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The Gallant Men of the Stingray

The Gallant Men of the Stingray

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The Gallant Men of the Stingray

Lunghezza:
263 pagine
4 ore
Pubblicato:
Mar 26, 2017
ISBN:
9781635681635
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

A story of an aircraft carrier, her pilots, and the men from the time her keel is laid until she is decommissioned after the war. This story covers actual battles that took place in the Pacific theatre during World War II. While the battles are real, the men and their ship are made from the mind of the writer. These brace pilots fly off the deck of a carrier and go to meet the enemy to shoot them out of the sky, just like the actual men did during the war. Two pilots meet after the ship is put to sea and become good friends and look after each other. Both men fall in love with girls from Honolulu, and one relationship turns out to be tragic. One man suffers from battle fatigue and faces a court martial, and the other goes on to become a hero, shooting down many Japanese planes.

Pubblicato:
Mar 26, 2017
ISBN:
9781635681635
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Richard Fletcher is renowned as one of Britain’s most engaging and witty historians. His previous books include ‘Moorish Spain’ and ‘The Quest for El Cid’, which won the Wolfson Prize for History and the ‘Los Angeles Times’ Book Award. He teaches history at the University of York.

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The Gallant Men of the Stingray - Richard Fletcher

The Gallant Men

of the

Stingray

RICHARD FLETCHER

Copyright © 2017 Richard Fletcher

All rights reserved

First Edition

PAGE PUBLISHING, INC.

New York, NY

First originally published by Page Publishing, Inc. 2017

ISBN 978-1-63568-162-8 (Paperback)

ISBN 978-1-63568-163-5 (Digital)

Printed in the United States of America

Foreword

This novel is a work of fiction. The story takes place in the period 1941 to 1945 during the war years of World War II. The ship and the men are the imagination of the writer. As much as I could, I tried to research much of the material for this book. The ship the Stingray, while not an actual vessel, nonetheless is based on the line carriers of their period. The planes are factual; they actually existed. Many of the battles depicted in this book actually took place, but of course, the ships and men in the battles are fictional.

The Japanese were fighting a war long before the United States entered the war in December of 1941 after the Japanese’s sneak attack on the naval forces at Pearl Harbor.

They had invaded China and caused tremendous losses of lives of the Chinese military and its civilians. In December of 1937, when the Japanese captured the city of Nanking, then the capital of the Republic of China, the Japanese butchered and murdered 260,000 to 300,000 civilians and raped 20,000 to 80,000 women. On the death march from Bataan in 1942, many an American soldier was killed or butchered. During the war, many of later prisoners of war were tortured or brutally murdered by the Japanese soldiers. There were thousands upon thousands of documented atrocities. In this novel, there are a number of derogatory comments about the Japanese. One has had to live during that period to understand the feelings of the American public and the military. Everything that was related to the Japanese showed them to be a brutal race, including brochures and posters from the US government. I for one was a marine, and although I never got past Pearl Harbor to fight, during my training, we were subjected to constant stories and derogatory comments about the Japanese by the men training us. They were marines who had been in battle in the Pacific. This was of course to instill hatred for the enemy, and have no qualms about killing him.

Today the relations between the two nations are excellent. There are many men who fought in the war who do not want to turn the other cheek and still feel no kindness for the Japanese people. The word Jap at that time reflected a demeaning name for the Japanese. If you didn’t live during that period, it may be hard for you to understand the demeanor of the American people and their feelings about the Japanese Empire.

Seven decades have passed since the beginning of that bloody, horrendous war, and as each day passes, we lose more and more of the brave men that fought those battles. We owe them so much for giving up their lives, and to those who came back missing limbs and eyesight so we could enjoy our freedom and the benefits of our democracy. We can never thank them enough. Thank God there are such men.

Chapter One

The Birth of a Carrier

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese carried out a sneak aircraft attack on the naval forces of the United States at Pearl Harbor. In that attack, they sank twenty-one ships—four of them were battleships—and damaged two. Three were destroyers, a mine sweeper and other ships were sunk or damaged. Of the four battleships that were sunk, two were raised, repaired, and fought in future battles with the Japanese. They also destroyed 188 planes and killed 2,403 men. One of the main targets of the Japanese attack was the American aircraft carriers. Fortunately, the five carriers were at sea or in the mainland of the United States. The Lexington, the Yorktown, and the Enterprise were at sea and escaped the aerial attack. Another carrier, the Saratoga, had just arrived at San Diego from a refit at Puget Sound, Washington. Hornet was in Norfolk, Virginia. The Lexington was out at sea as task force 12 carrying marine aircraft to Midway. The Enterprise was delivering Marine Fighter Squadron 211 to Wake Island. Early in the war, it became evident to the American Naval Command that battleships were outmoded, and the battles at sea would be fought in aerial attacks with aircraft carrier task forces, an aircraft carrier screened by cruisers and destroyers and, later in the war, submarines.

