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Interview of


in the
Bureau of Aeronautics
9 June 1943


In discussing night fighter operations in Great Britain, Colonel Montgomery deals with the Marine team in England, organization of British Night Fighter Command, operational training unit, night fighter squadrons, Mosquito vs Beaufighter, interception, twin-engine vs single-engine night fighter, visibility at night, single-seater vs two-seater, approaching a bomber, cockpit lighting, pilots and controllers for night fighters, flying without instruments, range of control, night binoculars, intruders, instrument training, guns for night fighters, air brake, gunnery and radar warnings, blinding, airdrome lighting, qualifications for night fighters, goggles, light control of fields.

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

         The British are allergic to calling any piece of equipment by a name which will give a hint as to its uses. I attended a conference at Fighter Command which lasted fifteen or twenty minutes, and practically no complete words were spoken; they used initials.


         A small group of Marine officers and men went to England as a team to learn all phases of night fighting. We told Fighter Command that we expected to acquire the information we came for in a period of three to five months. They were taken aback by that time estimate and told us it would take at least two years to train in the various phases of night fighter work. We stayed there a total of four months; I think we got all the required information. Of course, had we stayed there until we had become absolutely expert, we'd probably not have returned for two or three years.

         In our team two pilots concentrated on air operations; two officers concentrated on ground control; two officers concentrated both on GCI and AI; and the three senior officers took part of the operational training course in flying and also concentrated on control. Some of the enlisted men studied both the AI (that's the airborne radar) and operational equipment; others concentrated on GCI and AI technical equipment.


         The British night fighter squadrons are organized as part of Fighter Command. At each Fighter Command field there are generally one or two night fighter squadrons. Fighter Command is headed by an Air Vice Marshal; under him are the Night Fighter Officer and the Training Officer. There is also an officer in charge of GCI training and another in charge of AI training. We called upon all those people and obtained authority to send our men to the various places to get the necessary information. That was one of the biggest jobs on the trip, finding the proper places to send people to get the information we wanted. I had thought we'd be able to go to Fighter Command and there find out just exactly where we could get the best training. I found it was necessary to go around to the various stations and find

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out exactly what they had and then get from Fighter Command permission to send our people there. I usually made arrangements with the working people at the RAF stations and then reported to Fighter Command. I had no difficulty at all in getting authority to send the people where we wanted to send them.


         The British have one OTU for training the air operators, the AI operators. Most of these, incidentally, are officers: Pilot Officers or Flying Officers, corresponding to our Ensigns or Second Lieutenants or First Lieutenants, JG's. They send them to Uxworth for a two- to four-week elementary training course, after which they send them to the operational training unit where the pilots are training. The pilots and the operators are "married" at the night fighter OTU. They work together for the first several months of operations, or until they become experienced enough so the AI operators can be shifted from one pilot to another.

         The course for the pilots at the Operational Training Unit lasts about three months. The first month is devoted to converting to twin-engine types. (They use Blenheims for training the pilots in radio, procedure and elementary night flying and night operations). The second month is spont in changing to Beaufighters; and, flying usually by day, they do a lot of gunnery and daylight AI interceptions. The third month is spent in night operations, night flying training. The course is a total of about 75 hours, about 25 hours in each phase.


         The British Night fighter squadrons are organized generally into two flights, an A and a B flight; and each flight operates about 48 hours at a stretch. They're on duty from noon one day until noon 48 hours later. Each pilot actually flies about two to three hours a night. Generally four planes from the flight will be in the air at one time, two under control of a GCI station and two operating under sector control. Some squadrons are fortunate enough to have two GCI stations so they can have four planes controlled by GCI. The British make the maximum use of all time in the air. Pilots do not just stooge around in the air. Unless activity is expected, they are making practice interceptions while on patrol. The GCI station controllers vector the planes out, separate them a considerable distance, and then bring them together. One pilot is designated a "bum" and another, a fighter; and the two will make practice interceptions until some enemy activity shows up on the screen. The off-duty men are free to leave the field and go anywhere they choose.


