Daily Archives: April 2, 2024

2 April 1956

Northwest Airlines, Inc., Boeing 377 Stratocruiser N74608. (BAAA)

2 April 1956: On Monday morning at 8:10 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, Northwest Airlines Flight 2 took off from Seattle-Tacoma Airport en route to New York City, with intermediate stops at Portland, Oregon, and Chicago, Illinois. The airliner, a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, N74608, had a crew of six and carried 32 passengers. The flight was under the command of Captain Robert Reeve Heard, with First Officer Gene Paul Johnson and Flight Engineer Carl Vernon Thomsen.

The weather at “SeaTac” was overcast, with a ceiling at 1,200 feet (366 meters) and 10 miles (16 kilometers) visibility. The wind was from the east-northeast at 7 knots (3.6 meters per second).

The Boeing reached the cloud layer at 145 knots (167 miles per hour/269 kilometers per hour). The engines were throttled back from takeoff power and the wing flaps were retracted. The airplane suddenly began to buffet severely, as if it were about to stall. (A passenger later said that the airplane “shook like a wet dog.”) It also rolled to the left and Captain Heard had to use full opposite aileron to maintain control. N74608 began to lose altitude.

Northwest Airlines Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. (Minnesota Historical Society)

Captain Heard suspected a split-flap condition, in which, one of the flaps remained partially or fully extended. Initially considering a return to SeaTac, Heard decided that it would be safer to proceed to McChord Air Force Base. The situation continued to worsen. Captain Heard, fearing control would quickly be lost, decided to ditch the Stratocruiser in Puget Sound.

N74608 hit the surface 4.7 nautical miles (5.4 statute miles/8.7 kilometers) from the end of Seattle’s Runway 20, The water was smooth and the airliner coasted to a stop. It then began to take on water. All passengers and crew were evacuated. Two passengers suffered minor injuries. Once in the water, they used seat cushions for flotation. (Flight 2 was not required to carry rafts or life vests.) The water temperature was 42 °F. (5.6 °C.). After about fifteen minutes, the Stratoliner sank in 430 feet (131 meters) of water.

A Northwest Airlines DC-3 flew over the scene and dropped three life rafts. Two U.S. Air Force Grumman SA-16 Albatross amphibians and a U.S. Coast Guard 83-foot (56.6 meters) patrol boat soon arrived on scene. Most of the passengers and crew were rescued. However, four passengers, probably suffering from hypothermia, had drowned. Flight Service Attendant David Victor Razey was missing. The accident occurred on his 27th birthday.¹

A crane barge lifts Boeing 377 N74608 clear of the water. (Civil Aeronautics Board)

The wreck of N74608 was located on the floor of Puget Sound. It was initially moved to shallow water where divers were able to examine it. Later, the airliner was lifted onto a barge.

The Number 1 engine is missing. (Civil Aeronautics Board)

The Stratoliner’s Number 1 engine (outboard, left wing) was missing and never found. Investigators found that the cowl flaps of the remaining three engines were all fully open. They should have been closed for takeoff.

When the flight crew went through the pre-takeoff check list, in response to the prompt, “Cowl flaps set for takeoff,” the flight engineer responded, “Set for takeoff,” when they were actually open.

At takeoff and climb out speeds, open cowl flaps disrupt the flow of air over the wings. With the wing flaps down, this isn’t noticeable, but when the flaps are retracted, a severe buffeting occurs, as parts of the wing begin to stall.

Investigators found “no failure or malfunction of the aircraft, the power plants, or control systems prior to the ditching.”

Probable Cause:

     The Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the incorrect analysis of control difficulty which occurred on retraction of the wing flaps as a result of the flight engineer’s failure to close the engine cowl flaps—the analysis having been made under conditions of great urgency and within an extremely short period of time available for decision.

—Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Investigation Report SA-319, File No. 1-0051, 9 November 1956, at Page 8

A Northwest Airlines Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. (Charles M. Daniels Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

Northwest Airlines’ N74608 was one of ten Boeing Model 377-10-30 Stratocruisers ordered by the airline. It was built at Seattle, Washington, in 1949, and assigned the manufacturer’s serial number 15954. N74608 carried Northwest’s fleet number, 708. The 377-10-30 was a variant built specifically for Northwest. It can be identified by the rectangular passenger windows.

At the time of the accident, the airliner had flown a total of 18,489 hours (TTAF).

