Thomas Wildenberg, Destined for Glory (Naval Institute Press: Annapolis, MD, 1998)
Independent historian specializing in naval aviation and logistics
Great essay on doctrine and military innovation that should be part of this course’s reading list: http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/sheerluck_midway.htm
End of Cold War, Rise of Eastern states (China, Japan, India)
Describing the development of the dive bomber and its importance to Naval doctrine
Naval dive bombs rule!
I love exclamation points!
Bad torpedoes! Bad!
Preface – it was dive bombing, and only dive bombing, that turned the tide of Japanese expansion in the Pacific. (214) the demise of the Japanese strike force was a direct result of the navy’s efforts to perfect dive bombing as the central component of its aerial doctrine.
Other Major Propositions.
11 – dive bombing as we know it originated when the descent changed from a steep glide to an almost vertical dive … 70 degrees or greater.
22 – if victory at sea depended upon naval gunfire, and if the effectiveness of gunfire depended upon spotting by air, then it was also essential to make sure that no hostile aircraft interfered with the spotting process! … to control the skies above the battle required command of the air!
25 – Simulated exercises conducted on the game boards at the war college had revealed the difficult problem of aircraft stowage and handling…. Consolidating functions and limiting the types of aircraft assigned to a carrier’s aircraft complement was one solution to this problem; another was simply to provide more carrier decks
63 – Though Reeves’ recommendation to provide a mobile screening force of escorting cruisers and destroyers was a sensible solution that would later become doctrine, the fear of surprise surface attack would affect the development of carrier tactics for years to come.
84 – the carrier which was the first to locate and attack its counterpart in the opposing force was able to achieve air superiority, gaining an overwhelming advantage for its own fleet.
137 – The development of the split-flap dive brake was a milestone in the continuing efforts to improve the aerodynamic performance of the dive bomber
200 – most officers of the Imperial Japanese Navy [were] obsessed with the offensive. This resulted in a lack of interest in search and reconnaissance, which resulted in inadequate attention being paid to this critical function of carrier warfare
Chapter 1 – A Thousand and One Questions
6 – While at the Naval War College (Joseph) Reeves had learned the importance of numbers in combat at sea…. it is more than likely that Reeves studied the N-square Law … (Frederick Lanchester) the fighting value of a military is proportional to the square of its numerical strength multiplied by the fighting value of its individual units
Chapter 5 – First Carrier Strikes
53 – If the squadron split up and dived on the carrier simultaneously from at least three different angles, the antiaircraft batteries would be unable to concentrate on any one section of planes.
54 – The destroyers did not have to sink any of the dreadnoughts to be successful. Their job was to slow down the enemy’s battle line…. The success of the dive-bombing exercise conducted against a moving target in the fall of 1927 opened the door for light bombing to be used as a means of countering the dreaded destroyer attack that was expected to precede the main engagement.
55 – After dropping their bombs on enemy destroyers, the light bombers would be free to go after whatever enemy aircraft were in the air.
Chapter 6 – Perfecting the Dive Bomber
68 – Though Reeves emphasized that loading a single-seat fighter with bombs did not change the type of plane nor the service for which it was intended, there was a growing feeling among the most fervent pilots that a fighter’s aerial capabilities should not be compromised by adding additional equipment.
68 – By the beginning of 1929, a number of high-ranking officers within the fleet were becoming increasingly concerned about the danger of dive bombing.
70 – defenders would have thirty seconds or less to hit the attacker before the bombs began to fall
82 – Aircraft design was very much a trial and error procedure in those days and was governed by the philosophy of “fly and try, then fix it.”
Chapter 7 – Like Blind Men Armed with Daggers
84 – “like blindfolded men armed with daggers in a ring, if the bandage over the eyes of one is removed, the other is doomed.”
85 – Although the O2U … had a range of over 500 miles, the longest scouting operation ever conducted had been limited to 75 miles. Tactical scouting beyond this point was considered quite dangerous, due to the small range of the radios (50-100 miles at best) … and the difficulties of trying to navigate over water.
