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Interview of

Harden later became CO of Air Group 1, attached to the Essex-Class carrier CV-20 Bennington in late June of 1945. His air group saw action against Japan in July and August up to the point that Japan capitulated.

in the
Bureau of Aeronautics
March 4, 1943

     Lieutenant Harden summarizes his observations made in the course of three and one half years of carrier experience in the capacities of dive bomber pilot, landing signal officer and, for the past ten months, Air Operations officer of the ENTERPRISE. Very interesting comments are made upon the Japanese carrier and task force tactics during offensive and defensive operations. Their aircraft attack procedures are also discussed. Our own carrier procedure, communication problems and air department organization are covered with emphasis upon those points where changes have been made due to battle experience. The more important subjects are indexed below:

Japanese Carrier and Carrier Aircraft Tactics - - 2-5
U. S. Carrier Aircraft- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5-8
Low Level Bombing - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8-9
Heavy and Light Fighters - - - - - - - - - - - - 9
Airborne Radar in Carrier Types - - - - - - - - - 9-11
Dud Pilots - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 11-12
Action Reports - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12-13
Morale - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13
A-V(S) Officers - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13
Air Operations Officers - - - - - - - - - - - - - 14-15
Location of Radar Plot and Air Plot - - - - - - - 15-16
Aircraft Radio Communications - - - - - - - - - - 16
Landing Procedure - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 16-17

Distribution: To all units ashore and afloat concerned with aircraft.


     First of all, I want to take up some information gathered on Japanese carrier tactics during the last year, which I have substantiated by contact reports from ENTERPRISE scouts, from shore-based search plane and from the pilots' action reports. Little or nothing was known of Japanese carriers, their planes, and their operational ability before Pearl Harbor; and since then, in spite of several engagements with their carriers, nothing has been published on the tactics of the Japanese carriers and their aircraft.

Jap Carrier and Carrier Aircraft Tactics 

     Although three carriers operated in close company with a fourth within visual contact at Midway, the present practice indicates a resumption of dispersal tactics; that is, two carriers in company and the additional carriers within support distance of 50 to 100 miles.

     The heavy units of their fleet - battleships, heavy cruisers normally remained on a bearing towards most probable contact and separated from their carrier forces at distances between 50 and 100 miles.

     The carriers' anti-submarine screen and plane guards are made up of destroyer leaders and destroyers of light cruisers. Seldom will the heavy surface units be found within the same disposition as the carrier, entirely unlike our practice of having at least two heavy cruisers, one of the new bsttloship, and perhaps one of the ATLANTA Class cruisers with the carrier and her destroyers.

     Disposition for defense against air-attack is loosely scattered around the carrier at from 30OO to 6000 yards. Maneuvering independently of the carrier, it provides little or no assistance in defense against a determined dive bombing attack, and is too widespread to be air tight in defense against torpedo plane attack.

     During an air attack, all Japanese surface units including battleship groups as wel1 as carrier task forces - operate independently; they maneuver radically and attempt to utilize cloud cover. Normally the carrier maneuvers radically before the attack develops and then steams in a tight circle during the dive bombing phase of the attack.

     The high explosive anti-aircraft fire is not sufficiently accurate to affect seriously the execution of a determined attack by our dive bombers or our torpedo planes. The volume of their anti-aircraft fire from automatic weapons in the carriers and supporting units is low in comparison to the volume of fire from our own carriers and heavy ships. In one instance all types of anti-aircraft fire stopped for an appreciable time after one of our 1000-pound, l/100th-second fused bomb hits on board.

     The carrier scout bomber and torpedo planes have been sighted on single search missions in the combat area at distances from 175 to 210 miles from the nearest Japanese carrier. The time of

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sightings indicates that their searches are launched with the break of day, about 30 minutes before sunrise. Scout seaplanes and scout planes are effectively used by the Japanese as an air umbrella, but carrier types are employed for search operations. On several occasions our searches have overlapped.