The Model 377 was a large, four-engine civil transport which had been developed, along with the military C-97 Stratofreighter (Boeing Model 367), from the World War II B-29 Superfortress long-range heavy bomber. It utilized the wings and engines of the improved B-50 Superfortress. The airplane was operated by a flight crew of four. It was a double-deck aircraft, with the flight deck, passenger cabin and galley on the upper deck and a lounge and cargo compartments on the lower. The airliner was pressurized and could maintain Sea Level atmospheric pressure while flying at 15,500 feet (4,724 meters). The Model 377 could be configured to carry up to 100 passengers, or 28 in sleeping berths.

The Stratocruiser was 110 feet, 4 inches (33.630 meters) long with a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches (43.053 meters) and overall height of 38 feet, 3 inches (11.659 meters). The airliner had an empty weight of 83,500 pounds (37,875 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight was 148,000 pounds (67,132 kilograms).

Flight deck of the Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser. (Boeing)

N74608 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 4,362.49-cubic-inch-displacement (71.488 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major B6 engines. These were four-row, 28-cylinder, radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1.

The B6 had a Normal Power rating of 2,650 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., at 5,500 feet (1,676 meters), and Maximum Continuous Power rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 3,500 feet (1,067 meters). The Takeoff Power rating was 3,500 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. with water/alcohol injection.

The engines drove four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 24260 constant-speed propellers with a diameter of 17 feet (5.182 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction.

The Wasp Major B6 was 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter and 8 feet, 0.50 inches (2.451 meters) long. It weighed 3,584 pounds (1,626 kilograms), dry. The propeller assembly weighed 761 pounds (345 kilograms).

In this photograph of the Boeing 377 assembly plant, the airplane’s cowl flaps are visible immediately behind the engines. (Boeing)

The 377 had a cruise speed of 301 miles per hour (484 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour). During testing by Boeing, a 377 reached 409 miles per hour (658 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 32,000 feet (9,754 meters) and the range was 4,200 miles (6,759 kilometers).

Boeing built 56 Model 377 Stratocruisers, with Pan American as the primary user, and another 888 military C-97 Stratofreighter and KC-97 Stratotankers.

¹ David Victor Razey was born 2 April 1929 at Maerdy, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales. He had brown hair, hazel eyes and a medium complexion. He was 5 feet, 5 inches (1.65 meters) tall and weighed 140 pounds (63.5 kilograms). Razey became resident of the United States in 1949, and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen, 2 August 1954.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

2 April 1944

Boeing B-29-10-BW Superfortress 42-6331, “Gone With The Wind,” taking off from Chikulia Airfield, India, 4 July 1944, for enemy targets during Battle of Imphal. (United States Army Air Forces A-52133 A.C./World War Photos)

2 April 1944: The first Boeing B-29 Superfortess to arrive in the China-Burma-India Theater was B-29-10-BW 42-6331, Gone With The Wind, under the command of Colonel Leonard F. Harman, commanding officer, 58th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy). 42-6331 landed at Chukulia Airfield, south west of Chukulia, India, after a 7-day journey. 42-6331 had departed Pratt Army Airfield, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Wichita, Kansas, on the morning of 26 March 1944.

From Kansas, Gone With The Wind flew non-stop to Gander, Newfoundland. It then crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Marrakesh, Morocco, on the northwest shoulder of the African Continent. Next, the B-29 crossed North Africa to John Payne Field at Cairo, Egypt, and then on to Karachi, India (now, Pakistan). The final leg was to Chikulia, in the Purbi Singhbum District of the State of Jharkhand, India.

The flight  of “Gone With The Wind,” 26 March-2 April 1944. Great Circle Routes from Pratt AAF, Kansas, to Gander, Newfoundland, 2,320 statute miles (3,734 kilometers); to Marrakesh, Morocco, 2,681 miles (4,315 kilometers); to Cairo, Egypt, 2,334 miles (3,756 kilometers); to Karachi, India. 2,215 miles (3,565 kilometers); and finally, to Chukulia, India, 1,249 miles (2,010 kilometers). 10,799 statute miles (17,379 kilometers), total. (Great Circle Mapper)

Gene Gurney wrote:

     “According to schedule, all the B-29s were to arrive between the first and the fifteenth of April. At noon, Sunday, April 2, at Chikulia, General Kenneth B. Wolfe, commander of the 20th, and his staff assembled to await the arrival of Harman’s plane. Twice before false alarms had brought them rushing to base operations, but this time Colonel Harman himself had radioed his ETA—estimated time of arrival. Because this was a “historic” first, public relations officers staged an elaborate welcome with a fighter escort aloft and reporters and photographers on the ground. Suspense, mounting by the minute, burst in a roar when the plane was spotted in the west. It flew steadily in, buzzed the field in a thunderous earth-shaking dive, swung around and settled smoothly on the long runway. Jake Harman and the crew of his Number 663 slid out of the silver belly to the enthusiastic greetings of the administrative, ground and maintenance men of Chikulia.”