92 – The limited range of the carrier aircraft then available meant that the carriers had to steam to within 40 to 75 miles of their objective before they could launch an aerial attack. This made them vulnerable to enemy marauders, leading senior officers to conclude that it would be too dangerous for carriers to operate without the support of battleships. Though this was probably a correct assessment in 1931, it was this type of thinking by the non-aviators that would severely hamper the future development of the fleet’s carrier tactics.
98 – For the airmen, the most important lesson to be learned from these exercises was the need to add more carriers to the fleet…. when there was only one carrier in each force, the primary objective became the destruction of the other carrier … the usual result being that both sides lost their carriers
Chapter 8 – Tail Hooks and Tin Fish
100 – torpedo bombers were not well suited for carrier operations. The exceedingly long takeoff run of these planes made spotting them extremely difficult
Chapter 9 – Advances in Fighter Performance
115 – To get around some of the more restrictive aspects of competitive bidding, the bureau entered into an estimated price contract with the manufacturer for a prototype with the understanding that unforeseen technical difficulties or design changes could be handled through the expeditious issuance of a change order. Moffett justified the use of these negotiated contracts by claiming that they were in the best interests of the government.
Chapter 10 – Expansion Begins
119 – Establishing a program of public works was one of the prime objectives on Roosevelt’s agenda. From the onset of the Depression the Navy Department had tried to finance the construction and modernization of warships through funding for public works under the persuasive argument that such action would provide jobs and stimulate the economy.
Chapter 11 – A Prophecy of the Future
124 – the proliferation of carrier types being developed within the Bureau of Aeronautics was beginning to play havoc with the process of selecting planes for service … six different carrier types … The main issue confronting the plans division was which mix of aircraft was best. The logical solution was to consolidate several functions into one common design. (good examples of Type 1 and II flexibility, so… between 3 and 5 designs in the pipeline is a good number?)
128 – Experience afloat had demonstrated the importance of being the first to locate and strike an opposing carrier. What was needed, according to most naval aviators, was a fast, well-armed scout plane which could attack the enemy’s flight deck as soon as it was sighted.
Chapter 12 – The All-Metal Monoplane
133 – Although a design based on a single wing offered the advantage of greater speed, it created inherently higher wing loadings, which, all other factors remaining unchanged, diminished maneuverability, lessened rate of climb, reduced maximum ceiling, and lengthened the takeoff run. … higher stalling speeds than their biplane cousins.
136 – The diving speed had to be kept low enough so that the G forces and pullout altitudes could be kept within reasonable limits. If this could not be achieved, the altitude of bomb release would have to be increased, resulting in a degradation of bombing accuracy. … The best solution was provided by Ed Heinemann … split flaps!
142 – Bellinger went so far as to recommend that the flight characteristics of future fighter planes be based on maximum speed, maximum climb, and maximum maneuverability, in the priority listed. … Had King been more receptive to the emphasis on speed, it s possible that development of the high-performance monoplane fighter might have been accelerated.
Chapter 13 – End of an Era
151 – when an unconventional design was coupled with an untried engine, long delays in procurement would result
Chapter 14 – Aviation Doctrine and Carrier Policy in the Late 1930s
158 - As Capt Royal E. Ingersoll, the director of War Plans explained, the slower U.S. battleships could not engage the faster Japanese battle line unless other units of the navy could reduce the speed of the Imperial fleet. The only means we have of doing this, he insisted, was with bombers or torpedo planes. … This idea represented a significant change in the thinking of the Navy’s leaders.
160 – The lack of a well worked out fighter doctrine would contribute to the appalling losses in both planes and carriers experienced during May-June 1942.
Chapter 15 – Preparing for War
163 – during Saratoga’s participation in Fleet Problems XVII and XVIII … Halsey’s immediate supervisor, Vice Admiral Frank J. Horne, the senior airman afloat, complained bitterly about the egregious error on the part of the CinCUS. Horne, the fleet’s carrier commander, was convinced that tying flattops to the battle line prevented the freedom of movement essential for their own protection. … This lesson was not lost on Halsey.