The Japanese entered the war with ten large aircraft carriers, outnumbering the United States ten to five. In the battle of the Coral Sea in early May 1942, the Japanese planned on taking the islands of New Guinea and Tulagi in the south eastern Solomon Islands. Naval command in Pearl Harbor sent a carrier task force to the Coral Sea to stop the Japanese from taking those islands. In the battle, Lexington was sunk, and the Yorktown was damaged. The Japanese lost a light carrier Shoho and had damage to their fleet carrier Shokaku. Then a month later, the battle of Midway was fought with three carriers of the American navy, the Yorktown, the Enterprise, and the Hornet. In that battle, the Japanese lost four of their six fleet carriers and a heavy cruiser. The American navy lost the Yorktown and a destroyer.

In 1940, before the Pearl Harbor attack, the United States Navy started a crash program to build up their naval fleet with a large warship building program, many of them carriers. One of those ships’ keels was laid down in March of 1942. She was CV-60, an aircraft carrier later to be named the Stingray. She would displace 36,000 tons and have a deck length of 870 feet, a beam of 147 feet, and a draft of 34 feet 2 inches. Her top speed would be 33 knots and a range of 20,000 nautical miles at 12.5 knots. The tall structure on the right side of the deck is called the island. It is the command center for flight deck operations. The island is about 150 feet tall but only 20 feet wide at the base. This design allows more room on the flight deck. The top of the island is outfitted with an array of radar and communications antennas to keep track of ships and aircraft as far off as eighty miles. Below that is the primary flight control, or pri-fli. This is where the air officer, or air boss, is situated and directs all aircraft activity within a five-mile radius of the carrier. The crew of pri-fli can walk out on a balcony platform called vulture’s row’ to get an entire view of the flight deck, although pri-fli gives a view of the entire flight deck.

Below pri-fli is the bridge, the ship’s command center. The commanding officer, the captain, controls the ship from this cabin and directs the helmsman, who actually steers the ship, and the lee helmsman, who directs the engine room to control the speed of the ship.

The carrier would have a complement of 2,600 personnel and would be capable of carrying ninety-four aircraft. In February 1943, she was commissioned, and Captain Gregory Harmon was assigned as her captain. Her executive officer was Commander Anthony Paglia, and when the ship had a full complement of personnel, they proceeded on her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean to train her crew. When she returned to Norfolk, she was provisioned and armed for an extended cruise.

Captain Harmon knew this would be the last time he would see his family for a long time. He had been a cruiser commander for three years, supporting aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean. With his experience with aircraft task forces, he was picked to be the Stingray’s captain. He learned task force and carrier tactics from that experience.

He was now fifty-three years old. He had a wife, a son in Annapolis, and a daughter still in high school. He was born in 1889, the son of a naval officer. He attended Annapolis in 1907 and graduated in the middle of his class in 1911. After graduation, Ensign Harmon was assigned to a destroyer based in San Diego, California. It was there he met his bride-to-be, Mary Ann Campbell. He courted her for three years before he asked for her hand in marriage. He would see her when the destroyer returned from a cruise to San Diego. He was hesitant about marriage since he would spend half his time at sea. He wanted to make sure their love for each other could stand the strain of absence. Several years after they married and Gregory Harmon was assigned to a cruiser based in Hawaii, Mary Ann moved to Hawaii, and they had their first child, Thomas, in 1920.

Through the years, Greg was promoted up in the ranks and was a full commander in 1939 when he was made captain of a cruiser based in Hawaii.

When the keel of the Stingray was laid in March 1942, Greg was promoted to the rank of captain and assigned as the Stingray’s captain. He followed her construction from that time until her christening. He knew the ship inside and out. After the christening, the ship was outfitted with all her armament and was ready for sea trials. Her shakedown cruise was in the Caribbean. When she returned, she was ordered to the Pacific naval command. She sailed south, and when she was off the Florida coast, she prepared to receive her first squadron of planes, fifteen F4F Wildcat fighters. The radar plot officer in CIC (combat information control) was watching the radar screen when he saw a number of Bogies. Captain Harmon was in the bridge when his intercom sounded. He pushed on the intercom and said Yes?

