Naval Legends: USS Essex | World of Warships


They were designed to be the best… they met enemies face to face, endured tragedies and enjoyed victories… they went down in history due
to the bravery of their crews… they are the ships that deserve to be called “Naval Legends!” In this episode: The aviation of Essex-class aircraft carriers: terror of the Pacific Ocean. The outcome of battles in the Pacific Ocean,
during World War II, didn’t depend on the primary armament
of mighty battleships anymore. Often, opposing ships
didn’t make a single artillery salvo and couldn’t even see one another through binoculars. Pearl Harbor, the Bombing of Tokyo, the clash of aircraft carriers in the Coral Sea: the main characters in these operations were the carrier aviation. In the first year of the war, the Japanese
army achieved a number of significant victories and captured almost all of South-East Asia, while the Imperial fleet was dominating
in the Pacific Ocean. Imagine: a small island country controls
a territory 17 times bigger than its own, and with a population 5 times greater! However, it’s one thing to conquer,
it’s another thing to retain it. In the summer of 1942, the Japanese suffered
a crushing defeat in the Battle of Midway. It’s after this victory that the Americans
started active offensive actions. Japan manufactured 18 aircraft carriers
over the course of the war, not counting those commissioned before the war. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy could accommodate
the construction of 150 aircraft carriers. Essex-class aircraft carriers became
the main striking force of the U.S. Navy and were pivotal in the war in the Pacific. The air group of Essex-class ships
consisted of four squadrons. Reconnaissance, bomber,
and torpedo bomber squadrons had 18 aircraft each. The fighter squadron was reinforced
and had 36 aircraft instead of 18. It was a timely decision: these were the fighters who gradually
started to win in the Pacific skies… In the early years of the war,
the primary aircraft of the U.S. carrier aviation were the Dauntless dive bombers
and the Wildcat fighter planes. They showed good performance, but became obsolete
by the beginning of 1943 and needed to be replaced. Modern Avenger torpedo bombers
were the first to appear on the flight decks and in the hangars of Essex-class carriers. Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger torpedo bomber: Maximum takeoff weight: 18,268 lbs Engine power: 1,900 brake horsepower Maximum speed: 276 mph Armament: 2 x M2 machine guns, caliber: 0.5 inches 1 x M2 machine gun in the upper turret, caliber: 0.5 inch 1 x M1919 machine gun in the lower turret,
caliber: 0.3 inch A torpedo or bomb load up to 2000 lbs, including 8 x 5-inch HVAR rockets It was a very effective airplane and
a good demonstration of one of the advantages the U.S. Navy had over our adversary, the Japanese,
at that Second World War. Not only could we produce more aircraft carriers,
but we could produce more aircraft. And with the design of the folding wings,
as you see on the TBM Avenger, we were able to carry more airplanes
on each ship because of that. It provided extra space for us to carry more aircraft. And that way we could outnumber
our adversaries in combat. I never got to fly one. I always thought it was one of the most beautiful
airplanes the Navy ever built. As a youngster I used to make
models of all the airplanes that they had and this was one of the prominent models that I have. Avengers took their rightful place on aircraft carriers, while the obsolete Dauntless and Wildcat planes were replaced by the Helldiver dive bombers
and the Hellcat fighter planes… Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter plane: Maximum takeoff weight: 15,410 lbs Engine power: 2,250 brake horsepower Maximum speed: 380 mph Armament: 6 x M2 machine guns, caliber: 0.5 inches 2 x 500 lbs bombs and
6 x 5-inch HVAR rockets The Hellcat was the most mass produced
fighter plane of the U.S. naval aviation during World War II. U.S. engineers installed a more powerful engine
than the one found on the previous model, the Wildcat, thus improving the flight characteristics. The new fighter had greater maneuverability, speed,
as well as fuel and ammunition capacity… In the last two years of the war Hellcats shot down
more than five thousand Japanese aircraft, contributing to two thirds of all victories
of the U.S. carrier aviation in dogfights. The F6F has one of the best
ratios of victories to losses in the Pacific 19 to 1, that means that for every Hellcat lost,
19 Japanese aircraft were destroyed. The Helldiver was the most ambiguous plane
of the Essex’s carrier aviation. Curtiss SB2C Helldiver scout bomber: Maximum takeoff weight: 16,652 lbs Engine power: 1,900 brake horsepower Maximum speed: 295 mph Armament: 2 x Mk.2 cannons, caliber: 0.8 inches Twin mount M1919 machine gun in the upper turret,
caliber: 0.3 inch Total bomb load up to 2,002 lbs
including 8 x 5-inch HVAR rockets. This aircraft wasn’t easy to handle: the landing gear legs of these machines would literally
collapse the moment they touched the flight deck, while braking barriers failed to catch them… When a Helldiver was going to land,
all personnel were removed from the deck. The explanation is quite simple: this aircraft had quite poor flight characteristics,
especially when landing on a moving deck. In addition, it would often lose its ammunition,
which didn’t add to the reliability. That’s why, when the aircraft initially began service, the U.S. sailors nicknamed it “the Big-Tailed Beast”… However, Helldivers had some noteworthy advantages: they were fast for a bomber
and were able to sustain serious damage. The shortcomings were fixed in the later versions, but the pilots kept their prejudice
against Helldivers until the end of the war. The F4U Corsair fighter bomber:
was the last to appear on Essex-class aircraft carriers… Vaught F4U Corsair fighter bomber: Maximum takeoff weight: 14,670 lbs Engine power: 2,100 brake horsepower Maximum speed: 448 mph Armament: 6 x M2 machine guns, caliber: 0.5 inches 2 x 500 lbs bombs and 8 x 5-inch HVAR rockets The enemy nicknamed it “Whistling Death”: when the aircraft was diving, it produced a sound
that scared Japanese soldiers to death. Thanks to excellent speed characteristics, Corsairs took the initiative in battle and
became one of the best combat aircraft of World War II, and the greatest threat to the Japanese army and fleet. The F4U Corsair played a key role
in World War II as a fighter aircraft. And its gull wing design that everyone is so familiar with was necessary so it could operate both on carriers
and be effective in the air. In fact, it became a cornerstone of the air-to-air combat
in World War II and then again in the Korean War. That was its primary era of effectiveness;
it was soon replaced by other aircraft in the 1950s. But when it came to World War II and Korea,
the Corsair was the main aircraft in the air-to-air combat. See More… Every flight operation had difficulties
for U.S. pilots of the carrier aviation. On top of combat against strong adversaries, pilots had to show their skill
during takeoff and landing: aircraft could be sent on missions
in bad weather or at night. Night time was a kind of a nightmare. It was of course dark, we only had red lights operating
on the flight deck, so that our eyes didn’t dilate, and on this ship it required movement of the aircraft,
which was rather unusual. As our operations day would begin,
they would take half the air group, put them on the flight deck at the rear, fill them all with gasoline, bombs, and rockets,
and ammunition, and then they would start them up and taxi forward,
and then they would launch them. As soon as they were launched, they would bring up
the other half of the air group, position them at the back, fill them with gasoline,
bombs, rockets, and ammunition, start their engines, have them taxied forward,
and then launch. And usually just as the last one was launching, the original group that went
was coming back to land on board. After they landed, it was necessary to taxi forward
and park the airplanes along the side of the flight deck, parallel position, and then after everybody had
recovered from the launch, then all those airplanes were moved
to the rear using tractors. And then they were refueled,
got new bombs, and rockets, and so forth. This went on for 12 hours a day and you can imagine
what a circus this became on the flight deck. It was very, very dangerous. The people who worked here were very young men,
and they did a very dangerous job. And they did a very good job of it too. Air groups of Essex-class carriers had their baptism
of fire during the raid on Marcus Island on August 31, 1943. During that time, the U.S. military strategy
consisted in a systematic removal of the Japanese from the conquered territories. The Task Force’s aircraft were destroying
Japanese aviation at airfields, demolishing defensive fortifications on islands, and attacking the enemy fleet when it tried
to interfere with the troops’ landing. As a result of these local operations,
the Japanese army was diminishing by the minute. In the summer of 1944, during two days of battle
in the Philippine Sea, U.S. pilots of aircraft carriers
from Task Force 58 destroyed more than 90%
of all Japanese carrier aviation. By the spring of 1945, the U.S. fleet was reinforced
with another five new Essex-class ships. The Japanese had nothing that could oppose them. The U.S. carrier aviation sank 5 battleships
including both super-battleships: first Musashi and then Yamato They also sank 11 aircraft carriers, 14 cruisers,
and many other enemy ships. That’s when the Japanese command
turned to their last resort, to change the situation
in the sky over the Pacific Ocean: “the spirit wind” became the main
enemy of the U.S. fleet. Kamikaze is translated from the Japanese
as “the spirit wind”, meaning the wind that must crush the enemies of Japan. Battles in the Philippine Sea
made it obvious that the training of Japanese pilots is much worse than that of their U.S. counterparts. Apart from that, the United States
were producing far more aircraft than Japan. Under these circumstances, the Japanese command
decided to bring back the “spirit wind” tactics, which could help them prevail over the United States. To this end they recruited conscripts
that could barely fly an aircraft. They had a single mission: take off in a plane stuffed
with explosives and fly it into an enemy ship. However, not only inexperienced pilots
participated in such attacks: rear admiral Arima aimed his plane
at the U.S. aircraft carrier Franklin. Essex-class heavy aircraft carriers
remained their main targets. Kamikazes could act individually, in pairs,
or even in large squadrons. During the last year of the Pacific war,
they succeeded in damaging eight Essex-class ships. However, it didn’t have a significant
influence on the balance of force: not a single aircraft carrier was sunk. Even the seriously damaged
USS Franklin CV-13 and USS Bunker Hill CV-17 were able to get to the
Pearl Harbor base without assistance. No “spirit wind” could save Japan
from defeat in World War II. In July and August of 1945, the U.S. carrier aviation
delivered mass air strikes on the Japanese territory. The last ships of the once mighty Imperial Japanese Navy
were destroyed at the Kure naval base. U.S. historians call Essex-class aircraft carriers
“Pacific Champions” and “Masters of the Pacific Ocean”. Pilots of the U.S. carrier aviation shot down
more than 9,000 enemy aircraft in dogfights, and almost half of them are attributed to planes
launched from Essex-class ships. The powerful U.S. economy crushed and broke the aggressive samurai spirit by the end of the war, and the Essex-class ships’ air groups
made a very important contribution to the victory of the United States in the Pacific Ocean.

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