Modelling ABC by Wilfried Eck

 
         

CV-Markings I

CV-Markings II

CV-Markings III


Markings of the US Navy

Part IV - Escort Carriers (CVE)


FM-2 Wildcat above CVE-29 "Santee"

 

Small Island of an escort carrier

 

The idea to use an auxiliary ship for aircraft transport and protection of convoys rose in early 1939, but lingered on until president F.D. Roosevelt himself intervened in 1941. The "Mormacmail", a standard C-3 fright ship was converted into the AGV-1 "Long Island" by removing the superstructure to place a flight deck upon the hull. Though rather primitive the prospects were quickly seen. For the new class "CVE" (Carrier Vessel Escort) 43 hulls of C-3-S-A1 freighters were fitted with flight decks and a small control tower ("island") on the starboard side; armament for self protection against aircraft attacks was placed in tubs along the flight deck. 10 ships of the so called "Bogue class" (named after the first ship) were commissioned for the US Navy, the rest went to Great Britain for convoy protection use.

The concept seen proven four T3-S2-A1 tankers were converted 1942 to "Sangamon"-class carrier vessels (CVE-26-CVE-29). In the same year the "Kaiser" wharf in Vancouver was contracted to build 50 CVE from the start, creating the most numerous "Casablanca"-class. The final batch contracted in 1943 were to be 22 ships of the "Commencement Bay"-class (CVE-105-CVE 127) also new ships, but due to war's end only a few were actually commissioned (the last four were broken down at the wharf).

Of all these ships the "Bogues" proved to be the sturdiest, many being "civilised" after the war. In the contrary "Kaiser's coffins" (one of some less flattering names due to their flimsy construction) were all scrapped. Carriers of the "Sangamon"-class were "mothballed" after the war, reactivated in the 1950s as helicopter carriers, but hardly found actual use. Carriers of the "Commencement Bay"-class were "mothballed" too, but only some being reactivated in the 1950s.

 

The ships

 
 
 
 
 

The Ships:

 

CVE-9 "Bogue"  during seagoing trials

The idea to use an auxiliary ship for aircraft transport and protection of convoys rose in early 1939, but lingered on until president F.D. Roosevelt himself intervened in 1941. The "Mormacmail", a standard C-3 fright ship was converted into the AGV-1 "Long Island" by removing the superstructure to place a flight deck upon the hull. Though rather primitive the prospects were quickly seen. For the new class "CVE" (Carrier Vessel Escort) 43 hulls of C-3-S-A1 freighters were fitted with flight decks and a small control tower ("island") on the starboard side; armament for self protection against aircraft attacks was placed in tubs along the flight deck. 10 ships of the so called "Bogue class" (named after the first ship) were commissioned for the US Navy, the rest went to Great Britain for convoy protection use.

The concept seen proven four T3-S2-A1 tankers were converted 1942 to "Sangamon"-class carrier vessels (CVE-26-CVE-29). In the same year the "Kaiser" wharf in Vancouver was contracted to build 50 CVE from the start, creating the most numerous "Casablanca"-class. The final batch contracted in 1943 were to be 22 ships of the "Commencement Bay"-class (CVE-105-CVE 127) also new ships, but due to war's end only a few were actually commissioned (the last four were broken down at the wharf).

Of all these ships the "Bogues" proved to be the sturdiest, many being "civilised" after the war. In the contrary "Kaiser's coffins" (one of some less flattering names due to their flimsy construction) were all scrapped. Carriers of the "Sangamon"-class were "mothballed" after the war, reactivated in the 1950s as helicopter carriers, but hardly found actual use. Carriers of the "Commencement Bay"-class were "mothballed" too, but only some being reactivated in the 1950s.

Class:

Bogue Sangamon Casablanca Commencement Bay

Hull numbers:

CVE-9 - CVE 31 CVE-26 - CVE-29 CVE-55 - CVE-104 CVE-105 - CVE-127
Length: 151,20 m 168,70 m 156,20 m 169,90 m
Width Flight Deck: 34,oo m 34,80 m 32,90 m 32,10 m
Catapult/s: 2 1 1 2
Max. Speed  (knots): 18 18 19 19
Armament:
(May differ in certain cases)
2 x 5 in/38 (12,7 cm)
20 x dual 40 mm
27 x 20 mm
2 x 5 in/38,8 (12,7 cm)
8 x quad. 40 mm
4 x dual 40 mm
21 x 20 mm
1 x 5 in/38 (12,7 cm)
16 x dual 40 mm
20 x 20 mm
2 x 5 in/38 (12,7 cm)
12 x quad. 40 mm
24 x dual 40 mms
20 x 20 mm

* Britisch escort carriers (BAVG-1 - BAVG-54): http://www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk/ESCORT/


 

The aircraft:

 

Start of a General Motors FM-2 Wildcat on board of CVE-93 "Makin Island"

