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THE BRITISH FLEET AT OKINAWA


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#1 vcs-WW2

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 03:22 PM

THE BRITISH FLEET AT OKINAWA

I’m sure the subject of British participation in the Pacific theater of war during World War Two has been discussed on this forum before – perhaps many times. However, I thought it might be interesting to bring it up once again because of a personal (but minor) involvement I had concerning the subject.

During the Okinawa operation I was an enlisted NCO in an Air Support Control Unit (ASCU) attached to the staff of Admiral William Blandy, Commander of the U.S. Amphibious Support Force (Task Force-52) and second in command of the Okinawa operation, under Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner
. My air support group, headquartered on Blandy’s command ship, was designated as Task Group 52.10

The Amphibious Support Force arrived off Okinawa eight days before D-Day to conduct pre-invasion bombardment of the island, neutralize enemy fortifications, clear beach approaches (mine sweeping, underwater demolition, etc.), and capture nearby Karama Retto Atoll, with its large lagoon, which would be used as a safe forward base for refueling, rearming, re-supplying and repairing ships for both the Okinawa operation and the following November’s invasion of Japan.

The British Pacific Fleet (Task Force- 75) was under the tactical command of Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings and was comprised of 30 ships: Two battleships, five cruisers, four aircraft carriers, eighteen destroyers, and one destroyer tender. Simply stated, their assignment was to "watch our back" while Blandy’s Amphibious Support Force carried out its assignment at Kerama Retto and Okinawa. Because the BPF’s role was essentially an air operation my air control unit maintained communication with them.

Our support force was able to supply its own local air protection from Japanese air raids and Kamikaze attacks, but it also needed long- range protection. Admiral Mitscher’s powerful U.S. Task Force 58 would cover the northern approaches from mainland Japan. The British Fleet’s assignment was to cover the southern approaches.
The southern threats were six large enemy airfields located on a group of islands off the east coast of Japanese-held Formosa called Sakishima Gunto. A secondary threat came from airfields on the island of Formosa itself.

The British fleet’s job was to (1) Render the six Japanese airfields un-usable to the enemy by constant bombing and cratering of the runways, plus destruction of buildings. (2) Destroy enemy aircraft on the ground and in the air, (3) Prevent aircraft originating in Formosa from using the islands as a staging area to attack the American fleet at Okinawa or reinforce land based aircraft in Japan. (4) Transmit early air raid warnings to air support people and CIC people at Okinawa. The BPF cratered the airfields during the day -- the Japs repaired them at night -- and the BPF cratered them the next day. ( If there’s any doubt that this wasn’t an important job assigned for the British – consider the fact that giant B-29 bombers of the U. S. Air Force operating from Tinian and Saipan were given the same assignment of cratering airfields on the Japanese mainland island of Kyushu)

During the first part of March Admiral Blandy’s support force assembled at the U. S. naval base at Ulithi Atoll. It included One command ship, one Air Support Control Unit, ten battleships, eleven cruisers, thirty two destroyers, twelve aircraft carriers, ten underwater demolition teams, seventy five minesweepers, a large flotilla of gunboats, supply, ammunition, repair and refueling ships. Our Pre-Invasion Force force arrived at Kerama Retto early on morning of March 24th. The second section of the support force – the Landing Force – arrived on March 26th with their troops, twenty transports, landing and supply ships .

At dawn of March 25th we were hit by the first Kamikaze attack of the Okinawa operation. It originated from airfields in the Sakishima Gunto group of islands. The following morning – March 26 --the British Pacific Fleet arrived on the scene. That same afternoon they conducted their first bombing of the Sakishima airfields – paying the enemy back for the visit they paid us the day before. During the first three days of air attacks on the Sakishima islands BPF dropped 81 tons of bombs.

Although the British Pacific Fleet would continue performing its assignment at Sakishima, my brief contact with them ended with the April first landings on Okinawa. At that point my Air Support Control Unit turned its complete attention to providing close air support for our troops on the ground.

After two months on the job the British fleet retired to their forward base at Manus Island, in the Admiralty Islands, to ready for the invasion of Japan. For that operation (Olympic) the British Pacific Fleet, consisting of five aircraft carriers, four battleships, cruisers and destroyers, was going to be a part of Admiral Halsey’s huge Third U.S. Fleet . The Third Fleet assignment was to support the Kyushu landings by striking targets along the east coast of Japan. Of course, before all this could happen, the Japanese August 1945 surrender ended all joint U.S/British operations in the Pacific.

During the Okinawa operation, 4,907 United States sailors lost their lives and 4,824 were wounded or missing. Most of those 9,731 Navy casualties were the result of Kamikaze attacks that sank 36 ships (of all sizes) and damaged 368.

Casualties would have been higher if the Brits hadn’t been "watching our back".

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#2 hucks216

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 04:39 PM

It is always nice reading about your own country's contributions to events, and in this case an undertaking that isn't so well known, from the viewpoint of a different nationality.
In keeping with this post, I just thought that I'd add a photo that I took while I was in Okinawa 3 years ago, the UK Memorial Stone at the Peace Park to commemorate the UK's dead during the Okinawa campaign - a total that would of been far higher if it wasn't for the famed armoured decks of the Fleet carriers that allowed them to continue flying operations within an hour or two of a Kamikaze hit.

