The Grasshoppers of
It was the second day of the invasion of Okinawa, April 2, 1945. The huge U.S. assault fleet lying five to ten miles off Okinawa’s Hagushi beaches in the East China Sea, was favored with another day of mild weather, according to naval historian Capt. Samuel E. Morison. There was a light offshore breeze and the typical early morning low clouds burned off by noon.
Just outside the massed transports and landing craft, a small task force of seven U.S. Navy escort carriers (CVE’s) was preparing to launch aircraft. But the scene on the decks of these small aircraft carriers would have amazed any salty carrier sailor. In place of the normal contingent of gull-winged Corsairs and imposing Avenger torpedo bombers, the decks of these ships held a unique fleet of fabric-covered, high-winged light planes, their wooden propellers turning in the pale sunlight; a scene reminiscent of the earliest days of carrier
The USS Natoma Bay
and USS Suwanee, along with five other “jeep” carriers, turned into the rising breeze and gathering white caps to launch the airplanes of three U.S. Marine Observation Squadrons, namely VMO-2,VMO-3 and VMO-6. These were the
Grasshoppers of Okinawa, and they would be the very first American aircraft to land on that contested
In fact they weren’t really Grasshoppers at all. They were, to be accurate, Stinson L-5 Sentinels, known to the Marine Corps under the navy designation OY-1. This peculiar nomenclature came about because Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation had acquired Stinson during the war, and produced the Stinson Model V-76 liaison airplane as the L-5 for the army and the OY for the navy/marine corps. The “O” designated the “observation” role of the airplane and the “Y” was the U.S. Navy identification for Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft. Such were the esoteric methods of Navy Department nomenclature in
The term Grasshopper was a generic nickname originally applied to the ubiquitous Piper L-4 Cub, the Aeronca L-3, and the Taylorcraft L-2 airplanes. However, the nickname
Grasshopper had grown to mean any single-engine, high-wing military airplane, much the same as the term “Piper Cub” is often applied by the public to any light plane, even
The L-5/OY was technically a long way from the Piper Cub generation of airplanes. A comparison of engines illustrates this graphically. The Sentinel’s Lycoming O-435 engine (435 cubic inches) developing 185 hp was a huge step
. . .
USMC VMO Stinson OY-1
The 1939 National Air
Races in Cleveland, Ohio; The End of the Golden Age of Air Racing
The start of practice for the National Air Races was on August 27, 1939. On September 1, Hitler’s army invaded Poland and WWII was about to begin. Anyone that followed the daily events in Europe could plainly see that it was only a matter of time before the U.S. would be fully involved. The fans could feel that great era of air racing was about to
In spite of the war clouds looming on the horizon, the attendance for the races reached an all-time record with the 30,000 car parking lot being almost full. The total winning purse was down $17,000 from 1938, and no new racers would participate. The entrants were all planes that had previously competed, many of which had received modifications to improve their
Once again the speed requirements for the Greve Trophy Race were boosted. The new qualifying speed was 220 mph. The Thompson Trophy qualifying speed was raised to 240
mph. . . .
Bendix Trophy winner Frank Fuller and his Seversky SEV-S2
Lester Maitland and Albert
Hegenberger; And the First Nonstop Flight to Hawaii
The Pacific Veil LiftsIn a previous essay, the saga of Army Lieutenants Oakley Kelly’s and John Macready’s pioneering coast-to-coast nonstop flight was told, and a few years later, in 1927, a new adventure was about to dawn. This effort would entail flying nonstop across the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii, a feat previously attempted on a number of occasions but never accomplished. The destination of Hawaii consists of eight main islands (the big island of Hawaii, Kahoolawe, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai, Oahu and Nihau) and, because of its distance from the United States, the Philippines, Japan, China and South East Asia, it is one of the most isolated population centers in the world. If measured from one end to the other, Hawaii is the largest state in the union although when Maitland and Hegenberger flew there it was still a territory. Hawaii has the highest sea cliffs in the world, and Mauna Kea, one of the five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaii, is considered the tallest mountain in the world. If measured from its base of 19,000 feet below sea level, it then rises 14,000 feet above the water surface to a staggering height of nearly 33,000 feet. This was the mission of Lts. Lester Maitland and Albert Hegenberger: to fly nonstop from the west coast of the United States to Hawaii, and no better-qualified fliers could have attempted this venture.
Lester J. Maitland
One future aviator benefiting from Kelly and Macready’s exploits was Lester Maitland who was born in Milwaukee on February 8, 1899, attended Riverside High School, and graduated in 1917. Three days after the United States entered WWI, Maitland enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, Army Air Service and was assigned to the School of Military Aeronautics in Austin, Tex., on October 18, 1917. His logbook notes that he began receiving instruction two months later at Rich Field in Waco, Tex., in a Hall Scott A7A-powered Standard biplane with a reputation of catching on fire in flight. Maitland’s first solo occurred on March 20, 1918, in a Standard J-1. He so impressed his superiors that he became an instructor at the youthful age of 19 and was considered by many to be a ”born flier.”
