Dutch Harbor Baseball Team Lost on PBY-5A flight. S&R missions find no trace. WW II Alaskan/Aleutian airbases revisited. 2013 jet airliner sees the peaks if not the valleys.
Copyright 2013 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
Triumph of Instrument Flight
Some Telling Information from a Pilot's Logbook.
At the end of December 1946, just after returning to Whidbey Island from our first deployment to Kodiak, Alaska, my logbook showed that I had accumulated 526 pilot hours.
I should note the near obsession that grips younger pilots over their concern about building up flight time. When I finished the operational training period at NAS Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1945, a number of extra entries made by the log keepers show in my logbook. For the most part, a Navy flyer's logbook contains a barebones summary of each flight. I have discovered in my review of my own logbooks that many flights were never entered at all. Most pilots took it for granted that logbooks, which were never in our possession, were meticulously updated. The flights that were not entered in the logbook reflect my lack of diligence. I recall flying a twin Beech from Lockheed's Burbank field to Phoenix and back one evening as a favor to Barney Rapp who wanted a co-pilot along because of an adverse weather forecast. I was studying at UCLA in my Physics Master's Degree program and was glad to take an evening off from study. Barney had a shore duty assignment that involved liaison with aircraft manufacturers and needed to go to the Goodyear plant in Phoenix that supplied some key parts. It turned out to be a flight in beautiful southwest weather and a short reunion with Barney. My logbooks were at NAS Los Alamitos at the time and I failed to tell them of the flight. Several hours, no entry, my fault.
One benefit of re-examination of old logbooks is the discovery of non-routine entries, typed and pasted on the inside covers and sometimes embossed with a seal. These announce themselves louder than hundreds of routine handwritten entries ,when a logbook is perused after 40 years gathering dust on a shelf. NAS Hutchinson (Kansas) entries indicated that I was qualified as co-pilot in a PB4Y-2 and as co-pilot in a PB4Y-1 aircraft. The latter qualification was based on a round trip flight of one-hour duration; it included a landing in Wichita. That specific flight was never recorded in my logbook. Again, this has to be considered a lack of due diligence on my part, because we were required to sign our logbooks as accurate and complete, at the end of each month.
Logbooks Support Flight Qualifications.
The goal for all copilots in a Navy patrol squadron was to become the PPC, the Patrol Plane Commander, the Navy's equivalent of the Captain of a passenger plane in commercial aviation. A shipboard qualification of comparable significance to becoming a PPC would be a Naval Officer becoming qualified as Officer of the Deck ,Underway, on a Navy warship. Actually, the PPC of a Navy patrol plane has some responsibilities akin to those of the Commanding Officer of a ship. But in skills, I would equate the command pilot of an aircraft to 'OOD Underway' on a ship. I had qualified for the OOD responsibility on a destroyer in record time in 1942 with the help of aggressive Commanding Officers who realized that wartime attrition and new construction needs were putting great demands on the availability of qualified personnel. In war, the ship Captain had to sleep sometimes, and the OOD found himself with plenty of immediately vital decisions that had to be made before the skipper could be awakened.
VP-107 Second Aleutian Tour June, July, August 1947
By the end of 1946, our patrol squadron was back at NAS Whidbey Island where training began immediately for our second deployment to commence in June of 1947. In Navy sea duty units, personnel are either "doing it" operationally, or in "training to do it, operationally." It is a never-ending process. Our first Aleutian deployment in VPB-107 had been completed, quite successfully I felt, under Commander Hank Haselton, USN.
My logbook reveals that on January 3, 1947, I was the pilot for a four-hour flight in 59645, with a co-pilot and crew of nine. The "Character of Flight" was listed as "C" for "training, qualified pilots." To make this clear, we were often training ourselves, much as a primary flight student was given a number of solo flights after being deemed "safe to solo."
Here, though, in our operational flight squadron back at Whidbey to begin the re-training process, I encountered a subtlety in Navy patrol pilot designation. They trusted Pilot Dailey to command a plane for a training mission with a full crew, as long as it was not an operational mission. I discovered just before writing these lines, in an entry in my logbook that I had never noticed before, that I had been designated a "First Pilot." That term was almost never used and I had always thought it unofficial. Regardless of my perceptions on this point, important to me was that I was something less than a PPC. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me. I had over 500 hours. I knew I had a lot to learn but I knew I was gaining in proficiency. Interestingly, my second flight in January, 1947, was with a Lieutenant Commander E.T. Hogan. Ed Hogan's name will come up again in these web pages. I must confess I do not recall that first flight with him at all and was surprised to find the log entry for it.