     Carrier air attack groups have a strong fighter escort. Their complement of planes appears to be approximately 50 percent fighter and 50 percent attacking types, dive bombers, and torpedo planes. Dive bombers and torpedo planes apparently proceed independently to the scene of attack. The fighter escort preceded the remainder of the attack group by about 50 miles on the 26th of October. (This was during the battle of Santa Cruz, when the carrier Hornet CV-8 was lost. Enterprise herself was damaged by two bomb hits and two near misses that caused underwater damage) They intercepted our attack group and shot it up before they engaged any of our fighters protecting our own group and ships.

     The dive bombers attain an altitude of from 14,000 to 18,000 feet, well clear of the target, and make a high speed run-in. The torpedo planes also normally come in at altitudes over 10,000 feet and make a fast approach, slowing only sufficiently to permit them to release their torpedoes at something around 200 knots and at altitudes from 20 to 100 feet.

     There is an Air Commander who is in tactical command at the target. He provides the attack flights with the "dive wind", which he apparently resolves near the target; and he gives the signal for launching attacks on specified targets. Flight Leaders report in to him as they reach the scene of the proposed attack and are then ordered to make their attack, Incidentally, the signal, - on MCW the last time, - was thought to be a referee's whistle.

     Air attack groups concentrate on the carrier target, to the exclusion of all screening vessels, except when a poor dive, or the volume of our anti-aircraft fire makes it a wise choice to expend the bomb on a screening vessel. Torpedo planes under heavy fire have made very poor drops and have on occasion jettisoned their fish and hauled out of range.

     The torpedo planes strafe occasionally before and after release. There is, however, no indication of dive bombers attempting to strafe. The Zeros have not, to my knowledge, been used as strafers in any stage of an attack on vessels of our task forces. They can be anticipated as strafers in any future carrier action, however, for the simple reason that our fighters have been employed as strafers quite successuflly and the Japanese have never failed to take advantage of any tactic that we have demonstrated to be efficient and effective.

     Instantaneous fuse bombs used by their dive bombers are employed, I believe, only in the first wave of their attack. They are used sparingly. Indications are that all bombs dropped on the ENTERPRISE on the 26th of October were 500-pound, 8/100's to l/10th of a second delay demolition bombs.

     Voice radio is used in combat for inter-type traffic; however key is given preference in aircraft radio communications.

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All contacts and tactical information are sent by key, and usually in code. Apparently only the Flight Leaders, the tactical commanders, and Section Leaders are equipped with radio, the wing men depending entirely on their leaders. Low frequency is used regularly to home lost planes and probably used by tactical scouts at the target to permit attack groups to ride in on RDF bearings. It is not beyond the realm of Japanese ingenuity and technical knowledge that carrier type planes are now equipped to home on our ship-borne radars and YE. We, so far, have not built anything or have nothing in the Fleet, which is adapted to that kind of direction finding, but it is entirely possible that we could have something of the same nature.

Bureau Comment: No equipment had been reported aboard enemy A/C which would permit homing on, or even receiving radar on YE transmissions.

     There are no indications of pre-dawn take-offs or night attacks by carrier type planes. Carrier planes may have been employed; however, as night scouts over the area in which the HORNET was lost, providing illumination by parachute flares for the surface attack group which swept that area.

Bureau Comment: Subsequent information indicates that these duties were performed by cruiser based aircraft.

     Here's an especially unique idea - During the action of the 26th of October off Santa Cruz, there were indications that a support carrier (If true, probably Junyo) launched its planes for servicing on an intermediate carrier, then steamed within range to recover her own group after its attack.

     The Japanese combat patrols take up picket stations and are apparently vectored on by anti-aircraft bursts as well as by radio. Since our strikes are always at extreme range, our attack groups have to make a direct approach. The Zeros consequently obtain a very high percentage of interceptions. Only high speed approaches at 20,000 to 22,000 foot, and an expeditious pushover by our dive bombers, appear effectively to avoid interception before diving. The HORNET torpedo planes, however, managed to avoid fighters by remaining at or below a thousand feet throughout their entire approach and attack on the 26th of October.