After additional training in aerial gunnery at Taliaferro Field, Hicks, Tex., Maitland was assigned as one of the Army’s first test pilots to the Wilbur Wright Experimental Field, Dayton, Ohio, from November 1, 1918, until April 17 of the following year. Among his colleagues and later-famous fliers were Muir Fairchild, Harold Harris, Oakley Kelly, John Macready, Russell Maughan, Alex Pearson and Rudolph “Shorty” Schroeder. Following his assignment at Wright Field he served from 1919 through 1921with the 6th Aero Squadron stationed at Luke Field on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During his time in Hawaii he began contemplating the idea of flying from the islands to the mainland using a twin-engine 1919 Martin bomber, but his application for permission for such a mission was rejected and probably, for that moment in aviation’s development, it was a wise
Returning to the mainland following completion of his Hawaiian tour of duty Maitland was assigned to Bolling Field at Anacostia in Washington, D.C., where he flew a wide variety of aircraft and was noticed by a soon. . . .
Albert Hegenberger &
Development and Evolution
of the “Wild Weasel” - Part 1
When the U.S. began ramping up the war-fighting machine in Southeast Asia there was a limited electronic warfare (EW) and electronic counter-measures (ECM) capability that was carried aboard the medium to large-frame aircraft types (converted heavy attack and ex-commercial transport aircraft). The technology of the time would not allow for the massive, vacuum tube-based electronics to be installed in the tactical fighter aircraft. However, one of the inescapable facts of warfare is innovation that arises from the need for bigger and better weapon systems to protect the fighting man. In the case of electronics, this innovation included shrinking the size of the so-called “black box,” down to fit (barely) into the fighter aircraft of the
Just trying to describe the world of EW and ECM becomes convoluted to outsiders. There are two very different disciplines involved: Passive Electronic Counter Measures (PECM) and active Electronic Warfare (EW). In some cases the two disciplines are intermingled. The McDonnell Aircraft Company (McAir) F-4/RF-4 Phantom II ECM chronological history will be covered in Part 2, but must be considered a very close brother to the Wild Weasel history. Wild Weasel history is focused on the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) mission, which is the primary instance of EW and ECM being intermingled. The SEAD mission is to seek out and suppress radar-directed threats through ECM and/or offensive
In late Spring 1965, even before the call for the yet unnamed Wild Weasel platform, McAir, St. Louis, was already responding to the growing threat of surface-air missiles (SAM) then being deployed in the Southeast Asia combat theater. On June 2, McAir released the Model 98-GT proposal for an EW version of the F-4 Phantom II. Model 98-GT was proposed as an EW version of the U.S. Navy’s F-4B model capable of carrying one CCM (counter-countermeasure) missile and chaff pods externally and passive receiving equipment internally. The AIM-7 Sparrow III air-air missile (AAM) wells on the plane would be covered over. The AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile (ARM) would be loaded on the inboard wing pylon station(s). Though not stated in the reviewed document, the passive receiving equipment. . .
Republic F-105G, 62-4438 of 66 FWS/57 FWW
Two Weeks to Go
As it might be said, I had it made. After a little more than one year of flight training in the U.S. Army Aviation Cadet Corps, I was in the home stretch. It was 1943. I clearly remember how I felt as I buzzed along in my AT-6 in advanced training, heading for home base. Two more weeks of mostly solo flying and advanced training would be history in my log book as they made me a Second Lieutenant and pinned those elusive silver wings above the left breast pocket of my officer’s
I was based at Moore Field located in the lower corner of Texas near the border with Mexico. I gave them a call on my radio and they answered me. I told the tower my ID, my position and requested landing instructions. It was another beautiful day in October with blue skies and a crosswind on the landing runway at 15 to 20 mph. Piece of cake. I’d landed with far worse conditions. All I had to do was to make a wheel landing as per instructions instead of a normal three point landing, giving me more rudder control at low speeds. The AT-6 was not a difficult plane to land but the landing gear being rather close together also made the pilot stay on his toes. I was feeling my oats so I made a couple of slow rolls before entering the traffic pattern. On a 45-degree cut to the downwind leg, I entered the pattern and waited for the base leg. When the end of the landing runway was abeam, I dropped the landing gear and turned base. On final I could see the wind was off my right so I crabbed a few degrees to hold a runway
All through training we’d landed three points unless a cross-wind existed. Then we were taught to make a wheel landing with the tail wheel off the ground for more rudder control. Things worked out just fine albeit the wind was gusty, I greased the two mains on the macadam and when I slowed enough, I lowered the tail wheel. I expected to have to play some with the rudder pedals but as soon as the tail wheel touched, I was out of control. The plane
. . .