Having a small aircraft carrier is fine, but it needs aircraft, and this proved to be a problem. Though F6F Hellcats and F4U Corsairs could be used after some training to get used to the confined space, these aircraft were in great need by the big fleet carriers. As SBD Dauntlesses were less suited because of their non folding wings, and the later SB2C Helldivers were too heavy, this left the well proved but rather outdated F4F-4 Wildcat and the sturdy TBF/TBM Avenger ("TBM" when built by General Motors). When General Motors lightened the Wildcat by removing two guns, the FM-1 Wildcat was born, soon to be replaced by the FM-2, a quite different and most efficient breed, easily distinguised by it's higher tail and exhaust ports on the fuselage sides.  The Pratt&Whitney motor of the -4 was replaced by a more powerful from Wright (necessitating a slightly more bulged cowling), as well as some other refinements. The four gun armament was retained and - most unusual for 1944, the landing gear still had to be hand cranked to get in or out. For carriers of the "Bogue"- and "Casablanca"-class this combination was standard, while the sturdier "Sangamons" usually carried F6F Hellcats (TBF/TBM Avengers only if required by the particular mission).

Formation of  General Motors TBM-1C Avenger from CVE-57 "Anzio"

Unlike fleet carriers which carried different squadrons (fighter, bomber, torpedo) escort carriers had so called "Composite Squadrons" (VC), a squadron composed of fighter- and bomber-/torpedo aircraft alike. Strenghth usually about 30 aircraft, 2/3 fighters, 1/3 bombers.

As a flight deck had to fulfill the duty of a start-/landing area and parking lot alike it was rather crowded.  Wing folding was mandatory. In the start sequence time was at it's premium as minutes lost in getting off were minutes missing in the return; alternatively less range. Usually fighters took off by their own while the bombers were catapulted off.  In both cases the carrier had to steam against the wind to get it's aircraft off. In the landing sequence steaming against the wind was mandatory again to get an acceptable low landing speed.  The pilot faced the problem of having about 50 yards to get a successful "trap", the forward part of the flight deck being needed to store the previously landed aircraft. To make things worse the carrier reflected the motions of the sea, rolling and heaving up and down. So even in a textbook approach the result could be a "crunch." In the outcome CVE's lost more aircraft to "operational accidents" than to enemy action.

A not unusual sight on board of a CVE, in this case on training carrier "Copahee"

 

P-47D of 318 Fighter Group USAAF ready for catapulting on board of CVE-62  "Natoma Bay" (to be stationed on the recently taken island Saipan in the Marianas, mid 1944)



 

CVE-Missons:

Concerning the tasks US escort carriers were assigend to there's one simple answer: They did everything!

Transport: Not glorious, but very important for all carriers when in need of replacement aircraft (constantly). On the way back transport of war weary or damaged aircraft.
Training: Also not glorious, but indispensable to get carrier qualified personnel.
Convoy protection: Protection of tankers, ammunition ships and other freighters against enemy attacks from above or below.
Sub hunting: Search and destroy enemy submarines.
CAP (combat air patrol): Guarding the own task unit or others against attacks from enemy aircraft.
Air to air combat: Decimating the enemy air force.
Artillery spotting: Pinpointing enemy gun installations, bunkers and other targets of importance for shelling by ship guns.
Ground attack: Destruction of enemy installations and aircraft on the ground (most later combat missions).

Employment of escort carriers in example (attack of Iwo Jima, Feb. 16 - March 16, 1945):

TG 50.7 (Hunter-Killer Group): CVE-57 Anzio with VC 82; supplemented by TU 50.8.15 (Escort Unit), CVE-91 Makassar Strait with VC-97;
TG 60.8.16 ("Baker Train") Transporter: CVE-82 Windham Bay, CVE-99 Admirality Islands, CVE-102 Attu;
TU 50.8.23 (Escort Unit): CVE-84 Shamrock Bay with VC-94;
TG 52 (Amphibious Support Force)  
TU 52.2.1 (Support Unit One): CVE-62 Natoma Bay with VC-81; CVE-65 Wake Island with VOC-1; CVE-80 Petrof Bay with VC-76; CVE-83 Sargent Bay with VC-79; CVE-87 Steamer Bay with VC-90;
TU 52.2.21 (Support Unit Two): CVE-57 Anzio with VC-82; CVE-92 Makin Island with VC-84; CVE-94 Lunga Point with VC-85; CVE-86 Bismarck Sea  with VC-86 (sunk Feb. 21.45);
TU 52.2.31 (Support Unit Three): CVE-81 Rudyerd Bay with VC-77; CVE-82 Saginaw Bay with VC-78;
TU 52.3.41 (Support Unit Four): CV-3 Saratoga with CVG(N)-53 night fighters

Assignment of duties for escort carriers varied considerably. Though some CVE were entirely occupied with transport or training duties (the "Anzio" hunting subs most of the time) in most other cases assignments changed, depending on availability. So you could find a certain CVE doing transport at first, then changing to CAP, then to artillery spotting or another duty in need.

