WOLFPACK AND SUNDAY COMICS cgaviationhistory org

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On January 16 1944 I made the first helicopter flight from a merchant vessel on the high seas in convoy. During subsequent flights we proved that helicopters were practical for anti submarine warfare ASW. The story began during World War II when German submarines called wolfpacks began playing havoc with. Allied shipping convoys While airplanes could attack surfaced submarines and sonobuoys could track early. model submerged submarines a new solution was needed when the wolfpacks began operating deeper quieter. and faster This called for an underwater echo ranging device that could operate from aircraft. At the time Igor Sikorsky was flight testing his first helicopter and in a Feb 15 1943 directive U S Navy. Admiral E J King recognized the helicopter s potential to combat submarines As commander in chief of the. U S fleet and chief of naval operations King ordered the Coast Guard which is under Navy jurisdiction in times. of war to develop technology to equip helicopters for ASW. By mid 1942 Sikorsky had built the first YR 4 and Captain Frank A Erickson and I proved it airworthy in 1943. becoming the Coast Guard s first helicopter pilots. The Coast Guard s first experience with helicopters was thanks to Britain which wanted helicopters for ASW and. for search and rescue The Royal Navy acquired two YR 4s and provided these to the Coast Guard for testing. on the merchant vessel Daghestan,Hell of a start, On January 5 1944 a convoy was formed in New York s harbor it consisted of 26 freighters two British aircraft. carriers three British escort type destroyers one ocean going tugboat as our rescue vessel and the. Daghestan with two YR 4s We were to evaluate the YR4 s capability to operate from merchant vessels at sea. in convoy then deliver them to England for SAR use. British M V Daghestan with 2 YR 4 Helos embarked on stern NY Harbor Jan 1944. The project s U S helicopter contingent consisted of Lt Cmdr James Klopp and Lt Cmdr John Miller both of the. U S Navy Giles N Montgomery from Sikorsky three Navy photographers and myself The UK contingent. consisted of Cmdr Richard Garnett the mission commander Lt Cmdr E A H Peat Flight Lt Jeep Cable and. Lt Charles Loder, The Daghestan was one of the smallest and slowest ships in the convoy top speed nine knots At 5 a m on. January 6 the nine knot convoy set out on the North Atlantic route for Liverpool. The weather was bad from the start and the convoy soon encountered rough seas causing the grain laden. Daghestan to roll and yaw excessively Strong northeast winds and freezing rain which developed into heavy. snow prevailed during the first three days On the fourth day out we were joined by a 13 vessel Canadian. convoy that was to accompany us to England All during the fifth day at sea the wind and seas built in. intensity at nightfall all vessels were ordered to form a loose formation to avoid colliding If the weather wasn t. bad enough at 3 a m on January 11 the general quarters alarm sounded because submarines were in the. area Donning my life jacket I scrambled to my assigned lifeboat with other crew members to be prepared to. man the lifeboats, Within minutes several explosions were heard Two vessels directly astern of us were torpedoed and I could. see another in flames on the horizon Our escorts began employing effective ASW tactics but three Allied. vessels were lost, After this torpedo attack the crew of the good ship Daghestan began to appreciate our luck at being aboard a. slow and inconspicuous vessel among the convoy s larger ships German submarine captains probably viewed. us as not worth wasting torpedoes on, Bad weather and a heavily ladened ship means roll and yaw.