B-29 Story: The Plane That Won The War, by Gene Gurney, Fawcett Publications, 1963

By May 1944, more than 120 Superfortresses had arrived in the CBI Theater. Their first combat mission took place on 5 June 1944.

Boeing B-29-10-BW Superfortress 62-6331 at Xinjin, China, June 1944. Note the code “K-40” on the forward fuselage. (U.S. Air Force/AirHistory.net)

42-6331 (Boeing serial number 3465) was a B-29-10-BW Superfortress which had been built at Boeing’s Wichita, Kansas, Plant II. It was delivered to the United States Army Air Forces 28 January 1944, and assigned to the 25th Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy), 40th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy), 58th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) at Pratt Army Air Field, Kansas.

After a number of combat missions, Gone With the Wind was modified to transport gasoline over the Himalaya Mountains to forward air bases in China.

On the night of 21 December 1944, Major Robert E. Moss, 45th Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy), 40th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy), was flying Gone With The Wind near the port city of Chittagong, Burma. A Royal Air Force Bristol Beaufighter Mk VI D, E8710, flown by Squadron Leader R. R. Morrison, No. 89 Squadron, was vectored to intercept the bomber by ground controllers. Approaching from down moon, Morrison did not recognize the aircraft as an Allied B-29. He fired several bursts while closing from 700 to 500 feet (213 to 152 meters) and observed strikes along the center of the fuselage. The bomber’s fuel tanks caught fire. All 11 members of the bomber’s crew were able to escape, but the navigator, 1st Lieutenant David Lustig, was killed when his parachute did not open. 42-6331 crashed into the Bay of Bengal. The ten survivors were rescued. (MACR 10589)

Boeing B-29 Superfortress

The B-29 Superfortress was the most technologically advanced—and complex—aircraft of World War II. It required the manufacturing capabilities of the entire nation to produce. Over 1,400,000 engineering man-hours had been required to design the prototypes.

The Superfortress was manufactured by Boeing at Seattle and Renton, Washington, and Wichita, Kansas; by the Glenn L. Martin Company at Omaha, Nebraska; and by Bell Aircraft Corporation, Marietta, Georgia.

Boeing B-29 production line. (U.S. Air Force 050607-F-1234P-077)

There were three XB-29 prototypes, 14 YB-29 pre-production test aircraft, 2,513 B-29 Superfortresses, 1,119 B-29A, and 311 B-29B aircraft. The bomber served during World War II and the Korean War and continued in active U.S. service until 1960. In addition to its primary mission as a long range heavy bomber, the Superfortress also served as a photographic reconnaissance airplane, designated F-13, a weather recon airplane (WB-29), and a tanker (KB-29).

The B-29 was operated by a crew of 11 to 13 men. It was 99 feet, 0 inches (30.175 meters) long with a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches (43.068 meters). The vertical fin was 27 feet, 9 inches (8.305 meters) high. The airplane’s empty weight was 71,500 pounds (32,432 kilograms). Its maximum takeoff weight of 140,000 pounds (63,503 kilograms).

The B-29’s wings had a total area of 1,720 square feet (159.8 square meters). They had an angle of incidence of 4° and 4° 29′ 23″ dihedral. The leading edges were swept aft to 7° 1′ 26″.

B-29 3-view illustration with dimensions. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-29 was powered by four air-cooled, turbocharged and supercharged, 3,347.66-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 (also known as the Duplex-Cyclone) 670C18BA4 (R-3350-23A) two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ration of 6.85:1. These engines had a Normal Power rating of 2,000 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 2,200 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., for takeoff. They drove 16 foot, 7 inch (5.055 meter) diameter, four-bladed, Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers through a 0.35:1 gear reduction. The R-3350-23A was 6 feet, 4.26 inches (1.937 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.78 inches (1.417 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,646 pounds (1,200 kilograms).

