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Interview of


With Additional Comment By

Commanding VS-3

in the
Bureau of Aeronautics
14 April 1943

Lieutenant Commander Lee has had considerable experience in Pacific carrier operations. For about six months he commanded a scouting-dive-bombing squadron, Air Group Ten, off the ENTERPRISE. This was the first replacement Air Group sent out to the Fleet for instruction.

Lieutenant Commander Lee discusses what he considers important in organizing and training a replacement Air Group. He is now commanding Air Group Six.

Among the specific topics he deals with are the Battle of Santa Cruz, conditions at Espiritu, SBD and other tactics, morale, A-V(S) officers, rotating duty, night attacks, replacements and team work, squadrons - composition and tactics, personal equipment, the SB2C, paper work and publications, low level bombing, materiel, range of carrier planes, flares, other equipment.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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

          I have recently returned from the South Pacific, where I was in command of Scouting Squadron Ten, which is now Bombing Twenty (but we still call them the Scouts out there), part of Air Group Ten. Air Group Ten was the first carrier replacement air group formed and trained as such. About a year ago we were commissioned in San Diego. We spent approximately three months there organizing and training.

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

The VSB's were very short of planes, so we were unable to do much except get out (I believe he meant "our")organization set up and try to indoctrinate our pilots. We left for Honolulu about the first of August last year. Out there we got in six weeks of excellent training, averaging about 80 hours per month per pilot. I am convinced that that six weeks was what put us on our feet.

          About the middle of October we joined the ENTERPRISE and headed south. Ten days later we were in the Battle of Santa Cruz.


          In the Battle of Santa Cruz, we had information of the enemy through our landbased planes - rather, our PBY's - that were out on searches. But that information was not used, to my mind, to the best advantage. On the morning of the battle, the ENTERPRISE had the search duty, so we sent out a 20-plane search. The ENTERPRISE attack group consequently consisted of only three SBD's, several TBF's and, of course, the fighter escort, which did not, naturally, do a great deal of damage. Somehow, we've got to get closer connection with the patrol planee out there, which are doing a magnificent job of trailing and tracking the enemy. (In this incident the PBYs mentioned reported the position of carriers up the chain of command to Admiral Halsey, but not to the carriers Enterprise and Hornet. Halsey, knowing the position of the various ships, ordered the US carriers to strike, but did not pass along where the japanese ships were, and consequently the carriers had to find them again for themselves, diluting their strike power) After that battle, in which the ENTERPRISE was damaged to some extent, we came south for temporary repairs.

          While we were in Noumea effecting these repairs we got word that the Japs were winding up to throw the works at us. We were the only carrier in that area; so we put back to sea in a pitiable condition. Our Number One elevator was out of commission; and we had a very hard time launching, recovering, and operating a group.

          We steamed north; and, in order to give us some kind of operating interval on the deck, the torpedo planes were launched and proceeded up to Cactus. On the recommendation of the Air Officer, they looked around the other side of Savo Island and found a battleship, (Hiei; they managed to put two torpedos into her) which they proceeded to attack, unescorted and unsupported. This was quite a feat!

          The next day the VSB's and the rest of the fighters were launched for Cactus, and the ENTERPRISE veered south. We operated out of Cactus for a couple of days on a convoy of ships and a task force. The combined efforts of the Navy and Marine aircraft up there succeeded, as you know, in turning back the Japs.

          We then struggled down to Noumea again to join the ship; from then on the home port of the ENTERPRISE was designated as Espiritu. While the ship was basing in the harbor,

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

the air group lived ashore.


          In the first place, there was no CASU available. We had been streamlined before leaving Honolulu and were in rather bad shape so far as the problem of maintenance was concerned. We were fortunate, however, in having the ENTERPRISE outside in the harbor, where we could go out and borrow various artificers. They would come over and join what small nucleus crews we had, and thus keep our planes flying. There was no stock of spares ashore, the only place we had to draw from was the ship. We soon ran out of almost everything. After a couple of months we were operating just a bunch of junk. We figured we could get only a flight of six planes in the air every day. The rest were being overhauled and kept up as best we could. There was a constant probelm out there because of the coral dust and the heat and the rain, there was no cover. It was pretty tough on the men.

