30 December 2007

Changes, changes, changes...

First - not to worry - we've just re-directed you to the old site whilst doing some work on the current site. Because, you see despite the best efforts of the distaff side yesterday with an unplanned site mod to the den (which we wrapped up in the wee-hours of the night with the last a/v cable re-zip-tied in place, btw) - plan on seeing some major changes around here with the New Year. Fear not - the favorites will remain and it won't be going off on a wild-@$$ tangent, just some changes. And afterall, change is good...n'est ce pas ? See you in the New Year...back over at http://steeljawscribe.com

12 November 2007

Well - shoot...

Hi all -

If you're reading this post it's *probably* because you've been redirected from the primary site, http://steeljawscribe.com

This is because:

  • Your humble, all thumbs scribe has managed to hose up the upgrade/maintenance work (a phrase from an ancient and salty Maintenance Master Chief comes to mind re. aircrew and toolboxes, but this is a family blog...) or
  • The host is having database or other "issues"
So...check the link above - if it looks like the problem is going to be prolonged we'll post here until it is resolved.

08 June 2007

New Site

I have shifted my pennant to a new site:

Looking forward to seeing you over there!

07 June 2007

Midway 65 Years Later - Lessons Learned

"I can run wild for six months … after that, I have no expectation of success." - Fleet Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto

In racing there is a saying - 'luck is where preparation meets opportunity' Perhaps there is no truer an example than the Battle of Midway. Popular literature seems to emphasize the American forces stumbling into a heaven-sent scenario of laden carrier decks and little to no opposition to the dive bombers, while giving short shrift to the preparation that enabled them to make use of that opportunity. How so?

COMINT: Communications Intelligence - the US code breakers labored mightily to figure out what the IJN was up to. Were it not for their efforts prior to Midway, and some particularly inspired thinking and risk taking, the US may well have fallen for the feint up to Alaska and end up caught in the trap laid by Yamamoto.

Damage Control: Had the crew of the Yorktown not been so proficient in DC, particularly something as seemingly mundane as draining the avgas lines and filling them with inert gas prior to the battle of Coral Sea, the Yorktown may very well have been lost, leaving CINCPAC with only two carriers facing four, forcing a different battle plan. Conversely, the almost lackadaisical approach the Japanese took in repairing Shokaku's damage or replinishing Zuikaku's air wing and repairing her light damage from Coral Sea's action ensured their nonavailability for Midway, keeping the balance of forces on a razor's edge.

Training: The contrast between USN and USMC effectiveness in employing dive bombers at Midway was signatory. Using the same platform (SBD-3's) USN pilots scored major hits while minimizing losses to AAA and fighters, whereas the Marines suffered significant losses for little, if any gain. The difference? Tactics, training and procedures or TTP (yes, we know -ugh, one of those modern terms...) - the Navy employed steep, usually 70-degree, dives on the target whereas the Marines used much shallower, gliding approaches. The former minimizes your exposure time and profile to AAA and fighters while increasing the likelihood of a hit. However, it requires considerable practice at obtaining the proper dive angle, avoiding target fixation and knowing how/when to pullout of the dive and avoid over-stressing the airframe. Lots of practice, underscoring the maxim about training like you are going to fight...

Employment of forces: The Japanese were the first to employ massed striking power using carriers and the strike at Pearl (and subsequent actions through SE Asia and the IO) validated the philosophy. The problem was the Japanese failed to comprehend the inherent flexibility of carrier-based air and thus eschewed opportunities to utilize it in other scenarios, such as scouting, which in turn, led to less than robust search plans and reliance on out-dated search aircraft and methodologies. Curiously, the Japanese broke this rule in planning the Aleutian invasion, diverting forces on a mission of questionable value and success for territory that would prove to be exceptionally harsh on man and machine while yielding little, if any strategic value outside of propaganda for an overly wrought plan of entrapment. This leads to questions of planning...

Planning/Command: In studied contrast to the run-up at Pearl, Japanese planning for Midway was poorly thought out, egregiously evaluated and gamed and haphazardly executed (cf: the entire submarine picket plan). Indeed, it was put together and executed in such a toxic atmosphere of arrogance and bluster that even when one of the final wargame sessions showed American forces gaining an upper-hand because of gaps in the air search pattern, referees for the wargame manipulated the environment and other factors to bring about a successful conclusion for Kido Butai. As for dealing with changing factors at sea, commanders were loath to step outside the boundaries of the plan and demonstrate initiative. In studied contrast were the actions of the Americans from Nimitz's orders based on calculated risk to Dick Best's last minute change in targets.

Luck indeed smiled on the Americans that day, but she did not grab them by the hand (or scruff of the neck) and tell them what must be done in PowerPoint bulletized format. She merely opened the door, a crack, and offered a fleeting moment to change the course of the battle...the Americans grasped it and changed the direction of the war.

Review the list above - these are timeless lessons learned, every bit as applicable today as they were 65 year ago. My observations lead me to believe we are ignoring them at our future peril.
(ed. This is the last in the Midway series, one that YHS has thoroughly enjoyed working on and fielding your comments. There are some other items of note in work - such as a Flightdeck Friday on the USS Macon with some interesting original source material passed my way and, hopefully soon, breaking out my pennant on a new site. More to follow. - SJS)

04 June 2007

65th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway: 4/5 June - Forces Engaged

In carrying out the task assigned … you will be governed by the principle of calculated risk, which you shall interpret to mean the avoidance of exposure of our forces without good prospect on inflicting, as a result of such exposure, greater damage on the enemy. (Extract from CINCPAC Operational Order to TF 17 Commander)

In every battle there is a moment when the combatants, and the world, seem to catch their breath. It is a fleeting moment, lost in the blink of an eye. But in that same blink, everything changes. Such moments are borne of desperation, of courage, of plain dumb luck. But they are pivotal - for what was before is forever changed afterwards.