The rest of that day and the next the convoy took evasive course changes No further submarine activity was. reported but we entered another terrific storm just northeast of the Azores During the storm some lumber. broke loose from on deck storage A two by four tore a hole in the aft port fuselage of one YR 4 ricocheted. upward to damage the flight actuating control rod in the rotor head then fell to embed in the port side float. ripping an air compartment Three men were washed overboard from the rescue tug and lost and two large. crates containing helicopter spares and two liferafts were also washed overboard. We were taking mountainous seas over the starboard bow and the wind velocity exceeded 80 knots With the. ship rolling at times more than 45 degrees the Daghestan and its crew took a beating and the convoy steadily. broke formation If this wasn t bad enough one forward hatch was smashed and sea water entered the cargo. area causing the grain on board to shift and give the Daghestan a permanent list of 5 degrees to port These. conditions amplified the problems of protecting the helicopters from salt spray and seawater that washed over. the deck almost continuously during the voyage,Clear at last. The weather and sea conditions prevented flight operations until the 10th day at sea The weather had abated. somewhat although conditions were yet harsh, Before attempting flight we faced the challenge of installing the main rotor blades But the ships 15 degrees. roll and wet deck made footing treacherous preventing any wheeling out of the YR 4 on its dolly It ended up. taking 16 men to manhandle the helicopter into position Then we had to erect a windbreak before installing. the blades,Helo and dolly in stowed position on deck. Preparing for 1st flight on the high seas from the Daghestan. Mounting the tail rotor on the helo, By the time everything was ready darkness was approaching Despite this I started the YR 4 s engine. engaged the rotors assured the magnetos checked out then took off After a quick turn around the convoy I. returned to the Daghestan, Flights during the following day proved helicopters could be practical for ASW patrol We finally arrived in.
Liverpool on January 22 1944 The YR 4 s were flown to a small aerodrome outside Liverpool and large tents. were erected over each YR 4 with armed guards posted for security These YR 4 s became the first operational. helicopters in England, Meanwhile U S efforts to use helicopters became centered at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn N Y Upon. returning from the British American testing I became the lead pilot instructor at the Coast Guard Helicopter. Flight and Engineering School, I introduced students to shipboard operations by using a custom designed platform which simulated a ship at. sea It could be set for a 5 or 10 degree roll within a 10 second period The unit was christened the USS Mal. Another clever innovation was a helicopter flight simulator built by Atlantic Elevator Co It was suspended by a. system of rails installed in our hangar s ceiling and allowed trainees to feel responses like those of the YR 4 All. pilots received their initial indoctrination at this hangar. By the end of World War II the Floyd Bennett school was training pilots and mechanics from all over the world. Trainees came from the U S military firms having Navy helicopter contracts and from Britain Australia and. New Zealand,ASW development, While pilots were training at Floyd Bennett a few scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D. C were designing an underwater sound recorder to track submerged submarines The principal developers. were Dr H C Hayes and his assistant project engineer Dr J J Coop. XHOS Helo with Hayes sonar installed, In early 1945 the Hayes Sound Recording System became available to the Commander of the Anti Submarine. Development Detachment Atlantic Fleet for testing The Bureau of Ships and Naval Research Laboratory. provided technical assistance and the helicopter was to haul the Hayes Sound equipment. In early March 1945 Navy Lt Roy Rather became the project officer and Coop reported to Floyd Bennett Field. with the prototype sonar It was first necessary to determine the noise level that the helicopter s main rotor. downwash would transmit to the sea while in a hover. In the middle of Jamaica Bay N Y the sonar head was lowered beneath the surface from a boat The Coast. Guard helicopter hovered overhead while underwater noise measurements were taken The result showed that. hovering at an altitude of 20 feet raised the background noise level by about six DBs This was judged to be. low enough not to interfere with the Hayes sonar capability to decipher submarine noise. About this time the Coast Guard had received two Sikorsky XHOS experimental helicopters The Hayes. equipment was installed in one machine after a lengthy process of modifying its small cabin to accomodate all. components, In early April Erickson of the Brooklyn Coast Guard Air Station suggested that the sonar equipped XHOS be.
