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.

27 May 2007

Countdown to Midway: 27 May 1942

“The Inland Sea of Japan was still veiled in darkness when the anchorage at Hashirajima began to awaken. On board the aircraft carrier Akagi, white-clad crewmen, ghostly in the deep twilight on the forecastle, began raising the ship’s anchors. The clatter of the capstan was overlain with the bright sound of spraying water as the foredeck gang played hoses along the dripping anchor chains, washing them clean of the harbor’s mud. All around Akagi, just barely discernable in the gloom, lay dozens of great grey warships, many of them weighing anchor as well. Nautical twilight was at 0437. But the dark waters of the bay, sheltered by the mountainous islands, would remain shrouded in gray until well after sunlight dappled the hilltops. Akagi would sortie around dawn. The date was 27 May 1942.” Shattered Sword (Parshall & Tully) 2005, p.3

JAPAN - Citing Japanese victories in the Coral Sea and other battles, Radio Tokyo the previous day announces that "America and Britain... have now been exterminated. The British and American fleets cannot appear on the oceans."

On board the new battleship, Yamato, a final round of planning and wargaming had wrapped on the 25th, uncovering some potentially fatal flaws with Yamamoto’s plan – namely that there was a gap in the air search pattern south of the Hawaii/Midway axis which would prevent detection of American forces if they sortied to that area. Other officers were concerned that Nagumo’s forces were too far removed from the main body should additional support be required. However, Nagumo and his staff assured Yamamoto that they would be able to handle any such contingency, but another problem had arisen – namely that elements of Kido Butai would not be ready to sail on the established date.

Parshall & Tully note that Yamamoto declined to make changes in the operational schedule, believing that the tides at Midway would not accommodate Nagumo’s tardiness. Kido Butai would sail a day after the rest of the forces (invasion convoy and supporting force) and as such, would have one day less to knock out the island’s defenses for the invading force. No changes were made to the operational plan – no contingency plans put in effect. On the eve of departure for what the IJN leadership viewed to be the deciding battle, the battle that would utterly destroy the American fleet and end America’s presence in the Pacific, thereby securing the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, the planning and wargaming was almost a polar opposite of the tightly scripted, minutely detailed effort that led to the attack at Pearl Harbor.

Around the world, forces were joined and movement was afoot in this truly global war. In Russia, the 2nd Battle of Karkhov was winding to a close. After initial Soviet successes and re-capture of the city, they now found themselves surrounded and an attempted breakout two days earlier had failed. Southward, in the Crimea, the Nazis have begun their summer offensive. In Africa, Rommel has undertaken an offensive against the British defensive positions at Gazala. In Britain, preparations are being made for the first thousand plane raid against Germany – American forces were just beginning to arrive under the command of Eighth Air Force, VIII Bomber Command, but would not see their first combat for another 2 months. In the China-Burma-India theater, 10th Air Force moved B-17’s of the 11th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy) from Karachi to Lahabad, India with B-17's. And in the Southwest Pacific Theater, 5th Air Force B-17's bomb the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul. 8th FG P-39s intercept Japanese fighters attacking Port Moresby, Australia losing two P-39F’s in the process. And at CINCPAC HQ, Ed Layton answers a question from Nimitz – name the dates and dispositions the enemy intends to take up around Midway:

“‘I want you to be specific,’ Nimitz said, fixing me with his cool blue eyes. ‘After all, this is the job I have given you – to be the admiral commanding the Japanese forces, and tell me what is going on.’

It was a tall order, given that so much was speculation rather than hard fact. I knew that I would have to stick my neck out, but that was clearly what he wanted. Summarizing all my data, I told Nimitz that the carriers would probably attack on the morning of 4 June, from the north-west on a bearing of 325 degrees. They could be sighted at about 175 miles from Midway at around 0700 hours local time.

On the strength of this estimate, Admiral Nimitz crossed his Rubicon on 27 May 1942…I knew very well the extent to which Nimitz had staked the fate of the Pacific Fleet on our estimates, and his own judgment, against those of Admiral King and his staff in Washington.” - …And I was There (Ed Layton) 1985, pg. 430.