Until 1019 on the morning of 4/5 June 1942, things had gone badly for the US and its allies. With few exceptions, the Allies were fighting a losing battle in the Pacific. Indeed, as events unfolded that morning, it appeared as of the rout was on. The attacks by land-based air forces from Midway had utterly failed culminating in the loss of many aircraft. The strikes by the torpedo aircraft were decimated - an entire squadron of TBDs shot down with only a sole survivor to claim witness. An entire airgroup missed the Japanese carriers and the battle altogether and of the remaining forces, they were scattered and disorganized. The future was looking grim.

At 1019, Hiryu's senior lookout shouted he had spotted dive bombers attacking Kaga from overhead. Despite being thrown into a hard turn, Kaga was struck by a 500 lb bomb and then successive strikes utterly crushed her...

At 1024 Soryu was struck a mighty series of blows...

At 1026, LT Dick Best led a flight of two other SBDs away from Kaga in an attack on Akagi. Attacking in a "V" formation from a right-hand turn, history held its breath as the first bomb missed and the third narrowly missed the carrier. But the second bomb, a 1,000 pounder from LT Best's aircraft bore through the aft edge of the elevator and exploded in the upper reaches of the Akagi's hangar bay, in the midst of the refueled/rearming aircraft parked there. In the blink of an eye, fate turned and three carriers lay burning.

To be sure the battle was not over and a dreadful price remained to be extracted from the American carriers. Likewise, Kido Butai had not seen the last of the Americans either and would pay the final price later in that day.

Across a seaborne canvass that stretched over 176,000 sq nm, larger than the country of Sweden (as Parshall & Tully observe) the battle see-sawed back and forth. No other naval engagment has seen such breath-taking distances involved and few, short of a Trafalgar, have seen such a decisive turn of events. We honor today those who fought and gave their all in this signatory battle.




1) Previous postings this series:

2) To appreciate the sweep of events and the timescale involved, the reader is recommended to view the history of the battle as laid out over at Historyanimated, located here for the Battle of Midway.

03 June 2007

Countdown to Midway: 3 June – First Contact


ALASKA: In an attempt to divert forces from the Midway area, a Japanese carrier-based bombers and fighters bomb and strafe Ft Mears and Dutch Harbor in several waves inflicting little damage but killing 52 US personnel. P-40s from Cold Bay trying to intercept them arrive 10 minutes after the last attack wave departs. Other P-40s at Umnak are notified too late due to communication failure. 9 P-40s and 6 B-26s fly a patrol but cannot find the fleet-l80 miles (288 km) S of Dutch Harbor- but 2 of the P-40s engage 4 carrier-based aircraft, shoot down one and damage another. An A6M2 Zero fighter crashes in the Aleutian Islands and is discovered intact five weeks later. It is shipped to the United States for testing and evaluation. (ed. – this is the Zero that the urban legend about the design of the F6F sprang from; in fact, the F6F will fly for the first time in a little over 3 weeks from today’s date)

  • Alaska - Japanese occupy Kiska and Attu in the Aleutians.

CHINA-BURMA-INDIA (CBI) THEATER OF OPERATIONS: A flight of 6 B-25s of the 11th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy), earmarked for China, take off from Dinjan, India for China. They bomb Lashio, Burma en route to Kunming, but afterward 9 crashed into an overcast-hidden mountain at 10,000 feet (3,048 m) and another is abandoned when it runs out of fuel near Chan-i, China. The remaining 2 B-25's reach Kunming, China, 1 with its radio operator killed by a fighter.


Preliminary action begins in the Battle of Midway …

On the morning of 3 June 1942 (4 Jun as the calendar was observed by the ships of Kido Butai), elements of Tanaka’s invasion force were discovered by PBYs flying out of Midway. Fist detection of the supporting minesweepers came @ 0830L and followed by another sighting by a different PBY forty-five minutes later (the infamous “Main Body” report). This was a good 700 nm from Midway and after Midway’s air commander satisfied himself it wasn’t the carriers, a long range strike by the Midway-based B-17’s was launched. Indicative of the distances the coming battle would be fought, the first attack force reached Tanaka’s ships around four hours later. Setting up for their runs from 8 to 12 thousand feet above the force, Tanaka’s ships did not react until the bombs were starting to explode around them. Maneuvering to avoid hits, all the ships escaped being hit, despite claims by the returning bombers of having hit and damaged or sunk five large ships.

As alluded to above, the distances in this theater of battle were huge – how each side developed and implemented their search surveillance plan would be critical. At this stage of the war, radar was not available for use in search aircraft with large, ungainly sets and antennas being the province of ships. Even then, the limitations of the radar horizon (straight-line distance to the Earths horizon. Below which surface and low flying targets could not be seen) which was approximately 30 -40 miles, severely constrained the employment of radar for now. Instead, scouting was to be carried out by land- and ship-based aircraft (ship-based only for Japan), one of the original missions envisioned for aircraft in their early naval days. Additionally, picket lines of submarines would be used to form a warning barrier that would be tripped by passage of the other side’s carriers.

The scouting aircraft used by the Japanese were either the Type 95 float plane (a range-limited bi-plane) or the fewer in number Aichi E31A Jake Type 0 float plane. Commonly found on heavy cruisers and battle ships, the former was found in far greater numbers the morning of 3 June. As such, because of the range demands, the limited numbers of Jakes were pressed into service. With a crew of three (pilot, bombardier and gunner) the Jake had a combat/search radius of about 600-650 nm. The search plan for Kido Butai had Jakes launching from Akagi, Kaga, Tone (2) and Chikuma (2). Flying out on assigned radials originating from Kido Butai’s center, each plane would fan out to 300 nm, turn left for 60 nm and then fly back to the origin point (see illustration below). At the patrol altitude of 1200-2000 ft, an optical search swath of about 25 nm, centered on the plane’s ground track could be maintained. Absent any other factors or tipper information, it was a chancy plan at best. Tipper information would come from tripwire notification passed by the submarine pickets as they picked up the carriers leaving Oahu. Except that by the time the subs arrived, the carriers had already left.

