The late Paul Allen’s R/V Petrel of course recently discovered the final resting place of the lost WWII aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) on the bottom of the Pacific. The below haunting video shows some of her planes resting in the debris field, which likely slipped off her deck during her ride to the floor.
For more on the planes discovered from the lost carriers found by Allen’s group, including those from Lexington, Hornet, and HMS Ark Royal, check this out.
(18 Dec. 1965) — Astronaut James A. Lovell Jr., the pilot of the Gemini-7 spaceflight, is hoisted from the water by a recovery helicopter from the Aircraft Carrier USS Wasp. Astronaut Frank Borman, command pilot, waits in the raft to be hoisted aboard the helicopter.
The helicopter is Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King (HSS-2/S-61) BuNo #149006 (Sikorsky #61-080) of
“The Dragonslayers” the “Sub Seekers” (thanks, Fabio!) of Helicopter Squadron 11 (HS-11). Contrary to popular belief, most astronaut scoopers were regular fleet ASW helicopters and crews.
The SH-3A, only 245 of which were made before the line was upgraded, when it was introduced in 1961 set new speed records for helicopters over a 3 km sea level course (198.8 mph) and a 25 km course (210.6 mph), making them literally the fastest production whirlybird in the world at the time. From Scott Carpenter’s Mercury mission in May 1962 to the end of the Apollo lunar program in December 1972, every NASA spacecraft crew retrieved by helicopter was recovered by a Sikorsky Sea King.
The particular airframe shown above was later upgraded to SH-3H standard and was retired by the Navy in 2005, now preserved in her later white livery at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum at McMinnville, Oregon (home of the Hughes H-4 Hercules, the Spruce Goose)– but a very close sister #149003, is still in long-term storage at AMARC where it has been since 1992.
As for HS-11? They are still around, assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 out of NAS Norfolk, but they fly MH-60S’s now as HSC-11, The Dragonslayers.
Below is a great 1967 film featuring Grumman S-2E Trackers of Sea Control Squadron Twenty Four (VS-24) Scouts and VS-27 Pelicans and Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King helos of HS-3 Tridents from Carrier Antisubmarine Warfare Group Fifty Six (CVSG-56) aboard USS Randolph (CVS-15).
Also featured in the film are S-2Es of VS-28 Gamblers and VS-31 Topcats and SH-3As of HS-11 Sub Seekers from CVSG-52 aboard USS Wasp (CVS-18). Other footage of S-2Es of VS-22 Checkmates and VS-32 Maulers and SH-3As of HS-5 Nightdippers from CVSG-54 aboard USS Essex (CVS-9) is also used in the film. Grumman C-1A Trader carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft and Grumman E-1B Tracer airborne early warning radar aircraft of various VAW-33 Nighthawks detachments also appear in the film. The destroyer USS Newman K Perry (DD-883) is the only identifiable escort in the film but several DDs are shown from a distance.
This has to be a great story in this picture, taken of five men who evidently survived being shot down in the Philippines in late 1944/early 1945 and survived as best they could until being plucked up by a VPB-54 PBY-5A Catalina flown from the cargo ship turned seaplane tender USS Tangier (AV-8), then afloat in the Leyte Gulf.
Caption: Five men were rescued on Luzon Island, PI, by VPB-54. Survivors left to right: ARM2C Clifford P. Schelitzche, Torpedo-14, USS Wasp (CV-18); Ensign Maurice L. Naylon, Fightin 31, USS Cabot (CVL-28); Ensign Nichol J. Roccafort, Torpedo 18, USS Intrepid (CV-11); Ensign John R. Doyle, USS Ticonderoga (CV-14); ARM3C William W. King, USS Ticonderoga (CV-14). Photographed onboard USS Tangier (AV-8), January 10, 1945.
A joint US Navy/Marine Corps “Proof of Concept” demonstration held off the coast of Southern California Nov. 18-20 put the largest force of F-35B Lightning II stealth STOVL strike fighters ever assembled at sea together by placing a full dozen planes from the “Wake Island Avengers” of VMFA-211, fleshed out by VX-23 and VMX-1 from Patuxent; along with a few MV-22B, AH-1Z and UH-1Ys aboard the USS America (LHA-6).
The F-35B Lightning II third developmental test phase (DT-III) evaluated the full spectrum of joint strike fighter measures of suitability and effectiveness in an at-sea environment.
In preparation of DT-III load testing, America‘s Weapons Department assembled two types of smart bombs. The team assembled 72 laser-guided Guide Bomb Units (GBU) 12 and 40 satellite-guided GBU-32s for the first time in the ship’s short history.
America, the ultimate evolution of the 1970s Tarawa-class LHAs and 1980s LHD designs, looks a lot like an Essex-class fleet carrier from WWII. In fact, they are the same rough size (45,000-tons/844-feet for LHA vs. 36,380-tons/872-feet for CV) though the old school flattops were much faster, carried an immense array of topside armament, and could squeeze 100~ piston engine planes on their deck.
However, a dozen or so F-35Bs with 5th Generation carrier-strike capabilities, when the bugs are worked out, should prove much more capable than a few squadrons of Corsairs or Hellcats.
Also, there is always the prospect of adding a second squadron aboard, giving an LHA a full 24 aircraft, which isn’t too far-fetched, after all, it should be remembered that 20 AV-8Bs of VMA-331 operated from USS Nassau (LHA-4) in support of Operation Desert Storm, flying 240 combat sorties and dropping 900 bombs. Sure, the F-35 is heavier than the Harrier, but LHA-6 is optimized for aviation operations, whereas Nassau was not.
