"Day of shame"
For the United States, World War II began on December 7, 1941. That Sunday morning, 353 planes that took off from the aircraft carriers of the Japanese Imperial fleet, dealt a powerful blow to the American naval base Pearl Harbor, located on the island of Oahu, which is part of the Hawaiian island system.
A few days before this event, 26 November, 6 of the Japanese aircraft carriers - a strike force under the command of Vice Admiral Nagumo Tyuichi - left Hitokappu Bay and set sail.
During this transition, the strictest radio silence was observed, and the secrecy of the operation went so far that even the garbage accumulated on ships during the passage was not thrown overboard, as usual, but kept in bags until they returned to the base. As for those ships that remained at the base, they conducted an intensive radio exchange, designed to create an impression with the enemy that the Japanese fleet did not leave its waters at all.
Developed an attack on Pearl Harbor, known as the Hawaiian, commander of the Japanese Imperial fleet, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku. He, like many other officers of the Japanese fleet, who had studied in England for a long time, was well aware that Japan would not be able to withstand Britain and America with their enormous industrial potential for a long time in conditions of a protracted war. And so, as soon as preparations for war began in the Pacific, Yamamoto said that the fleet headed by him was ready to ensure a number of victories in six months, but the admiral did not undertake to warrant further developments. Even though Japan had the largest aircraft carrier in the world, the Shinano, the total displacement of which was 72 000 t - twice as large as that of the American Essexes. However, the General Staff maintained its point of view, and as a result, Yamamoto, together with the Chief of Operations of the Headquarters of the Air Fleet, Capt. Rank II Minoru Genda, developed a plan according to which almost the entire US Pacific Fleet had to be destroyed with one blow and thus the landing of the Japanese landing force on the Philippine Islands was guaranteed and to the eastern part of Dutch India.
While the strike force was marching across the Pacific at maximum speed, diplomatic negotiations in Washington ended in complete failure - if they were successful, the Japanese ships would be recalled. So, Yamamoto radioed the Akagi formation to the flagship aircraft carrier: “Start your ascent of Mount Niitaka!”, Which meant the final decision to start the war with America.
The heedlessness of the American army on these calm islands - a great war was raging too far from here - reached such an extent that the air defense system was practically inactive. True, Japanese planes from aircraft carriers were discovered by one of the radar stations as they approached Oahu, but the young inexperienced operator, deciding that it was his own, did not transmit any message to the base. There were no barrage balloons above the fleet’s parking lot, and the location of the ships did not change for so long that the Japanese reconnaissance without much trouble got at its disposal a complete picture of the enemy’s base. To a certain extent, the Americans, given the shallow depth of the fleet's anchorage, hoped that aviation torpedoes dropped from enemy aircraft simply burrow into the bottom silt. But the Japanese took this circumstance into account, installing wooden stabilizers on the rear of their torpedoes, which did not allow them to go too deep into the water.
As a result, during this commemorative raid, all 8 American battleships were sunk or very seriously damaged, 188 planes were destroyed and about 3 000 people were killed. The loss of the Japanese themselves was limited to 29 aircraft.
All that could have been said about this event was delivered by United States President Franklin Roosevelt in the first ten seconds of his speech, held the day after the “sudden and deliberate” attack. history United States as a "day of shame."
On the eve
Despite the many years of practice in the construction and use of aircraft carriers, on the eve of the Second World War, their combat potential was assigned exclusively to the auxiliary role. Representatives of the military command of the leading world powers for the most part simply did not believe that these ships unarmored and practically unarmed with artillery would be able to withstand armored battleships and heavy cruisers. In addition, it was believed that aircraft carriers could not independently defend themselves against attacks by enemy aircraft and submarines, which in turn would entail the need to create significant forces to guard them themselves. Nevertheless, during the Second World War 169 aircraft carriers were built.
The shock experienced by the Americans made us think about how necessary it is to raise the spirit of the nation, to do something extraordinary, capable of proving to the whole world that America not only can, but will fight. And such a move was found - it was the decision to strike at the capital of the Japanese empire - the city of Tokyo.