Bureau Comment: There were no indications of VF opposition in the general area of objectives.

     Combat patrols from the carriers have been maintained over separate units of heavy cruisers and battleships when the separation is as much as a hundred miles.

     The Japanese Air Commander has never hesitated to strike in force, usually superior in numbers to us, concentrating on delivering an attack on our carriers at the earliest practical hour, even at the cost of expending a large majority of his aircraft.

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Attack groups are launched at any daylight hour, even with the prospect of night landings for the returning planes. With contact verified, the Air Commander can be expected to launch his carrier planes for a strike at extreme range at 300 miles, while still out of effective range of our carrier scouts and attack groups. It is significant, I think, that Japanese dive bombers have failed to date to sink one of our carriers. On the other hand, their aircraft borne torpedoes have inflicted the fatal damage to our three carriers lost as a result of air attack. The Japanese have repeatedly accepted tremendous losses in order to drive home their torpedo attacks. It is apparent, I believe, that the Japanese have not only kept abreast of us in the development of carrier aviation but have excelled in offensive tactical employment of their carrier and air groups. That was especially true during the action off the Solomon Islands on the 24th of August (Read ENTERPRISE's action report for this action here on CV-6.org) and off the Santa Cruz Islands on the 26th of October (Action report for this action here on CV-6.org). During these actions our superior defense by ships' anti-aircraft fire and our protecting fighters prevented a decisive Japanese victory. Plane for plane, our carrier aircraft pack a bigger punch and will absorb more punishment than the similar Japanese types. Our pilots are better bombers and better gunners. Our rearseat men are superior aerial gunners and provide the better defense. If our fighter directors could use the valuable radar information properly and become really effective, it's may (SIC) opinion that our protecting fighters would be able to break up any Japanese carrier attack group before it reached the attack position.

U. S. Carrier Aircraft 

     First of all, the F4F-4. The plane can absorb a great deal of punishment and can deliver a terrific punch with its six .50 calibre guns. It has been successful, however, only because of superior tactics and the ability of our pilots to get hits when an opportunity presents itself. F4F's on deck are useless for interception of shadowers and enemy air raids of any type because of their low rate of climb.

     Pilots in the combat zone want a fighter with performance at least equal to that of the Zero. The Zero has a high rate of climb; excellent maneuverability; high speed and long range. Our pilots want - deserve - a plane which is superior to the Zero, in all those categories. We've achieved long range in the F4U by incorporating large integral and internal tanks at the expense of rate of climb and maneuverability when combat is joined. The desirable compromise, as I see it, is a fighter which carries internally in protective tanks a sufficient quantity of fuel for normal combat action and enough additional to get home after the fight. The remainder should be carried externally in droppable containers and used to obtain a desired striking range and patrol endurance.

Bureau Comment: Unprotected fuel in the wings of the F4U is being deleted and fuel for long range carried in droppable tanks.

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     Until the new fighters arrive, every effort should be made to improve the performance of the F4F. The Fleet pilots desire the removal of the outboard guns and installation of containers for from 350 to 400 rounds per gun for the four remaining guns. Whatever has been done has not been effective in delivery of a four-gun F4F-4 to the Fleet.

Bureau Comment: Pilot opinion is not at all consistent on this point. 0ptional removal of the outboard guns has been provided, but few instances are reported of their removal by the fleet. The remaining four guns have ammunition capacity of 400 rounds per gun. FM-1 has four guns with 400 rounds per gun. The F4U and F6F have six guns, two of which can be removed, and 400 rounds per gun.

     On Guadalcanal all unessential gear was removed from the F4F to improve its performance. (More can be read about Guadalcanal action and F4Fs in an interview with then Marine Corps Captain Joe Foss here) The gun heating equipment was removed for a saving of some 200 pounds. After being exposed to a night of fog and heavy mist, the insulating material from one F4F weighed nearly 400 pounds. The Molin discharger (a signal device) and spare cartridges were also removed to save about 40 pounds, Various coils and every instrument and piece of equipment that could possibly be removed was taken out in an effort to make that plane as highly efficient as possible. The Molin discharger, the recognition device, has never been used by a carrier plane in the Pacific and no one out there can justify its installation in Fleet aircraft.

