USS Robin part1
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  1. #1

    USS Robin part1

    The following is a thesis written by Chris Sheehy May 2003 The University of New Brunswick.

    I have had to edit the thesis to the actual part of USS Robin and the USN which meant that the preceding chapters which dealt with the ships history and general requirements have had to be scrapped.

    USS Robin”: An Account of the HMS Victorious’ First Mission to the Pacific
    by
    Chris Sheehy
    Table of Contents
    Honours Equivalency University of New Brunswick, Fredericton New Brunswick, 1996-1998.
    BA University of New Brunswick, Fredericton New Brunswick, 1991-1996.
    A thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the degree of
    Masters of Arts
    In the Graduate Academic Unit of History
    Supervisor: Dr J.M. Milner Department of History
    Examining Board: Dr. Gary Waite, History, Chair
    Dr. Steven Turner, History
    Dr. Hugh Lautard, Sociology
    This thesis is accepted.
    Dean Dr. G. Davies
    The University of New Brunswick
    May 2003
    Christopher Sheehy, 2003





    The story of HMS Victorious’ stint as USS Robin has been clouded in disinterest on both sides of the Atlantic. Three books written about Victorious do mention this period, but mention none of the ship’s accomplishments. Commander Michael Apps entitled his chapter about this mission the Pacific Interlude. Many look upon the mission as a cake walk for the crew and pilots that were sent to the Pacific had never sighted the enemy nor fired a shot in anger. The object of this thesis is to examine this mission for what it was a miracle of integration. The Royal Navy (RN) and the United States Navy (USN) had developed different approaches to carrier doctrine. Victorious of the RN had to set aside all the doctrine and lessons learned in her previous two years in service in the Atlantic and Mediterranean Theatres of war. The war in the Pacific was different from any operation Victorious had participated so far in the war. What follows is a narrative that portrays the complete story behind the mission as well as the how two allies could develop their doctrine so differently and how well Victorious adapted to this new system and the question , what did both sides take away from so deep an integration.


    The decision to send Victorious was made in early December.[126] They informed the USN of this decision and then went on to ask where she was to be sent and how she to be outfitted, and most importantly how was she going to be protected in American waters. The USN was more than happy to accommodate any request that the RN had. They offered to take her into dry dock and refit her with a planned extension to the flight deck. As of 12 December the only request that the USN made of the RN was that the ship be trained in American landing practices, and for them to be used when they flew with the fleet. There would be plenty of time to get the pilots accustomed to this when they were training to fly the Avenger. Extra pilots for reserves in these new planes were sent ahead to be trained. A signals man was flown to the US to be trained in the American system for use before the ship left Scapa Flow. Victorious left for Norfolk on the 20 December. All arrangements had been made and the Americans were ready to aide and outfit the ship with whatever was needed.[127]

    The decision to send Victorious to the Pacific was made, and the ship was outfitted for the long journey. Victorious took with her the knowledge based on three years of battle experience as well as a desire to aide a valuable ally in their time of hardship. The USN, for it part, was ready to accept the help with open arms and to help Victorious, this newcomer, adjust to a new type of warfare as of yet never experienced in the European theatre of the war. The two allies would learn a lot from each other in this exchange, which might prove useful in future combined operations during the remainder of the war.
    By late 1942 Victorious was on her way to the Pacific to help fill in the gap left by the steady attrition of the USN’s carriers. Her trip to Bermuda, the first stop on her voyage, was not a peaceful one. The German U-boat assault in the Atlantic was at its peak. There were at least forty U-boats hunting around Bermuda. A second obstacle that Victorious encountered was a severe storm that struck while the ship was travelling through the mid-Atlantic. The danger from these two forces resulted in an order that life jackets be worn at all times until the danger was passed.[128]
    By the 22 December winds reached ninety-five miles per hour. The rough seas and high winds made for a lot of nausea and almost put a damper on the Christmas dinner. The winds dropped down to 50 miles per hour on Christmas day, and volunteers helped to get the supplies ready and Christmas dinner went on with little problem.[129]
    Victorious’ escorts suffered under the deplorable conditions. Fuel consumption was above the norm and refuelling was deemed necessary to make it to port at speed. The heavy seas made this exercise difficult. The first destroyer, Redoubt, made the attempt and all was proceeding well until the destroyer got entangled in the carrier’s radar masts, but soon was able to work itself free. All further attempts at refuelling were aborted and the group proceeded at a reduced speed to conserve fuel, a greater danger in the U-boat infested waters. To combat this threat Victorious carried out anti-submarine (A/S) patrols with her aircraft. The Albacores now had the added danger of landing on the ship with the radar masts in the upright position because they were jammed. The rough seas damaged the bow as well.[130]
    With only a six-day stay at Bermuda, Victorious arrived at Norfolk on the 1 January. Ray Barker noted the difference between the US and a war torn Britain. With no blackouts, the dock was awash in lights and activity at night. The docks also had canteens that provided food for the workers at all hours of the day and night. The workers had access to 25 flavours of ice cream, plenty of coca-cola, and everyone smoked cigars.[131]
    The Albacores were flown off while en route to Norfolk. The pilots were to be trained to fly the new Avenger at local airfields.[132] Meanwhile an Avenger was hoisted onboard the ship to be measured for the placement of new mooring rings. The crew were
    impressed with this new plane, able to fly up to 16 hours, hold a 21 inch torpedo, and carry a crew of four. Nothing that the FAA flew could compare to this. When the ship went into dry dock most of the crew went on leave.[133]
    Captain Mackintosh’s experience at Norfolk was vastly different than his crew. On 2 January 1943 he met with Commander Jackson and Lieutenant Commander Sweeton of the British Admiralty Delegation (BAD), and Commander Mitchell USN, who was assigned to Victorious as the liaison officer. Mitchell was also a group commander on the USS Hornet. These officers discussed the operational requirements for Victorious’ mission to the Pacific, and the time of her departure for the Pacific was scheduled for the 21st of the month. Captain Mackintosh was worried that this date was too soon for the crew and the pilots to adjust to the new landing system employed by the Americans, which was contrary to the one used by the RN.[134]
    The RN system of deck landings consisted of the plane coming in with a nose high descending approach, with an air speed just 10 knots above stalling. In effect, the aircraft floated in and with enough wind over the deck the final approach was slow and easy. The throttle would be cut just prior to touching the deck. This provided a softer landing than that of the American system. The American system was a flat approach towards an imaginary point in space of up to fifty feet above the flight deck. When this point above the stern was reached the batsmen would signal the pilot to cut the throttle and drop 50 feet to the deck. To soften the landing the pilot would push the stick forward and pull it back just before touchdown, this occurred within a few seconds and to
    successfully accomplish it the pilot needed hours of training and continual practice to not harm himself or the plane. [135]
    Mackintosh was also worried about some of his pilots. Most of the men to be held in the reserve pool were men who had been sent to the US to train to fly the 4F4(Martlet) and the Avenger. Some of these men had never landed on a carrier before and needed time to train in the proper procedures. His own pilots, who had been with the FAA also had a hard time learning the USN system of deck landings and signals.[136] Both systems relied heavily on the batsman whose signals meant the difference between life and death for the pilots. The batsman’s job was to give the signals to guide the pilots on takeoff and landings on the flight deck. But the signal systems were diametrically opposed. The RN batsman had the power to tell the pilot what to do to land the plane. The USN system had the batsman signalling the pilot where he was in relation to the proper approach path. The same signal meant different things to RN and USN pilots. Under the RN system a batsman standing with both arms elevated from his side at 45° angle above horizontal meant go higher, under the USN system the same signal indicated that the plane was already too high.[137]
    With these difficulties in mind Captain Mackintosh went to Washington to ask for an extension to get his pilots ready to carry out their mission. Before he left, Mackintosh met with the yard officers to discuss the alterations and repairs to be made on Victorious. Along with the items discussed above, such as the installation of TBS signalling equipment and an YB homing beacon, some other items were added to the list. These included the extension of the aft ‘round down’ of the flight deck, a sacrifice of aerodynamics to allow room for a larger deck park and a platform under the end of the extension to carry eight Oerlikons. In addition to those, another eleven others were to be added all over the ship such as the position formerly occupied by the forward search lights. A vertical plot table was added to the Fighter Direction Office, and a YE beacon, used by US planes and carriers as a homing beacon, was installed to replace the RN type 72 beacon. Three emergency diesel fire pumps and a fog fire system were installed in the crew areas. Two American cipher machines were installed in the Communications Office, and a mess deck was built to house the extra deck crew required to handle the added planes of the deck park. A hangar control position was installed so the officer could control traffic and activities in the hangar. Finally the storm damage to the bow was to be fixed. With these discussion over and approval for the added modifications given, Captain Mackintosh headed for Washington.[138]
    Mackintosh and his staff arrived in Washington on the 4 January 1943, where he called upon Admirals Sir Percy L.H. Noble and Sir Wilfred French, both of whom introduced Mackintosh to the staff of Admiral King. While in discussions the Americans showed a great interest in the layout of the British Fighter Direction Office. Mackintosh gave them an advanced copy of C.B. Direction Fighters in H.M. Ships. The book was then forwarded to the Bureau of Aeronautics. The USN authorities granted Mackintosh the extra time he needed to get his pilots and crew ready to join the Pacific Fleet. With the Washington trip a success, Mackintosh returned to Norfolk to oversee the rest of the
    modifications and repairs to the ship.[139]

