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The Doolittle Raid

Old U.S. Air Force video of the WWII Doolittle Raid in April 1942, when B-25 Mitchell bombers took off from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet to attack the Japanese islands.


Fire Control

Fire control notes from the September 1944 issue of C.I.C. (Combat Information Center) published by the U.S. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

Fire control notes and comments

fire control notes and comments...

Excerpts from ship reports with comments by the Bureau of Ordnance.


There is no comparison between the Mark 12 and the Mark 4 equipment in the ability to pick up targets at long range. Destroyers of the MAHAN and BUCHANAN types have been picked up consistently and easily in the 25,000 to 30,000 yard range band, in complete darkness, on CIC designation. “The maximum range on a DD recorded to date is 30,000 yards. Larger targets have not been tracked to extreme ranges.

A series 60 sled with radar screen was tracked easily to 20,000 yards. Aircraft are easily tracked to 55,000 yards. A drone was picked up at 36,000 yards over land. Approaching aircraft of combat types are easily detected at 40,000 yards.

The improved performance of the Mark 12 radar over the Mark 4 radar is due to the difference in transmitted peak power, the Mark 12 power being four times that of the Mark 4. This factor alone should increase range performance on targets above the horizon by about 40 per cent. The higher frequency also improves antenna gain.


A considerable amount of drill at picking up planes from search radar designation has been carried out, with extremely encouraging results. The average time to get the director on a low-flying plane at a range of 10 miles is about 25 seconds. That time includes training the director at least 90 degrees.

During a very recent drone firing one director picked up the drone over land at 35,000 yards. The plane had immediately faded on the SK radar, but the Mark 12 got the target, and a good Baker run was eventually fired.

The Mark to true bearing indicator now installed in Mark 37 directors is very helpful in picking up targets from CIC designation.

The pip-matching indication, superimposed oil the long range sweep on the train and elevation scopes was particularly designed to improve target acquisition. This presentation gives the pointer and trainer a complete view of all targets in the radar beam, and enables them to start getting on target before the target pip is notched. When notched, a change to “spot” or “meter” indication for more accurate tracking can be made.


During the night of 21 February 1944, while under plane attack off Saipan, the forward Mark 34 director, equipped with a Mark 8 radar, was able to pick up and track low-flying planes at will. Contacts were made as far out as 14,000 yards, generally between 6,000-8,000 yards, tracked as close as 1,900 yards, and then as far out as 25,000 yards (opening). Naturally, getting “on” was the most difficult problem due to the delay in surface and air search ranges and bearings reaching the directors from the radars through CIC. This lag was greatly reduced by the directors cutting in on the search radar phone circuits.

The ease with which the director crew tracked these low-flying planes offers serious possibilities worth investigating, of using the generated ranges resulting from such tracking in assisting the 40mm and 20mm gun batteries in opening fire.


Single low-flying planes of both twin and single engine type, can be tracked from 15,000 yards on into the ship. The relative bearing and range obtained from the main battery directors is used to get the machine gun battery “on” low-flying night torpedo planes. The Mark 8 radar in some measure fills the need for information on enemy planes when they close within 6,000 to 8,000 yards, data not obtainable from the SK.

In one instance fire was opened at 1,900 yards using this information when it is believed the target would not normally have been seen until the range closed to 1,000 yards.


537th AAA AW Bn in Action

Report on a small-unit action by Battery D, 537th AAA AW Bn from “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” HQ ETO, No. 3, November 1944:

Subject: Gallantry in Action.
Source: Antiaircraft Section, Headquarters Twelfth Army Group.

a. Another outstanding example of individual gallantry, again from Battery D, 537th AAA AW Bn, has come to our attention.

b. On 10 August 1944, the crew of Gun #4, First Platoon, which was emplaced about 7 miles north of Le Mans, France, were excitedly told by two French civilians that several Germans were hiding in a nearby wood. Two details were organized to round up the Germans. One of the details, consisting of T/5 Albert T. Cascio with two other members of the crew, started out across open fields in the direction of the woods. The other detail took a circular course to approach the woods from the flank.

