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The Golden Era of Naval Aviation: An Aviator's Journey, 1939-1959

The Golden Era of Naval Aviation: An Aviator's Journey, 1939-1959

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The Golden Era of Naval Aviation: An Aviator's Journey, 1939-1959

5/5 (1 évaluation)
219 pages
4 heures
Feb 26, 2007


The Golden Era of Naval Aviation: An Aviator's Journey, 1939-1959 is a personalized account of an aviator's journey through twenty years of Naval Aviation. Author Lieutenant Commander A.M. "Mike" Granat, United States Navy (Retired) takes you into a world little-known or experienced by the average individual. Those early days of flight training will carry you along on apprehensive days of reaching for those coveted "Wings of Gold". Laced with humor, suspense and a bit of romance, the years span oceans and continents, East and West, North and South. From the vast expanse of the South Pacific flying Patrol Bombers during World War II, to the Far East in Military Transports; Alaska operations as an Air/Sea Rescue pilot, to carrier duty in a Fighter Squadron. Duties as a Flight Deck Officer will have you shivering on icy decks off the coast of Greenland while sweltering in the steamy Mediterranean and Caribbean. Reliving the days as a Flight Instructor leaves one with the taste of the interaction between student aviator and the instructor. The author depicts an age in Naval History that will never be repeated - the story of the early propellor aircraft to the coming of the jets. A transition, fueled by WWII that was remarkable. No time in Naval Aviation saw such extraordinary changes in so short a period. He relives it all in his own words and shares with the reader a saga of progress and achievement unmatched in aviation history.

Feb 26, 2007

À propos de l'auteur

From a land of "Hot Rods" and surfboards, this Southern California youth of the 1930s is suddenly thrust into the fiery cauldron of World War II. Surviving the tumultuous skies of the South Pacific conflict, he continues to pursue a post-war career as a Naval Officer and Aviator. Fulfilling the Navy Recruiter's theme, "Join the Navy and see the World", his travels take him and his family on many diverse and interesting assignments. His retirement from the Naval Service is followed by a second career as an Aeronautical/Astronautical engineer in the Aerospace industry. He now resides with his wife of sixty years in Poulsbo, Washington - both enjoying varied creative interests together. Visit Mike's website at www.granatbooks.com

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The Golden Era of Naval Aviation - Lieutenant Commander A.M. Granat United States Navy



Ever since the Wright Brothers made their first flight from Kitty Hawk in 1903, technical advances in aviation have been nothing but remarkable. In less than 100 years we have propelled ourselves into an age of jet propulsion, put thousands of satellites into gravity-defying orbit, men have walked on the moon and safely returned to earth and an erector set type of flying machine has circled the earth non-stop.

With these tremendous achievements in such a short time span, what surprises will evolve in the next millennium? Maybe further refinement of nuclear energy will provide an infinite supply of fuel to take us on boundless journeys to outer space and beyond or some other dramatic discovery of an energy producing device. Only man’s endurance to lengthy space travel will dictate our future achievements.


U.S. Naval Aviation

From its inception in 1911, few could have imagined the dramatic changes that would take place in Naval Aviation: the development of the aircraft carrier, seaplanes, helicopters and even the lighter-than-air dirigibles and blimps. Influenced by the war years, methods of operation, innovative changes and upgrades have been equally extraordinary. Development in aviation which began in the early 20’s and lasted through to the ‘50’s, marked a short but illustrious period of time when the Navy evolved from the open cockpit, fabric covered

biplanes—leather jackets and helmets with white, silk scarves streaming behind—to the all metal monoplanes with enclosed cockpits and to the delight of all pilots, heaters! Then followed the transition to the early jet fighters with the smooth and almost silent sense of flight. Each phase brought a new world of sensations of feel and sound—all encompassed in an evolution spanning less than thirty years. No similar interval of time, before or after, has seen such remarkable technical changes.

During that period we had less restrictive operations, real seat-of-the-pants flying, large formations that could almost darken the skies and breathtaking carrier operations. The sight and sounds of an entire flight deck of aircraft responding to the order, pilots, start your engines. The sense of a quickening pace as smoke from starting engines sweeps aft through whirling propellers. The orderly lineup of fighters, dive bombers, torpedo bombers—the flight deck officer sending them off in five to ten second intervals—the joining up into formations and the massive flyby in review alongside the carrier. All generated a feeling similar to that inspired by a strain of beautiful music or viewing the painting of a master—precious moments, rarely duplicated.

