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Viewing Topic "Aircarft Carrier Tactics"
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Posted by: Paintybeard A possible "Elite" volume?
Posted on: 18/07/2015 07:28:35

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Posted by: Paintybeard
Total Posts: 347
Joined Date: Monday, 4 February 2013

How about a Tactics title on Aircraft carriers in WW2?

I’ve just finished re-reading Mark Stilles three Campaign books about the Pacific carrier battles of 1942. It was interesting to realise how differently the 2 sides went about organising and operating  their carriers. The very expert Japanese were able to co-ordinate the flights of several carriers so that aircraft would strike together. Whereas each American carrier, even when part of the same task force, made its own strikes, formed its own CAP and so on. The Japanese seem to have been more skilled and better organised, whereas the Americans had advantages in intelligence and tactical flexibility.

 So I would be interested in a book that explored the following:

 What was the mixture of different aircraft on various types of carrier, and how did it change as the war progressed?

How was reconnaissance organised?

How was co-ordination between multiple carriers improved as fleets got bigger?

After aircraft losses, how was reinforcement handled? Did new individual aircrew join an experienced group, or were whole squadrons rotated?

 In short, what was each sides carrier doctrine, and how did it evolve.

 As the only other major nautical air power was the Royal Navy coverage of their tactics and methods would make an interesting comparison. 

Posted on: 18/07/2015 07:28:36
Posted by: KenA
Total Posts: 114
Joined Date: Tuesday, 15 October 2013

With all these ideas pouring out of you Painty, Osprey won’t know where your priorities lie.  Not a bad thought that you’ve come up with, though I don’t know who would write it.  Mark Stilles seems stuck somewhere in the Pacific writing all these Pacific war based books [I’m not sure whether to organise a rescue party or not].

There were five major carrier-to-carrier actions in the Pacific during WWII [Coral Sea 1942, Midway 1942, Eastern Solomons 1942, Santa Cruz 1942, and Philippine Sea 1944 (the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot).  Mark Stilles has covered the first four, combining the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz into the one book.  But, as far as I’m aware the last one (the Philippine Sea) has still to be covered by Osprey and would, I suspect, be on Mark Stilles’ radar as a book to be produced in future.  If it has already been covered please tell me where.

I had to smile Painty when you mentioned Royal Navy tactics and methods.  I couldn’t help thinking of the strange affair of Captain Guy D’Oyly-Hughes and the carrier HMS Glorious when the carrier and two escorting destroyers were surprised by the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst, which sent them to the bottom of the Norwegian Sea on 8 June 1940.  No combat air patrol was being flown by the Glorious at the time, no aircraft were ready on the flight deck for a quick take off, and there was no lookout in Glorious’ crow’s nest.  Author John Winton concluded that D’Oyly had much more important things concerning him (like planning for the court-martial of his Commander (Air)).  I wonder if he was still planning that when he was in the water.  There were only 38 survivors from the Glorious (1,207 killed or missing) because German ships didn’t pick up survivors and other vessels took some days to get to the scene.  So, wouldn’t this make for an interesting comparison of tactics and methods?

OK, OK, I know.  The Glorious was a far from typical Royal Navy case.  It just jumped so quickly to mind when I saw what you had written, Painty.  The Royal Navy’s carrier operations did improve markedly as the war progressed and as they got better equipped.  However, the RN did have this odd habit of appointing people as carrier commanders who had no experience on carriers, little understanding of naval aviation and little empathy with naval aviators.  Vice-Admiral Sir Philip Vian was a case in point.

Posted on: 19/07/2015 14:30:03
Posted by: achim
Total Posts: 40
Joined Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The quetion arises if Glorious was at all able to launch her Aircraft? I understand, her decks were filled with ten Gloster Gladiators and 11 Hurricanes, all of which could not be brought down to her Hangar, and thus, avoided the launch of her Naval planes....? I don't insist on this intake, but I distinctly remember having read that somewhere, sometime....

However, British Aircraft Carriers had really diffrent purposes in the European Theater then Japanese and American Carriers had in the Pacific! American and Japanese Comanders had to be constantly on the lookout to be attacked by their opposite numbers....., while the British Carriers had no operational Opposits from the Germans and the Italians! Only in the Med were they subjected to aerial attacks by Land Based Aircraft, and there seldom enough, given the catastrophic coordination between the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica and their respective Naval Commands!

I think it is fair to say, British Aircraft Carriers were used quite diffrently during WWII then American and Japanese Carriers! A comparision ofTactics might well be worth our while....

Posted on: 20/07/2015 20:10:05
Posted by: KenA
Total Posts: 114
Joined Date: Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Ah Achim, you have had me diving for my book shelves.

First, I agree with you that in the European theatre of WWII British aircraft carriers were indeed used quite differently from American and Japanese aircraft carriers in the Pacific theatre.  In Europe the danger to carriers was mainly from submarines and to a lesser extent surface vessels and land-based aircraft.  In the Pacific the danger to carriers was primarily from carrier aircraft and land-based aircraft (including kamikaze aircraft) and to a lesser extent submarines and surface vessels.