  2. #2

    USS Robin part 2

    further

    Many of the officers at the USN Bureau of Aeronautics were interested to see the Fighter Direction Office (FDO) in Victorious; and Captain Mackintosh hosted them upon his return. They wanted to assess the quality of the layout and decide if it could be copied and installed in the current carriers and record the layout for the carriers being built for the RN and the USN. The RN layout based on the RAF model proved to be highly efficient in recording the positions of both friendly and potential enemy contacts and directing intercepting fighters. The mission of Victorious was no longer just to provide another ship, but became one of teacher as well as student. Previous to this encounter there was no standard for the American Fighter Direction Office; no two carriers had the same layout. Captain Mackintosh reasoned that this was because the officers designing the room had no sea experience. One of the officers who toured Victorious was Lt. Commander Owen. He was assigned to be a liaison officer in the Fighter Direction Office. Captain Mackintosh was grateful for the addition of this officer, who had experience as a fighter direction officer, operational flying and general naval duties. His experience was an asset to Mackintosh and his senior staff who had no flight experience.[140]
    Victorious finished her stint in dock on 21 January. All repairs and modifications were finished. The number of Oerlikons on the carrier was brought up to thirty. The flattening of the round down and the extension of the flight deck allowed the carrier to carry extra planes in the deck park, a USN convention employed for the first time on
    Victorious. When the ship finally sailed on 6 February for San Cristobal and the Panama Canal she carried thirty-six Martlets and sixteen Avengers for a total of fifty-two aircraft, sixteen more than originally designed for. The pilots of both types of planes had been trained in the American system of deck landing and signals, but as mentioned above many of them had never landed on a carrier before. Time was needed to get these men ready to fly from the carrier. Exercises were held in Chesapeake Bay to work up the crew and at this point with the modifications made to the arrester wires to stop the Avengers, which were much heavier than anything the British fleet had in the air. With the Victorious went USN officers and ratings assigned to ease the conversion to working in the USN system. These men filled roles in communications, coding and cipher, signalling, radio mechanics and gunnery. In all, thirty-five men helped to swell Victorious’ already overburdened crew quarters. Along with these men various other items were installed in the ship; a 16,000 ton mobile crane, a tractor and two dodgem cars were given to the ship to aide in moving around the expanded number of planes on board.[141]
    A USN escort of three destroyers accompanied the carrier. The passage to San Cristobal allowed the ship to exercise the deck crew and the pilots. A lack of wind over the flight deck delayed some of the exercises. When they were able to resume, tests on the Avenger, fully loaded, showed that it could be stopped by the arrester gear, but it exerted a lot of pressure on the system and the wire played out almost to the crash barrier. This was a major problem that had to be addressed upon reaching Pearl Harbor. During the trip two Martlets were lost during these exercises, one due to engine failure on take off, the other caught fire in the air and the pilot was lost. Four Avengers also hit the crash barrier upon landing.[142]
    These exercises were also used to train the deck party that had never before had to deal with a deck park. When the crew first started to work together their time to ready the planes for takeoff and stowing landed planes was twelve minutes. They soon improved to five minutes. The men had to efficiently move the planes from the deck park into position for take offs and stowing them after they landed. Sometimes these efforts occurred simultaneously. The efforts of these men sometimes required them to run the length of the flight deck continuously for hours. This long time was caused by a number of factors. The larger number of planes, an inexperienced deck party and poor communications on the flight deck caused serious delays, but as pointed out, these were improved with continuous drill and practice.[143]
    Victorious arrived in San Cristobal, the Eastern entrance of the Panama Canal, on 11 February. Upon entering harbour an USN battleship signalled what name, and the answer was given USS Robin, an obvious cover since the white ensign was flying proudly over the ship.[144] The problem of Victorious being too wide for the locks was handled by removing all projections and side structures from the ship. Even with these alterations there was still only a foot on either side to spare. The first stage of passage through the canal was to be attempted on the 13th: six canal pilots boarded the ship to guide her through, one pilot for each of the four corners of the ship and on each of the bridges. Upon entering the Gatun lock an accident happened right away. The ship heeled to port, ripping a huge gash in the lock’s port side submarine lookout position. The senior pilot said that this was caused by entering the lock too soon for the water to settle down from the mixing of fresh and salt water. The ship carried on through the lock with only a foot to spare on either side of the ship, leaving little room for error. The ship did scrape from time to time causing minor damage to the ship and the locks, despite the best efforts of the pilots and the men running the steam mules pulling the ship through. Victorious finally reached the far side of the canal on the 14th with a few more minor scrapes. Captain Mackintosh reported that the ship handled well at a reduced speed of two knots and that all damage to the ship and locks occurred when the ship was under the control of the pilots and steam mules. Ray Barker commented that a US Marine officer boarded the ship and presented a bill to Captain Mackintosh for the damages done to the canal. Mackintosh read the report then signed ‘LEASE LEND’ at the bottom and not another word was said about the damages again.[145] The crew were given two days leave to tour Panama City while the sponsons and projections were welded back on and some of the scrape damage was repaired. At the same time, Captain Mackintosh reported to Commander in chief Pacific (COMPAC) as commander of TF 22.[146]
    Victorious sailed for Pearl Harbor in the company of the three destroyers that had been escorting her since Norfolk: Converse, Pringle, and Bache. The first few days, while still within range of land based planes and shore installations, the ship carried out exercises in repelling E-boat attacks, AA firing of both the short and long range weapons. As well, dummy strafing and bombing runs were made on the ship. Night attacks were made to test the new type 272 radar and it was found that it could detect a single destroyer at 18,000 yards, which was 5,000 yards less than the new SG type used in the American ships.[147]
    During the trip to Pearl Harbor flying exercises were also continued to work up the pilots and the deck crews. Some 244 landings were carried out. Of these, five accidents occurred, two causing death and two causing fires to sweep over the flight deck. The first accident was an Avenger going off the side of the flight deck and the airscrew hit and killed a rating that had just been operating the crane. The second accident occurred much the same way, except that the Avenger’s tire cut open a fuel line and the spill quickly caught fire. The flames spread over the flight deck, and down the side, causing two of the ship’s wooden boats to catch fire, as well as timber stowed for emergency repairs. The flames and the heat went down into the venting system and caused the ducts to bubble and blacken as far down as the main deck. The fire was brought under control in fifteen minutes using foam. Unfortunately the crew of the plane were badly burned in their effort to escape and they died from their burns. After these two accidents the use of Avengers was suspended on the ship until the arrester system could be modified to handle the heavier weight. The arrestor system was supposed to centre a plane that landed off centre, as these two planes did. But the weight of the Avenger played out the wires and not enough tension could be applied to straighten the plane. The Martlets had to now fly A/S patrols now as well providing CAP for the task force.[148]
    While en route to Pearl Harbor, the crew of Victorious saw the efficiency of the USN in the treatment and concern for the men that served. A case of diphtheria aboard Victorious exhausted the supplies of serum on the ship and her escorts; radio silence was broken because of the fear of an epidemic among the crew. A Liberator dropped a waterproof case of serum in front of the screen, and the man was saved. The ship was 300 miles away from the closest land and the man would surely have perished before the ship had made a port.[149]