26 May 2007

Programming Alert: "Air Group 16 - We Came to Remember"

Air date: Sunday, 27 May 2007 @ 2130 on your local PBS station

"Air Group 16: We Came To Remember" tells the story of the last reunion of Air Group 16 -- the pilots, radiomen and gunners who served on the aircraft carrier USS Lexington in the Pacific in World War II. The film follows the veterans and their families as they make the journey by train, plane and car to Washington, DC, for their final reunion at the dedication of the National World War II Memorial in May 2004. Through stunning archival footage, period music and dramatic first-person accounts, the film follows Air Group 16 as they tell their stories, remember their fallen comrades, and are officially honored by the country they served.

25 May 2007

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


First Carrier Striking Force

VADM Nagumo Chuichi
Chief of Staff: RADM Kusaka Ryunosuke

Carrier Division 1 – VADM Nagumo

Akagi (flagship) – Captain Aoki Taijiro, commanding
18 x A6M2 carrier fighters (aka Zero)
18 x D3A1 carrier bombers (aka Val)
18 x B5N2 carrier attack aircraft (aka Kate)
6 x A6M2 fighters (6th Air Group)

Kaga – Captain Okada Jisaku, commanding
18 x A6M2
18 x D3A1
27 x B5N2
9 x A6M2 (6
th Air Group)
2 x D3A1 (cargo for

Carrier Division 2 – RADM Yamaguchi Tamon

Hiryu (flagship) – Captain Kaku Tomeo, commanding
18 x A6M2
18 x D3A1
18 x B5N2
3 x A6M2 (6th Air Group)

Soryu - Captain Yanagimoto Ryusaku, commanding
18 x A6M2
16 x D3A1
18 x B5N2
3 x A6M2 (6th Air Group)
2 x D4Y1 carrier bomber (experimental reconnaissance aircraft)


The Mitsubishi A6M Zero ("A" for fighter, 6th model, "M" for Mitsubishi) was a light-weight, carrier-based fighter aircraft employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service from 1940 to 1945. At the time it was introduced, the Mitsubishi A6M was the best carrier-based fighter plane in the world and was greatly feared by Allied pilots.

Widely known as the Zero (from its Japanese Navy designation, Type 0 Carrier Fighter - Rei shiki Kanjo sentoki, 零式艦上戦闘機), taken from the last digit of the Imperial year 2600 (1940), when it entered service, in Japan it was unofficially referred to as both Rei-sen and Zero-sen.

When it appeared on the scene, the Zero was a strategic surprise of the nastiest sort for opposing fighters. Excellent maneuverability combined with exceptional range outclassed then-frontline Allied fighters like the P-40 and the F4F Wildcat, until it’s glass jaw was discovered. Mitsubishi had designed and built a leading edge fighter but in the process of doing all it could to lighten the aircraft (and thereby enhance speed, range and maneuverability) they left off armor plating, self sealing fuel tanks and other protective gear. A Zero could be brought down with a fairly short burst of gunfire. Even the Japanese pilots recognized it as Saburu Sakei noted:

I had full confidence in my ability to destroy the Grumman and decided to finish off the enemy fighter with only my 7.7mm machine guns. I turned the 20mm. cannon switch to the 'off' position, and closed in. For some strange reason, even after I had poured about five or six hundred rounds of ammunition directly into the Grumman, the airplane did not fall, but kept on flying. I thought this very odd - it had never happened before - and closed the distance between the two airplanes until I could almost reach out and touch the Grumman. To my surprise, the Grumman's rudder and tail were torn to shreds, looking like an old torn piece of rag. With his plane in such condition, no wonder the pilot was unable to continue fighting! A Zero which had taken that many bullets would have been a ball of fire by now.”

Changes in tactics (diving attacks, Thatch Weave) would begin to offset the Zero’s advantages and when the next generation of fighters appeared on the scene – the Hellcat and Corsair especially, the Zero’s days as master of the skies was over.

The definitive version of the Zero was the A6M2 Type 0, Model 21 which saw 740 completed by Mitsubishi and another 800 by Nakajima. This was the version that escorted the attack at Pear Harbor and met American aircraft in the skies over and around Midway.

