Call, We Haul”
The twenties stand out in the
history of naval aviation as a decade of growth. The air arm steadily increased
in size and strength while improving its administrative and operational position
within the Navy. The period began under the leadership of a Director without
authority to direct. It ended with a flourishing Bureau of Aeronautics. At the
beginning, a small air detachment in each ocean fleet was proving itself
effective under conditions at sea. At the end, three carriers were in full
operation, patrol squadrons were performing scouting functions, and aircraft
were regularly assigned to battleships and cruisers. Together these elements
played important roles in the annual fleet war games.
Impressive technical progress also characterized
the period. With slim funds, the radial air-cooled engine was developed into an
efficient and reliable proven power. Better instruments came into use, and an
accurate bomb-sight was developed. Aircraft equipped with oleo struts and
folding wings enhanced the operating capability of carriers. Each year, aircraft
flew faster, higher and longer. Of the many world records placed on the books,
U.S. Naval aircraft won their share.
Tactics were developed. Dive bombing was
established almost before anyone knew enough about it to call it by name. Marine
Corps expeditionary troops learned through experience the value of air support.
The techniques of torpedo attack, scouting, spotting for gunfire and operating
from advanced bases, were investigated and learned. The skills of naval pilots
turned the airplane to new uses in polar exploration and photographic survey.
Everywhere it was evident that the Navy was solving its basic and unique problem
of taking aviation to the sea.
But the period was also one of controversy that went beyond the Navy. Newspapers reported angry statements by the proponents of air power and virulent retorts from its opponents. There were charges of duplication, inefficiency, prejudice and jealousy. There was discussion over the role of air power and such issues as the role of the services in coastal defense. Even the further need for a Navy was questioned. Naval aviators were unhappy with their career limitations and lack of command responsibility. The aircraft industry was discontented with small peacetime orders and Government procurement policies and Government competition. Most of this controversy was typical of a new technology developing at a rapid pace, but not all of the questions would be answered before the decade's end.
(Naval Aviation Chronology 1920-1929)
VJ-1B (5 Oct 1925)
In 1925 the navy concluded that there was a need
for “You Call, We Haul” type of squadron - so to speak. So on a bright sunny day in October 1925, with no bands
playing or flags flying, a small group of taut aviation men stood stiffly at
attention while commissioning orders were read, establishing the first Naval
Utility Squadron of the Pacific Fleet, at Navel Air Station San Diego. The
Squadron was formed from a nucleus of another organization and were already old
hands at making the best of what they had at hand. The best they had, called for
constant care to keep then flying. As a result VJ-1B was established, as the
first utility squadron from personnel and aircraft of VS-2B, NAS, San Diego –
now Naval Air Station, North Island.
First VJ1-B Insigna
United States Pacific Fleet has outshot and outfought many times the best any
enemy could muster, shows the importance of the gunnery practice afforded the
fighting Navy, by the Utility Squadrons of the Pacific Fleet. It has not been an
easy matter for these Utility Squadrons to offer the battle unite the
anti-aircraft practice they needed to build the powerful hard-hitting
anti-aircraft defense which the fleet has today, as the Utility Squadrons have
had to compete with combat squadrons in the procurement of precious materials.
For those unfamiliar with the services rendered
by a Utility Squadron, which as the name implies, are of a very general nature,
there follows a description of sore of this work. Well named, they have been
called the “Handyman Of The Air”.
Anti-aircraft gunnery practice.
The main function of Utility squadrons is to
give anti-aircraft gunnery practice to all Naval ships and to all Naval gunnery
crews even though they be aboard Merchant ships. A target in the form of a
rayon, about 20 feet long, is towed through the air, suspended at the end of a
mile and half of metal cable. This target is called a sleeve or sock. There are
many types of targets of varying materials and lengths; a number of types are
capable of radar reception. For night practice these targets are illuminated
internally. With the speed of combat planes being constantly increased, there is
a steady demand for firing practice at a faster and faster target. Not only have
faster and more powerful planes been necessary to perform this mission; but it
has also been necessary to develop targets capable of sustaining flight at these
increased speeds. The drag of an ordinary sleeve and cable is about one thousand
pounds. A new type of target, which has been successfully used, is a miniature
plane, of about sixteen feet wing spread, called the Wing Target. These targets
must be maneuvered over and around a ship, in such a manner that the flight of
the sleeve simulates the various types of enemy air attack. This calls for many
carefully worked out types of practices, entailing skillful manipulation of the
plane so that the target follows the correct course, with the plane free from
danger of the firing units. Often simultaneous runs must be given to simulate
the attack of a number of planes at one tine.