Captain, CIC, we have a target at two hundred degrees sixty miles, picked up at 0903.

Very well, one target or many?

I count fifteen, Captain.

Give them clearance. That’s our first squadron of Wildcats.

Aye, aye, sir.

The flight commander of the Wildcats was Lieutenant Richard Harvey. The wildcats took off from a naval base in Florida. When they were fifty miles from the carrier, Lieutenant Harvey radioed the ship that they were approaching and requested a vector to the carrier and clearance for landing. They were given a vector and permission to land on the carrier by CIC. When the planes reached the carrier, the air boss, Lieutenant Commander Pete Bushkill, standing in vulture’s row, put out the white flag and announced on his loud speaker to the deck crew, "

ATTENTION ON DECK, WE HAVE INCOMING AIRCRAFT

." The air boss on a carrier is also a pilot.

Lieutenant Paul Corcoran was the LSO (landing signal officer) in position to guide the planes to the aircraft deck at the rear of the carrier. A good landing was considered to be when the aircraft’s tail hook caught the third arresting cable of the four cables on the deck, as it’s the safest and most effective target. They never shoot for the first cable because it’s dangerously close to the edge of the deck. If they came in too low on the first cable, they could easily crash into the stem of the ship. When a squadron approaches the carrier, they are asked if anyone is low on fuel by the air boss on the carrier. If any plane is low on fuel, he is given priority to land first.

The Wildcat squadron had just taken off from the mainland of Florida, so no plane had a low fuel problem. Therefore, the first to land was Lieutenant Richard Harvey, the squadron commander. He approached the carrier from the forward end on the port side of the carrier, lowered his altitude to three hundred feet, banked left to make his base, and then banked left to make his final approach, aiming at the stem of the ship.

A sailor with binoculars checked to see if his wheels and hook were down then notified the LSO that the wheels and hook were down or up. The pilot watched the LSO and his paddles as he approached the rear of the carrier. The paddles would tell him if he was too low, too high, or off course. The pilot used his flaps to slow the plane down. As he came closer to the carrier, the LSO held his paddles straight out to indicate the plane was on the correct glide path or moved the left or right paddle up or down to indicate to lift a wing or raise the paddles and lower the paddles to indicate the aircraft was too high or too low. When he was just about to land, the LSO waved him in with his paddles. The pilot cut the power, and the Wildcat slammed onto the deck; the tail hook caught the third cable.

Landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most difficult things a naval pilot has to do. If the sea is heavy with waves and the deck is moving to port and starboard, it makes the landing more difficult. The plane does not land like on a land field. Instead of coming in and flaring the aircraft, the plane drops down and slams onto the deck; it’s a controlled crash landing.

The arresting cables are stretched across the deck and are attached at both ends to hydraulic cylinders below deck. When the tail hook snags an arresting cable, it pulls the cable out, and the hydraulic cylinder system absorbs the energy of the aircraft, pulling the cable out, bringing the plane to a full stop. As soon as the plane lands, the pilot gets out, the wings are folded, and it’s taken forward and down to the hangar deck by the forward elevator.

The second pilot landed and caught the third wire. The third pilot was too high on his approach, and the LSO waved him off. He had to go to the last position in the flight and await his turn to land. Of the fifteen planes landing, three were waved off on their first attempt by the LSO.

The air boss was watching the planes land. He was unhappy that three planes failed their landing on the first attempt. Lieutenant Richard Harvey, the squadron commander, went up to pri-fli and reported to the air boss, Lieutenant Pete Bushkill, who was in vulture’s row. Lieutenant Harvey saluted him and handed him his orders and the portfolios on all his men in his squadron.

Lieutenant, what experience do your men have in the air? asked Commander Bushkill.

Not much, sir, I put together this squadron when they finished flight training in Pensacola, Florida. They are all fresh ensigns.

I see, and what about carrier landings?

They had carrier landing training following their flight training, sir.

Mr. Harvey, I don’t consider three wave-offs out of fifteen planes good. In the heat of battle, we can’t allow these men to miss their landings when we may have the deck filled with planes and take the time for them to go around for a second attempt. Is that clear?

Yes, sir! responded Harvey.

I want those pilots to practice every day at least three landings until your whole squadron can land without a wave-off. Now tell me, Lieutenant, what is your experience?

"I graduated Annapolis in ’39, sir. Then went for flight training and was assigned to the Yorktown stationed at Pearl Harbor. I was in the battle of Midway and have two kills to my credit."