General characteristics (A6M2, Type 0, Model 21):

* Crew: 1
* Length: 9.06 m (29 ft 9 in)
* Wingspan: 12.0 m (39 ft 4 in)
* Height: 3.05 m (10 ft 0 in)
* Wing area: 22.44 m² (241.5 ft²)
* Empty weight: 1,680 kg (3,704 lb)
* Loaded weight: 2,410 kg (5,313 lb)
* Max takeoff weight: kg (lb)
* Powerplant: 1× Nakajima Sakae 12 radial engine, 709 kW (950 hp)
* Aspect ratio: 6.4


* Never exceed speed: 660 km/h (356 knots, 410 mph)
* Maximum speed: 533 km/h (287 knots, 331 mph) at 4,550 m (14,930 ft)
* Range: 3,105 km (1,675 nm, 1,929 mi)
* Service ceiling: 10,000 m (33,000 ft)
* Rate of climb: 15.7 m/s (3,100 ft/min)
* Wing loading: 107.4 kg/m² (22.0 lb/ft²)
* Power/mass: 294 W/kg (0.18 hp/lb)


* Guns:
- 2× 7.7 mm (0.303 in) machine guns in the engine cowling
- 2× 20 mm (0.787 in) cannon in the wings
* Bombs:
- 2× 66 lb (30 kg) and
- 1× 132 lb (60 kg) bombs or
- 2× fixed 250 kg (550 lb) bombs for kamikaze attacks


First flown in 1938 and deployed in 1940, in the first ten months of WWII the Aichi D3A (99式艦上爆撃機, Allied code name Val) accounted for more shipping sunk than any other aircraft in any other theater. The outcome of a competition between Achi and Nakajima, the Val’s design was inspired in part by e elliptical wings of the Heinkel He70 and the fuselage was similar to that of the Zero (though strengthened for stresses of dive bombing). Drag at the rather sedate speeds the Val would operate at was not as great a factor, so the gear was fixed and faired.

In December 1939 the Navy ordered the aircraft as the Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber Model 11. The production models featured slightly smaller wings and increased power - the directional instability problem was finally cured with the fitting of a long dorsal fin, making it highly maneuverable.

Armament was two forward-firing 7.7 mm Type 97 machine-guns, and one flexible 7.7 mm Type 92 machine gun in the rear cockpit for defense. Normal bomb load was a single, trapeze-mounted 550 lb bomb. Two additional 130 lb bombs could be carried on wing racks located under each wing outboard of the dive brakes.

Starting with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the D3A1 took part in all major Japanese carrier operations in the first ten months of the war, but it was their attacks on the cruisers HMS Cornwall and HMS Dorsetshire and the carrier HMS Hermes in an Indian Ocean strike in April of 1942. Eventually it was replaced by the Yokosuka D4Y ‘Comet’ (Judy). By 1944, the Val had been pretty much removed from frontline service and when pressed into the battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf, they were essentially massacred by the far superior American fighters. Their final role was to serve as kamikaze platforms – also ineffectively.

The version faced at Midway was the D3A1. Specifications:

General characteristics

* Crew: Two, pilot and gunner
* Length: 10.2 m (33 ft 5 in)
* Wingspan: 14.37 m (47 ft 2 in)
* Height: 3.85 m (12 ft 8 in)
* Wing area: 34.9 m² (375.6 ft²)
* Empty weight: 2,408 kg (5,309 lb)
* Max takeoff weight: 3,650 kg (8,047 lb)
* Powerplant: 1× Mitsubishi Kinsei 44 , 798 kW (1,070 hp)


* Maximum speed: 389 km/h (231 knots, 242 mph)
* Range: 1,472 km (795 nm, 915 mi)
* Service ceiling: 9,300 m (30,500 ft)


* 2 forward 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 97 Light Machine Guns
* 1 rear 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 92 Heavy Machine Gun
* 1 × 250 kg (550 lb) or 2 × 60 kg (130 lb) bombs


Two aircraft designed, built and flown within a year of each other on opposite sides of the Pacific – the TBD Devastator for the US and the Nakajima B5N “Kate” for Japan – yet a world of difference in capabilities. The Nakajima B5N (Japanese: 中島 B5N, ) was the Imperial Japanese Navy's standard torpedo bomber for the first years of World War II. While the B5N was substantially faster and more capable than its Allied counterparts, the TBD Devastator and Fairey Swordfish, it was close to obsolescence by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. Nevertheless, the B5N operated throughout the war. Although primarily used as a carrier-based aircraft, it was also used as a land-based bomber on occasions. The B5N had a crew of 3: pilot, navigator/bombardier/observer, and radio operator/gunner. One of the unique aspects of the Kate was the offset torpedo mounting to ensure clearance of the prop while dropping.