Such an ersatz carrier group, augmented by a few DDG/CG assets to screen it, could fill several expeditionary contingencies short of all-out war. For instance, recent limited air operations off Libya, non-combatant evacuation operations offshore of a country with a deteriorating security situation, keeping sea lanes open against an asymmetric threat, or enforcing a naval quarantine.
Besides the meaning for U.S. carrier forces, being able to add some LHAs as mini-flattops in a pinch, this month’s trials with a dozen F-35s at sea shows the Brits what they have to look forward to. Though the beautiful 70,000-ton HMS Queen Elizabeth is to commission next year, the RN Fleet Air Arm has no real fixed wing assets to put aboard her at this time.
Queen Elizabeth is capable of carrying up to 36 F-35s in her hangars, and while the current plan is for the carriers to deploy with an air wing of just 12 jets, this may take a while to pull off. The Brits, who intend to ultimately have as many as 138 joint RAF/RN F-35s, will only have their first operational squadron in late 2018 and just 24 operational frames in inventory in 2023. Indeed, USMC F-35Bs are expected to deploy on QE until the UK gets theirs fully fleshed out.
And the gentlemen from the UK were on-hand on America this week.
“As we all know, we can’t choose the battle and the location of the battle, so sometimes we have to go into rough seas with heavy swells, heave, roll, pitch, and crosswinds,” said Royal air force (RAF) Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, an F-35 test pilot embedded at the Pax River ITF. “The last couple of days we went and purposely found those nasty conditions and put the jets through those places, and the jet handled fantastically well. So now the external weapons testing should be able to give the fleet a clearance to carry weapons with the rough seas and rough conditions. We know the jet can handle it. A fleet clearance will come — then they can go forth and conduct battle in whatever environment.”
In the meantime, in 2017, an up-gunned Expeditionary Strike Group consisting of a three-DDG strong surface action group and a more traditional three-ship Amphibious Ready Group centered around USS Wasp (LHD-1) with an LPD and LSD in tow, will deploy with a squadron of Marine F-35Bs.
Welcome to the new Navy.
Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sunday, I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, and the like that produced them. As always, remember to click to embiggen.
Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Tom Lea
With this edition coming on Memorial Day weekend, I felt it best to highlight one of the most somber artists to ever cover a military subject. Further, this incredibly skilled painter did so not from photographs or through dry research, but from his own first-hand experience garnered at sea both frozen and aflame and on the bloody sand.
Thomas Calloway “Tom” Lea, III was born in El Paso, Texas on 11 July 1907. Growing up in that rough and tumble border town during the era of Poncho Villa, he had to have an armed escort to school over remarks his father, the mayor, made during that time. Leaving home in the 1920s, Lea studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and under noted muralists (remember this later).
In the 1930s, he got his first steady work as a WPA artist, painting murals in federal buildings across the state as well as in such far off places as Washington D.C., New Mexico, Illinois, and Missouri.
In 1941, LIFE Magazine asked him to sketch troopers of the El Paso-based 8th Cavalry Regiment (1CAV DIV), which he did and in turn evolved into other requests to supply images of aviators and cannoncockers at nearby bases.
By the fall, he was afloat on a U.S. Navy destroyer bobbing along the Atlantic Ocean on the very active Neutrality Patrol in which the man from West Texas saw the world from the heaving decks of Uncle’s tincans.
Next, he shipped out on one of the “original 8” carriers of the U.S. Navy, USS Hornet (CV-8) for a 66-day run across the Pacific. There, in fierce service off Guadalcanal in late summer 1942, he spent more than two months on a front line carrier in the thick of the war and sketched as he found.
On 21 October, he left the Hornet, pulling away on a fleet oiler that would land him back at Pearl Harbor. The cleared sketches would appear in LIFE in March and April 1943, sadly, after the carrier had been sunk. You see, the ship in which Lea had spent those hectic two months was sent to the bottom, sunk in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942– just five days after he left.
Back at Pearl Harbor, Lea showed Admiral Nimitz some of his drawings. One of them was the one above. Underneath the drawing, he inscribed a quotation from Deuteronomy: “Moreover the Lord thy God shall send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.”
Admiral Nimitz looked at the drawing for a long time, then turned his head to Lea, and said: “Something has happened to the Hornet.”
That was how Lea found out that the aircraft carrier he had been on, together with his friends, perished.
This he immortalized in a painting ran by LIFE of how he pictured the ship going out– fighting.
Next, fate found him landing with the 7th Marines at the green hell that was Peleliu. The 11 paintings he produced from that front line horror are some of the most haunting military art of all time and should be viewed by any politician who claims there is no alternative to starting a war.
From the El Paso Times:
After taking his paintings to Life headquarters in New York, Tom heard what happened: The paintings were lined up so the managing editor Daniel Longwell could review them. Longwell entered, looked, and said: “Print every damn one of them in color, and I never want to see them again.”
It was also his last wartime assignment.
After the war he remained active and produced art for books and novels, while trying his hand as an author and historian.
Much as he was born in El Paso and lived most of his life there, he also passed away there in 2001 at age 93. He is buried in the city next to his wife, whose portrait reportedly took him the longest of all paintings to complete.
His work is on public display a numerous U.S. Army museums and bases, the Smithsonian, the White House, as well as galleries and museums across the Southwest.
Thank you for your work, sir.