Slipping The Surly Bonds Of Earth:
William Samuel Henson and the Birth of Aviation
by Chris Oakley
Summary: In the first thirteen chapters of this series we chronicled British inventor William Samuel Henson’s development of the world’s first practical airplane; the establishment of his partnership with Cornelius Vanderbilt; the introduction of airplanes to modern Warfare; the role played by air power in the Union’s victory in the American Civil War; the postwar breakup of the Vanderbilt-Henson alliance; the birth of commercial flight in America; how the Civil War affected military aviation technology and doctrine in the late 1860s and early 1870s; the birth of the famous Merlin engine; Henson’s experiments with trans-Atlantic flight in the final days of his life; the first successful trans-oceanic crossings by air; the wave of bankruptcies that overwhelmed the aviation industry near the end of the 19th century; the Wright brothers’ creation of the first practical all-metal monoplane; the critical role of airpower in the First World War and the 1917 Russian Revolution; the birth of the jet engine; Nazi Germany’s launching of the first artificial satellite; and the use of jet combat aircraft in the opening months of the Second World War. In this chapter we’ll review the beginnings of the wartime collaboration between the American and British rocket science program, chart the course of the first phase of the Luftwaffe jet campaign against Russia, and relive the do-or-die battle between Japanese and American jets at Pearl Harbor.
By the time the Taranto jet strike took place, Soviet-German relations had already begun their final irrevocable decline into outright war. A week before the British carrier raid, RAF bombers had struck Berlin in the middle of delicate negotiations between Soviet foreign minister Vycheslav Molotov and his German opposite number Joachim von Ribbentrop; that attack made Molotov, who like Ribbentrop had been sure Britain was on her last legs, start to question the value of the 1939 Soviet-German non-aggression pact. And it didn’t help matters any that just before the first British bombs hit, Molotov had-- through an interpreter --been arguing with Hitler about Soviet tensions with Finland.
Of course, even without the air raid or the Hitler-Molotov argument that preceded it, war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany was inevitable anyhow. One of the cornerstones of Adolf Hitler’s political philosophy was a virulent anti-Communism; the 1939 pact had largely been a tactical ploy meant to buy time for the Third Reich while the German armed forces readied themselves for the coming invasion of Russia.
Few elements of those services were looking forward to the invasion more than the Luftwaffe’s fighter jet corps. The Red Air Force had given a highly poor account of itself in Russia’s 1939 Winter War with Finland; the pilots of the German fighter groups stationed in eastern Germany were confident they could make quick work of their Soviet counterparts. And to be sure, the Soviet air force hadn’t escaped the ravages of the Stalin purges of the late 1930s; many first-rate instructors and air commanders had met an untimely end at the hands of the NKVD. But when the Nazi invasion of Russsia, codenamed Operation Barbarossa, finally got underway, Goering and his group commanders would see that wiping out Soviet airpower wouldn’t be as easy as they had hoped...
Less than a month before Russia was invaded, the British navy’s carrier aviation arm earned what may have been its most important victory in the Allies’ struggle for control of the Atlantic. Acting on a tip from Allied agents in German-occupied Norway and direct orders from Prime Minister Churchill, a Royal Navy carrier task force tracked down and then sank the German battleship Bismarck.
Rightly dubbed "the terror of the sea"1, the Bismarck had guns that could hit their targets from as far as fifteen miles away. During the six days that the RN carrier task force was searching for her, she used those guns to destroy a number of Allied naval and merchant vessels, including the British battleship HMS Hood; she was abetted in her depredation by her escort carriers, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tirpitz2, who more than once used their respective complements of attack planes to finish what Bismarck’s guns had started. The heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, nucleus for the reserve group attached to Bismarck’s main flotilla, also supported the gargantuan battleship in her forays against the Allies.
Bismarck’s luck finally ran out on the seventh day when she was sighted by reconnaissance jets from the RN carrier task force flagship HMS Illustrious. Within minutes of the sighting, attack aircraft from Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal were swarming on the German battlewagon like angry hornets; Bismarck captain Ernst Lindemann urgently radioed his escort carriers for assistance, and at 2:30 PM London time on the afternoon of May 26th, 1941 the biggest carrier battle to be fought in the Atlantic since Jutland was underway. The RN battleships HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales supplemented the air strikes with ferocious salvoes from their forward batteries.