          Living conditions at the start were very poor. Men and officers were both quartered in tents at first. We were very uncomfortable. The food was bad. All this is being rapidly taken care of, however, and I expect that by now with Quonset huts and certain additions to the place out there it is quite livable.

          It was very difficult, we found, to train the air group in an advanced area. At Espiritu there was one bomber strip from which we operated great numbers of Army planes and Navy planes, in addition to some from New Zealand.

          One thing lacking, which was needed sadly, was a compass rose. When we arrived, there wasn't a compass rose in the whole South Pacific. We had had no real compass check; and when we went out on a search, we considered we were lucky if we got back. It might be very interesting for some squadron changing from north to south latitude to figure out what the actual difference is going to be. We were unable to, because, as I say, we'd try compensation in the air by a makeshift rose on the ground. We finally did compensate, but we have no results to get to you people.


          We used a 6-plane division, composed of two 3-plane sections. Within the section we flew a flat Vee with the second section underneath and behind the first section. The second section had the area underneath and on both sides;

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

he was free to maneuver as desired away from the direction of the attack. We found this to be a very maneuverable and compact formation. How this is going to apply to the SB-2-C, I don't know. It's my opinion you can use modified VF tactics; in other words, you can probably use a 4-plane flight composed of 2-plane sections, because you have decreased fire power forward and a less maneuverable plane with some excess of power. That should be investigated as a possibility for both defense and offense.

          The shipboard gunners on the ENTERPRISE told us that the thing they dreaded most was not the release of the bombs of the Japs coming down on them, but the strafing of the attacking planes. In our tactics, consequently, we attempted to strafe while we were in our dive, which is a very hard thing to do and requires a lot of training. For that purpose, the SB-2-C is going to be an excellent plane, because it has those four fixed .50's.

          Another maneuver we found very valuable was the use of the weave. We would weave by sections as a defensive measure. The same tactics are used by the fighters; they were very successful with us. We'd weave very gently, so as not to throw our rearseat gunners off their aim. it is hard for an attacking plane to come in when you're maneuvering like that. The TBF squadron used a 4-plane division in 2-plane sections. For defense we flew a box formation; in other words, ended up with practically a Vee, with another plane closing the Vee. They found that as good a defensive formation as you could get with limited rearseat for power.


          Our personnel out there, I thought, stood up very well under trying conditions. Morale suffers whan there is a period of inactivity. When we went out, we were all raring to go; we kept up that spirit until about two months after we'd been based at Espiritu, doing nothing. It would be excellent if the High Command could arrange a little fight for us about once a month, to keep the boys exercised and in shape! When the ENTERPRISE went out to make an attack, you could see the spirits of the whole crew rise. Morale is probably the most important thing out there, - keeping the young fellows in fighting mood.

          We had quite a bit of sickness: malaria, dysentery, dengue fever, the common cold, we also had cases of ear fungus. I had to count on having at least twenty percent of the pilots incapacitated. The situation is reason for increasing the number of pilots in the squadron. We never had the fifty

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

percent reserve allowed by the current policy.


          The performance of our A-V(S) officers was, to my mind, outstanding. They were invaluable to us in every respect. We had two: one who was Air Combat Intelligence and Operations Officer, one who handled personnel welfare and odd jobs. Both of them were from Quonset, first class; and both of them did a wonderful job. I'd recommend that each squadron get three A-V(S): one for administration and personnel, the second for air combat intelligence and operations, and the third for engineering. I understand they have ordnance A-V(S) now. I don't know whether they would be of much value to a squadron but I should think they'd be extremely valuable to the ship.