    On 4 March Victorious launched the majority of her planes 300 miles from Pearl Harbor, so they could land at the airfields of Oahu. The pilots were to be given advanced training in combat methods used in the Pacific. The ship berthed at Ford Island on the 4th of March. The deck party was still improving in their time; another minute and a half was dropped in the time of launching the planes.[150]
    Commander Mitchell, the chief USN liaison officer on board Victorious, presented a report of his observations of the voyage from Norfolk to Pearl Harbor. Along with his observations and criticisms, Mitchell suggested remedies to help Victorious to integrate even more efficiently into a USN task force. This report was submitted to Captain Mackintosh, who forwarded it to his superiors in the Admiralty with his own comments, reservations and suggestions to smoothly enmesh Victorious in the task force system. The first item on the agenda was the strengthening of the current British arrestor system or the installation of a US- type arrestor gear into the ship to enable her to effectively handle the Avengers. He suggested that if neither of these were possible that the ship be used as a fighter carrier. The Martlet(4F4) had no difficulties in landing and restricting her aircraft to fighters would allow for more planes to be stored aboard the carrier. Mitchell had some reservations about the design of the ship as well. Less aviation fuel storage would cause the ship to be refuelled more often than a USN carrier. The lifts were a tight squeeze for the larger Avenger, and time had to be taken to make sure the plane was in the lift just right to enable it to be raised or lowered; this time was precious in the big carrier battles of the Pacific. He also found the repair facilities in the ship to be inadequate to handle the number of aircraft embarked. There was no direct communication between a deck officer and the hangar, and the loud speaker system could not be heard over the warming up of the engines, so no last minute changes could be affected in emergencies. A major safety hazard of the ship was the steel floor of the deck and hangar, which would become extremely slippery with a bit of water and oil, which was always present, for it leaked out of the exhaust of the planes as they warmed up. The armoured hangar prevented the warming up of a second strike in the hangar due to a lack of vents, thus severely slowing the time between a first and second wave of a strike. The ship was ill equipped with portable CO2 fire extinguishers, and had no crash dollies, which could have prevented a lot of the fire damage done to the ship during two of the crashes during the exercises.[151]
    Captain Mackintosh agreed with some of the suggestions and observations made by Mitchell. He agreed that the problem of Avenger and the arresting wires had to be fixed if the plane was to be used effectively, but Mackintosh had some reservations about Victorious being used as a fighter carrier. He wanted Avengers to carryout A/S patrols
    and reconnaissance in case the two carriers were separated. He was also worried that the supply of Martlets in the US was inadequate to fully equip Victorious. The problem of fuel storage he deemed to be a question of time. The suggested remedy of converting an oil storage tank by inserting an aviation fuel tank would prove time consuming and the rise in storage would not justify the amount of time taken to fit the tank.[152]
    The time spent at Pearl Harbor was used to add even more AA armaments to the ship: 15 and 20 millimetre guns were added in every available space, as well as twin 40 millimetre gun emplacements that once more required the search lights to be moved and quadruple 40 millimetre emplacements installed in front of the seaplane cranes. Mark 14 sights were installed in all the Oerlikons and the six two pounder pompoms. The problem of the arrester wires was addressed by installing an US type system with two wires before the number one wire.[153] The original equipment was modified to reduce the amount of pull out that occurred when the plane’s hook caught the wire. A great benefit was the installation of air conditioning in the Fighter Direction Office. Another complaint of Mitchell’s was remedied as well; a new loud hailer system was installed, as well as hinged plates over various indents in the flight deck to allow for a smoother surface, and a new deck landing officers platform.[154]
    Captain Mackintosh also had members of the USN Fire Prevention Board to assess the ship and come up with suggestions to make it less fire-friendly. They suggested that all the flammable paint be removed from the hangar and that it be repainted with a non-flammable paint as well as removing all the carpet and rugs from the crew quarters.[155]
    The time spent at Pearl Harbor was used to give the plots advanced training as mentioned above. The pilots of 832 Squadron, flying the Avenger, were trained in air light attacks using cameras, runner torpedo attacks, navigation exercises, glide bombing, anti-submarine, night formation, high wind finding, and dummy carrier landings. The pilots in the fighter squadrons 882, 896, and 898 underwent training in air firing, section and firing drills, interception exercises, air strike escort and dummy deck landings. Some of these men were new to most of these procedures as they were picked up and formed into squadrons from the US training bases that were set up to train FAA pilots to fly the Martlet and Avenger. The results of these training exercises were nonetheless favourable, and even the experienced crews learned invaluable lessons. The pilots were not the only members of Victorious’ crew to receive training while at Pearl Harbor. Gunnery officers and crew were sent for instruction at the Gunnery School and various officers and ratings were sent to the Fire Fighting School to be trained in USN techniques.[156]
    Ray Barker remembers the time spent at Pearl Harbor as a great adventure. He and others explored the islands of Hawaii, though there was much grumbling about the 6 pm curfew imposed on all military personnel. The people of the island, both military and civilian, were helpful and generous and made sure the crew were well entertained. Barker also recalled the changes made to the ship while at port, including the removal of rugs and carpets and repainting most of the interior with a non inflammable paint. The exterior of the ship was also painted the blue grey favoured by the USN. The final addition to the ship, that he considered truly made Victorious into a USN ship, was the installation of three ice cream machines and a coca-cola machine. The crew adopted the work dress of the USN, a request made by Commander Ross earlier in the voyage. The new dress of denim shirts and pants replaced the RN’s traditional tropical whites.[157]
    The time after the refit at Pearl Harbor was spent working up the ship and testing the new arrestor system and guns. Admiral Nimitz made an inspection of the ship and addressed the crew on 29 April. After storing and fuelling, the ship set sail on 8 May in the company of the battleship North Carolina and three destroyers and headed for Nouméa. On board the ship were thirty-six Martlets and sixteen Avengers. A reserve pool of two pilots and four observers was left at Maui, soon to be joined by another nine pilots who were training stateside.[158]