         Eventually all the night fighter squadrons in England will be equipped with Mosquitos although now only about half are Mosquitoes. The Beaufighter has done a pretty good job for England in this war, but it is a right tricky airplane to handle and it doesn't have very reliable engines. A number of casualties could have been prevented had it been a better airplane. Although it has tremendous fire power and good performance, its relative performance is not sufficiently good to cope successfully with the modern planes and tactics that Germany is using. But it was good in its day, and it did shoot down a lot of enemy bombers. The Mosquito is a much faster airplane, a much easier airplane to fly. It is doing a very good job even with the tactics that the Germans are using now, and their present equipment.

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         We were fortunate in arriving in England at a time when the problems faced by the night fighters were similar to those we face in the Pacific. In other words, during the Battle of Britain the problems of the night fighters were relatively simple. They'd put the planes up on patrol across the stream of incoming bombers and let them free lance there and pick up targets. There were enough targets at that time to make the problems of interception very simple. But now it's different. The Germans send planes over the same way the Japs do: they send over a small number of planes at a time, and there is no chance of intercepting those planes without help from the ground. There is great need for teamwork between the pilots and the GCI control on the ground. In one operation, the last big raid that Germany pulled, in January, the night fighter pilots were so anxious to get after those bombers that when they were ordered out on patrol to a certain vicinity and knew there was something big coming off, they would get a contact on the AI and go chasing the target, - and half the time when they got a visual contact they found they had been chasing one of their own fighters. It showed the need for air discipline and for realization on the part of the pilots that they had to keep themselves under the control of the GCI station until they were given a vector to put them on the tail of the bomber.


         There has been quite a bit of discussion as to the relative merits of a twin-engine and a single-engine night fighter. Well, the British have done more of this business than anybody else, and I think they've got it perfected beyond any other country so far. They have found out very definitely that twin-engine night fighter is a necessity. They've put a tremendous amount of energy and money and time into training the night fighter teams and into ground control and other equipment that will do almost anything if it's properly used, and yet all that equipment and training isn't worth a cent if enemy bombers are not shot down with it. The British look at it this way: why go to all that work and put all that effort into training and equipment if we're not going to make any money out of it?

BUREAU COMMENT: Our tests of single versus twin-engined VNF have shown that there is little to choose between them. The single seat, single-engine day fighter, if modified by the installation of radar and with some changes made in the cockpit lighting and flame dampening added, has been proven to be a perfectly adequate night fighter. It is understood from discussions with other officers that the British have desired twin-engine VNF for purposes of reliability and if that is the case our single-engine VF are considered to be sufficiently reliable for over water operations as they should be likewise satisfactory as night fighters.

The use of single engine airplanes also permits the use of standard navy fighters with only the modifications necessary to accommodate the night fighter equipment. This considerably simplifies the problems of training, maintenance, and the supply of spare parts.

Although the first production of night fighters of the Navy will be single-engine, single-seat fighters, the Bureau is also proceeding with the development of a twin-engine night fighter.


         Visibility is one of the main factors in shooting down enemy bombers at night. Yoy've got to see perfectly clearly through your windshield. A single-engine job will throw a small amount of oil back on the windshield, which reduces visibility. You don't

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notice it in the daytime, but at night it makes a difference between shooting down a bomber and not shooting one down. You've got to have absolutely clear vision ahead of you at night, and you've got to have your windshield absolutely clean and free of oil. One thing good night fighter pilots always do themselves before they leave the ground is to clean that windshield until there is not a speck of dust or oil or dirt on it. Sometimes when you're flying between two layers of clouds at night there just isn't any light, and you've got to have that windshield in front of you absolutely clear in order to be able to get a visual contact at all, much less identify the target when you see it. It looks like a shadow up there ahead of you, and you've got to be able to see clearly in order to identify it. And incidentally it is the responsibility of the pilot in the RAF night fighter squadrons to make visual identification of his target before he presses the titter that lets those 20-mm's go. The British have an expression, "We hacked 'em down", when they've shot an enemy bomber down. When they are fifty yards behind something and shooting at it with four 20-mm's, they do hack it down.


