Marc Schulman

 


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Special Aspects

 

Naval warfare included more than the contacts between rival fleets and their air components. It involved constant surveillance of enemy movements and bases, destruction of ship- Airsea rescue, which kept personnel losses to a minimum, preserved that element of military power most difficult to replace and bolstered the morale of all fighting men. In all these activities aviation participated and for their accomplishment developed special techniques, a knowledge of which is necesary to an understanding of victory in the Pacific. Naval Air Search and Reconnaissance Pearl Harbor showed the need for air patrols. The Japanese Fleet whose planes did such damage on the morning of 7 December 1941, were within range the evening before. Had enough Catalinas been out, the fleet might have been discovered, but the ability of United States forces to surprise the enemy on many occasions later in the conflict indicated that more than planes in the air were needed to conduct an adequate 1 search. Above all it required special radar equipment and thorough training which American forces did not possess inl 1941. Admiral Hart in the Philippines commented on the vast amount of misinformation he received over the warning net. Before that ill-fated campaign in the East Indies had ended, the patrol-plane pilots and crews had learned their business the hard way. During the latter stages of the Japanese advance the only information available to Allied commanders came from the Catalinas of Patrol Wing 10 operating from tenders whose almost daily moves enabled them to service their planes after landing fields had been knocked out. The lessons learned were applied elsewhere as fast as aircraft, equipment, and trained crews could be obtained. Although naval search planes were not available for the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, the following month at Midway a Catalina was the first to report the Japanese fleet. When the same type of flying boat was used in the Solomons, its limitations rapidly became apparent. The surprise and sinking of four Allied cruisers at Savo Island on the night after the landings on Guadalcanal might have been avoided if reconnaissance had been complete. In the weeks that followed, concentration of enemy fighters made impossible the use of Catalinas in the area north of Guadalcanal. Although Army Flying Fortresses were employed for patrols, lack of special equipment and training restricted their usefulness. Late in 1942 the Navy began receiving Liberators, which after extensive modification and time for training the naval crews appeared in the Solomons early the following year. This plane had both the range to reach the centers of enemy activity and the firepower needed to operate singly. The possession of such a plane also made possible the development of photographic reconnaissance. Because the Japanese had for years excluded foreigners from military areas and especially from the mandated islands, Allied intelligence knew very little about the nature or extent of installations. In the spring of 1943 the first photographic squadron , accompanied by expert personnel for processing and interpretation, reached the South Pacific. From that time forward, extensive photographic reconnaissance was made in advance of every major operation. In addition to specially equipped units, every 9 search plane carrried a camera and was able to supplement visual sighting with photographic evidence. The camera and radar enormously increased the effectiveness or naval patrol aircraft. Although the first function of patrol aviation was to sight and report, naval planes frequently discovered enemy merchant shipping alone or with only light escort. Since the aircraft carried machine guns, bombs, and, in the latter part of the war, rockets and guided missiles, they made sucessful attacks on cargo vessels and contributed to the effort that ultimately strangled Japanese industry. Antishipping operations also possessed direct military importanance. In the South and Southwest Pacific areas the enemy frequently attempied to move troops and supplies at night in small vessels and barges, ducking in and out among the numerous islands and hiding in coves by day. In detecting these clandestine shipments, the slow speed of the Catalinas became an asset and darkness provided adequate protection for their vulnerability. With special paint and equipped with radar they became Black Cats searching out enemy vessels and barges wherever they could be found. Not only did they themselves strike but they also worked out techniques for guiding motor torpedo boats, destroyers, and other light vessels to Japanese convoys. The Black Cats made reconnaissance a 24-hour-a-day job. In the Atlantic, patrol squadrons devoted their principal effort to antisubmarine warfare. Because the Japanese directed many of their underwater craft to supply garrisons on bypassed islands, antisubmarine activities were overshadowed by other phases of patrol aviation in the Pacific. All squadrons, however, were given instrction in the special techniques of this type of warfare, and although patrol planes were instrumental in sinking only five Japanese submarines, viligance was never relaxed and a high degree of proficiency maintained through training. As the United States offensive moved across the Pacific, patrol aviation accompanied it. Search and photographic planes checked and rechecked enemy installations and movements. When the carrier forces moved against an objective, they desired to achieve surprise. If Japansee search aircraft encountered carrier planes, they could have inferred the presence of carriers and transmitted the fact before being shot down. In the invasion