Monthly Archives: February 2015

Launching A Plane

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View of both catapults with planes_edited-1

“There were two types of catapults, one was powered by compressed air and the other was by a 5 inch shell with gunpowder, and the one with the 5 inch shell was much smoother than the compressed air.” Launching from a catapult “was just a very easy way of getting airborne. You didn’t do very much of anything outside of making sure you didn’t lose control of the plane.”

Lieutenant Paul Wogan, Aviator

Aviator Almon Oliver describes launching planes from BB55

Close-up view of catapult_edited-1

“The catapult was about 65 feet in length, was about 5 feet high. The plane, an OS2U 3 pontoon float plane, was seated in a saddle at the rear of the catapult. The saddle was attached to a steel woven cable, about 1 inch in diameter. This cable, through a block and tackle arrangement, was attached to a piston which was propelled by a 5-inch 55 caliber powder charge at launch time. The powder charge drove the saddle with the plane upon it down the catapult, reaching launching speed at the time it left the catapult of approximately 65 mph.

Drawing of catapult_edited-1

My position was rear pin man during launching. The plane sat on this little cart at the rear of catapult and to keep the cart from moving when the plane was revving up to be launched, there were two pins that came up from the catapult into the cart to hold it. Due to the noise from the plane, the launching officer would signal with his thumbs up for pins up or thumbs down for pins down to release cart. My job was to signal when pins went down so the plane could be launched.

One time we did a cross deck launch. The starboard catapult shot the plane off the port side across the ship. That condition put me out off the starboard side of the ship. When the plane leaves the catapult, it bounces some.

Curtiss Seahawk on catapult_edited-1

The catapult work was dirty, greasy and sometimes you had to eat lunch without even having time to wash the grease off your hands as a plane had to be launched. Sometimes by the time the plane was launched chow was over and we didn’t get any.”

Cecil Jaudin Baker, Jr., F Division

View of fantail with catapults_edited-1

Records in the Ship’s archives indicate that the catapults were removed when the Battleship was in ready reserve: “Starboard catapult removal of from Atlantic Reserve Fleet on Battleships and Cruisers” dated 1949 and “Remove port catapult” to rearrange deck for helicopter landing facilities dated 1954. Catapult launching cars were removed in 1951.

Aviator Everette Landers describes launching planes from BB55.


Code Room

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“We were not supposed to tell anybody where we had been or where we were going. The trouble was we didn’t know anything anyway! The mess cooks were our oracles. You can imagine how glad we were when LIFE magazine came aboard so we could learn where we’d been and what we were doing.”

Ensign Henry E. Little

I was a young ensign aboard North Carolina. My battle station was in the coding room. I well remember the frequent GQ exercises kept me in good physical condition. The coding room was well down in the bowels of the ship and I had to race condition Zed when all the watertight doors were closed. While I could read encrypted messages the mechanics of encoding and decoding kept me very busy and concentrated on the task at hand. Since time was of the essence I concentrated on accuracy and not pondering the contents of each message.”

Ensign Kenneth Beyer

LT William Watts
Lieutenant William Watts

“My [General Quarters] duties were in the coding room. When there were submarines around it was a horrible sound to hear those depth charges go off. They would rumble right through the ship and you would think ‘there is water alongside of me and if it comes over my head I am surrounded by water.’”

Lieutenant William Watts

Herb Weyrauch
Lieutenant Herbert Weyrauch

“Inside we’ve got a regular office with two desks, a typewriter, a fan and just about everything we need to be very comfortable and work. We even tried to get a radio to work in the vault but we had to give up that idea because there was too much steel in the vault walls.”

Lieutenant Herbert Weyrauch in a letter to his wife, March 23, 1941

Herb Weyrauch introduces us to the operation of the Battleship’s Code Room.