Contrast that search plan with the American plan – with 127 search aircraft (primarily PBYs backed up by thirty plus Marine SBDs as well as the B-17’s) on Midway, the Americans already had a more robust search capability. The PBY’s range was double that of the Japanese scouts and with a crew of 9, able to cover a search area. The American subs were also on station as well. But perhaps the most important distinction was the difference in employment of carrier air for scouting/search. Unlike the US, which had scouting squadrons assigned to the CVs (usually with SBDs assigned), the IJN did not employ carrier air. The primary reason goes back to operational philosophy and employment. The IJN was the first to use massed carriers to effectively employ carrier-based air. As such, they did not believe in dissipating any CV-based assets via scouting missions, preferring instead to reserve the force for massed attacks on the target(s) once located. The implications of this differing philosophy would be seen in the following day’s battle.

Later that evening, PBYs carrying jury-rigged torpedoes conduct a night attack on the supporting forces. One torpedo finds a target, impacting and detonating on the bow of a fleet oiler. Though slowed by the damage, it manages to rejoin the supporting fleet. Ironically, this would be the only successful airborne torpedo attack of the coming battle...

01 June 2007

Flightdeck Friday: Countdown to Midway - USN Carrier-based Air Order of Battle (AOB)

Task Force 17 - Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher in Yorktown

Task Group 17.5 Carrier Group - CAPT Elliott Buckmaster

  • USS Yorktown (CV-5) CAPT Buckmaster
    • CVG-5 - LCDR Oscar Pederson
      • VS-5 LT Wallace Clark Short, Jr. 19 (17) x SBD-3
      • VF-3 LCDR John Smith Thach 27 (25) x F4F-4
      • VB-3 LCDR Maxwell Franklin Leslie 18 (17) x SBD-3
      • VT-3 LCDR Lance Edward Massey 15 (12) x TBD-1

Task Force 16 - Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance in Enterprise

Task Force 16 - RADM Raymond Ames Spruance

  • Task Group 16.5 Carrier Group - CAPT George Dominic Murray
  • USS Enterprise (CV-6) CAPT Murray
    • CVG-6 - LCDR Clarence Wade McClusky, Jr. 1 (1) x SBD-3
      • VF-6 LT James Seton Gray, Jr. 27 (27) x F4F-4
      • VS-6 LT Wilmer Earl Gallaher 18 (18) x SBD-3
      • VB-6 LT Richard Halsey Best 18 (18) x SBD-2, -3
      • VT-6 LCDR Eugene Elbert Lindsey 14 (14) x TBD-1
  • USS Hornet (CV-8) RADM Marc Andrew Mitscher
    • CVG-8 - Cdr. Stanhope Cotton Ring 1 (1) x SBD-3
      • VF-8 LCDR Samuel Gavid Mitchell 27 (27) x F4F-4
      • VS-8 LCDR Walter Fred Rodee 16 (15) x SBD-3
      • VB-8 LCDR Robert Ruffin Johnson 18 (18) x SBD-3
      • VT-8 LCDR John Charles Waldron 15 (15) x TBD-1

Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat

The F4F began life somewhat inauspiciously as a two-time loser – to the Brewster F2A Buffalo of all planes. Initially designed as an unbuilt biplane design entered in a US Navy competition, it was beaten by the monoplane Brewster F2A-1 design. Subsequently remodeled as the monoplane XF4F-2 it was evaluated against the Buffalo, only to come up short again (although it was marginally faster) - the Buffalo was otherwise superior and was chosen for production. Fortunately Grumman persisted and the prototype was then rebuilt as the XF4F-3 with new wings and tail and a most importantly, a supercharged version of the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 "Twin Wasp" radial engine. Subsequent testing of the XF4F-3 led to an order for F4F-3 production models, the first of which was completed in February 1940 and armed four .50 caliber Browning machine guns, joined active units in later that year.

The definitive version and the one by far seeing the most action was the F4F-4, which entered service in 1942 with six guns and folding wings, allowing more to be embarked on a carrier. Interestingly enough, this version was less popular with American pilots, because the same amount of ammunition was spread over two additional guns, decreasing firing time. With the F4F-3's four 50-caliber guns and 450 rounds per gun, pilots had 34 seconds of firing time; six guns decreased ammunition to 240 rounds per gun, which could be expended in less than 20 seconds. The increase to six guns was attributed to the Royal Navy, who wanted greater firepower to deal with German and Italian foes – Jimmy Thach’s observation was, "A pilot who cannot hit with four guns will miss with eight." Extra guns and folding wings meant extra weight, and reduced performance: the F4F-4 was capable of only about 318 mph at 19,400 ft. Rate of climb was noticeably worse in the F4F-4, while Grumman optimistically claimed the F4F-4 could climb at a modest 1,950 feet per minute, in combat conditions, pilots found their F4F-4s capable of ascending at only 500 to 1,000 feet per minute. Moreover, the F4F-4's folding wing was intended to allow five F4F-4s to be stowed in the space required by two F4F-3s. In practice, the folding wings allowed an increase of about 50% in the number of Wildcats carried aboard US fleet aircraft carriers.

Note the TBD's Hung in the Overhead...