of the Marianas and later operations, Navy Liberators flew along the flanks and in advance of the carrier force, shooting down enemy search planes. Prior to the landings in the Philippines they knocked off Japanese picket boats east of Formosa. During the critical periods when amphibious forces were establishing a beachhead, naval commanders needed accurate knowledge of approaching enemy units. For this purpose tenders accompanied the invasion fleet and commenced operating seaplanes immediately. Although this remained a dangerous activity so long as the enemy had aircraft and fields in use it was necessary and by 1943 the Navy had available the Mariner (PBM), a faster, longerranged flying boat with more firepower than the Catalina. At Okinawa the Mariners conducted their first searches at the main objective even before the troops went ashore and on 7 April 1945 had an opportunity to demonstrate their value. A United States submarine the previous day sighted a Japanese force built around the Yamato, the world’s largest battleship, headed toward our invasion fleet. Search planes immediately took off and some hours later spotted the enemy and guided carrier planes into the attack which resulted in the destruction of the Yamato, a light cruiser, and four destroyers. The Mariners not only maintained continuous contact but landed on the open sea to pick up the personnel of carrier planes shot down during the action. The last 6 months of the war saw- the culmination of patrol aviation. New plane types became available in increasing numbers. To avoid the duplication of labor inherent in build - ing a plane and then modifying it extensively. the Navy designed a version of the Liberator to meet its special requirements and gave it the nautical name Privateer (PB4Y-2). A twoengine land plane, the Ventura (PV-1) originally developed for antisubmarine work in the Atlantic was also employed in the Pacific, and a new model named the Harpoon (PV-2 ) appeared in 1945. In preparation, but not ready in time for war operations, was the Neptune

P2V ) one of which startled the world in 1946 by flying from Perth, Australia, to Columbus, Ohio, a distance of over 11,000 miles and the longest flight on record. What a plane with that range and ease of operation would have meant in 1941 may easily be imagined. By the spring of 1945 the Navy operated searches that literally covered the Pacific from the Aleutians to Australia, from Seattle to Singapore. Especially important was the area betwen the Philippines and the mainland of Asia through which vital supplies from the East Indies passed to Japan. To sever these lines of communicatin, patrol planes proved particularly useful not only sinking ships themselves but guiding submarines to likely targets and even calling up Army bombers to dispose of one convoy too large for a single patrol plane to handle. This coordinated campaign reduced Japanese shipping to such a thin trickle that by summer the big planes were crossing to French Indo- China where they went after the railroads which were the last link in enemy communications with the southern regions. Farther north other naval aircraft, based on Okinawa and Iwo Jima, were conducting patrols along the coast of China as far as Korea and around the coasts of the Japanese home islands. They also attacked shipping with bombs, rockets, and guided missiles and laid mines in the principal shipping lanes. At the extreme top of the Japanee Empire, search planes from the Aleutians regularly- visited the Kurile Islands. The effectivess of this reconnaissance in terms of area covered can be seen from the charts on pages 12 and 13 which compare the searches in effect at the end of the war with those at the time of the Guadalcanal landings. The effectiveness in terms of results achieved is indicated above. All of this was accomplished with the greatest economy. At no time did the Navy have in operation in the Pacific area more than 500 search planes of all types. At the outset of the war, operating procedure for the rescue of pilots and air crews was undeveloped. On the other hand a number of basic safety devices had been provided permitting a pilot to survive the unexpected failure of his plane. The parachute, the inflatatable life jacket popularly known as the "Mae West," and the rubber life raft with its emergency survival and signalling gear were standard equipment. During the war, safety gear was steadily improved and the probabilities of survival were all in favor of the flyer, whether the trouble was simple engine failure or being shot down in flames. In the first half of 1942 many pilots survived crashes in combat areas but frequently little or nothing could be done to effect their recovery. A number of rescues, however, were made usually as the result of individual initiative, and after the battleof Midway, Catalinas picked up many pilots. Organized rescue operations developed in the Solomons campaign. Catalinas, popularly known as "Dumbos," were dispatched to pick up personnel who had been shot down. At first this was an incidental duty assigned as the occa- 726015 47 2 11 sion arose, but it later developed to a point where Dumbo circled near the scene of a raid. Positions were reported as planes went down, and the Dumbo, often protected by planes from the strike, recovered the personnel. The bravery of the rescue crews in landing in positions exposed to enemy shore fire became legendary. It was fortunate that no rescue personnel were lost in such operations. By 1944 in the Central Pacific the problem of making rescues in open-ocean areas first became 7 AUGUST 1942-, acute. Since only the most skillful and experienced seaplane pilots could land and take off again in the enormous swells, the job required as much seamanship as airmanship, and it became standard practice to avoid open-sea landings unless conditions were favorable and there was no other rescue agent available. Ships, usually destroyers, made the recoveries wherever possible. Catalinas continued not only to be used extensively to search for survivors, to drop emergency gear, and to circle overhead until a A T T U —