    After nine days at sea the group reached Nouméa on 17 May. While in transit the group had made some submarine contacts that resulted in evasive manoeuvres, but nothing came of the contacts. The ship crossed the international dateline on the 13th and finally joined the fleet of the South Pacific, eight months after the first request for aide was made. Captain Mackintosh reported to Admiral Halsey and Admiral Ramsey upon arriving in port.[159]
    Over the next three months Victorious became an invaluable asset to the USN. She helped patrol the Coral Sea and her added strength allowed the attack on New Georgia to proceed. She steamed over 23,000 miles, carried out a total of 2,101 deck landings in the American system and was ready and eager to check any Japanese aggression. With only twenty-three hours in Nouméa, and refuelling, Victorious, Saratoga (the remaining USN carrier in the Pacific) and the entire fleet at Nouméa were called out to sweep the Coral Sea in response to reports that the Japanese fleet had left harbour and headed north. The fleet was called out to meet the enemy in case the Japanese group turned south. The mission threw Victorious into the middle of a combined USN operation with little warning or training for work in a combined task force. Victorious provided CAP and flew A/S patrols for the task force. When the threat never materialized the task force separated into two groups for interception and strike exercises. The carriers were put into the centre of a tight circle configuration with a space of 2,000 yards between Victorious and her escorting battleship. The escort anticipated the movements of the carrier and reacted to keep a rigid cordon around the ship. Captain Mackintosh was worried that the escort might misread or make a mistake in reacting to the manoeuvres of Victorious, with only 2,000 yards separating the ships a serious collision could occur. He suggested the use of a flag to signal the intentions to the escort so no mistakes could be made. The task force returned to Nouméa on 24 May.[160]
    Over the next few days Captain Mackintosh, with some of his officers and ratings, was invited aboard Saratoga by Admiral Ramsey to observe the operations of the ship. Overall Mackintosh was impressed with the handling of Saratoga and the strict deck drill
    when landing on and flying off of aircraft. He found the pilots to be better trained due to their longer training period and their dive bombing techniques to be all but unstoppable by even the most proficient of AA fire when they made their dive. Mackintosh remarked also that the RN torpedo and its use were superior to the USN, as was fighter direction used in the RN due to the four channel wireless in use at the time.[161] The RN torpedo and its use were superior mainly because this was the main weapon of the FAA. The war in the European Theatre was two years older than that in the Pacific and the defects that were being discovered in the USN’s torpedo were long discovered and fixed in the Atlantic. The FAA’s superior employment of the torpedo came from the refusal of the RAF to develop a dive bombing sight in the inter-war period. The FAA made do with what they had and accomplished such feats as the attack on Taranto. As mentioned above, the FDO was efficiently laid out to provide a quick and efficient means to coordinate the CAP. The four channel wireless system allowed a single radio channel to be dedicated to radar sightings of incoming planes and a second channel to be dedicated to fleet sightings, this system allowed for efficient dissemination of sightings to fighters in the CAP. The USN system relied heavily on radio silence due to surprise being of utmost importance in carrier-to-carrier battles and because the Japanese had an efficient radio direction finding system. This forced the USN to use different radio sets and many different radar sets within the carrier to detect the enemy, and use VHF sets that were restricted to a line-of-sight radius. Once a raid was detected the entire system was switched to a medium frequency, all of which was communicated through radio transmissions. The problem with the system was that other radio traffic was also transmitted over the same frequencies of the two sets, causing a lot of traffic over one channel.[162]
    Captain Mackintosh was soon able to return the favour and invited Admiral Ramsey and Captain Mulliner, captain of Saratoga, along with various other officers on a tour that lasted from the 1-3 of June. They observed gunnery and flying exercises. On 3 June an interception exercise was carried out. Planes from Saratoga launched a main attack exercise against the Victorious. Victorious launched twenty-six Martlets to intercept the attack and were successful. The gunnery exercises were not as successful, but this was not the fault of Victorious’ gunners, for the destroyers in the screen were so accurate in their fire that Mackintosh had to signal them to ‘give Victorious a chance.’[163]

    There were two shortages of note experienced by Victorious during her time in Nouméa. The first was a shortage of pilots and planes. The ship experienced a shortage of Martlets, and the reserve of planes that were being ferried to Pearl Harbor was destroyed stateside in a hurricane. Others were found and Victorious was brought up to full strength, but with only one plane left in reserve. The USN offered to loan the ship Wildcats until Martlets could be found. These were basically the same plane, but the Martlet had RN modifications. Unfortunately Wildcats were also in short supply in the Pacific. The second shortage was rum. The ship ran out twice, something unheard of in the annals of the Royal Navy. The USN was a ‘dry’ service and thus unable to provide rum from their vast supply network. Stocks were located in Norfolk to prevent this from happening on the East coast, and other stocks were sent to Hawaii, but another source had to be found. Fortunately another navy in the Pacific also believed in issuing rum to the men. The Royal Australian Navy came through in the pinch and Victorious never suffered another shortage.[164]
    The period at Nouméa was one of countless exercises. Once a day, while out at sea, Victorious carried out interception exercises. Captain Mackintosh saw this as a great training benefit to the whole crew of the ship and of the screen. These exercises mobilized the entire task force for the launching of the planes, thus giving the carrier and the ships of the screen practice in manoeuvring together as a group to launch and recover aircraft. The deck and hangar parties worked to prepare the planes for launching and storing them below after recovering them. The pilots and the fighter direction staff worked to intercept the incoming planes. Overall this was a great exercise that worked out the entire taskforce.[165]
    On 18 June Victorious and Saratoga left Nouméa to carry out night flying exercises. During these one of Saratoga’s planes had to land on board Victorious soon after takeoff. The pilot made the landing with little difficulty. The other forty-three planes launched from Saratoga without a problem. The Saratoga and the rest of the task force burned red truck lights to aide the pilots with takeoff and landings. This exercise also showed the efficiency of Saratoga when she launched a second wave of planes. These were removed from the hangar, fuelled, readied and launched with an hour and forty-five minutes. While out on this exercise the two carriers practiced recovering the other’s planes for future emergencies. Twelve Wildcats, eight Avengers, six Dauntlesses landed on Victorious with no problems. With this the exercise concluded and the task force returned to harbour on 20 June.[166]
    Seven days later Victorious, as a member of TF 36.3, had her second chance to engage the enemy. The task force under Admiral Ramsey was sent out to cover the landings on the island of New Georgia. Their mission was to run interference with any Imperial Japanese Navy forces that sought to prevent the landings as well as to provide air cover for the forces as they went ashore. For the mission Saratoga would shoulder the responsibility of flying the anti-submarine patrols and strikes, while Victorious provided the CAP and fighter escorts for the strike force. Victorious was therefore designated the fighter direction controller for the mission. The two ships exchanged planes for this mission: sixteen Avengers from 832 squadron went to Saratoga and were exchanged for twenty-four Wildcats. This gave Saratoga a compliment of thirty-six Dauntlesses, and thirty-six Avengers plus twelve Wildcats which were kept back to provide a CAP for the ship and because Victorious could not carry any more planes. Victorious nonetheless now carried sixty fighters, nearly double her original designed capacity. There was an agreement that should the ships separate, Victorious’ Avengers would return to her. Besides the exchange of planes and pilots, maintenance crews went with their planes to continue to care for them as well.[167]
    The operation required the taskforce to patrol in a triangular pattern defined by points Able, Dog, and George. The fighter patrols began an hour and a half after dawn and lasted until a half hour before dusk: these two to two and a half hour patrols were flown by twenty-four planes of the deck park. These patrols required the utmost of the deck party’s endurance and stamina. The planes had to be shifted and parked five times a day as well as dealing with any emergency landings from both carriers’ compliments. The considerable amount of time learning the USN system of landings and signals paid off during this mission. The pilots that were exchanged experienced no difficulty in operating on the opposite carrier.[168]
    The New Georgia mission lasted twenty-eight days, a new record for the RN. The ship was refuelled not only with oil for the ship, but also aviation fuel at sea by the oiler Kaskaskia, and received mail sent from Britain by air mail twenty-one days earlier. Ray Barker also seemed to think that ice cream was also pumped into the ship’s stores as well.[169] The ship had only one shortage during the entire trip and that was potatoes. The fresh stores ran out and they appealed to Saratoga for help. An Avenger was sent to Victorious marked ‘Spud Express’ in chalk along the side of the plane. Their cargo was 800 pounds of dehydrated potatoes and a chef to acquaint Victorious’ kitchen crew with their preparation. The only other facility lacking in Victorious was a laundry. With twenty-eight straight days at sea there was no chance to get their uniforms cleaned, a duty that the RN performed on shore, but the prolonged nature of their mission prevented this. The addition of a laundry was suggested by Mackintosh for any ship that was sent to the Pacific in the future, as well as in any ship designed hence forth. The shortage of potatoes and lack of laundry facilities aboard ships of the RN showed their reliance on the international network of naval bases. Unlike the USN, the RN was always within easy reach of a base when steaming in the Atlantic and Mediterranean Oceans, but in the Pacific Ocean with its vast spaces and bases so spread out the ships of the USN had to be more self sufficient.[170]

    TF 36.3 returned to Nouméa having only sighted the enemy once, and that was a Dauntless from the Saratoga. As mentioned above the Victorious was at sea for twenty-eight consecutive days and had carried out 614 deck landings with only eight accidents, an impressive record when compared to the other operations Victorious had been involved with. Operation Torch which lasted twenty-two days and had 233 landings with six accidents; the operation in the Pacific had a better percentage of 1.3%. The crew and the machinery of the ship performed superbly with no problems developing under the prolonged pressure of the mission. Admiral Ramsey gave a heart felt address to the crew after the mission before he was to be transferred to a post stateside. His remarks were well accepted by the crew and they gave him three cheers.[171]