Bureau Comment: The Molin has recently been deleted as a JAC requirement and the pyrotechnic can be used instead.

     One of the reasons for the F4F'S effectiveness is a certain design feature which permits the pilot to make full deflection shots on high speed targets. Any fighter plane which by design of cowling and location of pilot and gunsight restricts the sighting angle to less than about 200 mills is basically unsound.

     In regard to the F4U I'd like to point out that unless the seat is moved well forward and raised somewhat, that the plane cannot attain its maximum effectiveness as a fighter.

Bureau Comment: The F4U cockpit is being raised.

     The SBD, as you know, is extremely reliable, rugged and efficient. It has been overloaded for all normal operations.

Bureau Comment: To carry desired bomb load and fuel, the SBD must be overloaded.

     At Midway, it was necessary to load the Group Commander's plane and the first half-dozen scouts with 500 pound bombs in order to get them off the deck. The all-round performance of this sluggish plane has been remarkably good. The forward armament is good. The rear armament is excellent, with the advent of the continuous feed of the twin .30's.

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     Most dive bombing done recently in the Southwest Pacific has been amazingly accurate because our boys have been not only well trained but have decided to drop their bombs at such a low altitude that they'll get a hit regardless of fragments. They drop under 2,000 feet at all tines and as low as 1200 feet. The plane handles beautifully in the approach and in the dive. With an engine providing 1350, and preferably 1500 horsepower for takeoff and climb, our dive bombers would be willing to go on tangling with the pilots for another year with that SBD.

     The 1000-pound, 1/100 second bombs were standard loading for attack missions. The 320-pound depth charge was standard for patrol and searches outside the combat zone. In the combat zone, the 500-pound bomb, with the A/S fuse, was the normal load for the search planes. All searches in the combat area were made in two-plane sections.

     The TBF is an excellent plane around the carrier. Takeoff and landing performance are especially good. For combat, however, the plane requires forward armament. Four .50 calibers firing from the wings or through the prop is the desirable forward armament; however, two .50's would be acceptable. The present .30 caliber installation is little more than an aiming device.

Bureau Comment: Two .50 caliber wing guns will be installed in production TBF's in the near future.

     Considerable discussion has been in progress in the Pacific on the proper tactics in making the torpedo approach and final attack. Both high and low approaches have been made successfully. No one has specified a cut-and-dried method for making an attack, and we have left it up more or less to the tactical commander or the flight leader to choose his own method, depending upon the circumstances that he encounters.

Bureau Comment: The most successful A/C torpedo attacks of this war have been delivered from an initial approach at medium altitude followed by a fast glide at high speed to the "levelling off" position just short of the release point.

     It is generally conceded that the size of the fighter escort being relatively small for our attack groups, dive bombers and torpedo planes, should proceed in company at high altitude to the vicinity of the target.

     The torpedo squadron commanders and pilots, of TBF squadrons believe that they can be most effective in the initial phase of carrier attack if employed as glide bombers, under normal conditions of visibility. They contend that the initial attack should

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aim to cripple as many ships as possible in order that the torpedo may be most effectively employed. The pilots see their mission when armed with torpedoes as a mopping-up expedition. Permit the dive bomber and the glide bomber to damage the ships; then employ the torpedo to sink ships.

Bureau Comment: Glide bombing versus combatant ships has not yet been proved effective.

     The TBF is normally loaded with two 325-pound depth charges for patrols and searches outside the combat zone. Two 500-pound bombs with the A/S fuse were installed for searches in the area of probable contact. The bomb sights were never carried. The pilots desired that the SBAE be removed at the earliest opportunity and replaced with the more reliable, more efficient automatic pilot.

Bureau Comment: In the near future SBAE is to be removed from the TBF and the Sperry Automatic Pilot installed.