At the very end of the 1942 winter, the dedicated aircraft carrier Hornet was loaded with 2 army bomber B-25 Mitchell and US Navy pilots made a series of experiments designed to prove that these heavy 2-motor vehicles, not intended for use with aircraft carriers, still be able to take off from the deck. After the successful completion of tests on the Hornet, 16 of this type of aircraft with crews under the general command of Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle was delivered. And since these planes were too big to fit in the aircraft carrier hangar, all the cars were left right on the flight deck.
According to the developed plan, Mitchell was supposed to be released in 400 miles from the Japanese coast, and after completing the assignment, they should be returned to the airfields located on the part of China that was not occupied by the Japanese. However, on the morning of April 18, when there were still about 700 miles to Japan, the connection of American ships was noticed by many Japanese fishing vessels. And even if they all were immediately sunk by the aircraft attacking them from the accompanying Hornet of the aircraft carrier Enterprise, there were well-founded suspicions that some of them had managed to report on the presence of the operational connection. And because the US command, it was decided to launch bomber right at this point, despite the too long distance separating them from the Chinese bases.
The first took off Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle. Roaring with engines, heavy B-25 darted off and, almost touching the chassis wheels with its wheels, began to slowly climb. Following him, the others soared safely. Soon after noon the bombers reached Tokyo. Contrary to fears, the Japanese air defense system was not warned in advance and was unable to provide adequate resistance, and therefore American planes freely conducted all attacks on their intended targets. By the way, the pilots received a special instruction in no way to attack the imperial palace, so as not to make the Japanese emperor a martyr in the eyes of ordinary Japanese and not to force them to fight for it even more fiercely.
After the raid was over, the bombers headed for China. One of them landed near Khabarovsk, but not one of the American cars managed to reach the Chinese bases. Some aircraft fell into the sea, others were destined to land in Japanese-occupied territories. The 64 pilot, including Doolittle, returned to his homeland only after the battles were fought in parts of the Chinese partisans.
Most of the air carrier groups of British aircraft carriers were represented by torpedo-carriers and reconnaissance aircraft, but there were practically no fighters - the North Atlantic was considered the main supposed Royal Navy theater, where neither enemy aircraft carriers nor large coastal bases were located. The fighting made its own adjustments to these plans, and in the Mediterranean the British aircraft carriers were forced to provide precisely the air defense of the fleet, protecting it from attacks by German and Italian bombers. It should be noted that the British in November 1940-th were the first to use aircraft carriers to attack the coastal base of the enemy fleet. It was the Italian base of Taranto. And although the British military forces were small - only one aircraft carrier, Illustries and 21 aircraft, but this was enough to sink one aircraft carrier and damage the 2 battleship and the 2 cruisers of the Italians.
... 18 May 1941, the German battleship Bismarck, left Gotenhafen (present-day Gdynia) to break into the Atlantic to take action against British convoys. British intelligence worked well, and a real hunt soon began. Six days later, after a short artillery duel, the Bismarck managed to sink the pride of the British fleet, the battle cruiser Hood, and escape prosecution. It became clear that with the help of some battleships it would not be possible to intercept it, and therefore it was decided to attract carrier-based aircraft. Already on 24 on Bismarck, nine torpedo bombers and six bombers from the aircraft carrier Viktories were hit. At the cost of losing two bombers, the British managed to get one torpedo on the starboard side of the battleship, which lowered its speed. The crew of the German battleship, which turned from a hunter into a victim of almost all the British fleet, was forced to attempt to “disguise” its ship under the English battleship Prince of Wales, installing a second fake chimney, but after a short while it had to be abandoned ...
Two days later, another British aircraft carrier, the Ark Royal, began urgent preparations for the launch of a new strike force. On the same day, the Suordfish torpedo bombers, who soon discovered the enemy and went on the attack, were raised into the air from Ark Royal. However, as it turned out soon, the British cruiser Sheffield turned out to be "intercepted", on the way to which part of the torpedoes, barely touching the water, exploded spontaneously, and managed to dodge the other deadly attacks of Sheffield ...
At around midnight 7, the Suordfish flew up again. But because of the bad weather and low cloud cover, their clear order was broken, and yet they managed to find the Bismarck and achieve several hits. The explosion of one of the torpedoes jammed the steering of the German battleship, which made it virtually uncontrollable. During this attack, not a single British torpedo bomber was shot down. Outdated biplanes, nicknamed in the fleet because of the huge number of racks and wire stretch marks between the wings “string bags”, had a very low speed of flight for that time. The Bismarck anti-aircraft gunners simply could not imagine that a torpedo bomber could fly so slowly, and therefore, when firing from the guns, they took too much advance.