  3. #3

    USS Robin part 3

    further

    With the end of the mission in the Coral Sea, Victorious’ time in the Pacific had come to an end. The new USN carriers of the Essex class were ready to head into the Pacific theatre and the presence of Victorious was no longer needed. On the 31 July the ship began her first leg of the long journey home. The battleship Indiana and three destroyers accompanied Victorious to Pearl Harbor. Victorious left behind eleven Avengers in Nouméa for replacements, leaving her with only six Avengers and thirty-six Martlets for the voyage home. The Avengers were needed to fly A/S patrols for the group while in transit. The Martlets helped with these patrols when the Avengers became over worked. The task force reached Pearl Harbor on 9 August with no incidents.[172]
    There the ship joined the new USN carriers in harbour, three heavy carriers, three light and two escort carriers. Truly the services of Victorious were no longer needed in the Pacific, for these carriers had finished their work up periods and were ready to join the fight against the ever shrinking Japanese Navy.[173]
    While at Pearl Harbor the ship was also readied once again for the transfer through Panama Canal. Once more the projections were removed. Ready to continue on to the next point in the journey home Victorious left Pearl Harbor on 11August. She received a great send off; three navy bands played as she steamed out. Victorious left behind the thirty-three USN officers and ratings who had served aboard the ship for the months she was on loan, but another eighty-five US officers had joined the ship to be transferred to California as well as two Japanese prisoners of war. Ironically this was the only contact with the enemy that Victorious had. In farewell and thanks Nimitz sent the ship a signal stating:
    In saying farewell I regret that you did not have an opportunity to show your fighting efficiency in combat. On behalf of your Pacfleet shipmates I thank you for your efficient services and wish you and your ship the best of fortune.[174]
    Victorious made San Diego on 18 August, after six days in transit. From there she carried on to Balboa escorted by two new destroyers. Victorious took the time to run many exercises for the benefit of the destroyers to prepare them to work in the Pacific. On the 26 August the group arrived at the Pacific end of the canal, and made a quick passage through. Once again there was a minimal amount of scraping damage suffered by the ship and the canal. This time the damage was caused by a strong wind. Norfolk was made on the 1 September.[175]

    During this passage, as with all other periods at sea, the ship conducted exercises for the pilots and the crew. When planes could be provided by shore installations interception exercises were carried out. Upon entering or leaving a harbour a towed target was provided for AA practice, showing the USN dedication to providing training to their ships and crew for the war. The stay at Norfolk allowed for the projections to be replaced and damages repaired. A type SG radar system was installed. The planes used in the Pacific were all replaced with new planes.[176]
    Victorious left Norfolk on 16 September1943 after fourteen days in dock. Her next destination was Argentia, Newfoundland, once more under the protection of three RN destroyers. The new SG radar proved itself on the final leg of the journey home. Heavy fog outside of Argentia, which usually made passage difficult and stressful to the bridge crew, was found less so with the new radar to aide them in the passage. The fog and later a heavy swell unfortunately curbed the A/S patrols carried out by the planes on the ship. On 24 September these conditions had to be overcome because the group were passing through the heavy U-boat concentrations of the mid-Atlantic. One of the Martlets crashed into the ocean when it went over the side upon landing. Fortunately the destroyer Opportune was able to rescue the rookie pilot. Victorious finally docked at Liverpool on 27 September, thus ending her adventure as the USS Robin and her first foray into the Pacific.[177]
    From the beginning of the mission in December 1942, Victorious sailed 33,388 miles in the last four months, of these over 23,000 in the last two. The ship carried out a total of 2,101 deck landings in the American system. The ship had set a RN record of 28 continuous days at sea, had a run in with dehydrated potatoes, and played a lot of deck hockey, the most popular form of entertainment for the crew. The ship carried almost twice the number of planes that it was designed for due to the deck park and carried an extra 600 personnel on board making for very tight quarters. The AA armaments were almost tripled in some calibres. Captain Mackintosh had continually reported that the US civilians and military were very helpful and their hospitality was unparalleled. No enemy was sighted.

    Table of Contents Next Chapter
    [126]1435A (December) Admiralty to BAD, Hush Most Secret Files, Naval Historical Branch, London.
    [127] 2227 (December) Admiralty to BAD and 21221Z(December) BAD to Admiralty, Hush Most Secret Files, Naval Historical Branch, London.
    [128] Barker, 79.
    [129] Barker, 79-78.
    [130] Barker, 79-80.
    [131] Barker, 80-81.
    [132] The Avenger was renamed the Tarpon when it was adopted by the RN though the name was not popularly used in the RN. For the purpose of this thesis I will refer to them as Avengers.
    [133] Barker, 81-82.
    [134] ADM 199/534. This file contains the entire reports and proceedings for the months that Victorious was with the USN.
    [135] Lt. Commander Michael Apps, Send Her Victorious, (London: William Kimber, 1971)116.
    [136] ADM 199/534
    [137] Apps 115-116.
    [138] ADM 199/534.
    [139] ADM 199/534.
    [140] ADM 199/534.
    [141] ADM 199/534.
    [142] ADM 199/534.
    [143] ADM 199/534.
    [144] Barker, 89.
    [145] Barker, 91.
    [146] ADM 199/534.
    [147] ADM 199/534.
    [148] ADM 199/534.
    [149] ADM 199/534.
    [150] ADM 199/534.
    [151] ADM 199/534.
    [152] ADM 199/534.
    [153] The addition of the extra wires allowed landing planes to catch wires sooner. The American system was calibrated to hold the weight of the Avenger and could bring them to a stop before the crash barrier. The British system as mentioned above could not handle the weight, and led to a complex system of dropping the first crash barrier and raising the second or third barrier as the plane caught the first wire. This system put considerable strain on the batsman and the crash barrier operators, for if a plane missed the first wire it could not be stopped before the first barrier.
    [154] ADM 199/534.
    [155] ADM 199/534.
    [156] ADM 199/534.
    [157] Barker, 91-95.
    [158] ADM 199/534.
    [159] ADM 199/534.
    [160] ADM 199/234.
    [161] ADM 199/534.
    [162] Norman Friedman, British Carrier Aviation: The Evolution of the Ships and Their Aircraft, (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press 1988) n212.
    [163] ADM 199/534.
    [164] ADM 199/534.
    [165] ADM 199/534.
    [166] ADM 199/534.
    [167] ADM 199/534.
    [168] ADM 199/534.
    [169] Barker 99.
    [170] ADM 199/534.
    [171] ADM 199/534.
    [172] ADM 199/534.
    [173] ADM 199/534.
    [174] ADM 199/534.
    [175] ADM 199/534.