The 'Right Seat' Assignment Continues
Hugh Burris, who had taught me so much about instrument flight and plane handling, had been detached from the squadron. I learned later that he had gone to NAS Ottumwa, Iowa to be a Primary Flight Training Instructor. In fact, many of our pilots and flight crewmen had been detached. It was like starting all over again to mold a new squadron with many new names and faces. My own 'entry level' deployment tour for Aleutian flying had been completed. I did not realize it at the time but I was being set up to be LCDR Hogan's co-pilot in a third Aleutian deployment to begin in April 1948. I never had any objection to flying right seat and learning from a more experienced pilot flying the left seat. There were times though, that I found myself flying right seat for pilots with considerable hours in the logbook, yet pilots I could see were not really in command of the aircraft. During many of the hours on some of those flights, I reflected to myself that I should have been more aggressive in advancing my own ambitions to become a PPC
As it developed, Ed Hogan did later become our squadron's Commanding Officer. I would be assigned as his co-pilot for our third deployment. Although it was generally known that the Navy Department in Washington planned a couple of years ahead on Commanding Officer assignments, I had no inkling of the fact that pilot assignments in Fleet Air Wing FOUR were actually being planned two deployments in advance. I quickly forgot about Ed Hogan as our squadron stepped up the pace of training for its second deployment. We had to deal with the infusion of new pilots and aircrews. I had to deal with the infusion of new pilots and aircrews.
As for hands-on control of the PB4Y-2, so far as I could determine, I was the only squadron pilot flying left seat to have been sent out at both Kodiak, and later at Adak, to make touch and go landings down the reverse of the instrument runways. This involved taking the aircraft into those mountain valleys, wrapping it up tight, then letting down at greater than normal descent rates, and putting the plane down repeatedly in the first 500 feet of runway. These flights occurred because Pilot Dailey, with a minimum flight crew, was assigned landing practice flight duty on days when strong winds came in from the east. Such winds would have made the normal practice landings on the instrument runways at both Kodiak and Adak an unwise downwind exercise. (Although Runways 090 and 270 at a given airfield would be the same strip of asphalt, to controllers and pilots they are distinctly different runways, often with vastly different approaches.) On days, therefore, when the wind was blowing the "wrong" way, you could expect to find Dailey on the squadron flight schedule for touch and go landings. Had this happened only at Kodiak, one could conclude it was luck of the draw, "your turn to fly." But since it happened at Adak, where we might only have a couple of planes at a time, with no formal local flight schedule, it could not have been chance. Either the Operations Department figured I "needed work," in baseball pitcher's jargon, or they just wanted to build up my time when no one else was eager to fly.
The job was there to do, so you did it. If one has a goal to become a PPC, and flights like this added to your flight hours and experience, the fact that none of the already rated PPCs ever took these flights is a piece of information that only muddles your thinking. So, you do not waste your time pondering discussions beyond earshot that must have preceded the daily flight assignments.
My Flight Time and Qualifications Concerns are Interrupted by Tragedy.
There was tragedy. In August of 1947, flying as co-pilot for PPC Lt. "Junior" Johnson (there were two pilots named Johnson in our squadron at the time) our flight crew was ordered to Cold Bay at the far end of the Alaska Peninsula. Our assignment was to look for an NAS Kodiak PBY-5A that was headed for Dutch Harbor and never arrived. On that day in early August of 1947, it carried two Naval Air Station, Kodiak, pilots and the NAS Dutch Harbor baseball team. There were 20 aboard including some Army personnel. The orders to us in our ready room to get out to Cold Bay came suddenly, at least to me, for I had not heard of the missing plane. (This was my second major S&R experience.See flywar12.htm )
We left Kodiak on August 9, 1947, in PB4Y-2 Serial No. 59701 for Fort Randall at Cold Bay at the far end of the Alaska Peninsula. The log shows 3.9 hours westbound, with an instrument let down at Ft.Randall.(the Army base at Cold Bay) The station was rimmed with clouds at all levels and the airfield had blowing "scud" right down on the runway. We made one low frequency radio range approach and executed a pullup when we could not break "contact" at the stipulated time after passing the "low cone." We went back up and figured out that we would probably not see the landing field on radio range approach minimums as long as the weather remained "below minimums." The mission criticality involved the life of those aboard the PBY-5A. We elected to attempt another radio range approach. Our APS-15 radar operator had told us on the first approach that he was getting reliable "echos" that matched the terrain shown on the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey chart. We resolved to press a bit further the second time, relying on our radar. The pullup procedure at Randall was good providing the pilot kept the aircraft steady on the approach course heading until getting back to a safe altitude. Guided by our APS-15 radar operator, we made it the second time to a visual sighting of the approach end of the long north-south runway at Ft. Randall and made a smooth landing. The logbook shows our flight out to Randall and the one back to Kodiak as code "U" for the character of flight. That appears to be the code for training flights of that era though my successive logbooks have differing code assignments for that flight characterization. The next three flights in my logbook, flights based in and out of Randall looking for the downed aircraft, bear the code designation "W," for "Emergency or relief work." The Flight Department Heads in our squadrons changed frequently and there is plenty of inconsistency in coding choices recorded in my logbooks. Thankfully, we had pretty good weather for searching on the 9th, the 10th and most of the 11th. The log shows that the weather deteriorated in the afternoon of the 11th and we made an SCS-51 instrument approach (in civil aviation, an ILS approach) to get back into Randall.
