T. A. Gardner wrote: ↑
09 Apr 2020 05:57
This ignores what US Naval policy in 1942 really was. Yes, there was differences of opinion and inter-service rivalry going on, but the problem was more one of doctrine and the USN doctrine wasn't terrible, just not focused on the right things initially.
It was also caught by surprise. Not only at Pearl Harbor, but also in the Atlantic where the German reaction was much quicker than anyone assumed was possible.
In the U-Boat war, the King refused to use fleet destroyers for ASW work. Instead, the USN used a combination of impressed ships like yachts and such along with the US Coast Guard's fleet of cutters for that. The thinking / doctrine was the fleet destroyers were for escorting and protecting the fleet against submarines, not escorting shipping. In that King was correct, but the problem was he didn't provide a reasonable alternative initially.
The US preferred alternative was using more specialized escort ships and these were the destroyer escort. The USN also started a crash program to build subchasers and other smaller ASW craft as well. But, that all took time.
Essentially that was the same doctrine of the RN...fleet destroyers were used sparingly in escort work, since they simply weren't designed for it. Instead, they used converted fishing trawlers and de-rated older destroyers, especially the V&W class, and limited production of specialized escorts. The USN did not have a large supply have ocean going trawlers and tried to make the 180-foot PCE substitute, with limited success. As OMPUS relates, the specialized building plan was the DE, while de-rated older destroyers - the four-stackers in reserve - took up the slack. The problem there was that when FDR decided on transferring 50 flush-deckers to Britain in September 1940 and they were the best of the bunch...it took months to get the others into service.
The irony of the whole OMPUS account isn't that they were trying to cover someone's tracks - that's about as silly as it gets. No, the problem was the time it took, even with prioritization, to get the DE program moving. While the plans for the program were laid down in principal in November 1941, it was February 1943 before the first launched. That doesn't say anything about the covering tracks, but a lot about how long it took to go from a paper idea to finished plans, building in a yard, and completion. The U-Boat campaign was not won by the production of US specialized escort vessels - it was already won by the time the DE showed up. It was won by the four-stackers that were eventually put into service...oh, and improved doctrine, ASW equipment, experience, aircraft, HF-DF, radar, codebreaking....no panacea "let's just spend this money here instead of there" excuse*
Complicating this was the US civilian economy and society wasn't easily corralled into doing things to help combat the U-boat menace. Many US merchant ship captains fought or outright refused to follow sailing instructions put out by the USN and USCG regarding submarine attack. The US East Coast cities weren't easily made to observe blackout conditions so the shoreline was well lit in many places putting shipping moving along the coast silhouetted at night making them easy targets for U-boats.
Years ago I did some research on the whole "lit up coast" business and found it was pretty much exaggerated...driven by a lot of sea stories told by U-Boat and merchant sailors. It did take time to institute the coastal blackout fully, mostly because it was done on the fly and because - as we can see today - federal mandates often have limited sway in states. Most major cities instituted blackouts within a few days of Pearl Harbor. Nor is there much evidence for any large number of U-Boat kills occurring within sight of land because the vessel was exposed by coastal lights.
After several months of heavy losses, the USN, USCG, and merchant captains and companies came together and started doing things that reduced the danger. The USCG / USN started running "bucket brigade" convoys up the East Coast. These sailed at dawn and pulled into a harbor at dusk. They often had a meager escort, but they did have an escort and in daylight U-boats were definitely at risk attacking them.
The Bucket Brigades were instituted almost immediately, because it was an ad hoc solution it was easy to do so. Formal convoying began in May 1942 and a full set of regular convoy routes were instituted by September 1942. The problem was no one saw the point of convoying without strong escort, because the belief was a poorly escorted convoy was worse than no convoy at all. It wasn't until later that OR studies demonstrated the opposite.
The USAAF was forced into giving the USN 300 Liberator bombers for patrol duty. The USN also set up both inshore and longer ranged ASW squadrons that patrolled the Atlantic off the US coast. The USAAF also operated some ASW aircraft as well.
Um, the USAAF did not have 300 Liberator's to give for patrol duty...not in early 1942 they didn't.
The XB-24 first flew 29 December 1939 as the Model 32. However, it was 38 MPH slower than specified, so was rebuilt as XB-24B.
6 YB-24 accepted December 1940. All went to BOAC as the LB-30A transport.
1 YB-24 was accepted by the USAAF in May 1941. Usually referred to simply as the “B-24” it was used in training by the 44th Bomb Group.
9 B-24A were accepted by the USAAF between 16 June and 10 July 1941 and were assigned to Ferry Command as transports. They were utilized as high-speed VIP transports after test and evaluation, two transporting the Harriman Mission to Moscow in September 1941. Two others were modified for strategic reconnaissance of Japan, of which one was destroyed at Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941. By April 1942 at least 3 were being used to ferry crews delivering aircraft to Australia back to the US.
20 B-24A were accepted by the RAF March-June 1941 as Liberator I (3 were transports for BOAC, and 1 was damaged in transit and returned to Consolidated and was never delivered, it became a company aircraft)
139 B-24C were accepted by the RAF August 1941-January 1942 as Liberator II (the first built crashed during its test flight in June and is the 140th aircraft usually counted, it was later replaced) of which at least 16 were used as transports by BOAC and British Ferry Command. 75 were retained by the USAAF in January 1942 as LB-30.