     Torpedo braces and gear are always in place in the forward section of the bomb bay, to reduce the torpedo loading time to an allowable minimum; therefore only two bombs can be carried on the after racks during search and patrol in a combat area. No 1000-pound or 1650-pound bombs were flown off in TBF's because of the excessive time required to rearm.

     The big belly tank (the bomb bay tank) was used, only in two planes in seven months. The extra tanks were cluttering up valuable space around the hangar deck and store rooms. It is highly desirable, however, that a half-tank, say, 100 or 150 gallons be carried in the bomb bay forward, to increase the search and, striking range of this big plane. With an additional half-tank the plane could comfortably search as a scout to 300 miles at speed 20 knots higher than that of the SBD. The rear racks could also then be effectively employed to carry two 500-pound bombs. The plane would thus become an offensive search plane.

Bureau Comment: Contractor is making a study to provide two 100-gallon droppable wing tanks for the TBF. Instructions will shortly be issued for service installation of two 58 gallon droppable wing tanks pending development of the satisfactory 100 gallon installation.


     Fleet aviators are eager for accurate information for the conduct of low level bombing. They rightly hold to the dive bomber as the most damaging weapon, but they see great possibilities

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in the low level attack for the TBF and heavy fighters, especially during conditions of reduced visibility when dive and even glide bombing are impractical.

     With wing tanks removed and two 1000-pound bombs with 4-second delay fuse installed and carried externally, the P-38's accuracy and its immunity from damage are amazing. From a Lieutenant Colonel attached to General Kenney's staff, in the New Guinea area, I learned that as of 1 January 1943 some 35 ships in the New Guinea-New Britian-Shortland area had been sunk by low level bombing. All types, even the B-17's, were successfully employed.

     The day when our carriers can be equipped with two types of aircraft is at hand. The dive bomber which can also carry a torpedo, and the heavy fighter which can carry a thousand pound bomb on low level attacks are already in production. I urge that the F4U's and the F6F's be equipped with an external bomb rack sufficient for 1000-pound bombs. If the low level attack with big bombs can duplicate the effects of the aircraft torpedo, which in some instances I believe it can, then the passing of even the aircraft torpedo is at hand. The heavy type fighter is already in production and is certainly readily adaptable to the role of the fighter bomber.

Bureau Comment: This is now being studied by contractors as a result of a request by ComAirPac.

Heavy and Light Fighters 

     All of our fighters are built like streamlined Mack trucks and definitely of the heavy type. There is, however, a conceivable design which would produce a lightweight fighter capable of interceptor missions from a carrier; a fighter employed primarily for defense of our Fleet units.

Bureau Comment: The XF4F-8 which has been flight tested, production of which as the FM-2 will commence in July will have the following principal characteristics: Rate of climb: - 3000 ft. at sea level, 4 x .50 cal. with 400 rds. each, endurance, top speed - 325 at 19,500 ft.

Airborne Radar in Carrier Types 

     The TBF aircraft now arriving in the Fleet are 100 percent equipped with the ASB type radar. The weight of this radar gear appreciably affects the take-off performance and cruising range of the TBF. It is doubtful that this radar equipment can now be used to advantage. The current status of instrument flying ability and the scant percentage of personnel trained to use this equipment effectively make it inadvisable to outfit torpedo

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     planes with 100 per cent radar equipment. At least one-fourth of the TBF's, but not more than one-third of the squadron complement should consist of radar-equipped planes. To my knowledge, they have never been used in any type of offensive operations in the southwest Pacific to date.

Bureau Comment: The A3B radar has experienced the usual growing pains of new equipment when introduced into the fleet. At first it was of little use because of defects in material and installation, since corrected, and insufficient numbers of trained maintenance men and operators. The fleet gradually learns to use the equipment as evidenced by recent reports. New squadrons which have opportunity to train with it during the working up period are enthusiastic. Provisions have been made for radar in all TBF's; the major portion of the equipment can be removed by the operating unit. If night attacks are to be emphasized - radar and radio altimeters will be indispensable.