While on search flights, we went into valleys and over jagged peaks and got down low over the coastlines and even tried to "see" into the water when waters were clear. Never saw a trace of the missing plane. A logical conclusion is that they went down in the water. Alaskan plane crashes over land are often discovered years later. The aircraft downed at sea rarely reveal their location. We were never given a complete record of the Kodiak Naval Air Station PBY-5A's position reports and had only an approximate location of the last position report recorded. All we knew for sure was that the team was involved in a baseball tournament for the Alaska military base championship. Our last "local" flight out of Randall was a 3.9 hour flight on August 11, 1947 terminating in the SCS-51 approach at Randall.
SCS-51 was the Navy's designation for ILS-Instrument Landing System, the equipment for which had been installed just before our June deployment in May of 1947. I liked the method and it was a boon to Ft. Randall whose airfield was not equipped with GCA, yet surely needed a modern precision approach system for aircraft because of its regularly foul weather. Our search mission ended in a return to NAS Kodiak on August 13, 1947 at the end of which Johnson made a radio range letdown in instrument conditions to NAS Kodiak.
Air Corps Uses Navy PBY-5A (OA-10) for a Rescue Mission
While we were awaiting a clearance at Randall for one of those three local search flights, an Air Corps crew of an OA-10 from the 10th Rescue Squadron were also in the ready room at Randall getting a clearance. They were heading out on a mercy mission with serum for a sick man in the Pribilofs. The OA-10 was the Army Air Corps' designation for a Navy PBY-5A Catalina. The plane had landing wheels and there was some discussion going on in the ready room at Randall about landing on a very short runway in the Pribilofs. It could be done, I recalled a Navy pilot telling me, as long as there was a very stiff wind aligned with the runway. But then, getting back off again would be a challenge. The pilot of the Army plane ultimately elected to attempt a water landing near a small harbor. The local winds there were not forecast to be too high. Sometimes forgotten is that open seas record a history of previous winds, so one might still expect some rough water even in the lee of land. We had the temerity to suggest some options to the Army pilot but he shrugged his shoulders and said that he was a "veteran of over 20 water landings!" So, he took off and we took off. After we got back to Randall, we inquired how the OA-10 pilot made out in his attempt at an open sea landing. The operations desk airman on duty showed us a dispatch from the Army pilot. "Plane made normal landing and sank," was the complete text. I have put that down as the second most succinct military communication I had ever heard. The first? That Ensign aloft in his depth charge carrying torpedo plane at Leyte Gulf in World War II, whose response to Rear Admiral C.A.F. Sprague's challenge to re-verify the Ensign's first report of an "enemy fleet" was, "These ships have Pagoda masts." The OA-10 from the Army Air Corps squadron at Ft. Randall benefited greatly from the one ship a year that put in to the Pribilofs. It picked up the crew of the OA-10. No one was lost. I never found out about the serum.
The APS-15 X-Band Radar Worth Every Dollar the Navy Paid For It
I have noted that I recall another situation where a plane in our squadron made use of the APS-15 to make safe instrrument landings in tight situations. On a flight from NAS Whidbey to NAS Kodiak, our squadron plane piloted by Bob Hallman with Spence Ziegler as copilot, was buffeted by terrific headwinds all the way. After cutting across the Gulf of Alaska from Annette Island for his destination, Kodiak, Hallman was informed that Kodiak had closed down. The field was not even taking GCA traffic unless there was no other choice. Hallman started for his alternate, Anchorage, and discovered a rarity in Alaska mainland flying, Elmendorf Field at Anchorage had gone below minimums. With fuel mixtures now leaned out to preserve as much fuel as possible, the plane turned toward Yakutat, Alaska, which had a civilian field with a runway just long enough for a carefully planned early touchdown. The advancing weather front then swallowed Yakutat. But, Hallman and Ziegler were now committed. It had to be Yakutat. Their navigator broke out the Coast and Geodetic Survey charts for the Yakutat area and discovered a river whose path came close the end of the runway. The plane's course was now turned over to the APS-15 radar operator. Fortunately, the coastal terrain around Yakutat is low and relatively flat and Hallman was able to safely get the PB4Y-2 down to 500 feet. He was prepared to go lower. The radar operator found where the river entered the Gulf and had Hallman fly to a point just west of the mouth of the river. Radar then vectored Hallman into a lazy turn to the east and indicated the plane could be let down to a minimum safe altitude. Hallman went down to 200 feet and every eye strained for a sight of runway. The tower operator cooperated and turned on every light available. About 500 feet short of the runway, Hallman sighted the field and had enough space to make a slight course correction and land. Back at Kodiak, the Operations Officer, Snuffy Wagoner, gave a sigh of relief and put out the good news on the loudspeaker.
