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Notes on Carrier Maneuvers - 26 October 1942 (Appendix H of Enterprise CV-6 Action Report)

  1. The attack on ENTERPRISE on 26 October lasted from about 1115 to 1234, during which time the ENTERPRISE was attacked by some 80 planes, the larger part of which were dive bombers but approximately 15 or 20 were torpedo planes. No horizontal bombing attack was observed. By reason of the size and duration of the air attack unusual opportunity was afforded for drawing conclusions as to the effectiveness of various ship maneuvers. Plans for maneuvers to counter various forms of air attacks had received careful study in advance, and the views of numerous officers on this ship and elsewhere had been obtained. A brief description of methods employed and an enumeration of conclusions reached follow.
  2. The ENTERPRISE was the center of a ring of ships, 2000 yards radius, which included the vessels of Task Force Sixteen, that is the SOUTH DAKOTA, PORTLAND, SAN JUAN, and seven destroyers (destroyers slightly inside cruisers). The ENTERPRISE maneuvered at high speed (27 knots) using full rudder angles, and the screening vessels followed her motions without signal. This they did in the most skillful manner. The ship was conned from the bridge wings where an unobstructed overhead views could be obtained, and steered from the bridge steering station.
  3. Dive Bombing Attacks.
    1. If the direction of approach permitted, and if accurate advance information was at hand, which it seldom was, initial turns were made toward dive bombers approaching down wind to steepen dive, away from those approaching up wind to flatten dive, and right turns were favored where possible. In any event a turn in some direction was started and the turn was continued on around, and was not stopped until the particular attack was completed, unless other factors forced a change. Factors which did force changes in direction were:-
      1. Avoidance of other ships in the screen. At one time or another each heavy ship of the screen lost steering control and on at least one occasion two ships (SOUTH DAKOTA and PORTLAND) lost steering control at the same time. The SMITH was steaming in the screen with flames from a crash enemy plane on her forecastle rising to her yardarm, and it was feared she was out of control also. At least one turn was made to avoid her.
      2. Submarines in the area. Constant reports of submarine sightings and contacts complicated the situation and forced changes. Obviously all submarine reports were not true, but the torpedoing of the PORTER and the PORTLAND's report of torpedo hits was taken as evidence of their presence, and it was not possible at the time to analyze these reports for accuracy. Immediate action had to be taken.
      3. Scattered clouds were present but visibility was excellent, and there was no cover for the carrier in the area except a few small local showers. As opportunity offered the ship was headed so as to pass through these. Due to their small size, and the brief time the carrier was in them, very limited advantage could be obtained therefrom. In fact from a gunnery standpoint unless the cover is extensive, it is of very doubtful value.
    2. It was planned to commence maneuvers when the positioning angle of the planes was such as to indicate that they were committed to their attack and while time remained for the ship to effect a radical change of course before the bomb struck. In the case of dive bombers a position angle of about 30 - 35° was taken as a good mean at which to commence maneuvers. However, in point of fact in almost no case were planes sighted during approach sufficiently far in advance to permit and careful checking of position angles, and in almost every case turns were started as soon as the planes were actually sighted from the ship. The continuation of the turn is believed to have been particularly effective, and to have taken care of cases where the attack was drawn out and where, had our course been steadied or reversed, late planes would have had excellent opportunity to catch the ship in a favorable position. Further, and this is important, all attacking planes were by no means sighted in advance, and the determination of the end of one attack and the beginning of another could not be made with confidence.
  4. Torpedo Plane Attacks.
    Maneuvers to counter torpedo plane attacks were aimed at heading toward those attacks forward of the beam, unless they were so far out as to afford opportunity to turn away, and at turning away from attacks from abaft the beam. This served the dual purpose of combing the torpedo tracks, and in cases where turn away was practicable, of forcing the attacking plane to accept a stern drop on a high speed target, or else to maneuver for position a long time under heavy gunfire. The turn away afforded maximum opportunity to the antiaircraft guns, and would have done the same for defending fighters had they been in action. Simultaneous attacks from several angles could have partially defeated these maneuvers, but fortunately such attacks were not made. The maneuvers against torpedo planes, and against the actual torpedoes, were very successful. About seven torpedo wakes were combed, and in the case of one attack on the starboard bow, into which the ship turned, three torpedoes almost abreast, passed close aboard to starboard, all of which would probably have been hits had the ship not turned. Altogether about nine torpedoes were sighted close aboard. In the case of one group which came up from astern, the ship was turned so as to keep the stern continuously toward them as they came around attempting to reach a launching position on the bow. Practically all of this group were either shot down or forced to drop at a position or altitude such that no hits were obtained. Ship maneuvers may be executed more exactly against torpedo planes, than against any other type of planes.
  5. Coordination of Ship Control and Fire Control.
    The most effective defense for a ship against air attack, once the attack has passed the screening fighters, lies in its own antiaircraft fire. The ship's maneuvers must be planned with the idea of aiding the gunfire, while at the same time presenting a difficult target. For example, against dive bombing attacks right turns, which on this vessel increase the volume of fire, and reduce somewhat the danger area due to the consequent tilt of the island structure, are preferable other things being equal. The most effective way of forcing torpedo planes to expose themselves to gunfire for a maximum time, or else to fire from a disadvantageous position, lies in turning away from these attacks where possible. The team work between the ship control and the ship's battery must be close and continuous. Results of this attack prove that a well trained and powerful antiaircraft battery can do an amazing amount of execution, provided only it is given a chance. Except for a group of torpedo planes there were few interceptions of hostile planes prior to their attacks on the ships.
  6. Conclusions drawn may be summarized as follows:
    1. Turn toward dive bombers approaching down wind, and away from those approaching up wind.
    2. The exact position of the attacking planes relative to wind may not be known. In any event, start a turn.
    3. Use very high speed and extreme rudder angles. To use an aviation expression make "flipper turns".
    4. Against dive bombers, having commenced a turn, continue it on around until the attack is completed. Unquestionably a vessel turning at high speed in a circle confuses bombers.
    5. Turn toward torpedo planes close aboard approaching from a position forward of the beam, and away from those approaching from abaft the beam. Turn away from all torpedo planes, if sighted at sufficient distance to permit this to be done.
    6. In this as in prior actions it was demonstrated that the ship must be conned from a position in the open where an overhead view can be obtained, and steered from the bridge station. The steersman must be at hand where the Captain's orders can be received instantaneously, and their immediate execution checked.
    7. A well spaced screen, trained to maneuver with its carrier, is of tremendous help in defense.
    8. Needless to say, protective fighters constitute the primary and the best defense against air attacks. But provided a carrier has a strong and efficient antiaircraft battery, and this is supported and assisted by intelligent maneuvering of the ship, and by a strong, well positioned screen, regardless of air support, the carrier has a real chance against even the strongest air attacks.

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