     The Naval Air Operational Training Command training syllabus includes flight training in instrument flight and radar operation in flight, which should give a large percentage of carrier pilots an adequate background for training in night search and attack procedure. This training will not, however, manifest itself in the Fleet for some six months. Only a fraction of the TBF's delivered for combat during the next six months therefore should be radar-equipped, in order that the performance of the plane be kept to a maximum.

     There is a great deal of thought and agitation in the Fleet at the present time to arrive at a point in training where we can successfully launch a night attack with some prospect of getting back most of our planes. The nation which first developes night attack for the carrier, or with carrier-based planes, should have the war in the Pacific in the palm of its hand.

     To equip the SBD's with the ASV radar is, for all practical purposes, to render that plane unfit for combat flying. Some of the SBD's - SBD-5 - will, as far as combat pilots are concerned, be entirely unable to carry the ASV and still operate as a combat plane, even with its additional horsepower. From the carrier point of view, the additional weight of the radar installation will increase the take-off run of that plane to a prohibitive length for all but abnormal surface wind conditions. On the other hand, a demountable radar device for optional installation on SBD's for special missions is

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feasible, and desirable.

Bureau Comment: A readily removable radar search equipment applicable to any boat carrying aircraft has been flight tested with good results.

     The Bureau figures on take-off performance can not be rigidly applied to normal operations. Slightly fouled engines, extra weight in the plane, poor take-off technique, and dragging brakes require that the minimum take-off be increased to about 25 percent over the Bureau data. The complete data we first received on the TBF, concerning take-off, as well as that on the fuel consumption and the range, were wildly optimistic. On effective combat ranges of our aircraft of the present types - the SBD, the F4F, the TBF - I can report that targets beyond 250 miles leave these planes, on an attack mission, with little or no safety factor. An attack mission at 200 miles is considered safe; one at 300 miles can be undertaken only at the expense of a considerable loss of our aircraft.

Bureau Comment: The Bureau used flight test take-off data. It is realized that this is ideal data and that is so stated to operating personnel who should apply a factor increase of 25 to 50 percent to meet service conditions.

     The Bureau is computing ideal combat radius performance based on flight tests for a standard combat problem. The combat problem and ideal combat radii figures will be disseminated shortly. Reports from service indicate that 65 percent of the ideal performance is actually attained.

Dud Pilots 

     Dud Pilots cannot be taken into combat zones. Everything possible should be done to weed out pilots unfit for combat during training, and certainly before pilots reach the operating squadrons. Though everyone realizes that fact; very little has been done to improve the situation. The general impression seems to bo that any person designated as a naval aviator is capable of combat flying. The impression is false.

Bureau Comment: All pilots going through NAOTC are judged in the light of combat duty. Insofar as is possible while still in training these pilots are selected for combat duty. If, in the opinion of a board of their seniors new pilots under

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training are considered unfit for combat, they are either dropped or recommended for other duty. It is still pretty difficult to judge a pilot's reaction until he has been shot at. Final weeding must necessarily come late in most cases.

     Big combat carriers are relatively few in number. The total number of pilots required for active combat duty is a very small percentage of the total number of pilots in training. Through board selection and pilot election, only the best fitted and the most desirable pilots should be assigned to carrier duty, for the very simple reason that too often the fate of the whole expedition hangs upon the action or decision of one individual. We simply cannot afford to have any one in the organization who isn't 100 percent capable of carrying out any and all missions assigned.

Action Reports 

     Action reports submitted by the Fleet provide the Department and interested commands with the performance data concerning our planes and ships. Along with the information on performance of aircraft and ships in combat, the reports usually contain other recommendations for improvement of current weapons and alteration of tactics. These reports form the background for designing and modification of our weapons for alteration of our training program.

     In short, shore establishments and intermediate commands are forced to rely on action reports to a great extent for the most reliable information from the Fleet. I wish to insert a word of caution. None of the action reports tells a complete story.