         There has also been some discussion as to the relative merits of a single-seater and a two-seater. Well, a pilot at night has quite enough to do without having to operate his airborne radar and watch the indications on the screen. If his eyes are bothered with the problem of following the indication on the screen, if he has to look from the tube to the open as he gets close to the enemy bomber, he loses part of his night vision. It makes a lot of difference whether your eyes stay night adapted just before you come in sight contact of the target. The gunner sitting back in the tail of that enemy bomber is free to look uninterruptedly out in the open, out in the dark; and if you've got to watch a light on the way up to the contact, your eyes are not going to be so used to the darkness as the ©yes of that gunner, and he'll see you first.


         Incidentally, one of the things taught in the OTU is how to make an approach on an enemy bomber. You take a very caroful look around the horizon and see what the light conditions are and where your best visibility is. Always approach a bomber from the stern, but sometimes from below and sometimes fron above, depending on light conditions and cloud formation.

         Tho British have had more success than the Germans or anybody else with night fighters simply because they've been able to stay about six months ahead of Germany in their equipment; and as long as they can keep such an advantage, more German planes than British will be shot down.


Q.       What type of cockpit lighting is accepted as the best?

A.       Well, the British have made quite a number of tests recently. They haven't used much light in their cockpits at night. I questioned pilots and found they didn't know what type lights they had because they didn't use them. But the tests they made at Ford convince the experimental unit there that the best lighting for pilot's eyes from the standpoint of fatigue is an ultra-violet cockpit lighting. I brought back a report on the results of those tests. The doctors show scientifically that infra-red light is the best for night adaptation, and the Ford people feel that ultra-violet is the best to counteract fatigue and for all-round use.



BUREAU COMMENT: The Bureau has made a great many tests in the field of red light of spectral transmission between 600 - 622 millimicrons. Infra - red light is considered best for dark adaptation of the human eye. Use of ultra - violet light, unless controlled, results in a considerable anount of stray reflected light from instrument cover glasses and bright parts of the instrument panel. Fluorescence of pigment used for instrument dial markings, unless in orange or orange-red spectral band, is distinctly harmful to the dark adapted eye.

Quite a considerable amount of research on the fluorescent quality of pigments has been made. Actually light from any source has color. Unless it can be controlled as red, it has undesirable characteristics as far as affecting the dark adapted eye is concerned. The Bureau feels there is no doubt from laboratory and physiological tests, that controlled red light is ideal for protecting the dark adapted eye.


Q.      What do they find is their best source of pilots for night fighters?

A.      Well, in all their classes at the OTU they have a large number of experienced pilots from Bomber Command, Fighter Command, and Coastal Command, - in other words, older pilots, people who have had a lot of experience and a lot of instrument flying. The night fighters have to be sufficiently experienced in instrument flying so they can fly just as comfortably on instruments as otherwise. In our course at OTU there was one pilot who had been a torpedo plane squadron commander; he'd had three torpedo squadrons shot out from under him. And there were people from Bomber Command who had made seventy or eighty operational raids over Germany.

Q.      Do they attach a controller to a squadron or make any effort to keep the same ground controller with one group of pilots?

A.      They do not attach them to squadrons, but they try to keep them operating with the pilots. They have them live and mess with the pilots and thus got to know their problems. They try to keep them as close together as possible.


Q.      Your mention a little while ago that it was impossible to have more than one intercepting airplane because the pilot had to look at instruments, which to a degree tended to impair his night vision or dark adaptation, was quite interesting.

A.      Well, he doesn't always use his instruments in the air. As a matter of fact, that's one thing they teach night fighter pilots - when not to fly by instruments. And that is at any time after you got to a safe altitude where there is any point of reference at all, such as a star, the moon, or any kind of horizon, that can be used. They teach you not to use your instruments except when you are close to the ground, both taking off and landing; you do read your instruments then. It's surprising tho conditions they fly under at night without using instruments.


Q.      Could you give us some idea of the relative distances you can operate through? As I understand it, tho ground control will vector tho fighter into general proximity to the target, then use his own radar to got to immediate proximity to the target, and then use visual contact actually to shoot. Is that correct?

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A.      Yes, sir. They use visual contact to shoot.