          Our SBD situation out there is pretty bad. For the past three months the scouting squadron has had only thirteen planes and the bombers have had only twelve. I understand huge quantities of SBD-4s were shipped out but we didn't get any of them.


          There should I think, be a definite plan for the return of pilots in some specified length of time. They made the mistake before of promising people when they'd come back, which is wrong. You should, I think, take people out there and say, "All right you're going to stay a year or two years" - even that would be something to plan on. Right now, as far as I know, there is no plan for return, except the directive which said, "Return twenty percent of your people when they can be spared and when reliefs are available". That's rather poor planning, I think too, of returning twenty percent because it requires continuous indoctrination of new people. As I said, it's awfully difficult to train in advance combat areas. Besides the difficulty of training, if you take out twenty percent of those who deserve to go back (they're probably, your key people, the engineering officer, or the executive, or the flight officer), you are left short-handed.

          It would be desirable, if possible, to return the entire group as a unit. If you could return a group with combat experience in gunnery and bombing, etc., and keep them together, you'd be able to go into advanced night work, which I am convinced is going to be necessary if we are to get the jump on the Japs.

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL


          Right now the groups are being formed and pushed out as soon as possible. There is consequently, a minimum of time for training. You can't jump right into night flying. You've got to learn how to fly in the daytime before you can learn how to fly at night. Night radar search and night attack must be done; it's something that we can't wait for much longer because you all know how vulnerable a carrier is at night. The Japs are either going to get the jump on us or we're going to know how to do it on them. They have made fairly successful night attacks. I see no reason why a carrier group launced (SIC) in waves, small units, cannot make a successful attack, if you train the people properly.


          The rearseat gunner is being neglected. They are replacing pilots, but as far as I know, there is no plan for returning gunners. People in the back seat, particularly of dive bombers, take a bad beating. They should be returned at the same time the pilot is. It is desirable to keep them together as a team. When a pilot comes back, his gunner should come with him; when a pilot goes to a new squadron, his gunner should go with him. They'd be much more efficient.


          The streamlined squadron is, I think, a very good thing, if you have CASU's available. I don't see why the squadron can't be further streamlined as the CASU builds up, so that all you have left is flight personnel and possibly a small nucleus that you can pick up.

          New groups that are forming must be stabilized in personnel at the earliest possible time. Right now, a man is here one day and is transferred the next. It would be desirable to have your key people organized and to have some assurance that they were going to stay with you.

          It is extremely important to pick a squadron commanders for qualities of leadership and ruggedness. I don't believe a man should be picked, for instance, just because he is from the Class of '34. If some one can take a gang out there and do the job, he should be the squadron commander, no matter what his rank or age. The lame ducks, the people who can't take the fighting, have to be weeded out before they get to the combat area.

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL


          I understand that it is now the policy of the Bureau to furnish articles of clothing and equipment to groups as they go out - an excellent idea. If you give them khaki and "jeep" shoes, possibly sun helmets; and other small items, it would certainly be helpful. It's awfully hard to get replacements of clothing out there. We ran through our stocks in short order.

          Some consideration, too, might be given to providing a replacement group - one not on a carrier - with some convenience, such aa a washing machine - it'a even been suggested that we get an ice cream making machine to take along. Silly as it may sound, the suggestion is all right.


          I don't know whether the SB-2-C will be as good a dive bomber as the SBD. You've got higher stick forces, I understand, and greater speed in dives, so that you'll probably have to release higher, with consequently a smaller percentage of hits. We were awfully lucky with the SBD, Scouting Ten got sixty percent hits of all bombs dropped on the enemy. I don't believe you'll get as good results with the SB-2-C.