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Aerial Mining The offensive mine-laying campaign waged against Japan was little publicized but the results were highly successful. At least 649,736 tons of shipping were sunk and another 1,377,- 780 tons damaged, of which 378,827 were still out of use at the end of the war. The total sunk and damaged represented one quarter of the prewar strength of the Japanese merchant marine. In addition 9 destroyers, 4 submarines, and 36 auxiliary craft went down as the result of mine explosions; and 2 battleships, 2 escort carriers. 8 cruisers, 29 destroyers or destroyer escorts, a submarine, and 18 other combatant vessels were damaged, In the course of the war 25,000 mines were laid, 21,389 or 85 percent by aircraft. From a total of 4,760 sorties, only 55 mine-laying planes failed to return. Although surface vessels and submarines were also employed, airplanes proved particularly adapted to mine-laying. They could penetrate enemy harbors and repeat the operation without being endangered by mines previously sown. Much of the work could he carried on at night with relatively little loss of accuracy and with increased secrecy as to the exact location of the 14 mines, which added to the Japanese difficulty in sweeping. All United States and Allied air services participated, using practically every type of bombing plane from the Avenger (TBF) to the Superfortress ( B–29), and, of course, the ever-present Catalina. The mines themselves were developed, produced, supplied and serviced largely by the United States Navy with a few British types being employed in Burma and the Southwest Pacific. Naval mine-warfare officers collaborated in the planning and execution of all operations. Although mining resulted in the destruction of large numbers of vessels , , it had other important effects not so easily determinable. It forced the Japanese to close ports until they could be swept, thereby causing the loss of valuable ship time. Even with relatively few mines at a time often repeated attacks resulted in the abandonment of many harbors. To prevent the enemy from staging his fleet through certain anchorages they were mined when important operations were in progreS in adjacent a rea s . Shallow waters were mined to force shipping into the open sea where United States submarines could attack. In the last month of the war the mining campaign was extended to home waters to cut of the last Japanese connection with the mainland. In the outer zone, particularly though the with comparatively small numbers being used against strategic objectives. The campaign was carried on by Royal Air Force, Australian, and United States Army aircraft operating from bases in the Southwest Pacific, China, and India. It prevented the Japanese from using such important ports as Rangoon to reinforce their troopS in Burma and greatly curtailed their obtaining supplies of oil from sulch places as Sura - baya and Balikpapan. In the South and Central Pacific, Navy planes used mines for tactical purposes to keep the Japanese Fleet from using certain harbors while amphibious operations were being conducted in nearby areas. Over half the naval mines expended during the war were laid by the Superfortresses of the Twentieth Air Force in and about the home islands, particularly in the straits of Shimonseki and around the Inland Sea. This forced the Japanese to carry goods from the Asiatic mainland to ports in northern Honshu from which 1 adequate distribution by rail was impossible. To complicate the enemy’s problem Navy Privateers from Okinawa mined the shores of the Yellow- Sea as far as the southern coast of Korea. The movement of ships of over 1,000 tons was stopped altogether. Careful minelaying prevented the use of all but three of Japan’s merchant-marine shipyards, thus preventing the repair of vessels already damaged. Cut off from the East Indies by air and submarine action, the enemy saw his last link with the Asiatic mainland severed bv aerial mines. American and Allied services working in close collaboration completed the strangle-hold on Japanese industry. Air Support of Amphibious Operations The primary missions of air support were local defense and direct support of troops ashore. Defense included combat air patrols to ward off enemy air raids, antisubmarine patrols flown constantlly around the approaches to the objective area, and special missions such as the silencing of heavy coastal batteries. Direct troop support consisted prinipally of attacks with bombs, rockets, machine guns and incendiaries on enemy troops and defenses. In order to be effective, both defensive and offensive air operations required a high degree of coordination and control. This was practically impossible to secure through the normal task-group communication channels because in a major amphibious operation as many as thirty- different carrier air l 5 groups and land-based Marine air units might be jointly engagd in operations. The taskforce and task-group organization involved too many echelons of command to permit prompt action on requests for air support. The need for the development of air-support doctrine was apparent in the landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in August 1942. Three carriers supported this operation, and their air groups reported to a support air director in the flagship of the amphibious commander and prior to the landings carried out missions assigned by