their work on through the Shuttle, the Station, and the space exploration initiative. I think that’s the way I see it now, and that’s the way I will continue to feel, throughout this flight and, and even afterwards. Eileen Collins

Endeavor

Space Shuttle Endeavor comes to Los Angeles to retire to museum life.

James Tiberius Kirk, Where Are You?

Update and Re-post of Rememberedsky’s fourth offering on 21 September 2012

Ask any pilot, why or how they got into flying and you’ll find multiple answers, many will overlap but some will be unique, but all will be a personal thing long remembered. Continue reading

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Testimony of Pilot (11): Cockpits – Situational Awareness in the the Arena

Testimony of Pilot# 11

An airplane is just a bunch of sticks and wires and cloth, a tool for learning about the sky and about what kind of person I am, when I fly.  An airplane stands for freedom, for joy, for the power to understand, and to demonstrate that understanding.  Those things aren’t destructible.

Nothing by Chance, Richard Bach

Spad_35

SPAD XIII  cockpit (c. 1918) as flown by Eddie Rickenbacker in the 94th AERO Squadron and the F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter “glass” cockpit (2018)

Once I determined to make Trap’s story of the F4U  Corsair development and test the centerpiece of Chapter Two, it wasn’t hard to pick other aviators and their stories with similar experiences in the advancement of aviation – problem was who to leave out. Three in particular were difficult to exclude (Rickenbacker, Doolittle,Yeager).

But in the parsing of stories I found some intriguing pictures of the cockpits of the aircraft used to push the ole envelop. So here in keeping with Chapter One’s pictures as stories here is an offering of history via the cockpit. TINS: Continue reading

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