r/todayilearned May 25 '22

TIL During WWII the US navy kept two aircraft carriers positioned in the Great Lakes

https://militaryhistorynow.com/2016/08/29/fresh-water-flattops-the-u-s-navys-forgotten-great-lakes-aircraft-carriers/amp/
448 Upvotes

250

u/thiosk May 25 '22

just because no one is going to read the article either:

Together, they prepared thousands of naval aviators for the dangerous job of landing planes on pitching and rolling flight decks at sea. And it was squadrons of these same naval aviators that would help turn the tide against the Axis.

98

u/el_mapache_negro May 25 '22

And because they weren't actual aircraft carriers at all. Unless you're being really liberal with the definition, I guess, but they certainly weren't anywhere near the quality of the ones in combat.

58

u/ironroad18 May 25 '22

Arguably, as the two train carriers lacked true hangar bays and elevators, but they were built pretty much the same way most of the early pre Yorktown-class carriers were, by converting cruiser or merchant vessel hulls into "flat tops". Even during the early part of the war, a lot of the smaller light and escort carriers were "converted" hulls, while they worked on development for the larger Essex-class ships.

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u/KraftySOT May 25 '22

Fun fact, if the war would have lasted until 1947, the US was going to finish a whopping 57 more aircraft carriers in 1945-1946. 2 were finished, 1 was put on hold (eventually became the Valley Forge) another was used at Bikini Atoll for the nuclear test, and the rest (mostly light escort carriers, about the size of a light cruiser and could hold 16-24 planes, mostly for protecting convoys from submarines and aircraft) were simply scrapped or left to rust.

Of those, 31 were to be converted from other ship hulls. Even late in the war, converting an old hull was easier than laying an entirely new one.

Its interesting to me that while we've always billed the war in the pacific during ww2 in our history books as this epic struggle, it seems like it was decided 6 months after Pearl Harbor, at Midway.

The Japanese built a grand total of 4 more line carriers (the big ones) during World War two, and was in the process of converting 18 cruisers to escort carriers ( finished 2 in 3 years), after the battle of Midway, where they lost 4 of their 5 line carriers.

That was in spring of 1942. And their 5th carried like 18 planes.

We were going to finish FIFTY FUCKING SEVEN AIRCRAFT CARRIERS in the year and half after VJ day.

People wax poetic about the number of tanks and aircraft produced by the US or USSR, how many rifles, or bullets were made, how many horses the germans went through during the war...

Man no one really pays attention to how complicated and labor intensive even converting an old ship into a carrier is...and we were gonna build 57 more of the things, on top of the 36 we had built during the war, and 7 we had from before the war.

11

u/Saakka May 25 '22

I know that things are far from this simple, but if I would have to pinpoint an exact moment the war took an irreversible turn towards Allied victory, I would say the moment the US dive bombers released their bombs towards Japanese carrier decks.

15

u/KraftySOT May 25 '22

Yup, the moment that VF (naval squadron) pulled the crank in a dive off the shore of Midway above the Akagi and Soryu, it was over.

We might never know who actually scored the killing hits, but pilots of the two dive bomber squadrons in the 2nd attack, sealed the fate of the Japanese empire in *does some math* about 20 seconds. The time it took for those bombs to fall the 3km from the drop point, to those flight decks.

Yamamoto said he could run wild for 6 months.

He did, almost to the day.

3

u/Elcactus May 25 '22

It was already decided, in the same way a wagon pushed up mount everest will always eventually run out of force and start rolling back down. Pulling the lever was when it ran out of momentum, but the result was decided when the first bomb detonated in pearl harbor.

3

u/MandolinMagi May 25 '22

It was a VS or VB squadron.

"V" denotes conventional (rather than lighter-than-air), "F" is fighter, "T" is torpedo bomber, "B" is bomber, and "S" is scout (which uses the same planes as B for weird historical reasons- the Dauntless dive bomber was SB, for Scout Bomber)

1

u/KraftySOT May 25 '22

Ah yup, you right.