The Wildcat was outperformed by the Mitsubishi Zero, its major opponent in the early part of the Pacific Theater, but held its own by absorbing far more damage and with the adoption of tactics that took advantage of the Wildcat’s abilities (diving attacks) and mutual support (Thach Weave). With relatively heavy armor and self-sealing fuel tanks, the Grumman airframe could survive far more than its lightweight, unarmored Japanese rival. Many US Navy fighter pilots also were saved by the F4F's ZB homing device, which allowed them to find their carriers in poor visibility, provided they could get within the 30-mile range of the homing beacon.

General characteristics

* Crew: 1
* Length: 28 ft 9 in (8.8 m)
* Wingspan: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
* Height: 9 ft 2.5 in (2.8 m)
* Wing area: 260 ft² (24.2 m²)
* Empty weight: 5,760 lb (2,610 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 7,950 lb (3,610 kg)
* Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine, 1,200 hp (900 kW)


* Maximum speed: 320 mph (290 knots, 515 km/h)
* Range: 770 mi (670 nm, 1,240 km)
* Service ceiling: 39,500 ft (12,000 m)
* Rate of climb: 1,950 ft/min (9.9 m/s)


* Guns: 6× 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, 240 rounds/gun
* Bombs: 2× 100 lb (45 kg) bombs

Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless

The Douglas SBD Dauntless was the U.S. Navy's main dive bomber from mid-1940 until late 1943, when it was supplemented (although not entirely replaced) by the SB2C Helldiver. Derived from the Northrop Model 8 attack bomber developed for the Army and export market, the Dauntless was developed at the Douglas Northrop facility at El Segundo, Calif., and featured a novel “Swiss Cheese” style dive flap arrangement. Slow but rugged (the aircraft was tagged as the “Slow But Deadly” Dauntless by her aircrew) the Dauntless when used in a steep dive profile was proved deadly to shipping, accounting for more ships sunk in the Pacific theater than any other US or Allied aircraft.

The SBD was involved in combat from the first day of the Pacific War, as Dauntlesses arriving at Hawaii from USS Enterprise were caught in the Pearl Harbor attack. The type's first major use was in the Battle of the Coral Sea, when SBDs and TBDs sank the Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō. SBDs were also used as anti-torpedo combat air patrol and scored several times against Japanese aircraft trying to attack USS Lexington and USS Yorktown. the SBD's most important contribution to the American war effort probably came during the Battle of Midway (early June 1942), when SBD dive bomber attacks sank all four of the Japanese aircraft carriers (the Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū, and Hiryū) as well as heavily damaging two Japanese cruisers (including the Mikuma, which sank before a Japanese destroyer could scuttle it.). 5,936 SBDs were produced in WWII.

General characteristics

* Crew: Two
* Length: 33 ft 1 in (10.08 m)
* Wingspan: 41 ft 6 in (12.65 m)
* Height: 13 ft 7 in (4.14 m)
* Wing area: 325 ft² (30.19 m²)
* Empty weight: 6,404 lb (2,905 kg)
* Loaded weight: 10,676 lb (4,843 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 10,700 lb (4,853 kg)
* Powerplant: 1× Wright R-1820-60 radial engine, 1,200 hp (895 kW)


* Maximum speed: 255 mph (410.38 km/h)
* Range: 773 mi (1243.8 km)
* Service ceiling: 25,530 ft (7,780 m)
* Rate of climb: 1,700 ft/min (8.6 m/s)
* Wing loading: 32.8 lb/ft² (160.4 kg/m²)
* Power/mass: 0.11 hp/lb (0.18 kW/kg)


* 2x 0.5 in (12.7 mm) forward-firing machine guns
* 2x 0.3 in (7.62 mm) flexible-mounted machine guns
* 2,250 lb (1,020 kg) of bombs

Douglas TBD-1 Devastator

While the Dauntless may have earned the moniker "Slow But Deadly," the Douglas TBD Devastator just turned out to be deadly – to her crews at Midway. The TBD was ordered in 1934, first flew in 1935 and entered service in 1937. At that point, it was the most advanced plane flying for the USN and possibly for any navy in the world. However, the fast pace of aircraft development caught up with it, and by the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the TBD was already outdated. It performed well in some early battles, but in the Battle of Midway the Devastators launched against the Japanese fleet were almost totally wiped out. The type was immediately withdrawn from service, replaced by the Grumman TBF Avenger.

The TBD Devastator marked a large number of "firsts" for the US Navy. It was the first widely-used carrier-based monoplane as well as the first all-metal plane, the first with a totally enclosed cockpit, the first with hydraulically folding wings; it is fair to say that the TBD was revolutionary. A semi-retractable undercarriage was fitted, with the wheels designed to protrude 10 inches (250 mm) below the wings to permit a "wheels-up" landing with only minimal damage.

A crew of three was carried beneath a large "greenhouse" canopy almost half the length of the airplane. The pilot, of course, sat up front; a rear gunner/radio operator took the rearmost seat, while the bombardier occupied the middle seat. During a bombing run, the bombardier lay prone, sliding into position under the pilot to sight through a window in the bottom of the fuselage, using the Norden Bombsight for either a single Mark XIII torpedo or a single 1000 lb (450 kg) bomb. Defensive armament consisted of either a .30 or .50 cal (7.62 or 12.7 mm) machine-gun firing forward, and a .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun for the rear gunner.

The Devastator suffered from two principle short-comings – it was excruciatingly slow on torpedo runs, which themselves required a log, straight un-maneuvering run-in to the target and from poorly designed torpedoes that if it did survive the run in, usually failed to detonate or ran deep under their targets. The fact that US submarine crews were likewise having similar problems with their torpedoes in the early stage of the war was cold comfort to the TBD crews and Navy leadership…

Eventually 129 of the type were purchased by the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer), equipping the carriers USS Saratoga, USS Enterprise, USS Lexington, USS Wasp, USS Hornet, USS Yorktown and USS Ranger. The last TBD was scrapped in 1944 and as a result (combined with combat and operational losses) there are no examples in existence today.