c. As T/5 Cascio and his detail were crossing one of the fields and were about 100 yards from a heavily wooded hedgerow, without warning a volley of small arms fire came from the hedgerow, forcing the detail to drop quickly to the ground for protection. Without regard for his personal safety, T/5 Cascio rose to a kneeling position and fired a burst of thirty rounds from his sub-machine gun into the hedgerow. Upon completion of the burst, and although he could see an enemy machine gun pointing through the hedgerow, Cascio remained in a kneeling position and demanded that the enemy surrender or be shot. Immediately thirty Germans began to filter through the hedgerow. One of the enemy still held his machine pistol. T/5 Cascio motioned for him to drop the weapon, but instead the German brought it up in a menacing fashion; whereupon, Cascio fired another burst, killing the holder of the machine pistol and wounding four others who were coming through the hedge. This treatment seemed to have an immediate reaction on other Germans still in the hedgerow, as they now began to pour through the hedge, this time with their hands up. The final count showed four (4) officers and sixty-two (62) enlisted men captured.

d. During this whole incident, T/5 Cascio’s two assistants were protecting his flanks. The other detail arrived just as all resistance ceased and took over the prisoners, while T/5 Cascio and his assistants went into the hedgerow to search for any of the enemy who had not surrendered. None were found.

e. A considerable number of enemy hand grenades, ammunition, rifles, pistols, machine pistols and four (4) light machine guns were found in the hedgerow. It is believed that had not T/5 Cascio displayed such boldness, initiative and outright courage in ordering the enemy to surrender that he and his fellow soldiers would have been wiped out and convoys would have been subjected to serious attacks and delay.

f. T/5 Cascio was awarded the Silver Star for the above achievement, and was afforded the additional honor of having it pinned on by General George C. Marshall during a recent 90th Division ceremony.


Under Two Flags: The USS Stewart


She served the U.S. Navy for 21 years–only to be captured by the Japanese and used against us in World War II.

She started around the world in 1921–and completed the circuit only last month.

Her name belongs to another ship–but she got her hull numbers back at least, and once again flies a U.S. commission pennant.

Destroyer USS Stewart

After service with the Japanese, the USS DD 224 returned to San Francisco, under tow, after completing round-the-world tour started in 1921.

That’s the story of the former USS Stewart, the 1,000-ton, four-pipe DD 224 (not to be confused with USS Stewart, DE 238, which now bears her name). The “RAMP 224” as her crew calls her, the letters designate “recovered allied military personnel,” reached San Francisco last month in tow. She’ll be on exhibit for awhile and then will be scrapped.

The old Stewart was built in Philadelphia in 1920 and joined the Asiatic Fleet via Suez the next year. She stayed there until World War II, then saw duty with such famous old fighters as the Marblehead during the discouraging days of early 1942. Damaged in a night attack on Jap shipping in Bandoeng Strait, Dutch East Indies, she went into drydock at Surabaya. The dock was not equipped for the four-pipe hull, the ship slipped off her keel-blocks and crashed over on her side. Demolition charges and a Jap bomb, plus scuttling of the dry dock finished her off–or so it was thought. Surabaya fell to the Japs.

Then reports began coming in from far-ranging U. S. patrol fliers who said they’d spotted an American ship deep in Jap-held waters. It was the old Stewart doing a tour of duty for the Mikado. Her two forward stacks had been combined into one raking funnel and a tripod replaced the former pole foremast. But it takes more than that to disguise four-piper lines.

It’s doubtful the Japs got much use out of the Stewart. She’d been used to U.S. Navy pampering and couldn’t take the neglect the Japs dished out, perhaps as a matter of habit or possibly because they just didn’t understand four-pipers. At any rate she was in sorry shape when we found her in Kure Naval Base. An American prize crew of 60 men and three officers went aboard to bring her home and a recommissioning ceremony at Hiro Wan 29 Oct 1945 was conducted by Vice Admiral J. B. Oldendorf, USN, ComBatRon1. She headed for Guam under her own power but 45 months of Jap misuse began to tell. The fuel pumps gave out and refused repair, so she was taken in tow by USS Wesson (DE 184) 50 miles short of Guam. She rode the end of a tow line into San Francisco.

Her executive officer on the long voyage home was Lt. (jg) G. T. Burns, USN, who was a first class machinist’s mate aboard the Stewart when she was abandoned at Surabaya.

Source: All Hands, U.S. Navy, April 1946.