11

u/HiddenStoat May 25 '22

I get what you're saying, but it was before then - it was the moment the Japanese dive bombers released their bombs towards US battleship decks at Pearl Harbour.

At that moment, the war become a foregone conclusion* - the only question's left were would it end in 1944 or 1946, and exactly how many more people would die.

US industrial capacity was just that staggering (and I say this as a proud British citizen).

*obviously people at the time didn't know the war was a foregone conclusion in December 1941, but looking back with hindsight, we can see that it was.

13

u/TheLegendaryFail May 25 '22

It's not even a matter of production capacity. It's a matter of resources.

The whole reason Japan squared up with the United States at Pearl Harbour was because of the US oil embargo that had been slapped on them as they continued their war with China. Japan does not have much by way of oil naturally, or even much rubber, and the overwhelming majority of their oil imports came from the US. When the US embargoed Japan they set a timer on the Sino-Japanese war which Japan knew it could not beat. They needed American oil to fuel their planes and tanks to continue charging into the heart of China.

Hence they had to strike south towards British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies in order to get the swathe of resources there. However they feared American intervention. What could they possibly do against a country with such monumental potential? The Japanese leadership weren't keen on war with America, but they felt that a shocking alpha strike might cow them and have the isolationists screaming for retreat from the Pacific.

What they got was a single dissenting vote from the Senate to declare war on Japan, followed by over two and a half years of brutal tropical war and two nuclear bombs.

2

u/Elcactus May 25 '22

No it's really capacity. Japan could have all the resources they wanted, and in fact they did get quite alot from the places they took early in the war. They weren't even close to matching the production rates of the US.

0

u/SCViper May 25 '22

Hell, even with all that, why didn't the Japanese just consider invading CONUS?

They knew about the second amendment and just assumed everyone had guns. So they thought our defense forces were 150 million strong. Gotta love outward image sometimes.

4

u/Elcactus May 25 '22 edited May 25 '22

Nothing so pro-gun; they couldn't beat us at midway, how the hell would they invade the mainland?

They didn't even want to invade; they knew the leviathan they were up against and their plan was always around kicking us hard enough early to secure new oil supplies and sue for peace. They were more interested in finishing off China, but bit off more than they could handle.

1

u/SCViper May 25 '22

Hell, you'd think they would have learned something after we kicked the door in just to open their ports to trade with us.

3

u/MandolinMagi May 25 '22

Dude, Japan struggled to reach Pearl Harbor, let alone any futher. Japan could never invade North America, because they couldn't get anywhere near the place.

2

u/Seraph062 May 25 '22

Hell, even with all that, why didn't the Japanese just consider invading CONUS?

Because they had super limited resources and the CONUS is about as far as they could have been from their main objective. That was the point of the post you were responding to.

5

u/Yancy_Farnesworth May 25 '22

Pretty much everyone who was being realistic knew. They knew that the US's industrial might would grind any opponents into dust. It really didn't matter how much they did, no one could stand up against the sheer industrial might of the US. Industrial might that quite literally no one could bomb into submission unlike German and Japanese industry. The entire world at that point had learned how important industrial output was as a direct result of WWI, the first industrialized war. They had a front row seat to it. Even Stalin knew, which was why his very first 5 year plan involved MASSIVE industrialization in order to prepare for the next war. Hell, early lend lease support to the Soviet Union was primarily used to bog down the Nazis until the Soviet Union could get its industrial production moving.

This is playing out again today. Putin thought he was holding the industrial output of the West hostage. We're seeing now just how little he understands. Both Putin and Xi for that matter are stuck in the WWII/Cold War mentality that industrial might is all you need and they just need to take it away from the West. They forget that modern warfare isn't just about industrial might anymore. You can do a lot with a little due to the advances of technology. The West no longer needs to mobilize their economies like they did in WWII to be able to wage war. Just look at what Ukraine is doing to Russia using equipment and ammo the West just had sitting around in warehouses. And lets not forget that Stingers and Javelins are Cold War era technology. The Stingers were made in the 70's and Javelins in the 90's.