But time waits for no one. Like the leaves on a tree—bright and green in their youth, mellowing with age and finally withering and dying: so it has been with the pilots of that early era. Young, vibrant, up to the challenges that faced them during the darkness of World War II. They are now old men in their twilight years, but their hearts still hold fire and their eyes sparkle when reminded of those dynamic but distant events and times. We look for insight into the world they knew, sensing it is relevant to the events of today . Even the aircraft they flew, as cherished as they have been as museum pieces, may remind us of their past but will not last forever. Inevitably they will also be gone. Who will be around to describe the throaty roar of a mighty radial engine coming to life—the strong pulse now lost in the whine of the jet engine, the pulse that will be lost in the hearts of the men who represented the early pioneers of the jet age.

In writing this book I hope to infuse some of my experiences into each reader’s mind’s eye whereby a small window can be opened allowing some assimilation of those events which shaped my life during those years: cherished years that I felt privileged to share with my fellow aviators. They are years, short in the timeframe of our lives, but they form a dramatic part of our nation’s history and survival. How can one not be honored and proud to have lived through and participated in that—

Golden Era of Naval Aviation

Chapter 2

Early Aspirations

Youth is a time in which the fundamental question arises: what do I want to be when I grow up? The answer to that age-old riddle is influenced by people, events, luck and fate and are, seemingly, ever changing. My next door neighbor in Longview, Washington, was a motorcycle cop. An immaculately dressed and impressive figure, riding on his big, loud, red Indian Motorcycle, he easily captured my imagination for a period of time. But when that and other transitory possibilities had, after diligent consideration, slowly evaporated, there was one vision that stayed with me. I decided

that what I wanted most was to become a pilot; commercial or military—a decision that would become clearer at a later date.

I’m not sure when that decision was finalized. I know there was an early fascination for airplanes; maybe it probably solidified when Lindberg made his epic flight across the Atlantic in 1927. I was all of seven at the time and all through the years that followed, that fascination with aviation remained at the forefront of my ambitions. Even to this day, the throaty roar of a powerful radial engine driving an aircraft through the skies can capture my attention like nothing else can.

In those early days, not too long after World War 1, there was a proliferation of pulp magazines; Wild Westerns, Gangsters, etc. But my interest was invariably taken with those of aviation


especially those fictional stories

from World War I by noted author Arch Whitehouse, a famous British fighter pilot during that early war with many victories to his credit. His stories were vividly told with glorious art work to accompany them. And, of course, there were other authors writing similar stories, all embellished with fiery action sandwiched between the bright, colorful covers that depicted biplanes and triplanes of that era locked in swirling dogfights. One pulp hero in particular, S-8 and his Battle Aces , always had stories of intrigue and daring and, each month, left one hanging in suspense, hardly able to wait for the next issue. And, of course the editors knew when to drop in that next moment of high tension that guaranteed the purchase of the next issue—much the same as those infamous Saturday matinee serials that

brought you back, week after week, with an insatiable hunger, never satisfied, to learn how the hero triumphed over evil..

My Trusty Spad

The Red Nemesis

With my boundless imagination, I could fantasize myself in a leather jacket, helmet and goggles, in the open

cockpit of a Spad with a white scarf wrapped around and streaming behind my neck. In the sky around me would be a swarming mass of aircraft engaged in a swirling dog fight. And there, in their midst, would be the famous German ace. Baron Von Ricktofen and his unmistakable, bright, red Fokker triplane. Into the fray I would plunge, climbing, diving, guns blazing, watching the hapless enemy frantically trying to escape from my skillful pursuit.

Other events that were equally exciting were the air shows. Having moved to Southern California in the 1930’s. I was fortunate that these performances were staged quite frequently at that time and in that place. Many featured vintage aircraft from WW1, barnstorming from the many small fields around the area.

Adding to the colorful aerial events of the time were the stubby racers flown by famous flyers such as the entertaining Roscoe Turner and others competing in the Thompson Trophy Races. There would be wing walkers, simulated dog fights and all kinds of stunt flyers. The crowds loved it and so did I.

At that time there was also a popular interest among hobbyists in constructing model planes of balsa wood, tissue paper and dope. From the simple to the complex, I built as many as I could get my hands on. Rubber band, wind-up models to small gas engine types. Many a finger got whacked by the propeller in the process of trying to start those cranky engines.