Saipan operations, June 1944: A Japanese bomber trying to hit a carrier of the CVE task force goes down in flames. In front CVE-71 "Kitkun Bay"


 

Markings:

 

TBM-3 Avenger from VC-63 now with official CVE markings of  CVE-71 "Kitkun Bay", August 1945

 

FM-2 Wildcat takes off from a CVE in the Atlantic for sub hunting; only numerals, no decorations (sometimes found in the Atlantic theater)..

After discarding the pre war marking system early 1942 US Navy operational airplanes were distinguished by numbers only (these to the discretion of the task force commander).  When in 1944 carrier task units units grew in number confusion could result when aircraft joined the wrong squadron, even landing on the wrong carrier. So without any official approvement  squadrons began to apply some recognition aid . Usually on the vertical tail, due to the their geometric form (an oblique line, square, disc and so on) commonly referred to as "G-symbols" (see Markings II, III). Escort carrier units followed shortly afterwards. In 1945 such markings were quite common. But please notice:

"G-symbols" were markings of the air unit, not the carrier, and not of an idividual pilot!

As change of assignment was the rule and not the exception as there was also a change of squadrons aboard carriers. In most cases for a new mission an entirely new squadron was embarked. But in certain cases a squadron was kept operational changing its carrier embarkment.  Therefore a variety of aircraft markings could be seen on one carrier while in another case one could get the impression two, three or more carriers had aircraft with identical markings. This seemingly chaos makes research a time consuming affair, especially because in all publications the tail marking of the aircraft is erronously described as  logo of the carrier.

In stark contrast to the Pacific war campaign where CVE's were grouped together CVE's in the Atlantic sailed alone (with a screen of destroyers of course). In search for German U-boats each aircraft was assigned a certain sector. As it flew alone plain black numbers on the white background were quite sufficient.


An Order of ComAirPac dating June 2nd 1945 ended squadron invented tail markings. Pacific escort carriers were assigned to carrier divisions 22 - 29, each with a clearly defined marking in white colour. Additional stripes in white or a different colour (invariably interpreted as orange yellow) identified the individual carrier within a division. These markings were to be shown on the vertical tail, the upper side of the left and the underside of the right wing.

F6F-5 Hellcat of CarDiv 22

Page with graphic explanation of carrier markings

These now official markings weren't applied applied throughout. Some of the carriers were damaged and in repair, others in replenishment. and in some cases the order wasn't considered urgent. Four carriers of the new Commencement Bay class (CVE-106 - 111) deserve special mention, as they were Marine Corps.  But unlike USN carriers which got brand new aircraft the Marines had to get along with whatever they had. So a conglomerate of Hellcats, Corsairs and Avengers was to be seen, all sporting the marking of their former land base (a letter-number combination). Though this was changed  to official markings later on one peculiarity stayed: Nose art on personally assigned aircraft. Maybe because to make clear USMC isn't USN.


"Nose Art" and personal decorations:

Though it's very simple and easily understood - "US Navy is not US Air Force" people like to see personalized aircraft. - But not so in the US Navy!

The average pilot had to be content with any aircraft he temporarily got. Publicity photos in example of David MacCampbell and his "Minsi III" were purely for morale boosting at home. The average pilot was not authorised to decorate an aircraft (which one?) to his like.

The same goes for "kill" markings. As there was no "personal aircraft" on which aircraft should such a decoration be placed? Either a small Japanese flag was painted on the aircraft in which the kill was achieved (regardless of the pilot) or - more commonly - the kill marking was placed on the side of the carrier island.

Everywhere there are exceptions. Exceptions, not general rule! -  Marine Corps aircraft whose duty was to secure the "hinterland" sometimes did show personal markings, Especially when getting carriers late in the war.  Well, one wasn't Navy.

 

Modelling:

Parked aircraft have their wings folded, spread wings only immediately before takeoff or after touchdown, naturally with a pilot in the cockpit.

A Squadron assigned to a carrier stayed there all the time.  Taking aside the battle of Leyte gulf (Oct. 25th 1944) when aircraft of sunk or damaged carriers had to divert to Tacloban, never, (never!) were aircraft with carrier type tail markings seen on land. No, not even in case of an emergency landing, as such airfields were either still in Japanese hands or too far off.

A carrier in action is very busy, loud and dangerous.  As aircraft are placed tightly together (wings folded) it's loud and very windy (being blown off one's feet could easily result in chopped meat). So nobody in sane mind would be there without having a task at hand. Pilots had been instructed in the ready room below the flight deck,  so it's not necessary to gather again in front of the aircraft for further instructions. Especially not from an Army Air Force officer.

Repairs are made in the repair shop in the hangar bay. On the flight deck loose panels decoratively placed around the aircraft would be blown into the sea (the carrier moves!).

As assignments were of comparatively short duration there was no "ageing" or "weathering". US paints were of good quality so no paint chipping was to be seen. If, it would have been repaired (oversprayed) at once as corrosion prevention was mandatory on sea going aircraft.


 
Fotos: US Navy, US Nationalarchiv
Text Copyright Wilfried Eck
Profiles: Copyright Wilfried Eck/Srecko Bradic

 

 

 

Markings until 06/1945

Escort Carriers from A to W

Markings after 06/1945