Q.      Could you give mo some idea of the relative distances involved? How far apart are target and fighter separated, maximum, when the ground station starts vectoring the planes together?

A.      It will run anywhere from fifteen to twenty miles. If a homing enemy plane heads toward the fighter, it doesn't take any time at all to vector those planes together on collision courses. What they try to do is bring the fighter in about a mile off to the side of the bomber and start turning him so that he'll wind up about two miles behind the bomber. When the ground controller figures that the fighter pilot should be able to pick up the target on his AI he yells, "Punch". Or if the pilot picks it up before he receives "Punch" on the radio, he yells "Punch" himself. That means he's got a contact. When he's satisfied with the situation and figures that his AI operator can take over control, he yells, "Judy". From then on he turns on his inter-communication in the plane, cuts out all interference from the outside, and listens to the AI operator. He stays on the target until he gets a visual contact. (The fighter pilots used to report contact, but the Germans picked it up and warned their bombers. The British have, consequently, stopped transmitting contact now.)


Q.      Is any use being made of night binoculars?

A.      Well, they have some on order, but I never ran across a squadron that actually had that equipment. It takes quite a bit of time to taxi a night fighter into position, to go through the cockpit drill, and to get your plane started and ready to go. They figure that by the time you take off you'll be 75% night adapted, anyhow. They weren't particularly worried about the night goggles although they did have them on order and said they would use them when they arrived.

Q.      You misinterpreted my questions I wasn't speaking of the dark adaptation goggle but the night binocular, - a special, wide-angle, wide-objective binocular that we've been hearing about, mostly in Farnborough.

A.      I didn't see any of those at all.


Q.      Did you hear any discussion as to whether the pilots being selected for that work were given any special tests as to night visual acuity?

A.      No, sir. They were pretty skeptical about any particular ability to see at night. They thought normal vision was all that was necessary. As a matter of fact, one of the best intruder pilots in the RAF has just one eye. He was flying when the war started and was injured in a crackup. He not only operates but he operates at night, in intruder operations.


        Intruder operations, incidentally, have quite a future. They are using Mosquitoes for almost everything now, and very successfully in intruder operations. They're so fast that there's not much that can catch them. They go stooging around at night over Germany or France and shooting up railroad trains and locomotives; they blow the engines up with their cannon and do a lot of damage. They fly around the primary training schools, for instance, and

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shoot down the trainers, - just make a nuisance of themselves. And they very seldom get caught. They fly low over factories, bomb factories, shoot up people at these places, and have a lot of fun.


Q.      We've read a great deal about instruments for testing night vision; and we've had designs and instruments forwarded: one an Admiralty instrument which it is claimed is widely used, and the Livingstone rotating hexagon. It may be that testing for vision is done earlier in the training course. Have you hoard any discussion of it?

A.      No. I never heard of any such tests.

Q.      There are people who are relatively night blind and can't make out low contrast silhouettes under any circumstances. Are they paying any attention to that?

A.      They might be, but those I talked with in the RAF were very skeptical about super-ability to see at night, although they admitted there are unusual people who are night blind.

Q.      Do you think the pilots are rather notoriously skeptical about those things?

A.      I think they are. They are quite skeptical about physical conditions in general. They figured, for instance, this intruder pilot, blind with ono eye was perfectly all right; he could fly successfully because he'd proved he could do it; that's why he is all right.


Q.      You spoke of 75 hours in the OTU. How much of that time was devobed to instrument training? Or do they have a specialized instrument course?

A.      Most of the night fighter pilots were pretty skillful instrument flyers before they arrived at OTU, but about 10 hours of instrument instruction is given at the start of the course. You operate under instrument conditions practically all the time in the winter in England. Every hop has some instrument flying in it. Visibility is very bad, and you operate up high enough to use the equipment, which means that you have to go through the clouds.

Q.      Is any attempt made to supplant visual instruments by sound, so that the pilot by listening could know what his air speed and his probable altitude and rate of climb or descent are, to get away from looking at anything in the cockpit at all?