As I advanced into the teen years, the urge to learn to fly became stronger. At the age of sixteen, and having scraped together five dollars from various jobs, I managed to coax my balky 1926 Chevrolet coupe to Mine’s Field on the outskirts of Los Angeles. There, a thirty minute lesson in a two seater Taylorcraft helped gratify but barely satisfy that urge. Little did I realize that a few years later I would be flying into a substantially improved Mine’s Field, now called L.A. International (LAX), as the pilot of a passenger transport.

The one circumstance that finally firmed the decision that flying was my future, came in my sophomore year. My home room teacher, a Mr. Williams, was a reserve Naval Aviator. He would fascinate us with stories of his flying adventures in Navy aircraft: open cockpit fighters, carrier operations, the lot. I couldn’t get enough and badgered him for more at every opportunity. Thankfully he enjoyed talking of these episodes as much as I enjoyed listening. These discussions were to finally lock in the route I would follow—to shoot for the goal of becoming a Naval Aviator.

I have often wondered what ever happened to Mr. Williams. Given his experience, I would expect he became a flight instructor. As I reflect on that time I was always hopeful that some day our paths would cross again—but they never did. I would have liked to have thanked him for the inspiration he gave me those many long years ago.

Chapter 3

The Journey Begins

Graduation from Fairfax High School in Hollywood, California, came in June, 1938. After enjoying a summer of freedom from classes, I applied at the Los Angeles recruiting office for enlistment in the U.S. Navy. The physical was ordered, passed, and revealed no hidden defects. The recruiting office then informed me that I would be on a waiting list that could take up to a year before I could expect to be called up. I was surprised and devastated. What would I do with a year of waiting? I couldn’t lay on the beach all that time, as enticing as that might be. The only thing was to find a job. Times were tough in 1938, explaining the reason why so many were volunteering for Naval service. Checking the classified ads revealed an opening for a stock room clerk in a downtown shoe store. I was hired for the job and spent the next year stocking storeroom shelves and delivering shoes to outlying stores. Each day was hopefully my last, so all I could do was to continue to fret and wait.

On September 1, 1939, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Still no call from the Navy. The thought occurred that maybe I could volunteer for service with the Royal Canadian Air Force as some others were doing. Since the RCAF was accepting applications from non-college graduates, this could be an acceptable substitute. Still, maybe I should wait a few months longer. Surely my number would be coming up soon.

November rolled around and with it finally came those long awaited orders—Report to the Los Angeles Federal Building for swearing in. I was on my way.

Upon being inducted into the Navy, I, with several others, were placed on a bus heading for the Naval Training Station in San Diego. During the next three months, we were introduced to a way of life befitting new recruits. Indoctrination in all aspects of Naval seamanship was combined with many hours of formation drills. During that time, aptitude tests were conducted to determine what work area we would be most proficient in. Luckily, aviation came up first. Inquiring about flight training revealed the same situation as before—a long waiting list. As an interim measure, I opted for the Aviation Machinist School which would provide an all—around understanding of the makeup of Naval aircraft. This in turn would assure a more solid footing for the flight training phase that, hopefully, would come soon.

Next, I, with twenty four selected aviation trainees, was launched on a a five mile journey across San Diego Bay to the Naval Air Station (North Island). For the next three months, we were immersed in a training program involving aircraft engines, metal repair techniques, hydraulic and electrical systems and the use of tools peculiar to aircraft maintenance and overhaul. Some of our instructors were old timers with service dating back to World War 1. They had seen and experienced Naval Aviation almost from its inception. Their stories and yarns of those early days were both instructive and entertaining and inspired us even more to become a part of the growing and expanding technology that was Naval Aviation. The schooling would provide the foundation from which we could reach out to the higher goals we ultimately sought.

Upon completion and passing of final exams, we new Aviation Machinist Mates (AMM) were off to various aviation billets on carriers or squadrons. My orders hardly involved any travel, as my next duty station was a flying boat squadron, Patrol Bombing Squadron Fourteen (VP-14) right at the North Island Naval Air Station. There, assignments in all phases of mechanical servicing of the boats continued to raise the experience level I was working for. Also included was assignment as part of the aircrew on one of the aircraft making up the squadron.

At the time, the squadron had been flying the P2Y called the Ranger, a flying boat incorporating a biplane-like wing arrangement known as a sesquiplane. The top wing had a prescribed span with abbreviated lower wings. These aircraft were in the process of being phased out in favor of the new Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina twin engine flying boat.

Consolidated P2Y

The PBY we were eventually issued was the latest model based on a line of modifications of earlier versions, but it was still a slow but somewhat, sturdier aircraft. On each side of the waist was a plexiglass Blister that provided an observation post and housed a .50 cal. machine gun. In the pedestal that joined

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