The pilots from Tirpitz and Kaiser Wilhelm II put up a very determined fight against the British, but in the end it was to no avail; by 10:00 PM Kaiser Wilhelm II was on fire and was listing severely to port while Prinz Eugen had sunk in a deluge of bombs and rocket fire from British carrier planes. At 2:20 AM, Tirpitz was scuttled by her own crew; Kaiser Wilhelm sank an hour later.
Once Bismarck’s protectors had been eliminated, it was just a question of time before the jets from Ark Royal and Illustrious combined with the main batteries of Repulse and Prince of Wales to finish off Bismarck herself; at 11:30 AM on the morning of May 27th, 1941, her hull shattered by volley after volley of rockets, bombs, and cannon fire, the German battleship sank with most of her crew and officers still on board. Also lost in the sinking was Kriegsmarine admiral Gunther Lutjens, for whom Bismarck had until then served as his flagship.
For Kriegsmarine C-in-C Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, a longtime battleship man, the demise of Bismarck and her escort carriers also spelled the end of his naval career; Hitler, who had never entirely trusted Raeder’s emphasis on battleships over carriers as the primary instrument of naval warfare, sacked him as soon as Bismarck’s sinking was confirmed and named Kriegsmarine carrier arm chief Admiral Karl Dönitz as his replacement. Dönitz, who was also an expert on U-boat operations, immediately began remaking the German navy in his own image. Little did he or anyone else in Hitler’s inner circle realize that in the long run, even Dönitz’s efforts wouldn’t be enough to save the Third Reich from ultimate defeat.
At sunrise on June 22nd, 1941 hundreds of Luftwaffe combat jets pounced on Soviet airfields in the start of the air phase of Operation Barbarossa. The swift, highly well-coordinated attack dealt a horrendous blow to the Red Air Force; literally half its inventory was wiped out on the ground in the opening minutes of the German invasion, and much of the rest was shot down by German fighters. Almost simultaneously, German long-range bombers raided Moscow and Leningrad and heavily damaged the Soviet naval base at Kronstadt. Within 72 hours the Soviet air force had been reduced to barely a quarter of its pre-invasion operational strength; in the days and weeks that followed, as the Wehrmacht relentlessly advanced towards Moscow, many military experts in the West began to warn that the hammerblows Stalin’s military had sustained in the air and on the ground would soon lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Had the Luftwaffe been able to keep up the pace of its initial attacks, those experts might have been proven right. But the wear and tear Goering’s jets endured in round-the-clock operations against the Soviets, combined with the notoriously brutal Russian climate and Stalin’s shrewd decision to move all Soviet combat aircraft production to factories east of the Urals that were out of German bomber range, stuck a spoke in the wheel of German war plans, and the Soviet air force rallied to begin mounting some fierce attacks of its own against the invaders. The Red Army, heartened by these strikes, went over to the offensive against the Wehrmacht; the German advance on Moscow slowed to a crawl and finally stopped just a few miles from the outskirts of the city in late November of 1941. Though the Soviet capital and its suburbs would be subjected to daily German rocket bombardment until June of 1942 and Wehrmacht infantry units would continue engaging its defenders in low-level firefighters until the spring of 1943, Hitler had missed his best chance to take Moscow.
No country studied the lessons of the Taranto carrier strike more keenly or thoroughly than Japan; the daring of the British jet raid inspired the Imperial Japanese Navy operations staff to draw up battle plans for a carrier jet attack of their own, this one directed against the US Navy Pacific Fleet headquarters at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The responsibility for implementing these plans was placed in the capable hands of Imperial Navy Combined Fleet commander-in-chief Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, then widely regarded as the IJN’s leading expert on carrier strategy.
Time and again Yamamoto stressed to his air commanders that the proposed carrier strike on Hawaii had to achieve complete surprise if it were to be effective. If the Americans were to get even the slightest inkling Pearl Harbor was being targeted for an air attack, he warned, they wouldn’t hesitate to bring their formidable military and industrial strength to bear against Japan. And Yamamoto knew from whence he spoke-- he’d studied at Harvard as a young man, and as a naval attaché with the Japanese embassy in Washington in the 1920s he’d kept a close eye on the evolution of the US Navy carrier fleet. Now, as one of the IJN’s highest-ranking flag officers, he received daily intelligence briefings on the state of the American jet aircraft arsenal; what he heard in those briefings gave him and his staff reason for concern.
In addition to the carriers stationed at Pearl and the land-based jets that the US Air Corps operated out of Bellows, Hickam, and Wheeler Fields, the United States had jet bomber squadrons posted to the Philippines and jet fighter bases on the islands of Wake and Midway. If the Imperial Army were to succeed in securing the resources which Japan needed for her economic survival, the Imperial Navy first had to neutralize American air and sea power before that power could be used to halt the army’s forthcoming invasions of European colonies in southeastern Asia.