... As soon as it became known that Bismarck lost control, the British fleet ships literally attacked him - first the destroyers attacked the destroyers, and the next day he was almost shot by two battleships Rodney and King George V.
Dizziness from success
In the spring of 1942, the Imperial Navy planned an offensive campaign in the Solomon Islands and in the south-eastern part of New Guinea. Its main purpose was Port Moresby, a British air base from which enemy bombers could threaten the advancing Japanese forces. For the massive support of this operation in the Coral Sea, a strike carrier carrier was concentrated under the command of Vice-Admiral of the Fleet Takagi Takeo, which consisted of heavy aircraft carriers "Shokaku" and "Dzuikaku", as well as light - "Syokho". The operation began on 3 in May with the capture of Tulagi (a settlement in the south-eastern part of the Solomon Islands). And the very next day, at the landing site of the Japanese assault force, a powerful blow was struck from American aircraft. Nevertheless, on the same day, Japanese transports with a landing force left Rabaul to capture the intended object - the Port Moresby base.
Raised in the early morning of May 7, a large group of Japanese reconnaissance aircraft soon discovered a large aircraft carrier and enemy cruiser, for which 78 aircraft were sent to attack. The cruiser was sunk, and the aircraft carrier was seriously damaged. It seemed that the Japanese managed to defeat the enemy this time too. But the trouble was that the observer of the reconnaissance aircraft made a mistake by mistaking the enemy aircraft carrier, the tanker Neosho, and the cruiser, the destroyer Sims, while the Americans actually managed to find the Japanese aircraft carrier Syho, which carried out near covering the compound and at the same time being a bait designed to divert the possible strike of the main enemy forces from heavy aircraft carriers. American aircraft carriers took to the air 90 aircraft, which instantly deal with their victims. Nevertheless, the main forces of both sides were still not destroyed. The reconnaissance flights that day did not bring any clarity to the current situation.
The next morning, reconnaissance aircraft re-emerged. Senior Officer Kanno Kenzo discovered the aircraft carriers Yorktown and Lexington and, using cloud cover as a shelter, followed them, passing information about their whereabouts to the Sökaku. When the fuel of his plane began to come to an end, he turned back, but soon he saw Japanese planes heading for the attack site. Kanno, who was afraid that, despite his detailed reports, the machines might lose their course and not detect the enemy, like a true samurai, decided to show them the way to the enemy, despite the fact that he no longer has the fuel for the way back. ..
And soon the Japanese torpedo bombers rushed to the attack, their two torpedoes hit the port side of the Lexington. Simultaneously with the torpedo bombers, the bombers placed one bomb on the deck of the Yorktown, and two on the Lexington. The first of them suffered very seriously, taking the blow of the 250-kilogram bomb that broke through the 3 deck and caused the fire, but remained afloat, and with Lexington the situation was much worse. Aviation gasoline flowed out of his damaged tanks, his vapors spread to all the compartments, and soon a terrible explosion shook the ship.
Meanwhile, the aircraft "Yorktown" and "Lexington" found the Japanese aircraft carriers. In the course of that attack, “Shokaku” was seriously injured, and as for “Zuykaku”, he fully justified his name - “Happy Crane”: during the attack, just a couple of kilometers from “Shokaku”, it turned out to be a hidden rain squall and simply did not was seen ...
During the war, especially in the Pacific, American carrier-based aircraft repeatedly took part in the destruction of enemy coastal bases. Especially aircraft carriers proved to be effective during the battles for atolls and small islands when using tactics called frog jumping. It was based on the overwhelming superiority (in 5 — 8 times) in manpower and equipment over the defending forces. Before the immediate landing of the assault force, the atoll was processed with artillery of support ships and a huge number of bombers. After that, the Japanese garrison was isolated by the forces of the marines, and the troop compound was sent to the next island. So the Americans managed to avoid large losses in their own troops.