    [176] ADM 199/534. Chapter 5
    Lessons learned and Conclusion

    With an insider’s view of cutting edge of modern naval warfare, Captain Mackintosh was able to relate to the Admiralty how the USN operated, and what lessons if any the RN could learn and incorporate into the RN doctrine. The Victorious had used different techniques in deck landings, carried a deck park, used and observed the modern radar and gunnery of the USN, used a different screening method in repelling attackers from the air and a different refuelling system at sea. Curiously, few of these developments were adopted by the RN before the end of the war.[178]
    The use of a deck park, a practice that both the USN and the Imperial Japanese Navy found extremely useful in providing for an expanded plane capacity, was not adopted by the RN until after the war and when newly designed ships allowed for expanded crew quarters. In the previous chapter it was noted that the crew capacity of Victorious was passed by almost 600 men during the Pacific excursion. Most of these were the pilots, deck party and maintenance ratings needed to care for and fly the
    expanded allocation of planes. The Admiralty decided that the use of a deck park could only be carried out during special operations due to the stress the extra manpower put on the stores and space within existing British carriers. Further, none of the British carriers designed during the war made allowance for this extra capacity. It must be noted that the RN continued to design their ships to operate mainly in the Atlantic Ocean, where storms, as seen in previous chapters, could wreak havoc with any plane on the deck, and the loss of an entire deck park would be extremely costly. The adoption of the USN signal and landing system was also never seriously considered. According to ADM 199/534 USN observers of the RN system admitted to its superiority over the USN system. There was a move for the USN to adopt this system, but it would have to wait until after the war.[179]
    The admitted American superiority in the use of radar and their more modern types was addressed in comments to Captain Mackintosh’s final report. The Australian Navy also was complaining about this superiority as well. The Admiralty felt that Britain was not behind in technology, but in getting it built and installed in the ships. The United States, with their vast pool of manpower and their relative new entry into the war, were able to install the most recent technology quickly into the frontline ships. The RN and Britain had been fighting a war for over two years by the time the US joined in. Britain’s manpower was stretched to its limits. Forced to resort to conscription in effort to fill any vacancy, the RN was using men that they would never have dreamed of using before the start of WW II. The problem of the RN inferiority of gunnery equipment was not addressed by the end of the war, as seen by the condition of the British Pacific Fleet (BPF).[180]
    The BPF went to the Pacific as an independent force, but under the overall command of the USN. The administration and logistics of the fleet were supposed to rely solely on British resources, but unofficial USN support allowed the BPF to continue to operate in the area. The BPF followed the RN landing system, but adopted USN’s fleet system, though in weaker numbers of ships and planes. Also unlike the earlier mission of Victorious the BPF was outfitted with FAA planes made up of six different types. Each carrier carried a specific type of plane. This severely hampered repair and replacement efforts. The BPF was under-gunned for the Pacific Theatre; this was due to the reliance on the 20 mm AA weapons that proved ineffective against the determined efforts of the kamikaze pilots of Japan. AA gunnery accuracy had atrophied due to lack of practice and need in the European theatre due to Allied air superiority. Also mentioned above, the radar systems of the RN were outdated and all agreed that there were not enough in ships in the defensive screen. When the war had ended in 1945 the BPF helped to invade Okinawa as well as raid the Japanese main islands and was preparing for the final invasion of the Kyushu, to end the war. It had also provided a valuable boost to USN morale by proving that the RN was ready to fight alongside her allies.[181]
    Many of the observations made by Captain Mackintosh were nonetheless acted upon when the war was over. Many of these dealt with the welfare of the crew. The use of ice cream, efficient mail service and other morale boosters such as movies, were instituted after 1945 by Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, who had commanded of the British Pacific Fleet in 1944-1945. Like Mackintosh, he observed the marked difference between the morale of the USN and the RN. He realized, especially when the RN needed to attract and retain its sailors, that a change had to be made to make the Navy a more attractive career, and when he became First Sea Lord, he set out to change the RN to take more regard for the state and welfare of its men.[182]
    On the flipside of the equation, what did the USN take away from this encounter? They saw the British carrier design as inferior. The armoured hangar for example, caused a reduction in carrying capacity and the enclosed sides prevented the warm-up of planes before takeoff, causing decreased efficiency and time between launching of successive waves of attack planes. Not until the British Pacific Fleet came under kamikaze attacks did the advantages of the armoured hangar prove itself. Damage that incapacitated USN carriers was shrugged off by RN carriers or quickly repaired, and operations were resumed. The main contribution made to the USN during Victorious’ mission was the sharing of their improved Fighter Direction Office.
    The British Fighter Direction Office was the major RN innovation the USN was most interested in. The design and layout were later incorporated in the USN Command Information System (CIC). The Fighter Direction Office (FDO) was updated to handle the landings of Operation Torch. The design of the room was based on years of RN and Royal Air Force (RAF) co-operation in standardization of a fighter control room that would allow the ship to direct planes of both services. The history of the FDO in RN ships was ably addressed by an internal paper written by Commander D.L. Pollack. The layout of the room allowed for a Senior FDO officer to oversee the entire operation of the office. A main air display plot with an officer and ratings was engaged exclusively in plotting and filtering the course of any incoming enemy planes. The information was passed on to two intercept positions at which two officers assigned fighters to engage the incoming planes. This system was the basis of all later systems, though improvements
    were made by both the USN and RN throughout the rest of the war. Examples of his were the installation of air conditioning for the office, the installation of a vertical plot board to allow easier access to the board as well as cutting down congestion within the room, and always the inclusion of better radar systems.
    Ray Barker in the conclusion of his chapter on the mission to the Pacific stated that, “There was no doubt that not all of the US Navy senior officers wanted us or even judged us to be capable of fighting alongside them. All the crew, and our Captain in particular, demonstrated our efficiency and capability. Even the worst critics acknowledged we were as good as their best.”[183]
    Though Victorious saw no combat she served a useful role in the Pacific. She helped to fill a large gap in the defensive and offensive power of the USN. The Japanese had an impressive carrier advantage over the USN, even with the aide of the British. The fact that the IJN chose not to attack any of the American positions in the Pacific showed that the IJN was unaware of its advantage. Another factorwas that the damage sustained in the carrier battles of the Pacific had taken their toll on the IJN as well. Without Victorious the invasion of New Georgia would not have been possible and the mission could have been under a serious threat if the IJN had chosen to interfere with only the Saratoga there to try and stop them. The lack of combat did not lessen the effect of the presence of the ship in the Pacific. The men and local commanders of South West Pacific greatly appreciated their efforts. In the end, the men had proven that they too were equal to anything that occurred in the Pacific. For action the ship would have to wait until her return to the Pacific in 1944 to prove her battle prowess. Upon her return Victorious finally engaged the enemy, launching raids against the oil fields of Sumatra, aiding in the invasion of Okinawa and providing a part of the plan for the invasion of the Japanese Islands.
    This version of the story of Victorious picked up where Hone, Friedman, and Mandeles left off in their book American & British Aircraft Carrier Development 1919-1941. More than an observer, Victorious was a participant in the battles and this allowed Mackintosh to observe how a RN carrier and crew could adapt and use the USN methods. When all was said and done both the RN and the USN agreed that in time of war no radical changes to doctrine could be introduced when numerous engagements with the enemy prevented trials and training from being carried out; better to go with the system you know.
    This thesis set out to examine the complete story behind the assignment of HMS Victorious to the USN and the efforts that the crew and pilots made to adapt to a new system of carrier doctrine in order to aide their ally in their time of need. It has also examined what lessons were learned from this exchange and asked as well were they implemented during the war. Though there are books dedicated to the history of Victorious, and the development and use of carriers during the war, this period when addressed in the literature was glossed over, or never mentioned. The account of what caused the ship to be sent to the Pacific and how the ship and crew were trained for this mission were never all included in a single account. In the end the some of the observations and recommendations that were made by both sides could not be implemented right away due to the war. Others had to be proven under battle conditions, something that Victorious never experienced during her first mission to the Pacific. Nevertheless, what happened when Victorious joined the fleet at Nouméa was a
    seamless integration into the USN; Victorious and USS Saratoga were able to operate each other’s planes without mishap. Victorious had provided a valuable service to the USN at a time when they were out numbered four carriers to one.


    Table of Contents
    [178] For a report of Captain Mackintosh’s general impressions of the USN see Appendix 2.
    [179] ADM 199/534.
    [180] ADM 1/13385.
    [181] H.P. Willmott, “Just Being There; An examination of the Record, Problems and Achievement of the British Pacific Fleet in the Course of its Operations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans Between November 1944 and September 1945” essay submitted for the Sir Julian Corbett Prize in Modern Naval History 1986, 44-46, personal copy.
    [182]Willmott, 42-44.
    [183]Ray Barker, Victorious the World Over, (Upton upon Severn: Square One Publications 1991) 106.
    [177] ADM 199/534.


    ADM 1/13385
    Subject: GENERAL IMPRESSIONS OF THE UNITED STATES FLEET
    From: THE COMMANDING OFFICER, H.M.S. “VICTORIOUS”
    Date: 1ST. SEPTEMBER, 1943
    To: THE SECRETARY OF THE ADMIRALTY
    (Copy to: British Admiralty Maintenance Representative).

    “Victorious served with the United States Fleet for eight months.

    1. We arrived at NORFOLK, Va., on 1st. January, 1943, were there for five weeks, at Pearl Harbor for two months and operated from NOUMEA, New Caledonia for 2 ½, months, returning to NORFOLK, Va., on 1st. September, 1943 via Pearl Harbor and San Diego.