172 – The advent of radar, which began to appear on U.S. ships in mid-1940, changed the dynamics of fleet air defense. … It provided sufficient warning time to launch the additional fighters spotted on the flight deck to support the limited number of aircraft that could be maintained in the air at all times. … The first time this technique was tried … in March 1941 on board the Yorktown … showed the need to assemble a team in a centralized location—later defined as the Combat Information Center
173 – the problem of trying to navigate over the featureless ocean severely limited the operational search radius of these planes until the new ZB homing receiver could be installed
Chapter 16 – Opening Rounds
178 – After the war was over, studies of the after-action accounts of both protagonists showed that a large number of the hits claimed by both sides—including those that resulted in sinkings—simply did not happen … can be attributed to errors in judgment … however, the discrepancies were the result of a compulsion on the part of the pilots to believe that “their attacks, made at high risk and great cost, were personally successful.”
178/9 – The raids revealed several critical flaws in material and the need to improve both the aircraft themselves and the tactics used in their employment. The most blatant defect during the course of the action was the numerous gun failures … As for the improvements in aircraft, armor plate and leak-proof gas tanks were a vital necessity for all planes. A nonfogging bombsight was desperately needed by the SBDs, and an identification, friend or foe (IFF) radar transponder was needed so the FDO could sort out the good guys from the bad. … delayed action fuses … lack of incendiary bullets … not enough fighters ... proximity fuses
Chapter 17 – Scratch one Flattop
185 – Navy doctrine then in effect specified three types of departures for air strikes: “urgent,” which required individual aircraft sections to depart immediately … “normal,” in which squadrons rendezvoused over the carrier, but did not wait for the other groups … “deferred,” involving the attempt to form the whole group into one tactical unit before departing
seminar notes / technological determinism sez because several did it at the same time, it must have been determined by the technology / social constructivism sez build a climate to encourage “fly and try” / Clausewitzian friction = dissociative elements for a heterogeneous engineer
Notes from Gloves / Bull Reeves, an aviation outsider, drove innovation when he took command of naval air ch1 / pilots and junior commanders modifying early aircraft to bomb 13-17 / dive bombing demonstrations drove BuAer to recommend building a light bomber 20 / once gunners discovered the benefit of spotting by airplane rather than by crow’s nests, a chain reaction started: put planes on boats to observe, put planes on boats to shoot down the other guy’s planes, put planes on boats to protect our planes … and our planes have to be better than their land-based planes, so we can’t use floatplanes 23-4 / “safety precautions were written in blood; there would be accidents, even deaths, but that was the price the aviators would pay to advance the state of the art” 50 / tests showed a 500lb bomb would be better than the light ones at killing boats 65 / exercises showed that carriers and other boats were extremely susceptible to air attack without sufficient air defenses 84-6 / more carriers needed 98 / despite fiddling around, no adequate torpedo planes through the great depression 108 / air-cooled radial engine a big improvement 109 / specs drove innovation 114-6 / budget battle limited BuAer 121-2 / BuAer started experimenting with monoplanes because they could go fast 133 / one plane can’t do both air-air and dive bombing 139 / need for speed drove innovation 148 / improved aircraft changed the role of aircraft carriers and their planes 155 / improvements also enabled a suitable torpedo plane to be fielded 156-7 / theory of air attack enabled underspeed US Navy to compete with Jap fleet 158 / Bull Halsey, an outsider like Reeves before him, used exercises to prep his air force for war 162-5 / tough work with torpedoes 167-9 / radar enabled better intercepts and airspace control 172 / lessons learned in wartime from early carrier raids – more planes, armor plate, IFF, delayed-fuse bombs, more incendiary bullets, and the Japs had to rethink their Pacific strategy 178-9 / war enabled better torpedoes 182 / navy’s perfecting dive bombing was a doctrinal decisive point in the Pacific victory 214