General characteristics

* Crew: Three: Pilot, Torpedo Officer/Navigator, Radioman/Gunner
* Length: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)
* Wingspan: 50 ft 0 in (15.24 m)
* Height: 15 ft 1 in (4.60 m)
* Wing area: 422 ft² (39.2 m²)
* Empty weight: 6,182 lb (2,804 kg)
* Loaded weight: 9,862 lb (4,473 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 10,194 lb (4,623 kg)
* Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp radial engine, 900 hp (671 kW)


* Maximum speed: 206 mph (331 km/h)
* Range: 435 miles (700 km)
* Service ceiling: 19,700 ft (6000 m)
* Rate of climb: 720 ft/min (3.7 m/s)
* Wing loading: lb/ft² (kg/m²)
* Power/mass: hp/lb (kW/kg)


* 1x 0.30 cal (7.62 mm) machine gun forward-firing
* 1x 0.30 cal (7.62 mm) machinegun in rear cockpit (later increased to two)
* 1x 1,000 lb (453 kg) bomb
* 1x Mark XIII torpedo - 1,200 lb (544 kg)

31 May 2007

Oldest U.S. Carrier Makes Last Voyage

Associated Press | May 23, 2007

TOKYO - The USS Kitty Hawk, the U.S. Navy's oldest ship in full active service, embarked on its last major maneuvers Wednesday before being decommissioned next year.

The 46-year-old vessel - the only American aircraft carrier permanently deployed abroad - eased out of its berth at the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, just south of Tokyo, escorted by a carrier strike group of cruisers and guided missile destroyers, Naval spokesman John Nylander said.

The voyage, to last several months in the western and central Pacific Ocean, was expected to be the last major mission for the ship before it is replaced next year by the USS George Washington and sent back to the United States for decommissioning, said Rear Adm. Richard B. Wren, commander of the Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group.

"This is the last trip for USS Kitty Hawk," Wren told reporters.

The Kitty Hawk, with a crew of more than 5,500, was commissioned in 1961 and has served in Vietnam and Iraq.

The diesel-powered ship was deployed to Yokosuka in 1998, and will be replaced with the nuclear-powered George Washington as part of the U.S. military's effort to modernize its forces in East Asia - an area of potential flashpoints with North Korea or China.

But the vessel's replacement sparked a backlash in Japan, where critics oppose the basing of a nuclear-powered warship in domestic waters. Japan's government backed the idea, however, saying the George Washington would boost regional stability.

Nuclear-powered warships have visited Japanese ports hundreds of times since 1964, and the United States has provided firm commitments to Tokyo regarding the safe use of Japanese harbors by the nuclear-powered vessels.

30 May 2007

Countdown to Midway: 30 May 1942

USS Yorktown (April 1942).


Britain launches its first 1000-plane bomber raid - the target: Cologne, Germany.


Myitkyina, Burma is again hit by B-17's. Again no activity is observed and the attacks are discontinued. HQ 7th Bombardment Group transfers from Karachi to Dum-Dum, India.


77th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 28th Composite Group, based at Elmendorf Field, Anchorage, Territory of Alaska, begins operating from Umnak, Aleutian with B-26's.


7th Air Force begins flying B-17's from the Territory of Hawaii to Midway in the face of an expected attack on that. 394th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 5th Bombardment Group (Heavy), transfers from Hickam Field to Bellows Field, Territory of Hawaii with B-17's.

Pearl Harbor

On the 27th of May, USS Yorktown arrived at Pearl Harbor bearing the wounds of her action from the Coral Sea action. Grievously wounded by both direct-hits and near-misses (even while having avoided a spread of eight air-launched torpedoes), Yorktown required at least a three month overhaul and refit. However, Nimitz knew Yorktown was the only carrier available to add to the task force that had previously sailed with Hornet and Enterprise. Two carriers against Kido Butai would not be sufficient – Saratoga, enroute from the West Coast, would not arrive until 7 Jun, too late to be of use. Ranger was otherwise engaged and Lexington, well, Lexington was lost after a valiant fight at Coral Sea. The third carrier had to be Yorktown.

When she entered Pearl on the 27th, over 1,400 shipyard workers swarmed aboard and immediately set to work repairing the damage, along with ship’s company. On 28 May she entered dry dock to repair cracks in the hull and fuel holding tanks from the near misses. In forty-eight hours another in a series of miracles ensued and Yorktown made ready for sea. At 0900L 30 May 1942, Yorktown put to sea, her airwing replenished with three of Saratoga’s squadrons (VB-3, VF-3 and VT-3 replacing VS-5, VF-42 and VT-5, all of which had suffered heavy losses at Coral Sea).

How significant was this action? In a word – it was pivotal. The urgency to turnaround Yorktown, bring aboard squadrons who had never operated off her before and in so doing, get a third carrier into action was one of the key points in the outcome of the coming battle – and make no mistake everyone from Nimitz down to the seaman on the Yorktown knew it. This was in studied contrast to the almost leisurely approach the Japanese took in repairing Zuikaku and replenishing her air wing (the Japanese did not rotate airwings between carriers and didn’t think about doing it until later in the war).

Naval Aviator Missing In Action From the Vietnam War Identified

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense No. 672-07 IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 30, 2007

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Lt. Michael T. Newell, U.S. Navy, of Ellenville, N.Y.He will be buried today in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

On Dec. 14, 1966, Newell was flying an F-8E Crusader aircraft as wingman in a flight of two on a combat air patrol over North Vietnam.During the mission, the flight leader saw a surface-to-air missile explode between the two aircraft.Although Newell initially reported that he had survived the blast, his aircraft gradually lost power and crashed near the border between Nghe An and Thanh Hoa provinces in south central North Vietnam.The flight leader did not see a parachute nor did he hear an emergency beacon signal.He stayed in the area and determined that Newell did not escape from the aircraft prior to the crash.

