A Thousand Kingfishers can’t be wrong
Back before the days of helicopters, the naval seaplane was king for over-the-horizon spotting. This included missions such as scouting for enemy ships, keeping up with the fleet, picking up those lost at sea, light transport of personnel and packages from ship to ship and ship to shore, as well as the all-important task of correcting distant naval gunfire missions.
The Navy used Curtiss CS-1 biplanes, Grumman Ducks, Vought O2/O3 Corsairs and the Curtiss SOC Seagull through the 1920s and 30s (and in the Duck’s case even into WWII) for this task.
In 1938 the new Vought OS2U Kingfisher, a mid-wing monoplane with a large central float and two outriggers had been introduced to take their place. These slow (160kts) and unwieldy scout planes were not built for combat. Rather, they served as the eyes and ears of the fleet.
Launched by catapult from ships as small as light cruisers, they gave a tiny air wing to even the most modest of ships. Some cruisers were set up to carry as many as four of these planes.
They had long legs, capable of a range of some 800 miles. If needed they could carry 650-pounds of bombs which made them useful against lightly defended targets (such as Japanese freighters).
Perhaps more than any other aircraft save the long-legged PBYs and PBMs, Kingfishers saved more down aircrew during the war from being lost forever at sea “somewhere in the Pacific”
Over 1500 were produced and served the U.S. and her allies as late as the 1960s. They were so successful in fact, that the follow-on and much more heavily armed and fighter-like Curtiss SC Seahawk that replaced it in Navy service was itself phased out in 1949. Killed by the advent of the helicopter and long-range surface radar.
Sadly, few Kingfishers remain as museum pieces– most notably at the North Carolina and Alabama battleship museums.