          One recommendation I would like to urge strongly is to combine the two VSB squadrons into one 36-plane unit. The squadrons have the same mission. If combined, they'll have uniform training, uniform air tactics, and uniformity of thought in the air - all important. Combining squadrons also permits the ready exchange of pilots between squadrons; it simplifies your flight deck spot; and it reduces your paper work. As a matter of fact, we might go one step further and have only two squadrons on a carrier, one fighter squadron and one squadron of VBT. If we got some experience with the SB-2-C as a torpedo-carrying weapon, we might combine that with the dive bombers. I think you can teach a dive bomber pilot torpedo tactics in relatively short time, because torpedo tactics should be simplified as much as possible with one broad, simple doctrine. If you had one squadron of VBT's capable of doing anything, you would certainly have maximum flexibility. If your losses in SB-2-C's were great, you would not have to worry about not having enough dive bombers; you could always take the torpedo off and put a bomb on. The time required to shift from torpedoes to bombs could perhaps be cut down.

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

          The group commanders have been flying TBF's. It's my idea that the group commander should fly a fighter when the group goes on attack. He won't then take away fighter protection when he goes in to make pictures. Also I think it is desirable for the group commander to be fully acquainted with other types and to be able to fly them.

          We had some trouble out there with the artificial horizon in automatic pilots. The artificial horizon, as installed in SBD's is no good for this new method of instrument flying. We had, consequently, more or less to stick to the "bank and turn" and speed. Instrument flying and night flying are the things that we are going to have to aim for, and look to in the conduct of this war from now on.


          As long as you streamline the squadrons the paper work also might be streamlined to some extent. We were on a mailing list for a number of useless publications. We'd get notices to aviators about gunfire on the New Jersey coast, six months after the gunfire was over. Then other bulletins were sent to us which did not pertain to the operation of a scouting squadron. They were of professional interest to the older officers in the squadrons, but that's all. This just meant either burning them immediately or getting rid of them otherwise. We kept very few files. We had only our own records and the records of the squadron; everything else, as you know, was supposed to be kept by the CASU's or the ship on which you're based. Steps should be taken to weed out a lot of this unnecessary paper work.


          When replacement groups are ashore, or when any group is ashore, they require a certain amount of carrier training in order to keep themselves in shape. When we were on the beach as long as three weeks we'd come back down and look pretty sloppy. That condition is going to get bad when you have large numbers of replacement groups, few carriers, and therefore few opportunities of training those people. If they could get out once in a while and make a few landings, and possibly a dummy group attack on something, it would certainly do wonders for their training.

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL


          To my mind, low level bombing should be a very acceptable substitute for a torpedo. It possesses a great many advantages. Your TBF coming in is required to slow to ??0, (The first two digits were completely illegible) to steady down before it can release. If you have a low level bomber, say a small fighter plane, come in there at high speed, jinking - and I think that with practice you can release from almost any position - the chances of getting a hit are excellent. Results, I think would be much more effective with low level bombing then with the present torpedo. I've never seen this kind of bombing, but I understand it's been very successful with the Army in an experimental stage. No emphasis. I think, should be put at all on high altitude bombing by carrier-based planes. You can do just as much damage by glide bombing, releasing high and releasing a stick of bombs, in case of TBF's. In high altitude bombing it is very difficult to keep crews trained - you just can't keep a bombardier at maximum efficiency unless he has a reasonable time every week to train. In the B-24's they have a pool of bombardiers; when they are not in actual combat they're in training and can be switched back and forth.

          Calling squadrons of a group the same number as the air group is, I think, desirable.


          When our torpedo squadron attacked a battleship north of Savo, they went into the air; and the battleship threw everything they had at them, including a broadside. These boys went on in and delivered their attack. Well, I was talking to some of the younger pilots in that squadron after it was over, and they told me that if it had been any one other than their Commander leading them, they didn't think they would hare gone in. The selection of squadron commander is highly important and should be given the greatest thought in the Bureau.


Q.      Do you think it is advisable to work out a standard system of "patter" before making an attack?

A.      Yes. You have definite watch sectors assigned each man beforehand.. He is to look in that direction, and in that direction only. Our pilots have flown together so long that we practically thought alike and that's why I say they should

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

be kept together. A standardisation of that would be very fine, but we haven't had any advice on any standard procedure.