The maximum speed of the B-29 was 353 knots (406 miles per hour/654 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), though its normal cruising speed was 216 knots (249 miles per hour/400 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The bomber’s service ceiling was 40,600 feet (12,375 meters) and the maximum ferry range was 4,492 nautical miles (5,169 statute miles/8,319 kilometers).

B-29 internal arrangement. (U.S.. Air Force)

The Superfortress could carry a maximum of 20,000 pounds (9,072 kilograms) of bombs in two bomb bays. For defense, it was armed 12 Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns in four remotely-operated and computer-controlled gun turrets and a manned tail position. The bomber carried 500 rounds of ammunition per gun. (Some B-29s were also armed with an M2 20 mm autocannon at the tail.)

In this rear 3/4 view of 42-6331 somewhere in China, the 20 mm autocannon in the tail turret can be seen. (U.S. Air Force)

A number of B-29 Superfortresses are on display at locations around the world, but only two, the Commemorative Air Force’s B-29A-60-BN 44-62070, Fifi, and B-29-70-BW 44-69972, Doc, owned by Doc’s Friends, Inc., are airworthy.

The restored Boeing B-29 Superfortress, 44-69972, “Doc,” photographed in 2019. (Ducatipierre)
Leonard Harman

Leonard Franklin Harman was born at Auburn, Nebraska, 22 December 1902. He was the second of three children of William Bascomb Harman, an insurance agent, and Georgia Eva Horn Harman. The Harman family later moved to Boise, Idaho, where Leonard grew up. He attended Boise High School, graduating in 1921.

On 28 February 1928, Harman joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a Flying Cadet. He was trained as a pilot at air fields in Texas. He graduated from the Air Corps Primary Flying School in 1928, and the Advanced Flying School’s Bombardment Course in 1929. Leonard Harman was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Reserve, 28 February 1929. He was then assigned to active duty, 1 March–11 June 1929.

Harman received a commission as a second lieutenant, United States Army Air Corps, 2 May 1929.

In 1929, Lieutenant Harman married Miss Ruth Isabelle Veasey (1904–1999). They would have a daughter, Helen Jean Harman (1930– ).

Second Lieutenant Harman graduated from the Air Corps Engineering School in 1932. The following year, he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) from the University of Idaho.

From 19 July to 20 August 1934, Harman participated in the Air Corps’ Alaska Flight, in which ten Martin B-10 bombers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Harley (“Hap”) Arnold were flown from Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., to Fairbanks, Alaska. For the next month, numerous flights were made over Alaska, including photographing 23,000 square miles (59,570 square kilometers) of the territory. The trip crossed more than 7,000 miles (11,265 kilometers). (Arnold was awarded the Mackay Trophy for this operation. He later served in the five-star rank General of The Army and General of the Air Force.)


Officers of the 1934 Alaskan Flight. Kneeling (L to R) are Capt John D. Corkille, Capt Harold M. McClelland, Capt Ray A. Dunn, Capt Westside T. Larson, Lt Ralph A. Snavely, Lt Nathan F. Twining (not flight member), Lt John S. Mills (not flight member), Lt Hez McClellan. Standing (L to R) are Lt Lawrence J. Carr, Lt Charles B. Howard, Maj Malcolm C. Grow, Maj Hugh J. Knerr, Lt Col Henry H. Arnold, Maj Ralph Royce, Lt John S. Griffith, and Lt Leonard F. Harman. Of the 16 men shown, 10 went on to become general officers in the Air Force. Arnold made 5-stars and was the commanding general of the Army Air Forces during World War II. Twining achieved the rank of general (4-stars) and served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 1957. Grow, McClelland, Larson, Mills, and Knerr all made major general. Dunn, Snavely, and Carr all became brigadier generals. (Photo courtesy of NARA)

Harman was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, 1 October 1934.

Lieutenant Harman was at Wright Field, northeast of Dayton, Ohio, on 30 October 1935 when the prototype Boeing XB-17 crashed after takeoff. With the B-17 on fire, Lieutenants Harman and Robert Kinnaird Giovannoli pulled survivors from the wreckage.

The wreck of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, burns after the fatal crash at Wright Field, 30 October 1935. (U.S. Air Force)

Both Harman and Giovannoli were awarded the Soldier’s Medal, the Army’s highest award for valor in a non-combat situation. “The Soldier’s Medal is awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the United States or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the Army of the United States, including Reserve Component soldiers not serving in a duty status at the time of the heroic act, distinguished himself or herself by heroism not involving conflict with an enemy. The performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy. Awards will not be made solely on the basis of having saved a life.”