2

u/HiddenStoat May 25 '22

Im using the term "people" widely - obviously a number of professional soldiers like Adm. Yamamoto realized they had "awoken the sleeping giant" but I think if you ad asked the proverbial man-on-the-street they wouldn't have said "oh yeah, we are definitely going to win in 4 years".

They might instead have said "well, the Russians have just lost 5 million soldiers, 20 thousand tanks, and the same again in aircraft. The Blitz has finished, but we know the Luftwaffe will be back to finish the job next year. We thought the Americans would help, but they're obviously useless given the Pacific fleet has just been destroyed - they've only got a couple of aircraft carriers left - nothing really important like a battleship! The Japanese look like they are about to capture Singapore! They are unstoppable! They'll be invading Australia soon! And let's not even mention North Africa - how many times are we going to fail in relieving the siege of Tobruk?"

Obviously with hindsight, it's clear that this was the high watermark for the Axis, but I would imagine the situation would have seemed much more grim to someone then and there.

1

u/Yancy_Farnesworth May 25 '22

I should correct it and say that everyone who had sufficient realistic information of the state of the world. Pretty much no civilian at the time had that as information was tightly controlled at the time, there was no internet. The Japanese were rolling around the Pacific because they were unopposed at the start. Once Japan's carriers were knocked out at Midway that was literally it. It was game over, Japan could not replace those lost carriers. Meanwhile the US was rolling carriers like model Ts. For every US carrier Japan sank (or thought they sank), the US had more rolling off the production lines. The people with a realistic picture of the world knew that Japan was on borrowed time. Japanese industrial output could not replace losses while the US could literally (and did) bury Japan in steel. People forget just how quickly Japan lost any prospect of winning the war. Midway was literally 6 months after Pearl Harbor. The Japanese never recovered from that loss. The Japanese carriers that went down that day were never really replaced, they couldn't. The rest of the Pacific theater was essentially about uprooting Japanese presence in the Pacific while Japan tried to hold onto whatever they captured by any means necessary.

The Soviet Union was blindsided. Their industrial base was not ready for war. The Nazis literally caught them with their pants down. Which was why lend lease was so critical. And likely why the US focused on the European theater first. Once again, people who actually had a clear picture of the war. There's a reason Churchill said what he did when Pearl Harbor got bombed. He knew that victory was likely inevitable. Because he was informed and had a realistic picture of the capabilities of his allies and his opponents. But that's a whole different story from saying the war was a done deal and they could just walk through it. I don't think anyone was under the impression that the rest of the war was going to be a cakewalk. War never is.

5

u/Saakka May 25 '22

This is also true, the difference in manufacturing output was simply overwhelming once the US joined the war. One good example being the title of this thread. :)

3

u/Paladin327 May 25 '22

I’m not really sure though, there is an argument to be made that midway was a start of momentum in the US favor, the war could have gone either way depending on the outcome of Guadalcanal. Had Japan won, they could have lead the US to cone to the table and try for peace, at least through Japan’s decisive battle doctrine. They knew there was never a chance the US was going to be beaten to the point of surrender

22

u/Raincoats_George May 25 '22

Soldiers don't win wars. Logistics and supply wins wars.

If you can better manufacture, supply, and transport than your enemy you win.

During the Civil War it was railroad tracks. The north had almost double the amount of rail lines that the south did. In ww2 it was the absolutely staggering production capabilities of the us and its allies along with the essentially continuous supply chain of things like liberty ships that kept the bullets and tanks arriving at the front in large quantities.

The American Sherman tank could barely compete with the far superior German tanks. They describe the rounds just bouncing off German armor. But theres not much you can do when your enemy can quickly produce ten tanks to replace the one you just destroyed and has the supply lines and replacement parts to keep all of them in good working order while you can't even move your tank because it's out of gas or missing parts. Couple that with the near total devastation of German production by insane amounts of bombing (coincidentally made possible by those same massive supply lines), and the war was basically an inevitable loss for the axis.