        About the A-V(S) officers - in some of the new squadrons we believe it would be advisable to have a combination ordnance and gunnery officer, to take care of both and to be a "father confessor" for the gunners. He might not be a combat man himself, but he could take care of their problems.

Q.      Do you think they need some one to assist with their problems, and work out training procedure?

A.      No, I don't. We have a few very excellent Chiefs who have trained all these boys; they know the radio end of it as well as the gunnery end of it. Incidentally, all our rear-seat gunners cleaned their own guns; we were proud of them.

Q.      Where did you get the Chiefs?

A.      I got quite a number of them from Scouting Two, which was disbanded when the LEXINGTON was lost. Others came from various places on the beach.

Q.      Are gunners necessarily radiomen?

A.      With the improved types of radio, the necessity for radiomen in the rear will not be so great, and we could concentrate on the gunners. The F6F seems to me to have an excellent radio set-up; you can transmit on two frequencies and receive on three. With that equipment I see no reason for having a radio in the rearseat in most planes.

Q.      How about reception of code?

A.      Well, there is no great reason for a plane having to receive code.

Q.      In search operations, do you prefer one or two planes?

A.      I'm heartily in favor of two planes. The 2-plane search is much more efficient, because one man can always be navigating and the other can be looking out.

Q.      Then one of those two planes should have a radioman in it?

A.      That's right; if they did make contact, he could then send it back.

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL


Q.      About how much fixed gunnery work were the scouts and bombers able to get in?

A.      The SBD's didn't spend a great deal of time on fixed gunnery, because they spent most of their time on free gunnery. Bombing being our primary mission, we devoted practically every hour we could to that. Wih the SB-2-C I think we ought to allocate more time to the fixed gunnery.

Q.      What is the pilots' and gunners' reaction now to the single .50 caliber gun in the TBF versus the twin .30 in the SBD?

A.      I think they'd rather have twin .30's, with the present type of opposition out there. If the Japs improve their fighters and their armor, possibly the .50 is the only answer. When we first started out, the gunners were very unhappy; they wanted the twin .30's rather than the single .50 in the turret, but as they got more familiar with the turret the gripes sloughed off.

Q.      Do you remember any difficulty in being able to fire your guns when you were doing a bombing dive?

A.      Yes, different points of aim are the difficulty - the corkscewing around you have to do to get on. It's quite a little trick. It takes practice and it takes time.

Q.      Where would you start shooting?

A.      I'd say from about 6,000 right on in. Possibly you can open up higher since the SBD is a relatively slow diving plane.

Q.      How do you feel about 20-mm versus .50 caliber in the SB-2-C?

A.      Well, right now I think I'd rather have more of the .50's and fewer of the 20's. Greater volume of fire I think should more than compensate for greater penetration. For strafing surface vessels, you may be able to use dive bombers. Strafing is the only way I think you're going to stop destroyers; strafing might stop them long enough for dive bombers to get a hit. I don't see why the SB-2-C should not be a good low level bomber; it's got the fire power forward to strafe as you come in; it can carry quite a bomb.

Q.      How about vision - have you got enough down vision? In SB-2-C's?

A.      You've got about 8½ degrees.

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

Q.      You spoke of using weaving offensive tactics for your SBD sections. Is that used by only low section of the 6-plane division?

A.      By all sections.

Q.      To what extent would you weave normally?

A.      Not much about twenty yards, just enough to throw an enemy off.

Q.      The planes within the section would retain their own unit.

A.      Yes, we always kept the section unit together. We experimented for some time with the 2-plane section of SBD's. It did not work because the SBD had no excess power at high altitudes. In other words, some one would straggle off, get lost, and never catch up.