A.      No, I've never seen any aural instruments in the night fighters.


Q.      What is the ideal gun combination for the night fighters?

A.      Well, they think it's four 20-mm cannon mounted right in the nose of the plane.

Q.      Do you agree with that?

A.      Oh, I don't know. I wouldn't argue over whether it's four 20-mm's or six 50's. I have quite a weakness for the .50's, all right; but I know what those cannon will do. And it doesn't take

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many rounds to shoot down a piano at night. Ranges are so short at night that if you're close enough to shoot there's really no reason to miss, and I think there are not many occasions after visual contact has been established when the pilot misses on firing.

BUREAU COMMENT: The armament of our night fighters is as follows: F4U-2 -— .50 caliber with 1600 rounds of ammunition. F6F, now in development, 6-.50's and 2400 rounds. PV, now has 6-.50's in nose -- later to have 8-.50's firing forward from turret position. F7F — to be the real night fighter — 4-20mm, 800 rounds plus 4-.50 caliber, 1600 rounds, the entire nose reserved for radar installation.

Our night fighter development to date is not impressive. Considerable research has been done on night sights and it appears our present sights can be readily adapted by the addition of filters and more rheostat control.


        Lately, however, the Germans have been doing an awful lot of jinking when they suspect the presence of a night fighter. The British, consequently, have concentrated more and more on gunnery training. They used not to stress it very much in their night fighter operations because it was just a matter of getting behind a bomber flying straight and level, getting a dot on him, and pressing the tit. It's not that way any more. The planes are diving and turning and most of the shots now are deflection shots. On almost every hop you make in the OTU (even if it's only to practice interceptions with another plane) you take 25 feet of camera gun film in your plane which you're to use up before you come down. On your return your operations are checked by running this film through a film assessor.

Q.      What kind of reticule do they use in the sight?

A.      They're now using an ordinary sight, a luminous ring sight. But they've developed one that I think is going to eliminate one of the big drawbacks in the present sight. One of the problems now is getting the dot on the enemy bomber. When you're' approaching from behind, for instance, and start raising your nose to get your dot on him, the illuminated ring is so wide that it blacks out the target momentarily. That's the crucial stage of your approach. They've been hoping to eliminate that difficulty.

Q.      Have they given up the free gun in night fighting?

A.      I think they have. They tried that for a while, but I think they do not intend to use it.


        One thing that I talked over with a lot of pilots in the RAF, who agreed it would be a help, was the need for some form of air brake, something to slow you down in a hurry. In other words, if you're approaching a target at 300 miles an hour and the enemy is doing 200 miles an hour, you've got to lose speed pretty fast. If you chop your throttles back you always shoot out a long stream of sparks. The enemy tail gunner immediately cuts loose at you; so you can't afford to chop your throttles very suddenly in the air. The British lower the wheels and the flaps and try to slow down that way. I'd like to see some form of air brake that would slow you down in a hurry. The Germans have done some work on such equipment.

Q.      What do they do to overcome the blinding effect of gun flash?

A.      They don't worry about that. They figure that by the time the guns go off the job's done.

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Q.      What range do you fire at?

A.      That depends on the visibility. You fire when you're close enough so you know you're not going to miss. Now at night under cloudy conditions, for instance, or when there is no moon, that's generally pretty close. I'd say the maximum range is probably 200 yards.

Q.      Now that the Germans have radar tail warning devices, is there any thought that the British will have to come to a free turret so they may be able to go to the side or underneath and escape that detection by tail warning devices?

A.      There is quite a bit of discussion over it, but I believe there is no agreement on the point. Some of the German bombers now are equipped with the tail AI, but all of them are not. I don't know whether they'll ever have all the bombers equipped with it.

        There's a trick that sonic of the experts over there are using now .. Wing Commander Cunningham, who has shot down nineteen German bombers at night, has usod a system to get away from that detection by coming in way down below the target and climbing up —- like that (motions). He shot down several planes that way. It sounds tricky and a little bit hard to do at night, but he shot down two or three by coming right up underneath them.


Q.      Is there any other employment for AI outside the straight night fighting? For example, how do they use it in intruder operations?