Between 1993 and 2002, joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), visited the area of the incident five times to conduct investigations and survey the crash site.They found pilot-related artifacts and aircraft wreckage consistent to an F-8 Crusader.

In 2004, a joint U.S./S.R.V. team began excavating the crash site.The team was unable to complete the recovery and subsequent teams re-visited the site two more times before the recovery was completed in 2006.As a result, the teams found human remains and additional pilot-related items.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC also used dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.

The Rest of the Story...

(From the entry for LT Newell at The Virtual Wall)

On 14 Dec 1966 a Navy ALPHA strike from the USS TICONDEROGA was targeted against a vehicle depot at Van Dien, about 5 miles west of Hanoi. As usual, fighters were tasked with providing combat air patrol over the target area while the bombers worked the target.

While over the target LT Michael Newell, flying F-8E BuNo 149148, was hit by fragments from an SA-2 surface to air missile. LT Newell advised his flight lead that his aircraft was handling well, turned south to egress the target area, and began a climb from the 6,000 foot CAP orbit to a higher altitude. A few minutes later he advised that he had lost hydraulic pressure, and comrades watched helplessly as his Crusader entered into uncontrolled flight and dove into the ground from an altitude of about 17,000 feet. Newell did not eject before ground impact; since he was not injured by the SA-2 impact it may be that G-forces due to uncontrolled flight prevented him from ejecting. His remains have not been repatriated.

TICONDEROGA lost a second aircraft during the strike; LT Claude D. Wilson of Attack Squadron 72 (A-4E BuNo 151068) was hit by an SA-2 after departing the target area but stayed in the air. As he neared Thanh Hoa, he was hit a second time and his A-4E exploded in flight. LT Wilson's remains were repatriated in 1989.

LT Newell's flight on 14 December was part of Operation ROLLING THUNDER. Operation ROLLING THUNDER was a gradual and sustained U.S. 2nd Air Division (later Seventh Air Force), U.S. Navy, and Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) aerial bombardment campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV or North Vietnam) from 2 March 1965 until 1 November 1968, during the Vietnam War.

The target CVW 19 was engaged on that day was the Van Dien supply depot/barracks, target number 62 on the JCS-94 target list. Since it was in the vicinity of Hanoi, it resided under one of the most lethal anti-aircraft zones seen since the notorious flak/fighter corridors over Germany in WW2. The layered defense ranged from widely emplaced ZSU-23/4 cannon to anti-aircraft artillery for medium altitude up to SA-2 GUIDELINE missiles to cover the ingressing/high-altitude threat. All told, CVW-19/TICO would lose 14 aircraft to combat related action during the Oct.19, 1966 - May 29, 1967 deployment, with an additional three operational losses.

LT Newell Remembered

(from a 30 May 2007 article in the Times Herald-Record, serving New York"s Hudson Valley and the Catskills. This is an excellent article and it is recommended in entirety - the portion quoted below was particularly compelling - it serves as a reminder of what small town newspapers are really all about, people and those they have touched or affected over the years, something missing in the bigger national papers - SJS)

Mike Newell: A Reminiscence by His Friend Bob Kelb

Mike and I became good friends in grade school. We were both stubborn and had tempers. This would occasionally get the best of us, and we would have a fight. But I don't think we ever went more than a half hour before one or the other of us would call, apologize, and we would be back on the best of terms. Our friendship grew thru junior high, high school and in later years. When Mike first started to think about entering a service academy, I wasn't sure how he would manage in that environment. I was concerned about his temper (I never told him this). He worked hard to get his appointment to Annapolis. As a midshipman, he thrived in that difficult environment.

Mrs. Newell's brother was an Air Force B-52 bomber pilot and Mike was always interested in planes and flying. When we were growing up, we went to as many air shows as we could at Stewart Field.

One of his summer midshipman cruises was to the Mediterranean, during a NATO exercise. On returning, he mentioned how many pilots were lost during this exercise. As he approached graduation, he was considering both submarines and flying. I remembered the statistics from his Med. cruise, and suggested subs would be a good choice.

But flying was Mike's dream, and he went on to become a carrier pilot. His dream became his passion. (I just recently had a tour of a nuclear attack sub, the USS Albany. I think he made the right choice.) The only time I have been somewhat afraid in an airplane, Mike was at the controls. He had graduated from flight school and was flying an F8-U Crusader. Home on leave, he decided we should go to Wurtsboro Airport, rent a plane and fly over (aka buzz) his girl's (soon to be his wife Mimi's) house in Kerhonkson. Mr. Barone, the owner of the airport, went up with Mike to check him out in the Aeronca. On Mike's first pass at landing, he must have thought he was landing an F-8 on a carrier. He came in with power on. Mr. Barone did a lot of arm waving and Mike went around again and made a fine landing. Mr. Barone got out, Mike motioned to me to get in, and off we went. Well, the Aeronca looked much like a Piper Cub and was about as fast. It was much too slow for someone who had broken the sound barrier. He knew what the redline on the tachometer was for, but several times I had to remind him. I must say that his third landing in the Aeronca was at least as good as his second.

In the fall of 1964, I was in Army basic training at Fort Dix, N.J. I was summoned to report to the company commander in the orderly room. The CO told me that Lt. Michael Newell had called and requested that I be given a weekend pass so I could be an usher in his wedding. I had a good time at Mike and Mimi's wedding, dressed in my buck private's uniform, white gloves and shirt, and a black bow tie.
The last time I saw Mike, was at Mimi's parent's home in Kerhonkson. He was home on leave between tours in Viet Nam. He talked about some of his missions and how he wanted to get a MIG when he returned.