Lt. Cdr. Kirn:  I was interested in hearing you talk about materiel conditions at Espiritu. They had quite a bit of spare material down there, but there wasn't anybody looking after it. The CUB (CUB was the code-name for an 'Advance Base Aviation Training Unit.' Small ABATUs were referred to as CUBs and the large ones LIONS)unit at Espiritu brought ashore a tremendous number of TBF, SBD and F4F spares, and they sat it down at the CUB grounds, about seven miles away from Espiritu, and no one knew what was there in detail. As I left, they had started to erect two warehouses, up in the hills between the bomber strip at Buttons and the new bomber strip up over the other side of the jungle. They were carrying all this spare material up there. I thought they had plenty. There were acres of crates. I don't know how much of the material was ruined by weather. Some of the cases opened while I was there had water in them; there were no measures taken to preserve the material.

Q.      Were you short of ordnance parts there?
Lt.Cdr.Lee; No, we were able to keep up pretty well on ordnance.

Q.      We sent a lot of stuff into that area; I didn't think anybody would over run out of material if it was properly located and unloaded from the ship, why don't you quote us an instance?

Lt. Cdr. Lee: We had nine cracked wheels — and there were no spare wheels. I said, "All right we're going to quit flying and start sending some dispatches". We sent one to ComFair Noumea, who in turn sent dispatches throughout the Fleet and finally located a whole batch of wheels right there at Espiritu.

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Lt.Cdr.Kirn: That's what I say. They had a huge supply dump there with an officer in charge. He was trying to transfer that gear the seven miles from where it was up to the new warehouse and get it segregated. They had a tremendous amount of equipment - tires, machine shop equipment, spark plug testers, everything you wanted. I'm amazed to hear that you never got them.

Q.      Wouldn't they let any one go in there to see what they had?

Lt.Cdr.Kirn: They would, but I came on this place by accident. It was the function of the CUB out there, and they were too much interested in their other functions to give much thought to the aviation. That's why the material stayed down at the other place for two months before they ever touched it.

Lt.Cdr.Lee: Well, they had the CUB doing all sorts of things.

Lt.Cdr.Kirn: I know they did. They were unloading ships and everything else. We tried to bum tents, and all that sort of thing to get our own camp built. I wanted some wood for flooring. They finally said I could got out and try to get some off the ship, and then lay my own decks.

Q.      Did you stop at Pearl on your way back?

A.      Just for a couple of days.

Q.      Did you notice whether they put the Mark-8 sights in the SBD's?

A.      No, I didn't.

Q.      I thought quite a few of them had been fixed up already, something like 300 sights were sent out for them, and I haven't yet found anybody that's had a sight.


Q.      What do you think of the operations of various types of carrier-based planes? How far would you go in different types?

A.      We figured we could take the group as a whole 200 miles, make an attack, and get back.

Q.      You mean F4F4'sand SBD-3's and TBF's?

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A.      Right. The Japs had a considerably greater range; how much, I don't know.

Q.      Would you take any of those types farther from the carrier?

A.      TBF's, yes.

C.      How far?

A.      I think they could go about 250, possibly better.

Q.      What would you like to see in the way of radius from the carrier?

A.      I'd say a minimum of 300.

Q.      Do you think that 450 nautical miles from the carrier would be a practical radius - considering navigational difficulties, and everything else?

Lt.Cdr.Kirn:  I think 450 miles is too far from the carrier. With compass problems and not being able to get any weather information down there, I think that 450 miles is pretty far. If you expect to do any combat after you get out there, I don't see where you're going to put the gasoline.


Q.      For the record, will you express your opinion of C02 purging of gasoline tanks?

A.      I think the self-sealing tank is much more desirable.

Q.      In the way of life rafts, do you think that in addition to the seaplane dinghy you could carry a life raft in the plane?

A.      Yes.

Q.      Do you remember what you carried in jungle kits?

A.      I don't remember all the details. There were bandages and sulfa drugs - it was purely a medicinal kit.

Q.      What will pilots' reaction be to taking out the direction finder?

A.      I think you can take them out any time.

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Q.      Did you hare any success with communications?