Very well, Lieutenant. I want you to have your pilots in fighting shape, we will be fighting the Japanese, and their Zero fighter can outperform your F4F Wildcat, so your pilots will have to be very good at dogfighting. They better be trained by the time we reach Pearl Harbor. We will be getting a flight of dive bombers, and it will be your squadron’s responsibility to protect them on their bomb runs.

"I understand, sir, that’s what we did on the Yorktown."

Very well! Tomorrow we will get a squadron of Dauntless bombers. I hope they do better at carrier landing than your group. That’s all, Lieutenant.

Commander Bushkill ordered an ensign to show Lieutenant Harvey and his pilots to their quarters. That afternoon, Lieutenant Harvey assembled his squadron in the pilot ready room. Gentlemen, he said as he addressed them, the air boss, Commander Bushkill, was not happy with our performance this morning. We had three wave-offs on our landings, and he doesn’t consider that as satisfactory. In the heat of battle, when planes are taking off and landing for refueling and rearmament, they won’t have time to allow planes to go around for a second try. Besides, you might get in the way of a departing aircraft. So we are going to practice landings every day until the whole squadron can land without a wave-off.

The whole squadron groaned.

I know, that’s a chore, but we have to be perfect, or some of us might get grounded and sent for shore duty if he can’t land consistently on the first try. Remember, the LSO is rating your landings, and the air boss will be looking at those ratings.

That got the attention of the crew, and they sat up.

Further, we are going to practice dogfighting every afternoon. Those Zeros can tum inside us and are faster. You have to overcome that advantage with good air tactics, or you’re going to go burning into the sea.

One of the pilots raised his hand. Lieutenant, I was down on the hangar deck. Our planes are the only ones on board. When are we going to get bombers and torpedo planes and more fighters?

I was told there will be a squadron of Dauntless bombers come on board tomorrow. This carrier can hold ninety-four planes, so there will be other squadrons joining us from San Diego or when we reach Pearl Harbor. I doubt we would go into battle without a full complement of aircraft. We will be known as Fighter Squadron F1.

The next morning, the Stingray radio operator in CIC received a radio message. The pilot was using the code word for the carrier, High Tower.

High Tower, this is Angel flight, fifteen Dauntless dive bombers, two hundred miles out approaching from the southeast for landing. Lieutenant Lance Allworth commanding, request clearance for landing and vector to the flight deck.

CIC replied, Angel flight, you are cleared for landing. High Tower is on a heading of one hundred and eighty degrees. Your vector to intercept is one hundred degrees, welcome aboard.

One hundred degrees, roger, Angel flight.

In a little over forty-five minutes, Lieutenant Allworth saw the aircraft carrier steaming at thirty knots. He radioed his flight, Look down below, men. There is your new home! She’s big and a beauty, brand spanking new. Lance flew along the port side of the carrier as he dropped his altitude to three hundred feet, then made his base turn then final approach to the carrier deck. The LSO Paul Corcoran was ready to guide the planes to the deck. Every one of the bombers made it to the deck without a wave-off, and most of them hooked the third wire. Commander Bushkill was watching the squadron landing from vulture’s row, six stories up in the island, the command center for flight deck operations, and was pleased that there were no wave-offs.

When he landed, Lieutenant Allworth went up to vulture’s row and reported in to Commander Bushkill. Welcome aboard, Lieutenant. Your flight looked like they were well trained, Commander Bushkill said to Lance as he returned Lance’s salute.

They were, sir. Most of them have been on other carriers before receiving this assignment. Several were in the battle of Midway.

Excellent. We need trained veterans. Your flight is the second to come aboard. We received a flight of fighters yesterday, fifteen F4F Wildcats. Only their flight leader, Lieutenant Harvey, has any experience. The rest of the flight is just out of flight school.

Are you going to get more fighters, sir?

Yes, we plan on thirty.

I hope they have some experience. I wouldn’t want to go on a bombing mission against a Jap warship without fighter cover or with inexperienced fighter pilots.

Don’t be concerned, Lieutenant. Lieutenant Harvey has had dogfight experience. He too was in the battle of Midway and has two kills to his credit. He will be taking his flight up every day to teach his pilots dogfighting tactics. By the time we get into a scrap with the Japs, they should be ready.

I understand the Japs lost most of their seasoned pilots in the Midway scrap.

Yes, replied Bushkill, so most of the Jap pilots our boys will meet will have little experience. That should be to our advantage.

"So, Commander, I understand we are headed

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