That crew made it into Kodiak the next day. They had adopted a current song hit as their own. The song began, "I'm lookin over, a four leaf clover." We all sang it with them. Under the influence, at the O' club, we sang it many times, probably too many times. Zieg Ziegler had been my roomate at the Naval Academy. Some years later I ran into him on the carrier USS Cabot where he qualified a helicopter squadron as its Commanding Officer. I also met up with Bob Hallman later at NAS Pt. Mugu California in the 1955. Bob invited me to fly as his copilot for a utility flight in an R5-D aircraft to San Clemente I. and return and I accepted, gratefully I might add. I was on extended additional duty at the Navy's Port Hueneme base and was starved for flight time, needing four hours each month to get flight pay. With six children by that time, we had come to depend on flight pay.
Dick Korn was another PPC in squadron VP-H/L-7 (as VP-107 was briefly named in a Navy fit of naming exercises) who became the beneficiary of a good APS-15 radar operator in his crew. The circumstance began as a simple transit flight from NAS Kodiak to NAS Adak, with some off-airways patrolling along the way. Again Aleutian weather reared its head and as its first challenge provided headwinds much higher than those forecast.
In an aside to the Dick Korn flight to Adak, let me take a paragraph to give the reader a graphic idea of what winds can present to a pilot in the Aleutian theatre. One day a PBY-5A took off on the east leg of the Kodiak low frequency radio range. The object of this prescribed "climb out" was to go out far enough to reach a certain altitude and then reverse course and come back over the Kodiak range station with sufficient altitude to get over the Alaska Range heading westward. On this one day, the PBY-5A, a very slow aircraft, made it back over the Kodiak radio range station seven hours later! The plane had reached its assigned altitude of 7,000 feet. The winds had borne the plane so fast on its outbound east course that it had a great distance to fly to just get back to its departure point. Seven hours took a big chunk out of that PBYs cruising range. The pilot just did make it to the other side of the Alaska Range and landed at Naknek, Alaska, well short of the Adak destination.
By the time the Korn-piloted PB4Y-2 got to the vicinity of Adak, it had exceeded its planned fuel consumption. Adak had closed in. I happened to be at Adak as a fill-in copilot for our Operations Officer, Lcdr."Snuffy" Wagoner. It was now snowing heavily at NAS Adak .The airfield was now below even GCA minimums. Dick Korn elected to try a GCA approach at Adak as he began to doubt that he had fuel enough to reach his alternate at Shemya. Wagoner went down to Adak's Operations room, right next to the tower. I stayed in our assigned Quonset hut on top of a hill just south of the runway. My next experience was to hear a plane with its engines in full roar making a pullup to the south and passing so close overhead that the Quonset huts all rattled. Then I went down to Operations and found Wagoner in communication with Dick Korn. Wagoner asked Korn to get a fuel report from his plane captain. It took longer than it should have and when Wagoner finally got it, he made some quick calculations and barked out instructions to Dick Korn. "Set your course direct for Shemya, using your radar operator to track you out there. Do not fly via the standard airways route. You do not have enough fuel. Do not try to land here. This field is almost zero-zero." Korn's crew grasped these instructions quickly and their plane gradually disappeared from the NAS Adak radarscope. Wagoner got into voice communication with Shemya Control and told them the story. He asked that Korn be given a straight-in approach and that the Bartow lights on the runway be set at Strength Five. It was raining slightly at Shemya but they had two miles visibility under a low overcast. The PB4Y-2 radar worked to perfection. Dick Korn and crew made a straight in approach and landed at Shemya. Number one engine quit on final approach and the # 2, 3, and 4 engine tanks when dipped, had twenty, twenty and thirty gallons left, respectively. (The wing tanks held about 2400 gallons when topped off.) The APS-15 radar and the radar operator had scored again. Wagoner set another high mark for intelligent and timely decision making. And Dick Korn was smart enough to follow instructions.