A.      Yes.

Q.      Did you use CWT at all?

A.      Yes, in our contact reports. We had a procedure out to 100 miles, I believe we would transmit by voice and parallel by key. Beyond 100 miles, we'd just transmit by key.

Q.      Did you have any contact at all with airborne radar?

A.      The TBF's had this airborne radar, and we experimented with it and got some results, but the maintenance problems were terrific. Finally all the sets were inoperative.

Q.      Were all those contact reports in plain language?

A.      Yes.

Q.      Did you have acknowledgments for them?

A.      No, we did not.


Q.      You spoke of the importance of night operations and indicated that training, or rather the lack of training; was one of the reasons why there wasn't more of it now. Are there any other lacks, such as instrument panels? We know that flame dampers are needed. But are there any other pieces of aircraft equipment necessary before we can fully utilize night operations?

A.      I don't think so.

Q.      Tho planes are suitable now?

A.      With the flame damper there is no reason why a fully trained outfit can't go right out.

Q.      How would you use your dive bombers at night?

A.      Glide bombing.

Q.      How would you pick up your targets? Parachute flare illuminationts?

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

A.      well, you have the airborne radar, which I hope someday we'll be able to work; and on a bright moonlit night — you have to take a chance.

Lt.Cdr.Kirn:  I agree with you all right, you have to do it. How successful you'll be, is another thing. We did do some glide bombing at night under ideal conditions. There was a nice bright moon where you could see the wakes, four or five miles, at least; but you couldn't distinguish the actual target.

Lt.Cdr.Lee: That's where your low level bombing would come in - that would be a perfect set—up for that.

Lt.Cdr.Kirn:  Well, all you could use would be the nose of the plane (the telescopic sight wasn't any good) and make a good guess. In certain cases we didn't hit, but we did scare half the daylights out of them. In that connection, we realized then that a better weapon would have been strafing or perhaps low level bombing - but strafing definitely.

Lt.Cdr.Lee:  If you should catch a carrier with gas and planes on deck and were able to strafe with incendiary bullets, it would be perfect. You could set up a fire on the flight deck, which would give you all the illumination you needed.


Q.      Do you believe you should retain the provision of parachute flares on the dive bombers?

A.      Yes, I think so.

Q.      For what purpose would you want them?

A.      This night stuff, illumination.

Lt.Cdr.Kirn:  No, I don't take that view, we tried to illuminate by flares and found that it took too many flares, more flares than we could carry in that kind of plane. It also took too many planes out of your attack group to search. It would take about 70 per cent of our airplanes, and we'd only have 30 per cent left for the attack. The illumination should come by big boats or big bombers to relieve the attack groups from trying to provide their own illumination.

Lt.Cdr.Lee:  That would be nice, if you could get coordination.

Q.      How about the first plane to make contact dropping flares beside the other ones? Don't you think that would be

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

worth while?

A.      Well, all it would do would be to give the location of that plane.

Q.      Don't you have flares coming along to get attached to the bomb rack?

Lt.Cdr.Lee:  Yes. We did some experimental night work while we based at Espiritu. We carried four in that manner, and we worked out a tentative doctrine: if the airborne radar could pick up something, you would drop a flare, or two to give the location of the target.

Lt.Cdr.Kirn: We tried carrying flares and bombs, hoping that maybe the plane could do both things, one plane go down and illuminate and the other one stay up above and drop his bombs. The fly in the ointment there was that you couldn't dive with the flares on because of fire hazarad; and if you used your release to drop your bombs, you also dropped your flares.


Q.      you said you couldn't use the artificial horizon of the automatic pilot.

A.      The particular horizon with this pilot is very unsatisfactory. When you make a turn, it takes it a long time to get back to battery, and consequently your full panel method of instrument flying is practically out.