Training flight of mixed AT-6s
The McDonnell FH-1
Phantom; The Forgotten Phantom
Being an early product in a technology revolution generally does not lead to market longevity or utility. Such is the case of the McDonnell FH-1 Phantom - the first U.S. Navy all-jet fighter and the first U.S. Navy aircraft to land and takeoff from a carrier solely under jet power.1 In spite of these distinctions, the FH-1 saw very limited production and was relegated to a training role shortly after entering regular service – not because of problems with the design, just that its capabilities were quickly exceeded by newer designs that capitalized on the rapid technological innovations in both airframe and jet-engine technology. Thus, the McDonnell FH-1 has become a proverbial footnote in American aviation
Designing an all-jet fighter in 1943 presented McDonnell engineers with an almost insurmountable set of challenges. They were literally starting with a blank sheet of paper. Design goals for the new aircraft existed more in the form of ideas than as hard requirements. Some of the primary equipment, such as the engines, didn’t even exist. And, there was almost no data to draw on to help define boundaries to the design. How fast? How far? How many engines? Answers to these questions influence design parameters like wing span, airfoil selection, target gross weight and a myriad of others. Add to these such operational requirements as approach speeds, takeoff run, warm up time and armament. At the time work was begun on the design, the British Gloster Meteor had just begun flight testing and little to nothing was known about Germany’s Me 262. McDonnell engineers had to figure out things for
One primary question needing to be resolved would be just how radical should the resulting design be? After all, some argued, with a radical new propulsion system, why shouldn’t the airframe design be just as radical? Such changes would require extensive research that would extend the development time and costs. And, who could. . .
McDonnell FH-1 Phantom
The Martin Mars and My
Experiences with this Giant Flying Boat
It all began for me one November day in 1948 while I was sitting at the desk of one of my Link trainers in Tsing Tao, China. I didn’t know at the time, but I was about to fly on the MARTIN MARS, the largest operational flying boat in the
I said “my Link trainers” because I had been instructing the pilots of the Marine Corps Air Base in Tsing Tao, China, for the better part of two years. These were three of the latest model Links, the Model 45. Link is the absolute first name in flight
I had been working them alone for most of those two years. At first a Tech Sergeant was there with me. He was almost at the end of his overseas assignment and about two weeks after I arrived, he was sent back to the
When he departed, I became the private in charge of the department. Normally, a non-commissioned officer, such as Tech. Sgt., is in charge of a department, the NCO-IC. After his departure, I was the PVT-IC.The Links came under the command of base operations and the Major told me that I was to answer directly to him, not even to the squadron Sergeant
The Link shack was erected inside one of the old wooden hangars that were built by the Japanese during WWII. The shack was about 60-feet long, 20-feet wide and air conditioned to keep the trainers at a constant temperature. It was built by the Seabees when the Marines occupied the
The hangar doors for that bay were never opened and it was always darkened inside. When outside the Link shack, looking upward at the hangar roof, one could see light streaming through the bullet holes that were left by the Flying Tigers in their Curtiss P-40s during their strafing
Being the only operator, I found it necessary to connect all of the trainers together so that I could observe and communicate with each trainer from any
I was bent over one of the desks watching intently while the Marine pilot was working on the problem that I had assigned. All was going well until
. . . .
Coulson Mars Fire Bomber
Foreign-Built Airships in U.S. Service,
1919 to 1939
Among the many types of airships that were used by the Armed Forces of the United States, there were several of foreign design and manufacture. The airships chiefly under discussion here are those that were in the commissioned service of the United States during the period from 1919-1939. Although during the First World War some American Naval units stationed in Europe were equipped with airships of French and British manufacture, there is, at present, little reliable information on the operational histories of these airships, and even as to how many there
The chief factor that led the United States to buy and use these airships was the lack of development of the science of airship design and fabrication. During the period between WWI and WWII the United States commissioned in its service four airships of foreign design and manufacture. Three of these airships were purchased from the Allies (one from France and two from Italy) and the fourth was a part of war reparations - the famous Los
Angeles.(1) The two purchased from Italy were semi-rigid designs.
The other Allied-built airship was the French non-rigid DZ-US-I or DZ-I and eventually designated RN-1. It had about the most successful career of the Allied airships, being in commission for about four
A fifth airship, the British R-38, was built but crashed during its acceptance trials, therefore it was not, technically speaking, in United States service although only one flight away from
Merle Olmsted covered the flight operations at Langley Field from 1919-22, which included the period of the DZ-US-I and the Roma, in his article “Army Airship Operations, Langley Field,
During WWI, U.S. naval units operating from Royal Navy facilities were equipped with several types of airships such as the NS (North Sea), SST (Sea Scout Twin), and the SSZ (Sea Scout Zero). As far as can be determined there were at least three NS-type, three SST-type and two SSZ-type airships operated by (though not necessarily under the command of) American crews, or on order for use by American crews when the Armistice came into effect.3 Only three of these were assigned serial numbers by the U.S. Navy, indicating
. . . .
U.S. Army Airship ROMA
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