    2. I have sent in reports on our experiences of American Carriers, Fighter Direction, Radar Organization of Naval Air Bases, Navy Yard amenities, Torpedoes, American system of deck landing, Notes on Operations by United States Naval Aircraft, Meteorology, and cruising Dispositions in use in the United States South West Pacific Fleet etc., but it was thought that my general views on the United States Fleet might be of interest to their Lordships.


    Fleet Work
    3. There is no doubt that the American Pacific Fleet is very efficient and there is a fine spirit among the officers and men. Earlier in the year we found that units did not have the same standard of common doctrine as ourselves, as each Task Force had its own orders which varied in a number of details. Units of a Task Force worked very well together but I felt that odd units joining up could not take their place so easily as in our fleet. However, this is well realized and standard cruising orders which included tactical instructions have recently come into force for the whole Pacific Fleet.
    4. Aircraft carriers are the core of the Fleet and manoeuvring is done on the principle that “a carrier can do no wrong”. When flying is taking place, the screen manoeuvre without signal except for the display of shapes (corresponding to our Aeroplane Flag) by the duty officer.
    5. In the event of an air attack, the carriers are screened by destroyers, AA Cruisers and Battleships, all on a 2000 yards circle, with the carrier in the centre. In fact, the Battleships become AA vessels and are unscreened. During AA attacks, with the Battleship steaming at high speed, the risk of a submarine attack is accepted. More and more short range weapons are being crammed into all types of ships. Battleships are surrendering their aircraft and catapults, and AA cruisers, two 5” turrets for 40 mm guns. Barrage from heavy guns would not be employed against aircraft as it would immobilize too many short range weapons.
    6. There is not quite the same polish in Fleet Work as in our fleet: e.g. precision in taking station, etc., but this may be due to the fact that navigation is not such a specialty as with us.
    7. The fleet is well equipped for long periods at sea. Oilers whose maximum speed is 20 knots can steam with the Fleet and are well armed with AA guns and radar, and carry out AA practices at sea with the other units. A cruiser oiled from Starboard Side of an oiler at sea, while Victorious was doing the same on the port side.
    8. Destroyers are handled well and are frequently required to transfer personnel, mails and stores to heavy ships at sea. Incidentally, mails, which had only been posted in England 21 days previously, were transferred to Victorious in the Coral Sea via a destroyer, from an oiler, which speaks well for mail organization.

    Fleet Training
    9. The Americans are fully alive to the necessity for continual training and maximum opportunities are taken for carrying out practices. On leaving and entering harbour sleeve targets are invariably provided from shore. At Pearl Harbor, the target services were exceptional.
    10. At sea, carrier, battleship, and even destroyer’s aircraft, tow sleeves, and all ships carry out close range firing. Aircraft drop smoke floats and ships carry out snap firing at them. Full scale torpedo and dive-bombing and strafing attacks by aircraft are carried out which enables fighter direction and, avoiding action by the fleet to be practiced.
    Gunnery
    11. What little I have seen of the Surface Gunnery, it appears to be very good. I have seen a great many AA practices and there is no doubt that their ships are equipped with very good AA material and their shooting is of a very high order. On one occasion I had to tell my destroyer screen to cease fire as they were consistently shooting down sleeves before I could get a run. The 2,100 ton destroyers of the Fletcher Class are fine AA ships armed with 5-5” (remote power controlled), 8-40 mm and 10-20 mm guns. Their blind firing is developed to a higher degree than ours. The large number of officers who are appointed solely for gunnery duties in ships, account to some extent for the high gunnery standard. Saratoga has no less than 19 such officers.

    Naval Aviation
    12. The American Navy has operated aircraft on a much larger scale than us and under better weather conditions. The operation of aircraft from carriers is much ahead of ours and their carriers are better suited for it. Their flying drill is excellent.
    13. Their Torpedo Squadrons are not so highly trained as ours, nor is their torpedo so good. On the other hand, their dive-bombing is superb and they undoubtedly have a most potent weapon against enemy carriers. All pilots of Saratoga’s Fighter Squadrons operating from Victorious had a standard of flying ability as good as our best pilots.
    14. Their Fighter Direction was definitely behind ours, but they are very quickly catching up.
    15. Their standard of reconnaissance and reporting is not as high as ours as they do not have the highly trained observers that we do. However, with all the modern radio aids to navigation and fixing of aircraft from ships, combined with generally excellent visibility, the need of such training is not so great.
    16. Their Air Groups are well trained and are formed 5 to 6 months before the carrier commissions. After a period of service (between 6 and 9 months) the whole air group is relieved by another which has been training ashore, so that it may be at rest. Their training bases are very numerous and not yet overcrowded. They have a good reserve of man power, so they are not faced with our difficulties. We have very much envied their Naval Air Stations at Pearl Harbor and San Diego, where you could step ashore from the carrier alongside, and walk a couple of hundred yards to your aircraft
    in the hangar ashore; the aircraft being maintained by a service unit available for that purpose.
    17. The United States Navy are anxious to keep the Naval Aviation very much part of the fleet. The Naval Aviators do their general service time as executive officers and navigators of carriers. This would seem a pity, as the senior officers are rather apt to become entirely counter-minded and do not have the knowledge of handling of cruisers and destroyer screens as our Flag Officers do. The promotion of aviators is now very rapid, and Captains get Flag Rank with two years in.

    Officers
    18. Owing to the great expansion taking place in the United States Navy, a very large number of Reserve Officers are being taken in. Their course amounts to cramming but they are keen and work hard and it is surprising how they attain efficiency quickly. In destroyers where there are about 19 officers, most of them are reserve, but it does not take them long to get good gunnery results. Several of our escorts on passage were newly commissioned, so I had a good opportunity of judging their progress. Their aviators are a little older than ours and seem more mature and on a whole, I would say their average physique is above ours.
    19. As officers change from what we consider one specialist appointment to another they have wider experience. In order to be able to operate in this system they have to work hard and study, and on the whole I consider that the United States Navy Officer is more highly educated in the general naval subjects and technicalities than ours. For instance, I was surprised that the officer detailed as Secondary Gunnery Officer of “Saratoga” was able to comment very technically on our gunnery arrangements. Their sense of security is not at all well developed.
    20. Ashore they have not got the same reserve and dignity that ours have and at a party will let themselves go, but I think that is common for the American people in general, that they are a little more free and easy than we are.
    21. The Senior Officers are the first to admit that most of the traditions and general naval experience has been gained from us. I found them extremely easy to get on with. They were always most co-operative and I made many friends.
    22. I was always given command according to my seniority. Twice I commanded a Task Group for passage with one of their latest Battleships. On completion of one trip my subordinate in “North Carolina” was promoted to Rear Admiral! In the Task Force in which we were operating I was given command of one Task Group in the event of air attack, consisting of “Victorious” and two Battleships and destroyers or A.A. cruisers.

    Men
    23. All ratings are volunteers, so they have maintained a high standard. The discipline, although not on quite the same lines as ours, is definitely good.
    24. The men were very dependent on their movies. An excellent service exists and a new picture is shown every night in all ships, including destroyers. Incidentally their new facilities were much enjoyed by our men. Their feeding done on the cafeteria system is excellent, but mess life is non-existent. Ice cream is always available in large quantities and is much appreciated and is looked upon as essential.
    25. Ships are equipped with laundries and a special staff to run it and this undoubtedly helps to maintain their clean appearance. Their liberty men in white looks very smart.
    26. I was very pleasantly surprised how extremely well our men got on with the Americans. This was especially the case at Pearl Harbor and Noumea, where the American Sailors were most hospitable to ours, but perhaps a little less so at Norfolk where the greater number of Americans there had not seen active service. American civilians were also most hospitable to our men and on writing to thank them for their hospitality a large number wrote back to me telling me what a pleasure it was to entertain them.

    State of Ships
    27. Some of my officers and I went over 3 battleships, 4 carriers, 3 cruisers and 2 destroyers, and found that the ships were consistently clean and shipshape. This is due to the large number of men they carry, labour saving devices, and good organization.
    Another noticeable feature was the very rust free appearance of ships after a long time at sea. On arrival at Pearl Harbor after a trip of 4,600 miles “Indiana” in company with us looked as if she had just painted ship. This may be due to their ships being built in better weather conditions than ours, perhaps having better pickled plates and more attention to initial undercoating when ships are built and use of spray painting which is so much quicker, that advantage can be taken of fine weather to paint ship.

