Life on American Aircraft CarriersAuthor of the article: Vitzlipuzli
"Life on board ship is a constant battle with rust, in which the weapons are the chipping hammer, the wire brush, red lead, and gray paint."
Crossing the Line. A Bluejacket's Odyssey in World War II. Alvin KernanWars often contribute to the technological progress of man. Take for example the number of war vehicles that came out of World War II, like the British Spitfire aircraft, Russian T-34 tanks, and American aircraft carriers, the latter becoming an integral part of naval warfare, playing a crucial role in the Pacific theater of war. Referred to as the "powerhouse of the fleet" by the United States Navy, they proved their importance at the Battle of Midway and Leyte, as well as many other operations of the U.S. Navy.
pic.2 Torpedo squadron pilots (VT-13) on the aircraft carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) during the battle of Leyte, 1944.
In 1940, the United States Congress approved the construction of 12 Navy pilot training bases to be carried out in record time. One of these was the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, whose first batch of pilots graduated on November 1, 1941, just a month before the dramatic Attack on Pearl Harbor (which would be a catalyst for the United States to officially enter World War II).
pic.3 Fighter squadron VF-10, also known as “Grim Reapers” on board the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6), 1942.
Aircraft carriers, like other ships, required thousands of sailors to become experts in their field. For example, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown counted more than two thousand sailors as part of her crew. In addition to pilots, thousands of technician seamen were needed to maintain aircraft carriers and be responsible for repairs, refueling, equipping combat ammunition, and more.
pic.1 “Enterprise” (CV-6) aircraft carrier at San-Francisco harbor, 1939.
Because of the requirements to man these vessels, large scale training of military personnel extremely important to the United States Navy. The Empire of Japan learned this first-hand -- after defeats at the Coral Sea and Midway, they were pressed for skilled pilots and sailors. Unlike the United States, Japan couldn't compensate for the loss of personnel in the short term.
pic. 4. Crew of the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) together with the air group personnel assigned to it, 1930-s.
Active patrol and anti-aircraft services were necessary survival requirements for carriers, having weak armor and artillery. Escort ships were tasked with providing protection and could not always manage with potential threats. Most aircraft carrier crews worked 14 to 16 hours each day, a grueling schedule necessary to ensure constant operations of patrol groups: practice take-off and landings, crew cooperation, and tactical air missions against the enemy.
Pic. 5. Ceremony on the occasion of 200 000 miles distance passover by the aircraft carrier USS Copahee (CVE-12), 1945.
Sailors on aircraft carriers were accommodated by sixty-person shared cabins. In such conditions, each sailor had one bunk as well as some space for a small locker with uniform and hygienic items. Officers lived in small cabins for two to four persons. And only the generalship could have individual cabins large enough for personal items.
pic. 6. Funeral of the junior lieutenant Eugene Bradshaw onboard the escort aircraft carrier USS Anzio (on July 19, 1944 it was called USS Coral Sea CVE-12), 1944.
Nutrition has always been one of the most important issues in the military. Sailors had their meals in the common dining room while the officers were in the mess room, served by the stewards from the seamen team. Sailors had three meals a day and the night patrolmen had extra coffee portions during the night watch to help them stay awake. Some sailors who had access to the supplies invented their own recipe of energy drinks that were not listed in the official US Navy menu, often mixing coffee with 99% alcohol that was supposed to be used to clean bomb reticles.
pic. 7. Ration loading on board the ship USS Essex (CV-9), 1945.
The US Navy prides itself on providing its sailors with living essentials, but during wartime some issues still occurred. In the first months of the war, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) experienced food shortages, and the diet of sailors was steadily deteriorating. In order to boost the crew morale, the ship chaplain Hamilton arranged an auction with the last remaining steak being on the auction lot.
The steak was carefully covered with a transparent glass cap and solemnly carried through the deck of the aircraft carrier under the escort of four marines, armed with М-1 Garand rifles as if the sailors were on parade. The lucky auction winners were honored with seating at a table on a self-made stage, which was installed near the second aircraft elevator. One of the sailors, acting in the role of a “lovely waitress,” served the table. The chaplain organized a show for the entire crew in honor of the winners, including an orchestra that helped to boost the morale of the crew that was beginning to tire of the potato-heavy diet.
pic. 8. Neptune holiday celebration on board the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6), 1938.
During their time of service, some sailors worked hard to master their skills. One group who served as cooks under the commander of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet wanted to take part in combat operations apart from serving food and washing dishes. Mark Mitcher, the ship's commander, agreed and assigned these sailors to the AA gun crew who consequently spent time on their training during gun practice. As it turned out they became one of the most successful AA gun squads on the ship.
pic. 9. The AA gun crew on the aircraft carrier USS Copahee (CVE-12), 1942.
Work took up most of the crew's time leaving almost no time for rest or entertainment. Still, sailors made time for playing cards, dice, and betting. Bets involved real money and had special popularity among the fleet and were privately encouraged by officers that viewed this competition as a stimulus for sailors during training. Even war was not an obstacle for gambling, and sometimes bets were made during the battle itself.
pic. 10. Celebration of date change line crossing onboard the aircraft carrier USS (CV-12), 1944
War never interrupted seafaring traditions, such as crossing the equator, zero meridian, and date change line crossings. According to international tradition, all novices who crossed the line for the first time (regardless of age) were initiated during the celebration by being tested in a variety of different challenges.
pic. 11. Neptune celebration onboard of USS Wasp aircraft carrier (CV-7), 1942
In some situations, like that of the USS Hornet, the crew actually celebrated Christmas twice during their patrol of the Pacific. According to the crew, the "first" Christmas was celebrated with an enormous party, while the "second" was not welcomed with great enthusiasm from exhausted crew.
Christmas during wartime is an incredibly special date for sailors. In December of 1945, when the USS Enterprise was returning home, a strong storm detained the ship. By Christmas morning, the Enterprise managed to reach the Bayonne port in New Jersey. While the sailors were rushing their way through their duties to finish as soon as possible, the ship chaplain received a message from a local orphanage -- the orphanage lacked the resources to hold a Christmas dinner. The entire crew of the Enterprise prepared an event along with some special gift and invited 140 boys from the orphanage to celebrate the holiday aboard the ship for a very special Christmas.
pic 12. Christmas celebration onboard the ship USS Enterprise (CV-6), organized for boys from the orphanage, 1945.
Thousands of American sailors who served on aircraft carriers helped to make that class of ship historic, and the stories of those that served could far more eloquently tell their stories. For further reading, be sure to check any of the references below at your local library.
The reference list:
- Lisle A. Rose. The Ship That Held the Line. The USS Hornet and the First Year of the Pacific War. Naval Institute Press, 2005
- Edward P. Stafford. The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise. Naval Institute Press, 2005
- Alvin B. Kernan. Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's Odyssey in World War II Crossing the Line: A Bluejacket's Odyssey in World War II. Yale University Press, 2007.
- Robert J. Cressman. That Gallant Ship: U.S.S. Yorktown CV-5. Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1985.
- Norman E. Berg. My Carrier War: The Life and Times of a Naval Aviator in WWII. Hellgate Press, 2001
- Norman C. Delaney. Corpus Christi’s: University of the Air // Naval History. – 2013. – V. 27. – P.36-41.
- Big E's 1945 Christmas Present: http://cv6.org/compa...counts/rkenyon/
- Photographic History of the U.S. Navy: http://www.navsource.org/
Edited by Vallter, 29 August 2013 - 02:59 PM.