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March 22, 2017

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Short Rounds

The U.S. Navy’s “CVP”

In 1923 the U.S.S. Langley (CV-1) was commissioned. America’s first aircraft carrier, she had been converted from a collier.

Although slow, Langley proved an immensely valuable test-bed for the development of carrier aviation. As with any experimental concept, there were some successes and some failures. For example, considerable experimentation was needed before an effective landing system was developed, the hook-and-wire system still in use today.

Of course, some experiments didn’t work out very well. In fact one verged on the absurd.

Although there was less controversy about aviation in the fleet than is generally believed, there was one mission that everyone agreed aircraft could perform, reconnaissance and spotting. But in the early 1920s aircraft were too light and underpowered to permit them to carry the rather large and heavy radios of the day. So how could the airmen communicate their invaluable information to the fleet? Dropping messages from the planes as they flew low over the ships had been tried. It worked pretty well, when the message actually landed on the deck, rather than in the drink.

And then someone got a bright idea.

Why not provide the airplanes with carrier pigeons?

After all, carrier pigeons don’t weigh very much, and they have the uncanny ability of being able to return to their home coop. Even as Langley was undergoing conversion into a carrier, experiments were undertaken to determine whether the carrier pigeon-in-a-plane scheme would work. And work it did.

So the plans for Langley were modified to include a substantial pigeon coop, to keep her flyers supplied with birds ready to wing home in an instant carrying messages of vital import. And when the ship was commissioned, so to was her pigeon coop. And then reality struck. Pigeons require several days to “imprint” on a coop, in order to be able to return to it. They also require that the coop not move around too much, since they seem to use some sort of inertial guidance system. In short, unless Langley remained in one place long enough for the birds to imprint, and then remain there when they were taken out on reconnaissance missions, pigeons released from her patrol planes would be unable to find her.

Needless to say, it was not long before Langley’s days as a “CVP – Pigeon Carrier” came to an end, and her pigeon coop was turned into as quarters for her exec.

 

The Campaigns of Charlemagne, A.D. 768 – 814

Charlemagne, King of the Franks (768-814) and “Roman Emperor” (800-814), was a mighty warrior. In the mid-nineteenth century, the French historian Pierre Guizot calculated that in 46 years on the throne, Charlemagne (from Charles le Magne – Charles the Great) conducted 56 campaigns, on fronts as distant from each other as Brittany, Spain, Denmark, Poland, and the Danube. The tally of his enemies is impressive.

EnemyCampaignsModern Area
Aquitanians 1 Southwestern France
Avars 4 Hungary
Bavarians 1 Bavaria
Bretons 3 Brittany
Byzantines 2 Southern Italy
Danes 3 Denmark
Lombards 5 Northern and Central Italy
Saracens 12 Spain (7)* and Southern Italy (5)
Saxons 18 Northern and Eastern Germany
Slavs 4 Eastern Germany and Poland
Thuringians 1 Eastern Germany
* During one of which Charlemagne’s troops were ambushed by the Basques, giving rise to The Song of Roland.

 

The “Aguilas Aztecas” in the War with Japan

In March 1942 Mexico declared war on Germany and Japan. This was more than just a gesture of support for the United States in its struggle with the Axis, for Mexican ships had been sunk by enemy action. Nor was the declaration merely a symbolic one, for Mexico ultimately made a valuable, if modest, contribution to the military defeat of the enemy.

With the cooperation of the United States, the Mexican Air Force organized a special air wing of three squadrons.

Squadron Function
201st combat
202nd replacement training
203rd primary training

Initially The Mexican airmen trained with the famed AT-6. They were subsequently equipped with P-40s, but went into combat after having transitioned to P-47s.

In July 1944 the 201st Squadron (“Aguilas Aztecas” – Aztec Eagles) arrived in the US for advanced flight training in P-47s. Upon completing training, the squadron departed for the Philippines in March 1945. Attached to the 58th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force, and based at Clark Field on Luzon, the 201st Squadron performed reconnaissance, ground attack, and close air support operations against Japanese forces in the Philippines and on Formosa until August. Shortly before the surrender of Japan the squadron was reassigned to the Thirteenth Air Force and transferred to Okinawa in anticipation of participating in the Invasion of Japan. The squadron was still in Okinawa when Japan surrendered.

The 210th Squadron performed 785 combat sorties during the Philippine Campaign, during which only one man was killed by enemy action, and four others in operational accidents, and others had died in training.

The Aguilas Aztecas returned to Mexico in the autumn of 1945, and were disbanded on November 22nd.

 

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