I was once again in uniform for the memorial service that was held for Mike at St. Mary's and St. Andrew's church in Ellenville. It seemed so necessary and so incomplete.

Mike, I still think of you and remember our good friendship. Welcome Home! Rest in Peace!

Indeed LT Newell, welcome home now and rest in peace - your journey is complete...

29 May 2007

Tuesday's Roll-up of Missile and Other News of Note

I continue to be amazed (though I really shouldn't by now) at the volume of email that is generated over the course of a generic three-day weekend. This past weekend was no exception to that rule either - especially as the miserly mailbox sizes set by the sysadmins is, well, miserly, one must spend the first part of the day shoveling them out (one is doubly blessed with multiple mailboxes of varying classification...). On to today's news


Russia evidently was successful in the test launch of a new version of the SS-27/Topol M ICBM (called the RS-24 in reports) today (unlike, say, their new SLBM, the Bulava...) and of course, President Putin takes the opportunity to thump his chest again over how it demonstrated "new" technologies to enable it to overcome the US BMDS. Newsflash Vladimir - the BMDS was never designed as a counter to Russian ICBMs. That goes for the planned European leg as well. Rather, it was designed to counter the missiles from countries like North Korea, which, by the way, uses Soviet/Russian proliferated designs and technologies...

By the way, you might also want to consult your First Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Ivanov on that matter of MRBM/IRBM proliferation. Seems he was quite upset that here we are, 20 years after the signing of the INF Treaty (which he now claims is just a relic of the Cold War) and there are all manner of countries on their border that now possess these missiles. Of course, the Cold War relic prevents the US and Russia from possessing these weapons, so one might wonder what the next logical step would be.

A rational thought might be a regional missile defense network since, frankly, some of those countries (with proliferated Russian designs and technology - sometimes you do need a sharp stick to make a point) view Russia as a not too lesser Satan than the Great Satan and Russia may find itself the subject of an attack from the south. Of course, the only exoatmospheric option open to Russia at that point is the nuclear-based system around Moscow, with all the attendant fallout and collateral damage effects a 1-megaton exoatmospheric explosion would impart.

If participation in a regional defense plan doesn't stir your oars, why not work to extend the INF treaty to third parties? Granted there would be some considerable obstacles to overcome, not the least of which would be seeking to bring notoriously uncooperative states (like North Korea) to the table and others like China or France who would object based on the possibility of losing their national deterrent forces because their ranges fall in the construct of the INF Treaty. If linked in a larger condominium with a revitalization of the strategic arms talks between the US and Russia, there may be some possibilities. Alas, though, it is easier to throw rocks (including MIRVed ones), so one shouldn't expect much more than rhetoric, one supposes.
30 May Update: Here is Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister's take on yesterday's events:

Poland's top negotiator on planned U.S. missile defense bases in Europe said Tuesday that Russia has revealed a psychological problem in its opposition to the plan, and said Warsaw will ask U.S. President George W. Bush how seriously to take Moscow's threats. … “The Russians absolutely know that 10 missiles which are not equipped with any kind of warhead cannot do any harm against Russian military might,” Witold Waszczykowski, the deputy foreign minister and top Polish negotiator, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “From a technical point of view, we cannot convince them. They ignore, they neglect our arguments, and they are saying that any kind of a military installation on the territory of Poland, Czech Republic - that means on the territory of new member NATO states - is not acceptable for them,” Waszczykowski said. That means they have a psychological problem, a kind of mental problem preventing them from accepting that the two nations are really sovereign - are not part of Soviet or Russian domination any more.” …

... works for me... - SJS


Speaking of the BMDS (and after the Midway postings, we will be back to the Missile Defense 101 series), there was a non-test this past Friday of the Ground-Based Mid-Course Interceptor (or GBI). What constitutes a non test? When the target missile fails to achieve a trajectory that in turn triggers the BMDS, identifying it as a threat and thereby not launching the GBI, that is a non-test event. The target missile was a re-worked Polaris SLBM with a generic warhead that contains telemetry and artifacts for the GBI test. The Polaris is used (as were old Minuteman upper stages) due to their availability after being withdrawn from service and consideration of disposal. This is permitted under the applicable treaties. The problem is - it is a 40 yr old missile and certain elements cannot be overhauled, that is the risk you run using missiles that are past their prime. It is however, a cost saving measure - when they work. Unfortunately, because of the cost, availability and time in preparation, there cannot be another sitting on the pad to launch in the event of the primary's failure, similar to what is done with drone targets used for endoatmospheric missile tests by aircraft and ships. One should expect the test to be rescheduled probably later in the summer or in the fall when a new target is available.

On the Navy side, there will be another Truxtun in the fleet again:

The Navy will christen the newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, Truxtun, Saturday, June 2, 2007, during a 10 a.m. CDT ceremony at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Pascagoula, Miss.

Designated hull number DDG 103, the new destroyer honors Commodore Thomas Truxtun (1755-1822) who embarked upon a seafaring career at age 12.When the U.S. Navy was organized, he was selected as one of its first six captains on June 4, 1798. He was assigned command of the USS Constellation, one of the new frigates, and he put to sea to prosecute the undeclared naval war with revolutionary France.On Feb. 9, 1799, Truxtun scored the first of his two most famous victories. After an hour's fight, Constellation battered the French warship L'Insurgente into submission in one of the most illustrious battles of the quasi-war with France.Truxtun retired from the Navy as a commodore and has had five previous ships carry his name: a brig launched in 1842, a destroyer with the hull number DD 14, a destroyer with the hull number DD 229, a high speed transport with the hull number APD 98 (initially designated a destroyer escort with the hull number DE 282), and a nuclear-powered frigate (DLGN) later re-designated a cruiser with the hull number CGN 35.