In September 1947, Heavy Patrol Squadron Seven's second Kodiak deployment was completed and I returned to Whidbey with Lcdr. Wagoner and his crew, serving as the fill-in navigator for the flight. The logbook shows the flight took off at about just after midnight on September 7. It was 7.7 hours of night flying, 6.0 of which were on instruments. Approaching a mountainous coastline on instruments presents the navigator with some interesting challenges. Again, that radar! All the dead reckoning and drift sight corrections finds the navigator wondering if radar landfall will confirm his work, or will that landfall tell the pilot what a poor navigator you were. We did OK. Better yet, NAS Whidbey was VFR.
Still in the Right Seat
From October 3 to October 19, 1947, I was assigned TAD (Temporary Additional Duty) training at NAS Coronado, flying as copilot for pilot Lieutenant Al Lamarre. We conducted night training flights, both ECM, and Anti-Submarine-Warfare (ASW) using sonobuoys that are dropped in the water and then act as a remote listening device for a receiver in the aircraft. We first operated in the vicinity of beautiful San Diego and then were sent a very short distance up the coast to NAAS Miramar for further ASW training. We returned to Whidbey from Miramar.
Pilot Al Lamarre took a "five on top" clearance (500 feet above any undercast) and for the early part of the flight, conditions were excellent. Once into Northern California, however, one could anticipate one of those stationary fronts with cloud tops rising gradually as one proceeded north into Oregon. Al gradually increased altitude to maintain 500 feet on top of the cloud deck as our clearance required, finally to 12,500 feet. Dusk was settling over the area now and we became more devoted to our airways flying, carefully tuning in the radio range station ahead and shifting voice frequency to Portland (Oregon) Approach Control.
Our plane began to porpoise gently and our course became erratic. I looked sharply at Al and realized I could not arouse him. Our altitude was 12,500 feet and Al had passed out. I grabbed the yoke, called Portland, and asked for immediate descent to the lowest safe altitude they could give me. They gave me 7,000 feet. At about 9,000 feet Al stirred and at 8,000 feet was fully conscious. I told him the clearance I had been given and when we leveled out at 7,000 feet he said he was OK and resumed control of the aircraft. I learned the downside of taking a "five on top" clearance and learned the wisdom of the Navy rules on altitude at that time. At 10,000 feet, pilots should don their oxygen masks and if night flying, and expecting to go to 10,000 feet or above, the flight crew should use oxygen from the ground up.
I note in my log that on November 1947, I took out our newest PB4Y-2, serial # 60003, as First Pilot, and practiced night radar approaches for ASW operations, and then made a night radar approach and landing at NAS Whidbey. The log does not show whether our Flight Department had suggested the night radar approach practice. The experience of three very important flights while deployed on our previous deployments at Kodiak, had convinced me that the APS-15 radar was an additional precious tool for getting the plane back safely on the ground. That was not on its advertised list of capabilities but it was a precision device in the hands of a good operator and we had good operators.
It took me some time before I fully accepted the fact that I would go north again on my final Aleutian deployment, still as a co-pilot and not a PPC. I was pretty disheartened about it and figured that once again, I had been evaluated as "not ready for prime time."
The Operations Officer took me aside and spent an hour telling me that the new Commanding Officer deserved an experienced co-pilot to help him during his first exposure to Aleutian flying. Otherwise, he implied, I would have been given my own plane and crew. It took some mental adjustment to swallow that. Let me note that my logbook shows a formal, seal-embossed entry, dated 8 June 1948. The entry states that in accordance with a ComAirPac bulletin, I was fully qualified as PPC in June 1948. Added to this was a note that this designation had been "held in abeyance" only because I had orders to the Naval Postgraduate School. Methinks now that the extra notations even to the point of embossing a seal were an attempt to reduce the pain in a Dailey who did not become PPC for operational flight purposes during the tours of his squadron between June 46 and June 48.
While at Kodiak on the previous deployment, I had studied hard to pass a battery of tests to see if I would qualify for the Navy's Postgraduate School program. After one is away from formal studies for a few years, and I was, by then five years out of the Naval Academy, "hitting the books" becomes a challenge. I had to use all the spare time available to make up my deficits in academic memory. So, maybe the "system" was really rooting for me. I was approved for PG school on my second try.
I want the reader to be aware that my flights with the new Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Ed Hogan, rank high on my list for enjoyment and appreciation of his demonstrated expertise in naval flying. And later in my naval service, I commanded two patrol plane squadrons flying versions of the P2V Neptune aircraft and flew as PPC more than a thousand hours with my own crew. It just came kind of late.