A.      The bombers use it (not the same AI), but they use some radar equipment for navigation.

Q.      I was speaking of the actual use of it for detecting other planes, other than this tail warning device.

A.      No, they use it for getting back to their home field, of course. That's one thing the British have concentrated quite a bit on, and they've got the system down so that the night fighter pilot knows he can get back when he goes out.

Q.      By the use of ground beacons?

A.      By the use of AI beaoons. Tho operator can bring you right back to the field. Then they have homing devices. Of course you can call the sector control and ask for homing. They'll tell you to transmit for fix. You give them a ten seconds' field over the radio, and they'll come back and tell you to steer such and such a course, which will bring you home. And then they have the lighted beacons at night. You take a chart up with you that shows the magnetic bearing and distance of these beacons from your airfield. You fly over a beacon that's flashing a double-A, for instance, and you look on your chart, fly 265 ten miles, and you're over the airfield. They move those beacons around from night to night, and the flashing characteristics change. Then they have searchlights which also will point the way home to you. There are all kinds of safety devices. They are largely responsible for the high morale in the British night fighter squadrons. They know that they're going to get home whey they go out, and they're not the slightest bit worried about the navigation. The only thing they try to do is keep a general track of where they are because, down on the south coast particularly, they operate out over the channel. They patrol about 25 miles out where they're right

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close to enemy territory. Occasionally the German ground control stations will call one of the British aircraft and give hin a vector which will put him back over Germany; then they'll either shoot him down or try to get him down on one of their own landing fields. You've got to keep a fair track of where you are; in other words you want to know whether you're to fly south, north, or west to get home.

Q.      Would you make a definite recommendation against the use of single-engine planes? A.      I certainly would.


Q.      Have the Germans used any photo-flash devices from an airplane to blind night fighter pilots? A.      I do not know of any. The only occasions I know of night fighter pilots' being blinded were caused by their own searchlights during an experiment they made not long ago. They equipped a large twin-engine airplane with a tremendous searchlight in t he nose and a section of Hurricanes was flown in formation on that airplane, the idea being to practice getting up close behind enemy bombers and turning the light on. All it seemed to do was blind the pilots in the Hurricanes. They gave that experiment up. It took an awful lot of heavy equipment anyhow to provide the power to run the light. Q.      Do they have many losses of the night fighters when it comes to landing on their own fields after they arrive there?


A.      Well, in training they do; but the pilots in the operational squadrons don't have a bit of trouble. They've got one of the best airdrome lighting systems I've ever seen. That almost eliminates the hazards involved in night operations. The field is surrounded by lights in a regular circle; there are lead-in funnels to show you the proper runway to land on; they lead you in from the outer circle into your runway. Then they have angular glide lights that show you whether you are in the proper altitude for your approach; they show yellow if you're high, green if you're OK, and red if you're too low. If you just follow that light you'll be at the right height when you cross over the edge of the runway. The runway is also lined with three different types of lights: green lights on the first third of the runway, yellow lights on the second third, and red lights on the last third. If you haven't touched down by the tine you've reached the red lights, you're given the gun to go around again.


Q.      Would you give us your opinion on what you would consider the qualifications for prospective night fighters? Should they have a lot of experience and, if so, what kind?

A.      Well, they must be good instrument pilots; that's the main thing. If they're going to fly twin-engine night fighters, it's a great help if they've had some twin-engine experience, although that isn't absolutely necessary because you can give twin-engine experience in the operational training unit.

Q.      How about age?

A.      Well, I'd say the age of the average night fighter pilot in England was probably a little higher than was that of the day fighter

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pilot. I know it was higher, because most of the people had much experience behind them.

Q.      You consider, then, actual flying experience for a considerable period to be one of the pre-requisites for night fighting?

A.      It certainly helps. The more experience the pilot has, the easier it is to train him. For instance, of our Marine group, Hutchison and Lambert were the two pilots we assigned to concentrate on air operations. Well, they both were experienced pilots (they had'had about 1500 hours and had had the instrument flying course). We told the British of their qualifications; and they said, "Well, it will take about six months to make them completely operational", - in other words, to train them to the point where they could go on duty with a British night fighter squadron and take their turn flying patrol and shooting down bombers. (The British are very cagey about not wasting tiny opportunities for shooting down enemy bombers, and they don't want an American to come over there and use up one of the airplanes and not make any money for them). Well, we fixed things up a little bit and got them through the OTU in two months.