The Squadron has developed many devices to speed
up the replacement of targets in the air without reeling the cables, with great
saving of time.
The gun crews for combatant ships are trained at
Fleet Gunnery Schools for which Utility Squadron also tow targets.
2. Torpedo photo and recovery.
Utility Squadrons work with destroyers and
submarines in torpedo practice, photographing each run and spotting torpedoes,
which have completed their run, so that they may be recovered.
3. Fighter Director Practices.
Combat Intelligence Centers afloat and ashore
must direct their fighters and intercept planes so that they contact an
approaching, maneuvering enemy airforce at as great a distance away as possible.
This is accomplished by radar, but many tedious hours of utility practice are
required to perfect this accomplishment.
All radar and radio instruments used in plotting
enemy planes and placing long-range gunfire must be constantly checked.
Utility planes are used for this work. The planes are in radio contact with the
base and fly at given altitudes and courses.
5. Submarine coverage.
During practice and maneuvers, and tests, it is
necessary that submarines have aerial protection both in enemy and friendly
waters. This protection is afforded by Utility planes.
When large caliber and torpedo “live” firing
practice is undertaken, it is necessary that planes advise the gun crews of
actual results, this type of work or “spotting” is just another service
furnished by Utility planes.
All types of secret radar practices are carried on for
the Fleet by Utility.
Wherever and whenever the Fleet needs special aerial transportation, Utility planes will be found performing the missions.
Fleet mail, that all-important factor to the morale of the fighting
forces, is often carried to inaccessible locations by Utility planes.
Utility planes will be found performing
endless, trying hours of necessary air patrol in all war theatres.
11. Convoy coverage.
The last £friendly plane seen when leaving
land, and the first welcome plane seen when any convoy is still miles from its
destination, will be a Utility plane guarding against the enemy.
When the alarm of enemy submarines or “unfriendly
objects” off any coast is raised, or when a missing plane is overdue it is
usually Utility planes that search the area for hours and days on end.
Few are the air medals worn by the Utility pilots for
rescues made at sea, but many indeed, are the pilots who owe their lives to the
assistance and daring rescues made in high seas by Utility Pilots.
Utility Aviation Photography covers many phases
and types of services for the Fleet and shore establishments as well. Some of
the principle missions are man ping; services in connection with torpedo and
large caliber gunfiring; anti-submarine warfare tactics; aerial photographs of
ships, buildings and land sights; services in connections with reports and
photo-stating are daily routine.
Many of these men present at the commissioning of Utility Squadron XE, are today high ranking officers in Naval Aviation, but the traditions started then and carried on down through the years; of giving the Fleet unfailing service regardless of obstacles are today carried on with the same determined spirit. There are few Aviation Squadrons in the Navy which can trace their history almost as far back as VJ-l, but none have continued under one designation as long; and today Utility Squadron XE when celebrating its Twentieth Birthday stands as the oldest Aviation Squadron in the United States Naval Aeronautical Organization. VJ-1B was assigned to the aircraft Squadron Battle Fleet, Lt. John Moloney, skipper. VS-2B Scouting was disestablished same day.
OLDEST NAVAL UTILITY SQUADRON
Navel Aviation Utility Squadron One completes twenty years
of service to the Pacific Fleet.
On a bright sunny day in October 1925, with no bands playing or flags flying, a small group of taut aviation men stood stiffly at attention while commissioning orders were read, establishing the first Naval Utility Squadron of the Pacific Fleet, at Navel Air Station San Diego. The Squadron was formed from a nucleus of another organization and were already old hands at making the best of what they had at hand. The best they had, called for constant care to keep then flying. Today, the United States Pacific Fleet has outshot and outfought many times the best any enemy could muster, shows the importance of the gunnery practice afforded the fighting Navy, by the Utility Squadrons of the Pacific Fleet. It has not been an easy matter for these Utility Squadrons to offer the battle unite the anti-aircraft practice they needed to build the powerful hard-hitting anti-aircraft defense which the fleet has today, as the Utility Squadrons have had to compete with combat squadrons in the procurement of precious materials.
Now that you have an idea of the multifluous tasks of
a Utility Squadron, we will get back to that commissioning in San Diego in
October, 1925. The squadron has always been called upon to do the aerial
photography work and has maintained its own photographic laboratory from the
beginning. Therefore, in September, 1926 it was called upon to send a detachment
to Kanada Bay, Alaska to do aerial mapping of an area theretofore not actually
charted. This detachment was known as the first Alaskan Aerial Survey
expedition; they returned in December, 1926.
NOTE: The Alaskan Survey page is graphic intensive - long download!