26

u/KraftySOT May 25 '22 edited May 25 '22 Helpful Take My Energy

Also a fun fact, German production increased every single year that the war went on.

They produced more in the few short months of 1945, with half of their country under occupation, than they did in 1941 for instance.

For all the suffering and loss of the 8th airforce, all it really did, was meal up German pilots, that couldnt be replaced. (edit: And used up precious Romanian oil! Every flight to defend the Ruhr, was a tank that never moved again)

The over specialization and modifications of the german aeronautical engineering, did the rest. What few good pilots they had left by the end of the war, were consistently being shoved into new airframes every other week. A great BF-109F pilot was not a great ME-109G pilot, and definitely not a great FW 190, or TA-152 pilot.

One of the most interesting things I learned about WW2, is that German production was never devastated. Logistics hubs, like railyards and ports, and loading facilities were. Railroads were demolished nightly by Soviet and Slavic Partisans, but production, albeit INCREDIBLY slow in Germany until 1943, was never hindered to any real degree by allied bombing campaigns.

Nor would I say the Sherman was facing "far superior" German tanks. German tanks with better optics, and better guns, and "on paper" better shells...but with worse radios, worse armor, worse engines, broke down, smaller crews, worse turret traverse times, bad visibility, unarmored cupolas, and less speed and shittier suspension.

No argument that it was an inevitable loss for the axis. They decided to start a war with the two largest industrial powers on Earth. The Soviet Union and the United States employed more industrial workers than THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF GERMANY.

It wasnt until 20 million dead in the USSR by 1943, that the Soviet Union's workforce slipped below that of the Germans. By then, they'd already produced more T-34s than the Germans would produce AFVs, in total, in the entire war.

The height of German production saw 13 "medium tanks" (PZ.3s, 4s, and 6s) a week. Soviet production was 52 T-34s a week. The Americans? 108 Shermans a week.

The Germans lost over 400 "medium tanks" during Citadel, and almost 1,000 armored fighting vehicles. That represented almost a year of production.

And ~30% of the tanks they lost during Citadel?

Breakdowns.

Failure rate of Shermans?

6.3%.

EDIT:

And one thing always forgotten, is that US service members, say in the armored forces...went home eventually. If they lived.

Joachim Peiper, the most famous (I think) of the German tank aces, was winning battle commendations in 1940. He was still fighting in 1944 against allied landing forces.

Bro was in combat for 4 years. He knew a thing or two.

The people he was fighting, had maybe fired 200 rounds at training dummys and captured tanks.

There was absolutely no one who was a American service member in an armored vehicle who had fought in Operation Torch, who was still fighting in a tank, by D-Day.

Even famous movies who make it out like The Big Red One (the 1st infantry division, in the United States) went straight from Anzio to D-Day, with veterans making up its ranks is a bit of a misnomer. Sure there were veterans by then who had seen other campaigns, but they had mostly all been promoted and were planning the invasion, wounded, or were back in the states training other soldiers. It was EXTREMELY rare that veteran of previous campaigns in WW2, for the American forces, went on to fight again. If you did, you were generally surrounded by 99% FNGs, who didnt know their asshole from their elbow. (Marines, pilots, and naval personnel exempt, they fought till it was over, they died, got seriously hurt, or were promoted out or shitcanned)

From movies you'd prolly know, Sam Elliot's character from 'We were soldiers' was a WW2 vet. A Paratrooper. He also fought in Korea. He never fought with the same group of men twice. He was involved (the real guy) in 6 major battles fought by the Americans from 1940 to 1969. He never had the same CO, and never had the same subordinates in any of those battle.

Adapt. Overcome. Our motto for a reason.

