Friday, March 23, 2007

Fullbore Friday

This one goes out to Eagle1 for a great snag. Civilians for Fullbore?

Hey, you go out in your bug-smasher VFR at under a hundred knots against a U-boat.
About the middle of May, 1942, "Doc" Rinker and his observer, Tom Manning, spotted a Nazi submarine stuck in the sand in shallow water just offshore from Cape Canaveral, Florida. "Doc" frantically radioed our West Palm Beach base to contact any military base that had a bomber with bombs, and dispatch it immediately. West Palm Beach, a Ferry Command base, didn't have any bombers with bombs. "Ike" Vermillya, our West Palm Beach base commander, got on the phone and called Banana River Naval Air Station and Tampa. Neither had a plane with bombs available at the time. The United States was truly caught short and unprepared. Most armed military aircraft were in Europe and Africa, fighting the Nazi Axis, or in the Pacific fighting the Japanese.

A bomber with depth charges was finally located at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station and dispatched to Cape Canaveral. But several hours had elapsed since the Nazi sub had been located, and by the time the Navy bomber arrived, the sub had freed itself from the sand in the shallow water and had disappeared in to the deep sea.

Everyone was furious to think that the trapped enemy "water snake" had escaped simply because of a lack of fire-power.

Ike Vermillya personally knew General "Hap" Arnold, National Commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces. "Ike" immediately phoned "Hap" and told him the sad story. To say "Hap" was also furious is to put it mildly. "Hap" yelled, "Ike, start gettin' those little Civil Air Patrol planes armed with bombs, even if you have to throw th' damned bombs outa 'th' WINDOWS!"

National C.A.P. headquarters was immediately faced with a dilemma.

"How th' hell are we gonna' hang bombs on small three- and four-place civilian planes with fragile airframes?"

Some Civil Aeronautics Administration airworthiness inspec were contacted and figured out how bomb racks could be installed under the bellies of the planes, and how much stress the frames of different types of planes could take.

Little three-place Stinson Voyagers with 90 horsepower engines were each to be fitted to carry one 100pound demolition bomb. My Rearwin was to be similarly fitted. Four-place Fairchilds were to be fitted to carry two 100- pound bombs, and Stinson Reliants were selected to carry one approximately 100- pound depth-charge each, but the bottom fin of the depth-charge would have to be sawed off to clear the runway on take-offs and landings.

Two lengths of bailin' wire were attached to the bombs and depth-charges. The wires came up through the floor, and yellow and red handgrips were attached. I the observer pulled a RED handle, the arming pin was pulled; and when the YELLOW handle was pulled, the bomb or charge would be dropped.
Because they were civilians - if they were shot down engaging a U-boat and captured, they would be considered guerrillas (AKA unlawful combatants) and could - rightfully - be shot on sight. They knew that.


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