The collapse of the Great Empire
It seemed that the superiority of forces was clearly on the side of Japan. But then the most tragic page in the history of the Japanese fleet occurred - the battle for the small Midway Atoll, located northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. In the case of its capture and the creation of a naval base on it, control of a considerable part of the Pacific Ocean passed to Japan. The main thing was that it was possible to blockade Pearl Harbor, which continued to remain the main base of the American fleet. To capture the atoll by Admiral Yamamoto, about 350 ships of all types and more 1 000 aircraft were assembled. The Japanese fleet was opposed by the entire 3 aircraft carrier, 8 cruisers and destroyers, and the command was fully confident of success. There was only one “but”: the Americans managed to decipher the Japanese codes and the commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester Nimitz, was known for almost every step of the Japanese. The 16 and 17 operational units under the command of Rear Admirals Sprewens and Futcher entered the sea.
The Midway seizure began with the fact that at dawn 4 on June 1942, the 108 of the aircraft, led by Lieutenant Tomonaga Yoichi from the Hiryu aircraft carrier, attacked the atoll coastal structures. On their interception, an entire 24 fighter flew from the island. These were mostly outdated Buffalo airplanes; there was such a sad joke among American pilots: “If you send your pilot to battle at Buffalo, you can strike him off the lists before he leaves the band.” At the same time, the remaining aircraft on aircraft carriers were preparing to attack against enemy ships. True, the American aircraft carriers at that time had not yet been discovered, and on the Japanese ships were waiting impatiently for messages from reconnaissance planes that had been sent before dawn. And then an unforeseen mistake occurred - due to a malfunction of the catapult, the seventh seaplane from the cruiser "Tone" flew out to 30 minutes later than the main group.
Lieutenant Tomonaga who returned from an attack on the atoll conveyed a message about the need for his repeated attack in order to destroy the enemy’s remaining basic aircraft. An order was issued to urgently rearm with high-explosive bombs ready to strike the ships of Japanese aircraft. The cars were hurriedly lowered into the hangars, the deck crews were knocked down, but soon everything was ready for a new flight. And then the seaplane from the cruiser "Tone", the one that departed half an hour later than the others, found the American ships. It was necessary to urgently attack them, and for this purpose - again to remove high-explosive bombs from aircraft and to hang up the torpedoes again. On the decks of aircraft carriers, the emergency job began again. For the sake of time, the bombs were not dropped into the ammunition cellars, but folded right there on the hangar deck. Meanwhile, the right moment to attack the American ships has already been missed ...
As soon as the Americans received a message about the alleged location of the Japanese aircraft carriers, the air groups from the Enterprise and the Hornet went to the indicated location, but they did not find anyone there, and yet the search continued. And when they managed to find them, the American torpedo bombers rushed into the attack, which turned out to be suicidal - dozens of Japanese fighters shot them before they reached the target. From the squadron survived only one person. Soon torpedo bombers arrived at the battlefield from the Enterprise. Risky maneuvering among flaming planes and shrapnel breaks, some planes still managed to drop torpedoes, but to no avail. The endless desperate attacks of American planes still ended in complete failure. However, the torpedo bombers of this wave diverted the attention of Japanese fighters.
Meanwhile, on the decks of the Japanese aircraft carriers, a huge number of aircraft had gathered, returning from combat patrols and from attacks on Midway. They quickly refueled and armed for new strikes. Suddenly, dive-bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown dived from behind the clouds. Most of the Japanese fighters at the moment were at the bottom, reflecting the attacks of torpedo bombers, and the American dive bombers met practically no resistance. When the attack ended, the Akagi, Kaga and Litter were in flames — planes, bombs and torpedoes exploded on their decks, fuel spilled. “Hiryu”, located north of the main group, was still intact, and two waves of aircraft taking off from it managed to set fire to “Yorktown”. Although Hiryu himself was soon discovered, the aircraft from the Enterprise put bombs on the 4 deck, and he, like the other three aircraft carriers, stopped in flames. An attempt to capture Midway failed, and the initiative in the Pacific completely passed to the American fleet. This state of affairs remained almost until the end of the war.
By the fall of 1945, the fleets of the world were armed with 149 aircraft carriers of all types. Most of them were either scrapped or put in reserve. Soon ships of this type were suppressed by submarines and rocket ships. And yet, aircraft carriers that took part in all post-war conflicts and wars that took place during the twentieth century proved that they still remain an integral part of the strong and efficient fleet of any world power to this day.
- Dmitry Kurochkin
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