Just taking a look for a minute at the fleet carriers that Britain lost during World War II: it lost one (Glorious) to gunfire from enemy surface ships; it lost three (Courageous, Ark Royal and Eagle) to torpedoes from German submarines; and one (Hermes) to Japanese carrier aircraft off Ceylon.  It also lost three escort carriers (two to torpedoes from German submarines and one from an internal explosion of unknown cause).

By way of comparison the US lost the following fleet carriers during World War II: three (Hornet, Lexington and Yorktown) to carrier aircraft (though Hornet was finished off by Japanese destroyers) and one (Wasp) to torpedoes from a Japanese submarine.  In addition there was considerable damage caused to some ships by air strikes (including kamikaze strikes) necessitating their departure from battle zones for repair.

One US light carrier (Princeton) was lost in WWII to Japanese land-based aircraft.  Among the US escort carriers, three (Bismarck Sea, Saint Lo and Ommany Bay) were lost due to kamikaze strikes, though the last named vessel was left in a crippled state so it was scuttled.  The Gambier Bay was sunk by Japanese surface ships, while the Block Island and the Liscome Bay were sunk by German and Japanese submarines respectively.

This gives something of an idea of what carrier commanders in each theatre had to be alert to.  Obviously, a better picture would be gained by adding in the Japanese figures (but this post is already too long) and getting some idea of damage incurred by vessels not sunk.

Another thing to be remembered is the British Pacific Fleet/Task Force 57 that was operational in that theatre in 1945.  This fleet, formed in 1944 to fight alongside the Americans, contained a higher proportion of aircraft carriers than the Royal Navy had ever mustered before.  Vice-Admiral Sir Philip Vian was in charge of the RN’s air operations.

On VJ Day the British Pacific Fleet consisted of the following fleet and light carriers: Formidable, Indefatigable, Indomitable, Colossus, Glory, Venerable, Illustrious, Implacable, and Victorious.  Then there were the escort carriers: Striker, Arbiter, Chaser, Ruler, Slinger, and Speaker.  And there were three more escort carriers ferrying aircraft and supplies: Vindex, Fencer, and Reaper.  On top of that there were four battleships (Duke of York, King George V, Anson and Howe), a multitude of cruisers, a vast array of destroyers, escort vessels and submarines, and a supply train of vessels you wouldn’t read about.

One thought that did occur to me when thinking about comparisons between the tactics and methods employed on the carriers of Japan, the US and Britain was the influence the construction of the carriers themselves had on those tactics and methods.  For example, the British and Japanese carriers had steel armoured flight decks whereas I think most, if not all, US WWII carriers had wooden flight decks, which were, I submit, more readily subject to damage from the enemy and must, therefore, have influenced tactical thinking.  Note, the British Pacific Fleet did not lose a single carrier (or have one put out of action) due to kamikaze strikes.

The British Pacific Fleet’s carrier record against kamikazes was:

Indefatigable: hit once in April 1945 between Formosa and Okinawa; bomb didn’t detonate, flight deck operational again in 30 minutes.

Formidable: hit twice in May 1945, 5 days apart during Battle of Okinawa.  The first attack blew a hole in the flight deck and damaged the steam pipes in the centre boiler room.  Within 5½ hours the flight deck was operational and the steam pipes were repaired in 26½ hours so the centre boilers could be reconnected to the engines.  The second kamikaze strike did little damage to the ship but destroyed a number of aircraft on the deck park.

Indomitable: hit once in May 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa.  Her armoured flight deck saved her from any serious damage.

Victorious: hit twice (5 days apart) in May 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa.  Her armoured flight deck resisted the worst of the impacts and she was back in operation within hours on each occasion.

So, I think the British armoured flight decks came out fairly well.  Post WWII US carriers had armoured flight decks.  A little late for the USS Franklin whose flight deck was made from Douglas fir and white pine.

One last comment.  I think one lesson the British learnt during the Battle of Okinawa (when their carriers got hit with kamikazes) was that carriers always require sufficient escort vessels to provide adequate cover in the event of air (or submarine) attack.  When they left themselves open, as they did, the enemy took advantage.

Posted on: 21/07/2015 15:27:51
Posted by: achim
Total Posts: 40
Joined Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Aircraft Carrier has become, from mid war onwards THE Capital Ship of the Fleets (of those Fleets who did have Carriers)!
it is a kinda similar to the issue with the Battlecruisers..., Speed and Protection or Speed and Striking Power!

The armoured British  Carriers could carry lesst Aircraft then the unarmoured American Carriers....., thus less Striking Power!

British Battlecruisers had the "bigger guns", but less armour, while, at similar speeds, German Battlecruisers had much better Armur, but less hitting power....

All in all, it is quite as you say..., the british design with armoured Flight Decks seems to recomend itself!   


Posted on: 21/07/2015 23:34:14

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