I must acknowledge that in our actual flights together, Hogan put greater trust in my flying ability, particularly on instruments, than Burris had done in our squadron's first deployment. Understandable. While I was with Hugh Burris I was a real novice and by the time that I flew with Hogan I had some pretty good instrument credentials accrued in the Aleutians.
Our third Kodiak-based tour took me into more airfields on more varied assignments than the earlier tours. In those days, some naval air bases had Utility Squadrons flying a variety of aircraft for a variety of flight assignments. We did not have that luxury in Alaska while I was there so the duty patrol squadron often performed utility duties. We encountered an interesting assignment during our third deployment.
Third, and Final Aleutian Deployment
We departed Whidbey March 7, 1948 for this final deployment. I was airborne in our PB4Y-2 aircraft with Lcdr. Hogan who was both my PPC and my Commanding Officer. Again, Kodiak closed in while we were enroute and we went to Anchorage. On the 9th, we got into Kodiak after two GCA approaches, the first one aborted, with wheels and flaps down on final approach, due to GCA ground equipment troubles.
The next month, we began the Alaskan-Aleutian tour given to all newly deployed pilots, with Ed Hogan being the newly deployed pilot. First Anchorage again, on April 9, 1948, although as had been the case with Burris on our first deployment, Hogan and I had already been there once when Kodiak closed down during our transit flight. We went on to Ladd Field at Fairbanks on that same day. This was a tight one. Blowing snow, visibility less than one half mile. I made the GCA approach. There was a ridge which crosses at right angles to the approach path about a half-mile short of the runway. There were red lights spaced along the peak of the ridge. I seem to recall that the one directly on the flight path to the GCA runway flashed while the others did not. Ed Hogan said he caught a glimpse of the flashing red light and put his hand on the yoke while I flew her on. Then he barked, "I see the runway, I'll make the landing, you stay on the gauges." Well, he was the PPC and the Commanding Officer. So, what's a man to do? I relinquished the approach duty and we landed very smoothly. It was an interesting new concept for me. He also congratulated me on the GCA approach. I began to feel better about this deployment.
Then we went back to Kodiak, then off to Ft. Randall, then to Adak and then on to a flyover of Attu and a landing at Shemya. Eastbound, we usually took the return to our base at Kodiak in just two jumps, landing at Adak for a RON-Remain Over Night, then on to Kodiak. When needing to get back for another operation, we could take it in one hop and gave up the training benefit of the landing enroute.
Next we went back to Fairbanks, for a briefing. The Navy was sending its photo squadron, VPP-1, to map Alaska. Nine PB4Y-2 aircraft configured for photography, along with their photo-mission trained crews, needed a dedicated airbase from which to make their flights and on which to do the first stage reduction of their photography to ground coordinates. The U.S. Army Air Corps agreed to help us put Big Delta field, a satellite field to Ladd Field at Fairbanks, back into operation. But the Navy was to bear the brunt of the grunt work and Commander Hogan and I and our crew would be the lead plane in to help get the field going again. After our briefing at Ladd Field, we took off for Big Delta, a large airfield just a puddle jump away as the crow flies. We made the first landing there that had been made since the end of hostilities in World War II. The Alaskan summer was upon us along with hordes of huge bugs. After surveying what would have to be done first, and making a first report by radio, we returned to Kodiak. Later, while airborne on our missions, we came upon pairs of VPP-1 aircraft flying their "flight lines." They flew most of their tracks above ten thousand feet. If one tiny cloud showed up in the photo-negative between them and the earth below, that flight mission had to be repeated.
For all Aleutian Chain flights, we now operated our ECM equipment continuously, logging new radar transmissions in Siberia, their frequency, their location and any other electronic information we could deduce with our equipment. Although this was our primary mission, and we worked at it studiously, it was still pretty much ad hoc. There was no prescribed routine, we never had any briefings based on other patrols with requests to look in again on installations already logged to see if there were changes or new conditions. We worked off our own squadron's previous logs and attempted to assemble a composite. But, by this time we had a better understanding of what the equipment could do and increasingly took more interest in the ECM subject.
Perhaps I should give our Navy the benefit of the doubt. Just possibly, a situation room somewhere was recording carefully everything we turned in and were assembling the first composite information. If they treated each of our patrol reports as new information, and used it to check against all prior information, they could then intelligently correct data against equipment or operator inconsistencies. One could reason that if they gave us specific assignments, perhaps, in executing those assignments we might "try too hard" to please. All of this is conjecture on my part. I did not feel then that what we were doing was part of a scientific method. And, just maybe, the whole state of our ECM art in 1946 and 1947 had not approached a body of knowledge that could be confidently extrapolated. Maybe the very first databases were being constructed.