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#3 Spaniard

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 04:57 PM

When discussing Oki, Guadalcanal++I have rarely seen The British Fleet mentioned more known for the involvement of the US. This is why on posts and Threads I mention Allied Forces in the Pacific. At the second Quebec conference in September 44, Roosevelt accepted Churchill Suggestion that the British Fleet to be used in the main theater of operation against Japan.

The British Pacific Fleet - Royal Australian Navy

The five British aircraft carriers that participated in battle action near Sakishima were the Formidable, Illustrious, Indefatigable, Indomitable, and Victorious. On April 14, 1945, the Formidable replaced the Illustrious, which suffered minor damage when a kamikaze plane grazed the ship's island and exploded next to the ship.

Although the book does not summarize British Pacific Fleet casualties from kamikaze attacks during the Battle of Okinawa, an Australian newspaper article published in July 1945 states that British aircraft carriers suffered only 70 deaths and 34 seriously wounded in total from kamikaze attacks (p. 350). The first attack happened on April 1, 1945, and the last kamikaze to hit a British carrier occurred on May 9. The book contains several eyewitness accounts of kamikaze hits, but none of these really stands out since damage and casualties from each attack were relatively minor.

Source Hoyt, Edwin P. 1983. The Kamikazes. Short Hills, NJ: Burford Books.

Kamikaze: The Story of the British Pacific Fleet


BRITISH PACIFIC FLEET 1945

http://www.fleetairarmarchive.net/Ships/BPF/Britishpacificfleethomepage.html


CAMPAIGN SUMMARIES OF WORLD WAR 2

PACIFIC OCEAN CAMPAIGNS, UNITED STATES & ALLIED, Part 2 of 2 1943-45.


http://www.naval-history.net/WW2CampaignsPacific2.htm


Edited by Spaniard, 08 May 2010 - 05:07 PM.

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#4 hucks216

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 05:25 PM

.....The book contains several eyewitness accounts of kamikaze hits, but none of these really stands out since damage and casualties from each attack were relatively minor


And hence the value of the armoured flight decks. None of the Kamikaze hits that actually impacted the ships penetrated the deck to any great extent thus allowing the British crews to clear away the debris and resume flying operations whereas the American carriers with their wooden flight decks suffered much greater damage, and casualties, as the Kamikazes penetrated the deck and went through into the hangars below.


Edited by hucks216, 08 May 2010 - 05:31 PM.

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#5 Spaniard

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 05:53 PM

And hence the value of the armoured flight decks. None of the Kamikaze hits that actually impacted the ships penetrated the deck to any great extent thus allowing the British crews to clear away the debris and resume flying operations whereas the American carriers with their wooden flight decks suffered much greater damage, and casualties, as the Kamikazes penetrated the deck and went through into the hangars below.


Yes this is correct. Underneath the wood they had a thin steel plate.

Edited by Spaniard, 08 May 2010 - 06:04 PM.

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#6 vcs-WW2

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Posted 09 May 2010 - 06:35 PM

HUCKS216 & SPANIARD

Maybe aircraft carriers with steel flight decks were OK up in the Scapa Flow area, the North Atlantic Ocean, the breezyMediterranean Sea and the English Channel, but I understand when they got over to the hot sun in the South Pacific Ocean British sailors felt like they were living and working in solar ovens.

Commanders in the Pacific theater and Chief of Staff Admiral King in Washington weren’t too thrilled when Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to joint participation. However, British Admiral Rawlings was such a nice guy that the Pacific gang ended up giving him everything he wanted, needed or lacked -- with one proviso – "As long as Admiral King doesn’t find out!"

In the end the charming admiral was welcomed into the gang as a member of Halsey’s powerful. Third fleet.

Americans are suckers for "nice guys"!

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#7 syscom3

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Posted 09 May 2010 - 08:30 PM

An armored deck reduces the AC capacity. Unlike the RN, the USN wanted as many airplanes as possible to be put on board the carrier.

It was far better to have lots of fighters available to protect the fleet. And untill the Midway class carriers were available to have both an armored deck and a large AC contingent, this was the correct philosophy.

#8 Spaniard

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 03:33 PM

An armored deck reduces the AC capacity. Unlike the RN, the USN wanted as many airplanes as possible to be put on board the carrier.

It was far better to have lots of fighters available to protect the fleet. And untill the Midway class carriers were available to have both an armored deck and a large AC contingent, this was the correct philosophy.


His Right I read in some Accounts "The British Ships" where like ovens in the Hot Pacific Sun. No proper ventilation like today's ships.
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#9 hucks216

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 05:47 PM

An armored deck reduces the AC capacity. Unlike the RN, the USN wanted as many airplanes as possible to be put on board the carrier.

It was far better to have lots of fighters available to protect the fleet. And untill the Midway class carriers were available to have both an armored deck and a large AC contingent, this was the correct philosophy.