    Radar
    28. The Americans set great store on their radar and are anxious to exploit their great advantages over the Japanese in this respect. All carriers have two aircraft warning sets and all ships down to and including destroyers have surface warning sets with several remote plan indicators. Their use of radar for blind firing against surface and air targets appears to be well ahead of what was fitted in our ship when we left the United Kingdom in December 1942.

    Engine Room Department
    29. The types of main machinery and boilers and their arrangement appears to have been largely standardised in the newer ships. Engine-rooms and boiler-rooms in cruisers and destroyers being miniatures of those in aircraft carriers. This must be an advantage from the point of view of training enormous numbers of new engineering personnel.
    A difference was seen in the battleships, where, in order to reduce the length of machinery space, two boilers of each unit are placed alongside the engines of that unit in the same space.
    The short lengths of main steam pipes, none of which pierced any, and the absence of inter-space telegraph or telephone communications were attractive.

    Navy Yards
    30. The Navy Yard officials are all naval officers. Their attitude was “What work I can we do” as opposed to “What work can we cut down”. All they asked was evidence of a approval from the Admiralty for any Alterations and Additions proposed. As one instance this enabled me to get equipped with 45 extra short range guns just for the asking, besides a great many other items, a large number of which were actually proposed by the United States Authorities.
    Men and material seemed unlimited and, by ‘sheer force of numbers’, they can get ships repaired in a very short time, provided jobs are strait forward and need mainly semi or unskilled labour.
    Owing to the enormous expansion of personnel however, there is a shortage of many types of skilled labour, resulting in many instances of inferior workmanship.
    It was nothing to find that a Chinese Electric Welder in Pearl Harbor, had been a grocers assistant in Honolulu two months previously.
    Their Navy Yards appeared to be extremely well organised. For instance, application was made to extend our Flight Deck at Norfolk: British Admiralty Maintenance Representative approved the next day and that evening a large amount of work was actually started on the job onboard, the planning work having already been done for the “Illustrious”.
    The planning departments organised jobs beforehand in great detail and with great efficiency.

    General
    31. I cannot speak to highly on the friendliness and assistance that was shown to us. Everyone from the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, downwards, was anxious to do all they could for us and I have never worked with any ship with such mutual cooperation as with Saratoga. For a 28 day sortie during the New Georgia operation, we were operating 24 of her fighters and she was operating all of our torpedo aircraft. There was never any difficulty at any time.
    To sum up, I would say that the Americans are building up a very powerful and efficient fleet, and there are many features in their service, which, at times, give them an advantage over us.
    I think Mr Sheehy did pretty well considering the lack of data available either side of the 'pond'.

    Hope this account will initiate some discussion.

    The picture of Victorious below, is of her as USS Robin. The deck park painting on the flight deck abaft the island is the give away

    regards Collin:ernae:

  4. #4
    Interesting thesis. The point that jumps at me the most is the remark about morale, I have always thought of the RN as a fined tuned service, very disciplined, but never thought morale was an issue during the war.

    Quite the difference in operations and needs between the Atlantic and Pacific, something one may not realize till you don't have clean laundry, but if you don't need a laundry on a ship why waste the space for it. Same goes for the deck park.

    Last thing that jumps out at me while I contemplate the rest of what I read, God Bless the Australian Navy :salute:

    Thanks for posting Collin, one of the best reads I've had in weeks.






  5. #5
    G2B, The thing to remember here is that the RN has been at war for 3 years, this has created shortages in man power and food. Most of the crews are now conscripts, rationing has reduced the availability of fresh food and fruit/veg. Indeed it became so bad that some Canadian crews mutinied.

    The other thing of interest was the American paint work on their ships, and the 'pickled' plates.

    Ships in the uk had to be quick in getting in and out of port or risk being bombed, not so for the American ports where dock workers could have more attention lavished upon them. And with no rationing or delays ship refits could go ahead without waiting for the air raid siren to go off and the rush to the shelters.

    Have to agree.....God Bless the Royal Australian Navy

    regards Collin:ernae:

  6. #6
    Thanks Collin!
    Great thesis. I had never read anything about this anywhere. Much like coverage of the BPF in 1945.

    After reading "Danger's Hour" (http://www.amazon.com/Dangers-Hour-B...9470154&sr=1-1) about the Bunker Hill and her near destruction by Kamikazes, and "Kamakaze" (http://www.amazon.com/Kamikaze-Colle...9470322&sr=1-2) , 2 views of the Kamikaze attacks, facts become apparent.

    The Achillies heels of the Essex Class, unarmored flight decks and poorly designed ventilation for engineering spaces below is apparent, as is superiority of the Brit carrier design after Kamikaze hits. The tradeoff was fewer aircraft carried.:salute:
    In time, enemies reveal themselves.

  7. #7
    Well that really puts it into perspective, I was aware of the shortages but never thought of it affecting the RN. Again never thought of being bombed in port or having to run for shelter when the alarms went off. I really hate to think how close Britain came to the edge, I remember my Aunt telling us about eating wood pulp as a type of porridge, I found this hard to believe until I started learning about history.

    It is interesting that the USN gave up armored decks for more aircraft, but I guess the need for aircraft outweighed the protection issue. Seems better torpedo protection would have been in order, that is until the Kamikaze's. Necessity dictates what is needed and while the RN probably could have used more planes the need for an armored deck seemed more important especially if you could get bombed in port or have plunging fire. I think the point I am trying to make here is If you have a stick for a weapon what is the best way to use it according to your need, do you sharpen it and throw it or use it like a club.


    With all that Rum onboard I would have thought the whole ship would be pickled.






  8. #8
    redriver6
    Guest
    its almost hard to believe that the USN went from 1 operational carrier in early 1943....or 2 including USS Robin....to this in little over a year...

    nice to know the RN had our back during the time it took to get these ships operational:salute:


  9. #9
    redriver6
    Guest
    Collin...are there any photographs of the a/c on board Victorious(Robin) during this time period...were they painted like US aircraft or did they have RN markings??

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by redriver6 View Post
    Collin...are there any photographs of the a/c on board Victorious(Robin) during this time period...were they painted like US aircraft or did they have RN markings??
    I have seen a couple, the aircraft were painted with stars instead of roundels, (we had to make allowance for the eyesight of the US Marine Air Corp even then):d.

    Below is a photo from the book "Anatomy of the ship .....Victorious".

    regards Collin:ernae:

  11. #11

    RN version of "Murderer's Row"

    Seen here at Manus...Victorious in the foreground, Illustrious upper right, brewery ship middle left (2 funnels and some happy sailors).

    regards Collin:ernae:

  12. #12
    RR6: Look here: http://wp.scn.ru/en/ww2/f/571/9/1

    also pickies below.

    ALL: YOU KNOW I HAVE 2 BUILD THAT BREWERY SHIP! Now to research exactly what they were brewing!Attachment 13176Attachment 13177Attachment 13178
    In time, enemies reveal themselves.

  13. #13
    I missed the point RR6, not sure about the "Robin" time frame, anyone else wit info?
    In time, enemies reveal themselves.

  14. #14
    redriver6
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by PSULLYKEYS View Post
    I missed the point RR6, not sure about the "Robin" time frame, anyone else wit info?
    yep thats what i was curious about....the 'Robin' time frame...

    and what did the Japanese think....did they realize it was a British carrier or did they think the US just pulled another carrier out of thin air????

    oh and one other question...whats a 'pickled plate'??

  15. #15
    If you look closely at the photo you will see that they are just white stars. The one's that Sully suggests are from 1945 BPF.

    Japs did know, but didn't have a fleet near enough to challenge.

    "Pickled plates", are what you eat yer chips off....or its a type of production of annealing metal while it is red hot to stop it corroding when it has cooled.
    This technique has been used for a couple of millenium whether it be bronze/brass/iron and later steel, it involves quenching the hot plate/object straight from the anvil into a bucket/vat of vinegar.

    regards Collin:ernae:

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