        The chief flying instructor at the OTU told the squadron commander of the squadron to which they were sent that he had two pilots who had become completely operational in two months. That squadron commander was very dubious as to whether they wore qualified after such a short training period. But after they had made two night flights, he was completely sold; and from then, on they operated twice as much as any of the British pilots. When they left there, the squadron commander of 256 Squadron said he was certainly going to miss the Marines, and he was going to be awfully short-handed with them gone! They were operating five nights and taking one day off; the British pilots were on two and off two. Our people were there for a month. They operated every night there were operations, more than twice as much as the British pilots. Each one of those boys had trouble at night over the channel and brought his plane back safely, feats which didn't make their reputations any worse.

Q.      I was particularly interested in Hutchison's case because he went through the school at Atlanta. I was wondering how he stacked up with the British so far as instrument flying went?

A.      Oh, he was 'way ahead of them! So was Lambert; he went through Dallas. They were 'way ahead of the majority of the students whom the British sent to the school. Some of their pilots were people with previous operational experience but they'd come from Spitfire squadrons, where they had done nothing but daytime operations with very little instrument work and with no previous twin-engine experience. Comparatively speaking, in the RAF they were experienced pilots. They had a smaller number of pilots who were good instrument pilots, and had flown at night and had flown bombers.


Q.      Could you give us an opinion on the prospective Navy setup? There are going to be five squadrons, twelve planes each. We don't have enough experienced pilots to furnish them for all twelve planes. They'll have about three people with experience, that is, 1500 hours or more; two to three with, say, 500 or 600 hours. Those are single-seaters, too. The instructors will have perhaps 1000 or 1500 hours, and the operational training people will have in the neighborhood of 400. Now that's our set-up as it is, and we probably can't do much about it. Would you comment on it?

A.      Well, it would be a help if you could send your pilots to an instrument flying school before they go to OTU. You can, of course, train them at the OTU, although it will slow things down;

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it means running an instrument school in addition to your night flying school.

Q.      Well, the instrument training will be a part of the OTU training.

A.      Well, you can operate it that way. As a matter of fact, you can set up your operational training unit to include instrument flying. It makes it simpler for the people running the OTU if they don't have to include instrument flying, but it doesn't make a whole lot of difference, one way or the other, You can train your people by sending them to an instrument flying course first and then to OTU, or you can run the whole thing at the 0TU. But you're not going to cut down on the time, one way or the other.

Q.      Don't you think that any training like that has to be continuous?

A.      Oh, very definitely. The British night fighter pilots spend quite a bit of time in the Link and on instrument practice.

        You see, our course now presupposes that the pilot finishing Pensacola is qualified on instruments, because he's had it all the way through.

Q.      Well, how good are they?

A.      I don't know, I think they've had approximately 23 hours of instruments when they've finished Pensacola, and they get another 10 hours in operations, which brings them up to 33 hours - which isn't too much.

A.      No, it' s not. Yes, there really were two answers like this on the original

Q.      At what altitude do nost of the actual interceptions take place, would you say?

A.      Oh, that varies. Depends on how the bombers operate. They come over at all altitudes from 25,000 feet down to 1,000.

Q.      Do your night interceptor pilots use oxygen quite regularly dr not at all?

A.      They have it available, and they do use it if they are going over 10,000 feet. They use oxygen a little more at night, I think, than they do in the daytime because it does help vision quite a bit.


Q.      How many people do you have on one voice radio frequency to handle the thing, when you're controlling the planes?

A.      Well, the GCI station won't have more than two planes, ordinarily, on its frequency.

        Incidentally, another thing that simplifies the night fighter problem with the British, is a push-button radio. It's duck soup. When you tako off you're on Button A. You report when you're airborne and they'll say, "Shift to Button B and call so-and-so (sector control)". You call sector control, and they'll five you a vector and handle you until they're ready to turn you over to a GCI station. Then they'll say, "Press Button B and call so-and-so". Well, you call your GCI station and you operate under its control. All you have to do is put your finger up there and press those buttons; they'll get you anywhere,

Q.      Are they crystal control?

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A.      Yes, sir, they're crystal. And they cut through any kind of weather. The weather is bad in England most of the time; they brag about their bad weather. Static would be a little bit hard to contend with, with a low frequency, but those PHF sets will cut through that static, and you can get reception in very bad weather.


