Monday, October 11, 2010

Aircraft Carrier Flight Deck Operations: Honoring the LSO's of WWII

LSO Using Signal Flag. Photo: Frank Scherschel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images. January 01, 1942

As I plow my way through Hugh Ambrose's new book titled The Pacific, I am reminded again just how daunting and exhilerating the US Naval aircraft carrier operations in World War II truly were. I have long been an admirer of military aviators, and at one time would have greatly relished the opportunity to test my own mettle in the cockpit of a roaring jet.

But, WWII was a profoundly different war from the ones that preceded it. Our boys were sent to the front lines using technology and equipment that was largely untested in battle. Hell, the instructors were teaching military principles that had only been in place for a very short time. Carrier aviators must have had serious balls of steel. Dropping a several ton screaming piece of metal onto a rolling carrier deck at a fast clip is pure insanity. Can you even imagine your first time? I've asked many a veteran aviator at air shows how they did it at such a young age, and their response is usually along the lines of, "because we had to". Well damn.

Just as foreign a position were the men assigned to flag duty; the Landing Signal Officers (LSO). These seamen had an even larger responsibility to the fleet. Land the aviators. All of them. And wave them in safely. Here's honoring these forgotten heroes of WWII.

A plane handler signals to the pilot of a Grumman F6F Hellcat to "Lock the tailwheel," aboard the USS Tulagi off the coast of southern France. Photo: Wayne Miller © CORBIS. August 1944.

Activities on USS Lexington, CVA-16, during military action. Plane director brings F6F down flight deck after landing. June 1943.

A U.S. Navy fighter takes off from the deck of an aircraft carrier during the invasion of North Africa. © Horace Bristol/CORBIS. Photo: Horace Bristol. Circa 1942.

Lt. John Clark, USN, LSO gives pilot signal to lift one wing as he brings in plane for landing on USS Lexington in South Pacific. December 1943.

A TBD from Torpedo Eight, T-5, taxiing up the flight deck of CV-8. Circa May 15, 1942. Via.

LSO night ops; or he could be auditioning for Cirque du Soleil.

This fine chap could either be directing several tons of fast moving steel onto a shifting carrier deck, or modeling Ralph Lauren's Fall line.

Lt. in new suit made of chemically treated cloth, on flight deck of USS Charger. September 6, 1944.

Signal flags aboard the USS Hancock. December 20, 1944.

LCDR John C. Waldron, Torpedo Eight's Commanding Officer, and Horace F. Dobbs, CRMP on the flight deck of the USS Hornet in the Coral Sea. Via.

Aircraft carrier signal man. The blurry dude in the forefront looks like a fashion time-traveler.

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