Guderian, who survived the war while his two best tanker buds didnt, (both uh, paid the iron price for the Reich, at the hands of the same Reich) said after the war that Americans "left hand" was its technolgy, and its "right hook" was its ingenuity, chaos, and adaptability.

Dick Bong (yes thats a real person) one of our leading aces for the USAAF, said "Give me a kite and a BB gun" when he was grounded due to a wound and told he might not fly again.

We (the Americans) care a lot about our guys. And we want them to survive. We let soldiers adapt, learn, make decisions on their own, and when they do well, we promote them and protect them even more. We know that experience, and morale, is the deciding factor in a battle. And we back that up with General fucking Motors.

Its not like we just send noobs to go die in shitty tanks till we've over come the enemy.

We make sure our noobs have a good chance to become bittervets, and then make sure they are in the right position to make the right calls, while having plenty of equipment and supply, to back them up.

4

u/MandolinMagi May 25 '22

The Sherman was just fine. Yes the heavier German stuff was a problem, but they never had enough to matter.

And the 76mm Sherman could kill a Tiger frontally, despite what way too many movies/books claim.

1

u/Raincoats_George May 25 '22

They specifically had to upgrade the Sherman gun to compete with the heavier German armor. But yes you are right. The Germans just didn't have that many of them and they were mired with supply line issues all through the war.

1

u/MandolinMagi May 26 '22

How terrible, technology advances mean you need a bigger gun.

You do realize the Germans did the exact same thing with the Panzer 4? Had to give it a more powerful cannon to deal with evolving armor?

The German Panzer III went from a 37mm to a 50mm to a long 50mm to a 75mm as well

5

u/Victor_Korchnoi May 25 '22

I really like the liberty ship. It wasn’t the biggest cargo ship. It wasn’t the fastest. The only great thing about it was that it was easy to make. And that was incredibly important because they were mostly being made by people who had no previous shipbuilding experience. The liberty ship’s welds didn’t require a master welder—they could be done by someone with ~4 weeks of training. This is how the US built 2,710 of these ships during the war.

4

u/Rossum81 May 25 '22

Fun fact: after 1942, the US did not lose any fleet carriers (the largest of the carrier types, displacing 19-35,000 tons) during the war. Yes, there were close calls with the USS Franklin and the USS Bunker Hill took severe hits from kamikazes and had hundreds of dead each. Both were taken out of service for the rest of the war.

The USS Gambier Bay and the USS St. Lo were Casablanca class escort carriers.

4

u/KraftySOT May 25 '22 edited May 25 '22

The Hornet took 9 torps and 400 shells before giving up her flag.

It listed almost 45% degrees to port, and its DD escort finally left it, with only 6 crewmen who refused to leave, to its fate, to be shelled with another 2,000 rounds from 2 to 5 inch guns by Japanese destroyers, and according to the people who found her in 2019, probably took at least 10 more torps before going down. (the official Japanese report says 4 torps)

I hate to simp for this pesky nation, but damn. We sure knew how to build em.

And what did we do after they sunk it?

We built another one.

CV-8, and CV-12.

3

u/TVLL May 25 '22 edited May 25 '22

Read Freedom’s Forge by Arthur Herman if you want a very interesting, easy to read book about American production during this time.

1

u/KraftySOT May 25 '22

https://www.amazon.com/Economics-World-War-International-Macroeconomic/dp/0521785030

Also a good one for no fluff, straight numbers.

And a bunch of the war departments stuff is online in PDF format from the time, along with the released Soviet Archives, German and Japanese productions, and a plethora of economic stats.

https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portals/10/ASPJ/journals/Chronicles/reichert.pdf

Also a pretty great read. Its wild how we all have heard "the victors write the history" but WITHOUT A DOUBT, the Nazis got to write their own version of history for the US, which we gobbled up without a second thought until about 30 years ago.

Halder and Speer just wrote whatever the fuck they wanted and blamed everything on Hitler, the SS (the clean Wehrmact myth) and Schacht and Funk (the economic ministers we tried to hang) for fucking it all up. Till their last days they just couldnt admit that the American fighting man was better equipped, better trained, had better morale, and that we (us and the soviets) were super powers in resources and production that even all of Europe couldnt match.