To refresh memories, here's the last Truxton

Lost in the churn of a three day weekend and other events, was the release of the "2007 Military Power of the People's Republic of China" report. The entire PDF version of the report is available for reading/download at:


While there is a considerable amount to digest there, one of the areas worth perusing is the missile development, especially that of the DF-31. Pg. 5 notes that DoD assess it reached initial threat availability (ITA) in 2006. There is an interesting analysis of the DF-31 and the ITA issue over at Arms Control Wonk that merits your close attention - there are some pretty valid reasons for taking issue with the ITA declaration.


That paragon of freedom loving socialists 'round the world, Hugo (don't call me Hew-go) Chavez shut down the last private TV station this weekend, declaring it supported 'the oligarchy,' an alleged rich, pro-US group which threatens to overthrow Chavez's government. Judging from the reaction in the streets, it isn't the rich oligarchs (and how many can there be left in the new Socialist Paradise?) but the average populace and students that he ought to be concerned with. Then again, maybe they will just provide the target rich environment that will allow Hugo to employ his latest acquisition:

Countdown to Midway: 28 May 1942

Pacific Theater:

ALASKA (11th Air Force): A B-17 flies the first armed reconnaissance from the secretly constructed airfield at Unmak , Aleutian over the Aleutian Chain, but finds no sign of the enemy. XI Fighter Command elements are not deployed at Unmak (P-40's and P-38's), Cold Bay (P-40's), Kodiak (P-39's), and Elmendorf Field [P-38's and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Kittyhawks].

USA - Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson warns Americans along the west coast to expect a Japanese attack as retaliation for the Dollittle raid on Tokyo.

SOUTHWEST PACIFIC AREA (5th Air Force): B-26's attack the airfield at Lae, New Guinea.

New Hebridies - U.S. forces arrive at Espiritu Santo.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii:

USS Enterprise, Hornet and escorts have sortied to meet the Japanese fleet bound for Midway. USS Yorktown, which arrived 27 May from action in the Coral Sea is in the shipyard undergoing deperate repairs to enable her to join Enterprise and Hornet.

In an inauspicious beginning, perhaps future, LCDR Lindsey, CO of VT-8 crashed astern of Enterprise while flying aboard Enterprise. He and the rest of his crew are rescued by the planeguard, USS Monaghan.

While Yorktown is in dock, her airwing receives new aircraft and performs maintenance on the others.

Kido Butai:

  • After clearing the Inland Sea on the 27th, Nagumo's forces have set a north-easterly course at 14 knots. Ships crews turn to the daily routine of maintenance, cleaning and participating in drills whilke the embarked aircrew amused themselves playing cards in the ready room or passing around novels while sunning themselves on the flight deck - some had brought wooden deck chairs for this purpose. (ed - It would appear there were (are) some universal similarities across naval aviation...). The overall mood of the crews was relaxed. Duty carrier rotation was set with Soryu taking the first watch on the 27th.

  • However, overnight on the 27th, CDR Fuchida Mitsuo, CAG for Akagi's air group, was diagnosed with acute appendicitis. Although he pleaded otherwise, the flight surgeon overruled him and operated immediately. Fuchida would miss the coming battle, at least leading the air group in battle, and this was dismaying to the veteran crews.

  • 1430, 28 May - Kido Butai's supply ships are sighted and once they wer joined in the force, a course change to east-northeast was ordered. Speed remained at 14 knots in consideration of the destroyers and other fuel hogs in the fleet.

28 May 2007

Memorial Day Remembrance – Ploesti Raid Aircrewman Returns Home

Others remember too:

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced 11 May 2007, that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is 1st Lt. Archibald Kelly, U.S. Army Air Forces, of Detroit, Mich. He was buried on May 12 in Great Lakes National Cemetery, Holly, Mich.

On July 22, 1944, Kelly was the navigator on a B-24J Liberator on a bombing raid of the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania. Returning to Lecce air base in Italy, the plane was struck by enemy anti-aircraft fire and crashed in what is now Croatia, approximately 430 miles southwest of Ploesti. Of the ten crewmen on board, eight survived and bailed out of the aircraft before it crashed. The rear gunner died and his body was later recovered. One of the surviving crewmen saw Kelly bail out before the crash, but said he struck a rocky cliff face when the wind caught his parachute. His body was not found at that time.

After researching information contained in U.S. wartime records, specialists from DMO's Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) in 2005 interviewed residents from Dubrovnik and Mihanici village who had information related to WWII aircraft losses in the area. One resident recalled a crash in which one of the crewmen landed on a pile of rocks on Mt. Snijeznica after his parachute failed to open. He said locals buried the individual. Based on witness descriptions of the burial location, the team searched the mountaintop, but was unable to locate the burial site.

Additional JCSD archival research in Croatia confirmed the earlier information found in U.S. records. In June 2006, the Dubrovnik resident reported to JCSD that he had continued the search and found the grave site of the American serviceman. He sent pictures of both the site and the remains to DPMO. In September 2006, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) team excavated the burial site, confirming with local villagers that it was the same site photographed by the Dubrovnik resident. The team recovered human remains at the site.

This raid on Ploesti wasn't the (in)famous one from August of 1943, yet it was representative of the many missions flown against industrial and military targets in Europe and the Pacific by the men of the Army Air Corps. On this mission 438 B-17's and B-24's took part with loss of "only" two aircraft. As we pause to give thanks this Memorial Day for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice - for keeping the Union intact, for our freedoms, to extend that umbrella of freedom to others - freeing them from tyranny and oppression, let us give thanks and always remember.

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain.

Welcome home Lieutenant Kelly, rest easy now that your mission is complete.