Lieutenant Harman’s citation reads: “The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Soldier’s Medal to First Lieutenant (Air Corps) Leonard F. Harman, United States Army Air Corps, for heroism, not involving actual conflict with an enemy, displayed at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, 30 October 1935. When a Boeing experimental bomber crashed and burst into flames, Lieutenant Harman forced his way upon the fuselage of the burning plane and assisted in the removal of the pilot and a passenger, despite the knowledge that his own life was in constant peril from fire, smoke, and fuel explosions. During the performance of the act, Lieutenant Harman suffered severe burns.”

Harman had crawled into the XB-17’s cockpit and freed the feet of Major Ployer P. Hill, which were caught in the bomber’s rudder pedals. Both Harman and Giovannoli were treated at the base hospital for 1st and 2nd degree burns, then transferred to the Miami Valley Hospital. Harman was presented the Soldier’s Medal by Major General William E. Cole, Commanding General, Fifth Corps, United States Army, at Wright Field on 12 May 1936. (Lieutenant Giovannoli was killed in the crash of a Boeing P-26 at Logan Field, near Baltimore, Maryland, 8 March 1936, before he could be presented with his medal.)

In 1939, Harman attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama. On 2 May 1939, he was promoted to the rank of captain.

Captain Harman was promoted to the temporary rank of major, U.S. Army Air Corps, 15 March 1941. On 10 October 1941, he was appointed a major in the Army of the United States (A.U.S.). Shortly after the United States entered World War II, on 5 January 1942, Harman was advanced to the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel, U.S. Army Air Forces, followed on 1 February 1942 by his promotion to lieutenant colonel, A.U.S. On 1 March 1942, he was promoted to colonel, A.U.S.

Throughout 1942 and 1943, Colonel Harman was very involved in the program to bring the Boeing B-29 Superfortress into production and active service in the War. On 27 November 1943, Colonel Harman was assigned Commander, 58th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) at Smoky Hill Army Air Field, Salina, Kansas.

On 15 June 1944, Colonel Harman lead 75 Twentieth Air Force B-29s on the first air raid against Japan since the Halsey-Doolittle Raid of 18 April 1942. The target was the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata, in northern Kyushu.

Major General Kenneth Bonner Wolfe (left), Chief of Engineering and Procurement, Air Technical Service Command, presents awards to Lieutenant Colonel George A. Stinson, Colonel Leonard F. Harman, Colonel A.D. Olson and Major Charles R. Able. (The Dayton Herald, 5 April 1945, Page 9)

On 4 April 1945, Major General Kenneth Bonner Wolfe, who had met Colonel Harman when he arrived in India, 2 April 1944, presented him with the Distinguished Flying Cross for “a lone B-29 flight without fighter escort over enemy-occupied territory,” 7 July 1944.

Following the end of the War, on 2 May 1946 Harman reverted to his permanent Army Air Forces rank of major.

Having suffered a disability in the line of duty, on 30 November 1946, Harman retired from the U.S. Army Air Forces with the permanent rank of colonel.

During his military career, Colonel Harman had been awarded the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier’s Medal. He was rated a command pilot and command aerial observer.

Leonard Franklin Harman died at Laguna Hills, California, 2 March 1977, at the age of 74 years. After a memorial service held at MCAS El Toro, in southern California, his remains were cremated.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

2 April 1942

B-25 Mitchell bombers aboard USS Hornet (CV-8), with USS Gwin (DD-433) and USS Nashville (CL-43), somewhere in the Pacific, April 1942. (U.S. Navy)
B-25 Mitchell bombers aboard USS Hornet (CV-8), with USS Gwin (DD-433) and USS Nashville (CL-43), somewhere in the Pacific, April 1942. (U.S. Navy)

2 April 1942: After loading sixteen North American Aviation B-25B Mitchell medium bombers and their crews of the 17th Bombardment Group (Medium) at NAS Alameda, the recently commissioned United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) departed San Francisco Bay with her escorts and headed for a secret rendezvous with Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., and Task Force 16.

The new carrier was under command of Captain Marc A. Mitscher. The strike group was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. (“Jimmy”) Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Corps. Until the second day at sea, only six U.S. military officers knew of the mission.

The photograph above shows some of the bombers secured on Hornet‘s flight deck. An escorting destroyer, USS Gwin (DD-433) is closing from astern, with light cruiser USS Nashville (CL-43) in the distance. Two more ships are on the horizon.