That and desperately trying to cover up everything bad they did, from crimes, to just dumbfoundingly stupid mistakes.

Hjalmar Schacht, one of the great economists of the 20th century, fortunately was ignored when he was trying to help rearm Germany before WW2. He told Hitler that they probably cant get their industry up and going till 43, and that war would be better in 44 than 39. MEFO (the German plan to print government IOUs to businesses to later be paid back with warspoils) absolutely could have worked.

He got fired, arrested, sent to a camp, and ultimately helped resistance movements.

We're very lucky that fascism is fucking dumb and rotten to its core.

-1

u/JonGilbonie 29d ago

We're very lucky that fascism is fucking dumb and rotten to its core

r/Im14AndThisIsDeep

1

u/KraftySOT 28d ago

Promoting people to important positions based on loyalty, rather than merit, will always cause the system they are operating, to collapse due to incompetence.

It exponentially increases the rate at which Price's Law will effect an organization and ultimately destroy it due to escalating incompetence.

IE fascism is fucking stupid. Its own political philosophy of party loyalty being the prime mover of elevating people to the levers of social, political, and economic power, will do almost as much to destroy it as a system of government, as the bombs and bullets used to fight its soldiers.

Better? Ya cunt.

1

u/BobbyP27 May 25 '22

It's important to make a distinction between fleet carriers, useful for actual strike missions, and escort carriers, far too small and slow to be actually useful in anything but a very secondary role, other than in their intended role as convoy protection.

At the beginning of the war, the US started with 7 ships: the two Lexingtons, the three Yorktowns, Ranger and Wasp. Of these Ranger and Wasp were very much on the small side and not as useful as the other five. In the course of 1942, Lexington, Wasp, Yorktown and Hornet were lost, leaving Enterprise and Saratoga as the only large fleet carriers left, plus the smaller and less useful Ranger. Indeed the situation was so serious that the RN lent HMS Victorious to the USN, serving as USS Robin, to partner with Saratoga.

What made the difference was US manufacturing capacity. USS Essex commissioned in 1942, with 6 more Essexes in 1943 and 7 in 1944. That new construction was an absolute game changer, and something Japan was simply unable to match.

With so few carriers in service in the second half of 1942 and so many being built, the need to train naval aviators in large numbers and the lack of ships to train them on puts the two ships from this post into context.

1

u/MandolinMagi May 25 '22

Also the Langley, our first carrier, but by 1941 she was so small and slow she was used to ferry airplanes

1

u/SCViper May 25 '22

You don't need quality like that in a training environment...only quality that matters is the simulated environment and the quality of the trainers. The rest is just gravy.

4

u/animekid1 May 25 '22

Thanks for that. I was about to mention the war of 1812

1

u/jwktiger May 25 '22

Yeah I was like "how would they get it accross Niagra Falls to the Atlantic". Then your comment, I'm head slapping myself "you moron of course they were controlled conditions training ships before deployment."

2

u/cardiffman May 25 '22

There have been certain canals and channels available before 1959, but 1959 is the date when you could go from Duluth, MN to the Atlantic if your vessel fit the locks St. Lawrence Seaway

31

u/lniko2 May 25 '22

You know you're fucked when enemy has dedicated training carriers and ice cream ships.

Unless you have training ice cream ships.

10

u/ComradeGibbon May 25 '22

Little Girl: What did you do in the war daddy?
Dad; I made ice cream.
Little Girl: No you didn't daddy!
Dad: We had ships that made ice cream.

11

u/Scopebuddy May 25 '22

Well, this hit all the right nerd buttons to put me into a 30 minute rabbit hole.