him. Although the Navy had foreseen the need for liaison parties ashore with the troops and had occasionally employed them in peacetime maneuvers, on Guadalcanal inadequate commuications and lack of experience handicapped the direction of support missions after the Marines had landed. The air defense for this operation also left much to be desired. The plan called for a combat air patrol of fighters directed by a ship- His function was to receive information from ships’ radars of enemy air raids and the position of friendly fighters, to relay this information to the patrolling fighters, and to direct them to a point where they could make visual contact with enemy planes. As the radar of the cruiser on which he was embarked failed to detect the raids, the fighter director was unable to carry out his mission. After the first two days the carriers were obliged to withdraw, leaving the amphibious force and the troops ashore entirely without local air support until a captured airfield on Guadalcanal could be completed and supplied with landbased aircraft. The tragic history of the weeks that followed, during which planes available for defense and for troop support were pitifully few, clearly demonstrated the importance of maintaining a continuous supply of carrier-based air power during the critical period between the 16 initial assault and the eventual land-based aircraft ashore. establishment of It was late in August 1942 before land-based support operations actually got under way. Use was made of radio for communicating requests from troops to supporting planes, and from this experience came a realization of the tremendously increased effectiveness gained from having liaison officers who worked constantly with the troops and knew the special problems inolved. As a result, the Navy organized a number of air liaison parties which, unlike the officers who went ashore on 7 August, were especially trained to accompany front-line troops and to relay their requests to the controlling command. Such parties were successfully used at Kiska, the Gilberts, and in subsequent operations. Eventually, their functions were taken over by units within the Marine and Army ground organization. In the assault on Tarawa on 20 November 1943, there appeared for the first time the overwhelming concentration of air power that characterized all landing operations in the Central Pacific. A total of 17 aircraft carriers with a complement of 900 planes participated. Eight were the new, comparatively slow- escort carriers assigned exclusively to tactical air support, a mission for which they were well fitted and which permitted the release of the fast carriers for use against enemy air bases and other distant targets. As escort carriers become available in increasing numbers it was possible to expand enormously - the volume of air support. During the Gilberts campaign use was also made of a specialized troop-support control unit afloat equipped both to receive and filter the reqests for help and to assign offensive support missions to the aircraft overhead. In each succeeding operation air-support control units grew in size, number, and complexity, eventually assuming complete control of every air-borne plane in the objective area. These units func- tioned first on battleships and later on command ships. The latter were converted transports with the necessary concentration of radar and radio-communications equipment. These ships were used as joint headquarters by the amphibious, shore, and air commanders. Fighter direction, the control of defensive air support, was conducted in the Gilberts from designated ships in the landing fleet, but there was little coordination between such ships. After the experience of this operation control of all amphibious fighter-director teams was centralized in the existing air-support control organization, so that all support aircraft, both offensive and defensive, received direction and coordination from a single command. The two activities were thereafter physically located in adjacent control rooms on a command ship, which was in constant communication with subordinate control units or teams whether on other command ships, picket destroyers, or ashore. In January 1944 the amphibious forces of the Central Pacific invaded Kwajalein. The pattern of tactical air support in Pacific amphibious operations emerged clearly. Although later operations brought increasing complexity and refinement in technique, no important departures from this pattern were made. In the Marianas assault of June 1944 airsupport control employed three command ships with additional standbys available. The development of standardized techniques made it possible to pass control of the air-support operations without interruption from one ship to another. Similarly, aS land-based aircraft became established ashore, it was found feasible to transfer elements most closely integrated with troop movements to a control center on the beachhead while retaining afloat fighter direction, antisubmarine patrol, and air-sea rescue. Another new technique developed in the Marianas was the coordination of shore-based artillery, naval gunfire, and air support. By placing the separate controllers on the same ship it was possible to select the most effective type of weapon (air, naval, or artillery) for each request from the ground troops. In September 1944 came simultaneous landings at Morotai and the Palaus. Esort carriers provided the direct support for both. While the Morotai landing was virtually unopposed, fanatical resistance from underground positions and caves was encountered at Bloody Nose Ridge on Peleliu. In hand-to-hand fighting precision attacks by support aircraft were provided as close as 100 yards from front-line positions, a feat that would have been impossible without the rigid air discipline and concentrated control sys - tem developed in earlier operations. In the campaign for the recapture of the Philippines, Army, Navy, and Marine aircraft participated together in tactical air support. Landings in the Leyte-Samar area were made on 20 October 1944 by forces under the command of General of the Army MacArthur. Although after softening-up by air and ship bombardment the landings were successfully made without too much ground opposition, Japanese sea and air resistance developed on an all-out scale. In the ensuing Battle for Leyte Gulf, the Air Support Commander carried his control to the point of diverting aircraft from troop-support missions to strikes against enemy surface forces. This was an outstanding example not only of the versatility of carrier aircraft but also of the flexibilityof air power made possible by the type of airsupport organization developed and perfected in the Pacific war. In the Lingayen Gulf landing in January and the assault on Iwo Jima in February, air support followed the established pattern. The increasing use of Kamikaze attacks by the Japanese, however, emphasized the defense function of the air-support control units. The largest amphibious operation of the Pacific war, the assault and occupation of Okinawa, 17 saw air support at its highest level. From 20 to 31 carriers provided tacticat air support for 1,213 ships and 451,866 combat and service troops. As landing fields on Okinawa were captured and activated, a total of over 400 shorebased Marine and Army planes were addded progressively to the carrier-based aircraft. The statistics are impressive and indicative of the scope of the support function of aircraft. During 88 dayS, 1,904 direct-support missions were flown involving a total of 17,361 individual offensive sorties. An average of 560 planes was in the air each day on all types of missions, including defensive patrols. These aircraft expended 7,141 tons of bombs, 49,641 5-inch rockets, 1,573 wing tanks containing 260,000 gallons of napalin, the blazing gasoline jelly, and 9,300,- 000 rounds of 50-caliber ammunition. Okinawa provided a crucial test for amphibious fighter direction. As in the Philippines, the intensity of Japanese opposition increased the importance of air defense. With an area of approximately 7,850 square miles to cover and with the majority of the enemy air strength based only 350 miles away in Kyushu to the north and in Formosa to the southwest, the magnitude of the centralized air-defense responsibility is apparent. During the first 54 days, 18,675 fighterplane sorties were flown for the protection of the amphibious force alone, while in addition the fast and support carriers provided their own combal air patrol. In the 82 days during which the amphibious forces air-support control unit was responsible for the defense of the objective area. the Japanese dispatched 896 air raids in - volving more than 3,089 planes. Of these the centrally controlled combat air patrol over the objective area shot down 1,067 planes, including 50 shot down by night fighters. Antiaircraft fire and suicide dives destroyed at least 948 more, making a total of 2,015 Japanese planes. These figures do not include Japanese planes shot down by the combat air patrols over the 18 carriers and by the antiaircraft guns of the carrier forces which were not under air-support control. Enemy air tactics had been foreseen and 15 radar picket stations, located from 20 to 95 miles from the center of the area, had been established to cover paths of approach. Each station was manned by a radar-equipped destroyer or smaller vessel with a fighter-director team aboard. These teams were linked with the central air-defense control organization. They directed fighter patrols assigned to their sectors and passed control and information to other units as the raiders left their area. The picket line was so effective in intercepting enemy raids that the Japanese switched tactics and began to concentrate on picket vessels which heretofore had been neglected for larger and more profitable targets. Despite the pounding these picket stations received, which resulted in 7 destroyers sunk, 18 seriously damaged, and 6 damaged slightly, fighter-director ships were still on station when responsibility for air defense was transferred ashore to the Air Defense Commander 82 days after the original landings. Air-support control as it functioned in the Okinawa campaign had grown to include more than aircraft. It provided for the integration of all available weapons -- land, sea, and air. For limited forces operating far from bases, economy in the use of weapons became mandatory. The control system provided for defense with a minimum of fighter planes, releasing others for support missions. It made possible the use of aircraft only against targets susceptible to air attack and saw that nava l gunfire or field artiliery was usedwhere more efficient. Such an economical use of power grew from the Navy’s concept of organization which treated all elements of the naval forces as integral parts of the whole complex required for control of the sea. Each should be used in the manner best suited to its inherent characteristics and all should be formed chine through the into a unified operating matask- force system. The airsupport control units were themselves a specialized adaptation of the task-force pattern for the accomplishment of a well-defined mission. Although the surrender of Japan made unnecessary the final amphibious assault on the enemy homeland, the Okinawa operation demonstrated the ability of the United States to transport its forces over vast sea distances and to land them on a hostile shore. The possession of this technique altered the world’s strategic picture.