9 B-24C were accepted by the USAAF December 1941. They were designated as RB-24C with the R standing for “restricted from combat.” As implied, they were never used in combat.
3 B-24D were accepted by the USAAF January 1942.
Further acceptance of the B-24D/F by the USAAF in 1942 were:
February – 59
March – 71
April – 81
May – 88
June – 97
July – 103
August – 110
September – 118 (start of F production)
October – 131
November – 135
December – 159
Total acceptance of all types through 31 March 1942 was 334 and total acceptance of all types through 31 December 1942 was 1,340.
The following allocations of the 75 Liberator II/LB-30 held by the USAAF are known:
17 went to the 3rd and 25th Bomb Squadron, 6th Bomb Group – Canal Zone (1 was lost in July 1942, 1 in April 43, 2 in June 43, 1 in July 1943; it appears that all had airborne radar installed sometime after March 1942), by 31 March 1942 only 10 were operational there and 13 by 13 April 1942.
15 went to the 7th and 19th Bomb Group (9th, 11th, 14th, 22nd, 28th, and 30th Bomb Squadrons) – Australia-Java (2 crashed en route, 1 was damaged and delayed in the US, and only 3 of the 12 that got to Java survived; the last 3 and the damaged aircraft that had been repaired were grouped into the 40th Reconnaissance Squadron, which was later redesignated the 435th Bomb Squadron; one of the remaining 4 was lost in August 42). At least some of the surviving aircraft were fitted with British sea-search radar in Australia, one so equipped crashed in May 1942. By 31 March 1941 4 were operational there.
43 others were distributed amongst the:
44th Reconnaissance Squadron, 9th Bomb Group – Trinidad
6th Reconnaissance Squadron, 29th Bomb Group – Florida
2nd Reconnaissance Squadron, 30th Bomb Group – California (3 went to the 28th Bomb Group – Alaska (1 was lost in May 42 and another in October 43)
63rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group – Maine (their ASW operations were ordered ended in Feb 42 and they began conversion to B-17)
97th Reconnaissance Squadron, 47th Bomb Group – California
The attempt to get the type quickly operational resulted in some problems, in addition to the to the losses above, 6 more crashed in CONUS in the first six weeks of service and 4 more were lost before the end of the year (although 1 of those was rebuilt as a C-87), while 6 were lost in 1943 and 4 were condemned in 1944. All told at least 33 were lost during the war. Beginning in August 1942 11 LB-30 (including 1 salvaged aircraft) were rebuilt as C-87 transports. It is unclear how many were eventually fitted with sea-search radar (some sources say 15 and some 30) but no USAAF aircraft of any type was fitted with sea-search radar prior to March 1942.
On 28 November 1941, prior to Pearl Harbor, the USAAF ordered the Second and Fourth Air Forces to support the Navy submarine patrols on the West Coast. At that time there were just 35 medium and 10 heavy bombers stationed on the West Coast, all B-18, B-25, and B-17. After Pearl Harbor they were augmented by the Sierra Bombardment Force, which was comprised of B-17 aircraft and aircrews originally scheduled for the Philippines. It was discontinued in January 1942 and transferred to Australia. From then until February 1943 when all West Coast AAF ASW patrols ceased, all squadrons routinely made ASW patrols.
Those B-24/LB-30 utilized as long-range reconnaissance and ASW service in the spring of 1942 were the 3 in Alaska (although no more than 1 was ever apparently available), the 17 in the Canal Zone (of which 10-15 were usually available), and the 34 (after losses) operating in the five groups in the US and Trinidad. Given the approximate group distribution of 40 percent to the West Coast and 60 percent to the East Coast for the 34, assuming a 50:50 distribution for those in Panama, and counting the 3 in Alaska as west coast, then that means that 13.6 + 8.5 + 3 or about 24 were engaged on the West Coast and 21.4+8.5 or about 30 were engaged on the East and Gulf Coast in ASW operations.
The only other major unit engaged in part-time ASW work with the B-24D was the 44th Bomb Group out of Louisiana, which helped patrol the Gulf of Mexico while training the 90th, 92nd, 93rd, and 98th Bomb Groups. The 44th evidently received the YB-24 and the 9 B-24C as training aircraft, as well as production B-24D.
B-24/LB-30 State as of 31 March 1942:
Not counting the prototype, 228 had been accepted by the USAAF (and 89 by the RAF/BOAC). Of the USAAF aircraft:
8 B-24A were engaged in transport operations.
1 B-24 and 9 B-24C were utilized as trainers by the 44th, 90th, 92nd, and 98th Bomb Groups.
4 remaining LB-30 of the 7th and 19th Bomb Groups were in Australia as the 40th Bomb Squadron.
23 B-24D had gone to HALPRO, which was in Palestine.
124 B-24 and 2 LB-30 bombers were combat operational in CONUS, virtually all with the 44th, 90th, 92nd, and 98th Bomb Groups, but only the 44th was operationally capable.
10 LB-30 bombers were operational in the Canal Zone.
Approximately 19 B-24/LB-30 had been lost:
8 LB-30 in accidents
10 LB-30 in combat
1 B-24A in combat
Approximately 31 were awaiting delivery in CONUS to units.
* - Original term removed by this moderator.