        One thing they have developed over there that's been a tremendous help is the very heavy, very dark goggles for practicing night flying in the daytime. There are several shades of darkness to use, depending upon light conditions. On a very bright sunlight day you put these goggles on and can barely see through them at all. They use sodium lights on the runways, and you can't see the ground at all through these goggles. You use sodium lights on your instruments. You take off (there is always a safety pilot with you) on instruments with these goggles on and fly around and practice instrument flying. That's one good way to do instrument flying, because you can't see a thing outside of the plane except the sodium lights on the runway when you get back. The pilot coaches you into position so that you gradually pick up the sodium lights and make your landing. The British claim they have cut down their night flying accidents in the OTU by 90% with this system. I can well imagine they did. It's much more difficult than any kind of night flying I ever saw; you just can't see anything but your instruments and the sodium lights on the runway.

Q.      Didn't they have anything on the windshields similar to our green windshield and our red goggles; is it clear white shield that they use with these goggles?

A.      Yes, but it doesn't make any difference.

Q. The reason I mention the red-green windshield is that with these hazy conditions at night both the safety pilot and the student are on instruments; you can't see out of the thing.

A.      The safety pilot doesn't have on any goggles; he can see all right, but the student pilot flying with these goggles on can't see a thing outside the plane.

        Another thing they concentrate on is a cockpit drill for night fighter pilots. They spend hours in a cockpit doing what they call a blindfold test; just putting their hands on all the controls and all the instruments. Before they ever take a night fighter plane up, they're given what they call a cockpit test, and the pilot either shuts his eyes or puts on a blindfold and puts his hand on every instrument and every control in the cockpit. And that is very important, for they've got to be able to find those controls in a hurry at night without fumbling.


Q.      Can you tell us anything about the light control of the fields? Have they some way of throwing those off in a hurry and how bright are they when they're on?

A.      Well, there is a rheostat control, and you can adjust the brightness of your lights according to conditions at the time. The watch office, or control or operations room, has a panel showing the field, the layout of the runways, It's a duplicate of the field. And as the lights arc switched on on the field, they show up on the board in the operations office. And there are switches there that you can flick on - put them on your outer circle lights, for instance, your funnel lights, the outer circle of lights ...

A. SIC, should be Q.      How far out?

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A.      They are 2000 yards from the edge of the runway, from the boundary of the field. You switch those lights on (sometimes you don't need them). But they use just as much light as they need to get the pilots back in. If it isn't bright enough, the pilots call for them to turn them on.

Q.      Is it about a five-mile light?

A.      Oh, you can see it for quite a distance. I don't know exactly how far; it depends on the brightness and how much you've got it turned up. In bad weather, low clouds, for instance, they will turn them on full. If the pilot has trouble finding the field, he can tell them, "Turn on Blackpool". Blackpool is a place like Coney Island and used to be lighted up quite a bit at night. That's the word for turning on everything they've got, and lighting up the whole field. And they'll do it, too! They might be forty miles away from the base, but they're going to turn those lights on - unless there are enemy planes in the vicinity. If the enemy is around, they'll send the pilot to another field, or they'll tell him to alter to such and such a beacon until the enemy planes are out of the vicinity.

Q.      Would you say you could set this lighting installation up in a hurry at advanced bases, or is it too involved?

A.      You could set it up in a hurry.

Q.      The present B-2 portable light that the Army has developed more or less has that system right in it, of shielded lights; and it takes practically no time at all to get it up. It is light, about 20 inches high, and weighs about 40 pounds. It is connected by a cable that can be strung out.

A.      They have another system to get planes home. They have four searchlights stationed around the boundaries of the field, and they'll point them up together, right directly over the airport, shine them on the clouds. You can see those lights shining through some very thick clouds.







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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