34

u/DreiKatzenVater May 25 '22

You never know what those hosers up north are up to

4

u/AuburnSpeedster May 25 '22

The last time the Canadians were an issue, was the War of 1812. There's a monument to US Admiral Oliver Hazard Perry's exploits on Put-in-bay island in Lake Erie..
Today, we do joint exercises with the Royal Canadian Navy. At best, they have Frigates. But their coastal defense vessels would be really good at hunting submarines and repelling landing parties. In a pinch, our Canadian buddies to the north are nothing to laugh at. Unlike the US Navy, they are allowed to have alcohol aboard (mostly Labatts, in cans).

9

u/Stachemaster86 May 25 '22

Good day

3

u/sonofabutch May 25 '22

Fleshy headed mutant, are you friendly?

2

u/AnthillOmbudsman May 25 '22

Pass the the Sterno, eh, I gotta get this backbacon going.

2

u/rkauffman May 25 '22

You guys never came up for the US/Canadian submarine races? Best thing in the great lakes.

1

u/Goalie_deacon May 25 '22

Those hosers were part of training aircrafts. I met the youngest serving Canadian sailor from one of those aircraft carriers. Last Boxing Day of WW2, he got to be Rear-Admiral of the Canadian Navy, because the real Rear-Admiral L.W. Murray happened to be on their aircraft carrier for Christmas 1944. So a 17 year old Harold Edwards got to be Rear-Admiral of the Royal Canadian Navy for a day. I saw Harold’s personal copy of the event.

So I appreciate the Canadians’ involvement in WW2, and these aircraft carriers.

5

u/lucky_ducker May 25 '22 edited May 25 '22

The training base was Naval Air Station Glenview in Glenview, IL. Future President George H. W. Bush trained here. The base was an active Navy facility until it was closed in the mid-1990s, and the Village of Glenview moved aggressively to redevelop the base for mixed residential and commercial use. The control tower was preserved (it's closed to the public) but it's integrated into a shopping mall, flanked by a Dick's and a Von Maur. Otherwise, there is no trace of the historic airbase.

1

u/AspireAgain May 25 '22

I believe the Golf Course was preserved. : )

11

u/BobbyP27 May 25 '22

They were converted passenger steamers, and, depending on definition, weren't really "true" aircraft carriers. The navy needed a means of training new pilots with the skills needed to be effective aircraft carrier based combat pilots. While a lot of that can be done from land based airfields (things like the aircraft handlings skills, skills related to shooting or dropping bombs on stuff), on of the hardest parts of naval aviation is actually flying off from, and more particularly landing on an aircraft carrier under way at sea. Because all the actual combat capable aircraft carriers were needed for actual combat, these ships were converted, with aircraft carrier flight decks, so that pilots could train and gain the skills needed for carrier operation without tying up a proper aircraft carrier for the job.

What they lacked, though, were the facilities for actually operating as aircraft carriers. They had no hangers to stow aircraft, no magazines for the aircraft weapons, no workshop facilities to maintain and repair aircraft, and generally none of the facilities needed to do things beyond land on the aircraft, refuel them and send them off again. They definitely served a very useful purpose, but it's a stretch to actually call them aircraft carriers.

3

u/AspireAgain May 25 '22

Landing Strip Carriers would be more technically correct, I suppose.

4

u/BobbyP27 May 25 '22

I would favour a term like aviation training ship, in the same way that a sail training ship is a sailing ship whose function is purely to teach the skills of handling a sailing ship, not to either carry cargo or make war.

2

u/AspireAgain May 25 '22

It's really just a stab at a joke on the idea that is isn't carrying Aircraft, but it is carrying the Landing Strip.

4

u/BKNYSteve May 25 '22

This was a brilliant maximization of resources:

  1. ALL the ocean ports, on every coast, were full up with shipping, don't need more in the mix
  2. On the East and Caribbean coasts, there were German u-boats, and a training carrier is a big stationary target
  3. Since the Great Lakes are landlocked between the U.S. and Canada, even if some beginner pilot managed to get lost, they'd land in a friendly area, instead of ending up in the ocean
  4. Need ships NOW. They were converting actual ocean-going ships into real carriers. Need to train pilots NOW. Coal-powered sidewheelers weren't much use otherwise.