Let me now jump ahead 66 Years!
2013 Jet Airliner sees the Peaks if not the Valleys
ProI thought I would never see this terrain again.
A camera is pointed out a port window of an intercontinental airliner, as the aircraft headed East-Northeast, on a Great Circle flight from the Orient to the U.S. That camera sees, first below, Tanaga Island.
Tanaga is an island in the Aleutian 'chain' of islands that figured in one of the U.S. high command's crucial World War II decision disputes. Japan, in 1942, as an adjunct of their effort to take Midway Island, had successfully occupied the U.S. islands, Attu, and Kiska, at the far end of the U.S. Aleutian Island Chain. Where should the U.S. begin the effort to retake Attu and Kiska?
From Volume VII of Samuel Eliot Morison's "History of the United States Navy in World War II," page 12:
"Before Hosagaya (Japanese Vice-Admiral) had a chance to think up a counterstrike, (the U.S. had made a successful hit and run attack on Kiska) Theobald (the U.S. Admiral who commanded the strike on Kiska) moved again. His objective was to establish an airfield within fighter distance of Kiska.so that bombers could be escorted all the way there and back. The Army Air Force wanted it (the new airfield) on Tanaga Island, 160 miles east of Kiska; Admiral Theobald objected because Tanaga had no anchorage where supplies could be landed, and argued for Adak, 50 miles farther east, where there was an all-weather harbor. Both sides appealed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (General George Marshall and Admiral Ernest King headed the J.C.S). These first decided on Tanaga, assuming no airstrip could be built on Adak in less than four months; but Theobald kept right on hammering until General Marshall and the J.C.S. reversed themselves in his favor."
Here, just one line from Morison's next paragraph. "Fortunate indeed was the choice of Adak..............."
The quotes above are all Samuel Eliot Morison, the parentheses are all mine, and so also is this observation. Today-2013- we have a Pentagon and tens of thousands of administrative personnel who decide military issues. The whole U.S. effort in World War II was run by General Marshall, Admiral King and a modest J.C.S. No Pentagon.
So, now a little further east, our airliner camera operator sees this.
Adak-Moffett (Adak is for Adak Island., and Moffett is the name of the mountain peak on Adak Island.)
Moffett peak on Adak Island, in a second camera photo of the island shot from an airliner
Flying at much lower cruising altitudes (and much slower too) than the jetliner from which these photos were taken, the aircraft of World War II and the immediate postwar period did not get 'looks' at the Alaskan Peninsula and the extended Aleutian Chain like these camera shots from the high altitudes of 2013 jetliners. Shortly, we will take a look at what cameras saw in the early 1940s.
Let me first interject here that my Navy pilot years in Alaska, with emphasis on the Aleutian chain west from a base on Kodiak Island, were years in which, except for GCAs at Kodiak and Shemya, our instrument landings were made with low frequency radio ranges (both Adcock and Loop ranges) and our navigation was assisted by low frequency homing beacons. By war's end, there was an Aiways north of the Chain. To use airways from our base at Kodiak, we would cross the Alaskan Peninsula from NAS Kodiak to Naknek on the north side of the Peninsula, and then make our way southwest. The Airways route took us past Umnak I. and its airbase at Ft. Randall , often known as Cold Bay, then past Dutch Harbor (no land base ,but seaplane faciities used by Navy P'BYs), then to Umniak and its airbase at Ft. Glenn, on to Adak and the newly constructed NAS Adak that superseded the Marston Matting used there as an undersurface on which to pull PBYs out of the water. The next decent runways were on Amchitka I. but the airfield there had been abandoned by 1946, and the always moving rocks and debris already littered the runway. NAS Attu, or Shemya nearby, which had a GCA and Strength Five Barstow lights, when the overcast was right down close to the surface, were the endpoint alternatives for airways flying.
Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Chain of Islands
Navy pilots flying out of Dutch Harbor (nestled at the end of the Alaskan Peninsula and at the beginning of the Aleutian chain of islands) in World War II, did not even have the benefit of a charted ATC letdown procedure, so often flew under the clouds just above the water, and maybe had a homing beacon to guide them.
Just to give the reader a throwback look, here is a PBY, flying on a rare day above some mountains along the 'chain. The altitude for this PBY aircraft could be 5,000 feet, high for the PBY. The airliner from which the prior three photos were taken was likely up over 35,000 feet.
A Navy PBY, 'between layers,' flying along the Aleutian Chain in the 1940s.