Training and Teamwork Brought Us Back

AAF Training and Teamwork

Training and Teamwork Brought Us Back
by Capt. Charles S. Grant

As Navigator of the B-26 bomber, So Sorry, Capt. Grant flew 37 combat-missions in the Southwest Pacific theater. Here is the Captain’s story of his most unforgettable flight.

The So Sorry was dishing it out that morning over the New Guinea coast. Six or eight Zeros had jumped the formation, and our gunners–Sgts. Lawrence Steslow, Melvin McCaskey and Andrew Johnson–were strictly “on the ball.”

Johnson in the top-turret, Steslow firing from the tail, and McCaskey manning both guns in the waist had cleared the air of enemy fighters as our pilot, Maj. Gerald Crosson (then a Capt.) swung in over our objective at 8,000 for a long, steady bombing run. A few flak bursts blossomed around us–but we ignored them. We wanted to be sure that we drew a good bead on our target.

The bombardier’s eve was glued to his sight. He had the Jap air-strip caught square in the crosshairs, and was all set to lay his eggs in there…

And then the whole sky caved in on us! A terrific shock hit the plane–as a 75 mm. ack-ack shell tore through the bomb-bay doors, three feet from my head, and burst backward.

I had a sensation of overpowering heat… and the entire compartment around me was one great swirling ball of angry red and yellow flame.

The blast picked the So Sorry up and stood her on one wing. Her bomb-bays became a shower bath of oil and hydraulic fluid. The bombs jammed in their racks. The elevator controls were severed and the rudder and ailerons partially fouled.

It looked like we’d spin right into that ack-ack battery. But with the stick limp and useless in his hands, Major Crosson managed to pull us out with the trim-tabs! It was the finest piece of flying I have ever seen.

The nearest spot for a landing was back of the Allied line, 200 miles south. But before we had gone a third of the way, we ran into typical New Guinea weather. Every landmark suddenly “socked in.” We limped along on dead reckoning.

Now a navigator has to say to himself: “You’re right!”–and believe it. And when you’re as scared as I was that day, you sweat out even the simplest calculations. I didn’t take any part of the ride “with my feet on the desk.”

When my charts said we should be over our base, we ducked cautiously down through the fog and driving rain. Sure enough, there was a landing strip… and bouncing along beside it, an American Jeep. We knew we were home.

Major Crosson cut the engines, feathered his props and brought us in with our wheels up, our flaps down, our bomb-bay doors wide open and our bombs still hanging crazily in their racks. We hit hard–slid 400 yards–and buried me under an avalanche of dirt scooped up through the open doors.

I dug myself out and looked around–at the men whose courage and skill and training had brought this airplane back when it should have been at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

And, looking at them, I knew why nothing will ever stop the AAF. I knew what the General meant when he called it “the greatest team in the world.”

Back in the U.S.A. Left to Right: Major Crosson, Captain Grant, Sgt. McCaskey, Sgt. Johnson. When this picture was made, Sgt. Steslow was an Aviation Cadet, in pilot training.


“Battleship X” is the USS South Dakota

After the Battle of Santa Cruz and Guadalcanal, “Battleship X” is identified as the USS South Dakota. Source: Newsmap, U.S. Army Service Forces, Army Information Branch, October 11, 1943.


Because she was the first of a new class of battleships bearing new armament and possessing greatly increased firepower, official Navy communiques did not identify the warship which shot down 32 Jap planes during the Battle of Santa Cruz, Oct. 26, 1942, and sank three Jap cruisers off Guadalcanal Nov. 14, 1942. She was known only as the “Battleship X” until last week, when the Navy identified her as the USS South Dakota. She has three sister ships, the USS Massachusetts, the USS Indiana and the USS Alabama.

Battleship X is the USS South Dakota

Big 16-inch guns enable the South Dakota to knock off enemy ships before they can bring weapons within range.

Japanese Torpedo Bombers, Battle of Santa Cruz

These Jap torpedo bombers had visions of a second Repulse and Prince of Wales as they skimmed in toward the South Dakota. During the first enemy attack in the Battle of Santa Cruz, 20 out of 20 Jap dive bombers were shot down.

Battle of Santa Cruz, WW2, Pacific

Automatic Bofors and Oerlikon batteries of the South Dakota (center) and the carrier Enterprise (right) put up a shield of hot steel. The Enterprise and her planes accounted for 63 Jap planes during the Battle of Santa Cruz.

Quadruple Automatic 40mm Bofors

This is one of the quadruple automatic 40mm Bofors, mounted on a fast-swinging turret which brings its guns to bear on rapidly moving planes. The new battleships are covered with these 20mm Oerlikons and heavier pieces.


The Wheels Struck the Water!

A Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber is forced to ditch after a long-range operation, from Naval Aviation News, Aviation Training Division, Office of Chief of Naval Operations and Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department, Sept. 15, 1944.

The wheels struck the water!

“Mission successful,” muttered Ensign D as he dodged heavy ack-ack and swung his SBD around for a homeward flight. He and Aircrewman Lawrence Flanagan had destroyed anti-aircraft batteries, fuel dumps and radio stations.

The attack had been made at extreme range, and their fuel supply was dangerously low. As soon as U.S. task force carriers were spotted, four SBD’s immediately landed to refuel before returning to Carrier X.

Ensign D stayed on course, for he anticipated no trouble and he knew his meager supply would just last. However, the unexpected happened. As he approached the carrier for a night landing, he was quickly waved off by the signal officer. The deck was full, and another circle was a real challenge to his gas tank. As he brought his plane in for a second approach, the engine suddenly sputtered–then conked out.

Forced to make a water landing, Ensign D put his plane down in the heavy sea and turbulence of the big ship’s wake. The wheels hit first and flipped the bomber over on its back. Ensign D struggled to get out of his plane cockpit.

Inhaling and swallowing a great deal of water, he fought his way up only to be caught in the bomb rack. Meanwhile Flanagan had extricated himself from the capsized plane, and was swimming on the surface when he noticed the pilot’s dilemma. He made a dive for Ensign D, freed him, and hauled the pilot to the surface. Ensign D owes his life to Aircrewman Flanagan’s heroism.

Aircrewmen have what it takes!

The Wheels Struck the Water, Douglas SBD Dauntless Ditching


B-24 Reconnaissance in the Bismarck Sea

The story of an unsuccessful B-24 attack on Japanese shipping in the Bismarck Sea from Informational Intelligence Summary, No. 44-5, Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence, Washington, D.C., February 1944.


The primary function of a reconnaissance patrol is the gathering of information and safe return of the plane.

The following narrative report of a single B-24 in the Bismarck Sea area, which was diverted from its primary reconnaissance mission to attack enemy shipping, emphasizes this principle.

The report of this mission should be a lesson to crew members in what to avoid on a reconnaissance mission. Crew members are usually briefed that their primary job on a reconnaissance mission is to obtain the desired information. This function has been compared with ground reconnaissance in which patrols are sent out into hostile territory to observe what they can and return home without being seen by the enemy. While reconnaissance planes carry bombs in the event that unusual targets of opportunity present themselves, a safe return home is Rule Number One.

One of our B-24s left Dobodura at 0806 on 23 December 1943 to observe the enemy’s shipping lanes in the Bismarck Sea area. The recent feverish attempt of the Japanese to reinforce their New Britain bases made it likely that important enemy shipping would be located. A bomb load of 2 x 1,000-lb. general purpose bombs was carried.

Nothing of consequence occurred until about 1640 when the B-24 was about 30 miles northeast of the Japanese airfield at But. The crew sighted a freighter-transport of about 1200 tons close to shore near But, which appeared to be a tempting target, and the B-24 turned back to attack it. They felt reasonably safe from interception as there was about 4/10 cloud cover from 3,000 to 5,000 feet.

The ship was less than a mile off the Japanese airfield runway at But, moving very slow inshore. Two bombing approaches were made at 3,500 feet and each time intervening clouds prevented release of bombs. At that point in the attack the Japanese antiaircraft guns at But opened up from four points. While the fire was not intense, one burst unfortunately hit the bomb bay. The radio operator was standing there and received a severe leg wound.

The pilot wisely decided to retire before interception came from one of the local enemy fields. About five minutes later, at 1710, while the plane was at an altitude of 4,000 feet, a ZEKE and a HAMP appeared. All crew members were on the alert and in readiness. The HAMP made a pass from high one o’clock, pressed it to 100 yards, and broke off in a Split “S”. His attack was successful for his pass cost us a B-24 and a crew member. Raking right down the side of the airplane, he shot out the No. 3 engine, hydraulic system and interphone, killed one waist gunner and slightly wounded the other. At the same time the ball turret gunner collected three bullets in his leg.

Continue reading B-24 Reconnaissance in the Bismarck Sea

P-38 Combat

P-38 Lightning combat with Me 109s and subsequent bail out. Source: “P-38 Combat”, Informational Intelligence Summary, No. 44-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence, Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 1944.


In the following interview Major Kelly Mitchim describes a fight with Me 109s, evasive tactics used and bailing out procedure.

We were on a mission against Capua airdrome, just north of Naples, with 24 P-38s escorting a group of B-25s. There were two sections of three flights each, counter-weaving across the top of the bombers, and I was flying top cover for the last section. Two Messerschmitt 109s came in at six o’clock and when I saw them they had already opened fire on my Number Four man. I immediately broke into them without stopping to drop my belly tanks. My Number Two man, who was slightly inexperienced, lost me and left me there by myself. I came around and tried to drop my belly tanks, but evidently I had blown a fuse because they would not release. The two Me 109s dived on me from about nine o’clock and I turned into them and fired a burst at the second one. The first one slid under my tail and hit my left engine, the left belly tank, and the cockpit which set my plane on fire immediately.

I had been told by a P-38 pilot who had been in combat that the best way to get an enemy plane off your tail in a P-38 was to snatch back the left throttle, throw full throttle to the right engine, and do a right stick and right rudder. I don’t know what it does, but it is something like an upward sliding roll. The main thing that I desired was to get him off my tail, and it did that.

Next I began thinking about bailing out. My plane was burning very badly; smoke and flames were in the cockpit. I smashed the escape hatch and tried to roll it to the left but it would not roll over. I stood up to bail out and nearly got my head blown off. I sat back again but the smoke and flames were now so bad that I could not see my airspeed or altimeter, so I pulled back on the stick and pulled her straight up almost into a stall, stood up in the seat, and rolled out backwards. I think as I went out that the nose came down, the tail went up, and I went under it. I am not sure how it was. I pulled my rip cord at about 5,000 feet–I was wearing an English chute and it worked very well.

There is one point that I think should be stressed to all P-38 pilots which had not been stressed to me. That is, do not smash your escape hatch too quickly. It draws all the flames and all the smoke immediately into the cockpit. The escape hatch should not be pulled off until the moment you are ready to drop out of the plane.

See Also: Bailing Out of a P-38 Lightning

26th Panzer Division

The following opinions are from German General Leutnant Linnarz, commander of the German 26th Panzer Division in Italy, concerning Allied airpower and its effects on German forces. Source: Defeat, Headquarters Army Air Forces, Office of the assistant chief of air staff–2, Washington, D.C., January 1946. Defeat was prepared by the Headquarters Army Air Forces, Mediterranean Theater of Operations, Intelligence Section to record the views of Allied air power from those who were on the receiving end.

Commanding General of 26th Panzer Division in Italy

26 JUNE 1945.

The following report is the result of several conversations with General Leutnant Linnarz who was the Commanding General of the crack German 26 Panzer Division in Italy.

The Role of Air Power

“Single battles, in my opinion, are not decisive; they are only apparently decisive. The same thing is true of air battles. The complete havoc wrought by Allied air power toward the end of the war when we no longer had an air arm worthy of the name, may give an entirely false impression of the role of air power in deciding the victory. Such overwhelming air supremacy is not so much the cause of Germany’s defeat, but the result and visible evidence of Germany’s defeat. The war was actually decided long ago, and if the German government had given up earlier, before air power had devastated the German cities, and before the Eastern and Western land armies had joined, the results of great decisive air and land battles preceding Germany’s military collapse would not have been known. The great destructive capacity of giant air armadas would not have been realized.

“In the same category as the overwhelming Allied air and ground offensive toward the end of this war are the battles of Vittorio, Venato and the rapid Allied advances in the Balkans at the end of the last war. There are no more battles in the old classic sense. In France we styled our reports in the old manner. The result of the impression was thus one of gigantic land battles and clever generalship, a totally false impression. In my opinion, the Allies are in danger of making the same erroneous interpretations of air victories.

Continue reading 26th Panzer Division