tested from the Coast Guard Cutter Cobb Soon the Cobb and the XHOS were dispatched to New London CT. XHOS Helo evaluating the Hayes Sonar Jamaica Bay Brooklyn NY. LT S R Graham Pilot Dr J J Coop Sonar Operator, Early on April 14 1945 Erickson myself and others boarded the Cobb for a test area off of Block Island. Erickson and I took turns piloting the sonar equipped XHOS with Coop and Rather alternating as sonar. To obtain sonar readings on the target submarine the XHOS had to hover motionless keeping the suspended. sonar cable vertical while dipping the transducer To do this the pilot needed a reference on the water to hover. over Float lights and dye markers were tried but the helicopter s downwash swept both away making. precision hovering impossible, Finally it was found that a sheet of the Sunday newspaper comics worked best as a reference The brightly. colored paper soaked up enough water to not blow away and it could be easily seen at an altitude of 20 to 25. The testing showed the sonar had sufficient potential to locate and track submarines to warrant development. But while the Sunday comics were OK for tests an instrument obviously had to be developed to tell the pilot. when the cable was vertical, Coop and his assistant redesigned the sonar s electrical components and by January 1946 the new dipping. sonar the XCF was ready The Coast Guard had a new 450 hp Sikorsky HO2S and installation of the XCF took. about six weeks Testing again began around Jamaica Bay. On March 12 1946 I flew the HO2S to Key West Florida with my Coast Guard mechanic Merwin Westerberg. arriving March 16 We reported to Commander Anti Submarine Development Detachment VX 1 for temporary. HO2S 1 with dipping sonar,Cross country fun, At the time this helicopter was the largest operational rotorcraft in the United States and its flight from New. York to Key West was the type s first long distance flight The sight of the HO2S created quite a stir to the. population as I flew along the eastern coast stopping at military and civilian airports en route. The fun usually began when I requested landing instructions from the tower The operators would invariably. recite routine fixed wing procedures By the time I had them convinced that I did not require a runway to land. I was already on the ground in close proximity to the control tower to their amazement. During the early stages of the helicopter dipping sonar program as with most new ventures out of the ordinary. the people involved were regarded as being out of the ordinary also Especially the aviator who would dare to. fly such a contraption After flying several hours in these early machines I would depart the helicopter and walk. with a one per rev beat for several minutes until I was able to resume control over myself and to unclench my. white fists to get the blood circulating once again. HO2S CGNR 75690 with ASW XCF dipping sonar, It was up to us as pioneers to prove to the military and to civilians that helicopters were here to stay Even.
then we were laughed at but look where helicopters are today. Each morning prior to dawn my mechanic and I would rendezvous at the seaplane base hangar We would. push open the huge hangar doors and roll out the helicopter to the run up pad After a preflight inspection we. would takeoff and fly out over the water Landing aboard a landing ship tank LST became routine as she. proceeded to our operations area, The HO2S has a tandem seat cockpit piloted from the rear seat the sonar operator occupied the front seat My. sonar operator Coop was over six feet tall and blocked out much of the pilot s forward visibility. And the HO2S was inherently unstable and hard to fly because of extreme flight control forces I alleviated. some undesirable features by using a bungee cord one end secured to the floor board and the other at the. pilot s discretion to a position on the control stick It still took sheer strength and determination to maintain a. good hovering position with the sonar transducer lowered to a depth of 60 feet. Full scale testing, After Coast Guard Ensign William Coffee joined the detachment as a relief pilot and became familiar with the. program full scale XCF testing began on March 22 1946 Various water vessels participated the LST served as. the helicopter carrier a destroyer measured underwater sounds and several submarines from Key West served. as targets, The program started with a U S submarine submerged between Key West and Cuba It was located by tracking. ranges which were considered to be very good These exercises continued almost daily with Coop and Rather. alternating as the sonar operators, On one occasion Coop was tracking a submerged submarine conducting a passive listening test at a range of. WOLFPACK AND SUNDAY COMICS The Birth of Anti Submarine Warfare A first hand account tells of the early days of helicopter ASW By Stewart Ross Graham Commander U S Coast Guard British M V Daghestan with 2 YR 4 Helos embarked on stern NY Harbor Jan 1944 On January 16 1944 I made the first helicopter flight from a merchant vessel on the high seas in convoy During subsequent flights we

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