Lt.Cdr.Kirn:  I can amplify that by saying we found the same thing to such an extent that, in my squadron, I told them not to use the artificial horizon for navigation.

Q.      You think it was the installation in the plane, and you're not condemning the horizon?

A.      I think it's desirable to have the pilot in a bomber, because when you get a long search it's a godsend.

Lt.Cdr.Kirn:  Did you have any trouble with mud lodging up in your bomb racks when taking off with a bomb?

Lt.Cdr.Lee:  No. We didn't operate out of the places you did, though.

Lt.Cdr.Kirn:  We did run into that trouble at one time; the mud just got up there and froze the bomb rack on us; by the time

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

we got out there we couldn't release the bomb.

Q.      What about electrical release?

Lt.Cdr.Lee:  Never used it.

Q.      Did you use it, Mr. Kirn?

A.      Never did on the SBD.

Q.      That was a haywire rig from the start - but if you'd had decent bomb racks with decent electrical releases, would you have used it?

A.      I think so. Of course, everybody would want to make damn sure when he got that close that they were going to release.

Q.      Did you have any inadvertent drops electrically or did you disconnect then?

A.      We disconnected them.

Q.      Have you any comments on cockpit lighting, red light versus ultra-violet?

A.      No, I haven't. I'm not familiar with that.

Q.      Did you use the red bulb in the SBD's?

A.      We used anything we could get.

Q.      How did you arm your bombs - did you wire them to ..

A.      We carried 500's on our searches, which was wise, because two of our bombs got hits on the SHOKAKU. That was the only damage that carrier received in the Santa Cruz action.

Q.      Was there much danage?

A.      We didn't wait to find out. We knov they got hits, but how much actual damage, we don't know.

Q.      See any fires?

A.      No.(Shokaku was hit by 4-6 bombs and would not see action again for nearly seven months)

Q.      Assuming you get a carrier contact, what kind of bomb would you take out?

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

A.      I think you'd take out the regular 1000-pounder with the 100th-second delay. We had these l600's aboard, but we couldn't carry them.

Q.      I understand they're mixing then up now.

A.      The idea was if possible to distribute your percentages around, so that your first planes in would carry the instantaneous or l00th-second and those following the AP bomb. In other words, you put the flight deck out of commission...

Q.      Did I understand you to say that the SB-2C's, each one should carry a radar?

A.     I don't think that number is necessary no. There would be a lot of maintenance trouble and operating trouble with those things, because you don't have experienced personnel. We had an Ensign in the ENTERPRISE who was something of a radio specialist. He was able to keep the radars in the TBF's going and to instruct these ARM's. When the Ensign was detached, the radars were no good. I do not know whether the school for radar operators is going to be enough to keep those things going.

Q.      How do you feel about the recognition lights and landing lights, you know these built-in recognition lights in the wing?

A.      I can't recall ever having used them.

Q.      How about retractable landing lights?

A.      Never used them, just so much weight.

Q.      Did you throw them out of the plane, or did you carry them around with you?

A.      We carried a lot of that stuff.

Q.      Were you ever able to carry your radio coils with you, your transfer coils - how many coils did you need?

A.      We carried one spare, I think.

Q.      One to a plane?

A.      Yes.

Q.      One set and one spare? Did you ever get back to your coils, ever catch up with them again, keep them with the airplanes?

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Lt.Cdrs.Lee and Kirn, USN CONFIDENTIAL

A.      No. Don't know where they are. The ENTERPRISE had a whole storeroom full of them, all boxed up. That's why I think this F6F radio set is very good.

Q.      How do you feel about separately fitted harnesses for each pilot and gunner with seat-type parachute?

A.      I think that would be very desirable.

Q.      Can we get rid of smoke tanks?

A.      Well, I think that all the pilots are perfectly willing to forget about it. I think that's something that's up to the High Command.

Q.      Did you ever use it?

A.      No.

Q.      Did you have the equipment with you?

A.      Yes, we had it on board. It was stowed down some where.


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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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