Early operations in the war against China had exposed weaknesses in protection that were similar to what hampered the Zero later – lack of adequate armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. Rather than take the penalty in weight by adding this items, Nakajima chose instead to increase the speed of the Kate hoping to enable it to out speed its expected fighter adversaries. That upgrade, the B5N2, was the definitive version of the Kate and saw action at Pearl Harbor and subsequent. Perhaps the actions the Kate is most famous for was its pivotal role in sinking the carriers Lexington, Yorktown and Hornet. All told, some 1,150 were built without a single example existing today. Those examples seen in museums or flying are replicas built for the film Tora!Tora!Tora! from Vultee BT-13s.

General characteristics

* Crew: 3
* Length: 10.30 m (33' 10")
* Wingspan: 15.52 m (50' 11")
* Height: 3.70 m (12' 2")
* Wing area: 37.7 m² (406 ft²)
* Empty weight: 2,279 kg (5,024 lb)
* Loaded weight: 3,800 kg (8,380 lb)
* Max takeoff weight: 4,100 kg (9,040 lb)
* Powerplant: 1× Nakajima Sakae 11 radial engine, 750 kW (1,000 hp)


* Maximum speed: 367 km/h (229 mph)
* Range: 1,935 km (1,202 mi)
* Service ceiling: 8,260 m (27,100 ft)
* Rate of climb: 6.5 m/s (1,283 ft/min)
* Wing loading: 101 kg/m² (21 lb/ft²)
* Power/mass: 0.20 kW/kg (0.12 hp/lb)


* Guns: 1x 7.7 mm Type 92 'Ru' ( Lewis )machine gun in rear dorsal position, fed by hand loaded magazines of 97 rounds
* Bombs: 1x 800 kg (1,760 lb)type 91 torpedo or 3x 250 kg (550 lb) bombs or 6 x 60 kg (132 lb)

24 May 2007

Blocked in Beijing - or Not?

Maybe it was this...
or this ....
but the end result is this:

... except some animals seem to be more equal than others...
So are we feeling chastened? Regretful perhaps?
Naw, blogging means never having to say you're sorry

Oh yeah, and to the censors - stuff this in your pipes and smoke it:

Countdown to Midway: Battlespace

Timeline: SUNDAY, 24 MAY 1942USN - Carriers Hornet and Enterprise move towards Pearl Harbor, where they will quickly be refitted and sent to Midway. The Japanese preparing to attack Midway mistakenly believe these carriers are in the Solomons.

Geography: Midway Atoll is part of a chain of volcanic islands, atolls, and sea mounts extending from Hawaii up to the tip of the Aleutian Islands and known as the Hawaii-Emperor chain. Formed 28 million years ago, the island’s volcanic mass subsided over the years, gradually being replaced by a coral reef that grew around the former volcanic island and was able to maintain itself near sea level by growing upwards. That reef is now over 516 feet (160 m) thick and comprised of mostly post-Miocene limestones with a layer of upper Miocene (Tertiary g) sediments and lower Miocene (Tertiary e) limestones at the bottom overlying the basalts. What remains today is a shallow water atoll about 10 kilometers across.

Location: As its name suggests, Midway lays nearly half-way between the continents of North America and Asia (and, coincidentally, it lies almost halfway around the Earth from Greenwich, England. Because of this strategic position, the humble outcrop of coral and sand became an important point in the journey by sea and later, air, between the US and Asia. The first attempt to establish Midway as a strategic outpost came in 1871, 12 years after their discovery and being claimed for the US, and four years after the island was formally taken possession of by Captain William Reynolds of the USS Lackawanna. The Pacific Mail and Steamship Company started a project to dredge a ship channel through the reef to establish a coaling station while avoiding the high-taxes imposed at ports controlled by the Hawaiians. The project was an utter failure, however, and while evacuating the last of the workers, the USS Saginaw ran aground on Kure Atoll – an inauspicious beginning to be sure…

The next occupying effort came as part of laying the trans-Pacific telegraph cable. In 1903, in response to complaints about incursions by Japanese poachers, President Teddy Roosevelt placed the island under the protection of the U.S. Navy which in turn, saw a 21-man Marine detachment posted to the island. In 1935, with the introduction of flying boat service to Asia via Pan Am’s famous clippers, Midway became an important refueling and stopover point until war intruded in 1941.