     To remedy the situation I recommend the designation of a Fleet Liaison, preferably from each Bureau, to make frequent trips into the combat zone where he can by direct observation and questioning and evaluation on the scene obtain straight facts for the Commander in Chief and the Department.

     There is a distinct and urgent need for well qualified observers to make first-hand reports to the regional commanders, the Chief of the Naval Air Operational Training Command, and to the Commander in Chief, as well as to the Department, based on current facts and information gathered by frequent contacts with the people who are doing the actual fighting.

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Bureau Comment: This Bureau will continue to send appropriate officers to the combat theaters for the purpose of maintaining complete appreciation of fleet requirements.


     Morale is excellent in every type of vessel in the Fleet. In fact, there is no morale problem at the present time. There is, however, a limit to human endurance. Some plan for regular leave and recreation in the mainland is desirable. All the men ask is an opportunity to see their dependents for a few weeks and know that they are well provided for. They are tired and physically below par, but will continue to fight that ship and her planes until the war's end. They have now reached the point of believing, however, that the only way in which they can reach the mainland is to have the ship sunk. Such an attitude will develop in the minds of any crew confined to the combat zone without relief, without reassurance of rest and leave coming at a planned, specified time.

A-V(S) Officers 

     The Quonset trained men were uniformly good. We found that if they had ordinary intelligence, the only other requirement was that they have a willingness to learn. We hadn't time to devote to training individuals. If they wanted to ask questions and seek far enough and look and inquire, they soon caught on and, in many instances took over work aboard ships which released regular officers and, especially in the squadrons, relieved the pilots of an enormous amount of responsibility.

     Their work involved a daily summary of intelligence reports, which was prepared in Air Plot, and read and explained in each ready room by the A-V(S) officer. They conducted identification lectures on ships and planes; they kept a complete target informaticn file and target folders prepared by the Combat Intelligence people in Pearl and in the Southwest Pacific. In the squadron they handled details of personnel and of air combat information. One of them was usually designated as assistant operations officer, handling the engineering, gunnery, flight, and other details.

     They also interviewed pilots returning from action, preparing the pilots' action report. And, in the last action in November they performed invaluable service in preparing the squadrons' action report.

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Air Operations Officer 

     The Air Operations Officer performs a two-fold duty: he transmits the Task Force Commander's orders concerning employment of the carrier's aircraft, and he keeps the carrier Captain informed of the prospective and current employment of the Air Group. The title Air Operations Officer is a misnomer. The officer performing these functions is directly concerned with these matters:

1.   The status of training of the Air Group.
2. The status of the aircraft in squadrons.
3. The transmission of orders from the staff and captain concerning all phases of operations to the pilots for action.
4. Control of the search and attack aircraft radio frequency circuit in air plot during all operations.
5. The preparation of flight schedules.
6. The designation of flight leaders, in case there is any doubt whatsoever as to who is the man in charge on any particular flight.
7. The indoctrination of pilots in new doctrines and procedures.
8. Having complete information on all operations.
9. The preparation and distribution of recognition signals and procedures, for target information for the arming of all aircraft, for the collection of scouts reports and the submission of final search report to the Captain and the Staff.
10. The dissemination of accurate, up-to-date navigational information to the pilots.
11. The maintenance of the prescribed conditions of readiness of the Air Group.
12. The preparation and submission of the pilots' action reports; the preparation and submission of combination ship-track-air group action chart

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following the action.
13.  The preparation of Daily Stummary of intelligence reports received by dispatch, digested and summarized for the Air Group.
14.  Maintaining a running plot of our own and enemy shipping positions.
15.  Preparing a Daily War Diary of the Group's operations.

     Before each search and patrol operation or group training exercise a fly sheet is prepared in Air Plot for the information of all pilots who may participate in the operation. This fly sheet contains detailed information, and on the back of the fly sheet appears the complete tabulation of recognition signals, aircraft radio frequencies in effect, along with notes on communications, especially on YE. Every effort is made to provide each pilot with a complete set of data necessary for tho accomplishment of the particular mission. Stand-bys are designated for any and all type missions; the pilots so designated are required to be capable of working their navigation out in flight and are also required to have a complete file of fly sheets and flight schedules.