2

u/Seraph062 May 25 '22

a training carrier is a big stationary target

The entire point of using a ship as a training carrier is that it isn't stationary.

1

u/BKNYSteve May 25 '22

Granted I phrased it poorly. What I should have noted is that it would stay in a pretty narrow area

3

u/WFStarbuck May 25 '22

Canadian Bacon.

9

u/ApartProgress9284 May 25 '22

Well you never know what those mounties are up to in the north.

2

u/comegetinthevan May 25 '22

I thought landlocked meant there was no access to the sea, which all the great lakes have via the st lawrence/niagara rivers and the whelland channel.

3

u/Goalie_deacon May 25 '22

Goes to show how little many people realize the shipping that goes on in the Great Lakes, and has been a thing well before George Washington thought about a revolution. Great Lakes had commercial shipping since France held Michigan. Granted it was pretty much just fur trade, but it was a business.

2

u/Furt_III May 25 '22

Oh, that's nothing, we've also got a Submarine base in Idaho.

5

u/Shwifty_Plumbus May 25 '22

How do you get one out of the lake though? Ford F-350s haven't been around that long.

10

u/ledforthehead May 25 '22

I’m not sure if this is a joke, but the Great Lakes are connected to the Atlantic by the St. Lawrence River!

13

u/SargentSnorkel May 25 '22

Niagara Falls have entered the chat

16

u/CyberNinja23 May 25 '22

I’d pay to see an aircraft carrier go down a waterfall.

18

u/diggemigre May 25 '22

Michael Bay has entered the chat.

2

u/GuyFromFinland1917 May 25 '22

I swear every comment in this comment chain just keeps making me laugh

1

u/amkosh May 25 '22

We'll just divert the river again

6

u/ledforthehead May 25 '22

Ok yeah, probably better to say the Erie Canal to the Hudson lol

3

u/firelock_ny May 25 '22

I think there's been a canal around Niagara Falls since the 1800's, but I don't know how big a ship could use it.

-21

u/mygoldfishaccount May 25 '22

Seems silly, surely a few air strips and a couple of PT boats would have been cheaper.

25

u/el_mapache_negro May 25 '22

For...what? They were just regular commercial ships with their hull cut down and a landing strip put on them, it's not like they could've sailed to the Pacific and been useful in combat. They were specifically for training pilots.

-4

u/mygoldfishaccount May 25 '22

Fair enough. I recently read (listened to) Unbroken as my great uncle wound up in the same Japanese punishment camp as the guy (air crew) the book was about. The amount of pilots and crew that died in training was horrible. Often the search parties for missing planes resulted in more crews being lost. Any training away from combat areas was a good thing.

2

u/t3chiman May 25 '22

During WWII, an average of 10 US servicemen died in aviation training accidents, per day.

1

u/mygoldfishaccount May 25 '22 edited May 25 '22

Yep, and a lot of them went down in the pacific where the crews would see multiple large schools of sharks on a daily basis. If they managed to survive the crash the odds of being found in that vast area before dying of dehydration were remote. Even if they spotted you it was no guarantee that they’d have the logistical ability to rescue you in many parts, the people rescuing you were more likely to be Japanese along many flight paths.

5

u/codece May 25 '22

They were coal-burning training ships so new pilots could learn to land on an aircraft carrier. They used to be side-wheel lake cruise ships until they were converted during the war.

1

u/Goalie_deacon May 25 '22

There’s no substitute for landing on the deck of a moving ship, with a finite landing strip. Keep in mind, the pilots were already trained on regular land strips before going to aircraft training. The pilots deemed not good enough for fighters were sent to fly bombers.

1

u/Elcactus May 25 '22

Not when the goal isn't to fight Canada, but rather to serve as a training ground for the horde of naval airmen you're throwing at Japan.