Beginning in 1940, facilities at Midway were steadily built-up as Midway was deemed second in importance only to Pearl Harbor. The Naval Air Station was completed as were the ship channel and island defenses.

Strategic importance: A casual glance at the chart on the left will make immediately apparent the strategic importance of Midway. Given its location, long-range patrol bombers and submarines operating from the base would assert effective control of shipping lanes throughout the central Pacific region, directly impacting the movement of forces and supplies either East- or Westward bound. Possession of Midway also entailed control of the Hawaiian Islands, even absent an occupying force. If Japan’s goal of Asian domination was to be complete, it had to eliminate Hawaii as a launching pad for American forces – likewise, if America was to remain a factor in the Pacific, it had to keep Hawaii operational and, by extension, Midway.

The die which had been cast 28 million years ago was now coming a cropper…

22 May 2007

Chronicles of Naval Aviation: Squadron Nicknames

We get mail and some of it is darn interesting. Take this for example - sometime back we posted on the return of CDR Pete Mongilardi's remains from Vietnam. Following up on that posting came a note from the former OPS O of VA-153 relating how the Bluetail Flies came by that nickname.

It occurred while they were flying the F9F-5. Seems that one plane had a failure in the tail section and the only replacement on hand was painted in the old dark blue scheme. Grey body/blue tail and a new nickname is born ... have to love naval aviation, eh? Which, of course, brings to mind a question - anyone else out there that knows of a similar tale leading to a squadron nickname? Feel free to pass it along here...

P.S. One of the VMI grads whose postings YHS has come to look forward to and appreciate has a right decent shot of a gaggle of hummers over at OPFOR - fair warning Lex, better not stare too long into all those props!

Factory fire in Russia sparks scare, rumors of atomic plant explosion

In an area of the world where memories of Chernobyl are not a dim/receding thing of the past, it doesn't take much to invoke immediate concern, if not panic:

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — A fire broke out Monday at a Russian factory that makes equipment for atomic power plants, but there was no risk of radioactive contamination because the plant does not work with nuclear materials, officials said.
The fire erupted under the roof of one of the buildings at the Atommash plant in Volgodonsk, about 600 miles south of Moscow, said Oleg Ugnivenko, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry in southern Russia.
It was extinguished a few hours later, he said. No injuries were reported.
Atommash's products include turbine and other equipment for nuclear and other types of power plants, but it does not work with radioactive materials, Ugnivenko said.
Reports of the fire sparked some panic and widespread concern in the region near the plant, Russian news media said, with some parents removing their children from schools and buying iodine tablets from pharmacies.
Russian atomic energy agency spokesman Sergei Novikov said the rumors were spread maliciously.
Evidently it was a little more than angst as regional emergency offices were flooded with over 300,000 phone calls (4,000 /day is the norm) and other reports note that local stocks of iodine have been completely depleted.

Russia's emergency ministry rejects rumors of blasts at
20/05/2007 17:17 KRASNODAR (southern Russia), May 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's emergencies ministry on Sunday rejected the rumors of blasts at nuclear power plants in the south of the country.
The ministry's department for the Krasnodar Territory has been receiving a growing number of phone calls from local residents about the alleged blasts since Saturday, the spokeswoman for the regional branch said.
Residents are making phone calls to ask about explosions at the nuclear power plants in Volgodonsk, Belorechensk, Slavyansk-on-Kuban and other cities of the southern federal district. The information about the blasts is false," Tatyana Kobzarenko said.
According to Kobzarenko, the rumors about the blasts appeared after scheduled exercises held by the emergency ministry at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine May 18.
"On May 18, a planned reactor shutdown took place at the Zaporozhye NPP. After that, rumors started to spread about blasts at Russian nuclear power plants," Kobzarenko said.