     Before they man their planes, search pilots submit to air plot a true track and time for each leg of their respective sectors. These tracks are then plotted in Air Plot on an overlay, which also is utilized as a work sheet, should a contact be made and developed. It's preserved as a permanent record of the searches. A dead reckoning tracer is maintained in operation whenever aircraft operate beyond the limit of visibility from the ship.

Location of Radar Plot and Air Plot 

     We desired that in the reconstruction and modernization of the stack structure which is scheduled for the next yard overhaul of the ship, radar plot and air plot be on the same deck level and adjoining in order that cooperation between the two would be facilitated. I understand that there are now plans for the new carriers involving a radar plot of sufficient dimensions to handle all the fighter direction personnel and that it must, therefore, be placed below decks. There are no specific objections, that I can see, except that the communication channels between air plot and radar plot must be direct and one hundred percent dependable.

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Bureau Comment: ACV's have air plot and CIO (formerly radar plot) located on the deck below the flight deck: This was necessitated by the very small islands on these ships. It resulted, however, in more spacious rooms and generally more usable spaces than are now assigned air plot and CIC in the CV's. CV41 class and some of the later ESSEX (CV 9) class will have these spaces located on the fourth deck below armor. They will be contiguous and considerably increased in size over spaces now provided CV.

Aircraft Radio Communications 

     The positioning of our sending and receiving antennas on aircraft radio circuits was such that any broadcast on any circuit would block all the receivers on any aircraft radio in the ship. In other words, the fighter director opened up and blocked the search and attack frequency as long as he held his key down. In action, that was about 99-1/4 percent of the time. The advent of the super-high-frequency radio in the fighter aircraft for fighter direction of course would eliminate the difficulty. But at the present time the search and attack frequentcy is not an effective circuit, because of the blocking of the receivers.

Bureau Comment: This difficulty is inherent in the construction of aircraft carriers due to the large amount of radio equipment aboard and the lack of room for placement of antennaes. VHF equipment which is in process of being issued to carriers and fighter aircraft should solve this problem.

Landing Procedure 

     Landing procedure has not been altered by combat conditions to any perceptible degree. The performance of pilots after combat in the landing circle and after the cut has been excellent. The number of planes that we've brought back thoroughly shot up and with pilots wounded has never resulted in any accident in landing the plane. The night landings have been successful, except in one instance, when the pilot, with the windshield covered with oil, cut his throttle and crashed into the island structure. On the other hand, we landed very successfully many pilots who had had their first taste of night flying on that particular mission and came aboard with little difficulty. The landing technique from the cut to the deck for all type planes with large flap areas is, however, somewhat different from what we used during peace times. The plane is so heavy that any attempt to dip for the deck results in severe landings and terrific strains to the planes resulting in almost every case, in buckling or breaking up the SBD. Instead the plane is held in the attitude in which it is cut

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and allowed to settle to the deck, landing in a three-point attitude. This landing has been successful in almost every case. The intervals between planes for launching and landing have increased considerably. An average 25-seconds/take-off or average 30-seconds for landing is good and is seldom attained.

     The new people, the newly designated naval aviators, who have gone through the ACTG course, or what is now the Naval Operational Training Command course, have arrived in the area in excellent condition and are doing a fine job out there.

Q.   You mentioned the overloading of the SBD. Is there any feeling out there feeling that radar is being forced on the Fleet as necessary equipment?

A.   No, the feeling was simply this, that the plane was at the present time so heavy that it was dangerous on every take-off that the addition of some equipment which they were not trained to use was not justified.










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National Archives & Records Administration, Seattle Branch
District Operations Office Central Subject Files 1943-56 "Central Subject Files, 1943-44"

Transcribed by RESEARCHER @ LARGE. Formatting & Comments Copyright R@L.

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