Mediterranean Cruise

1947 - 1948, page 6

In Memoriam

We lost 12 men on a peacetime cruise.
First loss was shortly after we started the cruise.  Somehow he got in the way of a running plane prop on the hangar deck.

Three more were lost when the main rotor of their helicopter came off.  They had been helping boresight the fire control over the city of Naples.  They crashed in a junk yard.  A modification had been performed several days earlier, and when the main retaining pin was re-installed the airman forgot to put the safety wire on.  He was transferred off the ship that night because of the high emotions on the ship regarding the mistake (someone might hurt him).

Eight men were lost the night of February 16, 1948, when a liberty launch was swamped with 57 men on board returning to the ship.  The ship was anchored a number of miles at sea from the town dock of Hyeres, France.  It was between 10 and 11 p.m. and the seas had gotten very rough.  It happened so fast, most did not get a life jacket on.  The launch did not sink, but was so low in the water it was hard to see or find.

I was supposed to be in that launch.  I had taken the portable radio transceiver ashore to the shore patrol officer at the start of liberty, and then I was to take it back to the ship at the end.  There had been some trouble in Toulon, about 15 miles from Hyeres, and the SP officer wanted me to stay and take it back later when his men got back.

We got word over the radio about the swamped launch and were told to stay off the air as they needed to talk with the rescue launches.  We stayed at the dock all night while the rescue guys worked until exhausted.  Went back to the ship at first light.  Found out that there had been a muster call at 0300 hours and I was listed among the missing (see Scott McGaugh’s “Midway Magic”, page 52, for more on the launch swamping).  Someone called my mother in Pittsburgh and told her I was missing.  I had to correct this right away.  The launch was brought back aboard the next day.  The gunnel was smashed in several places where rescue launches had hit it in the rough seas (see photo, above).                

Gallery of Images

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Left: Destroyer in foreground; cruiser in back, at Augusta Bay, Sicily.

Below: A pilot who was rescued after crashing is transferred via a "bosun's chair" onto the Midway from the "can" that picked him up.

Left: "Play time" on deck. We had football and baseball gear, for tossing around on deck. After a time, all the balls were eventually lost overboard. Left to right is Don Boyhont, Walt Burgher, and Al Gale.

Below: The forward flight deck, crowded with aircraft, off Gibralter.

Aircraft Identification:

We had two aircraft squadrons on board. Squadron VF-1B(2B) flew the F4U-B, and Squadron VA-1B(2B) flew the AD-1.

The Vought F4U-B Corsair had inverted gull wings that provided less drag in flight, allowed for the shorter landing gear to accommodate an oversized propeller and enabled wings to fold directly over the canopy with room to spare on the hanger deck.  Prop was four-bladed.

The Douglas AD-1 Skyraider had a straight wing and was the most powerful carrier-based attack prop plane ever built.  It had a three-bladed prop on the -1 and later went to a four-bladed.

Right: A Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk being hoisted on deck of the Midway. Each of the light cruisers had one of these aircraft. There was a crane on the cruisers that would lower the plane into the water for various operations: scouting, rescue, bombing, towing aerial target and chasing practice torpedoes.  Then it was hoisted back aboard.

Below: A plane in the catapult, ready for launch; and taking off, a few feet off the deck; note the heads watching just below the flight deck in the background.

Testimonial to Kodak Kodachrome: all of the pictures taken on the Med cruise were 35mm slides that are approximately 57 years old.  The ones with rich color such as Gibraltar are Kodachrome, while the badly faded ones like the aircraft taking off above, are Ansco.  I only had a few rolls of Kodachrome so I had to substitute.
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