Certainly not disputing what the correct philosophy was for the Pacific but the armoured decks proved their worth many a time and hence why US carrier design followed suit and were eventually also fitted with one. HMS Illustrious would of been sunk without hers, although it was still a close run thing, when she was dive bombed in the Med, and as mentioned above they greatly reduced casualties (well, except from heatstroke maybe :)) & damage when hit by Kamikazes.
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#10 Slipdigit

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 06:53 PM

Thanks for your good insight, VCS-WW2, they are greatly appreciated.

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#11 lwd

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Posted 12 May 2010 - 05:39 PM

Here are a couple of interesting articles on it. The second takes the other postition on the utility of the British armored decks.
Kamikaze Damage to US and British Carriers
Were Armored Flight Decks on British Carriers Worthwhile?

#12 syscom3

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 12:16 AM

An armored flight deck protects your ship. But the reduced AC capacity means the fleet suffers for lack of fighter cover. And if the fighters are increased in numbers, your offensive capabilities go down.

#13 ozjohn39

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 12:23 AM

....and if 2 carriers are hit by Kamikazis, one sinks and the other returns to action?
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#14 Slipdigit

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 12:50 AM

....and if 2 carriers are hit by Kamikazis, one sinks and the other returns to action?


You are confusing a ship with an armored flight deck with a ship with no armor at all. British carriers were armored at the flight deck level, US carriers had armor (such as it was) at the hangar level.

Read this thread:
http://www.ww2f.com/...-pacific-2.html

There is another good one I have not found yet. I'll keep looking for it.

The British flight deck was built as part of the structure of the hull, and provided stability to the hull sides. US carrier flight decks were built as part of the superstructure, essentially sitting on the hull, providing no structural integrity to it.

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#15 syscom3

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Posted 13 May 2010 - 08:36 PM

....and if 2 carriers are hit by Kamikazis, one sinks and the other returns to action?


Two essex class carriers could put up 70 plus fighters to protect the fleet. And that still leaves 100 or more VB and VT aircraft.

The Brits wouldnt be able to do that unless all of its air contingent is made of fighters.

#16 Spaniard

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 12:12 AM

It's to be noted; that the name "British Pacific Fleet" is misleading, the BPF was multi-national although the British provided the majority of the fleet and all the capital ships. It eventually comprised ships and personnel from the British Royal Navy (RN), British Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN). The RAN's contribution was limited because its larger vessels had been integrated with United States Navy formations since 1942. A high proportion of naval aviators were New Zealanders. The USN also contributed to the BPF, as did personnel from the South African Navy (SAN). Australian and New Zealand ports and infrastructure also made vital contributions in support of the BPF.

http://en.wikipedia....h_Pacific_Fleet

Which British aircraft carriers were lost in World war 2?

The British lost 4 of their original carriers (Courageous, Glorious, Ark Royal, Eagle & Hermes). In addition they lost 3 escort carriers (Audacity, Avenger and Dasher).

Of these the Courageous, Ark Royal, Eagle, Audacity and Avenger were lost to U-boat torpedoes. Hermes was destroyed by Japanese carrier aircraft, Glorious was sunk by German battlecruisers and Dasher exploded during refueling.

A further escort carrier, Nabob, was torpedoed by a U-boat and declared a constructive total loss giving no further service as a carrier, but was converted to a merchant ship and survived the war in that state. Source Wikki :rolleyes:

None of the six Fleet Aircraft Carriers of these Classes which were all completed during WW2, was lost during WW2.


Posted Image
HMS Illustrious (NavyPhotos

The initial design allowed for 36 Aircraft but this increased to over 60 later in WW2 although varied when heavier machines were available.

The bottom link provides all the information on all 6 British Aircraft Carriers, escorts +++++.


http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-00-ClassInfo.htm

Edited by Spaniard, 14 May 2010 - 12:22 AM.

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#17 mikebatzel

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 03:07 PM

Despite the argument over armoured flight decks, The BPF made up almosty a full quarter of allied naval air strength. An undeniable contribution that few remember.

The British had up until that point, fought a difrent war. For them to maintain a fleet of so many carriers at sea for as long as they did was still an amazing feat of logistics any way you slice it.
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#18 redcoat

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 08:32 PM

A further escort carrier, Nabob, was torpedoed by a U-boat and declared a constructive total loss giving no further service as a carrier, but was converted to a merchant ship and survived the war in that state. Source Wikki :rolleyes:

The HMS Nabob, while a RN ship, was in fact manned by sailors of the Royal Canadian Navy.
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#19 Spaniard

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 11:43 PM

The HMS Nabob, while a RN ship, was in fact manned by sailors of the Royal Canadian Navy.


Not only the HMS Nabob Mr RedCoat I remember reading that many British ships had Canadian sailors, I have an interesting PDF See Link

http://www.samfoundation.ca/articles/Canada's%20Aircraft%20Carriers.pdf


Detailed information about HMS Nabob (D77)
In A HISTORY OF CANADIAN NAVAL AVIATION 1918-1962 by J. D. F. KEALY and E. C. RUSSELL

HMS Nabob (D77), Bogue class escort Aircraft carrier in Royal Canadian Navy


HMS Nabob D77

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57AI62-ihrc
Those that have Evolved will sooner or later
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