(The PBY was the Navy 'go-to' airplane for Aleutian missions in WW II, at least until the PV-1s got to Attu after we retook that island. I knew but did not pilot the PBY-5, strictly a seaplane, and the later PBY-5A, the amphibian version.)
A PBY-5A, with its right wheel visible in the wheel well.
The Navy Privateer PB4Y-2, the 4-engine aircraft modified from a Liberator, was the aircraft that I flew in Alaska-Aleutian duty, 1946-1948. Our missions were set to go from point to point on that airway 'north of the chain' and then begin the actual mission from a base along the way, after gassing up there. Once departing from that base, be it Ft. Randall, Ft. Glenn, Adak or Attu, for a mission 'south of the chain,' we used 'tracking,' air speed and true course corrected by wind, to get Ground Speed x (times) Time = equals Distance, and then further correct the answer by celestial navigation, if we could get it. For example, we'd go west out of Kodiak, over the mountains of the Alaskan Peninsula to Naknek, then southwest via airways to Cold Bay (Fort Randall), or on to Umniak I ( Ft. Glenn), or on to NAS Adak, or all the way to NAS Attu. Then, we would leave on 'patrol' from any of those bases. We usually returned the same way, but when necessary we made it back to Kodiak flying 'south of the chain,' no navigation aids and no Airways.
If I ever began to feel lonely, especially at night, it would dissipate when I would hear, "Northway Airways, this is N234 over (some remote place in interior Alaska)" and then, "Can you give me the weather at (some other remote place)?" We had four engines. He had one. We had a flight crew. He was alone. So was the Airways guy alone. Often they would chat.
(For a direct copy of the Kodiak-Attu "Airways" chart from 1946, see Illustration 20 on page 211 of my book, "The Triumph of Instrument Flight-A Retrospective in the Century of U.S. Aviation .ISBN 0966625137. I tried when writing that book to get permission to reproduce a Jeppesen instrument letdown diagram for NAS Adak. Jeppesen at that time was owned by Boeing. It was the only time in my writing career to get rudely brushed off. )
I have mentioned those PBY seaplanes based in Dutch Harbor early in World WAr II. The harbor and its facilities were bombed more than once by the Japanese, both when they occupied Attu and Kiska, and later then when they had to defend their conquest from U.S. counterattacks. I have heard of Bill Theis, one of the Navy's Dutch Harbor PBY pilots. In addition to his war action accomplishments, Theis discovered a Japanese Zero upsde down in an Aleutian bog. Its pilot was trapped underneath and was deceased. The aircraft was in almost perfect condition, removed to the U.S., and furnished a volume of information about its high combat quaitiies learned from test flights conducted by our flying commands.
I knew about Jack Litsey, another PBY pilot based at Dutch Harbor, who was involved in the war actions that came with the Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska, and the war actions in dislodging them.. He later commanded one of the three Privateer squadrons based at NAS Whicbey Island as parat of Fleet Air Wing FOUR, but this command was a postwar command.
For a better perspective on where Theis and Litsey fit into the Alaskan-Aleutian Navy flying effort, go to
An unsuccessful Search & Rescue mission begins this page. There is an exciting North Pacific air-sea rescue ASR, on a page in this website folder, in which a PB4Y-2 flew 'south of the chain' as we called it, and actually used celestial navigation with a bubble octant in a dome on top of our Navy Privateer aircraft. A PBY-5A and a U.S. submarine were involved.The odds against were huge. Go to flywar12.htm)
Satellites are the new celestial, and you can 'see them' with or without weather.
So, those Tanaga and Adak photos were shot from an aircraft that was using electronic navigation with the help of satellites.
The foregoing paragraphs involving U.S. - Japanese combat actions in the Aleutians in World War II are just fragments from the U.S. experience in 1942-1945. This was war experience. My book, "The Triumph of Instrument Flight," shown at the top of this page covers immediate postwar experience, 1946-48, but does add the Battle of the Komandorskis, when a U.S. surface force intercepted a Japanese re-supply convoy attempting to reach Kiska with the protection of a powerful Japanese warship escort. The two surface Navies tangled, in an hours-long daylight sea battle with good visibility, and not one U.S. or Japanese aircraft was able to find these two fleets. My source was a Naval Academy classmate aboard USS Bailey, a destroyer. Brian Garfield tells this story in his book, "The Thousand Mile War." (see my surface chart above to see how Brian arrived at one thousand) Admiral Morison tells this story in Volume VII of his "History of the U.S. Navy in World War II." I recommend all these sources but I must inform any reader of my view that the full story of this sector's conflict in World War II has yet to be adequately told.