Saturday, January 21, 2017

A great collection of World War 2 aviation photographs

The good people at Vintage Wings of Canada (whom we've met in these pages several times before) have published a wonderful collection of rare and historic photographs of aircraft, ships and personnel from World War II.  Here's a small selection to whet your appetite, all reduced in size to fit this blog.  Each image is followed by its description.

The timing of this photograph of an HMS Tracker-based Avenger (either from 853 or 846 Squadron) striking the water is impeccable, if rather frightening. The Avenger's propeller is just striking the surface of the water as the large torpedo bomber and its three-man crew hit the surface inverted. It is not known the exact circumstances of the crash or if the crew survived.

The day before the amphibious assault on Iwo Jima, the starving and doomed Japanese garrison on Chichijima, the next island in the archipelago, came under attack by carrier-based aircraft of the United States Navy. The island was used as the primary site for Japanese long-range radio relay operations and surveillance activity in the Pacific. Avengers were used to take out the two radio stations on the island, but they faced anti-aircraft fire. This Avenger from USS Bennington, flown by Lieutenant Robert King, was one of three Avengers attacking Chichijima's airfield. Another of the Avengers was hit by flak which blew it right wing off. That Avenger rolled hard right and into a spin, hitting King's Avenger. The left wing of the dying Avenger struck and crumpled the rear fuselage of King's “Turkey” and its propeller chewed off half the port wing. With the aircraft out of control at 9,000 feet, King ordered his two crewmen (Jim Dye and Grady York) to bail out, but, as he was attempting to get out himself, the aircraft righted itself and he regained control. The other Avenger spun out of control into the sea, killing all on board. The two crewmen landed close to the shore of Chichijima, waded ashore and were captured. Sadly, they were later executed by the desperate and unstable Japanese, as were six other US Navy airmen shot down in the same period. King made it back to the carrier, escorted by squadron mates, ditched and was picked up. He was however, devastated by survivor's guilt. In this photo we can see the tension in his shoulders as he fights the controls with both hands.

Some carriers, like the Essex Class carrier USS Yorktown (above) could land aircraft from the bow while steaming in reverse. Who knew? It makes some degree of sense however, if the aft flight deck is on fire from a bomb or crash and aircraft need to get down. Essex Class carriers could steam 20 knots in reverse and had arrestor wires on the forward flight deck. Here, a Grumman Avenger lands on over the bow, while Yorktown steams in reverse in the summer of 1943 in the protected confines Gulf of Paria (between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago) during her shakedown cruise.

While most of us are familiar with aircraft taking off from or being catapulted from the flight deck of Second World war carriers, it's a little known fact that some of these carriers (Essex-class in particular) also had a starboard hydraulic catapult (known as the H-IV-A (H-4A) catapult which could launch an 8-ton aircraft to 85 mph in 72.5 feet) from which fighters could be launched in the event of an emergency in which the flight deck was completely fouled, or simply to increase launch rate for standard operations. In the top photograph, a Hellcat is launched from USS Hornet (CV-12) in February 1944.

An Avro Anson (top) rests atop an Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley at No. 19 Operational Training Unit, a Whitley conversion base at RAF Kinloss, Morayshire, Scotland. On the night of October 19, 1943 the pilot of the Anson (XF-K) misunderstood the light signals from the control tower and proceeded with a landing whilst the pilot of the Whitley (UO-O) was still warming his engines for a take-off. The Whitley was damaged beyond repair, but the Anson was soon back in the air. Accidents like these were not common, but there are other photos of similarly mated aircraft at training bases from Canada to Australia.

There are many more pictures at the link.  Highly recommended viewing for aviation and military history buffs.



Andrew said...

Steaming backwards to recover aircraft? Those old sailors had 'huevos grande'!!!!

And we can't get the damned LCS to even work right.

Times sure are different, aren't they?

Thanks for the link, and to the ruination of my afternoon plans.

Jenn said...

I'm not an aviation or military buff but I enjoy historic photos and stories. Thanks!

drjim said...

Thanks, Peter!

Bob Mueller said...

TIL about an extra catapult. That's pretty nifty.

urbane legend said...

Like Andrew said,
Thanks for the link, and to the ruination of my afternoon plans.

fast richard said...

That photo of the Avenger damaged at Chichijima is amazing. Chichijima is where George H. W. Bush was shot down while flying another Avenger. Fortunately he was rescued by an American submarine before the Japanese could get to him. The commanding officer on that island and a couple of others were hanged after the war for torture, beheading, and cannibalism.

Andrew said...

Fast Richard, thanks for the GHWB reference. I knew he was shot down somewhere around there but was too lazy to look it up.

Something about those old aviators is just special. Growing up I knew Colonel William L. Leverette, a P-38 ace. Sweetest man I ever new, just a superbly nice man. Strongest (in spirit) person I ever met. And he could tell you about every part of that P-38, would go on for hours, totally fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the references and links to many outstanding photos of W.W.II-era aircraft and aircraft-related operations. Always an interesting topic-area, and a guaranteed destruction to any prior day-plans, so necessarily mostly-restricted to access on weekends, especially rainy-afternoon Sundays like today! 8-)

Wilmington, NC