Another US Navy story

Yesterday I published an article about the (in)famous ‘toilet paper shortage’ affecting the submarine USS Skipjack during World War II. In response, reader Kay K. sent me this newspaper clipping from shortly after the war, showing a unique way to use aircraft to help maneuver a large aircraft-carrier in confined waters. He apologizes for not remembering which newspaper carried it, but recalls that it was published in mid-1946. (Click the image for a larger view.)

I have to agree with Captain Baker that it would probably do the aircraft engines no good at all! Still, it’s a very interesting idea. I wonder if jet thrust would serve the same purpose on one of today’s supercarriers? I suspect the thrust would overcome the resistance of the brakes and propel the aircraft across the deck, long before it could affect the movement of the ship (which is much larger and heavier than a World War II-vintage aircraft-carrier). Perhaps those who’ve served aboard modern aircraft carriers could let us know what they think in Comments?



  1. I haven't served on a carrier, but my brother worked on the flight deck of the Nimitz. I think it would still work on a modern carrier. The mass is higher, but it is in water. The aircraft wouldn't be depending only on their brakes, their wheels would be chocked and they'd be chained to tie-down points on deck (that's what keeps them from losing planes over the side in heavy weather). It might be hazardous, though. It would be much better to have some purpose-built aircraft hold-downs installed to facilitate it. You really would want to accidentally lose a Hornet over the side.

  2. Problem is you'd fry the outboard electronics on the deck with the jet blast, and it would NOT be a fast evolution, and you could really only spin in one direction, as you don't have enough acft to line both sides of the deck. On the other hand, you WOULD suck up ALL the FOD so the decks would at least be clean 🙂

  3. The technique was referred to as "windmilling" and used in narrow berths such as Kobe, back when there were large numbers of ADs and other prop planes in the air wings.

    The movie "Bridges at Toko-Ri" has some footage of, I believe the Oriskany, making such an approach to Kobe. It was apparently pretty rough on the engines.

  4. I can understand older (WW2) era vessels not having bow-thrusters, but surely todays vessels have them? I'm having difficulty imagining a scenario where a modern CVN would be in such confined waters without the Captain being certain it could manoeuvre.
    I'm not ex-navy, so I'm happy to corrected by those who know better!

  5. Don't know when the article was first published, but I first heard a variation on the story when I served aboard Midway as part of the air wing in the early 70's. It's the sort of screwball history that gets rtemembered and talked about.

    Old NFO's concerns about the practicality are true enough; you could only set up to maneuver the ship in a port or starboard direction-of-turn but not both. I tend to differ with him about the potential for deckside electronics though, the flight deck is constructed for routine jets exhaust being directed across the deckedge. As I recall, the more practical objection is a lack of tie-down padeyes in the areas of the flightdeck needed to perform such a maneuver. There's a real lack of padeyes amongst the bow catapults and the arresting gear cables and related equipment take up much of the area you would want to use to tie down aircraft with at the afterquarters.

    It's certainly possible to tie down a jet sufficiently to "high power" the engine safely on the flight deck, but I seem to recall there being a lack of tie down chains aboard to do so for more than one plane at a time (and still be able to tie down the rest of the squadron safely). It's not at all clear to me why doing so as part of a ship maneuver would be more "hard on the planes engines" than ordinary maintenance turns would be though.

    Personally, I think I'd rather leave the carrier 50 miles off shore and let the air wing do it's thing covering the carrier task group's support ships in the confined in-shore waters.

  6. Will, I was thinking about the antennas, life rafts and netting that are just past the deck edge; and you're right there are few/no padeyes forward, unlike on Midway Class boats.

  7. i recall hearing about it being tried during Korea, and the CAG being concerned about loss of aircraft due to engine failure over hostile ground. I recall the pilots were careful not to redline their engines, the technique didn't work because of it, and all the prop pilots were confined to the ship for the rest of the tour.

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