Yamamoto’s strategy called for six carriers to travel under strict radio silence to a point about 220 miles northwest of the island of Oahu and launch at least two waves of attack jets to bomb the ships, airfields, and dock facilities in Pearl Harbor and the nearby countryside. If it could be positively confirmed that the American Pacific fleet’s aircraft carriers were at Pearl Harbor, a third wave would be dispatched to sink those carriers. Directly following the Pearl Harbor attack, additional IJN air strikes would be mounted on Wake Island and the Philippines. As for Midway, it would be left to wither on the vine, so to speak. Land-based Imperial Army bombers, meanwhile, would be deployed to raid British military garrisons in Malaya and Burma in advance of the occupation of both countries by Japanese ground troops.
One thing Yamamoto didn’t have to worry about was the danger of an overland thrust by the Soviet Union into Japanese-occupied Manchuria(a.k.a. Manchukuo). By virtue of the non-aggression pact the Soviets had signed with Japan in April of 1941, Manchuria’s northern border with the USSR’s Siberian territories was deemed inviolable by both countries; with that particular monkey off his back, Admiral Yamamoto was free to concentrate on Japan’s Western adversaries.
The spearhead for the air strikes on Pearl Harbor would be the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero-Sen3, better known simply as the Zero. The most lethal jet fighter in the IJN’s arsenal at the time, the Zero was an effective dogfighter; when first deployed in combat over China in the summer of 1940, it made very short work of the Chinese fighters sent up to oppose it and even posed a challenge to the redoubtable volunteer pilots of General Claire Chennault’s legendary Flying Tigers squadron. It could serve quite capably in a ground attack role as well, and in the summer before the Pearl Harbor attack there were also plans on the drawing board for a photo reconnaissance version of the A6M.
Few in the West, however, took the A6M2-- or for that matter Japanese airpower in general --seriously. The prevailing opinion among Western military aviation experts, particularly in America, held that if Japan were to get involved in a major air war with the Western powers she would be swiftly and thoroughly crushed by them. These experts were especially scornful of the notion that Japanese carrier planes could pose a threat to American military installations in Hawaii, even though in a 1933 US Navy wargame exercise carrier jets from the USS Wilmington4 and USS Saratoga had successfully conducted a simulated bombing run against Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row.
The turbojet engine wasn’t the only major revolution in aviation technology to burst onto the scene in the late 1920s; that era also witnessed the birth of the helicopter. Evolving from an ungainly-looking vehicle called the Autogyro5 which made its maiden flight in the fall of 1926, the helicopter opened a new world of possibilities in air travel; as early as 1930 a London travel agency was offering scenic copter tours of the British countryside, and by 1934 FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had integrated helicopters into his agency’s search operations.
The military air services of the world were quick to embrace the helicopter as a tool of war; while it would be years or even decades before the first dedicated attack choppers entered into active service, helicopters were already serving reconnaissance, liaison, and light transport duties by the time the Second World War broke out. Design types like the Focke-Achgelis 232 Drache, the Bristol Sycamore6, and the Bell 477 were a common sight not only on the front lines but also at rear-echelon outposts where conditions precluded(or at least hampered) the use of normal air transport methods. Copters also played a critical part in field medical work, delivering medical supplies to field hospitals and rescuing wounded troops who might otherwise have died from their injuries.
One senior military officer who showed particular interest in the helicopter’s search capabilities was Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, the US Pacific Fleet commander-in-chief at the time that Admiral Yamamoto conceived his plan for attacking Pearl Harbor. Believing that helicopters could serve as a useful backup to fixed-wing search planes, Kimmel met with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in March of 1941 and persuaded him to establish all- helicopter search units at Pearl, the Pacific Fleet base at San Diego, and the Atlantic Fleet outpost at Pensacola, Florida. The Pearl Harbor search unit in particular would turn out to be of critical importance in the months ahead.
On November 26th, 1941 the IJN Combined Fleet’s First Carrier Division set sail for Hawaii under the leadership of Yamamoto’s most senior jet commander, Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. Nagumo’s six carriers were accompanied by a supporting convoy of battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and supply tenders; the entire task force followed a zigzag route which had been specifically planned out to minimize the risk of detection by American naval patrols.
Nagumo’s carriers paused on December 3rd for refueling, then resumed their journey and turned southeast toward the island of Oahu, home to Pearl Harbor and its auxiliary bases. So far Nagumo had succeeded in keeping his task force’s approach a secret from the Americans;8 still, he couldn’t entirely shake the feeling that something might yet go wrong at the last minute...
Nagumo had good reason to be concerned. Although still not fully convinced that Pearl Harbor was in danger of attack, the White House had authorized Admiral Kimmel to take precautionary measures to prepare the base for just such an eventuality. Kimmel was quick to exercise that privilege; on the same day Nagumo’s task force left the Japanese home islands, Kimmel had increased the number of daily search patrols flown by his helos and recon jets over Oahu; since Nagumo was under strict orders to observe radio silence until he reached his target, he could not make any contact with Japanese intelligence agents on the island to learn the timing and pattern of these search flights. Had he been able able to do so, it might have changed the course of history.
General Walter C. Short, commander-in-chief for the US Air Corps’ Hawaiian Territorial Air Defense Command, made copious use of his own search aircraft. Catalina long-range reconnaissance planes, then the backbone of the USAC’s strategic recon force,9 were deployed to watch the waters north and west of Oahu for any incoming naval threats; to baffle Japanese agents who might be keeping an eye on this activity, he often timed the Catalinas’ recon missions to coincide with navigation training exercises the Air Corps was holding at the time for all its scout and bomber groups in the Hawaiian Islands and on the West Coast.
Although Short had previously intended to bunch his fighter planes close together to make it easier to guard them against any efforts at sabotage, he now changed his mind and dispersed them over as wide an area as possible to increase his fighter groups’ chances of survival in the event of an enemy air strike against Oahu. His original idea, he realized, would have made his fighter jets inviting targets for bombing runs or rocket strikes by enemy planes and wiped out many of his squadrons while they were still on the ground; scattering his planes, on the other hand, ensured that regardless of how serious initial losses might be in any air raid on Oahu, there would still be an intact reserve of jets to stage a counterstrike against the enemy forces.
Suspicions that the main Japanese blow against the United States would be directed at Pearl were confirmed on the evening of December 6th when a Catalina sighted Nagumo’s carriers about 320 nautical miles northwest of Oahu; barely managing to avoid getting shot down by Nagumo’s patrol fighters, the recon plane’s crew sent an urgent coded dispatch to Admiral Kimmel advising him of the approaching enemy flotilla. Within minutes after Kimmel got the dispatch he phoned General Short’s office and told him what was happening, and the two senior commanders met along with their respective staffs around 8:00 PM Honolulu time to map out plans for what to do next. Kimmel’s intelligence staff calculated that the Japanese carriers would be in position to launch their attack no later than 6:00 AM the next morning; with that in mind, US naval and air installations on Oahu went to full alert just after midnight and the US Pacific Fleet began making preparations to put to sea. The FBI office in Honolulu rounded up known and suspected Japanese agents and Civil Defense authorities carried out a hurried but orderly evacuation of civilians from Honolulu’s residential and business districts.
Before a single shot had been fired, the United States was to all intents and purposes at war with Japan.
The US Pacific Fleet’s submarines began departing Pearl Harbor just after 2:00 AM on the morning of December 7th, 1941; the fleet’s surface ships started their deployment half an hour later. Most of these ships would be committed to confronting Nagumo’s task force, but some would stay close to the harbor to guard Pearl’s anti-submarine defense zone and, if necessary, act as a tactical reserve force for the main body of the fleet. While Kimmel’s carriers were elsewhere at the time, his fleet still had considerable air support thanks to the land-based fighter and bomber squadrons at airfields on Oahu.
And in fact, even before the main bodies of Nagumo’s and Kimmel’s fleets made contact US forces had struck a blow against the Japanese: at 4:01 AM, less than 90 minutes before Nagumo’s first attack wave was scheduled to be launched, the destroyer USS Ward fired on and crippled a Japanese submarine which had been trying to deliver midget subs to the mouth of Pearl Harbor. The sub’s crew, rather than risk being taken prisoner, scuttled their own vessel and committed suicide.
At 5:00 AM, still unaware that his battle force had been detected by the Americans, Nagumo transmitted the message ‘Climb Mount Niitaka’-- the prearranged code signal for the air strike on Pearl Harbor --and gave orders that the first wave of attack jets were to be launched from his carriers promptly at 5:30 AM. Back on Oahu, General Short’s fighter and bomber groups were scrambled to hit the First Carrier Division with everything they had; anti-aircraft batteries stood ready to fire on any Japanese planes which managed to penetrate American air cover. At 6:01 AM, Admiral Nagumo’s first wave of attack jets were confronted by USAC fighter-interceptors out of Hickam and Wheeler, and the air- sea battle that would mark America’s official entry into World War II was on.
At 6:38 AM Honolulu time, a US Navy submarine which had been on picket duty for over four hours sighted the Japanese heavy cruiser Tone and moved in to torpedo her. Nagumo’s darkest fears were being realized to the tenth power: not only had he lost the element of surprise, but the enemy had struck the first blows in the Battle of Pearl Harbor. Nonetheless, he would not countenance any talk of turning back from his mission; the bushido code to which Nagumo and his fellow Japanese military men subscribed held that fleeing before an enemy was dishonorable, and even if he had been inclined to withdraw he wasn’t entirely sure he could evade the American Pacific fleet long enough to make it back to the home islands. So he pressed on, although he knew full well that might be leading his ships into catastrophe.
Both the Japanese and American air forces lost a number of illusions at Pearl Harbor. Far from being able to easily crush the Japanese attack squadrons, the Americans found themselves having to fight these men tooth and nail; the Zero in particular was a revelation to the American flyers with its maneuverability and speed. Likewise the Japanese pilots, who’d been taught that their American foes were soft and weakened by living in luxury, were astonished by the ferocity with which the Americans resisted Nagumo’s attack-- and by the lethal effectiveness of the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Stars which were then the backbone of the American fighter corps.10 The combined total of combat jets destroyed or seriously damaged at the Battle of Pearl Harbor would reach well into the hundreds before the fight was over.
Around 7:30 AM American attack planes began striking at Nagumo’s carriers, lashing out against them with a deadly rain of bombs and rockets. Nagumo’s air defense squadrons fought like demons to keep the attack jets at bay, but their efforts went for naught; by 8:45 two of Nagumo’s carriers, Soryu and Kaga, had been sunk and a third, Shokaku, was badly listing to starboard with her main flight deck a raging inferno.
But the American surface fleet would not emerge totally unscathed from the battle either. At 9:17 AM Admiral Kimmel’s flagship, the venerable battleship USS Arizona, was rocked by a series of massive explosions after a Zero pilot whose jet had been severely crippled by American fighters steered his plane into a suicide dive and hit one of Arizona’s forward magazines. Knowing the battleship was beyond salvaging, Kimmel ordered all hands to abandon ship and transferred his flag to USS Oklahoma; at 9:42 Arizona sank to the bottom of the North Pacific. Half an hour after that, Japanese subs avenging the loss of the Tone torpedoed and sank the American cruiser USS Houston.
At 10:30 Shokaku’s surviving crew scuttled their own vessel rather than let her become, as one survivor would later put it, "a museum exhibit on the Potomac River". By 12 noon Akagi had also sunk, and at that point Nagumo’s staff officers urged him to withdraw in order to save what was left of his task force. Nagumo regretfully conceded that they were right, and at 12:10 PM the battered remnants of the First Carrier Division began turning to make the long dash for home. Though Kimmel wanted nothing more than to chase them down and wipe them off the face of the earth, he knew that many of his own vessels were in need of repair and there were wounded men requiring medical attention; at 12:21 he instructed his ships to retire back to Pearl Harbor. The first major American military engagement of the Second World War was over.11
The massive casualties incurred in the air battle over Pearl Harbor were paralleled by the considerable losses both sides had met with at sea. Admiral Kimmel’s flotilla lost two battleships, three cruisers, a destroyer, four submarines, and a half-dozen support vessels; Nagumo’s task force lost one of its battleships, both its cruisers, three of its destroyers, four carriers, eight submarines(and the minisubs they’d been hauling), and ten support craft. But in the long run those losses would hurt the Japanese far more than they would the Americans; the United States had a greater industrial capacity than Japan even then, and the ships sunk in the defense of Pearl would be replaced in short order. By contrast it would take months if not years for Japan to make good the naval deficit it was now faced with, and by then the tide of the war would be hopelessly against her.
At 1:00 PM Washington time US chief of naval operations Admiral Ernest King formally debriefed President Roosevelt about the Japanese attempt to bomb Oahu and the US military’s defense of the island. Roosevelt’s reaction to King’s report was a mix of outrage that the Japanese had dared violate American territory; pride in the valor American sailors and airmen had shown under fire during the Battle of Pearl Harbor; grief over the warships, men, and planes lost in the battle; and determination to pay the Japanese back in full for their attempt to cripple the US Pacific Fleet.
A special joint session of Congress met at 3:30 PM to hear Roosevelt call for a declaration of war against Japan; he opened his address with the famous words "Today, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States was forced to defend herself from a sudden, deliberate, and unprovoked attack by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan..." Congress passed the declaration with just one dissenting vote.
Two days after the Battle of Pearl Harbor, Adolf Hitler proclaimed that Germany was at war with the United States; even as he was issuing this announcement, American and British rocket scientists were meeting in Glasgow, Scotland to lay the basis for a collaboration between their two nations in the field of rocket technology development. It had long been common knowledge on both sides of the Atlantic that once the United States went to war with Japan it would just be a matter of time before she was also at war with Germany, and that this would motivate the Nazis to redouble their own rocket development efforts. Roosevelt and his military advisors were determined that the Allied powers should maintain rocket parity with Germany; he was equally determined that if or when Germany began making rocket strikes on American soil, the United States should have the capacity to retaliate in kind against German targets.
What made these tasks particularly urgent was Roosevelt’s recollection of a letter he’d received in August of 1939 from a German Jewish refugee scientist named Albert Einstein. In that letter, Einstein bluntly warned the president German physicists were investigating the potential destructive power of atomic fission with an eye toward perfecting rocket warheads capable of utilizing that power. If the Germans achieved a nuclear strike capacity before the Allies did, the Allied powers would lose the war-- or at a minimum be forced to accept a stalemate.
On December 11th, 1941 the British Air Ministry and the US War Department signed what would later be known as the Glasgow Memorandum;12 in addition to mutual co-operation in rocket science technology, the accord committed the United States and Britain to assisting each other in the field of atomic fission research. The American segment of these programs, placed under the direction of US Air Corps general Leslie Groves, would be collectively dubbed "the Manhattan Project" since its headquarters were initially located in a nondescript War Department office in New York City’s Upper Manhattan district.
By March of 1942 the first American intermediate-range rocket batteries had been deployed to southern England and US Air Corps jet bomber squadrons were shipping overseas to begin taking their place in the Allied bomber offensive against Germany. In the Pacific, as the Imperial Japanese Navy licked its wounds in the wake of Pearl Harbor, Admiral Kimmel was working with other senior Allied commanders to ensure Allied jet and rocket forces would be ready for the coming counteroffensive against Japan. One base that was accorded special priority was the American outpost out on Wake Island, where early US Navy intelligence reports indicated that the Japanese would take one more do-or-die stab at defeating the United States Pacific fleet. Kimmel directed that no expense was to be spared in reinforcing Wake's air defenses and onshore rocket units.
To Be Continued...
1Quoted from Johnny Horton’s 1960 folk single "Sink The Bismarck".
2Named in honor of famed German naval strategist Alfred von Tirpitz.
3In Japanese, the name literally means Type Zero; back then it was customary for the Japanese armed forces to classify aircraft design models by the last numbers of the year when they were introduced-- which in the case of the A6M2 happened to be the Shinto year 2600, or 1940 by the Gregorian calendar.
4Named in tribute to the 5th Aerial Cavalry’s 1864 Wilmington bombing raid.
5The Autogyro was a French airplane which had the then-unique distinction of having horizontal propellers instead of vertical ones and was conceived as a low-cost mail carrier for companies which couldn’t afford a conventional mail plane. Though the Autogyro never made it into production, its maneuverability and its capacity for taking off from and landing in places conventional aircraft couldn’t go helped pave the way in many respects for the modern helicopter.
6The Sycamore also played a sizable role in the Royal Navy’s anti-submarine operations during the war, spotting U-boats and radioing their co-ordinates to RN carriers so air strikes could be mounted to sink them.
7TV viewers of a certain age may recognize the Bell 47 as the helicopter that appears in the opening credits of the hit ‘70s American series "M*A*S*H".
8During Nagumo’s approach to Oahu, a massive storm system in the northern Pacific hampered American air and sea reconnaissance operations
9The propeller-driven Catalina was also used for anti-submarine operations and search & rescue missions.
10Designed to function in both interceptor and close air support roles, the P-80 Shooting Star also served with a number of carrier squadrons in the US Navy, where it was known as the F-3 Orion.
11There was, however, a brief false alarm early on the morning of December 8th when a flight of B-47s on a training mission from California were mistaken for Japanese attack planes by two USAC radar operators stationed on northern Oahu.
12So named in reference to the Glasgow scientists’ meeting which had set up the preliminary framework for it.