USS Hornet (CV-8), 27 October 1942. (U.S. Navy)
USS Hornet (CV-8), Captain Marc A. Mitscher, U.S.N., commanding, 27 October 1942. The aircraft carrier is painted in Measure 12 camouflage, Sea Blue 5-S, Ocean Gray 5-O and Haze Gray 5-H. (U.S. Navy)

USS Hornet was a brand new Yorktown-class aircraft carrier, commissioned 20 October 1941. It had just completed its shakedown cruise in the Atlantic when it was sent west for this mission.

The ship was 824 feet, 9 inches (251.384 meters) long, overall, with a maximum width of 114 feet (34.747 meters). Hornet‘s dimensions at the waterline (full load displacement) were 761 feet (232 meters) long with a beam of 83 feet, 3 inches (25.375 meters). Its draft was 28 feet (8.5 meters).

The flight deck had two hydraulic catapults, and three elevators for bringing aircraft up from the hangar deck. A third catapult was on the hangar deck, launching aircraft laterally.

Powered by four geared steam turbines driving four propeller shafts, Hornet‘s engines produced 120,000 shaft horsepower. The carrier’s maximum speed was 33.84 knots (39.94 miles per hour/62.67 kilometers per hour), and maximum range, 12,500 nautical miles (14,385 kilometers).

North American Aviation B-25B Mitchell medium bomber tied down on the flight deck of U.S.S. Hornet (CV-8). An escorting destroyer, USS Gwin, (DD- ) closes on the carrier's right rear quarter. (U.S. Navy)
A 17th Bombardment Group North American Aviation B-25B Mitchell medium bomber tied down on the flight deck of U.S.S. Hornet (CV-8). An escorting destroyer, USS Gwin, (DD-433 ), Commander John S. Higgins, U.S.N., commanding, closes on the carrier’s right rear quarter. The sixteen Army bombers used all the space available on Hornet’s flight deck.(U.S. Navy)

The aircraft carrier’s primary armament was its air wing, consisting of a squadron each of Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters, Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers and Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers. For the Halsey-Doolittle Raid, Hornet‘s air wing was stored on the hangar deck and unavailable.

“To make room for the Army bombers, Hornet had struck her own planes below. Wildcats and Devastators, with wings folded, and dismantled SBDs were packed into every available space, even hung from the overhead. So, except for her few guns, the carrier was defenseless until she rendezvoused with Task Force 16. . . .”

History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume III, The Rising Sun in the Pacific, by Samuel Eliot Morison, Little, Brown & Company, Boston, 1988, Chapter XX at Page 392.

For defense, the ship was lightly armored, with 2.5–4 inches (6.35–10.2 centimeters) of belt and deck armor. She also carried eight 5-inch, 38-caliber (5″/38) dual-purpose guns in single mounts, thirty 20mm Oerlikon autocannon, twenty water-cooled 1.1-inch, 75-caliber (1.1″/75) guns in four-gun mounts, and twenty-four Browning .50-caliber (12.7 millimeter) machine guns.

Including the ship’s air wing, the complement was 2,919 men.

USS Hornet fought at the Battle of Midway, June 3–7, 1942. She was sunk at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942, having been hit by two airplanes, 8 bombs, 16 torpedoes and an unknown number of 5-inch shells.¹

USS Hornet (CV-8) at Peral Harbor, Hawaii, following the Halsey-Doolittle Raid, 1942. The ships is painted in Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage, with Sea Blue 5-s, Ocean Gray 5-O and Haze Gray 5-H coloration.
USS Hornet (CV-8) at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, following the Halsey-Doolittle Raid, 1942. The ship is painted in Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage with splotches, with Navy Blue 5-N, Sea Blue 5-S, Ocean Gray 5-O and Haze Gray 5-H coloration.

¹ The research vessel R/V Petrel located the wreck of USS Hornet on the sea floor in January 2019. The ship lies at a depth of 5,330 meters (17,487 feet).

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Major James Thomas Byford McCudden, V.C., D.S.O., M.C., M.M.

James Thomas Byford McCudden, V.C., D.S.O., M.C., M.M., Royal Flying Corps, portrait by William Orpen, 1918. (Imperial War Museum)

ACES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR AND THEIR AIRCRAFT (Q 68557) Major James Thomas Byford McCudden VC DSO MC of No. 60 Squadron RAF seated in the cockpit of an Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 biplane. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205357343

Interred at Wavans British Cemetery, Beauvoir-Wavans, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes